How Analytics Is Transforming Customer Loyalty Programs

Customer loyalty programs are crucial.

The goal of loyalty initiatives is to engage, not pander more products to frequent buyers.

But how do you determine if your loyalty program is working well?

Use data to steer your customer loyalty program in the right direction.

McKinsey found that “executive teams that make extensive use of customer data analytics across all business decisions see a 126% profit improvement over companies that don’t.”

“By instituting a loyalty program, you not only improve customer appreciation of your business, but you also increase the chances that existing clients will share this joy with those close to them,” says Steve Olenski, a senior creative content strategist at Oracle Responsys.

Upgrade your loyalty program. Let’s explore how.

Focusing on Retention

One primary mission of loyalty programs is to increase customer retention. You want buyers to remain with your brand after they make a purchase.

For your business, higher retention means a steady flow of revenue. And it cuts down on your costs to constantly acquire new customers.

Therefore, your loyalty programs must be effective. They need to serve a real purpose for the consumer, not just your bottom line.

To provide the best customer experience, fuse data into your retention strategies. It will impact how your team approaches the buyer.

“Influencing customer loyalty in this way doesn’t require magic, it requires data – usually data that you already have but aren’t using to full advantage. Regardless of industry, most organizations today generate mountains of data,” writes Mike Flannagan, vice president and general manager of Cisco.

Uncover the correlation between customer characteristics and purchasing behavior. Assign your team to analyze the current data of your most valuable customers. And learn which characteristics these customers have in common and which traits are dissimilar.

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Consider data an ongoing process of observing, acting, and learning. Improve your loyalty programs by taking action on your insights. Measure success by monitoring your customer lifetime value, loyal customer rate, and redemption rate.

Start with retention. And let the data guide you to customer loyalty.

Targeted Product Recommendations

Research shows that “customers that are actively engaged with brands and their loyalty programs make 90% more frequent purchases, spend 60% more in each transaction and are five times more likely to choose the brand in the future.”

Sending targeted product recommendations is one way to keep customers engaged. Because if they are not receptive to certain products, consumers will feel more inclined to take their business elsewhere.

Integrate real-time purchase data with historical purchase data to make specific recommendations. For example, if a small business bought payroll software from you, their team might be interested in purchasing your series of on-demand accounting webinars.

“Consumer data must be analyzed to create highly targeted product recommendation offers. Analyze consumer data such as demographics, lifestyle, products purchased by category and type, frequency of purchase, and purchase value,” states Larisa Bedgood, director of marketing at DataMentors.

It’s key not to draw wild conclusions from one piece of data. Just because a Florida resident buys a winter coat doesn’t mean he wants to be flooded with similar recommendations. The consumer might have bought it as a gift for a friend living in Michigan.

So, gather multiple data points in order to make intelligent recommendations. You don’t want to frustrate loyal customers.

Your brand also can take a different approach. Use social proof to your advantage. If consumers are hesitant about particular products, remind them that other people are buying the product, too.

Home Depot uses this tactic by displaying a list of bestselling inventory. It persuades the customer to join the crowd.

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Sift through your analysis reports. Uncover the best product recommendations for your customers.

Timely Promotions

For customers, loyalty takes effort. They receive lots of promotional ads everyday to try products from other brands. Appreciating your consumer’s urge to resist the hype is important.

Mobile phone carriers lead the way in baiting consumers to switch their services. AT&T offers cell phone users up to $650 in credit just to say bye to T-Mobile, Sprint, or Verizon.

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To keep their loyalty, customers will hold your team accountable. They expect timely promotions that not only fit their buying habits but also their lifestyles.

At the end of the day, you want to deliver the right offer at the right time. This will increase the likelihood of the promotion redemption.

Monitor the sales data to learn when promotional codes are redeemed. Do your consumers use promotions more often in the morning? Right after a sales announcement? Or during summer months?

“By creating a time-sensitive sales promotion and having a good grasp on your target customer demographic, you’ll be able to incentivize the right actions, get them to respond, and grow your business in the process,” states Humayun Khan, former content marketer at Shopify.

Moreover, analyze your reports to discover the best product promotions. A timely discount matched with the wrong product won’t be useful for the consumer or your company.

Segment your customers to offer relevant discounts for multiple channels—in-store, online, and mobile. Every loyalty member doesn’t have to receive the same offer.

