Smart Insights Digital Marketing > The Marketing Strategy Blog Wed, 19 Aug 2015 06:52:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Web Personalisation is more complicated than you thought Wed, 19 Aug 2015 06:45:56 +0000 Website visitors do not want obvious personalisation as much as they would like to believe something is personal

Which way to personalisation?The chances are you have received an email addressed to “Dear [First Name]” or similar? Email marketers appear to forget to include our actual names from time to time. It is annoying and we all laugh at it, realising that the company involved has failed to populate its database properly or set up its email software correctly. However, do we care? Are we bothered if the personalisation of emails is poorly carried out?

Ask professional marketers and there’s a good chance that they’ll tell you that personalisation is essential. Indeed, according to a report from Monetate, 94% of businesses believe that proper personalisation is “critical” to success. Meanwhile, less than one in every six firms felt that they were getting a return on their investment in personalisation.

Perhaps that is because people are not as bothered about personalisation as many marketers think. New research suggests that what is important is “perceived personalisation” rather than actually being personal.

Names do not matter much

The study conducted at the University of Miami included an interesting experiment in which people were addressed either by their real name or as “Dear Consumer”. The level of interest in what was being sold was then measured. There was no difference in the degree to which people were prepared to consider what was on sale. Whether they were addressed by their real name or as “consumer” made no difference to their level of interest.

This goes against the long-held theory that names matter and that “Dear First Name” is a negative turn-off. What appears to matter most is getting it wrong. The Miami research found that when they called someone by the wrong name, that led to disinterest. When someone who was called David was addressed as Kevin, for instance, they became completely disinterested in what was on offer.

What this research shows is that we are not that bothered about being called by name. The study included a third experiment that shows why. The preferred holiday destination of participants was known in advance. These people were then asked to look at a web page where a holiday advert for the kind of destination was included. For some participants, the name of their favourite destination was included in the advert. However, it transpired that people were equally interested in the advertisement, regardless of whether or not it contained the destination name. It appears that the mere notion of the holiday was enough to convince people that they should be interested in the advert. The presence of the name made no difference.

Target people’s interests

The three Miami experiments show that as long as people think information is personalised to them they are interested – even if there is no actual personalisation. The “Dear First Name” error is not a problem if the remainder of the email contains information that is of interest to the recipient. Because of this, they think the material is personalised.

Of course, this assumes you know the real interests of your target customers. This is where web technologies let marketers down. Web page advertising, for instance, uses past browser history to target adverts to people. However, it becomes incredibly annoying when you always see advertisements for items you have already purchased. No longer is the advertising about something in which you are interested. As a result, it is like calling David by the name Kevin.

Similarly, many e-commerce sites use visitor purchase history to present a page of options that is “personalised”. However, this frequently fails. If you have been shopping for gifts for a friend at an online retailer you are not that interested in the items yourself. Hence, the so-called “personalised” page is nothing of the sort. It would be better suited to your friend.

For marketers, there is another problem. People do not like their activities being tracked. In one study conducted by Adobe more than two-thirds of people say it is “creepy” when websites track their activities. Increasingly, too, web browsers offer private browsing and Internet security suites are preventing the data from being collected in the first place. The result, inevitably, is going to be that just as marketers start to be able to gather more information to provide greater levels of web personalisation, users are going to stop that from happening.

How can you collect useable data?

People want apparently personalised material and they like web pages that are targeted to their precise needs. However, the desire for privacy is making this harder to achieve. So how can you make people believe the web page they are looking at is personalised to them? After all, the research shows it does not need to be personalised, but it needs to appear to be personalised.

One way out of this is to not personalise at all but to provide people with choices, allowing them to “drill down” to what they are interested in. Human beings are really poor at making decisions. When we are faced with more than three things to select, we end up with “analysis paralysis” making it almost impossible for us to decide what to do.

However, you can make people think the page is personalised without doing any personalisation if you let people choose things from up to three options. Imagine, for instance, you want to market software. Visitors could land on a page which asks them to select “Windows, Apple, or Mobile”. Let’s assume they select “Windows”. That leads to three more choices, such as “Office, Utilities or Productivity”. If they click on “Productivity” the website then offers them “Time Management, Note-taking, or Filing”. And so on. After four clicks they are on a page that has precisely what they are interested in; it has the perception of being personalised.

To achieve this, you have not needed to collect any personal data. Neither have you needed any fancy web scripts to produce dynamic pages.

However, for large e-commerce sites, such a system would require too many clicks and hence you would need an additional way of achieving apparent personalisation. One way of achieving this would be allowing people to answer a short questionnaire or poll that provided data to produce pages of interest. Indeed, one way of personalising things without doing “creepy” data collection from browser activity is simply to ask people what they want.

Talk to your customers more

One of the benefits of web technology is that we can collect so much data from our clients and targets. However, that has meant that many businesses now rely more on that data than they do on actually speaking with people.

If you consider a bricks and mortar retailer, staff are trained to talk to customers and to personalise the shopping experience. However, they do not usually ask for our names or any personal details. All they do is ask a couple of questions that elicit the kind of thing we want to buy and the reason for purchasing it. Then, the sales assistant focuses their information on what we are interested in buying. To us, it seems like it is personal, but to the sales assistant it is just another customer who is told information that is about the stuff they are looking for. It is apparent, not real, personalisation and it has worked exceedingly well for retailers for several hundred years.

However, how do they achieve this degree of perceived personalisation? They talk to their customers. That is all. No fancy data collection. Just a conversation.

Online, many businesses have started too much to rely on data collection to produce real personalisation. However, as the research shows real personalisation is not what matters – apparent personalisation is more important. You can achieve that by talking to your customers – or asking them questions when they land on your website. There is a role here for webchat systems too, clearly.

