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For website managers at many businesses, large and small, this past season was the winter of their discontent.  Beginning in December, dozens of art galleries in New York City were named in lawsuits, and the galleries weren’t alone.  Many hundreds of suits have been recently filed against businesses, cultural institutions, advocacy groups and even the pop phenomenon Beyoncé, whose website was named in a class-action suit filed in January.

The vulnerability that they have in common?  These websites weren’t accessible to the blind or visually impaired.  The resultant lawsuits were filed by plaintiffs to compel businesses to bring their websites into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, thereby making them accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

If you operate a website as a part of your organization’s work, the question you should be asking is:

Is my website fully accessible?

Are You Shutting Out Potential Customers?

Blind and visually impaired people like me are often cut off – however unintentionally – from a big part of life that you likely take for granted.  Concern about blind students being shut out of online learning compelled me to write an article on the need for a universal design for the May 8th 2011 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, a piece designed to raise awareness among educators and their IT teams.

Americans with Disabilities Act

For the blind, that need for website access – and the ADA compliance that can ensure it – extends across sectors, from education to businesses, services, cultural institutions and other organizations.  If you have sight, think about how dependent on the Internet you are in your daily work and home life.  How many websites do you visit in a typical day?  Imagine what it would be like if you simply couldn’t access those sites, and almost every day, you encountered several things that you simply could not do.

Despite the law, fair and equal web access has been elusive. Being shut out, being denied access to the websites upon which so much of commerce, business, and life itself depends in our world today, can prompt blind plaintiffs to go to court.  When plaintiffs file suit, they do so citing the ADA.  You may remember the ADA as the law that helps the wheelchair-bound gain access to public buildings, but that isn’t all there is to it.  

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) recognizes that people with all disabilities have the right to equal access, including the blind and visually impaired, and this means access to digital and online media in addition to physical spaces. It’s at the heart of the issue in the current flood of ADA suits.

Blind and visually impaired people use a reader to help us navigate and use websites.  Readers decipher what’s on the screen and electronically read it out loud, making it possible for us to access what we can’t see. It’s a technology that levels the playing field.  

But, we are literally locked out when confronted with websites that aren’t coded to be navigated by us.  If you’re trying to order groceries, book a hotel room or access your doctor’s website and the site isn’t set up for access, you’re done.  Imagine trying to get your job done without being able to read the screen; that’s what confronts the blind and visually impaired worker on a daily basis.  

Prevent Your Site from Becoming an Achilles Heel

For large business, the moves toward a fix are straightforward.  They have the resources and compliance, legal and IT staff to quickly bring their websites into line with the ADA’s requirements.  They can redesign features and re-write code quickly to accommodate the needs of blind visitors, granting access and essentially extending a welcome. 

But, small and medium-sized businesses and organizations are more often resource challenged.  In news interviews, small and medium business owners who have been called out in ADA suits say that they feel vulnerable.  

This can be easily addressed to everyone’s benefit. Consulting with advocacy groups for the blind and visually impaired can be a great start for these organizations, and there are a number of guidelines to keep in mind as they begin the process of achieving ADA compliance with their websites.

What You Can Do to Ensure Your Website is Accessible

What can you do if you own a business and want to avoid being forced to comply at the point of a civil suit?  Getting ahead of the problem costs less and is the smart move:

  • Work with your compliance officer or professional to ensure that your websites are fully in line with ADA regulations and the internationally recognized WCAG 2.0/2.1 website accessibility standard;
  • Seek counsel from advocacy groups for the blind or visually impaired, like ours.  They can offer website consultations, audits, and access to tools that can keep you in compliance;
  • Encourage your coders and content creators to improve your website by: 
    1. Label buttons, links and images with text descriptions, known as alt tags;
    2. Adjust designs so that foreground and background colors have sufficient contrast;
    3. Ensure that your website is easily navigable using a keyboard interface.
  • Use free training and online resources to stay on top of the law.
  • Partner with other organizations and businesses, mutually pledging to make your websites accessible to the visually impaired by a deadline that you set together.

These actions benefit organizations in many ways: by being inclusive, you invite more customers and supporters in through your website – the front door of your organization.  By taking the lead, you improve public perception; your value increases when you create more opportunities for access. That’s why the Miami Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired was one of the first to offer businesses and corporations nationwide website consultations to ensure compliance with the ADA.

Ultimately, this is about doing what’s right. By increasing access, you are complying with the law and making sure that people – no matter their abilities – are given the same chance as everyone else.  It’s not only fair, it’s inherently American, and our businesses, cultural institutions and even big stars like Beyoncé should remember that. Inclusiveness is not just a good thing – it’s the right thing.

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The post Not Everyone Can See Your Website appeared first on Martech Zone.

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Earth Day was this week and we saw the typical run of social posts where companies promoted the environment. Unfortunately, for many companies – this only happens once a year and the other days they go back to business as usual.

Last week, I completed a marketing workshop at a large company in the healthcare industry. One of the points that I made within the workshop was that their company needed to better market the impact that their company is making on the environment, sustainability, inclusivity, and diversity.

In years past, companies often shoveled a portion of their profits over to some great charities, threw out a press release on their donation, and called it a day. That doesn’t cut it any longer. Both consumers and businesses alike are seeking to do business with companies that provide the goods and services they want… but also are acting in the public good. Not only are customers seeking this, so are our prospective employees.

While they’re a customer, I’ve been absolutely impressed with how Dell Technologies has committed to building their social impact into their supply chain and corporate culture. They’re a great example to follow. As well, they’ve continued to drive innovation, are as competitive as ever, and aren’t sacrificing profits to do so. They recognize that it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also a great business strategy.

