The 5 Things Salespeople Need to Build Their Personal Brand

When I launched into the wonderful and terrible experience of planning my wedding, I had one budget item I would not budge on: florals. While I appreciate their beauty, the idea that I was supposed to allocate 20% (TWENTY. PERCENT.) of my budget to something that was completely perishable was baffling to me. I scoffed at the recommended percentage and proudly proclaimed to my wedding investors (aka my parents) that we would dedicate no more than 10% maximum. Get fake flowers. Pick them from the gardens at the venue, I don’t care.

When all was said and done, I ended up devoting 25% of my budget to my florist. Why? It wasn’t because I’m not good with a spreadsheet. It’s not because the floral market here in St. Louis is monopolized. It’s because I love my florals vendor. I trust her completely. If she told me to, I would make an interactive presentation, win over my board (again, my parents), and make the case for an expanded budget.

Here’s what I learned from my incredible vendor—and my own purchasing behavior: You are much more likely to justify the cost when you feel valued by the person you’re buying from and when you trust his or her credibility.

While your marketing team is hard at work crafting your company brand, you should take the opportunity to humanize the sales experience by building out your own brand. Give the people what they want: a chance to buy from a person they like.

Here’s the Secret Sauce for Your Personal Brand

1. Host a Webinar

While your technical wherewithal in your industry may vary (looking at you, medical and IT sales reps—it gets complex!), your understanding of your customer should be strong. Work with your marketing team to identify the topics that make sense for you to cover. Could you host a sales-based webinar on “How to pitch expensive solutions to your executive board”? Is there an aspect of your product or service that you’re particularly passionate about? These could all be useful presentations for both you and your company to provide to your audience.

By playing an active role in webinars, you show the buyer that your company trusts you to speak at an industry level and to represent it well. The more visible you become as a consistent webinar host, the more prospective buyers begin to associate your name with your company—which could have endless benefits, ranging from staying top of mind with prospects to building your credibility.

2. Email Communication

All salespeople worth their weight in commission should know how to send a compelling email. But if you could use a refresher, here are a few quick tips:

Make it content-driven. If you just hosted a webinar, link to it and explain why you think it could be useful with regard to a specific problem your lead is trying to solve for.

Make it personal. Personalization is 2019’s sales word of the year. Use “you” 3x more than you use “I” or refer to your own company. Find a relatable but not creepy thing to connect on with your prospect.

Make it brief. Not my strong suit personally, but it should be all salespeople’s mantra: If you can’t say it simply, you don’t understand it, and neither will your lead. You have but a brief, fleeting moment to connect with your prospect and make your case. Use words sparingly and wisely.

3. Bylined Content, Blogs, and Guest Posting

Contributing to publications that reach your buyer means tapping into wider audience reach, increased visibility for you and your company, and third-party validation. Likewise, having a presence on your company’s blog further validates your expertise and demonstrates your engagement with the overall initiatives of your organization.

Both blog content and externally published articles are SEO boosters. When your leads get happy fingers and go to the almighty Google, it will be to your benefit for them to see byline after byline of valuable content backing you up.

4. Speaking Engagements

How many times have you thought, “If I can just get in a room with my buyer, I know I can win them over.” All salespeople are pretty convinced they have magnetic personalities (because: true), and speaking engagements are a perfect opportunity to use that expertise and charm to build a face-to-face connection. Much like a webinar, a speaking engagement suggests that your company has faith in your ability to represent the organization well.

You also get a chance to showcase your passion for your offerings, field questions in real-time, and meet your audience. In fact, a speaking opportunity is a great touchpoint for reconnecting with any leads in the area. A quick email or LinkedIn message inviting them to the event could lead to later conversations or a chance to meet in person—or at the very least, spark a conversation around your potential partnership again.

5. Social presence

Social media is one of the easiest, least time-consuming ways to create a digital footprint. Stay active on platforms like LinkedIn, where you can repurpose your webinars, blog posts, and articles and begin to gain a following. Show your prospects that you have an impressive knowledge of industry problems and your own products or services.

A few ideas:

Start a LinkedIn group specific to your industry and regularly share trends, insights, and other content formats. Pose questions aimed at solving the challenges your prospects face and that your service is a solution for.

Weigh in on industry news. Tweet out interesting statistics relevant to your buyer and add colorful commentary. Start conversations that keep you active in your lead’s mind.

Building a personal brand isn’t about catering to your sales ego. It’s about creating meaningful, trustworthy connections with your prospective buyers that foster a long, healthy relationship with your company moving forward. Anything you create under your own name can point back to your company positively and allow a buyer to get comfortable with the sales process. Like me and my florist, you may find that your personality and helpfulness result in expanded budgets, loyal followers, and very happy customers.

The post The 5 Things Salespeople Need to Build Their Personal Brand appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Wix vs Squarespace: Price, Features & What’s Best in 2019

While Wix and Squarespace offer similar all-in-one hosting and website builder plans, Wix offers extensive creative freedom in their drag-and-drop editor and over 500 templates, while Squarespace offers a structured drag-and-drop builder and ecommerce functionality. Wix is best for creatives while Squarespace is best for building a clean, professional website for ecommerce purposes. Who Wix…

The post Wix vs Squarespace: Price, Features & What’s Best in 2019 appeared first on Fit Small Business.

The Ultimate Guide for Finding & Reaching Out to Bloggers

The blogosphere has been a major online marketing medium for years now. Bloggers are trusted voices who can bring in customers and help you build your community. They’re capable of exposing others to your message and getting the buzz started — but only if you approach the task diligently.

Reaching out to potential bloggers is a more intricate process nowadays than it was even five years ago. Great bloggers are constantly getting pitched by marketers, making it all the more important for you to stand out from the crowd if you want them to pay attention.

Trust me, though: It’s well worth it to invest time in building connections with high quality bloggers and turn them into a brand advocates who will be willing to help you out over and over again.

Want to achieve worthwhile results from your blogger outreach efforts? In this post, I’ll go over a few tips for reaching out to bloggers effectively. Then, I’ll talk about seven great blogger outreach tools that will help you connect with bloggers in your niche.

Blogger Search

Before you start reaching out to bloggers, you’ll need to figure out who you’ll reach out to by doing some quick research. As you’re searching for bloggers, look for people who are in your industry or in an industry that somewhat relates to your product. This way, their audience will be similar to yours and may trust the blogger more when they talk about your product or write a sponsored post about you.

You’ll also want to look at their following. The larger their audience is, the better the posts will be for your brand awareness. While you might not be able to see traffic or follower numbers directly on their blog page, looking at their social media channels might be a good way to distinguish how many fans they have and how engaged their audience is with their content.

Blogger Outreach

Many bloggers don’t mind helping your brand grow — in fact, some of them may like what you offer. All in all, many of them will appreciate additional sources of income.

But there’s always a chance one of those power bloggers will be insulted by the means or message you use to reach out to them. If you’re really unlucky, they might voice their irritation in public, thereby tarnishing your reputation. So how do you reach out to the bloggers without running into a risk of ruining your brand name? As someone who’s been on both sides many times, here are three tips.

Here are four guidelines for blogger outreach:

Tip #1: Send a straightforward email or message

I love emails that get to the point right away. The more straightforward you are, the more time I save. But there’s a fine line between being straightforward and being just plain careless.

Here’s an example of a careless blogging — the very one that inspired me to write this article in the first place:

Don’t want your emails to end up in the bin? Take time going through active blogs in your industry (using some of the tools I talk about later), reading media kits, searching for reviews they do, and so on. Do your homework before inviting bloggers to partner.

Tip #2: Tailor your email to each blogger so it feels personal.

All bloggers are different. Some of them might be really insulted by your paid review offer, for example. This doesn’t mean the same blogger may become your brand ambassador if you invite him or her to be your webinar or podcast featured guest.

Instead, tailor your offer based on what each of your bloggers seems to enjoy doing online. Which types of blog posts do they gravitate toward? Do some research to identify the types of content each blogger is currently doing to earn his/her living so you can approach them with an attractive offer.

Tip #3: Don’t rely on interns to do the outreach.

I’ve seen far too many emails from company managers apologizing for an unprofessional email their intern sent. Don’t get me wrong, interns are wonderful — but they likely don’t have much of a feel for your industry and how to navigate the politics of reaching out to other professionals.

It’s best to entrust your company’s reputation with someone more experienced with professional outreach.

Tip #4: Send a follow-up — but don’t go overboard with emails.

Like any business prospect, sending a second follow-up email a few days later could show the blogger that you’re interested in working with them. It might also be helpful if the first email they received got lost in the shuffle or was forgotten about.

However, if they seem like they are genuinely not interested or responsive, you may want to move on so you don’t seem desperate or annoying. Leave them with a good impression of your company and brand, even if they don’t wish to work with you.

Blogger Outreach Software

1. HubSpot Sales Hub

The Sales Hub includes a number of features that allow you to streamline and track your outreach process. These tools include email tracking, calling and live chat capabilities, a meeting scheduler, deal tracking tools, and email or contract templates.

The software’s Starter plan, which still includes a wide range of features, is $50 per month, while you can pay more for more advanced features with the Professional and Enterprise subscriptions.

Below is a quick look at what you’ll see when you look at prospects on the HubSpot Sales Hub. For a full demo, click here.

HubSpot Sales Hub prospect page

 

2. BirdSong Analytics

The newest tool in my arsenal, BirdSong Analytics allows you to export anyone’s Twitter follower list into an Excel file. The export includes each Twitter user’s real name, bio, URL, “Verified” status, and latest tweet.

You can imagine how many opportunities this feature offers: For example, you can download the list of all Twitter accounts @NYTimes is following and, by playing with Excel sorting and filtering features, identify those journalists who cover your niche. It’s lots of fun!

birdsong-analytics-tool

3. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a search and reputation management platform, and it’s always one of the first tools I use to find bloggers to reach out to.

I love the tool for many reasons, but I felt in love with it in the first place because of the ability to filter results by the time frame. This way you can see who covered your topic most recently and what kind of spread it got in social media. (The top results are your best targets.)

buzzsumo-tool-features

4. TwtrLand

TwtrLand is another search tool I was introduced to recently that helps you find influencers in any skill anywhere in the world. (Here’s an example.)

You can monitor brands on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and analyze their landscape. From what I’ve learned about it so far, it appears to have much more value — in terms of quality of results it returns — than similar Twitter influencer search tools. You can search TwtrLand by skill, location and name and then filter search results by influence level, location and categories:

twtrland-tool-most-influencial-in-tennis-page

5. Circloscope

Circloscope is primarily a Google Plus circle management tool, and it’s great way to discover niche influencers and connect with them on Google Plus. You can easily identify active and influential members from any Google Plus community, see who any of your current peers follow, and create a list of influential users attending an event or a Google hangout.

Add to this lots of filters (for example, you can set to see users who were active on Google Plus within a week or so), and you get a great influencer discovery tool.

circloscope-tool-edit-filters-page

6. Tomoson

This platform connects businesses to bloggers in a very flexible way. You can create projects and invite bloggers to spread the word about them on your own terms while giving both parties flexibility. (For example, businesses cannot dictate the types of links bloggers are required to provide, which helps keep this platform safe from any abusive tactics.)

Tomoson has its own “ranking” algorithm allowing you to easier identify influencers. Businesses can also set minimum requirements to applying bloggers.

tomoson-tool-science-fiction-fantasy-book-review

7. MyBlogU

The best way to get a feel of the community is to become part of one. MyBlogU is one of the most action-driven platforms which serves two goals:

  1. To connect to bloggers by helping them. (And we all know by now that helping people is the most effective way to build long-term relationships online.)
  2. To get featured on their blogs by providing expert quotes to their queries.

myblogu-tool-expert-quote-queries

8. TwChat

Twitter chats are my favorite way to build connections with influencers. They are open, everyone can join, and no one goes unnoticed. The TwChat tool allows you to find chats in your niche and easily participate in any of them.

twchat-tool-dashboard-showing-tweets

The 16 Best WordPress Analytics Plugins in 2019

What’s the one thing more overwhelming than the volume of your analytics data?

I’m willing to be its the volume of analytics plugin options on WordPress.

Installing an analytics plugin for your WordPress site allows you to get all your site’s data, metrics, and insights without leaving your WordPress dashboard. The majority of users choose Google Analytics, although I’ve chosen some non-GA plugins, too.

While Google Analytics is a powerful option, many find the sheer amount of data available on GA daunting, and the interface clunky. WordPress plugins aim to simplify the interface so that users get to the data they need without feeling overwhelmed.

If you do use Google Analytics, we have a comprehensive guide on How to Set Up Google Analytics for WordPress.

With new plugins hitting the market monthly, and specialist plugins offering specific insights, it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for you.

To help you sort through, we’ve compiled a list of the best analytics for WordPress plugins in 2019. We’ll explore basic differences, as well as features and benefits of each option, to help you choose the best plugin for your needs.

1. MonsterInsights

Price: Free | Premium: from $99

WordPress.org rating: 3.9 out of 5 from 637 reviews

Generally considered the king of analytics plugins, MonsterInsights is a good all-rounder. It’s also the most popular Google Analytics plugin on WordPress, with over two million active installations.

Like most of the plugins in this list, MonsterInsights adds your Google Analytics tracking code to your site with no coding required on your part. It pulls your data into a user-friendly interface that runs inside your WordPress dashboard and offers flexibility for growing sites with free and premium versions.

It offers all the Google Analytics data you would expect, broken down into audience and behavior metrics. Additionally, you get more advanced features like ecommerce reports with the premium version.

One limitation of this goliath is you can’t get statistics on individual pieces of content like you can with Analytify.

