6 Digital Marketing Trends You Cannot Ignore in 2019

6 Digital Marketing Trends You Cannot Ignore in 2019
The digital marketing landscape in 2019 is undergoing dramatic changes. There are a number of new digital marketing strategies and trends that are starting to assume importance in this landscape that encompasses SEO, content marketing, social media and PPC. These include elements such as visual search and artificial intelligence, which not too long ago, might have been dismissed as the stuff of sci-fi movies. But, we now know they are real and here to stay. As a business, you need to use them in order to succeed and get ahead because the digital marketing strategies that worked last year may not necessarily prove effective this year.

Here are 6 of the hot digital marketing trends for 2019 that in my opinion require your attention.

1. Artificial Intelligence

AI or artificial intelligence is already believed to be employed in digital marketing to analyze consumer behavior and search patterns, to utilize data from social media platforms and blogs to help businesses get a grasp artificial intelligence trendon how customers find their products and services. Even as recently as a few years ago, marketers may not have considered incorporating artificial intelligence into their digital marketing strategies.

However, 2018, in my opinion, was a year when more and more marketers are getting comfortable and are gaining more confidence in employing artificial intelligence as a digital marketing strategy since it has proved to be effective. In fact, the potential for its further evolution into a territory where it could even surpass humans, is great.

There are some areas where AI could be used with success. One of those areas is digital advertising. For instance, Google Ads uses machine learning and AI to find people who are more prone to responding to the advertisement. To accomplish this, they might analyze users’ information to determine the best audience.

2. Chatbots

There is no question that chatbots will continue to be an important digital marketing strategy in 2019 and for the foreseeable future. In fact, according to a 2018 study, the global chatbot market is expected to grow 24.4% in the next 4 years.

But let’s step back – what is a chatbot?

Simply explained, chatbots are artificial intelligence systems that faciliate better sales or service for customers. Chatbots can be used in sales by guiding customers through the sales process. They can be used in service by helping customers troubleshoot technical issues.

If you’re a millennial like myself, you may prefer to interact with chatbots because they tend to be responsive, prompt with responses, accurately recall a customer’s purchasing history and don’t get emotional or impatient. These virtual assistants are establishing a track record of excellent customer service and automating repetitive jobs. Large companies can use chatbot technology to communicate with customers for a range of functions from choosing the type of ride to tracking the location of the car or making a payment.

3. Personalized Marketing

If you wish to stand out with your product or service in 2019, it’s imperative that you need to personalize your marketing in terms of products, content and messages. You now have data such as a consumer’s purchase history available at your fingertips. You have information about consumers’ behavior and which links they click on. Customizing content is easier now than ever before. In fact, among the 12 stunning statistics around personalization provided by Econsultancy it was crystal clear that customers overwhelmingly expect a personalized experience.

It’s well worth spending time and resources to create a high value personalized marketing strategy as the ROI is significant.

Indeed, personalized marketing can drive revenue by tailoring your messaging to your customers. As noted in the Econsultancy article, Deloitte found 36% of consumers had an interest in personalization and nearly half (48%) said they’d wait longer for a personalized experience. This is significant – and personalized marketing is not just done pre-sale. According to Econsultancy, “SalesForce found 62% of consumers expect companies to send personalised offers or discounts based on items they’ve already purchased.”

4. Video as a Marketing Tool

Videos have consistently proven to be an effective tool when it comes to digital marketing and is viewed as having the best ROI by 51% of marketers worldwide, according to Wordstream. It’s not just YouTube – although they’ve got a billion users worldwide. To promote better user engagement, you can post videos or start a live broadcast on Instagram or Facebook. Of course, don’t forget twitter – an astonishing 82% of twitter users watch video as cited by Wordstream. But it also helps with SEO efforts – as video increases organic search traffic by an astonishing 157%, according to Brightcove. Of all these trends, video marketing is an absolute no-brainer!

With smartphones being able to capture high-quality videos, this is getting increasingly easy. In addition, 360-degree video content, which allows users to interact more, is gaining in popularity. Create videos that focus on a story rather than sales. Appeal to your customers’ needs and emotions. Shorter videos work best as over half of all videos published last year were 2 minutes or less. Don’t be afraid to use humor and plenty of creativity to get your message across.

5. Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is anchored by market influencers, key thought leaders and evangelists who driver a brand’s message to a larger market. For example, in these cases, instead of marketing directly to a certain audience, influencers are paid to get the word out for you, often through social media. Many companies are finding that using paid influencers is a very effective digital marketing tool that works well to draw customers. Of course, influencers don’t have to be celebrities. They may be YouTube stars or popular figures on Instagram with millions of followers. Many companies have now also gone for “micro-influencers,” shedding stars and celebrities for real people who can provide genuine, real-life testimonials.

But it’s not always necessary to pay influencers. Smart businesses utilize client testimonials found on sites like Google, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and other niche review sites relevant to their industry.

6. Voice Search

amazon echo dot voice searchIf you have ever been involved in your companies marketing efforts, you likely know what SEO or Search Marketing is. SEO is constantly evolving, and I believe that the next frontier for search marketing is voice search.

As more and more people use voice search technology, companies are being forced to reconsider their digital marketing strategies in 2019. Voice search (Siri, Alexa) plays an important role when it comes to providing relevant information people are searching for through audio content. The number of errors made by voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri have been reduced thanks to improvements in artificial intelligence. Of course, AI is far from perfect. For a good laugh, ask Siri these questions.

Companies are beginning to use voice search technology as a way to boost sales by automating the lead scoring process, predicting cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and more. You may soon be able to buy voice ad space. When you are producing audio content, don’t forget to use keywords that people will speak rather than type.

These hot digital marketing trends could help you not only stay ahead of the curve and empower your brand but also increase audience engagement. This leads to productive, meaningful conversations.

Reach out to Stikky Media and learn how to best utilize these 2019 marketing trends to achieve your marketing goals this year and beyond.

This is a guest blog by Chris Foerster from Fremont College.

Getting Dynamic with Google Ads

Getting Dynamic with Google Ads+Ad Writing Automation

The inevitable switch from Google AdWords to the new Google Ads is here; since October 18th 2018 the new Google Ads experience has fully replaced Google AdWords. This is the third in a series of three posts on the new Google Ads with a focus on utilizing Google’s dynamic ad features. The other posts focus on 4 tips and tricks in Google Ads and outlining campaign creation, reporting and optimization in Google Ads. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Ads we recommend you read both of those posts, which will get you up to speed in no time.

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Top 5 Factors Influencing B2B Sales Lead Generation Online

Top 5 factors influencing B2B sales lead generation onlineGenerating sales leads online for B2B products and services can seem counter intuitive at first. After all, those business deals tend to rely on personal relationships developed over years of networking and sales prospecting. In fact, I know a few B2B salespeople who tend to avoid doing any of their networking online. They claim, “not enough time,” “not efficient,” “not how I work.” That is, until I explain the top 5 factors influencing B2B sales lead generation.

Once sales leaders understand the connection between these critical B2B marketing factors and revenue, ears perk up. Funny how that works.

Of course, if you’re among those looking for tips to improve your online B2B sales lead generation and conversion efforts, learn from B2B companies that don’t plan for and invest in an online presence. They’re missing out on our increasingly global marketplace, where potential leads can’t visit your office but can still get to know you through virtual means.

To differentiate and close more online leads, keep reading. Here are Stikky Media’s top 5 factors influencing B2B sales lead generation if you want to convert more qualified visitors into leads.

1. Website

We can’t say it often enough: your website is the virtual equivalent of a first impression. If it’s old, badly designed or simply inexistent, you’ll miss out on quite a lot of potential leads just because visitors will be turned off.

An archaic-looking website jumps out right away, and so do amateur ones. With today’s wide variety of looks and styles, as well as advanced technical possibilities, websites don’t have to be boring. They still need to be usable, but the possibilities are rather close to endless (see some beautiful websites).

What does your website need to be attractive to leads? In short, you need:

  • A clear value proposition
  • Calls-to-action
  • Social proof
  • Good “About us” page
  • Contact info
  • A blog (you’ll see why it matters for B2B leads below)

All of this should be packaged in a visually pleasing website that still follows web usability best practices.

2. Portfolio or case studies

The second most important element to convice potential clients is a good portfolio page or, if you’re not in the creative field, at least a few case studies.

These are really important because they show how your past and current clients have found success with your product or service. If there’s no proof of your company’s ability to serve what it promises, it’s not likely that you’ll develop any kind of trust with visitors and leads.

For example, our projects is a great source of information for our potential clients. There they can find examples of websites in similar fields and categories as their business, and they can check out our work to see if it fits their style and needs.

Case studies are a bit different. They go in more depth about the process, solution and results of using your product or services. They work especially well for complex products and services; they also help a lot for companies with long sales cycles.

3. Content

Content is a rather vague and general term when it comes to the internet; basically everything on there is content. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll consider content the helpful information found on your website. What “helpful” means depends on who your target audience is.

To determine your level of expertise and your involvement in the field, a potential lead will look through your website for evidence of helpful, informational content that teaches him or her about your product or service, your field of work, etc. This can be developed in several forms:

  • Blog posts, white papers, ebooks
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Slideshare presentations
  • Webinars

Again, companies with longer sales cycles will find that using a variety of content types will help leads move along the cycle faster. Share some relevant content to hook them up, follow up with some great lead nurturing emails, and voilà! a lead that your sales team can close in no time.

4. Expertise of employees

When you deal with a business, you ultimately deal with its whole team, whether you spoke to them in the sales process or not. So it’s good to know that the people who are going to build your product or provide the services you need know what they’re doing.

Bios on team pages can help with that, but do you know what’s more effective? Blog posts.

Every member of your team (or at least a representative of every department) should contribute to your company’s blog. As a potential lead looks at your website and your blog, he or she will see that your employees know what they’re talking about and provide helpful advice.

