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Three Digital Marketing Steps You’ve Overlooked but Shouldn’t

Resolutions.  There’s nothing better than finishing off a year, so that you can start fresh in a new year.  Every year, I commit to ridding myself of the “junk” drawer (who am I kidding, the junk closet) and every year-end, I’m left wondering where did the time go and why didn’t I tackle that task.  Yet again.

Same goes for certain business tasks.  I know you have a list.  We all do.  We came into 2015 intending to knock that list down, and hopefully we’ve crossed off a few items at least, but there are always those things that linger from year to year.

Usually the things we’ve heard we should do, but don’t have a clue where to start.

And so, 2018 is knocking on the door and the list is staring you down.

Don’t sweat it.  Start fresh.  Give yourself a pat on the back for what you have accomplished (I’m certain it’s a lot) and move forward!

If thoughts of marketing, digital marketing and improving your brand’s image online come to mind, I’d like to add a few things to that new-ish list of yours (sorry!).

There are three factors in digital marketing that I’m fairly certain you’re not doing.  How do I know this?  Because I talk to a lot of you, and I take notes (lots of them!) and I listen and I reflect, and in many cases, after a bit of digging on my part, you’ve told me you’re not doing these things.

As my daughter would say “That is A-Ok.”  That’s why people such as myself exist.  We worry about all that “stuff” so you don’t have to.  But if you’d like to know what I’ll be circling you and your team back to in the coming year, I’m happy to share!

Here’s my list of three digital marketing steps that you didn’t do in 2017 (but should in 2018):

Listening to what the Search Engines Are Trying to Tell You

Sometimes SEO gets a bad rap. Sometimes this is deserved. But often it’s not. Many of you are at least thinking about search engine optimization. Wondering how to target those coveted keywords. Wondering how your brand is stacking up against your competitors in online search.

This is wonderful. But …

Before you go too far into the Great Unknown. I’d ask you to consider whether you’ve addressed Steps One and Two of search optimization.  Kind of like Thing One and Thing Two. Only not as cheeky.

Step One – Is your site registered with Webmaster Tools? Both Google and Bing have webmaster tools available online, and free to you! They allow you to review how your site is doing in the eyes of said search engine. For example, GWT will tell you how many pages are being indexed by Google, over time, and insights into top keywords used on your site as found and categorized by Google’s crawler. These are things you want to know, right?

Remember keywords and content are nice, important even, but how your site performs (load times, responsiveness, and such) are important factors as well.  I don’t believe in crafting your online brand solely with SEO in mind, but  if it matters to Google and Bing, it definitely deserves some thought on your part. 

Suggested reading: This overview from Search Engine Watch is an excellent start!

Step Two – Actually utilizing Google Analytics. If they have an active website, with traffic, most of the clients I speak with have Google Analytics installed on their site. However, few are actually doing anything with it. Never mind the more nitty gritty details of integrating with social media or setting goals and advanced tracking data. I find that many business owners install Google Analytics and then forget about it.

Let’s make it a goal for you and your team in 2018, a resolution even, to use Google Analytics. Learn the dashboard, identify basic site usage problems, and get into the digital grove. Because a BIG part of digital marketing is the DATA that we can use to learn about our businesses online!

Suggested reading: Other than Google itself, Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik is THE place to learn all you can about optimizing GA for your site.

Finally Implementing A/B Testing

Often referred to in relation to online advertising and email marketing in the 21st century, A/B testing actually has a much longer history (pre-dating much of what we use for marketing tools today).  This is true of much of the theory behind digital marketing and technology, anything worth doing likely has its roots in traditional business practices.  That’s the foundation upon which all good strategy is built (at least if you’re working with me!).

So what exactly is A/B testing and how does it relate to your business?

In Sales and Marketing, A/B testing is the practice of offering two variables on one product to your customers – in the process, “testing” these variants out to see which one of these encourages more sales conversions.

