Author Archives: Roy Revill

Is Coding the Next Must-Have Skill of the Modern Marketer?

Marketing has evolved over time from,“You can have any color you want as long as it’s black” to just-in-time marketing messages that might lead to your brand posting on Reddit.

We’re embracing digital channels and understanding the need to create marketing people love more and more … but do we actually grasp what’s running behind the scenes of all these digital campaigns?Code is what lies behind so many of our great marketing campaigns. Our websites, our emails, our apps and tools that are made to give your customers a better experience — these all run because there are smart coders making them work.

So my question today is this: Since code is the basis for most of our marketing today, should marketers be learning to code?

I’d like to argue yes, we should. Here’s why.

1. Coding saves time and inspires.

Getting to grips with code and understanding the structures that bring your sites, apps, and tools to life will give you a better understanding of what is possible in the first place.

And, here, knowledge is really inspiration. Imagine seeing beyond just what others have done and having the ability to use code to create new and innovative tools that truly delight your customers.

It is key here not just to understand code, but to understand what tools your designer is using (and what other tools are out there). There is an array of helpful apps that let you quickly do anything — from building forms, to creating buttons, to building sites, and other functionality.

You need to know whether the tool offered to you is right, up to date, and will do what you want it to. This will fuel your inspiration, and save costs and time.

2. Coding informs marketers of the process.

My marketing mentor taught me that if you don’t know what’s involved in a process, you’re not getting the most out of your budget. I’m far from saying that all suppliers will try and add a few hours to projects, but wouldn’t it be great to have the confidence to know when something is quoted right?

We all need to know what is involved in building a website or a form, and what it takes to make a change to an app or your site navigation. Only then can we actually have an informed discussion about cost and timeframes with the people who will implement our ideas.

Some coding knowledge will enable you to brief a web designer or developer much clearer on your idea, and you’ll understand when a “no” is a negotiation tactic rather than an actual expression of the impossible.

Having this knowledge about coding also helps you choose the right company or designer to partner with in the first place, as it helps you determine whether they can do what you’re asking at the right price and within the right timeframe.

3. You can make quick fixes with coding knowledge.

I don’t know about you, but if a paragraph is just not doing in your CMS what you’re asking it to do, when an image is not resizing correctly, or the YouTube video you’re embedding is just huge for some reason, you want it fixed … now.

That’s the reason I learned about code. I didn’t want to be in a situation where I would have to call my web designer for every small change. So I went into the HTML view of my CMS, Googled code, and learned how to make small changes on my own.

It has saved hours of my time and budget, and my patience is still intact. At meetings with my designer, I would also ask him to explain small things about code and I started to lose my fear of brackets, slashes, and ampersands. I can’t recommend this highly enough.

4. You can make an impact with even basic skills.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t learn about code. But I don’t think a marketer should necessarily learn to code with the aim of becoming on-par with professional coders. In my humble opinion, you should leave specialized tasks to those who know how to do them right.

Web developers and designers have a very different skillset than marketers. As marketers, we decide on strategic direction and look for return on marketing campaigns. And while we might have a good eye for design and user experience, the actual implementation skills lie with others.

Often, we’re also too close to our brands — whereas a good designer will always bring in the expertise gained from different projects and current trends.

But don’t let this stop you from learning more about how code works.

Where Marketers Can Learn to Code

I started learning how to code by Googling pieces of HTML code. It’s a quick and easy way to find what a piece of code does and how to manipulate it. But this method won’t give you the real hows and whys behind it. Also, it gives you very little idea of how different pieces fit together — like HTML and CSS, for example.

For this level of information, you need to get down and dirty with code and start building from scratch. If you have a developer in your organization who can teach, why not offer a free lunch to him or her while you learn from them?

For something more methodical, I’d also recommend you check out one of the many online courses available. Here are some of the big ones:

1. Code Academy

As they say themselves, this is all about learning how to code interactively and for free. Reviews are great and I know quite a few HubSpotters who used this tool.

2. W3 Schools

W3 schools have a variety of classes for different tools and levels. There is also the option to get certified in your news skill (there is a charge here) so you can show off to your peers!

3. Code Schools

This is another tool that lets you learn from home — from the basics in HTML and CSS, to Javascript and other languages. Courses are paid but affordable, and you’ll get access to a variety of courses for your fee.

4. Make It With Code

They are very active in the debate on whether marketers should code and believe that yes, we all need a good understanding on what’s possible to create. This is a paid course and you’ll have access to support via IM.

Next, let’s look at some alternate routes you can take to coding, such as programs that don’t require manual coding at all.

Coding Alternatives

If you don’t have the time to take up coding immediately, that’s totally cool. That’s also why there are coding programs online to do the coding for you — let’s get into a few.

1. Embed.ly

Price: Free to embed single links, then $9-99/per month

Emded.ly is super quick and clean to use for getting embed codes for a domain. All you have to do is copy and paste a domain in the box and click “embed.” Then, you’ll see this screen, where you can customize a couple of details about the embed.

Some of the details you customize include adding social media buttons to the embed, including dark theme within and making it optimized. When you check or uncheck these boxes, the embed code will automatically update for you to copy below, I checked all three.

2. iFramely

Price: Free for single links, then $29-$399 for paid plans

If you’re a color code person, iFramely will be an absolute vision to you. Copy and pasting your domain into iFramely will generate a color-coded embed for you right underneath it.

Embed example from iFramelyThe title of your embed is above the code, with the account name and publish date beneath it. Checking the box underneath “Copy code” notates whether the video will autoplay or not, and you can also choose the start and endpoint of the video, if you only need a section.

3. Siteimprove

Price: Contact Siteimprove to request a quote

CMS Plugins streamline the performance of your website. Siteimprove is an example of a plugin that does just that. It integrates key analytics into the optimization of your domain, fixes errors in the code automatically, and allows you to add custom tags.

Embed example from SiteimproveImage Source

4. RedmineUP

Price: $29-$499/per month

With RedmineUP’s CMS plugin, you can build simple pages and leave with code that’s SEO friendly. These pages are fully customizable and come with templates.

Embed example from RedmineUPImage Source

On the website developer page, you can change information at the top to add and change the code in the bottom. With this process, you don’t have to add in any brackets, quotes, or operational systems, just the content you want to see added.

Code is part of our Marketing DNA, and even if we don’t need to be able to build sites from scratch, as marketers today, we need to understand how it works to make informed decisions.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published prior in April 2014 but was updated in November 2019 for comprehensiveness.

Grow Your Business | Use Effective Thought Leadership Techniques

Entrepreneur John Rampton is seemingly everywhere, writing articles about how workers can better manage their time and increase productivity for top-tier publications. Rampton, founder and CEO of the payment processing company Due, knows what it means to go from being virtually unknown to becoming an industry thought leader through writing, blogging, and staying active on social media.

Done correctly, this kind of thought leadership can be a home run for a brand—small businesses, in particular—marking the difference between a mediocre and stellar performance, and helping to level the playing field. The problem is that many business executives don’t understand what it takes to be a genuine thought leader.

Effective thought leaders are industry superstars, the go-to people others look to for advice and insight. They are reliable sources and bellwethers. When they speak on an industry topic, others sit up and take notice. But thought leadership involves more than knowledge. Successful thought leaders develop a rapport with their audience by sharing wisdom, kindness, generosity, and consideration. They are driven by a genuine desire to help their audience, and this attitude draws people to them.

For small businesses, effective thought leadership can help level the playing field.

While thought leadership as a concept isn’t new, we now know more about its business impact. According to the 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study, thought leadership helps professionals in a number of important ways:

  •  55% of decision-makers use thought leadership content when deciding which organization to work with.
  •  58% of business decision-makers said an organization’s thought leadership content directly led to awarding business to an organization.
  •  61% said that they have paid a premium price to work with those with a reputation for thought leadership.

The bottom line: Thought leadership not only influences buyers, but it also helps brands win, retain, and even grow their customer base.

How can you create your own thought leadership and get quantifiable business results? Let’s look at five key ways to build a winning strategy:

Carve out a specific area of expertise

Nobody can know everything. While thought leaders are experts, it’s best to showcase your expertise in one or two key areas—and to do so clearly. Otherwise, you could dilute your reputation and invite doubt. For example, an executive in B2B marketing would be wise to focus on that space rather than veer into consumer marketing or e-commerce.

Take time to choose an area where you’re knowledgeable and passionate. That passion will carry through in your speaking and writing.

Create high-quality content

Invest your time and energy in creating high-quality content to grow your thought leadership. According to the Edelman-LinkedIn study, only 18% of content is rated as excellent or very good by decision-makers. This suggests a high demand for thought leaders to up their content game. 

Long-form content–1,200 to 1,600 words or even longer–can provide real value. (Research also shows it ranks higher search-wise and receive more shares and links than shorter content.) Don’t fear going into detail on a subject, looking at it from all angles to create in-depth content that fleshes out a topic.  

In addition, vary your strategy with different formats. Create a mix of content, including e-books, infographics, slideshares, and videos, which may help you reach more audiences.

Skip the self-promotion

While your brand might be top of mind while developing thought leadership, don’t make it the theme of your content. If your content seems like a mere ploy to steer people to your brand, chances are they’ll skip out after they get what they need and not return. On the other hand, if you deliver consistently high-quality content that benefits your audience, you’re more likely to develop and nurture a lasting bond that will keep people returning.

Understand your audience and the issues prospects face. Use that knowledge to craft content that helps prospects resolve problems and improve their businesses. 

Keep up with trends

Technology and trends evolve continually. If you don’t maintain your industry expertise, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant.

Keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening within your industry. As new technology emerges, be among the first to master and share it. Monitor industry news to stay on top of upcoming trends.

Be visible and engage

The more people experience your presence, whether it’s in their social feed, in their inbox, via your blog or a guest blog, or in person at an industry conference, the more connected they’ll feel to you. Every effort you make to engage with people is like one more brick on the road toward building authority and leadership. 

