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  • Why You Need A Mobile Site

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014 by
    Why You Need a Mobile Site

    Even though we live in an age where the average person has their smartphone within reach for 22 hours a day, there are still businesses that haven’t jumped on to the mobile bandwagon yet. When you look at the numbers, it’s hard to understand why businesses are so hesitant to embrace the mobile platform. Today, there are 1.2 billion people accessing the Internet through a mobile device or tablet. In 2014, one in every three Americans will own a tablet, and 72% of tablet owners buy things on a weekly basis. Despite this growing market segment, only 57% of the top 100 brands have a mobile-friendly site. So whether you’re a CEO of a top 100 brand or a small business owner, here’s why you need to focus more on mobile.

     

    Be Seen Locally

    You’re out with a friend when they ask if you want to grab dinner. “Sure,” you say. “Where do you want to go?” You whip out your smartphone and scour the area to see what kinds of restaurants are near you. You find a Thai restaurant whose mobile site has tempting photos of the perfect dish of Pad See-Ew, prompting the two of you to head over to the restaurant.

    This situation is common, and it’s what’s making mobile marketing such force in today’s world. 97% of customers use mobile devices to search for services or products in their local area, and 49% of those searches aren’t done with a specific business in mind. The majority of customers who search for local businesses act upon the search results within the hour. Mobile devices give us the information we need when we need it, and having a mobile-friendly site helps capture more of that audience.

     

    Increase Sales

    Every marketing strategy hinges on the question “How much will this impact sales?” and if we’re discussing mobile, the answer is quite a bit. 52% of tablet users actually prefer shopping on their tablets as opposed to laptops and desktops, and 8 out of 10 people agreed with the statement that having real-time information on a mobile site makes them more open to spontaneous purchases and new ideas.

    However, only 44% of mobile users do their research and make purchases through a mobile site; the preferred method is to use mobile apps to research a product, and then visit the store to make the purchase. So not only does a mobile site help people make quick purchases, it can also convert mobile users into in-store sales.

     

    Cost and Design

    The main deterrent for most businesses when it comes to making a mobile-friendly site or app is the cost, but most businesses find the investment worthwhile since 30% of mobile shoppers will abandon a purchase if the site is not optimized for mobile users. Developing a mobile page doesn’t have to be a six-figure endeavor; there are options for businesses big and small.

    If a company decides to create a mobile optimized site, there are a plethora of options available from the simple one domain with 10 pages and 2GB hosting for around $13 a month, to the unlimited domains, pages, and views for $1,000 a month. But price shouldn’t be the main factor in what kind of mobile site you decide to use; going cheap on a mobile site that doesn’t adequately fit the needs of your business won’t be worth the money.

    The middle option is a custom-built responsive website which will detect what kind of device your customers are using and render your website in the most effective way. The price range for this option is between $5,000 and $25,000, depending on how many features the site has. While it is a little more expensive, this is the most popular option used to create a mobile-friendly site.

    Lastly, you can develop an app. This is the most expensive option as prices can add up quickly, but if you have a large volume of customers or services, it can be the most effective. Making a custom app that’s compatible with the iPhone and Android devices can cost anywhere from $500 to $10,000; if the app is going to be on a tablet as well, add 50% to the total cost.

     

    Don’t Just Do It; Do it Well

    Just as a well-made mobile site will help your business exponentially, a poorly made site will do just as much harm. Customers are surprisingly unforgiving when it comes to poorly made mobile sites with 57% of customers leaving if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. In fact, for every additional 100ms it takes for a mobile site to load, sales decrease by 1%. And when people leave poorly loading sites, 41% of customers directly turn to the competitor’s site. To prevent this, businesses need to take the time to decide which mobile option is best for their business.

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  • 10 Lead Generation Strategies To Try In 2014

    Friday, February 7, 2014 by
    Doing business with a smile

    In the B2B world, every contact is an opportunity. Leads keep your business running and turning engagement into conversion is essential to profitability. Fortunately for companies, developing technologies and techniques continue to provide better targeting, more efficient sales efforts, and greater customer satisfaction as a result. Here are ten methods to turn 2014 into a sales year to remember.

