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Our latest article for Hearst Bay is live now. This new series is aimed at companies in the travel marketing business, and is focused on increasing organic SEO through a Pillar Page/Topic Cluster strategy.
Interested in our writing services? Send us an email.
As someone in the travel industry, you undoubtedly understand the challenges of keeping up with the latest travel marketing trends. Those challenges became even more apparent after pandemic lockdowns brought tourism and travel to a standstill.
But as the pandemic enters its third year, people are ready to get out and enjoy life again. One of the things at the top of their list is travel and tourism.
We'll share the top 10 travel marketing trends for 2022 to help your travel brand thrive in the new travel landscape. But first, here are a couple of things you should know...
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If you’re using digital marketing to reach your target demographic, you should be familiar with and comfortable using the two largest platforms, Facebook and Instagram. If not, click this link and take a few minutes to read up on the differences and similarities between them.
But increasingly, digital marketers are feeling pressure from upper management to explore a third platform—Snapchat. Chances are they heard about it from a teenager or college student in their life, and now they think that your company should be advertising there. Or maybe on the flip side, you’ve been encouraging your company to advertise on Snapchat, but you’re receiving pushback from your company due to Snapchat’s dubious reputation (some claim that Snapchat was founded to enable sexting, but founder Evan Spiegal denies this).
Either way, this article will help you decide whether or not you should devote your time and budget to Snapchat. Since Instagram is the platform that competes most directly with Snapchat, we’re going to look at them side by side. But first, an overview of Snapchat for the unacquainted.
Basic Overview of Snapchat
Snapchat is a messaging app that allows you to take photos, videos, and voice messages (all referred to as “snaps”), add fun filters, text, and drawings, and send them to your friends. Originally, the primary differentiator is that on Snapchat, unlike Instagram, the photos and videos you send are only visible for a few seconds before they disappear forever.
Not surprisingly, people have found a way to hack the system and uncover supposedly deleted content. Still, this probably doesn’t need to be a concern for your business. The basic rule of thumb for every company should be to only produce marketing content that wouldn’t damage your reputation or harm your brand if it was shown publicly.
I say originally because Instagram caught wind of what Snapchat was doing and quickly added Instagram Stories which offer similar functionality, with the added bonus that they are easily searchable. Now Snapchat has some other interesting features like Spectacles by Snapchat that set them apart from the competition in other ways (for now).
If you’ve never used Snapchat before and need a more basic overview, first I’d suggest just downloading it—it’s fairly intuitive. But if you need more help, check out this easy to use guide.
Snapchat vs. Instagram: What’s the Difference?
Snapchat and Instagram are both popular among a wide range of audiences, and both can be advantageous for your marketing strategy. But just because you can advertise on a platform doesn’t mean that you should. Especially if your marketing department is small or you have limited capacity. Key differences between Snapchat and Instagram should be considered before allocating your marketing dollars.
Snapchat boasts an impressive 187 million daily users, but Instagram is significantly larger, with 400 million daily users. Snapchat is the app for Generation Y, as these graphs show, while Instagram outperforms Snapchat for Millennials, Gen X, Boomers, and beyond. Despite that fact that Instagram has three times as many users as Snapchat, the younger demographic still prefers customizable but short-lived snaps over Instagram photos and videos. Of course, all of this may change as the platforms go head to head in their competition for key age groups. I wouldn’t be surprised to find significant usage increases for either platform, but Instagram in particular, as they pivot to counter Snapchats new features.
Snapchat Users by Age
Instagram Users by Age
Pro Tip: Instagram offers the ability to reach more people, plus its ad platform is integrated with Facebook, making campaigns on both platforms incredibly simple. However, Snapchat may be better suited for humorous, silly, and goofy ad content due to its filters and custom effects.
Both Snapchat and Instagram usage increases significantly at the $70k mark when viewed through the lens of household income. But Instagram usage increases significantly again at the $100k threshold, perhaps due to the way Instagram lends itself to conspicuous consumption and “Instagram celebrities” who show off their style with photos and videos that anyone can see.
Snapchat Users by HHI
Instagram Users by HHI
Pro Tip: Lifestyle brands should focus on Instagram, while raw, authentic brands may perform better on Snapchat, where live content is more common.
Global penetration is where Instagram clearly wins over Snapchat. Both do well in the US, with Snapchat’s 109.5M users against Instagram’s 121M, but Instagram’s popularity in countries like India, Brazil, and Indonesia make it a clear winner if your goal is to target users in these up-and-coming economies.
Snapchat Usage by Country
Instagram Usage by Country
Pro Tip : When targeting consumers in other countries, remember that messages are perceived differently in other places. What works in the US may not be appropriate somewhere else, and may actually damage your brand and hurt sales. It’s best to work with local experts when marketing internationally.
On Instagram, browsing photos and videos is half the fun. If the people you follow haven’t posted anything interesting in a while, you can always tap the magnifying glass at the bottom of your screen to access Search & Explore and scroll curated content to your heart’s content. If you’re new to Instagram the content may seem random at first, but the app is actually aggregating your previous hashtags and search terms to present you with content that may be of interest to you. One of the key benefits to using Instagram is that your content doesn’t disappear, so it can be found organically by users who type in the hashtags you’re using. Plus, you can link to our website on your profile. Snapchat doesn’t offer nearly the same functionality, making Instagram the clear winner in this category. For example, when I’m browsing Instagram looking for inspiration for a new hike in the Cascade Mountains, it’s not uncommon to see an ad for hiking boots, an ice axe, or some other type of gear I might be interested in. As a business owner, I can tell you from personal experience that creating these ads are simple, and they are quite effective.
