• The Immense Power That Virtual Reality Can Have for Your Brand

    If you’ve been paying attention, you know that virtual reality is being used for a whole lot more than scaring the pants off of gamers with apocalyptic zombie games.

    Manufacturers are using VR and its cousin, augmented reality (AR), to help employees learn how to operate high-tech machinery.

    Medical universities and hospitals are using VR for training and surgery simulations.

    But perhaps more than any industry (after the gaming and entertainment industries, that is), it’s marketing that is embracing VR and AR with open arms. It didn’t take marketers long to discover that VR has incredible applications for brands, whether they’re selling shoes or pitching the next season of a popular TV show.

    It’s easy to think “Hey, we should be using VR too!” when you’re brainstorming ideas for your next big marketing campaign. But how exactly do you employ VR effectively? How do you create something authentic, rather than gimmicky?

    You’re not alone in asking that question. Lots of brands are struggling to figure out what VR can do for them, and how to use it organically to spread their message. And while the medium will certainly continue to evolve with time, here are a few pointers on how to make VR work for your brand now.

    VR has a huge “wow factor,” but its real power is its massive storytelling potential.

    When you think of experiences that lend themselves to virtual reality, there are always the obvious ones that pop up.

    Roller coaster simulations.

    Space travel.

    Extreme sports, like skydiving.

    These are all fun, exciting uses of virtual reality, but they’re essentially gimmicks. They’ve got plenty of use for video production companies that need to show off their VR skills, but they won’t do much for brands that are trying to market their products (unless you make roller coasters, spaceships, or parachutes, that is).

    And while those experiences are bound to set your heart racing and give you a thrill, they probably won’t stick with you the way a VR story would.

    A great example is Tom’s, the shoe company that gives one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair that a customer buys. Tom’s created a beautiful, moving VR experience that takes viewers on a giving trip to a small village in Peru. Viewers get to see – and feel – what it’s like to hand out boxes of shoes to hundreds of joyful children.

    The reason it works so well is that it’s on message, it’s authentic, and it’s a memorable story. There’s nothing gimmicky about seeing the positive impact that your dollars have on children around the world.

    The Marriott hotel chain is doing something similar with its in-room VR offerings.

    Marriott is a pioneer when it comes to VR, having created the 4D virtual reality travel experience, the Teleporter, back in 2014. When you step into the Teleporter and don your virtual reality headset, you’re transported to a luxury hotel, a serene beach in Maui, and the top of a London skyscraper. The Teleporter added in experiential elements like sprays of water and gentle breezes to really take the VR experience to another level.

    While you can’t access the Teleporter in your Marriott hotel room, you can order a VR headset and headphones and experience one of the best things about travel: immersing yourself in the story of another place.

    Marriott’s VR Postcards are immersive travel stories that take the viewer on a short journey with a real traveler to a unique location. You can visit an ice cream shop in Rwanda, the Chilean Andes Mountains, or the streets of Beijing.

    While the Teleporter was incredibly popular, for obvious reasons, creating an entire 4D virtual reality machine is the kind of undertaking that only the largest companies with the biggest budgets can even consider. It’s heavy on the wow factor, but not as much on the emotional connection.

    The VR Postcards, on the other hand, are simpler but more emotionally rich experiences. And since marketing today is all about creating authentic connections with customers, your brand would likely do better to create something simple and emotionally fulfilling, rather than mind-blowing but hollow.

    If you sell a product, a VR demo can be a great way to build excitement.

    Crafting beautiful VR stories is an important way to use VR, but there are some more practical uses for the technology, too.

    If your business sells a product, creating a VR demo to show it off can be a highly effective way to build excitement around a launch.

    For example, Volvo created a VR Test Drive experience for their XC90 SUV. Viewers find themselves right in the driver’s seat, driving through the countryside on a beautiful day.

    This kind of product demo makes a lot of sense because test driving a car is a fairly big deal. You’re not going to head to a car dealership and ask to test drive something on a whim.

    Being able to do so in VR expands Volvo’s reach to thousands more customers, increasing not only their general brand audience, but also the possibility that someone who doesn’t live near a Volvo dealership will make the trip to test drive a Volvo in real life.

    Another major advantage of VR for product-based businesses is that they can demo lots of products – not just one.

    Consider a VR experience for a trade show or exhibition. When customers come to your booth, you can give them a VR headset that transports them into your showroom. Instead of the 5 or 10 square feet of your booth, they’re suddenly standing in a 1,000 square foot space, where they can check out multiple products instead of the one or two you were able to bring along.

    While product demos can be quite practical and still be effective, you shouldn’t forget about the importance of storytelling when it comes to VR.

    If all your customers want is a straightforward chance to see and “feel” your product, that’s fine – but if your product lends itself to a story, the way a luxury car or Tom’s shoes does, explore that avenue. You may end up with something far better than you could have imagined.

    If you’re going to do VR, do VR well. If you’re not ready to make a full VR investment, consider 360 video instead.

    There’s no denying that VR is an expensive marketing tool. Full VR experiences can easily get into the tens of thousands of dollars, depending on how complex the project and how long the video is.

    Since you don’t want to give your customers a mediocre VR experience, you should do plenty of research before committing to creating a VR video. Get bids from several agencies. If they’re coming in higher than you’re prepared to spend, consider a 360 video instead.

    360 videos create similarly immersive experiences, but without the interactive component that VR offers. That lowers the cost substantially.

    The New York Times, the Obama White House, and Conservation International have all created powerful 360 films – in fact, they can feel so immersive that the average viewer might not realize that they’re not technically VR.

    VR and 360 video have immense powers for brands that are willing to jump in and make the investment. For more on how video can improve your marketing, read our post “

     

  • 20 Things You Had No Clue Google Analytics Could Do

    In 2017, more than ever before, data drives every aspect of business. From predictive analytics powered by artificial intelligence, to data-based operating systems that allow businesses to perform just about any task with an immediate backdrop of company data, businesses are growing increasingly savvy about how to use data to guide their every step.

    The story is no different in the realm of marketing. The most effective marketing decisions are data-driven these days, based on which tactics garner the most traffic, the most engagement, or the most conversions. And where does most of that marketing data come from? Google Analytics.

    Everyone knows that you can get website traffic information from Google Analytics, but what many people don’t know is just how much it allows them to drill down into the details of that data, and how they can use that nitty-gritty to inform every marketing decision they make. Here are just 20 of the things that Google Analytics can do – and how you can use them to your advantage.

    1. Import data from other sources.

    Wondering where your social media stats fit into the big picture presented by Google Analytics? Need one central dashboard with all your marketing data in one place? Google Analytics has a Data Import function that allows you to combine data from other sources with the data it provides, thus giving you a complete picture of the results of your online marketing efforts – vital information in order for you to make educated decisions about your strategy.

    2. Show real-time traffic data.

    How many people are on your site right now? Log in to Google Analytics and you can watch visitors come and go in real-time on your computer screen. What pages are they on? Where are they lingering, and when do they leave? It can be extremely informative – not to mention exciting – to watch your traffic in real-time.

    3. Find the geographic locations your visitors come from.

    Whether you’re targeting an international audience or just your own hometown, GA can show you where your marketing activities are having an impact. It allows you to see both the countries and the cities where your visitors are located. You might be surprised to learn that your marketing message is resonating with people in unexpected locations – and you can use that information to tweak your tactics accordingly.

    4. See which devices your visitors are using.

    Google Analytics allows you to see whether your visitors are primarily mobile or computer-based – which gives you insight into how important it is for you to have a mobile-friendly site. But more than that, GA lets you know what types of devices they’re using, right down to the brand and operating systems, so you can check your site’s performance on each one and make sure it’s optimized for all of your visitors.

    5. Show the channels your traffic is coming from.

    If you’re wondering whether your marketing tactics have been more successful with search engines or on social media, Google Analytics will show you exactly which channels are sending you traffic, and how much of it you’re getting from each one. You may want to focus more intensely on certain channels once you see their ROI, and tweak your tactics on others to make them more effective.

    6. Watch the path visitors take through your site.

    By clicking on ‘Behavior Flow’ in GA, you’ll be able to see each step a visitor takes when they visit your site, from the page that brought them in, to the ones they visited next, and finally, which one made them leave. This data is invaluable, giving you insight into what attracts your traffic, what holds their interest, and which pages you still need to work on to make them just as interesting.

    7. Rank pages by popularity.

    You can also check to see the top, most often visited pages on your site – whether you want to know which pages are your all-time best performers, or which ones did the best last month. This data gives you a deeper understanding of what type of content does well with your audience, and what falls flat. Maybe seasonal blog posts draw a ton of traffic, but informational pages don’t – or vice versa. The numbers practically write your content strategy for you.

    8. Track your ecommerce performance.

    This one require a little legwork on your part first, as you’ll have to set up ecommerce tracking manually within GA – but once you do, Google Analytics will keep tabs on sales activity on your site, from which products are your best sellers to the times they were purchased and whether they were eventually returned and refunded.

    9. Watch your conversion rates for other goals.

    Once again, you’ll need to set this up manually within GA, but once you set your goals, Google Analytics will track how many visitors are converting. You can have multiple goals, from filling out a Contact Us form to signing up for an email newsletter, and GA will show you just how effective your content, design, and calls to action are.

