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Hayden Richards
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5 Winning Strategies for Using Human-Driven Lead Nurturing

Lead nurturing requires a human touch. According to MarketingSherpa, “ 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales [and] lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance.” In a world of automation, marketers tend to forget the power of human connection. It only takes a small change, like personalizing a white paper or mentioning someone’s first name in an email. Lead nurturing is too important in your sales cycle for non-customized messaging. You want prospects to know that you value their potential business. Ditch your robot responses. Enhance your lead nurturing campaigns with these five human-driven strategies. 1. Email That Connects Decades ago, receiving email was an enjoyable experience. People loved hearing AOL’s “You’ve got mail!” It signaled that someone sent a message just for you. Nowadays, your customers dread their inbox. Most of the time, it’s filled with unwanted messages and worthless subscription emails. Give your readers something to look forward to. Wow them with content that matches their needs. “Leads who have expressed initial interest need a general welcome and introduction to your product and industry, while others might have already reached the bottom of the funnel and are more interested in advanced content such as case studies and white papers,” writes Valerie Levin , marketing at Oktopost. Create email campaigns that motivate users to take action. The call-to-action should be a natural next step in the buyer’s journey. For instance, prospects in the consideration stage may want to know how your company compares to the competition. So, your team may send a comparison chart with features and benefits. In the example below, Desk helps onboard new clients by offering a free toolkit to strengthen the relationship . The purpose of email is further the business relationship. Your team should aim to understand the buyer’s behaviors to predict their future needs. 2. Social Selling Sam Kusinitz, former Hubspot editorial assistant, defines social selling as the dialogue that occurs “when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects.” Social selling isn’t anything new . Sales teams have always provided similar value at networking dinners, trade shows, and promo events. Even though the communication channel has changed, the message should stay the same. Focus on answering the customer’s questions and engage in conversations that offer solutions. Train your team to nurture leads via Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook. They should provide prospects with thoughtful content that educates. With social media listening tools, like Agorapulse , you can learn more about interested buyers and their behaviors. Who influences them? Who do they follow? What topics grab their attention? With that qualitative data, you can spark conversations that match their concerns. Rich Brooks, a web marketing and social media expert, provides blog consulting to his clients. In a Linkedin Group, he crafted a practical question that attracted ideal prospects and ignited a discussion. Also, be mindful that every social media platform has unwritten etiquette rules. For example, some people prefer not to read posts about the latest wrestling match on LinkedIn. And some desire only tidbits of information on Twitter. Respect each network’s social norms and then begin lead nurturing. Social media is another tool to maximize your campaigns. Strive to nurture relationships through authentic interaction. 3. Real-Time Messaging Technology has transformed the way we communicate. Back in the day, real-time communication involved people actually meeting face-to-face. Today, businesses are taking advantage of live chat and help desk software to engage prospects online. It’s simple and drastically cut costs. Moreover, research shows that proactive chats increase ROI by up to 105% . With live chat, marketing and sales teams can learn about their customers’ goals and what product benefits top are must-haves. The key is to ask prospects questions during live chat sessions . Without being intrusive, dig deep to find their real motivations. So, after the “How can I help you?” greeting, teach your team to ask follow-up questions. Below is a chat session between Annabelle, a Zappos agent, and a customer seeking shoes. Notice how the live chat agent asks questions to provide the customer with better service. “The customer needs questions answered and wants more information. The live chat representative wants to help the user find what they are looking for and make their user experience as pleasant as possible,” states Jeff Mason , vice president of marketing at Velaro. In the end, people just want help. When lead nurturing, position your team to give prospects the best service possible. 4. Conversational How-To Videos Visual content is a powerful tool for any eCommerce business. Video can captivate audiences and quickly engage people. But video is only effective when customers are actually interested in the topic. Don’t bore your prospective clients with video clips that possess no purpose. Rather, develop explainer videos that give prospects more insight about your brand and product. You want people to be invested in your message. “Great video doesn’t change the rules. A great video on your site isn’t enough. You still need permission, still need to seek remarkability, still need to create something that matters. What video represents is the chance—if you invest in it—to tell your story in a way that sticks,” writes Seth Godin , best-selling author and marketer. The best videos are conversational. They give people an intimate perspective. You want customers to know you care. Amazon produced a remarkable explainer video for the Echo. It’s a friendly representation of how to demonstrate the benefits of a product . Watch below. In addition, videos aren’t a one-use tactic. Andrew Angus, Director of Revenue Operations at PlanGrid, states : “Videos are incredibly versatile; you can post them to the social networks your leads used to find you, integrate them into blog posts, or insert them into emails. In each case, you can customize the video to provide leads and prospects with insight into different aspects of your brand, products, or services.” Don’t just join the conversation. Use video to be the conversation. 5. Surprise & Delight Experiences Surprise and delight is a marketing strategy that randomly selects an individual or group of people to receive a gift . People want to feel special. Use this technique to keep prospects excited about participating in the sales process. Here’s an example from Biotherm, a French luxury skincare company, on how they surprise and delight their Twitter followers with free samples: The Ritz-Carlton in Bali knows how to continue to provide their customers with great experiences despite unfortunate events . A family was upset when they learned that the allergy-friendly foods for their son had spoiled on their trip. After becoming aware of the situation, the hotel’s staff searched the town for the appropriate items. However, none was found. The executive chef then instructed his mother-in-law in Singapore to buy the products. The Ritz-Carlton then hand-delivered the items to their guests. Now, that’s going above and beyond service. How can you infuse this into your business? “Make ‘surprise and delight’ the mantra of your entire company just because it is the right thing to do. The immediate ROI might not show on a spreadsheet, but the loyalty and word-of-mouth it will generate will be worth it. And besides, it’s just the right thing to do,” says Vebeka Guess , a product marketing manager for Adobe Experience Manager. Treat your leads like royalty. Give them a reason to engage with your brand. Real People, Real Value Lead nurturing centers around building relationships. And the best value requires human contact. Customize email campaigns based on the prospect’s behavior. Use social media to gain valuable insight about your target audience. And create how-to videos that ignite conversation, not boredom. Start winning. Use human-driven lead nurturing strategies. About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