Maybe those 94% of businesses looking to ensure proper personalisation are looking in the wrong place. After all, most of them are failing to make returns on their investment in personalisation technologies. Perhaps they could spend less and make higher profits if they did not strive for real personalisation but produced perceived personalisation instead, partly as a result of talking to their customers more frequently.

[Editor's note: Thanks to Graham for highlighting the challenges of personalisation and how to get it right. For more detail on best practices for implementing Personalisation, Expert members can follow the recommendations and examples in 4.2 Web Personalisation in our RACE Digital Marketing Elearning course].

]]> 0
Omni-channel B2B marketing Tue, 18 Aug 2015 10:00:27 +0000 The why and how of omni-channel B2B marketing

Omni-channel marketing is a buzz phrase that is used interchangably with other phrases such as cross-channel marketing; multichannel marketing and my preferred term integrated marketing.

I had the opportunity to sit on a panel at The Big Social Media Conference in Manchester in July and discuss how a fundamental shift in consumers' behaviour and expectations across an ongoing proliferation of marketing channels has created challenges and opportunities for the modern B2B marketer. This post summarises some of our discussion.

Omni-channel is a complex, customer-centric approach to marketing. It's all about thinking holistically in terms of customer experience, interactions, and messaging.

From a B2B perspective, it is about being relevant in all the places a customer wants or expects to find you. This, although the use of ‘omni’ implies it, doesn’t necessarily mean everywhere!

A seamless omni-channel experience

What does a seamless omni-channel experience look like?

It looks connected and joined up. That is to say if, on a given day or week, you visited a website, a Facebook page, saw an ad (print, banner or retargeted), received an email, saw a POS in-store, they would be all be talking about the same thing.

Omni-channel marketing works totally irrespective of the channel rather than merely being applied to a specified number and type of channels.

To many marketers, terms like omni-channel, cross-channel and multichannel marketing mean the same thing, so perhaps it is best to think of omni-channel as an evolution of multichannel. Omni-channel is a more comprehensive approach where you prioritise being 'omnipresent' in the consumers' experience. Multichannel is a more marketer-driven, siloed approach and could in fact just be three or four channels.

According to the recent DMA 2015 Response Rate Report, 65% of marketers use two or more media channels in their marketing campaigns while 44% of marketers use three or more.

Omni-channel is also inherent in the design. Campaigns that are planned for all relevant channels, not bolted in to them as an afterthought. There might be data, software, automation and analytics considerations.

Why is omni-channel marketing important for B2B businesses?

B2B marketing is chiefly about ROI and about creating a large top of funnel that can be nurtured through to sales conversion. B2B marketing doesn't always have the same stellar budgets as B2C (simple economics of TV, cinema, radio advertising). And it’s hard to measure ROI so with limited budgets, so B2B marketing has to be smarter.

Taking an omni-channel approach means strategy and ROI are built in from the start too, so as an approach it helps measure what works - allowing accurate attribution of results and enabling marketers to move budget from what doesn’t work to doing more of what does.

This has specific relevance when B2B companies are looking at the rise and proliferation of social media sites, tools and technologies, wanting to try them out in a managed way. GE do a fantastic job right across the mix - check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other sites (omni-channel in social!)

Challenges businesses can face with omni-channel marketing

Forrester Consulting's Thought Leadership Paper, commissioned by Accenture and Hybris, showed that while traditional B2B buying journeys were offline and linear, the shift to digital and omni-channel expectations –driven by buyers’ consumer experiences – is well underway.

More than half of the 930 B2B customers surveyed said they expect to make one out of two purchases online in three years’ time. Future technology and how it improves organisational output and structure were deemed critical.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 22.00.33

Barriers to omni-channel include:

  1. Back office integration
  2. Difficulty sharing data across teams/countries
  3. Limited skills
  4. Employee engagement /resistance.

Which analytics should businesses focus on when measuring the results of omni-channel campaigns?

In reality, the same as other campaigns. Focus on sanity not vanity. Smart marketers are driven by uplifts in things like traffic, dwell, actions, conversions – but bear in mind they may be measured not just in sales terms. Impressions can give a general sense of visibility of campaign/brand.

Attribution is critical in an omni-channel strategy. An AdRoll survey of 1,000 marketers summarised that it helps marketers to understand where to apply marketing spend (56%), justify marketing budget (44%) and optimise campaign performance (43%). In total, 71% of marketers track attribution to better understand their customers.

So, what should businesses really consider when putting together an omni-channel strategy?

Good marketing rules still apply. Be where your customers go – it's far harder to transport them to somewhere that feels alien. Talk in their language about problems that affect them. Position products/services on benefits not features. Offer some kind of emotional connection.

Securing data to be able to market to them is key, so make sure all activity is designed to better populate a single view of each customer. Over time build your data set to include the following:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Cell phone number
  • Social media handles
  • Home address
  • IP address
  • Landline
  • Behaviours
  • Preferences

In summary, what are the key benefits of omni-channel marketing?

Omni-channel marketing in B2B means you'll have a better overall behavioural understanding of your customers. You'll be able to improve your targeting which gives a % step change in conversion. Customers will develop a perception of yours as a business in tune with its market. You'll intuitively have a better grasp of attribution and what works.

Look at companies like Oasis in B2C. They are using iPads in store with customers to check stock, take payment, order for home delivery. How could you translate this use of technology to your site, apps, email and direct marketing to improve customer self selection and their perception of your service?



