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In 2018, you need a sales and marketing plan that makes the best use of digital marketing to create more visibility and drive revenue. We’ve identified five major trends that should get your focus in 2018. The businesses that are able to best take advantage of these trends will get a huge leg up over their competitors. To help you get you started — and to make this coming year more profitable for you — read about the five important digital marketing trends for 2018 below.


Content marketing is nothing new, but it is definitely evolving.
Small business owners have gone from simple blogging to more complicated strategies involving infographics, ebooks and more. You don’t have to go all out like that, but you should be providing your audience some sort of value through the content you post.
People want to be educated. They want answers to burning questions. They also want to learn more about the things they already do so they can do them better.
Satisfy their need with content, and you will win their attention. Hold their attention with consistently awesome content, and you can win their repeat business.
70% of people say they would rather learn about a company through articles than ads.
For this reason, around 90% of businesses that advertise online use content marketing currently. Most are interested in shifting dollars from traditional ads to content, where they can find better returns.
You should create engaging, in-depth content with a strong visual element to attract prospects. Reach more people by learning about the content they want to consume and giving them more of it.
If you stay in front of your prospects through regular content posting, you’ll increase the odds of being first-in-mind anytime someone requires your services.
When you can balance your services & expertise with things your audience wants to learn about, you can hit a marketing sweet spot. You’ll find bigger returns on web traffic, social media engagement and lead generation.


You might not be into Facebook Live yet, but you probably should be! Recent data from Facebook shows that people are 10x more likely to comment on a Facebook Live video than otherwise.
Even if Facebook Live does not work for your business, incorporating video into your marketing is key. Consider that 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos each week, on average.
Now, keep in mind that there are over 2 billion active Facebook users in the world. A little bit of number crunching reveals that approximately 1 billion people watch one hour of video a week. That’s a huge embedded audience to explore!
Video holds much more attention and communicates messages more effectively than text or still images alone. Recognizing this, small businesses have been using video and finding huge returns. Whether as a type of content or a paid ad, video drives huge amounts of engagement.
Research from Wyzowl indicates that 79% percent of consumers surveyed would rather watch a video to learn about a new product then read about it.
Also, “64% of customers are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video about it.” So, people are not only watching video but also remembering what they see and actually buying things afterwards!
Small business owners can start working on their video strategy easily by answering common questions customers have — either Live or as a prerecorded release.
From there, consider repurposing some of your existing content into short, informative videos and uploading them directly to social media.


Facebook ads have become quite sophisticated in the past couple of years. They’re finally at a point where even marketers for small businesses can target effectively while gain valuable audience insights.
Facebook has 1.3 billion active daily users, and they made $7.6 billion in ad revenue in Q1 of 2017 alone. So, you know for a fact that audiences are there and that others are in on the game.
Without your own Facebook ad presence, your competitors are staying in front of your customers when you are not looking.
The average cost-per-click on Facebook is just $1.72, which means you it is a cost effective way to reach your prospects where they spend their time.
You can put your message about your business in front of high value prospects, even among very specific demographics.
When you combine video and Facebook Ads you really start to multiply the impac. Recent data highlights the fact that social video (basically any kind of branded video or advertisement) generates 1200% more shares than text and images combined.
Using paid media and specifically Facebook Ads has quickly become a must to amplify your brand and product messages to your customer and prospects. Even if your Ad is not runaway viral advertisement it can still likely generate more engagement, likes and awareness for your brand online.


When it comes to consistent engagement, Instagram is the number one social channel out there. That’s the conclusion of a study done by Yopto, which found engagement rate on Instagram to be 45% greater than on Facebook and 40% greater than Twitter.
What exactly does ‘engagement’ mean? It means this: over 75% of users will take action on an advertisement post in their feed. The key here is to let your customers do the posting as much as you do.
The same Yopto study found that 77% of people are more convinced by user-generated photos of a product rather than professional photos. Crowdsource your own content by asking loyal customers for pictures of them using your product. People love the attention, and you save on professional photography, so it’s a win-win for all.
Another key thing to know about Instagram is how powerful Instagram Influencers are.
“Influencers” refers to people with lots of followers and tons of engagement from fans. There are all types of influencers, including subject matter experts who post videos and photos related to their expertise.
Small businesses can tap into these influencers at a relatively low cost. Case studies have shown that niche experts in your industry will drive direct sales traffic without costing your company an arm and a leg.
Take the example of RESCUE, for instance. RESCUE wanted to push their range of natural products, and asked a number of micro-influencers and bloggers to share their personal stories and include a “buy one, get one free” coupon with their post. The results? A 258% increase in Instagram followers — not to mention over 6,00 clicks to the coupon site.
Because of success stories like these, there is no question that leveraging micro-influencers to drive conversion rates will be a major trend in social media marketing going forward.


