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What you absolutely *must* know about digital marketing in 2019

(MARKETING) Because you have a pulse, you know you should be focused on digital marketing, but if you haven’t been, this guide will get you up to speed quickly!

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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!

1. Framework

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.

Almost 90% of online marketers use it as their primary channel. That’s no coincidence, either – email marketing offers an average ROI of 4400%, and that’s not a typo.

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.

8. SEO

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.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business Marketing

Amazon attracts advertisers from Facebook after Apple privacy alterations

(MARKETING) After Apple’s privacy features unveil, Amazon adapts by taking a unique approach to targeting, disrupting revenue for the ad giant Facebook.

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Two African American women work at their desks, one viewing Amazon's advertising landing page.

As a de facto search engine of its own persuasion, Amazon has been poaching ad revenue from Google for some time. However, disrupting the revenue stream from their most recent victim – Facebook – is going to turn some heads.

According to Bloomberg, Apple’s recent privacy additions to products such as iPhones are largely responsible for the shift in ad spending. While platforms like Facebook and Instagram were originally goldmines for advertisers, these privacy features prevent tracking for targeting – a crucial aspect in any marketing campaign.

Internet privacy has been featured heavily in tech conversations for the last several years, and with Chrome phasing out third-party cookies, along with Safari and Firefox introducing roughly analogous policies, social media advertising is bound to become less useful as tracking strategies struggle to keep up with the aforementioned changes.

However, Amazon’s wide user base and separate categorization from social media companies makes it a clear alternative to the Facebook family, which is perhaps why Facebook advertisers are starting to jump ship in an effort to preserve their profits.

This is the premise behind the decision to reduce the Facebook ad spending of Vanity Planet by 22%, a home spa vendor, while facilitating a transition to Amazon. “We have inventory…and the biggest place we are growing is Amazon,” says Alex Dastmalchi, the entrepreneur who runs Vanity Planet.

That gap will only widen with Apple’s new privacy features. Bloomberg reports that when asked in June if they would consent to having their internet activity tracked, only one in four iPhone users did so; this makes it substantially harder for the ad campaigns unique to Facebook to target prospective buyers.

It also means that Amazon, having demonstrated a profound effectiveness in targeting individuals both pre- and post-purchase, stands to gain more than its fair share of sellers flocking to promote their products.

Jens Nicolaysen, co-founder of Shinesty (an eccentric underwear company), affirms the value that Amazon holds for sellers while acknowledging that it isn’t a perfect substitute for social media. While Nicolaysen laments the loss of the somewhat random introduction charm inherent on Instagram, he also believes in the power of brand loyalty, especially on a platform as high-profile as Amazon. “The bigger you are, the more you lose by not having any presence on Amazon,” he explains.

As privacy restrictions continue to ramp up in the coming months, it will be interesting to see how social media advertising evolves to keep up with this trend; it seems naive to assume that Amazon will replace Facebook’s ads entirely, tracking or no tracking.

Apple's privacy landing page showing iPhone users ability to shut off location services and a desktop image of a user's ability to control how their data is managed.

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Business Marketing

How many hours of the work week are actually efficient?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Working more for that paycheck, more hours each week, on the weekends, on holidays can actually hurt productivity. So don’t do that, stay efficient.

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Clock pointed to 5:50 on a plain white wall, well tracked during the week.

Social media is always flooded with promises to get in shape, eat healthier and… hustle?

In hustle culture, it seems as though there’s no such thing as too much work. Nights, weekends and holidays are really just more time to be pushing towards your dreams and hobbies are just side hustles waiting to be monetized. Plus, with freelancing on the rise, there really is nothing stopping someone from making the most out of their 24 hours.

Hustle culture will have you believe that a full-time job isn’t enough. Is that true?

Although it’s a bit outdated, Gallup’s 2014 report on full-time US workers gives us an alarming glimpse into the effects of the hustle. For starters, 50% of full-time workers reported working over 40 hours a week – in fact, the average weekly hours for salaried employees was up to 49 hours.

So, what’s the deal with 40 hours anyway? The 40 hour work-week actually started with labor rights activists in the 1800s pushing for an 8 hour workday. In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh activist, reasoned this workday provided: “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

If you do the math, that’s a whopping 66% of the day devoted to personal needs, rather than labor!