]]> 0
2015 Landing page design trends Tue, 18 Aug 2015 08:00:00 +0000 7 examples of landing page design techniques inspired by the growth in mobile usage

The technological progress of the 21st century has made  online users more choosy and difficult to interest than ever before. If we take a look at the evolution of the web, it becomes almost impossible to believe that it all began with a simple networking protocol more than 20 years ago. And nobody was complaining of poor navigation or unappealing visualization back then. Growth in mobile device usage has sparked many changes to the way we approach landing page design which I'll review in this article.

Due to the ongoing improvements of the digital market, every business tries to find the most effective and eye-catching landing page solution. All of the companies ask themselves if there are some fresh ideas to win the hearts of prospective customers. If you're creating a website for your business or just planning to redesign a landing page of the existing one, I hope these new landing page trends will bring you some inspiration. 

In this post, I'll take a look at 7 landing page design trends which have become more commonplace in 2015. You can see more landing page examples here.

1. Parallax Scrolling

Parallax Search

Telling a story is one of the most common techniques marketers all over the world use to attract the attention of consumers and create an emotional bonding with them. Parallax scrolling can do just that. It's a computer graphics technique that allows to create a 3D effect by moving the background of a landing page at a slower rate than its foreground. It gives you an opportunity to show your visitors the details of your company and products step-by-step in an engaging and exciting manner. This is a really hot trend now, so don't miss your chance to use it to your advantage.

Examples of successful implementation: Sony, Atlantis World's Fair

2. Appealing to Several Types of Your Target Audience

As a rule, your target audience can be divided into several groups with their own needs and desires. It is very appealing and flattering to the visitors of your site when you differentiate the needs of each of these groups. This approach makes it much easier for them to find the necessary information and use your site more effectively. This strategy is successfully implemented by BeReel:

segmenting taget audience

All you have to do is to let the user decide on the purpose of his/her visit.

Examples of successful implementation: Code Academy Labs, Muck Rack

3. Full-Screen Background Images and Videos

Full screen background images

It's a great way to show your audience something important for your brand's image and perception. When using a silent video for a landing page, you choose an emotional approach of telling the story of your brand to the visitors of your site than simply providing a link to it. And a clear background image can be as visually appealing as a colorful video. Proved by Jeff Bridges:

Examples of successful implementation: HBM, Blu Homes

4. Unusual Navigation

Unusual navigation

If you've got a lot of information to place on your landing page but don't want to make it difficult for visitors to navigate through it, use unusual approaches. Floating navigation bar will easily solve this problem and make your call to action more effective. There will be no need to scroll the page up and down for several times. Or, you can turn your page into a real quest for a visitor to discover new piece of information with each move he or she makes, like it is in the case of this amazing site of Giampiero Bodino:

Examples of successful implementation: Austrian Summer Moments, Ford Answers

5. Minimalism and Simplicity

Minimalism and simplicity

It may seem illogical to simplify the design of your landing page with so many options available. But there's one thing you need to keep in mind – accessibility. This, of course, depends on the type of the product you're selling, but you have to take this point into consideration anyway. Users should be able to access your site from any device, including their smartphone. And if it takes ages for a landing page to download you risk losing a considerable amount of prospective customers. Your landing page has to be light and clear. Like this one, for example:

Focus on making your page more accessible to lead the way to a better performing website.

Examples of successful implementation: Lunar Gravity, Kalium

6. Illustrations

Illustrations on landing page

Your task is to make your site stand out. Using illustrations instead of images can add that personality and uniqueness to your landing page you're looking for. You can use this idea for telling a story of your brand's concept or its main benefits. It gives you better chances of becoming more noticeable than simply listing the unique selling points of your product or service.

Examples of successful implementation: Kelsey Dake, Goran Factory

7. No Navigation Bar

No navigation bar

A lot of people are afraid of taking away the navigation bar from the top of the page because it seems to be a somewhat revolutionary step. But in reality, it helps your audience to stay focused and spend more time reading or watching the information you give them. The less distracted your site's visitors will be the better for your business.

Examples of successful implementation: Matt Spanky, Coins Foundation

Thanks to Martha Simons for sharing their advice and opinions in this post. Martha Simons is a marketer with more than 5 years of experience in brand management and digital marketing. She currently works as a copywriter and is a contributor to and also writes for numerous online resources. You can follow her on Google+ or connect on Facebook.



]]> 2
Opportunities for YouTube Marketing in 2015? Tue, 18 Aug 2015 07:39:23 +0000 Are you exploiting the scale and marketing options of YouTube?

YouTube is no longer a new media platform, this year it enjoyed its 10th Birthday! You'll know it's big, which gives opportunities to reach mainstream and audiences as shown by these latest stats from YouTube:

  • YouTube has more than 1 billion users
  • Every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views
  • The number of hours people are watching on YouTube each month is up 50% year over year
  • 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
    ~60% of a creator’s views comes from outside their home country
  • YouTube is localized in 75 countries and available in 61 languages
  • Half of YouTube views are on mobile devices
  • Mobile revenue on YouTube is up over 100% y/y
  • More than a million advertisers are using Google ad platforms, the majority of which are small businesses

Creative use of YouTube has changed the way people engage with video and our lexicon as offline media discusses the latest YouTube meme and the popularity of vloggers as shown by YouTube's 10 year Birthday infographic.

10 years of YouTube

Using YouTube for Marketing

From a business point-of-view, YouTube Marketing has introduced new techniques that many businesses aren't yet exploiting. Our YouTube guide steps you three these opportunities for marketing on YouTube.

  • 1. Assess different ways you can use YouTube for marketing.
  • 2. Using YouTube to inform and educate your audience.
  • 3. Researching video content ideas.
  • 4. Using YouTube to support conversion.
  • 5. Leveraging the YouTube community to promote your video.
  • 6. Branding your YouTube channel.
  • 7. Increasing your reach and visibility.