If that doesn’t contribute to visitor trust, I don’t know what does!

5. Presence on social media

Last but not least, having a presence on social media is among the top 5 factors influencing b2b sales lead generation. A potential lead will also take a look at what you’re saying on social media. There are way too many examples of companies losing bundles of customers because of a mistake on social media (talk with our experts about our online reputation management services, if it should happen to you).

A carefully planned social media presence that still lets individuality and human-ness shine through is the best way to convince site visitors that there’s a human behind every interaction. (Nobody likes robots THAT much.) They’ll have a look at how you interact with followers, how fast you answer to mentions, questions and inquiries, and check out the content you share.

As in the factor above, make sure that your social media presence contributes to your reputation for expertise and helpfulness.

Putting it all together

All these factors will make a difference in how many online B2B sales leads you get. Having a strong digital strategy will help you figure out how to put these pieces together to increase your leads, conversions and sales.

Need Help Implementing the Top 5 Factors Influencing B2B Sales Lead Generation?

Want more details about how you can make your website more effective? Contact the digital marketing experts at Stikky Media to help you convert more online visitors into sales.

Photo by Flazingo.com

The One Weird Thing the Best B2B Content Marketers Do

best B2B content marketersI’m going to make a confession I never would have before: I’m starting to really, really love reports. I was never a numbers girl; I’ve always emulated the best B2B content marketers happy to highlight the benefits and beauty of words over numbers (forgive me, math people! numbers are beautiful too!). But now, I can’t get enough of numbers, percentages and graphs!

So it was with… unusual joy that I perused a new report, the B2B Content Marketing 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends–North America by Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. Following the recent publication of Hubspot’s State of Inbound, I thought this report provided a great counterpoint and some interesting supplementary data.

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Top 5 Takeaways from HubSpot’s State of Inbound Marketing 2014

Whenever a report like Hubspot’s State of Inbound comes out, I get all excited. Some data! Some stats! New things to learn! Benchmarks to compare my work with!

And this year’s report did not disappoint, either. With 54 pages of data gleaned from thousands of respondents in marketing and sales, Hubspot once again gives us a good overview of the world of inbound marketing, from budgeting to planning to measuring.

And since not everyone has the time to read all 54 pages of the report, I’ve pulled my top 5 takeaways to share with you.

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10 Brilliant Landing Page Call To Action Insights

10 brilliant landing page call to action insightsMastering the art of the call to action is essential to inbound marketing success. After all, you want visitors to click on your gated content downloads or to try your product or service. But getting the copy just right can be quite a challenge–I must admit I’ve been grappling with finding the right copy for some of our own calls to action

So I’ve been looking around at what experts are saying about the best landing page call to action techniques and best practices to help me craft better buttons and graphics for us and our clients. Here are 10 insights I gleaned from my readings all across the web.

1. Use active verbs

There’s nothing more annoying than someone asking you to do something, and then explaining ad nauseam before they actually tell you what to do. “What exactly do you need me to do?” is my usual reaction to that kind of conversation.

Well, the same goes with calls to action. The clearer your action verb, the more likely someone is to take specific action.

  • Use “read” or “download” instead of “check out” for ebooks, case studies and such
  • “Subscribe” and “sign up” are more effective than “receive” (a passive act) for newsletter and blog subscriptions
  • According to this Marketing Experiments post, “Get started now” is more effective than “Try now” when it comes to a Saas product

As you can see, the more specific and action-oriented the verb, the more likely you’ll get click-throughts.

2. Test, test, test

Another insight you’ll see pretty much everywhere when it comes to landing pages and calls to action is to test constantly.

Simple testing of different CTA copy by using 2 variants is the easiest way to see which one performs best. By constantly testing, you’re always aware of what works well and what needs improvement.

Some people do multiple variant testing, which is just as effective if you have several different copy ideas in mind.

Once you find the best option, don’t forget to use it exclusively!

3. Copy and design are intertwined

Bad copy with great design is going to perform as badly as great copy with bad design. Not one of these elements is more important than the other, and finding the right balance between attractive copy and beautiful design is the goal.

This Copyblogger post covers many different ways in which you can combine copy and design to increase the effectiveness of your calls to action.

4. Red is better than green

Well, okay, that’s a simplistic one, but here’s the proof.

Why is red better than green? My theory is that red “arrests” people, requires them to pay attention. Green is usually linked to “passing through” or “keep going”, as in a green light, so I guess it’s more likely that people will pass over a green button than a red button.

5. Numbers increase click-throughs

Look back to the title of this post. Would you have clicked on it if it had said “Some Brilliant Landing Page Call To Action Copy Insights”? Probably not. Adding the number 10 gives a sense of specificity and sets expectations for readers (and numbers in general increase click-throughs). And it gives you a guideline to deliver, too!

6. Copy length matters

Well, of course it does. Did you ever think it wouldn’t? Something between 90 and 150 characters is the most effective, according to tests on blog post titles. The same should apply to your copy. You should transmit the message about what is expected of your visitors in as short a sentence as possible.

See insight #1 above for more on how to use active verbs.

7. Try different placements

It seems logical that putting calls to action “above the fold” (before your visitor needs to scroll) would increase conversion rates. But it’s actually not always the case.

Neil Patel tested this on his own website and discovered that click-through rates were better when he placed his call to action under the fold.

There’s obviously no right answer, but testing placement will tell you which attracts the most of your visitors.

8. Don’t “submit” anything

People don’t like to submit stuff. It’s a rather passive action that puts the onus on the “submittee”, i.e. you. People like to be in control of their actions and their results. So whenever you use a form, don’t use the word “submit”. Change it for something specific: “download your ebook”, “get your guide”, “request your trial”, etc. Remember insight #1: specific, active verbs work best.

9. Avoid jargon

If you know me, you know I hate jargon. I’m the jargon-killer. I take my editing lance to jargon’s lair and kill it dead. Jargon is the tool of those who don’t know what they’re talking about but who want to sound smart. People who really know what they’re doing can explain it in plain language to absolutely anyone.

So, do you want your visitors to think you’re a pedantic elitist, or would rather give the impression of an approachable, helpful resource? Yeah, I thought so.

So kill jargon, right now. In fact, some of the least effective words to use on the web are jargon.

10. Have fun

Your landing page call to action doesn’t have to be boring and all business-like. You can totally have fun with them. In fact, using a different tone and style from your competitors may differentiate you, in a good way.

For example, doing my superhero landing page exercise was a lot of fun, and actually let me use my creativity to develop some fun, original copy. Although I wouldn’t use any of that for actually businesses, it was still a good way to get out of the “strictly business” mindset and to find new and interesting ways to attract clicks.


 

There’s a lot to learn about calls to action and landing pages, and I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface. But I hope these insights were just as helpful for you as they were for me when I was researching them.

Contact Stikky Media if you’d like help with your website’s calls to action or anything else related to digital marketing!

5 Skills Marketing Students Must Master To Succeed

5 skills marketing students must master to succeedAfter a summer full of sun, fun and maybe summer work for some students, it’s now time to head back to the classroom and hit the books. There’s little I personally like more than the back-to-school time of year, despite the fact that I’m no longer a student. I love the warm sweaters, new books, changing leaves and especially learning new things.

So this year, I would like to share some of my knowledge and wisdom for business and marketing students beginning their degree or returning for another year. You may learn lots of information and skills in university, but if you don’t master these 5 basic skills, you will have a hard time succeeding in today’s fast-paced marketing world.

1. Writing

Writing is the most essential and most useful skill you will ever develop as a professional. An excellent ability to communicate by writing has many, many purposes beyond having your email understood by your boss.

According to research, those who write well have a better change of getting promoted in their chosen profession. Writing well isn’t just about getting an A in that business report; it’s also about producing clear, well-written documents for your superiors, colleagues, clients and audience.

In marketing, writing well is especially essential since you will probably be called to write blog posts, prepare presentations and build proposals or reports. Poor customer-facing communication reflects badly on your employer… and you.

2. Basic web design

Being able to manage a website is another essential skill for future marketers. Although people in the marketing team are seldom asked to build websites from scratch, it’s useful if you know how to format and update content, how to correct small errors and how to manage plugins in your CMS.

A little ability with HTML and CSS can give you that little extra boost you need to get hired, too, so take that web design course if it fits in your schedule.

3. Social media management

Because it’s so recent, social media is not yet taught in most business schools. But it ought to be. The ability to manage a social media stream and use it as a communications/PR/marketing/customer service tool is increasingly important.

And don’t think that your personal Twitter account counts as “social media management”; showing you can maintain a consistent brand voice and produce content that engages followers is what matters for employers.

4. Analytics

Tomorrow’s marketer is as much at ease with data manipulation as he or she with creating visuals for a campaign. Marketing initiatives are now so tied to analytics data that it’s hard to do one without the other.

I know, I know, not everyone’s a numbers person (I’m the first one to admit that), but being able to manage both the creative and the qualitative sides of a marketing campaign is going to be essential as everything moves towards the digital space–even TV ads.

5. Networking

It can be a little depressing to be a student today looking at job numbers: fewer and fewer students end up with full-time, permanent jobs when they graduate.

But those who do usually have something special: they spent some time learning how to network effectively and used these skills to make their way into a job. Networking is one of the most fundamental soft skills you need to learn for success in the business world, and the earlier you do so the better.

Networking can be done in person, of course, but there’s also plenty of ways to do it online too.

Ready for the new school year?

With a focus on these soft skills (as well as your grades, of course), you have a better chance at succeeding in the marketing world.

Are there other skills that marketers should have to succeed? What’s your advice for marketing students hoping to make it big?

10 Signs You’re Dealing With Sleazy Marketing Consultants

10 signs you're dealing with sleazy marketing consultantsMarketing, as a field, doesn’t have the best of reputations. Despite being an essential function in any business, trust in marketers is kind of low; according to a recent survey of CEOs across the world, 80% of them don’t trust marketers.