Thought leadership is far from a passing fad. It’s a valuable tool for both you and your brand, with far-reaching benefits for every business.

The post Grow Your Business | Use Effective Thought Leadership Techniques appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Microsoft Advertising: Ultimate Guide 2019

Bing is a search engine people use to find content around topics, companies, or products that interest them. Microsoft Advertising is a platform that businesses can use to advertise online through Bing, Yahoo, and AOL, all owned and operated and partner sites. Any company can create and launch an ad with Microsoft Advertising; the average…

The post Microsoft Advertising: Ultimate Guide 2019 appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Black Friday 2019 Sale – Get 20% Extra SMS for Free

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 £2 Billion in online sales on the day itself! 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.

The extra credits can go a long way in making your campaign a success. Many of our customers are also sending a follow-up campaign as a reminder message after all you want to make sure that your message is making an impact amongst the crowd.

Introducing our Black Friday 20% Free SMS credits offer.

Any purchase over 1,000 credits between Monday 11th November – Cyber Monday 2nd December 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 post Black Friday 2019 Sale – Get 20% Extra SMS for Free appeared first on Textmarketer.

How Sujan Patel Used a Growth Mindset to Increase Views by 8 Million

While every business owner likely realizes the integral role marketing plays in a business’s overall success, marketing for marketing’s sake isn’t going to get you anywhere — there has to be a clear strategy and focus behind it.

In my 17+ years of online marketing, I’ve seen far too many businesses lose focus on the bottom line when it comes to their content strategies.

Fortunately, a healthy blend of marketing, sales, and customer success helps you maintain a “growth mindset”, or a laser-sharp focus on your goals.

Essentially, a growth mindset is an experimental and data-driven approach to growing your business and leveraging all the marketing channels at your disposal.

By using a growth marketing mindset approach myself, I was able to help drive 8.2 million unique users to my clients’ sites last year alone.

Here, I’m going to show you how you can achieve real growth by focusing on what’s working for you — and ditching the rest.

Sign up for HubSpot Academy’s Content Marketing Certification course to learn how to grow your business in a human and helpful way.

The 3 Vital Elements of Growth Marketing

1. Focus on the most important and relevant metrics for your business.

The sheer number of metrics that you could measure can be completely overwhelming. But data is only as good as the conclusions you draw from it. That’s why it’s essential to focus on the most important and relevant metrics for your business so you can address your weaknesses and grow.

So how can you identify the metrics you should be tracking? It can be helpful to start at the end and work backwards. For instance, start with your business goals. What are the mechanisms by which you’ll generate revenue? This will incorporate a combination of product development goals and marketing goals.

Let’s say, for instance, that one of your major marketing goals is to generate revenue via your website. Next, you’ll want to identify your website goals — which KPIs are most useful for tracking progress toward these goals? Think about what weaknesses you need to overcome, and — once your strategy for doing so is in place — identify the metrics needed to track the progress of your tactics. Look at the marketing channels that perform best for you, and the most relevant metrics to measure them.

Ultimately, the channels you use will significantly affect the metrics you should be measuring.

For example, marketers using paid social posts need to look at followers, likes, click-throughs, and engagement rates. Alternatively, if you’re focused on email marketing, open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates are king. Lastly, if you’re interested in focusing on SEO, measure traffic growth, changes in keyword rankings, and the number of new backlinks.

Once you’ve identified your most valuable metrics, rip off the bandage and ditch the rest. I’ve found that if you can’t count your metrics on one hand, that’s generally too many to effectively monitor.

A good example of this is my email finder tool, Voila Norbert. We found that our best customers (highest LTV) were on a $49 or $99 subscription. We have higher-priced plans and annual plans, but our customers with the $49 and $99 plans stick around the longest.

As a result of this realization, we made it our goal to increase the number of customers on those two plans. It wasn’t easy — it changed pretty much all of our tactics.

For instance, we no longer needed salespeople (because those two plans are self-service), we changed our strategy to focus on traffic sources targeted at those customers, and we killed our partner program.

All of this helped us stay focused on a handful of marketing and sales activities that were driving the growth of those two plans. An added bonus?

We reduced our marketing and sales spend by 35% and our time by 50%, allowing us to double down on our efforts and grow the company faster.

2. Know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to marketing.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to both marketing and product. Ask yourself where the weaknesses are within your metrics. What tactics are clearly not working for you at the moment? On the flip side, what does your company have that others don’t?

Over 65% of content marketers report having a clear, documented content marketing process. It’s vital you create a strategy for leveraging your strengths and overcoming your weaknesses within that framework.

Alternatively, perhaps you need to go back to the drawing board to tweak your value proposition. Maybe you simply don’t have good product-market fit, and a rethink is needed.

Common weaknesses that hinder growth include:

  • A lack of traffic
  • A low conversion rate
  • Customer churn

From the very beginning at Mailshake, our strengths have been word-of-mouth and simplicity of product. That’s the thing people love about us — our competitors’ weakness is that their tools are very complex, but we’ve built something incredibly simple.

To leverage your strengths, a robust framework is key.

The Bullseye Framework is my preferred model, because it’s so target-driven. Within the framework, the outer ring contains what’s possible for your business (your moonshots), the middle ring focuses on what’s probable (potential big future performers), and the inner ring outlines what’s working (your three most prominent channels).

Image Source

If your main focuses (in the middle of the ring) don’t align with the channels that are working for you once you’ve analyzed the data, it’s time for a rethink. Focusing on proven top tactics is vital.

As billionaire PayPal founder and early Facebook investor Peter Thiel says — “Most businesses actually get zero distribution channels to work. Poor distribution — not product — is the number one cause of failure. If you can get even a single distribution channel to work, you have a great business. If you try for several but don’t nail one, you’re finished. So it’s worth thinking really hard about finding the single best distribution channel.”

3. Get buy-in from teams throughout your business.

It’s easy to build a product that customers don’t want or don’t know how to use, because the people building the product are typically the furthest from the customer. This is why it’s essential to secure buy-in for your growth marketing strategy from teams throughout your organization.

The big win here is leveraging customer-facing teams. Of course you’ll need buy-in from your management team and other departments, too, but I’ve found the most valuable departments to work with on growth marketing are:

  • Sales
  • Development
  • Product
  • Support

The sales, business development, and support teams are already talking to customers, so it’s critical you listen to the customer feedback they’re getting. Meanwhile, the development and product teams can help you reduce a friction point, adjust the value proposition, or even build a new feature.

As Sophia Bernazzani writes in HubSpot’s 10 Ways Marketing and Customer Service Can Work Together — “The need for a symbiotic marketing and customer service relationship is only more important now, with consumers increasingly turning to social media as a way to communicate with businesses.”

Once buy-in is achieved, leveraging these teams can involve:

  • Getting marketing and/or the CEO talking to customers
  • Listening to sales calls
  • Concierge onboarding

Getting buy-in and leveraging the expertise of all our teams has been instrumental in making Mailshake a success. From the outset, we realized the product needed to be built around the customer. Our roadmap is driven by sales, customer success, and marketing teams, all of whom who are interfacing with our customers.

In practice, that means that sales, CS, and marketers are creating feature/bugs/feedback lists, and then the product and development teams set priorities and timelines. This puts the customer at the heart of the process, allowing
them to drive the product roadmap.

With concierge onboarding, we use our customer success team to onboard customers, allowing us to customize the experience and minimize the friction, hurdles, and workload a customer must go through to get value from the product.

This helps to identify improvements that could be made to the on-boarding and sign-up processes, and the product itself. For example, we consistently found ourselves educating customers on their approach to email outreach. To improve the customer journey, we created videos covering this topic — now, they’re the first thing our customers see.

Using this approach for over four years has helped us grow 3X year-over-year for the last three years, simply through word-of-mouth — our biggest channel, responsible for bringing in over 40% of our new customers.

Another way to generate word-of-mouth is to use referral and incentive programs. Rewarding people when they share your content, refer new leads, and interact with your brand allows you to speed up the rate at which your brand awareness spreads.

Ultimately, growth marketing focuses on what works, and discards the rest, allowing you to ramp up your efforts on proven performers and stop wasting time.

Additionally, it reduces the feedback loop, allowing real-time customer demand to shape products and the user journey.

And, most importantly, putting growth at the forefront of your marketing strategy gets your business where it wants to be, faster.

15 of the Best Social Media Marketing Courses to Take Today

One of my favorite things to do in my free time (besides binge reality shows Love Island and Vanderpump Rules) is to take free marketing courses online. Industries change all the time, especially in marketing, and keeping fresh up on my skills is something I’ve found to be not only vital to excelling at my job, but really fun.

The best thing about online courses is that I usually don’t pay a cent for them, and the ones I do pay for are worth it. Here are some of the best marketing courses you can sign up for right now, and yes, most of them are completely free and industry-recognized.

Best Social Media Marketing Courses

1. Fundamentals of Digital Marketing

Price: Free
Platform: Google Digital Garage
Why it’s great: SEO, Digital Certificate

Google’s social media certification has over 300,000 students and provides courses in social media, mobile marketing, SEO, and web optimization. The courses will go into depth about paid and organic search, and how to develop the most optimized web pages, so users can find content easier.

Learning how to optimize pages for search on a popular search engine (for free) sounds like a win-win. At the completion of the course, you’ll receive a digital certificate you can add to your LinkedIn profile and resume.

2. PPC 101

Price: Free
Platform: Wordstream
Why it’s great: Course in ads and social media skills

Wordstream has a great thing going here: their PPC 101 course is completely free and offers modules set up to teach its students about digital advertising. The course defines PPC, keywords, ad groups, text ads, conversion rate optimization, and provides a walkthrough of Google AdWords.

This course also has a marketing section, which will show you how to integrate social media and digital ads. Wordstream offers advertising software that has access to thousands of accounts spending billions on PPC ads. The course came about because Wordstream found that SMBs struggle particularly with managing social media ads cost-effectively.

