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Best Practices for Consumer Engagement 2015

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7 Things to Know Before Engaging with Your Customers

1. Customers are smart and they have a wealth of Google-able knowledge at their finger tips.

When engaging with them, give them crystal clear, honest and transparent feedback. 

2. Consumers are cynical, skeptical and have no fear posting or sharing their dissatisfaction.

Aim to educate, enlighten and inspire without spamming or turning them off with too much “marketing”. Try a tone that is humble, friendly yet confident about your unique value proposition.

3. They want answers quickly. In a fast-information world, we must respond quickly and swiftly to avoid a crisis, because information can be shared at the click of a mouse or press of a button.

In a 24/7 world of communication answer customer emails and Facebook questions everyday. Don’t make them wait.

4. Customers go to friends, family and other customers for information. It’s not easy to “interrupt” that conversation, especially when what they are sharing is misinformation.

According to Shoutlet, a social listening research firm claims 95% of millennials say that their friends are the most credible source of product information.

Do your best to gently bring them sources of information that they can trust. Building trust is the best thing you can do when connecting with your consumers. 

5. Consumers don’t trust branded content. Especially advertised branded content. Especially blatant “spammy” content.

As a brand you have to be very careful how you speak to consumers or you will turn them off. Review copy and messaging to make sure you aren’t just “selling” product but sparking a conversation and answering their questions.  

6. Consumers want to keep it simple. Your messages must be simple and easier to understand and important to them.

7. You also need to be exactly where they are, when they want you. On their phones, tablets and at every point-of-purchase. Preferably with a great offer. Convenience is everything. If you haven’t seen Dash from Amazon, check it out now.  https://fresh.amazon.com/dash/

device-amazon-dashAmazon Dash. Just brilliant.

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How to Build a Trustworthy Brand

I had the opportunity to study and interview one of my client’s product demonstrations this past Monday during a Whole Foods in-store event. Call it experiential marketing for the organic & natural seeking consumer.

My assignment – discover how we can make the program even stronger. What tools should we supply these brand ambassadors with? How can we help them inspire and sell more?

This client peddles chemical-free hair color. I do a lot for them – including the creation of a beautiful new website.

It was just pouring outside. Bad weather had me cautiously driving slick roads thinking – low turn out, it’s going to be a bust, the store will be dead. Wrong.

Whole Foods was jammed, a cart-to-cart race around the fresh organic avocados and shiitake mushrooms. Thought to self: It’s Monday at 11 am EST, don’t these people have jobs?

Armed with new surveys, email sign ups and a beautifully wrapped raffle giveaway to inspire shoppers to hand over their emails and opt in to our monthly marketing offers, I was ready to take these demonstrations to the next level of branding and sales success.

When Branding becomes a Blemish on your UVP

I watched the demonstrator set up her table and she just blew my mind when she whipped out a home-made before and after photo of her own hair with her new healthy color. This is her show and tell to help sell my client’s hair color?

Two amateur photos, printed at CVS and glued on a piece of faded and slightly torn sheet of construction paper with the words “before and after” scribbled underneath. I was stunned.

Now my first thought was – add that to our graphics needs list, but the demonstrator insisted that customers just loved it. They believed the before and after because it was her own photo. It was convincing, not some “branded bullsh$@!

I gather the notion of making every single marketing message polished, perfect and PhotoShop-ed – is just not always the way to play it. Customers are so incredibly skeptical. Ready to shoot you down.

While I really don’t like “studies” and know that most statistics fall prey to confirmation bias, there has been  recent research on just how skeptical consumers have become.

The true challenge of marketing is how to make your mark without burning your brand. How to get customers to trust and believe you before they layout their hard earned cash.

 

20 Ways to Find Out What's Trending Right Now

20 Ways to Find Out What’s Trending on the Web Right Now

20 Ways to Find Out What's Trending Right Now

Whether you have five minutes of downtime to watch what’s hot, or you are looking to learn more about what (content) gets shared the most, here are some of the best sites and tools that rank the videos, photos and hashtags that are trending right now.