Digital devices have completely changed how your customers search for and buy things. 2/3 of the world’s population is connected by mobile devices, and people now spend more time browsing on mobile compared to desktop.
According to data collected by, 36.46% of Google searches come from a desktop in 2017, while 63.54% come from mobile. It is expected that mobile use will continue to grow in 2018, likely surpassing the 70% mark by the end of the year.
The only conclusion you can draw from this: You must optimize for mobile. Otherwise, you’ll hurt the experience for mobile viewers, causing them to seek out other businesses that can offer a better one.
What does being “mobile optimized” mean in 2018? Looking at your search results appearance, for one.
Get found online by researching how your page appears on mobile search. Mobile searches tend to bring up locally focused information, so reviews and accurate information about your business matter.
For instance, 50% of local mobile searches lead to store visits, so having accurate information on your hours is critical.
The continued transition to mobile means people are searching for what they want in the moment at which they want it. Let’s say a tourist is walking in downtown Chicago and searches for ‘best pizza’. How will they compare the quality of competing restaurants within walking distance?
Usually, they will look to reviews. Research from BrightLocal points out that 90% of people search for reviews of a business before visiting. That’s nothing to sneeze at!
The quality and frequency of reviews matters, so make sure to ask customers for reviews as part of your regular business routine.
Also, ensure the information available on your business from Google is plentiful and accurate. You can start by using Schema markup on your contacts page. At the same time, make sure you have accurate, updated directions to your business listed and your hours of operation updated.
All of these informative features need to be monitored and optimized for mobile use in order for you to keep getting business — rather than scaring business away.


In 2018, competing online is no longer an option.
It’s a must in order for your business to survive.
To grow your business you must apply a complete digital marketing strategy.
One that gets more Leads & Sales.
One that takes advantage of the shifts in Mobile, Social, Video, Reputation, Search and other digital marketing trends.
One that connects all the dots, so that people can find you on any channel but still have a consistent experience. One that gives the information people need to make a buying decision through helpful content and a mobile-optimized experience.
This is the only way for your business to not be left behind.
If you take advantage of these trends, you will have a distinct advantage in growing your business over your competition.
Leg Up on Your Competitors

6 Ways to Get a (Virtual) Leg Up on Your Competitors

Marketing your business is easier than ever thanks to the internet. Right?
Well, not totally wrong – but there’s no denying that in some ways, digital marketing complicates things for small business owners.
What do I mean by that? Well, before the internet, most companies were competing with only a few rivals. There were exceptions, of course – mail order companies like LL Bean are a good example. But for the most part, business competition was a local affair.
With the internet, that all changed. Suddenly the marketplace (and the competition) became global. While some companies (those who provide in-person services, for example) still compete on an exclusively local level, many others find that they’re competing with companies across the planet.
Does that mean you should give up? Absolutely not. The key to being seen online is understanding what you can do to separate yourself from your key competitors.
Here are six ways to accomplish that goal.

#1: Focus on the Outcome You Provide

Focus on the Outcome You Provide
Forget about what you’re selling. What are you doing for people?
When people research a product or service online, they’re looking for a solution. It makes sense, then, that your online marketing should specify that you provide one.
For example, say you run a meal delivery company. That means you’ll be competing against local companies as well as big national brands.
If all you say is that you deliver meals, you won’t have done anything to explain what people can expect if they choose your company over your competitors.
Now, let’s say that your specialty is family-friendly meals that kids love. The result that your target audience wants is no-fuss weekday dinners they can get on the table in a hurry.
There’s your outcome: Stress-free weeknight dinners for busy parents. You can see how approaching your marketing from that angle would be appealing to your customers.

#2: Find What Makes Your Product or Service Unique

Find What Makes Your Product or Service Unique
What makes your product special? There must be something, or you won’t be able to differentiate yourself from your key competitors.
Imagine that you’re marketing a hair salon. There are probably several others in your area – so what makes yours special?
If you have tablets with a selection of kids’ movies to keep kids from wiggling around and getting bored while their hair is being cut, that’s something that sets you apart from the other options available.
In other words, your marketing should focus on why a potential customer should choose you. What do you offer that nobody else does?
Keep in mind that your unique sales proposition doesn’t have to be complicated. You might simply have the lowest prices or the longest business hours. Whatever it is, though, make sure to highlight it in your digital marketing.

