Web and Hosting Tips
Written by Taylor Hawes
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
Whether you’re a long-running company or a long-time consumer, you’ve probably noticed a trend in traditional forms of advertising; namely, they don’t work. The Internet has changed the marketplace, making customers more discerning, and marketers savvier. Standing out is a matter of creativity, and with these six ad types, you can find new life in your campaign, and new customers on your site.
Banner advertising is on the way out. How ineffective has the method become? According to research, you’re more likely to survive a plane crash or win the lottery than you are to click on a banner ad. No matter how you slice it, that’s bad.
The problem lies in the overt solicitation involved in banner ads. Users have learned in time to identify these ploys for attention and filter them out entirely, either consciously or through browser extensions like AdBlock. Instead, users want a more comfortable and perceptibly trustworthy medium that connects with them on their terms.
Native advertising involves posting advertisements in social networks in their native format. This may include a branded photograph on Instagram, a board depicting usage of products on Pinterest, or a Facebook post that starts discussion about a day-to-day problem that your company solves. The result? An average ad impression nearly twice that of banner ads.
Native ads on social media are a powerful tool, reaching your audience of followers and leading to greater engagement as a result. If you wish to reach a broader audience, however, this approach will do little to help you. Fortunately, Twitter has developed a rich form of native advertising that rectifies the problem in spades.
Promoted tweets are, in essence, native advertising. What makes them valuable is the ability to target keywords, interests, genders, geography, and devices on a mass scale. Outfitted with analytics to help track effectiveness, promoted tweets are native ads on steroids, delivering targeting combined with nearly unlimited reach and the feedback needed to optimize performance.
Rich Media Ads
Talking at your customers has been the dominant form of advertising for some time, proffering benefits with little conversational give-and-take. In a new online ecosystem predicated on engagement, this model has fallen out of favor, and in its place, new solutions have arisen that make the consumer a part of the process.
Rich media ads are effectively enhanced versions of traditional visual advertising. By displaying a video and allowing users to select which version of the ad they wish to see, user targeting and the power of choice combine to leave a stronger, lasting impression. And this approach pays dividends. According to research, rich media mobile ads are four times more likely to generate click-throughs than banner ads.
If engagement and value are your goals, then most forms of advertising fall just a touch short. Pleasing images and platitudes can convey brand image and curry favor and positive sentiment, but they are, at their core, a one-way medium, limited by the perception of your business as an entity attempting to elicit a sale.
Blogging offers an alternative that’s gaining ground by the minute. Brands are recognizing that the relationship between business and consumer is facilitated by conversation, not by bald-faced sales tactics. Business blogs provide the opportunity to put a human face on your organization, delivering valuable information and emotionally resonating with customer lifestyles. In the process, your company builds a loyal following of returning visitors, creating a synergistic effect through your reputation as an author and your role as a retailer.
With more businesses than ever vying for a modicum of users’ attention, marketing professionals are being forced to get creative. From installations to guerilla advertising, the world of physical ads is alive with opportunities to impress passers-by. But what options does your business have if your only medium is code?
The answer is “appvertising”. Businesses like Victoria’s Secret, Lululemon, and Starbucks have built apps that embrace the lifestyle and personality they espouse, providing simple tools that enable their discovery and facilitate their constant presence in customer minds. With app development becoming a mainstay of modern marketing, your business can leverage the prevalence of mobile technology and engage users in the process.
While hardly the most glamorous option on the list, e-mail is easily the most overlooked medium in the market at this time. Native ads, blogging, and sponsored tweets all compete for attention with other content on the Internet, diluting their impact and increasing the possibility that they’ll be skipped entirely. E-mail, on the other hand, represents a direct connection with your customers in a distraction-free environment.
The key to leveraging it properly lies in understanding the specific expectations levied at e-mail messages. Users checking e-mail make snap judgments, which means that the subject line should be succinct and avoid pandering or cheap ploys for attention. The message should be concise and is generally more effective in visual format. Finally, ensure that what you’re giving your e-mail subscribers is unique, worthy of their time and attention, and justifies your possession of their contact information.
