7 Steps to Snapchat Success


photo-1462078563783-650e23af549dBy Sarah Moore of social media agency Eleven Lights Media.

Contrary to popular belief, Snapchat isn’t just for the teen population trying to escape their Facebook-friending parents.

As of May 2015 there were 100M active users daily and over 77% of them are above the age of 18. As well as this, Snapchat is now boasting 8M daily views equaling that of Facebook (who has a much larger user base). When you consider these statistics, it becomes clear that for the most part, Snapchat incorporates most businesses’ ideal client.

The questions I see flying around right now are – What benefit is Snapchat to me as a blogger? How do I use it effectively without wasting my time? How do you find anyone on the platform?

Essentially what people are asking is – How do I use it for business?

So if you haven’t jumped on Snapchat yet I want to share a few cold, hard facts with you before I answer the above.

1. Snapchat is not a scalable platform.

2. For the most part, the way you use Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or Pinterest can not be applied to Snapchat.

3. It’s difficult to measure ROI. Discoverability (the ability for you to find people and for people to find you) is not as simple as other platforms and really has only been opened up in the last few months with apps such as Ghostcodes.

4. You can’t really run ads on Snapchat yet unless you’ve got a lot of financial capital or at least a decent sized marketing spend ($10k is a good round figure to start with).

5. Finally, the user experience isn’t known for being super user friendly – at least initially until you find familiarity with it.

1:1 Relationship Building

That being said, Snapchat is amazing for building 1:1 relationships.

Yes, this can be time consuming but the return from this can be far more exponential than broadcasting your message elsewhere.

Consider the fact that you can message, call, respond to in-feed snaps, send video, send audio only and easily send photos all from within the app. It’s basically a comprehensive communication tool that can be used no matter what industry you’re in.  

So below, I’d like to give you some tips on how you can use the platform effectively for blogging.  

1. Storytell 

I know it’s on trend at the moment to talk about storytelling but the truth is, this is actually what Snapchat is great for. You have a mixture of image, video and editing capabilities that allow you to tell a story any way you like.

The reason storytelling is vital to your brand is because that’s how we as humans have communicated from the beginning of time. A story is compelling and invites the onlooker to not only discover your world but also to engage in it too in a digestible way.

2. Repurpose

If you create a fun, compelling or informative story make sure you repurpose it elsewhere. Whether it be YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or your blog, don’t let it go to waste.

I’m so passionate about repurposing because I know how busy life gets and repurposing allows you to keep pushing out content and reaching your audience without running yourself into the ground trying to be original and creative every single day.

3. Test + Measure

If you have a new blog post waiting to go out and you’re choosing between titles, consider putting it to your audience and asking them to vote for the best title.

Stringstory often talks about screenshots being the new ‘like’ of Snapchat.

With this in mind, set your audience up and let them know you need some help choosing a title and you need them to snap the one that they like best. Then use the next few snap screens to individually showcase the titles. Change the snap length to 10 seconds to give them the maximum amount of time to read and snap their choice.

Another idea is to create bit.ly links that you ONLY share with your Snapchat followers. This allows you to measure how many are coming to your website and/or blog posts from Snapchat and gives you an idea on the relevancy and return from that audience.

If you sell products or are an ecommerce store I suggest the above bit.ly method also to see your immediate ROI in relation to specific product.

4. Circular Viralocity

Bit of a mouthful, I know. But basically what this means is to use Snapchat to push people to other platforms if you have something going on there.

I watched Gary Vaynerchuk do this a lot during his #AskGaryVee book launch. He would push people to his Instagram account through Snapchat, ask them to write something that they would only know if they had come from Snapchat and they would have the chance to win a book.

What this does is further cement your community by having them see you and engage with you on multiple platforms. Without going too heavily into it, this just means that further down the track it will be easier to sell to them because they have more buy in.

5. Have fun

As cliché and abstract as this sounds, it’s actually imperative that you have fun on the platform. If you don’t, people will see right through it and write you off.

As with any platform, try to avoid being too in-your-face with sales, always give value where possible and engage when time permits so that people know it’s a two way street and not just a broadcasting tool for you.

6. Engage

This is probably one of the most important things you can do on this platform and in my opinion, is what Snapchat is truly designed for.

If you are not willing to engage individually it almost defeats the purpose of being on there in the first place. Because Snapchat is not particularly scalable, you are going to have the most success by interacting with the people that reach out to you.

Personally for me, this has led to ongoing business as well as overseas travel, speaking gigs and most importantly, new friendships.

I’ve reached out to influencers and had responses from them where I know I wouldn’t be able to get that on other platforms because there’s so much more noise. This is good news for those of you looking to guest blog or who have someone in mind to feature a product or engage in influencer marketing.

7. Consistency

As with any platform you have to be consistent in order to adequately measure whether it’s working for you. Figure out what consistency looks like for you and try your best to keep to that.

I know a number of people who have thematic days or choose a theme to define the week in order to help them with their constistency. Currently Ahna Hendrix (CEO of ARCH Digital Agency) is doing this and for the past week has been creating content around the word ‘determination.’ She talks, shares quotes and songs and thoughts positioned around her theme and creates a cohesive week of thematic content.

I share this with you to encourage you to do something similar for yourself so that you don’t get too overwhelmed with creating new content all of the time. Overwhelm is a very real problem in the social media space and we want to avoid that by being organised and making it as easy for ourselves as possible.

These 7 suggestions to me, are the keys to the Snapchat kingdom and if you can master them I truly believe you will not only find success within the platform but you will grow to love creating content this way.

My final suggestion is to give it a go. Often times we let overthinking paralyze us when really we could have spent the same amount of energy just trying it in the first place.

Sarah is the CEO + Founder of Eleven Lights Media, a social media agency. If you want to connect you can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. She is everywhere (as you might expect) but these are the best ones to connect! 

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5 Steps to Recovering from Low Landing Page Conversions

Landing pages are intended to be simple and straightforward – a single page designed to get a specific audience to take an action.
Marketers use landing pages to get people to:

  • Make a product purchase
  • Opt-in to get a promotional product like an ebook or report
  • Request more information or a consult
  • Urge an audience to subscribe

You’d think that creating a page for such simple tasks would be easy, especially when you consider the wealth of tools at our disposal for building out landing pages.

And, in fact, the act of producing landing pages is actually not complicated – at least, until you factor in the human component of your audience.

People, the ones you want to get to take a specific action, muck up the entire process and make landing pages much more difficult.

There’s no specific way to design or configure a landing page to ensure it’s going to perform a certain way or deliver favorable conversions.

All you have is your research and whatever knowledge you may have picked up about copy and landing page best practices, so you go on intuition.

You’re not alone in that. Over 60% of marketers optimize sites based on intuition alone.

Then the testing starts. And despite everything you feel you’ve done correctly, you go through what many others experience: lackluster conversion rates.

There are a lot of changes and tweaks you can make, but don’t approach your landing page like a master control panel where you start pulling levers and pushing buttons blindly.

There are 5 key areas where you can start making small challenges to positively influence your conversion rates.

1. Trust Signals

Simply put, if you don’t have trust, then you don’t have sales. You may have been funneling traffic to your landing pages as a result of lead nurturing, but chances are you’ve got some fresh landing page traffic made up of people who have no idea who you are.

Even if you’ve been nurturing your leads via email and building a relationship, you still need strong trust signals to boost the confidence of your audience and help tip them over into a conversion.

perry-marshall-endorsed-trust-signal

Social proof

Social proof tells your audience that you can be trusted because other people have trusted you and made an investment of time and/or money. If you’ve got the attention and business of these other people, then you must be credible to some degree.

Some of the most common ways of adding social proof to a landing page include highlighting social shares, number of purchases, subscriber counts, or social followers.

Supplier/manufacturer affiliation

If you partner with any brand, be it a major organization or an influencer, getting their name or logo on your landing page creates an affiliation in the mind of the audience.

The audience will perceive you as more trustworthy and credible because you’re working with X brand, which must mean that X brand trusts you.

You’ll see this a lot with brand mentions that include “As seen on” logo placements.

Third-party certifications

They may not seem like much, but certifications can put a lot of people at ease, especially if you’re asking them to give you money or personal information. Using third-party certifications such as the Better Business Bureau and VeriSign create a perception of authority around your landing page and brand.

Testimonials

Testimonials are another form of social proof, and are one of the strongest trust symbols. According to Nielsen, 83% of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, and 66% trust consumer opinions posted online.

If you can, share the full details from customers, including their name and city if they’re comfortable with it. Because it’s easy to fake testimonials (and many online consumers know it) it pays to be as transparent as possible.

most-trusted-ad-formats

2. Fix Your Call to Action and Make it Obvious

Remember what I said above: your landing page has a single goal. The only way you’re going to get your audience to take action is if you make that goal 100% clear to the people landing on your page.

If you don’t have your call to action where it’s visible, above the fold, then it’s virtually impossible to direct people to take action.

The reason for this is because most people spend less than 15 seconds on any given web page, which means most won’t even bother scrolling. They’ll glance, their brain will decide whether you’re relevant or not, and they’ll bounce.

If you hide your call to action below the fold, bury it in clutter, or don’t make it stand out, then you’ll lose a considerable amount of conversions.

lean-startup-landing-page

Eric Ries’ Lean Startup keeps the call to action above the fold and clearly visible.

Everything your audience needs to make a decision should be above the fold, but don’t necessarily try to put all of your content above the fold.

Likewise, it takes more than the placement of the call to action to make it effective. It also needs to be compelling.

Use power words

Avoid using corporate babble and industry jargon. Stick with practical language and power words that are proven to compel people to take action.

Use active language

Remember that your call to action is telling your audience to do something. Use verbs that inspire that action, such as “Join,” “Subscribe,” “Download,” etc.

Make it stand out

You want your call to action to stand out from everything else on the page, but you also want it to be consistent with the design and theme.

Tim Ferriss uses a great CTA design that clearly shows his audience where to begin.

4-hour-workweek-landing-page

I also want to point out the trust signals he uses on his landing page.

Use brevity

The best CTAs say the most in the fewest words, so limit them to around 90-150 characters. That’s about 5-7 words. If your call to action is too long, then you lose the hook, and if it’s too short, it may not clearly convey what step visitors should take (or why.)

Make it personal

Avoid using broad calls to action like “Start today.” Instead, personalize it to the user so it reads more like “Start your trial today.”

my-perfect-resume

3. Remove the Ability to go Elsewhere

Clear navigation and links are great to use in your content marketing and on your website to help you expand on concepts and help the audience get to a destination, but they don’t belong on your landing page.