Snapchat is another story. While there is a Discover function in the bottom right corner, it is not nearly as user friendly as Instagram’s Search & Explore, and due to the temporary nature of Snapchat stories, the depth and breadth of content isn’t there. The closest thing you’ll find is the “For You” section, which contains content from celebrities and companies like Now This and ESPN. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t advertise, however. Snapchat offers your business the unique opportunity to create geofilters that are location specific—meaning you can create a custom Snapchat filter people can use when they’re at an event you sponsor, or in other situations where someone might be inspired to send a snap from your locale. You can also sponsor lenses, which allow users to modify their own images by changing their eyes, mouth, or hair for example. This feature comes at a hefty cost, however, and is likely to be more appealing to larger brands.
Every good marketing strategy begins and ends with consumers. If you’re going to reach them, you have to know where they are. These statistics can help you discern where to make the best use of your marketing budget, but the next step is to really get to know your consumers and create the kind of content that converts.
Note: This article first appeared on the SF Gate's Hearst Bay Blog.
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In a recent episode of On Being, Harvard psychologist Dr. Mahzarin Banaji explains that the unconscious mind is probably nothing more than a preference for the familiar. Our eyes see something with a certain feature or pattern somewhere, and when we see it again, we like it because it is familiar.
Why am I bringing up psychology in a post about remarketing? Because Dr. Banaji’s description of the unconscious provides the scientific basis for why remarketing works.
Let’s back up a little bit. You may be reading this and wondering, “What is remarketing?”
I like to think of it as continuing the conversation with a potential customer. Another way of putting it is marketing to the same person multiple times.
You’ve experienced this yourself. Think of that time you were on Amazon searching for a widget, and then several days later ads for that widget popped up on your Facebook feed.
Or you were driving down the freeway and you see multiple billboards for the same restaurant chain.
Or you saw an ad online, drove past a sign spinner on a street corner, heard a sponsorship blurb on your favorite podcast, and received a coupon in the mail, all for the same product.
Yep, this multi-channel experience is also remarketing. Remarketing includes every form of communication that allows you to place your product in the mind of a consumer after their initial exposure to your brand.
You may be skeptical. I’ve had people respond to this concept with claims like, “I’m immune to marketing!” Or “The more I see an ad, the more annoyed I get!”
Sorry, the simple fact is, remarketing works. And the reason it works is because it appeals to the subconscious. Remember how we started this article? Our unconscious mind tells us to like things that are familiar. So even if our conscious mind is annoyed by repeated ads, our unconscious mind will over time associate the brand with a greater return on investment.
Given the choice between a generic or private label product, and a “name brand” product (characterized by a large marketing/remarketing budget) at the same price point, most people (60%) will purchase the name brand. And why is that? At least in part, our purchasing habits are formed by our unconscious minds’ preference for the comfort and security of the familiar.
Okay, so now that we’ve learned the science behind remarketing, what are some good strategies? Unless you work at one of the top US brands, there’s a good chance you don’t have national recognition. What this really means is that you should be using remarketing more than your competitors, since you can’t rely on name recognition alone.
Here are some simple ways you can use remarketing to grow your business and get an edge on the competition regardless of the size of your company.
Creating an email capture on your website is so simple that I shouldn’t even have to mention it, but I do. If you don’t have a means of collecting email addresses from interested consumers and pushing out ads, newsletters, and promotions, you are missing out on a scalable, cost effective means of remarketing. While one option is just to put a form on your site where people can subscribe, you’ll have a better response rate if you create a special offer, like a 20% off coupon.
Since I’ve already addressed how to create a digital marketing strategy in another post (just substitute “winery” for whatever business you run), I won’t go into the specifics of it here. Suffice it to say that you should see an increase in conversions once you start using email, and the more sophisticated your campaigns get, the more effective your remarketing will become.
I want to be careful here, because unwanted calls from telemarketers are the bane of modern existence. What I am not talking about are robocalls from purchased call lists. Instead I have in view carefully managed calls that offer a clear benefit to recipients.
Growing up, I took 4-H animals to the county fair every summer. During free time between caring for and showing my animals I would wander the vendor tents. You could always find branded company swag being given away, like balloons, magnets, and the ever-popular yardstick that my brother and I used as swords (until our parents found out and confiscated them). Looking back though, the most effective businesses were the ones that held drawings for free or discounted product. If you would write down your phone number on a piece of paper and stick it in a large jar set out for that purpose, you’d be entered to win something like $500 off of a new roof or a free double pane window (up to 48 inches wide).
These contests were not created out of the goodness of someone’s heart, and they weren’t just about increasing brand awareness either. The genius of a drawing like this is that the only people who would enter it are willingly confessing that they are interested in your product or service. Who takes the time to write down their phone number to win a discount on a new roof, if they aren’t in the market for a roof?
In this situation, remarketing with a phone call is likely to be not only received, but welcomed, and has a higher probability of leading to a conversion. The lesson here is to be strategic about not only capturing phone numbers, but also calling them.
Remarketing has become almost synonymous with SEO (search engine optimization) in some circles. That’s why I waited to introduce it until after we had already addressed email and phone, so that you would be open to these other methods before getting caught up in the details of SEO remarketing.
Since Google Adwords is both popular and easy to use, let’s use it as our example.
Google offers five basic ways to remarket:
-Remarketing lists for search ads
-Customer list remarketing
Both dynamic and standard remarketing on Adwords are summed up in this image:
The difference between Standard and Dynamic remarketing is that with dynamic, Adwords tracks which products or services people view on your website, and targets specific ads to them based on what they viewed. Using standard remarketing only, Adwords treats everyone on your site the same way, regardless of what they viewed or interacted with, simply pushing ads to them on the Google Display Network (these are the Google-powered ads you see on random websites when browsing the web).