I must say to my personal defense that most marketers I know (including us!) really, really want to help produce demand for your product or service. We’re interested and involved in our clients’ success, and we do our best to help them achieve their goals. (more…)

Improve The Quality Of Your Website Leads With These 6 Elements

As I grow and develop in the world of inbound marketing, I realize that the whole process of turning a website visitor into an ideal customer is a long, complex road fraught with possible obstacles, little route tweaks along the way, and a whole lot of planning.

When people search the web to research potential vendors for a product or service they’re looking for, they’re expecting certain elements to be present and obvious on your website. It’s not always conscious (we’re trained to expect these things based on how other successful websites do it), but it ALWAYS has an effect on your conversion rates and, eventually, your digital marketing ROI.

Does your website contain these 7 essential elements for getting website leads to contact you?

Essential #1: A unique value proposition on the homepage

We’ve covered value propositions quite a bit recently, but it always bears repeating: your value proposition, clearly stated without jargon and with a focus on your main buyer persona, is your best asset to attract the right kind of client.

I always refer to my favourite business tool, Freshbooks, when I talk about excellent unique value propositions:

website leads love good value propositions like Freshbooks'

When you look at this, it’s instantly clear what Freshbooks does and for whom.

If your website doesn’t clearly state what kind of business you do and to whom it’s useful in the first eyeful (50 milliseconds), then you’ve already lost a lot of potential leads.

It’s worth putting a lot of work in the development, writing and design of your homepage because this is where the initial magic happens. If you don’t grab them at first glance, they’re likely to never come back.

Essential #2: A call-to-action on the homepage

So you have a great value proposition with relevant images… but now your visitor has no idea what to do to learn more.

If you have a hook but let your visitors get off it before you can reel them in, you’re not going to have a great catch at the end of your day.

Refer to the above screenshot for a great example of a call-to-action that converts: “Try it Free for 30 Days”. If I’m a business owner looking to improve my accounting process, this might be something I’d want to look into.

You can use all sorts of calls-to-action to suit different types of products and services:

  • Order a free sample
  • Get a free consultation
  • Learn how it works
  • Join the club
  • Buy now
  • Etc…

If you hook your visitors right away (and if you have the first essential right, you probably will), they’ll want a way to get started, get to know you better or order something. Give it to them.

Essential #3: Some social proof

Sometimes, visitors need to be reassured about your product or service before they commit. This is where social proof comes to the rescue.

Testimonials are the best kind of social proof, especially if you use a picture of the person. Hubspot does this effectively:

Screen_Shot_2014-08-08_at_3.12.54_PM

Visually appealing, clear and strategically chosen to attract specific buyer personas, these testimonials have an added extra: more call-to-actions to take you to case studies, should you need even more proof that the product works.

Here are some rules around testimonials to impress your website leads:

  • Use real ones. Never ever fake testimonials.
  • Add pictures. Ask to use the person’s LinkedIn photo for the simplest way to get one.
  • Make an impact. Only choose the best, most impactful quotes you have.

Essential #4: A little about yourself

Okay, so you have a great product, a catchy call-to-action and some awesome testimonials. What else is missing?

Especially with consulting and services, people like to know who they will do business with. Putting a human face to your company essentially says: “We’re people! A real live human being is there to take care of you!” Isn’t that nice to know?

You can add a little blurb about your team or company on your homepage, but always have a more extensive “About Us” page to go more in depth about your mission, your values and your personality.

Speaking of Hubspot, it has a great post about excellent “About us” pages to inspire you.

Essential #5: Contact information

No website is complete without providing a way to contact you. The footer of your website is a great place to add your basic contact information, but make sure you have a dedicated “Contact Us” page in the main navigation for those who don’t scroll.

Your Contact us page also provides your visitors with an alternate way to get information on your product or service should the website not be sufficient. Not all leads will be captured that way, but your Contact Us page is there to grab those who want to get in touch that way.

This Web Designer Depot post has tons of great “Contact Us” page examples to get you thinking about this specific essential.

Essential #6: A blog

If you still don’t think business blogging is worth it, well, I don’t know what else to say. Blogging has proven time and time again to increase traffic, leads and sales, to improve digital marketing ROI, and to generally be an awesome awareness and informational tool.

I tell every person I know who wants to get started in digital marketing or freelance writing to learn how to blog, because it’s the single most useful (and lucrative) skill for the internet age.

Many website leads are looking to develop trust in you and your business before getting in touch–surely they want to trust you before they give you any money. A blog is an amazing way to build that trust.

There’s plenty of information out there about business blogging, the why and the how. It’s a matter for another blog post, at least!

Better website, better leads

A website is like a well-oiled conveying belt leading visitors from first visit to lifelong client. Provide the right triggers at the right time and give your website leads what they want, and you’ll see the effectiveness of your digital marketing improve many times over.

Did I miss an essential? What makes YOU want to buy a product or service from the website? 

 

5 Types of B2B Content That Work Like A Charm

5 types of B2B content that work like a charmOne of the challenges of B2B is finding the right type of content that will interest your audience and get them to consider you as a potential provider of products or services. It’s easy to see content from a B2C perspective: consumers like to get helpful information and get to trust a brand before making a purchase. But why should it be any different for B2B? After all, they are still buyers with needs, challenges and objections; they’re just buying for a company rather than for themselves.

With this in mind, it’s not difficult to start thinking up some content types that would work well with B2B buyers. They are a bit different from B2C, but they can still be effectively reached through inbound marketing.

The buyer’s guide

A buyer’s guide is possibly one of the most powerful pieces of content you can produce for your B2B business. It explains the buying process in your industry and gives your readers the tools they need to make the right choice when it comes to your type of product or service, and hopefully they end up choosing you.

The trick to a great buyer’s guide is to keep it neutral. Forget that it comes from you, the brand, and consider it from your readers’ point of view. They want factual, unbiased information about how to choose the right vendor; the more expensive the product, the longer and more considered the process. You need to take them through the entire buyer’s journey, from identifying their problem to figuring out the best solution, without actually selling anything.

A good buyer’s guide has several benefits to readers: it educates them about the product or service they are considering, it helps them find out exactly what their needs are, and it opens them up to solutions they may not have considered on their own–possibly opening the door to your own product or service!

For your business, a buyer’s guide can do several things: it can help you convert visitors into leads and qualify that lead further down the buyer’s journey. It also gives you authority in your field of work and can increase the trust of prospective and current customers.

The infographic

The infographic is one of the most versatile and easily shareable types of content around. You can adjust its size, formatting and content at will. They are trendy, accessible and practical.

Getting a good infographic going will require quite a bit of research, especially if your content is data-heavy. The best infographics boil down complex statistical research into easily visualized and digestible chunks. You need to choose the most important pieces of information and build a story around them to make a point: for example, email marketing is better, or buying local helps the economy, or something of the kind.

A well-laid infographic will give your visitors the chance to learn a ton of information about a major issue or topic in your field quickly and efficiently. It’s also easy to print off and hang on a wall or a board for further reference.

Infographics can easily be shared on social media; visuals tend to do better than written content on places like Twitter and Google+ (and obviously Pinterest), so give your business a chance to reach the visual-minded crowd by producing infographics regularly.

The template

Is there something that most professionals in your field have to do? Write reports, send emails, plan projects, manage budgets? Do you have a process or a template, developed over the years, that does the job really well? Why, you have a possible template on your hands!

Templates are great bits of content that you can spread out over time, and then put together as a “pack” that you can use for turning visitors into leads. Templates are especially useful for businesses, since every employee wants to be more effective at his or her job. If you deliver a truly practical template, you’ll quickly develop fans that you can eventually nurture into leads and customers.

Good candidates for templates are documents that need to be produced on a regular basis: budgets, reports, blog posts, PowerPoint presentations, etc. When building your template, try to be as inclusive as possible. You don’t need to think of every possible use for your template, but you do need to include the elements that the majority of your users will need to use it properly.

The case study

It’s no surprise that the case study has a place in this list. It’s indeed one of the most effective marketing tools for B2B, and it has been used for decades to sell all kinds of products and services, even the most particular.

A case study offers the kind of information that a potential customer needs during the later stages of the buyer’s journey. Your case studies show the depth and breadth of your expertise, your processes and your success. It also introduces satisfied clients whom your prospect can contact for further information. A good case study defines the problem your client asked you to resolve, the solution you implemented, and the final results.

Nowadays, case studies don’t need to be dry either; many brands have adapted the case study to their own style and tone, making them more like “client stories” than “case studies”.

A case study is an excellent tool because it proves that you can deliver on your brand promise and produce the expected results. By browsing your case studies, your prospects will be able to evaluate if the kind of service or product you provide is right for their needs.

The professional newsletter

There are all kinds of newsletters out there, but one thing that will work well with B2B audiences is a professional newsletter with a focus on your industry news. According to a recent study, 60% of business executives use email newsletters as their main source of professional information.

You’re an expert in your field, and your clients trust this expertise. Why not offer an informational, weekly newsletter covering news and trends of interest to them? This nurtures your relationship with your clients and keeps you top of mind.

Newsletters are also good for pushing leads along the buyer’s journey. If they find your information worthy of their time, they’ll be likely to consider you as a potential vendor when they’re ready to buy your product or service. If you have consistently provided relevant and informative news, you’ll certainly be at the top of the list when it comes to trust and expertise.

Fall under the spell of B2B content

If you think your field is too boring or esoteric to produce great content, think again. Every business fills a need; and where there’s a need, there’s a story. You just need to find yours. There’s no secret recipe, no magical incantation; just people helping other people do better business. If that goal is at the heart of your work, you’ll have no trouble finding things to say to your visitors, leads and clients.

Photo by Flickr user Eva Perris.

5 Facts About Millennials Every Marketer Should Know

5 facts about millennials every marketer should know

The leading edge of the Millennial generation, born in 1980, is turning 34 this year. But don’t be fooled by their age; Millennials are actually very different from their 35+ counterparts, especially when it comes to media consumption and technology.