You can also explore opportunities for YouTube Marketing on this infographic.

YouTube infographic

This YouTube in 2015 infographic courtesy of the Business School at Syracuse University.

]]> 0
Explainer animations – examples and tips for planning animated YouTube videos Mon, 17 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 Which explainer video animation style is right for your business?

There has been a boom in the use of animated video in digital marketing. When executed well-animated videos can engage audiences through high quality content, SEO benefits and give an excellent way to communicate a large amount of information to your audience in a small amount of time.

Explainer videos are an increasingly popular form of content marketing which tell a story explaining visually how a product or brand helps different personas. In this post I start by  giving some tips to help create 'explainers' and then give examples of effective explainers.

9 tips for animated video planning

You can hire freelancers, a small creative agency or an animation production studio or even use some online DIY animation tools. All of them have different budget's, time scales and outcomes so when you are considering your animated video, here's some things to consider.

  • 1. Do you want the video style to match your businesses branding and values?
  • 2. What is your budget?
  • 3. What is your time frame?
  • 4. What is the purpose of the animation?
  • 5. Where do you want to use it?
  • 6. Who do you want to see it?
  • 7. What do you want them to think when they watch it?
  • 8. Consider return on investment and value. How you will use your video as part of your marketing strategy?
  • 9. Consider future proofing your video. How easy and affordable is it for later updates and changes to your animation?.

Examples of animated videos

Here are some examples of different animated videos and why the style is suitable for their purpose and budget.

    • Animated Whiteboard, Video Scribing Template

If you have a small budget (under £500) and need something quickly, a template animation or DIY software is ideal. The down side is it is not very customizable and there are a lot of other businesses out there with something similar.

The DIY animation tools are similar to Power Point presentations and clip art. You can assemble a video with text and drag and dropping stock images to create your own video.

These are great for start-up businesses; training and anyone who wants a quick, simple video that doesn’t justify a big spend.

You can find low cost template animations made by freelancers on People Per Hour or use DIY software like VideoScribe

It is worth noting that the whiteboard style in these low cost videos, is based on the RSA animate educational videos. It’s rumoured the RSA animate video production costs run into 5 figure sums. This is because they are drawn out, live by an illustrator whilst being filmed. So requires a lot more planning, skilled execution, people and equipment than the whiteboard templates.

  • What is AnimatID? - explainer animation

If you have a modest budget (£1000 - £2000) and can spare 4 - 8 weeks for production, you can have something like this explainer video. All the characters and animation graphics are designed from scratch to fit the organisation's branding. Even the music is composed and produced especially for the video.

The animation is used in sales presentations and displayed on the business’s site so prospective customers can quickly understand what the business does.

Because the video is short, simple and made by a small team of freelancers it’s an affordable custom animation option.

[youtubevideoembedder id="j1OR9QrHRcw"]

  • Philips introduces world's most energy-efficient warm white LED lamp

If you have a larger budget and need to something that explains, educates and while entertaining, then something like this would be suitable. They have successfully taken a complex and dry subject matter (energy saving statistics) and turned it into a visually pleasing and entertaining video that people want to watch and share.

This kind of animation would involve careful planning and designing. Each of the graphics and the transitions are cleverly thought out and work in time with the voice over. The agency that worked with Phillips on this would have advised and consulted at every stage of production and offered many revision opportunities.

  • What is Cloud Computing?

This animation explains how cloud computing works and communicates the benefits. It does all this by entertaining and engaging viewers with impressive 3D motion graphics, dynamic camera movements and imaginative transitions and graphical representations.

A lot of planning, design time and production time has gone into creating this so would have required a large budget (between £5000 and 12000).

The results are worth it though as rather than having a sales person explain cloud computing or asking potential customers to read pages of text about it, this animation explains it to them. The contracts won because of this animation, mean it is a valuable return on investment.

Custom styles and storytelling

The following animations don’t just use motion graphics to illustrate a series of statistics. They build a narrative around the message and use interesting visuals and metaphors to communicate.

The message is delivered within an entertaining short story. Viewers are more likely to remember information and want to share a video if it contains a story. Each of them has a visual style, backgrounds and character design to aid the storytelling.

  •  Dumb Ways to Die

This video uses dark humour, a catchy tune, characters and bold visuals to deliver an important message about safety around trains at pedestrian level crossings. The video is part of a campaign and the animation style and character has been carried across to their website and mobile apps.

The campaign has been a success as the video has gone viral and raised awareness of this issue. The budget would have been large as it required an integrated marketing strategy and brand.

  • Entrepreneurship

TSU Professionals offer apprenticeship programmes to young people. They needed a video to promote entrepreneurship as a viable career path. The brief was open to creativity so we made something fantastical and inspired by video game adventures to illustrate the freedom and power that Entrepreneurship offers. TSU professionals have reported that the video has been a great success in drawing attention to their programme and received positive feedback from their target audience.

The music was composed and produced especially for TSU Professionals and they also use this in conferences and other videos they produce so the sound has become part of their brand.

An animation similar to this one would cost around £2500 as it is short and has no voice over.

  • Vodafone ‘s Better Ways of Working


CommsXchange is a partner of Vodafone and needed an animation to succinctly explain how all the Vodafone products and services can work together to improve the efficiency and productivity of a business. Rather than using a traditional case study, they wanted something creative and unusual. So we told the story of two bee hive honey businesses - one uses Vodafone’s services, while the other does not.

CommsXchange use this to email to prospective clients and presents it as part of sales meetings. They have reported is as an excellent return on investment and helped win them several huge communication contracts.