Environment and Sustainability

Here’s one incredible example… Dell recycles ocean plastics into their packaging. Their sustainability and environmental work doesn’t stop there, though. Aside from recycling, they also are working on eco-labeling, energy reduction, and shrinking carbon footprints. They’ve put sustainability at every link in their supply chain.

Diversity and Inclusivity

Dell is also open and honest about the lack of diversity and inclusivity in the technology industry. This has historically led to minorities and women not having the opportunity that others have within the industry. Dell has committed resources, investing in early-childhood education programs globally, to being absolutely transparent in their own reporting. They’ve also put it front and center in their recruitment:

Transparency and Reporting

Transparency has been key as well. Dell has regular reporting on its progress, putting their activity front and center so that consumers, businesses, and investors are aware of their progress. They don’t ever claim to have fixed these issues, but they openly continue to report and show their progress. This is great marketing.

I’d also encourage you to subscribe and listen to the Dell Luminaries podcast that I co-host with Mark Schaefer. We have a first-row seat, interviewing the leaders, partners, and customers of Dell that are making these differences.

Dell Luminaries Podcast

So, what’s your corporate strategy and how is your brand being viewed from the perspective of a social good? Are there things that you can do to change your internal processes to improve sustainability and inclusivity? And, most importantly, how can you communicate those efforts effectively to your prospects and customers?

And don’t forget… donating money isn’t enough. Consumers and businesses are expecting to see social good embedded into your culture and in every process. Your next customer or employee wants to know that you’re dedicated to making the world a better place, not just leaving it for someone else to do.

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The post How Are You Marketing Your Brand’s Sustainability and Diversity? appeared first on Martech Zone.

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As consumers become more tone-deaf to interruptive marketing, it’s an imperative that brands identify their advocates and provide them the tools necessary to help refer their products and services. Extole’s referral marketing platform creates advocacy programs that scale for the biggest brands.

On-Brand Sharing

Create an effortless, integrated advocate sharing experience. A referral program tailored to your brand will turn more of your customers into advocates and increase brand awareness. Extole provides referral marketing software that drives engagement and increases your conversions.

  • Pre-built sharing and referral templates
  • Visual editing of the end-to-end referral content for an on-brand experiences
  • Beautiful designs look great on mobile, on the web, or in your app
  • Personalized share codes and incentives
  • Streamlined referral experiences make it easy for consumers to share
  • Language localization for international reach

Reward Engine

Your advocates and their friends expect instant rewards, and you can customize these incentives to perfection for each referral marketing campaign. Real-time rewards create instant gratification and encourage even more sharing and referrals. We’ve also got built-in fraud protection, so you can protect your brand and your margin.

  • Handle multiple types of rewards, both internal and external
  • Reward with coupons, loyalty points, gift cards, and more with our automatic reward engine
  • Delight customers with the perfect, tested reward offer
  • Provide support for international rewards
  • Customize rewards for each campaign, so you can track which incentives work
  • Set sophisticated rules to detect and prevent low-quality referrals.

Brand Advocate Profiles

The Extole platform makes it easy to find and reach great influencers. Your best customers – those who share and those who respond – are your unique advantage. Use first-party and social network data about your advocates to power your marketing efforts.

  • Modern and secure referral software with detailed segmentation and reporting to understand exactly who your advocates are and how they’re sharing
  • Real-time reports on your top sharers, biggest influencers, and revenue drivers
  • Easy, automatic discovery of influencers, brand advocates, and networks
  • Enhanced profiles of your key advocates using data from multiple social platforms
  • Reward the right advocates in real-time

Targeting and Testing

With audience specific targeting, Extole makes it to easy tailor rewards, content, and even business rules based on different audience segments. This ability lets enterprises easily manage multiple simultaneous programs. In addition, each program can have mutliple variants in order to a/b test any aspect of your referral program. 

  • Test creative, offer, and business rules to understand performance.
  • Easily assign different audiences to different programs in order to have tailored experiences.
  • Manage programs, campaigns, and tests in a single dashboard that gives immediate insight and control. 

Advanced Referral Marketing Capabilities

Extole offers a variety of advanced features and capabilities that help you extend the reach and impact of your advocacy marketing.

  • Run increased reward bursts to spark more advocacy and keep your program fresh.
  • Let your customers share specific items so that they can recommend not just your brand but the perfect product. 
  • Engage influencers with special Extole campaigns that track and reward them.

Integration Capabilities

You know that refer-a-friend programs need to be friction-free. Sharing and referring must be as easy as possible for your customers. Our powerful API and webhooks give your customers a seamless experience across your app and website, no matter what device they’re using.

  • Referral marketing APIs are purpose-built for mobile apps
  • Integration with your customer’s smartphone and social sharing platforms
  • Works alongside app-tracking solutions
  • Set up easy promotion and sharing for your consumers through our APIs
  • Create a full, creative API for customized user experiences
  • Administer API-powered conversions and rewards

Get an Extole Demo

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The post Extole: Brand Advocacy and Referral Marketing appeared first on Martech Zone.

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Over the last few years, increased used of digital media by customers has changed the way companies market their brands. Businesses have just a few minutes to capture a visitor’s attention and control their purchasing power. With many options available to customers, each organization has to find a unique mix of marketing strategies that will ensure customer loyalty to their brand.

However, all these strategies now focus on building and further improving website engagement. We’ve compiled some of the reasons why customer engagement is considered to be a priority besides just being an end goal of all the marketing strategies.