    10. Track clicks on your site.

    Google Analytics will actually track every single click on clickable parts of your site’s pages, so that you can see what’s working to attract clicks, and what’s not – and tweak accordingly.

    11. Segment your traffic for more insight.

    You can also segment your traffic within Google Analytics, dividing it up based on traffic source, whether they converted or not, and much more. By doing this, you get a much more granular view of which groups are doing what, and which pages on your site are working – or not working – with each group.

    12. View the interests of your visitors.

    While you can’t personally track individual visitors with Google Analytics, you can still find out a lot about each one. Their interests, for example, and even their professions. This data can also be invaluable in determining how to tweak your marketing approach to appeal to them most effectively.

    13. Check the results of your longer-term marketing campaigns.

    Whether it’s a paid AdWords campaign or an organic social media blitz, you can track your results in Google Analytics easily. You’ll just have to add a tracking code to the end of the URL you’re sending visitors to, and then GA will be able to show you how well you’re doing by tracking traffic to that URL.

    14. Check the results of quick, one-day campaigns.

    With GA’s real-time traffic tracking, you can watch the performance of even short marketing campaigns in order to find out what works and what doesn’t. This can guide your future short campaigns, or inform your strategy for longer campaigns.

    15. Watch the real-time effects of social sharing.

    Did you just post a new blog post to Facebook? Or ask people to visit your landing page on Twitter? Once again, GA’s real-time view of traffic will allow you to watch as people begin to engage with your content, and help you determine what works and what doesn’t.

    16. Test site changes in real-time.

    And one more real-time benefit? You can make changes to your site, and then track exactly how they’re affecting your traffic’s behavior in real-time. Are they leading to more conversions, or fewer? Are they guiding visitors through the sales funnel, or are they causing a higher bounce rate? The answers will tell you how to tweak your site.

    17. Create your own channel groups for tracking traffic sources.

    Google Analytics does offer its own channel categories for tracking the sources your traffic comes from, but you can also create your own unique groupings of channels to keep tabs on your visitors and which tactics are most effective at attracting them to your site.

    18. See how quickly your website loads.

    Since site loading speed is part of Google’s ranking algorithm, this is an important thing to check from time to time. If Google Analytics tells you it’s taking longer than three seconds to load for your visitors, you’ll need to take steps to speed it up.

    19. Track cart abandonment.

    One of the most important things GA can do for ecommerce sites is help you determine the point when visitors are abandoning their carts. Is it at the shipping page? The payment page? Once you have this information, you can try offering discounts or free shipping or even just changing the flow of your check out process to see what gets more visitors to complete their purchases.

    20. Track form abandonment.

    If, for you, a conversion means filling out a form on your site, then GA can help you see which blanks are being filled in, and at what point your form is being abandoned. This can be invaluable in understanding how to change your form or your calls to action in order to get visitors to finish giving you their information.

    Believe it or not, this is far from all that Google Analytics can do. Start with these 20 things to give yourself a solid foundation in navigating GA, and then you’ll feel more confident exploring everything else it has to offer. And once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be amazed at just how much more effective your marketing becomes, now that it’s based on the detailed data Google Analytics provides.

  • The Ultimate Guide to Buyer Personas

    Ultra-targeting is making buyer personas more important than ever. Click To Tweet Surveys and interviews can give you the data you need to create your #buyerpersona. Click To Tweet

    Conventional wisdom used to hold that buyer personas were something only large businesses needed to bother with.

    Small and mid-sized companies often didn’t (and still don’t) develop buyer personas, for a variety of reasons. They’re time-consuming, for one thing, and some managers feel that time spent on a buyer persona could be better spent actually selling.

    For another, they can be very difficult to do correctly. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself: you sit down, ready to create your first buyer persona, when you realize that you know a lot less about your customers than you thought you did. Naturally, this can be a disheartening feeling.

    What do you do with this feeling? Do you tamp it down and switch to working on something else – analyzing data from your company’s latest social campaign, or writing a new whitepaper, perhaps?

    Or do you get down to business figuring out what you don’t know, and making the best buyer persona your company’s ever seen?

    If you’re in the latter group, then this blog post is for you!

    First, what is a buyer persona?

    If you’ve never created a buyer persona before, then you may not know where to begin.

    Let’s start with what a buyer persona actually is. Buyer personas are profiles of potential customers that you create using details like age, gender, and demographic as well as more nuanced information like values, hobbies, likes/dislikes, etc.

    You can do these in a couple of ways.

    First, you can create buyer personas for your existing customers to better hone in on what they want and identify new ways to sell to them.

    Second, you can create buyer personas for the customers that you want to attract. This is very helpful if you’re trying to break into new markets or launch new products.

    To achieve maximum efficacy, you’ll likely find yourself using both of these approaches at some point. After all, businesses can’t grow without attracting new customers, but they can’t sustain themselves without keeping their current ones.

    Why are buyer personas important in digital marketing?

    As consumers’ internet experience becomes ever-more personalized, buyer personas are becoming more and more vital for reaching your customers effectively. As the capabilities for ultra-targeting grow, we’re becoming better and better at filtering out what doesn’t apply to us.

    If my browsing history shows that I’m a woman who loves shopping for high-end clothes with subscription boxes, I don’t want to see a bunch of ads pushing brick-and-mortar, budget clothing stores.

    But what’s more, if those ads did show up as I was surfing Facebook or Twitter, I’d probably just tune them out. And that means that that company just wasted their money on me.

    If you want to make the most of your digital marketing dollars, you’ve got to know who you’re targeting and you’ve got to get as specific as possible. Hence the need for accurate buyer personas.

    Step 1: Identify your buyers into broad, generalized groups.

    Before you can start coming up with specific individual personas, you need to start big.

    Who do you sell to? Let’s use a hypothetical company for an example.

    Let’s pretend you work for a company that sells premium ice cream to gourmet grocery stores.

    Your broadest personas would therefore be:

    • Wholesale purchasers for major gourmet grocery chains
    • Wholesale purchasers for smaller, high-end grocery stores

    Now let’s zero in on each category.

    Step 2: Decide what questions about each persona you’re going to answer.

    For each persona, you’re going to be answering several questions. The important thing is to decide which questions are relevant for your business, as well as how you’re going to get the data you need to answer those questions.

    For the purpose of this blog post we’re going to focus on the second one: purchasers for smaller, high-end grocery chains.

    Let’s begin with the basics. We want to know:

    • Age
    • Gender
    • Location
    • Job title
    • Job functions

    That will give us a good start. So how do you find this information? Well, you probably already have a good deal of it. If you use a CRM, then you likely have demographic data on the people you deal with as well as job title information.

    Your digital analytics tools can also offer lots of this information. Look through Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and any other third-party tools you use to draw demographic information about the people who are interacting with your site.

    Your sales team will be able to answer many of these questions, as well.

    Once you’ve gotten these simpler questions out of the way, it’s time to start looking at more nuanced information.

    For example, what kind of frustrations or obstacles does this person confront in their job? What makes their job easier? What does he or she need from a supplier?

    Step 3: Go to your customer to get answers.

    When you’re looking for answers to these sorts of questions, analytics will only get you so far. A better way to get real information is to interview prospects and current customers, and, if you can, former customers or customers who have had complaints about your product or service in the past.

    Doing so may not be that much fun, but it will give you valuable insight into areas that your business needs to improve.

    To find people who might be open to being interviewed, start with your sales team. They’ll likely have a good feel for customers who would be interested in talking with you, and who would give you candid answers.

    Another option is to create an online survey that you place on your website.

    Online surveys do have some inherent issues. For one thing, people are self-selecting to take a survey, so you’ll likely get people who really like your product or who really hate it, rather than those who feel lukewarm about it.

    However, since you’re creating buyer personas and not doing strict statistical analysis, you are still extremely likely to get some helpful information from your survey responses.

    If you’re creating a buyer persona for a customer you don’t yet have – if you’re entering a new market or launching a brand-new product – you may have to get a little more creative in finding interviewees.

    Referrals from current customers, contacts who’ve signed up for new product notifications or your email newsletter, and social media can be a few good sources.

    Step 4: Use the information you’ve garnered to answer your persona questions, and voila! You’ve created a buyer persona.

    Now that your research is done, it’s time to put all those answers together to create a full picture of your customer.

    Pro tip: before you start answering your questions, consider giving your persona a name, and better yet, an image. This will help you feel like you’re talking about a real person, rather than just a collection of characteristics.

    Here’s a brief, simplified example. We’ll call this persona Purchasing Peter.

    Name: Peter
    Age: 34
    Gender: Male
    Location: Harrisburg, PA
    Job title: Owner/purchaser for independent high-end grocery store
    Job responsibilities/functions: Manages day-to-day operations of store. Decides on and purchases products for store on monthly basis.
    Requirements for products he carries: Reliable supply. Ability to order small quantities. Excellent, personal customer service. Some payment flexibility. Extremely high-quality product.
    Frustrations: Difficulty reaching suppliers. Suppliers who can’t offer the small quantities he needs. Suppliers geared only toward large accounts.

    That’s just a start, but as you can see, this persona has already answered some important questions about what’s important to one of your customer groups. If you can get more detailed, do – it will help you immensely when it comes to targeting your digital ads, honing your social media message, and improving your overall business success.

