Powerful Marketing Tactics for Small Business Success

Power Marketing

Four major tactics that should be in small business 2017 marketing plans are customer experience, social media marketing, mobile optimization and video marketing. While there are a number of other areas of focus, these 4 can have a significant impact.

 

Increased Focus on Customer Experience and Service

Customers today expect more. They have an abundance of choices in nearly every single product category and they are firmly in control of the buying journey. They are pressed for time and with limited attention spans are seeking quick and hassle free solutions to their problems.

Leading companies will make improvements in customer service, because they must. In 2015, companies lost more than $62 billion because of poor customer service. Delivering a superior customer experience is a sustainable and cost effective way to compete and it is predicted that by 2020 customer experience will be more important than product and price as a point of difference among competitors. Further more:

  • 86% of buyers will pay more for a better experience
  • A customer is 4 times more likely to switch from a competitor if the problem is service related
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated

Clearly, the companies that provide the best customer experience at every touch point from end to end will win.

Companies that have a one size fits all customer service model will be challenged trying to accommodate all four generations of consumers in the marketplace: Matures, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Each generation is different in terms of the way they expect to engage and be served by companies. Understanding the differences will allow you to develop the optimal mix of personal touch and technology needed to provide differentiated experiences among the four.

Learning as much as possible about buyers will enable you to be more efficient with your marketing efforts. Without this “customer intelligence” marketing decisions are made on a hit or miss basis. Some things will work, most won’t. In today’s hyper competitive marketplace, the business with the most insight about consumers will succeed.

 

Social Media – Less is More

The number of social media platform continues to grow and each appeal to distinct segments in the market. It is not practical for businesses to have a presence on every platform. So, for 2017, more companies will opt for quality over quantity, actively contributing and distributing content to a smaller more manageable number of sites. This strategic and selective use of social media will be driven by a deeper understanding of what content target customers are looking for and which social media platforms they are on. Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter are the three most widely used social media platforms for business.

The rumors of Twitter’s demise have been driven by the fact that, business usage has declined since 2014. Facebook and Linkedin have had comparatively stable usage levels over the last 5 years.

Linkedin will continue to be the platform of choice for B2B marketers and Facebook will be the preferred social media channel for B2C marketers.

 

Mobile First

Smartphones and tablets are permanent accessories for today’s consumer. These devices count for just over half of Internet use. People use the technology to stay connected, gather information and make purchases. It’s not unusual for a customer’s buying journey to start on a mobile device. That’s why the trend is toward a mobile first strategy where designing a website for smartphones, tablets and mobile devices takes priority over desktop web design. Mobile responsive websites look good on all devices, load quickly, have simple navigation and are compatible with all search engines. Being mobile optimized will improve your Google ranking and ensure a better experience for your customers.

Some B2C companies that target Millennials are forgoing websites altogether and are opting to use apps on mobile devices to engage with them. A superior mobile experience might enable customers to get bids, make appointments, make payments or resolve a customer service issue. A thorough understanding of the customer base will drive decisions on which aspect of the experience should be included on mobile

 

Video is King

Cisco estimates that by 2018, 84% of Internet traffic will be video. The growth in the use of mobile devices and an increase in video apps and platforms have contributed to this trend and it can only be expected to continue. Video has become the preferred way to consume online content. People online would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. Because it is an effective and efficient way to communicate more companies will incorporate video into their marketing and distribute it over multiple channels including websites, email marketing campaigns and social media platforms.

Change is a given in the marketplace and therefore marketing must change to be effective. The 4 areas discussed will continue to impact business growth plans. Customers evolving preferences and expectations will drive the direction of marketing in 2017. Companies that understand their customers and use that insight in the 4 areas will have a distinct advantage.

 

Why Should I Use Video In My Marketing?

Web 2.0 has facilitated a dramatic change in the way that organizations and businesses communicate with customers and other stakeholders. One of the fastest growing communication tools resulting from this change is online video.

In this digital world where people express themselves in 140 characters or less, video is becoming a preferred way to communicate. Cisco estimates that by 2018, 84% of Internet traffic will be video.