Unlike Standard and Dynamic remarketing, which place ads on the Display Network, Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) places your ads on Google searches. When a person visits your website, looks at a particular product, and then leaves to search for a similar product elsewhere, RLSA allows you to place specific ads on the Google search page pertaining to your product. Think of that time you were looking at a Yeti cooler on Amazon for an upcoming camping trip, decided to google reviews of other coolers, but kept seeing Yeti ads on the Google search page. That’s RSLA, and it is very effective, particularly if your pricing is competitive.
Video remarketing is fairly straightforward. As the name implies, it involves showing your ads to people who have viewed your videos on YouTube, not only on YouTube, but also across the Display Network.
Customer list remarketing builds on the email and phone numbers you captured using methods we talked about earlier in this article. To utilize customer list remarketing, you’ll create a list using the contact information you collected, and when those users are signed into Google, your ads will populate for them across the spectrum of Google’s network.
There’s a lot about remarketing that this article didn’t cover, but that’s okay. My goal is not to overwhelm you with information, but to provide you with a basic introduction that can help you start increasing conversions. If there’s one takeaway, it’s that remarketing works, and you should start using it right away.
This article first appeared on the SF Gate's Hearst Bay Blog.
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Note: This was first published in another form here.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, when a company is not getting the results they want from an advertising campaign, it is because they lack a clear strategy. This is true whether the ad campaign is digital, print, or both.
It’s helpful to think of an advertising strategy in terms of six stages: Nonexistent, Basic, Functional, Optimized, Integrated, and Strategic (credit goes to my friend Hazel Cobb for helping arrive at these terms). Think of these stages as general categories that overlap, rather than distinctly separated phases of business.
Stage 0: Nonexistent
Before entering the Basic stage your business exists, but a Google search would tell people little to nothing about it. Maybe you have a listing on Yelp, but it contains minimal information and no promotions. Depending on your business model, your company may be doing well enough in this stage, but if growth is your desired outcome, you should try to move out of this stage as quickly as possible.
Stage 1: Basic
Your business moves to the Basic stage when you create a website, start a Facebook page, begin handing out flyers, advertise in a print publication, join Instagram, or make a Twitter account. Preferably in that order. Your content should include things like:
You can also create advertisements and hand them out on sidewalks, particularly in areas frequented by your target clientele. Additionally, you can target your audience by placing ads in your local newspaper or industry magazines.
In the Basic stage, you are doing your best just to produce something that reaches someone. You recognize that your marketing and advertising isn’t what it could be, but you don’t have the bandwidth yet to make the necessary changes. To move to the next stage, you need to create the capacity and operations to maintain a regular cadence of content, with the goal of posting at least once daily on social media, and running print ad campaigns that make sense with your budget.
When you have a print piece ready, you can use the U.S. Postal Service to send it to every address within a precise zip code for under .20 cents a piece (plus postage).
Stage 2: Functional
Once you can consistently meet the requirements of the Basic stage (regular digital postings and print campaigns), you have moved into the functional stage. But, don’t stop here, you are still in the early stages of a strategy that is truly effective. Now it is time to start digging into your data and asking questions like: What kind of engagement are we getting? Are we reaching the right people? Do we need to tweak what we are doing to reach our target audience? For digital, you can gather this information through Google Analytics and by analyzing the interactions on social media. For print, you can use unique offer codes and URLs to track effectiveness. Alternatively, if you use an agency for print campaigns, ask them to provide you with the data.
When creating a marketing campaign, start by determining your product/market fit. Are you selling top-shelf products fighting for share in the luxury goods market? Or, are we somewhere closer to the bottom, competing for space at Walmart and the .99 Cent Store? Your answer to these questions should inform where you place your advertising and how you set your parameters. For print, you can hit your demographic by targeting zip codes. A good direct mail company can help you hit homes in regions where average income matches your prices. For digital, the same principles apply. When purchasing ads on social media, set the parameters around the demographic your brand best suits.
Stage 3: Optimized
Now that your marketing strategy is functional and you have begun gathering data, it’s time to optimize. What kinds of trends do you notice? Can you predict whether a print or digital ad will be successful yet among your target audience?
Ideally, you are running simultaneous A/B campaigns testing offers, subject lines, and graphics. However, even if your business isn’t capable of working at this level of complexity, you can still keep track of the type of content that works—that brings in customers, gets likes, shares, and comments—and create more of it. By optimizing your content, your ad campaigns will consistently hit your metrics. I like this flowchart for its simplicity (although it doesn’t include print, you get the idea).
Stage 4: Integrated
Integration means coordinating your messages across all platforms so that your target audience is hit with consistent, repeated messaging. Whether your ideal customer is checking email, browsing social media, flipping through their mail, reading the newspaper, browsing through a magazine, or walking past a poster in a storefront, we want them to be hit with the same consistent messaging and branding about your business. The goal is to plant an implicit, strategic thought in their mind. For example, you may want to brand your business as “The best place for dinner with friends,” “The tech product with the best value,” or “Fun events for every holiday.”
The most successful brands are those that have chosen a message that differentiates them from competitors, so pay attention to what other businesses in your area are doing and set your business apart. Hopefully, integration is not an entirely new idea at this stage. Ideally, as you have moved through the previous stages, you have used consistent messaging in your print and digital campaigns even though that has not been our focus.
