Category Archives: Marketing Trends

Never underestimate the power of must-click calls to action

 

must-click lead generationDoes this sound familiar?

You’ve poured time and energy into creating quality content and a beautiful-looking website, but no one is engaging with you or your company.

Crickets …

The problem may be that you don’t have clear goals for your content. Vague plans to “build awareness,” “engage customers” and “crush the competition” are as thin as cotton candy and impossible to measure. If you’re not sure what you’d like people to do when they visit your site, they’ll have no reason to stick around and interact with you.

Do you want to build an e-newsletter mailing list; get more prospects to sign up for product demos; expand your audience for webinars; or increase sales of your e-book? These are examples of solid, achievable goals. Now, you can ask for what you want. Read on for tips you can use right away:

  1. Make it compelling with a clear benefit.

To create an irresistible offer – also known as a call to action – think beyond “download,” “submit” and “click here.” Consider what motivates people to follow through. Would you respond to “Register for Our WordPress Class” or “Yes, I Want Exclusive Access to Insider WordPress Tips and Tricks?”

The first offer is boring and doesn’t give people any reason to sign up. Everyone wants to know what they’re going to get if they register. The second example is enticing because it suggests a rewarding, positive experience for those who take the class. It also hints that people will learn tips they might not get anywhere else.

Here are some compelling examples:

  • “Show Me How to Write a Killer Blog Post”
  • “Learn the Secrets to Successful Marketing”
  • “Do Less and Get More Work Done”
  • “Get Pro Tips for Doubling My Sales in Two Weeks”
  1. Write in first person.

Using “I” and “my” is effective because it’s makes a connection with people and helps them envision results. Instead of writing “Get Your Free E-Book,” write “Send Me My Free E-Book.” The easiest way to create first-person calls to action is to finish this sentence: I want to ___________.

Example: A construction company that’s expanding its green building division creates an in-depth report about how green buildings save money in the long term. The firm offers the report on its website in exchange for collecting prospects’ names and email addresses. As a prospect, “I want to” get the report. The call to action could be, “I Want to Save Money. Send My Free Report.”

Other options that are also in first person include:

  • “Get My Free Green Building Report.” (I want to get my free report.)
  • “Get Instant Access to My Report.” (I want to see my report now.)
  • “Discover How to Save on My Green Building.” (I want to save money.)
  1. Make your offer time-sensitive.

Creating a sense of urgency motivates people to act. Incorporate words such as “now” and “today,” or give deadlines for faster responses. Letting prospects know that you have a limited quantity of something can help drive procrastinators to buy.

One caveat: Be honest. If you discount a webinar by 50 percent for people who register within 24 hours, and then repost the same offer three days later, you’ll be perceived as deceptive and untrustworthy. Any profit you generated during the “fire” sale will go up in smoke with your company’s reputation.

Here are some examples of urgent offers:

  • “Start My Free Trial Today”
  • “Give Me Access Now”
  • “Yes, Sign Me Up Right Away”
  1. Keep it simple.

While it might be tempting to dangle multiple offers on a single Web page, you’ll run the risk of overwhelming prospects and they’ll click off before signing up. Stick with one or two calls to action and lead them to the main offer that ties back to your No. 1 goal.

A page that asks people to register for a demo, sign up for classes and subscribe to an e-newsletter is distracting and ineffective. By limiting their choices, you’ll make it easier for them to reach a decision and follow through.

  1. Use bright, easy-to-read buttons.

Vibrant, high-contrast call-to-action buttons are eye-catching and inspire action. If you Google “best colors for calls to action,” you’ll see many opinions and few solid answers. Big orange buttons seem to be popular among marketers, but they’re certainly not the only option.

  1. Test, test, test.

The best way to evaluate what works and what doesn’t in your calls to action is to test them. Try different messages, images, offers, colors and designs until you find the winning combination that gets the most responses. Small changes can make a big difference in how people react to your content.

Last, but not least

Following these steps will help you transform your offers into lead magnets. Keep in mind, however, that your content and offers need to benefit prospects. Share insider tips, industry news they won’t find anywhere else, product how-tos, and other helpful resources. Creating effective calls to action will come naturally if you provide valuable (not sales-y) content.

What approach do you take with your calls to action? Let us know in the comments.

Get prospects to “yes” with a lead nurturing campaign

lead nurturing campaign In the digital age, prospects need to trust you before they’ll buy your products and services. A lead nurturing campaign is a straightforward way to develop this trust, beginning when potential buyers show interest by providing their emails in exchange for compelling content.

But getting emails is only the beginning. You want prospects to remember you when they’re filling out their purchase orders, and one way to do that is to follow up periodically using autoresponders, which are automated email messages that you schedule for specific times in response to prospect interest.

