Sunday, 10 September 2017

Digital Marketing Strategies for Start-ups

With both competitors and potential customers constantly online, digital marketing is the only way to stay ahead. A big part of marketing strategy is digital. Any business can compete with any competitor regardless of size with a solid digital marketing strategy.

As a starting point, here are some research activities to get you started with your small business digital marketing plan:
  1. Customer profiles (or personas) – which types of customers visit your site and then convert to lead or sale? How does this differ compared to other traditional channels? We believe that businesses of all sizes should have target personas or “pen portraits” of 2 to 3 customer types.
  2. Customer search behaviour research – determine how your prospects search as explored in the Reach section – understanding the volume and type of customer intent is vital where you are looking to grab more share of search when people search for your products or services
  3. Competitor research – You can run a profitable site without considering competitors, but a review as part of planning will definitely give you ideas and is essential to spot weaknesses and opportunities as part of SWOT analysis. 
  4. Influencer, partner and intermediary research – which types of people and other sites will influence your audience as they look for your type or product and service? This is often neglected, but partnerships and certain types of influencers6 can be a great source of low cost, quality traffic.
  5. Current business effectiveness – mine your sales data
Consumers and businesses alike are almost always online and to be able to reach them and observe their behaviour where they spend the most time digital marketing strategy comes handy. It’s the series of actions that are going to help to achieve goal(s) using online marketing. 

Several low cost digital marketing strategies for the start-ups are listed below:

A. SEARCH MARKETING
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key to every website. The start-ups must know the keywords where the website must rank on top 3 organic results. In case it’s an e-commerce, it will require paid search marketing activities to bring product in front of the consumers.

B. MARKETING FUNNEL CREATION
Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) should be used for understanding why visitors are not ‘converting’ into customers, and then improving messaging or value proposition to increase this rate of conversions which can be done by understanding visitors and their objections.
  • The most successful businesses have an effective marketing funnel in place. This includes mapping out a customer’s journey from a complete stranger to a lead, and then putting certain strategies in place that will encourage them to move through this funnel.
  • Landing Page Optimization: The landing page of any startup is one of the crucial factors in generating the lead about the product and then ultimately making the business out of it by selling those products. Landing page must be good enough to compel visitors to get converted into customers.
  • Internal Pages Optimization: There are free and cheaper solutions for optimizing internal pages for conversion. Free plugins can be used for capturing emails and then leveraging affordable services like MailChimp for drip campaigns. 
  • Using free tools like Google Analytics to monitor visitor’s paths to the website and once they are on it, finding opportunities to create a more user-friendly experience. Optimizing forms on website to build a stronger inbound lead funnel. Finding cheap and reliable cart services to sell products directly through site. 
C. CONTENT MARKETING
Content marketing is one of the most overlooked investments in launching a startup, which can be done by engaging in industry research and formulating unique selling propositions. 
  • Visually stimulating content, with appealing imagery and minimal words score a lot when it comes to websites. However, that cannot diminish the power of captivating words, and they are as good as the pictures.
  • One of the most important steps to an effective content marketing strategy is the content promotion. Amplify it as much as possible. Leverage social media profiles, email industry experts, reach out to LinkedIn groups or industry forums, and contribute to other popular sites that target consumers might visit. 
D. E-MAIL MARKETING
E-mail marketing is now becoming one of the best digital marketing weapons which will not only help startup to promote its brand but will also help in generating lead to make business for the brand.

E. SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
Social media is one of the most cost effective ways to market startup.  In addition to providing a platform for growing brand, it offers an easy medium for promotion and customer service opportunities. It is a way to build brand voice. This can be done on a frequent and consistent pace. Find and share customer related information. 
  • Many social media platforms and search engines have the feature of showing paid ads on their platform which any start-up can easily afford as most of these paid ads starts with a minimum budget of $10. You can also further increase the budget according to requirement to gain much better reach among target audience.
  • There are a number of different social opportunities that one can invest in all of which have merit depending on the industry and unique selling proposition. 
  • Facebook is steadily becoming a pay-to-play platform, and to see any engagement, investment on Facebook posts promotion can be done. 
  • While Twitter still provides a good amount of organic engagement, the microblogging platform also has paid solutions for businesses, with one being sponsored tweet. By providing a sponsored tweet, higher engagement will most likely occur with followers (and others).
  • LinkedIn has a number of extremely valuable paid features, including a Sales Navigator that makes finding leads and contacts seamless. 
  • One of the biggest benefits of social media for business is using it to increase website traffic. Not only does social media help direct people to website, but the more social media shares received, the higher search ranking will be. 
F. MULTI-CHANNEL STRATEGY
A digital marketing strategy should always be multi channelled in nature, to track and analyse every channel. It helps in covering every possible segment of your target audience. Blogs give interest and opinion for viewers, hence helping them choose between alternatives. YouTube podcasts help consumers by informing them about the products.

Running a startup on a shoestring budget is hard enough. Keeping marketing costs down while capitalizing on successful digital opportunities, one will be able to improve brands visibility without sacrificing a large budget.

Hope you find it useful !

ACCOUNT BASED MARKETING - A DIGITAL PERSPECTIVE

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a B2B strategy that concentrates sales and marketing resources on a clearly defined set of target accounts within a market and employs personalised campaigns designed to resonate with each account & its key decision makers to achieve mutually agreed business goals and objectives.

Please note that my post would be limited to digital medium only from execution perspective. However, the ABM concept broadly remains same & offline ABM activities that you might be doing already can be added in step 3. 

5 Step approach for ABM:

five-step-abm-approach
5 Step Approach for ABM

STEP 1: Select Target Accounts
The primary step is to find out who exactly you would like to reach out to. This steps requires an elaborate discussion between sales and marketing teams. Some could be high worth accounts, existing accounts, strategic accounts and so on. The step not only includes identifying target accounts for your business but also the exact departments (job function & seniority) and decision makers within those departments.

STEP 2: Define Objective (or goals)
If you would like to avoid any confrontation with the CEO in future then make sure the objectives/ goals are identified & mutually discussed with the top management well before initiating any account specific outreach activity. 

The objectives can be as follows:
a. Secure more meetings with senior management
b. Close a higher percentage of large deals
c. Drive faster sales cycle time
d. Grow revenue within existing accounts
e. Promote higher customer loyalty

STEP 3: Identify Digital Channels
Well, here i am only focusing on digital channels but please make sure all your offline activities are in sync with digital promotions (eg. physical meeting after a digital campaign; geo-targeted ads before physical events etc.). 

Identifying right digital channels is a no-brainer, some of the key channels that can be leveraged are: 

a. LinkedIn (obviously the best) - There're plethora of options available such as LinkedIn ABM, LinkedIn Remarketing, LinkedIn Sponsored InMails, Spotlight and Text ads. Do make use of new features such as 1 click lead gen, LinkedIn contact retargeting & website retargeting. Do not forget to integrate Eloqua (if you've Eloqua as marketing automation platform) with LinkedIn.

b. Email (the cheapest) - This requires database or list of email addresses of contacts within your target accounts.

c. Account targeted display ads on ad networks (may require high investments but can be targeted to account and job-seniority levels). Key service providers are: Demandbase, Vendemore, 6 Sense, Kwanzoo, DMPs such as Oracle Bluekai etc.

d. DMPs (the costlier but more targeted) - Create segments and reach out to them via search, display, email, mobile etc.

e. Account re-targeting: Reach out to accounts who've been to your website again & to opt-in contacts (make sure they're double opt-in for specific geos such as Canada & European region). Most of the service providers mentioned in point c. have the account remarketing capabilities as well. Specifically for contact level retargeting, you can use AdRoll CRM re-targeting, Google customer match, Twitter tailored audience & Facebook custom audience.

STEP 4: Personalise Content
Leverage IP based and cookie based personalization technologies to serve relevant and appropriate content to your target audience & (or accounts). It is not wise (esp. in today's world) to serve same content to all website visitors. Segment visitors on the basis of company name or a particular action taken in your website and make the experience more personalized. Example, audience spending more than x minutes on a particular section of the website or downloading content about specific products and services can be shown a more relevant content. 