Your landing page is the destination.

You never want to give visitors the ability to click out of this endpoint in your funnel. Remove the navigation from your landing page, and avoid adding links to your content at all costs.

no-navigation-variation-page

I also recommend adding in an exit pop-up that will appear based on user behavior, such as if the user moves their mouse toward the top of the browser. This pop-up should encourage them to stay and focus their attention on the main call to action.

social-triggers-get-subscribers

4. Add Visual Engagement

If you’re getting great traffic but the conversions are low, try to incorporate visual elements as a way to improve engagement and keep the attention of your audience.

People who view video are almost 2x as likely to make a purchase, and, according to another study, the addition of video to a landing page can increase conversions by as much as 80%.

video-crazy-egg

Even if you can’t create high-quality video content, you can still use relevant images to seal the deal with your audience. Include high-definition product photos, illustrations, or quality screenshots for digital services that show some behind-the-scenes product/service use.

cheezburger-showcase-your-humor

Think like a shopper – people often want to pick up, look at, and handle a product before they purchase it. Visuals make the audience feel like they’re doing just that. This is why e-commerce sites rely on detailed and numerous product photos to help sell their goods.

5. Improve the Copy

Your copy consists of every written element on your page, especially the headlines. It should be compelling, free of errors, and written in a way that makes an emotional and psychological connection with your target audience.

It also needs to be presented in a way that’s easily scannable, with the most critical points standing out with formatting and design elements like bullets and callouts.

money-like-an-expert-landing-page

I can’t tell you what you should say – that’s going to be based entirely on your audience and what they need to hear, so that’s where your own research comes into play.

Test Everything You Do

Every change you make is going to have some kind of an impact on your conversions. Hopefully you’ll see a lift in conversions, but it’s possible for a change to cause them to drop.

That’s why testing is so important. There are two ways to test the work you’re doing.

A/B testing lets you pit two elements against each other so you can test one or two updates, such as a headline or call to action. Once you have a winner, you can test again or move on to another element.

Multivariate testing lets you evaluate a larger number of changes across your page at the same time, helping you find the best combination. It’s more complex to do, and many marketers prefer A/B testing over this method, but it can get you through testing a lot of changes more quickly.

If you’re getting low conversion rates, you don’t need to scrub it and start over. Make small, strategic changes to your copy and calls to action, and monitor your performance using the recommendations above. With the right approach, you should begin seeing substantial lifts in your conversion rates.

What kind of changes tend to bring you the best results with your landing pages? Share your success with me in the comments.

About the Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, their Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Measuring SEO Performance After "Not Provided"

In recent years, the biggest change to the search landscape happened when Google chose to withhold keyword data from webmasters. At SEOBook, Aaron noticed and wrote about the change, as evermore keyword data disappeared.

The motivation to withold this data, according to Google, was privacy concerns:

SSL encryption on the web has been growing by leaps and bounds. As part of our commitment to provide a more secure online experience, today we announced that SSL Search on https://www.google.com will become the default experience for signed in users on google.com.

At first, Google suggested it would only affect a single-digit percentage of search referral data:

Google software engineer Matt Cutts, who’s been involved with the privacy changes, wouldn’t give an exact figure but told me he estimated even at full roll-out, this would still be in the single-digit percentages of all Google searchers on Google.com

…which didn’t turn out to be the case. It now affects almost all keyword referral data from Google.

Was it all about privacy? Another rocket over the SEO bows? Bit of both? Probably. In any case, the search landscape was irrevocably changed. Instead of being shown the keyword term the searcher had used to find a page, webmasters were given the less than helpful “not provided”. This change rocked SEO. The SEO world, up until that point, had been built on keywords. SEOs choose a keyword. They rank for the keyword. They track click-thrus against this keyword. This is how many SEOs proved their worth to clients.

These days, very little keyword data is available from Google. There certainly isn’t enough to keyword data to use as a primary form of measurement.

Rethinking Measurement

This change forced a rethink about measurement, and SEO in general. Whilst there is still some keyword data available from the likes of Webmaster Tools & the AdWords paid versus organic report, keyword-based SEO tracking approaches are unlikely to align with Google’s future plans. As we saw with the Hummingbird algorithm, Google is moving towards searcher-intent based search, as opposed to keyword-matched results.

Hummingbird should better focus on the meaning behind the words. It may better understand the actual location of your home, if you’ve shared that with Google. It might understand that “place” means you want a brick-and-mortar store. It might get that “iPhone 5s” is a particular type of electronic device carried by certain stores. Knowing all these meanings may help Google go beyond just finding pages with matching words

The search bar is still keyword based, but Google is also trying to figure out what user intent lays behind the keyword. To do this, they’re relying on context data. For example, they look at what previous searches has the user made, their location, they are breaking down the query itself, and so on, all of which can change the search results the user sees.

When SEO started, it was in an environment where the keyword the user typed into a search bar was exact matching that with a keyword that appears on a page. This is what relevance meant. SEO continued with this model, but it’s fast becoming redundant, because Google is increasingly relying on context in order to determine searcher intent & while filtering many results which were too aligned with the old strategy. Much SEO has shifted from keywords to wider digital marketing considerations, such as what the visitor does next, as a result.

We’ve Still Got Great Data

Okay, if SEO’s don’t have keywords, what can they use?

If we step back a bit, what we’re really trying to do with measurement is demonstrate value. Value of search vs other channels, and value of specific search campaigns. Did our search campaigns meet our marketing goals and thus provide value?

Do we have enough data to demonstrate value? Yes, we do. Here are a few ideas SEOs have devised to look at the organic search data they are getting, and they use it to demonstrate value.

1. Organic Search VS Other Activity

If our organic search tracking well when compared with other digital marketing channels, such as social or email? About the same? Falling?

In many ways, the withholding of keyword data can be a blessing, especially to those SEOs who have a few ranking-obsessed clients. A ranking, in itself is worthless, especially if it’s generating no traffic.

Instead, if we look at the total amount of organic traffic, and see that it is rising, then we shouldn’t really care too much about what keywords it is coming from. We can also track organic searches across device, such as desktop vs mobile, and get some insight into how best to optimize those channels for search as a whole, rather than by keyword. It’s important that the traffic came from organic search, rather than from other campaigns. It’s important that the visitors saw your site. And it’s important what that traffic does next.

2. Bounce Rate

If a visitor comes in, doesn’t like what is on offer, and clicks back, then that won’t help rankings. Google have been a little oblique on this point, saying they aren’t measuring bounce rate, but I suspect it’s a little more nuanced, in practice. If people are failing to engage, then anecdotal evidence suggests this does affect rankings.

Look at the behavioral metrics in GA; if your content has 50% of people spending less than 10 seconds, that may be a problem or that may be normal. The key is to look below that top graph and see if you have a bell curve or if the next largest segment is the 11-30 second crowd.

Either way, we must encourage visitor engagement. Even small improvements in terms of engagement can mean big changes in the bottom line. Getting visitors to a site was only ever the first step in a long chain. It’s what they do next that really makes or breaks a web business, unless the entire goal was that the visitor should only view the landing page. Few sites, these days, would get much return on non-engagement.

PPCers are naturally obsessed with this metric, because each click is costing them money, but when you think about it, it’s costing SEOs money, too. Clicks are getting harder and harder to get, and each click does have a cost associated with it i.e. the total cost of the SEO campaign divided by the number of clicks, so each click needs to be treated as a cost.

3. Landing Pages
We can still do landing page analysis. We can see the pages where visitors are entering the website. We can also see which pages are most popular, and we can tell from the topic of the page what type of keywords people are using to find it.

We could add more related keyword to these pages and see how they do, or create more pages on similar themes, using different keyword terms, and then monitor the response. Similarly, we can look at poorly performing pages and make the assumption these are not ranking against intended keywords, and mark these for improvement or deletion.

We can see how old pages vs new pages are performing in organic search. How quickly do new pages get traffic?

We’re still getting a lot of actionable data, and still not one keyword in sight.

4. Visitor And Customer Acquisition Value

We can still calculate the value to the business of an organic visitor.

We can also look at what step in the process are organic visitors converting. Early? Late? Why? Is there some content on the site that is leading them to convert better than other content? We can still determine if organic search provided a last click-conversion, or a conversion as the result of a mix of channels, where organic played a part. We can do all of this from aggregated organic search data, with no need to look at keywords.

5. Contrast With PPC

We can contrast Adwords data back against organic search. Trends we see in PPC might also be working in organic search.

For AdWords our life is made infinitesimally easier because by linking your AdWords account to your Analytics account rich AdWords data shows up automagically allowing you to have an end-to-end view of campaign performance.

Even PPC-ers are having to change their game around keywords:

The silver lining in all this? With voice an mobile search, you’ll likely catch those conversions that you hadn’t before. While you may think that you have everything figured out and that your campaigns are optimal, this matching will force you into deeper dives that hopefully uncover profitable PPC pockets.

6. Benchmark Against Everything

In the above section I highlighted comparing organic search to AdWords performance, but you can benchmark against almost any form of data.

Is 90% of your keyword data (not provided)? Then you can look at the 10% which is provided to estimate performance on the other 90% of the traffic. If you get 1,000 monthly keyword visits for [widgets], then as a rough rule of thumb you might get roughly 9,000 monthly visits for that same keyword shown as (not provided).

Has your search traffic gone up or down over the past few years? Are there seasonal patterns that drive user behavior? How important is the mobile shift in your market? What landing pages have performed the best over time and which have fallen hardest?

How is your site’s aggregate keyword ranking profile compared to top competitors? Even if you don’t have all the individual keyword referral data from search engines, seeing the aggregate footprints, and how they change over time, indicates who is doing better and who gaining exposure vs losing it.

Numerous competitive research tools like SEM Rush, SpyFu & SearchMetrics provide access to that type of data.

You can also go further with other competitive research tools which look beyond the search channel. Is most of your traffic driven from organic search? Do your competitors do more with other channels? A number of sites like Compete.com and Alexa have provided estimates for this sort of data. Another newer entrant into this market is SimilarWeb.

And, finally, rank checking still has some value. While rank tracking may seem futile in the age of search personalization and Hummingbird, it can still help you isolate performance issues during algorithm updates. There are a wide variety of options from browser plugins to desktop software to hosted solutions.

By now, I hope I’ve convinced you that specific keyword data isn’t necessary and, in some case, may have only served to distract some SEOs from seeing other valuable marketing metrics, such as what happens after the click and where do they go next.