Experian’s Millennials come of age report highlights the major demographic, psychographic, attitudinal and behavioural trends of this generation. Here are 5 facts from this report that every marketer should know if he or she wants to succeed at reaching them.

Millennial fact #1: They are diverse

Racially and ethnically, Millennials are the most diverse generation. Only 55% of them are white, compared to 61% of Xers, 73% of Boomers and 83% of Silent Generation. But according to the report,

Millennials are also 2.5 times more likely than the Silent Generation, 1.8 more likely than Boomers and 1.7 times more likely than Generation X to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Racial, ethnic, sexual and gender diversity is common to Millennials, and marketers “should worry less about offending or shocking Millennials if they break from traditional imagery.” Gay couples, mixed race families, gender-nonconforming individuals can be featured in advertising and marketing materials without much risk of offending this particular generation.

Millennial fact #2: They are entrepreneurial and motivated by money

According to the report, 46% of all Millennials want to start their own businesses one day. Given how many of them are self-employed or underemployed, it’s not surprising that the route to success appears in entrepreneurship.

Another interesting fact is that Millennials are 19% more likely to say that money is the best measure of success. No clear explanation is provided, but it could be because they have yet to make the wages of their older siblings and parents (Millennials make on average $34,100 a year, compared to $54,400 for Xers and $57,700 for Boomers). Nonetheless, making more money is a strong motivator for Millennials, so marketers can take advantage of this desire in their campaigns.

Millennial fact #3: They care less about business ethics

I’m not sure if, as a leading-edge Millennial myself, I should deplore this fact, but it seems that only 64% of Millennials (compared to 74% of all non-Millennials) believe it’s important for businesses to act ethically.

However, there could be some explanation for this; for example, the Experian report mentions that to be considered “green”, businesses need to do more than recycle, since things like recycling are ingrained in their behaviour. So maybe, when it comes to business ethics, some things like corporate social responsibility and the triple bottom line are taken as a matter of course, and for businesses to be considered “ethical”, they need to do quite a lot more.

If marketers want to impress Millennials with ethical behaviour and environmentally-friendly policies, they need to show that they go beyond widely accepted (and expected) practices.

Millennial fact #4: They think technology and the internet is the natural order of things

While the leading edge of Millennials (born 80-85) were introduced to the internet as teenagers, those born later see the web, computers and technology as a matter of course.

Don’t overhype something that a Gen X or Boomer marketer thinks is “revolutionary” or “exciting” because Millennias will not be nearly as impressed.

Marketers need to keep in mind that technology and technological advancement is normal to Millennials, so targeting the message from another angle (like benefits to connected life, making more money, etc.) will work better with them.

Millennial fact #5: They are the first true mobile citizens

If you’ve ever seen a group of Millennials together, you’ll know right away what this means: they are attached to their smartphones, which is a normal part of their life, just as clothing or shoes. According to the report,

Millennials spend so much time on their smartphones that they account for 41% of the total time that Americans spend using smartphones, despite making up just 29% of the population.

In fact, 50% of Millennials say that they need constant internet access–even while out and about. Only 38% of all adults say the same thing.

If you want to reach Millennials, do so on their phones. Apps, mobile advertising, mobile websites, mobile emails: every piece of marketing for Millennials should be conceived for mobile first.

Marketers: know your target

Older marketers may want to take some time observing their younger colleagues and discussing concepts and ideas with them. If Millennials are your target market, you can’t ignore all these important changes in demographics, psychographics, attitudes and behaviours that will change the way business is conducted as more and more of them come of age.

5 Smart Ways To Build Social Proof For Marketing

Testimonials are a tried-and-true marketing technique that can help overcome objections and convince people to buy your product or service. They’re used everywhere: on TV, in advertorials, even on the web. (We have ours too!) They’re especially useful for more expensive products or services, where the investment is significant and potential customers need some reassurance that it will perform as expected. However, testimonials can be tricky; especially on the internet, they can be made up or paid, and it’s really difficult to verify their truthfulness.

But what if your product or service doesn’t really lend it self to lengthy testimonials? What if you just want to sell more copies of your ebook or your innovative kitchen gadget? What if you want more people to join your online community or inquire about your consulting services? Social proof (the idea that when a lot of people do something, you want to do it it too) is where you should put your efforts. Whereas testimonials can easily be falsified or manipulated (all you need is one satisfied client), social proof uses hundreds and thousands of people to show the effectiveness or interest of your product or service.

Social proof is a great way to establish that what you offer is popular and therefore worthy of money or time. It’s how you prove that you have a captive and engaged audience and use that information to leverage more leads and sales.

Smart technique #1: Give it away for free

Bloggers have long known that giving stuff away for free–ebooks, advice, exclusive content by email–is the best way to quickly grow an email list.

A big email list is one kind of social proof–so is the number of downloads of an ebook or orders for a sample. Giving things away for free to get any of these kinds of social proof is a quick and easy way to get more interest in your business or blog.

Build your social proof by announcing the number of people who requested your content:

  • “Read the book that delighted X people!”
  • “Join X others in our community!”
  • “X others have tried our product… it’s yours for free!”

The higher number you have, the more convincing your offer will be–but beware, only use this technique when you have 1000+ people, as anything below might actually hurt your efforts.

Smart technique #2: Encourage reviews

Social proof also comes through reviews. Whether the place to review your product or service is Yelp, Urbanspoon, Goodreads, TripAdvisor, Amazon or whichever one it is in your field, you want to encourage customers to review, especially if the feedback is positive.

A long list of positive reviews confers lots of social proof to the product; 33% of buyers list “Customer reviews” as one of their top influencing factors.

However, getting people to spend the time to review on the internet may require a little coaxing and convincing, so it’s important to make it really easy for them. Here are some ideas:

  • Provide a custom link on your thank-you email
  • Put a QR code on receipts you give customers
  • Add a call to action: “Liked our service/product? Tell us on (website)!”
  • Embed a link in your ebook or PDF directly to your book listing on Amazon and Goodreads

Most sites keep some kind of rating that potential customers can see at a glance; the more positive reviews you have, the better this overview rating will be, so encourage satisfied clients to put their word in.

Smart technique #3: Start a newsletter

Although it’s not a type of social proof per se, a newsletter is still the best way to engage your audience. And, as mentioned in #1, a newsletter with tons of subscribers can provide its own social proof, especially if you’re a web-based consultant, writer or speaker.

Your newsletter is different from blog updates; a newsletter usually offers some kind of exclusive or curated content that isn’t available on your website. It gives your audience a reason to give you their email address instead of just getting the RSS feed.

Smart technique #4: Go viral

Okay, going viral isn’t really a “technique”; it’s usually something that happens without us having much control over it. But there are few things more effective for social proof than content going viral.

Even though virality is mostly in the hands of the people who consume your content, there are things you can do turn the odds in your favor. We’ve covered this topic on a previous Stikky Media post, so go there if you want to learn more about the recipe for viral campaigns.

Smart technique #5: Get a famous evangelist

Sometimes social proof can come from one person–one powerful, influential, popular person on social media.

Take for example how Guy Kawasaki is the evangelist for Canva, the easy DIY graphic design web app. His support means that he talks about Canva a lot, uses Canva for his own content, and generally spreads the word about Canva to his social networks.

To get such an endorsement, you need to have something quite exceptional to offer and you need to have built a relationship with the influencer over time. But it’s certainly not impossible to achieve.

Social proof is on the rise

Because of all the content available today, the need for social proof is more important than ever. Social proof

  • Distinguishes your product or service
  • Confirms its popularity
  • Shows that others have enjoyed it
  • Ascertains its quality

Working on your social proof today using one of these techniques is an investment for the future of your business.

5 Secrets For Insanely Effective Landing Pages

Effective landing pages

I’ll be honest right from the start: landing pages, these essential elements of inbound marketing, are difficult to get right, at least in the beginning. You’re used to filling them up yourself when you see a great offer on the internet, but when it comes to doing it for your business, it’s really not that simple. However, the new rules of digital marketing say that landing pages are one of the foundations of effective inbound marketing, so if you do inbound, landing pages are a must.

Landing pages need a special recipe to convert clicks into leads… but what are the secret ingredients?

Landing page secret #1: A really great offer

Don’t just use a landing page for anything. People are getting savvy with their email addresses, and they don’t share it willingly unless there’s something truly amazing at the other end. Whether it’s a really interesting free ebook (and when I say interesting, I mean unique, with new information or a perspective you don’t find anywhere else) or a free consultation, there needs to be something worthy coming to your visitors in exchange for access to their mailbox.

Here are a few ideas for great offers that your target audience won’t be able to resist:

  • eBook answering a common question, or one that your audience didn’t know it had
  • Subscription to an exclusive newsletter
  • A free, focused consultation with you over the phone
  • A free personalized report or evaluation

There are plenty of things you can do with just these four ideas, and each can target a different persona or sales funnel position. If your offer is really great and targets the specific needs of your audience, you’ll have a better chance of converting.

Landing page secret #2: Tight, convincing copy

Here’s the difficult part for most businesses who want to do inbound: the landing page copy. It’s not a blog post or a sales page; it’s not an email or a static web page. A landing page is an entity of its own, with its own copywriting needs.

Here’s a little model we’ve developed to help you write your landing page copy.

The first paragraph should describe the problem in a sympathetic way. Questions that make your audience nod in agreement are great, or even a little story (2-3 sentences) of someone with a similar problem.

The second paragraph introduces the offer and its benefits. Say what you’re going to deliver and why it matters that your audience ask for the offer right away. This is the perfect time to use bullet points to list the benefits of your offer.

The third paragrah reiterates the offer and explains why it’s different from similar ones offered by other companies.

The final line prompts your visitor to action. Use call-to-action strategies to get them to sign up.

Follow the example of landing pages that convinced you; if they worked on you, the model is likely to work on other people too. Just make sure to personalize using the vocabulary and tone that your target audience finds attractive.