     

    In-Person Events

    There’s no question that digital marketing has become the industry standard, but lost in the transition from traditional marketing to online media is the inherent value of human contact. In-person events, including trade shows, conferences, and executive events, afford the opportunity to put a face on your business, establish your reputation, and engage customers in a way that social media cannot touch. The logistics of doing so will take more resources than digital marketing, but the payout will be tangible.

     

    Web Design

    In the same way that a beautiful storefront on Main Street is an invitation for customers, a beautiful and functional website is one of your most effective lead generation tools. An attractive and updated aesthetic, apparent contact information, and opportunities for engagement, such as email subscription boxes and product demo requests, all turn your online home into a branding and marketing asset. Assess your online resources in the new year and update your design to meet the evolving needs of your customers.

     

    Email Marketing

    Another often-overlooked form of lead generation, email marketing holds a special status in the online world. While social media, press releases, and even blogs compete for attention with other websites in Google search results, email is a direct link to the customer in a comparatively distraction-free environment. Build your email list and deliver your messages with a concise subject line, and a body of content that delivers unique value to your precious subscribers.

     

    Webinars

    In the realm of B2B, successful brands are predicated on authority. Webinars help build your reach as a purveyor of high-quality knowledge by offering instruction of technical topics in an environment that captures customers’ attention. Live webinars afford the opportunity to engage in Q&A discussions that can help reveal the concerns and interests of your demographic while providing a human face for your business. In addition, old webinars can be archived for later use, giving new users a reason to visit your website, and an incentive to come back for more.

     

    Content Sponsorship

    Building authority can come in myriad forms, but one of the most potent methods of doing so manifests in association with authoritative content. Industry and consumer magazines that proffer valuable information, sponsored by your company effectively equate the authority of the publication with the authority of your firm. The added bonus is that the writing is left to established authors, allowing their work to be bolstered by your generosity, and your brand to be boosted by their talent.

     

    Blogging

    It’s worth noting, prior to listing the benefits of an established blog, that building a following and body of content takes a great deal of investment. However, for companies willing to assume this cost and create a publication of repute, the payoff is immense. By housing some of your staff’s insight and educated editorial on your company’s domain, users searching for answers to complex questions or opinions on matters within your intellectual jurisdiction will find your content, enjoy it, and become repeat visitors, driving brand image and lead generation.

     

    LinkedIn

    It’s a popular misconception that social networking is the magic bullet of online marketing. What’s lost in this perception, however, is that the true kingmaker is well-targeted, well stocked social marketing. LinkedIn offers access to industry professionals in a context that’s conducive to building brand perception. Leverage its capabilities through targeted search, participation in industry groups, and contact should opportunity arise.

     

    Search Marketing

    Pay-per-click marketing has seen better days, but the medium remains a viable option for business who recognize the search-based nature of our online culture. While many businesses rely on respectable page ranks built through years of work in order to remain visible, sponsored links provide the same exposure with the added bonus of audience targeting.

     

    Video

    With content marketing on the rise, most businesses are entering the media ecosystem due to the intrinsic benefits that branded content provides. Video in particular, due to its efficient communication of copious information with little user effort, allows you to convey messages of many types with the added bonus of emotional appeal. The key lies in producing a diverse array of content, including how-to’s, ads, engaging experiments, and entertaining distractions.

     

    Location Services

    Demographics are an essential part of any effective marketing strategy, and with online tracking capabilities improving by the day, savvy firms are capitalizing on sophisticated data collection methods. Among these options, location services allow businesses to automate the acquisition of user data through web activity, app engagement, and event check-ins. The primary caveat to these tools is that permission is paramount. User privacy is a growing concern for B2B and B2C customers, and respecting that wish while providing benefits for those who opt in is a recipe for success.

    With sales leads representing the lifeblood of your enterprise, it’s safe to say that no stone should go unturned when working to curry customers. The New Year has brought new possibilities for engagement, access, and acquisition, and with the methods listed here, all can be realized in 2014.