  • According to an article published by Forbes, more than 50% of customers are happy to pay a premium for a great brand experience
  • While another article published by Lifehack states that engaged customers will pay up to 25% more than those who are not convinced
  • The same article by Lifehack also states that more than 65% of customers buy products based on their treatment and comfort on specific sites

Though many sites are popular, the majority of customers are not happy with the amount of information the receive at the end. This is a clear indication for companies that they should focus more towards providing the right information and / or message at the right time to have a significant impact. Considering that a lot of high ranking websites receive over 100,000 visitors each year on an average, marketing departments cannot disregard even a single visitor. Fortunately, there are quite a few tools which can help in achieving customer satisfaction. Let’s take a look at them below.

7 Practical Tools that Enhance Website Engagement

1. Analytics: Marketing strategies use data to craft new ad campaigns to improve customer engagement. Thanks to analytics tools, companies now have access to multiple data points. The derived results can be used to design and send personalized messages to their customer base on multi-level touch points. 

Mobile analytics as a tool is also gaining traction. One thing to keep in mind is that sales, IT and marketing departments have to work in concert to create good campaigns. There is a lot of work is still ongoing in this area as companies are facing problems related to implementation and media placement.

2. Live Chat: Proactive chat is becoming one of the most used approach by companies these days. And to get that done correctly and instantly, many organizations do not give up on the idea of a live chat software. However, with too many options available in the market it’s not easy to settle with one. But in case you have a support tool like ProProfs Chat, providing instant support becomes a piece of cake.

The live chat software allows your operators to understand visitor behavior and start a proactive conversation with a feature like Chat Greetings. Not only does this promote the instant support benefit but also builds a personalized support experience for visitors. With so many features working together, your business can ensure the the stay of a visitor prolongs and they complete a purchase based on your operators’recommendations.

3. Mobile Support: Mobile apps are becoming more common as they are easy to use and offer an improved buying experience to customers. In fact, many retailers offer steeper discounts to app users to keep them hooked on to the app stores, even on the go. 

As another customer support channel, companies which invest in app support will be able to offer a similar and seamless shopping experience. Ensure that your customer has given permission to access this option, just so you do not land in legal battles.

4. 24/7 Support Tools: There are several tools that one can use to boost sales on multiple channels. Find a good one and use it to help guide customers though the decision process as well as buying. These tools can be configured in to the company’s website to optimize engagement and maximum benefits.

5. Social Media Platforms: Just like having a website is a necessity, it is equally important to engage with your customers through impactful social media presence. Customers like to connect with companies via Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook –research has found that people buy 40% more if the presentation and story line of a product is good. 

Keep in mind that it is not enough to just have an account but someone to monitor them is also needed. A team in fact can help you answer every question a customer may have and responding to issues or questions with the right information. By providing your customers the opportunity to get information faster, not only do you increase the chances of their retention but also boost their loyalty towards your brand.

6. Callback Feature:Businesses and customers have to juggle many priorities and answers are sought at jet speed. There are programs which a company can install and use for service representatives to manage call queues. While customers may occasionally have to wait a while before their questions are answered, the fact that they are willing to stay on the line indicates their interest and engagement with the brand.

7. Help Desk: This is perhaps one of the most essential tools that a business should never compromise upon. Using a ticketing system helps in resolving issues and providing much needed answers fast. Tickets are a great way to track an issue from start to finish and provide a resolution. 

Using predictive tools for this process can prove extremely useful as anticipating problems in advance is a part of the process. Finding ways to address issues becomes easy as well. Customers do get impressed if a business uses such a program –it is a great brand enhancement and good for customer satisfaction.

Wrapping Up the Use of 7+ Super Useful Tools

Thanks to tech innovations, many companies are developing new products which provide customer-friendly solutions. Those who are able to stay ahead of the trend by investing in the right tools, do stay ahead of the curve by meeting client needs and surpassing them.

There are service companies which can provide all of these tools and make it easy for a business to focus on their core functions. Why not use the available expertise to boost your website engagement, productivity and customer satisfaction – all at the same time?

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The post 7 Super Useful Tools for Improving Website Engagement appeared first on Martech Zone.

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Email marketing is the easiest and most cost effective means of reaching out to your target audience and keeping them engaged. It can be the revenue driving tool for your business that you’ve been looking for!

With the right  in place, you can achieve a greater access to your existing and potential customers and put your message out in front of a larger audience.

One great advantage of email marketing over social media marketing is that it allows you to communicate with your customers on a more personal level as you can customize emails for every type of customer.

 Emails tailored to cater the needs of each customer segment, help you resonate with your readers and provide them something valuable. 

Email Newsletters

Email newsletters or E-newsletters form an integral part of a constructive email marketing campaign strategyThey help you keep in touch with your customers and keep them aware of your business activities. 

Not only does this channel enable you to publicize important information, but also helps you build a reputation, strengthen bonds and increase sales.

There is no particular rule for deciding whether to keep the frequency of your E-newsletter as weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. You should just keep the purpose in mind- providing content that ensures your subscribers staying connected, engaged and informed of your products, services, achievements and activities.

Why Email Newsletters are Useful

An email newsletter can help your business grow in the following ways.

  • Driving Traffic to Your Website – It helps you enhance your company’s search engine presence and directs traffic back to your website. With improved search engine optimization, your website becomes more visible to potential buyers.
  • Filtering the Opt Outs – A good email newsletter provides readers the option of opting out from receiving the letters, which means you get to know who your viable sales leads are so you can focus on them more. 
  • You Stay in the Minds of Your Customers – Regular email newsletters serve as continuous reminders for your customers and help your products and services stay in the frontline of your customer’s mind.
  • Excellent Means of Promoting New Products and Services
  • Email newsletters give you a chance to update your customers regarding any newly launched products or services.
  • Powerful Tools for Conversion – You can provide special offers and discounts on your products and services for newsletters subscribers. This will encourage them to buy from you and also increase your newsletter subscription.