    Creating buyer personas is an important aspect of developing a strong digital marketing strategy. Want to up your game even more? Get better at talking to your customers by developing an outstanding brand persona.

  • Sharing, Citing, and Stealing: Content Etiquette Rules for the Digital Age

    The Book of Ecclesiastes and Shakespeare said it long, long ago: “There is no new thing under the sun.”

    That was true then, in the days of stone tablets. It was true when Shakespeare was writing his sonnets. And it’s most definitely true now, in the age of the internet.

    It seems sometimes that you can Google anything – a dream you had last night, a thought that ran through your head this morning – and find 15 people who’ve not only had that same dream or thought, but written about it to boot.

    When you’re writing content for your brand, this can become a little disconcerting. How do you make sure you’re not inadvertently plagiarizing? When and how should you cite sources? What rules govern how you share images or content from other sites?

    If you’re new to writing for the web, it’s easy to get paralyzed by all these questions and not write anything at all. To keep that from happening, take a look at these content etiquette guidelines for some of the situations we often find ourselves in when creating or sharing content.

    Doing research for a blog post, whitepaper, or other long-form piece of content

    When you’re researching for a blog post, whitepaper, webinar, or other piece of long-form content, you’ll likely find several sources for the information you’re after.

    If you look closely, however, you’ll likely find that many of those sources all found that information somewhere else – from a reputable primary source. That’s as long as the sources you’re looking at are solid, informative ones, not ones intended to be purely entertaining.

    The best practice here is to follow those secondary sources back to the primary source, which could be an academic paper, a study, a news article, even a well-researched opinion piece on a popular blog.

    Sometimes finding the primary source is very easy, but sometimes it can take some digging. Either way, looking at the primary source yourself will pay off in spades.

    For one thing, you’ll know that the data or information quoted is correct.

    For another, you’ll be able to ensure that you’re not plagiarizing anyone when you put the info in your own words in your content.

    Finally, if you decide to quote, you can quote the original text, rather than someone else’s interpretation of that text.

    When you find information or a quote that you want to use, make sure you cite it correctly. At the very least, include a hyperlink to the original page where you found the information, but if you can, it’s best to also include the name of the site or author in your text. That way, readers who don’t click on the link will still know who the information came from.

    Direct quotations

    Quoting a source on the internet follows the same general rules that you learned in high school English. If you’re taking a direct quotation from somewhere else, you must attribute that quote correctly.

    In print, that usually means citing the author’s name, the publication the quote came from, and a date of publication.

    On the internet, you want to include the author or publication name, but you can handle the rest of the info by linking to the original source. So you could say something like this:

    Corey Wainwright of Hubspot says that when quoting a source online, “Aside from mentioning the person’s name, it’s also nice to provide them with an inbound link – either to the page from which you drew your quote, or to another meaningful page on their site.”

    Corey’s name is mentioned, the company she writes for is mentioned, and there’s a link to the exact blog post where we found that quote. Now if you want to be extra courteous, as Corey adds in that same post, you can include a link to the person’s Twitter handle (@Corey_bos), Instagram profile or personal website.

    When you’re quoting someone else on one of your social media profiles, it’s very easy to do so correctly. You can retweet on Twitter, regram on Instagram, repin on Pinterest and share on Facebook.

    If you want to add your own words or context, you can add “via @username” to the Pin, Instagram post, or tweet. If you’re on Facebook, simply type what you want to say in the status bar, add “via the name of the person whose post you’re sharing” and hit “Share.”

    You can also link to the person or company’s Facebook page within the text of your Status update by adding “@” to the name.

    Using images

    We all know that content with images gets far more engagement than content with no images. According to research on visual content marketing by BuzzSumo, blog posts with images once every 75-100 words received twice the number of shares than articles with fewer images than that.

    Here’s a graph, also from BuzzSumo, showing that.

    Source: BuzzSumo

    In addition, the website’s researchers also found that Facebook posts with images receive 2.3 times more engagement than posts without images.

    So images are pretty important in the land of content marketing. However, we’re betting that you don’t have a photographer on call 24/7 to take high-quality photos to use in each and every content asset you create.

    That means that you’re going to have to use images that are not “yours” – as in, that you did not create.

    The easiest way to ensure that you have the right to use a photo is to pay for it. Sign up for an account with a stock photography website, and you can pay for and download stock images that you can then use in your content. Stock images, by the way, are royalty-free.

    There are even some free sites where you can find either copyright-free images, or copyrighted images that you can use for free with certain restrictions. Flickr’s Creative Commons is one such site.

    See? This is a stock photo we bought from fotolia.

    You can also, of course, contact photographers whose work you like and ask if they’ll allow you to use one of their images in a piece of your content (with proper citation, of course).

    Some may be willing to let you use the image for free, provided you link back to their website. Others may let you purchase internet rights.

    If you are set on using someone else’s copyrighted work for your posts, there’s a set of rules called “Fair Use that you’ll have to follow. Here’s a very brief overview from Nicole Martinez at the Art Law Journal:

    “The purpose and character of the use of the photo you’re using should generally not be used for commercial purposes, and will constitute fair use if you’re using the image for purposes of commentary, criticism, reporting, or teaching.”

    Now, since most brands have some commercial component, by their very nature, you’re probably safest not relying on Fair Use and sticking to using purchased images. This way, you won’t find yourself in a legal muddle over a photo you thought was fair game.

    When in doubt, use a plagiarism checker

    If you’re not sure whether what you’ve written is truly original, it’s a good idea to use an online plagiarism checker. There are several of these available, usually for free, and all you have to do is copy and paste your text into a box and hit “check.” You’ll get an alert if the tool has detected plagiarism.

    These tools are especially valuable if you’re using freelancers or other contractors to help create your content. You never know when someone may accidentally (one hopes it would never be on purpose) plagiarize a source.

    Being courteous and giving credit where credit is due won’t just keep you out of legal hot water. It’s simply the ethical thing to do. For more on creating great content, read our post “What is High-Quality Content?

  • Marketing to Millennials – 10 Things Every Company Must Know

    Much is said about millennials, both positive and negative. They’re simultaneously valorized as innovative social justice warriors and disparaged as being self absorbed, entitled Peter Pan prototypes. Whichever camp you fall into, it is helpful to know how to communicate with them, how to market to them, and how to relate to them through the prism of their own values.

    1) “Millennial” represents a diverse body of individuals.

    As obvious as it may seem, it’s worth underlining that the trends of a demographic do not equal hard and fast rules. And millennials are exceptionally diverse, even in comparison to other generations. For example, 45% of millennial adults identify as Hispanic or non-white, compared to 39% of Generation X, 27% of Baby Boomers, and only 17% of the Silent Generation.

    To complicate matters further, many of the millennials who identify as non-white are second-generation immigrants with complex histories who are striving to balance two or more different cultural heritages. (23% are bilingual)

    In addition to their cultural variability, millennials range from 16 to 35. That range is indicative of different tastes in everything from music to politics. And though that doesn’t mean there’s no common ground, it’s important for advertisers and companies to identify sub-groups and target them.

    2) Identity is important.

    Millennials grew up with both the internet and identity politics. In other words, they’re hyper aware of both the collaborative and constructed nature of identity. If your product can speak to their values and their lifestyle, it’s that much more attractive.

    As MZ founder Shama Hyder loves to emphasize, consumers choose brands according to what those brands empower them to say about themselves. If companies can anticipate that in their outreach and engagement efforts, they will encounter less resistance.

    3) Create consistency and overlap through multiple channels.

    Though millennials make up the smallest population of newspaper and magazine readers, they expect information to flow through multiple channels. Variation in both medium and format is the baseline.

    Get creative and use infographics, guest posts, video tutorials, and webinars to share your message. Whichever channel you opt for, make sure the information is easy to digest and relatable. Also, take into consideration technical compatibility. Is your website mobile-friendly? How does it look from a SEO perspective? Is it competitive?

    4) Leverage the social.

    Millennials love community like a kid loves cake. Memes, current events, shared passions are all a means of developing “tribes,” showcasing identity, and integrating commerce and self-expression.

    This is one of the reasons that user-generated content is as popular and effective as it is. Millennials trust word-of-mouth buzz over old school marketing, and 85% seek out the opinions of those in their network when making purchasing decisions. Additionally, thirty-three percent cite blogs as being trusted authorities for research.

    5) Go Mobile.

    With 85% of millennials owning smart phones, marketers and companies need to be tailoring their ads to mobile platforms and the habits of mobile users. For most millennials, their phones are extensions of themselves. They use them to connect with loved ones, hook up with cute ones, browse on Amazon, or banter with Siri.

    And, many are willing to trade data for convenience. If a brand can be equal parts transparent and respectful, this is a golden opportunity.

    6) Don’t put them in a box.

    Traditional ways of categorizing and labeling demographics don’t always resonate with millennials. Though some may follow a more linear trajectory, far more pave their own path and march to the beat of their own drummer. Marketing to millennials according to life stages or preset types could backfire, but marketing to millennials according to their interests and their curiosities is an astute strategy that honors their maverick streak.

    Millennials, whether they take a more or less conventional route, seem to be in agreement that there’s no-one-size-fits-all. Dads can stay home with the kids. Women can have children later. And two people who have never been in love may be the best co-parents ever.

