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Monthly Archives: February 2017

5 Tech Trends That Will Influence Your Marketing Strategies

No matter what kind of business you run, you need customers to keep growing. Word-of-mouth referrals and repeat clients can certainly help, but most businesses could benefit from a little marketing boost.

While the purpose of marketing hasn’t changed, the methods and trends companies follow to achieve results has evolved drastically in recent years. New marketing technologies continue to emerge, and businesses that want to keep up need to look ahead and prepare for the future.

Business News Daily asked experts about five key tech trends that will shape the marketing landscape in 2017 and beyond.

The rise of social media quickly gave way to a new breed of content marketing— one driven by links, shares and referrals. Although affiliate shopping links have been around for years, today’s companies have started to connect the dots between content and commerce, and assets like sponsored articles and social media posts are continuing to gain popularity.

“Content-driven-commerce is the use of affiliate links within published content,” said Oliver Roup, CEO of VigLink, a platform that helps companies create and place affiliate links. “[This] form of content marketing is helping small business bring in incremental revenue without the cost of a typical marketing campaign. A brand can … incentivize publishers to incorporate their products into their content. Once a consumer purchases the product after leaving the publisher’s site, brands and publishers cash in.”

Roup said this form of marketing is becoming a preferred outlet for many, as traditional advertising (which he notes has been on the decline) can be costly—and isn’t always worth the spend.

Automation solutions — which, as the name implies, automate a process based on data input — have been growing in popularity, and for good reason: They help businesses make many areas of their operations much more efficient. In the marketing world, programmatic ad platforms fill this need: According to Jeffrey Finch, CPO and co-founder of digital marketing and advertising platform Choozle, these tools “turn everyday workers into advertising experts.”

“Programmatic advertising has been taking off for a while now, but it’s poised to greatly expand in the coming years,” said Finch. “[These platforms] do the hard work of finding ad space for you, while you simply provide them the information about who you would like to target.”

Remember the days of, “There’s an app for that?” John Marcinuk, group director of marketing production at Blue Fountain Media, believes those days are winding down: While brands should absolutely still be focusing on mobile development, he said, it’s better to spend time and resources on a great mobile web experience, rather than creating separate apps for everything.

“Asking your customers to download one more app to their phones for an experience that should be available on the mobile web is not only a big ask on their time, but can cost many thousands of dollars for a brand to develop,” he added.

Although customers are more and more comfortable making purchases via mobile devices, many still research on mobile and switch back to their desktops later to complete the purchase. Marcinuk said an optimized mobile experience can encourage customers to whip out their credit cards with their mobile phones in hand.

“For marketers hoping to win back users who don’t convert, we’ll be utilizing technologies that target across devices and properly attribute our advertising success to all touch points along the purchase process,” Marcinuk told Business News Daily.

Any company with an online presence knows the importance of using customer data to inform business decision. Most brands are beginning to make data analytics a priority, but marketers still have a long way to go, said Curtis Tingle, CMO of intelligent media delivery company Valassis.

Today’s data goes well beyond basic demographics, Tingle said. Now brands can access consumers’ online and offline media behaviors and preferences, location throughout the day, purchase history, promotion sensitivity, etc. This, he said, allows you to customize messages, images and offers across channels, even to the household level.

“Marketers must learn how to better use the data that they collect,” Tingle said. “Customers are constantly feeding personal information to the companies they engage with – from purchase behaviors to favorite products to the best ways to reach them through advertising and marketing efforts. With this data share, customers are looking for some sort of return, whether it be in the form of more personalized advertisements or targeted coupons/deals.”

Tingle noted that utilizing a targeted approach to a select audience is much more impactful than a blanketed “spray-and-pray” method of delivering marketing messages.

“Collecting as much data as possible should no longer be the primary goal; leveraging it to reach and activate consumers in unique and meaningful ways must come first,” he added.

Wondering how to analyze all that data you’ve got? Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning might just be the answer.