So long as the organic search traffic is doing what we want it to, we know which pages it is coming in on, and can track what it does next, there is plenty of data there to keep us busy. Lack of keyword data is a pain, but in response, many SEOs are optimizing for a lot more than keywords, and focusing more on broader marketing concerns.

Further Reading & Sources:

Categories: 

The Poor Man’s Marketing Stack: How to Hack Marketing Automation

There are over 2,000 marketing technology companies today.

Each one doing something a bit different, filling some unique yet critical need.

That means on a daily basis, marketers might choose from 100 different software programs to fulfill relatively basic tasks.

That inspired somebody, somewhere, to misappropriate the word ‘stack’ from the development world to describe how a particular company might be aligning all their pieces of a marketing and sales pie.

The result often becomes a head-bangingly frustrating process where you’re piecing together several to deliver a single campaign.

Sure, you could opt for an all-in-one solution like HubSpot. But it’s also F&*#@*G expensive.

What if you don’t have that kind of loot?

Here’s how you can use even the most basic, inexpensive or free pieces of software to replicate sophisticated marketing automation and business process hacks.

How to Eliminate Bottlenecks with App-Connecting Tools

Marketing automation, when implemented properly, has the power to increase leads by 451% and boost sales by 34%.

But… a shockingly high 85% of B2B marketers admit to not using it correctly.

The secret ‘inbound marketing lie’ that no-one wants to admit is how F-ing time consuming this stuff is.

Not to mention, if you don’t have the right tool setup, it’s nearly impossible to pull off.

HubSpot is amazing. I’m a super happy partner and advocate. It makes marketing automation relatively easy to implement at scale. But most can’t (or won’t) fork over the ~$10k a year. That’s completely understandable.

When I started consulting, there was no way my clients or I could afford it either. (Although there is a compelling argument for making your money back relatively quickly if you’re using any all-in-one, database driven tool properly.)

That led to an endless search for tools that played well natively. Existing integrations between key pieces of software, like hooking up Gravity Forms with MailChimp, can make your life 10X easier.

But it’s difficult to construct an entire marketing funnel with only tools with native integrations. And it’s not realistic, as other departments or teams within your organization will probably have their own tools that need to work seamlessly with yours.

Fortunately, tools like Zapier and IFTTT (If This Then That) began popping up to help solve this problem.

They’re pretty basic once you get the hang of it. Simply connect two applications, create a ‘trigger’ (the thing that starts this process in motion) and an ‘action’ (what happens when the trigger is, well, triggered).

For example, Gravity Forms (an excellent WordPress plugin) can then automatically send new form submissions to your favorite CRM like Contactually – even though there’s not native integration between these two applications.

contactually-gravity-forms

Best of all, with a little ingenuity, you can use them to re-create a marketing stack and begin automating your marketing.

We’re going to walk through examples in a minute, but first the theory.

Get Started by Outlining Your Marketing Funnel Steps

In an ideal world, strangers find out who you are and develop interest and trust in your brand before agreeing to become a customer.

Digital marketing 101 talks about creating a seamless customer experience by creating tactics that align with each stage of the buyer’s journey:

marketing-funnel-stages-brad-smith

  • Awareness: A stranger becomes aware of some problem in their life.
  • Information: They begin looking for ways to help solve said problem.
  • Evaluation: Recognizing a need, they begin actively searching for a solution between different alternatives.
  • Decision: They make the conscious decision to move forward with the alternative that best meets their criteria.

Sophisticated tools can help you hit all of these points without ever switching around. But that’s gonna be tough with inexpensive software that typically specializes in one small area or another.

So instead, the goal is to recreate what these other platforms can do, moving people logically from one step to the next when they’re ready. Ideally, in the most automated and simplistic fashion possible.

The goal is to recreate what HubSpot and other sophisticated (read: expensive) marketing automation software does, for a fraction of the price.

Sounds nice in theory, right?

But practically, how would that look?

funnel-steps-marketing-automation

  • Awareness: A new lead converts on a landing page, getting added to your email marketing software.
  • Information: As the lead begins searching for more information on your site and interacting with other resources, they should be added and removed from other automated marketing sequences to continue nurturing.
  • Evaluation: Once the lead begins getting serious about considering you as a solution, they need to be updated in your CRM system as such and qualified (if appropriate).
  • Purchase: If they decide to move forward with you, things need to be paid, they need to become a customer or client, and their project or account needs to be set-up immediately.

The important thing to note here isn’t the tools themselves, but your process or workflow. Once that’s defined, you can figure out which tools might be best to slot in each category. For example, even the free Google Contacts might be a good CRM choice (and it integrates easily with Zapier).

Enough small talk though.

Let’s take a look at each stage of this funnel to see how you can use Zapier to recreate steps that typically only expensive marketing automation platforms deliver.

Awareness: Landing Page to Email Marketing

Rule #1 of Permission Marketing (which pre-dated Inbound Marketing by, oh, like a decade) is to get somebody to give you their info in exchange for something of value, allowing you to continue following up with that person over time.

This can be old school, like an email address. Or new school, like their Snapchat… um, err… I have no idea what these kids call it.

In any event, the process is the same.

We already spoke about Gravity Forms, which can be used to power basic eBook forms to collect submissions.

But how about something a little more complex, like a webinar?

Zapier integrates easily with GoToWebinar, allowing you to capture new registrations (and even new attendees).

triggers-searches-actions-zapier

This is perfect if you’d like to add these new registrations to an email list.

Even better, is if you create an automated workflow in for a specific email list for the upcoming webinar. That way, you can continually send out new messages to the contact to make sure that they attend the event (thereby boosting your Attendance Rate).

MailChimp is perfect for this. The pricing is very affordable, especially considering the beautiful templates, ease-of-use, and pretty decent automation options. Plus, that damn Chimp is so cute.

gotowebinar-zapier

Simply select the upcoming webinar, add the new registration to a specific list in MailChimp, and you’re done.

Easy peasy.

But… what happens if people DO (or DON’T) show up? What happens if they DO (or DON’T) take you up on that customary end-of-webinar call-to-action?

You gotta update their status.

Information: Email Marketing Updates

Let’s say that you’re getting clever now, and that you’d like to create two different sets of messages based on if people did or didn’t attend your webinar.

Obviously, getting this right is important because if somebody receives the wrong email it could damage your credibility.

There are a few ways to do this, but the most straightforward is to simply create two additional lists in your email marketing service – one for those who do show up, and one for those who don’t.

THEN, you’ll want to unsubscribe people from the initial list (like the original webinar registration one) and add them to one of the new lists you created based on their actions.

Most basic email marketing services don’t have this feature already. However you can create a simple Zap to take care of it for you.

mailchimp-triggers-zapier

Another example where this comes in handy is if you offer a free trial or demo.

In that case, you don’t want a new lead (or even customer) to continue receiving promotional messages. Fortunately this same simple little hack, creating different lists for different segments of people, being unsubscribed automatically when they join a new list, can take care of a lot of the headache.

mailchimp-zapier-remove-paying-customers

Evaluation: New Lead to CRM to Qualify (or Disqualify)

So far you’ve been nurturing this new lead with a few different campaigns or tactics. Everything’s gone well so far and they’re ready to get serious.

For product or software companies this is straightforward and easy: they download the discount or join the free trial and either purchase (or not).

However it’s a little more complicated for service companies.

How do you know if the lead is any good? You can’t just agree to speak with everyone nutjob who fills out your form (and there will be plenty, believe me).

You can start by filtering your results, setting up qualifying questions in your forms to make sure that you’re tailoring your follow-up process accordingly.

For example, you can set-up different zaps between products based on how people answer a specific question.

set-up-zapier-only-continue-if

Now you can begin segmenting the people who ARE interested in your services, with the tire kickers who are primarily interested in wasting your time.

But you still have no idea if they’re even a good lead or not.

To be on the safe side, let’s automatically send an email to someone in your company to qualify each new prospect who’s interested in your services.

Simple! Just use Gmail based on the form filtered submission you just set-up. You can even pre-craft the message, pulling in form data, along with helpful links for the person who’s helping you to know exactly how you want them to be qualified (delegation FTW!).

marketing-process-email

You can send this email to an assistant, employee, or whomever, and at the same time create a new project management task to make sure they’ll see it immediately as it comes in (along with a due date to make sure each lead is followed up with ASAP).

todo-list-project-management

With a few simple steps and some foresight, you’ve just set-up and delegated the first few steps of your sales process.

Congrats!

But you’re still not quite done yet. What happens when those people decide to pay you money?

Decision: New Client to Point of Sale and Project Management

Again, product or software transactions are insanely straightforward.

When someone wants to become a customer, they whip out a credit card and it takes a few seconds. Then you can update your email or contact lists accordingly with the previous tips.

However what if this is a larger transaction?

First, you can automatically create a new Freshbooks invoice when someone fills out an appropriate form. You can even have someone fill this out internally while on the phone with a new client-in-waiting.

freshbooks-zapier

Freshbooks already integrates with both Stripe and PayPal (along with a few others), so you can even take this a step further by automating all of the tasks related to onboarding new clients too.

For example, let’s create a new Dropbox folder for each client when a successful first payment is made.

dropbox-zapier<

Pretty helpful. But let’s keep going.

Let’s also create a new TEMPLATED project in your favorite project management tool (like Asana in this case).

dropbox-asana-zapier

Just like we did earlier with the email message to qualify a new lead, you can select a pre-built template for the new client to get everything set-up in seconds (rather than hours).

Best of all, there’s no shortage of tips or tricks here. If you take notes during your Kick-Off Call with Evernote, a task can immediately be created in your PM tool to make sure these notes are added to the client’s project accordingly.

todo-list-zapier-evernote

A Time-Saving Caveat

Tools like Zapier or IFTTT open up a brand new world of possibilities.

It’s super interesting and you can geek out on this stuff for HOURS if you’re not careful.

Just think about all of the possibilities you can accomplish if even the most basic software options like Gravity Forms and MailChimp can do this stuff.

But don’t start with the tools.

Instead, start with the process. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? How should people move seamlessly through your own marketing funnel?

Begin by setting up the basic stuff and testing as you go. Once you’ve got the process down, it’s easy to dive into the details and begin customizing each little aspect.

For example, just start by automating how each new lead is followed up with. Then you can get clever with implementing different marketing campaigns that funnel down to this step.

Not only with this approach save you tons of time on the front-end, but you’ll drastically increase your odds of this system delivering better results too.