3. Social Media Training for Beginners

Price: Free
Platform: Constant Contact
Why it’s great: Beginner training in social media

Constant Contact’s video-based social media training is designed for beginners. At the end of each lesson, the site gives you 10 relevant blog post resources to refer back to.

As an email marketing software, Constant Contact’s course focuses on how to integrate email with social media marketing. It also covers Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.

4. Social Media Certification

Price: Free
Platform: HubSpot Academy
Why it’s great: Inbound marketing course

HubSpot’s Social Media Certification course is a robust program designed to help you attract customers and partners, and build brand loyalty. Because social media is the key to inbound marketing, this course ties in the two concepts seamlessly.

I took it my senior year of college and found the course — which is less than five hours long — to be flexible with a busy schedule. It covers essential topics such as measuring ROI, extending reach, and social media content creation, as well as social listening.

5. Diploma in E-Business

Price: Free
Platform: Alison
Why it’s great: Google-approved SEO course

Alison is a site that provides numerous free courses, like the Diploma in E-Business one linked above. It will take under 10 hours to complete and focuses on building a strong e-commerce strategy, plus how to optimize that content on Google.

A LinkedIn-compatible certificate is included at completion, and the course has nearly 80,000 students. You’ll learn how to make an online marketing plan, integrate keywords into social media, and get training in Google’s Ad technology.

6. Social Media Marketing Course

Price: Free
Platform: Hootsuite Academy
Why it’s great: Beginner-level social media training

Hootsuite’s social media marketing training is led by its senior marketing managers and directors. The site itself offers social media scheduling software with clientele such as Pfizer and P&G. In this course, you’ll be taken through modules showing you how to develop a full social media strategy.

Hootsuite will also dive into growing an online community and developing content to engage audiences. Plus, this course is only six hours and self-paced — meaning you can fit it into your busy schedule.

7. Social Media in a Noisy Online World

Price: Two months free
Platform: Skillshare
Why it’s great: Build your own courseload from industry experts

Skillshare is a unique platform. It’s a site completely dedicated to experts providing classes on over 15,000 courses, from knitting to creating a perfect viral video. On Skillshare, you can pick classes that suit your interests and save classes to refer to later.

I particularly enjoyed Buffer’s Introduction into Social Strategy. These courses went into depth about how to make impactful content and organizing it for clients or personal use.

I enjoy Skillshare because of the specificity of the classes offered. There are numerous social media and digital marketing classes, as well as graphic design and email marketing classes. Having a 60-day trial takes the pressure off cramming as much knowledge as possible in one go, and you can cancel your membership at any time.

8. Understanding the Basics of Digital Advertising

Price: Free
Platform: HubSpot Academy
Why it’s great: Quick lesson on digital ads

HubSpot offers single lessons as well as full certification courses. This digital advertising lesson shows you how to fit digital ads into inbound strategy, and how those ads can be stunning on social media.

If you have 30 minutes of free time in your day, you can start and complete this course. Taught by one of HubSpot’s very own product marketers, it uses five different videos to give you an overview of how to use ads effectively and efficiently.

9. Digital Marketing Courses

Price: Free
Platform: GenM
Why it’s great: Build industry relationships

GenM’s classes are designed to be more like a college course. They are completely online and are a three-month, 10-hour-a-week program — ideal if you have a little more time on your hands.

GenM matches you to a verified business owner based on industry and skill level, and you receive one-on-one mentorship. This is a great opportunity to build industry relationships while learning about social media practices in the real world.

10. Social Media Marketing

Price: $19.99
Platform: Udemy
Why it’s great: Lifetime access to course

Udemy’s social media course goes from beginner to advanced in skill level. While the website has a few different courses, this one focuses on social media foundations. It will walk you through understanding the basics of social media platforms, blogging, strategy building, and using unique features of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to your advantage.

Currently, over 29,000 students are enrolled in the course which is rated 4.2 stars. Udemy constantly updates their content, so you don’t have to worry about whether the information you’re learning is outdated. Plus, once you purchase the course, there’s no expiration date.

11. Social Media 101 Training

Price: $97
Platform: Boot Camp Digital
Why it’s great: Industry-preferred training, bonus free course

Digital Marketing 101 by Boot Camp Digital is an impactful, video-led training that takes you on a deep dive into the basics of digital marketing and using it for social media. This is a beginner-level training and can be completed in six hours.

Boot Camp’s clientele includes Nike, NASA, GE, and Georgia-Pacific, and the platform gives buyers unlimited access once purchased. It provides a digital marketing template, ROI information, benchmarking, and a bonus free digital tools course.

12. Digital Marketing Specialization

Price: $49
Platform: University of Illinois
Why it’s great: MBA course with industry professionals

University of Illinois’s Social Media Certification is a beginner-level course that is also a part of their MBA degree. Completion of the course earns you an online certification and robust knowledge of digital marketing analytics, principles, and strategies.

In true college fashion, the course ends with a capstone project with university partner Grainger. You’ll be one of the over 40,000 students already enrolled and receive lectures from professors such as the head of Google Analytics.

13. Fundamentals of Digital Marketing

Price: $585
Platform: Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Why it’s great: Marketing course designed for professionals

Wharton’s course is considered an intermediate dive into the intersection of social media and eCommerce. It’s a self-paced, six-week class that demands three hours of your time each week. This course will provide you with an understanding of eCommerce and the digital economy.

This course is structured specifically for marketing professionals, small business owners, and consumers who want to know social media techniques. You’ll learn how to produce marketing campaigns that are effective for your business.

14. The Strategy of Content Marketing

Price: $49
Platform: University of California, Davis
Why it’s great: Content marketing specific

A course entirely based around content marketing sounds like a joy to me. In this online class offered by University of California, Davis, you and 36,000 other students will learn about creating a content marketing strategy, and the ecosystem surrounding it. You’ll also spend ample time working on strategic writing and framework.

And, you’ll learn about the different types of content marketing and how they’re an integral component of social media marketing. If you’re like me, and this sounds write up your alley, consider checking out this course.

15. Social Media Marketing Masterclass

Price: $19.99
Platform: Udemy
Why it’s great: Social Media Masterclass

Rather than a complete level one course in social media, this offering, by Udemy is a Masterclass on the subject, uniquely centered around ethical digital marketing techniques. With 18,000 students, you’ll learn how to set up a powerful marketing strategy and a schedule that aligns with accomplishing business goals.

You’ll also dive into how social media marketing integrates with your business, email marketing, and building an online community. This course can be completed in 20 hours, and gives you a certificate of completion at its end.

If you find that you can brush up on your social media marketing skills, this is an excellent place to start. Most classes are flexible to your schedule and don’t require textbooks. Plus, I’ve found that courses like HubSpot‘s keep things engaging with diverse content and relatable language, so it’s all about finding the one that’s right for you.

Marketo Champion Chelsea Kiko Made Friends While Accelerating Her Career

Are you a marketing professional interested in developing your leadership presence, becoming a sought-after speaker, building a quality network, getting promoted, and multiplying your salary? We have great news – it is possible to obtain this overwhelming number of achievements in just a year through the Marketo Champion Program.

This is a career accelerator that takes you outside your comfort zone and provides you with the resources to excel. Our Marketo Champion Program is a close-knit community of ambitious marketers that are given opportunities to speak at the top industry events, build their personal brand, host podcasts and webinars, join a committee, participate in forums, and much more. 

Every year we select 40 talented marketers to join this career development program and become Champions. The deadline to apply for the Marketo Champion Program 2020 is in less than a month, on December 6th, 2019. The only prerequisite for the program applicants is to have earned a Marketo Certified Expert credential prior to submitting the application.

Let’s hear from our veteran Champions! Meet Chelsea Kiko, a senior marketing ops manager for Hileman Group, who has excelled in her career, made close friends, and built her personal brand.

Q. How did the Marketo Champion Program help accelerate your career development?

A. It provided me with excellent resources and visibility in the field – I was able to establish myself as a credible expert in the field. I was working as an events and digital coordinator for an enterprise when I applied for the Marketo Champion Program. Joining the program opened up career opportunities and allowed me to grow – I’m currently leading a team of Marketo experts at an agency and have three direct reports. My salary has also increased 2.5x times ever since I became a Champion.

Becoming a Champion made me feel more confident aiming for higher roles because of all the experience and credentials that I’ve gained. It also increased my demand on the market – recruiters are always seeking out Marketo Champions. I receive over ten messages monthly from recruiters nowadays.

I have gained more trust from my clients, been recruited for my past two roles without applying, and I am seen as a thought leader in the space before I’m even 30 years old. 

Q. What was the program’s impact on your personal brand?

A. Ever since becoming a Marketo Champion, my personal brand has grown tremendously: I was promoted on the Marketo social channels and got a chance to speak on the Adobe Summit – my face was plastered on big posters everywhere! Many people in the industry now recognize me. I have spoken at multiple Marketo User Group (MUG) events and partner webinars, and I even flew to New York to shoot video series.

Q. Did you benefit from the Champion community?

A. The people are definitely the most precious part of the program. I’d trade all the career development, salary growth, and speaking opportunities for the incredible friendships that I gained. A lot of Champions become close friends that support each other. One of the Champions, who is passionate and experienced about photography, organized a photo shoot for my family last month. How amazing is this?

We are all connected on social media, members in the same cities get drinks together, we have a group Slack channel where we share professional development opportunities, and we all meet in person in Las Vegas during the Adobe Summit.

My current role actually came from another Champion who was moving on to pursue the next opportunity. Their manager wanted to particularly hire another Champion and I was a good fit.

Q. What would you say to someone considering to become a Champion?

A. People are nervous to apply because they think it’s not attainable, but don’t let that stop you – I thought I was never going to be here, and here I am enjoying this wild ride. Even if you don’t get accepted into the program the first time, try again next year. 

This program will definitely open up new job opportunities or you can leverage it to get promoted at your current workplace. You’ll have valuable credentials, event speaker experience, a track record of thought leadership – all of these can be used to negotiate a raise. When you are a Champion, you are not only promoting your personal brand but also obtaining high visibility for your company, which makes you even more valuable to your current employer.