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2. Analytify

Price: Free | Premium: $39 per year

WordPress.org rating: 4.9 out of 5 from 220 reviews

Analytify is a big hitter in the world of WordPress analytics and will install your Google Analytics tracking code for you. The interface allows you to access your data right from your WordPress dashboard.

Analytify is especially good for ecommerce businesses, since it offers enhanced ecommerce tracking features. The free version is fairly limited but the premium version is substantially cheaper than MonsterInsights, while offering similar functionality plus the benefit of being able to dig into individual posts and pages.

With the free version, you can monitor your site stats and you gain limited access to general reporting features. This includes tracking features like page views, top countries, social media statistics and top referrers.

With the premium version, you gain additional features like real-time statistics, campaign statistics, and email notifications.

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3. Google Analytics Dashboard for WP

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.3 out of 5 from 389 reviews

It may not have the catchiest of names, but this plugin is all about functionality.

It does what it says on the tin. The interface isn’t as pretty as some of the more polished plugins, but you get all the features you would expect — insertion of tracking code, Google Analytics data, real-time tracking — right in your WordPress dashboard for free.

A solid option for those who know they don’t want to upgrade and pay for a premium plugin.

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4. Clicky Analytics

Price: Free | Paid: from $9.99 per month

WordPress.org rating: 4.6 out of 5 from 17 reviews

Aside from having an excellent name, Clicky offers a plain and simple view of your analytics, which is ideal for people who feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of options available within Google Analytics. Additionally, it installs its own Clicky tracking code into your site so you don’t have to mess around with code.

Clicky provides detailed insights that are still simple enough for the average blogger to understand. Most of the functionality is available for free, but some features like video analytics and custom data tracking is only available with the paid version. It also has some quirky features like a live map so you can track your visitors in real-time.

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5. Crazy Egg

Price: Premium: $9 per month

WordPress.org rating: 3.8 out of 5 from 5 reviews

Crazy Egg is an open source plugin offering a totally different perspective than most of the others, since it adds Crazy Egg’s tracking code to your site. This allows you to watch via heat maps — in real-time — what visitors are hovering over and clicking on.

The plugin also offers comprehensive A/B testing based on various content variables like color, copy and content placement, to improve the user experience and increase conversions. This is a good alternative to Google Analytics for users more interested in conversion optimization.

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6. Analytics Cat

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 3.8 out of 5 from 5 reviews

Analytics Cat is a super simple, lightweight plugin. If you’re looking to add a Google Analytics tracking code but don’t want to weigh down your WordPress site with the dashboard integration, it can do it in minutes.

Analytics Cat offers a simple way to stop your data from becoming corrupted by your obsessive self-navigation, since it provides the ability to exclude logged-in users from your Google Analytics tracking. You can also exclude as many other user roles as you’d like.

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7. GA Google Analytics

Price: Free | Premium: from $15 one-off

WordPress.org rating: 4.9 out of 5 from 71 reviews

This is a simple tool that does one job — it adds a Google Analytics code to every page on your site. It doesn’t pull in or display any stats for you, but it does its job well. This is ideal for complex sites with hundreds of pages. If you’re happy with keeping your Google Analytics off your WordPress dashboard but want to ensure the tracking code is on every page, this is the plugin for you.

Additionally, the premium version enables a host of advanced features like an opt-out for visitors. It also supports custom code and lets you disable tracking on logged-in users.

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8. HubSpot

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.6 stars from 104 ratings

HubSpot’s WordPress plugin isn’t just an analytics plugin — it also allows you to implement HubSpot’s forms, pop-ups, and live chat.

HubSpot’s plugin offers incredibly detailed data on the leads you collect. Additionally, you can get an in-depth understanding of which CTAs drive the highest number of sign-ups, enabling you to convert visitors more effectively. This user information is synced with your HubSpot CRM.

9. Google Analytics WD

Price: Free | Premium: $30 per year

WordPress.org rating: 4.5 out of 5 from 93 reviews

This plugin is a solid option and has both a free and reasonably priced premium version. With a low barrier to entry, it’s a user-friendly, simple way to view your stats within WordPress.

The free version includes page views, top performing pages, a centralized dashboard, comprehensive reports, and bounce rates. However, if you want Google Analytics coverage, ecommerce reports, AdSense and AdWords reports, you’ll need the premium version.

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10. WP Google Analytics Events

Price: Free | Premium: from $79 per year.

WordPress.org rating: 4.6 out of 5 from 28 reviews

Designed to offer detailed behavioral analytics, WP Google Analytics Events digs deeper into your Google Analytics data. For instance, just because a visitor navigated to a blog post, doesn’t mean they scrolled down and read all the way through. WP Google Analytics Events can help you see what’s really going on at the level of individual events.

The downside of this plugin is it’s difficult to set up, so this is ideal for more advanced users.

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11. Jetpack by WordPress.com

Price: Free | Premium: from $5 per month

WordPress.org rating: 4.6 out of 5 from 28 reviews

Jetpack is a multi-functioning tool for design, marketing and security — analytics is just one of its many features. It displays your stats via a simple interface offering a handy overview of how your site is doing. However, don’t expect to be able to drill down into the data on individual pages and posts.

As you would expect from a WordPress.com product, the plugin offers good support and detailed troubleshooting guides. Best of all, Jetpack offers a smiley face at the bottom of your page to show whether the JetPack analytics tools are working.

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12. WP Statistics

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.3 out of 5 from 396 reviews

A powerful yet simple plugin focused on stats, WP Statistic’s interface is intuitive and displays graphs and charts beautifully. This plugin puts an emphasis on privacy. You can be sure that the data is not being shared with the big boys — additionally, you don’t need to deal with any third parties to use this plugin.

This plugin is particularly good when it comes to geographical data and content reports, and supports real-time stats on your site as well as the standard features you would expect. The best part? It’s totally free.

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13. Matomo

Price: from $9 per month

WordPress.org rating: 4.6 out of 5 from 84 reviews

Formerly Piwik, Matomo is an open-source analytics alternative which gives you detailed reports on your visitors, traffic sources, keywords, and many other common metrics. This plugin installs the Matomo tracking code and allows you to view the data within your WordPress dashboard.

Advanced features lets you follow visitors in real-time or in the visitors’ log and manage multiple sites among many other features. Matomo also offers a mobile app to access reports on the go. You will need an existing Matomo account to access the data.

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14. Slimstat Analytics

Price: Free | Add-ons from $12 one-off

WordPress.org rating: 4.8 out of 5 from 755 reviews

Slimstat is an alternative analytics solution sitting between WordPress and Google Analytics in terms of complexity. An open-source platform that stores all your data in your WordPress database, it allows you to track returning customers and registered users, and monitor Javascript events, detect intrusions and analyze email campaigns — all within your WordPress dashboard.

The basic version is free but there is a range of add-ons allowing you to use as much or as little as you need.

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15. Enhanced Ecommerce Google Analytics Plugin for WooCommerce

Price: Free | Premium: $135 one-off

WordPress.org rating: 4.4 out of 5 from 95 reviews

The clue is in the title with this one. Enhanced Ecommerce Google Analytics Plugin for WooCommerce focuses on the new Google Analytics’ feature for advanced ecommerce statistics.

Because it’s so specialized, this plugin offers the most detailed insights into customer behavior as well as comprehensive product and sales statistics. All of it is accessible from the interface within your WordPress dashboard. However, you’ll need the paid version to get any serious benefit from this plugin.

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16. WP Power Stats

Price: Free

WordPress.org rating: 4.1 out of 5 from 53 reviews

WP Power Stat offers a wide-screen interface, which is good for getting an overview of your site’s data. This plugin is billed as lightweight, fast, reliable and secure. As all the stats are stored on your own WordPress site, there is no meddling with your data by third parties. This plugin is a powerful free option.

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Which Analytics Plugin Should You Choose?

You may want to choose more than one analytics plugin, since many of them are specialized for certain tasks.

If you’re looking to bring the power of Google Analytics into your WordPress dashboard, go for a plugin like MonsterInsights or Analytify, which both have excellent free versions as well as comprehensive premium versions.

Alternatively, there are some plugins specialized in privacy, speed and reliability. There are also some simple tools to quickly set you up with a Google Analytics code.

The great thing about WordPress plugins is you can install them and play around with the free versions to see if they work for you without committing to anything. So give a few of these options a try and see what’s the best fit for you and your analytics needs.

In the meantime, find out how to save time and maximize ROI by hooking up your HubSpot data with your WordPress site.

Contact Discovery: Using Paid Media for Your Account-Based Marketing Strategy

Offering high-quality products and services to your customers is table stakes for any company to survive. But it’s hardly the be-all and end-all of business success.

In today’s digital era of transformation, the experiences your organization provides are equally important. As a reminder, people buy experiences, not just products. And to deliver remarkable customer experiences, you need to shift from a lead-based only marketing approach to a combined lead and account-based marketing strategy.

In our last blog on account insights and profiling, we outlined how to find your ideal customers, build the right target account lists using artificial intelligence, and use AI-powered account-level insights to create hyper-personalized account-based experiences (ABX) for ABM.

Now, we’ll dive into how you can leverage paid media for ABM to hydrate your target account lists by discovering net-new contacts within each target account and treat them to unforgettable experiences that truly make an impact.

But first, let’s talk about the concept of buying groups for account-based marketing strategies.

How are buying groups relevant to your account-based marketing strategy? 

The single most important thing to remember about B2B marketing and sales is this: No one person is responsible for making a purchasing decision on their own.

In fact, the average B2B purchase involves more than five decision-makers—all with varying levels of influence and authority. And that’s why traditional standalone lead-based marketing efforts without an account strategy is quickly becoming passé.

After building your target account list and prioritizing which accounts to target, it’s time to confirm the buying group that you want to market and sell to. A buying group is a specific set of key individuals for each account who will be part of the decision-making process and who ultimately all need to agree to purchase your product.

Successful ABM requires identifying all the key contacts within an organization’s buying group and sending them timely, relevant, and personalized communications tailored to their specific roles, responsibilities, and interests.

For instance, while you’d initially want to engage with a company’s CMO throughout a campaign, you might want to engage with the IT director at the same time or hold your messages to them until later in the buyer’s journey for that specific account.

The content would also differ. The CMO’s communications would revolve around their challenges and your solution’s benefits related to ROI and revenue. The IT director would receive information about the ease of implementation and integration, and time-to-value.

Of course, before you start thinking about the right time to reach out and the right content to send, you need to make sure you’ve identified all the right decision-makers for each buying group within your target accounts.  And that’s where contact discovery comes in.

Discover new contacts using two account-based advertising strategies

Paid media for ABM helps you with contact discovery, or attracting new and unknown contacts and mapping them to key personas within target accounts.

Here are two popular paid media use cases for your ABM strategy: 

1. Target unknown contacts within your known target accounts

Here, you start out with a list of accounts that are currently in your database. So, you’re fully aware of the companies you’re marketing to, but you don’t have all the right contacts for each buying group within each account yet. The goal is to upload that list of accounts into a paid media network, match the accounts into their database, and send ads to contacts within each account.

This will allow you to send account-based ads to net-new contacts at these companies across the web in hopes that they convert and become a known contact within your target accounts. Depending on the ad network, marketers can use this strategy to penetrate accounts and pinpoint people in the buying groups you most want to reach.

Just keep in mind: You have a finite audience to sell to, so you better make the most of your efforts.

2. Target unknown contacts within unknown accounts 

This is a situation where you can make something out of nothing. After developing the criteria for your ideal customer profile, you can discover both new accounts and new contacts for your ABM strategy. Often times, sales and marketing teams find that they don’t have enough target accounts, or they simply want more.

In this situation, you upload a list of your best-fit customer accounts into paid media networks. Using their look-alike models, the paid media networks can find new accounts that are similar to the attributes of your existing customer account list.

You can then run ads to contacts within the new accounts that the paid media network is suggesting.  And if they convert on an offer, you’ll secure a net-new contact in a brand-new target account for your ABM strategy

One thing to remember is you shouldn’t limit yourself. Increase your reach as much as possible across multiple networks while also being mindful of potential overlap of the same contacts across different account-based marketing ad networks.

Successful paid media campaigns for ABM require a marketing automation solution

A sophisticated marketing automation solution is the key to maximizing the success of your paid media campaigns for your ABM strategy.

Launching advertising campaigns for your ABM strategy is a great way to discover new contacts and accounts, but the customer experience should not start and stop there. Marketing automation solutions help continue the customer experience by automatically incorporating new contacts into nurture campaigns and scoring models to ensure that relevant, personalized and timely engagement continues across the buying journey. This is extremely important because most contacts don’t want to be followed up with right away just because they’ve interacted with your brand just once.

For example, let’s say a new contact converts from one of your paid media campaigns by clicking on an ad and downloading your latest white paper. This contact has now become a known contact within one of your target accounts, but what do you do next? Just because they downloaded a piece of content for the first time doesn’t mean they want to be followed up with by an aggressive sales rep right away.

Instead, use your marketing automation solution to nurture them in context to the account they belong to rather than an individual lead-based nurture program. View their conversation in context with all the other contacts within the buying group inside the account and make sure that your marketing automation solution is set up to engage each contact based on the account-level insights and strategy.

Marketing automation is a key part to a successful ABM strategy, especially when you’re wanting to continue and automate the account-based customer experience across your marketing channels after discovering new contacts and accounts across paid media channels.

