What Trends are Driving Digital Marketing?

Seems like just yesterday you only needed a website to market your business. Then you needed SEO. Now you need a responsive site.

You can’t hire just a single SEO consultant anymore. These days, you have to hire a whole team. SEO consultants have a network of contractors. They rarely operate independently. If you go with an agency, they have employees and contractors.

Running a website is no longer a simple, one-person endeavor.

And sorry to do this…but it’s only going to get more complex.

Here’s some of the coming trends that will shape how you operate your company website:

  • It’s Tough to Get Around Paid Advertising
    Paid advertising is now becoming necessary. Today, you can do it through PPC in Google Adwords. Bing/Yahoo have their own network too.Every major social network (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest etc…) now has a paid advertising option. Facebook’s grown so powerful that they keep redesigning their algorithm so it shows your posts to fewer followers.

    Unless, of course, you fork over more cash.

    Any of these digital properties act as one of the major gateways to the internet. You can bet that any website with major traffic will continue to find ways to charge you money to advertise on their platform.

  • Security Will Remain a Top Concern
    Ever noticed how some websites start with “http://” while others begin with “https://?”What’s the difference? “https://” stands for “HTTP secure.” With regular HTTP, the former internet standard, third parties can see the traffic and data that passes between your browser and local web server. That information could include your credit card number or social security number.

    To encourage a safer and more secure web, Google now docks your rankings if you don’t use HTTPS, even if your website doesn’t receive sensitive information from visitors. HTTPS means that all information between your browser and server gets encrypted.

World superpowers like Russia and China have government-sponsored teams of hackers (though they’ll never publicly admit to this). And every country has its own share of independent hackers.

Smart hackers know small businesses may be less lucrative, but they’re easier targets.

Recent data shows:

  • 43% of cyber attacks target SMBs
  • Just 14% consider their security “highly effective”
  • 60% go out of business within six months of a successful attack

And It Certainly Doesn’t End There

The reality is there’s much more to digital marketing than this. Artificial intelligence, marketing automation, influencer marketing, the increasing rise of algorithms (to sort email in Gmail’s tabs, among other things), and live streaming video will continue to shape digital marketing too.

The key to all this is having someone you can trust to help you understand and identify what really makes sense for your business.

Top 5 Types of Blog Posts to Produce to Engage Your Customer

Have you heard the term “content saturation?”Working at home

These days, it refers to the fact that some niches are bloated with content. You hear the same basic ideas from everyone.

Some niches are “highly saturated.” For example, any commodity service like HVAC, law, anything medical, home care, and many others, have a glut of content available on every topic.

Standing out in any of those niches, and many others, is hard.

Here’s some types of blog posts you may consider creating to grab attention today:

  1. Opinion Posts

These posts are a great way to attract a following, and especially so if you are in B2B. They take a lot of courage because most people are afraid to stand up and say something different.

However, because (as you learned) so many people say the same old thing on their websites, having an opinion that respectfully dissents is a great way to attract attention. The one downside to this type of post is it takes deep industry knowledge or extensive research to create.

  1. Industry News

You likely won’t have the luxury of being the first to learn about an exciting news break. However, you can be the one who stays in touch with those sources and reports on the latest news to your readership.

Add in your opinion on the matters reported, and you have a nice recipe for success.

  1. List Posts

You see these all the time: “9 Tips To…” But even list posts are saturating the web. So, to stand out, you have to go above and beyond the conventional list post. You may have “27 Tips for…” or “52 Tricks on…”

Again, being different gets attention.

  1. Case Study/Customer Success Story

These don’t get used as much at the smaller business level, but they should. A “case study” is simply where you tell the story of your customer’s problem and how you solved it.

Doesn’t sound like much at first. However, case studies are the most powerful way to earn trust and credibility from your customers so they’re ready to buy.

  1. Expert Advice

For this one, you can conduct brief email interviews. However, you can also just grab brief 2-3 sentence snippets that experts have discussed on their own blogs. Compile a bunch of those quotes into a single post on your own blog, and you suddenly have a very nice post with original content.

Just make sure you give a link to each expert. And, let each of them know about your post too, which could result in some traffic coming back to your blog.

Most Companies Do What’s Quick and Easy On Their Blogs…

And that’s the problem. Running a blog that mesmerizes your readers takes a lot of time and hard work these days. You can no longer get by on content written in your spare time.

You can please Google and maintain your search rankings. But, if you really want to stand out and grab attention, you have to put in large amounts of hard work.

