Why Some Prices Are More Right Than Others

The whole field of marketing is strongly based in psychology. And this is absolutely true when it comes to pricing strategy.

We’re all familiar with price tags that read $9.99 or $19.99. Do these really move more product than tags reading $10 or $20? What about adding the decimal and zeros: $10.00 and $20.00? Does any of this make a difference? Research says it does.

Setting the right price can have a powerful effect on the success of your direct marketing campaigns. So let’s look at the factors that determine what is your most attractive price.

Prices that charm.

No one knows when marketers first started shaving pennies off their prices, although much of the lore points to events in the 19th century. One story is that doing it required the store clerk to make change. This meant opening the cash register and recording the sale – a big discouragement to the clerk who otherwise might occasionally pocket the cash himself.

Another more complex story tells of a clever Chicago newspaper publisher who, in 1875, priced his newspapers at a penny to compete with other newspapers that charged a nickel. Pennies were rarely used at the time, so he got his advertisers to set their prices lower by subtracting a penny from their whole dollar prices. This assured his readers always had the right change to pay for the paper. It sounds like a great story, but no one knows for sure if this really is how “.99” at the end of prices became so popular…

What we do know is that this kind of pricing has a powerful effect on buyer behavior. It’s sometimes referred to as “charm” pricing, fractional pricing, or odd-even pricing. Setting a price even a penny or two below the full dollar amount can increase sales by 21-34%. That’s a huge amount that can make or break your campaign.

Marketers are well aware of this. According to a survey of prices that was published in the Marketing Bulletin in 1997, 60% of prices ended in a 9; 30% ended in a 5, and only 7% ended in a 0. This study is still very relevant to your marketing campaigns today.

So now the question is, why do these numbers work so well?

Why a penny less can make the difference.

We may think we make rational decisions, but we’re all influenced by subconscious parts of our own minds that make us perceive things in ways we’re not aware of. Rationally we know that $9.99 is only one penny less than $10.00 and therefore doesn’t amount to much, but unconsciously we react as though it’s a huge difference. There are a number of theories as to why this is so. Here are a few of the more prevalent ones.

1. The reference price. While it’s a largely unconscious process within us, we’re always placing a value on things. We do it all the time without realizing it. And to help us make more accurate valuations, we use a process of comparison. We set some kind of reference point in our minds, and then we ask ourselves, is this price higher or lower than the reference point I’m comparing it to? If something is priced at $9.95, the reference point we compare it to would most likely be $10, and compared to that, $9.95 looks like a good deal.

Clearly, pricing something at $10.05 in this case would not be a good idea. We would still likely use a reference point of $10 rather than a reference point of, say, $11. But now the price of $10.05 is higher than the reference point, and would not look like a good deal.

So, with the right pricing, you establish a reference point in the prospect’s mind that’s higher than the price you’re asking, and that therefore makes your lower price look attractive. Shaving off a penny or two does the trick nicely.

2. Ignoring the “insignificant.” We tend to gloss over things that seem insignificant to us. Dollars seem important to us. Cents not so much. So we focus on the dollar amount, and don’t notice that 99¢ is essentially another dollar.

This illusion is strengthened by taking what we want to appear insignificant, and making it physically smaller. That’s why the “.99” part of a price is often made small and superscript, so it’s lifted out of view where it can be more easily ignored.

3. The appearance of being the “lowest price.” Using fractional prices gives the impression that the company has really fine-tuned their pricing to give you the best price. A price of $6.94 says “bargain.” Large chain stores work on this principle. Walmart always lists prices with odd amounts of change: .88, .94, .96. By contrast, Macy’s usually lists its prices with a “.00” at the end – unless the item is on sale. Then it usually ends with “.99” or something like it.

4. The anchor of the left-most digit. We read from left to right, and the first thing we see when we look at a price is the left-most digit. As a result, that first digit carries the greatest psychological weight.

Remember, it’s all about how a prospect’s perception makes them feelabout the price. It’s easy for us to understand that $1.99 may feel like a lower price than $2.01. But it goes even further.

If people are given two prices, say $4.99 and $6.00, and asked to estimate the difference without actually doing the math, they are more likely to perceive that the prices are about $2 instead of the closer $1 difference.

Why is that? Well, that left-most digit commands the way we see a price, and shaving a penny or two off a price to change it from $20.00 to $19.98, can make a huge difference in sales.

5. When the item falls into a different price point. An additional reason for using fractional pricing is that it may seem to put the item into another category. This has to do with an item’s price point – where it falls in relation to other competitive prices. Many people have a price point in mind before they look at the actual price tag. For example, say a prospect has a price point of $20 in mind for the kind of product you sell. If an item is below $20 it seems inexpensive; if it’s more than $20 it seems more expensive and purchasing it would require more thought.

If you can keep the price of your product below a common price point so it falls in the less expensive category, you can boost your sales. And even a few pennies, at the critical point, can make a huge difference. A price of $19.99 means the item fits in the right category. Making the price $20.19 raises it into the next category in the mind of the consumer, and can reduce sales.

When a higher price point means more.

Some businesses don’t want to look like the cheapest choice out there. Their success is based in appearing to be expensive – and worth it.

Businesses like these use something called “prestige pricing.” They deliberately make their prices higher, and the people who choose to buy from them love it. They will rarely shave off the penny. They will price in full dollars.

This is something you see a lot on menus in fine restaurants. They’ll just say:

Grilled Caesar Salad: 15

They may not even use a dollar sign. That way it doesn’t feel like money and a lot of their target customers will appreciate that!

You have to know who your best consumers are. If they want to see themselves as being so wealthy and elegant that they just want the best, regardless of the cost, then more may be more.

Testing your prices is essential.

As always, I’m back to my old mantra: you have to test. You can’t guess at the best price – the price that will bring the most sales. You have to experiment and find out.

