Author Archives: Roy Revill

The Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing

If you’ve ever came across Tim Ferriss’ iconic book on how to just work four hours per week, you’ve probably dreamed of sipping a Mojito on a beach while your money worked for you in the background while you sleep. One of the main ideas he constantly talks about is the concept of passive income.

After all, having an income chart like this is the main goal of many online entrepreneurs:

For many entrepreneurs looking to build an online business, or marketers looking to monetize their web traffic, affiliate marketing is often how they got started with generating income.

Affiliate marketing is one of the world’s most popular methods of generating passive income online, and there are many tried & tested strategies when you are just starting out.

If you’re looking for a complete guide to affiliate marketing, read more to find out how you can promote products as an affiliate to create an additional source of income.

There are typically four parties involved in affiliate marketing:

  • The affiliates – the promoters of the product
  • The product creators – the creators of the product
  • The networks – the networks managing the affiliates
  • The consumers – the end users of the product

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Image via Digital Ads Online

You don’t always need a network to become an affiliate, but the other three parties (the affiliates, the product creators, and the consumers) form the core of an affiliate program.

Who are the affiliates?

An affiliate, also known as a publisher, can be an individual or a company. Typically, these are other bloggers or content creators operating in the industry of the product they are creating.

They help promote the product or service by creating content like blog posts, videos or other media.

They can also promote their content to get transactions by putting up ads, capturing search traffic from SEO, or building an email list.

When one of their visitors creates a transaction, which could be a purchase or submitting a lead form, the affiliate gets a commission. How much commission is structured depends on the affiliate program terms.

Who are the merchants?

A merchant, also known as the product creator or advertiser, is typically the creator of the product or services. They offer revenue sharing and commissions to people or other companies (affiliates), which have a significant following on their brand.

The merchant can be a company like HubSpot, which offers a commission to every affiliate who’s able to get their visitors to make a purchase.

Or it can be an individual like Pat Flynn, who offers an affiliate program with his podcasts.

The merchants can be anyone from a solopreneur to a big company, as long as they are willing to pay their affiliates to help them gain a transaction.

Sometimes the merchant does not even have to be the product creator, as in the case of the Amazon Associates Program.

Who are the affiliate networks?

An affiliate network acts as an intermediary between the merchants and their affiliates. In some cases, a network is not necessary, but some companies choose to work with a network to add a layer of trust.

The network manages the relationship and provide third-party checks and balances. Third-party checks can be important because they bring down fraud rates.

Some popular networks include ClickBank and ShareASale.

Some merchants choose to work with an affiliate network because they lack the time or resources to track, report, and manage payments to the affiliates. They might also choose to work with multiple affiliates or publishers within the affiliate network.

Who are the consumers?

The consumers or the customers are the one who makes the transaction. They are the ones who purchase the product or submit the lead form in order for the affiliate to gain the commission.

How does affiliate marketing work?

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Image via Digital Ads Online

As an affiliate, you are typically paid whenever your visitor creates a transaction. The transaction could be anything from a click, lead form submission, or a sale. In the majority of cases, affiliate marketing is performance-based, which means you only get paid as an affiliate if your visitor takes an action.

Here are some common affiliate marketing models:

Pay-Per-Click (PPC): The affiliate gets paid for all clicks that were generated, regardless of whether a lead or sale happened. This is fairly rare, since all the risk is on the product creator.

Pay-Per-Lead (PPL): The affiliate gets paid for every lead they generated. This could be an online form submission, trial creation, or any pre-purchase. This is a shared risk on both the merchant and the affiliate.

Pay-Per-Sale (PPS): The affiliate gets paid for every sale they generated. This is the most common model, since all the risk is on the affiliate.

To become an affiliate, you first need to sign up for a program like the Amazon Associates or HubSpot Affiliate Program. After signing up, you will get an affiliate link which contains a unique ID. You can then use this link in your promotional content.

Whenever your visitor clicks on your unique affiliate link, a cookie is inserted in their browser to track actions.

When they make a transaction that is a qualified action (could be a sale or lead form submission, depending on the terms of the program), the merchant is able to record this action and attribute it to you as an affiliate so they can make a payout.

There are different structures when it comes to payout, which varies based on affiliate program terms.

Commission payouts by the company are usually given on a monthly basis, but this varies depending on the affiliate program terms.

It could be a weekly payout or a monthly payment for all the leads or sales you’ve made.

You’ll want to pay attention to the payout structure when choosing an affiliate program to join, which ultimately depends on the goals you have.

Do you need to pay to join an affiliate program?

There are typically no upfront costs when it comes to joining an affiliate program, but your variable ongoing costs will depend on how you want to promote the products.

When it comes to affiliate marketing, most people think it’s a process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s or company’s products.

While affiliate marketing can seem straightforward — just find a product you love, promote it, and earn a piece of profit with every sale you make — there are actually a few moving parts you need to take note of.

For instance, you might want to understand the commission structure of the company or product creator. Are you looking for commission per sale or commission per lead generated? Are you looking at recurring commission or a one-off payment?

Depending on your goals, this will affect which product you choose, how you plan to promote the product as well as how much time & resources you want to invest.

For instance, if you choose to promote your content via paid ads, then that’s a cost you have to account for. You will have to compare how much you’ve spent to promote each piece of content or to generate each purchase against how much commission you’re getting for each referred sale.

Or, if you have a blog and website, then you will have to pay for hosting. In this case, this should be a flat fee spread out across all your referred sale.

Use this marketing plan generator to calculate how much you need to invest to get a basic marketing plan up and running.

How much can you make from affiliate programs?

You might be wondering, what are established affiliates earning? (established affiliates are those working full-time.)

A poll was held on the STM Forum on “How much do you earn in a year?”:

Almost 20% of established affiliates report making more than $1 million per year. While this seems like an unattainable figure, reporting on revenue is only one side of the story.

Making money from an affiliate program is more about the profits than the revenue you’re getting.

An affiliate making $5000/day might be worse off than another affiliate making $500/day with no cash outflow because the former might be spending most of his revenue on paid acquisition.

At the end of the day, before becoming an affiliate, you have to align your expectations to your earning potential. What kind of industry or niche you operate in, and what kind of work you do depends a lot on how much you want to make.

If you focus on ads like Adwords or Facebook to promote your affiliate products, how much money you invest is as important (if not more) as how much you make.

How do you choose an affiliate program?

I commonly hear two misconceptions when it comes to affiliate marketing.

  1. Affiliate marketing is dead.

    It seems like every year in the world of online marketing, people have mentioned some variant of X is dead (SEO, Ads, Mobile). The test of time is a pretty good test — if something has stayed around for a while, there’s a better chance of it still staying around for a while.

    Everything evolves, and there are tactics that don’t work the exact same way as they did before. Affiliate marketing, of course, is no exception to that rule.

    Affiliate marketing has evolved from a get-rich-quick scheme into something that requires affiliate to build real trust with their audience in order to reap the rewards of the work that’s been put in.

  2. Affiliate marketing is easy to do.

    According to Three Ladders Marketing, only 0.6% of affiliate marketers surveyed have been around since 2013, which means that affiliate marketing takes time and effort to build and make money.

    Choosing the right product to promote, working with the right company, fostering relationships and updating content are all core essentials of excelling at affiliate marketing.

According to Pat Flynn, one of the pioneers of creating passive income through providing value to his audience, there are two important rules when it comes to affiliate marketing:

  1. Only recommend products as an affiliate that you’re extremely very familiar with. If you are not confident in the product and do not feel it will help people, do not promote it.
  2. Never tell anyone to directly buy a product. Always recommend products based on your experience and in the context of what you’ve done.

When it comes to choosing the right products, David Gonzalez — founder of an affiliate management agency, suggests that you should think about these 3 components when choosing a product to promote:

  1. Your audience – will the product resonate with them and make them grateful you promoted it?
  2. Product quality & value – would you advocate your best friend buying it?
  3. Profitability – does the offer have highly competitive conversions & payouts?

At the end of the day, become successful at affiliate marketing requires you to nail down the fundamentals of marketing. Authenticity is hard to fake, especially when it comes to building your own personal brand.

A brand that promotes products incessantly without any regard for bring real value to its audience will find affiliate marketing to be a short-lived source of income. Choosing the right products to promote, stemming from a true passion for what the product does, forms the basis of all your promotional activities.

While there are many tactics to scale your promotion, the golden rule of affiliate marketing stays the same: only promote products you love & treat your audience like humans.

Build your own brand, choose products that you love, create authentic content and you will be on your way to building a real source of passive income.

In the past year we’ve really invested into our solutions to make it worthwhile for solo-bloggers, solo-preneurs to tap on our software and educational content to grow their audience and business.

For instance, we’ve introduced a free tier as well as a $50/month option for people who are just getting started to utilize email marketing, forms on top of their blog.

Secrets for Leveraging Video on Lesser-Used Social Media Platforms

The heavy hitters of social media get all the attention, but they’re far from the only players in the game. Facebook (and its photogenic friend, Instagram), Twitter, and YouTube dominate online discussions, but what about the not-so-little guys in the shadows?

Sites like Reddit, Tumblr, Quora, and Pinterest offer plenty of opportunities for marketers savvy enough to spot it. True, these platforms are not as marketing friendly as the biggest sites, but that’s why they made this list. These sites have thriving, loyal user bases that are eager to reward great content with their undivided attention.

These smaller platforms also make it easy for brands to leverage the most effective weapon in their arsenal: video marketing. Video is everything in an online world stuffed to the brim with content. The companies with the best videos become overnight sensations, while those that ignore the power of visual media typically fade into the background.

By targeting lesser-known social media sites with high-quality video marketing, brands can achieve incredible ROI.

Check out these tips on which sites to target and how to make the most of each opportunity:

1. Reddit

If it exists, it’s probably on Reddit. As the “front page of the internet,” Reddit is filled with thousands of smaller communities called subreddits, which cover everything from the NFL to skin care. Subreddits can include topics as broad as world politics or as niche as unusual crimes committed in Florida.

Reddit users are especially sensitive to advertising, so don’t post overtly promotional videos and expect nice comments. Instead, pay attention to the preferences of the subreddit communities you want to target, and then participate in the conversation organically. Post videos with educational or entertainment value that don’t depend on promotional messaging to engage.

Reddit’s constant scroll of content makes it the ideal website to post GIFs. Take the most engaging part of your video, distill it into a 15-second GIF, and post it to your target community. If you want to engage multiple communities, be careful not to spam. Use Reddit’s cross-posting feature to make it clear that the content shares a central link.

2. Tumblr

Tumblr is a bit like Twitter in that much of the community engagement depends on “reblogged” content and comments (akin to retweets). When a Tumblr user reblogs your video, that user’s followers see the video, too, as do the followers of anyone else who reblogs the reblogged post. Like Reddit users, Tumblr users form tight-knit communities around niche subjects.

Spend time familiarizing yourself with the culture around your brand or topic before diving in with videos on Tumblr. Nothing makes a brand look worse than reliance on an old meme or misuse of an inside joke.

Tumblr is another great place for GIFs, but it’s also a haven for still images, which are easy to reblog. Turn videos into slices of full videos, GIFs, and pictures to increase engagement. Include a user-generated component and encourage Tumblr users to reblog their favorite user content for extra fun.

3. Quora

Ask, and Quora will answer. When someone asks a question on the site, other users can vote the question to the top to make it more visible.

While not as reliant on visual content as the other sites in this list, Quora remains a great place for brands to use video to engage with users. Stay active on Quora forums, and answer user questions with educational videos about relevant topics. Any brand can type out a response, but companies that create short videos from subject matter experts (even when those videos do not advertise a product) can score big points.

Build up a reputation on Quora through video answers to boost your SEO. Stay abreast of trends by signing up for notifications on topics and questions close to your brand. Link Quora content on more popular channels, like Facebook, to increase the reach.

4. Pinterest

Pinterest users scroll through endless pages of images and videos, find their favorites, and “pin” them to personal boards (usually separated by topic) to view later. A Pinterest user might have one board for crafts, one for dessert recipes, and another for wedding venue inspiration.

Maximize your videos on Pinterest by getting specific about the reasons people should pin your video. What questions do you answer? In what categories would your content fit? Keep the visuals stunning to stand out from the crowd.

According to Pinterest, promoted how-to and story-based videos perform better than other promoted content. Users on this platform are especially picky about quality, so invest heavily in the visuals of Pinterest videos (especially in the first few seconds) to grab attention and keep it.

Facebook might be the king of social media, but it’s far from the only social platform worth using. Get familiar with these other social sites, and use these tips to make the most of your video marketing strategies.

The post Secrets for Leveraging Video on Lesser-Used Social Media Platforms appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

How to Set Up a Free Square Online Store in 8 Simple Steps

Any Square seller, from mobile businesses to multi-store retailers, can easily open an online store, list products for sale, accept orders, and process payments. Best of all, it happens within your Square POS system—a free Square online store is included with your free Square account. Here’s how to set yours up today. Square’s free online

The post How to Set Up a Free Square Online Store in 8 Simple Steps appeared first on Fit Small Business.

It’s Not Too Late To Localize Your Black Friday SEO Strategy

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are closing in. For most retailers, Black Friday is one of the biggest revenue generators of the year, but it’s surprising (except perhaps to most SEOs) how many of them neglect the basics. If you fall into that category, you still have a few days to try to turn that lemon into lemonade with some very simple updates to your site.