Anatomy of a Stellar Email Newsletter

  • Keeping it Mobile Friendly – Considering how most people check their e-mails on smartphones, it’s a no-brainer that you should design your email newsletter keeping a mobile responsive template in mind. A single column layout is a must to ensure mobile compatibility.
  • Sender Name and Email Address – Using you company’s name in the email address and as the sender’s name is the safest option. This is important as unfamiliar names are likely to be reported as spam.
  • Email Subject Line – It all comes down to this one line! The right subject line is what it takes for you to have your E-newsletter opened or go unnoticed. They should be crisp (25-30 characters are displayed on most mobile applications) and engaging. A great way to create attention grabbing subject lines is through personalization. If the subject line contains the name of your recipient, he’s more likely to open it.
  • Pre-Header and Preview Panes – The pre-header or snippet text is usually automatically pulled from the beginning of your email however, now it’s possible get it customized. It’s a good space for you to display any special offers or discounts. Similarly, you can also customize the content that is displayed on the preview pane. This is useful when the email is being opened on a larger device.
  • Compelling Headline – Create catchy and relatable headlines keeping your target customers in mind. In the same way, all sub-headings should be devised with the objective of grabbing your reader’s attention and holding their interest as they go through the letter.
  • A Consistent Design – Your readers should be able to recognize your brand through the template, colors and logo on the newsletter. Frequently changing your design is bad for brand identification.
  • Content is King! – If you want your readers to keep their subscriptions on, you need to provide them with excellent content. An interesting read will not only be enjoyed by the subscribers themselves but they would also want to share it with others. Make your content minimalistic, informative and easily readable. Include current market statistics and overall industry landscape to engage your readers.
  • A Crisp Layout – No matter how good your content is, a poor layout and presentation will make you lose your reader’s attention and keep you from creating the right impact. Information should not be cluttered all over the newsletter and properly segmented into sections or bullet points. Point is to keep it concise and scannable for your subscriber.
  • CTAs and Useful Links – Make sure your headers, company logos and any images are linked to the company’s website. You can also include “Read more…” links that direct readers back to your website for any articles, new products, services or offers. As discussed previously, newsletters are a perfect platform to motivate your customers to take an action. All calls-to-action included in the content should stand out and be clear for your readers.
  • The Footer – It should contain complete contact information of your company along with all your social media and web links. The unsubscribe link also goes into the footer of your newsletter.

Designing an effective, high converting email newsletter is crucial to your email marketing strategy. 

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The post The Anatomy of an Email Newsletter appeared first on Martech Zone.

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SMS (short message system) is basically another word for text messages. And, most of the business owners do not know but texting is equally important to other ways of marketing like social media marketing or marketing by using brochures. The benefits that are associated with SMS marketing are responsible for making it one of the best choices for the different kinds of businesses, who are looking forward to reaching more customers.

SMS is known to have an open rate of 98%. 

Forbes

If you have just started your business and you are dealing with numerous limitations, it is obvious that stretching the resources is one of the most important priorities that you have. You need to extract each and every sale that you can while balancing the sales as well as marketing budget in this process. It is going to become one of the most tricky trade-offs to discover a balance and it is also going to come with a number of other considerations, like the time spent, technical knowledge, and how it has to be executed. 

It is a good idea to work with SMS marketing firms in order to conduct ideal strategies. There are numerous added benefits of using text messages for each and every company. Given below is a list of the amazing benefits that are associated with SMS marketing. 

SMS Marketing Increases Customer Engagement

There is a big misconception that messages are only used for reminding the customers about something for sending discount or voucher codes. However, you need to know that timely SMS messages are going to perform an ideal job of engaging the customers in attractive ways, in comparison to social media marketing for email marketing. Right from providing the customers with amazing media content like scratch cards, personalized selections, as well as games, text messages, are capable of making a natural impact. 

They can not only help in increasing the level of engagement but also helps in boosting brand awareness as well as the technique of word of mouth referral.

SMS is Reliable

You are going to despise it when you spend long hours crafting an ideal email and then you find that it goes directly to the spam box of the customers. Even when the best practices have been followed for dodging the spam folder, 100% deliverability can never be ensured. It is going to be harder when business to business communication is being considered. Enterprises, as well as big companies, are going to have the granular gateways of emails, along with extended security. This is what is responsible for making SMS one of the best channels for communicating with the customers. 

Given below is a list of the tips that are going to ensure that the text messages are going to reach the appropriate destination. 

  • Do not overuse exclamation marks or capital letters. 
  • Ensure that you are randomizing the content or else operators can block the messages that are being repeated. 
  • Ensure that you are avoiding sensitive words. 

SMS has a Higher Open Rate than Emails

A big benefit associated with SMS marketing is that the customers are going to open the messages as soon as they receive it. This is responsible for providing text messages with better open rates in comparison to the other options of advertising. It is simple for an email to get lost easily in the spam folders. 

But with texting becoming popular, text marketing is something that is not going to get ignored. Most of the times, a customer is definitely going to open a particular text and read the contents. If you are looking for a way of reaching your present and potential customers in a consistent manner, you have to give texts a try. In order to learn more, you can click here. 