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How to Improve Your Conversion Rate By 50% in One Day

Anyone who’s worked in digital marketing knows that conversions are the lifeblood of any online marketing campaign. You run a marketing campaign to get people to do something—sign up for your services, buy your product, fill out a lead gen form, give you their email, etc. Essentially, you market in the hopes that people will do what you want them to do and eventually produce profitable revenue for your company . A good campaign will get a lot of people to take your conversion action. An ineffective campaign won’t. As a result, improved conversion rates are a key goal for any decent digital marketer. Marketing costs money, so the higher your conversion rate, the more bang you get for your buck. Improving your conversion rate is a great goal, but to do that, we need to look at your conversion tracking. Tracking Conversions One of the fundamental ideas behind conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the notion that you are effectively tracking conversions. Think about it, in order to improve your conversion rates, you have to  actually know what your conversion rate is to begin with! And, to do that, you need fantastic conversion tracking in place. Unfortunately, most marketers  aren’t tracking their conversions effectively. To understand how this affects conversion rate, let’s take a look at how well marketers are implementing conversion tracking in AdWords. AdWords Conversion Tracking AdWords is an ideal medium for conversion tracking. Google itself makes implementing conversion tracking incredibly easy and paid search is typically a direct response marketing channel , which means that most of your conversions should be directly attributable to clicks on specific campaigns. In contrast, higher funnel marketing campaigns like social media or branding efforts can be a lot harder to effectively track. It’s doable, but it’s harder. Since conversion tracking is so easy in AdWords, you’d think that every marketer would have great conversion tracking in place, right? Sadly, that’s not the case. Over the past 2 years, we’ve audited well over 2,000 AdWords accounts at Disruptive Advertising. Amongst all of those audits, perhaps one of the most common problems was a lack of effective conversion tracking. Accounts Without Conversion Tracking To the credit of everyone who’s encouraged conversion tracking over the years, 57.7% of AdWords accounts had set up some level of conversion tracking . But, if only 57.7% of accounts have tracking in place, then  42.3% of AdWords account managers have absolutely  no idea whether or not their campaigns are working . Not surprisingly, AdWords campaigns without tracking rarely turn a profit . In fact, according to  Hubspot’s State of Inbound report , 97% of inbound marketing campaigns without tracking fail . So, even in AdWords—one of the most trackable marketing platforms—42% of campaigns have almost no chance of success. Accounts With Conversion Tracking Of the 58% of AdWords accounts with conversion tracking, half were only tracking a small percentage of their actual conversions. In other words, 29% of AdWords accounts are  technically  tracking conversions, but their setup is so poor that they might as well not be tracking anything at all. For example, in the plumbing/HVAC industry, phone calls are a major source of leads . However, most plumbing/HVAC companies only track form submissions, which are few and far between—making forms a terrible indicator of campaign effectiveness! Plumbers aren’t the only ones with this problem, either. Many companies with millions of clicks have only a handful of conversions to their name. Are they tracking conversions? Technically, the answer is “yes,” but their conversion tracking isn’t painting an accurate picture of the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns. AdWords Conversion Rates Generally speaking,  a conversion rate of 2-3% is considered “typical” for an AdWords account . Based on our data, it’s easy to see why: Clearly, the vast majority of accounts—regardless of how many clicks they get—fall into the 0-5% conversion rate window. Conversion Rate Benchmarks A couple of years ago, Wordstream ran an analysis on hundreds of AdWords accounts to try and create conversion rate benchmarks for AdWords performance. Here’s what they found: The median AdWords account had a conversion rate of 2.35%. The bottom 25% of accounts had a conversion rate of 0-1%. The top 25% of accounts had conversion rates of 5.31% or better. To validate their results and see if anything had changed, we used Wordstream’s criteria and ran the same analysis on our audit data. Not surprisingly, our results were very similar: The median conversion rate for an AdWords account is 2.18%. 