The Social Strategy Brands Like Marvel Are Using to Generate a 68% Conversion Rate

2% and 18 minutes.

That’s the average reach of a Facebook post and life of a tweet, respectively.

Crazy insignificant, right?

These are networks that millions of people spend time on every single day — and they seem to offer such slim, fleeting opportunities for brands.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a method to turn a paltry social media conversion rate into something that can offer real benefits to your brand.

A method that’s helped brands both large and small achieve up to a 68% conversion rate on social.

I’m talking about social commerce — the current best way to make more sales and increase reach through social media channels. Let’s take a deeper look about what exactly social commerce is, and the big problems it can solve for you brand.

What is Social Commerce?

This is not an overstatement: social commerce changes the way brands use social media.

Rather than generating interest and directing traffic to your site, social commerce allows brands to sell directly from their social feeds.

It effectively reduces the purchase journey down to two simple, frictionless steps. The first is when the user sees the product they want, the second is buying it.

It’s important because — as any commerce pro will tell you — most purchase journeys suffer from huge leaks. Just take a look at the chart below. It accurately represents how few of your leads turn into customers.

By reducing the steps a user has to go through, you can effectively streamline the purchase journey and reduce the possibility of funnel leaks.

Social commerce:

  • Provides simpler purchase journeys and thus a lower abandonment rate
  • Removes confusing multi-part conversion paths
  • Doesn’t disrupt the user by redirecting them to a completely different site

Just a simple checkout available directly from the user’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social feed.

Here’s how social commerce looks in real life. The video below shows a social commerce campaign Marvel ran

 When users commented with #AntManandtheWasp, an automated chatbot messaged them to discover their theatre and time preference before processing payment.

Over the last few years, the most successful digital marketing has primarily focused on making the user experience more logical and seamless.

Shorter forms have a higher completion rate.

Auto-fill is becoming commonplace because it generates more conversions.

And one-click purchasing is held up as the ideal ecommerce model.

Social commerce is yet another example of a solution that plays to the more streamlined needs of modern users.

But it’s not only providing a conversion benefit.

Secondary Benefits of Social Commerce Solutions

So the primary benefits of social commerce are the more streamlined purchase journey leading to higher conversions (more on that later).

But there’s also an impressive list of secondary benefits.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on social media developments over the last year, you’ll know it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brands to stand out. Ad costs are on the rise and algorithm updates are de-prioritizing brand content.

If you watch the Marvel gif above again, you’ll notice that users are required to comment on the post to kick off the automated checkout.

That comment is key to the secondary benefits.

As soon as a person comments to start the checkout, the post is then redistributed to their network, increasing its reach.

With each subsequent engagement, reach is yet again increased.

Before long, your posts and ads are achieving much high impressions than they would if users weren’t prompted to engage.

Social commerce is a great solution for any brand looking to increase social media sales and engagement.

It all sounds great, right?

But how does it actually work in real life?

Well, I’ve broken down a couple of social commerce campaigns that drove real results to help highlight its use.

How Brands are Using it To Massively Increase Conversions

I’ve tried to pick three examples that not only shows the potential power of social commerce, but also highlight different approaches to implementation.

So here’s a quick overview of what I’m going to cover.

– The completely digital strategy Marvel used to achieve a 68% cinema ticket conversion rate.

– How Ben & Jerry’s moved consumers from online to offline forgetter engagement.

– How Nike’s social commerce strategy started in the real world before seeing completion on social media.

Marvel’s 68% Conversion Rate

Marvel, despite being one of the biggest entertainment brands in the world, never rest on their laurels.

They’re forever looking for ways to better engage with their customers.

And when they took a look at their current channels, they realized their social campaigns were due for an upgrade.

The problem with traditional social media marketing is that purchase journeys become incredibly complex and long-winded.

Prior to Marvel’s investment in social commerce, users would have to go through various steps to make a purchase after viewing a social post that interested them.

I actually walked myself through that very process in writing this piece, and counted nine steps between viewing an Instagram post and landing on a page that confirmed my final purchase of movie tickets. Here’s what that long journey looked like pre-social commerce:

  1. Viewing the Instagram post
  2. Following it to the page bio
  3. Clicking through to Fandango
  4. Confirming the movie (and ignoring ads for commuting and upcoming movies)
  5. Confirming my location
  6. Choosing time and cinema
  7. Confirming the number of people
  8. Confirming seat location
  9. Payment information

I had to navigate through nine steps after seeing a cool post on Instagram.

Average purchase journeys have enough of a drop-off rate. On social media platforms like Instagram, that drop-off rate can easily become even more exaggerated.

Instagram is designed to keep users within the app, so any process that requires users to take multiple steps to exit the app and navigate somewhere else is going to leak leads like no one’s business.

This step drop-off rate is exactly what Marvel wanted to combat.

They wanted to reduce the friction and maintain the experience Instagram users were expecting.

The below is one of the real ads they ran to promote Infinity War.

You’ll notice users are asked to swipe up, and then comment with an appropriate hashtag.

Once they do, an automated checkout bot takes over and asks a few questions that lead them through those nine stages of the purchase funnel in less than a minute — without leaving the app.

Here’s how the chat sequence looked for those engaging with the Ant-Man and the Wasp campaign.

This conversational method of driving sales is not only more aligned with the user’s expectations on social, but it also streamlines the purchase journey.

Users are kept on the platform they’re engaged with and are able to complete their purchase in a fraction of the time.

Marvel results speak to the effectiveness of the campaign.

On the initial Infinity War campaign they achieved:

  • A 58% conversion rate
  • 18X more comments than any other in-season content

But they also took it a step further.

They built a custom audience of those who engaged with the Infinity War campaign and retargeted them with a secondary campaign that promoted Ant-Man and the Wasp.

By retargeting an already engaged audience who were comfortable buying through social commerce solutions, they increased their overall conversion rate to 68%.

Not too shabby.

The moral of this story is that your customers are looking for more streamlined purchase experiences.

Bouncing them around from one site to another so they can complete numerous steps is too much of a chore, and leads to the terrible social media conversion rates.

Marvel’s conversion rates were so high because they did three key things:

  • Made the purchase journey as simple as possible
  • Used (at the time unreleased) brand assets within the chat to keep users engaged
  • Retargeted their best audience with Facebook Ads for easier sales

5000 Free Samples Moved in 72 Hours

Whether you’re just starting a new business, launching a new product line, or just need to inject a few new leads into your pipeline, there’s one method that’s more successful than most.

Giving stuff away for free.

But here’s the thing. Free products will generate a lot of buzz for your products and brand, but they generate zero revenue.

You’ve got to have a follow-up sale in the pipeline.

Which is exactly what Ben & Jerry’s did when launching a new product — pint slices.

To drive interest and awareness of the new product, they ran Facebook and Instagram ads that were linked to a social commerce checkout.

Users who engaged with the ads would receive a chat sequence similar to the Marvel one above.

It would ask for their preferred pickup location and flavor.

Using that information it would then generate a free QR code which, when taken to the nearest vending machine, would secure a free pint slice.

Ben & Jerry’s received huge engagement with this campaign.

In addition to moving 5000 samples within 72 hours, they gained 2.2X the customer insights they usually would through a similar campaign.

But it’s the insights that were the most valuable.

Ben & Jerry’s now had the details of 5000 people who both expressed an interest in the product and had tried it. People who would be the perfect target for the launch of a sales campaign.

All they now had to do was run a sales campaign targeting those 5000 people to see a healthy boost in sales.

Nike Flips Social Commerce On Its Head

This is one of my favorite examples of social commerce for a couple of reasons:

  1. It’s a great example of bridging the offline and online sales worlds
  2. It’s the opposite way around to many social commerce campaigns
  3. It bucks the general trend of social commerce and focuses on higher priced products for better AoV

The campaign I’m talking about is Nike’s promotion of Jordan’s through Snapchat.

Nike started by targeting an audience they knew would be interested. Basketball fans.

Instead of targeting these people with Facebook Ads or another digital channel, they launched a campaign that started at an in person event – the after party for the NBA Allstar’s game.

At the afterparty, Nike hid snap codes in different areas of the event space.

When scanned with Snapchat, the code would kick off a social commerce checkout within Snapchat.

The prize was an (at the time) unreleased pair of Jordan’s.

Despite being a higher priced product, Nike sold out of this limited run within 23 minutes.

I like this example more because it bridges the offline and online world of sales.

Nike leveraged the device we all carry every day. But they did it at a time when interest in the product would be at it’s highest.

The fact that this was a campaign type not used commonly also added something of a gasified element to the whole process.

It’s a great example of understanding your audience’s desires and how you can best serve them.

But Don’t Rely Entirely on Social Commerce

Social commerce is one of the best ways to simplify the purchase journey.

It’s an incredible method to improve sales and connect with a wider audience.

But it’s not foolproof. In fact, despite all the benefits and case studies that highlight great gains there’s one thing that social commerce isn’t great at:

Selling high-priced items.

People aren’t on social media to do serious research of the products they’re thinking of buying.

They’re there to procrastinate, have fun, and connect with friends. The most successful campaigns are those which focus on impulse purchases of products or services that fall in the <$100 range.

If you sell $1,000 electronics, this might not be the best method to drive sales.

But fear not, there’s still a way to use social commerce in your strategy.