  1. Oublio  Photos are updated hourly and videos are updated daily on Oublio. The site monitor’s what’s popular on Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, Imgur and Pinterest.
  2. Imgur shares what’s fresh, interesting and popular on the web.
  3. You can find out what’s trending on YouTube with Google’s hot video watch list.
  4. Watch interviews with YouTube sensations with VH1’s Huge on the Tube channel. There are some teachable moments here on how to create videos that go “viral”.
  5. Video ad tech company Unruly has a site dedicated to charting viral videos on the web.
  6. YouTube’s Trend Dashboard allows you to filter video trends by city and country.
  7. #PopularonYouTube has over 29 million subscribers.
  8. You can find out what pins have the most likes, comments and shares at Popular on Pinterest.
  9. Newswhip.com  answers the question “How do you find the events and people that are changing the world right now?
  10. Find the most liked photos ever, hashtag cloud and popular filter usage and more at Instagram’s blog.http://blog.instagram.com/ and check out your own key metrics about your Instagram account.
  11. Your source for all that is trending on Twitter. Trendsmap shows you the latest trends on Twitter from anywhere in the world.
  12. Google Top Charts will tell you want’s most searched and what’s trending by any category you can imagine.
  13. Good old Buzzfeed has their own interpretation of what’s trending.
  14. What’s Trending serves as a 24/7 news hub, covering and curating the most viral and shareable content across the social web.
  15. What the Trend from Hootesuite gives their users the ability to weigh in on trends.
  16. Unruly’s blog curates and helps us understand why things trend in the first place.
  17. Webtrends.com helps to identify what the next big thing will be on the web.
  18. Viranova.com gives us a look at some of the weirdest trends on the web.
  19. NowTrending.com gives you the option to search by topic (many of the sites above also have this feature).
  20. and @BBCTrending shares a world view of what’s trending

If you have websites to add to the list, please comment or send us at tweet @marketcouncil

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Beautiful Photos & Videos for Your Website

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By now you should know that building great content and remarkable visuals for your website and online brand is really important to your success. If you are starting a new business and you don’t have any of your own photos, there are plenty of new and popular photo and video websites and sources to choose from, including Clip Canvas and Open Footage and those listed here on Hongkiat.com.

I recently stumbled upon UnSplash from @pickcrew and I really like their creative work.  While UnSplash is a creative community of freelance professionals, they do giveaway 10 free (do whatever you want) hi-res photos every 10 days.  Speaking of free tools to help build your business, check out this massive list from The Next Web, here. We love 365PSD for one free premium graphic each day.

Just don’t have the time? Need help building your library of visual assets or creative content? Drop us a line at m.johnson@themarketcouncil.com

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Sampling 101 The Discovery Channel Platform

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Getting consumers to take your product for a test drive could possibly lead to new sales and fans. Some call it “Discovery Commerce”, I call it a smart way to sample.

Even with all of the online reviews already out there and the busy affiliate bloggers mentioning your product combined with the mess of social sharing that happens daily, finicky customers still need a big push to your (shopping) cart and that can happen with sampling.  Today’s post is about the value of sampling your product and how to sample effectively.

Subscription boxes are boxes that contain an assortment of sample products – typically with a common theme, such as beauty boxes, pet boxes, or food boxes that customers subscribe to for a fixed monthly fee. In return, they get to try and review new products that they may purchase in the future.

Some customers claim they subscribe to monthly subscription boxes because they hate investing in a product that isn’t perfect for them. Others are interested in being the first to try a great new brand. Some buy them as the gifts that keep on giving for others. As a brand, these boxes can make sampling sense, but it’s recommended that you focus on making the transition from sampling to purchase as easy as possible.

Out of all of the ways to get your products into the hands of new customers, including in-store demonstrations and tastings, creating a unique retail experience, investing in a pop up shop, a special mall promotion or direct mail sample, I believe that investing your marketing budget with samples in a well-known and coveted sample subscription boxes offer great returns.

Keep in mind you will probably pay for category exclusivity and distribution, along with subsidizing the costs of samples, which can cost as much as a full size product to produce. What you get in return is a way to track sampling to shopping cart movement along with market research provided in the way of feedback from potential customers.

So how do you sample effectively?

  • Impress them with a “wow” factor. Be sure to include a sample of something new that has wide appeal.
  • Make sure the sample is large enough to try over three or four uses.
  • Make sure your product is in good company. Participate in subscriptions that have good reviews.
  • Convert customers with special coded coupons to you take them from sample to sale.
  • Many influencers review boxes, so be sure to discover, review and engage social sharing and news about #yourbrand
  • Be sure to learn from your audience. What did they like about your product? What might you change? or offer that is new?

One of the pioneers of the discovery commerce platform has been called the “Netflix of make up”  Birchbox is currently launching over 100,000 beauty products a year to over 400,000 subscribers. They also teach consumers how to use your cosmetics and send personalized products that match their subscribers profile. Birchbox has collaborated with brands like Gossip Girl and Women’s Health Magazine. And now there is even a Birchbox Man subscription box.