The post Contact Discovery: Using Paid Media for Your Account-Based Marketing Strategy appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

Bing Ads (Microsoft Advertising): Ultimate Guide 2019

Bing is a search engine people use to find content around topics, companies, or products that interest them. Bing Ads (recently rebranded as Microsoft Ads) are display or text advertisements that appear on Bing search results pages. Any company can create and launch a Bing ad; the average cost is $1.54 per click. How Bing Ads…

The post Bing Ads (Microsoft Advertising): Ultimate Guide 2019 appeared first on Fit Small Business.

The consumer shopping journey – how mobile phones have changed the landscape for retailers

For some retailers’ the mobile phone has been revolutionary and helped drive them forward and dramatically grow, whilst other retailers’ who have not embraced the mobile phone, have ultimately had to close their doors.

Fighting on behalf of the mobile phone, as you all know we love them, it is not their fault, they are just an innocent bystander in this scenario, the fault lies with the retailers themselves.

Before we look at how the smartphones have revolutionised consumers shopping experience, we must first look back at how consumers shopped before the introduction of the mobile phone to really see the true value of the mobile phone.

Looking for ideas
Back in the late 90s for anyone who wanted to look for ideas of clothing or gifts, they would either have had to physically go into stores. The only other way was to pick up a catalogue and flick through the pages. Websites were around in the late 90s and early 2000s, but only the very big retailers would have had one and browsing these sites would have been slow and tedious.

Making the purchase
Again, the only two ways to purchase something from a retailer would have been through a catalogue or visiting the retailers store. Two very long and slow processes, especially if you did not live near a large town.

What happens now
With the popularity of mobile devices and the fact consumers can look for ideas stood in the middle of a field, hundreds of miles away from a shop, see something they like and purchase it right then and there, there is no need to ever go into a store.

For those who do visit the store, the vast majority will find what they want to buy, then go onto their mobile phones and see if they can find it cheaper online.

7 out of 10 mobile users interact with their devices in the store while they are shopping (Source: Google Mobile Movement Study)

This means brick and mortar stores are not only battling with other physical stores, but against millions of online retailers.

What has happened to some of the big retailers?
Some huge retailers have shut shop over the past 10 years or so, and whilst we aren’t saying that they all went under because they ignored the popularity of mobile phones, we would almost guarantee had they embraced it and seen how consumers were using it to do their shopping, their doors may still be open today.

Retail shops that have closed

From the above list of retailers who closed down in recent years, Jane Norman is a prime example of a retailer who took no notice of their target audience and this shut shop in 2011.

Jane Norman were a huge, they built their brand on selling clothes to 16 to 25-year-olds and peaked in the 90s. Back in the 90s mobile phones were not readily available so there was no need to offer a mobile solution, but when they closed shop in 2011, smartphones were being widely used and just a year after they closed in 2012, 66% of their target audience 16 to 24-year-olds owned a smartphone (Source: Statista).

So, their decision to ignore the popularity of mobile phones may well have been the final nail in their coffin.

What your business can do to embrace the mobile phone

To ensure that you are not the next Zavvi or Jane Norman, below are some easy wins to help you offer customers a mobile experience that matches, and in some cases even beats the in store experience.

Mobile friendly website
Number 1 on your list is to ensure your mobile website works seamlessly and consumers can browse it, look for ideas, and make a purchase just as easy as coming into your store or using a desktop computer.

From 2011 to 2018 M-commerce retail sales have increased by 762% from £ 910 Million to £7.84 Billion (Source: Statista)

With the huge increase in mobile sales for retailers, not offering consumers a mobile friendly website or if your mobile site is slow, can dramatically hurt sales. In fact a one second delay in mobile load times can impact mobile conversions by up to 20% (Source: Google/Ipsos).

For some great tips on how you can speed up your website and get more sales read our blog here.

Multiple communication channels
Offer consumers as many ways as possible for them to be able to get in contact with you, whether it is for customer support or they just want to ask a question. But what you must do, is make it easy for them to find them, offering 10 ways for them to contact you is great, but if consumers are struggling to find these then it is a wasted resource.

Apart from the obvious two of a phone number and email address, there are 2 other ways that you can utilise the consumers mobile phone.

Keyword – Use a Keyword that can be displayed on your website, in store, or on flyers/posters, and allow customers to it to get in contact with you.
“Text ORDER followed by your receipt number to 88802 to get an update on your delivery”

Virtual Mobile Number –-Similar to a Keyword, you can use a Virtual Mobile Number to allow customers to message you.
“If you have any questions about products, our website, delivery, or anything else, text us on 447123456789 and someone will be in touch”

Integration between online and in store
Like Casey Carl said; “They (consumers) want to flow seamlessly across all of our channels”. Consumers want to shop online and in store and have the same amazing experience. But to achieve this you need to look at both your online and physical store.

Show availability information – Number one on the list is to ensure that both your online and physical store match up.

75% of consumers expect retailers to have product availability information before visiting in store (Source: Capgemini)

You do not want your website showing that you have items in store and when your customers come in they find out it is not there. This will infuriate them, and potential mean you have lost that customer.

Think about what you do well online – Can you replicate what you do well on your website that you can do in your store? Maybe consumers love the fact that they can easily speak with someone through your website, so ensuring that your staff are just as friendly and knowledgeable is key.

You need to remember that buying both online or in store should provide the same amazing experience that will make customers come back for more.

The journey doesn’t stop when they have purchased
Just because someone has purchased from you doesn’t mean the communication should stop. Now is the perfect time to go the extra mile and drive home your amazing customer service and turn them from a one-time purchase into a customer for life.

There are 3 simple ways you can keep in contact with consumers after they have bought from you.

Delivery notifications – Make sure you send delivery notifications and updates, providing customers each time an option to update their delivery date and time.

Survey – Send a survey to customers and ask a couple of key questions about how they found your website, service, and product which will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses.

Follow up message – 6 to 10 weeks after your customer made their purchase, send them a message either offering them a discount, some suggestions of what other products you have, or even just a friendly hello to remind them you are still there.

 

Consumer shopping habits will constantly change and evolve and ensuring that you keep up with the new trends and technology can be tough. But using SMS as part of your marketing, sales, and even support can be a very simple but very effective communication method.

Ad Tracking: What It Is & How to Do It

Back in the days of Mad Men-esque advertising agencies, tracking how many people engaged with a particular ad campaign was nearly impossible to do well. Advertisers would sink money into mediums like radio and print, and hope sales of the advertised product went up. There was no dependably accurate way to determine how many people engaged with an ad or purchased a product because of it. In fact, the term ROI (return on investment) wasn’t even widely used until the mid-1960s

A lot has changed since then. Advertisers now have access to a wealth of granular ad tracking data for every single campaign they run — so much data, in fact, that most marketers need to spend significant time sifting through dashboards to determine which points actually matter to their bottom line. Ad tracking has made it possible for marketers to more accurately measure, test, and revise ads based on how users interact with their online campaigns. 

If you’re new to running online ads, it’s important to spend some time thinking about the specific metrics that will determine the success of your campaign. Ad tracking today exists across a number of different tools and platforms, and advertisers have the ability to collect data on everything from views and clicks, to impressions and behavior across multiple sessions and websites.

The sheer amount of data available can be overwhelming (not to mention distracting from your goals), so deciding on one or two key performance indicators (KPIs) will help focus your efforts and make reporting more straightforward and effective. 

As William Stentz, Director of Marketing Analytics at Carmichael Lynch, reminds us, “Good key performance indicators are simple, timely, critical to the success of a project, and not financial in nature. But you also need to add in one thing if you want it to be a successful marketing metric — it must represent a key behavior you wanted to see. Look at your campaign and ask yourself: What’s the behavior I want to influence, not just something I can measure?”

We wrote an article here that can help you determine the right metrics to track based on the goals of your ad campaign. 

Once you’ve determined the metrics you want to track for your ad, it’s time to find the best ad tracking method for your purposes. The exact ad tracking methods available to you will vary based on where you run your ads and which tools you’re using, but here are a few basic types to keep in mind. It’s important to note that the following ad tracking methods aren’t mutually exclusive — in fact, when used together they can provide even more powerful insights. 

Tracking URLs

A tracking URL is a normal page URL from your website with a tracking token added to the end of it. Here’s an example landing page URL by itself, and with a tracking token (in bold).  

Regular old landing page URL: 

http://www.yourwebsite.com/your-landing-page/

Landing page URL with a tracking token: 

http://www.yourwebsite.com/your-landing-page/?utm_campaign=test-campaign&utm_source=email

As you can see, the page URL is the same in both cases, but in the second case, there’s some extra stuff added to the end. This extra stuff is your tracking token, also called a UTM parameter. 

So how does this “extra stuff” help you track things, exactly?

When a user clicks on a URL with a UTM parameter added to the end, it essentially sends a signal back to your ad tracking tool that the URL was clicked. The “source=_____” bit of the tracking token can provide information about where the user clicked the link. Similarly, the “campaign=_____” bit can be used to signal to your tracking tool that the link should be bucketed as part of a campaign.

For example, if you were to run the same ad on multiple websites and wanted to know which one generated the most clicks, you could define the two different websites as sources in the UTM parameters of your links. 

You can learn more about tracking parameters and how they work in this article

Best for: If you’re running a PPC campaign, sending an email, or putting an advertisement on another website, tracking URLs are ideal for calculating the number of visits, leads, and conversions you’ve generated from your hard work. 

Tracking Pixels

A tracking pixel is a tiny, often transparent, 1px by 1px image that can be placed in an email, display ad, or simply on a webpage. When it loads, it sends a signal back to your tracking tool that a user has viewed the page.

Tracking pixels are also capable of collecting pretty comprehensive data about a user’s activity and browser configuration — but you should only ever track information that is directly useful to your buyer’s journey and will provide a better, more personalized experience for your target users. 

When used correctly, tracking pixels can help optimize your ads and get them in front of a receptive audience. For example, if you run a banner ad with a tracking pixel, you’ll be able to gather information about how many people just view versus actually click on your ad, which will help you determine whether or not an ad was actually successful (and worth running again).

For context, here’s how big a tracking pixel appears (no, that’s not just a speck of dust on your screen):

Best for: Tracking pixels are incredibly useful for tracking the success of your online campaigns through every step of your conversion path. They can give you insight into how users are interacting with your ads, and help you optimize each stage of your user journey from initial touch through final purchase. 

Cookies

Cookies can help you gain insight into user behavior on your website across multiple sessions of activity. Marketers need to gain explicit consent from users before using cookies to track their activity. When explicit consent is given, cookies can be used to customize a user’s experience. Here’s a deeper dive on cookies if you want to learn more about the technical aspects of how they function. 

From an ad tracking perspective, cookies are the driving force behind most ad retargeting campaigns. Cookies can be used to essentially build a user profile based on someone’s web activity and habits, and advertisers can leverage this profile to serve ads that align with a user’s observed interests. They can also capture information about a user’s browser configuration, location, and preferred language.

Best for: Cookies are ideal when you want to serve a user ads aligned with their web browsing activity, or retarget them with ads for products they’ve demonstrated an interest in. Cookies can also be used to create a personalized experience for users on your website based on their previous interactions with you — for example, you could create an abandoned cart email when users put items in their cart and then leave your website.

Now that we’ve gone over a few core terms related to ad targeting, let’s take a deeper look at how ad targeting functions on a few of the biggest ad tracking platforms, and how you can use it to make your own ad campaigns stronger and more effective. 

DoubleClick Ad Tracking

If you’ve ever noticed an ad for a product you viewed weeks ago following you around on the internet, it’s likely the result of DoubleClick ad tracking. DoubleClick, which was acquired by Google in 2008, is an ad management and ad serving platform that enables marketers to run ad campaigns across multiple channels.

Online publishers use DoubleClick to essentially rent out ad space on their websites, and agencies and advertisers use the product to place ads on websites where their target audiences are spending time. 

In 2012, Google rebranded their DoubleClick products as Google Marketing Platform (formerly DoubleClick), Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), and Google Ad Manager (formerly DoubleClick for Publishers and DoubleClick Ad Exchange). 

Google offers advertisers a number of different ad tracking options when they create campaigns on the platform — most of which rely on the use of cookies.

According to Google, “Cookies themselves contain no personally identifiable information. Depending on the publisher’s and user’s settings, information associated with cookies used in advertising may be added to the user’s Google Account.”

These generic cookies can collect information on the time and date you viewed particular ads, the specific web pages you were on when you viewed an ad, and your IP address — which can help the cookie infer where you’re located. 

Although the cookies contain no personally identifiable information, Google can combine the information it obtains via cookies with the personally identifiable information associated with your Google Account (which includes your browsing and search activity when you’re logged into Google — which, for most of us, is pretty much always). 

Google leverages two main types of cookies: first-party and third-party.

First-party cookies are dropped (i.e., assigned to a specific user) by the owner of the website you’re visiting. Information collected via first-party cookies can help publishers better understand your activity on their site and how ads are performing.

Third-party cookies are dropped by an advertiser on a website where their ads are being displayed. These cookies send information back to advertisers about how their ad campaigns are performing across all the websites where their DoubleClick ads are being displayed. 

Over 11.1 million websites currently run ads as part of Google’s AdSense network. If you visit a website within the network, the information collected via a DoubleClick ad tracking cookie will be pooled and leveraged by other websites and advertisers using AdSense.

This consolidation of cookie information results in an extremely rich pool of data for Google advertisers, as they can keep track of what ads you’re served across millions of different websites. 

To get started tracking ads with Google, you’ll need to get a Google Marketing Platform account. Depending on the size of your business and your particular needs, you’ll choose either an enterprise account — which can accommodate large ad campaigns across multiple websites and mediums — or a small business account — with ad tracking tools more focused and specialized for early company growth. 