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  • Six Ad Types You Should Be Experimenting With

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014 by
    Six Ad Types You Should Be Experimenting With

    Whether you're a long-running company or a long-time consumer, you've probably noticed a trend in traditional forms of advertising; namely, they don't work. The Internet has changed the marketplace, making customers more discerning, and marketers savvier. Standing out is a matter of creativity, and with these six ad types, you can find new life in your campaign, and new customers on your site.

     

    Native Advertising

    Banner advertising is on the way out. How ineffective has the method become? According to research, you're more likely to survive a plane crash or win the lottery than you are to click on a banner ad. No matter how you slice it, that's bad.

    The problem lies in the overt solicitation involved in banner ads. Users have learned in time to identify these ploys for attention and filter them out entirely, either consciously or through browser extensions like AdBlock. Instead, users want a more comfortable and perceptibly trustworthy medium that connects with them on their terms.

    Native advertising involves posting advertisements in social networks in their native format. This may include a branded photograph on Instagram, a board depicting usage of products on Pinterest, or a Facebook post that starts discussion about a day-to-day problem that your company solves. The result? An average ad impression nearly twice that of banner ads.

     

    Promoted Tweets

    Native ads on social media are a powerful tool, reaching your audience of followers and leading to greater engagement as a result. If you wish to reach a broader audience, however, this approach will do little to help you. Fortunately, Twitter has developed a rich form of native advertising that rectifies the problem in spades.

    Promoted tweets are, in essence, native advertising. What makes them valuable is the ability to target keywords, interests, genders, geography, and devices on a mass scale. Outfitted with analytics to help track effectiveness, promoted tweets are native ads on steroids, delivering targeting combined with nearly unlimited reach and the feedback needed to optimize performance.

     

    Rich Media Ads

    Talking at your customers has been the dominant form of advertising for some time, proffering benefits with little conversational give-and-take. In a new online ecosystem predicated on engagement, this model has fallen out of favor, and in its place, new solutions have arisen that make the consumer a part of the process.

    Rich media ads are effectively enhanced versions of traditional visual advertising. By displaying a video and allowing users to select which version of the ad they wish to see, user targeting and the power of choice combine to leave a stronger, lasting impression. And this approach pays dividends. According to research, rich media mobile ads are four times more likely to generate click-throughs than banner ads.

     

    Blogging

    If engagement and value are your goals, then most forms of advertising fall just a touch short. Pleasing images and platitudes can convey brand image and curry favor and positive sentiment, but they are, at their core, a one-way medium, limited by the perception of your business as an entity attempting to elicit a sale.

    Blogging offers an alternative that's gaining ground by the minute. Brands are recognizing that the relationship between business and consumer is facilitated by conversation, not by bald-faced sales tactics. Business blogs provide the opportunity to put a human face on your organization, delivering valuable information and emotionally resonating with customer lifestyles. In the process, your company builds a loyal following of returning visitors, creating a synergistic effect through your reputation as an author and your role as a retailer.

     

    Appvertising

    With more businesses than ever vying for a modicum of users' attention, marketing professionals are being forced to get creative. From installations to guerilla advertising, the world of physical ads is alive with opportunities to impress passers-by. But what options does your business have if your only medium is code?

    The answer is "appvertising". Businesses like Victoria's Secret, Lululemon, and Starbucks have built apps that embrace the lifestyle and personality they espouse, providing simple tools that enable their discovery and facilitate their constant presence in customer minds. With app development becoming a mainstay of modern marketing, your business can leverage the prevalence of mobile technology and engage users in the process.

     

    E-Mail

    While hardly the most glamorous option on the list, e-mail is easily the most overlooked medium in the market at this time. Native ads, blogging, and sponsored tweets all compete for attention with other content on the Internet, diluting their impact and increasing the possibility that they'll be skipped entirely. E-mail, on the other hand, represents a direct connection with your customers in a distraction-free environment.

    The key to leveraging it properly lies in understanding the specific expectations levied at e-mail messages. Users checking e-mail make snap judgments, which means that the subject line should be succinct and avoid pandering or cheap ploys for attention. The message should be concise and is generally more effective in visual format. Finally, ensure that what you're giving your e-mail subscribers is unique, worthy of their time and attention, and justifies your possession of their contact information.

