Category Archives: Marketing

Creating Advertising Hooks That Work on Facebook

The following excerpt is from Perry MarshallKeith Krance and Thomas Meloche’s book Ultimate Guide to Facebook AdvertisingBuy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBound A hook is the front-facing message that your would-be customers see prior to becoming customers. It’s the thing that intrigues them and reels them in. It’s the primary reason why people want to take you up on your offer.

That first line that’s the prospects’ first point of contact with you has to be so knock-their-socks-off good that they feel compelled to read all the way to the end. At that point, they do what you ask next in your call to action, namely, give up their contact information (become a lead) or plunk down their credit card and buy (become a customer).

How to find the right hook

First and foremost, to write a good hook for your product or service, you must first identify your target market. For established businesses, this is fairly straightforward and can be answered in one question: Who are my customers?

We also ask ourselves an alternate question, which is “Who is our most valuable customer?” Your most valuable customer is usually your best customer. Your best customers are people that you’ll actually pay more to acquire. They become your best customers because they spend far more and generate the highest number of referrals.

Once you’ve answered these questions, your next job is to figure out what they want the most. What are their pain points, what are their fears? Then identify an easy-to-implement solution that you provide in your product portfolio that will immediately solve that problem or fulfill that desire.

The reason why it’s so important to identify your ideal customers is that a hook has to be highly specific. The more specific your hook is to your audience, the better. You’re going to have a very hard time selling a “Learn to play like Eddie Van Halen” guitar product to someone who wants to learn how to play classical guitar. But, put a “Learn to play Eddie Van Halen’s Top 10 Guitar Licks” message in front of a guitarist who loves to play hard rock guitar, and you probably have a pretty good hook.

Move toward desire

To get even deeper into the mind of your prospect, ask a follow-up question on why they really want your product or service. Ask it enough times until you get to the desire behind the desire.

When you’ve identified the specific desire behind the desire, think about the end benefit that fulfilling that desire brings. From our rough ad copy above, this now becomes: “Learn how to play like Eddie Van Halen so you can impress your friends” or “Learn how to play like Eddie Van Halen so you can steal the show at the next family reunion.”

You’re now starting to craft the actual ad copy you’ll be using in your ads. The formula looks like this:

They want [specific desire] so they can [benefit].

Write out about a dozen of these and keep writing — even if they’re really bad at first. With enough brainstorming, you’ll find the perfect match of a specific desire and benefit you can use for your hook.

Move away from pain points

What is your target market’s greatest problems? As motivational speaker Tony Robbins once said, “People will do more to avoid pain then they will do to gain pleasure.” Keep this in mind when you’re researching and writing your hook.

Going back to the guitar player target market, one of the simplest problems could be: “I don’t know where to go next on the fret board after the A note.” This is a problem because maybe Fred, the solo guitar player, wants to play the Bob the Builder theme song to his kids, but he doesn’t know what to do after the A note and because of this, both he and his kids are frustrated.

This brings us to the second question, “What are they most afraid of?” In this case, Fred might feel afraid that he won’t live up to be the father he wants to be for his kids if he doesn’t learn this part of the song and his legacy as a great dad will be tarnished.

I’m being somewhat obviously melodramatic, but you should always ask this question with regard to your target market’s biggest pain: Why do they want to change? At the end of all this, Fred wants to be able to play the song because that would make him and his kids happy, and at a very deep level, he would then feel like he’s being the father he always wanted to be.

 Here’s what to ask for your reference:
  • What are your target market’s greatest problems?
  • What are they most afraid of?
  • Why do they want to change?

When you find the reason behind the problem, behind what they are most afraid of and behind why they want to change, you can then embed your solution inside the hook and cure it with your offer.

Find a solution

Go back and review your notes on your market’s desires and pain points. When crafting a solid hook, this is the most logical starting point. Then, force-rank those pain points and desires. Next, start coming up with solutions that your hook will promise and your offer will fulfill. Be careful to separate out wants from needs. They’re not the same.

When you think about a solution that fulfills your target market’s desires or pain points, your end goal is for the offer to fulfill the promise of the hook, but in order for it to work for your business, it must be incomplete, so the bigger solution is the one your paid product delivers.


Entrepreneurs, Here Are the 5 Ways to Throw the Best First Event Ever

Every business leader loves it when a marketing event goes off without a hitch, but the momentum shouldn’t end when the last guest leaves. Statista reports that 79 percent of marketers in the United States use events to drive sales. Events give a brand’s personality a platform to resonate with attendees.

Take Bud Light’s 2015 “Up for Whatever” campaign. The Anheuser-Busch brand used a festival-like atmosphere — including performances by Snoop Dogg — to attract Millennial consumers and encourage them to share their experience on social media. As Bud Light’s vice president Alex Lambrecht put it, “We want to reach more than the 1,000 people that are here.”