You can bet that Walmart has a whole team of marketers who are always testing prices. I have clients who are always running A/B split tests with different prices. And the results are often surprising. Sometimes the higher price does better.

But you never know until you do the testing to find out.

original article:www.entrepreneur.com

5 SEO Techniques You’re Doing All Wrong

Ignore search-engine optimization (SEO) and focus on content.

Worst. Advice. Ever.

SEO still is kicking. The rules have changed and some of the starting lineup were in the minors a few years ago, but you need a plan.

Look at just a few recent stats:

  • 93 percent of online experiences begin with a search engine
  • 75 percent of users never scroll past the first page of search results
  • 70 to 80 percent of search users ignore paid ads

Is SEO necessary? Yes, it is.

SEO simply “translates” your website into language that’s easily understood by search engines — so users see your pages when they go hunting for offers, products, services, information or answers to specific questions. The “how” is SEO, and even a beginner’s guide can seem overwhelming.

The exact formula used by Google and Bing is subject to debate.RankBrain, content and links that point to your site are three of the biggest ranking signals. But other factors play their role, too.

I’ve seen businesses make the same mistakes over and over again. Here are the three most frequent offenders.

1. Keywords.

Keywords used to be … well, key. But then content became king.

You still need keywords. Two mistakes that novices and “experts” alike continue to make? Stuffing keywords and targeting the wrong words.

Stuffing aims to trick the engines by using an exact keyword phrase in an unnatural frequency. Observe:

Our car polish is the best car polish on the car polish market. If you’re looking for the best car polish, then look no further than our best car polish. It’s the best car polish money can buy!

Horrible. Do that, and the engines will penalize you. It sounds stilted, it offers nothing of value and it’s obviously meant to game the system.

Google uses Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) to analyze your page’s intent and determine keyword variations. Trust it. Use naturally occurring synonyms and alternatives instead of word-for-word repetition.

Have a keyword focus, but don’t force it. Include the keyword and its variations in the title, opening paragraph, meta-description and throughout the body of the text (within reason).

Use the Keyword Planner to identify words that pop in searches, but resist the automatic urge to go after those with the largest search volume. Instead, find the relevant long tail keywords (three- to four-word phrases that make up the bulk of searches) with a decent volume. Use Trends to determine what’s popular and what’s so last year.

A little homework goes a long way.

2. Anchor text.

Anchor text — the clickable words in a hyperlink — can land you in hot water.

You want your page links to point toward other content on your site as well as relevant material on external sites. Businesses used to get away with exact-match or keyword-rich anchor text. Not anymore.

Your best bet is a healthy mix:

Just don’t rely on “anchor text” as your anchor text in a piece about anchor text.

3. Image optimization.

We love visuals, and they increase engagement. Visually charged content gets more clicks, likes and shares.

But there’s a problem: Search engines can’t “see” images. Engines need textual explanations to understand what the image represents and how it connects to your topic.

Include a highly relevant file name, alt-description (a description of the image, as if you were telling a friend what the image depicts), caption, and image title. Some studies found captions are read 300 percent more than body text.

Consider a compression tool such as PunyPNG or JPEGmini to reduce file size and load time, with very little loss of quality. Faster page = better SEO.

4. Link strategy.

Backlinks matter. In the 2016 State of Link Building Survey, 90 percent of respondents reported they use content publication/promotion and guest posting as part of their link-building strategy. And 78 percent of survey participants believe it’s the most effective SEO-boosting strategy.

It’s still a case of quality over quantity. You run the risk of Google’s wrath if you include links from penalized sites or those with a domain authority less than 20. Populating with too many backlinks, too quickly, also could have negative effects.

Spammy guest-blogging or link directories will hurt you. Instead, write high-quality content. Share it with influencers in your niche, and promote it on social media. Establish relationships with influential sites so you can pitch useful ideas that fit with their subject and theme to offer real benefit to their readers.

Yes, it will take longer. But three to four relevant, high-authority/high-quality backlinks are infinitely better than 100 backlinks from questionable sources. Commit yourself to playing the long game.

5. Fans and followers.

Social media is fantastic, but your number of fans is irrelevant.

It’s about engagement: How are you connecting and interacting with people, and how are they engaging with you?

Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller, would tell you that your social-media following has no direct affect on your SEO. All the same, an active community of members who share your content and link back to your site can spread your brand awareness and authority. In turn, this increases your site traffic. Social activity signals to Google that people are interested in your site and spreading its message.

Remember this mantra: It’s not about numbers, it’s about activity — the actions you generate and the engagement your audience takes forward.

Mistakes are bound to happen. SEO is a complicated beast, after all. Avoiding these common pitfalls will help you play it smart and pay off in the long-term.

original aticle:www.entrepreneur.com

How 6 Fast-Growth Software Companies Are Surviving in the Challenging SMB Market

When you think of online forms, file sharing, competitive intelligence, marketing automation, lead generation and social media management, you likely think of the giants. While the enterprise companies in those categories certainly have a foothold on the market, there is another breed of companies who offer the same services to the competitive and challenging SMB space and are growing rapidly due to their success.

I spoke with a variety of companies from California to New York City and from Indiana to Maine, to learn how they continue to serve their customers while sustaining a high-level of growth. Here are highlights from the stories of Formstack, SmartFile, Owler, ONTRAPORT, The List and Likeable Local.

Formstack: A growth-minded culture.