For example, let’s say you are a manufacturer of widgets.  One of your lagging products is called WidgetMaxx.  You might conduct an A/B test by offering two variations of WidgetMaxx – one in red and one in blue.  All other things about the sales of this product would remain static.  You would track sales of the red ones and the blue ones and make an inference about which was more popular based on total sales.  If the red WidgetMaxx sells 1000 units and in the same store with the same advertising the blue WidgetMaxx sells 5000 units, based on the principles of A/B testing you would assume that the blue product is the more favorable one and would produce more of these widgets for your sales team.  Of course other factors might influence this difference in sales numbers (say, for example, your best sales man was assigned to the blue WidgetMaxx).  Therefore, A/B testing is a continuous process, needing to be employed over time and with targeted adjustments to the process as you go along.

 In digital marketing, one place where A/B testing can be easily implemented and just as easily tracked is email marketing.   Let’s say that you are planning your quarterly sales newsletter campaign.  Every campaign comes with a strong, well-thought out email subject line.  What if you tested two variations in your email subject line – to gauge which subject line gets a better open and click through rate from your audience?  The body of the email would remain the same in both, and nothing would be different – except for your subject line.  That’s it.

Let’s say that you normally use a subject line like:

Check out the latest discounts from [Our Company]

That would be email “A.”

Meanwhile, you’ve heard from a friend that they use personalized email subject lines with great success.  You want to try it.  So, your second “B” email subject line might be:

Hi John, have you seen our latest offerings?

You would randomly send email subject line “A” to half of your audience and subject line “B” to the other half.  A 50/50 split.  You would then compare and contrast your campaign results, after

That is A/B testing in its simplest form.

Suggested reading:  Start with some powerhouse brand case studies from Optimizely.

Incorporate Video into Your Content Strategy

Last (but not least) on the list comes video.

YouTube is where many people are spending their time online.  Google owns YouTube.  Google drives search.  Great search results are linked to video.

Get the flow there?  Video and marketing and quality digital marketing results have become heavily intertwined in the past two or three years, and it’s only going to grow from there.

This is a facet of my own personal marketing strategy that I’ve let languish on the vine, so don’t feel bad.  But now is the time, my friends.  Time to get serious and get in the game.

According to ReelSEO, videos appear in 55% of Google search results, of these 82% are YouTube videos.

82% of 55% of search results are coming from YouTube.  We don’t have to hold a math session to figure out those numbers.  When you think of the vast number of search results that come through Google, those video numbers are very, very high.  Vine, Vimeo and DailyMotion are all very capable video sites (and Vine can be fun) but they just can’t compete with the numbers that come from YouTube.

Do not panic.  You do not need to compete with the likes of Taylor Swift (or even Stanford University’s Business School) to do well or see results.  Just craft a series of useful videos relevant to your brand and your followers.  You don’t even have to shoot a professional live action video (unless you’re hoping to launch the next big thing since Star Wars).  Many brands and small businesses craft highly engaging and informative videos simply using their laptop and Camtasia (or some other software) which allows them to add audio to a screen capture or recording.  If you plan it right, and think it through, you can get going on a relatively small budget.

Takeaway?  Make a handful of content rich and informative videos on your products or services and upload them to YouTube, post haste, being sure to tag them and identify them appropriately. 

Which means, I’ll be joining you in that process in 2018.  No excuses.

Now go, be merry and get digital!

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Linkedin Marketing – 3 Tips

LinkedIn is a social media platform for connecting professionals all over the world. It is also quite a powerful tool if you are looking to promote your products and services. As the audience on LinkedIn is different from the ones on other social media platforms, you need a sound strategy for effective marketing. To help you out, here are three important tips for marketing strategy on LinkedIn for your business:

Ask your partners and employees to follow your company page

As you want your posts to reach out to a wider audience, it is important you have as many followers as possible. Since your employees and partners have different types of people following them, you can tap into their network and make the most of it. Ask your employees to follow your company page, so that their profiles will be displayed. They have the potential to be your biggest advocates.

Post rich and engaging content

The ultimate goal of your marketing strategy is to generate interest for your products and services, among your target audience. Due to this reason, it is important you post rich content, which is relevant and useful to your target audience. At the same time, you cannot try to give your content too much of a sales touch, as it won’t go well on LinkedIn.

To engage your audience, you must post fresh content on a regular basis. Over time, you will be able to establish yourself as a leader in your field, increasing the reach and power of your influence.

Boost your best posts by sponsoring them

When you notice that certain posts have high rates of engagement, such as comments, clicks, and shares, it is an indicator that your target audience loves them. Instead of letting the hype for your posts die down over time, you should boost their reach by sponsoring them. It is quite similar to advertisements, where members of your target audience will see your content on their feeds.