But companies selling a physical product aren’t the only ones that can benefit from event marketing. The Detroit Lions, a client of ours, turned to event marketing earlier this year to make sure the launch of the team’s new jersey went off without a hitch. That meant a massive lion head presiding over the stage, players hosting, cheerleaders performing, fog machines filling the stage, three vertical screens showcasing the team’s legacy, and a full lights and pyrotechnic show to accompany the unveiling of the new jerseys.

Wow everyone the first time around.

Events don’t come with a rewind option — a successful first event means the hosting company and audience alike will be eager for the next event. When a first event falls flat, the team behind it is likely to pull back and either avoid investing entirely or — worse still — cut corners in an effort to save capital. For many companies, events are the biggest area of marketing spend. In its Event Marketing 2018 Benchmarks and Trends report, Bizzabo found that the majority of companies devote between 20 percent and 50 percent of their total budget to hosting events.

Ensuring this investment pays dividends is critical to future buy-in and success. That may be why 63 percent of the event marketers Bizzabo surveyed are putting more resources into hosting live events. Businesses following suit to maximize visibility and lead generation from the very first event should keep the following tips in mind:

1. Communicate every step of the way.

Whether sponsoring a bag drop at a trade show, sending an email to a customer or employee list, or filling social channels with chatter about the event, it’s crucial to do just that: Talk about the event. It doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Bizzabo reported last year that marketers spend only 10 percent of their budgets on marketing for an event.

Social media is a great tool for keeping event marketing costs down while maximizing awareness. Creating awareness early on and building up to the event day will ultimately drive traffic. This gives any company time to dazzle existing and potential customers with its passion, excitement and hosting abilities.

2. Provide live updates during the event.

Once the event has started, social channels still play a vital role in visibility and attracting more traffic. In today’s digitally focused world, it’s fairly common for event attendees to be monitoring the event’s hashtag just to keep up with what’s going on. In fact, Event Manager Blog reports that 60 percent of people with smartphones use them when at events.

For events in line with a brand activation or a pop-up shop, social posts that leverage local hashtags can spread the word about the destination experience that everyone in the area should check out. It boils down to this: Providing content or commentary can help bring attention to both the event and the company behind it.

3. Bring the right personalities.

Bizzabo found in its 2018 event marketing report that 95 percent of marketers find live events to be great opportunities to form in-person connections. The context of an event will determine which types of personalities should be on deck. If the aim of the event is sales, more outgoing personalities are probably the right call. If the event is more about a product demonstration or sharing knowledge, an engineer is going to be needed.

Not everybody fares well in social settings — remember that. A marketing event planner may be great with logistics, but she might not be well-suited for helping out on the day of the event itself. So make sure to choose the right person to be present on the day of.

4. Follow the framework: content, space and technology.

Content is the most important element of an event, followed next by the details of the space or location of the event, and finally, the technology being used to amplify the message. As with Bud Light’s event, content is the core component of any event — whether it’s video, text or images. Over the weekend of the “Up for Whatever” 2015 event, 37,000 content items were created. And only 50 of those were created by Bud Light.

The order of these three elements is critical to ensure the right message is being spread in the right place with just the right amount of disruption to capture everyone’s attention. Tech may be advancing and gaining attention, but most of the tech used at events is about increasing the audience’s awareness of the brand and its message. Event Manager Blog reports that 30 percent of event-specific tech created in recent years is focused on live interactions.

5. Keep it simple.

When the focus of an event is on capturing leads, the key is to keep things simple. Scanning badges, exchanging business cards or having attendees provide their info through a survey of some sort are all valuable ways of gathering info and capturing leads.

Make sure not to ask for too much info or create an information exchange that’s too complicated. Too much of anything will push attendees away from providing the information that turns them into valuable leads.

Event marketing presents companies of all sizes with a great opportunity for exposure and capturing leads, but there are no second chances for knocking the first event out of the park. Follow these five tips to ensure your event is unforgettable — in a good way.



18 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

This year saw the release of new technologies like Google Home and the iPhone X. Digital advertising expanded gains made last year over television advertising, and markets rewarded brands that bet big on innovation and customer service (think Teslaand Amazon).

As 2018 approaches, there are a number of new marketing trends poised to make a significant impact on go-to-market strategy. Here are 18 of the most important trends to look for in the coming year.

1. AI takes over website messaging.

Thanks to tools like Intercom and Drift, marketers can already use artificial-intelligence-powered live-chat tools to communicate with customers. As this technology gets ironed out, it is likely that more brands will embrace AI live chat to better service website visitors.

2. Personalization goes to the next level.

A key tenet of account-based marketing (ABM) is providing content tailored to specific accounts or account types. As ABM principles go mainstream, look for content personalization to proliferate. Platforms provided by Adobe and Optimizely make it possible for marketers to recommend specific pieces of content similar to the way Netflix suggests shows.

3. Quant marketing goes mainstream.

The rise of quantitative-based marketing is upon us. Organizations like Unilever and Kraft, which previously relied on marketing “soft skills,” are now taking a playbook out of the tech world by building data-science teams to work hand-in-hand with marketers. Next year, quantitative-based marketing will continue to surge as organizations that focus on the data find it easier to grow.