If you search for “black friday sale near me” you will likely see a Local Pack like this:

Notice how Google calls out that these sites mention black friday sales, deals, etc.

While most retailers likely already have a Black Friday Sale page and mention it on their home page, two out of the three sites above, Macy’s and Walmart, also mention Black Friday on their store location pages. For example:

Macy’s Black Friday:
https://l.macys.com/stoneridge-shopping-center-in-pleasanton-ca
Macy's Black Friday

Walmart Black Friday:
https://www.walmart.com/store/2161/pleasanton-ca/details Walmart Black Friday

While Kohl’s shows that you don’t need the location pages to be optimized for Black Friday to rank for these queries, updating your location pages to target Black Friday & Cyber Monday queries in both the title tag and in the body copy should likely improve your chances of appearing in localized Black Friday SERPs.

Even if your site is in code freeze, you (hopefully) should be able to make these updates and maybe next week you’ll find yourself with more than just some leftover turkey…

The post It’s Not Too Late To Localize Your Black Friday SEO Strategy appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

Pre-Christmas smartphone spending increasing by over 40%

We all know the last quarter of the year is where the retailers usually make the lion share of their sales, Black Friday, Cyber Monday is quickly followed by the Christmas festivities – making it a Golden Quarter for retail where they can often sink or swim.

For many years now, marketing, tech and business experts have been saying that this year is the year of the mobile, and the truth is, it has been for the last decade or so. The mobile has changed the way we shop, communicate and live. It is now the preferred device for many things, from shopping to banking, and the list of the tasks you can complete on a mobile is endless.

Now the smartphone is really motoring on and leaving its competition of the desktop and tablet, far far behind. In the UK, the number of people using their smartphones to make purchases in the build up to Christmas has increased by 44% compared to 2017 (Source: Ve).

In 2017, 39% of Black Friday sales came through the mobile phone, making it the dominant preferred choice of the shopper over desktops and tablets (Source: IMRG). Ve’s Global report has predicted an over 50% rise in mobile sales for the Black Friday 2018 weekend.

Mobile now registers more sessions than both desktop and tablets combined (Source: Ve Global)

“UK retailers are beginning to meet the mobile-first expectations of the modern online shopper and in good time, given the continued demise of the desktop PC and even the tablet – all of which are fading towards irrelevance as the mobile experience improves”
David Marrinan-Hayes, CEO at Ve.

There really doesn’t seem to be any slowing down in the unstoppable juggernaut that is the mobile phone. However it is still not too late to start your mobile marketing journey, and here at Text Marketer we can help you construct the perfect mobile experience for your customers.

Our online platform Message Box, has all the tools and features that any retailer or marketer would need, from sending large mobile marketing campaigns and URL links, to analytics, SMS surveys and beautiful bespoke image based SMS Web Pages.

So sign up today and let us help you make the most of this mobile shopping revolution.

The 15 Best WordPress Video Themes in 2019

If you’re someone who produces videos professionally, sells video content, or simply creates videos as a hobby, you need a place to share your work online. Not every WordPress theme is set up to house your artwork — you’ll need a video theme that will create the experience you want your visitors to have the moment they enter your website.

With the variety of WordPress video themes available, finding just one to use on your website may feel time-consuming and tedious. The good news is we’ve curated this list of 15 of our favorite WordPress video themes (in no specific order) to help you through the process.

The 15 Best WordPress Video Themes in 2019

There are video WordPress themes tailored to a variety of different needs. Whether you’re looking to add your videos to a multi-purpose WordPress theme, or if you’re hoping to create a video-based site for your blog, portfolio, or other creative work, there are a number of options available. We’ve compiled the following list — which includes feature descriptions and a few key takeaways — to help you determine which option best suits your needs.

Multi-Purpose Video Themes

Multi-purpose video themes are WordPress themes that aren’t necessarily completely video-focused, yet have strong and unique video-related features. These themes are ideal for anyone who doesn’t need their website to revolve around their videos and would actually benefit from a wide range of additional features.

1. Bridge 

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Bridge is a multi-purpose theme ideal for sharing your business’ videos with customers. It provides you with options to integrate your videos in different layouts and sections. You can create section video backgrounds so your video takes up the entire width of the screen and add different transitions (including fades, animations, and more) to the beginning and/ or end of your videos. The video slider feature lets you place multiple video clips in one section so your visitors can slide right and left through all of your clips.

Key Takeaways:
  • Section video backgrounds
  • Video transitions are included
  • Slider feature 

2. Brooklyn 

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Brooklyn is a multi-purpose WordPress video theme, meaning it’s ideal for virtually any type of business. The theme is easy to use due to its drag-and-drop page builder that allows you to add and embed your videos with the click of a button. There are options to feature photo and video galleries on different website pages as well as create fullscreen video backgrounds. There is also a video widget to make adding, editing, and formatting your website’s videos quick and straightforward.

Key Takeaways:
  • Drag-and-drop page builder
  • Video galleries
  • Fullscreen video backgrounds

Blogging Video Themes

If you’re a video blogger these themes might be ideal for you — they’re built for people who want to include written blog content alongside videos on their website.

3. Videoblog 

videoblog-wordpress-theme

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Videoblog is a blog and magazine video theme that gives you the ability to list your latest or featured posts on your homepage. The rest of your site pages are formatted in two-column, magazine layouts so your written, video, and photo content are all aligned in an organized manner to enhance user experience.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for blogs and magazines
  • Latest and featured posts listed on your homepage
  • Two-column layout

4. TheMotion

themotion-wordpress-theme

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TheMotion is a video blogging theme with a feature called Live Customizer that allows you to add all of your video content, test it out in different sections, and see your changes in real time. The theme offers a variety of ways to feature videos on specific website pages in two columns. The theme has a sleek, modern design with the option to add a video slider so your visitors can easily move right or left through your collection of videos.

Key Takeaways:
  • Live Customizer feature
  • Sleek, modern design
  • Video slider

5. Vlog 

Vlog is a video theme built for blog and magazine content. The theme is compatible with YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion to make sharing your video content simple. You can group your videos into playlists to keep related content together so it’s easy to find for your visitors. You can also set your video’s thumbnail as your featured image for your article or blog post so you don’t have to deal with any images if you don’t want to.

Key Takeaways:
  • Created for blogs and digital magazines
  • Compatible with YouTube, Vimeo, and Dailymotion
  • Can group videos into playlists 

Portfolio and Photography Video Themes

If you are looking to share your portfolio, feature your videos and photos in a gallery, and possibly sell your work straight from your website, the following portfolio and photography-based video themes may suit your needs.

6. Reel Story 

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Reel Story is a video theme ideal for sharing your portfolio. The video portfolio module allows you to create a three-column grid layout with a “projects category” filter so your visitors can easily browse your work and locate specific items they may be searching for. The theme is also Retina-ready, meaning it’s optimized for sharing hi-res, professional content and videos.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for sharing video portfolios
  • “Projects category” filter for browsing videos
  • Retina-ready

7. Fargo 

fargo-wordpress-theme

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Fargo is a photography and video WordPress theme ideal for sharing your content in a gallery format. The theme’s Smart Galleries allow you to move from written content to photo content to video content seamlessly. Fargo’s flexible navigation includes customizable transitions that create an interactive, 3D experience for your visitors while they browse your different site pages.

Key Takeaways:
  • Created for sharing photography and video content
  • Smart Galleries
  • Flexible navigation with customizable transitions 

8. PhotoNote 

PhotoNote is a video theme ideal for photographers. The theme has a touch-enabled slideshow on the homepage so your visitors can slide through your landscape and portrait photographs. It’s compatible with YouTube and Vimeo so you can quickly add your videos to the top of your site pages — and make them fullscreen if you choose. PhotoNote comes with two different “skin colors” (light or dark) for your theme’s background so you can ensure your content pops off the page.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for photographers
  • Touch-enabled slideshow
  • Compatible with YouTube and Vimeo 

9. Inspiro

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Inspiro is a video theme built for professional photographers and videographers who want to share their content in a portfolio format. The theme features formatting options that allow you to create custom, fullscreen slideshows that include both your photos and videos. On each slide, there is a “video lightbox”, meaning your video appears to jump off the screen as the entire background dims — this helps your visitors focus on the content they’re viewing. The theme also works for professionals who are hoping to sell their work because it includes a WooCommerce integration.

Key Takeaways:
  • Built for professional photographers and videographers
  • Custom, fullscreen slideshows
  • WooCommerce integration

10. Primero

Primero is a theme created for photographers and videographers. The theme also has several portfolio options for you to display all of your work in custom galleries. You can embed your photos and videos inline with text or other photo or video content.

Key Takeaways:
  • Created for photographers and videographers
  • Ability to enable portfolio, gallery-style layout
  • Can embed photos and videos inline with other content

Filmmaking Video Themes

Videographers, directors, and producers may benefit from these WordPress themes. They have layouts and customizable options tailored to sharing and displaying videos of many lengths, topics, and genres.

11. FilmMaker

filmmaker-wordpress-theme

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If you produce your own movies and videos, FilmMaker could be a great WordPress theme option for you. The theme gives you the ability to create fullscreen video backgrounds or add a parallax effect to your site pages — the parallax effect provides a 3D, cinematic experience for your visitors while they scroll down the page.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for movie and video producers
  • Fullscreen video backgrounds
  • Parallax effect 

12. The Producer

The Producer is created for professional video production work. The theme is responsive, meaning your video content will look high quality and fit the screen no matter what type of device your visitors are on — whether that’s desktop, mobile, or tablet. You can also add the credit roll effect to the end of your videos to list all of your producers, designers, and more.

Key Takeaways:
  • Ideal for professional video production
  • Responsive design
  • Credit roll effect

Creative Video Themes

Creative video themes are versatile and flexible enough to be used for a variety of business needs and different industries, however, they’re still all created specifically for video-based websites.

13. Focus

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Focus is a great option for displaying all types of videos, whether you’re sharing your work for professional or personal use. The theme has integrations with YouTube and Vimeo so you can easily transfer your content over from those platforms to your website. The theme also has creative layout and template options suited for video blogs and even educational video sites.

Key Takeaways:
  • Suitable for business or personal use
  • Integrates with YouTube and Vimeo
  • Template options for video blogs and educational video sites

14. VideoBox 

videobox-wordpress-theme

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VideoBox is a creative video theme with a WooCommerce integration for anyone who may want to sell their video or photo content. The homepage layout includes a slider that allows you to feature multiple, fullscreen videos or photos for your visitors to click through. VideoBox has a minimalist design with a dark color scheme making it easy for your visitors to focus on your content.

Key Takeaways:
  • WooCommerce integration
  • Homepage slider
  • Minimalist design with a dark color scheme 

15. VideoPro

videopro-wordpress-theme

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VideoPro is a creative video theme with a responsive design and also includes layout options ideal for a variety of video types such as movies, games, news, entertainment, education, and more. VideoPro integrates with sites like YouTube and Vimeo, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook, so you can easily embed, import, and share your content. VideoPro also has a feature that allows you to create a multi-episode video series on your website — displaying related videos below whichever video is being watched by a visitor at any given moment.

Key Takeaways:
  • Responsive design
  • Video and social media integrations included
  • Multi-episode video series feature

Back To You

WordPress video themes allow you to display your content, mix and match your videos with photos and written content, sell your content, and more. Whatever your needs, there is a video theme that will work for your WordPress website. Try installing one of the themes above, or check out the number of other video themes in the WordPress theme library. By applying your unique content you can create a website that works for your business needs.

free guide to video marketing

How to Read the Complex Digital Landscape to Better Track Your Audience Journey

As an avid hiker and kayaker, I understand the value of deciphering complex landscapes to identify the fastest, safest, and most successful journey. As a marketer & consultant, I often apply the same skills to decipher digital behaviors. To engage audiences as individuals, we must be able to track personal progress within the audience-brand journey. The map audience interactions to specific journey milestones can help regulate messaging, optimize spend, and prove to stakeholders that marketing delivers daily results.

In this blog, I’ll review the value of audience journey mapping. I’ll also describe how to define, align, and leverage journey-specific knowledge to optimize marketing results.

Journey Mapping Defined

Many marketers have not heard of digital journey mapping before. A digital journey map is a visualization of every experience a customer or prospect has with your business in the digital world. Leading solutions deliver unique capabilities to marketers that assist with this visualization. They also make it possible to outline the specific steps within one or multiple buyer journeys to visualize audience progress towards a deeper brand relationship.

Each company has a unique approach to building relationships with audiences. As such, each brand has unique definitions of success and progress toward established and growing relationships. With this in mind, marketers need a solution that can support those definitions and accurately map appropriate indicators of progress for specific business needs.

Audience Journey Mapping Examples

Let us start by simplifying a more detailed audience journey into five main stages: identification, engagement, conversion, cross-sell, and advocate. As seen in example 1 below, more sophisticated engagement platforms offer the capability to set up specific buckets for tracking individuals that have attained a given journey status, as well as to define custom criteria for reaching that status.

Example 1: Sample generic audience journey map for tracking conversion towards ongoing brand engagement, conversions, and advocacy.