Facebook Ad Tracking

Advertisers on Facebook can leverage a number of different ad tracking strategies to optimize ads for their audience. Facebook’s ad tracking pixel is one of the more common methods. It functions similarly to the basic tracking pixel we outlined above, and can be used to track the path someone takes from viewing an ad, to visiting your website, to purchasing a product. 

When an action takes place on a page where a tracking pixel has been set up, the pixel will “fire” and send that information back to your Facebook Events Manager account. Information collected via the tracking pixel can also be used in the creation of custom audiences for future ad campaigns.

For example, you could use data collected via a tracking pixel to create a custom ad audience targeting users who viewed a particular page on your website that implies purchase intent — like a pricing page. We wrote an article that goes deeper into how the tracking pixel functions if you want to learn more about different uses and how to set it up. 

While the Facebook pixel can offer advertisers valuable insights into how ads are influencing specific actions on their websites, it’s not the only way to track ads on the social network.

Another ad tracking option available to you is adding UTM parameters to links that appear on your ads. As we discussed above, tracking parameters use extra code on a URL to “fire” when a user loads the link. On Facebook, they can be used in Ads Manager to better understand which ads you’re running are driving which types of traffic. 

The 14 Best WordPress Appointment Plugins in 2019

As a marketer, one of your main goals is to collect high-quality leads for your sales team — but, when those leads try to make appointments to learn more about your products or services, are they being delighted as well as they could be?

Ultimately, creating an efficient, streamlined process for client appointment scheduling is essential for satisfying your prospects and ensuring you don’t lose their interest simply due to a lack of simplicity.

If you have a WordPress site, you’re in luck — there are simple, clean, easy-to-use appointment plugins you can implement to ensure you’re delighting your prospects every time.

Plus, optimizing your scheduling process doesn’t just help your prospects — it also helps you make scheduling the least time-consuming thing you have to do.

Here, we’re going to dive into our favorite 14 WordPress appointment plugins. But first — what are some characteristics of an exceptionally good one?

The Characteristics of the Best WordPress Appointment Plugins

What makes a good appointment plugin? There are nine criteria that a plugin should meet to cover all of your bases:

  1. A customizable appointment booking system where you record your availability or the availability or your staff.
  2. The ability for clients to self-book based on your availability.
  3. Integrations with common calendar tools like Google Calendar, Outlook, and iCal.
  4. Automatic meeting notifications.
  5. Lead generation tools to capture client information and create a database for future communication and lead generation.
  6. Payment integrations.
  7. Multilingual and multi-currency options.
  8. Adjustable time zones and time format.
  9. The ability to embed the calendar on your WordPress page.

An expansive collection of calendar integrations opens up your field to more new users. Most of the below tools hit all of the criteria above, so any of these would be worth considering for your business needs. However, when selecting the one that best serves your target market, make sure to focus on these elements before choosing your plugin.

1. HubSpot WordPress Plugin

Price: Free

The HubSpot WordPress Plugin includes several lead generation tools like popup forms, a web form builder, and kickback emails. Additionally, you can integrate it with your other HubSpot freemium tools, including the Meetings app.

Native within the WordPress plugin, you can use the following to collect client data on your WordPress pages:

  • Banners
  • Scroll Boxes
  • Embedded Forms
  • Pop-ups

Once you collect client data, all that information is sent to the HubSpot free CRM (or anything else you integrate with), so you can get a full view of website behavior.

Additionally, the analytics tool helps you find important information like bounce rate, time on page, and traffic source to help you improve your conversions. Additionally, no API integrations or extra coding is necessary. It’s free, and very easy to sign up and give it a try.

Finally, all of this can integrate with the Meetings app. However, while there is a free version that includes a custom meetings link, you have to upgrade to have the ability to embed your calendar on your WordPress website.

2. Amelia Appointment Booking WordPress Plugin

Price: $59

The Amelia plugin is a fantastic appointment tool for enterprises and chains because of its expansive set of functionalities.

Designed with simplicity and mobile optimization in mind, the plugin helps you manage multiple employees and schedules by providing customizable booking forms and a responsive availability calendar. You can use this to manage both customers’ and employees’ schedules.

Booking an appointment is an easy two-to-three step process, where customers can fill out your contact information, the type of service and location desired, the specific staff members requested, and more.

The plugin is compatible with multiple payment gateways and you can set it up so customers pay directly through your on-site booking system. Plus, email notifications are sent out when an appointment is booked.

You can filter and sort the calendars as needed (by day, week, month, year, and view), and Amelia provides a shortcode to easily embed and sync your calendar on your WordPress site. If you need help with site design, it also offers demo sites.

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3. Appointment Booking Calendar Free WordPress Plugin

Price: Free, but additional features cost extra

This is one of the stronger free appointment booking plugins out there. It has some limitations — namely, the free version only works with PayPal, and in order to accept money through another service, you’ll need to invest in the premium version. It works with iCal, Outlook, and GCal.

Some solid features include:

  • Availability displays
  • Frontend customer self-booking with captcha
  • Customer database creation (available for download and print)
  • Individual customer file editing
  • A downloadable customer database sourced from created appointments

Once an event is created, you can edit as needed and notify participants. Plus, you can display multiple pages for your calendar.

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4. Bookly Appointment Booking and Scheduling WordPress Plugin

Price: Free, Pro is $89 per month

Bookly is designed to help your customers book appointments across multiple platforms and for various group sizes.

Designed for mobile use and translatable between a wide selection of languages, this WordPress plugin is a leader in the pack in terms of plugin usability.

You can display your availability and allow clients to self-book — this remains true even for recurring appointments and group bookings. You can arrange for custom notifications to be sent both to you and to your customers on multiple devices, and editing events is easy.

Administrative functions can be performed and function smoothly within the plugin, so managing time-off, holiday parties, individual employee schedules, and bookings can all be managed or assigned.

Bookly is compatible with a variety of currencies and integrations like WooCommerce, PayPal, and Stripe. Check out the site to see the entire list of payment integrations.

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5. Appointment Booking and Online Scheduling Free WordPress Plugin

Price: Plans range between $15 per month to $99 per month

Booking appointments has never been easier than with vCita’s appointment booking plugin. Whether you need to schedule group events or one-on-one sessions, this is an effective tool for getting those events on the customizable calendar.

It also makes it easy to keep in touch with clients by allowing you to send documents like invoices, reminders, event change notifications, and follow up messages. Additionally, it lets you send follow up emails to increase communication.

Operating via the mobile app is simple and intuitive, smoothly functioning between multiple calendars, employee schedules, and payment types.

Automation has never been easier than with this app, but you can also exert control when it comes to contacting your clients with the built-in messaging and call service.

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6. Book an Appointment Online PRO WordPress Plugin

Price: $39

With slick mobile and desktop booking design and text reminders, this plugin makes it nearly impossible to forget an appointment.

Aside from clients being able to choose what type of appointment they want, when, and with whom, you can use PayPal directly within the plugin once you pick a time. It’s integrated with Google Calendar so your appointments are inputted directly into your personal GCal as well as your clients’.

The plugin works with multiple currencies and both 12-hour and 24-hour time formats, so managing international clients is a breeze. Booking employees by shift or by hour is available, as well as booking internal team events like retreats, vacations, and sick days.

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7. StartBooking

Price: The basic plan is $6.39 per month, the business plan is $15.99 per month

StartBooking is a decent choice for users looking to keep variety in the equation for their appointment booking calendar. Managing multiple clients and staff members is easy with this simple service.

You have the option to offer multiple options to book from in the following categories:

  • Times
  • Services
  • Hours
  • Employees
  • Days
  • Users
  • Locations

The plugin’s strength is in its form capabilities — you can customize and embed appointment forms on your site using the provided shortcode.

The system creates a customer profile and tracks their history once you book, so you can monitor and evaluate your connection with your users as you see fit. Booking groups and classes are a breeze, and you can send customized batch notifications to attendees as needed.

StartBooking offers a secure connection so processing online payments (through Stripe specifically) is safe and easy. It works across mobile devices and with your GCal, but if you have another type of calendar, you might want to use another plugin.

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8. BirchPress

Price: Tiered pricing, starts at $99 per year and goes to $249 per year

BirchPress is similar to other appointment booking systems on this list with the customer-facing appointment booking calendar. However, this system is particularly customizable. Forms templates are provided and can be altered to reflect your design and question needs.

Notifications and reminders can be edited and automatically sent when events are generated or changed.

BirchPress has a ton of options when it comes to integrating with calendars — if you use iCal, Android, Outlook, or GCal, you’re good to go, and embedding it on your WordPress site is easy with the provided shortcode.

However, when it comes to payments, it only integrates directly with PayPal. If you use another service, you need to use WooCommerce process payments. However, credit card booking, aside from a third-party source, is easy.

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9. Booking Calendar

Price: Custom pricing based on your needs

Booking Calendar is a popular plugin that works especially well with hotel and Airbnb-style appointment creation. It offers a simplistic client-forward booking form to get meetings on your schedule. Once the event is created, a database is built as client bookings increase.

Customized notifications can be sent out to both you and your clients regarding the event in question, and you can even include captcha.

The plugin is optimized for mobile and integrated with PayPal and Stripe so that you can manage all of your booking steps in one place and across devices.

Additionally, this is a fantastic calendar plugin for developers because it works with jQuery.

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10. Easy!Appointments

Price: Free

Easy!Appointments is an open source plugin that allows you to build calendars and forms into your WordPress page using shortcode. Calendars can be divided into individual client calendars, locations, employees, and services. Group booking is simple and you can assign multiple employees to an event.

You set the buffer times and hours available for clients to book, and it all syncs with your GCal. Specialized calendar URLs are sent out for you to share with event participants. It has a flexible REST API endpoint.

You can design the event notifications as you need for the following changes:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Provider
  • Location
  • Topic
  • Service change
  • Cancellations
  • Reminders

It’s available in 21+ languages and is optimized for mobile devices.

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11. PinPoint Booking System

Price: Limited free version, PRO version is $70

PinPoint is a super simple one-page appointment booking plugin. It’s a front-end, Ajax-based client booking system that can switch back and forth between currencies, time zones, users, and languages.

You can choose between European or American date formats, as well as AM/PM or 24-hour time format. Additionally, you can embed it in widgets, or edit the calendar appearance with the CSS Editor.

This is a great option for organizations that provide room bookings for individuals and groups. Admins can control as many calendars as they need using the PRO version. Both the free version and PRO version allow you to display your availability and include locations in your events.

You can search for pre-existing events or specific data like discount codes using the search sidebar. Set up booking forms, email or SMS notifications, or promos and discount codes.

It integrates with PayPal, GCal, iCal, and AirBnB. If you use the WooCommerce add-on, you can integrate with other payment portals like Stripe.

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12. Calendarize it!

Price: $30

Calendarize it! Is a WordPress plugin that works best with the Gutenberg Editor. It’s a bit on the expensive side but should cover all your needs. Embed the calendar on your site with a shortcode, or explore the expansive add-on library.

It works with WPBakery Page Builder (formerly known as Visual Composer) so you can drag-and-drop elements to construct your own plugin customized to your needs.

Paid add-ons expand the functionality. CSS Editor is also a free add-on, which you can use to adjust your calendar’s branding, font, color, style, or template.

Users can also attach social sharing buttons and include maps with events. Once the appointment has been created, Calendarize it! creates client profiles and allows client’s to leave reviews.

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13. MeetingBird

Price: $49

MeetingBird isn’t specifically a WordPress appointment plugin, but the features included make it worth noting here. For one, it has strong integration capabilities, and can hook into your CRM or marketing stack. Additionally, it lets you integrate with support tools and help desk software like Zendesk.

With customized colors and complex translation capabilities, you can easily show your availability to your customers and incorporate buffers between events.

Upon the generation of the event, a customer creates an account and chooses their desired meeting time, which is then synchronized with your Google Calendar (and other integrations you’ve set up) if you choose to do so.

Both you and the client will receive reminders and notifications of event changes automatically.

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14. CozyCal

Price: The starter plan is free, the Pro plan is $10 per user, per month and billed annually. If billed monthly, the price jumps to $20 per month.

CozyCal is a very flexible working calendar for those with a crammed schedule. The calendar has four critical elements it allows you to set:

  • Event time
  • Event length
  • Free times
  • Buffers

It’s important to note, you can only integrated this plugin with Stripe or GCal. You can include a specialty URL designed for easy client booking that you can share with the relevant parties.

It’s designed to adjust to customers’ timezones and currencies to make international appointment booking and transactions smooth. Notifications are simple to set up so both you and your customers won’t forget your meeting.

Customized forms collect client information and funnel it into a client database for you to use, and floating booking buttons can be set up to appear on the purchase page when customers checkout.

Group and class bookings are available, or if you prefer, individual and round robin-style appointments. Assigning employees to clients is simple from the administrative dashboard or from the team booking calendar.

Umberto Pellegrini from The Influencer Marketing Factory said it best:

“We are huge fans of CozyCal. This WordPress appointment scheduler is perfect for SMEs and created to convert visitors into leads right on the hosting website. Great UX and design, easy to manage, fast and reliable. We really love it. To quote the CEO Alessandro Bogliari, ‘this tool, mixed with the other ingredients, gives us the opportunity to make magic happen.”

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There’s a huge market for appointment booking plugins out there in the tech sphere. It’s critical you evaluate which one you need based off of your clients, and your own team’s workflow.

If you want a super easy way to get your appointment scheduling streamlined and off the ground, check out HubSpot Meetings.

How Thinking Like an Entrepreneur Can Supercharge Your Success

Companies that thrive amid constant change and innovation share a common trait: Their leaders encourage employees to think more like entrepreneurs than traditional workers.