#3: Develop an Unforgettable Brand

Develop an Unforgettable Brand
What happens when you combine the first two items on this list with memorable graphics and a unique voice?
You have an unforgettable brand – something that defines your company and its products and imprints them indelibly in your target audience’s minds.
It’s common for small businesses to make the mistake of thinking that their brand is just their logo. But let’s face it, Nike’s brand is about much more than that distinctive swoosh.
If you take a minute to look at Nike’s website or Facebook page – or any of their marketing – what you’ll notice is that they have a consistent brand that’s associated with:

  • Athleticism
  • Confidence
  • Challenging yourself
  • Overcoming obstacles
  • Positivity

These things are exemplified by their slogan, “Just Do It.” The written content, photographs, and videos that Nike uses for marketing all adhere to their overall brand.
The more consistently and memorably you identify and market your brand, the more likely it is that your target audience will know you, remember you, and buy from you.

#4: Be an Expert in Your Field

Be an Expert in Your Field
If you expect people to become loyal customers, you need to give them a reason to keep coming back to your business for what they need. One way to do that is to know your industry inside and out.
What can you do to be an expert? You can:

  • Read industry publications and stay abreast of new developments
  • Leverage your experience to gain insight to your customers
  • Learn about other topics relevant to your customers

For example, if you own a sporting goods store, you might educate yourself about sports medicine, nutrition, training, and related topics to help you relate to your customers and make recommendations to them.
Once your customers view you as an authority, they’ll be willing to trust you with future purchases – and to recommend you to their friends.

#5: Guarantee the Results of Your Product or Service

Guarantee the Results of Your Product or Service
Any new customer who comes to you is likely to have questions and concerns about your product or service. Will you deliver on your promises?
Any marketing you do must focus on overcoming potential customer objections. One way to do that is to offer a guarantee based on the results of the customer’s purchase – and make it a better guarantee than what your competitors are offering.
For example, imagine you’re selling HVAC systems. If research reveals that your competitors are offering a five-year guarantee of their work, you might consider offering seven years or ten years.
A simple guarantee – provided you can back it up – can do a great deal to alleviate customer concerns and convince your audience to choose your company over your competitors.

#6: Break the Rules

Break the Rules
Marketing rules are rules, right?
Well, maybe not. As the saying goes, rules are made to be broken.
In the end, any marketing advice you hear should be taken with a grain of salt. The things we’ve outlined here are universal, but they’re not clad in stone.
Do you have a brash marketing idea, the kind of thing that none of your competitors is doing? Give it a try! There’s no reason you can’t take a chance with your marketing.
The main thing to remember if you venture off the beaten path is that you shouldn’t do anything to devalue your product or service. Be bold but not foolhardy. The risks you take should be calculated ones.
Marketing is a science…
But it’s also an art. And every artist knows that they’ve got to take chances some of the time. In the end, your marketing should make your business successful and profitable. If it does that, nobody will care whether you followed the rules.
Has Your Business Hit a Plateau?

Has Your Business Hit a Plateau? Here’s How to Get Things Moving Again

Your marketing is ticking along, delivering results and earning a solid ROI.
Then, suddenly, it isn’t.
What went wrong? How can you get back on track?
The simple explanation is that you’ve hit a plateau. You were climbing, and now you’re on the flat. If you want your business to grow, you must find a new path to follow.
The good news is that once you identify where your business has plateaued, you can take simple steps to correct the situation.

Mapping Your Plateau

Mapping Your Plateau
You know your business isn’t growing, but do you know why? That’s the first step to determining the way forward (and off that plateau.)
Businesses can plateau in several ways. Here are some of the most common:

  • Audience Engagement
  • Web Traffic
  • New Customer Acquisition
  • Lead Generation
  • Conversion
  • Overall Marketing

If you’re already tracking your marketing results you probably know where your performance is falling short. If you’re not, now is the time to start.
You may want to use a marketing platform to set up tracked links. Alternatively, you can use Google Analytics and some social tracking, like a Facebook pixel, to evaluate your current marketing efforts.
Try to narrow down the results and home in on your problem areas. If your website traffic is strong but social engagement is down, you can focus your attention on that area to improve your results.