Three elements need to be available to accomplish buyer journey tracking:

  • A platform to define of customized journey stages
  • A platform to define customized indicators of stage progress
  • The ability to leverage qualification for a given stage to manage campaign communication, campaign and channel cost management, as well as overall performance reporting

Additional examples of audience journey maps are included below:

Audience Journey Map Example 2

Example 2: A sample audience journey map with additional layers of tracking. These layers are specific to the medical recruiting industry.

Sports Fan Customer Journey Map Example

Example 3: A sample sports fan journey map.

Example B2B Audience Journey Map

Example 4: A sample B2B audience journey map.

Identifying Your Journey Stages

With access to the right technology for defining and tracking audience journey progress, as a next step marketers need to define the stages within the audience journey. A one-size-fits-all approach does not apply, though some general guidelines can assist in establishing the right categories.

Consideration #1: Track Relationship Progress

The easiest place to start in defining stages for your journey map is to include the targeted categories of relationship progress. As noted within the generic audience journey map example, these stages demonstrate an increasing involvement with a company as contacts journey towards initial purchase, ongoing purchases, and even advocacy. By starting with these generic stages, it is possible to refine the specific categories of progress for each company. Are there specific labels your company uses for a given stage? Do you have sub-stages?

Consideration #2: Track Internal Handoffs or Potential Process Bottlenecks

In addition to the relationship stages, it is important to consider adding critical handoffs or phases. For example, while product proposal review may not be a standard stage within your process, it may be helpful to track pre-and-post proposal interactions to see if the additional communication or brand differentiation would help speed up or enhance the proposal process. Any critical hand-offs between teams are another stage to consider adding to your tracking.

Consideration #3: Track Major Milestones & Repeating Evaluation Phases

For larger, more complex relationship development or selling cycles, it may be important to create additional stages that indicate relationship health. As seen in the example below, many industries have ongoing project requests that will span multiple years. Add a recycling stage to listen for the presence or absence of a project. Additionally, project evaluation milestones can deliver additional control over communication and follow-up that is coordinated through the right engagement platform.

Milestone Tracking Customer Journey Mapping

Example 5: Long sales cycle audience journey map. Repeating evaluation of project status evaluation.

Defining the Right Metrics for Tracking Progress

As seen in the example audience journey maps, there can be a wide variety of stages to track progress towards conversions. Taking a closer look at these examples, the purple arrows represent “tracking rules” that define the digital behaviors indicating an audience member is moving  towards an increasingly positive outcome. Apart from flexibility within stage definition, marketers need the capacity to listen for any kind of digital interaction, evaluate the value of those interactions, and apply them to the journey model.

Metrics Consideration #1: Need the Right Platform to Capture Interactions

One challenge marketers face for both audience-communication alignment, as well as journey mapping, is the access to the right depth and breadth of digital information to fuel the progress. For example, many companies have custom objects or activities within their systems of record that they would like to use to evaluate progress. Additionally, the recency & frequency of interactions, or the absence of interactions, can be indicators of the forward movement or lack of interest of audiences.

Metrics Consideration #2: Keep It Simple to Start, Grow Over Time

When I first started using a more sophisticated means for tracking audience journey progress, the temptation was to get overly granular with the indicators that denote forward progress. While it is vital to have a system that can capture the right granularity and frequency of interactions, it is also essential not to over-engineer the tracking of results. Start by identifying the most critical digital interactions that denote progress, then add secondary digital behaviors to supplement any gaps or refinements.

For example, many interactions can be consolidated to an overall engagement score for the engaged stage. Instead of adding rules for every type of top-of-funnel interaction, look for key conversion points such as filling out forms, completing applications, engaging in an online chat, etc. Look for the easiest starting point for interest indicators, then fill in gaps over time.

Applying Journey Stages to Communications & Reporting

The final piece and ultimate value of creating audience journey maps is to use the overarching status of contacts as part of their communications strategy and to track the impact of marketing. Here are a few scenarios for applying journey tracking:

Communications & Reporting Consideration #1: Optimize Marketing Spend

With the added visibility into where people are at within their relationship with your brand, it is easier to ramp up, ramp down, start, or stop communication. This allows marketers to recover marketing dollars by strategically assigning resources where and when they are needed to deliver outcomes.

For example, instead of adding all contacts to your remarketing messaging, consider adding specific segments and audiences to targeted messaging. It is also possible to stagger more expensive forms of communication, such as direct mail, so that they are only used when forward progress through the journey has slowed.

Communications & Reporting Consideration #2: Optimize Nurturing & Personalization

Coupled with the optimization of marketing spend, it is possible to leverage journey status to assign communication with a greater degree of personalization. Consider mapping specific messages and calls-to-action to targeted stages within the journey. Adjust the timing and intensity messaging and offers based on journey progress to improve the impact of campaigns.

Communications & Reporting Consideration #3: Prove Impact

Beyond the optimization of marketing programs, the ability for marketers to visualize the in-flow, outflow, and balance of audiences within journey stages makes it easier to prove that marketing is making an impact on revenue. Often times, marketing is having a massive impact on the perception and forward progress of brand consideration. To prove the impact on the journey towards conversions, marketers must track the intermediary digital indicators of progress, not just the addition of new names and conversion of contacts—audience journey tracking enables a higher degree of visibility into marketing impact over time.

Customer Journey Mapping for Your Company’s Future

We must incorporate the full landscape of digital interactions to completely understand the progress of audiences toward a conversion. To accomplish this, marketers must integrate solutions that can track this progress using definitions that match their specific business needs. Leading marketers are incorporating audience journey mapping into their marketing because it allows them to optimize marketing spend, improves the use of personalized messaging, and delivers more tangible proof of marketing ROI.

As always, I hope this article has been of use to my fellow marketers, and I welcome additional commentary and feedback below. Here’s to proving the impact of marketing throughout the complete audience journey!

The post How to Read the Complex Digital Landscape to Better Track Your Audience Journey appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

How to Make a One Page Website Template in 6 Easy Steps

A one page website template displays everything on a single page. Unlike a traditional website that spreads information over multiple pages, a single-page website is simplified and condensed. This gives website creators more control over the visitor’s experience since they can display key information more prominently, but it comes at the expense of less content…

The post How to Make a One Page Website Template in 6 Easy Steps appeared first on Fit Small Business.

The Ultimate Guide to Communication

The key to any relationship is communication.

This includes romantic relationships, of course, but it also applies to friendships, coworker relationships, manager-team relationships, and even brand-customer relationships.

Any scenario that requires you to convince, inform, entertain, or engage with another involves communication.

The topic of communication is quite broad, right? I mean, it encompasses an entire college major at most universities. But we won’t be covering everything about communication in this guide.

Below, you’ll be reading about communication as it applies to the workplace and to your customers — two pretty important topics, right? We’ll also be sharing ways to improve your communication and learn how your colleagues and customers communicate, too.

Keep reading to get started, or use the chapter links below to jump around.

In simpler terms, communication is said to be the “creation and exchange of meaning.” Communication is also a process … a series of actions. It’s not a single phenomenon, and it varies based on method, channel, and person.

As a partner, friend, coworker, boss, and brand, you have a responsibility to learn how to best communicate. Let’s talk about how to communicate effectively.

How to Communicate Effectively

Not all communication is good communication. In fact, not communicating at all is better (in some circumstances) than communicating poorly.

Not adhering to effective communication practices can exacerbate or worsen a communicative environment, break trust, and make messages harder to receive.

Effective Communication Skills

Effective communication isn’t just speaking clearly and honestly. It also involves creating a safe, comfortable space for communication — even if you’re not the one talking. Employ these effective communication skills to give and receive information successfully.

1. Listening Actively

Effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Active listening isn’t just hearing what the other person has to say; it also involves understanding their emotions and point-of-view.

The goal of effective communication is to empathize and understand the person or party with whom you’re communicating. Here’s how:

  • Focus on the other person. Don’t look at your phone, look around the room, or begin speaking to someone else. You can’t pick up on voice inflection or nonverbal cues if you’re not paying attention.
  • Show interest in what the other person is saying by nodding your head or saying “yes.”
  • Try not to judge or assume as the other person speaks. We talk more about these barriers in the next section.
  • Ask questions and provide reinforcing feedback, such as “What I’m hearing is…” or “Is this what you mean?”

When you practice active, engaged listening, you becoming fully in-sync with what the other person is saying and feeling. That’s the point of effective communication.

2. Asserting Yourself

Being assertive means considering your thoughts, opinions, and feelings and communicating them in a clear, respectful way. It doesn’t mean being demeaning or aggressive. (We talk more about the different communication styles in the next section.)

Asserting yourself can help you stay clear on your own goals while empathizing with others. Here’s how:

  • Get clear on your own values and opinions before you engage with someone else so that you don’t get confused or change your mind to make a conversation easier.
  • Positively express negative thoughts or opinions. Try to avoid outright anger or demeaning language or attitudes.
  • Be comfortable enough to say “no” or “I don’t agree.”

Although effective communication is about understanding the other person, it doesn’t mean we should forget about our own perspectives.

3. Minimizing Stress and Communication Barriers

Whether you’re speaking or listening, minimizing stress in communication helps create a healthy, effective environment. Here’s how:

  • Stall or pause to collect your thoughts. This can help you avoid outbursts or speaking before you think … and saying something you might regret.
  • Make one point at a time so that you or the other person don’t get confused or overwhelmed.
  • Don’t interrupt or make unnecessary comments or noises while the other person is speaking.
  • Try to stay objective and upbeat as you speak and listen. Keep the mood and tempo of the conversation elevated.

It’s also important to recognize and remove any communication barriers like the ones we describe below. Anyone with a perceived “upper hand” in a relationship — like managers, executives, or parents — should especially keep these in mind.

Common Barriers to Communication

Here are a handful of common communication barriers that may be hindering communication in your relationships. I’ve also included an example of how these might apply in the workplace.

Language/Cultural Communication Barriers

Language or cultural barriers occur when two parties don’t speak the same language or perhaps have different understandings of the same language.

Example: An international intern is shirking his duties to coworkers. The team lead gives feedback by saying “You’re passing the buck.” The intern doesn’t understand the jargon. He isn’t sure how to improve in his role and continues making his mistake, further frustrating the team and team lead.

Today’s workplace environments are more diverse than ever, meaning collaboration happens among all kinds of cultures. The best way to remove cultural or language barriers is by choosing common, clear phrases that are universally understood. If you’re speaking with someone who speaks a different language, try to use a translator or a verified translation tool.

Psychological / Attitudinal Communication Barriers

Psychological barriers happen when one or both parties carry cultural assumptions or are restricted by emotional hurdles or taboos. They also happen when there’s a lack of trust, attention, or empathy.

Example: A female employee is returning from maternity leave and needs a place to pump breast milk. In her previous job, her male manager wasn’t accommodating to her needs as a new mother, so when she approaches her current male superior with her request, she’s defensive and nervous … thus creating a tense, tough conversation.

In this specific case, if the male superior was aware of her previous experience, he’d be able to inject more empathy and patience to make the employee more comfortable. Otherwise he might be uncomfortable with her defensiveness. While the female employee can’t help her previous experience, she could try to approach the new manager without any assumptions.

Everyone’s mind is different, as is their upbringing. When it comes to psychological and attitudinal barriers, the responsibility falls on both parties to set aside expectations and prejudices and prioritize empathy, patience, and understanding.

Physical Communication Barriers

Physical barriers refer to anything that physically stands in the way of clear communication. These barriers typically exist through email, social media, text, or phone communication (anything that isn’t face-to-face) or when hearing or speaking handicaps are present.

Example: A remote employee is awaiting important feedback on a new project. His superior replies, via email, in a way that could be construed as cold or harsh — even though she was quite happy with the results. The remote employee assumes she’s unhappy with the project and loses confidence in his ideas and progress.

In today’s world, digital and text-based communication is very common, especially with remote work.

Receivers can avoid these barriers by not assuming the meaning behind a message or by simply asking for clarification. Also, senders can make their messages easier to receive by adding clarifying punctuation or words when communicating nonverbally.

Lastly, always be aware of personal handicaps with which others might be dealing.

The Four Communication Styles

Personality tests, like DiSC and Myers-Briggs, help others better understand your needs, strengths, and weaknesses.

The same goes for communication styles. Understanding the different styles below gives you a better understanding of how and why others communicate the way they do.

Passive Communication Style

Passive communicators act indifferent and often yield to others. On the outside, they may seem meek, quiet, or flexible. They likely aren’t good at saying “no” or dealing with conflict, but they’re easy to get along with as they typically “go with the flow.”

Phrases you might hear from passive communicators are:

  • “It doesn’t matter to me.”
  • “This isn’t worth fighting over. Let’s just keep the peace.”

Aggressive Communication Style

Where passive communicators are meek and quiet, aggressive communicators are loud, brash, criticizing, and physically aggressive. Their communication style reverberates through their behavior, volume, and wording. Aggressive communicators issue commands, interrupt, and often talk down to people.

Phrases you might hear from aggressive communicators are:

  • “You’re wrong.”
  • “This is your fault. Fix it.”

Passive-Aggressive Communication Style

The passive-aggressive style displays a mixture of both. On the surface, this type of communicator might seem passive, but they probably harbor an aggressive side underneath. Behaviorally, they might seem agitated and display facial expressions or nonverbal cues that don’t match what they’re saying.