Stage 5: Strategic
In the Optimized stage you learned how to create successful one-off campaigns, and in the Integrated stage, you began integrating those campaigns horizontally across channels and platforms. The Strategic stage is where everything comes together across time. It involves mapping out a marketing strategy over the course of at least one calendar year and identifying the messaging and the treatment stream that will allow you to hit your revenue targets.
Instead of creating successful one-off campaigns, you are thinking big picture: how does seasonality affect sales? Can we plan a special promotion during a slow month to drive sales? What kind of treatment stream will turn first-time visitors into repeat customers? Are there products or events that you should promote around major holidays?
In some ways, implementing an annual strategy is easier than running multiple one-off ad campaigns. Once you have created the framework, it can be repeated year after year with tweaks and changes based on your post-campaign learnings.
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How Network Geofencing Can Help Wineries and Tasting Rooms Increase Foot Traffic (Repost from Hearst Bay Blog)
As the most substantial growth period in U.S. wine consumption draws to an end, California wineries are looking for ways to take mobile advertising to the next level. Only a few years ago, all you needed was a website to increase foot traffic to your tasting room. Today, even the smallest, most boutique wineries are using best practices like brand storytelling to optimize their websites, and offer rewards like free tastings to increase the number of customer interactions on sites like Yelp and Facebook. As a result, even wineries that have optimized their online presence are facing increased competition for coveted consumer attention.
Geofencing refers to the practice of setting up a virtual boundary around a business using GPS or RFID (radio frequency identification) that sends a text or notification to mobile devices that cross it.
How It Works
There are two basic types of geofencing: App-based and network-based. App-based geofencing, as the name implies, requires building an app, and linking your geofence to the app. Because it tends to be more expensive for businesses (you have to create an app) and requires users to have the app installed and running to receive push notifications, we don't recommend app-based geofencing, and the remainder of this article will focus on network geofencing.
To receive calls and text messages, your mobile device is continuously communicating with nearby cell towers that accurately triangulate your position. If your device encounters a Wi-Fi signal or SSID, it captures that data and updates your location with even more precision. These services are known as “region monitoring” and are the reason your phone knows where you are at any given time.
Network-based geofencing utilizes these Wi-Fi and cell tower communications to track when a mobile device enters your pre-defined target area and trigger a response, usually a push notification. Because this type of geofencing doesn’t require consumers to download an app, visit a website, or match with a search algorithm, it is compatible with 92% of U.S. smartphones. As a result, Salesforce reports that 53% of consumers visited a specific retailer after receiving a geofencing alert, with 50% admitting that their visit was unplanned. Perhaps most importantly, Salesforce reports that 80% of consumers who use location-based services indicate that they want push notifications from businesses—meaning that your ad is not viewed as intrusive spam or junk mail, and many companies report a 90-97% read rate.
Let’s take a look at a hypothetical case study to see how this might work:
Vintage Vines Case Study
Vintage Vines is a small, family-owned winery that just opened a tasting room in Sonoma, CA. Because of budget limitations and real estate availability, this tasting room is located just off of the main drag, a short block and a half away from the town center where the most popular tasting rooms are nestled around the open and inviting Sonoma Plaza. Although Vintage Vines has already earned high reviews on Yelp and has a best practices traditional marketing strategy that includes actively engaging their social media followers and leveraging their wine club, the owners believe they are only getting 60% of the foot traffic that similar tasting rooms nearer the plaza receive.
After experimenting with online ads and free wine tasting offers on Yelp with only limited success, they hear about geomarketing from a customer and decide to try it. After reaching out to a few different agencies, they settle on one that helps them create a geofence that includes the central walking zones of downtown Sonoma, as well as two streets that are popular because of the free parking they offer. Based on prior research with their customers, they decide that the geofence will trigger a push notification offering a complimentary glass of wine with any tasting purchase. The ad will read “You are near our 2nd Ave locally owned tasting room. Come in today and receive a free glass of wine with any $10 tasting.”
Choosing a Saturday in June for the first test of their new geofence marketing system, the owners of Vintage Vines experienced both trepidation and excitement as they waited for the final tally of customers at closing time. As they wave goodbye to the last smiling tourist of the night, their sommelier hands them a piece of paper with the day’s tally on it. They had served almost three times the usual number of customers! Their experiment with geofencing was a success, and they looked forward to increased foot traffic throughout the rest of the season.
Why Geofencing Works
Geofencing works because it targets people who are already in the vicinity of your business. In places like Sonoma, Napa, and Paso Robles, where wine tasting is the main draw for tourists, a high percentage of the people passing through a geofence boundary will already have a strong inclination towards doing a wine tasting. A push notification from your business may be the only thing needed to direct them towards your particular winery or tasting room rather than a competitor’s. Even if you are operating your tasting room in an area that is outside of traditional tourism zones, demand is high enough among Californians in the Bay Area that geofencing can increase sales almost anywhere.
Consumers in 2018 are savvy, and anything that looks like an ad goes straight into the recycling bin in most households and workplaces. The same is true of digital advertisements that make it through the spam filters in most email inboxes. However, even though geofencing has been around for a few years, the novelty has not worn off, and conversion rates remain high, while costs are up to 57 times lower than other forms of digital advertising. Additionally, there are signs that it is not the novelty that makes geofencing useful, but rather the focused targeting that the technology allows. Wineries and tasting rooms that use geofencing and push notifications to offer discounts can elicit excitement and even gratitude among consumers seeking enjoyable experiences and affordable luxuries. After all, who wouldn’t be happy to discover a free or discounted wine tasting when walking through town on vacation?