One minute of videoThat’s because video is one of the most efficient ways of getting a message across. According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. While this seems hard to believe, his statement is the result of a simple formula based on the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Clearly, video can deliver complex messages in an engaging way through the combined use of sight and sound.

Who is Using Video?

Even though it has been in existence for just 10 years, YouTube has over a billion users. They watch more than four billion videos each day. YouTube processes more than 3 billion searches a month and is now the second largest search engine behind Google which handles 100 billion searches per month. And while some YouTube viewers can’t get enough cute baby and funny pet videos, there are many more who are looking for information. It is possible to find a video on just about anything on You Tube.

The organizations and businesses that are using video are as diverse as the viewers themselves.  Advance Auto Parts, a provider of quality car parts, truck parts, advice and accessories uses online videos as “how to” guides for customers that self install their auto parts. Advance Auto follows a disciplined strategy that produces videos tailored to provide the right information at the right time for the right customer. The emphasis  is on serving the customer rather than being self serving.  Using this approach, they have experienced an increase in conversion rates (sales).

New RulesIn his book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR David Meerman Scott cites the example of Mary McNeight. She is the owner of Seattle based Service Dog Academy, a provider of private training sessions for service and pet dogs. The Service Dog Academy website features instructional videos McNeight produced with an inexpensive video camera and software on her Macbook. These educational videos  generate high search engine rankings. By Ms. McNeight’s own admission she went “…from barely having any students to getting anywhere from 20-40 emails per day requesting my services and advice…”Her first instructional video “Best Dog Food Puzzle: The Kongsicle” is on the Service Dog Academy website and their branded YouTube channel. The Service Dog Academy You Tube channel has nearly 1,000 subscribers and over 95,000 views since 2010.  Like Advance Auto, Service Dog Academy videos are more about helping customers than direct promotion.

Light Speed, is aLight Speed 2 Connecticut based eLearning and Multimedia development firm. Carlton O’Neal, Managing Partner said, “We saw the potential of leveraging the power of video many years ago and made a conscious decision to transition away from consulting, facilitator led training and development to eLearning and multimedia.

Light Speed’s video marketing, has enabled them to secure numerous appointment with senior leaders of major corporations by asking, “What if we can show you everything you need to know about Light Speed in 90 seconds and be out of your office in under 15 minutes?” Time after time, this approach has led to business for this cutting edge firm. O’Neal says, “We are true believers in using video in our marketing and promotional mix.”

What is being done with video?

Videos can be posted on several different platforms, 24/7 at little or no cost. In their 2014 State of Video in the Enterprise Report, Kaltura found that a majority of businesses use video for customer training (65%) and customer webinars (60%). Videos are also increasingly being found on company websites, in email campaigns and on social media.

Website: Videos can help generate high search engine rankings for websites. That’s why a website should be one of the first places to post videos. You have the flexibility to post videos anywhere on your site – home page or landing pages. Research shows that adding video content to a text heavy web page can increase customer engagement. Mist  Media reports that the average consumers spend 88% more time on a website with video.  Diode Digital found  that 60% of viewers will watch video on a website before reading any text. A landing page with a video gets up to 800% more conversions than a page without a video. (Source: Orion21).

Email: More marketers are using videos in emails to improve the performance of their campaigns. Incorporating videos into email marketing campaigns can increase open and click through rates dramatically. Research shows that emails with video have a 5.6% higher open rate and a 96.4% higher click-through rate.

Social Media:

Why is video a better option?

Video is a better option because of lower costs, more control and human nature.

Cost Effectiveness

Many business owners and executives mistakenly believe that video content is an expensive option.  However, their beliefs are based on the old paradigm where highly polished corporate video took months to produce and cost thousands of dollars. Today however marketers have low and no cost  options of creating or curating video content. Do it yourselfers can use smartphones to produce low cost videos that are stunning. While it is true that high quality multimedia video can be fairly expensive, animated Power Point presentations, white board animation and flash animation offer ways to create affordable video content at significantly lower costs than a television commercial.