In short, you use social commerce to qualify prospects and bring people into the top end of a longer upset funnel. For example, let’s say you deal in $10,000 audio systems. Your audience is made up of audiophiles and music aficionados. Hawking a $10k system off the bat isn’t going to work. But selling a $50 pair of headphones with superior sound quality would appeal to the market and fits within the all-important impulse purchase price point.

Making that sale is much easier and fills your upsell funnel. Which is incredibly important because:

For those selling high-priced items, social commerce isn’t going to transform your business by driving direct revenue, but it’s going to fill your upsell funnel.

It allows you to more easily attract leads who, in time, will spend more with you.

Think of social commerce not just as a way to drive sales, but as a method to attract new customers and generate more qualified leads.

Social Commerce Is Going to Be Huge Across All Industries

Social commerce seems to finally be coming into its own.

It’s finally providing real, tangible benefits to business beyond the vanity metrics of likes, shares, and comments.

But it’s still in its infancy.

Over the next five years, it’s a safe bet to assume that social commerce will become a more permanent fixture in the marketing strategy of brands both big and small.

If you’ve not yet managed to get your social commerce strategy off the ground, do so.

It’s already driving great gains for others, but so few are leveraging the strategy that there’s a lack of competition. Now is the perfect time to begin.

free social media strategy resources

5 Strategies to Address New Challenges in Asset Management Marketing

The asset management industry isn’t what it used to be. In the face of continued growth, the market has become increasingly crowded and fiercely competitive. But while competition has increased, differentiation among investment offerings has diminished.

What’s more, there’s been a fundamental shift in the relationship between clients and brands. In today’s customer-centric business climate, investors expect firms to provide them with modern, highly personalized experiences—wherever they are, and on any device they choose.

Consider these statistics:

  • 64% of customers say customer experience is more important than price in buying decisions (Forrester).
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how customers feel they are being understood (McKinsey).
  • 79% of customers only consider brands that show they understand and care about them (Wunderman).
  • 80% of high-net-worth investors under 40 say they would leave their firm if it fails to provide an integrated channel experience (Frost & Sullivan).

Today’s evolving industry landscape has introduced unexpected challenges for asset management firms—and marketing leaders are under pressure to keep up.

Two Essential Elements of a Modern Marketing Strategy

An asset management marketing team has two central functions: to help recruit and retain advisors and to help acquire and retain clients.

In a crowded market where customer expectations have changed, that’s easier said than done. Indeed, as firms struggle to differentiate themselves, marketers are quickly learning that traditional acquisition and retention strategies are no longer effective.

Today, firms that can build deep, long-term relationships with their target audiences—and deliver truly meaningful experiences—will rise above the competition. The keys to building those relationships are aggregating your customer data and then acting on that information in a timely fashion.

Five Tactics for Creating Clear Differentiation

Here are five ways marketers can deliver superior value to clients—to improve acquisition and retention:

1) Get Personal

Today’s investors expect their communications with asset managers to be personalized and highly relevant to their needs. The challenge, of course, is achieving this level of service at scale; traditional batch and blast emails simply won’t work.

Through the use of demographic and behavioral data, segmentation, and lead scoring, firms can gain the rich, 360-degree customer view they need to deliver the personalized messaging clients expect.

2) Facilitate Communication

Modern clients—regardless of age—have become digitally savvy. They’ve grown accustomed to getting answers and access to information on the go, across multiple devices. The problem is, many asset management firms developed their various touch points in silos, thereby creating a disjointed and sometimes disorienting customer experience.

Delivering connected communications requires an omnichannel approach. The right automation solution should allow teams to deliver seamless conversations—as clients (and advisors) move from their phones to their laptops to their tablets, and beyond—all from a single platform. 

3) Build Trust

Asset management is a high-stakes service and building client trust is crucial. While providing a personal touch is central to creating meaningful relationships, steps must be taken to safeguard client privacy.

Asset management firms must adhere to strict regulations surrounding marketing investment management and the handling of client funds. Indeed, compliance is a fundamental concern. Marketing leaders must ensure that their systems—and their marketing teams—are always up to date on new rules and regulations.

A trusted engagement platform, with high-security standards, will enable marketers to deliver personalized experiences, across multiple touch points—with a keen eye on privacy and regulatory compliance.

4) Find Truth

Historically, the asset management industry has been cautious about new MarTech trends. As a result, many marketing teams are still operating on outdated, disparate systems, including their CRM solutions.

Building and nurturing meaningful client relationships requires a single source of data truth. By creating a centralized repository of data and insights, marketers can move from a reactive acquisition and retention strategy—to a proactive one. A single source of truth will also help brands deliver consistent messaging across sales and marketing.

An automated marketing solution that easily integrates with CRM platforms—as well as multiple solution partners and open APIs—is essential. By gathering multiple data points in one location, it will provide the single source of truth marketers need to create the personalized experiences clients demand.

5) Prove ROI

For many marketing leaders, creating a strong marketing strategy is only half the battle. The next step is to prove their efforts are yielding real results for their institutions.

Marketing teams must be able to effectively measure—and continuously improve—the impact of their programs.

A fully optimized marketing engagement platform—one that puts all marketing data into a single view—will enable more robust reporting. Indeed, it will empower teams to move way beyond click-through rates—to measure multi-touch attribution, pipeline, and true ROI.

The post 5 Strategies to Address New Challenges in Asset Management Marketing appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

6 Best Cheap Email Hosting Providers Under $5/Month 2019

Email hosting providers give businesses access to email addresses they can use to communicate with customers and employees. Many businesses look for email they can get cheaply, so we reviewed more than 20 providers to find the top six under $5/month—including the best overall—based on security, support, and features for the price. Top 6 Cheap…

The post 6 Best Cheap Email Hosting Providers Under $5/Month 2019 appeared first on Fit Small Business.

An in-depth look into Text Marketer’s tracked URL feature

Being able to see how many clicks your URL received can really help drive a successful campaign. But being able to see exactly which of your customers clicked it, when, and how many times, is even better. Which is why within our analytics section, you can see exactly that.

Which means you can:
– Test different campaigns and see which link got the best click through
– Send another message to those that didn’t click
– Send another message to those that did click but didn’t take your desired action

For a basic understanding of how our tracked URL feature works, check out our blog here.

This post is a more in-depth look into the feature, explaining in detail what each section is, how it works, and how you can see who clicked your URL.

1. Tracked URLs – The first drop down box shows the full URL, before being shortened, that was included in an SMS message that was sent. When selecting different URLs, all other information on this page will be updated to show data for that specific URL. The sections that will update are; Sent Messages, Tracked URL Details, Message Details, Short URL Clicks, Clicks per device type, and the report at the bottom of the page.

2. Sent Messages – Here is where you can see the different SMS campaigns that have used the URL that was selected in ‘Tracked URLs’ dropdown box. When selecting different SMS campaigns, both the ‘Message Details’ and ‘Message’ will update to show that specific campaign. All ‘Tracked URL Details’, ‘Short URL Clicks’, ‘Clicks per device type’, and the report at the bottom of the page, will still show the overall clicks from the URL selected in the ‘Tracked URLs’ dropdown box and not details for an individual campaign.

3. Tracked URL Details – This shows the total number of SMS campaigns (Sent Messages) that the URL selected in ‘Tracked URLs’ has been used in, along with the total number of clicks. This is displayed as total clicks and not unique clicks, so if 1 customer has clicked the link 5 times, it will show as 5.

4. Message Details – The ‘Message Details’ section shows information about a particular SMS campaign, with date, sender ID, which contact groups the message was sent to, how many customers it was sent to, and the number of credits required for that SMS campaign. This will update when selecting a different option from the ‘Sent Messages’ drop down.

5. Message – This section shows the message that was sent. This will update when selecting a different option from the ‘Sent Messages’ drop down.

6. Short URL clicks – Under the ‘Short URLs clicks’ header, is a graph that displays the total number of clicks per day, week, or month. This can be changed using the ‘Timeframe’ dropdown. This will update when selecting a different option from the ‘Tracked URLs’ dropdown.

7. Clicks per device type – The pie chart shows the percentage breakdown of devices that your URL has been clicked on. This will update when selecting a different option from the ‘Tracked URLs’ drop down.

8. Report – At the bottom of the page you will be able to see a list of your customers’ mobile numbers, the device they are on, number of clicks, and the date and time of the first click. You can download this by clicking the ‘Download Report’ button. This is a total of all clicks on any given URL. This will update when selecting a different option from the ‘Tracked URLs’ drop down.

*You can then follow our simple instructions to see details about which of your customers have clicked your URL – how to see who clicked your tracked URL link

Text Marketer Tracked URL analytics

If after reading this, you are still unsure about how it works, please give us a call and one of our support team can take you through it.

What Are Email Whitelists, & How Do You Get On Them

A few weeks ago, I planned a trip to Charlotte. I booked my flights, and the day before I was supposed to leave, I tried to find my confirmation email.

I couldn’t find it anywhere. Panicking, I called the airline. “Ma’am, your payment was denied. We emailed you about this.”

Very quickly, I learned the importance of email whitelists.

Fortunately, I was able to book another flight. However, this didn’t save me from the stress or frustration I felt at the airline for being unable to contact me any other way.

At the end of the day, you don’t want a similar experience to happen to your customers. And, as a marketer, nothing is more frustrating than realizing your email marketing tactics, meant to engage and delight new prospects, aren’t working simply because they aren’t being delivered to your prospects’ inboxes.

