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15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing

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  • 1. Marketing Software Social | Search | Email | Publicity Visit us at www.vocus.com guide 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Take your business to the next level with these online marketing tactics and tools. 15 Ideas to Grow with  Digital Marketing Take your business to the next level with these online marketing tactics and tools.
  • 2.  2 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Welcome to Digital Marketing Until recently, most small and medium-sized businesses could survive—and, in some circumstances, thrive—without ­investing much time or money into marketing. A typical small business owner might place a few newspaper ads, attend some trade shows, or send direct mail with coupons or discounts to incentivize new business. Tactics like email mar- keting, social networking, search engine optimization, and large-scale public relations, however, were left to the big boys with the big budgets. Today, thanks to the Internet, social media, and marketing software, the marketing game has changed for businesses of all sizes. Smaller businesses need to go beyond a single- channel marketing strategy. With1billionFacebookusersworldwideandsocialnetworks like Twitter continually gaining traction, customers and prospects of almost any business can be cost-effectively accessed and engaged online. According to Nielsen’s recent State of the Media Report,1 social networks and blogs reach nearly 80 percent of active U.S. Internet users today, a population that exceeds 245 million people.2 Your customers, prospects, and influencers are more accessible than ever. If you’re not doing anything to interact with and influence them,you’remissingahugeopportunitytogrowyourbusiness. There is no need to abandon tried-and-true marketing tactics like word-of-mouth, referral marketing, and cou- poning. In fact, you now have modern channels like social networks, influencer engagement, online PR, and email marketing to drive them and multiply their effectiveness. Growing your business with online marketing doesn’t have to be difficult. As this guide will show, the right technology and a little knowhow can transform you into a marketing pro, without killing your budget or hurting your other day- to-day business goals. This guide will help you apply 15 modern ­marketing and PR tactics to engage your key customers and the people who influence them. Each tactic will include the best practices, tips, and knowhow you need to create positive buzz in your marketplace and drive new business to your front door. Build Online Influence Through Creative Social Marketing The power of social media is undeniable. Just ask Denver-based hamburger chain Smashburger and its senior vice president of ­marketing, Jeremy Morgan. He told USA Today that the company largely credits its incredible growth over the last five years—from three restaurants in 2007 to more than 150 locations today—to its social media outreach.3 Specifically, Morgan says the company’s social strategy has helped it create valuable influence over engaged commu- nities who express an interest in its product. That influence has ­manifested itself into tangible value. With a Facebook following of close to 90,000 fans, Smashburger can inex- pensively deliver special offers and incentives that are more likely to convert into direct sales at its restaurants. Of course, influence isn’t simply a byproduct of being on social media. To create it, you need to first develop a following that’s large and ­engaged enough to receive and respond to your messages. Even then, true influence only ­happens when you do things on social media that resonate with and provide value to your target audience. 1 Nielsen, State of the Media: Social Media Report, 2011; http://bit.ly/nIBdRv 2 Internet World Stats, June 2012; http://bit.ly/WkAo 3 USA Today, “Small Businesses Using Social Media to Grow”; http://usat.ly/xvPJOi 1
  • 3.  3 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Growth Tactic: Hold a Twitter Chat to Drive Engagement and Influence A Twitter chat is an interactive conversation held at a specific time on the social net- work by using a pre-determined hashtag (you might know it as the “#” sign). Twitter chats can cover just about any topic and are a great way to network with ­customers, ­increase influence, and share key knowl- edge, including information about new product ­features or big industry news. Best of all, you don’t need a fancy venue and trendy drinks to spark a lively discussion. Don’t have a Twitter account yet? Signing up for one is sim- ple and, conveniently, it’s about all you need to host a chat. That being said, you—and your customers—will get the most out of your Twitter chats if you keep these five things in mind: 1. Choose the right Twitter account: If you have per- sonal and business Twitter accounts, make sure you choose the one that makes the most sense for the chat. Generally speaking, a company account is the most logical, but there are merits—like creating authenticity and thought leadership—to hosting a chat from your personal Twitter account. 2. Know your theme: Like a great party, your Twitter chat should maintain a specific ­focus. And it doesn’t have to be all business, either. If you’re a small online wine retailer, you could host a chat about your follow- ers’ favorite vineyards, or the best places to visit for wannabe sommeliers. 3. Create a suitable hashtag: No idea what a hashtag is?Youmightknowitasthepoundmark(#),butit’snow used by ­Twitter to identify specific keywords or ­topics. Hashtags make it much easier to host Twitter conversa- tions because they allow chat participants to follow the ­conversation via Twitter search by simply typing # and the keyword you gave them. As a best practice, keep your chat hashtags short and catchy. 4. Invite followers to the party: Regardless of how compelling your chat topic is, no one will participate if they don’t know that it’s happening. Promote the chat on your blog, Facebook page, website, and, of course, Twitter account. And don’t forget to include the chat name, hashtag, time, and date in every post. 5. Pick a chat style and timeframe: You can choose one topic, pose a specific question, and ask people to answer that question only for a specific period of time. Or you can simply identify a broad topic and encourage everyone to engage in a free-flowing conversation. Ultimately, the best style depends on your company, the chat’s ­participants, and the topic you’ve chosen. It’s also ­important to set an official ending point for the conversation so that participants can set aside time to engage with you. The bottom line is that Tweets drive buzz and engagement. Additionally, hosting a chat can help you appear more accessible and authentic, while also allowing you to build valuable thought leadership. Vocus @Vocus How #PRWeb news releases kicked off the Harvard Rugland #YouTube Vocus @Vocus Have you registered yet? Join us Wednesday to learn how to read customers’ minds w/ search data. #TweetChat