What other type of subscription boxes are we talking about?  There are over 1,000 subscription boxes currently on the market. Barkbox is a box of dog treats, RocksBox offers designer jewelry, Quniciple is a weekly subscription service that creates a balanced box of groceries each week, including the freshest from the farmer’s market. Creator Box for ages 6 and up contains a new build-it-yourself toy delivered each month. Bulu Box is a monthly subscription vitamin box that also has snack items like FlyJoy bars and Mediterranean Lentil crackers.

There are boxes for geeks/gamers, for the home, crafty and eco-minded even those that are celebrity-curated and “adult” only. The most popular subscriptions are fashion, beauty samples, organic food, eco products and kid’s crafts. And the discovery commerce space is booming. JustFab received $109M in venture capital and BeachMint $73.5M.

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, our favorite box of the day is Hotel Chocolat’s sampling box.

Looking for a box for your brand? Find Subscription Boxes has launched a mobile app to help people find the best box for them.

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Marketing in the Here and Now

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In the not so distant future, four very important things will matter most when engaging with your customers and their rising expectations of what you as a brand can deliver to them in the very moment they expect it.

Your customers will expect you to give them exactly what they want precisely when they want it at the very price they want to pay for it with one simple, easy and trustworthy digital transaction.

Marketing for the “right now” will have brands using technology like near-field communication and location-based mobile apps to meet their customers increasing demands.

In turn, marketing managers will be doing deep research dives to better understand their customer’s journey and what they need and want in real time. Ethnographic research will become a key strategy in your marketing plan as you watch and learn precisely how your customers shop, how they behave in their homes and uncover the triggers and motivations that drive their behavior.

Some of the newer on demand services that are currently addressing consumer’s needs –

Gym surfing a phone app that solves the problem of having to miss a day or so of workout training when traveling. This mobile app will help consumers find a gym near their current location with the ability to instantly buy a day or weekly pass.

Beautified provides a service that helps consumers look great while “on the go” with an easy way to find and book same day hair salon and beauty services.

The House call mobile app helps customers find trusted professionals like plumbers and electricians near them for same day repair services.

And if you have have a package that needs to go out right now the mobile app Shyp.com will help you get anything, anywhere, anytime.

Car in the shop? Grab a cab anywhere with Flywheel.

How is your brand preparing for the rising expectations of your customers? We’d love to hear from you. 

An excellent report about the future of on demand marketing at McKinsey here and an interesting article on Ethnographic Research from The Harvard Business Review.

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Marketing Secrets. A Look at Conversion.

brainBefore I begin, I must stress that the most effective marketing secret is in remaining “remarkable” @thisissethsblog Why remarkable? Because it really is about creating an amazingly valuable product or service that people just can’t live without. There may not even be a need for marketing. Well unless you have a really bad website. Than you need some help. But if your product is super wonderful, especially when people want to know – where’d you get that? Then you are #mydreamclient

For the rest of the world, marketing comes in handy and increasingly so on the internet.

Statistics vary from source-to-source, but the conversion rates to follow in this post are closer to the truth than what most digital agencies quote.  The purpose of this post is to relate what is most effective when it comes to spending your marketing dollars.

In 2016, global e-commerce sales are expected to reach 1.92 trillion US dollars. This year alone, 1.22 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online. (Conversioner.com)

While Gartner Research claims that by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their relationships with brands without ever talking to a human because of rapid growth of “marketing automation”, this post is a review of current conversation rates for some of the most popular methods of inbound marketing conducted by mere humans.

It’s important to understand the difference between a CTR (click through rate) which happens during the customer’s discovery and journey and which refers to the percentage of visitors clicking on your online ad or blog post/video link. Divide the number of impressions (people who saw your content) received by the number of clicks to get the CTR. For example if a blog post had 100 shares and two people clicked on something in it, the rate would be 2%.

For this post a conversion rate measures the percentage of your website visitors who actually purchase something from you. Conversion rate measures the number of sales you’ve received, just divide the number of sales by the number of visitors you have had to your website. Focusing on the ultimate user experience, while optimizing the conversion rate on your website is extremely important and an entirely different topic. For this post we were interested in learning which marketing activities attract the highest chances of conversion.

According to Forrester Research the average conversion rates across marketing activities are about 2.9%, while it’s also interesting to note that the average online order value in the first quarter of 2014 in the US was $78.00.

According to Conversioner.com 80% of the online population has purchased something using the internet and 50% have purchased more than once while 84% of online shoppers refer to at least one social media site for recommendations before shopping.

Email Marketing

Some interesting findings.

