With many customers purchasing products and services online, the customer journey has become an important part of the sales and retention process. But how does a company keep this fundamental experience from becoming monotonous and cold? Fortunately, as marketing AI and automation become more attainable, companies can now take their customer journey to a new and more effective level with a personalized experience.
The importance of personalization
44% of consumers are more likely to be repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience.
As the world becomes increasingly digital, the human connection is getting diluted. Think about the last time you tried to contact a customer service department, only to run into long hold times. Or spent the afternoon cleaning out your inbox of email offers that don’t really apply to your current needs or wants.
It is often the little things that make all the difference for a customer – whether it is a tailored offer or a more personalized message. This especially rings true as your customer makes his or her way through their journey to purchase. Imagine the impact of offering upgrades or add-on packages that make sense to his or her specific situation, or being able to offer around the clock support, should a question arise during or post purchase. I am sure you can already envision the difference these simple suggestions would make to a sale or to a long-term customer relationship. Continue Reading
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. It has slipped its way into our everyday life without most of us even realizing it. The Echo Dot that is streaming music in my living room is a good example. It didn’t take long before the device became integrated in my life and I started to rely on it for traffic and weather every morning. These smart devices are just the tip of the iceberg. AI has integrated itself into just about every industry, and that includes marketing. What does this mean for marketers? To remain competitive and relevant, it is time to start integrating AI technology into your marketing strategy. But before you jump feet first into the world of marketing AI, it is ideal to have a good understanding of the technology and how it is effecting the industry.
How is AI incorporated into the marketing industry?
In an industry that relies heavily on engagement and personal connection, it is hard to imagine how machine-based interactions can be integrated successfully. Often times, the use of AI is subtle, such as chat boxes and recommendation engines. It can also be used for collecting and analyzing data at faster rates (think hours instead of weeks), opening the door for more personalized marketing experiences. And to think, these are just a few examples, the possibilities are endless.
What does this mean for marketers?
For one thing, the industry is changing. AI is taking on the tasks that are often tedious and time consuming. In addition, AI is also taking over some aspects of content marketing, everything from content curation to emails to creating the content itself. In 2015, Gartner predicted 20% of all business content will be authored by machines by 2018. Here we are in 2018, let’s see what this year brings.
Also, as consumers become even more digital and themselves automate more things using smart AI-powered tools and devices, the human part of a firm’s relationship with a customer will become even more important. More time for marketing teams to spend on human interactions with customers, thus, seems valuable.
What are the next steps?
Start by educating yourself on the different AI tools available. Similar to any technology, it will only help when used where it makes the most sense. Don’t change your process to work with technology, the technology should work with your process. Once educated, you can find the tools and systems that will support you and your clients with what they most need.
Still feeling unsteady? Stick with me as I work through my journey of understanding AI in marketing in a series of upcoming blog posts.
Virtual reality (VR), and its partner augmented reality (AR), came onto the scene expensive and out of reach for many consumers. Over time, the popularity of the technology has grown, and the price has decreased, making it is more accessible to the mainstream. This opens up a tremendous opportunity for companies to market their product or service in a new way. However, VR advertising can be expensive to create and not all companies have the necessary funds at their disposal. This doesn’t mean the end if you are priced out. Instead, view this as an opportunity to enhance your content strategy.
Taking a closer look at VR marketing
So, what does VR do for content marketing anyway? In a few words, VR creates a fully immersed, interactive experience. Instead of just “showing” or “telling” your audience the benefits of your product or service, they can actually experience it.
Mercedes, for example, created this video to position themselves as more than just an automaker but an actual driving experience:
You don’t need a VR headset to get the impact of this video, just use the 360-degree view option. The video puts consumers in the driver’s seat, taking them out of the living room and onto the open road.
You don’t have to use VR to have effective visual marketing
“So if you’re not ready to bring your content into virtual reality, just view this trend as a reminder to improve your visual content. Creating interactive graphics, videos, and apps not only makes for a more engaging content marketing strategy, but it also lays the groundwork for future experiments in VR/AR.”
What does this mean exactly? Visual content goes beyond just adding images to blog posts. It includes everything from creating infographics and videos. You can also use memes, presentations, stats and charts. Next time you are getting ready to promote something, ask yourself how you can visualize it.