    7) Bridge the global and the local.

    Many millennials feel like global citizens with local concerns. They realize they live in a vast, yet interconnected, world, but they also feel the pull of their most proximate networks. Balancing the two in intelligent, creative ways is a great way to a millennial’s heart. From boutique brands that bring artisan goods from remote corners of the world to buyers in the first world, to artistic movements that weave together disparate sounds into groovy rhythms, the common, if divergent, pulse of the planet is an attractive and compelling idea.

    Not all millennials will be sworn to free trade or sensitive to the perils of the Ivory Coast, but most will appreciate a brand that champions a sense of discovery and wonder while offering solutions to the problems of daily life.

    8) Personalize the shopping experience.

    Millennials love customization almost as much as they fantasize about which Hogwarts house the sorting hat would place them in. How can you make your brand more personal and interactive? How can it be a canvas upon which your customers paint their stories? We’re not just talking monogrammed towels; we’re talking about a shopping experience that’s founded on listening, dialogue, and meeting exact and particular needs.

    For example, clothing brands, like MM. La Fleur or StitchFix, that bridge the experience of a personal shopper or stylist with the time-saving economy of ordering items online are becoming more and more the new normal.

    Even if this feels like a more high-end offering at the moment, it’s undeniably the wave of the future.

    9) Use influencers.

    Millennials respond well to influencer marketing. However, it’s o.k. if your marketing budget can’t afford Tom Cruise or Halle Berry. “Influencer” doesn’t equal celebrity, as it may have in the past. With the rise of YouTube and Instagram stars, an influencer with a great following can be a great way to target a niche market or develop your brand’s presence on a particular social platform.

    A Collective Bias report found that 70% of millennials value endorsements from influencers that feel more like peers than “famous people.” The takeaway from that statistic confirms that a heightened sense of recognition and relatability are the driving force behind the popularity of influencers. This also explains the rise of “micro influencers” — social personalities with a critical mass of followers that have high engagement and a sense of authenticity. More and more brands are finding that micro influencers are the sweet spot for really reaching customers.

    10) Be socially responsible.

    There’s a reason millennials love Tom’s. The reason is that the brand tries to solve a big real world problem while simultaneously offering a product that people enjoy. Such idealism and innovation inspire millennials, and statistics show that 77% of millennials engage brands with a corporate social responsibility department. Though old ways of thinking might see doing good and making money as at odds, millennials challenge this narrow outlook.

    What’s sexy to a millennial? A triple bottom line — people, planet, and profits. Companies don’t have to save the world. They just have to show they care. That may mean fair wages, community outreach, or sustainability initiatives. It could be as simple as offering an easy way to recycle old products, or to hire veterans.

    Whether you work for millennials, employ them, or are one yourself, these ten ways to reach them should shed some light on their mystery and their power in the marketplace.

  • To Rebrand or Not to Rebrand: A Guide for Businesses at a Turning Point

    Rebranding shouldn’t be gimmicky, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Click To Tweet Rebranding can’t be all about the bottom line. Click To Tweet

    Even rock stars have a difficult time rebranding.

    When – in an effort to wrestle back control from Warner Brothers – Prince began to go by a mysterious symbol, or ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,’ fans reacted with annoyance, and the population at large reacted with mockery. Though his fight for artists’ rights may have been laudatory, the abrupt execution of this new moniker alienated just about everyone.

    Rebranding represents a pivotal moment of transition for a company or an artist, and whether superficial or totally transformative, it can highlight the fact that a brand’s identity is always a negotiation between popular opinion and the interests of the brand itself.

    Lesson One: Don’t Neglect the Value Proposition

    There are many good reasons to rebrand, and a few lousy ones, as well. The important differentiator and the one that customers will be most sensitive to is whether there’s been a significant change or merely a surface re-design.

    For example, when Radio Shack, in an attempt to regain relevance, changed its name to “The Shack,” the public response was a mix of confusion and apathy. The problem was that the value proposition hadn’t been updated, so consumers felt like they were being tricked or talked down to. It was, in a sense, insulting.

    Source: Gear Live

    Lesson Two: Rebranding doesn’t have to be radical.

    Although a rebranding that is received as merely a marketing gimmick is likely to fall flat, it’s also not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Ideally, you want to build on your past successes and spotlight your strengths.

    When Dos Equis launched its “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign in 1996, sales rose 22% in three years.

    This rise was not due to the fact that Dos Equis had started selling orange juice instead of beer or was moving its headquarters to Iceland. It was because it had found a way to showcase and amplify brand values such as a love of adventure and a healthy sense of curiosity.

    Lesson Three: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    Companies will sometimes revamp their branding out of an anxiety around staying current or in an attempt to maintain a competitive edge.

    However, this well-intentioned move can backfire because it misjudges the marketplace. The “new” can definitely have an appeal, but the “classic” or the “traditional” are also of high value.

    We reach for something because it is familiar as much, if not more, than we reach for something because it’s novel. Whatever the ratio of their relative sway, both the familiar and the novel exert a powerful influence over us, and it can be a mistake to choose one at the expense of the other.

    In 2010 when the Gap changed its logo from its well established tall, unique typeset to a dull helvetica, it was met by such a backlash of criticism and disapproval that it reversed its decision in six days.

    Source: Unit Partners

    Lesson Four: Rebranding can’t be all about the bottom line.

    Your brand represents a relationship, and though the overall health of that relationship is often measured by a bottom line, it can’t be reduced to it. It follows that a rebranding motivated entirely by profit margins could be counter-productive in the long run.

    The classic example of this point is the 2011 Netflix/Qwikster debacle. When Netflix proposed a split into two companies and a 60% spike in service charges, 800,000 subscribers said, “Bye, Felicia.”

    Lesson Five: Offer quality.

    One of the best reasons to rebrand is to offer higher quality. How can you make your product safer, healthier, tastier, or more environmentally friendly? Whether the motivation is a new competitor, customer complaints, or simply a great idea, boosting the quality of your product is a sound move.

    When Harley Davidson faced bankruptcy in the 80s, they realized that the reliability of their motorcycles had to match the popularity of the brand. When they adjusted the quality of their product, they were able to thrive.

    A word to the wise here: don’t compromise something customers love about your brand to offer something new. If Harley Davidson had redefined its culture in the process of upgrading its product, its fans would have been outraged. Even if it feels like the trade-off might be worth it, it’s a risky move.

    Lesson Six: Adapt, adapt, adapt.

    “The times they are a-changin,” sang Bob Dylan.

    He might have been referencing the civil rights struggle and the expansion of consciousness that marked the 60s and 70s, but his words still ring true. Perhaps, the times are always a-changin’.

    This doesn’t, however, mean that there’s nothing to hold on to. Some of the most successful brands are ones that blend a sense of heritage with a sense of ongoing evolution. Dylan himself underwent just such a transition in 1965 when he “went electric.” As a smart rebrander though, he kept the same lyrical sensibility and intelligence that had earned him millions of fans.

    Burberry, the high fashion darling, was seen as incoherent and out of touch as recently as 2006, however, under the management of new leadership and with the help of influencers like Kate Moss and Emma Watson, it underwent an overhaul.

    By centralizing design and making its products more exclusive, it was able to climb the ladder of luxury brands and offer more by offering less.

    Lesson Seven: Tap into a new market.

    There’s a running joke about the struggling model or actor who says, “I’m really big in Japan!” Though rebranding in a foreign market can occasionally be perceived as an act of desperation, there are many cases in which it represents an astute tactical move.

    No one laughed, for example, when Pabst Blue Ribbon, the go-to beer for broke college students, featured a jaw dropping $44 Blue Ribbon 1844 in China.

    The Blue Ribbon 1844 is a special mix of German malts, aged in oak whiskey barrels and catered towards the Chinese elites’ affection for pricey beers. It was a brilliant, if unexpected, idea, and it goes to show that there is room for brands to explore their alter egos without letting go of their home base.

    Lesson Eight: Connect with your audience.

    The most effective brands sync up with their audience, and in some ways, know them better than they know themselves. This could be reflected in the style of seasonal campaigns, or more dramatically, in a total rebranding.

    When Apple dropped the “Computers” in its name, traded in its colors for a clean slate, and designed the iconic “Be Different” campaign, it tapped into the values of its clientele of cultural creatives and secured a loyal following. By aligning its brand with values of innovation, simplicity, and social revolution, it distinguished itself as an ally and leader in the dreams of the young.

    Lesson Nine: Get help.

    It’s natural to be secretive while rebranding, since an early release by a third party or in less than ideal circumstances can diffuse or distort the excitement of a rebrand. But, in isolation, it’s all too easy to lose perspective. To the extent that you can, use focus groups, employee feedback, and customer opinion to refine your rebranding efforts.

    No brand exists in a vacuum, and if you can tell a new story while involving everyone who makes your brand vital and viable, the new story will be a success.

  • 7 Digital Marketing Mistakes That Can Kill Your Brand

    Everyone makes mistakes.

    You type “Helo” instead of “Hello” in one of your email newsletters.

    You forget to create a custom URL for one of your blog posts.

    You mistype an email subject line.

    These are small things that, while certainly undesirable, probably won’t have a long-term negative effect on your brand (unless you do them habitually, of course, in which case you probably need to talk to us!).