  • Personalized emails improve click through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10% (Aberdeen Group)
  • Using the word “Secret” in the subject line of your email has proven to get the most clicks. (Hubspot). While “Click Here” gets the highest percentage of clicks over “Go” and “Submit”.
  •  65% of consumers prefer emails that contain mostly images vs 35% who prefer mostly text. (Hubspot).
  •  According to Conversioner.com email marketing is the most converting traffic source with 3.3% conversion rate.

Social Media Marketing

So what does a Facebook business page or Instagram account really mean to your bottom line?

  • 52% of marketers cite difficulties in accurately measuring the return on investment as their main source of frustration in social marketing. It really makes you wonder about all the work it took to get those 1K + likes on Instagram, doesn’t it?
  • In 2014 Conversioner.com reported an average conversion rate of 1.08% through social platforms like Facebook and Pinterest.
  • According to a blog post by Marc Macdonald on Shopify.com Facebook dominates as a source of traffic and sales with a 1.85% conversion rate and an average of 85% of all orders from social media belong to Facebook. So less than two people out of 100 are actually going to buy anything from you.

You see Facebook and basically all social media are good tools for market research, customer service and customer feedback. Not sales.

Search Engine Optimization

  • SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (like direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate. (Search Engine Journal).
  • A search for a product had an average 2.27% conversion rate for online US Shoppers in 2014. By referrer, Google had a 1.71% conversion rate in 2013 according to Smartinsights.com

Content Marketing

  • Marketers who have prioritized content creation and curation (ie. a brand blog) are 13x more likely to enjoy a positive return on investment.
  • Content marketing generates 3 x as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less (Demand Metric)
  • The top three most widely adopted content marketing tactics are videos (87%), website articles (86%) and in person events.
  • 79% of companies that have a blog have reported a positive ROI for inbound marketing in 2013. (HubSpot State of Inbound 2013).
  • It’s interesting to note that 73% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase after watching a video and videos in universal search results have a 41% higher click through than plain-text results. When optimizing for universal search, pay attention to keyword intent and be sure to use informational keywords vs transactional words.

Referral Marketing

The trust factor becomes important with referral marketing as consumers rely on recommendations from people they know. According to a Neilson Trust Study, word-of-mouth referrals are the most trusted form of “marketing”, while editorial content, a mention or feature story in a magazine or newspaper fell behind a great branded website and online reviews.

Make it easy for customers to refer your products and services and be sure to respond to online reviews for engagement. Shopify has a number of great app recommendations to help referrals including Referral Candy, Friendybuy, LoyaltyLion and Referrify.

Paid Search

It depends on what you read, but the average click-through rate for paid search in 2010 worldwide was 2% (Convario Jan 2011) and in 2014 about 3.58% for shopping, 6.12% for banking, insurance and finance, 1.45% for the travel industry, 2.21% for home and garden and 4.79% for computers and technology.

Mobile Advertising

While about 8% of purchases come from desktops with a tablet purchase close behind, only 4% of purchases are made from a smart phone. But don’t you worry, that is growing. Thousands of blog posts will tell you so. In the meantime, there is a lot of mobile frustration, as potential customers complain of difficulty viewing product information, a challenge comparing product features and costs to others and slow connection speed as just a few of the setbacks to purchasing on their phones.

Affiliate Marketing

Conversions by affiliates have the highest order value with an average of $445.00 per sales order according to Hubspot and online surveys demonstrate a 1-3% conversion rate for affiliate marketing.

While we continue to study what marketing activities are worthwhile and actually lead to sales and have a return on investment when it comes to building a business, we agree with Seth Godin. “Being the best in the world is seriously underrated.”

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9 New Ways to Perfect Your Pitch

If you are trying to create high-quality content and news pitches that produce strong media placements for your brand, these tips will increase your chances of earning coverage by 99%.

  1. Plan ahead. It takes time for a reporter to write a story. For digital, give it at least a six weeks lead-time.
  1. Reseabaseball_steroidsrch the reporter/journalist first. Read their stories and watch their segments. Get to know their beat and go in with that first. Make it super-personalized to them. Follow them on social media. See how they pitch their stories.
  1. Create an interesting subject title, something that really sparks. Something witty and enticing to click open.
  1. Pitch a story, not your company. Include your brand in a broader “trend” story.  If you are a smaller, emerging brand, than stand on the shoulder of giants. If your competition is a part of the “trend” use them in your pitch to make your brand look bigger and brighter. Think about what will help that reporter get more clicks, lure in more readers, sell the news.
  1. Try to tie your story into a topic the journalist has already covered or something timely and interesting happening right now, like a trending topic.
  1. While you are drawing them in, get to the point fast and be concise. Keep it short, sweet and focus on the news, not just your brand. Proofreading also helps. Check for typos and misspells. It happens to the best of us.
  1. Include legit statistics and studies and end with a question – something they might feel they actually have to respond to, like “Would you be interested in sharing this story on ______?
  1. Suggest a reasonable way to follow up – email? phone call? meeting?
  1. Ask if they’d like exclusive coverage. In a sea of sameness, every reporter would love a scoop.
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Visual Branding that Works for Your Brand

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Although visual identity seems like only a portion of your brand, it is the first connection formed in the mind of the consumer.