Landing page secret #3: Catchy design

So you’ve got your offer and great copy. But if you page looks boring, it’s likely that people are going to take the offer from the page that is more visually attractive.

Use your company’s colors for visual consistency, but don’t be afraid of bold headings, punchy headers and colored buttons. Changing the size and font of your text when appropriate can help keep the audience’s attention.

Again, look at the design of those landing pages that converted you. What are they doing with space, colors and shapes? How does it attract your eye to the form? Taking a moment to analyze what works will help you reproduce it in your own landing pages.

Landing page secret #4: Social proof

When it comes to accepting offers, people like to know that others have tried it and have been satisfied. Whether it’s a ticker with the number of downloads for eBooks or testimonials from consultation clients, it’s reassuring to know that you’re not getting an untested product.

Of course, it’s hard to get social proof when you’re just starting out. A low number (under 1000) can actually become negative social proof, so don’t use it unless your download or subscribe count is high. As for testimonials, one is good, but several is better, so again I would hold off until you have at least 4 or 5.

Landing page secret #5: A good broadcasting strategy

Now that you have your landing page, the only thing missing is visitors. To get people to see it, you need some kind of sharing and broadcasting strategy. You can drive traffic to your page through:

  • Social media
  • Press releases
  • Links from your blog posts
  • Links from guest blog posts on other sites
  • Website calls-to-action
  • Email promotions

Vary your message according to the audience segment you want to reach, especially on social media. Use lists and your personas to choose the right words for each target audience.

What’s your landing page secret? What have you done that worked really well? Share your successful landing page techniques with our readers in the comments!

 

The Marketing Anatomy Of A Homepage

The marketing anatomy of a homepage

Your homepage is your internet storefront. You only have a few seconds (no more than 5, actually) to impress your visitors and keep them from bouncing away. 

From a digital marketing standpoint, your homepage is one of the most important elements. You have to strategize it, polish it and kep it updated. In other words, your homepage has to be perfect. 

Let's have a closer look at some great home pages and take them apart to understand how they work.

1. Logo

Of course, the first thing you want on your homepage is your logo. It's usually in the top left corner of the page–this is where people expect to see it. 

I'm a total fan of the new Paypal website, and I think their redesigned logo is just the right size to be noticeable, follows the trend of flat design and is still close enough to their old one that people will remember that it's Paypal. It's also a bit edged away from the margin, which is great for visibility.

paypal homepage screenshot

However, some more creative websites have their logo smack in the middle, where the eye naturally lands whenever you open a new website. The Mantra Password website (what a great idea, btw!) does that really well. The colorful background isn't even distracting–it suits the website perfectly.

The Mantra Password screenshot

Great logos are instantly memorable and should be an integral part of your branding. Identify yourself right away with your logo in the right place on your website.

2. Headline

Ah, the famous headline. They're so hard to come up with. They must be concise and to the point but express a lot of things:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • Why people should care

I love the Freshbooks headline because it encapsulates the essence of the system: easy to use, friendly, affordable.

Freshbooks homepage screenshot

Another great example to be inspired by is Evernote

Evernote homepage screenshot

Who doesn't want to remember everything? With these two simple words, Evernote describes its function (remembering) and why you should care (because you want to remember everything). The concept of notetaking is part of their company name, so you have everything you need to know in 3 words.

Great taglines require lots of work. Most people find it hard to compress all their ideas and values in a few simple words. But it's a worthy exercise, because a great tagline is just as memorable as a great logo.

3. Visuals

Homepages tend to be heavy on the visuals and light on text, and there's a good reason for that. Remember what I told you about people bouncing away within 5 seconds? Visuals help to retain attention because they're analyzed by the brain much faster than text. 

Having lived in Edmonton for a short 10 months, I can still attest to the amazing amount of festivals and events in the city, even in the chilling cold of winter. The Explore Edmonton website does a great job at using tile-style visuals to express all the fun things you can do, all year long.

Explore Edmonton homepage screenshot

When you hover over "Spring and Summer" or "Fall and Winter", a single image slides over the tiles. Smart!

Have you ever heard the saying "Go big or go home"? Designzillas, a Florida web design agency, does just that.

Designzillas homepage screenshot

Great illustration with a lot of humour means instant attention.

4. Call to action

You homepage is kind of useless if it doesn't prompt visitors to take some kind of action: contacting you, downloading a program or joining a mailing list. The best calls to action are clear, highly visible and engaged with your visitors' emotions.

The Teamwork homepage uses the desire for better productivity to entice people to sign up:

Teamwork homepage screenshot

Of course you want to get started now if the product promises easy but powerful project management!

This first section of the homepage is super simple: headline, call to action, visual (in this case a video). If you can't convince visitors to stay with these three elements, no amount of additional text will help. You're only going to scroll down if the first "above the fold" section catches your attention–then you can use longer text to further explain the value of your product or service.

For a product that's not quite ready yet, Liberio is doing great work enticing people to sign up. 

Liberio homepage screenshot

I like how they personalized the call to action–"Invite me" instead of "Get an invitation". It's easier to relate to the product if we are personally invested in it. The call to action is short, active, and puts the onus on Liberio to follow up with the invitation. 

5. Navigation

I mention this last because your navigation will only matter if visitors stick around your website. But if they do, you have to give them clear and easy directions as to what to do next. 

Let's go back to the Paypal website.

Paypal homepage screenshot

There are 4 elements to the navigation: Buy, Sell, Send, and Business. This is pretty much what Paypal does. Why make it more complicated than that? It's easy to follow, simple to navigate, and each option brings you to relevant information.

Here's another great example of clear navigation: World Baking Day.

World Baking Day homepage screenshot

3 navigational choices bring you to the stuff you want to know or do: taking a pledge, browsing recipes, or learning more about World Baking Day. 

Not all companies and organizations can limit themselves to 3 or 4 main navigational options, but everyone should strive to simplify as much as possible so navigation is clear and intuitive for users. (That's why you do user experience testing on websites!)

The perfect homepage

Of course, we could break down most homepages even more, but only the first impression above the fold really matters for hooking visitors. Once that's done, though, there's still work to do: taking them through a clear buyer journey, providing helpful information and building trust. But that's stuff for yet another blog post.

What are your favourite homepages? Which ones do you like for their visuals, clear call to action or awesome headline? Share your finds in the comments!

Father’s Week: The Best 2014 Father’s Day Campaigns

Best Father's Day campaigns of 2014

There are Father's Day campaigns of every style: funny, serious, thankful, touching. Although most of them are about getting Dad a gift, some of them go a bit further. 2014 has plenty of interesting Father's Day campaigns, so let's have a look at those we liked the best.

1. Father's Day Surprise–West Jet

If you liked the tear-jerking Christmas Miracles campaign from WestJet, then you're in luck: the Canadian airline has outdone itself again with its Father's Day Surprise video:

If you've ever flown with WestJet, you know how much they take pride in their exceptional customer service. Medel, the CSA who takes Marc's job for the time of his visit, really goes above and beyond the call of his duty. This video not only demonstrates that, but it also shows how much dads are needed by their families. It's full of heart and makes me believe that companies can make a real, life-changing difference in people's lives. In this case, WestJest shows once again that it's a lot more than an airline: it brings families togethers.

2. #ByeByeDadJeans–Combatant Gentlemen

This relatively new men's fashion company is making a splash with its digital campaign aiming to help dads get rid of their 1980s acid wash Levi's. The contest: post photos of terrible dad jeans on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #ByeByeDadJeans. The prize: a pair of modern, fashionable jeans.

This is a classic example of a silly campaign that taps into one of our greatest interest: what other people wear. It spreads awareness of the brand and shares the values of the company: good fashion with a light tone. No serious dads admitted!

Want to see an example of bad dad jeans?

Which one is the worst offender?

3. Father's Day Gif Registry–Fruit of the Loom

Animated GIFs: they're everywhere (especially Tumblr), they're funny and they're easily shareable. Fruit of the Loom launched its GIF voucher campaign through the microsite Start Happy.

Bacon!

Okay, seriously. What's not to love about this GIF? Dads love bacon! 

The GIFs serve as "vouchers" for something nice for Father's day: spending the day in your underwear, eating bacon in bed, controlling the remote, etc. It's too cool not to share with dad! At the same time, Fruit of the Loom is collecting email addresses for its newsletter list. Smart!

Did you see something cool?

Did you see a cool Father's Day campaign this year that you'd like to share with us? Tell us what we've missed!

Victoria’s Best Social Businesses–What They Do Right And What You Can Learn

As a digital marketing professional, I'm lucky to live in one of the most social (media) cities in Canada. Many of our social media influencers were among the first to take up Twitter as a community-building tool, and we have some of the foremost social media professionals this side of the Rockies doing their work in our beautiful city. It might be because social media work is rather flexible and can be done from anywhere; where else but in Victoria would you want to live if you had the chance?

Our marketing pros are definitely at the forefront of using social media for business. Whether it's for the tourism and hospitality industry (a big piece of the business pie around here), the tech startups (a growing piece of the pie) or even higher education, our businesses and institutions have set best practices for social media for years. We've been inspired by–and learned from–many of them here at Stikky Media. Here are some of the businesses in Victoria who do a great job at being social.

1. Cabin 12 

Local restaurant Cabin 12 has hosted the Victoria tweetup for years, at least ever since I started going, sometime in 2011. Their Twitter feed is a prime example of great social engagement, with a mix of food photos (all right, let's be honest: food porn), funny quips, sports encouragement (go Habs go indeed!) and chats with customers. 

Through this great engagement, Cabin 12 has become a local haunt for local social media enthusiasts. I mean, you can even pay your bill in Bitcoins! The owners have always believed in the power of social media and use it really well too. 

2. Butchart Gardens

Among the premium tourist attractions in Victoria sits the world-famous Butchart Gardens. I've had the chance to interview the social media manager for an article I wrote, and I really admire the way he approaches his work strategically.