However, thinking like an entrepreneur does not require setting up a startup inside an organization. It means leaders are inspiring employees to think for themselves, creating a culture where people want to play a role in making a profound impact with the work they do. This “entrepreneurial thinking” means people go beyond their written responsibilities to take ownership of their projects.

The Roots Of Entrepreneurial Thinking

Entrepreneurs have long been admired for their visionary ideas and their ability to engage teams of people to innovate new business models and strategies. Entrepreneurs think differently than others. Just look at how Elon Musk has pioneered a new form of transportation, and how Steve Jobs revolutionized the meaning of mobile. Entrepreneurs tend to be optimistic about a new future, and that optimism leads to innovation.

Here are four principals of entrepreneurial thinking for leaders to embody and encourage.

1. Add value:

Entrepreneurs understand that they wont get paid until they first create value. This is part of all of their projects and serving clients. When your team members strive to create value in everything they do, you see it in how they approach problem-solving.

Entrepreneurial thinking is grounded in creating value.

2. Take ownership:

Going past written responsibilities allows each person to push beyond the feeling of “good enough” in his or her work. Great leaders inspire people to feel a sense of ownership with their work, which comes by finding the meaning in accomplishing the end goal that is a benefit to the company and the person.

Entrepreneurial thinking happens consistently when leaders delegate the end goal and let the employees determine the tasks. Employees who take total ownership for their own financial success and security end up being the ones who drive company growth. In fact,

88% of CEOs surveyed by Gallop shared that employees taking ownership is important or very important for company growth.

Great leaders also don’t place blame if things don’t work out.

3. Share your wild ideas:

Employees who are hesitant to verbalize their ideas will struggle to contribute to the company. People who think like entrepreneurs exhibit the courage to share their crazy ideas under almost any circumstance because they don’t know another way.

I recently wrote about the notion of ideas on Sunday in my weekly column for Inc. Magazine. This isn’t about encouraging employees to work seven days a week. It’s about giving people space to share ideas when it’s best for them—even when it’s on the weekend.

4. Be resilient:

Today’s pace of work requires resilience. Change is constant. Disruption is inevitable. Innovation is the norm. When you demonstrate the power of resilience amid challenges, you are able to endure the pain of failure. Entrepreneurial thinkers thrive in these situations because it is part of their DNA.

The ability to weather the storm of work’s disappointments also becomes a huge factor in company growth. Failing fast becomes part of the process, and new paths are defined by the ones that keep going no matter the obstacle.

Leaders who empower their people to think like entrepreneurs reap the benefits long term. The ones who strive to put structure around creative people will struggle in the new era of work.

The post How Thinking Like an Entrepreneur Can Supercharge Your Success appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

19 Best Squarespace Templates for Business

Squarespace templates (also known as “themes”) are pre-designed website designs you can install on your Squarespace website, then customize via a drag-and-drop editor. The best Squarespace templates for business offer ample customization, clean design, and well-rounded functionality. To help you build your professional website, we identified the 19 best Squarespace templates for specific industries/niches. Before…

The post 19 Best Squarespace Templates for Business appeared first on Fit Small Business.

How to Write a Creative Brief in 7 Simple Steps [Examples + Template]

The first step in any successful project is drawing up a game plan with a clear objective. That’s why marketers love creative briefs. But if you’re just starting out in a creative role, or are taking on your first gig as a designer or consultant, you might not know how to write one effectively.

 

The idea of a creative brief sounds simple, but it can be hard to wrap a bunch of important details into just a few pages.

Whether you’re a consultant pitching a creative brief to a client, or a project manager presenting a brief to your team, it can be helpful to start by speaking with project stakeholders. These discussions will help you drill down on the company mission, project goals, and challenges your team faces. Then you’ll be able to write a compelling brief that focuses on what’s really important to your company or client.

Once you’re fully informed and ready to write, use these seven helpful steps to draft a solid brief in a short amount of time. If you’re still having trouble organizing your thoughts, I’ve included a fill-in-the-blank template to help you in the sixth step.

1. Write about the brand and the project’s background.

This area is meant to set the tone of your entire brief. It allows you to show your team or your client that you understand their mission and project motivations. It also provides a list of company goals that you can keep in mind while aiming to develop an on-brand project.

Set the scene with one or two sentences that sum up the brand’s mission. Follow this with a few sentences that give background on the brand and what led to the development of the project.

While some creatives have put this information all together in a quick paragraph, others separate it with headers like “Brand Statement” and “Background.”

Here’s an example of how the brand statement and background was discussed in a fictional creative brief for Hush Puppies:

2. Highlight challenges and objectives.

Next, write a short paragraph about the brand challenge(s) that your project aims to solve for. Then give more detail on how the project will offer a solution.

This section will be helpful in emphasizing why the project needs to happen. The goal aspects will help you and your team align on the project’s expectations.

If the company or client hasn’t identified any major challenges, you can focus this section on goals and objectives. Explain what a successful project looks like and how it will benefit the company.

If there are a lot of objectives and challenges, you can split these up into two subsections with headers like “Challenge” and “Objective.

Here’s an example of a sample creative brief for PayPal that offers separate sections for “The Problem” and “The Goal”:

PayPal Sample brief showing The Problem and The Goal

And here’s an example of a sample brief for RedBull which just focuses on the objective:

3. Describe the target audience.

To know what type of content will engage your audience, you and your team need to know your audience. This section requires you to drill down on a specific type of audience and describe what’s important to them.

Along with basic demographics like age, gender, and geography, you should also include factors like customer pain points and motivations in this section of the brief. If you or your client has developed a detailed buyer persona already, this would be a great place to include some of this character’s information.

Here’s how the sample brief for PayPal noted above thoughtfully explains a new product’s target audience:

PayPal sample brief target audience

4. Walk through the competitive landscape.

Knowing what your competitors are doing is advantageous for the whole team. You can use competitive data to come up with ideas that they haven’t tried yet, learn from their failed projects, or build a project that improves on a strategy they’ve used in the past.

Include a quick list of competitors with similar product or service offerings. Briefly list a few things your company has in common with them, how your brand has differentiated itself already, and a few areas where this project can help you get ahead.

5. Offer a brief distribution plan.

When the project is done, you’ll need to make sure your audience actually sees it. List a few channels or platforms that you plan to announce the launch on, as well as any promotional content you plan to create.

When drafting this section, think about your target audience. Don’t waste time on a promotional strategy that they won’t see. For example, if you’re promoting a project to Gen-Z, you’ll want to invest in social media rather than billboards or newspaper ads.

Along with listing distribution points, you should also include messages or captions that will go along with promotion.

Here’s a sample brief where a specific promotional message is directly stated:

Gray's Cookies brand message

In this section of the brief, you should also note the appropriate voice for your audience. While some audiences, like those in the business world, might prefer more formal language, others might engage more with a casual, relatable tone.To acknowledge the best brand voice, you could write something like, “Our brand voice is a casual and care-free tone because it speaks to younger Gen-Z audiences.”

6. Organize with a template.

Having trouble with the flow and organization of your brief? Here’s a simple template that could help. Copy and paste it into a document and fill in the blanks. You can also add to it or adjust it as needed for your project.

[Inset Company or Client Logo at top]

COMPANY BACKGROUND:

For ___ years, ______ [Brand Name] has been serving customers in the ____________ [group/job field/geographical area] with ____________________ [product or service].

[Brand Name] has made achievements including __________,__________, and ___________. We have also launched marketing campaigns that have touched on ____________,________, and ____________. With the launch of _________ [project name] they hope to ___________.

CHALLENGE/OBJECTIVE:

With this project, the company aims to solve problems related to ____________________, while also expanding on ___________ and improving on _____________.

TARGET AUDIENCE:

Our target audience is ____ [gender], in the age range of _ and _, and live areas like ____, _____, and ______. They enjoy _____, dislike ______, and might work in fields like _____, _____, and _____. They want more of ________ and their daily pain points include ________.

Their favorite products might include _______ and ______. They learn about these products through channels including ________, _________, and _______.

COMPETITION:

Our three biggest competitors [are/will be] ________, ________, and _______. These competitors offer _____, ______, and ______. We are ahead of them in _____ and ______, but we are behind when it comes to product offerings like __________ and _________.

DISTRIBUTION:

We will promote the launch on platforms and channels that our demographic regularly engages with. These will include ________, ________, and _______.

We will also release content including _______, _______, and ________ to gain attention from our audience and inform them of the project.

Below are a few messages we will use:

  • _________________________________________________.
  • _________________________________________________.
  • _________________________________________________.

7. Share the brief.

Once you’ve drafted a creative brief, share it with the team you’ll be working with. You’ll also want to circulate it around the company via Slack, email, or presentations. If you’re a consultant working outside of a client’s company, encourage your clients to share the brief internally.

As you or your clients spread awareness, you should be open to answering questions or taking feedback from colleagues in case they have any great ideas. This strategy will improve team alignment, increase support of the project, and insure that all of your colleagues are on the same page.

5 Ways to Create the Optimal Customer Experience on Your Website

I am sure most people have quit while waiting for a website page to load. Waiting is a hassle; we all expect fast-loading sites—anything less isn’t worth the wait in today’s time-poor world. If your website is like this, then you probably haven’t upgraded or even thought about your website for a little while now.

And that’s why website speed is an essential part of your site’s performance. Whether your goal is reducing customer care calls, getting more targeted leads or being the hub of your digital strategy, website optimization can make your site more effective in achieving those goals.

Most consumers state that load time is an important factor when it comes to searching for information online. According to Google, 53% of mobile phone visits are abandoned if the page takes more than three seconds to load. Moreover, the study suggested that fast websites generate higher revenue. Mobile sites which take a maximum of five seconds to load earn two times more ad revenue than those loading for 19 seconds.

Furthermore, Google asked users whether they would prefer 30 or 10 search results to be served up per page. When Google incorporated 30 results to a few search pages, the traffic dropped by 20%, and the page load time between the two result pages was only half a second. If half a second has such an impact on traffic, imagine the difference it would make if you reduce your site’s load time by three seconds.

Key aspects of website performance optimization

Hosting

There are several important web hosting factors to consider when choosing whether to stay with your existing provider or move to a new provider. It goes without saying that you must make sure the hosting service has a dedicated 24×7 customer service. Check out reviews of their service on third-party review sites as well. Make sure there are no common themes in complaints as that would suggest there is likely to be a similar issue for you.

When browsing, you are trying to access remotes files found in web servers and the faster the computer, the faster one accesses the requested pages. The same applies to web hosting: effective web hosts invest in web server architecture to make sure that every page on those web servers run at full speed. Additionally, look for more advanced hosting packages that come with enhanced memory and increased power. Enhanced resources boost the speed of your websites because requests are executed more quickly. Advancing from shared web hosting to better plans will also do the trick.

Studies have found that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load within two seconds or less, with 40% abandoning a website that takes more than three seconds to load. There are lots of valuable guides and tips about there to speed up your site whether you need to speed up a WordPress website or any of the other content management systems out there such as Umbraco, Drupal, and so on. Speed really is king, so do what you can to improve yours.

Size of images

Files and images are crucial tools for your site as they help increase conversions, elicit your audience’s emotion, and tell stories about your site. It would be hard to develop an effective website without using visual content. The primary roles of using images on your website should be to improve the user experience and also enhance your content marketing. If the images negatively impact your site’s performance, then you need to fix this ASAP as Google will also start punishing your site by ranking it lower.

Also, consider “page bloat.” As new technology and new methods come along for content marketing and lead generation, try to avoid cramming too much onto one page. Images, scripts, flash, HTML, stylesheets, forms, video and so on—one page could have all of these on them. Try to avoid this. Simple, clean, and easy to understand is the best approach.

Images can often be quite a problem for load speed. If images are not properly optimized, they tend to consume valuable page loading time and contribute to providing a poor experience for your website visitors. Optimizing images helps boost your website speed and performance—the larger the file size of the image, and the less optimized they are, the slower a site will load and the worse it will perform. It’s as simple as that.

When selecting a file type, consider the purpose of your image and what it consists. Choose the format which results in the smallest size while retaining the quality. Furthermore, ensure you choose the right dimensions. Identify where the images will be used on your website and make sure they are not larger than needed for that space. Your hosting provider will be able to advise on not just how best to optimize them.

Apps/Plug-ins

Plugins offer different features and functionality. Some plugins load assets on the front-end such as images, JavaScript files, and CSS stylesheets while others are used in making database calls on the back-end. Most plugins need HTTP requests to load assets, and each request impacts your website’s page load time.

When website plugins are installed and set up properly, their impact on website speed is minimal. However, a conflict between plugins can negatively impact your website speed the same way as failing to keep them updated. Moreover, if you are using too many plugins that are making a lot of requests to load assets and files, or your plugins are not up-to-date, then your site’s user experience and performance will be negatively affected.

Mobile-first

Mobile-first can be described as the as a way of designing a mobile version of your site before the desktop version. Responsive design is ok, but mobile-first is ideal.

Mobile-first has three key benefits:

  • It improves the user experience for your website
  • Performs incredibly for backward compatibility
  • Google loves mobile-first websites and favors them in search engine results pages.

This means that even before coding and designing your website, gear your focus towards a great mobile design to get a better, simpler and faster web experience across all screens and devices. Aside from most of us browsing and searching on mobiles more than desktops now, Google’s mobile-first indexing is changing the game—this means that Google is crawling and indexing the mobile version of a site instead of the desktop version.

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)

CDN is a geographically located server which host copies of your website’s resources to deliver content based on the user’s location. CDN shortens the RTT (round trip time) of your content and brings it closer to the geographical location of your site visitor.