John Callan, VP of marketing at Boxever, a customer intelligence cloud platform, said brands are now using AI to better understand how a customer prefers to interact with a brand (email, personalized homepages, mobile, call-center, in-person, etc.), and tailor offers and messages delivered via those preferred channels based on a customer’s desires.

“Another example includes being able to ‘interrupt’ a regular campaign offer or message based on some new contextual information — perhaps due to a real-time service issue or a change in a behavior pattern — to deliver a more relevant and timely offer or message,” he added.

To take advantage of AI for your marketing needs, Callan advised finding a tool that will help you connect the dots between channels and provide relevant insights to drive successful marketing campaigns.

4 Keys to a Successful Sales Pitch

Circosta advised approaching sales from a helping perspective. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to make the sale, just focus on what the product means to the buyer, he said.

“If [sales reps] focus on how to communicate effectively and help the person, it takes pressure off themselves, and puts the focus and energy where it needs to be,” Circosta said. “A superior salesperson inspires the buyer to feel the benefits of what they have.”

If you want to craft better sales pitches, here are a few key elements you should focus on.

The first contact with a potential customer or client is crucial to setting the tone for the ongoing relationship. Tom Silk, executive vice president atWorkStride, a provider of employee recognition software, said there is power in the first sentence of the sales pitch. But it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it, he added.

“Use tone, energy — stand up and show enthusiasm,” Silk said. “Energy sets the tone of the conversation.”

Moreover, it’s important to establish a connection with the person you’re selling to, said Brian Stafford, CEO of collaboration software company Diligent Corp.

“Establishing rapport is absolutely critical,” Stafford said. “The best sales rep creates a connection with the prospect as early on as possible.”

Whether in person or on the phone, pay attention to the cues that are happening during the pitch, Stafford said. Pay attention to who is speaking, and if it’s an in-person meeting, note the body language. Look for affirmative cues, such as head nods, forward leaning, and open, relaxed postures. If you are getting the opposite, such as crossed arms or other nonresponses, then take a step back.

“I think sometimes, [sales reps] keep plowing ahead even if they aren’t getting the response they hoped for,” Stafford said. “It can be more dynamic to stop and pump the brakes, ask questions, and force them to say what isn’t working for them.”

It is harder to identify these types of social cues over the phone, but they are there if you listen. Silk advised envisioning what is going on in the room and working through the “noise language.” What is being said, by whom and how? Adjust to the silence, and solicit feedback.

“If the plan is not going well, change and adjust on the fly,” Silk said.

This is perhaps the most important part of the sales pitch: Ask someone to take action at the end of a sales presentation, Circosta said. Even if the prospective buyer isn’t ready to make a final decision yet, leaving them with a clear call to action will at least keep the idea of doing business with you fresh in their mind.

“If you don’t ask them for the sale, they probably won’t go through with it,” he said.

Knowing how and when to follow up on a sales pitch is another factor in its success. It would be nice if every sale were closed at the end of the pitch, but that rarely happens. Decision makers need to take time to evaluate the proposal and ensure what you have to offer is going to fix their problem or improve their capabilities.

WorkStride creates a project plan with its potential clients, defining the milestones for follow-up and the best method to do so.

“The whole purpose of the project plan is to let us know when to follow up,” Silk said. “No ‘checking in’ annoying calls. We can make the follow-up calls with a purpose — after a key meeting of decision makers or at the appropriate time in their budget cycle.”

Diligent Corp. employs a similar strategy: “Follow up, and make yourself be a champion of your key contact in the sales process,” Stafford said. “Problem solve with them. What are the things we need to do to get them over the line?”

Above all else, Stafford said the most important thing you can do throughout the entire sales process is to listen to your prospective client.

How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan

Most small business owners know the importance of a business plan, which outlines your company’s course for success. One crucial element of that plan is your marketing strategy.

Because this strategy is buried in the larger business plan, many small business owners may not give marketing the time, research and attention it deserves, assuming that they know their customer base and how to reach them. But an in-depth and detailed approach to laying out your marketing strategy can reveal opportunities from a new audience or potential product line, pitfalls in pricing, competition reaction, and potential reach.