With the help of these three simple yet powerful tips, you will be able to accomplish great things with your marketing strategy on LinkedIn.

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Better Content. Quality over Quantity.

Content marketing is an excellent way to engage both your current customers as well as leads and prospects. Many business owners try marketing through writing content, either for blogs or newsletters, but give up because they find their efforts aren’t fruitful enough.

While 90 percent of marketing plans utilize content marketing as part of the overall strategy, most content marketing efforts go to waste. You simply need to rethink your efforts. Think quality before quantity and focus on content that will generate value for your brand in the long run. Make certain it’s relevant to both your business and your audience, and looks for ways to inspire people.

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On Virtual Work and Running an Online Business

Today’s post and topic is a bit of a “tough love” piece for all you freelancers and small business owners.

Recently I launched Women Who Freelance, a support group for women working in their profession on their own terms (and those who are still tethered to 9 to 5, but dream of embracing and pursuing their passions). I launched this community because I know there’s a need for support for women who may not think of themselves as full-on entrepreneurs, but are neither remote “employees” of any one company.

I have discussions from time to time with women who freelance or do remote work as independent contractors and I often hear the same thing, “I love it, I’d love to do more of it but …” And the but is followed by something that is holding them back. This something may be:

  • Uncertainty of where to being or how to get started.
  • An inability to determine how to find and cultivate new clients
  • A fear of letting go of their “day” job. OR
  • A worry of having to compete in a marketplace where many potential clients seem to opt – not for the most qualified or the best quality work, but rather for the lowest hanging fruit, the cheapest provider on the block, no matter what the ability or quality of work.

All of these concerns are valid, and all of them can present major hurdles to a dedicated freelance professional or consultant.

Today I’d like to focus on the last of these concerns (competition in a tough virtual marketplace) and relate it to a few key points: investment, value, appreciation and self-worth (both for the freelancer and for the business owner).

If you are a small business owner, this post may speak to both sides of your business – one as the “hiring” individual and the other as the potential “hiree” seeking work and assignments.

Investment

To succeed in the business world, whether in real life or online, you must be willing to invest in yourself, your brand and your business (including any support staff you might hire). As a freelance provider, this may mean on-going training, it may mean hiring a virtual assistant, it may mean saving toward paying someone to improve your website. As an online business owner, this may mean investing in quality support staff, paying the fees to maintain a strong brand online (LeadPages, a dedicated CRM system, a sound email marketing platform, etc), or enrolling in an online business course designed to take your brand to the next level.

Let me take a moment to state the obvious. These things all cost money.  Often times, they will cost more than you expect or have budgeted for.  By the way, did you know that you should be spending approximately 30% to 40% of your annual revenue on sales and marketing? For reference, that means that if you bring in $100,000 in revenue this year, you should have spent 30k to 40k on your sales and marketing budget (ad dollars and staff support).  Don’t laugh! I know that sounds exorbitant. But that’s the hallmark of true business growth, investing in the future of your brand. I’ve worked with more than a few business owners who put sales and marketing (true sales and marketing) on the back burner – and wound up closing their doors, for good.  Business tip of the day: 

Don’t spend all of your time and money on your product or service, otherwise you may find you’re selling to an empty room…

My assumption is that you are in it for the long haul and you want to succeed. If that’s the case, I’m 100% positive that you need to invest more in your marketing. 100%.

Value

The best leaders know, intuitively, that value has real meaning in their world. And they know that value does not equate with cheap. A certain global corporation notwithstanding, value means getting quality products and services at a fair market price (cheap labor and low ball pricing are not value, they are simply desperation tactics). My philosophy in running my own brand is that I hold myself accountable to real world standards. If I owned a brick and mortar store and I couldn’t afford to pay someone minimum wage, then guess what? I would have to do that work myself. Right? Unless I’m a non-profit, there’s no such thing as dirt cheap labor in real world business. The same should hold true online. Every business owner that strives to provide value to his/her customers must also “value” the work and workers behind what they are doing. If you’re offering below market prices, and in turn, paying below market salary rates, that’s not good business. You’re establishing a precedent that you can not sustain, and you’ll be creating a work culture that may not inspire loyalty among those you hire and depend upon.