4. Marketers begin developing augmented-reality content.

With the release of the iPhone eight and iPhone X, Apple has made it clear that they are betting on augmented reality (AR). As these new devices go mainstream, brands will begin experimenting with AR-sponsored and -branded content.

5. In-car ads become a new marketing channel for some.

Self-driving cars are on the horizon. The Waymo fleet of self-driving cars has driven three million autonomous miles and simulated over one billion miles. Uber recently ordered 24,000 Volvo SUVs to be outfitted with the latest self-driving tech. The Tesla Models S, X and 3, the Audi A8 and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class are all self-driving to some degree.

What will happen when drivers no longer need to pay attention to the road? They’ll consume content, of course, and with that content will come in-car ads. Watch for some brands to begin experimenting with this new marketing channel in the coming year.

6. Brands start to develop voice-optimized content.

Last year 20 percent of online searches were conducted through voice search. By 2020, that number is expected to increase to 50 percent. Just as marketers have optimized content for web 2.0 and mobile, they will start optimizing content for voice search as well.

For example, because voice search is easier than typing, searches tend to surface more long-tail content. By comparison, text search tends to surface sorter phrases.

7. Privacy protection becomes a major selling point.

There have been a number of high-profile data breaches in 2017. From the DNC email hack to the Equifax breach, cyber security has had a considerable impact on many aspects of our world. Moving forward, consumers will begin to favor products that protect their privacy.

If consumers don’t prioritize privacy, some government associations will, and many are already doing so. For example, a new law passed by the European Union called GDPR will have a major impact on what businesses must do to protect user data. Because of a confluence of factors, marketers will begin using privacy protection and data security as a value proposition across industries.

8. Instagram becomes a more valuable channel than Facebook.

Instagram is growing at an incredible clip. In 2017, Instagram announced that approximately 800 million people use the platform each month. Their latest tool, Instagram Stories, became more popular than Snapchat just one year after going live.

Since brands tend to see better engagement on Instagram than any other social media platform, and because of great advertising controls, Instagram is poised to become the go-to channel for brands interested in social media marketing.

9. Leading brands invest in live events.

Approximately two-thirds of marketers say that they will increase the number of live events they host in 2018. This is because marketers recognize that live events are one of the most effective marketing channels.

There is a reason that some of the world’s most successful organizations, including Salesforce, Airbnb and Google, host an annual event designed to bring existing customers, prospective customers and the press together under one roof.

10. B2B marketers create multichannel cold-outreach campaigns.

The average cold email response rate is low, and it will continue to decline as email clients get better at filtering out junk mail. The best marketers develop integrated marketing campaigns that use a combination of email, digital ads and other channels to engage prospects in new and exciting ways.

For example, by using Twilio marketers can send text messages in addition to email. They can then retarget highly qualified prospects with custom audience ads offered by platforms like Facebook and Google AdWords.

11. Twitter dies a quiet death.

Twitter has been unable to grow users in 2017. The platform has focused on user acquisition rather than on making improvements to their ad platform. As a result, marketers are already using other social media platforms to connect with prospects. This trend will continue in 2018 as Twitter continues to struggle.

12. LinkedIn sees new life among B2B marketers.

While Twitter struggles, LinkedIn has made a number of great improvements to their platform. A site-wide revamp refreshed the LinkedIn user interface in 2017. The platform also saw good improvements to the LinkedIn ad platform. Thanks to these and other changes, B2B marketers will utilize LinkedIn more in the coming year.

13. Machine learning changes how marketers manage ads.

Why pay a digital marketing agency thousands to manage ads when a machine-learningplatform can do it better? New platforms like Acquisio and Trapica promise to optimize ad spend through advanced machine-learning algorithms. Marketers simply need to set basic campaign parameters, and the platforms then do the work of identifying ideal audiences and effective creatives.

14. Predictive lead scoring makes marketers rethink lead routing.

Using predictive lead scoring, marketers can identify the prospects that are most likely to convert to customers. All that’s needed is an email address, and tools like Infer crawl the web looking for buying signals. Leads are then scored and sorted, so that only the most qualified people are passed to sales

15. Virtual reality is called into question.

A few years ago, virtual reality was predicted to be the next big thing in content. While VR is popular in the videogame community, it has not gone mainstream. This is probably for the best, as it can be difficult for brands to produce content with a controlled point of view. Instead of virtual reality, augmented reality is slated to make waves next year. Look no further than Apple’s rumored AR glasses.

16. Consumers expect more from brands.

Thanks to a confluence of services, consumers will have increased expectations from brands of all kinds. Voice assistants, same-day delivery and on-demand content will mean that both B2C and B2B marketers must find innovative new ways to delight prospects and customers with nearly instant service.

17. Influencer marketing remains a useful strategy.

Nearly 95 percent of marketers who use an influencer marketing strategy believe it is effective. Brands interested in connecting with prospects via social media will continue to turn to influencer marketing. Influencers create compelling content that appears to be organic in many cases.