Phrases you might hear from passive-aggressive communicators are:

  • “Whatever, but don’t blame me if the team doesn’t agree.”
  • “That’s fine.” (and then proceeds to do the opposite)

Assertive Communication Style

Assertive communicators are said to follow the most effective and healthiest communication style. These communicators can express their own needs, opinions, and commands while also considering the needs and opinions of others. They typically communicate to reach a compromise or win-win situation, and will often employ “I” statements to take ownership of feelings while still expressing a need or desire.

Phrases you might hear from assertive communicators are:

  • “I respect your opinion, but I disagree and here’s why …”
  • “I feel frustrated when you miss deadlines.

Understanding your own communication style, as well as your team’s and colleagues’, can be helpful when conversations get tough. It can also alert you to ways in which you can improve your own communication skills and challenge others to do the same.

The Four Types of Communication

Communication isn’t limited to face-to-face speaking conversation; it applies to any exchange of information. Below, we walk through the four main types of communication and how you might see them in the workplace.

Verbal Communication

This type of communication is exactly what it sounds like: verbal conversation that includes sounds, words, and language. Verbal communication is said to be the most effective way to express emotions, feelings, opinions, and needs. If used correctly, words can help you be very straightforward and concise while leaving little room for question or assumption.

There are four types of verbal communication.

  • Intrapersonal, which is when we communicate to ourselves through our thoughts or out loud.
  • Interpersonal, which is when we communicate one-on-one with someone else.
  • Small group, which is when two or more people are involved. Team meetings, small presentations, and press conferences are examples of small group communication.
  • Public, which is when one person communicates to a large group. Public speeches, company-wide meetings, and TV commercials are examples of public communication.

Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication happens when messages are sent and received without words. It typically applies to body language, tone of voice, inflection, facial responses, and other gestures.

It also includes creative or aesthetic means of communication such as dance, painting, and pottery. (Note: Nonverbal isn’t the same as visual, which is explained below.)

Some examples of nonverbal communication include:

  • Making eye contact (or lack thereof)
  • Shaking hands
  • Crossing or uncrossing legs
  • Folding or unfolding arms
  • Fidgeting
  • Hugging
  • Moving eyebrows
  • Smiling or frowning

Written Communication

Written communication is any message sent through written words or text. This form unique because, unlike verbal or nonverbal communication, written communication can be edited and changed before messages are sent.

Written communication also encompasses components of visual communication when sent through electronic means, such as phones or computers.

Examples of written communication include memos, emails, letters, reports, articles or blog posts (like this one!), social media posts, and print advertising.

Visual Communication

Visual communications involves sending and receiving a message with the help of visual aids. While visual communication encompasses some written communication, it mostly refers to symbols, images, and video.

Movies, TV shows, video, and plays are all visual communication as receivers need to watch them to receive their messages. Icons and emojis are also considered visual communication. The most common form of visual communication, though, is the internet, which sends us messages using a combination of text, colors, images, symbols, and design.

Communication in Business

Whether you know it or not, you’re communicating right now by reading this guide. You’re the recipient of this message that I’ve written and transmitted via blog post.

Communication happens all around us, and it’s especially important in business. Not only are we communicating non-stop with colleagues and teammates, but through marketing, advertising, sales, and support efforts, we’re also sending and receiving messages with our customers and consumers.

Communication in the Workplace

This section is about internal communication, meaning communication that happens within the workplace. This communication can refer to conversations with your boss, project collaborations with teammates, or perhaps reading your company’s internal wiki to learn about another team’s updates.

Regardless, here are some tips on communication in the workplace.

Communication as a Manager

As a manager or team lead, you’re dealing with a lot, right? Not only do you have your own responsibilities, but you also have to oversee and organize those of your team.

One of the hardest parts of managing can be figuring out how to systematize and catalog important communications happening within and around your team.

Building an internal communications strategy can help you manage this. Here’s how.

1. Assign a communication medium for specific types of communication.

It’s hard to speak up at work. People aren’t always sure who to trust. They also aren’t sure which information will stay private, and which information will come with consequences if shared.

This is where it’s up to you, as a manager, to create a safe, healthy environment for effective communication. One way to do that is to “assign” specific media or channels for specific types of communication.

For example, constructive criticism or feedback should take place in-person and privately. Instead of sending random emails or criticizing employees during team-wide meetings, consider scheduling one-on-one feedback sessions every quarter. This reassures your employees that hard conversations will remain private, and it also builds trust by showing your employees that you respect them enough to speak in-person.

Here are some other types of communication that might need their own medium or channel.

  • Praise
  • Collaboration or Project Updates
  • Strategies or Processes for Cross-Team Collaboration
  • Concerns or Questions
  • Important Business Updates

2. Encourage your team (and other teams) to adhere to these processes.

Once you define these communication processes, write them down and share them with your team. Encourage your team — and other teams — to adhere to the processes in respect of themselves and their colleagues.

Where appropriate, record your communication. This creates a record for others to reference and makes it easier to review and improve your processes … which is the next step.

3. Review every six months to see how you can improve.

Twice a year or so, survey your team and colleagues to make sure your internal communications strategy is working for everyone. Carve out time to receive feedback from your own employees. Remember, communication is a two-way street.

Communication Across Generations and Cultures

Whether you’re a brand new employee or a CEO, it’s crucial to understand that we all communicate differently. In the beginning of this guide, we reviewed some common communication barriers, namely cultural barriers.

The vast diversity of today’s workplaces (something to be celebrated!) means that people of all backgrounds, upbringings, and ages are collaborating. It also means that workplaces will have a myriad of communication styles and preferences.

Here’s how to prepare and stay aware of those differences.

  • Educate yourself on how others communicate. Based on our upbringings and education, we all prefer to receive praise, feedback, and instruction in different ways. Take the time to ask your employees and colleagues how you can best communicate with them.
  • Define communication as it applies to each culture. What does silence mean to each employee? How do they prefer to collaborate? What does disagreement look like? How do they like to receive praise? Start the discussion and foster an open environment within your team and company. Stay diligent and work to meet everyone’s preferences.

Communication to the Consumer

This section is about external communication, which refers to communication that your business has with consumers and customers. This communication includes marketing and advertising efforts, sales pitches, support conversations, and any public relations and crisis communications.

When it comes to any communication you have with the consumer, it’s wise to have a strategy to keep your business functions aligned and keep brand communication strong. Whether your posting on social media, publishing a press release, or building a new marketing campaign, all communication to the consumer — whether words, images, or video — should be consistent in tone, personality, and overall branding.

Over to You

Communication really is the key to any relationship. It may be a broad, vague topic, but it’s still able to be mastered in the workplace. Prioritizing communication among your team and company can help resolve conflict, strengthen collaboration, clarify strengths, and prepare you to do the same with your customers and clients.

WordPress.org vs WordPress.com: What’s the Difference?

Year after year, WordPress ranks as one of the top website building tools available. This easy-to-use CMS (content management system) software is beginner-friendly, offers a variety of plans, and allows you to quickly create and manage a unique and functional website for your visitors.

If you’re looking to build a site on WordPress, one of the first questions you may find yourself asking is, “What’s the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com?”

 

WordPress.org is a self-hosted, free platform in which you purchase and manage all aspects of your website including your domain name, add-ons, security, and code. WordPress.com hosts your website for you, offers multiple payment plans, gives you access to a domain name, and a variety of default features.

Below is a useful table that compares the key differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

Feature WordPress.org WordPress.com
Cost Free. Free, $4 per month, $8 per month, or $25 per month.

Hosting Provider and

Additional Features

Need to purchase hosting provider, create a custom domain name, purchase plugins, themes, and all other add-ons. Must manage your entire website, code, and security. WordPress offers a hosting service, domain name, security, and backups. You can upgrade your account and create a custom domain name and choose a third-party hosting provider as well.
Customization Must purchase and install your own themes to customize your website. Customize your website with any WordPress-compatible theme of your choice. If you upgrade your account, you can also use premium themes, third-party themes, or custom themes.

Integration with Social

Networks

Must install plugins to enable all social media sharing on your website. Your website can integrate with social media networks. If you upgrade your account, sharing functionality with social media accounts is included.
Plugins Find and install plugins to enhance your website’s functionality. Features such as sharing, stats, comments, and polls are included. You can also add plugins to your website for other features.
Support WordPress.org support forums.   WordPress.com support forums and personal support are available. With an upgraded account, you have access to live chat and email support.
Link to Download Get started here. Get started here.

Let’s dive into each of these features and review the differences between WordPress.org and WordPress.com in more depth.

Cost of WordPress

There are a number of different WordPress plans to choose from that range in price. No matter your budget, you can find an option that meets your needs without breaking the bank.

Cost of WordPress.org

WordPress.org is always free. However, because it’s only a publishing platform, you’ll have to purchase every other element of your website including your third-party hosting provider, domain name, as well as your themes and templates, plugins, and add-ons. You’ll also have to find a way to manage your website’s security and maintain and edit your site’s code.

Cost of WordPress.com

WordPress.com has four different plans that range in price.

Source

There is a basic plan that is always free, a plan ideal for personal use that costs $4 per month, a premium plan that costs $8 per month, and a business plan that costs $25 per month. As you work your way up through the more expensive plans, the more features and levels of customization you will be able to take advantage of on your website.

If you choose the free option, you will be offered WordPress hosting, a domain name, and minimal access to WordPress support. If you choose one of the three paid options, you’ll be able to add a hosting provider of your choosing and a custom domain name. You will also be offered extensive support and customization options.

WordPress Hosting Providers

A hosting provider gives your website a place to “live” on the internet. Choosing the right hosting provider for WordPress is crucial because it will impact your site’s functionality, speed, reliability, security, and more. Let’s review the differences between website hosting with WordPress.org vs. WordPress.com.

Hosting for WordPress.org

If you choose WordPress.org you’ll have to self-host your website, meaning you’ll have to purchase a third-party provider, such as WP Engine or InMotion Hosting. There are hundreds of hosting providers available, so we’ve created a guide to 19 of the best WordPress hosting providers of 2018 for you to review.

Hosting for WordPress.com

WordPress.com offers different hosting packages for you to use. If you pick a paid version of WordPress.com, you can decide whether or not you want to use WordPress’ hosting service or if you want to use a third-party provider — as you would with a WordPress.org plan — you already feel strongly about or have prior experience using.

Pros and Cons of Self-Hosting

There are plenty of benefits that come from self-hosting your WordPress website, as you would with a WordPress.org site. However, there are also a lot of challenges to be aware of that often make WordPress.com plans preferable.

The pros of self-hosting include having complete control over everything that goes into the creation of your website, and the ability to manage your website’s security and edit your website’s code. You also have the opportunity to find, buy, and install a third-party hosting provider of your choosing, create a custom domain name, and find different themes, plugins, and add-ons that work for your site and needs. If you choose the self-hosting route, you use the WordPress platform for free.

The cons to self-hosting include having to actually spend the time to find, purchase, and install an ideal third-party hosting provider for your site, learn how to create a domain name, and identify the themes, plugins, and add-ons that make the most sense for your website. You also need to have some type of knowledge in web development as you’ll be the one managing your website’s code and updates.

WordPress Customization

WordPress is a completely customizable CMS. With the help of the hundreds WordPress themes and templates available today, you can achieve virtually any look imaginable by customizing every element of your website.

WordPress.org Customization

With WordPress.org, you are required to find and install your desired third-party themes, such as StudioPress, Pixelgrade, and Stylemix Themes, on your own. WordPress does not offer you access to their free themes the way WordPress.com does, so the level of customization you want to achieve is dependent on your own theme research and the options you decide to implement on your website.

WordPress.com Customization

The free version of WordPress.com comes with dozens of free themes that you can choose from and implement on your website. The free plan does not let you add any third-party or premium themes to your website.

However, with a paid plan, you can use premium, third-party themes as you would with a WordPress.org website. If you choose this route, WordPress.com allows you to easily install your third-party or premium theme so you can get started customizing your website in just minutes.

WordPress Website and Social Media Integration

It’s no secret that social media marketing has become a powerful tactic to promote brands, products, and websites today. Integrating your WordPress website with your social media channels is an easy way to manage all of your interactions in one place, broaden your impact, and increase conversions. It’s also a great way to simply ensure your website visitors know about your social media channels and vice versa.

WordPress.org Social Media Integration

WordPress.org does not come with any social media channel integration. You’ll need to install plugins on your website to enable social media sharing and integration. There are a number of social media plugins available in the plugin library, such as Social Media Widget by Acurax and Jetpack, to help you with tasks such as social media posting from your website and creating beautiful sidebars with links to all of your social accounts for your site.

WordPress.com Social Media Integration

With a free WordPress.com account, you can integrate your own website with social media accounts including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. This will just require a bit of work on your end. By publicizing your website, or connecting it to your multiple different social accounts, you can integrate your accounts and access them from your WordPress dashboard.

If you have a paid WordPress account, all social media integration comes included and ready-to-use so you can access all of your social accounts from WordPress with the click of a button.

WordPress Plugins

If you’re looking to add to the array of features you have on your WordPress website, you’ll need to install plugins. Plugins are how you enhance your website’s functionality by adding capabilities that don’t come standard with the software. Since there are over 56,000 options available, we created a list of 25 of the best WordPress plugins to help get you started.