About the Author: Brad Smith is a founding partner at Codeless Interactive, a digital agency specializing in creating personalized customer experiences. Brad’s blog also features more marketing thoughts, opinions and the occasional insight.

How to Create a Worthwhile Instagram Contest

An Instagram contest is a great way to get more followers, build an engaged audience and grow your brand. However, if you’re not careful, your contest runs the risk of attracting the wrong type of people or completely flopping.

The goal of your contest shouldn’t just be to increase your follower count. You want to build awareness for your brand and engage your current followers. So before you start a contest and give away a free TV, here are some tips on how to run an Instagram contest that delivers results.

Before You Start Your Instagram Contest

First and foremost, you need to ensure you’re doing everything above board. That means taking a few minutes to learn the rules for Instagram contests. The last thing you want is to put time and effort into getting your contest running, then have it taken down for violating Instagram’s different policies.

Here are a couple of important highlights:

  • Your contest must include rules, terms and eligibility requirements.
  • You have to make it clear that your contest is not sponsored by or associated  with Instagram.

While it isn’t common for Instagram contests to be flagged for a minor issues, you still want to err on the side of caution.

1. Use a Branded Hashtag

Every contest you start should have a branded hashtag to go along with it. The hashtag will help you track entries and conversations about the giveaway.

When you only use generic hashtags like #contest, it makes it nearly impossible to measure because there are thousands of posts using the same hashtag.

But here’s the catch. You should still include those generic hashtags in your captions because you want your contests to show up when people search them.

In order to make it clear that the generic hashtags are separate from your contest-specific hashtags, use line breaks to divide your caption. First list the information for your contest, including branded hashtags. Then list your generic hashtags at the bottom.

Instagram Giveaway Caption

2. Create an Amazing Graphic, Photo or Video

Instagram is all about being visual, even when it comes to contests and giveaways. Your contest graphic needs to be engaging and eye-catching. If it looks like your image was made in Microsoft Paint, it’s probably not going to draw many people.

Tag your photo to @omnomnominc to win a tshirt! #contest ends sept. 2

A photo posted by Om Nom Nom Cookies (@omnomnominc) on Aug 30, 2013 at 3:08pm PDT

Come up with a design theme or template. That way when you promote your Instagram on your website or other social networks, the branding is consistent. You can use a combination of Canva and Landscape to make a graphic that can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

3. Give Away a Relevant Prize

This is one of the most common mistakes companies make when running Instagram contests. They give away prizes that have nothing to do with their brand or industry because they think it’ll get more entries.

Giving away Visa gift cards will probably get you more entries, but they’ll be much lower quality. Generic prizes tend to attract freebie seekers who aren’t interested in your company or products, and just want to get something for free.

Instead of using cliche prizes that have little to nothing to do with your company, go the route of Monark and give away prizes related to your brand, or at least your industry.

Some good options for prizes are gift cards to your store or free products. These types of prizes spread awareness for your brand and give people a chance to try your products and services.

4. Make It Easy to Enter

Entering your contest should be simple and straightforward. Having five different ways to enter can be confusing, and makes it more difficult to track the useful social media data.

You should also clearly state the rules, and have a place to access them. You can include guidelines in the caption and also have a dedicated page on your website where all the information is listed.

Being clear and listing the rules will cut down on the amount of questions you receive and keep your giveaway compliant with Instagram.

5. Use UGC for Entries

Speaking of entries, you have a few different options for how people will enter your contest. Some companies prefer to have people reply to a post, while others will require you to like a photo or repost a picture.

Generally the less you ask people to do, the more entries you’ll get. However, getting people to take some sort of action such as posting a picture and tagging your brand will generate more engagement and build your following.

Ben & Jerry’s had success with its #Capture Euphoria photo Instagram contest. The challenge was to capture euphoric moments and include the hashtag #CaptureEuphoria.

Even though the Ben & Jerry’s didn’t require followers to include its ice cream in their pictures, the contest ended up generating a lot of UGC for the company.

The pictures participants submit should involve your brand somehow, such as including your product or logo. All of the photos will grow the amount of user generated content (UGC) your brand has on Instagram.

UGC is powerful. According to a survey from Ipsos MediaCT and Crowdtap, UGC is 35% more memorable and 50% more trusted than other types of media. Instead of filling your Instagram feed with self-promotional posts, let your audience market your brand for you.

6. Don’t Make Contests Too Long

How long should an Instagram contest last? That’s a common question companies ask, but there isn’t a “right” answer.

Generally speaking, most Instagram giveaways last for around a week. A week leaves enough time for people to discover and enter the contest. Of course, this can vary.

The problem with running your contest for too long is there isn’t a sense of urgency. If your contest lasts 30 days, people are more likely to procrastinate, or forget to enter altogether.

Think about it–are you more likely to buy something from a store that has a sale ending in two days or two weeks? Also make sure the start and end dates are clearly stated. That way people don’t have to fill the comments section with questions about when to enter.

7. Allow Public Voting

Determining the winner of an Instagram contest is another hot topic with plenty of options. Public voting can be one of the best approaches because it creates a community and promotes engagement.

Additionally, it allows contests to spread organically once people start sharing and telling their friends to vote for them.

8. Promote Your Instagram Contest in Your Profile

Not every user will scroll through your past posts to find your latest contest. If you post the contest on Monday, then post three photos per day for the rest of the week, your contest image or video will get buried.

To combat this, you can include a sentence or two about your current contest in your profile. You can even add a link in your profile to more information if you’d like.

Instagram Contest in Profile

Mentioning your contests in your profile is also great for brands that run multiple giveaways throughout the year.

For instance, the health food company Luvo runs a weekly Instagram giveaway and promotes each with its own post.

Adding this information to your profile makes it easy for users to identify your current contest, which prevents users from scrolling through all of your older posts.

9. Make the Contest Fun

Avoid running Instagram contests for no reason. Your contests should be planned and well thought out. That starts with having a fun and exciting idea.

You can do this by setting up a theme for your giveaways instead of the generic “like this post to win” approach. Some of the best Instagram contests of 2016 have been successful because they’re innovative.

A great example of a brand that went against the traditional “tag us to win” formula is Mindzai Creative.

The screen printing company held a contest that allowed designers to submit a new print design that would be featured on the company’s apparel. Additionally, the winners received $500 each.

Mindzai Creative Instagram Contest

Think outside the box with your contest setup. Mindzai’s idea was great because it engaged users in two ways. First, this method allowed designers to submit their own work, and second, it let the public choose one of the winners.

10. Use the Right Tools

Managing contests on Instagram can be very difficult. Since there are no built-in giveaway features, you have to do everything manually including finding the entries, tracking votes and monitoring the conversations.

Luckily there are tools to make your life easier. Some popular options include:

These tools are great because they’re specifically built for photo contests, including hashtag integration. They also make it easy to promote your contest on your blog and other social media channels, as well as access your analytics.

You also need to monitor the conversations taking place about your contest. That’s when a social media management tool like Sprout Social comes in handy. Sprout has plenty of features to manage your Instagram contest.

For instance, you can quickly reply to all of your comments, and even track your contest-specific hashtags.

Sprout Social Instagram

You can check out more of Sprout’s Instagram features here.

Ready to Launch Your Instagram Contest?

Whether you’ve had unsuccessful Instagram contests in the past or you’re eager to try it for the first time, the tips you’ve just learned will put you ahead of the competition.

When done correctly, your Instagram contest can be much more than a way for people to get free stuff. It can be an effective marketing tool to grow your brand and build a strong community on Instagram.

This post How to Create a Worthwhile Instagram Contest originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Which Lead Generation Tactics Get the Best Results?

When it comes to lead generation, quality matters over quantity. But by the same token, people don’t like being sold to and they resent the notion that they’re simply “numbers in a database somewhere”. With that in mind, Ascend2 conducted research on the most effective tactics for both lead generation and lead nurturing. What they found out may surprise you.

Which Strategies Were Most Effective?

most-effective-lead-gen

Email marketing is still king of the hill when it comes to lead generation effectiveness

It may come as no surprise, but for sheer ease of implementation and effectiveness of results, nothing beats good, old-fashioned email marketing. Websites and landing pages are close behind, with content marketing making noticeable gains. It’s also worth noting that the survey shows email marketing as one of the easiest tactics to implement.

lead-gen-difficulty

Email marketing is one of the easiest tactics to launch

But notice the relative difficulty of other measures such as content marketing. Sure, it gets decent results, but at what cost? Effectiveness and difficulty are tied. Keep in mind, email marketing has been around much longer, and therefore we’ve had much more time to experiment and learn how to interact with prospects. Huge strides are being made in creating new tools that make content marketing more relevant and personable, but we’re still in the collective crawling stages with it.

And while we’re on that topic, take a look at testing and optimization. Low effectiveness, relatively high difficulty. Surprised? Don’t be. That’s because testing and optimization isn’t a lead generation strategy in and of itself – it’s something you do with the other strategies.

So now we know that email marketing is both one of the best converting and most cost effective measures – what next? Before you load up and catapult a bunch of messages to your prospects’ inboxes, remember that you need to nurture the leads you’ve gotten into your funnel at this point. Fortunately, Ascend2 also looked at the most promising lead nurturing strategies and what trends were getting the kinds of results their teams had hoped for.

Lead Nurturing Goals

When asked the question about the most important objectives of a lead nurturing campaign, the answers were varied. Most responded as you might imagine – to increase conversion rates or open up more sales opportunities.

lead-nurturing-goals

Right behind these two responses was a surprising answer thrown into the mix – “lead qualification”. This idea namely revolves around ensuring that a lead is best poised to make a decision and convert. This means understanding the difference between “interest” and “intent” – many people are interested in something, but far fewer have an active intent at that point to purchase. As of yet, there are no tools which can seamlessly predict this kind of action, although there are many ways to go through the process. No matter what, it’s still a heavy burden on the sales team to discern who’s ready to act and who’s just a well-meaning enthusiast.

So when it comes to nurturing leads, which strategy came out on top? Here again, email marketing:

lead-nurturing

But what, specifically is it about email that people respond to? As it turns out, the best effects on lead nurturing come from creating relevant content:

lead-nurturing-effective-tactics

But notice the other points below these – points which have far fewer reported success rates:

  • Campaign personalization
  • Targeting by persona
  • Targeting by stage in the decision-making process

These are all the very things that email marketing excels at! You can use your CRM data to segment leads based on the persona they most closely match, as well as what stage they’re in when it comes to making a decision. You can personalize your campaign with all the relevant details in the world, but prospects still won’t bite.