As the marketplace changes, so must marketers. Old forms of advertising have fallen by the wayside and in their wake are new, innovative ads that connect with users in exciting new ways. From native ads, to business blogs, to mobile apps, your business can connect with customers in new ways, and build revenue and return visitors in the process.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Monday, February 3rd, 2014
A great viral video or a commercial during the Super Bowl will turn a brewery into a pop-culture sensation, but your business isn’t so lucky. As a vendor of business-critical technologies and services, your job is to eschew “cool” for intelligence, and that means connecting with customers in a different way. The traditional marketing channels may not bear the same fruit for your B2B business, but these methods will make hay in ways you never thought possible.
Build a Great Website
Your website is the gateway to your customers. It’s a first impression, lead generation tool, marketing piece, and sales pitch all in one. With so many hats, a solid B2B business needs a well crafted website in order to build communication with potential customers.
Regardless of the specific aesthetic, layout, or tone involved in your online storefront, a strong business website builds trust. Coherent product descriptions ensure that those searching for an appropriate vendor can make an easy assessment. Contact information makes potential clients feel safe in the knowledge that they can contact your company on a moment’s notice. Finally, landing pages for product offers and demos maximize your conversion rate and reach a broader audience in the process.
Use the Right Social Media Channel
Social media is frequently billed as a “magic bullet” for companies, reaching widespread audiences and building a following while encouraging engagement. While this is true, to an extent, no one can be everything to everyone. Your company, particularly as a B2B enterprise, has a focused clientele, and that clientele exists in a specific place.
Perform your market research and determine where potential clients exist and use target your approach on that basis. LinkedIn, in particular, provides an excellent opportunity to connect with thought leaders, and become one yourself. The professional context and contact breed more meaningful interaction than a Facebook like or Twitter retweet. Furthermore, you’ll save money, observe better results, and glean a better understanding of what content resonates with your market.
Become an Authority
B2C businesses have the unique privilege to build lifestyle brands predicated on concept, entertainment, and brand image. B2B businesses are not so lucky. When convincing other companies to select your products, your sales pitch will carry far more weight if you’re viewed as an authority than if you’re latest video went viral. That means tackling your marketing in an entirely different manner.
Content marketing was, is, and continues to be the most effective method of marketing in the B2B realm for the reasons mentioned above. Establishing your niche as a though leader in the industry and providing informative articles, videos, and other forms of media from that position builds confidence with customers and encourages engaging conversation that can generate leads. A slick branding aesthetic is a great visual impression, but substance is an asset few other methods of marketing can touch.
Build Your Email List
With the availability and ease of social media, many businesses ignore the potential of email marketing at their own peril. While it’s true that writing stellar subject lines and building content tailored to the platform is essential for success, the inherent benefits of email are difficult to ignore.
Posts on social media platforms must compete with other posts that effectively dilute the impact of marketing content. Email represents a direct link to the customer, meeting them in a distraction-free setting and therefore communicating information to greater effect. For this reason, an extensive email list is worth far more to your business than a well-followed Twitter account.
Make it a focus of your marketing efforts by making optional registration clear and easy, and delivering content that’s valuable and without fluff. Offer product demonstrations with an email registration or include an opportunity to sign up for your weekly industry newsletter with a well-highlighted registration box on your website. Tailor content to the platform by avoiding pandering, communicating your message quickly and without tricks, and soliciting feedback for future content so that your audience gets what they want, and are therefore more likely to stick around.
Engaging potential clients and customers online is an effective, low-cost way to build leads, drive conversion, and maintain solid relationships with returning visitors. As a B2B business, your circumstances are unique, but presenting your company in the right light, going where your customers are online, building your reputation, and focusing on email are all great ways to turn those circumstances into opportunity.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Thursday, January 30th, 2014
The role of business is ever changing, and with it, the practice of crafting identity. Competitive companies must continually position themselves as a necessary part of customers’ lives in order to stay relevant and profitable. Educate your staff, re-imagine your practice, and build a better practice through the knowledge imparted by these seven highly acclaimed resources.