27.5% of accounts lie in the 0-1% conversion rate range. The top 25% of accounts have a conversion rate better than 5.34%. Here’s how the conversion rate distribution breaks down. As you can see, 75% of AdWords accounts have a conversion rate between 0% and 5.34%. It’s a little harder to calculate from this chart, but the top 10% of advertisers have a conversion rate of over 11.03% (in Wordstream’s study, the top 10% had a conversion rate of 11.45% or better). So, if more than 5.34% of your clicks are converting, that means your conversion rate is better than 75% of AdWords advertisers. If your conversion rate is above 11.03%, your account is in the top 10% of all AdWords accounts. Great news, right? Well, maybe… Where Wordstream Went Wrong As we were replicating Wordstream’s analysis, we realized that our results  weren’t representative of actual account performance. The data was skewed by bad conversion tracking. Remember, in our audit process, we discovered that while 58% of AdWords accounts were tracking conversions, only 29% actually had an effective setup in place. By including all of those poorly-tracked accounts in our analysis, we were heavily underestimating the  actual conversion rate of AdWords accounts. To Wordstream’s credit, they had tried to account for this by excluding accounts with less than 10 conversions, but that still left  a lot of accounts that we knew from our audit process weren’t tracking conversions effectively. So, we reran our analysis. But, this time we only included the few hundred accounts we  knew had good conversion tracking in place. Here’s what we found: The median conversion rate for a well-tracked AdWords account is 3.16%. Only 15.2% of these accounts have a conversion rate of 0-1%. The top 25% of accounts have a conversion rate of 7.82% or better. The top 10% of well-tracked accounts have a conversion rate of over 20%! Here’s the conversion rate distribution for well-tracked AdWords accounts: As it turned out, well-tracked AdWords accounts have a nearly 50% higher conversion rate than the average AdWords account. What does that mean for your company? Well, if you are advertising on AdWords and have conversion tracking in place, it’s even odds that you are only tracking two-thirds of your conversions. If you’re advertising in one of those harder-to-track channels like social media, you’re probably missing out on even more conversions. How to “Improve” Your Conversion Rate in One Day This brings us back to improving conversion rates. To put it simply, the easiest way to improve your conversion rate is to start effectively tracking the conversions you are already getting. That means tracking everything—phone calls, form submissions, sales, sign-ups, online chats, in-store visits— everything! In many cases, simply accounting for your missing conversions will increase your conversion rate by 50% or more…overnight. This will probably make your boss very happy in the short-term, but—more importantly—it will set you up for long-term success. Think about it, if you are only tracking some  of your conversions, do you  really know which campaigns are your top producers? A campaign that drives very few form submissions may actually generate a ton of chat leads. But, if you aren’t tracking chats, you might assume one of your top campaigns is a flop . Regardless of which online marketing medium you’re using, great analytics tracking is key to advertising success . Without the right data, you could be leaving a ton of money on the table . By knowing which campaigns deserve your dollar, you can dramatically improve your conversion rate, return-on-investment and capture a lot more market share . So, take the time to work with an analytics platform like Kissmetrics or Google Analytics, get your conversion tracking set up right and start making more money. Conclusion Proper conversion tracking can make a world of a difference to your conversion rate. We’ve seen the short- and long-term benefits of implementing effective conversion tracking with hundreds of clients, so it’s well worth the time and effort. The data may not always be as clearcut as our AdWords findings, but regardless of how you are marketing your company, quality conversion tracking is always the key to better conversion rates. How does conversion data affect your online marketing decisions? Did you find any of this data surprising? Let me know in the comments! About the Author: Jacob Baadsgaard is the CEO and fearless leader of Disruptive Advertising , an online marketing agency dedicated to using PPC advertising and website optimization to drive sales. His face is as big as his heart and he loves to help businesses achieve their online potential. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter .

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3 ways to improve B2B lead quality

Columnist Patricia Hursh believes that by working closely with sales, improving targeting and using the right qualifiers, B2B businesses can see greater returns from their marketing efforts. Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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MarTech Today: Google Daydream VR headset, Invoca’s “missing channel” & Bing’s UET Tag Helper

Here’s our daily recap of what happened in marketing technology, as reported on Marketing Land and other places across the web. From Marketing Land: Google will build its own Daydream VR headset & controller May 19, 2016 by Danny Sullivan While Google will build its own VR hardware,... Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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How Email Segmentation Sustains Customer Loyalty

Research shows that segmented email campaigns possess a 14.25% higher open rate compared to non-segmented campaigns . Targeted messages grab people’s attention. And SaaS teams must direct that attention to converting buyers into loyal customers. “While enticing new customers is important, no marketing channel can boost loyalty the way that email can. Since people typically sign up for email to be notified about promotions you can use that information to increase sales,” says David Marinaccio , email marketing manager at Active Web Group. Segmentation is an effective method to deliver the right message to the right person. It helps personalize the shopping experience to increase sales. Let’s explore how your next email campaign can retain more customer relationships . The Value of Customer Loyalty Customer loyalty is how your business will continue to grow. Satisfied consumers enjoy purchasing your products, like telling their friends about your brand, and don’t mind sending a promotional tweet. And when necessary, loyal customers will even defend your brand name during a PR mishap. To achieve customer loyalty, your SaaS needs to offer unprecedented value to your buyers. You’re not selling a product; instead, your team is providing an experience. “Customer loyalty is built upon consistently positive, high-value experiences with a brand, often exceeding customer expectations. Loyalty goes beyond satisfying needs or wants. It’s an emotional connection to a brand that customers love and will happily return for,” writes Donna Peeples , Founder and Chief Engagement Officer of Motivated, Inc. In the graphic below, you’ll discover a few effective strategies to improve your customer loyalty. One of my favorites is creating a WOW factor in customer engagements . It’s vital to give people something they weren’t expecting. Then, you exceed their expectations. Image Source Convince and Convert reports that “44% of email recipients made at least one purchase in the last 12 months based on a promotional email.” Use email to build a loyal consumer base and boost sales. Email is an intimate channel where your company can talk directly to the buyer. That’s why it’s important to ensure that your marketing messages resonate with the individual. Research says that “41% of people said they purchase more from retailers that send personalized emails based on past browsing and buying behavior.” Your customers don’t like receiving mass emails. They want information catered to their needs. There is value in customer loyalty. Look toward email as a way to build that loyalty. Segmentation Possibilities Segmentation is “the process of dividing your customers up into different groups who share a number of similar characteristics.” And loyalty segmentation is how you group customers based on their interaction and engagement with your content. It’s about going beyond demographics and locations. Use segmentation to support personalized email campaigns . The goal is to target your buyer’s behavior and interests. A study reported that “ mailings targeted to loyalty program members outperformed overall bulk mailings, with open rates 40% higher, click rates 22% higher and transaction rates 29% higher.” Pat Flynn, podcast host of Smart Passive Income, suggests discovering the different content types within your audience : “In the health and fitness industry, for example, there are people who are interested primarily in losing weight, and there are others who are more interested in strength training. Within strength training, there are those who are interested in looking beefed up, while there are others who are in it to look lean.” Learning your buyer’s likes and habits is mandatory. It will allow your team to deliver messages that matter to the customer. Therefore, saving your company both time and money. Below is an example from MyBinding. This business offers different promotional incentives based on the customer’s purchase history. Churning customers receive a larger discount (15%) to lure them back into the purchase cycle. Since the best customers are more likely to purchase again, they receive a slightly smaller incentive, 10%. Image Source What segmentation mix works well for your SaaS? Find out how you can bring more value to a specific audience. Loyalty-Targeted Emails Your SaaS might be missing opportunities to build customer loyalty. It’s because you are not sending triggered emails to your segmented groups. Triggered emails are automated messages sent in response to your customer’s actions. And while you’re probably using them to send welcome emails, research shows that triggered emails are underused. MarketingSherpa revealed that “only 24% use them for date-activated trigger messages (such as renewal dates or birthdays), and only 18% use them to acknowledge website behaviors.” Start reviewing your email data. Gain a better understanding of how your team can benefit from triggered emails. Derek Buntin at Adonis Media, says, “Use email analytics to determine which customers are opening emails but not making a purchase. Then, send these users follow-up emails with the incentive.” Priceline tailors emails to consumers’ on-site behaviors. For instance, when consumers book a trip, the brand will send an email welcoming them home after their vacation is over. And the email includes a discount toward their next trip. Image Source . With a loyalty-targeted focus, your team can send customers triggered emails about redemption reminders, requests for feedback, and invitations to VIP programs. “Loyalty-focused campaigns can span the entire customer life cycle , from the initial entry to program renewal notifications and reminder messages. They also tend to perform better than standard promotional mailings in terms of customer response and revenue,” says John Fetto, a senior B2B marketing manager. Email marketing doesn’t mean sending anything and everything to buyers. You’re striving for retention. So, develop email campaigns with the power of triggered messages. Sustainable Relationships Because all consumers aren’t created equal, customization is essential. And customers are willing to help build personalized experiences. However, they want something in return. Loyalty360 “noted that 67 percent of U.S. adults would be willing to give companies access to basic personal information in exchange for better service or products.” It’s doesn’t matter how great the relationships are if your products don’t deliver. Always be mindful of how you can improve your platform, features, and customer service. Be open and honest with consumers. Transparency helps your organization build sustainable relationships. “We are fighting against years of people feeling like companies are somehow screwing them over with hidden pricing and confusing return policies. The only way to establish trust and loyalty is to show your cards,” writes Mikkel Svane , founder and CEO of Zendesk. Focus on a long-term strategy by testing and experimenting. Measure your results and derive new insights from your findings. You may find out that everyone isn’t on the same page. But that’s fine. Just make the necessary adjustments. Image Source . “…[E]mail marketing’s biggest challenge: the fact that there is a lot of competition for the same eyeballs. Personalization of your email messages will help your company stand out and generate more attention, higher levels of online engagement and lead to more in-store sales,” says Melanie Franke , Content Marketing Specialist at G/O Digital. Don’t settle for generic or dishonest messaging. Your customers deserve better. Segment to Sustain Customer loyalty strengthens your brand. With the power of email segmentation, SaaS teams are able to create personalized experiences. Loyalty can lead to increases in brand awareness and sales. Segmenting includes differentiating customers by interests and behaviors. And a powerful email campaign strategy is grounded in data-driven triggered emails. Segment to sustain customer loyalty. About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