The Crossroads of Relevance and Relate-ability

So far, marketing has tried to create the appearance of relevance in campaigns. We try to do this by personalizing emails to give the prospect more of a sense of “me-to-you” communication. We try to align them with personas like theirs in an attempt to get inside their minds and find out what motivates them to purchase. We look at how close they might be to making a decision and we market accordingly.

The fact is, marketers are both swift and smart in using technology to automate much of their follow-up and nurturing tasks. The problem however is that people know it. They know you’re just filling in blanks in a software program or trying to put them into neat boxes based on a few scraps of information that you’ve gleaned from them.

Of course that begs the question, “How are we supposed to create relevant content when people won’t tell us anything about themselves?” They will – you simply have to ask. When was the last time you connected with a prospect and really meant it when you said, “how can we help you?” We’re so conditioned to answer that we’re “just looking” for fear of being sold to.

Creating Better Communication

Maybe the better question is, “what’s challenging or frustrating you? What can I help solve for you?” If a prospect knows that you can relate to them personally, they’ll be much more open to sharing with you. And while it’s not currently possible to write content that appeals to everyone at every moment, it is possible to open up communication and get suggestions for new content, while acknowledging the source.

The bottom line whether you’re looking to attract more leads or help grow the leads you have is shifting your approach from pure sales and marketing to problem solving. Email is a prospect’s open invitation to get as close to them as you possibly can. It’s something they can access anytime, anywhere. And it’s the best shot you’re going to have at learning about their unique issue and demonstrating precisely how your product or service solves it. Not in a high-pressure, hype-filled way, but in a friendly, open, personal way.

We have all the right tools and processes – we just need to add in the human factor.

What are your thoughts on using email marketing for lead generation and nurturing? Have you found in your own experience that other tactics work better? Do you think we should spend less time automating and more time communicating? Share your thoughts and perspectives with us in the comments below.

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today! Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!

How to Recover From Social Media Fails

Every company’s worst nightmare is experiencing a social media fail. Whether it’s Tweeting something inappropriate, misusing a hashtag or auto-Tweeting users’ posts, the results can be catastrophic. In some cases, companies never recover from their setbacks.

This article isn’t about the biggest social media fails of 2016. Instead, we’re going to focus on the steps your brand can take to avoid ending up on those lists and what to do after you have an embarrassing social media blunder.

How to Avoid Social Media Fails

Social media fails can happen in an instant if no one is paying attention. Companies don’t wake up anticipating being caught up in a social media thunderstorm. In most cases, it’s the result of external forces like a hack, oversight or an auto-publishing function that makes you seem like a robot.

asos facebook fail

Regardless, there are certain steps you can take to avoid social media fails and save your company from ending up in the news for the wrong reason. Even something as simple as clarifying your support account can help steer your social media in the right direction.

Create a Social Media Policy

If you look back 10 years ago, the concept of creating a company social media policy may have seemed ridiculous. After news stories continue to appear about major social media fails, having written rules for social media activity should be the norm.

Since social media policies are still relatively new, a lot of companies aren’t sure of what to include. It’s important to keep in mind that your policy should be tailored to your business. However, some things you’ll want to prohibit in your policy are:

  • Sharing confidential or sensitive company information.
  • Disparaging the company.
  • Posting on behalf of the company from an employee’s personal social media account.

Make sure you have every employee sign an agreement acknowledging they understand and agree with the rules.

To give you an idea, here’s what Nordstrom’s social media employee guidelines look like:

Social Media Guidelines

Additionally, you may want to consider providing social media training, particularly for employees that will be Tweeting and posting for the brand. The training should go over your brand’s voice, what’s appropriate to share and other important information your team should know.

Create Strong Passwords

Having your social media account hacked can be horrible. You’ll have to fix the issue, deal with the backlash from your audience and take measures to prevent it from happening again. On top of all this, it’s embarrassing.

There are plenty of steps you can take to decrease your chances of being hacked, but one of the simplest is creating a strong password.

A survey from LogRhythm found that only 21% of respondents used unique passwords for each of their accounts. Additionally, 88% of respondents stated they store their work passwords in an unsecure location. This puts the entire company at risk.

logrhythm infographic example

Use a password generator to create a password that’s strong and unique. Each social media profile for the company should have a different password. Tools like LastPass can be helpful to create and store multiple passwords securely without having to memorize them all.

Use a Social Media Management Tool

If you truly want to keep your social media logins safe, consider using a social media management tool. With Sprout Social, you can allow different team members to access the company’s social media accounts without giving out the password.

Additionally, you can assign user roles and permissions for each member working with your social media account. You can control who’s able to publish to which profiles, or even require message approval for certain team members to publish content.

Sprout Social User Roles

Research Hashtags

There are plenty of horror stories of companies incorrectly using hashtags. For instance, in 2011 Entenmann’s Tweeted “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!”

The Tweet would’ve been fine, except the hashtag #notguilty was trending because Casey Anthony’s murder trial had just concluded with a controversial not guilty verdict.

The lesson here is to always research hashtags before using them. Seemingly innocent hashtags could be trending for a negative reason, or have an alternate meaning you’re unaware of.

Know When Not to Reply

In an effort to deliver the best social media customer service possible, a lot of businesses strive to reply to every Tweet and Facebook post where they’re mentioned. However, that’s not always the best idea.

Social media is filled with Twitter trolls and others that may try to bait you into conversations that could hurt your brand. One of the best ways to prevent social media fails is to know the difference between a genuine question and a troll.

The classic example of a company responding poorly on social media is Amy’s Baking Company. After appearing on an episode of Kitchen Nightmares, the restaurant was ridiculed on social media. Things only got worse when the company’s owners began to reply to Facebook comments with profanity and insults.

Sometimes the best way to respond to negative social media comments is to ignore them.

How to Recover From Social Media Fails

Despite your best efforts to avoid social media blunders, it may happen at some point. The way you respond will determine how much of an impact the incident will have on your business. After the Amy’s Baking Company disaster, they went out of business.

It may seem like your world is crashing down after sending an inappropriate Tweet or misusing a hashtag, but don’t keep digging yourself a hole. Follow these steps to safely recover after a social media fail.

Fix The Problem

First and foremost, address the problem. If your account was hacked, recover it and take the steps we mentioned earlier to secure your login information.

If you misused a hashtag in a Tweet, delete it. There’s a chance someone may have taken a screenshot already, but you still want to delete the original Tweet so it’s no longer on your timeline.

Act Quickly

It shouldn’t take days to address a social media mistake. Twitter moves quickly and users expect you to immediately reply (especially when you’ve made the mistake). Waiting around makes it seem as though you either aren’t aware of the issue, or you’re just not concerned. In either case, your company looks bad. Make sure you take responsibility if it was your fault and send out an apology immediately.

The gift and curse of social media is when you make a mistake, it won’t take you too long to find out about it. You’ll receive plenty of notifications from people mentioning and tagging you. If you want to be certain you’re not missing anything, you should also monitor mentions of your brand name.

Luckily, with Sprout Social, you can monitor social media hashtags and brand keywords so you have a pulse to everything surrounding your company name and reputation. This will give you a live stream of mentions of your company name and other brand keywords you select.

sprout monitoring feature keyword

In addition to monitoring your company name, you should also monitor hashtags containing your company name, common misspellings and any other relevant keywords people may use to reference your brand on social media. Once you identify the issue, start crafting your response and again, begin with an apology.

Admit You Made a Mistake

Being transparent and sincere is key. When you start to become secretive or sweep things under the rug, your audience will become wary and suspicious. We mentioned the importance of deleting the questionable message, but that doesn’t mean pretending like it never happened.

Once it has been made public, your best course of action is to admit the mistake and let your followers know what you’re doing to correct the issue.

For example, in 2011 American Red Cross tweeted “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.”

The Tweet was accidentally sent by Gloria Huang, who was a social media specialist for Red Cross at the time. Huang accidentally sent the Tweet from the Red Cross account instead of her personal profile.

Red Cross addressed the issue with humor, while still being apologetic. Thanks to the witty response, what could’ve been an epic social media fail turned into a success that spread awareness for Red Cross.

Don’t Become Defensive

You’re going to receive backlash after a social media fail. Don’t let pride get in the way and cause you to become defensive.

Remember the tip about ignoring trolls? The same thing applies here. Learn to respond appropriately to relevant messages. That means being courteous and respectful. Also keep in mind that you don’t have to reply to each individual Tweet.

Put Procedures in Place to Prevent a Repeat

If the mistake was something that could’ve been avoided, setup procedures and policies to prevent it from reoccurring or it could happen again.

That could be as simple as switching to a social media management tool instead of using native apps or an automatic posting platform. In some cases, it could mean letting go of an employee. Adding procedures and an organized workflow to your strategy will prevent a lot of social media fails.

Sprout Social Posting Permissions

Here are some quick tips to get started:

  • Only allow certain team members to publish to your social media channels.
  • Use Sprout Social to create accountability. You’ll be able to see which team member sent which social media post.
  • Create a brand guide.

The more proactive you are, the less susceptible you’ll be to social media fails. Like we mentioned in the beginning, sounding like a robot or insincere about a mistake is the worst avenue to take. But with the right direction, you can quickly respond to your audience and fans in a prepared fashion.

No Company is Perfect

Last but not least, realize that no company is perfect. There’s always a chance things could go wrong. Setup safeguards to prevent them from happening, and respond appropriately.

No company wants to be known for their social media mistakes. These tips and tactics will help you avoid becoming an example of how not to handle social media marketing.

This post How to Recover From Social Media Fails originally appeared on Sprout Social.

7 Psychological Insights That Will Help You Develop a Powerful Facebook Strategy for Business

brain

What is the most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal?

Is it keyword research? Copywriting? Beautifully designed ad campaigns? Maybe….

But the driving force behind all of these things?

Psychology.

You see, sales and marketing are really about understanding consumer psychology.

Why do people buy? What makes them click on your Facebook ad? What sort of stimuli do most people respond to?

I’ve been interested in consumer psychology for quite a while. It started innocently enough. I was curious. What makes customers interested in a product, service, person, or brand? Why do people click on headlines? What makes 100%-refund-guarantees so assuring? How will this influence conversion rates or customer loyalty?

Download a cheat sheet of 7 psychological insights to develop a powerful Facebook strategy for business.

Asking these kinds of questions helped me develop a deeper understanding of my customers.