Audience Engagement

Audience Engagement
If you’re getting fewer blog comments, social media shares, and phone calls, then your audience engagement could use a boost. Here are some suggestions.

  1. Make use of your email list by sending a monthly newsletter or a new series of emails. By sharing valuable information and tips with your audience, you can increase engagement and establish yourself as an authority.
  2. Share content regularly on social media. For example, you might share your blog posts, curate relevant articles from industry publications, and post special offers for your followers.
  3. Always include relevant hashtags and a call to action to encourage audience participation. It might sound obvious, but your followers won’t know what you want them to do unless you ask them to do it.

Regular posting is the key to increasing engagement. You can’t ignore your social media and expect people to click, comment, and share.

Website Traffic

Website Traffic
Your evaluation of your marketing stats reveals that traffic to your website has taken a dip. What can you do to get things moving again?

  1. Do a full audit of your website and identify areas for improvement. For example, you might want to do an SEO refresh and make sure that each page is optimized for one keyword.
  2. Speaking of keywords, make sure to use them in your page titles, headlines, and subheadings, as well as in image tags for the best results.
  3. Increase your blogging frequency and promote your blog posts on social media.
  4. Double check your information for accuracy and relevancy.

Your website can do a lot to attract traffic, but you’ll need to update it periodically to maintain a high level of visibility.

New Customer Acquisition

New Customer Acquisition
Perhaps the issue you’ve identified is that your new customer acquisition has slowed down. If that’s the case, try doing these things to attract new customers:

  1. Review your online listings and make sure they’re identical. Many local businesses have more listings than they realize and if they’re not standardized, it can dilute your online profile.
  2. Add your location to your Facebook profile to help customers search for you.
  3. Start a customer referral program to incentivize your current customers to bring in their friends and family.
  4. Partner with other local businesses to host local events – and create unique local hashtags to use on social media to promote it.

Each one of these things can help new people find your website and social media pages, as well as coming into your store.

Lead Generation

New Customer Acquisition
Does your business rely on having a steady stream of qualified leads? If so, then having your lead generation hit a plateau can be a real problem. Here are some suggestions to help you counter the slowdown:

  1. Create an irresistible lead magnet to entice people to give you their email addresses. For example, you might create a cheat sheet, a template, or a short eBook to give away to new leads. Make sure to create a dedicated landing page for your offer.
  2. Use targeted campaigns and personal interaction to engage people on social media. The more targeted you are with your social media marketing, the more leads you will be able to attract.
  3. Put a call to action on every page of your website – not just on the pages that you use to promote offers. You should always ask visitors to fill out a contact form or sign up for a mailing list.

The key here is to attract leads who are interested in what you have to offer. Once they’re on your mailing list, you can work your magic to convert them into paying customers.


Maybe you have plenty of leads and clicks, but the traffic you attract isn’t converting. How can you fix it? Here are some tips.

  1. Add customer testimonials (video testimonials are especially effective) to your website.
  2. Encourage customers to leave reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and Facebook – and make sure to be responsive to positive and negative reviews.
  3. Update the wording, images, and calls to action on your ads and landing pages.
  4. If you haven’t already done so, create special landing pages for each of your offers.

These suggestions can help you overcome potential objections and increase your conversion rate.

Don’t Let Your Plateau Stop You…

Even professional marketers get it wrong sometimes. That’s to be expected – so you shouldn’t be discouraged if you hit a plateau. Take a step back, evaluate your results, and then take practical steps like the ones suggested here to get your business moving again.
Great Content for Facebook

How to Curate Great Content for Facebook

Does hearing the words “Facebook content” immediately tire you out mentally?  Do you cringe at the thought of having to drum up original posts every single day?
Let’s be honest.  Nobody really wants to do that. And there is an easier approach to Facebook content curation.  It’s what we call the 70-30 approach: posting 70% original content and 30 curated content.
Social media content curation in Facebook is cost-effective and easier than having to create new posts every time, so it has fast become a part of content marketers ‘content mix.
Here, we will share four of the best practices in curating great content for Facebook:

Use Facebook analytics.

Use Facebook analytics.
Any social media content curation strategy needs to be monitored for performance.  Use Facebook’s “Pages Insights” and “Audience Insights” to give you details about your audience that will help you tailor appropriate content for them, such as age, location, gender, income, careers, and more.
Pages Insights will also show you important details such as which content posted on your page has performed well and what time of the day your audience usually goes online. These analytics pages can be quite confusing if you’re not used to using tools like this, so there’s definitely going to be a learning curve.