Formstack was recently recognized as a fast growth private company with a three-year growth rate of 188 percent. It was also recognized locally by the Indianapolis Business Journal in its annual Fast 25 list. Despite a large percentage of Formstack’s workforce being remote, the company has created a culture that breeds hard work and innovation which in turn, breeds fast growth:

  • Communication is the number one priority. Remote teams will fall apart if they don’t take intentional measures to communicate well. Managers need to be sure employees feel empowered and trusted to complete projects, regardless of where they are in the world. Likewise, employees need to be sure their managers know if things are going well, going poorly, if they need help or if they feel out of the loop.
  • Your people are your most important asset. Formstack has invested in what they call a “Talent Team.” Looking at Formstack, you’d likely assume theirs is overstaffed. But Formstack stands by their commitment to top-notch recruiting, onboarding and long-term employee engagement in order to help their individual team members develop and execute winning strategies.
  • Transparency is essential in moving forward. This goes back to communication and that’s because communication really is the number one priority for a fast-growing SMB with a mostly-remote team. Formstack has adopted a practice in which everyone communicates their status — similar to a Facebook update. This gives the team full transparency on what everyone is working on, what roadblocks are, and what next steps are.

While the Formstack culture is at the heart of the company, Formstack’s business model is designed to serve other, fast-growing SMBs, as well. It provides solutions that help companies save time, automate processes and streamline workflows. Formstack has raised $3 million across two seed rounds in 2008 and 2009 from Gravity Venturesand a syndicate of angel investors.

SmartFile: Nimble product, growing workforce.

SmartFile, a secure file management and sharing platform, is another startup that is growing quickly SMB’s along the way. SmartFile is a solution aimed at helping SMBs save time by consolidating files into a unified management tool. The tool touts an intuitive platform, open API and custom customer solutions.

SmartFile’s tools, that replace tedious file sharing, yet are still accessible anywhere in the world, are actually perfect for companies like Formstack, that are growing fast and working with remote teams. By streamlining workflow and cutting hours off key employees’ to-do lists, SmartFile knows that for SMBs, more time equals more growth. SmartFile also cuts down on shadow IT, employees using unauthorized tech at work, because the consumer-grade experience gives employees everything they need in one place.

SmartFile’s product and workforce has allowed the company to expand in the past year. SmartFile recently raised $1.1 million in growth capital funds from VisionTech Angels and Elevate Ventures to further develop and market its scalable file management and governance solution.

The company plans to accelerate growth through hiring tech talent, product development and marketing initiatives in Indiana, and with today’s increased need for enterprise security and compliance, SmartFile is positioned for high-volume growth.

Owler: Crowdsourced data.

Previously known as InfoArmy, Owler is a crowdsourced platform designed to help its consumer base keep close tabs on the competition. Small businesses identify their industry and nearest competitors and receive weekly breakdowns of how they match up in areas such as revenue, publicity, and social reach.

Owler, which utilizes completely crowdsourced data, compiles instant insights on funding, acquisitions and leadership changes while helping SMBs differentiate themselves within their fields. The business model works since “the crowd” supplies the data.

To date, Owler has raised more than $19.3 million in venture funding and employs 90 people between its offices in San Mateo, California and Coimbatore, India. Owler recently surpassed more than 500,000 users, counting startups, mid-sized businesses and investment professionals among its clientele.

ONTRAPORT: Inspired by those they Serve.

ONTRAPORT is regularly recognized by Deloitte Fast 500, Great Places to Work, and Outside Magazine’s Best Workplaces for their continued success in the competitive SMB space.

Most recently, the company’s ONTRApages, an advanced web page builder that is free for everyone and exceptionally easy to use, was acknowledged as a 2016 Best Information Technology Software. In the midst of rapid growth, ONTRAPORT has upheld their standards for customer satisfaction while establishing an innovative company culture and a forward-thinking suite of products.

Over the years, ONTRAPORT has been inspired by the thousands of entrepreneurs they’ve worked with and the endless stories of good people doing great work. The company simplifies — and enhances — the lives of entrepreneurs and small business owners worldwide through software, education and services.

The List: Focus on innovation and culture.

Founded 21 years ago in Atlanta, The List is a B2B lead generation company that has emerged as a sales intelligence platform of choice among SMB development professionals in North America and the U.K. It opens a path to more than 120,000 marketing and advertising decision makers for its SMB clients through its sales intelligence products such as The List Online, Winmo and DailyVista.

The List Online marshals intelligence on advertisers, brands, and agencies, and Winmo is a platform introduced in 2015 that monitors its users’ prospecting activities as a means of assisting them in pinpointing their most promising sales opportunities. DailyVista, a digital news publication and sales resource, contains actionable sales intelligence geared toward ad tech and media sales professionals.

The List Online and Winmo have been honored by software website G2 Crowd as two of the best-performing sales intelligence platforms. Throughout the high growth, the company has kept a razor focus on innovation and culture. It has repeatedly been recognized as part of Atlanta’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For.

Likeable Local: Obsession with scale.

Likeable Local, based in New York City and Portland, Maine, is the classic example of a high growth firm targeting SMBs. With four year growth of over 1,200 percent, and recently recognized as one of fastest growing 2,000 private businesses in the country, Likeable Local is determined to scale in the ever-challenged SMB market.

Founded in 2012 as a spinoff of Likeable Media, CEO Dave Kerpen built a SaaS product to replicate the work that his social media agency was doing for big brand clients — so instead of paying $30,000 per month for top notch designers and social creatives, small businesses could instead pay $300 per month for access to the software platform. The tool itself includes four key areas of social media management: listening, content creation and distribution, paid social advertising and landing pages.

Talent is hired and retained for their obsession with scale. All employees are given an Enneagram personality test and motivated accordingly in order to achieve best results. Said Kerpen, “You know what’s cooler than serving 1,200 customers? Serving 120,000 customers.”

Likeable Local has raised $2.7 million to date from 500 Startups and angels such as Thomas Dibenedetto (Boston Red Sox) and Roy Rodenstein (Going.com acquired by AOL).

Growth mindset, service mentality.