Q. How would you describe the Champion community in one word?

A. Together. We are in it together in every way possible. We are all in this crazy job that nobody understands, but we’re in it together. Thank you, Marketo and my fellow Champions for this incredible opportunity. It’s always something I value and love.

If you are inspired by Chelsea’s story and want to speed up your career growth, apply to the Marketo Champion Program. You will be glad you did.

The post Marketo Champion Chelsea Kiko Made Friends While Accelerating Her Career appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Top 23 Insurance Lead Generation Ideas From the Pros

Even though insurance is a product that almost everyone needs in one form or another, generating insurance leads for your business can feel like a challenge. We asked insurance pros to share their best lead generation tips to help you find the right prospects that are most likely to become valuable customers. Here are 23…

The post Top 23 Insurance Lead Generation Ideas From the Pros appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Our predictions for Black Friday 2019

It’s that time of year again where we look at the previous few years statistics and we rack our brains trying to predict what Black Friday and Cyber Monday could look like in 2019.

We’re getting pretty good at it. In 2017 we predicted that UK shoppers would spend £8.7 billion and even though we overshot it, the final figure turned out to be £8 billion! So how did we do last year?

Well we predicted:

  • £9.2 billion Total 4-day Black Friday Weekend
  • £1.7 billion online sales on Black Friday
  • £1.5 billion online sales on Cyber Monday

And in some of these, we were very close.

With online sales booming…

£1.49 billion online sales Black Friday 2018 ncrease of 7.3% from 2017

What feels like a four-day sale weekend is now a week-long bonanza with 67% of all discounts being offered from the Monday before presenting businesses with more opportunity to take advantage of shoppers looking around for the best deals.

Perhaps the best and most exciting news from last year is that 

“the first time ever mobile phones were the preferred method of shopping, with 56 per cent of all online transactions made via a smartphone”

With this news, you would have to be a fool to not consider sending an SMS campaign, after all, your customers are already going to be on their mobile phones looking for the best deals. Take this opportunity to let them know that you have got a great offer for them.

We predict that £2 billion will be spent online during Black Friday in 2019 and that mobile traffic will account for a large percentage of this!

By sending customers a text message which boasts a high open rate of 98%, you can almost guarantee your message is read. Including a link to your site in the body of your message drives further traffic to your website, making SMS a cheap way of getting your customers attention and engaging with them. We’ve got lots of tips to help you write the perfect message.

If you haven’t already got an SMS account, make sure you don’t miss out on millions of shoppers looking for great deals and sign up with an account today and start your Black Friday campaign the right way, with SMS marketing.

The post Our predictions for Black Friday 2019 appeared first on Textmarketer.

HTTP 304 Not Modified, Explained in 500 Words or Less

The other night I was searching “Best Pasta Dish Recipes” on Google.

I clicked the first link and was stopped by the dreaded error code.

I’m willing to bet something similar has happened to you, at one point or another.

When that happens, it’s not just my brain experiencing technical difficulties.

These error codes are HTTP status codes. If you receive an error code, something went wrong when your browser requested the information from a web server. An HTTP status code is sent every time you go to a new web page. However, you’ll only see them if something isn’t right.

For marketers, it’s important to discover and fix these issues so your website visitors don’t have a negative experience.

Below, let’s review what an HTTP 304 not modified status code is, and what’s causing it.

When you click on a web page or URL, your browser requests access to it from a web server. If it has not been modified since the last time you accessed it, the web server will send back a 304 not modified status code, which lets your browser know to use a cached version of the web page.

Usually, you’ll only see this error code if you’re on a search engine because search engines index and cache websites.

If your browser receives this code, it’ll try to show you a saved version of the page. But sometimes it might prevent you from accessing the URL because it’s outdated.

As a marketer, you could lose out on traffic and leads if visitors are prevented from seeing your site.

So, what causes a 304 not modified code?

Causes of an HTTP 304 Not Modified Status Code

If a user sees a 304 not modified status code on your site, there isn’t much you can do. This is because the problem is most likely on their side of the screen.

Users could receive a 304 not modified status code for a variety of reasons:

1. You have a virus.

If you have a virus or malware on your computer, it most likely has corrupted your browser. This could impact your browser’s ability to communicate with web servers and cache web pages.

2. You’ve recently installed or uninstalled software.

Sometimes when you install or uninstall software on your computer, the registry could become corrupt. Again, this impacts your browser.

3. An application has corrupted files.

If there are corrupted files related to your internet browser, it will impact its ability to save web pages and update information.

How to Fix a 304 Not Modified Status Code

Although marketers can’t do much if a user sees a 304 not modified status code, users can try a few things to get the web page to show up on their browser.

1. Clear browsing data.

Clearing your browsing data will make sure your cache is cleared so it can try to access the URL you’re requesting.

To clear your browsing data, go to your History and then click “Clear browsing data.” In Chrome, it looks like this:

Once you click that, make sure you check off all three options. Then, you’ll want to change the time frame to “All Time.” It should look like this:

Clearing cached images and files on Google Chrome.

2. Run cleaners to get rid of viruses and malware.

A 304 not modified code could be happening because your browser is corrupted with a virus or malware. Run a check to make sure that isn’t the issue and clean up your computer.

3. Disable extensions.

There could be something wrong with your extensions. For example, they could be corrupt, which impacts your browser’s ability to receive information. Disable your extensions to see if this is the issue.

If these things don’t work, fixing a 304 not modified can be a more technical process. You might consider asking a web developer or someone in IT to take a look.

If you receive an HTTP 304 not modified error code, it’s because the URL you requested has outdated information. To fix it, you’ll want to double-check that the error isn’t on your side — the client’s — but instead on the server-side.

7 Lessons to Unleash Your Marketing Potential at Work

Exploring how you can you can unleash your marketing potential is the difference between being a good marketer or a great marketer.

Learning is fundamental to your own improvement, but the advice you receive can sometimes be biased or hard to apply. Because of that, we’ve created an objective, practical list that can help you on your journey to unleashing your full potential.

Innovation – Use Technology That Allows You to Flourish

Technology can help you to become a better marketer in lots of ways; it all depends on just how you want to flourish:

  • Do you need a tool that’ll free up time so you can take a course?
  • Do you need a tool to unlock your creativity, so that you can create better marketing collateral?
  • Do you need a tool to help you with budgeting?

If you’re struggling to determine what type of technological helping hand you need, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Would this technology help me achieve any of my goals?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using it?
  • Would it improve my skills?
  • Would I learn something new?
  • Is implementation realistic?
  • Do we have a budget for it?

The last thing you want is to see a solution implemented that becomes a problem – that’ll hinder both your personal and professional growth (and the growth of others). Here are some actionable tips:

  • Short-term – start researching software and conduct (or encourage!) a current systems analysis.
  • Medium-term – develop and deliver a proposal.
  • Long-term – prepare yourself and your team for implementation.

Trust – Interact With Different Departments

You can easily get so lost in your department that you forget there are other departments. Interacting with different departments can have more than one benefit:

  • It improves your social skills (and your popularity!) within your organization. 
  • You’ll pick up new ideas and points of view that are different from yours.
  • You can get tips from others about how to improve your work.
  • You can become a trusted ally to your colleagues.
  • You’ll help to extinguish conflicts before they spread.

Here are 6 tips for connecting with other teams:

  • Understand their challenges and limitations.
  • Suggest cross-departmental meetings.
  • Avoid speaking in jargon.
  • Make a positive contribution to their projects.
  • Celebrate their wins.
  • Ask for feedback.

Self-Promotion – Market Yourself

Everyone wants to be seen as an attractive or magnetic proposition. It’s natural. But how many of us self-promote enough to actively encourage this? Self-promotion isn’t the same as boasting; nobody wants to hear someone shout their latest and greatest achievement across the room.

You’re marketing the company you work for – but are you marketing yourself? There are 4 benefits of self-promotion:

  • People will gravitate towards you because of your positive energy.
  • You’ll increase your chances of connecting with the right people internally and externally.
  • Your ideas will manifest through collaboration.
  • Your reputation will improve.

Here are 3 practical tips for self-promotion:

  1. Help People

You could use this tip on its own and you’d nail your personal marketing campaign. People love helpful people – whether you helped them book a holiday or solve a complex problem, always be ready to lend a hand.

  1. Promote Others

If you want recognition for the work you’ve done, you need to recognize the people within your organization. Tell your clients how good your fellow Content Writer is, or your Marketing Manager how good your colleagues are.

  1. Be Authentic

We are drawn towards genuine, honest people; they make us feel safe and we always know we can trust them. Simple things like being confidential with information or giving honest, constructive feedback will always be appealing.

We all know we have to self-promote in some form, but we often get it wrong.

Here are 5 things you shouldn’t do when you’re self-promoting:

  • Depreciate others to make yourself look better.
  • Focus all the attention on yourself.
  • Brag.
  • Exaggerate.
  • Be economical with the truth.

Understanding – Know Your Colleagues

Everyone wants to be understood.  Your marketing manager wants you to understand why they made that particular decision on a project. Your designer colleague wants you to understand that he’d rather you didn’t give feedback in front of the team. Understand what motivates everyone, what demotivates them, or what they like and dislike doing. This will enable you to:

  • Gain the trust of your colleagues.
  • Build confidence.
  • Lessen the risk of isolation.
  • Foster healthy relationships.
  • Allow people to be vulnerable.
  • Make people feel like you aren’t judging them.

Your colleagues hold the key to success, so you need to build strong bonds with them. If you want to make everyone feel understood, try the following:

Ask Thoughtful Questions

Next time a problem arises, even if you don’t think it’s your fault, instead of asking why this happened, ask if there is anything you could have done to prevent this from happening. The first option immediately puts a person on the defensive because there’s no real attempt to understand. The second doesn’t hand out any blame, and if the person being asked is to blame, they’re more likely to accept it. It’s natural to make mistakes, we’re human. Learning through our experiences can help turn a negative into a positive and is a great way to improve and develop.