Here, we’ll explain what email whitelists are, and how you can ensure your company is on the whitelists of your email recipients.

How To Get On Your Email Subscribers’ Whitelists

To get on your email subscribers’ whitelists, you can ask your subscribers to whitelist your email address.

There are a few different ways to ask subscribers to whitelist your email address. First, you might simply send the following message:

“To be sure our emails always make it to your inbox, please add us to your email whitelist.”

To make it easier for your recipient, you might also want to incorporate steps to do so. To add someone to a whitelist, your subscriber simply needs to add you as a contact. To make the process simple, you can include instructions in your email, like this:

“To be sure our emails always make it to your inbox, please add us as a contact. If you have a Gmail account, follow these instructions. Alternatively, if you use Apple Mail, click here.”

You can add instructions for any email provider, including Outlook, Yahoo, or Android — this largely depends on the typical provider your recipients use.

However, perhaps you don’t want to ask outright if recipients can add you to their whitelists. An alternative to the above message might simply be asking recipients to add you as a contact.

For instance, United Airlines sends the following message, asking recipients to add United to their contact list and explaining why it’s critical they do so:

Image source: AWeber.

You might use your own flair and brand voice to craft a compelling email message. Ideally, you’d include this message in the first email you send new subscribers, since it might be frustrating for recipients who have already successfully received your emails in the past to randomly receive an email instructing them to add you to their contact list.

Additionally, you can help mitigate the possibility that your recipients’ email providers mistake your emails as spam by following email marketing best practices.

Finally, if you’re a HubSpot customer and your contacts aren’t receiving marketing emails from your HubSpot account, there are several steps you can take to ensure your emails are delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes.

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How SEO Can Drive Your Marketing Initiatives

Today’s modern marketing department encompasses a variety of roles that blend expertise in both traditional and digital mediums. Hiring for SEO related roles, in particular, has increased by over 40% in the last year.

Companies are injecting more dollars than ever into organic search and content marketing. This strategic shift calls on SEO and marketing teams to move in concert in order to achieve mutual campaign KPIs. Crossing the collaborative divide requires an equally mindful transition towards consistent communication, project management processes, and teambuilding.

Issues with integration

Making two cross-discipline teams work cohesively can be a challenge. About 75% of cross-functional teams fail. In order to mitigate the risk of a poorly-executed campaign, it’s vital to integrate the day-to-day functions of both marketing and SEO teams. To do that, it helps to take a look at some of the common barriers to success.

  • Lack of communication, specifically pertaining to goals
  • No clear method for measuring ROI
  • Siloed mentality or lack of flexibility
  • Gaps in technology adoption

It’s incredibly difficult to strive towards a goal that isn’t clearly defined. Expecting teams with different skill sets to work within ill-defined project parameters is even harder. Scope creep becomes a real issue, alongside a general lack of confidence in project deliverables and team cooperation.

Measuring the impact of a product can also be adversely affected by a lack of clarity. If a project doesn’t have a clear, standardized system for measuring ROI, it becomes difficult for each team to understand the impact of their work and fairly attribute responsibility. This is difficult in any cross-functional scenario, but in the marketing world, where ROI has been historically difficult to measure, it can prove disastrous.

Too often, separate teams become siloed, isolated from the larger department by their specialized skill set. Breaking down creative silos means that valuable information is shared more freely across teams, and the resulting output is more dynamic, which is an extraordinarily valuable thing in the world of marketing. Adapting to current trends in SEO and marketing, as well as being able to execute on them within a joint strategy means being receptive to change.

One barrier to entry for cross-discipline collaboration is a technology adoption gap. Although MarTech software applications accounted for nearly 30% of a CMO’s budget in 2018, certain aspects of technical SEO might be harder to conceptualize and fit under a unified marketing umbrella. Implementing standardized technology tools aimed at promoting collaboration and data analysis is a cornerstone of modern marketing strategy.

Impact on revenue

Successful inter-departmental collaboration can be tied to revenue and positive brand impact. Over 90% of Google traffic is observed on the first page, meaning if you are ranking on the second, third, or tenth page, your marketing efforts are unlikely to be seen.

Social media marketing and content strategy have long been the territory of traditional marketers. Hybridized digital marketers and SEO strategists can help drive marketing objectives centered around the most compelling and technical aspects, bringing to the table a unique understanding of how organic search helps drive brand visibility.

Cross-functional communication provides more visibility into emerging trends, ROI modeling, and organizational needs that can inform marketing spends and strategic focus. Nurturing a basic understanding of the relationship between a brand and its customers also helps marketers and SEO experts alike create smarter strategies and drive more profitable results.

Best practices for fostering collaboration

Fortunately, creating a culture of collaboration doesn’t have to be such a heavy lift. SEO strategists and marketers have similar core competencies. Given the right tools and processes, SEO efforts can help drive marketing objectives and vice versa:

  • Collaboration tools
  • Workflow processes
  • Education and employee engagement

Collaborative tools and software platforms are hitting the market with increasing regularity. Implementing these tools can positively impact the way SEO and marketing teams work together as well as conduct day-to-day job functions. From project management platforms like Asana or Basecamp, to collaborative meeting tools like Slack and Google Hangouts, using a standardized set of tools helps empower organizations with distinct departments and enables remote workers to create compelling campaigns in real-time. This also helps teams establish workflow processes that break large-scale projects down into smaller tasks, allowing them to keep a close eye on potential bottlenecks at all stages of the project management life cycle.

Breaking down organizational silos can do a lot towards creating a shared sense of expertise and a shared vocabulary. Defining project objectives and metrics to track against helps improve the collaboration between SEO and marketing teams since all stakeholders will understand how their efforts and area of expertise play into a shared outcome. Not every marketing objective will be SEO focused, but it’s still important to get stakeholders in the room to talk about keyword targets and opportunities, as well as conduct training sessions.

Keeping employees engaged is one of the best ways to keep collaboration productive and consistent. Scheduling regular standing meetings to go over progress towards objectives, and providing avenues for professional development, certification, and mentoring help cement team building efforts that drive success.

SEO strategy for results

Marketing teams need to be thinking about SEO, and SEO teams need to be thinking about marketing. With more companies throwing their weight behind organic search and adjacent forms of marketing, both teams will be working towards common KPIs. The marketing strategies of the future incorporate a more holistic approach to brand strategy, and companies that are able to foster cross-functional collaboration are setting themselves up to be more able to respond to the changing market.

The post How SEO Can Drive Your Marketing Initiatives appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Top 20 Profitable Home Business Ideas from the Pros

Thanks to technology, setting up a business at home is easier than ever and requires just a fraction of the cost it would take to start a brick-and-mortar establishment. We asked experts to share home-based business ideas and tips for anyone looking to gain financial independence while pursuing their passion. Here are 20 profitable home…

The post Top 20 Profitable Home Business Ideas from the Pros appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Why spring is the perfect time to connect with your customers

With the cold months of Winter behind us and the warm Summer air on the horizon, Spring really is the best time of the year.

During Spring we have the longest day of the year, the UK has 4 bank holidays, Easter weekend, school holidays, Mother’s and Father’s day, plus the clocks go forward. All this means consumers have more time on their hands to see friends, go on trips, but probably the most popular activity for us Brits . . . . Shopping.

We seem to take every possible opportunity to do a bit of shopping, so when there is more time in the day, the sun beaming down and a chance to go on a weekday, we will undoubtedly grab our wallets and purses and go on a shopping spree.

To be able to capitalise on all the extra hours in the day and extra days off over Spring, we would recommend you take 3 very simple actions, which together will give you a huge boost over the Spring season.

3 simple activities to boost your Spring sales
Spring Sale – The best way to attract customers to your store is with a sale. Make sure your sale isn’t a really small percentage off, and run it for a few weeks. Making your sale last months will lose its effectiveness, you want to create a sense of urgency and not allow customers to think they have all the time in the world to take advantage of it.

SMS Campaigns – Send out multiple SMS campaigns to promote your sale. Your first SMS campaign should go out at the very start, with at least one more a few days before it ends, reminding customers it is the last chance for them to save money.

Competition – Everyone loves a competition and running one will increase engagement, which in turn means more people will see your sale and buy from you. You may even want to think about running an ‘in-store competition’, which would require people to come into your store to enter.

Use SMS Web Pages to improve your SMS campaigns
To help you with your sale and competition, why not try our completely free feature, SMS Web Pages. You can create a bespoke landing page and include images, extra information about your offer, and a call to action button.

By creating an SMS Web Page, you won’t have to include all the information of your sale or competition within the body of your text message, meaning you can keep it to 1 message length, saving you money.

Example text messages for your spring SMS campaigns
To help get up to speed as quickly as possible, we have created a few example text messages that you can use.

“Our Super Spring Sale is now on! Don’t miss our Spring Sale and get 30% off everything. Sale ends 21st June. For more info visit our website www.link.com”

“Put a spring in your step with our Spring Sale & Competition. Save 30% off all items and at the same time enter our competition where you can win 1 of 3 £100 vouchers. For more info click here www.link.com”

“Competition time! Want to be in with a chance of winning 1 of 3 £100 vouchers? Simply come into our store and play a little game. Store location here www.link.com”

 

If you would like any help setting up your SMS campaigns ready for your sale, call us or drop us an email and one of our expert team can help you.

