Justin Staples is an entrepreneur who specializes in providing businesses with results-driven SEO, custom web design, and content development. Below, he offers a modern guide for any business to ensure their efforts are modernized and effective:
Growing a successful business is anything but easy.
If you want your business to scale, you need more than a good product or service. You’ll also need tried-and-tested processes to deal with anything from sourcing products, managing employees, dealing with customers, and more.
Beyond that, you also need to figure out how you can reach as broad of a customer base as possible, and that comes down to marketing.
There are a thousand ways to market your business. However, every day that passes, digital channels become more important. Now more than ever, customers are more likely to look up products online before spending a single dollar.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of digital (or online) marketing, now’s a great time to learn some basics, so let’s get to it.
A Quick Introduction to Digital Marketing:
Every type of promotional activity that involves electronic devices falls under the banner of digital marketing. However, some online channels are far more important than others when it comes to promoting your business.
Social media is the easiest example. Unless you’re a hermit, almost everyone you know probably uses it.
Perhaps the best thing about digital marketing is it enables you to reach a far broader audience than old-school approaches – such as handing out flyers, magazine ads, and others.
If you run a local business, you can use online marketing to gain customers from all over the country, and even the world (depending on what you’re selling!). It all comes down to choosing the right channels.
10 Must-Knows of Digital Marketing in 2019:
In this section, we’ll walk you through the key terms you must know to get started with online marketing and some of the best channels you can focus on.
Keep in mind – some businesses will find more success in some channels than others, and it all depends on who your audience is. By the time we’re through, you’ll have all the information you need to make some important decisions!
Throwing money at marketing without a plan might work, but it’s not a sustainable or scalable approach.
To reap the full benefits of online marketing, you need a framework, which is a fancy name for a business plan. Here’s what it should outline:
• What your goals are (i.e., finding new leads, getting more traffic, sales, etc.)?
• Who is your audience?
• What online channels will you focus on?
• How much money do you plan to spend?
• What process will you use for tracking your results?
Frameworks are the basis of a great online marketing strategy. By laying out all that information, you’ll gain insight into why some marketing approaches work while others fail.
2. Brand Story
Branding is essential for any business. It enables you to establish relationships and build trust with your audience, which can help transform them into customers and keep them around.
The concept of branding is often very vague, but you can boil down what your brand is by answering a few simple questions:
• Who are your ideal customers?
• What problem do you help those clients solve?
• How do you want your audience to perceive you?
To put it another way, the products and services you offer may be at the core of your business. However, it’s your branding, web design, and the value you bring to your customers that determines what they think about you.
Before you embark on any marketing endeavor, you need to have a clear idea of what your brand is or what you want it to be. That way, you’ll be able to keep things consistent throughout every channel.
3. Traffic Acquisition and Conversions
When it comes to online marketing, we often don’t talk about sales, sign-ups, or leads. Instead, we refer to those things as “conversions.”
The more traffic you can drive to your website using digital channels, the more potential conversions you get. Those conversions might not always lead directly to sales, but ideally, they’ll get you one step closer to that finish line.
At the end of the day, the value of your services is what convinces visitors to become clients. Digital marketing is just the set of processes you use to get them in the door.
4. Paid Ads
Most online channels enable you to pay in exchange for traffic. That includes social media platforms, search engines, websites, and more.
Depending on which channel you use, you’ll be able to run different types of ads. Usually, you’ll pay for clicks, impressions, or more specific interactions.
In online marketing, we refer to groups of paid ads as “campaigns.” Ideally, you’ll test different campaigns across marketing channels, figure out what works, and then scale upwards to get more conversions.
5. Email Marketing
When it comes to digital marketing, email is king.
To reap the full benefits of email marketing, you’ll need to build up a sizable list of subscribers and develop engaging campaigns. It’s a ton of work, but the numbers speak for themselves.
6. Live Chat
If you take a quick look at some of your favorite websites, we’re willing to bet a lot of them have live chat windows.
Nowadays, live chat is by far the most popular channel for customers to communicate with you. In fact, 44% of visitors say having someone that can answer their questions directly is a big factor deciding whether to make a purchase.