Does Your Content Support the Entire Sales Cycle?

Young businesswoman sitting at the office reading business report.

Warning: this post gets a little complex.

But, once you understand the information within, you’re going to be much smarter than most companies who use internet marketing.

You’re probably at least a little familiar with the concept of a sales cycle, right?

Your customers, whether businesses or consumers, have a certain set of steps they take before they finally purchase. For businesses, this can be up to 2 years. For consumers, this can be as short as 2 seconds.

Most websites focus on “bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU)” content. In other words, this is the content a customer consumes right before they call, email, or click and order.

Nothing wrong with doing that. But you leave a ton of sales on the table if that’s all you do. Typically, you can think of your product or service pages as “BOFU” content. Your customers will read through that right before acting.

How Focusing on More Steps in the Sales Cycle Wins You More Sales

But long before your customers actually act, they already are unwittingly engaging in the sales cycle.

It all starts with a problem, right?

Your customer has something wrong in their personal life. Or a business has a big problem, like not getting enough leads.

For example, a consumer’s home seems too cold in winter and too hot in summer, despite the fact that they have a new HVAC system.

So if you run an HVAC company, you can engage them right at that point with content. They might search something like,”Why is my house so cold?”

Then, you create a blog post that answers that question. For example, it could be because they have the wrong size of HVAC system installed in their home. Or maybe their crawl space isn’t insulated properly.

Then, at the end of the post, you conclude it’s impossible to tell without a firsthand inspection.

When they read the post, the customer is at the beginning of the sales cycle. If you like acronyms, it’s called “TOFU” or “top-of-the-funnel.” They’re aware of the problem and beginning to understand it.

During the post, you’ve moved them to the “middle-of-the-funnel” or “MOFU.” They have a solid understanding of their problem, and now they need to research other HVAC companies who do the same thing.

But since you’ve educated them on the problem, while most HVAC companies don’t in their blogs, they’re much more likely to bookmark your website, or remember you. And they’re much more likely to actually call you.

It’s because they know you understand the problem and solution. Other HVAC companies might too, but they don’t necessarily demonstrate this in their blog. So the consumer is left with some doubt.

That’s How Content Marketing Works

That’s a simple example of content marketing in action. You can push customers along the sales cycle fast, and they’re happy to walk along with you because they’re solving your problems.

This is why you need to care about the sales cycle. And since many other small and local businesses don’t, you’ll uncover a gold mine of customers they wish they had.

How to Build an Engaged Online Audience

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Recent statistics released by social media Examiner and quoted at Convince and Convert show social media results maximize after marketers have 5+ years of experience.

Did you just get that? 5+ years!

Now, that’s an awfully long time. Can you remember what you were doing with your online marketing 5 years ago? It probably looked nothing like what you do today…if you were doing it at all.

With social media, you want to aim to build an engaged community. In the short-term, each post you make simply contributes a very slight bit to each sale you convert. In the long-term, you build brand advocates who happily share your posts and drive plenty more sales for you.

How do you build that more engaged kind of community and shave time off that 5-year expectation for results?

Read these tips to find out:

  1. Publish Content That Gives Your Customers a Compelling Reason to Change

Content’s available galore. Any company can find gobs of it to publish at any given time. You’re not doing your audience any favors by promoting the same thing everyone else does.

Instead, find content that challenges what your customers do now and gives them good reason to use you instead. If you’re a local HVAC company, for example, instead of giving the same old AC maintenance tips, show your customers precisely how they can solve a low refrigerant problem. Take a video (it can even be a simple one with your smartphone), show them what to look for, and how to do it.

Do it for different models of ACs – ones your customers are likely to have. Some will do it themselves. Others will put a lot of trust in you and be more likely to call you when they have a problem. The net effect will be additional sales for you.

  1. Find New and Different Content to Produce and Promote

This is simple. Just find other HVAC companies in your area. Visit their websites. Find their social media profiles. Watch what they publish and promote.

Don’t publish or promote any of that! Instead, find new and different content that most companies don’t promote. Maybe that means you go to websites like ThisOldHouse.com and find HVAC-related content because they go out of their way to go super in-depth. You know it’s always going to be really good stuff.

Few Companies Use These Tactics to Build Engaged Communities!

These two tactics attract attention like crazy because most companies, whether a local HVAC contractor, a high-power law firm, or a super-high-tech software company, focus on one thing: volume. They want to cram their social profiles with as much content as possible.

That gives them ordinary or dismal results.