    But then there are the mega-mistakes. The things that can take a brand from being generally liked to generally loathed, or The snafus that are incredibly difficult to come back from.

    Chances are, you’ve seen some or all of these screw-ups played out online in all their gut-churning glory. And goodness knows, you don’t want to be the next brand sacrificed at the altar of social media public opinion (which is even more cutthroat than public opinion IRL).

    But mistakes don’t have to be public to be major. In fact, perhaps the worst mistakes you can make are the ones that get you…indifference. The campaigns you shell out thousands, even hundreds of thousands, for, that get almost no results.

    Without further ado, here’s a list of the mistakes that you really, really don’t want to make.

    Hopping into a trending conversation online without having anything valuable to contribute.

    We all know that authenticity is something consumers value almost above all else when it comes to marketing. This is especially true among Generation Z – according to a recent survey, 63 percent of Gen Z wants to see “real people” rather than celebrities in advertisements.

    What this means is that the general consumer has a pretty sophisticated filter. They can sense when brands are engaging with conversations around a topic, movement, or current event as part of a sales pitch, rather than because it relates to their brand values.

    For example, take the tragic passing of Prince in 2016. Along with the thousands of people who expressed their grief for the musician’s death on Twitter, countless brands tried to pay tribute, too. Some were appropriate and well-done – but others seemed to cross the line into self-promotion, like Cheerios’ attempt:

    via AdWeek

    While the brand may not have meant for their tweet to feel like an advertisement, the social media universe definitely thought it did. The tweet was pulled down and an apology issued quickly.

    A more fitting tribute was Instagrammed by the Minnesota Vikings:

    via AdAge

    Notice how there’s no mention of the brand anywhere on the image? That’s because this isn’t about the Vikings. It’s about Prince. That’s something you have to remember when deciding whether or not to comment on major events like this: it’s not really about your brand.

    Shutting down a campaign or initiative prematurely because the results aren’t what you think they should be.

    There’s a myth about digital marketing that just refuses to die: that digital marketing efforts create immediate results.

    While this can be true in certain, one-off cases – like when we helped Dippin’ Dots write an open letter to Sean Spicer that went viral – the majority of the time, digital marketing takes time. It takes effort.

    Let’s say you’re working on building a blog for your brand. You’ve been blogging regularly for the past 3 months, but you’re still not seeing a major increase in your site traffic. So you decide to put those blogging resources somewhere else.

    What you should actually be doing, however, is looking more closely at your blog posts and site traffic to see what the posts are actually doing. Are they bringing in some traffic? Are certain posts getting more clicks than others?

    Instead of blogging less frequently or not at all, you may need to change your blogging strategy or promote your blog posts better.

    And, as difficult as it is, in some cases, you just need to keep building your momentum.

    You don’t do your research.

    The digital marketing world moves fast, for sure, but that doesn’t mean you should skip doing the research necessary for a post.

    A perfect example is DC Comics, which posted an image of a comic they said was translated from … wait for it … Pakistanian. Yikes. We all know that’s not a language, right?

    via Entrepreneur

    If you’re making any kind of factual claim, you’ve got to make sure your facts are correct before posting it for the entire internet-using world to see. Someone’s bound to screenshot your mistake before you delete it, and the results could be disastrous.

    Buying fake followers.

    Many brands are desperate for social media followers, and unsurprisingly, plenty of businesses have popped up with the aim of satisfying that need.

    To do so, these companies employ a couple of techniques. Using your Twitter account, they might follow thousands of people each day, waiting for those accounts to follow you back. Then they unfollow the ones who don’t follow you back.

    Another way is to use “zombie” accounts. These are inactive accounts created by the fake follower company that they use to artificially inflate the number of followers you have.

    If you’re having trouble growing your social media following, maybe you’ve been tempted by these types of companies and their promises to get you thousands of followers quickly and painlessly. We get it.

    But you don’t want mindless followers. You want engagement. Quantity might have beat out quality 10 years ago, but today, it’s all about quality. If you have 100 followers who engage with your social media posts, that’s much better than 100,000 followers who barely retweet you, let alone engage with your brand.

    Plus, people can usually tell when your followers are fake, and the negative impact from having that knowledge floating around will be much worse than any potential negative from having just a few followers.

    Not making the most of analytics.

    Analytics are vitally important to the success of any digital marketing campaign. How else are you going to know what’s working and what isn’t? What’s worth the money you’re spending, and what’s simply a waste of resources?

    What’s great about the analytics platforms out there today is that you can customize them so extensively that you’re able to discover all kinds of minute, yet crucial, details about your customers.

    For example, you can use your analytics platform to see how your audience falls into various age ranges. If the majority of visitors fall into the 35-44 age range, you’ll want to focus on creating content that will appeal to this age group.

    You can also use analytics to see how well a particular campaign is performing. If you’ve created a campaign-specific landing page, for example, you can see:

    • How many visitors that page has received relative to other pages on your site
    • What the bounce rate is
    • How many unique visitors have visited that page

    And much more.

    Making poor use of humor.

    Humor on the internet is a touchy thing.

    There are so many examples of brands using humor that either falls flat or inadvertently comes off as offensive (IHOP’s “flat but has a great personality” pancake tweet, DiGiorno’s #WhyIStayed tweet) that it’s wise to think twice before trying to be funny or edgy on social media.

    However, when used correctly, humor can be a powerful tool. Just look at Old Spice and their bizarre, yet hilarious social media voice:

    via @OldSpice

    We bet you remember the first time you saw their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial, too. That was epic, right?

    But you can bet that ad campaign wasn’t the product of a couple funny guys at Old Spice throwing around ideas. That was a finely honed, comprehensive brand campaign with a highly developed voice.

    If your brand is willing to put in the time and effort to develop a specific humorous voice, and outline how it can be used, then you’ve probably got a good chance at doing funny well. But if all you’ve got is one funny person at the office who likes taking over the Twitter account now and then, well – it might be wise to leave the humor out of it.

    Not focusing on your customer.

    Whether you’re a B2C or B2B company, your digital marketing has to be all about your customer.

    That means things like making it easy for customers to find your site or purchase products through your social media accounts, not bombarding them with constant marketing emails, and giving them a personalized experience.

    But when it comes to social media, there are other ways to put the focus on your customer. For example, if a commenter on one of your social media posts is attacked or threatened by other commenters, it’s vital that you manage that situation and protect your customer by addressing those offensive comments head-on.

    In most cases, it’s best to delete the threatening or offensive comments and make a statement about why you’ve deleted them. Care should be exercised, of course, but cruel language should never be tolerated.

    Not planning.

    Flexibility is important for a successful digital marketing campaign, but so too is planning. Before you launch a digital marketing campaign, which could take up huge amounts of resources, you should have a few things mapped out.

    First, you’ve got to know what your objective is. Is it to gain more followers? To increase brand awareness? To sell more of Product A, B, or C?

    You should also know what channels you’re focusing on and how you’ll be distributing the content associated with the campaign.

    Will you be posting daily pictures on Instagram, and sharing them via your other social media accounts?

    Will you be crowdsourcing images by asking fans to submit their own, with a particular hashtag?

    Then, you’ve got to know how you’ll measure success. Will it be a percentage increase in unique site visitors? Lower bounce rates? An increase in conversion rate for email newsletter sign-ups?

    Navigating the waters of digital marketing can be challenging. It’s important to be aware of the potential pitfalls so you can avoid them, and keep your brand from either fading away or going up in flames.

  • 15 Writing Tips to Make Your B2C Blog Posts Shine

    Literary genius is not a prerequisite for making your B2C blog posts shine. Click To Tweet Calls to action can include “imagine,” “consider,” and “follow through,” in addition to “sign up… Click To Tweet

    What’s the difference between a blog post that makes your reader feel curious, laugh, and empathize and one that informs, but is otherwise lackluster?

    The difference is a sense of connection, a sense of humor, and a wittiness that admits the subtleties of irony and nuance. Don’t worry – you don’t have to be J.K. Rowling to tell a great story.

    Literary genius is not a prerequisite for making your B2C blog posts shine. It certainly helps, but it’s not necessary. There are several simple things you can practice and keep in mind before, after, and while composing your posts that will showcase your creativity and cause readers to take notice.

    1. Surprise your readers.

    The element of surprise lends novelty to your post, and it can inspire readers to lean in. One of the most common reasons we tune out or dismiss a blog post is because we think we already know what it has to say. We’re protective of our time and weary of the redundant.

    Note that this doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel. What you have to say may have been said before, but it may not have been said in the way you’re saying it. Leverage your unique perspective to bring out and emphasize aspects of the story or news you’re sharing that may been purposefully downplayed or simply left underdeveloped.

    2. Ask questions and explore alongside your reader.

    It can certainly inspire confidence when someone has all the answers, but it can also be refreshing to be in the presence of someone who’s thinking out loud. Great writing invites us into a process. We feel like we can’t help but participate, wonder, and follow along.

    3. Use imagery.

    Compare these two sentences:

    “Broadman and Sons is featuring a new kind of cake in its bakery.”

    “Broadman and Sons, after years of toiling knee-deep in flour and sugar, has created a new chocolate cake, and it tastes like heaven.”