A Creative Solution for Price Sensitive Connoisseurs
Silicon Valley Bank has identified a growing “frugal-hedonist” consumer category that is far more price sensitive than traditional age-segmented cohorts. The growth of this category is reflected in the decreasing number of visits to pricey wine regions like Napa and Sonoma, where the standard tasting fee is $38 and $21 respectively, and the influx of visits to wine regions like Oregon and Washington, where standard fees are $13 and $9, making wine tasting more of an affordable luxury.
Because geofences can be set up anywhere and anytime, creative marketing solutions for wineries seeking increased sales might include setting up geofences around strategically targeted grocery and liquor stores with push notifications linking to coupons for bottle purchases. Alternatively, you might even consider setting up a geofence around indirect competitors like restaurants, breweries, and taprooms to entice visitors who are looking for a casual and relaxed evening drinking with friends.
When creating a push notification for customers, ensure that you stand out from the crowd by creating advertisements that have an emotional connection with customers. Wineries can appeal to shared values by using terms like “sustainable,” “organic,” “family-owned,” and “female-owned” (of course, these should already be part of your brand story). Moreover, you can tie promotions to holidays or special events, like the Women’s March, Breast Cancer Awareness, and Red Nose Day.
In addition to using geofencing to push advertising to nearby consumers, you can also use the same technology to keep track of foot traffic at your competitors’ locations. This technique can help you track the effectiveness of your ad campaigns. For example, if you are having a slow day, but your competitor sees the usual amount of traffic, you should try a different push notification. However, if you are both seeing reduced traffic, there may be seasonal or regional reasons why customers are not visiting that day.
Increasing Direct Sales
Industry experts have been clear about changing consumer preferences in the wine industry. As millennials grow into the largest segment of the market (forecasted to occur in 2026), wineries that depend on the tasting room experience as the primary path to direct sales would do well to take note. Millennials are more price sensitive than other cohorts, and seek both a luxury adult beverage experience and “a good deal.” Wineries interested in increasing direct sales should experiment with using geofences to offer promotional coupons for bottle and bulk discounts.
In the crowded market of Northern California, where wineries and tasting rooms draw 23.6 million people each year, geofencing offers a way for wineries and tasting rooms to customize their marketing strategies to target consumers at key locations with custom advertisements. Such efforts are almost guaranteed to net a positive return on investment. Entering this location-based advertising space now, while the technology is still relatively young, also gives wineries and tasting rooms an opportunity to gain market advantage and be ahead of the curve.
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How to Grow Your Financial Services Business Through Content Marketing (Repost from Hearst Bay Blog)
This article first appeared here.
It goes without saying that businesses in the financial services industry have issues building trust with clients. Investment firms are frequently in the headlines, but not because of their above-market ROI. The only time most consumers hear about these businesses is when news breaks about fraud, lost retirement savings, or misappropriated funds. Ask a person on the street to name a financial services company, and they are likely to mention Bernie Madoff, AIG, Freddie Mac, or Lehman Brothers—firms that entered the public eye through notoriety, not reliability.
It’s no wonder that trust is absent.
Content marketing, defined in its purest form as “promotion through value-adding content,” is an effective way to increase trust and grow your business against this backdrop. What follows are some tested and true content marketing principles that have worked for my clients, and can work for you too.
1. Content Marketing Should Provide Clarity
The sad truth is, most people are clueless when it comes to their finances. Once they move beyond balancing a checkbook or paying off basic debt, they are lost. While many factors play into the confusion over finances, one of the most significant is the use of too much technical language by financial professionals. Terminology that is precise to you and others in your field may make your clients’ eyes glaze over.
This is bad news for your company.
When potential clients are confused by the language on your website, they are more likely to either give up their search in frustration or navigate to a competitor’s website where information is easier to understand.
The solution for financial services businesses is to create content that swaps technical lingo for simple, clear communication in terms that are easy to comprehend. For example, instead of using “bottom-up investing” to talk about an investing strategy, say that your company prefers to focus on specific, high performing firms, rather than on industries. Instead of “disintermediation,” explain that funds are being moved away from banks and into investment opportunities with higher yields. And when talking about “risk,” be sure to clarify that you are not talking about the risk of losing everything, but rather the potential that an investment has to deliver expected returns. The more clarity you can offer potential clients, the more trust you will earn.
Content marketing can help you answer common questions and provide clarity on important issues, not only on your own website but also across the Internet and in trade publications. Plus, strong content will increase your SEO ranking and position your company as a subject matter expert in your industry.
2. Content Marketing Should Provide Real Value
The educated client is a loyal client. When you can explain the financial markets to your clients or teach them about products and services they can use to grow their businesses and increase their wealth, you are providing real value and empowering them. And empowerment builds trust.
A recent conversation with the president of a rapidly growing company illustrates this:
He told me his business had quadrupled in size over the past four years. But despite an increase in revenue, clients, and employees, he was not making any more money. In fact, he was working more than he ever had before, yet his business was not able to get ahead. It turns out he was great at building relationships with clients and providing them quality services and products, but because finances were difficult to understand, he “flew by the seat of his pants” in that department. When he finally brought on a financial consultant who was able to educate him about his needs, he was able to pinpoint the problem, take ownership of his company’s finances (which in this case, meant outsourcing them to the consultant), and see profitable growth for his company.
Some financial services companies may be hesitant to provide too much value to prospective clients for fear they will end up working for free. In reality, the more value you provide up front, the more likely people are to become your clients.