For example, you might create a landing page that promotes an ebook or a benefit-driven tip sheet for solving a common customer challenge. Include a form on the page that requires basic customer information, including names and email addresses. That’s all you need to start a lead nurturing campaign.

Keep the momentum going

The next step is to create an autoresponder series that triggers when someone completes the form on the landing page. In the first autoresponder email, you might thank them for downloading your content. In the next message, let them know how you can help them in other areas.

For example, you might offer webinars or other training. In subsequent autoresponders, you can ask for feedback about your products and services, encourage them to sign up for your newsletter or blog, and engage with them in other ways. Just make sure the content provides clear benefits and fresh messaging, including relevant offers to help your prospects be more receptive to follow-up emails.

One caveat: nothing will turn a lead off faster than acting needy, so timely communication is key. You don’t want to give them enough time to forget about you in this new world of short attention spans, but you don’t want to over-communicate, either. Treat your autoresponder follow-ups the way you would manage those in the traditional sales cycle, allowing two to four days between each new message.

Consider long term goals too

When someone completes the form on your landing page, they’ve already expressed an interest in your products and services, but the ultimate goal is to get them fully engaged. The next step might be scheduling a free consultation as a way to upgrade leads into prospects. An alternative is to generate more long-form content, or even a video on a relevant subject.

Bottom line: marketing automation is a proven process that generates measurable results. Following a logical series of steps enables your prospects to make better buying decisions, which positions them for future sales.

How did you approach your most successful lead nurturing campaign? Let us know in the comments below.

Turning outbound marketing ‘in’

inbound marketing

You missed a lot at The Simons Group this week. First, we got new chairs. My back has never felt better! (I also have a great price on some – lightly – used office chairs, if anyone is looking.)

Second, we had a kickoff meeting to integrate inbound marketing into our own rebranding effort. What is inbound marketing, you ask? Let’s start at the beginning.

The first marketing touch-point for a prospect generally comes through a company’s outbound marketing. Outbound marketing makes sure prospects are aware of your company and services. An easy way to think of outbound marketing is that it’s any time a company reaches out to potential customers. Cold calls, email lists, direct mail and digital, print and broadcast advertising all fall into this category. Obviously, good outbound marketing is essential for shaping your brand awareness and perception, but it’s a blunt tool that shows the same content to every prospect.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is specialized ­and relies on you breaking the trail for customers to find and engage with your company. Inbound marketing centers not only around bringing new prospects in, but also on keeping and enticing quality prospects. Once the outbound marketing has yielded awareness, inbound marketing draws prospects closer and moves them through – and beyond –the sales cycle by showcasing specialized, relevant content.

An inbound marketing campaign puts specific content in front of specific prospects – those who would find it relevant. Developing such a campaign requires creating a small series of buyer profiles to help define your target audiences’ differences.

An example of a buyer profile is a mid-level industry manager at a national company whose main concern is finding a solution with a good return on investment. Within this strategy, the content you would direct his way would showcase how your solution has definable metrics and flexibility to adapt to long-term needs. Then, you have to work that content into a strategy that makes it appear when and where that mid-level manager is most likely to interact with it. The hope is that the content is so relevant the prospect develops enough respect for your brand to become a client, and is enthusiastic enough to become an advocate for the company.

While none of your buyer profiles will come to life and walk through your door, creating content for a smaller generalized group will help a broader range of prospects find what you’re doing worthwhile. This is why the planning stages of an inbound marketing campaign are crucial. It is important to get an accurate buyer profile before implementing a content strategy so that your efforts are most effective.

Have you made the shift toward inbound marketing? Let us know what you think about it in the comments.

Cure ‘Uberization’ anxiety with these 4 digital strategies

digital-dream-2-1456675The internet and mobile have turned the way we do business on its head. While digital transformation opens up exciting opportunities, it also strikes fear into the hearts of many business leaders, who worry that more digitally savvy competitors might come along and wipe them out.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise dubbed it “Uberization” anxiety syndrome, named after Uber’s gutting of the taxi industry. By developing a more efficient, customer-friendly model that relies on smartphones and cloud computing power, Uber has revolutionized the way we get around. Business and IT leaders across every vertical worry their industry could be next.

From a marketing perspective, digital transformation offers unprecedented insight into our customers and prospects. We can see how they interact with our emails, nurture leads with the click of a button, and track how many times they mention our brand (or a competitor’s) on Twitter. With the proliferation of marketing channels and products, though, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to find and execute the right mix.