Consumers, especially younger ones, prefer content that feels less “staged” and more natural. The world of advertising is changing. It is moving toward subtle sponsored content promoted by influencers or micro-influencers.

18. Gated content falls out of vogue.

In the B2B world, gated content is how many marketers generate leads. But, some of the best brands, including Hubspot and Zendesk, are un-gating content in order to develop a stronger organic search presence in an increasingly crowded content landscape.


Unknown marketing surprises await in 2018, and some of these predictions will probably fail to come to fruition as technology and the expectations of consumers change. Nevertheless, many of the trends outlined here are likely to come to pass.

Based on current trends, marketing is likely to become more analytical, and more focused on digital marketing through organic search, voice and social media. In addition, new content formats like augmented reality and in-car ads will probably go mainstream.


Is it Time to Cut Back? A Minimalist Approach to Social Media Marketing.

Social media marketing is beneficial for a number of reasons. It improves brand awareness, brings new leads to your website, improves search engine rankings and provides excellent market research opportunities.

With this in mind, it’s no wonder that 92 percent of marketers say that social media is important to their business. However, since there are so many ways that you can use social media every day, it’s easy for social media marketing to become unfocused. Instead of benefitting your customers, excessive social media usage can detract from more urgent revenue-generating activities.

Social media is crucial for generating awareness, but a business cannot survive on awareness alone. It also needs sales. If you’re spreading yourself too thin with your social media activities and your business is suffering, it may be time to explore a minimalist approach to social media.

Cutting back on social media will enable you to spend more time on directly driving sales — cold emailingPPC advertising, etc. Additionally, a minimalist approach forces you to carefully consider the objectives and execution of your social media marketing — which can lead to greater long-term profits.

Here are some steps you can take for a minimalist approach to social media marketing.

Create a schedule.

Because social media marketing is an ongoing process with no definitive start or end point, managing the amount of time you spend on each channel can be difficult.

It’s easy to log into Twitter with the intention of answering customer service queries and find yourself — several hours later — crafting new branded images for Instagram in Canva. Even worse, you might come across some interesting content and become completely distracted with activities that don’t benefit your business whatsoever.

For this reason, it’s imperative to schedule blocks of your day specifically for social media and related tasks. You can achieve more than you think in 30 minutes of concentrated work every day. During this time, don’t answer calls or respond to emails; solely focus on social media. And once time is up, don’t log in again until tomorrow.

Pick your channels wisely.

There is no rule that says you must be active on every social media channel. You can achieve much better results by focusing on one or two channels where your prospects are active, rather than trying to cover every platform.

Make a list of the channels you’re currently using, then rank them in order of importance to your business. The level of engagement your posts are getting should play a factor, as should the number of followers on each account. Additionally, Google Analytics will tell you which networks are bringing you the most traffic.

Double down on your top one or two channels and allow the others to atrophy. You can always reverse your decision if things don’t go according to plan after a month.

Publish killer content.

If you’re cutting back on the amount of time you spend on social media, your number one priority should be publishing killer content.

If you’ve researched the buyer persona for your business, you should know the desires, aspirations and pain points of your ideal customer. Promoting one blog post per week that provides highly specific, actionable advice for your ideal customer is far more effective than using social media every day in a generalized, unfocused manner.

Utilize automation.

With tools such as PostplannerBuffer and Hootsuite, you can automate the sharing of content to your social media channels.

Instead of going through the tedious process of logging into each individual account, posting your link, looking for relevant hashtags and resizing images every time you publish a new post, it’s far more time efficient to schedule these tasks weeks ahead of time.

In order to automate your social media sharing, you need to plan your posts in advance. This can be challenging if you have other daily tasks to handle, but it’s worth it if you want to save time in the long-run.

Delegating routine tasks, such as image creation, to freelancers is another way of automating your social media.

Track your results.

When you cut back on social media, it’s important to track your results on a monthly basis. If you’ve streamlined your social media activities but are maintaining the same net profitability, congratulations! In fact, it’s very likely that your profitability will increase as a result of spending less time on social media and more time driving sales.


Turn Instagram into an Effective Funnel Step for your Business

Once you’ve got a good grip on Instagram metrics and performance of your account, you should take a look at the traffic coming from Instagram to your website and examine people’s behavior once they land there.

The first thing to take care of is to set up the right tracking. A majority of analytical tools often report Instagram traffic as “Direct,” because all referrer information gets stripped away when switching between apps.
To truly get all the data you’re after, employ URL shorteners. Now, every time someone clicks on the link in your Instagram bio, you will have all the information you need about them. You can compare that number to the number of clicks reported in your Instagram analytics, if you do have access to them.

Another strategy I highly recommend is to build a special landing page just for Instagram traffic. Most likely, your homepage paints a very broad picture of your brand. While it may be a good starting point for people who randomly stumbled across your site, it is not ideal for people who are already on your site and had some sort of previous interaction with your company (even if it’s on Instagram).