Of course, it’s only natural to be skeptical of logic from two centuries ago coloring the way we do business in the 21st century. For starters, there’s plenty of labor to be done outside of the labor you’re paid to do. Meal prep, house cleaning, child care… that’s all work that needs to be done. It’s also all work that some of your favorite influencers are paying to get done while they pursue the “hustle.” For the average human, that would all be additional work to fall in the ‘recreation’ category.

But I digress. Is 40 hours a week really enough in the modern age? After all, average hours in the United States have increased.

Well… probably not. In fact, when hours are reduced (France, for instance, limited maximum hours to 35 hours a week, instead of 40), workers are not only more likely to be healthier and happier, but more efficient and less likely to miss work!

So, instead of following through with the goal to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

This story was first published in January 2020.

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Business Marketing

Jack of all trades vs. specialized expert – which are you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) It may feel tough to decide if you want to be a jack of all trades or have an area of expertise at work. There are reasons to decide either route.

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When mulling over your career trajectory, you might ask yourself if you should be a jack of all trades or a specific expert. Well, it’s important to think about where you started. When you were eight years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Teacher? Doctor? Lawyer? Video Game Developer? Those are common answers when you are eight years old as they are based on professionals that you probably interact with regularly (ok, maybe not lawyers but you may have watched LA Law, Law & Order or Suits and maybe played some video games – nod to Atari, Nintendo and Sega).

We eventually chose what areas of work to gain skills in and/or what major to pursue in college. To shed some light on what has changed in the last couple of decades:

Business, Engineering, Healthcare and Technology job titles have grown immensely in the last 20 years. For example, here are 9 job titles that didn’t exist 20 years ago in Business:

  1. Online Community Manager
  2. Virtual Assistant
  3. Digital Marketing Expert
  4. SEO Specialist
  5. App Developer
  6. Web Analyst
  7. Blogger
  8. Social Media Manager
  9. UX Designer

We know that job opportunities have grown to include new technologies, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, consumer-generated content, instant gratification, gig economy and freelance, as well as many super-secret products and services that may be focused on the B2B market, government and/or military that we average consumers may not know about.

According to the 2019 Bureau of Labor Statistics after doing a survey of baby boomers, the average number of jobs in a lifetime is 12. That number is likely on the rise with generations after the Baby Boomers. Many people are moving away from hometowns and cousins they have grown up with.

The Balance Careers suggests that our careers and number of jobs we hold also vary throughout our lifetimes and our race is even a factor. “A worker’s age impacted the number of jobs that they held in any period. Workers held an average of 5.7 jobs during the six-year period when they were 18 to 24 years old. However, the number of jobs held declined with age. Workers had an average of 4.5 jobs when they were 25 to 34 years old, and 2.9 jobs when they were 35 to 44 years old. During the most established phase of many workers’ careers, ages 45 to 52, they held only an average of 1.9 jobs.”

In order to decide what you want to be, may we suggest asking yourself these questions:

  • Should you work to be an expert or a jack of all trades?
  • Where are you are at in your career and how have your skills progressed?
  • Are you happy focusing in on one area or do you find yourself bored easily?
  • What are your largest priorities today (Work? Family? Health? Caring for an aging parent or young children?)

If you take the Gallup CliftonStrengths test and are able to read the details about your top five strengths, Gallup suggests that it’s better to double down and grown your strengths versus trying to overcompensate on your weaknesses.

The thing is, usually if you work at a startup, small business or new division, you are often wearing many hats and it can force you to be a jack of all trades. If you are at a larger organization which equals more resources, there may be clearer lines of your job roles and responsibilities versus “the other departments”. This is where it seems there are skills that none of us can avoid. According to LinkedIn Learning, the top five soft skills in demand from 2020 are:

  1. Creativity
  2. Persuasion
  3. Collaboration
  4. Adaptability
  5. Emotional Intelligence

The top 10 hard skills are:

  1. Blockchain
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. Analytical Reasoning
  4. Artificial Intelligence
  5. UX Design
  6. Business Analysis
  7. Affiliate Marketing
  8. Sales
  9. Scientific Computing
  10. Video Production

There will be some folks that dive deep into certain areas that are super fascinating to them and they want to know everything about – as well as the excitement of becoming an “expert”. There are some folks that like to constantly evolve and try new things but not dig too deep and have a brief awareness of more areas. It looks safe to say that we all need to be flexible and adaptable.

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