Among other things, he mentioned how his particular destination is really good for an Instagram account. Having followed it for a while, I must say I agree; when your business deals in beautiful things (fashion, flowers, home decor), a visual network like Instragram or Pinterest is the perfect way to promote your business online.

3. Monk Office

For something boring like office supplies, you'd expect that social media engagement wouldn't be the most effective way to use your marketing time. However, Monk Office, a Victoria-based office supplies company, shows that the opposite is true. From an engaged Facebook page with business information, contests and funny stories to a Twitter account that promotes local events, environmental sustainability and excellent content, Monk stays connected to the companies (and employees) who use its products on a daily basis.

Monk also takes advantage of Pinterest to showcase its office designs and furniture, along with a bunch of boards related to office and art supplies. I love Monk's integrated strategy and how it uses every channel differently. It's a prime example of a successful local company leveraging social media for B2B purposes.

4. Smiths Pub

After a friend of mine complained on Twitter that she was served a shaken instead of a stirred martini, Smiths Pub told her she was put on the "stirred only" list. According to my friend, they've been as good as their word.

Listening to your customers on social media is an essential skill that all businesses should master. People are talking about you; if you're not listening, your voice can't be included in the conversation. 

Also, they're the local Habs bar, which means that they're awesome. But that's just the Montrealer in me. 

5. Victoria Police Department

Although the Victoria Police Department isn't a business per se, its engagement on social media has been an example that every public organization should follow. Along with a fascinating blog that tells the stories of the Victoria beat, VicPD uses Facebook and Twitter to share stories, alert citizens of accidents or ongoing operations, and ask the public for help in locating missing people or providing information on wanted criminals. 

VicPD knows that the success of many of its investigations and operations rely on the public's trust and cooperation; joining them on social media is a smart move to be a more integral and trusthworthy part of the everyday life of Victorians.

What can we learn?

Through these examples of successful social media engagement from businesses (and organizations) to the Victoria community, we learn that finding the right channel, social listening, an integrated strategy and some great stories are key elements. Not every channel is right for your brand, and not every channel should be used the same way. Moreover, your efforts and time will be better spent if you have a strategy informing your interactions and if you have interesting stories to share.

Who's your favourite social business in Victoria or in your city? Did we miss anyone you like? Tell us who we should feature in a future post!

 

Do You Have The Personality To Be An Online Marketer?

Photo by emdot

There are certain personality types that characterize a great number of online marketers. It's important to clarify that 'online marketing' is a category of work that involves an extremely wide range of skills. There are the esoteric analytical stats gazers, the flamboyant social managers and the idiosyncratic content maestros.

Much of what falls under the umbrella of 'online marketing' would seem to appeal to quite different personality types. I tend to fall on the social and content side of things, yet in the earlier years of my career I spent a great deal of my working hours gazing into the cosmos of web stats to see if the SEO changes I'd made to various sites would manifest into blossoming traffic numbers. There's an easy difference to see in fundamental strengths–some people are strong mathematicians with shrewd sensibilities, while others command language and media.

Yet, I've observed through working with diverse professionals over the years, and amongst the online marketing thought leaders who post content prolifically on various online channels, that there are certain traits most of us seem to have in common. I've also observed this through working at Stikky Media, where I often work with a number of small businesses, frequently in a training capacity. Some of the clients easily and eagerly grasp what they can from working with me and then run with it on their own. Small and medium businesses' online success often depends on how much they will work with us as an agency rather than simply hoping we'll do all sorts of magical things with minimal effort and involvement from them, but ahem, that's a different blog post to come. 

Back to where I was going with this: I have seen what I'm about to describe as common personality traits of online marketers in coworkers, thought leaders, and clients who take what we teach them and successfully run with it. Here are the traits I've observed in successful online marketers.

Adaptability

The information age has created a business landscape that changes so quickly that no matter what area of online marketing an individual specializes in, the ability to adapt to change is essential for success. Whether it's search engine algorithms, social network modifications, web access by a broadening range of devices, or trends and opportunities that send the entire industry aflutter, there's no use getting into this business unless you're prepared to adapt easily and quickly, because "things will change" is a given.

Curiosity

The people that do well in all areas of online marketing seem to have active, often restless minds that hum with the whirring gears of curiosity. They are often interested in many eclectic things; just follow some of the top online marketers on Twitter to see for yourself. Though online marketers can be stereotypical white-collar executive types or counterculture oddballs, they have similar dispositions where the tendency to want to know more about more and more things is concerned.

Love of learning

Being adaptable and curious fishtail right into this trait. It's not enough to be adaptable and curious because in order to keep up on the racetrack of this rapidly changing business, marketers need to constantly keep their proverbial 'car' up-to-date and fine-tuned. The mechanics of this trade are always changing, so how we do things changes from year to year. The only way to keep up is to keep learning new ways of doing things. I find that many of my peers and the clients who make the most of the training I provide are people who are not only willing to learn constantly about how things are done, but they actually love learning. It's a personality trait that shines brightly and serves them well as online marketers.

Do you have it?

Different careers call for different personality strengths from the people who excel at them. I have tried to train some people who don't have the personality traits as I've described them here. Unfortunately, they do not easily grasp and run with their online marketing skills as fast or as well as the others who are adaptable, curious, and who love learning. It doesn't matter whether the online marketing direction we choose is the mathematical/analytical one or the creative and social one or somewhere between them both; neither of those directions will offer a career that does not not require adaptability, curiosity and love of learning.

Does your personality include these traits? If so, you very well may have what it takes to be not only good at this sort of work, but to be happy within this field of business.

Good Web Design = Marketing Success

We don't often get to talk about websites and web design on the Stikky Media blog. These subjects are covered on the North Studio blog (which I also manage and write for). But the other day I was having a discussion with Marcus, our digital marketer, about the link between good web design and successful online marketing. In fact, few people realize how much your website influences your marketing results, especially when it comes to SEO.

Good website design is about more than slick interfaces, trendy logos and intuitive menus. Good website design is about having compliant code, no navigation errors and many other backend technical issues that few people outside of developers get to think about.

The foundation under your online marketing house

In general, we recommend to each of our marketing clients to get a professionally designed website if they don't already have one. This is because we know that effective online marketing campaigns depend on strong branding, good website usability and best SEO practices, among others. Let's have a look at some of these elements in more detail.

Strong branding

Branding is at the heart of your website. Who's your audience? What message do you want them to hear? What emotions do you want them to feel? All of this can be transmitted through your website design. When your website branding is strong, it's easy to follow suit with an excellent online marketing campaign that uses these branding elements. 

Since the goal of an online marketing campaign is to bring people to your website, you want a seamless experience between the promotion online and the website visit. If you lack strong branding elements on your website, your visitors are more likely to bounce away.

Good website usability

Web usability is an essential component of web design. Good usability ensures longer stays, deeper engagement and helps with conversion. If you've ever visited a very bad site, you know what I mean when I say that most people have no desire to interact with an unusable website. 

It's important to provide a pleasant browsing experience to those who click through your marketing campaign links. Visitors base their first impression of your business on the first few seconds they spend on your website. Do you want to lose them because of bad usability?

Best SEO practices

SEO is a complex topic that deserves several thousand words of content (just look at SEO-specialized blogs, books and webinars). However, we can explain why a good website is helpful for SEO in much fewer words.

The thing you need to know is that SEO is not exclusively based on keywords present in your website's content. Things like uneditable homepages, 404 errors, image indexing issues and the absence of a site map or a robots.txt file can affect your Google rankings. (Look at Search Engine Land's SEO Periodic Table for a full description of all SEO factors, on-page and off-page.) Professionally designed websites, however, are built on SEO-friendly platforms like WordPress or Drupal and avoid many of these errors.

Of course, other things can make or break your SEO that have nothing to do with your website backend. Things like keyword stuffing, too many ads and ineffective use of tags and headings can also affect your rankings. But with a good website, you can at least stop worrying about a few SEO ranking factors.

Good design is everything

If you want to understand this from another point of view, Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite wrote this article on LinkedIn about how design can make or break your business.

Free website builder vs. professional development

I won't lie to you and say that all self-built websites are bad. Some people are tech-savvy enough to build a nice website with the help of good themes and a little bit of experimentation. I also won't lie about how using a free website builder like Wix or Weebly for your business website is probably a bad idea. Aside from the things mentioned above, these websites don't really have what it takes to promote a strong brand, good web usability or proper SEO.

Yes, website development can be expensive. But these days, your online presence is the first thing most people will come in contact with when they reach out to your business. Do you really want to leave that first impression up to amateurs? Remember that you have about two seconds to impress your visitors–a bad website is enough to have them go to your competitor's instead.

It's a little bit like plumbing: if all you have a leaky faucet, you can probably repair it yourself. But when a pipe bursts in your basement, you're pretty much screwed unless you call a professional. A self-built personal website or blog is fine, since the audience is probably just your family and friends; however, a business website is a whole another deal.

Here's what a professionally developed website does for you, marketing-wise:

  • A clear brand identity
  • Eye-catching visual elements that match your brand colors
  • Clear navigation paths to lead your visitors through the site
  • Consistent page layouts to eliminate confusion
  • Easily readable content with clearly identifiable headings, links and other text elements

All of these things work together to make your website attractive at first glance. 

But that's not all

Having a well-designed website is a good first step, but it's not everything. You must also make sure to have great content (ideally planned through a strategy developed at the same time as your web design) that properly informs your customers about your product or services. But since this post is about professional web design, we won't dig into the content aspect here.

We love professional website designs because we know they're an effective marketing tool all by themselves. You can check our portfolio to see our clients; most of them have also had their websites redesigned by North Studio while we were working on their online marketing campaigns.

If you're a business owner, do you feel strongly about good web design or do you think it's not as important as I think? If you're a consumer, how do you react to amateur business websites? To professional ones?