  • 4.  4 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software ASK THE EXPERT: What should companies do when a Twitter chat ends? Companies can do a lot after a chat to continue engaging with their audi- ence, but one of the best tactics is to move the conversation to a different platform. For example, invite your chat participants to join you on your Facebook page, or pin images that relate to the chat on their Pinterest account. It doesn’t really matter where you go (it could be in your store), the goal is simply to keep customers talking if they have more to say. Verónica Maria Jarski, Senior Editor and Writer, MarketingProfs Attract More Customers Through Facebook Today, almost every company with a sliver of social savvy is on Facebook. In fact, according to a recently released social media study from Vocus and Duct Tape Marketing, Facebook isnowthemostcommonlyusedsocialnetworkamongSMBs, with 73 percent reporting they currently use it.4 That said, simply using Facebook as a branding or customer engagement tool is very different from using it to extract real bottom-line value. This social network can be a valuable customer acquisition tool for small businesses. Growth Tactic: Fuel Customer Acquisition with a Facebook Contest While a company’s Facebook fans will often visit its page to view pictures and read up on new product releases, studies have shown that one of the primary reasons customers click “Like” is to gain access to special offers, promotions, and exclusive contests. That shouldn’t be shocking to small business owners, who have used similar direct mail or ­in-store contests for years to drive new customers through their doors. A Facebook contest is very similar to those types of offline incentives, contests, or sweepstakes; it’s just executed through a social network. Now, that doesn’t mean you should head over to your Facebook page and start an exclusive contest right now. Facebook has specific contest terms and policies that com- panies must adhere to, and breaking any of those rules might result in your page being shut down. To run a contest with the hope of growing your fan count and fueling new customer acquisition, it’s important to keep a few dos and don’ts in mind: °° DON’T use Facebook’s platform directly to host the contest. Using the social ­network’s like, share, or comment button as a voting mechanism is a direct violation of Facebook’s promotion rules. °° DO use a third-party application to administer contests, promotions, and sweepstakes. As long as that third-party application is collecting votes, com- ments, and entrant information, you can host a contest on your Facebook page. “ “ 2 4 Vocus and Duct Tape Marketing, “Different Paths to Social Media Influence,” 2012; http://bit.ly/SbJcPe
  • 5.  5 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software “ ASK THE EXPERT: What’s the secret to run- ning a successful Facebook sweepstakes? To be effective, your Facebook sweepstakes must be timely, relevant to your target audience, and unique to your business. If your sweepstakes is lacking in any of these three areas, you won’t see the desired results. Plain and simple. Corey O’Loughlin, Marketing ­Manager, MarketingProfs °° DON’T contact contest winners through Face- book. Direct messaging, chatting, posting on the winner’s wall, or posting contest winner informa- tion on your wall are all violations of Facebook’s pro- motion rules. °° DO include a complete Facebook ­contest release. For a contest to be legal, it must acknowledge that your company’s promotion is not sponsored, endorsed, administered by, or associated with Facebook. °° DON’T select a fan at random for a sweepstakes prize. Again, that would qualify as using Facebook to collect entrant information and would be a violation of its rules. °° DO follow-up with entrants after the contest is over. While Facebook’s contest rules don’t allow you to do that through its platform, a third-party app can help you collect valuable lead information. After the contest is over, use that info to contact non-winners and offer them incentives that might encourage them to become new (or better) customers. Remember, while a Facebook promotion, contest, or sweep- stakes can be a highly effective lead generation and customer acquisitiontool,therearerulesthatlimithowyoucanexecute “ 3 them. As long as you do your homework and partner with a quality third-party Facebook contest app, you should have nothing to worry about. Need help? Whether you need a sweepstakes or a way to make direct sales from your Facebook page, the Vocus Marketing Suite’s set of 18 Facebook apps can help. Easy and intuitive to use, the suite’s apps help you tell your story, capture new leads, and spread the word about your business. You provide the content; Vocus does the rest. It’s the only tool you need to harness the marketing power of Facebook. Learn More About Your Market with Monitoring While digital marketing requires you to find new and unique ways to converse with your customers, it’s also important to stop talking long enough to listen. No conversationcanbetrulyengagingifone party is doing all the talking. Gathering critical customer feedback and intelligence is now easier than ever, thanks to the range of online monitoring tools available to you. The issue for many small and medium-sized businesses, however, is how to best ­collect that consumer feedback and data, and turn it into something meaningful and useful. Growth Tactic: Capture Customer Sentiment with Social Media Monitoring Monitoring customer sentiment and market trends isn’t new, but with social media, it’s now easier to do. Twitter and Facebook allow you to legally and ethically eavesdrop on what’s ­being said about you online, and to gather a more personal portrait of your primary audience without having to execute costly market research.