SMS Marketing is Cost-Effective

It is not going to take a lot of money in order to send texts to the customers. It is a lot more affordable in comparison to the other methods of marketing like buying Facebook advertisements. This is going to make SMS marketing one of the ideal choices for the businesses, irrespective of their kind. Also, businesses that have just started can use SMS marketing without spending a lot of money on the other methods of marketing. It is much better when compared to traditional marketing methods.  

SMS Marketing Delivers Exclusivity

A text message subscriber has given you access to enter into his private world, along with the mobile number, which is definitely powerful and also carries a lot of responsibility. It is your duty to ensure that they are feeling privileged as well as exclusive. As a startup business, you need to be flexible and have a proper understanding of each and every customer as well as possess the ability to craft the ideal message for suiting the client base. 

SMS Marketing Competes With Far More Complex and Sophisticated Mediums

Text messaging does not involve any fancy animation or expensive design. You also do not have to pay a lot of money for creating the collateral. Everything that you need is the proper usage of words, which is capable of creating a level for all the competitor brands as well as campaigns. With the usage of ideal words, you will be able to take the messaging campaign to a whole new level.

SMS Marketing Results are Immediate

A text message is definitely an immediate channel and as a brand, you can ensure that even the critical messages are going to be read almost immediately. This is going to help the brands to keep sending messages, which are time sensitive, like the last minute deals, promotions related to events, flash sales, and holiday greetings. SMS is as fast as lighting and there is nothing as swift as compared to a text message. 

Conclusion

You have to ensure that the text messages are concise and clear. Go through all the benefits that have been listed above in order to ensure that text messages are one of the most important parts of the marketing strategies that you already have. 

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The post The Amazing Benefits of SMS Marketing appeared first on Martech Zone.

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I’ve been observing a pattern over the last year that I believe is quite disturbing… the shaming of companies by respected leaders in the marketing industry when they decide to reduce or change up their social media or content strategies.

I’m honestly getting tired of it.

Here’s a recent Twitter update from LUSH UK that does an incredible job of describing their challenge as a business and how they’re going to respond to it. Please click through and read the entire chain of updates.

We're switching up social.

Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed. pic.twitter.com/nJUzG0lham

— LUSH UK (@LushLtd) April 8, 2019

Don’t stop there, though. Read the entire, thoughtful thread. Then read how marketing leaders respond. I think their response is irresponsible and even downright negligent.

These social media and content marketers sell social media and content. Good for them, but that doesn’t mean that their strategy works for every company. It doesn’t.

It’s as if social media and content marketing are the CBD oils of the marketing industry… the remedy for every ailment that’s impacting your business. They’re not.

Douglas Karr, DK New Media

I am the CMO for hire for multiple companies. I’ve worked with everyone from GoDaddy, Dell, and Chase down to regional pest control and roofing companies. For some companies, a robust social and content strategy made excellent economic sense. The return on investment for growing awareness and communicating with the massive audience or community they have is fantastic.

But that’s not every company.

Here’s a surprise for you. I’m one of those companies.

Content and social strategies enable me to maintain a presence in my industry. The recognition and awareness help my business, but absolutely does not generate more revenue than the time and expense of creative content production and social media. Heck, you’ll rarely even see a video from me anymore. You can criticize my online presence all day long… and even find a ton that could be improved or done better.

After 11 years in business, I’ll tell you this… I could speak at every event, be on every marketing list, news jack every social media outrage, and write two amazing blog posts a day… and it doesn’t even come close to matching the revenue I attain by networking and word of mouth. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of money, effort, and time with people in my industry to design, develop, and produce amazing content and – while it got me attention, it didn’t pay the bills. Period.

The results that I’m able to attain my clients, the quality of the output of work, the value of that work, and the word of mouth they provide my business has led to every large engagement that my business has had.

Nothing even comes close. Nothing.

So, for many of my clients, I’ve actually advised against investing heavily social media and content strategies. That’s right… I said it.

  • I had a young startup that was reaching beauticians. Guess what? Beauticians are on their feet all day trying to make ends meet. They weren’t reading articles or social media updates… they were working their butts off. However, those successful beauticians would absolutely take time off to go to conferences to see the latest technologies. We talked them out of spending money with me and told them to do more conferences! And it worked.
  • My local companies perform incredibly well by reaching out to customers and requesting ratings and reviews than participating in social media and pushing content. So, we’ve built a finite content library based on seasonality and we continue to enhance their articles that are scheduled and rescheduled via their blog and social media. I see double-digit growth for both of the companies we’ve done this for via search engine traffic. No new content, no full-time social media presence… just an effective baseline of advice with every other effort going to customer service and personal engagement.
  • I have a fledgling tech startup that is starving for resources and have absolutely no way of beating the massive competitors in their market that spend millions and have teams of people. Instead of wasting time with a production line of content and social, we spend a month… sometimes more… on producing and promoting a single piece of content. Guess what? It’s working. That content has been shared and found and has driven more MQLs than any other strategy.
  • I have an extremely successful technology company that’s recognized globally as the leader in their industry for innovation. We worked hard on incredible content that was shared a ton in the industry. You know what performed better? Brochures mailed to executives. Why? Because while their employees were researching online and knew about the company, they mostly worked with partners and kickbacks so they wouldn’t get the message in front of their decision-makers. We went over their heads and it worked.
  • I have another company that has virtually no social or content presence online. Instead, they invest heavily in client success and support staff and make working with them amazing. Not too different from Zappos or Apple… they make a customer experience that’s so amazing that customers become their marketing advocates. Are you shaming those companies?
  • I’ve worked with highly regulated industries that could NOT even come close to sharing content online about their industry, their technology, or their customers. Period. We were forced to use other strategies to drive awareness, acquisition, and retention. For one client, we developed a mobile application that would assist their research teams with difficult calculations and conversions. It worked beautifully.
  • I’ve seen technology companies that get mentions by Forrester and Gartner achieve more leads and closes than an entire year of social and content production. I realize that’s still content… but let’s face it… its mostly building a reputation and relationship with analysts that will get you that type of mention. I hate to break the news, but not all analysts are waiting for your next tweet or blog post.