While these six companies — Formstack, SmartFile, Owler, Ontraport, The List and Likeable Local — each do very different things, their core mission is the same: to serve SMB’s. They also have in common an obsession with talent, with remaining nimble, with efficiency in customer acquisition, and with focusing on scale. The SMB market can be extremely challenging to scale in, because of high churn and low dollar orders, but these six companies are off to a great start.

original article:www.entrepreneur.com

Sinking Ships And Relevant Leadership

The most poignant image that will stay embedded in my mind forever is that of a captain, standing at the helm of a sinking ship, drowning with his boat.

This is the man who steered his ship through the torrential hurricanes, hidden icebergs and the worst undercurrents. Till the ship stays course and sails in fair weather, the captain’s effort goes unnoticed, but hit the first giant wave, and his leadership is in the spotlight. Such is the burden of leadership.

Life of the corporate leader is no different. When the business results are outstanding, it’s a big win for the team, but when business hits a road bump, the leader stands alone to take the blame.

Leadership is the fuel of the corporate engine. It’s what keeps companies going, it breaks banks and destroys economies. Most importantly it keeps organisations relevant during this fast paced, changing per second, dynamic time. And poor leadership nullifies that.

I can think of several examples of companies rendered “irrelevant” when the leadership was complacent and inflexible in the face of change. There are so many enterprises that were part of our daily vocabulary a few years back. Nokia phones, Motorola phones – where are they now? They got gobbled up by larger companies. What about Yahoo? That’s a case study with so many lessons in itself. Look at Xerox. It was considered a leadership factory in the 80’s and 90’s. It was common knowledge that if you worked there, you’d emerge a leader coveted by other businesses. So many ex-Xerox employees went on to start successful businesses on their own. However, with the advent of digitization in the 90s, the copying business was rendered completely irrelevant by the onset of the millennium. And all because their leadership didn’t align itself with changing times while competitors like HP did.

Such is the burden of leadership. You need to be constantly vigilant, flexible and keep making course adjustments all the time. Mind you, and I’m not advocating burning the midnight oil day in and day out – what I am saying is that we must be on top of things and not sit back and relax just because we’ve had a successful year or decade. We need to keep ourselves relevant.

Relevance isn’t just about the industry. It’s also about being in tune with the employees of the organization and their personal motivations and aspirations.

Here’s a story shared by a restructuring consultant.

“I was at this company where I had to look into the performance of a particular division. I kept hearing all the way from HR to a corporate VP and some other people about this one senior sales person who was just a superstar and how this whole division would be at a loss without this one guy who single handedly was doing 25 per cent of the business. That didn’t sit well with me because that shows me a flaw—problems with the procedure. I didn’t let the opinions taint my process. Upon closer analysis, the superstar in question turned out to be cannibalizing business to the detriment of his coworkers. Within weeks of letting this person go, four or five other people increased their numbers dramatically.”

Sometimes, leaders are too proud to admit their mistakes, and the entire company suffers as a result. If the company has to survive, it’s better to let some people go. The survival of the collective is more important than the comfort of the one. Heck, even lizards break their tails to get out of a nasty situation.

Inability to change sometimes stems from fear, not pride. As a Forbes writer observed, “It’s easier to dump a CRM or a manufacturing vendor than it is to let go of the person in the office next to them, or upstairs or downstairs, or to hire somebody that is more knowledgeable and experienced than they themselves are.”

It is this burden of leadership which led to Jack Welch putting GE on the map as one of the greatest companies to work for, in perpetuity and it is this burden of (poor) leadership which led to Marissa Mayer’s downgrading of Yahoo.

original article:www.entrepreneur.com

B2B Marketers, It’s Time to Add Snapchat to Your Repertoire

We all have that friend who was wild in their younger days. The one who would show up to the party, do some crazy things, then disappear without a trace — and without the memory of the craziness they had wrought. Amazingly, that friend grew up, matured, started realizing their potential and understanding their purpose. They’re still fun, but in a more attractive way, and suddenly they’re more popular than ever.

That friend, of course, is Snapchat.

In successful marketing, story is king. And Snapchat is great at telling stories quickly to an engaged audience. So why are so many B2B marketers scared of using Snapchat? It could have something to do with the fact that 71 percent of the app’s users are 25 or younger. It could also be that just as marketers got comfortable with Instagram filters, they now fear an unknown interface with features such as facial mapping technology that turns selfie-takers into dogs, superhero characters and monsters — nor do they see the relevance.

Or could the reluctance to hop on the Snapchat bandwagon come from a general fatigue over new trends? For the twentysomething segment of the population, Snapchat is something that goes all the way back to their high school days. But it hasn’t been a viable platform for businesses until much more recently, and even the earliest-adopting of marketers are just now able to gauge the success of their snap strategies.

If your B2B brand isn’t on Snapchat yet, there are a few stats thatshould motivate you:

  • 22 percent of ad execs plan to advertise on Snapchat in 2016.
  • Snapchat ads are viewed up to a million times per day.
  • 60 percent of all smartphone users are now on Snapchat.
  • 60 percent of Snapchat users are between the ages of 18 and 34.

However, like any proper execution, it takes planning and strategy. If you’re wondering what one might look like, consider these starting points:

Storytelling.

This is a broad category, granted. But it’s where the app really shines. Whether it’s a behind the scenes look at your company, an employee you want to highlight or a trade show you want to document in an interesting way, Snapchat allows you to build a story using 10-second video clips and stills that your followers can consume at once. So instead of taking to Facebook to write several paragraphs about your next product launch, capture the moment quicker and more intimately with a story snap.

Remember, though, that the majority of your audience as a B2B marketer isn’t using the platform, so you should take advantage of Snapchat’s location-specific functionality. This means if you’re in town for an event, you can drive attendees to your Snapchat account via your other social channels, then use geofilters to further contextualize your stories in an interactive way.

Incentives.