Understand Everyone’s Strengths and Weaknesses

If you understand everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll be able to get the best results for any project. You’ll also be able to give better feedback on what people do well and what they need to improve. Plus, you can go to them with tasks they actually enjoy doing, which will make them feel like you value their expertise.

Empowerment – Listen to Your Colleagues

Once you know the destination, you need to get there. Everyone in the team is going to help you navigate through problems with their tools and expertise. If you listen to people’s suggestions then you can reap these 5 rewards:

  • More growth and innovation.
  • Better colleague engagement.
  • Increased initiative.
  • Determining the best action (negotiation, encouragement, etc).
  • Contribute to increased staff retention.

Remember, it’s not enough to just listen, you have to act positively as well. You can use this simple formula to show people that you’ve listened to them:

  • Ask people what they want to talk about.
  • Provide feedback (compromise, encourage).
  • Create actions for both of you.

Decision Making & Problem-Solving – Know When to Use Logic and Intuition

You have to make plenty of decisions at work and help solve various problems – but how do you maximize your chances of making the correct decision? Sometimes, it feels like it’s impossible to make a choice, regardless of whether it’s based on data or a hunch. If you can analyze problems, you can make better decisions by using a combination of intuition and logic.

For example, logic would mean basing a new product on the feedback from the latest versionIntuition would mean basing a new product on the fact that you think it’ll disrupt the marketThe fact is – both data and hunches can get results.

Here are 6 tips for thinking logically:

  • Organize information so it’s easier to analyze.
  • Give reasons for your opinion and consider other outcomes.
  • Present data to back up your claims.
  • Identify assumptions.
  • Evaluate all arguments.
  • Conclude.

Here are 6 tips for thinking intuitively:

  • Pay attention to your first impulse when you have to make a decision.
  • Identify when your intuition misleads you.
  • Don’t confuse wanting an outcome with intuition.
  • Add some excitement to decision-making.
  • Ask for an expert’s intuition.
  • Detect unproductive systems or patterns.

Reflection – Continue to Evolve in Your Position

Reflect and improve: that’s what all the greatest marketers do! Taking the time to reflect puts you in a better position to understand your strengths and weaknesses, as well as identify where you want to go and how you’re going to get there. Here are 3 benefits of practicing self-reflection:

  • Improved emotional self-awareness – once you start to understand yourself, you’ll know how to react in different situations.
  • Integrity – you know what your core values are, which means you can stick to them and they’ll drive you forward every day.
  • Improved analytical skills – it’s easy to be busy moving from task to task and forget to stop and think about what you’ve done. Reflection forces you to analyse and can result in new ideas bubbling to the surface.

Sometimes, reflection can sound a bit abstract, though. Just how do you do reflection?

It’s a lot easier than it sounds. Here are 4 simple steps:

  • Find out why you’re self-reflecting – for example, you’ve got a review coming up and you want to reflect on your work.
  • Find a quiet place – you can’t self-reflect on the train home, you need a comfortable, distraction-free area.
  • Self-reflect – talk to yourself, write a self-reflection letter, do a breathing exercise, meditate. Whatever it takes to get information from your brain into something tangible.
  • Act – create a list of tasks that you need to complete to make your self-reflection session as beneficial as possible.

Are you ready to continue your evolution and unleash your full marketing potential? Here are the 7 lessons we’ve covered in this article:

  1. Innovation – Use Technology That Allows You to Flourish
  2. Trust – Interact With Different Departments
  3. Self-Promotion – Market Yourself
  4. Understanding – Know Your Colleagues
  5. Empowerment – Listen to Your Colleagues
  6. Decision Making & Problem-Solving – Know When to Use Logic and Intuition
  7. Reflection – Continue to Evolve in Your Position

Remember, everyone is different – if you’re struggling, use the self-reflection exercise to determine which areas of improvement would bring about the most benefit.

The post 7 Lessons to Unleash Your Marketing Potential at Work appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

What Is CRO? The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of increasing the number of users that take a specific action on a webpage, such as making a purchase. CRO improves page performance, making sites more effective at generating on-page conversions. Businesses looking to make their website a more efficient lead generation and sales tool should use CRO….

The post What Is CRO? The Ultimate Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Did Local Review Spammers Just Get Self-Served?

{
“@context”: “https://schema.org”,
“@type”: “WebPage”,
“headline”: “Expert Local SEO Consultants for 13+ Years | Local SEO Guide”,
“about”: [
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “SEO”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Search_engine_optimization”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Consultants”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consultant”}
],
“mentions”: [
{“@type”: “Organization”,”name”: “StartUps”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Startup_company”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “eCommerce”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-commerce”},
{“@type”: “Organization”,”name”: “InsiderPages”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insider_Pages”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Branding”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand”},
{“@type”: “Organization”,”name”: “Google”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google”},
{“@type”: “Organization”,”name”: “Showtime Networks”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Showtime_Networks”},
{“@type”: “Organization”,”name”: “NBC”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBC”},
{“@type”: “Organization”,”name”: “CitySearch”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citysearch”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Betteridge’s Law of Headlines”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge’s_law_of_headlines”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “expertise”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expertise”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Audits”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audit”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Domain”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “GMB”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_My_Business”},
{“@type”: “Organization”,”name”: “Management”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIT_Sloan_School_of_Management”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Process”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_process”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Ranking”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Tools”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tool”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Spammers”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spamming”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “website”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Website”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “Internet”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet”},
{“@type”: “Thing”,”name”: “clients”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer”},
{“@type”: “Organization”,”name”: “Law”,”sameAs”: “https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Washington_University_Law_School”}
]
}

See Betteridge’s Law of Headlines for the answer. For those looking to procrastinate, feel free to read on.

Yesterday’s Google announcement about it’s new “algorithmic updates” review mark-up caused a fair amount of Local SEO Twittering and Slacking.

My interpretation of this is “we’ve had enough of businesses publishing 5-star reviews of themselves on their sites and displaying rating stars in the SERPs for them.”

That’s all well and good. Abuse of structured mark-up has been a hot mess for years and the implementation guidelines are often so fuzzy they feel like missives from Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

Of course brands that pay 3rd parties to monitor and aggregate legitimate reviews may likely wonder why they lobbied hard for that budget. Of course there are plenty of non-schema reasons to add reviews to your site, but let’s face it, those orange stars in the SERPs were the big selling point. Kind of like GMB messaging was before Google shut that down…

I bet it will be fun for everyone explaining why CTR suddenly tanked for brand queries.

If Google can clean this up, and that’s a big “if,” then this feels like a good move. But as we often see with Google’s algorithmic fixes, closing one loophole tends to open up ten others. Some potential new loopholes:

1. Create separate entities (e.g. Local SEO Guide, Inc. & Local SEO Guide, LLC) and add marked-up reviews of the new entity to your site.

2. Create separate domains for reviews of your business (e.g. LocalSEOGuideReviews.com) and mark up those reviews.

3. Build a directory of local businesses that you have no relationship with, include your business, publish a ton of reviews (real and/or fake), and mark them up. Maybe call it “Yelp” or something.

The post Did Local Review Spammers Just Get Self-Served? appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

Never too early to prepare for Black Friday

We know, it’s unbelievably that time of year again, it’s coming up to Black Friday. The biggest and best sales period of the year, the sales phenomenon that sends everyone into a complete purchasing frenzy! And we have good reason to think that this year could be even bigger!

Every year the Black Friday sales increase and get bigger and better, and in a quest to grab more sales, it seems that retailers launch their Black Friday sales a little earlier, and leave them running a little longer every year. 

This year, Black Friday falls on the last Friday of the month, Friday 29th November.

Which means this year’s Black Friday falls on pay day! Which could be a huge monumental boost for retailers and make this Black Friday EVEN BIGGER!!

Every year customers are ready, waiting and on the hunt for the best Black Friday deals, they are actively searching for offers – they want to hear from you.

Whether they are on the lookout for some personal treats, and why not!? Or thinking ahead and looking to buy some Christmas presents, November is the perfect time to be sending out messages to your customers.

The early bird catches the worm.

Now, we are in no way suggesting that you start your Black Friday campaign now, that would be silly. However we do suggest you start to think about how you are going to approach Black Friday, start to plan everything, get your graphics ready, think about your offers, and think about when you are going to send your SMS messages.

98% of all messages are read, and 95% of messages are read within the first 90 seconds. (Source: Gartner)

The timing of your SMS messages is really important, so think about the days you are going to send your SMS messages on and also the time. Most retailers are now running their Black Friday deals for 2 weeks, so we would suggest sending an SMS campaign at the start of your Black Friday offer, the Monday of Black Friday week, and also on Black Friday itself.

But don’t forget Cyber Monday!

This year Cyber Monday strangely falls into December. With Black Friday falling on payday, it could be a bumper weekend and Monday of sales to capitalise on.

Have you tried our SMS Web Pages yet?

We all know that SMS is the most powerful marketing tool out there, but wouldn’t it be great if you could add some beautiful images, catchy headlines, splashes of colour and call to action buttons but still get the same amazing open rates of SMS?

Well you can! With our SMS Web Pages, you can send bespoke mobile landing pages to your customers, filled with your images, graphics and details on your offers. It works as an amazing way to entice your customers with your products. 

If you would like to ask any questions about how you can make the most out of Black Friday, or you would like to know more about SMS Web Pages, then please do not hesitate to get in touch. Sign up for your free SMS marketing account here.

The post Never too early to prepare for Black Friday appeared first on Textmarketer.

Where do Shoppers Research Products? We Asked 300 Consumers [New Research]

In 2018, 40% of people used social media channels for aspects of product research.

With younger generations getting more and more connected to social media platforms, the amount of product research done on these platforms is likely to grow. In fact, 16 to 24-year-olds already conduct product research more on social than search engines.

Throughout the past few years, social media channels have embraced their new role as product research platforms, devoting certain areas or features of their platforms to brands and products.