To put this in perspective, and give you a frame of reference of what you should be paying the average “freelancer” – let’s look at converting a marketplace salary of $80,000 per year.  I’m working with $80,000 per year because it turns out that is about the average salary around the country for many of the typical online freelance jobs that you might hire someone for – web designer, graphic designer, systems analyst, social media manager, and even virtual assistant (if we equate that position with the normal administrative assistant role, where the assistant is experienced and not fresh out of college).

So how does an $80,000 a year office job convert into a remote or virtual work salary?

Keep in mind that in an office job, that salary comes along with a certain level of benefits, which calculate ON TOP of that salary.  So for our $80k a year job, we’ll guesstimate that Worker John would receive an additional $30k in annual benefits.  So his true compensation in a year would be $110k.  This matters because in an office, Worker John receives medical/dental benefits, some form of a retirement plan, paid sick and vacation days and holiday pay (and most likely, some form of a bonus).

Taking that $110k a year compensation and breaking it down into an hourly wage, and we find that Worker John should charge a rate of $53 per hour to maintain his office salary if working as a freelancer.

Whoa!

That’s a bit high (is what many of you may be thinking).  You’d be wrong.  Worker John has to purchase his own equipment, supplies, insurance and such – most freelance gigs do not come with such benefits.  Worker John also has to account for his own taxes, social security and retirement funds.  At the end of the day, Worker John will not pocket $53 per hour, not even close.

That’s the long and the short of it.

Freelancing?  Afraid to charge what you’re worth?  One key reminder: you can charge less, but it will not be sustainable for you, not unless you have a trust fund accessible and ready to go at a moment’s notice – or unless you can pack it all in and move to some place cheap (really cheap) like Thailand (plenty do this successfully and love it, for my family that’s not currently an option).

If you freelance regularly and find that you are putting in quality work and not seeing much reward (as in, your compensation is much lower than what the going rate should be – see my notes above), try discussing this with your clients if possible.  If you explain the need for a rate increase and they value you and your work, you should find success in most cases.  I’ve talked to some freelancers who had great success in raising their rates by 20, 30 or even 100%.  At the end of the day, however, you may have to replace some clients with others.  Try not to take that personally and don’t make it personal (easier said than done, I know), but business is business – you’re entitled to seek out a fair market wage for your region and occupation, just do it gently and kindly – that might mean helping a low wage client find a replacement candidate to take over your work.

And if you’re a business owner confront with an increase in wages (virtual workers need raises too), again, it’s not personal.  It’s business.  When you hire a freelancer you should be hiring a business professional.

Hiring?  Scoffing at the thought of paying for western world workers?  Ok, I say, you can low ball and see how that works for you (the best workers will move on eventually).  Or you can hire cheap foreign labor, if you find that ethical, but you may find that you’ll spend so much time training, backtracking and reviewing each line of work, that it may actually cost you more in the long run (your time is money as well, doncha know!).

I’m not knocking global hiring practices, far from it, but I am saying that in the grand scheme of things (as with all things) you get what you pay for, and your online brand will reflect your commitment to valuing all that goes into building that brand.  Consumers and buyers are quite savvy these days.  Value yourself and others will follow suit.

Invest in a culture of quality (in and out) and quality customers will follow!

Resources:

If you are a freelancer and wondering what you should actually charge, try the Freelance Rate Calculator for a start.

If you are a small online business owner and wondering what you should actually pay, try Salary.com (plug in the job title and the US region) and you’ll get a breakdown of salary ranges, benefits and normal compensation levels for any given job (you can even check salary levels based on experience level).

Chime in! What are you thoughts on today’s challenging marketplace?

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Using Twitter for Social Media Research

So, you’ve committed to growing your brand on social media.  You’re getting into the groove of finding content to share and managing the best times post said content.

Alright!

That’s excellent.

But if you’re doing social from a business perspective, if you’re serious about digital marketing, you’ll soon realize that it doesn’t matter what you put out if you don’t have a handle of who you’re sharing with and why.

In short, you will need to commit to doing your research.  The bad news is – sometimes you’ll feel like you’re back in college again, scraping the barrels of obscure information late into the night.  The good news is – it doesn’t have to be quite so frustrating!  I’ll tell you why in a moment.