Instead of tweeting an offer code for product discounts, snap it instead. Then use your existing channels to promote your Snapchat account by making a screenshot snap the only way to redeem the discount. This is an especially useful idea for limited time offers. After all, snaps disappear forever after 24 hours.

Excitement.

Let’s be honest — the marriage of B2B marketing and Snapchat seems an unlikely one because, quite frankly, Snapchat is associated with fun. But that’s a good thing for B2B companies. After all, you’re still trying to connect with real people. A good Snapchat strategy shouldn’t live alone — it should be just one part of a smart, multi-channel messaging matrix. So let the space it occupies within that matrix be a looser, more experimental and more fun one. Snapchat is impermanent, and so will be your social media misses on the platform.

One B2B company you can look to for inspiration is Cisco. The company allowed individual employees to “take over” the corporate account and post stories from across the country. It was a successful effort to add humanity to the overall messaging strategy.

Relationship building.

Snapchat has demonstrated the staying power that makes it worthy of adding to your B2B social outreach efforts. As the workforce grows younger and younger, your audience increasingly lives on non-conventional channels — and they’re probably savvier than you are when it comes to using them. Making headway on Snapchat as a B2B marketer can be a challenge, but like any other platform, the goal is to build relationships with your audience.

If you want to test the waters before committing all-in with a branded channel, consider using one of the literally thousands of social media influencers who use Snapchat to help businesses sell product. Or create micro-campaigns featuring your younger employees representing your brand on their personal accounts.

In a world of come-and-go social fads, Snapchat has grabbed ahold of a captive audience and grown its usefulness for marketers. For B2B companies looking to break the mold, the time is right for a storytelling strategy centered around Snapchat. Don’t worry, we won’t be telling you to abandon it for Pokemon Go just yet.

original article:www.entrepreneur.com

Call Conversions: the Blind Spot Threatening Digital Marketing ROI

In 2017, digital ad spending in the United States will exceed TV ad spending for the first time. And, by 2020, marketers will spend 36 percent more on digital than on TV. Those predictions are a powerful testament to the importance digital advertising has in modern marketing.

Still, as spending on digital channels increases, so does pressure on marketing teams to prove and improve ROI; and that can be a challenge. A recent survey found that 89 percent of participating marketers didn’t think their digital marketing efforts were working. For marketers struggling to increase ROI from search, Facebook, display and other digital channels, the problem might not be their ads. The problem might be their data.

Benchmark data such as CPL (cost per lead) and CPA (cost per acquisition) help take the guesswork out of decision-making by enabling marketers to optimize for what’s really driving leads, customers and revenue. But this only works if the data is accurate; and, unfortunatley, many marketers have a blind spot in their data that is causing CPL, CPA and other ROI metrics to be off by as much as 50 percent or more.

The unexpected impact of call conversions on ROI.

The problem, simply put, is the smartphone. It has transformed the way consumers research purchases and engage with businesses online. The result is that today, instead of following the traditional desktop-centric path of converting by filling out a web form on a landing page, smartphone users are converting simply by calling. According toresearch by analyst firm BIA/Kelsey:

  • Search, social and display advertising will drive over 108 billion call conversions to U.S. businesses in 2016.
  • That number will grow to 162 billion calls by 2019.
  • Search advertising alone will drive over 40 billion call conversions in the United States this year.
  • Calls convert to revenue 10 times more than web leads and will influence over $1 trillion in U.S. commerce this year.

Despite the significant and growing role call conversions play in digital marketing success, many marketers have been slow to adjust. They still calculate the ROI of their digital campaigns using web forms as the sole conversion metric. Call conversions remain a blind spot.

Mixed results for marketers ignoring call conversions.

If you are one of these marketers, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the CPL and CPA of your digital campaigns are actually much lower — perhaps 50 percent lower — than you’ve been reporting. Your marketing is driving more conversions and business than you think, and part of your struggle to increase ROI is simply your failure to account for a large chunk of your conversions.

The bad news, however, is that you’ve been making budget-allocation and campaign-optimization decisions based on incomplete and potentially misleading data, which could mean you’ve been investing in campaigns, ads, keywords and content that are all underperforming. That has most likely cost you conversions and customers.

Call-conversion attribution data can increase leads.

This was a problem Sylvan Learning’s marketing team members knew they had to fix. Sylvan provides personal tutoring services to children in grades K-12, and its marketing team uses search, social and other digital advertising to drive student enrollments for over 750 locations across North America.

Leads convert either by filling out an online form or calling their closest Sylvan location; and in order to optimize spending for maximum return, the company’s marketing team needs to know which campaigns, ads and search keywords drive the most enrollments, regardless of how the lead converted.

Sylvan was getting that data for online conversions from Google Analytics, but the company had no insight into how its digital marketing was driving call conversions. So it adopted DialogTech, acall attribution platform, to see exactly which campaigns and keywords were driving calls and enrollments for each location. That call data gets passed into Google Analytics, to enable Sylvan to get a complete understanding of how different channels drive online and offline conversions.

By eliminating its call-conversion blind spot and optimizing for what has really been driving results, Sylvan has been able to drive 33 percent more leads without increasing CPL.

What data should marketers capture for call conversions?

There is a wealth of data marketers can capture from call conversions that will help improve marketing ROI. It includes:

  • Marketing source that drove the call: Knowing the channel, ad, keyword search, email and/or campaign that drove each call is critical to knowing how to optimize spending and messaging to drive more.
  • The caller’s path through your website: If a lead visited your site after running a search or engaging with your marketing, you should know that person’s entry page, the content he or she viewed on your site and in what order, and the page he or she eventually called from.
  • Caller data: You should capture who the caller is, the phone number, the geographic location, the day and time of the call and the particular browser used.
  • What happened on the call: Knowing who answered the call, how long the call lasted, and what was said can help you judge lead quality and gain insights into your customers, to improve messaging and keyword targeting. These revelations can also tell you if sales agents are following approved scripts or mentioning your new promotions.
  • The value of the call: You need to know if a call is “good” or “bad,” based on your business’s definition of a quality lead. That often means knowing if the call resulted in an appointment, opportunity or sale, and how much revenue it was worth.