For many businesses, the concept of branding is difficult to grasp. Building recognition in the marketplace takes more than exposure and advertising, it takes a compelling story. That’s what 30-year advertising veteran Jim Signorelli preaches in this high-impact volume entitled StoryBranding: Creating Stand-Out Brands Through the Power of Story.
The book takes a look at the practice of branding as an extension of corporate identity. By asserting that modern branding practices should favor messages that resonate with customers over editorialized benefits, he challenges long-held preconceptions about what branding means and how to execute it successfully. The 6-step process guides businesses large and small through the process of finding their story and sharing it effectively with their target audience to build identity.
Designing Brand Identity
Branding and marketing are ever evolving practices, and brand managers that wish to stay abreast of changing trends need a reference as relevant as their work. Enter Alina Wheeler’s Designing Brand Identity, a powerful resource rebuffed by dozens of case studies highlighting the best practices of successful brands. Through a five-phase process that begins with research and leads through product implementation, launch, and continuing governance, the tome is a veritable users manual for the practice of branding in the modern marketplace.
Ancient Secrets of Lead Generation
A brand adorned with Facebook likes and clever aesthetic is nothing more than window decoration if it doesn’t generate sales. Fortunately, Daryl Urbanski’s cheekily titled volume examines what brands mean to customers and how to turn sentiment into revenue.
By looking at what brands and businesses mean to communities and groups of people, Urbanski inspires and entices with techniques designed to tap human psychology and satisfy customer needs. By combining message with method, Ancient Secrets works to build relationship with customers that bring profit and prosperity for both parties.
What Great Brands Do
Design can seem like hokum to the analytically minded. For those unconvinced of branding’s power, What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest is like a marketing foreign-language dictionary.
Denise Lee Yohn takes world-class brands like Nike, Zappos, and Apple and examines their method on a scientific basis that makes branding understandable and approachable. Designed to examine companies from the inside out, from culture to capital, and build a brand-as-a-business model that facilitates profitability and personnel satisfaction, her seven key principles highlight the commonalities that can turn have turned multiple businesses from bit-players into superstars.
Kellogg on Branding
When you’re building the backbone of your corporate identity, leaning on the experts is never a bad idea. Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management takes an academic look at the practice of branding in this 352-page book that will educate your practice and hone your craft. It’s academic themes may feel inaccessible to some, but the information, presented scientifically or otherwise, is steeped in knowledge that only years of university research can provide.
Essential Elements of Brand Identity
A strong brand requires a strong visual identity and Essential Elements of Brand Identity tackles the aesthetic aspect of branding with aplomb. Kevin Budelmann, Yang Kim, and Curt Wozniak outline a platform for building brand identity predicated on a common framework of terminology and tools that both designers and customers can comprehend.
The work dives deep into the concept of visual identity by creating a structure of brand analysis. By deconstructing how aesthetic affects brand perception and linking the process of design to business concerns, it becomes immediately applicable and immediately understandable for both designers and management; a marriage that can lead to cooperation, impact, and profitability.
The Brand Gap
The strategic and creative forces behind your companies brand can sometimes become divorced, mired in a disconnect of goals and methods. Marty Neumeier’s The Brand Gap seeks to combine the two in a coherent fashion that aligns branding efforts for maximum effectiveness. Breaking the concept down into the “five essential disciplines of brand building”, the book looks to remove the disconnect between marketing arms and unite them in a way that strengthens image and breeds revenue.
Building a strong brand is an essential part of any successful business. Understand your goals, your allies, your customers, and your market through these seven volumes, and make 2014 the year that your brand reaches new heights.
Written by Taylor Hawes
Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Staying ahead of technological curves and customer demands is essential to business success in a world that moves faster by the day. eCommerce in particular looks to be an area of intense development in the New Year, and the implications can mean increased revenue and reputation for your business. From going mobile to integrating your marketing approach, business is changing, and so should you.