How To Get Free Followers To Your Small Business Twitter Account

 

How to get followers that notice you on Twitter

You have a new business Twitter profile and you'd like to get more followers. You want followers who will actually pay attention to your tweets and who are part of a relevant audience, be that locally or within a certain sphere of industry. You'd like more followers, and for free…

Free Followers – Without Spamming or Cheating?

Yes.

Free Followers – That aren't in distant regions or irrelevant as a target market?

Yes.

Finding people who follow back

Let's take a moment to learn how to determine whether or not an account we follow will follow us back. By following accounts that follow us back, we can build our follower list while also building an audience for our content that is more likely to 'hear' what we're tweeting. If you simply want a massive number of instant followers regardless of where they are or whether they'll ever read a word you tweet, this method won't work for you. If you want a respectable follower count made of people relevant to you that you don't have to pay for, this is a method that works.

It works like in real life

First of all, when you're new to Twitter or have a small follower account, the 'popular' accounts are unlikely to follow you back. In most 'scenes,' there are various waves of 'popular' people based on how long they've been involved in that scene. A good example is the small town where I live, where a steady trickle of newcomers arrive annually to make this place their home. There are established social circles here, composed mostly of people who have lived in this community for a long time. The established people are not generally unfriendly to newcomers if they take notice of them, but they often aren't so quick to bring newcomers into their inner circles.

Meanwhile, the steady trickle of new arrivals happily recognize in each other their 'newbie' status and begin to establish their own social circles. After a few years, those circles are no longer made of newcomers as their members are no longer so new to the community; in fact, there is increasing overlap between their circles and the older established circles. And of course, new waves of newcomers have arrived in the meantime, creating their own social circles, and so the chain goes.

The longer people live here, the more overlap there is between the upper established circles, but the freshest newcomers first establish connections mostly with each other.

It can work similarly with newcomer accounts on Twitter.

Twitter circles

There are older established Twitter accounts that have tons of followers and who often follow a far smaller number of accounts. Those big, popular accounts often won't follow a new account back, unless their follow/follower ratio is almost equal, in which case they probably follow back anyone who follows them. But as far as the ones with hundreds or thousands more followers than accounts they follow, it is highly unlikely they will bother to follow your new Twitter account back, no matter how relevant or interesting your content may be.

What I've found works for getting brand-spanking-new small business Twitter accounts good quality followers is to follow other brand-spanking-new accounts rather than the big established ones. They are more likely to follow back, they're more likely to mention you in a thank-you-for-following message, they're more likely to engage with you if you attempt to interact with you, and it's much easier to be noticed by them with your marketing and content.

How to do it: my method

If you want to get more followers for your newer account, here's one method that can work well. It's free, involves no cheating, and the followers it gets you can be of very high quality:

  1. Find a big popular account that is as relevant as possible to your business and the audience you wish to reach. The more genuinely relevant the account is, the better this method will work.
  2. If their following/follower ratio is almost equal (following roughly the same number of accounts as the number of followers they have) then by all means, follow them. They are likely to follow you back. More often than not, however, the larger established accounts have a significant discrepancy with way more followers than accounts they are following. These accounts are unlikely to follow you back.
  3. Look at the big account's follower list. This is where the follower building begins. A high number of the big account's newest followers are themselves newer to Twitter, which makes it more likely that they—like you—are hoping to get more followers themselves. They're also more likely to follow you back. Go through the first couple of pages of that bigger account's followers and find newer accounts that have smaller following/follower numbers. Follow these newer accounts if they're relevant to your business interests or regional market.
  4. Look at the follower lists of these newer accounts to find other accounts that are currently and actively following and are willing to follow newer accounts. People following other new accounts with low follower counts are more likely to follow your new account back.
  5. Spend a little bit of time doing this any time you're using Twitter and you'll be able to gain followers who are looking to get involved, to connect, and who are learning like you are. Establish your network with each other. Before long you won't be the newer accounts, but the older established ones.

You could waste your time following all the big successful accounts, but in reality, few of them will bother to follow you back, let alone notice your tweets in their streams. It makes far more sense to tweet your messages to people who may actually notice them, and I've found that new accounts are more receptive to other new accounts.

What this looks like on Twitter

Here are some examples of what to look for when determining if an account is more likely or less likely to follow your Twitter account or notice your tweets in their stream:

1)

This account is unlikely to follow you back if you are just beginning. It's followed by way more people than it's following. But even if they did follow you, if you look at how busy their stream must be following 67.5K accounts, how could they possibly notice most of your tweets?

2)

This account is a good bet for getting a followback, as long as its tweets are current. At only 40 tweets, they're pretty new, and they will also appreciate any follow they can get. The list of accounts is small enough that there is a high probability they'll notice your tweets and interact with you if you try to network with them.

3)

This is a similar scenario to the previous account. More following than followers and a few tweets means they're more likely to follow you and notice you. As long as the tweets are current, this is a good account to follow.

4)

Like the first example in this list, this account is unlikely to follow you back if you are just beginning. They're followed by quite a few more people than they are following. Even if they follow you back, their stream is so busy that they're unlikely to notice anything you say.

5)

The likelihood of getting a followback from this account depends on a few factors. Is your business type in any way relevant to them? If so, you could get a followback from this account. It would be worth favouriting or retweeting a few of their tweets first to grab their attention. Their stream is pretty busy too with 2,695 accounts, but if you could get a retweet by them it could go a long way. It's worth trying for a relevant account in this range.

6)

Unless your business or content is of direct interest to this Twitter account, the odds are slimmer of getting a followback. Their ratio of follows to followers indicates that they don't follow back so readily. This doesn't mean you can't try if you think your content is of interest to them; just be aware that you're less likely to get followed back in this case.

7)

This account is very stingy with following back; it is unlikely a new Twitter account would get a follow from them.

Final words

If you spend 15 minutes a day or so building your follower list this way, it won't generate you 65K followers in short time, but it is realistic to get a few hundred high quality followers in surprisingly little time. Before you know it, your account won't be one of the new ones anymore. Your follower count will grow much faster as other newcomers come within your business sphere and as the older established accounts begin to notice you. The business benefits of Twitter aren't so much about your follower numbers anyways – but that's another post!

Pinterest Is Testing Paid Ads–What We Know So Far

Since its meteoric rise to popularity in 2011, Pinterest has garnered a lot of attention from marketers and social media professionals. We know that visual marketing is a very effective way to reach your target market–after all, "a picture is worth a thousand words" isn't a cliché for no reason. Pinterest, with its focus on beautiful visuals, easy sharing and an intuitive user interface, has everything marketers need to get their products known and shared.

Businesses already have taken Pinterest by storm; yes, even the service-based businesses. Infographics share just as well as photos of shoes and macarons. As a business, you should give a good thought about whether Pinterest is a good social network to invest in. But would it also be a good place to invest in advertising? 

Pinterest ads currently limited

For now, you can only think about getting paid ads on Pinterest, because the feature is only available to select advertisers. These advertisers must make 7-figure commitments with Pinterest in order to get in. So far, these select few have included Kraft, Gap, Expedia, Nestle and lululemon. 

The Pinterest advertising process is currently very labour-intesive, with teams of consultants manually approving every promoted pin and making sure that they have value for users, are transparent and fit within the creative style of Pinterest.

As you can see, the promoted pins are very discreet, with just a line mentioning their paid nature. The photo fits with the overall style of the collection, in this case "Women's Fashion". 

Pinterest also made the decision to limit where the promoted pins appear. They will not show in someone's home feed or in people's boards. Instead, they remain limited to search results and general category feeds.

Considering Pinterest for advertising

Few of us have the advertising budget of these big companies, but there's talk that Pinterest will eventually roll out its promoted pins feature to companies of all size. We're not quite sure yet whether the cost will be per thousand impressions or per click, but we know that the current advertisers pay about $30 to $40 per thousand impressions.

If Pinterest advertising is something you might consider in the future, here are a few questions to ask yourself before you develop a plan.

  • Is the audience right for me? 85% of Pinterest users are women. The target age is 25-54. Is this your target market? If not, you will not have the kind of success you expect.
  • Is the Pinterest style a good match to mine? Pinterest users prefer high-quality photos with an artistic flair. They like things that look great, whether it's food, fashion or home décor. If your products are great for photos, they will be a good match.
  • Do I have the budget? Although we don't know exactly how much they will cost, you can expect Pinterest ads to be more expensive overall than Facebook advertising.
  • Can I get the same or better ROI through simply keeping my account active? Unlike what Facebook did, there hasn't been any talk of reducing the visibility of business boards for those subscribed to them. If you already keep a healthy Pinterest account and get website visits through your pins, you might not need to use advertising, at least for now.

Have questions about Pinterest? Contact us for a chat with our expert social media manager. You can also follow Stikky Media's Pinterest boards for great local photos, useful infographics and more.

Boobs Don’t Convert: Why Using Sexy Pictures Doesn’t Increase Your Online Business Unless You Sell Sexy Pictures

Don't worry, there won't be any "not safe for work" photos in this post. But one day or other, we have to talk about this rather controversial topic: the use of sexy pictures to sell stuff on the internet.

It's almost cliché to say that sex sells. Brands and companies have used sexualized pictures to sell all sorts of things, from cars to shoes to handbags to ties, to name just a few. And of course, the internet isn't immune to this. I've seen ads with scantily-clad women to advertise things as diverse as online games, content milling companies and even post-secondary education programs. No joke, I swear!

As a person who believes that women shouldn't be objectified to sell merchandise, this type of strategy is pretty offensive and is likely to put me off right away. But whether or not that's the case for you too, it doesn't really matter: research shows that using sexualized images of women reduces support for ethical campaigns. This other piece of research describes how sexualized ads only work if what you sell is expensive. 

So what's the problem with using cleavage in your ads? Let's have a closer look.