When online users request specific content from your website, the content delivery networks look for the most optimal edge note which can fulfill the requests. This means that automatically choosing servers that are closest to the requesting user, are least expensive, and have the highest capacity.

Conclusion

Aberdeen Group conducted a study which found that one-second delay in a page load time leads to 11% fewer page views, 7% loss in conversions, and a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction. The findings imply that page load times directly impact sales, search engine optimization, as well as overall customer experience.

The fact that many customers say that they will never return to a slow site means that you should keep them happy by using proper website performance tools and incorporating the aspects mentioned above. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes to not just your overall website traffic, but all key website metrics.

The post 5 Ways to Create the Optimal Customer Experience on Your Website appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

How to Write a Cold Email & Best Practices

A cold email is an unsolicited message you send to someone you don’t know. It is used as a tool to reach out to prospects and bring them into your sales process. Writing an effective cold email means creating a personal connection, briefly stating your purpose, and moving your reader to take a specific action….

The post How to Write a Cold Email & Best Practices appeared first on Fit Small Business.

4 reasons why customers stop using the Text Marketer ship

That’s right, we see ourselves as a shiny ship with great big sails and every time we get a new customer, it is like a new shipmate has come on board and decided to sail the Text Marketer ship. We know, very sad, but look how amazing our ship is.

However, every so often one of our customers stops using us, they have decided to walk the proverbial plank. Every time this happens we shed a little tear, not just because we lose a customer, but because we know thousands of their customers will no longer be receiving a great mobile experience from them.

We have trawled through the data and have identified the 4 main reasons why businesses stop using us, and we have decided that the best way to showcase these, is with ship analogies.

1. Your ship never leaves the dock anymore
2. Your ship doesn’t have a map or compass
3. There was another ship that didn’t cost as much to run
4. A shinier ship came along, and you decided to board it

For those who don’t understand our amazing ship analogies, we have, in plain non-ship language, explained them all in more detail below. Which isn’t as fun.

1. Just stopped sending SMS

Amazingly we do see customers just stop using our service, and what is worse they have hundreds and sometime thousands of credits on their account. This can be a real head scratcher.

Boat not in service

We tend to see that the main reason behind the random drop off is that sending customers a text message was taking up too much time. This completely baffles us as we know it takes less than 10 minutes to set up and send a text message to tens of thousands of customers.

Out of our 4 reasons, this is the hardest to tackle, but we wanted to reiterate how amazing SMS is and why all businesses should continue to use SMS to communicate with their customers.

87% of people always have their smartphone at their side, day and night (Source: Google)

Sales prospects who are sent a text message convert at a rate 40% higher than those who are not sent any text messages (OneReach)

90% of users who enrol in an SMS loyalty program feel they gained value from it (Source: Hipcricket)

58% of companies now have a dedicated mobile marketing team (Source: Salesforce)

If you are struggling for time, why not take a simple approach and only send an SMS to customers for major events. Set a plan where you pick 3-4 big occasions, like a sale, a new product or service release, or just wishing them a happy holiday, and only send a bulk SMS campaign at these times. This means you can plan your time easily without it effecting your day to day schedule.

2. Haven’t been tacking ROI

A cardinal sin this one, before you send any marketing or sales message, make sure you have a goal. Whether that is total clicks of a URL, calls, replies, sales, enquiries. You NEED to track it, so you know exactly how well it went.

Boat lost at sea

Now we know a lot of people are put off at this point, as tracking a goal seems like a long and daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Below are a few ways you can easily track different goals quick and easily.

Sales – The most important information you need to track is when sending a sale or promotional message through SMS. To track this, you can use something called UTM parameters. This is a small bit of extra information at the end of your URL. For more information about how to use UTM parameters read this article by Google.

URL clicks – We have a free feature that you can use to track the clicks on your URL within your text message. Simply include a URL within the text message and click ‘URL Shorten’ icon. This will then shorten your URL where within the ‘Analytics’ section you can see exactly who has clicked your link and how many times.

Enquiry’s/replies – If you want people to fill in a form once you have sent them an SMS message, use a dedicated SMS form on your website that can only be accessed when you send them the link via a text message.

Another way to track enquiries or replies, is by using a keyword. For example, ask recipients to reply to your message by texting you keyword to our short code. You could use different keywords for different text messages and track exactly who and how many people reply.

“If you are interested in coming to our next event, reply EVENT to 88802 and we will send you more information about it”

3. Found a cheaper supplier

We know, a shock, someone is cheaper than Text Marketer! Yes, it is true there are one or two SMS providers out their offering a cheaper service, but before you go jumping ship to the cheaper provider, make sure you do your research.

Big ship and small ship

You may actually be able to get the same price per SMS with us as you can buy larger bundles of SMS for less. Meaning buying more credits at once would save you money. We also regularly run SMS sales, where you can get anywhere from 10% to 20% extra free.

If, however the other provider is cheaper, you need to compare the actual service and product, you can buy a boat for £100 or £100,000 – both technically are boats, just one may sink half way through your journey.

Are they using grey routes – These are routes that are not directly connected with the networks. They use a 3rd party to send your messages, typically the 3rd party will be outside the UK, meaning your data and messages are being pushed outside the UK to these 3rd party’s and then back to the UK, which can dramatically delay them being delivered, if at all. Many times, customers have come back telling us that their delivery rate dramatically dropped with the new provider.

How good is their support – Yes, the support may be fantastic to start with, but this is so they get you on board, this can deteriorate very quickly after a few months. Make sure you check reviews of the SMS provider you are switching to, is the customer service good, or are there lots of bad reviews about it? We are currently sat at 9.6 on Trustpilot and there is no other SMS provider that is higher.

Platform ease of use – We have worked extremely hard to make Message Box as user friendly as possible, and we are yet to see another provider that offers the same user experience. We have seen customers leave us, to only come back a couple of months later because after using their new SMS provider system for a while, they found multiple flaws and problems with it.

4. Sold on extra features by other provider

One of the reasons we can offer such low prices is because we don’t offer absolutely everything, but just because another provider offers a service that we don’t, do you really need all those bells and whistles?

Big fancy ship on the sea

We know some SMS providers who offer services that we know are, to put it frankly, completely and utterly pointless. Take MMS for example, there are providers out there that offer this service and will tell you that it is amazing. But sending picture messages and videos can really irritate your customers as it can cost them money? Could this not be achieved by sending a link to the picture or video in?

For most businesses they don’t need all these extra features and 9 times out of 10 a basic SMS message with a link to your website will suffice.

 

We know that SMS isn’t for everyone, but before you decide to set sail on another big shinny ship, just make sure you aren’t boarding the Titanic. We all know how that faired . . .

26 Ideas for Your 2019 Small Business Marketing Strategy

Whether you’re in the process of launching a new business or already have one, having a strong online presence for your brand is extremely important.

In fact, 97% of people learn about local businesses online more than anywhere else.

Small business owners looking for a way to track ROI and brand awareness need digital marketing. Not only is digital marketing a must-have for promoting your products or services, but optimizing your online assets is also critical to your business’ overall success.

For local businesses, it’s equally as important to have essential and updated information readily available for potential clients.

If you’re a small business owner with little experience in online marketing, this might all sound like a foreign language to you. Have no fear — we’ll go through what all these words mean, and why you should care about them!

In this post, we’ll help you build and optimize your marketing strategy using inbound marketing, setting you up to attract new clients and ultimately grow your business. Organic traffic (someone finding you on their own through internet search) is the most cost-efficient way to acquire new business.

We are going to answer the following questions and provide marketing tips about promoting your small business:

  • How can I make a website? How can I make a website without a developer?
  • Why isn’t my website appearing in Google?
  • Why is my competitor above me in Google?
  • What is blogging?
  • Why does blogging matter?
  • Why do I need social media accounts?
  • How do I get more traffic to my website?

The Core Elements of Small Business Marketing

If you haven’t officially started your business, check out this comprehensive guide for how to start a business. It outlines everything you need to become an officially established small business, including tax and licensing information, and all the other resources you’ll need to get up and running.

If you’ve already officially launched your small business, check out these free apps for startups and understand the most important things you’ll need to begin leveraging inbound marketing and acquiring new customers from organic search:

Website

Having a professional-looking website is one of the most important assets you will create for your small business. This is where you will show who you are, what you offer, where you are, and how a potential customer can get in touch with you.

Blog

To start a blog, you can use an inexpensive or free website tool to make a free site and use one of their templates. Even if you only publish once a week, it will improve your website’s visibility online and help educate your potential customers on why they should trust your company. If you’re planning to write your posts yourself, check out this beginner’s guide to writing.

Once you start writing, you can add a call-to-action on your posts for visitors to subscribe to your blog and receive emails This is a great way to start collecting leads and offering potential customers a way to get information if they aren’t ready to buy anything from you yet.

Email Tools

Email marketing is a critical part of your marketing toolkit. In fact, 73 percent of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email.

This strategy is an easy, free, and scalable way to communicate with both new and existing customers.

Once you have an email marketing tool in place (many are inexpensive or even free), experiment with emailing out newsletters (with your sleek new blog posts), and other promotions to your database. We know small business owners don’t have tons of free time to devote to digital marketing, so consider using marketing automation to make this process even easier for yourself.

To get started planning your email marketing strategy, check out this guide and template from HubSpot.

Conversion Tools

We’ve been talking a lot about the assets you need to grow your business, but haven’t really covered how these will help drive revenue yet. One simple way to start generating leads or customers from your website is to implement a conversion tool.

A simple, free option is HubSpot Marketing Free. By using this tool to add a pop-up widget to your website, you can start collecting email addresses of potential customers. From there, you can send out promotions and offers and convert them into paying customers. You can also implement any of these 24 conversion tools to help you optimize your website and use it to drive leads.

Social Media Accounts

Social media might seem like it’s just a fun platform for people to socialize and connect, but it’s actually a powerful business tool. Social media can help you increase traffic, improve your search engine rankings, and engage with potential customers.

Determine your brand’s identity.

Having a consistent brand identity to promote your business will make you look more professional and help you attract new customers. According to a study from Facebook, 77% of people are loyal to brands.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has described a company’s branding as “what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In other words, your brand is the feelings and emotions people have when hearing your company name. It’s is a combination of your brand name, logo, aesthetic, and the design of all your assets.

Identify your buyer persona.

When you imagine a customer searching for your product or service, what are they like? What are their pain points? What is their job? Creating a buyer persona that tells a story of your ideal customer can help you make a website that’s optimized for them.

By learning more about your target customer through creating a buyer persona, you can better figure out what types of things they may be searching for so you can include those terms on your website.

Design a logo and other assets.

To start getting the creative juices flowing, consider your color scheme and peruse palettes with Adobe Color or Coolors. You can create your own or look through pre-made or customized color palettes.

To create a logo, I’d recommend checking out Upwork and Freelancer, or reaching out to a marketing agency. There are free and less expensive options for designing your own logo online, although using a freelancer or agency can give you a higher quality product and connect you with a designer who can change and update your brand assets as your company grows.

Build your website with a CMS template.

If you’re a fairly tech-savvy small business owner, you’ll probably want to build your own website. If you choose to do this, you can use a CMS (content management system) to do so.

Most CMSs offer pre-made templates for your site that you can get for free or purchase, then customize to your brand (we’ll get to branding later). There are a handful of inexpensive and even free options for various skill levels — from beginner all the way to advanced.

Once you’ve created your website, most CMS platforms offer plugins to help you optimize your content for search (look for SEO plugins). This will help you rank better in Google — which we’ll discuss more in depth in a bit.

Track your site with analytics tools.

If you’ve never made a website before and aren’t entirely comfortable with the technical elements, there are a variety of free tools and services to help you get started. When you create your website, make sure you implement Google Analytics or HubSpot Marketing Free (both of which are free products) so you can easily track who’s looking at your site.

Consult agencies or freelancers for web design help.

If you aren’t on the technical side and want a website built for your small business, you can use a freelancer or a marketing agency that specializes in web design. This is a great option for businesses that already have a website but need it to be updated and revamped for SEO (search engine optimization) to help improve your Google ranking.

To find a freelancer or marketing consultant in your area, you can use Upwork (filtering by design/creative) or Freelancer. To find a marketing agency, try looking through HubSpot’s Agency Partner directory. All HubSpot Partners are SEO experts and will help you rank in search engines and be found online.

Boost your Google ranking with SEO.

If you already have a business, have you ever searched for yourself or your product/service online? If so, did you think, “Why isn’t my website showing up on Google?” If so, you probably thought, “How do I rank on Google?” or “How can I improve my Google ranking?”

There are a lot of factors that play into why a certain site or page appears in the top spots on the Google (or other search engine) search engine results page (SERP). Backlinko reports some of Google’s top factors, which include having relevant keywords (and their placement on your site), the length of your content, having high-quality content, how fast your page loads, how often you post content, and more.

When it all boils down, Google essentially tries to find the best piece of content to present to the person searching. For example, if I’m searching for the best salon in Newport, Rhode Island, it wouldn’t be helpful for me to find a web page of a salon that has closed down and is located in Newport, Kentucky. It would, however, be helpful for me to find a salon in my area with great Yelp reviews, an easy-to-navigate website, and contact information readily available. Google always wants to surface the most relevant, highest-quality piece of content.

To rank higher on Google, you can leverage the power of SEO, or search engine optimization. To start learning everything there is to know about this powerhouse marketing tactic, check out The Ultimate Guide to SEO in 2017.