And if you are curious as to why visual content is so important, here is some food for thought:
Now is the time to step-up your content game. A featured image in your blog post will no longer cut-it. As the new year approaches and you are building out your content strategies, ensure that more visuals are included.
Where to go from here
Feeling a little overwhelmed? Start by giving your website, social media channels and marketing materials a thorough review. This is a good practice to get into quarterly anyway, to ensure your materials have the most up-to-date information. Find appropriate places to add visual content. Make sure it is in areas that make sense and are useful to your audience.
Often times, it helps to have a professional marketing partner review your content and make recommendations. At Content Matterz, we regularly review client marketing materials and their online presence, making recommendations for updates and ways for improving SEO and visibility.
By taking steps now to add more visual content into your content, you will be ready to take the step into VR advertising when the time is right for you.
Small companies often get inferiority complexes. It looks kind of like this:
“We can’t possibly compete with abc competitor because they have a huge marketing budget.”
“Those guys have so many people, they can really afford to do it all, we can’t keep up.”
I’ve worked with companies big and small and there is one constant in marketing, there’s never enough time, money or people. And actually, usually the percentage marketing budget per revenue often goes down as the company gets bigger. They may get some economies of scale, but with it usually comes a lot of bureaucracy and hassle.
If you’re a small company, you need to forget about your possible shortcomings and think about how you’re going to grow! Some ways that you can compete head-to-head, without breaking your budget:
On your website – no one can tell how big your company is. Keep it up to date and modern looking, publish regular content to your blog (ahem) and ensure your services and messaging is current. Out of date stuff definitely gets side eye from visitors and is an indicator that you might not have your stuff together.
Also, pay attention to the small details on your website. It doesn’t cost more to be creative.
Post to social media regularly – When you update that blog, get over to Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook and publish your new post. It takes five minutes and there’s no point in writing that post if you’re not distributing it. And, even small companies can grow a lot of followers on social media. Think of innovative topics related to your business and keep it going. You can also hire services to help you grow your presence even faster.
Get really targeted – You might not have a huge budget, but if you know (really know) who your best customer is, the one that pays you the most, for the least amount of effort, then you have a blueprint for who you want to reach. It may cost more per lead to reach those unicorns, but there are much fewer of them, so the overall cost can be less, plus you’re maximizing your budget only bringing in the best.
Choose one big marketing effort and put your budget behind it – You can look like one of the big guys by going all out on one thing. You might have to shoe-string the rest of the year, but the right place/right time to spend your dollars can sometimes be worth it. A Super Bowl ad might cost $5 million, but the cost per person reached is actually a bargain, plus you get the extra lift from all the sites that talk about the ads.
Leverage and repurpose everything you create – If you do one big research report each year, make a full meal deal out of it. You’ve got dozens of blog posts, tweets and social ads from that one report. You can promote that data seven ways to Sunday. You’ve only funded one piece of content, but you’re making the most of it.
Be consistent – A hallmark of small, new or struggling companies is doing marketing inconsistently. You start a newsletter, but skip some months here and there. You promise regular communications, but fall off after the first month or two. Get on a schedule. Stick to the schedule and delight your prospects in the process.
Never be intimidated by the bigger, more-funded companies in your market. No one has your voice. No one has your unique perspective. No one can do what you do. You just have to make sure your prospects know about it.
It’s real. I know, we marketers have to give social platforms some time before we invest a bunch of time learning how to use and optimize. But the time is now to start counting Snapchat in. If you’re in B2C marketing, you probably already reached this conclusion, but for B2B, you may have been avoiding.
Here are some reason why you can’t avoid the ghost any longer.
60% Of Snapchat Users Are Between The Ages Of 18 And 34 (hey, that’s the age where people work real jobs, and buy B2B products!), Snapchat
There are now 150 Million Snapchat users! –Adweek And, if you apply the first stat – they’re not so much teenagers anymore. That’s a lot of buyers for you.
40% of Snapchat users are in the US and Canada, Fortune
There are now more Snapchat users than Twitter users
You want to reach millennials, right? “Facebook (including Messenger) remains the most popular social platform among Americans 12-24 years old, with 32% saying they use Facebook most. Snapchat is second with 26%, far outpacing Instagram at 17%.” Convince and Convert
There are very few B2B campaigns happening on Snapchat today. Advertising is dominated by B2C – this is your chance to stand out!