As another example, a recent study by Financial Engines showed that 1 in 4 workers is leaving “free” money on the table by not taking advantage of company 401(k)s, including matching contributions. The total in unclaimed funds that American workers could be putting towards their retirement? Upwards of $24 billion dollars! This is a massive opportunity for financial services firms to grow their clientele by educating companies about the shortcomings in their benefits promotions. Or, if your business is focused on individuals, you might grow your company by creating content that educates employees on how to take full advantage of retirement benefits.
Content marketing allows you to proactively reach out to potential clients with information that is of real value to them, which in turn, makes them view your company in a positive light. Also, educating prospects before they are your clients can weed out unqualified leads, and save you time and money when they do come to you for services.
3. Content Marketing Should Connect
Despite the popular claim that business isn’t personal, the truth is just the opposite, especially in financial services where people are trusting someone—you—with their hard-earned cash. Potential clients may browse your website or walk in your door because of the name on your building, but they turn over their money because they feel connected to you on a personal level, and you have earned their trust.
The StoryStudio at the Hearst Bay Area does a great job at building trust by creating emotional attachment through stories. For example, their article on Pioneer Bank focuses on the benefits clients receive from this local bank that they would not get at industry titans like Chase and Bank of America. Readers encounter engaging testimonies from clients whose success was made possible through a partnership with Pioneer Bank. In the process, they learn about the bank and its services and begin to view it as a trustworthy institution.
Content marketing like this works because it allows potential clients to empathize with the stories being told. Another example by StoryStudio is an article about how women can take ownership of their finances. This feature was sponsored by Michel Financial Group. Instead of focusing on the sponsoring company, the article targets a particular client base (women) and empowers them to prepare for the unexpected through financial planning. Unobtrusive links to the Michel Financial Group website are then presented as an asset to readers. By sponsoring this article, Michel Financial Group presents itself as a company that cares about the well-being of women everywhere and wants to help create a worry-free future. This creates a connection not just with women, but also with financially minded readers who have a wife, mother, or daughter they care about.
The results of these two content marketing articles were over one million impressions and thousands of brand engagements for their respective financial services firms—far above the industry norm. Why did these articles work? The content showed how the products and services of the sponsoring companies could ease suffering, relieve anxiety, or fix a problem that potential clients maybe didn’t even realize they had, and in so doing, created a personal connection.
This Thai life insurance commercial was shared by millions around the world because of its emotional connection with viewers.
The adage says that trust is earned, not given. Hopefully, after reading this article, you have a better sense of how your financial services firm can use content marketing to build trust and grow your business. Remember, good content marketing provides clarity, adds value, and connects emotionally.
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The Main Differences Between Facebook and Instagram That You Need to Know (Repost from Hearst Bay Blog)
This article first appeared here.
The Main Differences Between Facebook and Instagram You Need to Know
Instagram is the new Facebook for the up-and-coming generation of consumers, but if you are a traditional business owner, there is a good chance that you are not taking advantage of either social media platform like you should.
Before we offer some tips on how you can better promote your business on Facebook and Instagram, let’s back up a step and look at why you should use social media marketing.
Social Media Marketing is Effective
Conversion rates for social media ads can be eight times more effective than other online advertising. One of the main reasons for this is that social media platforms present relevant ads customized by user-curated preferences. How does that work? Every time a Facebook or Instagram user “likes” an image, joins a group, or comments on a page, that information gets put into an algorithm. When you create an ad campaign on Facebook, you can choose to target users based on that data. For example, if you are trying to sell custom leather motorcycle jackets, you might target people who have liked Harley Davidson, Motorcycles, Honda Shadow, Road Warriors, or a host of other related topics. The more specific you can be about your target customer’s interests, the higher your conversion rate is likely to be, resulting in a greater ROI.
Pro tip: Sneak a peek at the likes and interests of your top customers on Facebook and Instagram, and then target those topics in your ad campaign.
Social Media Marketing is Expansive
Facebook currently boasts nearly 2 billion monthly users, while Instagram has 700 million monthly users and is on trend to add another 100 million every six months. That’s almost one-third of the earth’s population, and the number of users is increasing daily. In other words, unless your target customer is a Luddite (in which case you can stop reading) or lives in China, North Korea, or Iran (where Facebook and Instagram are banned), he or she is either on these platforms or will be soon. But don’t let the massive, global scale of social media scare you off. You can narrow the scope of your ad campaigns by gender, keywords, interests, and region. So even if you are a local company that does business within a specific zip code, social media ads can help you find new paying customers.
Pro tip: Don’t market to everyone—set the correct age, gender, and geography demographics of your target customers before you start your ad campaign.
Social Media Marketing is Easy to Use
Anyone can create a marketing campaign on Facebook or Instagram in just minutes. Not convinced? Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, and ad campaigns for both platforms can be set up here on the Ads Manager page. Give it a try right now. There is even a “Quick Creation” button if the standard setup process feels like too much work. And don’t worry if you have a limited budget. Often you can run a successful ad campaign for mere pennies per click (although in more competitive markets, you should expect to spend more), and both platforms allow you to set a cap on the amount spent per day, so you can control the pace at which your money gets spent.
Still, if your budget allows for it, you may benefit from hiring an agency to run your ad campaigns for you. A good agency will be able to increase your ROI, as they have the expertise to ensure that your ads are visually appealing and your target demographic will view those ads.
Pro tip: Facebook offers free ad credit for first-time users. Use the principles in this article, and experiment with your first ad campaign for free!
Facebook vs. Instagram: What’s the Difference?
Now let’s look at the fundamental differences between Facebook and Instagram. As already mentioned, ad campaigns for both platforms can get created in the same place; however, that does not mean your company should be advertising on both platforms. Several factors should be considered when deciding where to spend your budget.