Once someone gets to your website, it’s your job to explain what your products and services can do for them. The best way to do that, by far, is telling them yourself, and live chat provides you with a channel that enables you to do that.
7. Affiliate Marketing
Think about affiliate marketing as a commission program for the digital age. In short, businesses that run affiliate programs pay end-users or marketers to promote their products.
These days, affiliate marketing drives over 16% of all e-commerce sales, which is a staggering figure. If you can set up an attractive affiliate program, it can become a cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy.
If you’re trying to grow an online business, then you need to learn how to love search engine optimization (SEO).
Search engines can make or break websites. If your business shows up on a high position in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for popular terms, they can drive massive amounts of traffic to your website.
The problem is, there’s no magic formula when it comes to SEO. What you can do is follow best practices, which evolve all the time as search engines refine their algorithms.
SEO involves a lot of trial and error, but it’s key to the growth of most – if not all – online businesses.
9. Public Relations (PR)
If you want to get people talking about your business, one of the best ways to do it is through good old-fashioned PR.
Traditional press releases, for example, can drum up a lot of interest if you can get attention from publications with a big following.
Nowadays, there are a lot of online tools you can use to build relationships, with leading online publications. What that means is that in 2019, you don’t need the help of a PR firm to get the word about your business out there.
10. Social Media
As a marketer, the only thing you need to know about social media is that almost 44% of the entire world uses it.
Some platforms are more popular than others, of course, and not all of them might be a great fit for your business.
What you want to do is identify which social media platforms are more popular among your audience, and then use them to promote your business. In most cases, that means running paid ads, setting up profiles to promote your content, and engaging with your followers as often as possible.
What Digital Marketing Will Look Like in 2020:
The main thing you need to know is digital marketing is only becoming more important with every year that passes. Over half of the world’s population is already online, and a lot of them use the internet to decide where they’re going to spend their money.
As far as specific trends go, 63% of online marketers say they want to focus on social media in 2020.
Mobile use only keeps growing as well, which means more and more people are using voice searches to find what they want. Making sure your digital marketing strategy is mobile-friendly is key to staying relevant.
Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales
(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?
Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”
The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.
The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.
A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.
Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible. If your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.
This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.
When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.
The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.
It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.
In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.
Google Chrome will no longer allow premium extensions
(MARKETING) In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue on Chrome.
Google has cracked down on various practices over the past couple of years, but their most recent target—the Google Chrome extensions store—has a few folks scratching their heads.
Over the span of the next few months, Google will phase out paid extensions completely, thus ending a bizarre and relatively negligible corner of internet economy.
This decision comes on the heels of a “temporary” ban on the publication of new premium extensions back in March. According to Engadget, all aspects of paid extension use—including free trials and in-app purchases—will be gone come February 2021.
To be clear, Google’s decision won’t prohibit extension developers from charging customers to use their products; instead, extension developers will be required to find alternative methods of requesting payment. We’ve seen this model work on a donation basis with extensions like AdBlock. But shifting to something similar on a comprehensive scale will be something else entirely.
Interestingly, Google’s angle appears to be in increasing user safety. The Verge reports that their initial suspension of paid extensions was put into place as a response to products that included “fraudulent transactions”, and Google’s subsequent responses since then have comprised more user-facing actions such as removing extensions published by different parties that accomplish replica tasks.
Review manipulation, use of hefty notifications as a part of an extension’s operation, and generally spammy techniques were also eyeballed by Google as problem points in their ongoing suspension leading up to the ban.
In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue. The extension store was a relatively free market in a sense—something that, given the number of parameters being enforced as of now, is less true for the time being.
Similarly, one can only wonder about which avenues vendors will choose when seeking payment for their services in the future. It’s entirely possible that, after Google Chrome shuts down payments in February, the paid section of the extension market will crumble into oblivion, the side effects of which we can’t necessarily picture.
For now, it’s probably best to hold off on buying any premium extensions; after all, there’s at least a fighting chance that they’ll all be free come February—if we make it that far.
Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls
(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.
I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.
The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.
As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.
So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?
The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”
While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.
Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.
Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?
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