  • 6.  6 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software bigger and better is the way to go. With more fans and followers, you can build more influence online (see tactic #1) and access a deep reservoir of potential and current customers to drive your growth. Do not engage in the practice of buying fans and followers simply to appear more influential. While it might be tempt- ing to buy 5,000 new Facebook fans from some unscrupu- lous online company, your investment will be worthless if those fans don’t care about your business. Take the follow- ing route instead. Growth Tactic: Grow Your Twitter Following Quickly and Organically According to market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, high quality Twitter followers are 50 percent more likely to buy products from the brands they follow than their non-follower counterparts.5 Furthermore, 60 percent of a company’s followers are more likely than non-followers to recommend the business to their own friends. Translation: Acquiring more Twitter followers—pro- vided they’re real people and not fake accounts—means more referrals and more sales. So how can you turn your company’s Twitter profile into a must-follow account? Here are five simple steps: 1. Define your audience: Whether you tweet about a specific industry or a personal interest like running or cooking, your audience will define the people you follow and the types of messages you tweet. 2. Create a compelling profile: When Twitter users are deciding whether or not to follow you, they’ll look at your bio, profile picture, and background. Make sure that all three are an accurate reflection of you and your business. 3. Start tweeting: Potential followers will also quickly examine your tweet history and the types of content you share. Make sure to be personal and real, without being self-promotional. Social media monitoring—using software to observe, listen to and analyze what social ­users are saying about you—is one of the most ­effective ways to do it. If you’re just getting started with social media and the thought of a full-blown monitoring campaign scares you, give these four beginner tips a try: 1. Develop a keyword list: Think about the words, phrases, and terms that your customers might use to talk about your brand, business, products, or industry as a whole. 2. Choose a social media monitoring tool: Youdon’tneedtoimmediatelyinvestinsoft- ware,butitissmarttouseanonlinetoolto monitor social sentiment. Many ­service providers offer a free trial or demo of their product. 3. Establish monitoring objectives: In other words, what do you want to discover? Some goals might include tracking ­public ­sentiment about your brand, responding to customer feedback, or following key ­industry trends. 4. Start listening and analyze the data: Ideally, the social media monitoring tool you choose will be able to analyze and aggregate data for you and find points of commonality. In the end, that will help you understand trends and themes without having to read every social comment or mention. By now, most companies understand the importance of socialmedia.Butifyourbusinessissimplyusingsocialmedia as a bullhorn for updates, news, and self-serving announce- ments, and ignoring the listening aspect, you’re missing a huge opportunity. Grow Your Fans and Followers to Create Brand Loyalty As many small businesses know, bigger isn’t always better —but when it comes to social media followings, however, 4 5 Chadwick Martin Bailey, 2012; http://bit.ly/PF9biI
  • 7.  7 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Growth Tactic: Monitor Customers’ Buying Signals with Social Media If someone walked through your business’ door, spent an hour looking at a product, asked you to tell them more about it, and finally asked you how much it cost, you’d feel good about your chances of closing a sale. Those buying signals would allow you to provide more information to this potential customer and help them along the sales process. While those in-person buying signals can be tougher to detect online, they exist. You just need to know how, when, and where to look for them. Using software designed to pick up on those signals is the easiest option, but here are two buying signals you can watch for manually on your social networks: °° Engagementfrequency:Ifaparticularfanorfollower repeatedlycommentson—orretweets—yourposts,or they engage with every post about a specific product, that’s an indication of serious buying interest. If you see this buying signal, don’t go crazy trying to oversell yourself on social media. Treat the customer online like you would if he or she walked into your store. Continue to provide more information and invite them to email or call you directly if they’d like to chat. °° Question or comment specificity: It’s one thing if a fan or follower simply likes a funny photo or retweets an interesting post that has nothing to do with your busi- ness. It’s another thing if a fan or follower comments on a post about one of your products and asks specific questions about colors, sizes, or features. Specificity is a clear signal that you’ve got a buyer’s attention and they want to learn more. Similar to the previous signal, you don’t want to go overboard selling yourself right away. Instead, simply engage that fan or follower and continue to monitor their interest. 5 4. Find relevant people to follow: Perform a simple Twitter search with keywords or hashtags that are rele- vanttoyourbusiness,andfollowpeoplethatare talking about those things. 5. Reply, retweet, and engage: Ultimately, if you want to build a loyal following, you must make sure you’re participating in a two-way conversation. That means replying to or retweeting your followers’ tweets, or thanking your followers for sharing your content. As a general rule of thumb, make sure you tweet at least once a week. Once a day is more ideal, but don’t go over- board. If you’re tweeting every minute of every day, your messages will be less impactful. Your end goal should be to balance quantity and quality to acquire relevant followers that may ultimately become loyal customers. Need Help? Building your social media presence can be time-con- suming. The Vocus Marketing Suite’s Recommendation Engine makes it easy for you. It identifies infuencers to engage with, content to share, and conversations to join—delivering you a stream of easy, step-by-step recommendations that result in social media success. Find Your Most Likely Customers Online So far, we’ve looked at why building a big online following can benefit your business. However, for that following to be truly valuable, your company must be able to convert that loyalty and interest into revenue. To do that, you need to actually be able to find the fans, followers, and blog readers who are your most likely customers, and identify the buying signals that indicate an interest in purchasing your prod- ucts or services.