Age may be the most important demographic distinguishing between Facebook and Instagram. As the following graphs reveal, Facebook skews significantly older than Instagram. Although the majority of Millennials uses both platforms, Instagram's user base decreases drastically after the 18-29-year-old age group, while Facebook maintains a significant user base even among the 65+ age group. Under 18, Instagram is the clear winner. Primary research reveals that despite more than 80% of all high school students in the U.S. having Facebook accounts, most prefer Instagram for daily use.
Facebook Users by Age
Instagram Users by Age
Pro tip: Are your customers over 50? Advertise on Facebook, not Instagram.
Facebook users are spread almost equally across household incomes, so businesses can be confident their target customers have a presence on the platform. Instagram users cluster slightly higher on the scale, with the highest percentage of adapters (60%) being in the $100k+ household income segment.
Facebook Users by HHI
Instagram Users by HHI
Savvy business do not just pursue households with the largest income, however. Target your product or service at the specific segment you wish to reach. High end, niche brands should target households at the top of the income scale, while budget brands should focus on the bottom of the scale. Some firms, like Proctor & Gamble, have mastered a high/low approach, in which they sell to both ends of the market with different products. Be clear about who you want to target, and direct your marketing campaigns towards them.
Pro tip: Lifestyle brands should focus on Instagram.
The countries with the greatest number of Facebook users are India and the United States, with Brazil and Indonesia next in line. This reflects population size, as well as economic well-being and Internet freedom (Facebook and Instagram are blocked in China, but China's most popular social media platform, WeChat, has nearly one billion users).
Facebook Usage by Country
Instagram Usage by Country
Pro tip: Use both Facebook and Instagram to penetrate international markets with ease and within budget.
Engagement: Facebook's Scope vs. Instagram's Volume
Facebook's larger audience means that ad campaigns have the potential to reach a larger audience. Plus, Facebook also offers several methods of interaction, including feed ads, right-hand-side ads, business pages, groups, and a chat function. This makes Facebook better at distributing information, as lengthy text can be displayed, articles and web pages can be linked to directly, and businesses and consumers can hold real-time conversations.
Despite Facebook’s broader scope, Instagram is better at high volume engagement. A survey of random companies reveals that company and brand likes may be drastically different across Facebook and Instagram.
Brand Average Likes Per Post on Instagram and Facebook
Instagram users not only seem to be more generous with their likes, but they also spend significantly more time on company pages once they navigate there. Traffic from Facebook averages 105.55 seconds per site visit, while traffic from Instagram averages 192.04 seconds per visit. Although historically it has been more difficult to attract traffic from Instagram than from Facebook, Instagram now allows users to pay to boost posts, which includes adding a direct link to a post, rather than relying on the notorious “link in bio” tag we all know so well.
Content: Humor on Facebook, Positive Surprises on Instagram
When designing ads, keep in mind the type of engagement users prefer on each platform. Instagram tends to favor positive and surprising content, while Facebook lends itself to entertaining content that can easily be shared and discussed. Do not limit your campaign to images—videos on both Facebook and Instagram result in 62% higher engagement than photos alone. Regardless of whether you are creating a video or an image, be sure to include visual signals about brand identity, including color scheme and logos. Users should be able to identify your content the instant they come across it, even if scrolling on a mobile device. For videos, this means creating content that is designed to be viewed with the sound off, and that intrigues viewers within the first two seconds, leading them to click the ad for the full viewing experience.
Pro tip: Are you marketing fashion or beauty products? Instagram is the platform for you. Are you marketing services? Facebook is likely to return better results.
In Conclusion: Two Overlapping Social Media Platforms with Key Differences
Hopefully, it’s clear now why you should be using Facebook and Instagram to market your company (it’s effective, expansive, and easy to use). But you should also have a better sense of how to create quality content, and how to decide between advertising on Facebook, Instagram, or both.
This article first appeared on the Hearst Bay Area blog.
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Sustainable Business Practices are ways of doing business that are Socially, Environmentally, and Ethically Responsible (also called the S.E.E.R. Model). Companies that operate using sustainable business practices are worth watching, as they frequently have better long term results than companies that focus on profits alone. Why? Because profit-centered thinking often results in a short term focus at the expense of long term growth. A recent study reports that 86% of CFOs would not make a long term investment that would result in a NPV (Net Present Value- a measurement of all cash inflow, minus all cash outflow) gain in 3-5 years if it hurt quarterly earnings. To put that in layman's terms, most CFOs in this study said they would sacrifice long term profits (if you want to consider 3-5 years long term) in order to look good in the present quarter. This type of thinking is absurd, and reflects individualistic thinking in which leadership is only concerned about increasing their wealth, getting a golden parachute, and then exiting the company before profits go down.
Thankfully, there are signs that times are changing, as more business schools emphasize theories of the firm like the S.E.E.R. Model and encourage sustainable practices that consider all stakeholders, rather than just focusing on shareholder wealth (a shareholder is a person who owns stock in a company. A stakeholder is a person who is somehow affected by a company, including stock owners, employees, business partners, local community, suppliers, etc).
Body Glove is a prime example of a privately owned company that operates with sustainable business practices, although here I want to focus on just one. When Body Glove first started selling wetsuits online, their salespeople were concerned about the potential loss of commission. When they mentioned this to Body Glove's president, Russ Lesser, he designed a system that would not only continue paying commission to salespeople, it would also pay commission to local stores within the zip code that the wetsuit was shipped to, in the form of account credit. The result was a win-win-win-win scenario:
-Customers were able to buy online (win!)
-Salespeople continued to make commissions (win!)
-Retailers received account credit (win!)