    As the marketplace changes, so must marketers. Old forms of advertising have fallen by the wayside and in their wake are new, innovative ads that connect with users in exciting new ways. From native ads, to business blogs, to mobile apps, your business can connect with customers in new ways, and build revenue and return visitors in the process.

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  • B2B 101: How To Connect With Customers Online

    Monday, February 3, 2014 by
    Business meeting

    A great viral video or a commercial during the Super Bowl will turn a brewery into a pop-culture sensation, but your business isn’t so lucky. As a vendor of business-critical technologies and services, your job is to eschew “cool” for intelligence, and that means connecting with customers in a different way. The traditional marketing channels may not bear the same fruit for your B2B business, but these methods will make hay in ways you never thought possible.

     

    Build a Great Website

    Your website is the gateway to your customers. It’s a first impression, lead generation tool, marketing piece, and sales pitch all in one. With so many hats, a solid B2B business needs a well crafted website in order to build communication with potential customers.

    Regardless of the specific aesthetic, layout, or tone involved in your online storefront, a strong business website builds trust. Coherent product descriptions ensure that those searching for an appropriate vendor can make an easy assessment. Contact information makes potential clients feel safe in the knowledge that they can contact your company on a moment’s notice. Finally, landing pages for product offers and demos maximize your conversion rate and reach a broader audience in the process.

     

    Use the Right Social Media Channel

    Social media is frequently billed as a “magic bullet” for companies, reaching widespread audiences and building a following while encouraging engagement. While this is true, to an extent, no one can be everything to everyone. Your company, particularly as a B2B enterprise, has a focused clientele, and that clientele exists in a specific place.

    Perform your market research and determine where potential clients exist and use target your approach on that basis. LinkedIn, in particular, provides an excellent opportunity to connect with thought leaders, and become one yourself. The professional context and contact breed more meaningful interaction than a Facebook like or Twitter retweet. Furthermore, you’ll save money, observe better results, and glean a better understanding of what content resonates with your market.

     

    Become an Authority

    B2C businesses have the unique privilege to build lifestyle brands predicated on concept, entertainment, and brand image. B2B businesses are not so lucky. When convincing other companies to select your products, your sales pitch will carry far more weight if you’re viewed as an authority than if you’re latest video went viral. That means tackling your marketing in an entirely different manner.

    Content marketing was, is, and continues to be the most effective method of marketing in the B2B realm for the reasons mentioned above. Establishing your niche as a though leader in the industry and providing informative articles, videos, and other forms of media from that position builds confidence with customers and encourages engaging conversation that can generate leads. A slick branding aesthetic is a great visual impression, but substance is an asset few other methods of marketing can touch.

     

    Build Your Email List

    With the availability and ease of social media, many businesses ignore the potential of email marketing at their own peril. While it’s true that writing stellar subject lines and building content tailored to the platform is essential for success, the inherent benefits of email are difficult to ignore.

    Posts on social media platforms must compete with other posts that effectively dilute the impact of marketing content. Email represents a direct link to the customer, meeting them in a distraction-free setting and therefore communicating information to greater effect. For this reason, an extensive email list is worth far more to your business than a well-followed Twitter account.

    Make it a focus of your marketing efforts by making optional registration clear and easy, and delivering content that’s valuable and without fluff. Offer product demonstrations with an email registration or include an opportunity to sign up for your weekly industry newsletter with a well-highlighted registration box on your website. Tailor content to the platform by avoiding pandering, communicating your message quickly and without tricks, and soliciting feedback for future content so that your audience gets what they want, and are therefore more likely to stick around.

    Engaging potential clients and customers online is an effective, low-cost way to build leads, drive conversion, and maintain solid relationships with returning visitors. As a B2B business, your circumstances are unique, but presenting your company in the right light, going where your customers are online, building your reputation, and focusing on email are all great ways to turn those circumstances into opportunity.