    While similar in message, the two sentences actually exist worlds apart. Through the use of rich imagery, the second sentence has the reader literally salivating. It also feeds the imagination. The reader feels invested. Who are these people? What have they made? What does heaven taste like? Can I stop by the bakery on my way home from work?

    4. Use detail.

    Our lives are complex and filled with color and specificity. The more you can include this color and specificity into the story you’re telling through your blog post, the more it will shine.

    Even in the most technical writing, there is room for detail. If you’re talking about a new piece of machinery, for example, the reader may not be that excited about its formal specs or mechanical functions, but even adding a few sentences about the people and process that enabled that new piece of machinery will generate interest. Did it take years? Was there a “Eureka!” moment? What struggles did the team have to overcome to get to the big reveal?

    5. Pair words with visuals.

    Though good writing has built-in imagery, actual visuals can be a great complement to rich language. They can drive home a point, sum up a complex idea, and as the old adage goes, — be “worth a thousand words.”

    Finding the right visual, whether a stock photo or a compelling infographic, is not always easy. Choose something relevant and vibrant that fosters an emotional connection, or in the case of an infographic, is thought-provoking.

    6. Make a joke.

    Comedic timing is both complex and simple. A touch of sarcasm, a wry observation, a self deprecating confession can all interrupt the standard script and foster a sense of lightness and trust.

    If joking is not a part of your skill set, don’t worry. Just be open to the power of humor and practice when you can. Little dashes of mirth and mischief will sprout up organically. In the meantime, you have an excuse to watch Chelsea Lately and call it work.

    7. Know your audience.

    This is probably one of the most important tips because it will not only shape the tone of your writing, it will provide the substance. What do the folks you’re targeting care about? Money, health, spirituality? How can you meaningfully speak to your customer’s values?

    8. Ask them to act with a call to action.

    We discussed how asking questions and enacting inquiry can inspire reader participation. A more direct approach of suggesting actions the reader can take accomplishes the same goal.

    Usual calls to action include things like:

    • “Sign up here”
    • “Purchase the newest edition”
    • “Tell your friends”

    But you can also direct your audience to:

    • “Imagine”
    • “Consider”
    • Or “Follow through.”

    Offer your readers options, which will signal the beginning of a productive relationship – one in which they feel deeply invested in the development and evolution of the brand.

    9. Be intentional about the length.

    Factor in both SEO considerations, which favor longer length posts, and what will best serve your topic. Sometimes, an exciting update can be delivered in an enthusiastic 500 words, while other times, a topic with many dimensions will require 1,500- 2,000 words to really tease out the different perspectives and possible complications.

    10. Plan ahead. Though the best ideas sometimes come on the go while we’re improvising and being spontaneous, organization can support the creative process in many ways.

    Mapping your key points ahead of time will ensure that your blog post has a structure. Then, you can add flourishes to your heart’s content.

    11. Read!

    Good reading practices lead to good writing practices.

    Pick out your favorite blogs and make a practice of reading them regularly. As you read, ask yourself what makes the style and content engaging and effective? Is it depth, succinctness, humor, intelligence, or some combination of strengths?

    12. Make it skim-able.

    The internet is a land of varying paces. And though there are occasions in which readers will want to dive into a blog post and really soak it up, sometimes they just want to look it over for its major points.

    Write to accommodate both types of readers. Using lists, bullet points, and the classic clear beginning, middle, and end will help orient those segments of your audience who only have a few minutes to peruse your blog.

    13. Consider legality, etiquette, and ethics when using sources.

    The internet makes so much information readily available, but it can also blur the lines around intellectual property. The importance of crediting your sources can sometimes depend on content. A list of suggestions for cat names may not require the same attribution as somebody’s years of medical research, but it may still be polite to credit Jane CatLover.

    14. Make use of digital tools, like the Hemingway App or Grammarly, to tweak sentence structure and errors in grammar and punctuation.

    Having sharp editing skills does not always guarantee a winning blog post, but it does create a strong foundation to build on.

    15. Finally, enjoy yourself.

    Think about writing a blog post that stands out the same way you might think of a lovingly prepared meal. Take pleasure in crafting something delicious and thoughtful for your guests, and use your own tastes and intuitions to guide you.

    Still facing writer’s block? Take a look at our post “How to Create Epic Content: Writing Tips for People Who Hate to Write.”

  • 6 Ways to Make Experiential Marketing Work for Your Brand

    Any teacher can tell you that kids learn better when they get to participate in their learning.

    Whether it’s as simple as pouring vinegar onto baking soda to watch a chemical reaction, or as complicated as creating a business plan for a hypothetical business, experiencing something is almost always more effective at helping us retain information than just seeing or hearing that information alone.

    And guess what? Teachers aren’t the only ones in on this secret. Savvy marketers have been applying this truth to their marketing efforts for years. It’s called experiential marketing, and used correctly, it can be a powerful way to amplify your brand message.

    If you’re new to experiential marketing, here’s an overview – along with ways you can make it work for your brand.

    In experiential marketing, experience > marketing.

    Experiential marketing is a marketing tactic that directly engages consumers, inviting them to participate in a brand’s ongoing story.

    Some examples of experiential marketing, for example, include:

    Heineken’s “Departure Roulette,” which gave airport travelers the chance to “drop everything” and commit to a trip to an unscheduled location.

    The Aston Martin On Ice campaign, which invited journalists and industry insiders to test-drive the new Aston Martin on icy, snowy roads in Colorado.

    Google’s Building a Better Bay Area, which installed interactive posters in public places that allowed people to vote for which philanthropic causes Google should fund.

    Now, you may notice that these are all pretty major campaigns from massive brands, entailing a whole lot of resources both financial and otherwise. You may be thinking, “My business could never pull off something like that.”

    The good news is that it doesn’t have to. Experiential marketing can work just as well for small and medium-sized businesses as it does for large ones – possibly even better, as smaller businesses often have stronger ties with their customers simply out of necessity.

    Just like experiential marketing doesn’t have to be on a grand scale in order to work, it also doesn’t have to be expensive. Here are a few real-life ideas that can be executed on a shoestring:

    • Pop-up shop giving out samples of a new product
    • Flash mobs
    • Interactive, public art installations
    • Food truck rodeo

    Now that you’ve got a good feel for what experiential marketing is, here are a few pointers for how to make it work for your brand.

    Don’t interrupt your audience.

    This is key for any inbound marketing strategy, actually. When you’re planning an experiential marketing campaign, you’ve got to reach your customers where they are.

    Let’s take that pop-up example from above. If you’re a coffeemaker company that’s debuting a new coffeemaker by giving away free coffee, like DeLonghi Australia did in 2016, you’ve got to do it in a place that makes sense – a place where your customers already are.

    That’s why DeLonghi chose a heavily trafficked area in Sydney during morning rush hour to launch its Baristaless Cafe. This was an unstaffed cafe where commuters could create “barista-quality” drinks with the touch of a button on the company’s new PrimaDonna Elite machine.

    DeLonghi was able to hit a perfect target audience with this placement: people who work and who drink coffee in the mornings. Another perk of this placement, though, is that they were able to attract people who might be on their way to get a latte from a coffee shop. If they passed a chance to get free coffee on the way there, chances are that coffee shop just lost a customer to DeLonghi.

    Make sure your message is clear and on-brand.

    There are all kinds of cool events and experiences you can create for your customers, but they’re only going to work if they:

    • Offer a clear message to your consumer
    • Make sense with your brand

    For example, the Aston Martin on Ice campaign was totally on brand, and had clear messaging.

    The message was that the Aston Martin can handle much rougher conditions than you thought it could. The activity – working with an instructor to learn to drive the car on ice, in a beautiful location – was on-brand in that it was a luxury experience designed to make you feel – well, kind of like James Bond.

    For an aspirational brand like Aston Martin, that’s pretty on point.

    Set concrete goals and decide how you’ll measure success.

    Experiential marketing can be difficult to measure, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. In fact, the opposite is true.

    While you may have no trouble selling your initial experiential marketing campaign to the rest of the C-suite, if all you have to show for it are pictures of how many people were there and a couple half-baked statistics, you’ll likely face resistance the second time around.

    There are several ways you can measure your campaign success. How you do it depends on your goals. If you’re trying to increase brand awareness, you could measure increase in social media mentions for the days following the campaign.

    If you’re trying to sign up new customers, measure the increase in sign-ups through your website. Whatever you’re measuring, make sure to track it over several days or a week so you capture any afterglow effects. That will allow you to determine a more accurate ROI.

    Try out new partnerships with other brands.

    One of the great things about experiential marketing campaigns is that they often offer excellent opportunities to partner with other brands. This can allow you – and your partner brand – to reach new, previously untapped audiences.

    If you’re looking to partner with another brand, the cardinal rule is mutual benefit. You’ve both got to stand to benefit from this event.

    One example is from Netflix’s Gilmore Girls revival in 2016. The company turned neighborhood coffee shops around the country into Luke’s Diner, the iconic diner in the show, and handed out free coffee to passersby for a day.

    The benefits for both brands are evident: the coffee shops reach potential customers who love Gilmore Girls, and Netflix builds momentum for the release of its new series.

    When you’re putting together your campaign, think about potential brand partners – and don’t be afraid to get creative. After all, Google and Zappo’s had a fun little giveaway stand-off in Austin that may or may not have been planned, but was definitely beneficial for each. If those two mega-brands can do it – and in such an unconventional way – you can, too.