For example, Facebook Ads is considered an alternative to Google Ads, YouTube is a go-to site for learning about new products, Instagram offers Shoppable posts, and Reddit users regularly participate in discussion threads about products. Meanwhile, Pinterest continues to position itself as a tool for advertisers by improving its ad software.

With all the social media platforms and product marketing opportunities out there, it might be hard to drill down on which platforms are key to your product marketing strategy.

By now, you might be on all the major social media platforms. But, as they expand and evolve, you might still wonder which you should focus your time and efforts on if you’re selling a physical product. To determine this, it can be helpful to find out which social channels your specific audience is using to look for products, and then create social strategies that meet them where they are on their preferred platforms.

To learn more about the social networks people prefer to surf for product research, I conducted a poll of 304 people using Lucid Software.

Source: Lucid Software

When asked which channel they turned to most often for product research, 51% of respondents said Facebook.

This result isn’t shocking. Facebook is the second-most used social platform globally, followed by YouTube. Since Facebook is one of the first and most successful social media platforms, you probably should be marketing your brand or products on it if you aren’t already. But, you definitely shouldn’t count out other platforms — like Instagram or Pinterest — just yet.

Below, I’ll give you a rundown of the opportunities each social network listed in the poll above offer when it comes to marketing physical products. I’ll also highlight the key differences that you’ll want to consider when weighing which social product marketing strategies are right for you.

Which Social Media Platform Should You Market Products On?

Facebook

Facebook has a whopping 1.59 billion daily active users and has been around since the early 2000s. Its audience includes multiple age groups and spans the globe, making it a solid place for most brands to market themselves.

When it comes to marketing your product, you have many different options on Facebook. Here are a few examples.

Free Promotion

By now, you probably know that any company can create a Facebook Business Page for free. Once you create a business page, you can begin to share posts about your products and offerings. If you have happy customers, you can even ask them to review your business on Facebook so prospects researching you can see how you’ve pleased your customers in the past.

Aside from creating a page to highlight your brand, you can also post your products in Facebook’s Marketplace. Marketplace listings can include product shots, pricing, product specifications, and purchasing information. Although individual users often use the Marketplace to sell items they no longer want to other people, Facebook Business pages are also eligible to use this feature.

You can also consider talking about your products or offerings on Facebook Stories. This might take a little extra effort because it will require you to film or create content in the Story format, but research says it can be beneficial. In fact, a 2018 survey revealed that 62% of people were more interested in a product after learning about it in a Facebook Story.

Paid Promotion

Because Facebook’s feed algorithmically favors posts from individual accounts over businesses, you might decide that you want to put money into Facebook Ads.

Facebook Ads has a solid track record. It’s estimated that 2 million businesses were advertising on the platform in 2018.

With Facebook Ads, you can create advertisements with a certain goal in mind, such as conversions or in-store foot traffic. The detailed ads software also allows you to target specific audience demographics.

As a Facebook advertiser, you can either promote a post you’ve already created to ensure that it shows up on feeds of users in your demographic, or you can create native ads that might show up in feeds or on Facebook’s sidebars. While promoted posts look like an average post with a simple tag stating they’re promoted, the native ads look more like traditional ads to make it clear to users that the content they’re seeing is paid for.

If you want to launch video-based ads, Facebook also allows you to promote video content or buy in-stream ad placements that appear in Facebook Live videos or longer videos that other users have uploaded.

YouTube:

If how-tos or video tutorials are part of your content marketing strategy. YouTube will be a natural fit for your brand. This is because YouTube users are three times more likely to prefer watching a YouTube tutorial video compared to reading the product’s instructions.

More and more companies are taking notice of YouTube’s product marketing opportunities. In 2018, 45% of marketers said they planned to add YouTube to their 2019 strategy.

With a branded YouTube channel, you can publish video content such as demos, tutorials, or customer testimonial videos that give solid details about why your product is valuable.

By filming your own videos, you can insure that you’re highlighting all the great aspects of your product that make it stand out from its competitors.

Alternatively, if you don’t have time to create your own videos, sponsoring an influencer’s content, tutorial, or review related to your product allows you to tap into that content creator’s audience as they tell their followers more about your offerings.

Aside from creating your own account or hiring an influencer to give a review or tutorial, you could also consider paid advertisements. YouTube offers a few ad styles including TrueView, Preroll, and Bumpers.

These ads allow you to submit a short video ad to YouTube which is then placed at the beginning or in the middle of videos with metrics and demographics that match your brand’s target. To learn the ins and outs of setting up an ad and determining which style is right for you, check out this guide.

Instagram

Although Instagram ranked in third place in the poll above, you shouldn’t disregard Instagram — especially if you’re targeting Gen-Z or millennials who make up the platform’s primary audience.

For years, Instagram’s visual layout has made it a hot spot for influencer marketing. Influencers regularly post sponsored photos and videos about their experiences with products. Like YouTube, these influencers also regularly publish video posts or Stories that present tutorials, reviews, and unboxings related to a product.

Aside from influencer marketing, many brands also promote their products on Instagram Stories, Instagram Live, and through standard video or photo posts on Instagram Feed.

Here’s an example where Kylie Jenner, the CEO and Founder of Kylie Cosmetics, films a Story-based product tutorial for her company’s Instagram account:

Kylie Jenner promotes KylieCosmetics on the brand's Instagram Stories

Along with free strategies, Instagram now offers Shoppable posts. With Shoppable posts, you can promote a product in an Instagram post that links to your Facebook Catalog. Here’s an example of what a Shoppable Post looks like:

A necklace is shown in an Instagram Shoppable post

To be eligible for Shoppable posts, you must have an Instagram Business page that’s linked to a Facebook Catalog. This feature is also only for businesses selling physical goods.

Here’s a blog post that goes into detail about how to use and optimize Shoppable posts.

Pinterest

Pinterest encourages people to pin image-based posts that inspire them to digital boards, mimicking the process of creating a physical inspiration board.

Because people come to this platform to be inspired to do something, such as travel or home decorating, they might find themselves pinning all sorts of product-oriented images to a themed board. For example, someone who wants to redecorate their office might create an “Office Inspiration” board and pin photos of furniture or decorative items that they’d like to buy

Here’s an example of what these boards look like:

Office Inspiration Pinterest Board showing various office products

To make it easier for people to find your products, you could consider starting a Pinterest account and making a few boards to highlight your products. For example, if you’re marketing a travel company, you could make a board for each country that you offer packages to. On each board, you could place images of trip activities that link to your website.

Then, if someone is trying to plan a trip to a country you sell a package for, they might come across one of your posts and pin it to their own “Travel Inspiration” board.

To give you a real-world example of how brands use Pinterest, below is a Wedding Registry board created by Target which features images of products that a bride and groom might want to add to their gift registry.

Target products presented in Target's own Wedding Registry Ideas Pinterest Board

Each of Target’s pinned images links to the company website so users can share the pin on their own Pinterest board, or click straight through the post to buy or register the product.

If you have an advertising budget, you can also consider launching pay-per-click ads on Pinterest. Pinterest Ads enables your posts to be seen by people in a specific demographic that matches your own. The platform also allows you to A/B test different photos and target ads to Pinterest users on your contact lists.

Want to learn more about Pinterest Ads and effective experiments to run? Check out this blog post from a PPC and Pinterest expert.

Reddit

Reddit encourages users to create discussion threads in themed online communities, called subreddits. As the platform has evolved, many users have created both threads and subreddits devoted to talking about products, like fast-food restaurants or video games.

Below is an example of a subreddit, or online community, that Reddit users created to talk about all things related to Xbox One.

XboxOne Subreddit discussions on Reddit

However, because comments with promotional language in them often get downvoted or buried in feeds by more engaging Reddit threads, you’ll need to be creative if you want to engage with audiences on this platform.

While you might want to keep an eye on Reddit or experiment with it, don’t put all of your time and resources into it — at least right now. As it evolves, the platform may become an easier platform to market your brand on, but at the moment, Reddit marketing strategies still require more brainstorming and time than tactics on other social platforms.

Although this platform has been called one of the “trickiest” for marketers to crack, some bigger brands have figured out how to reach the platform’s discussion-oriented users.

For example, some brands will create subreddits related to their product, while others will interact by commenting on threads related to their industry.

Aside from creating content for free on Reddit, you can alternatively pay into sponsored posts or ads, similarly to Facebook or Twitter. These ads will appear in a user’s feed or as a promoted comment in a thread or subreddit.

To learn more about the ins and outs of Reddit marketing, click here for tips and examples of how other brands have cultivated the platform.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn’s platform, which emphasizes networking and career-related chatter, might be well-suited for product marketing in B2B, academic, or professional industries. People who do product research on this platform might be looking for a service, tool, or software that can either help to escalate their careers or make their workdays easier.

If you’re marketing products like software, online courses, business-related publications, or anything that can help a professional or student do their job better, LinkedIn will be a great fit for you. However, if you sell more general consumer-facing products like makeup or home decorations, you might want to put more product-marketing efforts into other platforms on this list — like Facebook or Instagram.

While the professional nature of LinkedIn and its audience might not be suited for all brands, the platform still offers a variety of opportunities to brands that align well with it. For example, research shows that 80% of B2B leads come straight from LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is very similar to Facebook in that you can post about your product or service for free, or purchase ads or post promotion to get information about your business front and center on feeds. To see a few great ad examples, check out this post.

Twitter

Twitter has 126 million daily users from a variety of backgrounds, geographic locations, and industries. Its broad demographic might provide solid marketing opportunities to many different types of businesses. Because of its broad user base, you might want to create an account on Twitter and post regularly for brand awareness purposes.

If you’re interested in video marketing, you can also experiment with Twitter’s live video feature and use it to film a tutorial or Q&A related to your product.

Aside from posting about your product for free, you can also pay into targeted ads or promoted tweets. Twitter claims that its advertising ROI is 40% higher than some other social channels.

While the ROI of Twitter advertising and its user base sounds promising, you might be wondering why it ranked so low on the poll shown above.