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  • 7 Books on Branding That You Should Read This Year

    Thursday, January 30, 2014 by
    Seven Branding Books You Should Read This Year

    The role of business is ever changing, and with it, the practice of crafting identity. Competitive companies must continually position themselves as a necessary part of customers’ lives in order to stay relevant and profitable. Educate your staff, re-imagine your practice, and build a better practice through the knowledge imparted by these seven highly acclaimed resources.

     

    StoryBranding

    For many businesses, the concept of branding is difficult to grasp. Building recognition in the marketplace takes more than exposure and advertising, it takes a compelling story. That’s what 30-year advertising veteran Jim Signorelli preaches in this high-impact volume entitled StoryBranding: Creating Stand-Out Brands Through the Power of Story.

    The book takes a look at the practice of branding as an extension of corporate identity. By asserting that modern branding practices should favor messages that resonate with customers over editorialized benefits, he challenges long-held preconceptions about what branding means and how to execute it successfully. The 6-step process guides businesses large and small through the process of finding their story and sharing it effectively with their target audience to build identity.

     

    Designing Brand Identity

    Branding and marketing are ever evolving practices, and brand managers that wish to stay abreast of changing trends need a reference as relevant as their work. Enter Alina Wheeler’s Designing Brand Identity, a powerful resource rebuffed by dozens of case studies highlighting the best practices of successful brands. Through a five-phase process that begins with research and leads through product implementation, launch, and continuing governance, the tome is a veritable users manual for the practice of branding in the modern marketplace.

     

    Ancient Secrets of Lead Generation

    A brand adorned with Facebook likes and clever aesthetic is nothing more than window decoration if it doesn’t generate sales. Fortunately, Daryl Urbanski’s cheekily titled volume examines what brands mean to customers and how to turn sentiment into revenue.

    By looking at what brands and businesses mean to communities and groups of people, Urbanski inspires and entices with techniques designed to tap human psychology and satisfy customer needs. By combining message with method, Ancient Secrets works to build relationship with customers that bring profit and prosperity for both parties.

     

    What Great Brands Do

    Design can seem like hokum to the analytically minded. For those unconvinced of branding’s power, What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest is like a marketing foreign-language dictionary.

    Denise Lee Yohn takes world-class brands like Nike, Zappos, and Apple and examines their method on a scientific basis that makes branding understandable and approachable. Designed to examine companies from the inside out, from culture to capital, and build a brand-as-a-business model that facilitates profitability and personnel satisfaction, her seven key principles highlight the commonalities that can turn have turned multiple businesses from bit-players into superstars.

     

    Kellogg on Branding

    When you’re building the backbone of your corporate identity, leaning on the experts is never a bad idea. Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management takes an academic look at the practice of branding in this 352-page book that will educate your practice and hone your craft. It’s academic themes may feel inaccessible to some, but the information, presented scientifically or otherwise, is steeped in knowledge that only years of university research can provide.

     

    Essential Elements of Brand Identity

    A strong brand requires a strong visual identity and Essential Elements of Brand Identity tackles the aesthetic aspect of branding with aplomb. Kevin Budelmann, Yang Kim, and Curt Wozniak outline a platform for building brand identity predicated on a common framework of terminology and tools that both designers and customers can comprehend.

    The work dives deep into the concept of visual identity by creating a structure of brand analysis. By deconstructing how aesthetic affects brand perception and linking the process of design to business concerns, it becomes immediately applicable and immediately understandable for both designers and management; a marriage that can lead to cooperation, impact, and profitability.

     

    The Brand Gap

    The strategic and creative forces behind your companies brand can sometimes become divorced, mired in a disconnect of goals and methods. Marty Neumeier’s The Brand Gap seeks to combine the two in a coherent fashion that aligns branding efforts for maximum effectiveness. Breaking the concept down into the “five essential disciplines of brand building”, the book looks to remove the disconnect between marketing arms and unite them in a way that strengthens image and breeds revenue.

    Building a strong brand is an essential part of any successful business. Understand your goals, your allies, your customers, and your market through these seven volumes, and make 2014 the year that your brand reaches new heights.

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