And then I figured out something more. Consumer psychology applies to just about everything in business.

Even social media.

What did I do? I started using my knowledge of psychology to improve my Facebook strategy.

And guess what?

It worked.

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It wasn’t just my personal brand that started growing by leaps and bounds. My clients got the benefits too!

I’m not going to keep these techniques a secret.

I wanted to share with you the psychological insights I learned so you can dramatically improve your game by leveraging Facebook marketing more effectively.

So, what are the most important psychological “hacks” you can start using today to improve your social media marketing?

1. Kick rational advertising out the window

Most people are emotional creatures, not rational.

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Many of us analytical types tend to think that everyone else sees the world in terms of ones and zeros like we do. But this is simply not the case.

Most people act emotionally, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It just is.

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One of the most effective things you can do to improve your Facebook strategy is to quit relying on rational thinking as your main driver and start relying on customer’s emotions to take the wheel.

Great…But how do you do this?

One of the most effective methods is to convey emotion through facial expression. Try using ads that have someone’s face on them, whether it’s a real photograph or a drawing.

I do this often, simply by adding an image of a face to my posts. It’s simple. It’s quick. It’s effective.

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Seeing a face is way more appealing than seeing some inanimate object.

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It works not only on posts, like the ones above, but on sidebar ads too.

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People are already browsing through Facebook, looking at pictures of friends and family. Using headshots or other shots that include facial expression is a natural way to enter into your customer’s newsfeed unobtrusively.

Facial expression is the only universally understood language, and the human brain is wired to process facial cues far more easily than written word.

In fact, according to a study from Caltech, people may have specific neurons in their brains that respond to individual people!

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This means that when you see my face, Tony Robbin’s face, Donald Trump’s face, or Brad Pitt’s face, you have a neuron in your brain dedicated to only them!

Pretty cool, huh?

Take a look at some of the ads below.

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Notice how the headshot of Noah Kagan smiling instantly changes your mood and instills trust.

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This ad from AdEspresso offers almost no rational reason for clicking on it, but the positive emotion instilled by the cartoon and the eye-catching red (more on that later) makes me want to click on it.

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Notice how Tim’s confident (or smug?) facial expression communicates confidence about the method he is teaching without any extra information.

The face is enough to build my trust and encourage me to interact with the Facebook ad.

Do you see how powerful conveying emotion through facial expression is? Use it in all your Facebook ads, regardless of the topic.

2. Use color to catch attention and convey your message

Something that many marketers are aware of but rarely utilize is the power of color.

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The human brain evolved to see red colors more vividly. This was a huge advantage to hunter-gatherers who could now spot ripe red fruits out of green leafy trees as well as potential dangers like venomous snakes and fish.

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(That snake could kill you.)

This is a huge advantage to marketers.

Red in your ads will catch users’ attention much more effectively than any other color.

However, the combination of red and blue is even more powerful as blue is more calming and relaxing.

For example, let’s reexamine the AdEspresso ad.

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Notice how the ad uses red to grab your attention and direct you to the “Try it now” button but combines it with some blue text to give the ad a more calming and friendly tone.

This is an easy psychological trick you can use to your advantage in your next campaign.

Colors are powerful. They’re a language unto themselves.

It’s time to start speaking this language with your customers. Why? Because it’s a language that is neurologically innate. We’ve learned the language of color through nature and through the complex development of our species.

Color has a way of communicating that doesn’t depend on effective ad copy or even a smiling picture of a model. Choosing the right color can drive up your engagement and improve your Facebook marketing.

3. Slash the price (by just one cent!)

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to find something in a supermarket that costs exactly $1 or exactly $5?

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That’s because, once again, the human brain has evolved to discern the difference between prices based on the left-most digit.

That’s the power of pricing.

For example, the reduction of one cent—from $100.00 to $99.99—is perceived as more significant than the reduction of 40 cents—from $99.99 to $99.59.

While the brain may suck at math, this is an incredibly easy-to-implement tactic that can increase your Facebook ad conversions almost instantly.

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This doesn’t work every time or in every situation. However, I have learned that odd styles of pricing are far more effective at luring customers in than flat, round numbers.

Give it a try. Run a split test with differing price points, and see which one wins.

4. Use now as a trigger word

Our brains are not wired for our modern technological era.

It sounds odd, I know. After all, most of us run around virtually tethered to some electronic device—wearing it, talking to it, and interacting with it.

But the brain is still trying to adapt to these devices, no matter how marvelous they are.

Our brains are still way back in the day when we were living on plains, hunting and gathering for survival. This means our brains are still wired for one of two basic responses: fight or flight.

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You’ve heard of fight or flight, haven’t you? The idea is simple: fight or flight is “the instinctive physiological response to a threatening situation, which readies one either to resist forcibly or to run away.”

The fight or flight response takes its toll on the entire body in various ways. Some of these effects are obvious—like sweating. Other effects are subtle—like digestion slowing down.

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Either way, our bodies respond.

Here’s how one science website describes it:

In response to acute stress, the body’s sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones. The sympathetic nervous systems stimulate the adrenal glands triggering the release of catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline. This results in an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. After the threat is gone, it takes between 20 to 60 minutes for the body to return to its pre-arousal levels….In the face of something frightening, your heart beat quickened, you begin breathing faster, and your entire body become tense and ready to take action. This response can happen in the face of an imminent physical danger (such as encountering a growling dog during your morning jog) or as a result of a more psychological threat (such as preparing to give a big presentation at school or work).

In other words, our brains are wired to make impulse decisions.

Using the word now is a great way to capitalize on the brain’s propensity for impulsivity and get your customers to click on your Facebook ad.

Here’s how one Inc. writer describes the word now:

Immediacy is what everyone wants: Get what you want now. Make a change now. You can start now. Tomorrow is too late, yesterday is over, and now is exactly the right moment to start.

Humans are wired to want now. It’s just the way we are.

Cater to that desire in your ads or social campaigns, and you’re sure to improve your scores, conversions, and engagement.

5. Focus on the images, not the words

According to most modern studies, the brain processes images much faster than text.

This means that when you are designing your Facebook or other social media campaigns, you should focus more of your time and energy on the images you are using than the text you include.

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Social media today is a visually driven world. The more visual content you have and the better it is, the more successful your social media campaigns will be.

6. Create scarcity

We’ve established that the brain is wired for impulse decisions and fight or flight. Thus, ads featuring products with (perceived) scarcity instill a sense of urgency, influencing a customer’s desire to purchase.

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Notice how the “Only 24 Hours Left” warning creates a sense of urgency to buy.

You want it more because it’s scarcer.

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It’s called the scarcity principle, and it will work wonders for your social media strategy!

7. Use odd numbers for opt-ins

I was just about to write the conclusion to this article when I realized…

I can’t end on an even number!

Why? Because odd numbers are, for whatever reason, more psychologically appealing. Odd numbers improve engagement, increase click-throughs, and attract more eyeballs.

The simple takeaway?

  • If you are running a Facebook ad with a giveaway to increase email opt-ins, use an odd number to help increase conversions.
  • If you are posting an update about a listicle, use an odd-numbered headline.
  • If you are using a number in any place in your Facebook updates, use an odd number.

For example, the giveaway “9 Powerful Hacks to Massively Increase Facebook Ad Conversions” would convert much better than “10 Amazing Ways to Improve Your Conversion Rate” (according to science).

Conductor’s research showed that odd-numbered headlines have 36% more clicks and a 20% higher CTR than non-numbered or even-numbered headlines.

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The same principle holds true for Facebook ads, Facebook articles, and Facebook opt-ins.

Odd numbers just work.

Researchers have discovered that the mind considers odd numbers to be more natural. A list-driven article like this one, therefore, has a more trustworthy neurological connection due to its odd-numbered status.

Conclusion

More often than not, I find that most Facebook ads fail to utilize any of the above tools, and that is a shame because using human psychology is one of the most proven and consistent ways to increase your sales and conversions.

And the thing is none of these psychological insights are hard to implement!

That’s the power of consumer psychology. Knowing a few insights can be powerful and can positively impact your marketing efforts!

If you want to see any of the above advice in action, simply run an A/B split test, utilizing the power of color, facial expression, and trigger words. You’ll be AMAZED at the results.

Like with everything, however, don’t take my word for it. Go out there, and do it for yourself: test, test, test, and see what gets you the results.

I’m still curious. What kinds of psychological hacks are you testing and trying in order to improve your Facebook strategy?

The Only Thing Certain In SEO Is Change

SEO is subject to frequent change, but in the last year or two, the changes feel both more frequent and significant than changes in the past. Florida hit in 2003. Since then, it’s like we get a Florida every six months.

Whenever Google updates the underlying landscape, the strategies need to change in order to deal with it. No fair warning. That’s not the game.

From Tweaks To Strategy

There used to be a time when SEOs followed a standard prescription. Many of us remember a piece of software called Web Position Gold.

Web Position Gold emerged when SEO could be reduced to a series of repeatable – largely technical – steps. Those steps involved adding keywords to a page, repeating those keywords in sufficient density, checking a few pieces of markup, then scoring against an “ideal” page. Upload to web. Add a few links. Wait a bit. Run a web ranking report. Viola! You’re an SEO. In all but the most competitive areas, this actually worked.

Seems rather quaint these days.

These days, you could do all of the above and get nowhere. Or you might get somewhere, but when so many more factors in play, they can’t be isolated to an individual page score. If the page is published on a site with sufficient authority, it will do well almost immediately. If it appears on a little known site, it may remain invisible for a long time.

Before Google floated in 2004, they released an investor statement signalling SEO – well, “index spammers” – as a business risk. If you ever want to know what Google really feels about people who “manipulate” their results, it’s right here:

We are susceptible to index spammers who could harm the integrity of our web search results.

There is an ongoing and increasing effort by “index spammers” to develop ways to manipulate our web search results. For example, because our web search technology ranks a web page’s relevance based in part on the importance of the web sites that link to it, people have attempted to link a group of web sites together to manipulate web search results. We take this problem very seriously because providing relevant information to users is critical to our success. If our efforts to combat these and other types of index spamming are unsuccessful, our reputation for delivering relevant information could be diminished. This could result in a decline in user traffic, which would damage our business.

SEO competes with the Adwords business model. So, Google “take very seriously” the activities of those who seek to figure out the algorithms, reverse engineer them, and create push-button tools like Web Position Gold. We’ve had Florida, and Panda, and Penguin, and Hummingbird, all aimed at making the search experience better for users, whilst having the pleasant side effect, as far as Google is concerned, of making life more difficult for SEOs.