HubSpot explains SEO as “techniques that help your website rank higher in organic search results, making your website more visible to people who are looking for your brand, product, or service via search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.” In other words, it’s the basic concept of structuring your website and blog posts to be in the best shape for appearing first on search engines.

SEO strategy usually consists of a few things. These include buyer persona research, keyword research, and on-page SEO research. These three areas can help you learn how your target market is searching online, and position your business to get discovered by the right people.

Research keywords opportunities.

Keyword research is an extension of buyer persona research. You can use the personas you’ve created to search for the best keywords for your brand, then use a tool like KW Finder to find related keywords for your target audience.

Then, you can do some on-page SEO research and optimization. This is where you put those keywords in the correct places on your website — like in the meta-description, page titles, and H1 tags.

Optimize you website for mobile devices.

Most Google searches are done on mobile devices, so it’s important to have a site that looks clean and easy to navigate when someone enters it on their smartphone. A mobile site can also be beneficial for SEO, with search engines like Google announcing that they will reward you with a higher ranking if you have a mobile site.

You don’t have to be a tech expert to build a site that looks good on mobile. In fact, most CMS platforms like HubSpot already offer mobile-optimized templates.

Write optimized blog posts.

Content and blogging are extremely important when it comes to your search engine ranking. The more often your desired keywords appear in your high-quality and helpful content, the more likely you are to appear in search results. A great way to become an authority on your topic, product, or service is to blog. For HubSpot, most of our traffic comes from our blog and content marketing campaigns.

Make sure you’re writing with SEO in mind — use this SEO checklist for bloggers, or a WordPress plugin like Yoast.

Experiment with photo and video content.

According to HubSpot Research, more than 50% of consumers want to see videos from brands. Additionally, most social media apps, like Facebook and Instagram are embracing more visual layouts. To keep up with these trends, it’s a good idea to make a few marketing videos. If you use these tips, producing a few can be quite inexpensive.

Hire a freelancer to help you scale your content.

If you need some help creating regular blogs or promotional content, consider hiring a freelancer over investing in a full-timer. Try Upwork for a freelance blogger, videographer, or photographer. You could also consider hiring a marketing agency for a larger project.

Launch business pages on Facebook and Yelp.

If your business is focused on a local area, the most important accounts for you are Facebook, Yelp, and Google’s business feature. Having high Yelp reviews improves your authority online and helps your search ranking. You can claim your business on Yelp for free, customize your profile and add pictures, and start asking for reviews.

The same thing goes for registering your Google business page. You can register your business with Google (for free) and add pictures. (If you’ve ever searched for your business in Google Maps and been disappointed not to see it, it’s because you haven’t claimed it yet!)

On Facebook, you can create a Facebook business page so that people can find your location and hours.

For any business, having up-to-date social media accounts will help you be found and engage with prospects. Create a Twitter account for your business, Facebook page for business, learn how to use Instagram for business, create a Pinterest page for your business (if relevant), and use them as a way to discover new clients. You can also try your hand at using Snapchat for business if you’ve already mastered the basics.

Build out your social media strategy.

While Facebook and Yelp will be great tools for local searches and reviews, platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter will offer you even more opportunities to share your posts, content, and promotions.

If your customers can purchase your products or services online, these platforms will also give them another way to find you.

Be sure not to spread yourself too thin by joining too many platforms at once. To make strategizing easier, here’s a guide to the five types of social media platforms and the pros and cons of each.

Use social media for customer service.

Once you’re on your chosen platforms, be sure to answer customer or follower questions when they ask them through post comments or direct messages. This will make your company look responsive and credible. Here are some great examples of how brands have used Twitter for customer service.

If you have the means, consider hiring a social media manager with community management experience. On top of posting content on a regular schedule, community managers are charged with responding to questions or concerns of followers. Interested? We just published a guide on what it takes to be a great social media community manager.

Build interesting landing pages.

A landing page offers your potential customers a free resource in exchange for filling out a short form of contact information. When they receive the resource, they might be even more pleased by your company and more interested in buying the full product.

Because landing pages raise your chances of customer conversion, you want yours to look enticing. To get started, read this landing page guide to learn more about what makes this strategy successful. Then check out these free and professionally designed templates.

Plan an email marketing strategy.

Once you start creating regular content and building out landing pages, you’ll want to share them with the prospects who seem most interested in learning more about your product. For this reason, we suggest building an email marketing strategy.

While you want to be careful not to bombard those who sign up for your email list with too many emails, you want to send just enough to keep your prospects informed and engaged. Here’s how our metrics improved when we streamlined our email marketing strategy.

If you’ve never sent regular newsletters before, you can use HubSpot or a number of other affordable tools to create and send an email with a professionally designed template. Many email tools also offer basic analytics that allow you to track open and click rates.

Offer coupons in newsletters or on landing pages.

Placing a coupon in your marketing emails can engage and delight your audience. After buying a product or service at a discounted rate, they also might be more willing to pay for it in full price. If you have a subscription service, it can also be helpful to offer prospects a code for a free trial so they can test it out.

Share your distribution channels on your website.

Once you have a few social media accounts and can allow people to sign up for your newsletter, highlight this on your website so your visitors can follow you. One way companies do this is to display all of their linked social icons and a newsletter sign-up call to action on all pages of your website. A good place to include these are on the top right corner or on the footer of each page. This way they are visible, but aren’t distracting from any content.

Offer a free webinar.

A webinar allows potential customers to sign up for a short online course hosted by you. These courses are usually between 30 minutes to an hour and allow you to give tips and answer questions related to a topic your brand is familiar with. While this strategy can help you boost your credibility in your field, they can also offer you potential leads and sales opportunities.

Consider PPC Advertising.

If you’re working hard on SEO, but are still looking for an extra boost, consider PPC — or pay-per click — advertising. With this search engine marketing technique, you use Google AdWords or Bing Ads to show up higher. and as an advertised listing, in search results. Before you dive in to PPC, you’ll want to make sure your landing page is as optimized as possible. If you are paying by the click and those who click on the page don’t convert, you will lost advertising dollars.

To help you get started, read this ultimate guide. Then, use this PPC planning template to plan an optimized campaign. You can also use a few handy tools and software to edit, track, and report on your campaigns.

Advertise on social media.

Most of the major social media platforms offer affordable advertising options that can help you target your posts to a specific audience. While many small businesses have been advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for years, Instagram now allows brands to advertise through its Shoppable tool.

Experiment with influencer marketing.

Is there someone in your area with a high social-media following who’s considered an expert in a field your company exists in? If you’re able to reach out to them, see if they’d be willing to share an experience they’ve had with your product or service social media. This will alert their follower base of your product. These followers may also trust your product more because an expert is endorsing it.

If you can’t find an influencer to volunteer, you can also consider paying one or two on a freelance basis. To learn more about this strategy, check out our Ultimate Guide to Influencer Marketing.

Try co-marketing.

Is there a local business in your area that isn’t a direct competitor but offers a product or service to a similar target audience? Consider working with them on a cobranded campaign where you promote each other on social media, via email, or in your blog. While you’ll give your partnering company added promotion, it will also allow their fanbase to learn more about you.

Draw up a go-to-market strategy.

Once you’ve activated all the tools you need to promote your product or service, you’ll need to create a promotional plan that aligns with the customer journey. Consider which content will attract, engage, and delight your prospects and how you will convert them into a customer.

To help you plan out this process, use this template.

Encourage happy customers to share their experiences.

When a happy customer talks about how great your company is on social media or a review site, your product or service looks like a good investment. Even on social media, word of mouth is still a huge factor in someone’s purchasing decision. If a prospect sees a friend raving about you on Facebook, or photo post of a meal from your restaurant on Instagram, they might be more likely to go.

If customers are telling you they love your product, encourage them to share about the experience on Yelp, Google, or social. If you have a physical business, you might also want to place signs up with your account handles so customers know who to tag if they post a picture of your product.

Try out marketing experiments.

If there’s a new social platform you’re interested in, or a new marketing trend, don’t be afraid to experiment. If an experiment goes well, you could be considered ahead of the game.

When you experiment a new marketing strategy, be sure to have a solid hypothesis or question in mind. Also prepare for what your next steps will be if you get good or bad results. Here’s a quick guide to leading a successful marketing experiment.

Small Businesses Need a Strong Digital Presence to be Found

Well, there you have it. You probably have a long road ahead to build your online presence, but any steps you can make will have a huge impact on your business. Some things like blogging definitely take a few months to start kicking in and sending you traffic, but social media accounts and posts can have immediate effects.

The 13 Best Smart Home Devices & Systems of 2019

In 2019, smart home systems and devices are more impressive and all-encompassing than ever.

Using a smart system is no longer just about asking Alexa to tell you the weather or play that new Drake song — now, you can use smart devices to grill chicken at your next family barbecue, turn the lights off in the living room while you’re watching a movie, or vacuum your floors.

Your home devices provide a sense of convenience, particularly when they’re ordering pizza or calling your sister, but in 2018, they can also tackle more serious tasks, like acting as your home security system when you’re out of town. In other words, they aren’t just for fun anymore — they also fulfill some substantial needs.Before we get into our list, let’s define what we mean by smart devices versus smart systems. A smart system is the overarching command center that controls your individual products — think, Alexa or Google Assistant. Essentially, a smart system is what you speak to when you want something to happen. A device, on the other hand, is an individual product that reports back to that system — think, Amazon Echo or Philips Hue lightbulbs.

Now, let’s delve into our list of the 13 best smart home devices and systems of 2019, so you can decide for yourself which systems and products will best enhance your life.

Best Smart Home Systems

When looking to purchase a smart-home system, you want to look into  reviews and its integrations.

While the reviews will show you how good or bad the technology is, the integration information will show you how many products you can actually connect your system to. 

As you’re researching integrations, you should also consider any smart devices you already have that might be compatible or incompatible with the system. Today, most good smart home systems are powered by state-of-the art technology and offer a long list of third-party integration possibilities. For example, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant connect to smart thermostats like Nest of Ecobee4 — not just thermostats made by their own companies.

If your devices all connect well together, work well, and are easy to use, your smart home experiences will run much more smoothly.

Here are four major smart home systems that we recommend.

1. Amazon Alexa

With more than 20,000 third-party integrations, Alexa is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive smart home ecosystems available today. While you have likely heard of using Alexa in Eco-speaker form (“Alexa, what’s the weather today?”), you might not know that Alexa is now built into plenty of other smart products, including thermostats (i.e. Ecobee4) and TVs (i.e. Fire TV).

Alexa makes every aspect of your smart home easy to access and control. You can use Alexa to speak to apps like Spotify just as easily as you can ask her to turn off the lights. Since Amazon’s ecosystem is one of the most prevalent in the industry, most smart products integrate seamlessly with Alexa, including products made by Philips, Samsung, Nest, and Schlage — meaning, Alexa can now close your garage, lock your doors, and adjust your home’s temperature. To know if Alexa will work with a certain device, just look for the ‘Works with Amazon Alexa’ tag.

Ultimately, Alexa’s ability to integrate and speak to most other smart devices and apps (Alexa has the most third-party integrations of any smart system) makes her one of the best choices for your smart home.

2. Google Assistant

If there’s any true runner-up to Alexa, it’s Google Assistant. Even though Google Assistant has less third-party integrations, it can often answer questions and complete commands Alexa can’t, thanks to Google’s major ownership of the search engine space. Research from Dentsu digital agency 360i found Google Assistant was five times more likely to give a correct answer than Alexa. Ultimately, Assistant wins when it comes to understanding how people naturally speak.

For instance, if you tell Assistance “I don’t like this song” on Spotify, it will skip to the next one, while Alexa will simply tell you, “Thumbs up and down are not supported on Spotify.” Small differences like this could sway you towards Assistance, since it’s often more helpful (and less literal) than Alexa.

Assistant can also integrate with products from most major brands, including Philips, Belkin, August, Nest, and popular apps such as Spotify and Uber.

3. Wink Hub 2

Wink Hub 2 is touted as the “first smart home hub designed for the mainstream consumer.” Unlike Alexa or Assistant, Wink doesn’t have any brand loyalty, allowing you to pick and choose different smart product brands and merge them seamlessly with one another.

Wink Hub 2 supports smart home protocols including Bluetooth LE, Kidde, Lutron ClearConnect, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and more. If you’re looking to create a fully integrated smart home with kitchen and wall appliances in-sync, this might be your best option. You can also download the Wink Hub app and control commands, like light switches or garage door, from your phone on-the-go.

4. Samsung SmartThings Hub

This Samsung system unites a wide variety of smart devices from different brands including smart thermostats, Wi-Fi router, lightbulbs, and security devices. Users with the smart system get a SmartThings Hub wall mount and can get full access to the smart devices connected to the hub through the SmartThings IOS or Android app.

Samsung’s SmartThings Hub has been growing its own smart-device offerings for the past few years. In fact, the Hub’s product lineup recently grew with the addition of the SmartThing Wi-Fi plug, SmartThings Lightbulb, and a SmartThings Cam.

Through the SmartThings Hub, you can also set compatible smart devices to do various actions like turning on or off when you walk in or out of a room. While you can give voice commands to the SmartThings wall hub or app, you can also integrate and Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to the system. 

 

1. Best Speaker: Amazon Echo (2nd Generation)

Price: $99.99

If you’re looking for a relatively affordable device to cater to your everyday needs, you probably don’t need to look further than Amazon Echo. The speaker connects to Alexa to play your favorite music, make phone calls or send messages, answer questions, and set alarms for you, i.e. “It’s 6 p.m., time to head to your tennis lesson”. It also connects to other smart products in your home, so you can use it as your liaison between you and your sprinklers.