As this is quite a long and complex animation the production cost was around £4500.

]]> 5
Email VS Social Media Engagement Mon, 17 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 Email Still Outperforms Social Media for Engaging Your Customers

With some exceptions, social media has really poor engagement rates (people clicking links and taking action). And many companies are wasting their precious marketing budgets on an audience that rarely sees their posts, and when they do, is distracted and often uninvolved.

The proof is in the numbers: email campaigns see 50-100 times the click rates that Facebook and Twitter do.

If you’re after traffic that convert, clicks, comments, opts-in, and takes a credit card out to actually buy your product- you can’t afford to ignore the power of email.

Take Max for example…

Max wants to start selling a personal finance product online. He is an incredibly successful financial advisor in his town, and he’d like to share his wisdom with a broader audience.

Max gets off to a good start by writing detailed and informative blog posts that are relevant to his target customer. Unfortunately, no one is reading his great content, so he looks to Twitter and Facebook to attract an audience.

He shares great articles and gives away helpful reports. Max even installs shiny new “like” and “follow” buttons to his homepage.

His following grows bigger every day but most of Max’s new “friends” are not clicking through to comment, opt-in or most importantly buy his product.

Now Max is starting to feel confused, frustrated and burnt out on this whole online business thing.

Max is not the only online business owner making this costly mistake.

What’s the solution? ... Build an email list.

From day one, Max should have focused on growing his email list. Email marketing absolutely demolishes social media when it comes to acquiring new customers online.

This infographic from Devesh Design will support my claims-- seriously it is hard to argue with these stats!

Look over my infographic below and if you want to learn more about growing an email list, you can read more about that here.

Email Engagement vs Social Media



]]> 0
How to develop a video marketing strategy for small businesses Mon, 17 Aug 2015 09:50:00 +0000 Small businesses can use video to boost awareness, leads and sales using these 6 tips

Cisco recently predicted that by 2017, video content will account for 69% of all consumer internet traffic.

This is the last call for all marketers who until now have avoided video content, convinced that it's just a fad or that creating professional videos takes way too much time, effort and money. Well, here's a piece of good news: video marketing today is within reach of all kinds of companies, including small businesses looking for novel ways to spice up their online marketing activities. How to develop a video marketing strategy that works? Here are 6 key tips to help your small business develop a video marketing strategy.

1. Know your sector and audience

Before you start to define and develop your marketing strategy, research your industry to see what kinds of videos are used by other companies in your sector. Once you have a grasp on the general use of video in marketing similar products or services, it's time to think about your own goals, which should power your strategy in general and every single video in detail.

What are the possible goals of video marketing? Here are a few examples:

  • Helping customers learn new skills
  • Teaching your audience how to use your product
  • Providing advice and answering popular questions to minimize support requests
  • Building a brand personality
  • Growing specific sections of your audience (for instance, newsletter or blog subscribers)
  • Building company culture and attractive employer brand

2. Try different video types

It's important that you incorporate different video types into your strategy – it will help you learn which perform best for your business and truly engage your audience.

There are three main types of videos used for marketing:

  • Storytelling videos – videos that present the company, its story, as well as employee profiles. This kind of video help customers to learn the story behind a brand and get an idea about the people operating the business in some interesting behind-the-scenes videos. Such videos are excellent for building a strong brand and fostering a sense of consumer trust and loyalty.
  • Animated Explainer videos – these videos are focused on solving a problem, explaining it in a 'how to' format. This kind of videos is great for SEO – over the years, their search rankings have literally exploded as consumers learned to trust this format.
  • Video testimonials – sharing videos which show third party testimonials are great for building your credibility and showing potential clients that your product or service brings tangible benefits

Video for small business

3. Collaborate with a professional studio

Small businesses have limited marketing budgets, but investing in a collaboration with a professional studio that will help you realize videos is worth the price. Great video marketing will bring you new leads and sales, so if you find people who know their way around video making and can help you with planning and integration, go for it.

If someone in your team is able to create professional videos, there's nothing standing between you and video content marketing. The web is actually full of free or paid tools that can help your team to create videos and animations to perfectly showcase your product and brand.

4. Make sure every video delivers a single message

Imagine you've just stumbled upon a video about a brand. You click play and get to see the company headquarters, a review of its products, a note about its heritage, some photos of new locations, information on business awards, behind-the-scenes footage and a few words from the CEO. What exactly did you learn about the company? Nothing at all – in fact, it's a miracle you've made it through the video at all.

When creating scripts and realizing your video, make sure that every single piece includes a message. This way you'll ensure that viewers leave your video with one specific takeaway that will help them to differentiate your brand from competition.

5. Mind the length

One research study suggests that 20% of users abandon a video after a mere 10 seconds if they don't find it engaging enough. It's your job to make sure that the first seconds of your video count. Additionally, the longer is your video, the less likely users will continue to watch it.

Make sure to keep your videos short and to the point. In most cases 60 to 90 seconds will work perfectly – just enough to deliver a piece of meaningful content, offer a few takeaway messages and leave your audience craving more.

6. Include call-to-action messaging

Every single video you make should be there to realise a specific goal. You won't achieve your objectives without making them clear to your audience in the form of a call-to-action – give your audience the next step to follow. Include a call-to-action message at the very end of your video – 'Give us a call for a free quote', 'Visit our website to learn more' or 'Follow us on Facebook/Twitter'.

Developing a successful video marketing strategy takes time, but by trying out different video formats and testing their performance as you go, you'll be on your way to making the most of this innovative medium and finding a space for yourself in the lucrative video marketing industry that's just around the corner.