Now that they’re on your website already, you want them to take the next step, whatever it may be for your business: whether it’s scheduling a call, signing up for a webinar, or placing an order. Homepages tend to have a lot of information and links crammed onto them. This results in informational overload and choice fatigue to a point where they feel lost. Take them through a clear path of the obvious next steps.

So, now that you have a dedicated page and a special link that is trackable, you are all set to dive deep into analytics. The referrer information will travel with them everywhere they go on your website, so you can slice it and dice it however you want.

So, what do you want to pay attention to? How long have they’ve spent on this page, what percentage of them bounced? These numbers will indicate how engaged they are on your website.

How many pages on average they’ve visited per session and where exactly have they clicked? This will give you a good indication of what they’re interested in and looking for.

Finally, you can see how many people with Instagram as a referrer purchased something on your site and even know how much they’ve spent. This is the best metric to justify Instagram as as an effective business tool. If you have a lot of people who come from Insta and convert into customers, you will instantly know that you’re doing Instagram right.

You can also reverse-engineer your sales funnel to see where the disconnect happens and which parts need the most work. If not a lot of people from Instagram visit your website in the first place, you need to craft a more engaging bio and a more enticing offer for them to click in to. If they land on your landing page, but don’t spend enough time or don’t go anywhere — rework and optimize your landing page.

Finally, if they spend time on the page and wonder around your website without converting, then you need to polish your sales message to them or simplify the sales funnel and make it shorter, with fewer steps.

If you want to ensure that it’s an effective tool in bringing highly qualified and engaged audience to your website, you need to track and analyze all of the data available to you.


The Urban Legends of Marketing, Sales and Business Growth

The reality is, growing a business is a lot like working out or losing weight. You need to find a plan that works for you, you need to commit to it, you need to allow it to build on itself, and you need to do the same things over and over again, even when you’re bored with them.

Far too many businesses I see or work with simply don’t want to put in the effort to make a campaign successful. Or, when they get bored, they blow the whole thing up, regardless of how well it’s working, and move on to the next shiny object.

The problem is, there is always another shiny object, another new way to market. To be honest, I don’t want new and exciting. I want my business to be steady, my marketing to turn out leads, and for those leads to become customers.

Exceptional thinking.

Who cares if I’m bored with the marketing? The point of the marketing isn’t to entertain me, it’s to grow my business. If I get too bored, I’ll take a vacation or buy a sports car, but I’m not going to stop doing what works simply to entertain myself. The problem is, for some reason my perspective is the exception, not the rule.

When you find a medium that works and is steady, you ride that medium hard and work out all those leads until you’re making all sales you can handle. Then, as you have success and a bit of extra money, you diversify. But not until that medium is running like a well-oiled machine, kicking out cash.

Two is one, and one is none.

The most dangerous number in business is one — one of anything. I’m living that right now. As I’m writing this, I have three team members in my company who don’t have backups or anyone who can fill in for them, and all three of them are pregnant. I’m super excited for them, but because one is a horrible number in business, I’ve had to figure out how to fill those positions for six to eight weeks while those team members are on maternity leave.

When you’re doing a million dollars in sales, you’re going to have ones in your life. If that one is your marketing, and you can keep scaling it on a stable platform (by stable, I mean one where the rules don’t change twice a day), then ride that horse, while experimenting with one or two additional media.

One has fractions and phases.

I want to clear up a point that I’ve seen people get confused by when I give this advice. There will be different stages in the customer lifecycle, and you may need one or two marketing components for each stage.

For example, let’s say you use Facebook to generate a lead. You now need an education and nurture component, which may be emails and newsletters. That is still all one campaign, because the emails and newsletters take care of a different section of the customer lifecycle. What would be an issue is if you start Facebook advertising, LinkedIn, and direct mail all in the same 90-day period.

If your winning marketing campaign is in an unstable medium, that would be a case where you’d need additional sources of traffic or leads to make sure you don’t find yourself screwed. (For example, if Facebook suddenly decides they won’t allow you to advertise.)

But don’t go crazy. You won’t need six different marketing campaigns to test. Just get one or two campaigns working and keep riding the unstable medium until it goes bad.

Clarity at all levels.

I want to make one last point about marketing campaigns, because other than getting bored, the other major issue I see is that the entrepreneur isn’t clear what the goal of the campaign is and who is responsible for each area. For example, we recently did a direct mail campaign for a customer who called us five months in and said the campaign wasn’t working. He insisted he’d gotten zero ROI.

The goal of the marketing was to make the phone ring with qualified prospects. It was not to convert those people into paying patients, or even scheduled patients. That is the job of the doctor and his team. I understand that may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. The marketing did its job; the customer’s employees and systems didn’t.

Had the doctor been clear on everyone’s roles and responsibilities, he would have been able to fix the team issue. But now, he’s going to move to another marketing campaign that simply won’t work for him.

If you truly desire success in business, get comfortable with being bored. Get clear on the goals of the campaign and who or what is responsible for each step, and grind it out. It’s simple in theory, much more difficult in practice — but totally doable for anyone reading this website.