At its most basic, a marketing plan describes who your customers are, where they get information and how you are going to reach them. Robert J. Thomas, a marketing professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, said the development of a marketing plan requires that you complete four specific tasks:

1. Develop a very clear and focused insight into why a potential customer would use your business. More specifically, figure out the core need that your product or service will meet. Is it to help your customers get through the day more easily? Do their job more efficiently? Be respected and admired by friends? Your offering should be designed to solve client problems or meet customer needs better than the competition can.

2. Identify your target customers. There are numerous potential customers in most markets, but to succeed faster and better, a small business must study the market and determine the characteristics of its best target customers. The target customer should be described in detail. Create an avatar, or fictional person, who has all of your target-customer attributes, and examine what that person would say, do, feel and think in the course of a day.

3. Identify competitors that would also want your target customers. No matter how original your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target customer’s dollar. Small businesses seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth, or determine competition that may be outside their industry but just as capable of luring the customer away. Preparing to know who that is, what their core competitive advantage is and how they will respond to your offering (price cuts, increased communication, etc.) will help you figure out strategies to combat such losses.

4. Write down your brand-positioning statement for your target customers. Ultimately, your brand and what it symbolizes for customers will be your strongest competitive advantage. You should be able to write down a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements are those that are single-minded and focus on solving a problem for the customer in a way that promotes the best value.

Now that you know the elements of the plan, you need to figure out how you are going to reach that target customer. Aside from traditional print and broadcast media, here are three tech-driven marketing channels that many of today’s business owners utilize.

Social media has become an essential part of businesses’ marketing plans because every type of customer is on some type of platform, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other networks. Small business owners can feel overwhelmed at the possibilities but should focus on the ones that can benefit them the most.

Brett Farmiloe, founder of internet marketing company Markitors, advised companies that are just getting started in social media to get to know their customers and what platforms they are using.

“Figure out where your customers are spending their time, and set up shop on those platforms,” Farmiloe told Business News Daily. “Develop a content strategy that can be executed internally, [and then] execute your strategy by posting branded content on your selected platforms. While all three steps are key, the biggest one is really determining if your customers are on these platforms.”

Though email marketing may not be a new concept like social media marketing, it is an effective and popular choice for many small business owners. Companies can implement email-marketing techniques in a number of ways, including using newsletters, promotional campaigns and transactional emails. Companies such as MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy for companies to manage their email campaigns.

Farmiloe noted that companies can set their email marketing efforts apart by segmenting their markets.

“Not all subscribers want to receive the same blast,” Farmiloe said. “Smart email marketers take the time to segment subscribers at the outset, and then continue to segment based on subscriber activity. Through segmentation, companies reduce the amount of unsubscribes, increase open rates and, most importantly, increase the amount of actions taken from an email send.”

The popularity of smartphones and tablets has helped change the way companies target their customers. Since people have the devices with them nearly all the time, companies are looking to implement strategies that reach customers on their gadgets.

“Mobile marketing is interruptive,” Farmiloe said. “It’s because of this power that a marketer has to let the consumer determine how and when to receive marketing material. That’s why almost every app comes with the option to turn notifications on or off. The consumer has to hold the power with mobile marketing.”

Creating a well-defined list of budgets, goals and action items, with appropriate personnel assigned to each item, can help make your marketing plan a reality. Think about how much you’re willing to spend, the kind of outcomes you expect, and the necessary tasks to achieve those outcomes. ACleverism article advised defining three key elements to help you measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts:

  1. How you want to track your campaign
  2. The channels you want to track
  3. The metrics you want to measure

The metrics — the numerical data that allows you to see if you’re reaching your goals — are the best ways to measure your return on investment, according to Cleverism. This can include wesite visits, lead conversion, click-through/bounce rates, social media effectiveness and referrals. More tips for measuring your marketing results can be found in this BND article.