  • 8.  8 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Remember, while having a big following is great, it won’t do your bottom line much good if that following isn’t actually comprised of paying customers. So, just as you would in your store or in a business meeting with a potential client, recognize potential social buying signals and ask yourself one key question: What do your fans and followers really want from you? CASE STUDY: How Vocus’ Recommen- dation Engine Helped Purple Trout Widen its Social Net When search engine optimization firm Purple Trout signed up for Vocus’ Marketing Suite in March of 2012, the company’s president and founder, Steve Phillips, wasn’t sure how quickly he should realistically expect the software to produce results. Within a month, he had his answer. After a few days of using Vocus’ Recommendation Engine—the software’s built-in social media consul- tant that helps users find and engage new customers on social media—Phillips found a user on Twitter who was struggling with Google’s recent update and needed SEO help. Through Vocus, Phillips was able to identify that buying signal, follow the user, answer their question publicly, and start a private conversa- tion via Twitter. “Less than a month later, that person and their com- pany became a client of ours,” Phillips says. “It was unbelievable. We didn’t have to do a face-to-face with them. I didn’t go fly to see them somewhere. We connected through the ­Vocus Marketing Suite, and from there it took off.” Now,goingonVocusisthefirstthingPhillipsdoesevery morning. “I make coffee and I go to the Marketing Suite,” explains Phillips. “In 5 to 10 minutes, I’m able to look for opportunities to engage potential customers and identify people that are interested in our industry, and I start having conversations with them.” Attract Search Customers with Market Expertise In the not-so-distant past, if a potential customer had a question about your products or wanted to learn more about your services, they had to either walk through your front door or call your customer service line to get answers or advice. Today, that same customer can simply perform a Google search, read a few Yelp reviews, or poll their social networks to achieve the same results. According to an August 2012 study by Forrester Research, 82 percent of U.S. consumers now research products online before actually buying them. Yet, interestingly enough, 54 percent of those buyers still prefer to purchase products in-store after researching them on the Web.6 For small and medium-sized business owners who used to (or in some cases, still do) rely on foot traffic or phone calls to interact with customers during their research process, those are critically important statistics that point to the importance of standing out in search results. So, how should you take advantage of your customers’ pre-purchase research? Growth Tactic: Plan and Execute a Company Blog Business blogging used to be a painstaking activity best executed by larger corporations with the time and people to produce regular, relevant blog posts. However, thanks to free blogging platforms like WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr, businesses of all shapes and sizes can blog with ease. Blogging isn’t just about composing a couple of rambling posts each week and publishing them randomly. To suc- ceed, you need to be focused, dedicated, and committed to a specific blogging game plan. Here are five tips to help you do that: °° Set clear goals: It’s not enough to just have a blog. You need to know what you want it to accomplish. Do you want to boost website traffic? Do you want to build 6 6 Forrester Research, August 2012; http://bit.ly/SIH0CC
  • 9.  9 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Multiple studies have shown that companies that blog attract more organic Web visitors than those that don’t, while frequently updated blogs have the most SEO success. In other words, if you want customers to find your business while they’re researching similar products online, start blogging. Attract New Customers in Social Outposts Most businesses are now active on the major social networks. To stand out online, try getting creative and building a presence on “outpost” sites. TheWeblandscapeisfullofoutpoststhatattractawiderange of specific buyers. Some flock to photo-sharing websites like Flickr and Instagram, while others congregate at niche blogs, community websites, industry forums, and lesser-known social networks. The challenge for business owners is identi- fying which outposts their target customers visit most often, and formulating a strategy for communicating with them where they are. Growth Tactic: Collect Fresh Leads with a Slide- Share Guide SlideShare, acquired by professional networking site LinkedIn in 2012, is the world’s largest online community for uploading and sharing PowerPoint presentations, PDFs, and webinars. As of February 2012, it had more than 60 million users and continues to be one of the fastest growing social networks on the Web. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to use. In about an hour, your business can craft inexpensive visual content—like a guide to buying a new bike or tips on keeping your lawn green, forinstance—thatengagescurrentandpotentialcustomers in a very unique way. To get started, just follow this five-step process: 1. Revise your slides: If you’re uploading an older PowerPoint presentation, chances are that it centers on high-level talking points that you would expound on in a person-to-person meeting. You don’t have that your reputation as a thought leader? Regardless of your goal, don’t start writing until you know what you want the blog to produce. °° Identifyyouraudience:Knowing who you’re writing for will help you develop a theme for your blog and thepostsyouwrite.Ifyourcustomers identifywithcertainsubjectsortopics, or if they seem highly interested in the photos and videos you share on your Facebook page, make sure you consider those things as you create your blogging strategy. °° Choose your blogging platform: Whether you’re considering blogging platforms like Wordpress, Blogger,orTumblr,orsimplymakingtheblogaseparate page on your website, make sure to evaluate the merits of each option and choose the one that makes the most sense for your business. Consider your blogging style, the goals you’ve set for the blog, and the customers that will be reading it. °° Start slowly: While it’s important to post to your blog regularly, you should start with a reasonable posting schedule and build your stamina from there. If you start off by posting too often, you’ll quickly exhaust your queue of blog ideas and you might experience blog- ging burnout. °° Research, listen, and participate: Take a few hours to read prominent blogs and forums in your industry. Browse their post topics, read comments to gauge how customers respond to each post, and, if it’s not a direct competitor,jointheconversationinanon-promotional way to begin establishing credibility. Doing that will teach you how to interact with customers on your blog and provide fodder for future blog post ideas. The business benefits of blogging are numerous, but there’s one that’s particularly relevant for this section: Search engines love blogs, and they reward companies that regularly maintain them. 7
  • 10.  10 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software “ “ luxury on SlideShare, so make sure to amend, build on, or delete any slides that seem vague or confusing. 2. Create a catchy title: Think about the keywords that might lead a potential customer to your presentation andincludetheminyourslideshowtitleandcoverslide. Also, make sure your title slide is eye-catching, and that it gives users a compelling reason to click through. 3. Upload and tag presentations: After you sign up for a SlideShare account, you can begin uploading presentations in a variety of document formats. For each upload, be sure to select an appropriate category and assign the document multiple relevant keywords to increase its chances of appearing in search results. 4. Include images: Some of the most viewed and shared presentations on SlideShare go beyond bullet pointsandextensivecopy.Theyarehighlyvisual,usinga mix of photos, infographics, charts, and screenshots to illustrateapoint.Ifpossible,livenupyourpresentations with the same types of visual content. 5.Shareyourpresentation:Lookforthevariousshare features alongside each of your uploaded documents and share them with your Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and personal network. It’s also easy to ­embed presentations on your blog or another website, upping the likelihood that your customers will get a chance to view it. At the end of your presenta- tion, don’t hesitate to include your contact information and encourage users to reach out to you directly if they have ques- tions. At first glance, SlideShare might seem like a PowerPoint presentation archive, but it’s much more than that. If used correctly, it can help you boost your messaging, help you engage with a very targeted audience, and increase your new leads. ASK THE EXPERT: Why should SMBs use SlideShare? One study has shown that visuals are processed 60,000-times faster by the brain than plain text. For that reason alone, I’m a huge fan of SlideShare. It’s a visually-driven content channel and, as that number shows, visual content can be the gateway to improved customer interaction and content digestion. At MarketingProfs, SlideShare has been a great source of new leads for us. Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs Make Headlines with a News Release Some modern marketers will tell you that traditional public relations is no more. Old school PR firms that were simply press release factories are falling by the wayside, while some reporters and editors view corporate news releases as overproduced content unworthy of coverage. We assure you that PR is not dead—it’s evolving. The new digital buying cycle has changed the rules and made PR more accessible. Today, any business can create an online press release to attract customers. Millions of consumers now read press re- leases directly on websites like Google News and Yahoo! News. If a story is well written and stra- tegically distributed, it can reach your audience without a journal- ist or news organization distribut- ing it for you. 8
  • 11.  11 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Growth Tactic: “Newsjack” a Big Story to Get Seen First defined by marketing and PR expert David Meerman Scott in a 2011 book by the same name,7 “newsjacking” is a process by which a business can inject its own ideas or angles into breaking news. You do this by publishing an online press release or blog post commenting on the story; this content then shows up in Google searches alongside news coverage. As well as getting you seen by customers on search engines, newsjacking can generate media coverage or online buzz that attracts even more customers to find your business through your content. Never heard of newsjacking, or maybe you’re not sure how to get started doing it? It’s not as complicated as you might think it is. Here are three steps for creating big-time PR buzz through newsjacking: 1. Find the right news to jack: Not every piece of big breaking news is “jackable.” It’s critical to make sure that the topic is relevant to your business and customers in some tangible way, and that you can comment on it without sounding fake or spammy. So, how do you find those topics? Monitor keywords or phrases in Google News, follow certain Twitter hashtags, and track popular media outlets that cover your industry. If you see some- thing that might apply to your business, go to step 2. 2. Act with a sense of urgency: In order to get your newsreleaseorblogpostnoticedwhenbignewsevents occur, you’ve got to be one of the first businesses to pull the trigger. That doesn’t mean you should hastily rush to create a poorly composed blog post. It does mean that you can’t afford to be hesitant. To success- fully newsjack a story, speed is vital. 3.Includetherightkeywords:Ifthenewsyou’retrying to hijack involves a specific company, organization, or keyword, make sure to creatively reference them in your blog post or news release headline, and several times in the first few paragraphs. You want journalists or customers who are looking for more information on a specific piece of news to easily find your content. Newsjacking is a perfect example of modern PR. It incor- porates some basic tenets of traditional public relations, but is more effective because of the speed and agility of digital media. If you’re able to successfully attach your busi- ness to a breaking news story, you can quickly create buzz, climb search rankings, and connect with new customers. CASE STUDY: Making News in Search Rankings With a Seasoned PR Partner Inearly2006,leadingnationalrental management company Resort- Quest recognized that it had a significant marketing problem. Inanindustrywhereprospective customers conducted much of their research for potential resort destinations by performing Google searches, ResortQuest lacked the search results it needed to be seen by those customers. Thankfully, John Ellis, ResortQuest’s online marketing manager,hadaplan.ThecompanybegantousePRWeb, the Vocus online news release service that helps busi- nessescreate,distribute,andtrackonlinenewsreleases to gain publicity and exposure on the Web. After some early testing and experimentation with the software, Ellis began creating and distributing link-rich press releases using PRWeb’s system. Before long, Ellis began seeing increased traffic to Resort- Quest’s home page, while several of the company’s other landing pages were bubbling to the top of search results. Within six months, the company had several pages consistently listing in the top 10 of search engine results pages. Today, ResortQuest’s prospective customers have no trouble finding the company’s Web pages in search results. “Today, we are in the top five rankings with hundreds of quality keywords,” Ellis explains. “And it’s largely because of ResortQuest’s relationship with PRWeb and the quality of the press releases we’re able to create and distribute.” 7 David Meerman Scott, 2011; http://bit.ly/wHjLrx
  • 12.  12 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Score Local Publicity by Working with Influencers While direct-to-consumer tactics and more social engage- ment helps you converse more personally with your cus- tomers, the benefit of good, old-fashioned local publicity is still important. After all, in our conversation-fueled world, what you say about yourself on your website and social networks is not alwayswhatcounts.Sometimes,it’swhatotherkeyinfluencers say—the journalists, bloggers, or community members who have the ear of your prospects—that really matters. GrowthTactic:PitchaLocalReporteronTwitter Influencer marketing is the targeting of people who influence your customers’ opinions in order to amplify your mes- sage. Pre-Internet, this task was mostly executed through tradi- tional PR tactics. Today, however, you can engage ­influencers through a range of channels ­including social media. One of the best channels for doing that is Twitter. It’s an ideal observation and conversa- tion platform, and all you need is the account information of your local media influencers (news anchors, business re- porters, food critics, etc.) to build relationships with them. As you begin to build those relationships, the next step is to pitch your most influential local reporters on your company’s latest big news. To do that, keep these three tips in mind: °° Demonstrate your knowledge of their audience: If you know that a reporter’s following is particularly responsive to a specific topic, draft a pitch that’s relevant to that topic. For example, if you run a financial services consultancy and the reporter’s tweet history is heavy on saving for college, customize your Twitter pitch to include a college savings message. °° Make yourself accessible: Journalists work on tight deadlines. They can’t wait weeks, days, or, in some circumstances, hours for you to respond if they’re interested in your story. When you send your pitch, make sure you encourage them to contact you at their convenience and be ready to respond when they do— whether that’s minutes or months later. °° Don’t be a pest: Most reporters don’t mind if you send them a follow-up tweet or two after you’ve pitched them. But if they don’t respond, assume that they’re not interested in your idea for now. If you continue to badger them about your news on Twitter, you’ll risk spoiling the relationship. Knowing how to pitch your story idea to journalists can make the difference between them pursuing it and using you as a source in their stories, and them rejecting it or ignoring you altogether. Ultimately, if you treat reporters with professionalism and respect, they’ll probably return the favor to you. It might not yield publicity after your first pitch, but it will pay dividends at some point in the future. Stay Top of Mind (Without Annoying Your Customers) Customer attention is fleeting in the digital marketing environment.Brandloyaltystillexists,ofcourse,butcustom- ers are constantly bombarded by marketing messages and distractions. You need to refresh your customers’ loyalty and awareness constantly. Staying top of mind can be a fine line to walk. Contact customers too frequently and you run the risk of annoying them and driving them away. Don’t contact them enough and you risk losing their loyalty. 9 10