That’s why many small and mid-size businesses are still struggling to adopt a digital strategy. According to a recent report by LeadPages and Infusionsoft, nearly one in five businesses don’t use any form of digital marketing, and nearly half don’t know if they’re marketing effectively – while another 14 percent know they aren’t.

Do you worry that your competitors are swaying prospects with sophisticated email campaigns while you’re still sending faxes? Here are a few steps for developing a solid digital marketing strategy.

  • Start with processes, not tools. All the technology in the world won’t help you without a solid process in place. What types of customers are you targeting? How will sales handle the leads once they come in? Develop your funnel, then use digital tools to accelerate it.
  • Don’t get sucked into what others are doing. So many factors go into choosing the right software, including your average sales cycle, customer demographics and the size of your sales team. If it takes a year for a lead to turn into a prospect, you probably don’t need a marketing automation platform to keep in touch with them twice a week.
  • Think like a customer. Many businesses get overwhelmed by maintaining an online presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and countless other platforms. To prospects, it’s all part of a single wrapper: their smartphone. They don’t need a different message on every channel; repurpose content to get more mileage out of your efforts.
  • Measure and adapt. The beauty of digital marketing is the built-in data and insight. Are people constantly bouncing off of one of your landing pages? Try reworking the call to action or page layout.

Which digital marketing tactics does your company use? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Top trends for fast-growing companies

market-1237889They might not be the biggest, but the companies on the Inc. 500 are the fastest-growing privately owned businesses in the country – and what they’re doing on social media matters.

According to “The 2015 Inc. 500 and Social Media,” conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research, today’s fastest-growing companies value social media as an essential tool to build brand awareness and generate revenue. Here’s a peek at the latest trends:

  • LinkedIn reigns supreme, but likes and followers are growing. Companies continue an almost habitual use of LinkedIn, while Facebook, YouTube and Instagram are drawing engagement to gain likes and followers. Regardless of what accounts they hold, however, executives continue to rate Facebook the most effective social media platform for the third year.
  • Blogging decreases despite its unique potential. We saw it in 2015’s top social media trends, and for the second year running, blogging declined across the board. Fast-growing companies continue to “out-blog” the Fortune 500, however, noting its unique potential for improving thought leadership.
  • Tracking effectiveness extends to sales. Almost all executives who were interviewed considered social media an effective tool in building brand awareness and creating relationships with customers. Interestingly, 74 percent of executives identified their social media efforts as effective in generating leads and sales.
  • Executives are still uncertain about the investment. Forty-one percent of company executives are concerned with how to manage the amount of time their employees spend working on their social media. Similarly, 36 percent have concerns about the return on their social media investments.

As the fastest-growing companies in the country, the Inc. 500 are an inspiration to many privately owned U.S. businesses. Maybe even more than the big players, the smaller companies need to adapt constantly to keep pace with their own growth, so this report offers insight into the hungriest corporate social media accounts.

Do you have any unique social media tactics? Let us know in the comments below.

So long for now …

waving-hand-1243865With the end of the year fast approaching, it’s time for The Simons Group blog to sign off for 2015. Whether we’re writing about social media trends or B2B paid search strategies, we love sharing our thoughts with you each week.

If you’re yearning for some marketing education to go along with that plate of Christmas cookies, here’s a peek at our top five most-read blog posts this year: 

Read more…

Trends to watch for in 2016

happy-new-year-1184956At the end of each year, there are a few things that are always certain. I need to buy lots of presents for family and friends, and I start to hear about trends for the year ahead. I will spare you the details of my latest bargain find and jump right into upcoming trends in marketing. Here’s what to watch for in 2016.

  • Back to basics. A trend that’s on its way out is an emphasis on shock and awe to get the audience’s attention. People today are looking for something a bit more comforting and trustworthy. In fact, people are responding more to content that reminds them of a simpler time in their lives and brings them back to yesteryear. Focusing on long-term relationships, commitment and partnership in your marketing is a good way to build that trust with your audience.
  • A picture (or a video, or a graph…) is worth 1,000 words. Research shows that content marketing that contains at least one visual element is much more appealing to audiences today. Be sure to add a video, a graph or even a photo to your content to really get people engaged!
  • Content matters. In this digital age, content is king. Now more than ever, the copywriting and message will be what grab and hold the reader’s attention. Rather than pushy sales pieces, companies are interested in educational content that helps them do their jobs better. Content creators are highly sought after to construct the right message and frame the story in a tantalizing way.

At The Simons Group, we see how these trends are evolving, and we are ready for 2016. Are you? Let us know about your upcoming communications plans in the comments below.