6 Ways to Ensure You’re Recruiting the Best Talent

The key is selling potential employees on the benefits of working with you. This makes recruiting almost a marketing effort, and in truth, the best recruiting techniques have their roots in the most effective marketing tactics. Here’s how to recruit the best of the best in a job market that favors the candidate.

Social media profiles have become standard tools for researching and evaluating talent. Instead of looking only at candidates’ résumés, thoroughly vet them by looking at their LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media profiles.

“Candidates’ social media profiles [can highlight] personal experiences and interests that tie into professional lives and skills, and may show the person is a perfect fit,” said Pete Kazanjy, founder of Modern Sales Salon and recruiter search engine TalentBin. “[Depending] on the type of job you’re recruiting for, make sure you’re looking at the right social networking sites to find candidates who may be off your radar.”

Kazanjy noted that engaging with potential candidates on social media can be to your advantage, regardless of whether they are interested in the position you’re offering right now.

“Although the person may be content where they are now, you never know what the future has in store,” he said. “Engaging with candidates on their personal profiles allows you to form a relationship.”

Money is important, but it’s not the only thing top talent wants. They want a work environment that challenges them, allows for innovation, makes work fun but also provides work-life balance. This could mean paid time off (PTO), the ability to work from home, time to volunteer in their communities or the ability to take unpaid leave to pursue interests, to name a few.

Personal finance writer Kevin Mulligan said your company needs to create an employee value proposition (EVP) to use as a selling point with candidates. This should describe what sets your organization apart and why people should want to work there.

“The more attractive your EVP is, the more likely you will be attracting the cream of the crop to your company,” Mulligan wrote in a BusinessDictionary article.

One of the best ways to draw candidates in is a mobile-friendly hiring process. Dr. John Sullivan, a Silicon Valley-based author and HR expert, said that more than 43 percent of job seekers use their mobile phones in their job searches.

“That number will continue to rise until the mobile phone is dominant in recruiting,” he wrote in an article on EREMedia.com.

To that end, your app or website should allow candidates to accept offers, hold live video interviews, complete referral tasks and self-schedule interviews. For retention purposes, you can also build in functions for new employees: an interactive employee handbook, benefit registration, access to PTO balances and more.

Even just a decade ago, it might have seemed like a distant dream to have full-time, off-site employees with the same exact technological capabilities as workers in the office. Today, advancements in cloud computing and videoconferencing have opened the doors to hiring remote staff members, so recruiters are no longer limited to candidates in close geographic proximity to the company’s headquarters.

“If your company is located in a competitive hiring market, you’d be better off searching for top talent in a less competitive area,” said Anthony Smith, founder and CEO of CRM software company Insightly. “Technology allows for smooth collaboration and communication no matter where employees are located, so you don’t need to lose out on experts in your field because of where your company is based.”

This goes back to the workforce’s “immediate” expectations. Top talent will move quickly, because it is in high demand. Be ahead of the curve by investigating ways to speed up your hiring process while still demanding high-quality candidates reach a high standard.

“Others may view your slow hiring as a mirror of the speed in which you make business decisions, and drop out because they expect faster decision making,” Sullivan wrote.

You can speed up hiring by prioritizing hires for revenue-generating or key positions, surveying past candidates for their perception of what worked and what didn’t, and identifying other unnecessary delays that seem to be common in each vacancy-fulfillment effort.

Sometimes the best way to attract a candidate to your organization is to show off the people he or she will join there. Taso Du Val, founder and CEO of global tech industry network Toptal, advised highlighting your company’s existing talent during the recruiting process.

“Talented individuals want to work with top talent, so showcasing the all-stars already on your team can help validate why other high-quality candidates should hop on board,” Du Val said.

“Ask employees why they like working for your company,” said Sandy Mazur, president of staffing firm Spherion. “When you’re vetting talent, share some of the feedback and anecdotes that your workers shared with you, as those may resonate with candidates and attract them to the job.”