That is why you should never underestimate the impact of your brand’s visual identity. Yes your customers will judge you by the face you put forward, including that on your website and social media. If new customers don’t notice you, you’ll never develop a relationship with them. That’s why your brand should look as amazing as possible.

Poorly-designed visuals –whether it be your packaging, marketing brochure, business card or website can actually hurt your reputation.

A great article about how to create and design a brand identity that builds trust and sells.

How to inform, engage and energize your consumer with visual assets that really pop off your web page – http://www.wix.com/blog/2013/03/best-website-images/

Need images for your new branding project but you are on a budget? Check out this post on the top 18 stock photography sites for great photography for your brand –

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Supercharge Your In Store Sales

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Everyone is offering you advice to increase your website sales. These particular tips are for your flagship store when you are not meeting sales projections at your brick and mortar location.  Here are some fast and furious ways to rapidly boost sales at any one of your locations.

Get to Know Your Customer 

Ask them what pulled them into your particular store? What products they currently use/love? What products do they wish they could buy?

Sell Smaller

Feature an under $20.00 display of products. This is a great way to have customers try your brand without feeling like they broke their budget.

 Switch Up the Store

Move the merchandise around in the store. Feature one collection a day on the “main” display or demonstration table. Then track sales to see which store layout works best. If you have a product that everyone wants in the front of the store, bring it to the back so customers have to experience everything you have to get to their “treasured” product.

 Master the “Up Sell”

This will help you increase your average sale. Pair products that work well together and be sure to have your sales staff recommend these products as a great duo.

 Spread the Word & Refer a Friend

Spread the word via existing customers by ramping up word-of-mouth promotional opportunities. One happy customer leads to the next. Create a promotion that prompts every new customer to tell (at least) five friends and reward her with a promotion for every friend she brings into the store.

Keep it Hyper Local

Create promotions on a local level, closest to the point-of-purchase (your store) by offering special promotions in nearby locations. Reach out to neighboring offices, hotels, cafes, etc. within a 5-block radius of your store and leave behind a postcard with premium offer.

 Sell in Season

Let the customer know what they must buy now. Moisturizing lip balms for chapped winter lips and serums for dry and damaged hair from the season’s frigid temperatures. Take a look at your stock and promote what is “in season” right now. Customers should be told what they need to have.

Text to Train Your Sales Staff

Train your sales staff daily. Send them text messages and emails throughout the day with great sales tips for each product. Keep them excited and motivated with great information.

Analyze Your “Best” Customer & Your Current Sales

 What is the most popular question that customers are asking?

Make sure the entire staff knows the answer and the best products to recommend.

 What is your best customer’s demographic? This way sales staff can spot a potential customer as she/he walks in the door.

Which sales rep is selling the most? Have them train the rest of your staff. What are they doing right? What do they know that your other sales team needs to know?

 What is the average price of an average sale? This should give you an idea of how much the average customer is willing to spend. Bundle products around this dollar amount.

When are the busiest times of day for your store? This is the time to promote with the heaviest traffic so make sure you are well staffed at this time so you don’t miss a customer.

Which products are selling the most?

This is done through sales training and by analyzing which products are selling the fastest and why. These products will be merchandised in the store to be “highlighted” with special promotions to move even more of them faster.

Play around with Special Promotions

Offer a special discounted promotion to try a new product. This product should have universal appeal and should be around the same price as the products that are currently selling with your “average sale”.

The Importance of a Brand Experience

With so many ways to buy online, the in store shopping experience must be made special. Be sure that you create a great brand experience in the store so that customers can try the product. This is created so the customer is WOW-ed! Have the products available for the customers to try with a mini treatment.

Play Games with Your Customers

Host daily raffles and giveaways to help bring traffic into the store. Announce these raffles on social media and invite customers in for a “chance to win”.

Display your Best Reviews & Press Mentions

Either on a digital monitor or framed shelf-talker near the product that has been reviewed.

Finally, be sure your sales forecast reflect goals that can actually be reached. Do a traffic study. How many people are actually walking into your store each day? How many leave empty handed?

Need guidance for your new store? Drop us a line at m.johnson@themarketcouncil.com or send us a tweet @marketcouncil