Spearheading the evolution of eCommerce in 2014 is the evolution of mobile technology. As retailers recognize the importance of presence in a crowded market, those ready for the switch will see appreciable dividends from their mobile investment.
The concept is simple. With more individuals using their mobile devices to browse the web at their convenience, companies must respond in turn. Those unwilling or unable to recognize the importance of making shopping convenient for their customers will lose ground with competitors whose agile solutions better fit market expectations.
This agility comes in multiple forms. Responsive web design, a method of designing websites around the myriad sizes and interface limitations of a broad range of devices, will allow customers to view websites both at home and on the subway with equal ease. Mobile payment options, such as PayPal and Google Wallet will allow customers to make purchases without the cumbersome need to input card information manually. Finally, evolving methods of tracking sales conversion from mobile activity will allow businesses to better understand which efforts are paying off and which need improvement.
As businesses continue to recognize the importance of delivering tailored content, product offerings, and marketing to their customers, new platforms will evolve that facilitate all three.
Currently, businesses rely on eCommerce systems to complete transactions, content management systems to deliver content marketing, and a third platform to distribute email marketing. The problem with this approach is that individual platforms do not communicate with one another, permitting an unwelcome disconnect between customer behavior and information tailored to pique their interest.
In 2014, platforms will develop that will integrate this system in order to better target audiences and individuals based on product purchases and web activity. By observing trends in customer purchases and marketing information viewed, businesses and their assets can better respond to current and changing customer needs. The result is a more agile business that understands its audience and can make a stronger impression with current and potential patrons.
The customer’s focus is no longer directed toward one channel or another for an appreciable amount of time. The modern Internet user is a rapidly moving and engaged individual that uses multiple channels to achieve multiple goals over varying times of day.
This sea change requires that businesses adapt to browsing habits in order to maintain relevance. The manner in which this accomplished has been referred to as “multi-channel presence”; creating a coherent brand across all channels upon which customers spend their time. The result of this approach is a distributed but ubiquitous message that remains on customer minds wherever they go.
For your business, this requires understanding your target audience and bringing your marketing to their venues on interest. Prominent businesses are performing market research to paint a picture of user behavior and then create social media accounts with tailored content that engages users on that platform. A strong business might have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest, all with content that resonates with the respective audience.
As methods for tracking customer preferences and behavior develop, customers are learning to expect a more personalized experience both on and off. Instead of rote marketing emails covering a range of products, distributed content must offer recommendations or highlight sales that are relevant to individual interests.
This arises from a growing recognition that customers with to engage their brand more actively than ever before. Whether that engagement comes in the form of a comment on social media, a conversation in a brick-and-mortar store, or online shopping advice, discerning patrons want a personalized experience and a human face from their place of business.
Traditionally, venture capital was the primary source of start-up cash for businesses looking to make an immediate impact. Since that time, however, non-traditional platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have enabled “crowd funding”; a method of drumming up start-up capital through the largesse of interested, everyday individuals.
What’s unique about this method of funding, aside from the source of capital, is its reliance on narrative to build interest. Successful campaigns on Kickstarter have a well-developed back story, an engaging personality, and an emotional appeal that connects the requesting business with the generous supporters. For small businesses in particular, this is an excellent opportunity to leverage a relative size disadvantage into an appealing connection.
In 2014, more businesses looking to turn innovation and an appealing narrative into business success will utilize these platforms to great success. The key lies in emphasizing your human connection and giving back to more generous patrons with exclusive access to events and early product tests. The combination of engagement and involvement will help customers become invested in your business and build the resources needed to elevate your efforts.
The New Year promises to be one of customer involvement, engagement, and accommodation. Businesses who recognize the importance of mobile will find the benefit of existing where their customers do. Integrated marketing platforms and efforts will help make sense of distributed activities and presence. Finally, customer engagement will drive revenue and even generate funding in the process. Regardless of the specific venue, eCommerce is changing, and your business stands to benefit from the exciting evolution.