6 Fundamental Video Marketing Tips for Every Type of Skill Level

Nowadays, most marketers obsess over how they can amplify their content’s reach as much as possible. More views means more leads and customers, right? While this convention can be true, it’ll only pan out if you optimize your videos for humans before you optimize them for algorithms.

Resonance is the most important determinant of whether your audience will take action, and your video’s creative is the most important determinant of whether your video will resonate with your audience. So even if your video reaches a million people, if it doesn’t resonate with them, it won’t persuade anyone to take your preferred action, let alone remember your brand.

With this insight in mind, let’s go over six fundamental video marketing tips that’ll help you craft videos that resonate with as many people as they reach.

1. Hook your audience.

When Facebook analyzed their users’ video consumption data in 2016, they discovered that 45% of people who watch the first three seconds of a video will keep watching it for at least 30 seconds.

This data indicates that sparking your audience’s curiosity with an attention-grabbing title isn’t enough to engage them. You also need to instantly hook your viewers within the first three seconds of your video — the human attention span isn’t long enough to be entertained by sluggish content.

But what actually hooks people? What we’ve discovered at HubSpot is that an effective video hook visually engages viewers and previews the video’s core message. Creating these types of hooks can simultaneously grab your viewers’ attention and generate interest in the rest of the video.

2. Tell stories.

In the neuroscience field, researchers have proven that storytelling is the best way to capture people’s attention, bake information into their memories, and resonate emotionally with them. The human brain is programmed to crave, seek out, and respond to well-crafted narrative — that’ll never change.

In fact, when someone tells you a story, they can plant their personal experiences and ideas directly into your mind, so you start to feel what they feel. For instance, if someone describes eating a plate of lobster mac and cheese, your sensory cortex lights up. If someone recounts scoring their first touchdown, your motor cortex enlivens.

In other words, powerful stories evoke empathy because they activate parts of the brain that’d operate if you actually experienced the stories’ events. And by using their own memories to recreate your story’s sensory details, your audience can turn your video’s events into their own ideas and experience.

3. Evoke positive emotions.

Psychology tells us that emotions drive our behavior, while logic justifies our actions after the fact. Marketing confirms this theory — humans associate the same personality traits with brands as they do with people. So choosing between two alternatives is like choosing your best friend or significant other. We go with the option that makes us feel something.

If you want your videos to resonate with your viewers, consider kindling warm feelings rather than fear, anger, or disgust. In fact, happiness, hope, and excitement are some of the most common emotions that drive viral content, so if your video can evoke these emotions, it could rake in a ton of views and generate a lot of engagement.

4. Make your videos “sticky”.

In their book, Made to Stick, brothers Chip and Dan Heath taught readers a model for making ideas “sticky”, or, in other words, making ideas digestible, memorable, and compelling.

By analyzing countless amounts of “sticky” ideas, like JFK’s “Man on the Moon” speech and even some conspiracy theories, the Heath Brothers noticed that a “sticky” idea usually follows six principles:

  1. Simple: its core message must be easy to grasp.
  2. Unexpected: it should break cliche and evoke enough curiosity to grab someone’s attention and hold it.
  3. Concrete: it should be vividly painted in people’s minds.
  4. Credible: it should be supported by evidence.
  5. Emotional: it should have a purpose and relate to people.
  6. Story-driven: it should tell a story that inspires people to act.

The Heath Brothers recommend following as many of their “Made to Stick” principles as possible when devising your idea, so check out this blog post about The Psychology Behind Marketing Viral Videos to learn how five brands followed most of these principles with one of their videos and succeeded in capturing viral attention.

5. Rely on visuals.

When we were babies, we relied on vision to associate objects with behaviors, like a ball meaning play time. Vision was the only way to learn about the world.

That’s why you can understand visual information in 250 milliseconds and why your visual system activates over 50% of your brain. Watching something has always been the best way to learn.

Visual storytelling helps people grasp concepts and data easily, so consider complementing your video’s text and narration with dynamic graphics, popular movie and TV scenes, and footage of real people. If you do this, your viewers can listen to the information and watch a visual representation of it, helping them form a concrete understanding of your video’s core idea.

6. Add appropriate soundtracks to your videos.

Choosing the right soundtrack can be the difference between a video that grips your audience from start to finish and one that they can barely get halfway through.

Play a fitting soundtrack or jingle in your video, and you can grab your audience’s attention and evoke the specific emotions and feelings you want them to associate with your brand. Neglect the musical aspect of your video, and people might actually think less of your brand.

In a 1994 study that tested music’s effect on brand attitudes, half the participants watched an apple juice commercial with music while the other half watched it without music. 23% of participants who saw the apple juice commercial with music reported that one of the beverage’s benefits was “drinking a natural drink”. But out of the participants who watched the commercial without music, only 4% reported the same belief about the apple juice brand.

Music can make your videos much more captivating, impactful, and, in turn, convincing. So whether you’re creating fun social media videos, persuasive product videos, or even serious training videos, you must remember that music can separate your video from the rest of the pack.

Resonance is arguably more important than reach.

For most marketers today, reach is the metric they want to see growing on a consistent basis. But without strong emotional resonance, having a wide reach doesn’t really matter. So before you start optimizing your videos for algorithms, remember to optimize them for humans first and craft the most compelling content you possibly can.

video marketing

7 of the Best Blogging Platforms for 2019

As a baseball player turned blogger, my blogging platform is just as important to me as my bat was to me back in the day. If I went up to the plate with a quality bat that I personally preferred swinging, I would feel more confident, boosting my chances of getting a hit. If I didn’t, I would most likely tap a dribbler back to the pitcher.

Similarly, when blogging eventually replaced baseball in life, I discovered using a blogging platform I was comfortable with and liked enabled me to produce better work and results. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t execute as well.

But, just like baseball bats, there are countless blogging platforms you can use. Fortunately, if you’re looking for one that’s ideal for your specific situation, we’ve got you covered. Read on to find the best-fit blogging platform for your content creation team and start knocking some blog posts out of the park.

1. HubSpot

G2 Rating: 4.0/5.0 (2,161 Reviews)

HubSpot offers one of the most robust blogging platforms around. When drafting your blog posts, you can use their composer to craft content from scratch or with one of their pre-made blog post blueprints. You can also integrate your G Suite Account with HubSpot’s blogging platform to import your Google Docs right into their composer.

Additionally, you can edit your blog posts directly in their composer by adding comments, offering feedback, and collaborating with other writers or editors on your team.

After you finish drafting your blog post, HubSpot’s blogging platform features an SEO recommendations checklist and a topic cluster tool that helps you optimize your blog posts for search engines.

You can then schedule your blog posts with HubSpot’s calendar tool, connect to and promote them through your social media accounts and email, and analyze their performance with HubSpot’s analytics tools.

2. Squarespace

G2 Rating: 4.4/5.0 (768 Reviews)

Squarespace Blogging PlatformIf you want to build a truly beautiful blog, Squarespace is the blogging platform for you. With their award-winning, fully customizable designer templates and integrations with Getty Images, Unsplash, Google AMP, and more, you can improve your content’s design and boost its ability to grab and hold your audience’s attention.

You can also collaborate with multiple writers and editors on your content, integrate and promote your blog with your social media accounts, and manage your blog posts’ comments.

Additionally, Squarespace offers some other robust marketing tools that can help you increase your reach and refine your content strategy, like email campaigns, SEO features, analytics, and lead capture features.

3. WordPress

G2 Rating: 4.3/5.0 (6,808 Reviews)

WordPress Blogging PlatformPowering over 30% of the websites on the internet, WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms out there. If you’re creating a new blog, you can register a domain for your site right on the platform. If you already have a website, you can transfer your current domain to your new WordPress site.

When creating blog content, WordPress offers hundreds of themes that you can customize with your own branding and content. You can also leverage their SEO tools, social media integrations, and sharing tools to amplify your blog posts’ reach.

When it’s time to analyze your blog posts’ performance, WordPress offers metrics and data visualization, like charts and graphs, that’ll help you grasp your readers’ topic preferences and referral source.

4. Wix

G2 Rating: 4.2/5.0 (985 Reviews)

Wix Blogging PlatformWix is one of the most versatile blogging platforms on the market. Whether you own a business or a food review website, Wix has a wide range of templates any blogger can use.

After you’ve picked your blog’s template, Wix lets you write and edit posts on desktop and mobile, organize your posts into topics, display Wix’s stock photos and videos or your own media on your blog posts, and create a community of audience members who can make profiles on your blog and interact with each other.

To promote your blog posts, you can leverage Wix’s SEO tools to boost your organic reach, push your content to your subscribers with their email tool, and connect and share them through your social media accounts. If you want to measure your content’s performance, Wix also offers an advanced analytics tool.

5. Weebly

G2 Rating: 4.2/5.0 (383 Reviews)

Weebly Blogging PlatformTrusted by over 30 million people across the globe, Weebly is one of the most popular blogging platforms because it’s incredibly intuitive. With their drag and drop editor, free blog templates, completely customizable design, and a wide range of media options and integrations, you can easily create a blog that’s easy on the eyes.

To amplify your blog’s reach, you can leverage Wix’s SEO tools to improve your organic rankings, their RSS feed to update your subscribers with every new blog post you publish, and their social sharing tools to schedule your content on your social media profiles.