5 Reasons Machine Learning Is the Future of Marketing

I do a great deal of research on business trends and online tools that can enhance business productivity. Naturally, I visit and monitor many websites and website content. And just as predictably, I encounter ads from those same companies on my Facebook timeline. More surprising is how well Facebook integrates search behavior and online activity to increase ad campaigns’ integrity and specificity.

Machine learning can be defined as an application of artificial intelligence (AI) that provides systems the ability to automatically learn and improve from experience (without explicitly being programmed to do so). Machine learning focuses on developing computer programs that can access data, analyze it and use it to learn.

 It’s not just futuristic-looking products such as Siri and Amazon Echo. And it’s not limited to companies we typically think of as having huge research-and-development budgets — the Googles, Facebooks and Microsofts. In reality, machine learning already is helping nearly every Fortune 500 company run more efficiently and make more money.

Here are five reasons companies on the up should start applying machine-learning marketing strategies on their respective scales.

1. It brings ‘real time’ to life.

The phrase “real time” has been touted among marketers for years, but it wasn’t really possible until machine learning showed up on the scene. No prior system came close to the level of responsivity that machine learning provides. Consumers see offers change by the minute based on the virtually unlimited data their behaviors create for machines to process. Facebook’s retargeting ads are just one example. Visit a website, and you don’t need to wait long for an ad to surface on your timeline.

“Machine learning and other cutting-edge technologies have opened new opportunities for investing their marketing budget smarter,” says Rafa Jimenez, CEO of Adinton. The company is knee-deep in providing machine-learning solutions and more to businesses. “These new technologies allow companies analyze tons of data in real time, 24/7, getting deep insights. Managing big data and getting powerful and actionable insights are going to be the most important basis for any online business these days.”

2. It eliminates business marketing’s greatest enemy.

Effective business marketing reaches its audience and creates conversions. The challenge lies in the very simple problem of marketing waste. For want of a better strategy, marketing campaigns have taken a trial-and-error approach. Whether online or offline, campaigns essentially scatter seed on the soil in the hopes some will take root.

Imagine your marketing efforts were seen mainly by the people you want to see them — people who’ve searched for what you have to offer, or whose online behavior suggests they’re mostly likely to be interested in your products or services. Machine learning has the potential to reduce much of marketing’s imprecise nature. Using behavioral data, marketers can target their audiences in an efficient way that greatly improves the likelihood of converting shoppers to customers.

3. It opens the door to marketing prophecy.

Professionals have flirted with marketing prophecy, or demand forecasting, over the years. In many cases, this planning has been accomplished based on trends and consistent purchase patterns. Adopting AI for marketing purposes offers decision-makers something more concrete: the overwhelming possibility to give customers what they want before they know they want it. These efforts still will be mostly suggestions. But they’ll be informed by data, not presented as blind suggestions to a disinterested consumer.

Renowned developer Kevin Carroll put it this way: “Much of what we do with machine learning happens beneath the surface. Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations and much more.”

4. It helps structure marketing content.

Copywriters use the insights at their company’s or client’s disposal to craft advertisements and email marketing campaigns that speak to the target audience. To a large extent, though, these skilled persuasive writers must work with a blanket approach and plenty of educated guesses.

Machine learning narrows down the bracket. Then, it goes one better: It provides actual means of sentiment analysis so marketers know what to say and how the audience is likely to react. The effects of sentiment analysis are laid bare on Twitter, where marketers can monitor social chatter to see what’s resonating with a specific target audience. Brand specialists and copywriters then can tweak ads immediately in response to comments and trending replies. This brings the right message to the surface.

5. It reduces costs.

Now that the world has moved almost completely online, machine learning can adapt to handle some of marketing’s toughest challenges. Cost always is near the top of that list.

Machine learning reduces marketing expense because it requires far fewer people to be involved. It also drastically cuts communication costs, as a majority of customers can be kept updated on offers via automatic emails, scheduled social-media posts and online ads or other content.

Machine learning’s precision informs production and distribution for offline materials, too. This allows marketers to pinpoint the right quantity and use the most effective channels, reducing excessive costs related to overproduction.


The 4 Most Lethal Branding Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Companies spend a lot of time and money getting a brand established. The harsh reality is that a simple branding mistake can sabotage even the most popular brand in the world.

All branding mistakes are not created equal. It can be done deliberately or mistakenly. Either way, when you’re just starting out, repercussions can be much more serious than that of an established business, because chances are, there’s nothing to fall back on.

 For many of your potential customers, the mistake is often the only thing they know about your company, which could stunt growth before it can even start.

Below are the most common branding mistakes that could kill your brand.

1. Branding without focusing on experience.

Without a doubt, having a strong brand is always advantageous. It can create a positive perception among your customers and make it enormously easier to sell.

However, many mistakenly perceive the brand as a logo, an ad campaign or the beauty of product packaging. Ultimately, your brand is the emotion that a customer feels when thinking about your product.