Ultimately, what might make Twitter rank last in the product research poll is its platform’s trend-oriented nature. The platform encourages people to connect with each other and post tweets or comments about current events, trending hashtags, or their thoughts on other specific topics.

Yes, brands and product discussion are both prevalent on the platform, but users might go to Twitter to learn more about what’s going on in the world, rather than new products. When people are asked to pick which platform they do the most product research on, it’s not surprising that Facebook or YouTube might seem like a more obvious choice than Twitter.

While you should be on Twitter due to its sheer user base and advertising ROI, you’ll want to keep its audience’s need to stay trendy and informed in mind as you’re creating posts and advertisements for the platform. This might help you make social content that both engages these audiences while still weaving in information about how valuable your product is.

Identifying the Right Platforms for Product Marketing

While running ads and product promotions on all of these platforms could be helpful and lead to conversion, you’ll want to primarily focus on the platforms with audiences that already align well with your brand.

For example, broader audiences are actively looking for products or researching brands on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest while Reddit and Twitter users just want to follow trends. Similarly, if you’re marketing a B2B company, you might see a better ROI from ads on a professional network like LinkedIn than ads on a more consumer-friendly platform like Instagram.

To learn more about all the major social channels and what drives their audiences, check out this detailed blog post that highlights the five types of social media platforms.

The Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping: How to Start a Dropshipping Business

You’ve decided to launch an online store and join the ecommerce revolution. The very first questions you need to answer are all about your product: what will you sell, where will you get it and how will you get it to your customers. Amazing marketing and incredible customer service won’t get you very far without sourcing, inventory management, order fulfillment and shipping processes in place.

Does that sound intimidating, boring or even impossible? You may want to skip the hassle and check out dropshipping.

Before dropshipping, there were two major ecommerce models:

  • Make a unique product from scratch. Do you love knitting cashmere cat sweaters? Great! You’ll have a completely unique product to bring to the marketplace. But can you create demand and scale your business?
  • Purchase inventory in bulk. You won’t need to develop a new product, but you might get stuck with a garage full of widgets you can’t sell. If you do get traction, you’ll need to tackle fulfilling and shipping orders on your own.

With dropshipping, you are only responsible for marketing and selling the products. Another person in the supply chain worries about product, inventory, packaging and shipping. But that means rather than finding efficiencies in the system, you’ll need to get very clever to take on Amazon, big box stores and other dropshipping ecommerce stores.

Want more tips on how to be a successful online retailer? Check out this webinar series.

The Pros & Cons of Dropshipping

Dropshipping can sound like a magic bullet for making money online, but don’t be fooled. Like anything else, there are upsides and downsides to dropshipping.

The Pros:

1. No startup capital. If you’re just getting started, dropshipping lets you launch without investing a lot of money. Traditional retailers need to buy and store inventory in order to sell it to consumers. But if you’re using a dropshipper, you can offer a full catalogue of products with little overhead.

2. Less hassle involved. As mentioned above, you don’t have to deal with on-hand inventory, which means that you don’t have to handle packing or shipping either. This lets you focus your time and energy on marketing and growing your business.

3. You can easily expand your offerings. If you want to expand your offerings, dropshipping is a great way to test new products with your audience. This will allow you to truly see if they’re a market fit without having to invest in large amounts of expensive inventory up-front.

The Cons:

1. Managing the logistics. The logistics for dropshipping can be hard to overcome as your business expands. If your dropshipping supplier relies on multiple warehouses, this will be even more of a challenge. Poor logistics management can lead to a subpar customer experience, due to improper tracking numbers, incorrect addresses and shipping delays.

2. The low barrier to entry. This sounds like a positive, and it is. But at the same time, because of the low barrier to entry, plenty of other people will be selling the same products. This makes it harder to stand out as a new business and means there’s stiff competition. Remember, if a supplier dropshipping for you, they’ll dropship to anyone, and that makes it tough to stand out.

3. No control over the packaging. If you’re an online-only store, the very first physical interaction you have with your customers is when they open their purchase. But if you’re dropshipping, you give up control over the packaging. That means no special touches or cute thank-you cards that can really make your store stand out. These days most reputable dropshippers will at least allow for private label shipping with customized invoicing and packing slips.

4. Tight profit margins. It’s very difficult for small businesses to compete on price, and the nature of dropshipping means you aren’t selling a unique product. Make sure you are ready to invest in something that will differentiate your store, like great educational resources, strong copywriting, or building a unique niche market.

Avoid These Common Dropshipping Mistakes

After you’ve decided to start dropshipping, you need to make sure you’ve got a solid strategy in place from the get-go. And that means avoiding these common mistakes.

Expecting Your Products to Sell Themselves

As mentioned above, dropshipping automatically puts you in a competitive space, because others are selling exactly the same thing that you are. It’s all too easy to think that you’ll be able to set up dropshipping for your store and then have an instant money-maker on your hands.

The opposite is true — when you’re dropshipping, you need to put all of the time that you save on shipping and fulfillment into marketing and SEO. Those are the elements that will drive traffic to your store and make you sales when you’re a dropshipper.

Since you can’t control the fulfillment or packaging with dropshipping, you always want to put a priority focus on quality customer service and giving customers a positive experience with the parts of the buying process that you can control.

Relying Too Much on One Supplier or Not Testing Suppliers

If you rely on one supplier without having a back-up, you’re setting yourself up for logistical issues down the line. What if they raise their prices to a point you can’t afford? Or go out of business? Or simply decide not to work with you any more? Even on the less drastic end of scenarios, they could be out of stock on a product and have no idea when they’ll get it back in stock. Always have a backup supplier that you can turn to if your go-to supplier doesn’t work out for a particular order.

Every time you start working with a new supplier, you should make sure that they cut the mustard by placing test orders. When you get the order, examine it closely, considering the packaging, shipment time and so on, and make sure that everything is top-quality. It’s a good idea to continue placing test orders on a somewhat regular basis. Fulfillment is critically important to any online business, and you want to catch any slips in quality before they become an issue.

Stressing Over Shipping Rates

Dealing with shipping rates can be a hassle, even if you ship all your orders from one location.

If you ship from more than one warehouse, or dropship through multiple suppliers, it can be a nightmare. What if an order draws on two different warehouses, or three different suppliers?

Instead of stressing about multi-location shipping on every single order, take a step back and look at the big picture. What are you trying to achieve? Accurate shipping rates? Or more sales, happy customers, and repeat business? If you’re burning energy over shipping prices on every single order, that’s energy you’re not spending on creating a better shopping experience, growing your store, marketing and so on.

So what should you do instead? Take a look at past orders and use them to work out a flat shipping rate. Or perhaps a tiered rate based on cart value. Will it cut into your profit margins?

Yes, on some orders. But you’ll come out ahead on others, and if you’ve set your flat rate properly, shipping costs will even out over time. There’s also the fact that flat rate and free shipping has been shown to increase conversion rates—one of the main reasons customers abandon their shopping carts is because of shipping costs. A flat shipping fee removes confusion and seemingly “hidden” fees that show up at checkout.

As you can see, dropshipping isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but it can be a great way to start or scale an ecommerce store. At every stage of your business, you need to step back and evaluate whether or not dropshipping makes sense for your store.

Dropshipping on Amazon

One place dropshipping has thrived in the past is Amazon. If you want to sell product on the platform, you’ll need to be responsible for making sure orders are shipped and stored properly by yourself or the wholesaler you’re marketing products for. You also must be transparent about who created the product and who seller is.

According to Amazon, although dropshipping on the site is acceptable, sellers must be as transparent as possible so the customer knows who they are buying a product from and where they can contact if there’s an issue. The seller and marketer must also be responsible for processing and managing returns without Amazon’s assistance.

For businesses that don’t want to pay warehouse costs, Amazon offers an FBA (or Fulfilled By Amazon) service where vendors can ship products through the them. However, the seller of the products is still transparently listed as the dropshipper and products are not affiliated Amazon.

With the FBA program, Amazon receives a client’s products in bulk. They will then warehouse the bulk safely in their own locations and use their own service to ship to customers on behalf of the vendor. Amazon has also partnered with Shopify so that its ecommerce clients can also take advantage of the service and avoid warehousing.

According to Oberlo, this service has a number of benefits, like low warehouse costs. However, it’s also heavily regulated by Amazon so there’s not much wiggle room to adjust Amazon’s pre-set dropshipping process.

For example, dropshippers must follow FBA policies including one which states they cannot purchase products from another vendor and re-sell them under their own name.

Dropshipping on eBay

With the auction site. eBay, you can create an account and business listing and then start selling or auctioning off your products.

While it’s easy to list and sell your or your wholesalers products on eBay, vendors do have to pay various fees, such as Final Value Fees, which eBay describes as a percentage of the total purchase. This total purchase amount includes shipping but excludes sales tax.

Additionally, while eBay allows dropshipping, its process is also regulated. While you can sell items from a wholesaler, you can’t purchase the same items from another eBay seller and then resell them as your own. They still also require similar levels of transparency so the seller of the item and contact information is clear. Like Amazon, the seller must deal with any returns, order management, or any product complaints.

17 of the Best Government Website Designs

The best government websites offer easily-accessible, resident, and state visitor-centered information wrapped in an appealing experience. This is accomplished via high-quality and immersive images and videos, clear site navigation, interactive features, and options that enable users to personalize experiences. To help inspire your government website design, we’ve included the best state website examples below. Here…

The post 17 of the Best Government Website Designs appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Summer sports event calendar – SMS and sporting events, a match made in heaven

For any major sporting event or just a big game, we know that just before and even during is the perfect time to send a text message promoting your takeaway. Sports fans will be getting ready to watch their team and nothing goes better whilst watching sport than a few snacks and drinks.

But it isn’t just food outlets that can benefit from sports events, we also know that for those who are watching the event, they will be messaging their friends about it, and those who are stuck at work, they will be checking the results online. Both using our favourite little device, the mobile phone.