Before you throw me to the lions, of course I’m not saying that social and content won’t work… but they’re not a one size fits all solution.

Budget, timeline, competition, timing, resources, industry… all of these things need considered for whether or not social media and content strategies are effective for your business.

I’m seeing a lot of businesses shift resources from social media to customer service, from content production to conferences, sponsorships, influencer marketing, and other strategies. It’s their business and they’re doing what they have measured and seen work.

Not every business can conquer social media or write amazing content. Stop shaming companies when they move to strategies that work better for them.

Perhaps what bothers me the most is that the people who are the first to shame these businesses are the people selling social media and content strategies and have NO insight into the company and how it works. That’s truly irresponsible… you’re just attacking anyone that opposes the way you make money.

Instead of shaming companies, go find companies that you can sell your services to that need your help and can make a difference.

That’s not everyone.

Stop shaming companies.

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The post Stop Shaming Companies that Bail on Social Media and Content Marketing appeared first on Martech Zone.

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As we ramp up for a successful 2019, one topic that’s top of mind for many B2B sales and marketing leaders I’ve spoken with is their go-to-market strategy. What it boils down to for many executives is whether their company is targeting the right market segments and how well they are prepared to execute their strategy. 

Why does this matter? Having a strong go-to-market strategy is strongly correlated to revenue performance. In our last surveyof 500 sales and marketing professionals, companies who exceeded their revenue targets last year are 5.3x more likely to have an advanced go-to-market strategy where their total addressable market is well defined, sales and marketing teams are well aligned and the company leverages programs like account based marketing (ABM) that are targeted and highly orchestrated.

For CMOs, heads of strategy, and demand generation teams, confidence in the 2019 plan means having the right targeting plan for both accounts and the key buying personas within. It also means having the right marketing programs plan that involves campaigns across different channels and tactics to engage the right targets and move them along the funnel.

For CROs and heads of sales operations, this typically means a concrete plan around sales territories and named accounts, with a focus on ensuring 1. the opportunities in pursuit have the highest likelihood to convert to revenue and 2. there are quota carrying reps with capacity to serve those accounts and, conversely, they’re equitably distributed among those quota carrying reps.

Designing and implementing a successful go-to-market strategy is not trivial. Typically data silos, manual processes, and dirty data get in the way of success. Companies may have defined what their ideal customer profile (ICP) looks like and have a notion of their total addressable market (TAM) but the data may sit on spreadsheets with executives and the corporate strategy team, and isn’t well understood, let alone visible, to the front line revenue teams. Operations teams struggle to maintain a clean and accurate data set of accounts and people within the TAM, resulting in sub-optimal sales territories. Measuring performance against the company’s plan is also difficult. Individual campaign metrics, like email responses, show part of the picture but don’t show the whole story of revenue performance and market penetration against the ICP and target segments. So, many companies miss opportunities to drive revenue and growth. 

InsideView took to heart this market input and built a go-to-market decision engine that we launched last year, called InsideView Apex.It’s helped many customers like Castlight Health, Host Analytics, Salesforce, and Splunk define the right target segments and prospect accounts to accelerate revenue and measure progress as they grow. 

Here are 4 steps to help you sharpen your go-to-market focus for 2019, with guiding tips of how InsideView Apex can help:

1. Define (and continuously refresh) your ICP and TAM as they are the foundation to go-to-market success

These three letter acronyms are critically important to defining a successful B2B go-to-market plan. If your company hasn’t already defined its ideal customer profile (ICP) and its total addressable market (TAM), or if it’s been a few years since it was reviewed, this is where you should start. Leading companies regularly assess them, but less than half of companies (47% according to our survey) do it on a regular basis. This will continue to be the most emphasized point until more companies are re-evaluating their ICP and TAM on a regular basis.

InsideView Apex enables you to define your ideal customer profile (ICP) with an easy wizard, visualize new/adjacent segments or territories and perform “what if” analyses to sharpen your targeting. Apex maps your existing customer and prospect data against InsideView external market data to understand and size your total addressable market (TAM). It also lets you analyze your market penetration, see white space opportunities, and export new accounts and contacts to execute targeted sales and marketing campaigns.

Figure:  InsideView Apex with intuitive ICP and TAM wizard

2. Start to measure funnel performance across target market segments

Many companies measure full funnel performance today (i.e. lead to opportunities to closed-won revenue) which is good! But many aren’t ready to optimize performance for their target segments that comprise their TAM. Measuring performance across market segments is key to refining your ICP and TAM (#1 above). If a measurement like sales cycle time or lead to opportunity conversion rate is important for your business, wouldn’t it be great to be able to see and compare what that metric is across two different target segments, e.g. ICP vs non-ICP, or ICP segment A vs ICP segment B? It’s easy to conceptualize but this is difficult today for most companies to operationalize since their ICP profile and TAM data is often missing, or if not, it may still reside in siloed systems that are hard to assemble to get a full lead-to-revenue performance picture. A good first step to make progress here is to tag accounts and leads in CRM and marketing automation by segment so you can start to segment your performance reporting.