You can make use of Demandbase, Oracle Maxymiser, Google optimize etc. to serve personalized content across website (Demandbase & Kwanzoo can also help personalize banner ads served on ad networks to specific accounts/ industries). There's a rise in Artificial intelligence based website personalization as well (eg. Demandbase site customization). It'll be interesting to see how advertisers can leverage AI based personalization with ABM.

STEP 5: Enable Sales
Whatever ABM activities you've taken up, make sure all of them are aligned to objectives discussed in step 2. Enable sales team by showing results of all ABM activities by preparing an account level pre & post type of reporting. It's vital to have a strong analytics platform within your organization to get to this type of reporting. Google & Adobe analytics are two most widely used platforms, recently there's a rise in predictive intelligence based analytics tools as well (eg. 6Sense). 

Marketing team should ensure that sales receive timely website activity report done both at an account level and at individual level along with campaign specific reporting. Some organizations prefer to show a dashboard (instead of excel report) using Qlik, Google data studio, Klipfolio etc. 

Well that's it ! Make sure you've a project plan with timelines before you initiate any of the above.

Benefits of ABM
It won't be apt for me to say the rhetoric that ABM will get you: Better & Clear ROI; Tight & Close alignment between sales & marketing; Optimise spends & Efficient tracking of goals. My advise is - Do it and find out how ABM is working for your company.

Happy ABMing !!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Buyer Journey: Mapping Digital Channels & Metrics

My previous post on "Measuring the effectiveness of paid digital campaigns" inspired me to write this post. In fact, i encounter this question from my colleagues a lot that - What is an ideal channel mix for a digital campaign? Well, my answer to them is that it all depends on the campaign objective & the attributes of your target audience. It may not be necessary that all individuals in your target audience are in same phase of their buyer journey or not all might be progressing in a similar way. Some of them might be already aware of your brand, some might be considering other brand options just because they read a negative review about your brand and a fraction of your target audience could be on the verge of buying from your brand and are waiting for that final trigger. And hence, it may not be appropriate to just consider one or two ad units/channels for your digital campaign.

To answer the question on an ideal channel mix for a digital campaign, one should have the capability to segment the audience on the basis of where they're in their respective buying journey & then map various digital channels and their respective ad formats to those segments. On the basis of my experience & learning, i've created an illustration that maps channels & their respective formats with various phases of customer buying journey (Awareness, Consideration, Purchase & Engage).

digital channels mapped with buyer journey
Digital Channels: Buyer journey
NOTE: You may use channels mentioned in 'Purchase' phase in 'Consideration' phase as well, the illustration above is a subjective view on what formats work best in which phase. Regardless of the channel, the messaging used on these channels plays a crucial role & must align with users in respective phases for eg. a discount code migh work well for audience in consideration & purchase phase.

Now, once the campaign is over you might want to measure its performance. In my previous post - Measuring the effectiveness of paid digital campaigns i mentioned key metrics that should be considered for measuring the overall success of a digital campaign. In addition to that you might also be required to report digital metrics for customer buying phases. I prepared below table that lists down channel wise key metrics for each buying phase:

digital-metrics-buying-cycle
Digital Metrics: Buying cycle
Hope you find this information useful. i will look forward for your feedbacks in comments section below.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Measuring the Effectiveness of Paid Digital Campaigns

How do you measure the effectiveness of a digital campaign? Is it sufficient to evaluate campaign performance on the basis of campaign metrics alone?

We often boast about no. of impressions served & video views garnered but when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of any digital campaign, digital marketers need to don sales hat. Why? Because every impression cost advertisers a good amount of money and it is unfair as well as illogical if we fail to report the return on ad spend (ROAS).

A successful digital campaign not only depends on efficient targeting and optimization but also on good quality content, conversion friendly page and efficient tracking. Hence, it's important that an end of the campaign report contains both digital campaign metrics as well as content performance metrics (such as avg. time on page & bounce rate). In order to evaluate campaign performance, it's absolutely critical that marketing and sales tools talk with each other.  There are plethora of campaign metrics available for advertisers to report but according to me two key metrics that really matter are sales & impressions per sales (or impressions per profit) & this is applicable for awareness and lead generation type campaigns. 