6. Craft CMS

G2 Rating: 4.2/5.0 (25 Reviews)

Craft CMS Blogging PlatformCraft CMS is a blogging platform that lets you completely customize your blog, manage your content, and analyze its performance. With its personalized content modeling, custom control over your blog’s code, and powerful templating, you can build your very own dream blog.

Craft CMS also offers an image editor, collaboration tools, and a localization feature that can translate your content to specific languages. To analyze your content’s performance, you can integrate Craft CMS’ dashboard with Google Analytics.

7. Contently

G2 Rating: 4.0/5.0 (17 Reviews)

Contently Blogging PlatformTailored for enterprise companies, Contently is a robust blogging platform that allows you to run your entire content creation process in one place. To develop your content strategy on Contently, you can organize your blog posts with their tagging tool and flesh out your editorial strategy with their customizable production calendar to.

After that, you can effectively collaborate with your team on projects by commenting on and tagging colleagues in your drafts and leveraging Contently’s advanced workflow tools.

When it’s time to ship your content, you can use their smart content review tools to ensure your content is aligned with your brand, optimized for search, and legally compliant.

If you want to gauge your content’s performance and use that data to refine your content strategy, you can compare your content’s performance against industry benchmarks and measure its performance by topic, format, and sources in the platform.

3 Ways Marketers Can Avoid a Communication Breakdown With Designers

Not to point any fingers, but how many marketers are guilty of asking designers something along the lines of “Can you just make it prettier?”

For many marketers, working with a designer can be one of the most challenging tasks they face while building a brand. Communicating their wants, needs, and visions can lead marketers into a minefield of misunderstandings.

Despite working toward the same goals, designers and marketers speak different languages. Designers are specialists who have learned to translate concepts visually, but that method of communicating information requires plenty of education and training.

Marketers are no less specialized than designers, and increased digitalization has led us to use more technical jargon—marketers love their buzzwords—and complex processes. Most words we use to communicate meaning just don’t add up: The word “flat,” for instance, has a completely different meaning to designers than it does to marketers—and most other folks, for that matter.

On top of the inherent differences to each role, the way people communicate meaning and value changes constantly. The speed of modern communication has altered our expectations of turnaround times, and the introduction of 5G is about to change the speed of communication yet again.

When frustrations and miscommunications arise, this tension leads to diluted messaging and diminished relationships with their target audiences. If marketers and designers commit to speaking a common language, their relationship and reliance on each other will lead to superior marketing assets: Good design results in world-class branding, after all.

Bolster Your Brand by Learning to Speak ‘Designer’

Don’t let the fear of lousy communication stand in the way of an awesome partnership with your design team.

Here are three ways you can keep projects running smoothly:

1. Get together before the project begins

Designers aren’t mind readers. They cannot pluck an idea from your brain and turn it into something marvelous without plenty of direction, clear expectations, and guidance along the way.

At the start of the relationship—or any new project—set up a meeting to discuss your vision. Be clear and specific about your goals, and admit what you don’t know or still have to find out. Ask the designer what he or she needs from you.

Use this meeting to also forecast the timing of the project. According to our in-house data, basing timelines on previous projects causes teams to underestimate how long a project will take 67% of the time. To avoid this trap, outline any expectations about turnaround times and revisions before building a timeline together. When possible, allow designers to take the lead on project timelines or stages.

Give your designer everything he or she might need to understand your brand and target audience. Explain the demographics you’re trying to reach, how your audience interacts with your brand, and what promises or values you want to communicate.

That might seem like a lot of information, but it will empower your designer to make intuitive choices without micromanagement. Without clear expectations, it’s easy for a designer to follow a tangent that made sense in the drafting stages but doesn’t necessarily align with your end goal.

2. Commit to overcommunicating

When you’re establishing a new relationship or project with a designer, err on the side of overcommunicating. Ask plenty of questions, and don’t assume anything. Get clarification about the designer’s thought process, ideas, and—especially—suggestions.

Check in regularly to see whether the designer has everything he or she needs. Explore different methods of communicating to find an approach that works for both of you. Chat platforms like Slack are great for quick, on-the-go check-ins, but nothing beats a face-to-face meeting or video call for sorting out problems and expectations or stirring up excitement for ideas.

It’s equally important to provide written documentation of all expectations, budgets, timelines, and directions. Don’t let creative briefs linger in a folder on your desktop; get them to your designer right away. You can set your projects up for success by treating this early step as a collaborative and informational process.

Once you’ve established your preferred mediums and cadence of communication, you can settle into a more relaxed rhythm with the knowledge that everyone’s on the same page.

3. Give constructive feedback that’s design-specific

Clear and constructive feedback is essential to a productive relationship with a designer. Saying only “I love this” or “I don’t like that” doesn’t cut it, and vague comments such as “Make it cleaner” won’t help designers decide what to do next. High-quality feedback builds on good ideas and explains why “bad” ideas won’t work.

A designer’s job is to solve and create, and your goal is to present a challenge with a problem to overcome. Don’t impose solutions—ask designers for input and ideas. If discussions start to go in circles, steer the conversation back to your pain point. Try to explain precisely what bothers you about any problematic elements, but give your designer the freedom to own the work they are doing.

Trust your designers and embolden them to offer their own evaluations without having to fear that you’ll ignore them or take offense. Create this safe space in your meetings by introducing feedback from the beginning.

Designers might speak in colors and shapes rather than metrics and data, but you can work together to forge a shared language. Start this relationship off strong by bridging the gap and finding ways to communicate, and the results will speak for themselves.

The post 3 Ways Marketers Can Avoid a Communication Breakdown With Designers appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

How To Get a Free Email Domain: 3 Quick Methods To Set Up

An email domain is the part of an email address that follows the @ symbol; it is often customized to include your business name. This conveys a sense of professionalism and brand cohesion. To get a free email domain, sign up for web hosting and use your website domain to create a matching email domain….

The post How To Get a Free Email Domain: 3 Quick Methods To Set Up appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Text Marketer is part of Commify Group

We just thought you might like to know that there have been some administrative changes here at Text Marketer, but don’t worry, we are still here offering an amazing SMS service at a low cost.

Text Marketer is part of a group of business messaging service providers called Commify. To simplify our legal structure, we renamed TextMarketer Limited to Commify UK Limited on 31st January 2019 with Companies House. At that point, Text Marketer Limited became a trading name of Commify UK Limited.

This has had no impact on the services our customers receive or the team who deliver those services; it simply means that invoices are now from Commify UK Limited trading as Text Marketer. All existing contracts remain valid – it is very much business as usual.

Public notices have been issued which list the various non-trading companies being wound up – and some customers have seen these notices and sought clarification that Text Marketer itself is not being wound up. It is not.

Text Marketer is alive and well 

Commify as a group works with over 45,000 companies across Europe and APAC; we employ close to 250 of the brightest minds in the industry, and have offices in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, Germany and Australia.

Our mission is to make business communication brilliant, and we are proud to be the number one provider of business messaging solutions in many parts of Europe.

You can find out more about Commify here; if you have any questions about this administrative change, please do get in touch.

Again we just thought you would like to know, we are still here, still low cost, and most importantly, still bright orange.

The Ultimate Guide to Alexa Skills Marketing

By now, marketing teams all over the world are familiar with the concept of SEO. You know all about keywords and search engines and using high-quality links.

But are you prepared to market toward voice search?

A GlobalWebIndex search report revealed that 27 percent of consumers already use voice search on their mobile devices, and 34 percent confirmed that they are interested in having voice-based smart assistants in their homes.

That’s on top of the nearly 53 million U.S. adult consumers who already use a voice-activated smart device at home. These numbers will only grow, so any business hoping to stay on top of consumer trends needs to be implementing an Alexa marketing strategy. And the best way to get started is by turning to the maker of Alexa itself — Amazon.

In 2014, Amazon introduced the Echo, which was the first standalone device devoted to a smart voice assistant. Competitors like Google soon followed with devices like Google Home, and consumers responded enthusiastically. A study by eMarketer predicted that about 35 million people in the U.S. would use voice-activated devices at least once a month in 2017, up 128 percent from 2016.

If you think you might be interested in using voice-activated smart devices to supplement your marketing strategy in 2019, consider using Alexa Skills, which allows brands to provide customers with the ability to interact with their products or services in a conversational way. To learn more, keep reading.

Why You Should Have an Alexa Skill for Your Business

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re in the same place as many marketers these days — you might be on the fence about Alexa for business, wondering how to decide whether creating and operating an Alexa Skill is right for your team. To answer this question, it’s critical you figure out whether Alexa Skill will allow you to reach your target audience.

For example, is your brand positioned toward consumers, or other businesses? While Alexa is becoming increasingly integrated with business tools, it is still primarily a household feature, so it makes the most sense for B2C businesses.

Additionally, there are two main purposes for using Alexa Skills — building brand loyalty, or creating direct revenue.

Building an Alexa Skill for your brand can improve the convenience of your product or service, without necessarily driving revenue. Even without a direct tie to sales, improving convenience can nonetheless help you enhance your user experience, and make consumers more likely to interact with your brand without interrupting your daily routine.

Alternatively, you might use Alexa Skills to create direct revenue for your business.

How You Can Use Alexa for Business

Let’s say you’re a marketer for a regional bank. You create a Skill for a user to check his balance, direct a payment, or transfer funds using voice command. By making it more convenient for customers to manage their finances, your brand obtains a reputation for being innovative and helpful. This, indirectly, creates revenue by driving conversions.