WordPress.org Plugins

You’ll need to find and install plugins yourself with a WordPress.org website. Since WordPress.org is simply a platform and there aren’t any features that come standard with the plan, you’ll want to install some plugins on your own. You can search for specific topics or things you need in the WordPress plugin library to narrow down the thousands of search results and find an option suited to your specific needs.

WordPress.com Plugins

With WordPress.com plans, some social media, customer interaction, and analytics-related features (that do not come standard with a WordPress.org plan) such as sharing, statistics, comments, and polls, are automatically included. To add to these default features, you can install WordPress-compatible plugins of your choosing. If you pay for the most expensive WordPress.com plan, you can also install custom plugins.

WordPress Support

While building your website, you may run into a roadblock here or there, or have a question about how to complete a task. WordPress has varying levels of support based on the plan you choose.

WordPress.org Support

With WordPress.org, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to customer support as this plan does not provide any access to one-on-one assistance. Instead, you can access the WordPress.org support page which contains a number of forums that you can use to problem solve. Other than that, you can always try searching for answers to your questions on the internet.

wordpress.org-support-page

Source

WordPress.com Support

Free WordPress.com plan users can take advantage of community support and forums available, which are similar to the support pages that WordPress.org users have access to. This is a very basic level of support that leaves you to do most of your own problem-solving.

If you are a paid WordPress.com user, you will have 24/7 access to live chat and email support with WordPress experts in addition to the community support and forums. 

Back To You

Understanding the key differences between WordPress.org and the various WordPress.com plans is key to determining which type of website best fits your needs. WordPress.org is a great option if you’re looking for complete control over every aspect of your site. WordPress.com is preferable if you need some assistance building your website and want more automation. 

Once you’ve reviewed and considered all of the plan options, you can get started by downloading your WordPress.org or WordPress.com account and utilizing the variety of features you have access to design a website perfect for your specific needs.

Black Friday 2018 SMS Sale – 20% Free SMS

The Super Bowl of sales is now upon us, and you know what that means . . . The Text Marketer Black Friday sale is here!

Year on year Black Friday gets bigger and bigger, with more people purchasing, more retailers offering a Black Friday sale, and ultimately more money being spent.

This year is no different, we have predicted that the UK will spend a whopping £9.2 Billion over the four day Black Friday weekend. And to help you, we have put together a post on when the best time is to send your Black Friday SMS campaign, with one extremely popular day being a few days before Black Friday – read more here.

With the increase in popularity and consumer spend, that means you are going to need more SMS to tell your customers about your amazing Black Friday sale. And with Text Marketer, more SMS doesn’t mean spending more money.

Introducing our Black Friday 20% Free SMS credits offer.

Any purchase over 1,000 credits between Monday 12th November – Cyber Monday 26th November will receive an extra 20% SMS credits for free!

So by purchasing more SMS credits, we will give you more SMS completely free, it really is that simple.

To claim, forward your invoice to support@textmarketer.co.uk with the header BLACKFRIDAY – the offer CANNOT be used with any existing offer or discount, but can be used multiple times during the period.

Please see our T&Cs for more information (Section 14 – 14.1)

The Future for Casino Software Development Is a Roulette in Your Own Living Room

There are perhaps four software companies at the forefront of casino gaming technology in Europe, some of which have managed to transform how mobile users play and interact with online casinos. Who are they and what should we expect next?

The list below shows some of the main software developers designing and operating online casino games. There is a high expectation that the next generation of casino software will soon be released by them.

Playte

Playtech has been going for almost 20 years, operating in the online bingo, slots and casino arena where it has developed over 600 games. It has licenses with multiple US entertainment companies like HBO, MGM, Marvel and Universal and is listed on the London Stock Exchange.

NetEnt

NetEnt processes over 21 billion gaming transactions every year and serves over 100 online casinos. It won the 2015 EGR awards for slot Provider of the Year and is listed on the Nordic Nasdaq.

Novomatic

Novomatic turned over nearly 4 billion euros in 2015, which isn’t surprising when you consider it has over 28,000 employees. It specialises in slots, card and electronic table games. It is the biggest casino software supplier in Europe.

Evolution

Evolution has become one of the leaders in online poker and roulette software. It is one of the newest and fastest-growing software developers in the online casino sphere and it continues to develop and grow.

An Augmented Reality for Online Casi

The popularity of online casinos has so far matched and probably exceeded the appetites of the bricks and mortar casinos. Amongst the most popular online casino games is the offering of classics like roulette, mahjong and blackjack just like you’d find at William Hill’s table games. The reason why these remain the most popular casino games to play is primarily because they are easy to learn and fun to play; one offering a player the chance to test their skill and the other offering random, but rich potential on the spin of the table.

Currently, online gambling in the UK generates over £3 billion annually and this figure is only going to grow further as online gambling becomes more mainstream and furthers its growth and appeal. Meanwhile Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have become huge in the technical sector and a major landscape changer. It doesn’t take long to recall the effects that Pokemon Go had on the public’s imagination to see where this technology can go. It was quickly followed up by the BBC’s Civilisations App to reproduce works of art that came alive right in front of you. So how long will it be before online casinos start developing and releasing their own AR roulette table in your own living room?

There are already virtual zones being set up in Las Vegas casinos.

The answer to that is not long. The hardware technology is already here with Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive and Playstation VR becoming more affordable and available. The software for casinos is getting more closely aligned with reality already with slicker graphics and a more realistic ‘casino’ experience. Add in the technical might of the big casino software developers and we should prepare for some nights in where home casino parties with a full array of tables, games and slots might well be coming soon.

The post The Future for Casino Software Development Is a Roulette in Your Own Living Room appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

How to Use Gift Cards to Give an Experience This Holiday Season

Originally posted by Evan Snively.

It was my birthday recently (why thank you kindly for the well wishes!) and the night before official festivities were to take place my wife received a text from my sister asking for gift advice. Without looking up from her phone, she turned to me and asked for ideas to relay back. I rattled off a few of my favorite beers and ended with the caveat: “and if they don’t have those in stock you know I enjoy a good browse through the aisles.” What I didn’t put together until the next day when I opened my present to reveal a sleek little gift card (thanks sis!) was that what I had actually asked for was an experience.

With the overwhelming focus on millennials over the past few years, the term “experiences” has gotten a lot of play within the marketing and loyalty space. Numerous studies show that this key demographic holds an affinity for experiences, and often articles – like these from Forbes and Business.com – position this as a clash between the preference of material goods vs experiences, but that is not the full story. When reports quote that younger consumers “prefer” or “would rather spend money on” experiences it is misleading as this often paints the picture that these generations are primarily focused on accumulating cultural wealth instead of monetary wealth, flocking towards wildly unique happenings in an act of rebellion against consumerism.

This is false.

This type of presentation fails to acknowledge that you don’t need to mark your calendar and buy tickets to an event in order to have an “experience”.

Life is a constant experience.

And the goods we interact with in our daily lives have the potential to elevate each and every moment.  And that is what younger generations care about – creating memorable moments.

Yes, sometimes that means checking an item off the bucket list. Other times it could be hosting a backyard bonfire where laughs are shared a bit too loud and a bit too late into the night. Or simply capturing an image and sharing it with friends and family who will appreciate its contents. All are experiences.

And as I have been reminded recently by the gift card from my sister, merely the hunt for material goods can be a very enjoyable experience in of itself. A big reason for this is because when we purchase things, we imagine ourselves enjoying them in the most ideal of situations. It’s a similar phenomena as to why playing the lottery is actually worth it, even if you don’t win. We garner enjoyment from the thought of the experiences we will have in the future, allowing us to take greater pleasure in the now. So

So with the gift giving season nearly upon us, how do you ensure that the gift cards that you are giving will result in an experience not once, but twice for the end recipient? To take a deeper dive into the concept of having an experience, while prepping for an experience (where are Leo and Joseph Gordon-Levitt when you need them?) I want you to imagine yourself in 2 scenarios:

Scenario 1:

You open a birthday card with a decently funny punchline courtesy of Hallmark with a generically uplifting sentiment scribbled below from the sender, along with a $50 Target gift card.

Useful no doubt, but not very exciting or memorable. A likely scenario is that you slide the gift card into your wallet and forget about it until you are at the checkout aisle a month or two later (and let’s be honest, this isn’t even the first time you have been to Target since you received it – just the first time you actually remembered you had a gift card). It covers about half of your purchase and moves out of mind as soon as you pull out a credit card to cover the balance. There is no specific item that the gift card bought, it was essentially a great coupon. Furthermore – by the time it’s used you might not even remember who gave it to you (guilty).

Scenario 2:

You open a birthday card with a decently funny punchline courtesy of Hallmark, a $50 Target gift card, but this time a specifically tailored message from the gifter stating that they want you to use these funds to ‘revamp your board game collection’ for the next game night. Suddenly you aren’t just given a $50 catch-all, you are given a passport to adventure. (I realize not everyone will consider picking out a couple new board games as a “passport to adventure” but I do, so if you disagree simply replace the scenario with something you are passionate about.)

The key difference is that in Scenario 2 the presenter framed their gift in a particular manner, which in the case of a gift card causes 3 things to happen:

1. Clarity of focus. The focus has been shifted from the monetary value of the gift to the potential items that will be purchased which allows for a vision of the ideal state where those goods will be used. (i.e. the specific framing has created anticipation – one of the keys to a great experience).

2. Permission to spend irrationally. ‘Irrational’ might be a stretch but certainly the gifter has empowered the giftee to make a non-utilitarian decision. Let that sit. The delivery of the gift, not the gift itself, is what is impacts the end user’s ability to justify their spending behavior.

Scenarios 1 & 2 impart the same financial benefit, but because the second narrative includes commentary from the gifter stating: “I am giving a green light, nay a directive, to spend this on an activity of pleasure” there is an instant switch in the mental accounting of the recipient, stating that they can (and should) treat this pile of money differently than their usual expense budget. This is a vital piece of the puzzle.

3. Evoking a deeper emotional response. Gift cards are notorious for doing the opposite. But adding the personal touch of how the recipient could use the card improves the overall memory halo of the gift. No more forgetting who made your shopping adventure possible.

The bottom line? It is all about how the gift card is framed in the mind of the end user.

Prime the mind to pay attention to the experience that the gift card allows.

So this holiday season when you are checking names off the list, don’t feel bad by settling on a gift card. Quite the contrary! Know that based on how you present them, you have the potential to be giving millennials the thing they value most – an experience – regardless of the brand on the card.

This content is sponsored by Maritz Motivation Solutions. To learn more about Maritz Loyalty, please visit them here.

The post How to Use Gift Cards to Give an Experience This Holiday Season appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

Why Both Data & Relationships are Essential to Personalized Marketing

As the importance of customer retention and customer lifetime value (LTV) become more popular in the world of marketing and sales, personalized marketing is also popping up in more and more marketing team discussions. Today’s advanced marketers are touting the benefits of personalized marketing campaigns, which range from landing page headlines that adapt to the copy on the ads that were clicked, to email newsletters tailored to a specific segment of subscribers. The desired result of running these campaigns? Usually, it’s some variation of conversions, more conversions, and more efficient conversions.

Personalized Marketing Works

Starbucks’ mobile app is a master-class in personalized marketing, based on gamifying their rewards system. It’s simple, but it works. Customers can customize and order drinks on the app, which uses information like purchase history and geolocation to make the experience unique to each person. The more they buy and use the app, the more stars they earn—which go toward free drinks.

As trivial as buzzwords like “gamification” may seem, the results they achieve are anything but. This Starbucks Rewards program has set new records in revenue, and in its early stages, the app was already generating around 6 million sales a month, or about 22% of all U.S. sales.

How about another example?

For their 20th anniversary, Easyjet launched an email campaign that took all the information they had on customers to create travel stories. They based the stories on each customer’s previous flights with Easyjet. They got creative too, including not only photos of their customers’ record of flight destinations, but also a fun reminder of the number of times they had a window seat, their first trip with Easyjet (building that brand loyalty), recommendations of where to fly next (with their airline, of course), and more.

How did this perform? Open rates were over 100% higher than their average newsletter, with 25% higher click-through rates.

Why Do Consumers Respond Well to Personalized Marketing?

We build relationships in our personal lives in large part by remembering information about other people—and using it in positive ways. Birthdays. Anniversaries. First dates. Favorite foods. Favorite sports teams. Telling someone that we remember details about them is probably the most common way of showing that we care. And that improves relationships. The caveat: having the data is not enough. You have to use it to build the relationship too. It’s the same in marketing.

Starbucks’ mobile app is successful because it uses its repository of customers’ buying habits to remind them that they might want to have their usual venti sugar-free caramel macchiato (iced) today, or just to wish them a happy birthday and offer a free drink.

Easyjet’s campaign worked because the team had rich data on their customers’ past Easyjet flights, which they used to remind customers of these happy experiences.

How to Build Relationships That Make It Easier to Personalize Marketing

Marketing and sales are just beginning to enter the Relationship Era, though relationships have been around since, well, forever. And much like humans in real life, businesses tend to want information without putting in the effort to build the relationships. Relationships take work.

Many marketing articles tend to throw around phrases like “Keep it real,” “Be authentic,” “Transparency is key”—but what do these mean? The actual work of nurturing relationships often gets swept under the rug in favor of these pithy, but meaningless, “tips.” Big campaigns are important, but so are the everyday interactions with prospects and customers. Every email, tweet, and phone call is a building block of the relationship—not just touchpoints or opportunities for driving engagement.