While many may contest that a brand awareness campaign should not have sales as a metric but just pause on that thought and think - Would you not like to know how many ad impressions resulted in $1 profit in my business? An awareness driven or engagement driven campaign ultimately impact the bottom line of your company.

I prepared a sample template that can be used to measure effectiveness of any paid digital campaign:

Paid-Campaign-Analysis-Template
Paid-Campaign-Analysis-Template
Please note that i have knowingly not added various optimization related metrics such as cost per click, cpm, cost per lead etc., simply because we need to track them on a daily basis - this above template is more ideal for an end of the campaign reporting (however, you can still calculate these metrics using this template). Also, if you know the Profit margins of sales achieved through this campaign i would urge you to also report Impressions per profit figure for your respective products.

Feel free to add / tweak this template as per your business needs. I would love to get your feedback in the comments section.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

How to create a Push notification strategy for B2B audience?

In a B2B business where sales cycles run long, it becomes all the more important for businesses to nurture their audience with relevant messaging over a period of time. Most of it is typically done by sending emails containing right mix of content (or offers in case of B2C). Over past few years, advertisers have also started investing in social nurturing i.e. running a re-marketing campaign by showing ads on prospect's social network feeds. Push notifications is yet another medium to remind or engage prospects with your brand. Push notifications may or may not be used for sending promotional offers alone, they're a great medium to notify users about an upcoming event or webinar as well. B2B businesses can make use of Push notifications to various ways.

Push notifications aren't new. Typically mobile apps send push notifications to users so that the users visit and perform the intended action. B2B businesses that do not have a mobile app can still send these notifications by putting a JavaScript code in all pages of their website (including blogs & business pages) & nurture the website visitors with relevant content until they convert (or give business). The most important question that requires brainstorming is - What is an ideal push notification strategy? 

Every business is different. "One size fits all" may not work when it comes to creating a push notification strategy however, there're few basic concepts that are common to B2B businesses and below strategies may help:

a. Blogs Section Visitors: Have a Blog? Send push notifications to all blog subscribers whenever a new blog post is created. You can also create segments basis blog categories/tags and blogger profiles & send relevant notifications to relevant audience.

b. Business Pages Visitors: Send push notifications to all users who browse business content in your website - Users who're returning often to a particular section of your website show they're are in 'Interest' phase of AIDA framework and should be nurtured with content related to that particular section/ service.

c. Engagement: Identify users who engages with your content the most i.e. spend more than X minutes or engages with more than Y events on the page (click links, watch video, download pdfs etc.). Such users have progressed to "Desire" phase and advertisers may want to send them a push notification about providing them some incentives (some % off on premium services, free event passes, extended services etc.).

d. Lead Form Aborts: Users who visit lead form/ subscription page but leave without purchase or form submission -These are those advanced users who're on the verge of converting (or giving business/ purchase your services). Push notifications to them must contain a strong incentive so that they come back and finish the purchase.


IMPORTANT POINTS TO CONSIDER

A/B Test: B2B businesses must A/B test various content pieces sent as push notifications and capture user engagement on them to decide which one is working and which isn't. 

Frequency & Timing: Please refrain from spamming or sending too many push notifications to your subscribers otherwise they will unsubscribe and whole strategy may go for a toss. While many advertisers send push notifications on a daily basis, my personal opinion is to keep it to 3-4 times a week only.

Targeting: Push notifications can be targeted to a particular user segment. Various audience segmentation can be made such as segmenting users basis content consumed, time spend, website engagement, geography, returning v/s new visitors etc.

Browser Compatibility, UTM Tagging & Secure Websites (HTTPS): Push notifications may not work on all browsers however, it does work on Google chrome & Firefox. The links that you promote must be properly tagged with UTM parameters (so that you can track the traffic easily in google analytics). Non-secure websites require double opt-in hence, it's recommended to have a secure URL (HTTPS) so that you increase opt-in subscriber base easily.

Integration with Marketing automation platforms: Various push notification providers do integrate with automation platforms such as Eloqua etc. Subscriber ID can be mapped with user's unique identifier (such as phone, email address etc.) and advertisers can then take the push notification strategy to a whole new level. Mapping subscriber IDs would allow advertisers to send personalized notifications.