-Body Glove made online sales, increased brand loyalty with retailers and salespeople, and because retailers had account credit to spend, they sold more inventory (win!)
Had they focused solely on profit, Body Glove would likely have lost salespeople, and potentially retailers and even customers. By showing commitment to their shareholders and creating a cutting edge sustainable business practice, Body Glove has taken steps to ensure their ongoing competitiveness in an increasingly crowded marketplace.
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Whether your business is selling a product or a service, an online presence is vital if you want to maximize your growth. Putting your business on Yelp is a quick, easy way to get online, reach more customers, and if you have a company website, boost your SEO.
More than 142 million users use Yelp every month to find crowd-sourced reviews of local businesses. That’s 43% of the United States. The majority of users (66%) are college educated, 44% have an income level over $100K, and age is fairly evenly distributed across the spectrum.
According to a BCG study of 4,300 small businesses, the average Yelp listing results in an additional $8,000 in annual revenue. And a Harvard Business Review study on restaurants showed that each star increase can result in a 5-9% increase in annual revenue. Taking into account that setting up your profile takes less than 5 minutes, it is definitely worth the effort.
It Doesn’t Matter How Great Your Product Is If People Can’t Find You
If you show up in a Yelp search result, someone in your area wants to buy what you are selling. That means you are missing out on potential customers if you aren’t listed. Particularly if there are few competitors in your area.
This is a screen shot of the results when I search for “beef jerky” near my home. You wouldn’t know it, but there’s a boutique beef jerky store with a fantastic product right in the center of the shaded area. Since it doesn’t have a Yelp listing, interested consumers who searched for the product this company sells, in the area the store is located will spend their money somewhere else. It doesn’t matter how great your product is if people can’t find you.
List Your Company, Even If You Don’t Have a Storefront
It’s worth listing your company even if you do most of your business online and don’t have an actual storefront. Adding your business to Yelp not only increases visibility to Yelpers, it also boosts your listing on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Plus, if you are willing to let people drop by your location or make deliveries, you increase the odds of local sales and save on shipping costs.
How To List Your Company On Yelp
As I mentioned, it takes less than 5 minutes to set up a Yelp profile, and it’s totally free. Simply go here and click the “Claim my business button,” then fill out your name, address, business category, and website. Yelp will verify within 1-2 business days.
If you decide to invest a little more time on Yelp, you can also respond to customers, offer paid promotions (which I usually don’t recommend), and take advantage of free analytics.
How to Get Positive Reviews
Yelp prohibits trading discounts or services in exchange for positive reviews, so how can you ensure that your company maintains a positive rating? The same way you ensure that you stay in business in the first place—by keeping your customers happy. In my experience, when you exceed expectations, customers will be happy to leave a positive Yelp review if you ask them to.
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I’m convinced that everyone has a really great idea for a product or service that would make life just a little better. It wouldn’t even surprise me if you had two or three ideas right now that would somehow ease frustration, solve a problem, or streamline a complicated process. I’m also convinced that most people have an inner voice that whispers fear and doubt and keeps them from acting on their ideas. Today I want to highlight someone who ignored the voice of negativity and took action, becoming incredibly successful along the way.
When Sara Blakely first got the idea for seamless panties, she wasn’t the billionaire fashion guru that she is today. She was a door-to-door salesman selling fax machines, and she was irritated by the way her panties showed through her business suits. So what did she do? It wasn't complicated. She snipped the legs off some pantyhose and created a working prototype. When her prototype worked and she realized there was nothing like it on the market, she bought a “how-to” book at Barns & Noble and wrote her own patent application.
From there, it took persistence, hard work, and more than a little luck to build Spanx into a billion dollar company. But in my experience, most people never get to the critical first step of building a prototype.
So what would it take to create a prototype of one of your ideas? It might be as easy as cutting the legs off of a pair of pantyhose. But if you need more help, here are some practical takeaways from the Sara Blakely/Spanx story to give you guidance:
1) Pay attention to your "felt needs." If you experience frustration, chances are others do too, so find a solution that works and try to sell it. This is the core of entrepreneurship. Sara's problem? Visible panty lines. Her solution? Using thinner material.
2) Always be ready with an elevator pitch. When you have an idea or product, you need to develop a 60 second pitch clearly explaining the problem, the solution, and why your product is different than anything else on the market. You never know when you'll have a chance to pitch to potential backers.
3) If you get permission to give a pitch in person, do whatever it takes to make it happen. When Sara was finally given the chance to pitch to Neiman Marcus, she knew she wouldn’t get a second chance so she dropped everything, got on a plane and flew to Dallas
4) If you have a good pitch, but people aren't receiving it, figure out why. In Sara's case, it was a gender barrier. Men just don't have experience wearing panties, so when she pitched to men, they couldn't see the problem. When she finally pitched to a female buyer at Neiman Marcus, she had to take her into the women's restroom and show her how the product actually works to convince her to place the products.
5) Don't give up. Others may not give you the time of day, but if you know that your product is valuable and that there is demand for it, persevere. We all love overnight success stories, but most of the time what looks like a catapult to fortune and fame from the outside took years of hard work behind the scenes.
6) Just because you got your product into a store, doesn't mean you can relax. There's a lot of legwork necessary to make sure it sells and stays in the store. Sara got Spanx into department stores pretty fast, but they weren't selling because their placement was not intuitive for her customer base. She made it her full time job to stand in the department store telling people about her product, and even went so far as to move the display to a more prominent location without asking management's permission.
Do you have an entrepreneurial success story, or a question about how you can get started on your own path to success? Leave a comment, or click the contact button and get in touch. And be sure to share on Facebook and twitter!