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How to Craft a Data Management Plan that Pays You Back

When it comes to wrangling and taming Big Data, a data management plan is a solid first step. But what exactly is it and what does it involve? More importantly, how can you create such a plan? In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how businesses large and small can create data management plans that are both smart and seamless. The Old Problem: Silos Silos were meant to help keep people focused on their respective tasks. Instead, they divide people, waste resources and hamper productivity. The very groups that need to be working together the most, namely sales and marketing, are shut off from each other which in turn stifles growth and innovation. Instead, creating a more hub-and-spoke collaborative center, where each group feeds into and extracts relevant information from said Big Data, is where forward-thinking companies and organizations are headed. Image Source: Compendian Designate at least one person from each group to be the “representative” – and this applies to C-level executives too. These are going to be the people who essentially build and steer the Big Data ship. It’s easy to get lost in the sheer volume of information. Alongside these representatives, name people from each group who will oversee the various strategies to ensure that they’re continually on point and not being bogged down by minor details and technicalities. Demonstrate What’s Possible One of the biggest sticking points with Big Data is the question “how is this really relevant to us?” Realize that different pieces of the Big Data pie are going to matter to different groups and seeing how it all comes together is like a fantastic puzzle. There’s good stuff in the details, as well as the big picture. At this point, however, it’s really easy to get caught up in the sheer volume of it all. But as with every good marketing strategy, you’ll need to ask yourself: “What’s going to bring us the biggest lifts?” And make those your priority. Then gradually trickle down through lesser and lesser priority pieces until the whole thing comes together. Organization is Just as Important as Execution Image Source: Forrester At this point, ideas should be coming together from all the different representatives and groups you have working together. And it’s very likely that you’ll want to jump right in and start getting your hands dirty with all the data.  But take the time to figure out how you’ll be organizing that information first. If you don’t do this at the beginning, the data will start to accumulate like a snowball rolling downhill, and eventually it will bury everyone and everything in its path. It’s also worth noting that your Data Management Plan needs to have security as its foremost priority. Kiki Burton, Senior Manager of Product Strategy at Adobe reiterates on her podcast just how crucial security is when you’re formulating such a plan. In her interview, she comments that: “The ideal [Data Management Plans] has no personally identifiable information. In order to ensure that [it] really upholds those privacy standards, there are a variety of methods to import data in an appropriate way so that it’s all anonymous…It’s important to really call out that a [Data Management Platform] is not going to be your CRM platform, it’s not going to be your basis for all your customer information…instead, it’s going to pull specific data from there, but [it needs to] be done in a very anonymous way.” The First Building Blocks of Your Data Management Strategy With this in mind, Kiki further advises that companies interested in building such a strategy take an inventory of all of the first party data they have. First party data includes: Social likes and shares Data from mobile devices or apps User subscription data CRM data There’s also the data collected by surveys, email marketing and other avenues – all just sitting there mostly untapped and unused. Once you have those points nailed down, then you can see about getting other information to round out your user profiles. You may be surprised to learn what other departments in your newly cohesive group have as data. It may be something your own group never knew about or never thought to use. Here again, when we build these silos (more like giant walls) between departments, crucial information like this tends to fall through the cracks. So it’s as much an organizational mission as it is a learning experience. Decide What Information You’re Going to Pull In Now that you have all the data together, it’s time to decide what’s relevant. Here again, relevancy depends on your industry and what the end goal is. You could be selling an entirely digital product and be focused on subscriptions and sign ups. Or you could be a retailer focused on in-store engagements like QR codes, co-branded credit cards and other promotional magnets. All of that information needs to be prioritized and put into the plan. This is what helps you build and “flesh out” your user personas without using any personally identifiable information. Remember that as your users interact with your site across multiple types of media, multiple devices and different promotions, you’ll be gathering information as well as providing them with a branded experience. Data management goes well beyond advertising and seeps into every interaction your customer has with you – from email to shopping in-store, to upsells, down sells and cross-sells. The Data Economy The bottom line when it comes to creating the kind of system that pays you back is what Kiki calls the “data economy”. In her words, “it’s not just about buying data for advertising; it goes back to this larger, more cohesive personalization message and really having a platform where brands and publishers can exchange data and share data in an open marketplace.” Like it or not, the Data Economy is here to stay, and you’d better start crafting a plan now to help make sense of it. Fortunately, you’ve now got the starting points and a more concrete idea on what to draw upon to make it happen. Have You Created Your Data Management Plan? Have you built a data management plan using the strategies outlined here? How has it worked for you? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today! Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!