InsideView Apex helps track the quality of leads and opportunities against target markets, so sales leaders can determine whether they are targeting the right markets, or if they need to adjust their focus to higher performing segments to increase revenue. Instead of manually tracking in spreadsheets, Apex provides a single place for all revenue teams to get business insights and take action to move their business forward.

Figure:  InsideView Apex with full funnel analytics

3. Align sales and marketing teams on plan, data, metrics and communicate with transparency for results

Sales and marketing teams are often misaligned due to a number of factors – based on our study, the top 3 causes are lack of accurate data on target accounts and prospects, communication, and teams being measured by different metrics. There are some quick and easy steps to cure this. First, align teams on shared metrics. It may be unfair to measure marketing performance on closed-won bookings since most of it is in sales’ hands, but it’s ideal to have marketing sign up for a pipeline target for sales accepted opportunities. We do this at InsideView and many leading companies in our survey do this as well. 

Second, plan and execute marketing campaign plans in concert with sales. What does that really mean? Invite them to planning meetings. Coordinate the cadence of marketing and sales outreach (touches) – see example below. Share campaign results. At InsideView, we run an alignment meeting where we dig into campaign performance and incorporate sales feedback. It drives trust and collaboration.

Figure:  Sales and marketing campaign execution plan

InsideView Apex aligns revenue teams to target the best opportunities by removing the typical silos, so you can:

  • Build account based marketing (ABM) lists that focus sales and marketing on your top priority accounts first.
  • Tag targeted accounts and leads within your sales and marketing workflow to align your revenue teams around your strategy.
  • Uncover additional look-a-like accounts that closely match the characteristics of your ICPs, leveraging InsideView’s AI-based predictive modeling.
  • Provide instructions on recommended actions for each ABM, ICP, or market segment to drive desired outcomes.

Figure:  Sales and marketing campaign execution plan

Figure:  InsideView Apex surfaces AI-based predictions of best target accounts

Lastly, ensure accurate data so there’s alignment on the right target accounts and people to engage with by enlisting a data management strategy detailed below.

4. Implement or improve your customer data management strategy

A critical requirement and dependency of defining your go-to-market strategy is data hygiene, and ensuring your customer and prospect data is clean and accurate will also drive better sales and marketing alignment per point #3 above. At InsideView, we often use a 5-point framework for managing data hygiene, which covers:

  • Standardizing data formats to fix data entry errors and inconsistencies that lead to duplicate records
  • Cleaning against a trusted data source to ensure that inaccuracies are fixed on a timely basis
  • De-duping to eliminate extra records and align them by object type – e.g. leads, accounts
  • Enriching missing information – e.g. your inbound web leads so you can prioritize and route them correctly to the right salesperson
  • Validating employment and email addresses for an outbound campaign 

InsideView data management solutions provide an easy way to maintain data hygiene, enrich incomplete records, and validate contact information to improve campaign effectiveness.

Summary

Sharpening your go-to-market focus in 2019 can help your company increase its growth rate and beat revenue targets. But the process for defining and executing your GTM strategy takes effort and needs to be a continued priority. If you’re looking for a good place to start, consider applying this four step plan and let me know how it goes. We’d love to help you. Here are some more resources to help you get started:

  1. Ebook: The Data Cleanse 
  2. Ebook: Do You Know Your Total Addressable Market?
  3. Ebook: Using Account-Based Strategies to Unite Sales & Marketing

The post 4 Steps to Sharpen Your Go-to-Market Focus in 2019 appeared first on Martech Zone.

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If you’re engaging in content marketing of any kind, then you’re using a strategy. It might not be an official, planned, or effective strategy, but it’s a strategy.

Think of all the time, resources, and effort that go into creating good content. It’s not cheap, so it’s important that you direct that valuable content using a proper strategy. Here are five ways to step up your content marketing game.

Be Smart With Your Resources

Content marketing can get expensive, whether that means you investing a large amount of your time to creating content, or spending money outsourcing it to a creative. Something as expensive as content marketing needs to be directed wisely and looking at analytics is a big part of that.

Can you imagine putting in all those resources only to find out you’ve been pushing your content on Facebook when the majority of your marketing traffic was actually coming from Instagram and Pinterest? That hurts; and you wouldn’t be the first person to experience that. Take some time to look at your social media analytics so you can direct your content at the right platforms and audiences. 

Meet With Your Team Often

You may have a team dedicated to content marketing, or you may not. In either case, it’s important to meet at least once a week and touch base with the people responsible for creating and promoting your content. If you can, meet daily.

Talk about anything new that’s been made since you met last. Look to the future and delegate tasks to the right people. Discuss what your competitors are doing and how you can improve on their content.

Bonnie Hunter, marketing blogger at Australia2Write and WriteMyX

These meetings are also a great time to put your heads together and do some brainstorming. What are some hot trending topics your team could be building content around?

Build Your Audience 

Focus on growing your audience. New legislation is dictating that data must be gathered by consent, which means data is given up willingly and not harvested. Content marketing is even more important with the advent of this legislation because good content is a great way to encourage people to happily hand over their information.

When people like your content, they will offer up their data because they want to keep receiving your stuff. Think about how much more effective a model that is than scraping the internet for data of people who could not care less. It gives you an opportunity to build a relationship with people and allow them to feel connected to your content.

Billy Baker, content marketer at BritStudent and NextCoursework.

Take the temperature of how effective your efforts are by looking at your audience personas, checking your numbers versus last year, and seeing if your subscriber count correlates with content marketing efforts. 