I think the key part of Google’s statement was “delivering relevant information”.

From Technical Exercise To PR

SEO will always involve technical aspects. You get down into code level and mark it up. The SEO needs to be aware of development and design and how those activities can affect SEO. The SEO needs to know how web servers work, and how spiders can sometimes fail to deal with their quirks.

But in the years since Florida, marketing aspects have become more important. An SEO can perform the technical aspects of SEO and get nowhere. More recent algorithms, such as Panda and Penguin, gauge the behaviour of users, as Google tries to determine information quality of pages. Hummingbird attempts to discover the intent that lays behind keywords.

As a result, Keyword-based SEO is in the process of being killed off. Google withholds keyword referrer data and their various algorithms attempt to deliver pages based on a users intent and activity – both prior and present – in order to deliver relevant information. Understanding the user, having a unique and desirable offering, and a defensible market position is more important than any keyword markup. The keyword match, on which much SEO is based, is not an approach that is likely to endure.

The emphasis has also shifted away from the smaller operators and now appears to favour brands. This occurs not because brands are categorized as “brands”, but due to the side effects of significant PR activities. Bigger companies tend to run multiple advertising and PR campaigns, so produce signals Google finds favorable i.e. search volume on company name, semantic associations with products and services, frequent links from reputable media, and so on. This flows through into rank. And it also earns them leeway when operating in the gray area where manual penalties are handed out to smaller & weaker entities for the same activities.

Rankings

Apparently, Google killed off toolbar PageRank.

We will probably not going to be updating it [PageRank] going forward, at least in the Toolbar PageRank.

A few people noted it, but the news won’t raise many eyebrows as toolbar PR has long since become meaningless. Are there any SEOs altering what they do based on toolbar PR? It’s hard to imagine why. The reality is that an external PR value might indicate an approximate popularity level, but this isn’t an indicator of the subsequent ranking a link from such a page will deliver. There are too many other factors involved. If Google are still using an internal PR metric, it’s likely to be a significantly more complicated beast than was revealed in 1997.

A PageRank score is a proxy for authority. I’m quite sure Google kept it going as an inside joke.

A much more useful proxy for authority are the top ten pages in any niche. Google has determined all well-ranking pages have sufficient authority, and no matter what the toolbar, or any other third-party proxy, says, it’s Google’s output that counts. A link from any one of the top ten pages will likely confer a useful degree of authority, all else being equal. It’s good marketing practice to be linked from, and engage with, known leaders in your niche. That’s PR, as in public relations thinking, vs PR (Page rank), technical thinking.

The next to go will likely be keyword-driven SEO. Withholding keyword referral data was the beginning of the end. Hummingbird is hammering in the nails. Keywords are still great for research purposes – to determine if there’s an audience and what the size of that audience may be – but SEO is increasingly driven by semantic associations and site categorizations. It’s not enough to feature a keyword on a page. A page, and site, needs to be about that keyword, and keywords like it, and be externally recognized as such. In the majority of cases, a page needs to match user intent, rather than just a search term. There are many exceptions, of course, but given what we know about Hummingbird, this appears to be the trend.

People will still look at rank, and lust after prize keywords, but really, rankings have been a distraction all along. Reach and specificity is more important i.e. where’s the most value coming from? The more specific the keyword, typically the lower the bounce rate and the higher the conversion rate. The lower the bounce-rate, and higher the conversion rate, the more positive signals the site will generate, which will flow back into a ranking algorithm increasing being tuned for engagement. Ranking for any keyword that isn’t delivering business value makes no sense.

There are always exceptions. But that’s the trend. Google are looking for pages that match user intent, not just pages that match a keyword term. In terms of reach, you want to be everywhere your customers are.

Search Is The Same, But Different

To adapt to change, SEOs should think about search in the widest possible terms. A search is quest for information. It may be an active, self-directed search, in the form of a search engine query. Or a more passive search, delivered via social media subscriptions and the act of following. How will all these activities feed into your search strategy?

Sure, it’s not a traditional definition of SEO, as I’m not limiting it to search engines. Rather, my point is about the wider quest for information. People want to find things. Eric Schmidt recently claimed Amazon is Google’s biggest competitor in search. The mechanisms and channels may change, but the quest remains the same. Take, for example, the changing strategy of BuzzFeed:

Soon after Peretti had turned his attention to BuzzFeed full-time in 2011, after leaving the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed took a hit from Google. The site had been trying to focus on building traffic from both social media marketing and through SEO. But the SEO traffic — the free traffic driven from Google’s search results — dried up.

Reach is important. Topicality is important. Freshness, in most cases, is important. Engagement is important. Finding information is not just about a technical match of a keyword, it’s about an intellectual match of an idea. BuzzFeed didn’t take their eye off the ball. They know helping users find information is the point of the game they are in.

And the internet has only just begun.

In terms of the internet, nothing has happened yet. The internet is still at the beginning of its beginning. If we could climb into a time machine and journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we’d realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2044 were not invented until after 2014. People in the future will look at their holodecks, and wearable virtual reality contact lenses, and downloadable avatars, and AI interfaces, and say, oh, you didn’t really have the internet (or whatever they’ll call it) back then.

In 30 years time, people will still be on the exact same quest for information. The point of SEO has always been to get your information in front of visitors, and that’s why SEO will endure. SEO was always a bit of a silly name, and it often distracts people from the point, which is to get your stuff seen ahead of the rest.

Some SEOs have given up in despair because it’s not like the old days. It’s becoming more expensive to do effective SEO, and the reward may not be there, especially for smaller sites. However, this might be to miss the point, somewhat.

The audience is still there. Their needs haven’t changed. They still want to find stuff. If SEO is all about helping users find stuff, then that’s the important thing. Remember the “why”. Adapt the “how”

In the next few articles, we’ll look at the specifics of how.

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Add a Branded Content Tag to Verified Facebook Page Posts

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Facebook recently made updates to their Branded Content Policy, which requires verified Pages to apply a Branded Content Tag to posts featuring a third party product, brand or sponsor. Today, we’re pleased to announce that applying a Branded Content Tag to posts is now available when publishing to verified Facebook Pages from Sprout’s Compose window.

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What Is Branded Content & Why Does It Matter?

Branded content is nothing new. In the age of social more and more brands are taking on the role of content creators, curators and publishers. Organizations are hiring journalists, setting up newsrooms and sharing owned and third party content that resonates with their audiences. The Harvard Business Review has even reported on how businesses are investing millions into social content strategies that help increase brand awareness.

With today’s update, brands can continue taking advantage of Sprout’s publishing features and plan, manage and distribute content while staying compliant with Facebook’s updated Branded Content Policy.

Apply a Branded Content Tag from Compose

To apply the Branded Content Tag from Sprout’s Compose window, select a verified Facebook Page and click the handshake icon. The profile drop-down menu will dynamically update to refine your search results as you continue typing the name of the Page you’d like to tag.

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The handshake icon will also appear on the weekly publishing calendar to help you identify any scheduled or queued messages that contain the Branded Content Tag.

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An Opportunity to Gain Visibility

In addition to ensuring that your posts properly align with Facebook’s latest policy, you can also use the Branded Content Tag to reach a bigger audience. If a featured third party shares your post, your impressions and reach will expand to include their fans and followers. Whether you’re engaging in a co-marketing activity, promoting a co-branded event, or simply citing your source while sharing third-party content, using the Branded Content Tag will enable both Pages to leverage the visibility of two Facebook audiences.

Whatever your motivation is for publishing branded content, you can now do it while ensuring your posts align with Facebook’s policy when publishing from Sprout. As always, let us know if you have any questions or feedback.

This post Add a Branded Content Tag to Verified Facebook Page Posts originally appeared on Sprout Social.

How Conversion Barriers Can Actually Improve Customer Retention

Joanna Prospect needs a solution.

After Googling some pertinent keywords, she comes across your site.

The first thing she sees is a CTA pushing her to sign up for a free trial that promises to address her every need.

“This could be the answer to all my problems,” she thinks. She signs up. Fantastic, right?

Actually, you and Joanna might both benefit from slowing things down a little.

If your site is set up to convert prospects from their first visit, Joanna Prospect may miss key bits of knowledge to make the most of your product, or she may try to use your product to solve the wrong problem.

Your website should focus instead on educating prospects, leading them gradually down a path of increasing knowledge.

By taking more time to move a visitor toward conversion in their purchasing journey, companies can decrease customer churn and protect their brand’s image. Let Joanna understand who you are and where she’s headed before asking her to convert.

Hold on. Am I really telling you to put barriers between potential customers and a sale?

Absolutely. Because there’s solid evidence that backs me up.

Mom was Right: Patience Pays

Rand Fishkin of Moz wrote an intriguing post examining how converting a customer too early actually ended up losing Moz some business.

Fishkin found customers who convert on the first few visits to the website had a tendency to leave the solution “early and often,” while customers who visited at least 10 times were more loyal.

Further, those loyalty rates actually increased with the number of times a customer visited the site before converting.

This suggests that developing a brand relationship — largely by educating customers — creates longer-lasting relationships and reduces the costs of churn.

Those initial customers who converted on the first or second visit to the site weren’t properly educated on what Moz’s solution could do for them and how to use it, so they ended up quitting the free trial after a month of mediocre experiences with the product.

Those who had a better understanding of why they had converted were the ones who stuck around.

So, how do you keep your own leads and prospects from converting too early?

Map Those CTAs to Your Funnel Stages

To keep your CTAs thoughtfully and effectively placed, map out each piece of educational content to a stage of your customer’s journey. Then optimize your CTAs with a focus on moving each prospect organically down that pipeline. Let me explain.

The first time a visitor lands on your site, the CTA they experience should be to learn more, not to sign up for a free trial. Airbnb’s front page has an excellent example of a CTA for potential hosts, leading them to a page that answers “how does this work” questions.

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Identify pieces of your educational content aimed at the top of the funnel, and then design them to answer initial questions and lead the prospect to educate themselves further (with, for example, CTAs to learn more or read additional content).

As a prospect moves through the funnel and seeks more informational content, they’ll begin to trust and rely on your brand’s expertise.

CTAs for middle-of-the-funnel, often before they have signed up for a trial or a sale, content should offer prospective customers substantial ways to cement that reliance. Give them a chance to:

  • sign up for a webinar
  • take a free online course
  • download a white paper
  • read some case studies

On their Sales Cloud page, Salesforce includes video case studies and white paper downloads:

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At the bottom of the funnel, customers will finally encounter your lead generation content. At that point, they should be well educated and primed to convert.