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Ensighten’s tags open up data collection for IBM’s Marketing Cloud

The tag management firm now expands the data reach of the Cloud through IBM’s Universal Behavior Exchange. Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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Why Your Sales and Marketing Stack Needs a Solid Foundation

Imagine the best pancakes you’ve ever had. What made them work? They likely started with a solid recipe of core ingredients, then added just the right blend of proprietary variations to make an unforgettable short stack. But it all started from a solid foundation – flour, eggs, whole milk, baking powder, salt, cooking fat, and sugar. Your marketing and sales stack is no different. The foundation will make it or break it. Luckily, the ingredient list isn’t nearly as long as the pancake mix. What are the core ingredients that make up a solid sales and marketing foundation? It starts with a strategy focused on the customer and your content, and the right tool to whip it all together. Constructing the Stack The right recipe will help ensure you deliver the right message to the right person at the right point. An effective sales and marketing strategy starts with the customer and content at its core, and is further refined by understanding the journey that customer makes. Glossing over this part often results in half-baked strategies that fall flat. It’s critical to understand what the buyer’s journey looks like – the stages of awareness, consideration and decision, and the transitions in between. Each phase or stage will be specific to your buyer, which means getting to know your buyer is imperative. Enter: The buyer persona . These are detailed accounts of your target customer. They go well beyond basic demographics like age, gender, and occupation. A good buyer persona will detail what their motives and priorities are, how they determine success, what their perceived or actual barriers are, where they search for solutions, and who impacts their decisions. While surveys and reviewing analytics from online behaviors can provide some level of insights, one-to-one interviews are the best way to gather in depth details. You can conduct phone interviews or in-person visits with existing customers, or use industry events and trade shows as opportunities to talk to prospects, current customers and even the customers of your competitors. You’re looking for answers to questions such as: What priorities/problems prompted them to search for a solution? Why did they choose your brand over another? Or why didn’t they? How do they determine success and what are their goals? What barriers (perceived or actual) might stand in the way of their decision? Where do they look for solutions? Who influences their decisions? In depth buyer insights are the bedrock of customer success-focused content. With this level of detail, you are better equipped to understand and interpret their actions, and the questions they might ask within each stage on their path to purchase. At this point, the recipe will start to come together as you determine how to align your sales and marketing strategies to harmonize with the buyer’s journey and be there with the relevant content they need to answer their questions or solve their problems. Understanding the framework – the customer, their journey and the desired outcome of the content you produce – you will be able to identify what parts of the recipe can be changed as goals change or you learn more about buyer preferences. These three ingredients – the customer, their journey, and the content – will be staples, but how that content is delivered or the type being created can be substituted. In-depth buyer personas and a map of the customer journey is almost like cheating the system. Marketing and sales teams armed with these are better equipped to make a calculated, winning recipe – serving up the right stack (authentic content), at just the right time and in the right place. Serving Up the Stack Now that you’ve got a solid foundational recipe in place, there’s one final element – a solid platform to serve it from. Today, there’s a near endless supply of sales and marketing tools to support with everything from automation to customer relationship management and sales enablement, but even the best stack of tools can become unstable without the right foundational platform. Just some of the tools that can be added to the marketing and sales tech stack. Without the right foundation, this stack can quickly become unstable. How do you identify the right platform from which to build the recipe? First and foremost, it should support you in building a solid foundation. In other words, it should enable visibility into your customers, the purchase journey they go through, and the delivery of your content at the right place and time. Internal portals, analytics and collaboration amongst the various players on your team is also essential. ( Image Source ) How much do you know about your customer? What they’re reading, where they’re reading it, what social channels they use, and what they do? Try to avoid a cobbled together “Frankenstack” of sales and marketing tools. This creates silos within your team and makes for an unstable strategy that lacks cohesion. Instead look for a primary platform to serve as the hub. It should play nice with a variety of tools – everything should work in concert. Before you commit to a platform, consider the following: What is our desired outcome? Will this platform support our goals? Does this platform integrate with the apps we need for our team to work seamlessly? Does this platform help us fulfill the goals of our customer, and ultimately ensure they continue to move through the funnel? If you are working with an indirect sales channel, that platform should also support them with the training, marketing and sales tools they need to do their job and nurture their customers. Conclusion Before you start throwing together sales and marketing recipes, be sure to understand the role of each of those core ingredients and how they can be used to direct all recipes that follow. This will enable you to create far more effective strategies rather than hoping something will work. The customer and customer journey, and content that originates from those two ingredients, produces a winning recipe and helps ensure your efforts won’t be lost in a sea of marketing messages. About the Author: Jen Spencer is the Director of Sales and Marketing for Allbound , an innovative SaaS platform that helps companies empower their resellers and distributors to be more customer-focused through content and collaboration. Jen loves animals, technology, the arts, and really good Scotch. You can follow her on Twitter @jenspencer.

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How to Perfect Your Customer Journey Maps to Increase Conversions