So where do you begin with marketing on a platform where messages disappear after 24 hours? Here are 15 ideas on how you can do this for B2B:
Recruiting millennials? Post daily about what it’s like to work at your awesome company.
Employee takeovers – add a more personalized approach to showing how great your company is, let one employee a day “take over” your Snapchat account and discuss what it’s like to work at your company and how much they love their job.
Employee pets – Do you have an office dog, or employees who work from home with their pets – snap about it!
Cover company events with live interviews with speakers and play-by-plays of live presentations
Cover industry events the same way – give your followers a taste of the event they couldn’t make it to by being their eyes on the ground to all the action at the show
Product demonstrations – Videos are a HUGE part of Snapchat–see the 10 Billion number above. Give potential buyers sneak peeks of the coolest features of your products (keep the salesy-ness to a minimum, this is fun).
Product sneak-peeks – What’s coming out soon? Give your followers that exclusive experience of seeing behind the curtain to the work in progress.
Doodle your… – Snapchatters love to be-dazzle and doodle up pictures. Ask your followers to snap a pic of something relevant to your brand or product and post a doodled version. Offer prizes for the best doodle.
Holiday cards – Create a holiday card (be creative, try Flag day or donut day) that Snapchatters can screencapture, doodle and share with their followers.
Keep the engagement going with teasers for tomorrow – With messages that disappear every day, encourage your followers to check back for something cool tomorrow.
Client takeovers – Do you have a great client advocate? Let them takeover your Snapchat account and post about your product for a day, demonstrations, interviews with their other employees – your followers will feel the love.
Interview industry experts – Videos are super short on Snapchat, so it can be easier to get influencers and experts to say a few words on camera.
Feature your CEO commenting on an industry change or event.
Use the geofilters advertising feature to do a super targeted marketing campaign. Hint, you can target a single building and the cost is pretty minimal. Could be useful for Account Based Marketing. Bonus – you don’t need to have a big following to reach a lot of people this way.
Use geofilters to advertise at a specific event.
Companies like Gatorade and Taco Bell are using Snapchat advertising to push their brands forward, but no one is talking about the tremendous B2B potential. Think outside the box. You want millennials to buy your products, you want them to work at your company and you want them to have a great time doing both. This is the platform they are using so you should too!
So you’ve got a big event coming up… ahem Dreamforce starts today! You know you need to rock it. Maybe you’re marketing yourself, maybe you’ve got a big booth and you’re marketing your company. But… you’re scared, that’s a whole lotta people you have to meet and be your best self for. I feel ya.
With Dreamforce #DF16 this week and many other events going on during the Fall. It’s time to make a game plan. Here’s your step-by-step survival guide.
Set your goals for the event. Before even forking over the admission fee, you should have a plan for what you want to achieve at the event. Is it great leads, more contacts, potential employers? Whatever your objective is, write it down and gear all your activities at the show toward it to ensure you get what you paid for out of the event. Keeping your goal in mind will help you push past any social reluctance that might hold you back.
Plan ahead and reach out to schedule meetings with people you want to meet. It’s really hard to grab people (or even find people) once you’re on-site at a big event. And it’s even harder for the introvert. You won’t get everyone to commit to a meeting but reaching out starts the conversation so if you happen to see the person at the show, you’ve already introduced yourself.
Get on that hashtag. Every event these days has a dedicated hashtag. Start tweeting–live tweet sessions, comment on the food, participate in vendor contests–everything goes. And when you get some interaction going, see if anyone wants to “tweet-up” for some coffee. It’s a great way to meet some new people who might have similar interests. Plus, you’ll collect followers like a boss.
Sit with people you don’t know at meals. Groan, I know. This is hard for me too, but mealtimes can be some of the best places to meet new people. Grit your teeth and do it. I sometimes have to practice a couple of ice breaking questions in my room ahead of time. Go simple – Where are you from? What company are you with? Did you see the keynote this morning?
Don’t overbook yourself. Introverts need some quiet time to recover at the end of the day. Even if means skipping that networking happy hour, you’ll be better the next day if you give yourself that time to recharge, alone.
Don’t forget the follow-up. After the dust settles, reach out to those you collected cards from. Jog their memory with what you talked about. How can you help them? How can they help you? Keep the conversation going. If nothing else, hopefully there will be a friendly and familiar face at that lunch table next year.
All the constant social interaction at a big event can make introverts want to stay under the covers, but going in with a game plan can give you the oomph to keep up the smile and keep going. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself–#5 is very important for you to have a great event. Now get out there and rock that event!