Go big on visuals.

Go big on visuals.
The Facebook news feed prioritizes posts accompanied with images and videos, so post photos and videos frequently. Interesting videos also receive more reach than a plain text, so curating videos is part of most marketers’ Facebook content marketing strategy.
One thing to be careful about is using photos that are legal to use or repost. This will keep you from having copyright issues. The best thing to do is to take the photos yourself, but this is not always possible, so what you can do is to look for royalty free or stock photos on stock image websites like You can also use for free.
Another way to find publicly reusable photos is to go to Google Images, click on “Settings” which you can find just below the toolbar, then select “Advanced search”.
What you’re looking for is “Usage rights”. Click on the dropdown box and there you will see options according to the license of the images. The safest bet is to select is “free to use, share, or modify, even commercially”, but choose according to your needs.

Create a schedule and stick to it.

Create a schedule and stick to it.
Regular posting of content on social media and even in blogs is sure to get you more engagement and visibility than posting sporadically. So you need to plan your curated contents ahead, craft a schedule based on what you will learn from the Pages Insights, and stick to this schedule.

Use a content curation platform.

Use a content curation platform.
Rome wasn’t built in a week, and doing all of the tasks involved in curating great content for Facebook (and other platforms) does take time and effort. To take some of the burden off of you, consider using a content curation platform that is designed with small businesses in mind or a digital marketing service to take care of that on your behalf.
Content is exactly why your audience comes back
Producing a steady stream of quality social media content is vital these days, and it’s the driving force behind more engagement on your Facebook page, and more traffic to your website.  Just remember, all you need is 70% original and 30% curated content and you’re good to go.
Facebook Advertising Campaigns

7 Mistakes You’re Making with Your Facebook Advertising Campaigns

In the world of social media sites, Facebook is the big kahuna. Sure, there are older sites – but it’s the biggest and gets the highest engagement.
Facebook advertising has been around for a while, too, and you might think you’ve got it all figured out…
Except you don’t. In fact, we’re willing to bet there are a few things that you’re doing wrong.
Do you want to start getting it right? Start by correcting these 7 mistakes.

#1: Spray and Pay

Spray and Pay
Are you doing some kind of math that says since you’re only paying for clicks, you don’t need to target your ads? Maybe you figure since people who aren’t interested aren’t going to respond to your ad, you might as well reach as wide an audience as possible.
If that sounds familiar, you’re making what could be a costly error. Ultimately, the people most likely to click on your ads are people who are in your target audience.
A far better bet is to target your ads to users who match your customer persona and do what you can to maximize your ROI. You’ll end up spending less and earning more as a result.

#2: Avoiding Video Marketing

Avoiding Video Marketing
You can’t go anywhere online without reading an article about how video marketing is the belle of the ball – the one thing everybody’s doing.
While it’s true that video gets a ton of engagement, it’s also true that on Facebook, the bulk of advertising money is not being spent on video.
In other words, video isn’t as saturated as standard ads and that means that if you make the investment in video ads, it’s likely to boost your ROI. They’re more expensive than standard ads but they can pay for themselves.
By the way, statistics back this up. A majority of consumers say they’d rather learn about a product or company from an explainer video than from written content. Why not take advantage of that?

#3: Focusing on Engagement instead of Conversions

Focusing on Engagement instead of Conversions
There’s no question that Facebook advertising can be useful as a way of increasing social media engagement and building your following. And you might even assume that’s all it’s good for.
Think again. The truth is that more companies are using Facebook advertising to send traffic to their websites and encourage sales there than are using it to build engagement.
While social media engagement is important, sales and conversions are what keep your company afloat. With your next Facebook ad campaign, focus on conversions to get the biggest possible return on your investment.

#4: Assuming CPC Costs Are Increasing

Assuming CPC Costs Are Increasing
Given the popularity of Facebook and the saturation of ads there, you might expect that the added competition would compel Facebook to raise its advertising rates.
You’d be wrong.
In fact, CPC ad rates on Facebook have been holding fairly steady. It’s still one of the most cost-effective and beneficial forms of advertising around.
That doesn’t mean that costs won’t go up at some point in the future. If and when they do, you’ll have to make an assessment of how Facebook advertising will fit into your marketing mix.
But for now, the low prices make Facebook advertising a must.