]]> 0
Improve your customer experience by leveraging the power of emotions Fri, 14 Aug 2015 11:00:00 +0000 How acknowledging your customers’ emotions helps Improve your customer experience and business performance

Every business would like to uncover the secret of the best customer experience. Customers have always run the business--no customers, no business--but this saying has never been more true than in the digital era. Brands that appeal to customers are those with added value, great features and an easy, frictionless experience--and we’re not talking about reduced prices here.
Here’s how most companies try to improve their customer experience: through surveys or market research, they find out what customers want or need and try to fulfill that need.
Sure, it’s important to understand what customers want and know how they want to be served, and to use this information to guide your strategy. That’s a basic business principle. The problem is that many companies have forgotten the basics--they forgot that emotions actually drive customer choices.

Customer experience is pivotal

There has been a lot of discussion in the media recently on the role of a positive customer experience.
Here’s the famous delivery gap principle, as described by Bain & Company in 2005:

“80% of companies say they deliver superior customer service. Yet, only 8% of people think these companies deliver superior customer service.”

We could also argue that exceeding customer expectations is not the way to go and that companies should rather focus on making it easy for customers.
Companies have to understand the importance of the customer experience and of maximising satisfaction to succeed in capturing customer loyalty. Therefore, it is crucial to accurately identify your customers’ expectations.
Experts and business owners agree that customer experience is among the most important elements for a successful business. But do we really understand how to evaluate and improve the customer experience?

The power of emotions

You’ll never have a complete picture of your customer, if you can’t understand his or her emotions. You might infer patterns through quantitative data, but you’ll never really get to the “why” of their behaviour. Understanding the cause of behaviour, which is deeply rooted in emotions, can make all the difference between a decision that leads to positive results and one that brings no change, or worse.

power of emotions

Emotions and behaviour

According to Paul Ekman, there are six distinct universal emotions: disgust, sadness, happiness, fear, anger and surprise. These universal emotions are based on facial expressions that are recognised throughout time and human cultures. Those emotions are essential when it comes to making quick decisions in day-to-day activities. Our emotional reactions to internal and external stimuli actually cause a lot more of our behaviour than conscious, rational choices. However, how can this knowledge be helpful when it comes to online marketing? For example, an opinion about the visual appeal of a website is formed within 50 milliseconds, and it colours every other impression about the website later on (Attention web designers: You have 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression!). Thus, the first emotional impression greatly affects your visitors’ subsequent actions. Is the visitor disgusted? He or she will bounce back right away. Surprise may keep them there longer, and so will happiness. A first impression is difficult to fight, and if you lose visitors because of a bad emotional response, it’s likely you’ll never see them again. As a result, the company that takes emotions as a roadmap will understand its customers from a deeper, more human standpoint. Understanding your visitors’ emotions will help you see how your brand is perceived, what your customers are unhappy about, what they like and what you can leverage to further improve their experience.

Emotions control decisions

Damasio’s research has proven that people are mostly driven by emotions when making decisions; he shows that it is difficult to make decisions based only on logic.
In short, the emotional response, identified with unconscious memory, is produced faster than the cognitive one. People automatically choose what they like most over the variation that sometimes can be more reasonable, but not emotionally appealing. Think of the last time you went shopping for something as simple as soap. Sure, you could always buy just the cheapest soap. After all, soap is a simple item that doesn’t differ much from brand to brand. But maybe you remember the fun you had as a kid with a floating Ivory soap--so you buy Ivory. Or maybe you link the smell of Dove with your children when they were born, so you buy Dove. Most of this happens unconsciously; if we had to analyse our emotions for every decision, we wouldn’t do much at all.
The activist and artist Maya Angelou, stressing the importance of feelings, said:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Good marketers know that emotions are involved in all levels of decision-making, from the most mundane to the most life-changing. But one thing that’s always been challenging for them is discovering and evaluating those emotions.

The role of analytics tools

No marketer could survive today without analytics tools.
In fact, when they’re asked to justify a decision or to report on results, analytics data is the proof they use.
It’s true that with analytics tools, you can gather important data regarding your website’s performance, like the number of visitors, the keywords that bring the most visitors to your pages, and information about your competition. Furthermore, some of these tools let you follow your customers step by step, tracking the pages they have visited and the browsers they have used. Country of origin, language, gender and even age group can all be deduced, or at least guesstimated, by most analytics tools.
Nevertheless, there’s one crucial part constantly missed by the most common analytics tools: the power of emotions. Business owners, marketers and web designers should be able to easily find out the answer to the question: “do people like my company, my website or any experience I provide to them? Are they emotionally involved with my brand?” Unfortunately, common analytics tools don’t ask that kind of question--they’re just there in the background passively gathering quantitative data.
No amount of Google Analytics can tell you if someone bounced off a page because they were irritated, bored or confused; it can’t tell you whether people stay for long sessions because they’re excited or interested. Analytics are important tools in marketing today, but they lack the emotional intelligence you need to make the best decisions to improve your customer service.