Attribution has become the most important challenge in digital marketing, and smartphones have only made it more difficult by making calls the conversion of choice for many consumers. For marketers, eliminating the blind spot that calls create in your data is a necessary first step in improving ROI and becoming the true revenue-generator their businesses need them to be.

original article:www.entrepreneur.com

How to Be an Excellent Manager without Being Bossy

So you’re in a position of power at your startup, have a team of dedicated employees (or a team of those that work relatively acceptably without messing up too much), got your resources and funding and are starting enthusiastically. However, no matter much you plan, there would be one factor you can never really account for completely, and has a high possibility of messing up eventually whenever it feels like it. That’s the human factor – because humans, no matter what position or business, will eventually have moments where they aren’t their best and may need a firm but comforting hand to help point towards the right direction. How do you a favorite manager that gets work done without being hated by everyone who works under you?

An ideal boss would understand and adjust himself/herself accordingly to the situation,, reach company’s goals and yet have all employees within their comfort zone working great. Here are some simple tips to follow that can make you an ideal boss:

Remember you work with them, not above them

You’re all in the same boat together. Try to remember that a startup is different from a  regular form of business since everyone’s equally in the situation together. Try to explain your employees the similar policy.  Instead of expecting employees to work under you like you’re their supreme leader, tyr to explain to them that the startup’s progress and achievements would be imply their own achievements. Such a positive attitude encourages others to also be progressive.

Consider sharing profits on the basis of commissions

Having a pay package policy that shares profits on the basis of work you do, or having shares with your employees is the surest way to encourage lots of growth. This also acts as sort of insurance for when times are rough and keeps everyone’s spirits high when business runs successfully.

Be transparent in your approach

While some enthusiastic bosses may literally have the room of their office/cabin removed to encourage communication, all you really need is a positive, encouraging and transparent attitude to win your employees hearts. Be bold and share your own and everyone else’s salary – nothing can possibly win the truth of your employees more than this. Have progress reports, complains as well as failures shared openly with your employees.

Bifurcate job

You’re not a superhuman even if you feel like so, and neither is any of your employees even if their resume says so. Divide work among employees in a way that there’s a clear division of work, so one person is not doing multiple jobs and juggling through different areas of expertise. For example, expecting your writers to also be worried about handling social media is negative to the growth of your writers.

Praise success instead of highlighting failures

What exactly do you hope to achieve by shouting at employees or threatening to cut privileges if they fail to meet deadlines? Threats only ensure an early resignation and surprise quitting, not encouraging them to grow more. By focusing your energy on those that did well and praising them, you raise the standard expecting form your employees and thus subconsciously encourage them to match their growth. Remember: scare tactics have literally never led to better growth, in any field at all.

Value your employees by treating them personally

Try to imagine your employees to be actual human beings with varied personal and social lives. Now picturize yourself in their place. Was someone working out great previously and has had an unproductive week suddenly? Maybe there’s a deeper personal reason behind it. Instead of reminding them how easy it will be to fire them, try to reach out to them and ask what’s wrong. Maybe they just need a break, or maybe there’s some hindrance stopping them from working their full potential. Having a routinely reward system, even simply a pizza party is sufficient for everyone to stay happy.

original article:www.entrepreneur.com

The Dark Side of Content Marketing

“Create awesome content.” “Deliver value.” “WOW your users.” “Master the art of storytelling.” “Users will find your content online.” “Build relationships with customers first, they will buy when they need.”

We’ve all heard it and it all sounds great.

In marketing conferences, we often hear “Brands today need to act like publishers”. At a recent event, I heard speakers encouraging businesses to hire journalists to work full-time to build “journalist-standard content.” Seth Godin, one of the finest marketing minds of our time, said “Content marketing is the only marketing left.” That’s aggressive.

But, there are some hidden problems in this picture. First, the cost to make awesome content, on an on-going basis, and the cost to promote that content, could be extremely expensive for many businesses. Second, the ROI of content may not validate the cost.

If you’re considering launching content marketing initiatives, ask yourself these four questions first:

1. How frequently will you publish content?

Many marketers write a nice blog post once in a while, add in some keywords, and hope the post will find its way to the “top of Google search” or go viral. That’s unlikely to happen. Writing one to two blog posts a week is like dropping a cup of salt into the ocean. It makes no difference.

But to make an impact, you usually need to create 10 to 20 articles a week, if not a lot more. A mattress company launched a content platform as its core marketing strategy. They prepared over 100 to 200 articles before launch and maintained a speed of eight articles a day for almost a year. They employed a team of four full-time writers, plus an editor. It paid off for them, but not every business can easily allocate such resources for content initiatives.

Elite Daily, in its early days, created around 100 posts a day for its millennial readers. Imagine you’re a brand that wants “act like a publisher” to reach millennials through content marketing, think about outpacing those publishers to get your customers’ attention.

2. Who will create that awesome content?

You have three choices. You could write great content yourself, have your internal team create content or hire outside copywriters or agencies.

If you’re considering writing “awesome content” yourself, because nobody knows your business better than you, remember this: Writing great content takes serious commitment.

You may have great expertise, but your writing skills may not be as good. If you are lucky to have both expertise and writing talent, you may simply not have the dedicated time required for writing.

If you are assigning content copywriting to an internal staff, or a freelancer, or an agency, there is a rule to know: A piece of content is only as good as the person who wrote it.”

Hiring an intern to write gives you intern-level content. Hiring an experienced freelance copywriter may cost you $100 to $300 per post (now think of 20 posts a week). An agency or high-profile expert may charge you $15,000 to $30,000 just for creating a content strategy.