  • 13.  13 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software “ “ newsletters have high deliverability and open rates, you need to build a positive record of sending solicited, relevantemailsthatopt-incustomersandprospectswant to read. °° Establish a reasonable rhythm: While you don’t want to bombard your email newsletter subscribers with multiple emails per day, you should also avoid the opposite extreme of sending just one or two a month. If your email newsletters are too infrequent, your cus- tomers may forget why they signed up for your news- letter in the first place and immediately delete your message or mark it as spam. Emailremainsanextremelyeffectiveandpopularmarketing tactic. According to a Forrester Research study released in 2011, 88 percent of direct-to-consumer companies used or planned to use email marketing last year, while 71 percent of business-to-business companies did the same.8 Those numbers won’t decrease anytime soon, especially as inexpensive email marketing software continues to make the practice simple and cost-effective for smaller businesses. ASK THE EXPERT: Why should SMBs be using email ­marketing? It’s simple: Email has a proven return on investment (ROI) that, according to the Direct Marketers Association, was $40.56 for every $1 spent in 2011. There’s no more tangible way to illustrate its value to SMBs with tight marketing budgets than that. Email marketing is really the original social channel and people still use it every day more than any other social network. It offers the kind of reach and intimate engagement that a lot of other mediums still struggle to provide. DJ Waldow, Founder and CEO, Waldow Social “ 8 Forrester Research, “How US Marketers Use E-Mail,” 2011; http://bit.ly/TY905N Need help? When you need to connect and stay connected with customers and prospects, email delivers results. The Vocus Marketing Suite’s helps you create exceptional email campaigns with a huge range of professionally designed templates, easy segmentation, social media sharing, and real-time analytics to measure your results. Growth Tactic: Create and Send a Regular Email Newsletter Oneofthemosteffectiveemailmarketingtacticsforsmaller businesses—bothincostandreach—isanemailnewsletter. Similartotheprintnewslettersofyesteryearthatbusinesses used to send out, an email newsletter is simply a daily, weekly, or monthly update sent to a list of subscribers. It might contain company news, helpful tips, exclusive infor- mation, customer testimonials, and event information. If it’s managed effectively, an email newsletter can be a great way to consistently engage your customers and pros- pects, and regularly provide unique value to them without wearing out your welcome. Here are three simple tips that should set you up for email newsletter success: °° Provide incentives for customers and prospects to opt-in: One of the easiest ways to drive your customers away is to send email updates that they don’t want to receive. Make sure you only send your email newsletter to customers and prospects who have voluntarily opted in to receive it. How can you encourage customers to optin?Offerthemaspecialgiftforsubscribing.Itdoesn’t have to be anything major. A little something like a discount on merchandise or a subscribers-only coupon can go a long way. °° Guard your reputation: Email providers like Gmail and Yahoo rate you as an email sender based on the reputation of your domain (your company’s web- site name) and your Internet protocol (IP) address. If your email newsletters are sent too often and go frequently unopened by recipients, you may be blocked by Gmail or Yahoo. To ensure that your email
  • 14.  14 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software simple: people scan their inboxes quickly. If your subject lineislong,itwillexhaustyourcustomers’attentionspan and prompt a quick press of the delete button. 2. Avoid words that trigger spam filters: While some words will obviously alert the spam police (use your imagination), many seemingly innocuous words like free, video, and sample seem to be the arch-enemy of email spam filters. It’s also a good idea to avoid any punctuation or symbols. 3. Don’t be afraid to mention your company’s name: This is especially true for smaller businesses; it reminds customers of who you are and why you’re emailing them. Also, it helps create much-needed brand awareness. 4. Create a sense of urgency: Action-oriented words are highly effective subject line fodder. They’re far more successful (and less spammy) than words like “free” in inspiring subscribers to open the email. Use words like “today” and “now” that convey urgency and prompt immediate action. 5. Test different subject lines and analyze which ones resonate: Don’t use the same subject lines all the time, even if they are proving moderately successful. Experiment with a few different subject lines and test which ones yield the most click-throughs. Think about which words or phrases prompt you to open emails and try using those in your subject lines, as well. Great subject lines aren’t rocket science, but they aren’t accidental either. The best way to create subject lines that truly resonate with your subscribers is to put yourself in their place and think about the things that matter most to them. If you can address those issues, in a compelling way and in 30- 40 characters, you’ll stand a far better chance of having your email read. Improve Your Effectiveness by Measuring Results For many small and medium-sized businesses, executing a multi-channelmarketingstrategycanbesotaxingthatwhenit Be Influential in an Inbox Still not convinced by the case for email marketing? Here are a few more email marketing statistics from a recent Direct Marketing Association study:9 °° Compared to other forms of online marketing, email marketing’s return on investment—$40.56 for every dollar spent—is nearly double its nearest competitor ($22.24 for Internet display advertising). °° Commercial email drove an estimated $63.1 billion in sales in 2011, compared to $57.8 billion in 2010. °° Email marketing is projected to directly influence $67.8 billion in sales in 2012, while the Direct Marketing Association predicts that number will be $82.2 billion in 2016. In other words, email can—and will—influence your cus- tomers’ buying decisions if your messages are compelling, timely, value-driven, and relevant. Of course, if no one opens them, you’re wasting your time. Growth Tactic: Grab Attention with Better Email Subject Lines The subject line is the only part of your email that you can guarantee a customer will see. It is the gateway to the offers, news, tips, coupons and incentives in your email. It will often determine whether your email is read or discarded. Even experienced email marketers agonize over subject lines, where one right (or wrong) word can be the differ- ence between an open or the trash bin. Here are five simple subject line rules to ensure that you get the click-through: 1. Keep subject lines short and sweet: Depending on who you ask, a subject line should be no less than 20 characters and no more than 60. As a general rule of thumb, somewhere between 38 and 47 characters is a nice median. The argument for short and sweet is 11 12 9 Direct Marketing Association, “The Power of Direct,” 2011: http://bit.ly/qXjgok