    Include both offline and online elements in your campaign.

    Since experiential marketing, almost by definition, takes place offline, it’s a good idea to include some way for participants to share their experiences online. Have a sign with a hashtag and ask people to post pictures, or hand out free ice cream to people who receive a digital coupon by downloading your app on the spot.

    There are a whole lot of ways you can bring the offline world online – and vice versa.

    Keep it short and sweet.

    No matter how amazing your experiential marketing campaign is, you’ve got to keep it short and sweet. In general, people want to give you a couple of minutes, at the most – enjoying a free sample, voting for a charity with a quick click, or browsing a pop-up shop take about the right amount of time.

    If you’re asking people to stay with you longer than that, you’d better have something amazing for them – you know, like Bud LIght’s Real Pac Man game from their 2015 Super Bowl campaign.

    Experiential marketing can be a highly effective way to gain attention for your brand and earn more loyal customers, even converting some into brand advocates. If you’re interested in learning more about interactive marketing, read our post “How We Earned Dippin’ Dots More Coverage Than a Super Bowl Ad … Without Spending a Dime on Paid Advertising.”

  • 7 Ways to Update Your Digital Marketing Strategy Right Now

    Your digital marketing strategy should change with the times, but often, businesses get stuck using the same tactics over and over – even if they don’t provide the kind of results we’re looking for.

    But the great thing about digital marketing strategies is that you can change them quickly – today, even. Here are a few ways that you can update your digital marketing strategy right now.

    Do a quick audit of your social media profiles

    If you set up your social media profiles some time ago, it’s probably time for a quick audit of each.

    This is a time to reevaluate each and decide what’s working and what’s not. Are you spending lots of time writing posts on Medium, but not seeing much ROI? Maybe it’s time to reallocate that effort somewhere else.

    Are your Instagram followers growing steadily? That’s probably a platform you want to focus more on.

    As you’re doing your audit, remember that you don’t have to have profiles on every social media platform, especially if keeping up with them all is becoming a burden. Dump the ones that are sapping your time and energy, and put all that effort into the ones that are really working.

    When you have more time to spend on your more worthwhile accounts, you can do some deep dives into your analytics, to see what kinds of posts are working best for you.

    Do your retweets peak on Twitter after you post a product video?

    Do you get more Facebook comments when you post your own original content, versus curated content from somewhere else?

    Armed with this information, you can make your social media profiles the best they’ve ever been.

    Repurpose old content

    After a few years, any business with a content marketing strategy ends up with pages and pages of old content, much of which rarely sees the light of day once it’s a year older or more.

    But that old content can be a valuable resource, one that not only improves your SEO but also gives you a high ROI.

    Outdated blog posts can be updated with new information fairly quickly, and shared on your social media channels again. Just make sure you’re transparent about the fact that you’ve updated an old post.

    Since the ideal blog post length has been getting longer and longer – now it’s at least 1,200 words – another good idea is to take several of your old, shorter posts and combine them into one epic post. Smooth out the transitions, add updated info where you need to, and voila! You’ve got a new, long-form piece of content ready to share with the world.

    There are lots of other things you can do with old content – of all types – as well. To name a few:

    • Turn a blog post into an infographic
    • Use a webinar as the basis for a whitepaper
    • Take a report and break it up into several blog posts

    Up your social media game with hashtags and emojis

    If you haven’t been using hashtags to their fullest potential in your social media posts, this year is the time to start.

    Hashtags can go a long way toward spreading your brand’s reach, and getting a particular social media post or piece of content maximum coverage.

    To get started immediately, you can create your own branded hashtag and start attaching it to whatever you share on social media. It doesn’t have to be something as simple as your brand name, but it certainly can be.

    You can also start joining in the conversation around trending topics (you’ll see a list of current trending hashtags in the left sidebar on Twitter, for example) – as long as you’re not forcing yourself in just for the sake of the hashtag.

    Trending topics Feb. 2, 2017, via Twitter

    The cardinal rule of digital marketing, after all, is be authentic. Inserting yourself into a conversation for no other purpose than to stay current has as much chance of backfiring as it does succeeding.

    For more pointers, read our post “Winning the Hashtag Wars: How to Use Hashtags to Increase Your Reach and Strengthen Your Brand.”

    You may have also noticed that emojis are popping up everywhere – in Instagram bios, Twitter posts, Snapchat profiles, you name it. These eye-catching symbols are a must for your social media posts – again, as long as you’re not just using them for the sake of using them.

    Twitter also has something called hashflags, which are emojis created for specific events or movements – the Super Bowl, for example, movie releases like Finding Dory or the X-Men, or political events like Pride. Many of these custom emojis are paid for by brands, but Twitter releases plenty all on its own, too.

    via Creative Market

    Using hashflags, emojis, and hashtags wisely can make your posts look more current, catch more eyes, and ultimately increase the number of people who see them. And that, of course, is one of the biggest goals behind digital marketing.

    Review and update your SEO keywords

    When was the last time you reviewed your SEO keywords? If it’s been a while, you should take some time to look at the keywords you’re using to guide your SEO practices and revamp them as necessary.

    Have you added a new product or service? Changed high-profile members of your staff? Opened a new location? It’s vital that take any changes like these into account when revising your SEO strategy. You might be surprised at how many new keywords you can come up with.

    Another key development in SEO is voice-based search, which is becoming more and more the norm. Google Home, Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, Windows’ Cortana – all of these voice-activated tools continue to grow in popularity.

    This can affect your SEO because people may ask questions through speaking differently than they would type.

    Take this very simple example. A person might easily type “pizza cheap deals coupons,” but they’d be more likely to say something like “Find cheap pizza near me,” or “pizza coupons for tonight.” If you want your SEO to truly be ready for 2017, make sure you’re taking these differences into account.

    Start a Facebook Live stream

    2016 saw live streaming become mainstream, with the release of Facebook Live. If your business hasn’t started live streaming, 2017 is the perfect time to start.

    That’s because live streaming is now within reach for literally any brand – if you have a smartphone and an account, you can use Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or any other of the number of live streaming apps now available.

    You’ll want to set up a bit before hitting the “go live” button, but you don’t need fancy equipment, expensive locations, or anything like you might for shooting a video.

    What is so great about live streaming is that simply broadcasting a live stream, you’re putting the odds in your favor. As you can read about in our post on amplifying brand reach with live streaming, Facebook’s data shows that users spend roughly 3 times longer watching live streams than they do pre-recorded video.

    Check your analytics

    Analytics dashboards like Google Analytics, Hootsuite, and others are incredibly powerful tools for refining your digital marketing strategy.

    If you’re just using them to look at things like how many people visited your website last month, you’re not making the most out of your analytics platform.

    Each tool is different, but you can create very specific reports that allow you to see things like what pieces of content are bringing visitors into your site and how long they’re staying, which types of content (like video, blog posts, gifs, etc.) in particular are performing the best, and which content is prompting the most conversions.

    Not every marketer is a natural when it comes to analytics. For us, there are lots of custom reports that people have created – especially for Google Analytics – that you can download, often for free.

    Increase your influencer outreach.

    An endorsement by an influential blogger or YouTube star can be worth more than one by a massive celebrity – especially for Generation Z, those born between 1998 and 2008. According to a recent survey by Deep Focus, 63% of Gen Z respondents prefer advertising with “real people” rather than celebrities.

    But it’s not just Gen Z that values reviews, endorsements, and coverage from digital influencers. It’s also Millennials, Generation X, and … well, pretty much everyone. After all, new customers who are referred by existing customers have a 37% higher retention rate than customers who find a brand on their own.

    This means you can’t afford to skip out on influencer outreach. For tips on how to ramp up your efforts, read our post “Influencer Marketing from A to Z: A Complete Guide for Businesses.”
    Digital marketing strategies have to evolve as the online landscape changes – and that happens pretty quickly. If you don’t update your strategy regularly, you could be missing out on valuable opportunities to reach new customers.

  • Social Media Marketing by the Numbers

    The social media world is huge, with networks boasting hundreds of millions (even billions!) of active monthly users. Each site has its own style and rules, which can make it difficult for brands to get started with social media marketing.

    Here, we do a breakdown some of the most popular sites and the best way to start making them work for your brand.

    Facebook

    Active monthly users: 1.79 billion.

    Demographics: Facebook has users of every age and gender, but women do slightly favor the site, with 76 percent of women with Internet access using it, compared to only 66 percent of their male peers. Young people use the site more than middle-aged individuals and seniors.

    The best place to start with marketing your business through Facebook is by actually having a Facebook presence to begin with. A Facebook presence gives your audience a place to interact with your business. They can post their experiences with your product, and interactions between your users on your page are likely to show up on the news feeds of others.

    Other ways to utilize the site for your business include:

    • Using SEO and keywords in your Facebook description. SEO is important for more than just your Web site, and utilizing means your page showing up on search engines.
    • Using videos. Most Facebook research shows that short videos make more of an impact when it comes to having your content seen. From the popular livestream feature on the site to short videos demoing your products, there are many ways to do this.
    • Encouraging liking and sharing. Ask your customers to share their post with a friend who needs your product or service. Encourage them to tag a friend who could benefit from your software. Hold a contest where likes and shares are the methods of entry.