Want more conversions? Increase the quality of your consumer interactions. Salesforce reports that “ 86% of senior-level marketers say that it’s absolutely critical or very important to create a cohesive customer journey.” To understand how your team interacts with every customer, it’s vital that you design a customer journey map that highlights every part of the purchasing experience. “Journey mapping is a holistic approach to understanding the flow of experiences a customer has with an organization; it uses pictures to represent a process that cannot be adequately captured with words,” writes Adam Toporek , author of Be Your Customer’s Hero . Let’s explore how to earn more sales. It starts with your journey map. What’s the Purpose? E-commerce businesses must be ready to adapt quickly to convert prospects. It’s one of the few ways to stay competitive in the market. CSO Insights found that “companies with ‘dynamic, adaptable sales and marketing processes’ reported an average of 10% more sales people on-quota compared to other companies.” You can’t box a sales transaction into a one-time occurrence. It involves more than just exchanging money for a product. It’s called the customer’s journey for a reason. The cycle encompasses all the interactions and decisions leading up to the purchase and after the sale. “Customer journey maps allow you to walk in your customers’ shoes by traveling with them as they interact with your company. When based on sound research, they provide an accurate outside-in view, focusing on desired outcomes from the customer’s perspective,” states Michael Hinshaw, CEO of McorpCX. Decades ago, companies worried about gaining new customers. But today’s business climate requires your SaaS to retain consumers. Therefore, nurturing the customer through the cycle holds greater purpose. Identify the touch points where customers interact with your brand . Understand how each interaction affects one another. Develop a buyer journey map using the five W’s: Who, Why, When, What, and Where. Image Source Learn where your team can fill in gaps and exploit opportunities to increase conversions. A customer journey map gives your team context. For example, if a customer calls your phone support line and waits 12 minutes without receiving assistance, then how should your team respond to a not-so-nice email from the person? Connect the dots in the customer experience. It will guide your business forward. Infusing Data Research shows that “74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was first to add value [and] insight .” Customers want to be educated, not sold. And for your SaaS to offer value-added information, your team needs to focus on consumer data. You’ll uncover what matters to your customer, when to give specific content, and how to present your content. So, if data is an afterthought in your customer journey, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Quantitative and qualitative data is a stepping stone to giving your customers value. Dom Nicastro, staff reporter at CMSwire , suggests the following methods to collect data: In-person focus groups Online moderated forums In-depth, one-on-one phone interviews As your team analyzes customer interaction data, you will master how to “accelerate customer acquisition, encourage repeat business , and improve customer loyalty.” This leads to adopting new product features, defining customer segments, and identifying churn signals. Monitor how you acquire data. Ensure that it’s accurate. Paul Boag , author of Digital Adaptation , says, “Be careful to make clear what has research behind it and what does not. Making many decisions based on assumptions is dangerous. Once management sees the benefits of research, they will be willing to spend more time on it.” Moreover, integrated customer journeys provide a competitive edge. Harvard Business Review cites Oakland-based Sungevity for their personalized digital customer journey. It helped the company’s sales double to more than $65 million. Gather data to learn more about your customers’ behaviors. Analytics is necessary for understanding the customer’s journey. The Blueprint Despite the effectiveness of customer journey mapping, only 34% of companies have undertaken the process. It’s an opportunity for your SaaS to take advantage of the benefits. The value of mapping includes recognizing functional silos, identifying growth factors, and establishing development priorities. If you don’t know how your customers flow through the sales cycle, it’s harder to serve their needs. The customer journey map doesn’t have to be elaborate. Initially, forgoing specific data may be an option for your company. Here’s a recommendation from Forbes contributor Micah Solomon : “Your customer journey map needs to be, or at least needs to start out its life being, independent from all considerations of internal processes and departments, because your customer will never have precisely the same viewpoint as the viewpoint you have internally, nor fully match up to the inevitably awkward divisions of task in your organization.” And every journey map isn’t the same. Maps can vary based on the industry, customer base, or management style. Several types exist, including business to business and tactical. Image Source But all journey maps should serve the same purpose: Illustrate how the customer engages with you brand. It shouldn’t be rooted in what your business thinks . Your team needs to document real experiences. “Actionable journey maps clearly identify both positive and negative customer emotions throughout their journey and put them in context of customer behaviors, goals, and expectations. Businesses use their data to identify opportunity areas and to assess the impact of current and future CX/UX investments,” writes Kathleen Hoski and Phil Goddard of TandemSeven. Build your plan to gain deeper insights to earn more conversions. Facing the Challenges Consider your journey map a living document that will continue to evolve. Get ready to add, subtract, and maybe even multiply your blueprint. In this digital age, customers are becoming more sophisticated. Their interests pinpoint to niche markets. And their problems need customized solutions . The key is to anticipate change. Recreating a linear path of the customer experience is only a waste of time, because we know customers take many routes to complete a sale. That involves research, justification, and cost analysis. Your team also should aim to build ongoing trust with your customers. CMO Council’s Content ROI Center reports that no more than 9% of B2B buyers fully trust vendor content . “They trust information that comes from people they trust: friends, family and network connections. You can’t be everyone’s friend, but you can stay in contact with a vast number of potential buyers on a regular basis thanks to social selling and automation,” says Daniel Ku , content marketing manager at Sales for Life. And lastly, possess a full perspective of the customer. Avoid making one-sided decisions. “Disparate systems and questionable data inhibit marketers from knowing and understanding who their customers are every time they engage. Without the single customer view, marketers face huge barriers from the very start,” says Bruce Swann , Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe Campaign. Challenges will arise. Prepare accordingly. Start Mapping Every SaaS team needs a path to sales. Build customer journey maps to facilitate the buying process. Learn how your SaaS is currently engaging with customers. Use data to pinpoint unknown consumer behaviors. And develop a blueprint that illustrates your buyers’ needs. Map out the customer journey. Increase conversions. About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