  • 15.  15 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software comestimetomeasureacampaign’sresults,theanalysisisof- tenexecutedad-hocorignoredentirelyinfavorofgutfeeling. That’s a big mistake. While instinct and common sense can occasionally be effective, the only way to truly know whether your marketing activities are hitting their mark is to use objective measurements that validate your assumptions. Growth Tactic: Use Simple Analytics to Perform an A/B Split Test Retail and direct-to-consumer companies have used A/B testing for decades to ana- lyze different direct mail campaigns or offers. At its core, A/B testing compares a control sample to other samples to measure the one that performs best with a target audience. One type of A/B testing—also known as split testing—includes sending out the same email offers with different subject lines and mea- suring the open and click-through rates of each. A/B testing does come with one warning, however: For the inexperienced, it can get complicated pretty quickly. So, if you’re just getting started with A/B testing, don’t go overboard. Stick to these three tips to perform a straight- forward—but highly informative—A/B test: 1. Define your theory and your success metrics before you start: If you’re ­testing three possible call- to-action buttons on your website, it can be easy to assume which one will work more effectively before the test begins (see: Gut feeling). To avoid that, develop hypotheses that address those assumptions and estab- lish success metrics that will ultimately validate them. Success metrics could include specific actions (clicks, downloads, or purchases) or numbers (time spent on the website or bounce rate), but they should always align with your company’s goals. 2. Acquire enough data to establish significance: In ordertomakeatrulyobjectiveassessmentofaparticular 90% 65%A B 13 marketing activity, you need to acquire enough data to fairly represent your target audience. For instance, if you’re trying to analyze the messaging on different website landing pages and those pages end up getting very little traffic, it’s going to be very difficult to glean anything significant from the data you collect. 3. Remember that there’s no such thing as an unsuc- cessful test: Even if your test is inconclusive, it’s still valuable. Ultimately, that test showed that the element you were testing is not as important or impactful as you suspected. That will allow you to refocus your attention or energy on something else. Metrics and analytics are part of our everyday lives, tracking everything from our heart rates to our bank balances. Keeping tabs on those numbers allows us to better plan for the present and the future, and your business should view its marketing metrics and results the same way. If you don’t, then you won’t be able to detect problems when they arise andyou’lldecreasetheeffectivenessofyourmarketingefforts. Need help? To understand which elements of your marketing cam- paigns are making people click, share and buy, you need analytics. The Vocus Marketing Suite tracks and measureshowprospectsreacttoyourmarketinggiving you a quick overview of which tactics are working best, making it easy to improve your results every time. Attract Customers with Content Marketing Though it’s just now becoming a best practice, the basic concept of content marketing—creating and distributing relevant content to engage your audience—has been around for years. According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing’s roots trail at least as far back as 1895, when John
  • 16.  16 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Deere published its first branded magazine for an audience of outdoor enthusiasts and farmers. That spawned an era of custom corporate publishing in the 20th century, which car- ried over to the new millennium when Microsoft launched the first major corporate blog, “Channel 9,” in 2004.10 Today, any company can be a content marketing champion, and you don’t need a small army of writers and editors to do it. You simply need to examine the types of content—that could be a video, a tweet, or a blog post—that help your customers with the information they need. Growth Tactic: Content Curation—an Easy Entry to Content Marketing For smaller businesses that don’t have the time to compete with larger compa- nies producing libraries of fresh, custom content in-house, ­content curation is the answer. To understand this tactic, imagine being the owner of a high-end art gallery. Rather than forcing your customers to chase down the world’s best new art, you sift through the art landscape for them, curating the best pieces and centralizing them in one place. Bringing it back to marketing, you can do something similar with your blog, collecting and sharing third-party content that your customers are interested in. As well as driving traffic to your blog, curation is a cost-effective way to build thought leadership and brand awareness. Before you go off simply hijacking other experts’ con- tent, however, be sure to understand these four steps to perfect curation: 1. Identify: Be sure the content you curate is relevant to your audience and helpful in some way. Research shows that people are more apt to click on an article that they agree with than one they disagree with, so consider curating content that will confirm your customers’ opin- ions or feelings about a specific topic. Also, only curate content from high-quality sources that you and your customers can trust. 2. Summarize: Don’t be a plagiarist. By taking a few minutes to quickly summarize the content you’re curating and add your take on it, you’ll boost your credibility as a trusted source and increase your posi- tion as a thought leader. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and write a 10-paragraph post, but you should do more than simply copy and paste someone else’s content. Give credit where credit is due. 3. Organize: As you build a rich library of relevant con- tent, you’ll need to organize it in a way that’s easy to find and digest. You might categorize curated content by topics or specific customer questions, and make it simple to search for or click on. Don’t lose track of your archived content—some of it will be useful for years to come. Give that content a home on your blog or a specific section of your website, and it will pay search engine dividends long after you originally curated it. 4. Share: This is the easiest step. To be truly effective, you should commit to sharing your curated content regularly—either through an email newsletter, your social networks, or your blog. If you fail to do that, your chances of becoming a reliable source of information for your customers will go down, causing them to look elsewhere for that content. With so many companies publishing and sharing content, many users feel swamped with information. Content cura- tion presents an opportunity for you to provide respite for your prospects and customers, giving them one trusted source for all of the information they need. 10 Content Marketing Institute, 2012; http://bit.ly/ArF0JO