This is where those CTAs for free trials and pricing packages should go.

Remember These Cs: Content Creates Confident Customers

Of course, these CTAs will only be effective if your educational content genuinely answers the questions prospects have along their journey.

To identify what your ideal customers need to know before making a purchase, consider these factors:

  • What do they need to know about your product to get the most benefit out of a free trial or other initial offer? Target your educational content to those topics and keywords.
  • If you run a third-party seller platform, what skills do your providers need to optimize their listings and have success on your platform?
  • If you run a sales CRM, what knowledge do your customers need about forecasting and sales pipelines in order to benefit from your free trial? If you’re not sure, try surveying current satisfied customers.

Great educational content clearly conveys that if prospects have questions, you will reliably provide the answers. This gives them the confidence that when it comes time to try your product, they’ll have support. In the meantime, your educational content is building up the skills and mindset they need to properly use your product.

The website of the sales CRM software Pipedrive is a good example of that. Along with a comprehensive support center, they publish a ton of content to help people become better at sales.

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In the eyes of your prospects, you’re now head and shoulders over other untested brands.

If you already have a good customer training and onboarding program in place, then you already know the value of educating customers after the purchase.

And once you begin to educate prospects before the sale, you’ll reap the results of conversions who are already loyal to your brand.

About the Author: Becky Krill heads up marketing at SchoolKeep, a modern platform for optimizing full-funnel training operations. You can follow Becky on Twitter @RabeckaKrill.

23 Must-Have Tools for Your Marketing Stack

It’s time to upgrade your SaaS marketing team.

With the right tools, your staff has the opportunity to acquire new users, offer quality customer service, and boost retention rates.

However, some businesses shy away from experimenting with new tools.

“New technology can be scary, and you don’t want to struggle with a tool that has a steep learning curve. Unfortunately, this means companies are missing out on some great products that can make life and business so much easier,” writes Travis Wright, chief marketing technologist at CCP Global.

The key is to create a marketing stack that fits your SaaS’s needs, not the latest trends. Moreover, don’t feel obligated to have a tool for every function of your business. Only try a tool when you think it can solve a problem or make your team more efficient.

Here are 23 tools to consider for your marketing stack.

Customer Support

Research reveals that “76% of consumers look at customer service as a test of their value to a brand.” Give your users value by answering their questions through customer support.

1. HappyFox

HappyFox handles all inbound requests in one ticketing system. And your service reps can contact multiple people from the same organization about a resolution. Unlike the some other help desk companies, you receive a secure help desk with SSL integration and 24/7 support at no extra cost.

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2. Freshdesk

Freshdesk’s shared inbox lets your team collaborate and resolve issues together. You also can set requirements for resolution times.

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Onboarding

Onboarding customers is vital to ensure people understand and use your product effectively. This process is a way to not only familiarize consumers with your app, but also to formally introduce them to your brand.

Kate Griggs, product owner at InterContinental Hotels Group, says, “User onboarding is one of the most crucial–and frustrating–elements of any product launch. It is the first impression, and it needs to be planned and analyzed for future adoption and growth.”

3. Appcues

Appcues enables you to build a personalized user onboarding experience. With targeting capabilities, you can show the right experience to the right user at the right time. It’s highly recommended because non-developers can run experiments and improve your activation strategy.

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4. WalkMe

WalkMe gives you the control to change content, design, placement, and functionality of each step of the on-screen guidance. Its featured text option draws the user’s attention to important announcements.

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Social Media

People are constantly sharing information online. And right now, there are 2.3 billion active social media users. Your SaaS brand can learn what your customers are saying and can engage directly with social media.

5. Snapchat

Snapchat gives brands the chance to interact with customers. Boost brand awareness with short video clips. Moreover, the platform is America’s second-favorite social network. That opens the doors to introduce your product to more interested buyers.

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6. Mention

Mention monitors conversations about your brand. Also, identify influencers and subject matter experts in your industry.

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7. Buffer

Buffer helps drive more clicks on your posts and traffic to your site. The publishing tool lets you share content across multiple social networks.

Simplicity is the best word to describe Buffer. They offer simple analytics, making it easy to see your best performing social messages.

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Analytics

Your SaaS can benefit from gathering qualitative and quantitative data from your website. It moves your team to create a worthwhile online experience for your customers.

“When you are armed with this knowledge, you get to see how effective your website is and what changes you need to make in order to make it even better,” writes John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing Consultant.

8. Kissmetrics

Kissmetrics tracks individual and group visitor behavior. You’ll collect data from their first anonymous visit to their lifetime value.

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9. Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg lets your team see exactly what visitors are doing on your website. For example, you’ll discover where people are clicking and where they stop scrolling on the page. Their Confetti Tool is really useful. It distinguishes your clicks, segmenting them by referral sources and search terms.

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SEO

Make it easy for your customers to find you. Work with your team to generate visits to your site. If search engines can’t find you, then your ideal customers can’t either.

“…[B]usinesses are normally somewhat reluctant to get involved with SEO in the first place, and want to start small, with the basics due to budgetary concerns…If you want to see better results, you have to scale upward, in both quality and volume,” writes Forbes contributor Jayson DeMers.

10. Moz Pro

Moz Pro centers around improving your rankings and search engine visibility. And you can compare your mobile vs. desktop rankings.

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11. SEMrush

SEMrush finds long tail keywords and phrase matches. You also can monitor your competitors’ inbound links. And their US keyword database contains more than 80 million keywords!

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Loyalty

A Forrester study reports that “81% of marketing decision makers place customer loyalty as a top priority for improvement.” Customer expectations for loyalty programs have risen. And consumers desire incentives for their brand loyalty.

12. Loyalist

Loyalis is a rewards program created to boost your customer retention. You can even entice buyers with points if they share information via social media.

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13. Social Annex

Social Annex helps your team deliver personalized actions. The software makes it easy for your customers to earn points and redeem prizes. Gamification is their signature tool. The platform has components like competition, tiers, and badges to enhance brand engagement.

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Email Marketing

Communication is crucial to building quality customer relationships. Email is an effective tool to educate and respond to your consumers.

14. Customer.io

Customer.io helps your team send personalized messages. And connect every message to an action.

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15. Vero

Vero empowers your team to segment users and combine conditions to send targeted campaigns. Sync with your customers’ routines and send emails based on time zones.

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Content Marketing

According to Demand Metric, content marketing “costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.” Consider integrating content into your marketing strategy.

16. CoSchedule

CoSchedule equips you with a drag-and-drop marketing calendar. That way you can plan, publish, and promote without the hassle.

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17. Buzzsumo

Buzzsumo uncovers the most shared content across social networks. Receive content alerts regarding keywords, authors, and domains. Their chrome extension places all the necessary information at your fingertips.

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18. Notifier

Notifier scans your blog posts, finds people you mentioned, and then lets you notify them. It’s a one-stop shop to bringing awareness to your content.

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Customer Feedback

Are your customers satisfied? Feedback guides your team’s decision-making and influences your customer success roadmap.

“Every business hopes to better its profits. The best way to do so is to serve the customer as fully as possible, especially if you can get each consumer to lead the way. By seeking customer feedback, many businesses gain a clearer picture of ways they can improve,” states Larry Alton, a business and online marketing consultant.

19. Riddle

Riddle gathers deep audience insight. Collect business intelligence through engaging quizzes and polls.

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20. Formstack

Formstack makes it possible to compile customer data. With A/B testing, you’ll find out which forms convert at higher rates. Their Social Autofill feature lets your users autofill form fields with social profiles.

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Video

Hubspot reports that “64% of users are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video.” It might benefit your team to create more videos.

21. Animate

With Animoto, gain access to dozens of video styles with unique filters and transitions.

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22. Wistia

Wistia allows you to restrict where videos are played. Every view generates a heatmap, showing exactly which parts of the video the viewer watched. Also, Wistia thrives on collaboration, share videos and analytics with your team and see their time-coded comments.

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23. Vimeo

Vimeo enables you to upload and share your videos. They have a free plan and a paid plan that costs as little as $59.95 per year.

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Upgrade Your Stack

Useful tools help your team work more efficiently. So, don’t be wary about experimenting with different options.

However, be mindful about how a tool can solve your company’s challenges. You won’t need a tool for everything.

Start exploring. Upgrade your marketing stack.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

5 Actionable Content Marketing Insights from Latest Report

In the latest report from Econsultancy they looked at the future of content marketing by talking to content experts, agency leaders and content practitioners. One of the biggest imperatives they noted is the importance of data as it relates to content. Whether you are using it to create content, distribute content, or analyze the success of your content, data plays a larger and larger role.

Our friend Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners notes: “More and more people are thinking of content as data. This is a great way to get granular data about firms from content and it generates real insight for companies. But if there’s no added value then people feel duped and it inhibits the technique’s growth. It needs proper analysis.”

There are certainly many ways to start breaking down this long report, but let's start at the end with some actionable insights. Here are five takeaways from the report, and there are many more.

1. Understand data and your appetite for data

Customer insight is vital for successful content marketing but not all communications merit one-to-one personalization. Alternatively, diving so deep into data for content creation may be an unnecessary distraction for the company. Determine how targeted and contextual content has to be for it to be effective. Use small test cases to see where it’s possible to push those boundaries as needs don’t stay static over time.

2. Don’t just personalize, contextualize

Understand consumers’ reaction to communications. Brands may be able to identify likes and dislikes, preferred channels and real-time location. It still doesn’t necessarily mean they want to have a conversation with a cookie. Identify where your relevance is to their lives and where you’ll add value.

3. Automate but retain the human touch

Marketing technologies will allow a great deal of highly personal interaction at scale and in real time, even to the extent of being able to conduct human-like conversations. However, human interactions will continue to be vital, whether it’s monitoring important shifts in social listening, engaging in customer care or beyond.

4. Follow through

Customers are more than aware of the volumes of data collected on them. The content delivered has to match the data provided. Demanding detailed information and providing a generic response is an unsatisfactory experience.

5. Use existing resources

Just as the future of content will put it alongside advertising, PR and digital, use the resources that have been fueling these platforms to enhance your content output. Data management platforms (DMPs) have the potential to underpin so much more than programmatic display ads.

This is only a sample of the content goodness in this report about the Future of Content Marketing. Econsultancy shares many content examples, talks to lots of smart people, and wraps it up with good analysis. Download it today for a better tomorrow.