While branding can help to create a positive perception about your product, your customers’ experience with your product is even more important. To improve the customer experience focus, be timely on resolving customer service issues. Whether it’s implementing live chat on your website or responding to emails within 24 hours, establish a system that puts the customer first.

2. Not hiring a professional designer.

Nothing can hurt your brand worse than an amateur looking-looking logo. No matter if you feel OK with the logos of your graphic standards of your brand, it’s always worth taking the time and spending money to hire a professional graphic designer specializing in branding and logo development.

Ask your designer to create a brand style guide that defines the color palette, typography, visual style, imagery, etc., so you can follow it consistently on all your marketing channels.

Keep in mind that creating a style guide is only half the battle. You need to proactive on monitoring how the guide is being used on your behalf.

3. Inconsistency across different platforms.

Once your designer creates a brand style guide, the next thing you should be doing is to consistently follow the brand’s style guide on all your marketing campaigns across different channels, including your website, social networking profiles and printed materials.

If you’re not consistent, your brand will end up appearing unprofessional and lose identity, making your brand less trustworthy. Managing brand consistency across all marketing channels sets you apart from your competitors and helps you to accelerate the growth of your brand. A consistent identity for your brand will not only foster a sense of trust and comfort for potential customers, but it also plays a vital role in influencing your customers’ purchasing decision.

4. Using vague copy to describe your brand.

Too many brands fall victim to poor copywriting that doesn’t accurately define the company. Using vague copy to describe your brand can be a major setback when it comes to positioning your brand in the market and distinguishing yourself from the competitors. To make your brand stand out, understand the one thing that makes your brand unique and explains it clearly and accurately.

While it’s always difficult to be succinct, you can always follow the age-old marketing advice to good copywriting — focus on benefits, not features.

Below are a few more tips that you may find helpful when describing your brand:

  • To make a positive perception, get to know what makes your customers tick, and try to tap into their psyche.
  • Avoid language that’s repetitive.
  • Use a conversational tone of voice that reflects how your customers actually speak.

Even a single mistake can derail your branding efforts. If it’s not fixed sooner than later, it can be harder to reverse your branding efforts. If you catch yourself doing any of the above mistakes, you need to make sure to fix it before it starts eating at your brand.


The Conundrum of Modern Advertising

There are a million ways to reach customers with your message. Advertising techniques are continually shape-shifting, adapting to consumer preferences and new technologies. Perhaps more than at any other time, advertising professionals are under pressure to show results and consumers are less open to being advertised to.

That, you could say, is a conundrum.

To begin with, the pressure on advertisers to show ROI stems from technology‘s newly developed capacity to track ROI. Previously, advertising campaigns were rated more on estimated value than on firm numbers. With the advent of attribution capabilities came an expectation to show results. Around the same time, consumers became sick of advertisements — on the web, offline, on mobile, everywhere.

“Advertising is not supposed to blend in, or be ignored,” explains Paul Suggett, writing for The Balance. “It is supposed to shout at you, grabbing your attention in the best way (most clearly do not) in order for you to make a good association with the product or service on offer. If you really like it, you may just go on to purchase it. However, all too often, advertising doesn’t do its job very well.”

 It is this in-your-face quality that is so frustrating to consumers who are watching TV or surfing the internet to find content that they want to engage with. Flashing pop-up ads and lengthy commercials are a nuisance. Increasingly, consumers are avoiding them with ad blockers and TiVo.

Advertisers understand that to engage consumers who do not want to be advertised to, you have to disguise the message, and that takes the form of artfully composed content. Brands are pumping out video and written content at a grueling pace. The goal is to grab and hold attention, make a soft introduction to the brand, and set the consumer on a journey to becoming a customer without the use of a flashing advertisement.

One prominent component of the content-driven approach is called native advertising, and it is packing a powerful technology punch today.

“According to Nielsen’s Q1 2016 Total Audience Report, 71 percent of millennials spend at least five to 10 hours per week consuming content,” says Vitaly Pecherskiy, co-founder and COO of StackAdapt, a native advertising firm. “And 20 percent of them spend more than 20 hours. That is almost a whole day out of the week engaged with content online. For marketers, content is the holy grail and the inevitable future, which means native advertising and increasingly sophisticated audience targeting strategies.”

Native ads appear on thousands of media sites today, placed there using platforms such as StackAdapt. These ads are articles featuring content that showcases an idea the brand sponsoring it wants to share. In order to be effective, these ads are not salesy — instead, they’re just good content designed to entertain or educate readers.

But not every internet surfer is interested in the same content, which is why highly intelligent consumer targeting technology is making a splash right now. That targeting isn’t just focusing on demographics or behaviors either. The new cutting edge is a combination of factors known as BEM — behaviors, emotions and moments.

“The BEM model allows planning and buying teams to improve targeting and tailored messaging by combining programmatic buying with new data sources and triggers including conversation scrapes, content emotion analysis and real-world factors,” writes Liam Brennan for AdAge. “Layered on top of brand-building activity that may deliberately have a broader reach, BEM targeting can identify consumers moving into a consideration phase and speak to them directly with relevant messages. The results can be dramatic. Brand preference and purchase intent lift can nearly double when compared to traditional demographic targeting.”