This all means that when sporting events are on, the UK public will have their mobile phones within arm’s reach at all times and will be checking it constantly. So, promoting your sale just before and during football, rugby, cricket, or any sporting event, is the perfect time to do so. As when that phone ‘bings’ with your message, your customers will check it immediately.

Therefore, when there is a whole Summer and even Autumn packaged with major sporting events, you know the whole of the UK will be packed around their TV’s – perfect for some well times SMS campaigns.

To help you get on top of what sporting events are happening we have put together a handy Summer sporting calendar showcasing the major sports events this Summer and Autumn. All these sporting events provide businesses with the perfect opportunity to message customers.

The post Summer sports event calendar – SMS and sporting events, a match made in heaven appeared first on Textmarketer.

What Happens when You Can Empathize with Your Customers at Scale?

A conversation with Robin Collyer of Pegasystems

I had seen the headline announcing that Uber would begin deactivating riders if their rating dropped beyond a certain level. You can pull that idea apart, but somewhere along the way you have to acknowledge that the customer isn’t always right and that smarter companies need to find a way to have actual conversations with their customers that go beyond simple star ratings.

So, I was intrigued when I saw the announcement from Pegasystems that they had developed a technology that would allow organizations to have empathetic conversations with their customers – at scale. What follows is an excerpt from a lively conversation I had with Robin Collyer, who is Senior Director of Marketing & Decisioning Making at Pegasystems.

RC:  I read your piece in The Wise Marketer on getting to know your customer, and it’s a great primer to what we do as a company. “Know me – as an individual – not a segment”.  We’re propelled by that kind of thinking.  It brings to mind a brilliant advert from a Danish network – something about “Don’t put me in a box”.  It’s worth a watch. (Editor’s note: it’s definitely worth a watch. You can see it here.)

TWM:  There’s real value in an organization having some empathy with the customer. We’ve seen some pretty spectacular examples with chatbots that could mimic empathy in uncanny ways. That’s one way of achieving empathy at scale. But the Uber example brings up something else altogether – maybe the customer isn’t always right?

Maybe there are circumstances where some sort of genuine
interplay would be best.

There are any number of scenarios that prove the customer isn’t always right. The customer can’t and shouldn’t always be able to get whatever they want. Companies wouldn’t be in business for long if they did that.

RC: There’s got to be an understanding of each individual situation and what’s appropriate for it. The ability of the (PegaSystems) technology to bring context to the conversation and determine next best action – not based on some sort of batching or segmentation but based on hearing – listening to what is being said – and how it’s being said. There are so many other factors to consider beyond the simple words being spoken. Tone of voice. Frequency of call. Significance of the issue at hand, etc.

But from a business perspective, the technology needs to be
able to check off all the necessary boxes from an operational, administrative
and ROI standpoint as well.

Balancing the business objectives on one side and the customer’s needs on the other. The platform listens and advises based on the rule-set that we have given it. What are your brand values? What kind of brand do you want to be? Those questions and the answers to them set the tone and direction for how the system processes the conversations and processes recommendations & next steps. In other words, this goes beyond simply answering the question at hand.

Essentially what the system is doing – what the AI is doing – is arbitrating between the goals of each party. So first, the platform listens. Secondly, it makes recommendations based on those inputs. And third, it learns. Through machine learning the AI is constantly refining its decision-making algorithms to better reflect the brand values and also to better help customers navigate their particular issues.

“Customer engagement could be so much more …”

TWM:  I’m fascinated by the idea that you’re essentially creating empathy at scale. But it must be an enormously complex undertaking to onboard a new client. I’m thinking about the diverse customer mindsets of various verticals. An airline customer will have an entirely different set of concerns than a banking customer, than a grocery customer, etc. What goes in to creating those virtual mindsets?

RC: The first thing to say is that we’re enabling that engagement not really creating it. We have to start the conversation by asking brands what are the drivers they use to frame those conversations? What are their brand values?

A traditional approach might have looked something like “I’ve got a proposition, go find me an audience for that proposition.” Now what the Pegasystems “brain” is doing is essentially allowing organizations to formulate their proposition, bring it to market to validate it, refine it, and then bring it to market at scale. That, in a sense is how this works. Not so much as a hard-and-fast batch of rules, more as a framework for learning how the customer and the brand can most efficiently interact. So, Pegasystems enables that at scale

We advocate starting at what we call a “micro-journey” – that PegaSystems and our client can take together to prove value. It might look like a cross-sell or upsell and then once its proven out, can be promulgated across the broader organization -through the customer service side, through the sales side, in-store or on the phone. Essentially the brain enables us to create conversations with learned empathy, and then scale that knowledge and tone across the broader organization.

TWM: Robin, thanks for your time. I love your company’s approach to bringing a level of humanity to scalable customer conversations. Best of luck and hope we can talk more about what Pega is up to in the near future. Cheers.

Mike Giambattista is Editor in Chief at The Wise Marketer and is a Certified Loyalty Marketing Professional (CLMP).

The post What Happens when You Can Empathize with Your Customers at Scale? appeared first on The Wise Marketer.

YouTube Algorithm: The Constantly Updated Guide to YouTube's Updates & Changes

Since marketers are at the mercy of algorithms on nearly every publishing channel, knowing how each of these unique algorithms work is crucial to attracting and maintaining an audience. Luckily, while some channels are rather reserved about the secrets of their algorithms, YouTube, the most popular video platform, has been remarkably transparent.

In 2016, YouTube published a research paper that provides a high-level overview of their recommendation system’s architecture, and they also launched a course for creators about getting discovered on their platform.

Naturally, we wanted to read the paper and take the course to help you understand exactly how to boost your rankings on YouTube. Read on to learn what we discovered and how you can bolster your presence on the video platform.

How does the YouTube algorithm work?

YouTube’s algorithm serves the most relevant, personalized videos to their users on five different sections of their platform: search, home, suggested videos, trending, and subscriptions. By helping users find the videos they’re most likely to watch and enjoy, YouTube can keep viewers on the platform for as long as possible and get them to visit their site regularly.

To figure out which videos and channels that users are most likely to enjoy watching, YouTube “follows” their audience, which means they track their users’ engagement with each video they watch. More specifically, they pay attention to which videos each user watches, what they don’t watch, how much time they spend watching each video, their likes and dislikes, and their “not interested in” feedback.

Since their algorithm rewards engagement instead of vanity metrics like views and clicks, YouTube incentivizes creators to produce videos that they’re audience actually enjoys watching, discouraging them from trying to game the system.

But YouTube’s algorithm also uses different signals and metrics to rank and recommend videos on each section of their platform. With this in mind, let’s go over how the algorithm decides to serve content to users on their search, home, suggested videos, trending, and subscriptions section.

Search

The two biggest factors that affect your videos’ search rankings are its keywords and relevance. When ranking videos in search, YouTube will consider how well your titles, descriptions, and content match each users’ queries. They’ll also consider how many videos users’ have watched from your channel and the last time they watched other videos surrounding the same topic as your video.

Home & Suggested Videos

No two users will have the same experience on YouTube — they want to serve the most relevant, personalized recommendations to each of their viewers. To do this, they first analyze users’ activity history and find hundreds of videos that could be relevant to them.

Then, they rank these videos by how well each video has engaged and satisfied similar users, how often each viewer watches videos from each channel or other videos surrounding the same topic, and how many times YouTube has already shown each video to users.

YouTube has also noticed users tend to watch more content when they receive recommendations from a variety of channels, so they like the diversify their suggested videos feed and users’ homepages.

Trending

The trending page is a feed of new and popular videos in a user’s specific country. YouTube wants to balance popularity with novelty when they rank videos in this section, so they heavily consider view count and rate of view growth for each video they rank.

Subscriptions

YouTube has a subscriptions page where users can view all the recently uploaded videos from the channels they subscribe to. But this page isn’t the only benefit channels get when they acquire a ton of subscribers.

To determine rankings on their platform, YouTube uses a metric called view velocity, which measures the number of subscribers who watch your video right after it’s published. And the higher your video’s view velocity, the higher your videos will rank. YouTube also accounts for the number of active subscribers you have when they rank your videos.

How to Optimize Your Videos for YouTube’s Algorithm

To rank on YouTube, the first thing to consider is optimizing your videos and channel for popular search queries. To do this, place relevant keywords in your videos’ titles, tags, descriptions, SRT files (which are transcriptions), video files, and thumbnail files.

You should also check out the most popular queries guiding viewers to your videos, which you can find in YouTube’s Search Report. If these queries are slightly different than your video’s topic, consider updating your video to fill these content gaps and add the keywords to your metadata. If there’s a stark difference, consider making new videos about these popular queries.

The next thing to consider when ranking on YouTube is optimizing your videos and channel for engagement. To generate engagement, though, you first need to attract users’ attention. And one of the best ways to instantly grab users’ attention is by creating vibrant thumbnails for each of your videos.

Thumbnails, the small, clickable snapshots that viewers see when they search for videos on YouTube, can be just as important as a video’s title. They preview your video and entice viewers to click through. The brain is also programmed to respond to striking visuals, and this can help you differentiate yourself on a platform clogged with standard thumbnails all screaming for attention.

To create a striking thumbnail, consider including a talking head. People are naturally drawn to human faces because it’s an ingrained survival mechanism to help us quickly gauge someone’s emotions and determine if they’re a threat or friend. Research Gate also discovered that Instagram photos with faces are 38% more likely to receive likes and 32% more likely to receive comments. Additionally, consider contrasting the colors of your thumbnail’s foreground and background to really make it pop.

Once you’ve attracted users’ attention, you can engage them by creating a bingeable series or show. You can also create playlists about a certain topic that start off with the videos that have the highest audience retention rate. This will increase the odds that users will watch most of the videos in your playlists, boosting your channel and videos’ watch time.

Another way to refine your overall video strategy is measuring your videos’ performance against engagement metrics, like watch time, average watch percentage, average view duration, audience retention, and average session duration. If you can figure out which topics and videos generate the most engagement, and you solely focus on creating those types of content, you’ll be able to shoot up YouTube’s search results page and suggested videos feed.