3. How will you promote your content?

Most content marketers today agree on the fact is organic visibility is dead. Facebook recently announced that their users are unlikely to see brand posts in their feeds, but more from their family and friends. Long gone the days that consumers find you on the Internet via search engines and social shares. Even the best content needs paid promotion to fire.

So, on top of the ongoing content creation costs, you need to add ongoing content promotion costs. Taboola, Outbrain, Facebook promoted posts and Google Adwords all cost money to drive eyeballs to your content.

4. How will you measure ROI?

Isn’t the goal of marketing to increase revenue? At least, most CEOs and CMOs think so. But be careful if you start content marketing with that revenue goal in mind.

Content marketers talk about various types of metrics, like pageviews, time-on-site, likes, shares, downloads and form submissions, but they often speak softly on ROI.

If you’re a brand that pours millions into TV and offline ads, these metrics may be familiar. But if you’re a performance-driven company that watches sales numbers each day like a hawk, you may want to think twice.

ROI conversations are less popular because it’s harder to measure the direct ROI of content marketing, as well as the impact of content marketing to other marketing channels.

And even if you can, the numbers don’t always look good, so many agencies just take it off the grid. I’ve seen countless blogs and company Web pages that have no call-to-actions to motivate readers to act. And many brand and corporate websites don’t set conversion tracking for their campaigns.

Know the road ahead.

Content marketing could be very costly, and difficult to measure returns. But this doesn’t mean that content marketing never works.

Companies like American Express, GE, and Hubspot brilliantly use helpful and fascinating content to reach their target audience and generate amazing outcomes. But you need to be practical. You have to know what you are getting yourself into. You must know the investment behind the greatness.

  • First, consider if content marketing is a solid marketing choice for your business. Given a limited marketing budget, some other marketing channels can boost your bottom-line faster. A strong PR article on GQ launched Warby Parker onto their success track. Optimizing their shopping experience helped Seltzer Goodsnational stationery supplier achieve over a 4 percent Ecommerce conversion rate and almost double its online revenue. Could content marketing outperform other marketing channels for your business?
  • Second, look at content marketing from within the big picture of your marketing mix. How strong can content marketing support your other marketing channels and boost results? For example, if you are a retailer or online marketplace that relies heavily on SEO to generate online revenue, content marketing will be a great catalyst for your search success.
  • Third, check if the direct and indirect return of content marketing can surpass the investment and the effort. Given that the cost to execute an effective content marketing strategy is high, small business may find it harder to get the return they expect. But for medium and big-size businesses, it could be easier to validate the return as the lever is longer.
  • Last, if you decide to go with content marketing, go strong.Make sure you allocate resources and time for content marketing to work. In the era of information overload, you’ll need to create both awesome content and in a consistent frequency to truly reach and influence your audience. Fire up your content marketing with paid promotion to generate organic momentum later on.                                                                                                                                               original article:www.entrepreneur.com

3 Compelling Reasons to Adapt the Workplace Culture for Social Media

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With more employees using social media in the workplace, companies are struggling to create viable social media policies and strategies that enable staff members to use their favorite communication channels while still protecting the company’s reputation.

One big problem is that social media usage in the workplace does not always result in social engagement. Clearly, social media is a powerful tool to share information and build personal networks. But in many cases, people use social media to sling around new content or retweet the latest breaking news without any context or business relevance. Too often, the loudest mouth gets the most attention, even when what gets said is not very meaningful to drive progress for the organization.

In that sense, social media is both a blessing and a curse. Of course social media adoption is inevitable, so companies need to strike the proper balance in how they create a workplace culture for proper social media usage. Outright bans or prohibitions don’t work because employees are already on social platforms in their personal lives. More importantly, customers are choosing social channels to tell the world about their consumer experiences and to contact companies directly to address their problems.

1. Brand ambassadors and employee advocacy.

More companies are working to humanize their brands by training new employee advocates. These brand ambassadors are savvy social media users who help reinforce the company message and sometimes even engage in social selling. These employees are often not part of a contact center team — they are excellent communicators throughout the company who leverage their own social networks to advocate for company interests.

Some 31 percent of high-growth companies have formal employee advocacy programs in place, more than double the average of all other firms, according to a study by the Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today. The study found that nearly two-thirds of advocates in a formal program credited their advocacy with attracting new business, and nearly 45 percent said the advocacy has generated new revenue streams.

Managers should know that such programs require time and energy to build, including investments in training and software. Nearly 60 percent of workers in formal employee advocacy programs spend at least five hours per week using social media for business purposes. As a result, almost 86 percent said their social media work has had a positive impact on their careers by differentiating them from their peers.

Based on the daily use of social media, customers now expect closer emotional ties and a sense of immediacy from the companies they do business with. Otherwise, they will buy elsewhere. This “social” relationship starts at the company website with user communities, where companies have the most control over messaging. The next level involves interactions on major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. Finally, there are the endless blogs, consumer forums and ranking sites where companies have the least amount of control.

However, companies should not tune out these public forums, which can be valuable places to correct public misconceptions and distortions. Companies should adopt a proactive social stance that engages in discussions across all channels, according to a recent white paper by Conversocial for Facebook Marketing Partners, ”Preparing the Enterprise for a New Social Customer Service Model: Adapting to the Culture of Social Media”.

“Prior to social media, the interaction between companies and customers was transactional and all parties measured their success by the number and swiftness of those transactions. That was largely a culture of commerce,” stated the authors. “Now, social media is creating a new culture for society, one predicated on connections and sharing. And, as customers embrace the culture of social media, they are demanding that companies do likewise.”

2. Millennial expectations and collaborative culture.

Growing numbers of the Millennial generation are joining the workforce and having a profound effect on business culture. Raised on social media and smartphones, Millennial employees are bringing their commitment to openness, sharing and transparency into the workplace.