    Twitter

    Statista.com

    Active monthly users: 317 million.

    Demographics: Twitter’s user base is comprised mainly of young people, with 37 percent of its users aged 18-29 and another 25 percent aged 30-49. Men have a slight edge with 24 percent of men who have internet access microblogging on the site, compared to only 21 percent of women. College-educated adults use the site more than those with less education.

    Twitter is one of the online social arenas where influencer marketing plays big. Using the Twitter list feature, you can easily keep track of your ideal audience’s influencers and make it a point to interact with each of them daily. Utilizing the tag feature can also help as long as you don’t abuse it.

    Other ways to use Twitter effectively include:

    • Tweeting often. Tweeting often keeps you relevant, and without regular tweets, followers can fall off. New followers may avoid you thinking your account is inactive. Try to tweet at least once a day.
    • Interacting back. If you get mentioned on Twitter, try to at least “like” the response so your audience knows you’re listening. You also play off their own desire to get noticed if they know you might retweet something they do. Respond when appropriate, and deal with any disgruntled customers quickly and courteously.
    • Utilizing hashtags. Use popular hashtags for your product or service so that users can find you if they are looking. Also try using trending hashtags when they fit in with your brand’s image. Twitter users often click on popular hashtags to see what’s being said within the tag, and having tweets from your company there could get you noticed.

    Instagram

    Active Monthly Users: 600 million.

    Demographics: Women edge out men on Instagram with 29 percent of online women using the photo-sharing service compared to 22 percent of men. Young people lead the way with 53 percent of adults aged 18-29 sharing images.

    Hashtags rule Instagram more than any other social media site. The photo-sharing giant allows you to use as many as you like, and unlike other sites which limit you on the number you can use, you can pack your Instagram photos with relevant hashtags, increasing the likelihood that your post will get in front of the eyes of the people you want it to.

    Other ways to use Instagram to market your brand include:

    • Cross-promoting. Do you sell makeup brushes? Cross-promoting with a cosmetics company or makeup artist might help you get your product in front of more eyes. If you sell design software, partnering with graphic artists may help you get noticed.
    • Targeting your link. “Link in bio” is a popular way to get users to a Web site or product page you choose. Make posts related to your product or service, use the link in your bio to send them to a page specifically tailored to what you shared. This has a great impact that a simple link to your main Web site or store.
    • Posting great content often. Instagram is a largely image-based site, which means the photos, videos, and graphics you post should be aesthetically pleasing. You don’t have to be the Ansel Adams of the Internet, but everything you post should at least be clean and in-focus. Just like Twitter, you should keep your account updated and active.

    Pinterest

    Active Monthly Users: 150 million.

    Demographics: Women hold a staggering edge over men on Pinterest. Data shows 42 percent of online women have Pinterest accounts, whereas only 13 percent of men do. Usage is pretty evenly spread between adults 18-64, with the 18-29 demographic having just a few points over their older counterparts.

    Pinterest’s strength lies in the board. Even casual users of the site have at least one board floating around. Create a board that updates with your products or blog posts so that your audience can follow it, putting frequent updates from your company right on their feed when they visit. Data shows that Pinterest drives referrals even better than Google.

    • Making images on your site Pinterest-friendly. We see these all the times, especially on recipe and craft blogs: images made specifically for pinning. By creating quality images or image collages that convey a specific message, you give your customers something they can easily share.
    • Promoting your pins. While we all want to reach our audiences organically, sometimes shelling out for a little promotion is worth it. Try using Pinterest’s promoted pin feature to drive traffic to a post or new product.

    Snapchat

    Statista.com

    Active Monthly Users: 301 million

    Demographics: Data shows 60 percent of Snapchat users are under 25, with 23 percent yet to graduate high school. 18-24-year-olds make up the largest group on the sharing app at 37 percent. Only 2 percent of users are over the age of 55. Snapchat itself does not release data on the gender of its users, but research shows that women use the app more frequently than men.

    The casual nature of Snapchat makes it the ideal place to add personality to your brand. Share images and videos that showcase the humanity of your company so that your audience forms a more personal connection with your product or service. Whether it’s videos of your manufacturing warehouse or images of your interns enjoying pizza day in the break room, Snapchat is the platform for showing your brand’s heart.

    Other great ways to utilize the popular sharing app include:

    • Sharing live events. From election primaries to sports to fashion week, Snapchat users have shared and viewed it all. If there’s something relevant to your audience that you can live-share via the app, take advantage.
    • Partnering with influencers. We’ve talked a few times about Snapchat takeovers, and we’ll do it again. Why? Because inviting influencers to take charge of your Snapchat is a fantastic way to raise awareness of your company while gaining a larger audience.

    Social media may seem like an overwhelming array of different sites, but with a few simple tips and some clever strategies, you can easily make your social media accounts work for you. Use the sign up box to the right to speak with our expert marketing team about your brand’s online impact.

  • 6 Tips for Creating Content That Converts

    Whether it’s getting your audience to purchase your product or subscribe to your YouTube channel, creating content that converts can be a challenge. What seems like a clear and crisp blog post or newsletter might fail to have the impact your company truly wants.

    What are some steps you or your company can take to engage your audience and steer them toward the result you really want?

    1. Utilize lists.

    From Buzzfeed to Listverse to our own Marketing Zen blog, there’s a reason so much online content comes in list form.

    Articles in list-form are like finger foods for your brain. They are small, bite-sized, and easily digestible. Readers who skim are more likely to pick up the main points, and readers who don’t skim are more likely to stick with an article until it’s complete.

    In other words, lists increase the likelihood that your content will be read and understood by your audience.

    On top of that, science says that lists help with memory, meaning your content is more likely to stick in the head of a potential customer.

    2. Take a psychological approach.

    While most of us were taught at one point or another to ignore peer pressure, the truth is that it still works pretty effectively. Using it to your advantage can help you create content that converts the way you want it to.

    Show your customers tweets from people using your product. If numbers are high for your product or service, point out the likes you have on your social media page. Include a counter for how many of a certain product you’ve sold on your Web site. Highlight your thousands of Kickstarter backers.

    Convincing potential customers that other people are doing something in droves can be extremely powerful when it comes to conversion.

    3. Make it urgent.

    Like peer pressure, the fear of missing out can be a powerful psychological tool when it comes to creating content that converts, which is why urgency is so pervasive in the marketing industry.

    There are several ways you can include urgency in your content:

    • Make your copy itself urgent. Your customer doesn’t just want to improve his life. He wants to improve it now. The business you sell to doesn’t just want to be more efficient. They want to be more efficient today. Remind your audience that you hold the key to them feeling or being better and that they don’t want to wait.
    • Make things available for a limited time. The concept of limited editions has been around for ages, but with the internet allowing for the quick dissemination of information, temporary products are becoming more and more commonplace. Online clothing companies in particular have had tremendous success in offering temporary designs, driving their customers to order things they like right away lest they miss out on a campaign. Including sales and temporary items in your email newsletter could be your key to conversion.

     

    4. Make your product personal.

    We live in an era where people can do endless research on a product before purchasing it. They can look at technical specifications and see what industry experts have to say. They can even look at prices and compare them with a competitor’s.

    All this should add up to a population of shoppers who are more rational with purchases than ever before. But it doesn’t – at least, not always.

    Adding a personal element to your content can have huge dividends. Here are some ways you can forge personal connections with your audience:

    • Have customers send in photos of them interacting with your brand to feature in your newsletter. This adds a more personal touch and encourages new customers to buy your products in hopes of being featured in the future.
    • Invite your audience to create content for you. Sometimes your best customers can be your best sellers, and hearing from everyday people can give some potential customers the extra push they need. A real live person can also come across as more authentic than someone who is being paid to push a product.

     

    5. Partner with influencers.

    We’ve talked a lot about the importance of influencer marketing in driving traffic to your site or social media profiles, but influencers can also help with your conversion rates. Of course part of that comes from the traffic those influencers bring. Letting them create content for you means a bigger audience, which in itself can mean higher sales or subscription numbers.

    On another level though, influencers can serve as experts for your particular industry. Experts are important as they help reduce any potential qualms your audience might have which stand in the way of conversion.

    A post from your cosmetics company about a new line of eye shadows can work fine, but a post from a popular makeup blogger talking about how pigmented and smooth those eye shadows are can have a much greater impact.

    Likewise, a post from a respected tech blogger about the different ways her company uses your software can spell the difference between a casual click and a conversion.

    6. Know and target your audiences.

    When it comes to creating content that converts, knowing your audiences is an important factor. Unless you have a niche product, chances are you have more than one target audience, but even if you only have one, it’s important to know who they are and what drives them.

    Knowing that audience allows you to target them specifically with your content. If one of your audiences is young, female professionals, you might create content featuring the ways your product can help them balance work with free time.

    If your target is senior dog owners, you might talk about the pros and cons of owning a dog later in life while including information on how your product helps negate some of those cons.

    Get creative and find clever ways to appeal to what your different audiences want.

    Creating content that converts can seem stressful and overwhelming, but there are really so many different ways to convince your audience to buy or hit a “like” button. Check out 11 more tips for creating content that converts and leave us a comment on your favorite way to drive conversions.