When you focus on challenging what customers think, and teaching them new and different things, you stand out. And that’s how you engage in 2016. Plus, these marketing tactics are time-tested by the smartest marketers, and they will work for decades to come.

4 Great Ways to Turn Customers Off in Your Marketing

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Sometimes, it’s a little fun to turn things upside down and talk about what to do if you want to fail. It’s a different way of looking at mistakes to avoid.

With that in mind, here’s what you can do to scare your customers off in your digital marketing:

  1. Not Wanting to Make Anyone Upset

Here, we’re not saying you should aim to irritate your customers. But, many small businesses struggle with the idea that everyone can be a customer. So, they get timid in how they describe the value of their products and services, not wanting to scare anyone away.

By trying to keep everyone happy, you actually hurt your business. Remember how you got into your business to serve a niche? That’s what marketing’s all about too. So in your marketing, you should focus on a specific kind of customer.

And if you want other types of customers, you’ll have to write specifically for them with separate messaging.

  1. Buying Lists to Market To

If you do a little old-fashioned marketing via mail, buying lists can really cause you a lot of trouble. Why? Because many bought lists aren’t nearly as accurate as they claim to be.

If you do direct mail marketing, build your own list to get a higher level of accuracy. It’ll be well worth your time.

  1. Talk about Your Products and Services

This one’s actually more of a timing issue in your marketing. Early on in the marketing process, you don’t want to talk about your products and services yet.

Why?

Because customers don’t want your product or service right away. Instead, they want a solution to their problem. So first, you talk about their problem, which shows them that you understand their situation.

That builds a connection. Then, once you have that connection, you can start talking about how your products and services solve their problem better than any other competing solution.

  1. Using the Wrong Channels

With online marketing, one of the keys is making sure you’re present where your audience is. If you target consumers, for example, LinkedIn likely wouldn’t be the place to do your marketing (although it can be used for consumer-based marketing in some cases).

It gets more difficult than that because some channels serve multiple audiences. For example, while Pinterest primarily appeals to women, it has a growing male segment too.

Facebook could appeal to nearly any audience, but it continues to force marketers to pay money to get their content in front of their audience. It may only be a good option for businesses with big budgets going forward.

In 2016, those are key mistakes you can make in your marketing that turn your audience off. Avoid them at all costs, or make sure you have an experienced SEO on your side.

Do You Know How the Consumer Buying Journey Works?

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Marketing your products or services at the small business level is tough, unforgiving work. You have to know your customers as well as you know your spouse, or even better.

When you know them that well, you know what problems they have, the best answers to solve those problems, and exactly when to deliver those answers.

But most small businesses simply talk about their company and what they do. That’s a start. But your customer has to have confidence you have the best solution available for what they’re willing to pay.

So let’s talk a little bit more about the customer’s buying journey.

  1. There’s 4 Stages – Awareness, Evaluation, Purchase, and the One Almost Every Business Forgets…

During the awareness stage, consumers have a dim idea they have a problem they need to solve. They’re not ready to buy yet, so you can’t sell to them. Instead, you show them you get their problem, and then you can start to talk about the solution.

The evaluation stage works as it sounds. Consumers compare your product or service to all the other options available.

Can you guess what happens during the third stage, the purchase stage? One of the key things to do at this point is to ask for their e-mail address. You know they like you. And they might want to buy more from you if your product or service rocks their world.

During the final post-purchase stage, you maintain the relationship so you’re top of mind when they’re ready to buy again. As an example, that could include something simple like an informative e-newsletter.

  1. You Need to Deliver content at Every Stage of the Cycle

The form of the content can vary. Could be a blog post, a video, infographic, special report, case study, e-mail autoresponder series, newsletter, or even just an image.

Whatever it is, it has to be simple, valuable, and useful. It’s a good idea to switch up content formats to see how your market responds. Maybe you repurpose the exact same type of content into several formats.

If you’re wondering about what to make, simply think of the questions your customers ask you the most often. Or ask them in person what they’d like to know more about.

Then create a piece of content that answers that question.

Yes, creating content that works really is that easy.

You Don’t Need Fancy Tools, But You Do Need to Do Hard Work

You’ll hear about all kinds of fancy SEO and marketing automation tools you need to make online marketing work. Yes, you do need some of these, and it’s good to outsource your digital marketing.

But you don’t need to be super-fancy and elaborate. Old-fashioned hard work by listening to your customers and solving their problem better than anyone else wins their business.

And just a couple of carefully selected pieces of content per month can make that happen.