Sexy pictures bring clicks… but that's about it

Sexy pictures attract the eye and the mouse cursor. They have amazing click-through rates and will bring lots of visitors to your website. But this sudden increase in visitors (and I'm calling them "visitors" for a reason) will not give you what you want.

First, those visitors rarely convert. Using sexy pictures to sell unrelated products (more on that later) feels a little bit like misleading advertisement. It's like clicking on a delicious-looking hamburger only to be sold… pretty much anything that isn't a hamburger. It's frustrating and disappointing. It's the old switcheroo, and it doesn't work. Your click-through rate will be high, but your conversion rate will be low.

And that's not the only thing. Because you will have lots of clicks, your campaign will probably cost you a lot of money. But if visitors don't convert, this money will basically be wasted. Each click that doesn't convert is a couple of cents (or dollars) poured down the sink.

Here's another possible problem: your ad may be flagged as inappropriate or offensive, causing you a lot of trouble down the road. It hurts your reputation not only as an advertiser, but also as a company and a brand. And should your ad mishap make it viral on Twitter and Facebook, the damage to your brand can be devastating. 

Sexy clicks can be effective… sometimes

However, the world of sexy Facebook ads and display network campaigns isn't always that wasteful. There are two cases where it works well: if you actually sell sexy pictures, or if it's already a part of your brand.

If your business is selling sexy pictures and related products, then do go ahead and use them for your campaigns. At least the advertisement will be truthful. You will reach your target audience effectively and provide an ad that will appeal to them.

However, you also run the risk of getting your ad flagged, so choosing the network and your audience carefully and following its rules to the letter will prevent a forceful removal of your advertising. Not all networks allow advertising for adult products, so make sure you get the right information before giving your credit card number away.

It's also okay to use sexy photos if it's a well-known and expected part of your brand. For example, I would expect an Axe ad to show some cleavage. Not that they're particularly original or thoughtful ads, but at least they're consistent. (Things may be changing for future Axe advertising though, according to this New York Times piece.)

Choosing the most effective picture for your campaign

"But if I can't use photos of scantily-clad women to sell my stuff, what in the world can I do?" I'm glad you asked! 

You can do so much that's original, surprising and unexpected. You can take a picture of your product being used in an unexpected situation. You can use a well-made logo and call to action that informs and converts. You can link to a funny video featuring your company mascot. You can do lots of stuff that will work better, attract the kinds of clicks you want and, most importantly, you can actually convert visitors into qualified leads and clients.

Here are three things to consider when choosing your ad graphic or picture for an ad:

  • Does this represent my brand? Does the visual show your brand values? Is it consistent with the kind of marketing you've put out on other channels?
  • Is this informative? Does your picture show your product in a truthful light? Does your visual inform the viewer about the nature of your business or services?
  • Will this appeal to viewers? Does your visual provide a specific call to action? Is there a sense of urgency or a call to emotions?

With these questions in mind, you'll be able to build an attractive, relevant and convertible visual advertising campaign on Facebook, Pinterest (yes, it now has a paid ad feature in beta testing) or the Google Display Network. As long as you fulfill the promise on your landing page, you'll bring in clicks that will happily convert further down your sales funnel.

What's your take on sexy advertising? Do they catch your attention or do you glaze over them? Or maybe they make you angry? Share your thoughts with us!

 

I’m a Content Strategist Now… What Does That Mean?

What’s content strategy? What does it do? Why does it matter? If you’ve been bathing in the world of web content for a few years, like me, these questions have obvious answers. But if you’ve only dipped a toe in digital marketing, it might sound like just another buzzword, more “marketese” that doesn’t really mean anything to you or your business.

Well, my first task as Stikky’s new Content Strategist is to convince you that content (and content strategy) is a very real, very significant and very effective part of any digital marketing campaign.

First things first: what is web content?

Again, this seems like an easy question. Content: “something that is contained”. Web content: something that websites contain. Content is anything and everything that you put out there within the framework of your website: text, images, videos, slides, infographics, ebooks, etc. Content is what people see on your website and usually what they come looking for. Content is why your website exists.

But don’t take my word for it. Here are a few definitions from renowned experts:

Richard Sheffield in The Web Content Strategist’s Bible: “Web content can be anything that appears on a website, including words, pictures, video, sounds, downloadable files (PDF), buttons, icons, and logos.”

Kristina Halvorson in Content Strategy for the Web: “Content includes text, data, graphics, video, and audio. Online, it’s shaped and delivered by countless tools (such as animation, PDFs, streams, and so on).”

Wikipedia (because everyone loves a good Wikipedia definition, even though nobody wants to admit it): “Web content is the textual, visual or aural content that is encountered as part of the user experience on websites. It may include, among other things: text, images, sounds, videos and animations.”

So, there you have it. Content is the stuff of the internet. [tweet this]

Okay, I know what content is. Why do I need to strategize it?

Ah, that’s the crux of the problem, is it? Content is everywhere around us. It’s in our phones, our computers, our tablets. It’s in our news and our magazines. It’s every tweet, every blog post, every YouTube video. It’s an immeasurable mass of data, of 1s and 0s, populating the tubes of the web, stored in massive server centers in the world and yet accessible from everywhere. (For more on how the internet actually works, read Andrew Blum’s Tubes–it’s fascinating.)

Because content is so ubiquitous, we rarely stop to think about why it’s there, who makes it and how it works.

Why do we have content?

The basic answer to this is: because people have things to say. Cave drawings are content. Computer animations are content. Every word, painting, sound and video humans ever produced are content. But web content, especially today, has a different impulse. Sure, some of it is just people having things to say. But more and more, content is the means to achieve a particular online goal: influencing people, attracting an audience, creating leads, making sales.

In 2014, we have content because content is what people want. Content is what people consume on their computers. And people always want more content that’s fresh, interesting, relevant, funny, epic. We keep producing it because nobody wants to read yesterday’s (or this morning’s) stale content. “Oh, that’s old stuff” now applies to content published three days ago. Content dies that fast.

In summary, we have content because people expect it. We may have the attention span of a goldfish (actually 1 second less than goldfish, according to studies), but we expect to be informed, entertained and amused by something different every day.

Who makes content?

It’s easy to just consume content without giving a thought about the work that went into it. Actually, for about 98% of the stuff on the internet, probably no work went into it (because it’s terrible). But what about the last 2%? What about the good stuff? What about the gripping essays, the informative studies, the beautiful infographics, the funny videos? People spend time and energy making them.

Take this post as an example. I’m probably halfway through writing it, and I’ve already worked on it for an hour. Add to that the visual summary I want to make when I’m done, and it probably will have eaten half of my day. As you take 10, 15 minutes to read through my post, do you think about the work I put into it? Can you imagine me sitting at my computer, with my loyal cat Preeya sleeping on the window sill, typing away, stopping to think, finding sources and correcting mistakes?

Because 98% of content is such a cheap commodity, it’s difficult to see the value in spending the time (or hiring good people) to make the valuable 2%. But trust me, being part of that 2% is what makes the difference between developing a successful presence online and being exiled to the second page of Google’s results.

How does content work?

Have you ever thought about what content makes you do? How it can influence your beliefs and attitudes? How it can make you trust some people more than others? That’s the power of good content. Excellent content, the stuff that’s strategized, editorialized and analyzed, is all done with a goal in mind. Example: the purpose of this blog post is to convince you that content strategy is a valuable thing to spend your time or money on. My secondary goal is to increase the trust that you have in my content strategy skills by displaying my knowledge of it. The tertiary goal would be for you to keep Stikky Media in mind if you need a content strategy.

I’m being so transparent here to show you how strategized content works. It’s aligned with our business goals, but it’s also something that I hope is useful for you. Self-serving content is never good content; there needs to be something in it for the reader. Otherwise, what’s the point? We all have so little time, so we make our content choices based on what we need the most. We are all inherently selfish content consumers… and that’s okay. Knowing this makes things easier.

I’m not sure I see your point. Weren’t we talking about strategy?

Why yes, we were, but I’m glad you held on until now. It was necessary for you to understand where content comes from to see how far it can go… as long as it’s strategized properly.

Let’s go back to definitions. Kristina Halvorson has another one for us: “Content strategy is the practice of planning for the creation, delivery and governance of useful, usable content.” In other words, a content strategy is more than “writing blog posts” and “putting things on Twitter”. A content strategy determines the overall goals for the content based on business objectives, describes how it will be produced and delivered, and defines how it will be managed after publication.

If your marketing classes are a bit far (or you’ve never had them), that’s okay. You simply need to know the difference between a strategy, a holistic plan for reaching a specific goal, and tactics, the concrete actions taken as part of that plan. Blog posts, articles, a YouTube channel or tweets do not make up a strategy; they are tactics to fulfill that strategy. [tweet this]

In short, a web content strategy

  • Uses business goals
  • To describe the creation, delivery and governance process
  • Of useful, usable web content.

All right, I understand. But I still don’t know why I should get one.

The real question is, why wouldn’t you get a content strategy? Why would you go without one? Well, if your business isn’t on the internet, and you have no intention of making a website for it, maybe you indeed don’t need one. But then, you probably wouldn’t be reading that far down my article. So if you’re still with me, it’s because you are at least intrigued by the idea of planning a content strategy. Yay!

The short answer is, you should get a content strategy because without one, you won’t make it very far with your digital marketing. This article describes how Google is now focusing on quality content rather than keywords; SEO on its own is definitely not enough anymore. You need constantly updated, relevant and useful content that drives social interactions.

Sure, you could just produce content on a willy-nilly, “I’m inspired today” basis. That can work, sometimes. But for businesses, it’s not a very good investment, either of time or money. Who knows if anyone will read it? Do I believe it will be something useful for them? Will it help me get leads or increase sales? If you didn’t consider these questions before sitting down to write, draw, record or film, I’ll bet you that your content won’t be successful at much except taking up space on your server.

So why should you get a content strategy? To maximize the results of your web content and minimize its costs in time, effort and money. To tie your web