Remember, the sole objective of nurturing audience is to assist conversion or get business for your organization. So, if it's via email, social, sms, push notification or an integrated approach all that's required is a strong strategy, efficient targeting, interesting content (to drive user action) and impeccable optimization.

All you need is a "push" !

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Dark Social

According to RadiumOne report, globally almost 70% of social shares are dark. For France, it's as high as 81%.

dark-social-share-global
% of Shares - Dark Social

What is "Dark Social?

Dark social refers to the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what a web analytics program can measure or track & attribute it to social (or right channel).

Analytics will report this traffic as a 'Direct Traffic' ! So, if you're a social media lead for your organization then this is a definite cause of worry for you.


Why this happens?

If a certain type of web traffic fails to pass referral information on to your analytics programs (such as Google analytics), the analytics will not be able to report these visits as a referral from a particular website & hence these visits will be reported as "Direct visits" in analytics. It can happen because of following reasons:

a. Traffic from Native mobile apps (such as Facebook, Instagram etc.) opening an in-app browser of force mobile browsers to open the the URL clicked - in both cases the browser itself is going to directly to the site and thus it looks like direct traffic in Google analytics. 

b. Traffic from Messaging apps such as Whatsapp, Facebook messenger etc. - these chats clients do not pass the referrer information (unless you tag the URLs)

c. Traffic from a secure to non-secure website: The referrer information is not passed to analytics when you click a HTTP link from a HTTPS link (please note - social channels use secure browsing).

d. Traffic from Email: We know traffic from emails are reported as direct unless you tag the URLs in your email marketing programs. This is typically mentioned under Dark social rather than calling it as 'Dark email'.

There're terms such as 'Dark Search' & 'Dark Mobile' as well however they're no different, it's just a segmentation of traffic that lacks any link in attribution into 3 categories viz. Dark Search, Dark Social & Dark Mobile. (Recommended read in this aspect is this Search Engline Land Post).


How do i Measure it?

See, it's very difficult for someone to remember a long URL of any website (unless you're Sherlock Holmes !), it's highly unlikely that someone is going to type a long link in the browser to open a page deep inside your website. 

Also, not many people click on bookmarked links so, if we're able to find all direct visits after excluding home page & section fonts - we can make some estimation for 'Dark social' traffic coming to our website.


How to Reduce it?

Just use Google UTM URL while putting up your website's link in any of social & email channels. Use correct source so that Google identify the visit & attribute it to right source instead of direct.

Here's the link for Google UTM URL builder.

Let's move outside of Dark !

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Will Bots Be New Customer Service Agents?

If you're a reader in 2020 then this post might be redundant for you.

If not, then go on.. read this post to know how bots might make take over as new service agents and replace humans employed in various job functions.

Bot fever is taking over the world eg. Apple Siri, Microsoft's Cortana, Amazon's Alexa bot, Facebook’s artificially intelligent smartphone assistant M, mobile app such as Haptik etc. They're becoming more than simple personal assistants. Springbot in Facebook messenger, a shopping concierge bot that provides tailored shopping options to your price range. 

Bot's aren't limited to social media, they're also find a place in multinational companies as well. RBS, for instance, will deploy a virtual assistant called Luvo to deal with day-to-day customer problems from lost or stolen bank cards to forgotten pin numbers. American fast food chain Taco Bell announced the TacoBot, which you can text via the Slack messaging app. You can order Domino’s pizza through Amazon’s AI assistant Echo and multinationals like Unilever and BMW use a simple Q&A bot that can answer any question a customer services employee would.  

But the bigger question is can they match the human experience?

Imagine you say - I would like to buy a thin crust Domino's vegetable extravaganza & within 5 minutes you've a drone with your pizza & a message that the amount is deducted from your online wallet.

Checkout Amazon Echo video:


(Amazon Echo is designed around your voice. Hands-free and always on, Echo connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service, to instantly provide information, answer questions, play music, read the news, check sports scores or the weather, and even explain what a snack stadium is.)

Watch out! the future is coming.