Is it time to shake up your content marketing?

shake up, shake up content marketing, content marketing, refreshWe all want to go full speed ahead to meet marketing and sales goals, but sometimes we need to re-examine our efforts and decide whether we’re heading in the right direction. Take time to review your strategy along the way to determine if you’re reaching your target audience and getting the feedback you desire.

If your tactics are lacking in effectiveness, I have a few suggestions for tweaking your content marketing efforts to achieve maximum results.

First, produce content with value in mind rather than sales. Too often marketers develop content marketing to make a sale, shaping the content much like a leaflet – a hard sell with little substance. While the purpose always remains to convert a reader to a customer, you are more likely to get that call if you fill your content with invaluable tips, suggestions and advice. Present your brand as a thought leader rather than a door-to-door salesman, and you’ll find your audience interacting with your message more frequently.

While you’re doling out invaluable information through your content marketing, keep your audience’s needs and interests in mind. What would they find most helpful? What do they really want to know? Relevancy is king when it comes to good content, so make sure your marketing resonates with your audience’s taste.

Once you find a style of content that jibes with your audience, double-check that you’re presenting it in the right way. In today’s tech-savvy world, format makes a big difference. Study your brand ambassadors and the devices or platforms they use to connect to you. Simple changes like the right embedded links or enabling responsive design can open up channels that you might have cut off without knowing it.

How do you make sure your marketing stays on point? Let us know in the comments below.

How to measure PR ROI

game

The Simons Group has been working on many different and exciting PR projects. Over the last few weeks, I have been thinking about all of the achievements we have made for clients, but wondered how and when you can label a project truly “successful.” Sometimes, we only see the trees and not the forest, but it may be time to view our results in a different way.

Before you can measure success, you need to decide which metrics align with your organization’s needs. Are you looking for more hits on certain landing pages of your website? Would your CEO be happy with one mention in a local media outlet or does he want national recognition?

Here are a couple of tips to help you determine your public relations return on investment:

  1. Build long-term relationships. If you have a strong social media presence, ask yourself if you’re making the most of those connections. When new connections retweet or share your news, be sure to look at who these influencers are. Reach out to them and thank them for sharing or follow them back. It will help you expand your audience and double your online efforts.
  2. Survey your audience. Want to know if a campaign was successful? Send out an optional survey to get your customers’ feedback and ask them whether they found your latest tips helpful, if they’d like to learn more about a particular topic, and more.
  3. Consider quality over quantity. When reviewing results, look at the reach. You may have been placed in only one or two publications, but how many people are you reaching? Can you also publish the results on your website to get additional coverage? Is securing one national news outlet, instead of two local papers, more of a success to you? Be sure to look at results from all angles to figure out what is best for you.
  4. Plan for a crisis. If your PR team had to put out a fire, how did you handle it? Was everyone aware of what to say or not to say? How quickly did you notify the media? Be sure that your whole team is on the same page and knows how to respond in an emergency situation. In addition, review your response time, as well as results, to determine if you need to change your procedures for future crises.

No matter what you do, decide what the main objective is and continue to tie your initiatives back to your key goals.

How do you measure success for your PR efforts? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Why video marketing sells and how to use it in your business

video camera

As marketers, we engage our customers and prospects through a number of channels, including video marketing. Videos are an excellent way to promote your business because they engage people in a way that isn’t possible with static content.

What’s the market for online video? Consider these statistics:

  • Viewers spend 100 percent more time on pages that contain videos, according to MarketingSherpa.
  • Seventy-five percent of executives told Forbes they watch business-related videos every week. Of those, 65 percent visit a marketer’s website after viewing a video and 50 percent went on to make a purchase for their business.
  • Globally, online video traffic will be 79 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by 2018, according to Cisco.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most mileage from your video marketing:

Consider all types of video content, including these options:

  • Customer testimonials create confidence and trust in your brand
  • Tutorials and demos show how your products work and reinforce their value
  • Interviews and big announcements convey important information with impact

1. Keep it short and sweet – 30 seconds to two minutes, tops. Be sure to fill that time with engaging content. If you don’t grab their attention quickly, they’ll go back to watching cute cat videos on YouTube.

2. Stick to a budget. You can create a compelling message without expensive equipment and high-end production. Keep it polished though, because you want to leave them with a good impression of your business.

3. Plan for publishing. Posting the video on your website is a no-brainer. Think about where you’ll put it before you shoot the video because you may need to create space for it. Possible places include your home page, product pages, the “about us” section, on your blog or on a page that only has videos. You’ll probably also want to upload it to video streaming sites, such as YouTube and Vimeo, and share it through social media channels.

If you’re having trouble imagining the possibilities, check out these videos for some ideas. Still stuck? Here’s another video that will get your creative juices flowing.

Do you watch videos from other businesses? What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.