Most companies have already hung out their social media shingles on Facebook and Twitter to promote their brands externally. But the real innovators are also deploying internal knowledge management systems that feel recognizable to Millennials who are eager to share content.

Management should nurture this desire for collaboration. The push for collaboration can involve new ways to communicate and share ideas, including the use of cloud-based software tools and crowd-solving apps. In this way, offsite employees can engage with onsite teams, giving rise to new synergies.

Many companies are also redesigning their physical office spaces to be more open and conducive to personal interactions. Gray fabric cubicles are being replaced by bright, open floor plans. Cross-pollinating ideas from across an organization can often lead to better hybrid solutions that no single individual or department could create in a silo.

3. Customer care and employee engagement.

The use of social media and collaboration tools cannot succeed unless a company’s overall culture embraces the effort. Employees need to feel that their voices matter, and they need to know that the organization values their contributions and ideas. At the same time, a conversation with one customer today can quickly turn into a conversation with all customers — who then share their thoughts with the rest of the world through social media posts.

This dynamic radically reorients the relationship between businesses and their customers, giving customers a powerful new level of control in how brands are perceived and represented. In this changing business climate, companies that build effective social media programs can enjoy a clear competitive advantage, both in terms of internal employee engagement and external customer satisfaction.

original article:www.entrepreneur.com

9 Tools to Run and Scale Your Marketing Agency

Did you know that you always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but now that you are, you feel like you are drowning, and it isn’t as much fun as all the entrepreneurs on Instagram and Snapchat are making it out to be?

I feel your pain.

In his popular book, E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do about It, Michael Gerber points out that business owners need to work on their business, not in their business. Underneath the success that comes with running my own agency, is the heartache of feeling like I’m just a highly overpaid consultant.

I never sought to run an app marketing agency, it is something that my podcast audience asked of me so I said yes, because it was the easiest path to entrepreneurship and has become something I enjoy doing. However, after three years of running the agency, I finally feel like I’m starting to work on my business instead of in my business.

Here are some tools that have helped me run and scale my app marketing agency.

1. Track your emails with Bananatag.

Whether you are trying to close a deal or cold email a potential client, it’s important to know if your emails are actually being opened. While there are a few other tools out there, I’ve found that Bananatag is one of the simplest and easiest to track email opens and clicks.

You get an email whenever your recipient opens or clicks on any of your links, so if a potential client clicks on your proposal link, you can follow-up by asking if they had any questions.

2. Schedule multiple posts to your Buffer profiles with BulkPublish.

As a huge Buffer fan, I became frustrated that I had to continually fill my queue especially when I have hundreds of blog posts and podcast episodes that I can continually share.

BulkPublish allows me to bulk upload a list of posts and more importantly, include inline images. Buffer reports that image posts get 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites and 150 percent more retweets. With BulkPublish, you can easily add images to scheduled posts with a simple CSV upload.

3. Chat with your customers via Chat Center.

Founded by TechCrunch Co-Founder, Keith Teare, Chat Center allows you to be available to your customers when they need you the most. Think of the tool as an easy way to give your customers chat access to you without having to give away your phone number, become Facebook friends with them or use another app.

I use the tool as a chat window on my website and as a way for my customers to text me anytime. The app costs a mere $3.99 a month and comes with a 30-day trial. There are also mobile versions of the app so you can respond to customers whichever device you are on.

4. Create sales funnels with ClickFunnels.

Having tried many landing page and website builders, I have absolutely fallen in love with ClickFunnels. I can build optin pages, webinar funnels, and my favorite, one-click upsell and downsell pages.

The tool integrates with popular email marketing services and payment providers. It’s an all-in-one solution when building sales pages and funnels.

5. Find anyone’s email with Email Hunter.

Email Hunter is a simple tool that allows you to find any email address you need in seconds. You can find email addresses while you are on a website; find email addresses on a LinkedIn profile; and save your leads with one click from LinkedIn’s search page.

6. Create a Facebook Group.

Facebook Groups have been a great source of leads for my business. I’ve found that there’s no better engagement source, when sharing my blog posts, webinars, ebooks and courses.

I also try to spend a few minutes each day trying to add value and answer any questions from others in the group.

Search for relevant groups for your business, and start interacting and sharing your popular blog posts. There are huge communities within Facebook that will help you grow your business.

7. Create your own live show with Live Air Solo.

Jason Swenk, who sold his digital agency in 2012 for more than seven-figures, recommends using the Live:Air Solo app.

The app lets you broadcast live video to Facebook and YouTube, allowing you to be the director, producer and star of your own show. Uniquely designed for the iPhone, Live:Air Solo is packed with real-time creative tools such as graphics, overlays, transitions and support for all of the popular live streaming destinations.

8. Use the scheduling app, ScheduleOnce.

Running an agency and a popular app business podcast keeps my calendar full most weeks. From client calls to team meetings to podcast interviews I need to be able to manage my calendar with as little back-and-forth as possible.

ScheduleOnce allows me to pick times and dates that I want to be available, and share links with my clients so they can pick a time that works for them. For example, I do all my client calls on Tuesdays, and I can send a specific link that allows clients to pick a time that is convenient for them. In addition, ScheduleOnce will send out reminders to make sure no one misses the meeting.

9. Use WorkGroup for business messaging.

I was getting so much email that I started avoiding looking at my emails and thus falling behind on servicing my clients. I wanted emails to be for potential clients and another platform for current clients.

With WorkGroup, I’m able to create a group for each client, provide real-time communication, and more importantly, create action items for my team and my clients. Unlike other tools, like Slack and Basecamp, I found WorkGroup to be as simple as text messaging but powerful enough to ensure action items were taken care of.

original article:www.entrepreneur.com