Hi marketers. You guys are awesome and I just want to start there. But we need to have a serious talk. Please examine the following statements to see if they sound familiar to you:
Top-of-funnel leads are converting from x campaign but bouncing when they get to the CTA
Sales are down because MQLs aren’t converting to SQLs
Do you see a problem here? In case you don’t, here’s what’s happening. This is what sales hears when you say things like the above:
Blah blah leads blah blah blah blah blah
Sales are down because marketing speak marketing speak marketing speak
This is not because sales is dumb or marketing are know-it-alls (though, we do know a LOT). It’s that sales isn’t in marketing. They don’t know the language. And there’s a lot going on in marketing and the bigger and more complex the marketing organization, the more complicated the shorthand language gets.
I was just working with a client, who shall remain nameless, but a large-ish tech company. My team was there to help the marketing team sort out and solve the disconnect between sales and marketing. At the end of a data download meeting, we were given an acronym cheat-sheet to help us understand what we had just heard.
Hmmmm… if they need a cheat-sheet even to talk to other marketers, how do they talk to sales? I think maybe I sense the problem here.
Tailor to Your Audience
You guys know how to do this. It’s what you do all day. Just apply it to the inside of your organization the same way you do externally. Think about what matters most to your target audience. Sales is interested in sales! They want to make their numbers, keep their bosses from breathing down their necks and maybe make that incentive trip or bonus at the end of the year. How are you helping them do that?
5 Ways to Quickly Win Over Sales
Ask if you can sit in on some sales calls – this will help you understand what they do all day, hear directly from prospects and help you get to know the team personally. Plus you’ll earn some serious street cred from the sales team – promise!
Talk to them about what matters to them – how are you helping them make their number?
How can you save them time – more time means more dollars
Really, really listen to what is keeping them from making sales, the objections they hear, the stumbling blocks they face. How can you help?
Snacks – never hurts to bribe…
The bottom line is you know a TON about marketing – so much that sometimes you might short-hand your speech into acronyms and jargon. But keep in mind that some of your sales team might be new, might be inexperienced, might know nothing about marketing so you need to speak english and take the time to really connect with them. You’ll be collaborating in no time, which will make your job oh so much easier!
Often the CFO or CEO signs on the dotted line to purchase your product. It’s true. They are often the ultimate decision maker. Also true. Makes sense you should target them with your marketing efforts. Not so true (usually). Many companies put all their marketing efforts into trying to reach that elusive c-suiter, which can seem like the shortest route to home base, but in reality, could be a waste of time and money.
There are a few reasons why you should think about targeting your efforts a little further down the food chain.
The CFO isn’t the one feeling the pain. If your product solves HR recruiting bottlenecks or accounts payable invoice processing headaches, the CFO probably feels some effects of those headaches, but possibly not enough to make it a top priority to find a solution. Find the person who feels the pain of those problems every day and offer a solution.
The CEO has a lot on her plate. Particularly if your product solves a small pain point, it’s hard to get through to the person at the top. She is inundated with problems to solve, meetings, email and sales pitches all day long. Your chances of cutting through all that competition to get her attention is small and even if you do (because you are awesomely creative), you need to have a solution that solves a problem she’s facing at that moment or you’ll lose her.
Research and vendor selection will be delegated anyway. Even if you connect with a C-suiter, it’s likely they don’t have time for a full vendor review and will delegate that task. If you target your marketing efforts and nurture programs at the rest of the team, you’ll be ensuring you make the list when mr. or ms. project leader starts evaluating.
You get more chances at bat. If you’re selling a software product, there are often many people who will evaluate and be involved in a purchase. The CFO might have the final say, but a sales process could be started by an admin, a project manager or most often, a mid-level manager. If you’ve warmed up all of these potential buyers with marketing messages over time, you’re more likely to get someone at the right point of consideration. Targeting just the c-suite means your pool is small and your chances of right time, right place are much lower.
If you’ve ever taken a sales training course, you probably heard the mantra about not selling to someone who doesn’t have the authority to buy. Not to discount this message, it’s certainly important to know how much influence your champion has when heading into a lengthy sales process, but these days b2b purchases are a team sport. If you want to maximize your dollars, make sure you’re reaching out to everyone in a company who could potentially use your product. You never know who will take that first swing.