For those that are less daring and creative, curation of video content is a viable alternative. Content curation is the process of collecting, organizing and displaying information on a particular topic. Basically, you are sharing content produced by someone else on your own digital mediums and platforms. Essentially when you share the content of others you are endorsing them. It is therefore a good idea to make sure that their views are consistent with yours. Also, it is a good idea to give credit to those whose content you have shared.

Control

Unlike TV ads, businesses have complete control over when, where and how long a video stays on and where it is seen. Companies can also control costs by selecting lower cost options or even by deciding to share the video of others, an even lower cost option.

People Are Rational and Emotional

As with any marketing solution, a clear understanding of targeted audiences is a key prerequisite. When determining the appropriate mix of video and text content to use in  digital marketing, keep in mind that people are both rational and emotional in their decision making. Video and text content combined can accommodate both sides of the human mind.

While studies show that people are more likely to remember a video, there is ample evidence that people are more intellectually involved when reading text. Video content can engage the consumer who is at the top of sales funnel deciding whether to buy.  This is an ideal opportunity to connect with prospects on an emotional level. As the prospect progresses along the sales funnel the intellectual side kicks in and they are more likely to read text content.

The use of video for marketing will only increase in the next few years. The data supports this increased use. It is a proven viable communications alternative that offers benefits in terms of lower costs, control and customer engagement. Savvy businesses can jump start their results by adding video to their marketing.

5 Tips for Effective Video Marketing

For many businesses, video is becoming an important component in their marketing plans. It is being used  with direct mail, email, mass media, social media and other marketing tactics as part of an integrated strategy. Videos can enhance, reinforce and compliment  your overall messaging.  Here are five tips to consider for effective video marketing.

  1. Define Your Audience -When you are targeting and segmenting the market, be sure that video is a consideration. Craft well defined customer personas to guide your video content development efforts. Key criteria to include in your personas are their demographics, buying behaviors and habits. Including:
    • A profile of your ideal customer in terms of:
      • Demographics: Age, Gender, Education, Income
      • Psychographics: Values, Attitudes, Lifestyles, Buying Behaviors/Habits
    • What information do they seek when buying?
      • Product information
      • How To Do Something
    • Where are they in their decision making?
      • Just kicking the tires
      • Ready to buy now

Having a detailed understanding of your audience will make it easier to create videos that  serve the information needs and requirements of the personas you develop.  The goal should be to produce videos that provide the right information at the right time to the right customer. Knowing your audience will make it easier to select  the appropriate type, tone and format for your videos.

2. Define Video Content – With video content, one and done should not be an option. Helping customers solve problems, explaining  your products or giving customers a forum to talk about you provide a wealth of topics that can be communicated with video.

  • Explainer/Tutorial – Customers need information. Explainer or “How To” videos provide the information customers need to solve problems or make purchase decisions. They are ideal for posting on social media and position you as a valuable contributor, offering helpful input to the online conversations consumers may be having about your products, brand or services.
  • Product Reviews – Videos are an efficient way to communicate the features and benefits of complex products. Product videos on your  company website can also help close sales. A 2014 study by Animoto revealed that 96% of consumers find videos helpful when making purchase decisions online and that almost 75% are more likely to buy if they watch a video explaining a product before they buy it.
  • Testimonials – The Nielsen Global Trust In Advertising study found that in North America the top two most trusted forms of advertising are 1)  people we know and trust and 2) consumer opinions posted online. This suggests that providing a forum for brand advocates via video testimonials can be a powerful and credible way to connect with prospective customers.

Niesen Trust in Advertisingv2

If you are going to use testimonials you will need to make sure that you give consumers something positive to talk about. A focus on providing a superior experience at every touch point is critical if you follow this approach.

  1. Emphasize Help over Hype – People use social media to be social not to be sold. Businesses should be aware of this and refrain from using social media for explicit selling. Your video content should consist of a mix of both informational and promotional. The video you post on social media should be geared towards helping your customers. Promotional video content is better suited for your website and email marketing.
  2. Keep Videos Short and Impactful – When it comes to video, a good rule of thumb to follow is, the shorter the better. According to Wistia Video Analytics, the longer the video the less people watch. Depending on the topic and the target audience, you should be able to get your point across in 90 seconds or less. If not, you can produce multiple videos as part of a series.