The future of advertising could look a lot less like advertising altogether. By engaging consumers on a deeper level, in other words not just with an ad showcasing discounts or features, advertisers are able to create more seamless customer experiences and greater brand loyalty.

Virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence also present unique opportunities for brands, startups and entrepreneurs to accomplish subtle native advertising. The latest Netflix Stranger Things AR experience is a perfect example. We must continually keep our eyes open for new technologies to test different types of engagement, and these products present such avenues.

Of course, by accomplishing the subtle native advertising goals, advertisers also achieve the ROI they need to be able to show. This continues to blur the line between advertising, which has traditionally been a creative department, and sales, which has been and remains a department responsible for revenue. So the future, you could say, is still a little blurry.


4 Laws of Sales I Learned From Both Sides of the Transaction

I have been a buyer and I have been a seller, and I once taught a course called the Science of Selling. It was all about the fight/flight mechanism and how it affects sales. So, while I’m not exactly the king of sales I can tell you with absolute certainty how to muck up a sales.

1. You can’t sell something that people don’t use.

I contribute articles, such as and including this one, to Entrepreneur. That doesn’t attract groupies or advances from publishers clamoring for me to write the next great American novel, but it brings a lot of sales pitches for things I don’t use. I get sales pitches from Chinese companies that make injection molded parts. They don’t say parts for what, but I am not going far out on a limb to presume it’s not part of anything I will be assembling in my garage.

To pitches such as that I usually fire back a nasty missive on the need for qualifying leads using words that decorum doesn’t allow me to print here. Before attempting to sell something to somebody, ask them some questions:

1. What does your company do?

2. What do you do at the company?

3. Does your company ever buy your goods or service?

The person is not a prospect unless their answers mesh with what you are selling. Tell them what you sell and ask if they know anyone who needs what you’re selling. If, by some weird cosmic alignment, you sell someone something they don’t need, you will never make a second sale to them.

2. Sales is about connecting a need to a solution.

To paraphrase the familiar adage, when you sell hammers, you see every problem as a nail. The temptation is strong to twist our view of the customer’s need until it fits the solution we’re selling. Connecting a need to a solution isn’t as easy as it sounds, but failing to do so honestly ultimately ends in disaster.

If you find yourself persuading your client he or she really needs what you’re selling, you’ve already lost the sale. Remember, while your customer may not always completely understand his or her needs, they will always understand their circumstance and situation better than you. When you convince yourself that you have a better handle on the situation than the customer, you are setting yourself up for a world of hurt. The key to avoiding this is simple: listen.

True listening isn’t about waiting to talk or thinking of ways to counter the person’s objection while they are still voicing their  objection. It’s about trying to understand the need. It is disappointing to go on a sales call only to learn that the prospect doesn’t need what you’re selling. In those circumstances, help them find a solution even if you don’t sell it. I do this and even though I don’t benefit immediately, I tend to be the first person called when the customer needs something again.

3. Don’t sell people what they need, sell them what they want.

One of my favorite lines from a television show comes from The Rockford Files. For those of you who never watched the James Garner antihero private detective show, stop reading this and go watch at least three episodes. Go on, this article will be here when you get back.

Now, for those of you familiar with the show, you probably remember Angel Martin, who was Jim Rockford’s ex-con, all-purpose, low-life buddy. Always on the grift, Angel once said, “Nobody ever made a thin dime selling people what they need; you gotta sell them what they want.”

Now, assuming you are not a grifter, the trick is to get people to want what they need. This is neither as easy nor as hard as it sounds. Ever bought a roof? It’s easy to admit that you needa roof. It takes one talented salesperson to get you to want to buy a roof, but if you don’t get them to want to buy a roof they will simply go to the cheapest provider. The key is to get the customer comfortable with you (as distinct from your company) because you are the person who can reduce their stress. You can make promises and make sure that they are kept. You have a name and a face. You can ultimately be held accountable for the claims you have made.

4. People buy from people they like.

A friend of mine used to rep art for a major advertising agency that catered to high-end, sophisticated clients. He started in the matting room putting the cardboard frames around the works of art. Occasionally, he was asked to fill in for the driver delivering art to the client. My friend could not contain his excitement when the client was opening the package. Talking a mile a minute, he would sputter out “wait until you see this next one ….check out the detail here …look at the colors there.” He was practically jumping out of his skin with excitement.

Pretty soon, customers were asking for him to deliver the art, which quickly morphed into him selling the art to the customers. He was remarkably good at it. (He is an incredibly talented artist in his own right and has since left sales to work for a major video game developer drawing guns, soldiers and buildings.) People wanted to buy from my friend because he was genuinely excited about the art work. His enthusiasm was contagious. Creative directors who looked at one drawing after another with not much discernible difference were drawn to art this crazy rep was genuinely giddy about it. You can’t fake that. You can’t expect anybody to get all that excited unless you are selling something you would be genuinely excited to buy.