Because how can you “keep it real” if you don’t have a real relationship with that person? Whether a personalized marketing campaign means creating effective email segments or a direct mail piece tailored to that specific household, at the heart of each one is a relationship.

Here are a few ways to make the relationship-building process easier:

1. Make Sure Your Customer and Prospect Information is Organized and Easily Searchable

Post-its and notepads aren’t going to cut it. If you’re spending a disproportionate amount of time entering, organizing, and finding data, you probably have enough of it to look into a proper CRM tool. The goal here is to minimize your time doing these low-value tasks (and ultimately to make your life easier).

2. Log Every Interaction

Live chats, emails, phone calls, and tweets are where you’ll tend to find unique—and useful—nuggets of information about your audience. Your knowledge about seemingly random things like their love of donuts or favorite sports teams just might come in handy later on. A surprise box of donuts as a thank-you for a referral? Free tickets to a basketball game to reward a customer for five years of loyalty?

All of this helps build a relationship they’ll never forget—but only if you’ve logged that information first.

3. Align the Team

There are few things more embarrassing than having an awesome conversation with a customer or prospect only to have someone else on the team ask the same question later because they didn’t know that it’s already been answered.

It can make your brand look disorganized or just scattered.  While it won’t wreck a relationship, it can still raise some eyebrows or be a roadblock. Use the right collaboration tool or app to get everyone on the same page.

4. Analyze, Report, Improve

Of course, you want this to work. And the only way to know is to look at the results. Ideally, you’d have a tool that updates your numbers automatically and shows you dashboards and charts.

Bonus if it integrates with other apps that you already use. This could save you hours if the data is already linked between them without you having to manually do anything.

Building meaningful customer relationships are, like many things, simple but not easy. But this is the most genuine (and probably the best) way to personalize your marketing if you want to maintain your brand’s authenticity and “human-ness.”

Feel like it’s time for your team to try their hand at more personalized marketing? You’ve already got the building blocks you need to get started. Make sure you have the data, get everyone on the right tools, and start building those relationships!

The post Why Both Data & Relationships are Essential to Personalized Marketing appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

How to Create a Landing Page in 8 Steps [+ Examples]

A landing page is a single web page designed to be linked to digital advertisements, such as Google and Facebook ads. They help drive users through your sales funnel, leading to higher conversion rates. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertisers looking to increase conversions and generate more leads should use landing pages. Creating professional-looking and effective landing pages…

The post How to Create a Landing Page in 8 Steps [+ Examples] appeared first on Fit Small Business.

The Leader's Guide to Effective Change Management

The only constant in life is change.

[Enter any tried-and-true marketing tactic] is dead.

Winter is coming.

We’re reminded daily about how change is coming, and to succeed in business, we must remain agile. Sure, that all makes sense in theory, but in practical application, to change how we operate or serve customers is no small feat.

According to Mckinsey, 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.

Yikes.

This doesn’t mean employees are wrong — they simply lack understanding and buy-in.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to guide your team through the end result and help establish this comfort and buy-in.

The good news is there are tons of change management methodologies that you can adopt and adapt to your business.

At IMPACT, we’ve gone through quite a bit of change recently. We’ve almost tripled in size in just over a year, and what was once a small core team, is now a fairly good sized-agency that requires a much different approach to implementing change than the good ol’ days (a.k.a. last year).

After struggling to implement a change to our client onboarding process, we decided to take a step back and re-evaluate our approach to change management.

Below I’ll share with you the key change management models and tools we reviewed, and how you can avoid becoming another statistic.

Yes, there are tools and models, which I will get to below, but at the core of any strong change management program is your people.

No model will work if you continue to let employee resistance and lack of management support sabotage your efforts.

4 Common Change Management Models

No need to dust off your old college business school books. Here are the top 4 change management models most commonly referred to when researching the “how” behind change management.

1. Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze Model

Picture an ice cube. The Kurt Lewin’s Unfreeze-Change-Refreeze model is exactly what it sounds like:

  1. Unfreeze
  2. Change
  3. Re-freeze

This sounds like the most simplistic model on the surface, but there’s a lot to unpack.

In the unfreeze stage, you are essentially breaking down the current way of doing business and noting what needs to change. It’s crucial in this stage to obtain two-way feedback of what needs to change (vs. solely top-down).

After noting and communicating the need for change, gather the key stakeholders necessary to proactively implement what needs to be done.

Once everyone has bought in, “re-freeze” in the sense that the change is institutionalized and consistently used in the new manner.

In our experience, this model focuses more on process than people. If you have a smaller team with less emotion to manage, this could be a good option.

2. The ADKAR® Model of Change

The ADKAR® model breaks down the human side of managing change.

The idea is you should work through each letter of the acronym, focusing heavily on the individuals within your company.

Awareness. Here, the goal is to learn the business reasons for change. At the end of this stage, everyone should be bought-in.

Desire. This is dedicated to getting everyone engaged and willingly participating in the change. Once you have full buy-in, the next stage is measuring if the individuals in your company want to help and become part of the process.

Knowledge. In this stage, you’re working towards understanding how to change. This can come in the form of formal training or simple one-on-one coaching so those affected by the change feel prepared to handle it.

Ability. Next, you must focus on how to implement the change at the required performance level. Knowing the required job skills is only the beginning; The people involved need to be supported in the early stages to ensure they are able to incorporate change.

Reinforcement. Lastly, you need to sustain the change. This final step is often the most missed.An organization needs to continually reinforce change to avoid employees from reverting back to the old way of doing things.

Unlike Lewin’s model, this focuses on people-side of stage. We like its idea of using reinforcement to make your changes stick and this model takes it a step further. It’s a good approach to consider if you have a larger team or more complex problem you’re trying to solve.

3. Kotter’s 8-Step Model of Change

In is 1995 book, Leading Change, Harvard Business School professor, John Kotter, lays out 8 stages all companies must go through in order to see effective change management.

  1. Create urgency through open dialogue that leads others in the organization to want the change as much as you.
  2. Form a powerful coalition of change agents in your organization. This can go beyond leadership and manager.
  3. Create a vision for change to reinforce the why behind it and the strategy to achieve the end result.
  4. Communicate the vision regularly to ease team anxiety and reinforce the why.
  5. Remove obstacles to pave the way for the needed changes to happen.
  6. Create short-term wins to keep up morale and show the team you’re moving in the right direction.
  7. Build on the change by analyzing what went well and didn’t go so well in your quick wins to keep pushing to the desired end result.
  8. Anchor the changes in corporate culture as standard operating procedure and reinforce why change is necessary and embracing it is part of your company culture.

If you have a more agile team, this model’s iterative short-term wins and building based on what you learn as you go, sync nicely with the agile methodology.

4. Kim Scott’s GSD Model

Okay so maybe this one isn’t as common yet, but it soon will be, so you might as well get ahead of the curve!

Kim Scott outlines the GSD model (get stuff done) in her bestselling book, Radical Candor, which is a process of the following steps:

  1. Listen: Listen to the ideas of your team and create a culture where they listen to each other.
  2. Clarify: Make sure these ideas aren’t crushed before everyone has a chance to understand their potential usefulness.
  3. Debate: Create an environment where it’s okay to debate and make the ideas even better.
  4. Decide: Select the idea that will best solve the issue.
  5. Persuade: Since not everyone was involved in the listen-clarify-debate-decide stages, you have to effectively communicate why it was decided and why it’s a good idea.
  6. Execute: Implement the idea.
  7. Learn: Learn from the results, whether or not you did the right thing, and start the whole process over again.

We included this in our mix at IMPACT because of how much it focuses on obtaining ideas from the frontline. People buy into what they help create and Kim Scott’s GSD model provides a framework to make that happen.

Now, there are many more models for you to choose from than just these four, but realize there may not be just one model that fits your organization best.

If you’re anything like us at IMPACT, you may want to take a page from several of these models to improve your communication and effectiveness in times of change.

A Change Management Plan in Action

Below is a real example of how my team approached a major change and the change management steps we took to ensure everyone was on the same page and moving in the same direction.

Step 1: Determine What Needs to Change and Craft the Message

In the course of 3 months, IMPACT completely restructured the agency-side of our organization. In March, our agency team looked like this:

image4-7

This structure worked for us in 2017, but as we came into the new year with an even larger team, our quarterly team survey results told us a different story.

For the first time in several years, not everyone could see their future at IMPACT.

Some had no idea what was going on or why certain decisions had been made. And what stung the most is we had a few happiness scores below seven, which we haven’t had since 2015.

Ouch.

In our February leadership team meeting, we debated for hours why some in the company were feeling this way.

After several ideas, we all determined one area we should focus on was our structure. We were setting our managers up for failure with competing responsibilities and in doing so, we made it extremely difficult for them to effectively communicate with their teams, coach them in their careers, and ensure they could see their future at IMPACT.

The ones who did better in this area suffered in others, like client results and retention.

It was a huge issue that needed to be solved immediately.

This leadership team meeting was the beginning of step 1 in our change management plan:

Determine what needs to change and craft the message.

In our monthly all-hands meeting following that leadership team meeting, our CEO, Bob Ruffolo, explained the why behind our decision that we needed to make a structure change — the what.

He explained the survey results, our thought process, and everything that led to the conversation.

Then, he explained that we had outgrown our current structure, placing too much responsibility on our current managers. We inadvertently set up our teams to fail and that wasn’t ok. — the message.

In order to improve this situation, we needed to create a structure that scales.

Planting the seed for a change is seriously just the first step. After this meeting, we knew there would be fear and confusion, so we got to work on step 2.

Step 2: Identify Your Stakeholders and How to Manage Them

We knew that a complete structure change would not go well if it was strictly a top-down initiative. We needed help and a core coalition to get it off the ground.

However, not every single person would need to know every single detail of what was going on.

While all teams were involved, most were focused with how they would personally be affected in a day-to-day sense, as well as in relation to how they work with other teams.

To keep communication clear, and to ensure everyone had a voice and a chance to enact Kim Scott’s debate stage, we needed to identify stakeholders across the agency team.

In this case, our stakeholders were the managers of our teams. We were essentially changing their job responsibility, so it was prudent to include them in the conversation.

Although we created a committee of stakeholders, what we failed to do was take our communication a step further by managing the other agency team members more closely.

The matrix below outlines a way to segment your team and your communication with each segment so you can better communicate across the board.

We only had our managers involved, and we updated the rest of the team all at once in our monthly all-hands. Next time, we will definitely create a strong communication plan based on this matrix.

Stakeholder Power-Interest Grid Diagram

Image from Mindtools, which adapted from Mendelow, A.L. (1981). Environmental Scanning – The Impact of the Stakeholder Concept,’ ICIS 1981 Proceedings, 20.

Once we identified our key stakeholders, we met with each one and some of their teams to get their feedback, pushback, concerns, and ideas about the structure change.

In full transparency, not all these meetings were fun. There was high emotion and rigorous debate, but, at this point, we had not zeroed in on our exact plan, and they helped us understand the team’s concerns and ideate on the best way to structure for scale — together.

Step 3: Systematically Communicate

This is an area we got wrong in this scenario.

In step one, we announced at a company meeting a pretty earth-shattering idea. Our managers felt blindsided and not all the team members were convinced a structure change was needed.

We learned the hard way that surprising people in a company meeting was not the way to go.

Our intention was to be transparent about what was discussed in our leadership team meeting, but there was definitely a better way to do that had we been more systematic in how we communicated to the team.

After identifying key stakeholders, this is the path we are focusing on now:

CEO/Leadership team (if it’s a leadership decision) > communicates to the next level management > who then communicate to the frontline managers and key stakeholders >who then communicate to the the rest of the team.

Managers can communicate to their own teams in a style that they know will resonate and create shared understanding. They can also help identify issues and concerns so we can all co-create a solution.

This eliminates group-think and reduces the timeline to extinguish fear.

Although our path was a little messier here, once we received all team feedback, we all agreed to what our new agency structure should be:

Then we moved onto Step 4.

Step 4: Get Organized With Incremental Steps

At this stage, everyone knew a change was coming, but no one knew how we were going to make it happen.

This was the time to get organized and get buy-in on the “how” of change management.

Now that we knew what our new structure would be, we developed a project plan with the incremental steps to get us there by the end of the quarter.

We created a video explaining the structure and project plan for all teams to review in their weekly meeting.

Our managers and key stakeholders were involved and accountable for different parts of the plan, and in our all-hands meetings, we updated on the progress of the plan so everyone could stay informed.

In our plan, we also mapped out some “quick wins” in the first month so the team could feel major progress was happening.

In our case, this was selecting new team managers for those teams whose Principal Strategist moved over to the Strategy team.

We interviewed internally and selected our new managers within 3 weeks of rolling out our initiative, which was exciting for our new managers and exciting for the team to see we’re already making huge steps.

Step 5: Equip Your Managers to Handle Emotional Response to Change

It’s one thing to have great communication and a solid-looking plan — but change is hard.

Everyone responds in their own way, but what we didn’t think about was this concept of The Change Curve. Ok, let’s be honest — we didn’t even know this existed.

image2-1

Image from Insights.com, Kubler Ross The Change Curve

After our initial all-hands meeting, we had people all over the Curve. We then in essence said, “Managers, figure it out!”