Making money directly from your Alexa Skill is possible, as well. E-commerce businesses have more tools than ever to make online shopping easy for customers, and more profitable for brands.

For instance, Purina is a well-known leader in the pet food market. Despite its success, Purina chose to use Alexa Skills to improve its customer experience. The skill it created, Ask Purina, uses Amazon AI to answer customers’ questions about products. Additionally, it serves as an authority on dogs in general. Users can “Ask Purina” about current or future products, and get answers to queries like, “What breeds are best with children?” or “Find me dogs that don’t shed.” With this Skill, customers can find the information they need, as well as a new reason to stay loyal to the company.

Tide has also created its own Alexa Skill. The company’s Tide Stain Remover Skill offers its users step-by-step instructions via voice on how to eliminate about 200 forms of stains so users can implement the steps in real time. Consumers already recognize Tide as an expert in caring for stains — this Alexa Skill is merely an extension of that, building on the company’s reputation and improving goodwill with consumers.

Where You Can Implement Your Own Alexa Skills Strategy

Now that you know why you should have an Alexa Skill for your business, as well as how it can benefit you, there are a few different ways to strategize for your company’s custom Alexa Skill. Here’s how to get started.

1. Establish a content marketing plan.

The Purina example above demonstrates an actionable way to build a positive brand reputation without selling a product. Content marketing is an excellent way to build and nurture relationships with both current and prospective customers — an Alexa Skill simply provides a convenient way to achieve that goal.

Identify the content your team already has and how it can be modified to fit a voice-specific strategy. Alexa Skills are activated when users ask specific questions or use particular “utterances” that you set, so make sure your best pieces of content include those phrases so your Skill will pull them up to deliver via voice.

Purina is a great example here — the company has created content about dog breeds to showcase its expertise, and when customers ask, “Which dog breed is best for an apartment?” the company’s Alexa Skill can deliver that content.

Content marketing campaigns are known to create more than three times the number of leads than outbound marketing does — and they cost 62 percent less. Your Alexa Skills plan should complement your company’s existing content strategy and should be a natural extension to the queries your customers are conducting in other formats.

2. Leverage Alexa for e-commerce.

Amazon has made voice technology easy for e-commerce businesses to roll out because it benefits Amazon, too. There are now several ways to make money with Alexa Skills. When people buy things online, chances are they’re using Amazon to do so. If you sell products online, it might not be ideal to sell through Amazon, but it can be worth it if an integrated Skill can boost your sales by a large enough margin.

In 2018 alone, Amazon e-commerce sales totaled about $258.2 billion, an almost 30 percent increase from 2017. With Amazon taking up nearly half of the e-commerce market, it stands to reason that if you’re operating within Amazon’s platform, you’ll be able to snag a piece of that pie. And with an Alexa Skill related to your product, users who use voice search and shop on Amazon will have an easier time ordering your products.

Take Tide, for example — customers who use that company’s Skill to find stain removal tips can also use their voice to order Tide products. That takes a step out of the purchasing process, allowing consumers to buy those products without pulling up the Amazon app or website and clicking through all the available options.

3. Unveil a voice-activated loyalty program.

Some brands are driving a higher level of loyalty with programs that offer credits or points to users who make purchases using Alexa Skill. With a voice-enabled loyalty program, your brand is more likely to stay top of mind among Alexa users when they need to stock up on a product like yours.

Bridge2 Solutions debuted its Points Pal offering in 2017 and is reportedly the first voice-activated reward experience. With Points Pal, brands can make interacting with their existing rewards programs possible with voice commands such as “Tell me my points balance”, “Put this item in my favorites list”, or “Let’s pay for this using my points and credit card”.

Considering that customers who are part of a loyalty or rewards program tend to spend more than customers who are not, setting up a loyalty program and making it accessible via voice can add a bonus benefit when you’re setting up your Alexa Skill. Additionally, it’s important you ensure the program can be launched across different smart assistants, so that even if your customers are away from their Echos, they can still keep track of their points using other voice-based services.

Not using an Alexa Skill for your business doesn’t automatically mean you’ll be left behind. But depending on your brand and the market in which you’re operating, you might be — especially considering the increasing number of consumers who own smart speakers and use them regularly. Optimize your Alexa marketing strategy now to avoid falling behind your competitors.

Stay Current on Emerging Tech

The Ultimate Round-Up of Content Marketing Tips

In 2019, there are now over four billion active internet users, and over three billion social media users, worldwide — simply put, that’s a ton of opportunity for your brand to engage with an audience and achieve massive growth for your business.

One of the most effective methods for spreading brand awareness and attracting new customers to your business is through content marketing.

Content marketing is a marketing strategy that focuses on creating, publishing, and distributing valuable and relevant content online, with the purpose of reaching a targeted audience and incentivizing profitable customer action. Ultimately, customer marketing is a critical component for long-term, sustainable growth.

And yet, despite its immense impact, many marketers don’t know how to implement a successful content marketing strategy. In fact, 63% of businesses don’t even have a documented content strategy.

To ensure you’re able to cultivate a truly valuable content marketing strategy in 2019, we’ve created this round-up of content marketing tips — keep reading to become a true content marketing expert.

1. Make sure your content has a clear, measurable business goal.

You might be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content you can create for your business — anything from Instagram Stories, to blog posts and e-books, to podcasts.

However, as Karla Cook, Editor and Manager of HubSpot’s Marketing Blog, notes, “[It’s critical] every single piece of content you’re creating has a clear, measurable business goal in mind — and simply ‘getting views’ isn’t a complete business goal.”

“Take the time to think about how content can serve your overall marketing strategy, and create pieces that tie back to that.”

For instance, let’s say you decide you want to lean heavily into a blogging strategy. Simply crafting and publishing content isn’t enough — instead, it’s important you identify your target audience, and decide how your content can best serve that audience. Additionally, you’ll want to use analytics to ensure your content is able to reach the right people with the right search intent.

Once you identify how to serve your audience, you’ll want to ask yourself, “How does this tie back to the business?” While it’s critical you write quality content to grow your audience, it won’t help attract prospects if it doesn’t tie back to your business.

Take a look at This Strategy Helped the HubSpot Blog Break a Year-Long Traffic Plateau to learn more about cultivating a business-focused strategy for content creation.

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2. Understand your buyer’s journey.

A good content marketer understands that her strategy needs to engage and delight a reader at any stage of the buyer’s journey. While your content should be used to initially attract new visitors to your site, it should also be used to convince hesitant prospects to purchase, and encourage customer retention and long-term brand loyalty.

For instance, perhaps you understand many customers become hesitant to purchase your product because they believe you need extensive video knowledge to succeed with it. To help mitigate concerns and aid your sales team, you might create a video campaign to show customers how to use video marketing in 2019.

3. Rely on analytics to track your performance.

Quality content is important, but it doesn’t mean much for your business if your visitors and viewers don’t convert into customers. This is why analytics is so important — by carefully monitoring, tracking, watching, and reporting on the numbers, you’ll be able to gauge what’s working, what isn’t, and what could be working better.

Traffic is important, but it’s important you also focus on conversion rates. Perhaps your Instagram account has only 1,000 followers — alternatively, your blog has 7,000 readers. However, your Instagram page has a conversion rate of seven percent, and your blog only converts at about .01. This should tell you that, while your blog is important for an initial introduction to your business, your Instagram is critical for sales, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Additionally, focusing on analytics will help you refine and improve your strategy for the future. For instance, let’s say you notice your blog readers are particularly interested in your blog topics related to e-commerce. This can help direct your future strategy — you can choose to focus more heavily on e-commerce topics, which will increase traffic (signaling your readers are happy with your content), and ensure you’re spending time and effort where it matters.

content-marketing-tip

4. Keep content consistent and up-to-date.

Victor Pan, Head of Technical SEO at HubSpot, urges content strategists to implement simple SEO tactics to ensure their content remains up-to-date and relevant to search engines. He says, “You can tell if being up-to-date is important to your topic if ‘keyword+year’ shows up in the ‘related searches’ of a Google search result.”

To ensure your content remains relevant and updated, Pan recommends the following three tips:

  • Exclude the year in the URL when you’re optimizing your content. Cool URLs don’t change.
  • Include the year in the title of your content.
  • Schedule your editorial calendar to revisit this content every year so you can keep it up-to-date, which could include updating the title tag, meta description, and content itself.

It’s important to note, if you do implement an optimization strategy, it’s critical you don’t update the URL. The URL should remain the same to ensure you don’t need to re-earn backlinks. Additionally, you don’t want to create unnecessary redirects.

Additionally, consistency is key. Publishing consistent content will help you rank in the SERPs, but it will also establish trust in your readers and viewers.

5. Adopt a historical optimization strategy.

A few years ago, the blogging team at HubSpot figured out the importance of adopting a historical optimization strategy. Through repurposing old (yet still high-quality) content, the team was able to double monthly leads, and increase monthly organic search views by an average of 106%.

Ultimately, you don’t want old content to go to waste. If a topic is particularly evergreen (like “how to create a blog”), it makes sense you’d put time and effort behind repurposing the topic.

content-marketing-tips

6. Repurpose your content.

It takes time and talent to craft highly useful, engaging content — so, by finding ways to recycle existing content, you’re ensuring peak efficiency. Additionally, repurposing content allows you to reach a new audience. For instance, let’s say your podcast team published a high-performing podcast episode. Why not turn that episode’s topic into a blog post?