Because it’s new. And yeah, I know, it’s not exactly a hot-off-the-presses thing anymore. But it IS new in that it is changing every day. Which can be scary as hell when you’re at the bottom of the mountain. But I have faith in you, marketers. You can do social media marketing and it isn’t as daunting as it sounds.
How do you get started when the whole digital, social, mobile revolution seems to be sweeping along, not stopping for us marketers to catch our breath, let alone come up with a strategy that goes beyond “let’s make a viral video?” Just take it step-by-step.
It’s ok to not know everything about everything social. Yes, kids are Snapchatting and people are Blabbing, but you don’t have to jump on every band-wagon as soon as it comes along.
What social platforms are your best customers already using? If your audience is B2B, start with LinkedIn. Learn some things about company pages, showcase pages and promoted posts. Explore how many of your potential prospects are spending time there–and what content they are responding to. Once you get one platform down, take a look at another. Some questions to ask yourself:
Can my brand be well-represented visually? If yes, think about Instagram or Pinterest
Do my customers like visual stuff related to my product? If yes, think about Instagram and Pinterest
Do my prospects use Facebook for personal reasons only? If yes, it’s still ok to run a B2B campaign targeting them there – you might be surprised at the results
Are my best potential clients time challenged? If yes, try YouTube or Slideshare, maybe Periscope if your audience is there
Spend the majority of your time listening to your target audience. And by listening, I mean searching the social platforms and internet relentlessly to find out the content topics that truly interest and motivate your prospects. Producing fewer pieces of great content is far better than loads of mediocre drivel.
You’ve seen what others are doing, now do something different. This is another reason it’s so important to listen. You can’t stand out from the crowd if you don’t know what they’re doing. This is also where it gets hard. Doing something unique takes time and effort. But it’s worth it. It’s the difference between being one of many of the same, and standing above the others.
Not everything will work. Keep trying different things. The great thing about social media is the instant messaging feedback loop it provides. What did people respond to? You’ll find out pretty fast what flies and what flops. Keep testing those messages until you know exactly what your audience wants to hear. Then use those messages for everything you do.
There are no rules. So you have the freedom to try campaigns, messages and platforms. If it works it works, if it doesn’t, move on to the next. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is still figuring this stuff out.
I know you feel like you don’t have time to get done what you have in front of you, let alone try a bunch of new ideas on new platforms. But trust me, just a little bit of time each day will help you get your feet wet, reduce the overwhelmingness of learning news stuff and will absolutely help you get to know your prospects even better. It’s not bad fodder for your resume either.
Prince. Bowie. It’s a sad year for music fans and all around fans of creativity and originality. I’m a huge fan of all of it. And I’m both grieving and grateful for the music and inspiration.
I want to take a moment to respect what these great artists did for their fields and the world.
Originality – During the 80’s, when the when the world was just starting to break out of the bland synthesizers of the 70’s, these artists took a stand for originality and creativity. Inspiring legions of artists and non-artists alike, they made it ok to be weird. More than ok.
“The most important thing is to be true to yourself, but I also like danger. That’s what’s missing from pop music today. There’s no excitement or mystery.”
Prince: Los Angeles Times (1982)
More than just the art – It was never just about the music for Bowie, but about changing the world. When you go forth with that mindset, truly anything is possible.
“I suppose for me as an artist it wasn’t always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture that I was living in. It just seemed like a challenge to move it a little bit towards the way I thought it might be interesting to go.” -David Bowie
Embrace every aspect of the work – Never content to just sing, or just play an instrument, these two greats both immersed themselves in every aspect of the music, creating an even greater understanding of the art.
“The key to longevity is to learn every aspect of music that you can.” -Prince
Reinvention – Both Prince and Bowie continuously reinvented themselves, staying ahead of the originality curve and never growing outdated or stale.
“I feel confident imposing change on myself. It’s a lot more fun progressing than looking back. That’s why I need to throw curve balls.” -David Bowie
“When I became a symbol, all the writers were cracking funnies, but I was the one laughing. I knew I’d be here today, feeling each new album is my first.” -Prince
It’s a cliche, but like all cliches, there is truth–life is short. “Yeah, everybody’s got a bomb, we could all die any day. But before I’ll let that happen, I’ll dance my life away.” – Prince. Living by the beautiful rules of Bowie and Prince, that’s a life that’s worth dancing for.