As we went through the process, we learned another lesson the hard way: We needed to adapt our communication and management style for each individual based on where they were in responding to change.

The graphic below by Expert Program Management shows how you change your response along The Change Curve to gain buy-in sooner and give better coaching to your managers.

image1-26

By meeting team members where they are at, our managers could adapt their communication style to coach each team member through the process, allowing for more personalized, effective transition.

Note: This doesn’t have to be advice just for managers. Our teams operate in scrum, and in their team retrospectives, a shared understanding of this tool could have facilitated more understanding and stronger conversations and problem solving within the team.

Step 6: Manage by OKRs

In order to stay focused throughout the quarter, we created an objective and corresponding key results (OKRs) for our structure change.

The objective was essentially “make the structure change happen” and we measured by tracking the milestones from our project plan.

Each all-hands, we would update the team on how we were doing on our objective and show the percentage complete so they could see visible progress. (We use 7Geese as a way to continually check in and measure our key results.)

This was also a time for those working directly on the project plan to celebrate and give themselves a pat on the back. There was a ton of work involved, and they deserved to be recognized for crushing it.

By breaking down exactly what needed to happen, we were able to keep the team focused and motivated to reach our goal.

Step 7: Continue to Communicate like Crazy

As I mentioned in step 1, discussing the idea is seriously only the first step. To keep everyone motivated, organized, and informed, we had to communicate like crazy.

There three types of communication we focused on: motivational, informational, and two-way.

Our motivational communication often came from our CEO to continually reinforce the why behind this major change.

Informational communication came from updates on our OKRs in our all-hands meetings, as well as one-off videos from the team working on the project plan to update on progress.

The most important one that we focus on the most now, however, is two-way communication. We started off slow in this area, but after getting feedback in our Q2 team survey and from individuals on the team, we doubled down on this much more in the last month of the transition.

By ensuring you have a regular cadence of two-way communication, you ensure the team understands what’s being shared, but you also learn and address if there’s underlying dissent or miscommunication.

Although I put this as the last step, this is the most crucial.

Communication must happen throughout your entire initiative or you’ll risk falling short and potentially damaging company morale in the process.

If you focus on the 3 types of communication above, you will reach your goals faster with a happier team to boot.

Change is Cyclical

The reason I included Kim Scott’s GSD model is it most relates to our company culture. We are always looking for ways to improve, which means we have a lot of change going on all the time.

There is rarely a beginning and a clear-cut end like the more traditional models. I’m sure we’ll discover more tweaks we need to get our structure right, and that’s okay.

The point is change really is constant, and developing a model that works for your business is the best way you can manage the people-side of change and set everyone up for success.

As a leader, you can choose a model, or a mix of models like what we do at IMPACT, to help organize effective, lasting change in your organization.

By incorporating your team via the communication methods outlined above, you can empower and enable your team to take action — and have pride in the change they helped make.

Change isn’t easy and it isn’t going anywhere, but when you can figure out a model that works best for your company, you and your team have no limits. 

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Black Friday 2018 – everything you need to know to succeed this Black Friday

There is no bigger retail event in the year than Black Friday. It trumps all spring and summer sales, makes Christmas look tiny and is far superior to any January sale – it is simply the biggest and best event of the year.

Every year retailers try and top their competitors with a bigger and more creative offer, but you don’t need to create the most elaborate offer to triumph on Black Friday. All you need is for your offer to be seen by as many of your customers as possible – it really is that simple.

There is no point having the best offer if it is only going to be displayed on your website. You need to shout about it from the roof tops, promote it through multiple marketing channels, social media, email, in your shop, on the radio, on TV, but most importantly and by far the most effective, via SMS.

Not only do your customers want to receive offers from you via SMS, but SMS is the perfect way to get your message straight into your customers pocket, knowing that your text message, unlike email, will be read almost instantly with 90% of all text messages read within 3 minutes.

Even though SMS is such a powerful marketing tool, it can still go wrong, especially if you don’t send your message at the right time. Sending a text message to your customers at 9pm on Black Friday, even if it is a catchy message with an amazing offer, will get you very little response, by that time the majority of your customers have already seen other offers and have made their main Black Friday purchases.

It is vital you send your Black Friday campaign at the right time of day. To help you get the most out of SMS, we have put together a guide on the best time to send your Black Friday SMS campaigns, which you can read in full here.

Handy Black Friday tips
Copy Amazon – Well don’t just copy Amazon, but they do Black Friday very well every year. They have timed Black Friday deals and don’t just have one big offer, they break it down, adding a timer and unique offers to different products. This gives consumers a sense of urgency that the particular offer they are looking at, will soon end and never be shown again.

Remind customers – Remind customers that you have your sale is still on. First send all your customers an initial text message as soon as your Black Friday sale has started, then again on Black Friday itself and again the day before your deal finishes. By contacting customers at different times may promote them into a second or even third purchase, and for those who didn’t make a purchase, it will give them a gentle nudge of your amazing deals.

If you aren’t ready for Black Friday this year, what are you waiting for, sign up for a free account now and start sending your customers text messages in minutes. Or for those who already use SMS marketing but don’t really believe in the whole Black Friday hype, have a read of our amazing stats below. We are sure once you have finished, you will be a believer.

Black Friday 2018 infographic

Cheetah Mobile Vice President Keynotes Microsoft Tech Summit 2018 in Shanghai

MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT: As a proud partner of Microsoft, Cheetah Mobile, a leading mobile internet company with a strong global vision, was honored to participate in Microsoft Shanghai Tech Summit where its vice president Li Liang gave a keynote speech about Cheetah Mobile’s focus on promoting digital transformation through AI-powered products and services.

Commenting on the news Li stated, “I am honored to have spoken at this prestigious event and look forward to Cheetah Mobile’s continued relationship with Microsoft to develop products that solve real-life pain points and increase efficiency for people and businesses.”

Cheetah Mobile and Microsoft have been working together since 2017, when it integrated Microsoft’s intelligent voice assistant Cortana into its popular launcher app, CM Launcher. Cortana not only allows CM Launcher users to easily control the app with voice commands, they can also use voice commands to make voice calls, read the news, create and manage events, set reminders and perform web searches, all without leaving the app.

Microsoft and Cheetah Mobile expanded their partnership in July 2018 with the release of Cheetah Translator, a portable translation device developed using text-to-speech and translation technology from Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) and OrionStar, a Cheetah Mobile-invested AI company. The device is light-weight and easy-to use, while providing accurate and reliable translation, making it the perfect accessory for travelers. Cheetah Translator operates on OrionStar’s self-developed Orion Voice OS, the number one smart voice OS in China, with a 30% market share. Orion Voice OS currently powers smart speakers from Xiaomi, Midea and Ximalaya, as well as Cheetah Mobile’s entire line of robotics products and smart devices.

Unlike similar translation devices that feature two or more buttons, Cheetah Translator’s one-button design reduces the number of operations required of users. Whether it is selecting the language, translating or changing volume, it can all be done with one button. In fact, the translation engine provided by Microsoft and OrionStar automatically detects which language is being spoken and translates accordingly without the need to manually switch between languages. It currently supports Chinese, English, Korean and Japanese, with more languages to be added soon.

Li continued, “The major advantage that Cheetah Mobile has in AI products is its combination of user thinking, product thinking and AI technologies. By focusing on users’ needs in specific scenarios, Cheetah Mobile uses the most suitable technology to solve those needs, and Cheetah Translator is the embodiment of this goal. There are no borders between machines and people anymore. Cheetah Mobile’s goal is to provide users with AI products that are truly intelligent and truly useful.”

Microsoft Shanghai Tech Summit was held at the Shanghai World Expo Center from October 24 to 27, 2018. The Summit brings together Microsoft‘s top global technology experts, famous domestic entrepreneurs, industry leaders, entrepreneurial pioneers and technology enthusiasts gather together to discuss hot topics, share the latest & most cutting-edge gains, the most competitive strategies and techniques, as well as industry solutions under digital transformation, to jointly improve business productivity and predict the development trend of the industry.

About Cheetah Mobile Inc.

Cheetah Mobile is a leading mobile Internet company with strong global vision. It has attracted hundreds of millions of monthly active users through its mobile utility products such as Clean Master and Cheetah Keyboard, casual games such as Piano Tiles 2, and live streaming product Live.me. The Company provides its advertising customers, which include direct advertisers and mobile advertising networks through which advertisers place their advertisements, with direct access to highly targeted mobile users and global promotional channels. The Company also provides value-added services to its mobile application users through the sale of in-app virtual items on selected mobile products and games. Cheetah Mobile is committed to leveraging its cutting-edge artificial intelligence technologies to power its products and make the world smarter. It has been listed on the New York Stock Exchange since May 2014.

About OrionStar

OrionStar is an AI company in China that is controlled by Fu Sheng, CEO and chairman of Cheetah Mobile. The company was established in September 2016 by a group of technology industry leaders and product specialists from Silicon Valley, Japan, Taiwan, Beijing, and Shenzhen. OrionStar has developed a complete robotics technology chain, including a voice-controlled operating system, Orion Voice OS, visual recognition technology, indoor mapping and navigation system, and a back-end robotics platform, Orion OS. OrionStar is committed to using AI technology to develop the next generation of ground-breaking technology products and free people from the burden of overly complicated tasks, make homes more intelligent and create a better world through technology.

For more information about Cheetah Mobile and its products, please visit www.cmcm.com

The post Cheetah Mobile Vice President Keynotes Microsoft Tech Summit 2018 in Shanghai appeared first on Mobile Marketing Watch.

A Professional’s Guide to Loyalty Program Liability

To the great delight of customers, many companies offer loyalty programs. These programs allow customers to receive rewards for the purchases they make, with repeated purchases from the same company resulting in an ever-increasing, compounding array of incentives and kickbacks. Customers become motivated to direct as many of their purchases as possible towards the same organization, and businesses reap the rewards of more purchases and a loyal customer base.  It’s the perfect win-win scenario.

Except when it’s not.

While customer loyalty programs are a tried-and-true method of drumming up consistent business, potential risks must be carefully considered when implementing one into your company’s marketing framework. Loyalty programs can result in more sales, but they also carry what is known as loyalty program liability.

Loyalty program liability is the eventual cost to your company of the redemption of all outstanding loyalty points. If accounted for properly, they can be an effectively-wielded strategy for increasing customer engagement and strengthening the consistency of your company’s relationships with clients.

Conversely, failure to properly factor in the impact of these material financial costs  on your company’s balance sheet can have an unexpected financial cost upon redemption of outstanding rewards points.

Fortunately, these financial risks can be mitigated using careful planning and sophisticated analytics tools.  A loyalty program should be viewed as an investment, and, when prudently executed, can return far more than what it cost to implement.

Read on to find out how your company can leverage the benefits of loyalty programs while limiting the risks associated with loyalty program liability.

 

The basics of loyalty program liability

The impact of customers redeeming loyalty rewards is a balance sheet liability that can cost companies billions of dollars.

Though structures vary, the essence of a loyalty program is this: A company offers its clients a certain amount of “currency” per every unit of a designated dollar amount spent. In practice, this might look like Walmart offering shoppers 20 rewards points for every $10 spent, or a pet store offering one “Barky Buck” for every three cans of dog food purchased.  Of course, these currencies mean nothing if they’re not able to be redeemed for products or services, so the second part of the loyalty program formula is to allow customers to redeem the accrued currency for company offerings. Many times, these offerings are simply free or reduced inventory items, but often, the most valued (and desired) options can only be attained by earning enough of the loyalty program’s currency.

In each case, companies are forced to eventually assign the currency real value by making it exchangeable for tangible items. In turn, the delivery of these items in exchange for the rewards points comes at a cost to the company.

For example, that free, steaming hot cup of coffee given by Starbucks to the loyal client actually costs Starbucks some big money. While a single cup doesn’t amount to much, multiply it by the millions of Starbucks customers getting free coffees and the cost skyrockets. And what is this cost known as? That’s right —  loyalty program liability.

 

What loyalty program liability means to your company

All liabilities matter, and loyalty program liability can impact both the financial health of an organization and the way it’s perceived by the market.

The principle reason why loyalty program liability matters is that because, like any other variety of corporate liability, it can negatively impact the financial standing of a company.

The most direct way it can harm the financial health of a company is when companies opt to operate on a model that overestimates breakage. Breakage is the accounting world’s way of describing services that are paid for by a customer but not actually used. A classic example of this is the sweeping tide of gym memberships that get activated at the beginning of every year by inspired would-be gym goers, bent on finally keeping their New Year’s resolution. Similarly, every year companies make millions off of unused gift cards for which money is paid, but no products are consumed. While breakage can result in unanticipated profits, relying on it solely to underwrite unsustainable advertisement promises can have devastating effect on a company.

 

While breakage can result in unanticipated profits, relying on it solely to underwrite unsustainable advertisement promises can have devastating effect on a company.

 

Changes in regulations concerning how companies must classify rewards points are also certain to heighten the impact of loyalty program liability. As of 2018, the International Finance Reporting Standard (IFRS) and US GAAP has mandated that companies categorize rewards points as deferred revenue, considering them separate parts of a sale. This signifies that, at least initially, companies will have to decrease their listed profits from whatever they’ve actually generated to the smaller amount that results after the value of the accompanying rewards points is subtracted. This is particularly true in the US, where the the change in accounting rules is more dramatic.