Alternatively, maybe you created a blog post that performed significantly well — now, you might consider creating a YouTube video that covers a similar topic, to reach an audience that prefers video over text.

Repurposing your content will also ensure your audience has more than one chance to see it. Your readers, viewers, and followers are busy. Consider simply implementing a new content promotional strategy on a piece of content that deserves to be resurfaced.

7. Ensure your brand voice remains steady across channels.

Whether you visit Spotify’s Twitter page, YouTube account, or stumble across one of their billboard advertisements, you can quickly get a sense for the brand’s funny, candid, youthful voice. This is what makes me feel connected to Spotify — its unwavering brand consistency, regardless of the channel on which I choose to engage.


Image courtesy of Adweek.

Even if you have a marketing team of 30, it’s critical you continue to produce similar messaging that aligns with your brand’s voice and values across channels. A viewer should be able to watch one of your YouTube videos and then click a link to a blog post and think, “Ah, yes — this is definitely the same company.”

If you need help crafting or refining a brand voice, check out How to Find Your Brand’s Voice [SlideShare].

How to Strike a Balance Between Relying on AI and Emphasizing a Human Touch

The emergence of AI technology is the result of evolved human thinking. And, in some ways, it’s become one of the biggest technology game changers of this generation. However, without being very cautious and aware of the dangers—and significance—of combining human interaction with artificial intelligence, we could head down the wrong path.

Personally, a substantial barrier I’ve faced in my life is properly managing my time. At first, I was obsessed with learning the ins and outs of Google Calendar. As brilliant as Google is, the brand has to keep things relatively simple: Everybody who uses a Google product expects, and needs, to be completely comfortable with it. There can’t be a steep learning curve.

When we were building Calendar, one of our goals was to help people become more thoughtful. To do that, the app has to use AI to collect existing data to create reminders of important events, moments, or tasks. This can significantly help enhance the relationships between the user and the important people in his life.

At the same time, AI won’t automatically know the difference between meaningful and meaningless details people share with the user. You might have had a conversation with someone who mentioned a big event coming up, but you still have to manually input that information. In a less obvious scenario, someone could have just earned a promotion or lost a loved one. The typical calendar application isn’t going to create a reminder to send a congratulatory note or condolences in these unexpected circumstances.

AI to Scale

If we relied solely on AI, we’d miss out on chances to build and maintain meaningful connections. However, without AI, it would be difficult to scale and optimize relationships—there’s a reason we have a standard social circle of 150 people.

This example is both a key and a hint as to how marketers should approach AI in different ways. AI needs to be used as a catalyst to connect us with more people on a human level, scaling personalization or helping us identify ways to interact with others that we may not have previously seen.

In marketing, it’s vital to gain trust and engage people, so they want to buy from and advocate for you. Therefore, scaling through AI can be an asset. But when there’s a chance to add a human connection, we have to leap at the opportunity.

Creating a Balance Between AI and Humans

How can you balance AI technology with human interaction? Here are just three ways to achieve that goal.

Create a mix of technology and humanity.

We’re already experiencing this transformation in our daily lives — if you have a question about a return policy or the weather, you interact with AI technology to get this information easily and quickly. But what if your question is more specific or requires smarter suggestions? AI can only go so far.

We still strive for human interaction. After all, we’re social creatures. AI can’t connect with us emotionally. And, as amazing as the technology is, AI doesn’t have all the answers. For example, let’s say you received a package with a damaged product. A chatbot may be able to provide the basics regarding the company’s return policy. Understandably frustrated, you want to interact with an actual person who can empathize with you and correct the situation. A more “human” AI shares your information with the customer service rep, so you don’t have to repeat yourself.

We’ll continue to see this evolve. You can record your meetings, enabling AI to use the information discussed to make smart suggestions for your next meeting. It may suggest when, where, and whom to schedule. AI could also help you develop an agenda and book the meeting. You, however, are still responsible for making sure the meeting is productive and isn’t a waste of time. AI and humans must work together in harmony, not simply focusing on replacing roles and responsibilities.

Important decisions still require a human touch.

Self-driving cars are a great example of humans still needing to, well, take the wheel. Each vehicle still has a driver just in case the machine has reached its limits or gets confused. Similarly, if you’ve ever called a call center, you’ve likely had your question transferred to a human operator because the machine couldn’t understand you.

With your calendar, AI technology may notice that you work on a specific task at an exact time on certain days. As a result, it will automatically generate a recurring block for you, making you unavailable and issuing a reminder. But what if an emergency pulled you away from that task, and everything else on your calendar had to get pushed back? The intelligent calendar doesn’t know that, proceeding as normal. You’re going to have to manually update your calendar, so conflicts don’t arise throughout the rest of the day.

Chatbots, for example, can help guide us in making financial decisions or planning our schedules. But would you trust a machine to plan your retirement or automatically fill in your entire year? Of course not.

AI technology should be an asset that helps us make smarter, more informed decisions. In the end, it can’t have the final say — the tech simply isn’t trained to handle new situations. For important decisions, a human touch is still needed.

Trust in the power of intuition.

I recently watched a movie called “Upgrade.” In a key scene, the lead realized the automated car was taking a different route home. His gut immediately told him something was wrong. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say his gut was picking up on clues his mind might have ignored.

As useful as AI technology is and will continue to be, it can’t replace our inner voice. Whether it’s knowing you’re in a dangerous situation or sensing someone isn’t trustworthy, there’s no amount of technology that can replace our gut instincts. Why have your calendar set up a meeting with someone you believe isn’t legit? AI can be used to make suggestions and enhance our lives, but it’s ultimately on us to use our past experiences to respond to certain situations.

We’ve learned, as we continue to develop our product, that we need guidelines that permit a human connection at any moment. People want that human-to-human connection, and the more you exclusively use AI, the more that’s taken away. AI technology has its limits, and that’s where the human touch has to take over.

The post How to Strike a Balance Between Relying on AI and Emphasizing a Human Touch appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

6 Best Cheap WordPress Hosting 2019

Cheap WordPress hosting providers allow users to set up a website from scratch using WordPress CMS for less than $10 per month. We reviewed over a dozen of the top hosting sites and chose the six best—including the best overall—based on price, usability, reliability, storage, and extras, such as free domain names and email addresses….

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The 14 Best Autoresponder Software in 2019 (Plus Free Autoresponders)

Nowadays, email marketing is an integral component of any marketing strategy. In fact, 59% of marketers say email is their biggest source of ROI.

When it comes to email marketing, the autoresponder sequence is a commonly used but often under-appreciated part of the process.

Autoresponders are a way to dip your toes into email automation. They’re typically the simplest form of marketing automation to execute when setting up your campaigns — but, when done well, they can be incredibly powerful for bringing in additional customers and revenue.

Here, we’ll cover what autoresponders are, and which autoresponder software solutions you might consider implementing for your own business.

You can choose the number of messages that appear in an autoresponder sequence, and you can choose when they’re delivered. For instance, some autoresponder sequences only have one follow-up message, which is sometimes just a “Thank you” message for subscribing to the email list:

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In other cases, the autoresponder can be quite robust, and deliver a series of on-boarding emails that escalate in persuasion, sometimes culminating in a sales pitch. This is typical in digital industries, where your email list is the primary sales channel to launch your products.

For example, Ramit Sethi starts his autoresponder sequence with a friendly and informational email message:

Over the course of several emails, the reader will eventually receive a sales pitch (or a few email sales pitches). This allows the reader to warm up to your brand, and your content. By the time you’re offering your product or service, you should’ve already provided a ton of informational value, like this:

Sometimes, an autoresponder can act as the actual lead magnet used to get someone to sign up for your list. A good example of this is gated email courses.

CXL, for instance, uses a gated “enterprise conversion optimization” email course to get people to sign up for their list. The deliverable is just a time-based sequence of email lessons — in other words, an autoresponder.

While the execution can be quite different depending on your business, your industry, and your goals, all autoresponders allow you to automate email sequences based on timing and email sign-up form.

Next, let’s dive into some of the best solutions on the market.

1. HubSpot

HubSpot offers one of the most powerful autoresponder capabilities on the market. Particularly if you’re using other tools in HubSpot’s Marketing Hub, such as our form builder and popup forms, you can easily set up auto-response emails upon form submission.

At a high level, there are two ways to send an email response to contacts who submit a form on your page:

  • Set up a follow-up email in the form options on your HubSpot page
  • Send an automated email through a workflow (Marketing Hub Professional and Enterprise only)

For the former option, it’s quite a simple setup. You simply set up a follow-up email to be delivered upon form submission (full instructions here).

However, through HubSpot’s workflows you can get quite robust with your targeting and follow-up email assignment. For instance, you can break things down by contact property data you’ve collected, like company size or which service the subscriber is interested in. This allows you to tailor your follow-up emails to ensure they’re more helpful and personalized for the user.

In addition, you can set a sequence of several autoresponder emails, and can also include behaviorally triggered messages — the options are pretty much endless.

If you’re just using HubSpot’s form builder, you can still easily integrate with another autoresponder solution in this list to get a simple setup working.

2. GetResponse

GetResponse is a full-suite marketing platform that offers tools including landing pages, webinars, and forms, but their most powerful tool is likely their email automation functionality.

Like others in this list, GetResponse can trigger emails based on multiple criteria, such as behavioral triggers, contact property triggers, and time-based triggers (i.e. autoresponders).