#5: Not Using Lead Ads

Not Using Lead Ads
Facebook has a vested interested in keeping users on Facebook (or on the mobile app if they access the site on their smart phone or tablet.) But it’s still true that the majority of advertising money on Facebook comes from web conversion ads.
While all of Facebook’s algorithms are proprietary, you might get slightly better placement for your ad if you use a Lead ad that allows people who click to fill out a lead form without leaving Facebook.
Best of all? You can integrate Facebook advertising with your CRM to ensure that you don’t miss those leads as they come in.

#6: Boosting instead of Advertising

Boosting instead of Advertising
Since you pay for boosting posts, that’s basically the same thing as paying for an ad on Facebook, right?
We’ve lost track of how many times we’ve heard this one – and if you’re making this mistake then the chances are good you’re losing out in terms of ROI.
Here why. Facebook boosted posts are ONLY meant to increase engagement. They can bolster the reach of a particular post, ensure that all of your followers see it, and potentially earn you a few new followers, too.
That’s all well and good, but here’s what you need to remember. When you run an ad for the purpose of conversion, Facebook targets people who are likely to convert. Likewise, lead ads are targeted to people who are likely to fill out a lead form.
The purpose of the ad dictates who sees it. Decide which goals are most important to you and then tailor your Facebook advertising campaign around them.

#7: Not Using Facebook for B2B Advertising

Not Using Facebook for B2B Advertising
There’s no denying that Facebook advertising is a useful tool for B2C companies, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it if you sell B2B.
In fact, Facebook’s targeting makes it possible to target people who work in certain industries or who have a particular job title. If a company is big enough, you may even be able to target its employees specifically.
You might have to use slightly different tactics than you would for B2C marketing, such as offering an eBook or white paper as a lead magnet, but the bottom line is that Facebook advertising can be a remarkably effective lead generation tool for B2B companies.

Facebook advertising is not be new…

However, we have found that quite a few companies are still operating in the dark in terms of how best to use it. They make mistakes, fall victim to common myths and misconceptions, and ultimately, they end up losing out.
Don’t be like them. Start by avoiding these 7 mistakes to make the most of your Facebook advertising, maximize the return you get on your advertising investment, and meet your top marketing goals.
Social Media Automation

Is Social Media Automation Right for Your Business?

If you’ve read multiple articles about social media marketing, then we’re willing to bet that you’ve also seen some advice along these lines:
For the best results, have someone monitor your social media accounts all the time.
Or maybe…
Social media automation takes most of the work out of social media marketing.
Those both sound pretty good, right? Solid advice meant to help you retain customers and make the most of your social media marketing.
There’s only one problem here. Neither one of the above statements is rooted in reality. Very few companies can afford to have someone monitor their social media 24 hours a day. Likewise, automating everything is a good way to show customers that you don’t care about them.
In other words, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Automation can be useful, but it can’t replace genuine, human customer service.
How and when should you consider using automation? Keep reading to find out.

The Benefits of Automation

The Benefits of Automation
Let’s start with the good parts of social media automation. The truth is that maintaining an active social media presence is a lot of work. You’ve got to generate content, work out a schedule, post the content, and monitor messages, comments, and responses.
If your company is active on just one site, it can be hard to keep up. And if you’re on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest? It would be easy to turn that into a full-time job.
Automation can help you do all of the following:

  • Monitor mentions of your company and industry on social media
  • Recommend content for you to consider reposting to your followers
  • Post content automatically according to a schedule you create

Those are all good things. They don’t interfere with the customer experience at all, and in many cases they actually make it better.
For example, automated posting of content is useful because it keeps your accounts up to date and active even if you’re swamped with work.
However, not every potential use for social media automation is a good one.

The Downsides of Automation

The Downsides of Automation
Now let’s talk about the things that social media automation can do – but maybe shouldn’t do.
The main thing is responding to customer messages and handling customer service.
When people contact a company for help, they expect to get it. They expect to speak to a real person who is capable of understanding their problem and solving it.
What they don’t want is an automated and potentially irrelevant response from a bot. It is nearly impossible to have an automated system respond meaningfully to customer messages.
For example, bots are only as good as the answers you preprogram into them. They can monitor for particular keywords but they can’t appreciate and interpret the nuances of human communication.
The problem with using bots is that their uses are limited. Customers don’t like it when they get canned responses.
Using bots can lead to some serious backlash if it becomes obvious that you’re doing it. Don’t believe me? Check out this ridiculous thread of comments from ASOS’ Facebook page. Once users realized that the responses were automated, they piled on – and the end result was that ASOS came out looking like they didn’t care about their customers at all.