Video Length Matters

  1. Make Your Videos Accessible – Consumers control when, where and which devices they use to watch video content. So make sure your potential viewers can watch your videos in  a  format that is compatible with mobile and desktop devices.
  • Mobile Devices – Video is particularly effective on the smaller screens of mobile devices. Smartphone and tablet users are 300% as likely to view a video as laptop/desktop users (Invodo).
  • Video Platforms – Although YouTube is the undisputed leader for video sharing there are other alternatives. According to Top Ten Reviews there are over 50 video sharing websites on the Internet. Select the best one that meets your needs to increase access to your videos.
  • Your Website – Videos are an effective way to add variety to your website. Research shows that adding video content to a text heavy web page can increase customer engagement. Diode Digital found  that 60% of viewers will watch video on a website before reading any text.

Finally, in terms of accessibility, make sure your video loads up quickly. Internet users are an impatient bunch; after 2 seconds they will leave a  video that hasn’t loaded. All the more reason to keep your videos brief.

The keys to a successful video marketing campaign are knowing your audience, defining your content, emphasizing help over hype, keeping  videos short and making them accessible. The data shows that the use of online video will continue to increase. Keep these customer driven keys in mind to maximize your video marketing.

If you’d like to add additional tips, think we’ve missed anything, or have insights you’d like to share, please contact us, or leave a comment, below.

Social Media Myths – Why Just Having a Website Won’t Cut It

At a Social Media Marketing (SMM) training session I conducted with a group of small business people I heard comments, concerns and assertions that revealed some common misconceptions and myths about SMM. In a previous post we attempted to dispel the “myth” that social media doesn’t cost anything. In this post we address the notion that if you have a website you really don’t need to do social media marketing.

For the most part, marketing is about capturing eyeballs andDigital Media Time Spent By Platform most eyeballs today are affixed to smartphones and tablets. According to a study by comScore, a majority of Americans (60%) access the Internet with mobile devices.

People are using their app driven mobile devices to go on social networks. To build awareness and generate sales, businesses need to go where their customers and prospects are.

Social networks are where millions are congregating, celebrating and collaborating. Its where people are having 24/7 conversations, sharing photos and videos about product, goods, and services.  This is why social media marketing makes sense.

The way that people make purchases has changed. Consumers want to solve problems. They only care about your products or services to the extent that you can provide a cost effective solution to their problem.  When consumers need a product or service, they go to the search engine of their choice – Google, You Tube, Bing, Yahoo etc.- and type in a search term or question regarding the problem they need solved or the question they need an answer for. It is highly likely that what they are looking for will be found on a social network. If your only digital presence is your website, you significantly reduce your chances for being found.

The Role of Your Website in A Social Media Marketing Strategy

As a small business you are challenged to generate the kind of web traffic Leading Social Networksthat many social media platforms have. This is why it makes sense to use social media marketing to leverage their traffic to boost your own. So instead of having just one distribution point for your content, you can share your content on various social media platforms and significantly expand and extend your reach.

 

 

Teach Inspire MotivatePeople don’t go on social media to be to be sold to, they go on social media to be informed, engaged and entertained. The content you share on social media should also inform, engage and entertain visitors. Social media is where you build trust and generate qualified leads and provide links back to your website. Your website is where you can present visitors with “hard sell” content. It’s your store and they come there to buy, so make it easy for them to do so. Your website is where you should close the sale or get visitors closer to converting.

Your website can and should be the hub of your digital marketing strategy. It’s a 24/7-touch point where your target audiences can engage with your company, at their convenience, for information, purchases and service. It’s where you want your social media marketing leads to go for more of the relevant content they looked for during their information-gathering phase. A website that is rich with a variety of relevant content that people are looking for becomes a destination site.

Most importantly, unlike social media networks, you own your website. You have complete control over the amount, type, quantity, quality and frequency of the content that appears on your site. There is no other medium that affords that amount of control.

Over a billion people are on social media. Its where people are spending a great deal of their free time. Small businesses that continue to discount social media as a playground for the youth market and choose not to use these channels may become isolated and separated from key target markets by a vast amount of information they cannot access.