Their autoresponder feature is actually quite flexible. You can build email follow-up sequences with the following features:

  • Unlimited messages per day
  • Advanced timing control
  • Simple cycle management
  • Day-of-the-week selection
  • Drag-and-drop message management
  • Quick message edits

Sometimes I’ve found the usability of GetResponse to feel complicated when trying to do advanced automation, but building time-based autoresponders is incredibly simple to accomplish.

It depends on your list size and requisite features, but GetResponse pricing starts around $10 per month (which includes basic autoresponders, and a list size of 1,000).

3. Aweber

Aweber built one of the first well-known autoresponder softwares, and it’s still widely used and loved.

Aweber is a bit more expensive to start out ($19 per month for up to 500 subscribers), but the tool gives you all the critical features you need to implement an impressive autoresponder email system. This includes segmenting, analytics, sign-up forms, templates, and even stock photos.

If you want a straightforward solution for a relatively small email list (anything over 25,000 emails gets quite a bit pricier), Aweber is a good solution.

4. Klaviyo

Klaviyo is well-known and loved in the e-commerce world, and they have some of the coolest email automation features, particularly for behaviorally triggered emails.

With Klaviyo, you can trigger an autoresponder email sequence for basically any event you can measure (as long as you have the contact’s email address). This opens up all kinds of possibilities, such as abandoned cart emails, thank you emails after a purchase, customer satisfaction surveys after a time window after a purchase, and cross-sell emails given a certain item purchased.

It’s important to note, Klaviyo is built for e-commerce, so it’s relatively stock built for things such as abandoned cart emails. If you’re in e-commerce this is a plus, but in other industries, the feature set can be a bit complicated for what you want to accomplish.

Of course, if you just want to build a simple four-email sequence after an email list sign up, it’s easy enough to do.

Klaviyo offers a free tier (up to 250 email addresses). Once you hit that threshold, it starts at $25 per month and goes up quickly from there (for instance, it’s around $1000/month for 78,000 contacts).

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5. Mailchimp

Mailchimp is one of the world’s most popular email marketing tools, and they have a great (albeit simple) autoresponder functionality.

I like two things about Mailchimp:

  1. It’s simple to use.
  2. It’s free to start.

For those two reasons, the barrier to entry is incredibly low. So, for businesses with fewer than one thousand email addresses, it’s a good solution.

However, I’ve found that, as you scale and your automation becomes more complicated, Mailchimp becomes a bit too difficult to manage. It’s hard to know which email is going to whom, and when.

Again, you can begin for free, but after that the cost starts at $20 per month.

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6. ConvertKit

ConvertKit is an email marketing platform built for creators (i.e. bloggers, podcasters, designers, etc.). It’s incredibly useful for marketers who focus on inbound marketing.

ConvertKit platform’s is simple and easy to use, although it does include other features to help build your inbound marketing program — including forms, analytics, and their newer automation feature set.

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Pricing starts at $29 per month and that tier goes up to 1,000 email subscribers.

7. Autopilot

Autopilot is an email marketing, messaging, and automation platform that has billed itself as the easiest marketing automation platform to use. They have a visual editor that is quite clear and easy to understand (even without being a master automation nerd).

Of course, their platform allows for quite sophisticated messaging and targeting, although you can surely create a simple autoresponder based on a time-sequence as well.

Pricing starts at one dollar per month for up to 500 contacts, and then begins at $25 per month for more than 500 contacts. They include a 30-day free trial, as well.

8. Constant Contact

Constant Contact is a simple, easy to use, and popular email marketing tool. It includes basic features, such as templates, list building tools, a drag-and-drop editor, and autoresponder sequences.

It’s been a few years since I’ve used Constant Contact, but it’s the platform on which I initially learned email marketing. I enjoyed it somewhat, but found it to be frustrating when trying to edit templates, and also for any advanced email targeting. Although it may have changed, I think Constant Contact is best for relatively simple cases.

Their most basic package starts at $20 per month, which goes up to 500 contacts.

The 6 Best Free Autoresponder Software Tools

Some of the tools listed above have free or incredibly cheap plans, such as Klaviyo and Autopilot ($1 per month). However, if you’re looking for a full list of the best free autoresponders that offer incredible value, we’d recommend the following six.

Ultimately, choosing the best autoresponder is difficult. It’s not as straightforward as asking, “How much does this cost?” or “What features does this tool have?”

Instead, it’s also about asking, “Which autoresponder software is best for my particular business?”

This question leads you to reflect on what your current tech setup is (which CRM you use, for instance), and how you plan on growing and using marketing automation in the months and years to come.

For what it’s worth, HubSpot has an affordable introductory plan and we’ve structured our email automation plans to help you grow. So you can expect powerful and simple-to-use features at the startup level, and then as you grow, our autoresponders will still support you, even at the enterprise level.

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It’s Not About ‘What’s Trending,’ Find Out What Your Audience Actually Cares About

As a marketing professional, your biggest concern is reaching your audience. The dream is for millions of people to like, share, and comment on a post you cooked up for your organization. In theory, the best way to make this fantasy a reality is to tap into some “trending” topics and capture everyone’s attention. Unfortunately, too many marketers make this rookie mistake, and they end up spending more time recovering from the fallout than engaging with consumers.

Attaching your brand to a pop culture topic leads to short-term results at best, as your message gets lost in the thousands of other tweets on the subject. And when the public shifts its focus to something else, your campaign becomes old news. At worst, customers will think the brand is trying to capitalize on an important social movement, and you’ll be left trying to convince them you’re not part of a heartless corporate machine.

The goal, then, is to narrow your focus to your most loyal supporters. More specifically, you should use social media to consider what those supporters care about rather than just who they are. There’s always some emotional thread running through your audience, and if you connect your brand to that thread instead of a fleeting fad, you can establish a long, lucrative relationship with your base.

Inhabiting a Culture Through Social Media

Discovering your audience’s passions is easier said than done. It’s difficult to zero in on what motivates your customers to get out of bed every day, and, frankly, they might not know either. And to make things more complicated, your ideal audience might not even be the consumer.

Just look at Minecraft. This game about building a virtual world is typically played by children, but they’re not the ones with the credit cards. Because the parents are the intended audience, the social conversation that draws them to the game is the promise that it will build their children’s logic and problem-solving skills. Therefore, the marketing of the game is not necessarily just entertainment; it’s about how Minecraft can strengthen children’s interest in science and architecture in a safe environment.

In cases such as these, you’re not just marketing to the person; you’re appealing to an idea that, unlike “trendy” topics, will exist for the long haul. When you examine your audience, you’ll likely find a similar passion that unites your consumers regardless of individual, demographic differences. See whether the following strategies can help you use social media to determine what makes those audience members tick and develop an effective marketing strategy.

1. Pay attention to psychology on social

Because there are probably several emotional interests across your audience, consider using those interests to divide up your consumers. Everyone knows audience segmentation is key, but grouping that audience based on psychological factors gives you a richer understanding of who you’re marketing toward.

Instead of creating a persona based on gender, age group, and other demographic information, pay closer attention to social media interactions. This is where consumers reveal their core passions you didn’t already know about. You might even find different layers of their personalities on different platforms. For example, women who fit the devoted mother persona might express their parenting goals by participating in multiple parenting groups on Facebook. However, Instagram could reveal a clustering of interests and motivators outside of parenting that Facebook would not.

Using multiple social media channels lets you understand consumers not as followers of trending topics but as multidimensional characters who interact with their own environments.

2. Avoid appearing salesy

Consumers know brands need to sell something. The trick, though, is to disguise that fact while remaining honest in your social media posts. Trying too hard to please customers can have them running to competitors.

Communicating your brand’s story is more important than saying what people want to hear. Churning out posts that just list your product’s benefits will appear forced. Instead, just like you’re trying to determine your customers’ passions, don’t be afraid to show them yours. Be upfront about your background, goals, and how your brand is more of a reflection of your organization than an efficient way to make money.

3. Embrace risk

Unfortunately, none of these steps are surefire successes. A plan that’s brilliant on paper can still fail miserably and force you to rethink your entire strategy. The real challenge, though, is to continue taking risks.

Gatorade, for instance, released a 2016 ad implying the sports drink is primarily for athletes who can afford the excess sugar. Non-athletic viewers who drink Gatorade for the taste alone might have found it offensive, as if the company was reserving its product solely for sports superstars. However, Gatorade’s risky strategy appealed to a specific passion from a specific subset of its audience. With this ad, the company proved that even when it’s not perfect, a daring message can keep your brand alive.

Social media can be your lab to test new material and see what connects to your audience. Consider trying out your new idea with a simple tweet or Facebook post. It might alienate parts of the audience, but as long as it’s accurate and you believe in it, chances are you’ll forge a stronger connection with a core audience.

These strategies might sound a bit more difficult than they’re worth. After all, it’d be easier to hijack the latest pop culture trend to gain the most traction from the most people. But that method does little to establish long-term brand loyalty among consumers. And if you use social media to better understand your audience’s interests, the trendiest topic on the internet will soon be your brand.

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Top 25 Google AdWords Display Network Tips From the Pros

Google offers a display network serving business ads that show up on related websites and content to target specific audiences. With millions of websites on their network and cheaper cost-per-click, you get more out of your advertising budget. We asked experts for pro tips to help you master Google Display Network in no time. Here…

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