How to evaluate emotions

The traditional way to evaluate emotions is to survey your customers. By asking questions such as “How do you feel about this web page, website, logo or ad?”, you can delve into your customers’ true motives for their behaviours. In more complex surveys, especially face-to-face surveys and focus groups, you can ask follow-up questions, evaluate the body language of your respondents, and access the part of their decision-making process that they can’t easily verbalise.
But surveys can be complicated, costly and require a lot of time and resources (before delivering actionable results to the business).
Another problem: not everyone likes to do them. The response rates on traditional surveys are low, which makes it difficult for any brand to get a complete picture of its audience. Even web services like SurveyMonkey require the respondent to move off to a different page and go back and forth between website and survey. Not everyone wants to take 10, 15 minutes to fill them out because it distracts them from their goal for visiting your website.
However, the web offers an incredible opportunity to make emotions-based surveys that are intuitive, simple and that provide lots of data with a comparably high response rate. Page-based widgets that are unobtrusive can be used to provide instant, in-context feedback without breaking the flow of the navigation--which is even more valuab

le than the kind of data you would get from a service that requires outside navigation.
If you could get that kind of information easily and affordably, it would make an enormous difference in your ability to make decisions that are in the best interest of your brand and your customers.
This is what GetSmily, a Belgian start-up, provides to brands and website owners.

Numbers aren’t enough

Understanding customers is not only about numbers - you have to identify with them and be empathic to the way they feel.
Emotions are the core of human actions; if you aim to take your company to the top, you should focus on leveraging their power. Businesses have to look beyond the usual data to be sure that they provide what has been promised, and guarantees the best customer experience. Relying on stereotypes or theoretical assumptions can be dangerous, especially when people expect personalised service and instant satisfaction. By understanding the emotions that your customers share with you, you can give them what they really want.
Remember that you can’t change your customers’ feelings on a dime. You can’t force them to like you, but what you can do is to find out why they feel in a certain way and improve what and how you offer it.
A satisfied customer is a loyal one; don’t be deaf to their emotions, but learn from them instead.

]]> 0
Update to Moz SEO Ranking Factors recommendations Fri, 14 Aug 2015 08:44:22 +0000 A summary of the 2015 ranking factors analysis


Recommended link: Moz SEO Ranking factors 2015 edition

SEOs everywhere have now been following the SEOmoz (now Moz) ranking factors for a very long time - I think I start recommending them in training ten years ago in 2005!

Over time, the analysis has become more complex with a move from trusted experts' opinion to additional correlation based analysis. In many ways, I prefer the original breakdown of on and off page factors for its simplicity - as shown below, but there are many more factors to consider now of course.

You can get the full detailed report from the link above. In this summary I highlight the main ranking factors, with a brief analysis of the implications for marketers who aren't full-time SEO.

The Experts' opinions on ranking factors

The best quick summary on ranking factors for non-specialists is, for me, still the Experts' analysis. Here's the latest from 2015, where respondents rated the relative levels of influence exerted by broad areas of ranking factors on a scale of 1 (not influential) to 10 (highly influential):

Moz 2015 SEO Ranking factors

This shows, according to Moz, that

  • 1. Links (to the domain overall and individual pages) are still believed to be the most important part of the algorithm. 'Link-building is not dead'  as some content marketers have proclaimed, but 'link earning' is where we should be focusing.
  • 2. Keyword usage on the page is still fundamental, and other than links is thought to be the most important type of factor.
  • 3. SEOs think social sharing has an influence but it is relatively low

Studies according to correlation studies

For the study, Dr. Peters examined the top 50 Google results of 16,521 search queries, resulting in over 700,000 unique URLs (methodology). Moz cautions, as Kristian Petterson does in this Smart Insights post that correlation does not equal causation. However, correlation studies give a quantitative method of showing the potential relative influence of different factors.

The full report has many correlations of which this analysis, at a page level shows that at page level overall page authority is most important, particularly unique linking domains, but with internal links having some influence.

Ranking factors page level 2015

There is also an even longer chart for the main on-page SEO factors see this LOOOONG chart.

This confirms that simple measures of the number of keywords like the number of keyword matches in the title or main heading doesn't have an influence as it would have in the early days of SEO. Instead, semantic similarity, as shown by techniques like Latent Dirichlet Allocation or TF*IDF are significant today. Essentially, this means that's it's important to not only target specific keywords in titles, headings or body text, but to clearly show the theme of a piece of content by using synonyms and related concepts for a theme. This LDA SEO analysis article on Moz explains more.

Further correlations based on site engagement (dwell time) show that these also have an influence as many have speculated since Google can detect time between queries.

Summary of ranking factors in 2015

There is a lot more depth in the full report, but if you don't have time, here is the infographic summary.


The main SEO ranking factors - 2007 style

For historical interest and to make this post more actionable, I have retained this summary from previous versions of this post since it could help newbies understand the SEO ranking factors better since it mentions specific ranking factors. I have used  the summary below of the main on and off-page SEO factors based on v2 ranking factors report on my training courses and books for a long time since they give a one-page snapshot. I continue to do so before showing the newer data since it shows the relative importance of factors like the title tag well and the relative unimportance of the meta keywords...

On-page optimisation:

  • <title> tag = 4.9/5
  • Keyword frequency and density = 3.7/5
  • Keyword in headings = <h1> = 3.1, <h2> = 2.8
  • Keyword in document name = 2.8
  • Meta name description = 2/5
  • Meta name keywords = 1/5

This is useful to highlight the myth of the importance of meta tag which so many generalist marketers seem to cling to... I would rate the meta name factors even lower.

Off-page optimisation:

  • Link anchor text contains keyword = 4.4/5
  • More backlinks (higher PageRank)= 4/5
  • Link Popularity within the Site's Internal Link Structure=4/5
  • Page assessed as a hub = 3.5/5
  • Page assessed as an authority = 3.5/5
  • Link velocity (rate at which changes) = 3.5/5

This Slideshare presentation from Mozcon is a good way to browse the latest correlations covering specific such as the type of anchor text which is most effective in ranking.

]]> 18
How brand affects your SEO ranking and how to use it Thu, 13 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 Does branding really matter when it comes to your SEO ranking?