The speaker fills your room with 360° audio, and uses noise cancellation technology to ensure you can be heard from any direction. With the Echo, you can turn the TV on, order a pizza, and create a shopping to-do list — without ever leaving your couch.

Image courtesy of
Amazon.

2. Best Lights: Philips Hue

Price: $49.99/one bulb

The Philips Hue bulbs enable you to control both intensity of light — dimming or brightening on-command — and the color of your lights. You can create special color-coordinated moods (i.e. choose the “energize” theme on your app for a specific room you’re in, or sync it with your music). You can also set color-coordinated alarms, ensuring you wake up every morning to a bright pink bedroom.

These bulbs work with most smart home systems, making them arguably the most flexible option. If you don’t want color, you can also purchase Philips Hue White.

Philips Hue lightbulbs
Image courtesy of
MeetHue.com.

3. Best Light Switch: TP-Link HS200

Price: $37.88

Philips Hue bulbs and similar smart lights are fantastic and effortless — until someone flips a light switch, in which case, your bulbs won’t work until you flip it back.

For true ease-of-use, consider buying smart light switches, which you can control from your phone or smart home whether or not your physical light switch is up or down. Using the app Kasa, you can create scenes and smart actions — for instance, you might tell the app you’re “watching TV downstairs,” and the switches will automatically turn off all upstairs lights.

TP-Link HS200 works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but you might need to consider other options if you primarily use Apple HomeKit, Wink, or another smart system.

TP-Link HS200 light switch
Image courtesy of
Amazon.

4. Best Thermostat: Ecobee4

Price: $249

The Ecobee4 allows you to control air temperature with voice commands, but unlike other smart thermostats, it also works as its own Amazon speaker (rather than simply working with an Amazon speaker), so it can do everything your Alexa or Assistant can do, including play music, shop, and control other devices. Of course, if you already own a smart speaker, you might want to consider a cheaper thermostat option.

Ecobee4 integrates seamlessly with apps and other home ecosystems like Alexa or Apple HomeKit. Plus, it’s able to control the room you’re in, rather than the room it’s installed.

Ecobee4 thermostat
Image courtesy of
EcoBee.com.

5. Best Security: NetGear Arlo Q

Price: $119.94

While some of these smart devices are more for convenience and entertainment, the NetGear Arlo Q is a truly useful tool for home security. The NetGear Arlo Q records high-quality video and audio, and even produces exceptional quality images of people in pitch-blackness.

You can customize whether your camera automatically records when you’re not home, or set it to a time-based schedule for when you’re at work. While it’s on the pricier side, it offers seven days of video and audio backup for free, making it a worthwhile investment compared to some of the other smart security systems.

NetGear Arlo Q home security system
Image courtesy of
Amazon.

6. Best Grill: Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker with SmartChef Technology

Price: $166.99

Anyone who grills regularly knows the inconvenience of it — walking in and out of the house to check the meat, hoping the temperature is hot enough but won’t burn your steak, and adding coals or lighter fluid when necessary. This tool handles all that, alerting you on your smart device when your grill is preheated, what the internal meat temperature is, and when your meat or fish is fully cooked. The 725 square-inch cooking space and four internal chrome racks allow you to grill for both large and small occasions.

Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker with SmartChef Technology
Image courtesy of
Amazon.

7. Best Cooking Device: Perfect Bake Pro

Price: $86.49

If you struggle to figure out what you can make with the half a cup of flour, three eggs, and handful of blueberries you have in your fridge, you might be in luck — this smart device allows you to input what food you have, and then generates recipes you can use with those items.

You can autoscale the recipe for the amount of people or even amount of ingredients you have (i.e. “only have ¼ cup of chocolate chips”), or generate a shopping list from recipes you want to make. Best of all, you can use the bowl to measure your ingredients as you pour them in — the smart bowl tells you when you can stop pouring.

Perfect Bake Pro
Image courtes
y of Amazon.

8. Best Vacuum: Ecovacs Deebot N79S

Price: $229.98

I’m personally willing to pay triple this price for any device that can vacuum my floor for me, but at $229, the Ecovacs Deebot N79S is a pretty impressive deal. It integrates with smart home systems and other apps, offers a manual steering option, and cleans surfaces surprisingly well. It also has a long battery life.


Image courtesy of Amazon.

9. Best Television: LG Smart TV

Price: Varies based on screen size and features.

 
LG was the company to offer Alexa and Google Assistant connectivity in its smart TVs.
 
With a smart TV, you can connect your streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, your cable box, and other video devices all in one place. Many smart TVs, like LG’s products, also offer voice control capabilities that allow you to ask the TV to search for a movie or show. 
 
If you’re just starting to develop your smart home and only want a basic smart TV with integrations to major streaming services, you can purchase an LG TV with 4K, Google Assistant, and Alexa capabilities for between $499 and $900.
 
One of the most affordable models we found was the
LG Class 4K Smart UHD TV with AI ThinQ®. This model runs between $499.99 and $699.99 depending on screen size. For those who don’t have Alexa or Google Assistant, the TV comes with LG’s voice control software called AI ThinQ.
LG UHD Smart TV with AIThinQ

Image courtesy of LG.
 

Find Your Ideal Customer with Account Insights and Profiling

The digital revolution has raised customer expectations massively. People want much more than just a product—they crave a complete experience.

The success of your marketing campaign no longer depends on the number of leads you generate. It rests on your ability to maximize your customers’ experience.

That’s why forward-thinking marketers are prioritizing account-based marketing—determining together with sales which accounts to target, why they should be targeted, and when they should be targeted. In fact, 87% of companies report a higher return on investment when adding account-based marketing (ABM) to their engagement strategy than traditional lead-based only marketing initiatives.

As we covered in our overview blog, a successful ABM strategy has people and experience at the center of it instead of random, individual interactions.

In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at the first step of how to create epic account-based experiences (ABX) with the right account insights & profiling. 

With the right data—and a platform powerful enough to use the data effectively—you can gain highly accurate account insights and effectively profile your targets to create hyper-personalized account-based experiences that your customers and prospects will enjoy.

The first and most important challenge to overcome when wanting to truly maximize your ABX is knowing who your ABX should be for. What data should you be gathering? And how can you make the most of it?

Leveraging account insights in the new age of data

We’ve come a long way from sales-based account selection. Previously, sales teams would create a target account list based on the sales data they had available in their CRM. The process was time-consuming, took the sales team away from selling, and relied heavily on gut instinct.

But since the digital revolution, marketers have gained access to huge pools of data that can be used to help sales create more accurate account lists. Using these three key data sources, you can have better insight into which accounts to target:

Fit data 

Fit data often includes firmographics that detail a company’s location, number of employees, size, and other basic details. While this information is useful for gaining a high-level view of who your ideal account is for targeting, it needs to be combined with other data types to become useful. 

Intent data

Intent data identifies accounts that are actively searching or engaging with content related to your service or products. Whether it’s from paid media advertising data sources or opt-in data cooperatives, intent data can help you prioritize WHEN you should focus on certain target accounts over others and what messages to include in your content.

Engagement data

Engagement data helps you take account targeting to the next level by adding a third layer of insights to help hyper-prioritize which accounts to allocate resources on immediately. By identifying which accounts have already engaged with your content in the past—whether by opening emails, reading blogs, or registering for an event—you can get greater insight into which accounts have an even higher propensity to turn into closed-won accounts as well as the best way to reach them.

Great experiences aren’t just created from one data type—they come from combining all three to help you select the right accounts to target. But with so much data at hand, how do you effectively manage it?

Ideal customer profiles and predictive target account lists

Assuming your account data is clean and accurate, having lots of it can be both a blessing and a curse. It can bless us with the ability to create robust ideal customer profiles (ICPs) that help us select accounts with confidence, but it can also curse us with the daunting burden of having to manually analyze it so that we can actually use it. This is where AI can step in and help us speed up the process in a scalable way. However, AI is only as powerful as the amount of data that it is trained on and the quality of that data. It can help us leverage ICPs to create predictive target accounts lists that support your ABM strategy.

For example, if your ABM strategy is to cross-sell existing customer accounts with a specific product, you first need to know which of your existing customer accounts are ideal to target. With AI-powered look-alike models and the three data sources mentioned above, you can upload a list of customers who recently purchased a specific cross-sell product along with even having a high deal velocity. The model will analyze all the fit data and engagement data, along with enriching intent data to learn common attributes and even weigh them differently based on unique importance to you and your business to create your ideal customer profile. Next, you’ll want the AI to use your ICP to scan your existing customer base to pick out the best-fit accounts to cross-sell. 

Here are a few common examples of predictive target account lists:

Predictive best-fit lists: List of prioritized best-fit target accounts based on recent high-value, closed-won deals 

Predictive quick-win list: List of prioritized best-fit open opportunities with accounts that have high propensity to close faster than others

Operationalizing your predictive target account lists 

Once you have your predictive target account lists, it’s time to actually do something with them. Successful account-based marketers adopt marketing automation software that can operationalize their predictive target account lists.

With a best-in-class marketing automation platform, you can use AI to identify your ideal customer profile and match it to those in your account list. But identifying and prioritizing accounts is just the first step. The real magic of ABM comes when you put that data into practice by strategically discovering specific contacts within each target account 

While most marketers initially think the next step is to start engaging with the accounts on their target account lists, the next steps inevitably become hydrating those accounts by discovering net-new contacts within those accounts through the art of contact discovery. Remember, account insights and profiling uses mass amounts of data to primarily help you identify what the “perfect account” is,  but it doesn’t help you identify people within those accounts. 

Paving a path to step two of creating epic ABX: Contact discovery

Gathering accurate account insights and profiling your ideal customers is only the beginning of your exciting quest to create epic ABX. In our next blog in the series, we’ll look at how to discover contacts in your existing target accounts—as well as net-new accounts—to ensure you’re targeting the right people.

The post Find Your Ideal Customer with Account Insights and Profiling appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog – Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

6 Best WordPress Form Builders 2019

A WordPress form builder is a plugin that allows businesses to easily create and publish custom forms, enabling them to collect valuable customer information for marketing. We reviewed over 30 WordPress form builders to find the top six—including the best overall—based on price, add-ons, flexibility, ease of use, and reviews. Before you can communicate with…

The post 6 Best WordPress Form Builders 2019 appeared first on Fit Small Business.

Example reminder messages to send to customers

The human brain cannot hold an infinite amount of information, which means the appointment or booking they made with you is probably not high up on their list of things to remember. Which ultimately means it is something they will forget about, costing you time and money in the process.

Missed appointments are a real drain on businesses, with it reportedly costing the NHS a staggering £216m a year

Sending appointment reminders will not only reduce missed appointments, saving you money, but customers satisfaction will also increase as a result, making them feel like their booking is truly important to you, and you really don’t want them to miss it.

Simple SMS reminders are great, but by making them personal and including the customers name, date and time of appointment/booking, and any other information you think they would need, will really help drive fewer missed appointments.

The general SMS reminder messages we see going out are all around customers bookings or appointments, but these aren’t the only two types of activities that businesses can remind customers about. You can remind customers about taking their medicine, reminders how to stay healthy, to book MOT, car insurance, and phone contract renewal to name just a few. It really is an endless list.

To help you write your own reminder message we have created a whole bunch of sample SMS reminder messages that you can copy and adapt to your requirements.

Appointment reminder messages – doctors/opticians
“Don’t forget your doctor’s appointment at 10.30am today with Dr Smith. If you need to reschedule, please call the surgery on 0123 456 7890”

“We have you booked in for your eye appointment tomorrow at 1.30pm and didn’t want you to forget. To reschedule please fill out this form www.link.com”

Booking reminder messages – hotels
“We are looking forward to you staying with us on the 29th July until the 2nd of August at the Plaza Hotel. If you have any specific requirements, please fill out this form www.link.com”

“Hi Louis, your room is being prepared and will be ready for you to check in from 2:00pm tomorrow. If you require an earlier check in, please call us on 0123 456 7890 and an earlier check in time can be arranged.”

Booking reminder messages – restaurants
“Your table at Chez Nous for 6 people will be ready at 8.00pm. To see our menu, click the link www.link.com. We can’t wait to serve you some of our amazing food tonight”

“We don’t want you to forget about your booking and end up eat boring food tonight, so we are just reminding you of your 6.15pm booking at Scotts Food tonight”

Renewal reminder messages – car/phone
“Hi Bob, your car insurance is up for renewal on the 12/09/2019. We will send you a new renewal quote 2 weeks before, but if you would like a quote now, log into your account here www.link.com and click the ‘Request New Quote’ button”

“Because your phone is up for renewal on the 31/08/2019 we thought we would give you our best price on your current contract and show you some amazing upgrades. Too see these click the link and log into your account www.link.com”

Booking reminder messages – events
“Are you ready for the biggest and best festival ever? With only 1 week to go make sure you have everything you need by reading our checklist here link www.link.com”

“Thank you for registering for our Online Marketing Event tomorrow. Please arrive at 9.30am with the event starting at 10.00am. We look forward to seeing you”

To make a booking reminder messages – garage
“Your MOT is due on the 15/08/2019. To book an MOT please call us on 0123 456 7890 or book online at www.link.com”

“Remember to check your tires before any long journey and check your oil once a month. From your local friendly garage, Leos Motors”

To make a booking reminder messages – medical/health
“Hi Becky, remember to take your medicine today at 11.00pm. If you want to speak to a doctor about it, call us on 0123 456 7890”

“Sarah your daily task is to drink 6 glasses of water and eat no more than 1,900 calories. It is important to drink lots of water as this will help with digestion. Jane – Sports Nutritionist at Health Works”