  • 17.  17 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Help Customers Find Your Content Content is the lifeblood of modern online marketing. It boosts brand interaction, brand awareness, thought lead- ership, and your chances of influencing customers. Of course, that’s assuming that your customers find it. Optimizingyourcontentforsearchenginesandsocialmedia is the easiest way to guarantee this will be the case. To do it, the first step is to consider how and why your customers search for content, and which terms or keywords are most relevant to them. The basic idea is to monitor specific keywords that are relevant to your business and use them in your content headlines, social media posts, and website copy. By doing that, you’ll greatly improve your content’s reach and its chances of getting found and shared. Growth Tactic: Optimize a YouTube Video for Search and Social According to YouTube, more than 72 hours of video are uploaded to its network every minute and over 4 billion hours of video are watched each month (yes, you read that right).11 It’s a crowded environment that can be hard to stand out in. Sure, you occasionally see a random “cat fights dog” or “girl runs into tree” video go viral. But for every one of those, there are thousands of videos that go completely unno- ticed. If you’re not optimizing your video for search and social, the likelihood is your video will go unnoticed, too. Here are five steps of basic optimization to make sure that doesn’t happen: 1. Write a strong script: One of the worst things you can do is simply turn on your camera, press record, and tape five minutes of improvised, incoherent rambling. Any optimization effort begins with crafting a concise, informative script that will produce a video your cus- tomers will want to watch and share. 2. Add a caption track: Currently, search engines cannot decipher the audio in your video. They can, however, read uploaded transcripts that cover the video’s main talking points and include your important key- words. Be sure to do that before you publish your video. 3. Give the video a search and social friendly title: Truly optimized headlines are concise, compelling, and keyword-rich. Identify the keywords that are most relevant to your audience and the video itself and use those—along with your company name—in the video title. 4. Write a compelling description for your video: Your video description is your sales pitch. It will convince your audience to watch it, while also making the video more visible in search results. As with any piece of content, be sure to avoid keyword stuffing— the practice of jamming every ­imaginable ­keyword into a paragraph and calling it search optimized. Keyword stuffing fails to accurately describe the video and also sends a red flag to spam-policing search algorithms. 5. Apply relevant tags: This is where you can insert keywords that might attract your target customers. Choose the most relevant keywords for your video and make sure you place quotes around multiple words that you want treated as a single phrase. Whether your video has the production value of a Holly- wood blockbuster or a home movie, if you don’t optimize it, it won’t have the reach and impact that you desire. The same goes for any content format, so be sure to take the tips above and customize them for all of the content you produce. 14 11 YouTube, 2012; http://bit.ly/gzYBVx
  • 18.  18 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software Turn Your Customers Into Customer Evangelists For all of the amazing new online meth- odsthatmarketerscanusetoreach, engage,andinfluencecustomers, nothing seems to drive sales like a customer professing their love for your business to their friends, families, and networks. It’s known as “customer evangelism,” a term that Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba popularized with their 2002 book, Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force, and it’s marketing gold. While you can’t buy or pay for customer evangelists, you can create more of them by providing great customer service, engaging in authentic conversations, and selling fantastic products and services. The more customers you convert to customer evangelists, the more outspoken lobbyists your company will have. You can’t overestimate the organic impact those folks can have on your bottom line. The question is how to best leverage your evangelists’ loyalty once you have it—without over- stepping your bounds? The Solution: Crowdsource a Marketing Campaign Twenty years ago, businesses were in charge of the messages their customers received. They either interacted with them directly or used one-way marketing to deliver the message they wanted their customers to hear. Today, your customers are piloting the plane. They choose when to interact with you and when to absorb your messages. There is, however, a way to collaborate with your customers in a way that harnesses their insight, power, and influence to execute authentic, cost-effective marketing campaigns. It’sknownas“crowdsourcing,”andit’sthepracticeofasking your customer evangelists to generate new ideas, spread your message, or directly participate in a specific market- ing initiative. Crowdsourcing takes advantage of your most loyal customers’ evangelism and converts it into a living extension of your business. Here are four simple steps to develop a high-powered crowdsourced marketing campaign: 1. Select the appropriate platform to engage your crowd: There are numerous crowdsourcing tools that can help you acquire the feedback and word-of-mouth power you need. To start, you might survey opinions on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or write a blog post asking readers to submit ideas for a new company slogan or logo, for example. 2. Prompt participation: If you’re using social media to engage your customers, try drawing participants into the campaign by offering incentives. Maybe you let them get in on the ground floor by sampling a new product and asking for feedback. Or maybe you create a reward system for every “like” on Facebook or “retweet” on Twitter. Your goal should simply be to craft a call- to-action that encourages par- ticipants to spread the word and get involved. 3. Discern the gems from the junk: Not every cus- tomer evangelist is going to be the type of customer you want trumpeting your brand on their social net- works. You may even have competitors who pose as customers in an attempt to derail you. Beware of short- sighted or non-representative input, and keep an eye out for customers who might—in an effort to support you—totally misrepresent your business and its values. 4.Stakeyourclaim:Ifyou’releveragingcrowdsourcing to acquire new logo ideas or website designs, make sure to protect your rights against royalty claims by drafting a legal disclosure that says all submissions will automatically become your company’s intellectual property. 15
  • 19.  19 15 Ideas to Grow with Digital Marketing Marketing Software If used effectively, your customers can be the most effec- tive form of marketing your business can invest in. Addi- tionally, by displaying trust in your most loyal customers to help your business make key marketing decisions, you can foster a deeper relationship with them and increase the likelihood that they’ll refer and recommend your business going forward. Next Steps for Marketers Marketing has changed. In today’s digital buying cycle, customers engage with busi- nesses first. Their decisions are shaped by recommenda- tions on Facebook and Twitter, the information they find on Google, and the news and reviews they read online—all before a business engages with them. Reaching them with the right message, in the right place at the right time can be time consuming and expensive. However, there are tools that help you do digital market- ing. Better. The Vocus Marketing Suite was developed to help small and medium-sized businesses grow with technology by com- bining search marketing, social media and publicity in one integrated solution. Reach more customers, engage with influencers and grow your business fast with Vocus. Connet with us: About MarketingProfs MarketingProfs is a rich and trusted resource that offers actionable information and guidance designed to make you a smarter marketer—from social media and content marketing to lead generation and online conversions. More than 405,000 members rely on our free daily publications, podcasts, virtual conferences, and more to stay up-to-date on the most important trends in marketing, and how to apply them to their businesses. Plus, MarketingProfs deliv- ers enhanced professional development training through online seminars and short webcasts, in-depth how-to reports,research,interactiveplanningtools,onlinecourses, and in-person events. MarketingProfs helps the smartest marketers worldwide turn even the toughest marketing challenges into success stories. Basic membership is free— register now. Signupforademoat www.vocus.com/marketing today.