How does brand affect your SEO ranking? This is a question that’s often pondered upon by webmasters. Most fail to make a connection between the two at all. Any webmaster who knows how Google algorithms and indexing work recognizes that there’s no way to measure the popularity of a brand. Yet, there’s constant talk of brand and its relationship to SEO ranking.

Before I start explaining about brand and its relation, let's go through Amit Singhal’s post on building high-quality sites. He mentioned a list of questions that should we keep in mind before creating quality websites. In the below image, most of the questions can be answered in just two points:
1. Brand
2. Expert author

Answering SEO questoins
Going through these questions will help you determine whether the site is branded. For instance, if the information is written by a doctor with 30 years of experience, then you would trust it. If the person is an expert, then he or she knows how to share valuable information. Experts won’t let anyone harm their credibility, which they've gained over many years. Now, let's look at brand and its relation to SEO ranking.

Brand Increases TRUST and Makes People Click

trusted brand
First, it's important you understand that Google algorithms are designed to push webmasters towards creating user-centric content as opposed to SEO-centric content. One thing that people readily recognize is a brand. Think of a scenario where you’re searching for information related to a particular disease. The SERP throws up several links before you. Let’s say the top entry pertains to the disease, but you have never seen the name of the website before. The second result belongs to WebMD and the third one belongs to Mayo Clinic. You’ll surely be inclined to click on the second or third result. The reason is simple; you trust these brands and their information. That's brand recall.

How Does Trust Increase SEO Ranking?

brand builds trust
Google recognizes user behavior and gives authoritative websites a boost. If people continuously ignore the unbranded first link, eventually it will increase the SEO ranking of a brand that's frequently clicked. It’s as simple as that. Even though Google crawlers don’t directly recognize brands, the user behavior guides Google to rank the brands higher. Therefore, gaining users' trust makes a huge difference. Branding plays a major role here.

Brand Opens Gates of Traffic from Various Channels

This is pretty straightforward. Let’s assume that your brand has managed to build trust with readers. They're more likely to follow your social media pages and share your content on their own profiles. In turn, this will ultimately lead more traffic to your website. The quality backlinks that are so important today will come to you naturally in the process. People will start considering your brand an authority on the subject.

Moreover, unbranded searches rely on generic search data or keywords. That’s the only way they can attract traffic. For gaining traffic through the avenues mentioned above, you need a brand name. Unbranded searches miss out on brand recall hugely. For example, someone looking for hotel reviews would probably go to TripAdvisor without giving a second thought. Instead of searching for “best hotels in Punta Gorda, Florida,” the user will likely search “TripAdvisor hotels in Punta Gorda, Florida.” Or, he'll simply go to TripAdvisor directly.

Brand and Ranking Signals

Backlinks are among the most vital ranking signals. Branding can get you more backlinks. In fact, it actually causes a ripple effect earning you several backlinks. We already know that Google values backlinks you've earned naturally as opposed to those you're getting through manipulative practices. Now, let’s assume that you post some great content. If a high authority website that controls a huge amount of traffic over the Internet backlinks to you, that’s a jackpot right there correct? Well, not if you don’t have good brand recognition. Why should anyone trust your content information?

A single backlink likely won't do you a whole lot of good. Yet, when people see that your website is being continually linked to from high authority websites, they might be inclined to consider you for their own backlinks. Many will stop short of linking to you due to lack of familiarity though, unless you're a recognizable brand. There’s an obvious lack of trust here. So, what could have been a great opportunity is lost simply because you don’t have good brand recognition. The trust of online traffic goes hand in hand with SEO ranking.

Brand is the Future of Link Building

Bill Slawski has exposed a Google patent, also known as the Panda Patent. He mentions a few interesting tidbits that seem to point towards making branding even more relevant in the future. Here’s my interpretation of the main ideas made in the patent.

Matt Cutts - Google
Google will look at the specific search queries that are leading users to a particular website. This will be used by Google to measure the brand’s popularity. It's also designed to look at the quality and relevance of the resource. Another major aspect to note is that Google records queries clubbed with the mention of a brand name and stores it. The search engine uses this information to generate similar results when, in the future, comparable queries are made without the mention of the brand. What this means is Google will start giving high importance to these authoritative brands for queries related to them in the near future. Also, it mentions “implied links,” which is the future link building practice of co-occurrence.

Brand Boosting - Biggest Factors

It's clear today that mere backlinks are not enough to improve SEO ranking. Link popularity is a vital part of how Google ranks websites. Techniques like directory submissions, blog commenting, bookmarking, and article submissions are outdated. The two terms co-citation and co-occurrence have become synonymous with high-quality backlinks in the current SEO scene. The best approach for link building is to build a solid brand along with co-citation and co-occurrence.

Branding, Co-Citation, and Co-Occurrence

The first step towards creating your brand is to consistently provide readers with relevant and informative content that's original. When your website gives out epic content and brings value to readers, they're more likely to cite you with other quality resources. This paves the way for co-citation. When your content stays relevant and on track, it's bound to have words, phrases, and synonyms that go well with the title. Google will recognise this fact and improve your SEO ranking.

Market your content while highlighting your brand. Branding will increase your chances of being “recognised” as an authority source by other websites, thus bringing you natural backlinks. Keep in mind that authoritative citations bring credibility to content you put out. Never shy away from pointing towards quality sources.

Final Words on Branding for SEO Ranking

If you follow the best SEO practices, you're sure to reach the helm of SERPs. However, to stay there, you'll need brand recognition. Maintaining your spot on top of Google's search results is only possible when people recognise your website, backlink to it, and scout specifically for your brand name. When you think SEO ranking, just remember than brand affects your SEO, and always keep that at the forefront of your mind.


]]> 1