College Should Be Fun (but not that fun…)

When I was in college (the first time around), I had my hands in a lot of stuff.  I was a radio DJ, on several high profile committees, covering sports for a student newspaper, and elected to the student council – all in my freshman year!  Boo yah!  Oh, and I did I mention the parties?  On second thought, I won’t.  Suffice to say – by sophomore year, I was back home.  Studying at a local university, with angry parents hovering over my shoulders.  I had stretched myself waaayyyyy too thin.

That’s never a good thing.

I learned my lesson many moons ago, ‘tis better to focus on what is at hand and finish that out, before one goes off into the fray and parties it up – like it’s 1999.

This lesson (that I learned the hard way) will serve you well in social media too.

Once you get the hang of it, social media can be addictive and fun (yes, fun!).  But if you’re in it for business and branding, then you have to have a plan for staying focused.  For knowing what you’re doing and why.  And that requires both strategy and research.  Both of which can be labor intensive and expensive endeavors.  Lucky for you, I’ve been down those roads and I’ll share with you my tips for managing your social media like the big boys, without breaking the bank.

Today’s Pro Tip

Twitter is a gold mine of data for social media research.

I know there are some of you out there that are saying to yourselves “Twitter? I just don’t get it.”

I hear you (I don’t get what you don’t get, but I hear you).  But consider these latest Twitter stats:

Over 500 million tweets are sent per day (yes, daily!)
The total number of active Twitter users is expected to grow to 66 million by 2018.
The average time spent on Twitter by users each month is 170 minutes.
63% of global brands have multiple Twitter accounts.

Would you rather ignore it?  Perhaps you know something that the big brands don’t?

Really, if you’ve opted out, you’re missing the boat.  Not just in terms of engagement but in terms of the social data and research that’s available, if you’ll just buckle down.

Now you’re thinking: That’s all well and good, Susan, but quality research on social media?  Either it’s impossible to find or it’s still so labor intensive.

Not necessarily.

SWBmedia’s 3 Favorite Tools for Twitter Research

Let me share with you three of my favorite Twitter tools for doing analysis and research on social media.

#3 – Topsy (for keyword analytics)

 

Topsy is a social media tool that has changed over the years.  Now, much of the service is a paid (Pro) platform.  But the general Social Analytics tools is a great way to compare trends in keywords, shared links or brands on Twitter.  And be sure to try out their Social Trends link (also free) to monitor what’s hot on Twitter right now (you can parse the feed by language, and by type of tweet as well).

#2 – Analytics from Twitter

 

Most likely you’re using a social media management platform to handle your many networks and online branding.  As well, you should be.  To augment this thought, don’t forget about Twitter as a platform, as well.  And Twitter is free, of course.  Once upon a time, one couldn’t do much but tweet from Twitter.  That’s changed.  Over the years, I’ve witnessed as they’ve worked diligently to make their own platform quite useful.  One of the newer additions to the Twitter on the Web client has been the Twitter Analytics feature.  Trust me when I say, it is well worth your time to log in once a month and use it!

#1 – Twitonomy

 

Twitonomy is hands down my favorite of the many free Twitter tools that are out there.  It’s robust, it’s detailed, and it’s just d@mn useful.  Pardon my French. It’s got an excellent interface for showcasing and analyzing what’s going on with your Twitter lists…. You DO use Twitter lists, right?  Ok, more on that later.

If you really want to dive into the depths of Twitter data and analyze what’s going on in the universe that is social media, you should go straight to Twitonomy.  Do not pass Go.  Not everything is free, there’s is a premium/paid version.  But you’ve got plenty to do in the free version, so don’t sweat it.

Honorable mention: 

Tweetchup.com – really just the basics, and you can’t retweet or favorite from directly within the app, but the platform has a very nice interface and it’s great for quick keyword searches on the go!

There you have it!  My top three favorite tools for Twitter analysis, plus a freebie!  If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the options and platforms available to you, we should chat.  I can help with that!

And that’s why I’m here – to separate social media facts from fiction.  To share with you what I’ve learned about doing amazing things with (seemingly) simple tools.

Now go forth and be social!

Copyright © 2012-2018. SWBmedia, S. Boggs.