To Automate… or Not to Automate?

To Automate… or Not to Automate?
As you might expect, then, the choice comes down to whether or not to automate – and if you do automate, which automation features to use.
The best way to decide is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. The point of using social media is to connect with your audience and enhance their experience of being your customer.
What does that mean for your automation decisions?
Every choice you make about automaton should be based on the customer experience. Will setting up a regular posting schedule and automating posts enhance their experience? The chances are good that the answer is yes.
Automated posting of content means that:

  • Customers know when to expect your posts and will look for them
  • Your account doesn’t appear to be inactive even if you’re on vacation or swamped with work
  • Followers have a steady stream of content to enjoy

Those are all good things, clearly, and they offer real value to your customers.
The same thing could be said of monitoring mentions, which can help you connect with social media followers and let them know that their mentions of you are appreciated.
However, the rubric of customer experience falls apart when it comes to automated customer service mentions. The one upside is that it ensures that people who write on social media get an immediate response – but that’s where the benefits end.

  • Customers get boilerplate responses that may not address the issue they raised
  • They may feel that you do not care about their satisfaction
  • Automated messages from bots can make your company look callous or ridiculous

Does that mean that all message automation is a bad idea? Of course not. In fact, there is one way you can use it to your advantage.
Program one – and only one – response into your automation. It might say something like this:
Dear Customer,
Thank you for reaching out to us. Your happiness and satisfaction are important to us. We can’t monitor Facebook 24 hours a day, but we promise that a real live human will get back to you with a response as soon as possible.
Your Company Name
The benefit of this approach is that the customer gets the satisfaction of an acknowledgement without having to cope with an impersonal response. There’s a real warmth to this response, which acknowledges the difficulty of providing 24 hour customer service.
As long as you keep the promise you make in a message like this, you can use automation to let customers know that you care.

Your customers are smart…

And your use of automation should be too. As long as you make creating a stellar experience for customers your top priority, then you can use automation to make your life – and theirs – easier.
Customer Referral Program

Use These 3 Things to Help Make Your Customer Referral Program a Success

Get any group of marketers together and ask them what they think about customer referral programs. The chances are extremely good that you’ll hear a universal chorus of approval.
What’s not to love about customer referrals? They’re a free way to generate leads. Even if you offer an incentive for referrals, you’ll probably end up paying less for them than you would for advertising.
There’s a reason that so many companies offer referral programs…
But what you may not know is that most of them are actually failures.
That might surprise you, but it shouldn’t.
Referral programs fail because companies just set them up without thinking about them. They don’t consider the three big questions:

  1. What makes customers refer their friends and acquaintances to a company?
  2. What are the benefits customers receive from your products?
  3. When and how should you promote your referral program?

If you’re shaking your head and realizing that you’ve made this mistake too, don’t worry. We’re here to help you figure out how to make your referral program a big success.

Why Do Referrals Happen?

Why Do Referrals Happen?
Let’s start with question number one: What makes a customer want to refer a friend to a particular company?
That’s a big question and an important one. If you don’t understand it, you might just end up spinning your wheels with a referral program that appeals to nobody.
According to Jonah Berger, who wrote a book called Contagious: Why Things Catch On, there are six potential factors that might make your customers want to give you a referral:

  • Social currency comes first. Will a referral make your customer look good on their own or in comparison to other people?
  • Emotions play a big role in decision making. If your referral program engages customers’ emotions, they’ll be more likely to refer.
  • Virality is up next. When an idea or concept is easy to remember, it’s also more likely to spread. That’s just as true of referrals as it is of cat videos.
  • Stories are important to people. If your referral request comes disguised as a story, then it’s more likely that people will want to share it.
  • Practicality is really at the core of referrals. Is your product practical? Is the incentive to refer it practical too?
  • Publicity is the final factor. People tend to follow what others do, but only if they can see that they’re doing it.

The good news is that you don’t have to engage all six of these factors to make your referral program a success. You just need to use the ones that make sense in the best possible way to inspire referrals from your existing customers.
How can you optimize the “why” of your referral program? The key is making it clear that your product aligns with your customers’ core concerns, beliefs, and values.
For example, Apple sells its products by talking about their desire to challenge the status quo. They encourage their customers to think of themselves in a certain way that tells a story and taps into their emotions.
Keep in mind that this aspect isn’t about what you offer in return for a referral – although it’s a good idea if you can connect it to those same values.