Misconceptions and Myths About Social Media

I recently conducted a Social Media Marketing (SMM) training session with a group of small business people. Their comments, concerns and assertions revealed some common misconceptions and myths about SMM. All were aware that many of their customers and prospects use social media and they had clear expectations for what they wanted to take away from the training. Some of their expectations included:

  • To learn how to be more proficient at social media
  • To gain more insight on using social media to promote their organization
  • To learn the benefits of social media
  • To understand SMM watch outs

How Old Are Social Media 2016.v02.11.16

Social media is a relatively new phenomenon when compared to traditional marketing communications tactics.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are all less than 15 years old. Given the relative novelty of social media, I was not surprised by the level of skepticism, doubt and misunderstanding expressed by the students.

Myth One: Social Media Marketing Won’t Cost Me Anything

Time is money and it takes time to plan, research and develop a marketing strategy that incorporates social media. It can take a significant amount of time to produce relevant content that target audiences will want. It also takes time to implement, activate and monitor a social media marketing strategy. According to the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 80 percent of marketers spend up to 20 hours per week on social media marketing.

Hours Per Week                       Source: 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

The amount of time spent is related to the size of the business and the length of time they have been using social media in their marketing. Experienced social media marketers in large firms spend more time than beginners in small firms.

Two thirds of small businesses choose the Do It Yourself (DIY) method of social media marketing. These companies are on the low end of the time spent chart above because they spend little if any time on strategy and focus solely on execution. The extent of their SMM is to set up a company page on social media and post status updates or announcements.  SMM is viewed as less critical to the business than traditional media. While this approach to social media marketing is low cost/no cost, the truism “you get what you pay for” is at work.

A third of business owners choose to outsource social media marketing. Mack Collier, recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the Top Social Media Marketers in the world, has written about the costs of social media marketing. In 2012, he reached out to several of the leading social media consultants and identified industry average monthly costs for various social media marketing services.

SMM Costs Source: Mack Collier.com

He noted several changes that have occurred in the social media consulting industry over the last few years.  Since 2010, businesses, in general, have increasingly accepting the permanency of social media. It is no longer seen as a fad, but rather as a necessary component of an overall marketing strategy. In my view, medium and large business are at this point already, small businesses and non-profits are getting there.

The growing acceptance of social media as a necessity resulted in mid-sized and larger companies building their in-house social media capabilities. For Social Media Consultants this means a shift away from day to day social media tasks (e.g., account set ups, content creation, customer interaction etc.) and toward higher value services (e.g., strategy, training, consulting etc.). This shift is reflected in a change in prices. In general, since 2010 outsourced prices for day to day execution has gone down while higher value services have increased in price.

Clearly, social media marketing will cost you, whether you DIY or outsource it.  However, these costs can be managed. For DIYers, implementing social media marketing can take significant amounts of time out of their day, so a degree of discipline is required. For small businesses, time management is key.  Creating a strategy and plan for social media marketing will enable you to be more efficient with your time. One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is not having a plan that enables them to schedule and prioritize their efforts.

Another way to manage the time spent on SMM is to start small. There are over 200 social media platforms and the number continues to grow. A small business marketer should attempt to master no more than two platforms, at least in the initial phase. Mastering a social media platform involves more than just posting content. It requires taking the time to understand the unique characteristics of each platform. This includes the site demographics, the tone and context of the interactions.

The goal of SMM should be to get involved in the conversations taking place on social media platforms and become a valuable contributor to those conversations. This means resisting the temptation to sell and focus on being social by developing and cultivating relationships over the long term. You can become more comfortable with this approach if it is aligned and complimentary to your traditional outbound marketing which is squarely focused on sales.

Finally, even though outsourcing SMM is cost prohibitive for many small businesses and non-profits, there are cost effective alternatives. There are a number of smaller SMM agencies that specialize in the small/medium sized business and non-profit market. Local Chambers of Commerce and community colleges may offer SMM training sessions and classes. There are several blogs that provide great information for small businesses that are new to social media. Check out:

In our next post we will discuss another small business misconception about Social Media Marketing: “I have a website, I don’t need Social Media Marketing”