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Why the Traditional Marketing Funnel is Sabotaging Your Conversion Rate

The sales funnel. It all seems so smooth and simple, doesn’t it? Lots of prospects come in through the top, only to move in various, predictable stages like “Awareness” and “Discovery” only to come out the bottom as loyal, committed customers. Except the reality of today’s sales and customer experience process is anything like that. Things like brand advocacy, social media, and even our own experiences have changed the way we market to others. Why then should we stay stuck in this rigid, old funnel structure? We shouldn’t – and today’s article will show you why. According to the Harvard Business Review , there are a myriad of ways that people learn of and interact with a product. There are even times when customers don’t come through the top of the funnel, but rather somewhere in the middle. A typical marketing funnel starts with more customers in the “Awareness” stage and ends with fewer in the “Retention” phase Let’s say you were in the market for a new pair of running shoes. A friend recommends a specific brand and links to them on Facebook. On their page you can see user comments and testimonials as well as active discussions. You’ve just completely passed the Awareness and Discovery parts of the funnel and moved on to Engagement and likely even Purchase – because a recommendation from someone you trust is that valuable to you. On your way to purchase these shoes, the company recommends some specialized insoles to help cushion your feet. Great idea. Now you’ve instantly moved from consideration to purchase. It’s also possible that you could go back and forth between funnel stages while you evaluate different products or brands. And with networks like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest always available at the tap of a button, the traditional sales funnel we all know and refer to ends up looking more like a pretzel, with twists, turns and overlaps at every corner. Users will often double-back on their decisions, or switch between two points instantly Moving the Focus from Transaction to Relationship According to Antonio Lucio, Chief Brand Officer at Visa , the end goal is to shift priority from the transaction to the customer relationship. To that end, Visa has created the “Customer Experience Journey” which looks at the process from transactions being a part of the customer relationship rather than the customer relationship being viewed purely in terms of transactions. He gives the example of a family planning a trip from the U.S. to Mexico. Visa has mapped out the whole experience: Family gets ideas on where to go from TripAdvisor Family gathers suggestions from friends on Facebook Family decides to get cash from an ATM to pay for their cab Family pays for their hotel via their Visa credit card Family shares photos of trip with friends back home via Instagram You may see this list and think “Well, Visa is part of only one of these options” – which is true when you’re looking at each one as a transaction. But step back a moment and look at the bigger picture. Every one of these points is conducive to building and nurturing the relationship with the customer. The transaction itself is just a small piece of the puzzle and not the end goal. According to Lucio, “[w]hen you change from decision to engagement, you change the entire model.” So What Does This Have to Do With Conversion Rate? Here again, if you’re looking at the funnel purely from a revenue point of view, or spending too much time focusing on transactions, the customer experience gets lost in the shuffle. It becomes too much of a focus to think only of the numbers and not of the people driving them. If you zero in on numbers alone, you miss out on so much more. Just look at brands like Tesla Motors on Facebook. Do you think there are nearly 1.5 million Tesla owners? Tesla Motors has nearly 1.5 million followers – not all of them customers Not yet – but these people admire what the company has been able to build and the values they stand for. All of those things feed back into the brand itself and create the customer experience. Even digital products and services like SaaS and mobile apps can benefit from this adjusted funnel. As the Harvard article explains, with traditional funnels, marketing is a separate entity. With SaaS and other platforms, the marketing and the service go hand in hand. Marketing with SaaS The Salesforce AppExchange, for instance, doesn’t just look at the process as “how do we market this?” but rather, “how do we add value to this so that the things we recommend market for us?” Many of the apps profiled here weren’t made by Salesforce, but Salesforce and the apps it works with form a kind of symbiotic relationship where both parties win. Not all apps featured on the AppExchange were built by Salesforce, but all of them use it to enable their own customer experience journeys Another example is Google. What started out as solely a search engine has branched out to become a search engine, email service, word processor, storage service and countless other services, all entwined under a single brand umbrella. Every service plays well with other services – making it faster and easier for us to create, communicate and share. And our brains thrive on faster and easier. Sure, there are other search engines out there, even other companies that have just as much influence as Google. But they don’t integrate in a way that makes our experience faster, easier or better. When was the last time you found exactly what you needed within seconds, using Bing? The Bottom Line on Funnels and Conversion Rates As the Harvard article says, the traditional funnel isn’t going away anytime soon. There are still products and services out there that gain new customers this way. But to overlay and apply that to our more open, two-way communication world is just trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. It’s not flexible, not adaptive, and just doesn’t work – leading to poor experiences for everyone. When you look at marketing as the multi-faceted beast it is, you’ll be able to create your own funnel “roadmap” that incorporates all the steps you need to engage and empower your customers in a way where everyone wins. What are your thoughts? Have you thrown out the traditional funnel in favor of another sales model? Which one did you choose and how did it work for you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below. About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at iElectrify.com and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today! Follow @sherice on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ for more articles like this!

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10 Reasons to Use a Social Media Management Tool As social media marketing has become increasingly important to business, so to have the tools required to …
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The 2017 Guide For Growing Your Email List 1K in 30 Days May 17th, 2016 by Robert van Tongeren Take note: this is exactly how the …
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