What Benefits Does Your Product Provide?

What Benefits Does Your Product Provide?
Next, let’s talk about the benefits that existing customers can gain if they refer their friends to you.
This question relates most closely to the issues of practicality and social currency. If someone is going to give you a referral, they want to know:

  • Will it make me look good?
  • Will it help my friend?
  • What’s in it for me?

To understand how this might work, let’s look at an example.
Cloud storage company Dropbox increased their sign-up rate by 60% in 2010 by using a simple referral proposition that hit all three of these points perfectly.
The specific offer was that for every friend who signed up for Dropbox, the customer making the referral would receive 500 MB of free storage – and so would their friend. They placed of 16 GB on the referral program.
This offer makes the referrer look good because they’re offering their friend a practical and valuable solution for cloud storage along with a freebie. The benefits to their friends are obvious – and then the person making the referral gets a freebie too.
Think about what you can do to highlight the practical benefits of participating in your referral program. The more obvious they are, the easier it will be for people to make the leap and take part.

When and How Should You Promote Your Referral Program?

When and How Should You Promote Your Referral Program?
The last step is knowing when and how to promote your referral program. Where do you advertise it?
The key is making sure that your customers see it (there’s no point in showing it to non-customers) at the time when they are most likely to take action.
A lot of companies make the mistake of putting information about their referral program in the footer of their website or on their home page.
That does nothing to speak to the emotions of your customers, or to trigger them to take part.
Instead, a better bet is to consider the best way to reach out directly to your customers when they are at their most emotional – and most likely to be enamored of the practicality and value of your products.
In case you were wondering, that’s right after they make a purchase!
The best way to get it to them is to use an email autoresponder. Most customers expect to see a follow-up email after they make an online purchase, and it’s the perfect opportunity for you to outline the benefits of your referral program.

If you want referrals to pour in like rain…

Don’t just dump your referral program in some out of the way corner of your home page.
Instead, make it clear why people should give you referrals and what they (and their friends) can gain from doing so.
Then, hit them with the information about it at exactly the same time – and sit back and collect the referrals that result.
What motivates people to buy?

What motivates people to buy?

Every business owner wants to know the answer to this question.  After all, if you know how to motivate people to buy, then you should have no trouble boosting your sales, which is the ultimate goal.
Once upon a time, the golden rule was give people what they need, because that is what they will spend their money on. While that may well have been the case a few decades ago, things are a little bit different now.  
Statistics show that in today’s media driven society people are actually spending more money on the things that they want like, smart TV’s, High Tech Electronics and leisure activities than they are on the necessities like food and shelter!
That’s why it only stands to reason if you have a product or service to sell you need to present it to your prospects as something they want. Focus on what is in it for them, stress the benefits and make them feel like it is something they absolutely must have. Make them feel like they can’t live without it.
People buy because they get pleasure from their purchase.  They don’t walk into a car dealership and buy the latest model because they need it they do it because it makes them feel good to drive it.
Whether it is the comfort of the plush leather seats, the power windows, or the symbol of status, they just love driving their new car! Whatever their reason, you can rest assured that their decision was based on want, not need.
Want isn’t the only thing that motivates people to make a purchase. While it is the leading factor, many other triggers can motivate them to whip out their wallets.  For instance, if you can connect your product or service to consumers in a way that can helps them:

  • Save or make more money
  • Save more time
  • Be more comfortable
  • Be happier and healthier
  • Be more popular
  • Increase their enjoyment
  • Attract the opposite sex
  • Escape pain and sadness
  • Avoid trouble
  • Make life easier

Or take advantage of opportunities that will benefit them in a positive way then you can motivate them to take action. Once you find out what they want and present your product or service to the in a way that makes them feel like they can’t live without it, you should have no trouble boosting sales for your business.
If you shop online or if you’ve ever made a purchase from a website like Amazon then chances are testimonials probably played a big part in your decision-making process.
Customer testimonials have the power to boost your sales substantially and they do it without spending and extra money on advertising. They are excellent emotional triggers. A glowing recommendation from happy customer can create a level of trust and provide potential customers with the ability to imagine what it would be like to purchase your products or services.
Typically, when someone begins shopping for a new product and service, one of the first things they take into consideration is the recommendation of others. They seek advice from family, friends, and testimonials of complete strangers. They do this because they want to make an informed choice.
Testimonials give them insight into how other people feel about the product or service as well as a good idea of what can do for them.  So, do not underestimate the impact they can have on your business.

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