Although this doesn’t mean that companies cannot eventually incorporate the profits earned from breakage after points expire into their bottom lines, it does mean that, at least in the short term, the value of rewards points must be factored into reports of revenue. For any company, depressions in revenue reports are an important concern, as they affect investor confidence and can change the market valuation of the organization.

 

Bottom line

Like any other type of liability, loyalty program liability can affect the financial well-being of a company. Due to new regulations, businesses will now be forced to view rewards points as independent occurrences from the event that incurred them, and investors will view them as revenue deferred. This means that rewards points can bring down the revenue reports of a company at any given moment, even if, eventually, they come to increase them.

Most importantly, however, effectively managing loyalty program liability requires measured, strategic, interdepartmental cooperation between accounting, financial and marketing departments — which is where we now turn our attention.

 

Loyalty program liability accounting

Accounting departments need to accurately hone in on ultimate redemption rates and costs per point to correctly quantify outstanding levels of loyalty program liability.

Accounting departments are pivotal to the management of loyalty program liabilities. After all, in order to properly calculate the direction in which loyalty program liabilities are heading, you need to know where they stand today.

For many of the largest loyalty programs, these liabilities can amount to billions of dollars:

Deferred revenue liabilities from loyalty programs (2017)

1. American Express 7.751 billion
2. Marriott 4.940 billion
3. United 4.741 billion
4. Delta 4.118 billion
5. American Airlines 2.777 billion
6. Southwest Airlines 1.676 billion
7. Hilton 1.461 billion
8. Intercontinental Hotels 0.760 billion

 

At this scale, even small changes in redemption behavior can drive significant financial impact. For example, if a $1 billion liability needs to be restated by just one percent, that will drive a $10 million hit to income during the period in which the liability is restated.

Proper understanding of the ultimate redemption rate (URR) as well as the cost per point (CPP), is key to getting the pulse of existing liabilities. While many companies believe that URR cannot be properly gauged, the reality is that this rate can be determined with a fair degree of accuracy.  What tends to impede companies from correctly evaluating their URR is their neglect of many valuable data points concerning the individual behaviors of their members.

The previous actions of loyalty members can help predict what they’ll do in the future, and by analyzing these individually, companies can develop forward-looking databases that can give cogent insights on how likely individual point-bearers are to redeem the points.  While this may require the analysis of huge quantities of data points across a large membership base, new techniques are making it easier for companies to wrangle this “big data” and uncover hidden insights. In particular, the combination of actuarial science and machine learning has proven to be a robust approach to predicting redemption behavior.

 

The combination of actuarial science and machine learning has proven to be a robust approach to predicting redemption behavior.

 

Financial reporting not only requires an estimate of the liability, but also disclosures about the timing of when the obligations will be fulfilled. This adds another dimension of complexity to the models, since the models must estimate the total number of points that will redeem as well as the timing of when they will burn. Unfortunately, the methods companies use to estimate URR are often too simplistic to make accurate predictions of redemption behavior in the dynamic world of loyalty programs, and can result in materially biased estimates. These methods include approaches that look solely at aggregated historical data, or analysis by member vintage.

A URR estimate biased high means that you expect more redemptions to occur than actually will. This can result in deferring too much revenue, and never seeing the number of redemptions required to allow you to eventually recognize it. In essence, the revenue is “stuck” in the deferred revenue account. A URR estimate biased low means that more redemptions will occur than you expect. When these redemptions occur, you may find that you don’t have enough revenue to cover the costs to fulfill the redemptions, causing a reduction in income during this period. Eventually, a true-up of the liability may be needed to reflect a more accurate URR. This can be quite painful for companies with large liabilities. As noted earlier, even a small restatement of the liability can impact income by tens of millions of dollars.

Obviously, the outcome of having a URR estimate that is either too high or too low is not desirable. The nature of such risks often results in tough questions by senior leaders and auditors on the state of the company’s loyalty program liability. Having a robust analytic framework that uses sophisticated modeling rooted in actuarial theory, along with leveraging predictive modeling tools, helps mitigate risk and proves to these stakeholders that your estimate are accurate.

 

Bottom line

Proper accounting and financial reporting of your liability requires an accurate estimate of the ultimate redemption rate and cost per point. One powerful way to accomplish this is to integrate actuarial science with advanced computational capacities of modern predictive modeling techniques.

 

What finance departments need to know

Though loss of cash and an increase in liability is hardly appealing to the finance department, finding the proper balance of customer engagement needs to be strategically executed for sustained competitive standing.

It’s important to note that the financial impact of issuing rewards points is not incurred at the moment at which they’re redeemed, but, rather, at the time of their issuance. The second the rewards points are doled out to participants, the company incurs the accompanying costs associated with “potentially redeemable points,” either as a reduction in revenue or as a direct recognition of expense, depending on how the program is accounted for.

While accounting is often focused on current liability estimates, many in loyalty finance roles are focused on future liability (i.e., how the liability will grow over time). And to accurately predict future liability, finance must have a solid understand of URR and CPP, too.  It’s also important for finance teams to recognize that, as user engagement increases and members graduate from being casual participants to more heavily invested users, rates of redemption will fluctuate upwards. This, of course, can be offset by the arrival of more new members, whose engagement is typically less vigorous.  This means that it should be expected that the URR will change over time. Failure to recognize this in your financial planning could result in material variance in financial performance.

The trajectory of the liability is also influenced by loyalty program changes and loyalty campaigns. Understanding how changes in these programs, such as modifications to expiration rules or earning rules, or the addition of a new co-branded credit card, impacts the URR and CPP is critical to building an accurate financial plan.  A sole focus on costs may drive some to wish for high breakage. This one dimensional view should be avoided. Program managers must be wary of trying to encourage an excess of breakage, as doing so involves intentionally disengaging customers from the company.

 

Program managers must be wary of trying to encourage an excess of breakage, as doing so involves intentionally disengaging customers from the company.

 

Best practice is for companies to focus not just on liability, but more holistically on customer lifetime value (CLV). CLV considers both the cost of redemptions, as well as the revenue generated from a lifetime of loyalty from your customers. This is the most important metric for any loyalty program.  Cost considerations for CLV include items such as acquisition costs and redemption costs. Therefore, the ultimate redemption rate and cost per point are critical to understanding CLV.

The other half of the CLV calculation is related to revenue — in particular, expected future revenue. Unlike liability, expected future revenue from your members is not an asset you can put on your balance sheet, and is a big reason why there is so much focus on cost.  CLV puts liability in the appropriate context. Program strategies may increase the URR, and therefore increase the liability. But if the expected future revenue sufficiently increases more than expected future costs, then the strategy is a smart financial choice. Disciplined loyalty finance professionals should insist on quantifying CLV to fully understand the financial health of their program.

 

Bottom line

Ensuring accurate loyalty program liability is not only critical to satisfying Wall Street’s demand for accurate financial forecasts, but for measuring loyalty program ROI as a whole. The challenge for the finance team, then, is to get this right amidst the technical difficulties of implementing precise predictive models and constantly evolving loyalty program marketing strategies.

 

Loyalty program liability: what marketing teams should know

Marketers can get broader buy in and investment in their loyalty initiatives by accurately quantifying liability and CLV.

Marketing departments are responsible for the way in which a company engages with its clientele, and are the vehicle through which customer engagement is controlled. When it comes to loyalty programs, these levels of engagement predict corresponding levels of redemption. This means that marketing plays a key role in managing loyalty program liability.  For the most part, a marketer’s primary focus is not going to be program liability. And it shouldn’t be. With that said, they still have stakeholders in finance and accounting that are concerned about it. Understanding the financial implications of their engagement strategies will help get broad buy-in across departments.

Increasing breakage rates indicates a lack of engagement by members and demonstrates that customers don’t see the program as having value. While it may be beneficial for a company to dump its liability in the short run, this will not be a sustainable strategy for long-term customer engagement. It’s safe to assume that most loyalty professionals, regardless if they’re sitting in finance, accounting or marketing, know this to be true.

The challenge for many loyalty marketers, then, is that business cases often require sound logic and quantifiable evidence. This is where accurate liability estimates and CLV are helpful. If marketers can show that their chosen strategy will sufficiently increase CLV, this shows quantifiable evidence indicating that increasing liability will generate the needed ROI. It’s evidence that marketing, finance and accounting can all get behind.  Beyond building the financial case for a given strategy, CLV can also be used to help identify opportunities and new strategies. This is particularly true when CLV is estimated at the individual member level. This allows you to quantify and identify your most valuable members based on their expected future value, rather than their historical behavior.

This predictive view will have the biggest impact on future profit potential. Focusing your efforts and resources on these opportunities will maximize program ROI.

 

Bottom line

Marketers, finance professionals and accountants are all key stakeholders in a thriving loyalty program. The key metric at the intersection of their objectives is CLV. Accurate CLV requires an accurate estimate of the URR, CPP and program liability.

All loyalty professionals should demand predictive CLV and, consequently, demand accurate liability estimation.

 

Final thoughts: Keep your business sustainable

Regardless of where you’re sitting in a loyalty program, you need an accurate estimation of  ultimate redemption rate, cost per point, and loyalty program liability.

  • For accountants, this means needing to comply with financial reporting requirements.
  • For finance, this means building an accurate financial plan that ensures that smart financial decisions are being made.
  • For marketing, this means framing programs and campaigns in the context of how they affect liability and customer lifetime value to get needed buy-in from accounting and finance.

While all companies must estimate URR, CPP and liability for financial reporting, disciplined loyalty professionals should not stop there. They should insist on evolving those models to provide accurate customer lifetime value estimation.

And accurate CLV cannot be calculated without first understanding URR and CPP at a granular member level. Accurate liability is the starting point.

This article has been republished from Kyros Insights.
Len Llaguno is the founder of Kyros Insights, a leader in loyalty program liability solutions. Kyros helps loyalty programs predict member behavior and manage complex financial reporting of program liabilities.

 

The post A Professional’s Guide to Loyalty Program Liability appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

The Voice Search Barometer: Where Do Users Stand? [New Data]

At this week’s annual Samsung Developer Conference, there was one technology that arguably stole the spotlight: Voice.

Samsung is making a somewhat apparent push to power more devices — from smartphones to smart speakers to home appliances — with its own voice assistant, Bixby.

It got us thinking: Where do users stand on voice assistants, anyway? How widespread is this technology’s use? And as Samsung keeps its audience waiting for its own smart speaker, the Galaxy Home, how enthusiastic are consumers about these digital assistive devices?

We ran some surveys to answer these questions, and with the help of new data from Zazzle, drew some conclusions on the current sentiment toward voice.

How Many People Plan to Buy a Smart Speaker?

We asked 831 people across the U.S., UK, and Canada: Do you plan to buy a smart speaker?

Most respondents — about 43% — indicated that they do not plan to buy a smart speaker.

It’s interesting to note, however, that while a smart percentage, the second-highest number of respondents indicated that they plan to buy one within the next six months.

That could align with more of the top contenders in the voice assistant market continuing to release newer models of their smart speakers, with improved functionalities and additional features (such as video).

The Value of Voice Assistants and Smart Speakers Remains Ambiguous

For many consumers, the purpose and tangible use cases of  voice assistants (and the smart speakers they power) remain unclear. When we asked 818 users across the U.S., UK, and Canada, “If you do not own a smart speaker, why not?” we found that most people simply don’t see the benefits of having one.

If you do not own a smart speaker, why not_

These findings align with two other sets of data.

The first is data from Zazzle, where out of “thousands of social media users” in the UK, 35% said that they don’t believe they would ever actually use such voice assistant devices as smart speakers.

The-State-of-Voice-Search-2018-Zazzle-MediaSource: Zazzle

The second is an additional survey we ran among 481 people across the U.S. and Canada, where 21% of respondents said that they don’t completely understand what voice assistants do.

Do you plan to buy a smart speaker_ (1)

The Outlook

The findings above point to some possible key indications about the outlook for voice assistants and the devices they power.

First, it seems that many users are unclear about the value of voice assistants, or what they do — a finding that’s suggested by the number of survey respondents who, if they didn’t say that their understanding of voice is muddled, said that they want to learn more about the technology before investing in it.

It is possible that some users do not assign the formal terminology of “voice assistants” to the technology with which they might be on a first-name basis; for example, Siri, Alexa, or “Okay, Google.” That’s suggested by Zazzle’s finding that 68% of users acknowledged the convenience of a voice assistant, saying that they were able to find information quicker by using this technology over typing out a query.

The-State-of-Voice-Search-2018-Zazzle-Media(2)Source: Zazzle

That finding is supported by our own findings that about a quarter of users who do use voice assistants do so to answer questions.

Which of the following describes the way you use your voice assistant -- like Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri -- the most_ (1)

To repeat our earlier point: More top contenders in the voice assistant market continuing to release newer models of their smart speakers, with improved functionalities and additional features. As the technology improves and scales, it could become more widespread and accessible to consumers, broadening the value and use cases.

And as it does, points out HubSpot’s head of SEO Victor Pan, so do the different platforms where customers can be reached.

“Pay attention to when your customers start to adopt,” Pan says — such as voice. “The point of marketing is to be where your customers are.”