Set Appropriate Goals 

If you don’t know what your content marketing goals are, how can you possibly achieve them? A big part of setting these goals will be based on your analytics, examples:

  • What platform are you creating goals for?
  • Where do you want to be in a year?
  • Do you want to increase your followers, then by how many?

Or maybe you just want to increase user interaction and traffic. Once you have your big yearly goal, it’s time to break that down into smaller, more approachable monthly goals. These will be your stepping stones to reaching that big, overarching goal. The last step is figuring out what daily tasks you need to get after to make those bigger goals a reality.

Define How You’ll Measure Success

You need to track your content’s performance if you want to know how effective it is. Are you going to track hard metrics like sales and leads or soft ones such as social media user engagement? Some metrics you’ll definitely want to track are consumption metrics (how many people view or download your stuff), sharing metrics, lead generation metrics and sales metrics. 

Conclusion

Content marketing is a dynamic activity that requires a willingness to change strategy when something is not working. It’s important to have goals and to know what your metrics for success are. It’s also not cheap, so be smart with how you direct your resources. Follow these five tips to step up your content marketing game.

The post Five Ways to Step Up Your Content Marketing Game appeared first on Martech Zone.

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The words cryptocurrency and blockchain are now found everywhere. Such public attention can be explained by two factors: the high cost of Bitcoin cryptocurrency and the complexity of understanding the essence of the technology. The history of the emergence of the first digital currency and the underlying P2P technology will help us to understand these “crypto jungles”.

Decentralized network

There are two definitions of Blockchain:

• Continuous sequential chain of blocks containing information.
• Replicated distributed database;

They are both true in their essence but do not give an answer to the question of what it is. For a better understanding of the technology, it is necessary to remember which computer network architectures exist and which of them dominates the modern IT systems market.

In total there are two types of architectures:

  1. Client-server network;
  2. Peer-to-peer)\ network.

Networking in the first way implies a centralized control of everything: applications, data, access. All system logic and information are hidden inside the server, which reduces the performance requirements of client devices and ensures high processing speed. This method has received the most attention in our days.

Peer-to-peer or decentralized networks do not have a master device, and all participants have equal rights. In this model, each user is not only a consumer but also becomes a service provider.

An early version of peer-to-peer networks is the USENET distributed messaging system developed in 1979. The next two decades were marked by the creation of P2P (Peer-to-Peer) – applications in completely different fields. One of the most famous examples is the Napster service, the once-popular peer-to-peer file sharing network, or BOINC, the software platform for distributed computing, and the BitTorrent protocol, which is the basis of modern torrent clients.

Systems based on decentralized networks continue to exist, but noticeably lose out to the client-server in the prevalence and compliance with the needs of consumers.

Data storage

The overwhelming majority of applications and systems for normal operation require the ability to operate a data set. There are many ways to organize such work and one of them uses the peer-to-peer method. Distributed, or parallel, databases are distinguished by the fact that information in part or full is stored on each device of the network.

One of the advantages of such a system is the availability of data: there is no single point of failure, as is the case with a database located on a single server. This solution also has certain limitations on the speed of updating data and distributing them among network members. Such a system will not withstand the burden of millions of users who are constantly publishing new information.

The blockchain technology assumes the use of a distributed database of blocks, which are a linked list (each next block contains the identifier of the previous one). Each member of the network keeps a copy of all operations performed for all time. This would not have been possible without certain innovations designed to ensure the safety and availability of the network. This brings us to the blockchain’s last “pillar” – cryptography. You should contact a mobile app development company to hire blockchain developers to integrate this technology into your business.

Blockchain

After studying the main components and the history of the creation of technology, it is time to finally dispel the myth associated with the word “blockchain”. Consider a simple example of digital currency exchange, the principle of operation of the blockchain technology without computers.

Suppose we have a group of 10 people who want to be able to perform currency exchange operations outside the banking system. Consider successively the actions performed by the participants in the system, where the blockchain will be represented by regular sheets of paper:

Empty box

Each participant has a box in which he will add sheets with information about all completed transactions in the system.

The moment of transaction

Each participant sits with a sheet of paper and a pen and is ready to record all transactions that will be made.

At some point, participant number 2 wants to send 100 dollars to participant number 9.

In order to complete a transaction, Participant No. 2 declares to everyone: “I want to transfer 100 dollars to No. 9, so make a note of this on your sheet.”

After that, everyone checks to see if Participant 2 has a balance sufficient to complete the transaction. If so, everyone makes a note about the transaction on their sheets.

After that, the transaction is considered complete.

Execution of transactions

Over time, other participants also need to make exchange operations. Participants continue to announce and record each of the transactions performed. In our example, 10 transactions can be recorded on one sheet, after which it is necessary to put the completed sheet in a box and take a new one.

Adding a sheet to the box

The fact that a sheet is placed in a box means that all participants agree with the validity of all the operations performed and the impossibility of changing the sheet in the future. This is what ensures the integrity of all transactions between participants who do not trust each other.

The last stage is a general case of solving the problem of the Byzantine generals. In the conditions of an interaction of remote participants, some of whom may be intruders, it is necessary to find a winning strategy for all. The process of solving this problem can be viewed through the prism of competitive models.

Future

In the field of financial instruments, Bitcoin, being the first mass cryptocurrency, has certainly shown how to play by the new rules without intermediaries and control from above. However, perhaps even more important result of the emergence of Bitcoin was the creation of blockchain technology. Contact blockchain development companies to hire blockchain developers to integrate this technology into your business.

The post Blockchain – The Future Of Financial Technology appeared first on Martech Zone.

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