For instance, Starbucks offers its Gold members the opportunity to earn double stars. The coffee company surprises its loyal consumers on a different day each month. This technique increases the excitement and prepares customers to spend more money on a particular day.

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Don’t wait for your competitor to offer your customers a good deal. Start creating your own timely promotions.

Personalized Rewards

Everyone likes to be rewarded. It signifies that you’ve done something commendable. And incentives compel you to continue the rewarded behavior.

Recognize the value of your customer’s actions. Because that’s what you’re rewarding.

You can offer perks based on monetary transactions, shopping frequency, or even survey responses. It’s all about showing appreciation for consumers’ actions.

But it’s your team’s job to appropriately reward customers. Don’t expect people to buy $1000 worth of services in one month if your highest service retails at $10.

In addition, manage your loyalty members’ expectations. They shouldn’t expect your brand to give away free Beyonce tickets every day.

Personalized rewards ensure you’re giving your customers what they desire. It also shows that you are truly invested in the customer experience.

Send a simple email survey asking consumers what type of incentives excite them. Or conduct social media listening to identify useful prizes that can make your customers’ lives better.

Dick’s Sporting Goods sends emails asking customers for their opinions. The company uses the information to improve its inventory and customer service.

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Remember to focus on maintaining positive relationships with your consumers. Because that’s the ultimate goal for loyalty initiatives.

You want people to feel comfortable with your brand. Aim to offer rewards that bridge the gap between the consumer-brand relationship.

“A significant aspect of customer loyalty comes down to your likability. People will almost always remain committed to a brand if they believe they’ve developed a genuine and mutually beneficial relationship,” says Entrepreneur contributor Dave Thompson.

Tailor your rewards to satisfy your customers. Offer them something special.

Analyze Customer Loyalty

Customer loyalty can lead to retention. That’s why your team must use data to drive your loyalty programs.

Give consumers targeted product recommendations they can’t resist. Send promotions at the right time. And personalize rewards so the customer feels part of the brand.

Look at the data. Improve customer loyalty programs.

About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.

How to Plan & Execute Effective ‘Welcome’ Emails

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How successful are your ‘welcome’ emails? 

On average, ‘welcome’ emails receive an unusually high open rate of 50% — making them 86% more effective than newsletters

These emails are responsible for setting the tone and creating expectations with your newest subscribers and customers. This is where you educate your prospective customers about the products or services you sell, as well as how frequently you’ll be sending email.

However, just like in person, it takes conscious work to create a great first impression. If you stop for a second and think about your email marketing campaign, it’s possible that a significant amount of your success relies on your subscribers liking what they see in those initial emails.

To help you better understand what goes into an effective ‘welcome’ email sequence, we’ll walk you through the motions below — and include some helpful examples along the way.

Let’s get started …

How to Plan & Execute Effective ‘Welcome’ Emails

The top-of-funnel strategy for virtually every company with a digital presence includes an exchange of value: The subscriber provides their email address in exchange for something of value. And your ‘welcome’ emails should be designed with this idea in mind. 

To ensure that you’re producing valuable ‘welcome’ emails, be sure to do the following:

Devise a strategy.

‘Welcome’ emails are vital to any email marketing program. Welcome emails also have extremely high inbox placement rates, an advantage that should be utilized by every single company.

If you currently have no ‘welcome’ emails in place, never fear: A new welcome strategy is not rocket science. For starters, have a look at what the companies around you are doing and mold their successful practices to suit your needs.

At MailCharts, we recommend looking at ‘welcome’ emails from competitors or brands who target a similar audience to yours. Once you have solid benchmarks from your initial sequence and understand the metrics (e.g., opens, clicks, conversions), you can build upon those results and optimize your strategy to further suit your exact needs.

Deliver on the promise.

Remember: The very first email sent must include the promised ebook, trial period, discount, or otherwise.

Eve Mattresses shows us a great example of this exchange, where they have provided new subscribers with a very tempting “100-day sleepover.”

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Determine a timeline and frequency.

According to one email marketing company, retailers who sent more than one ‘welcome’ email experienced a 13% increase in revenue. Pretty impressive, right? 

Further, MailCharts email data shows that many online retailers still send ‘welcome’ emails two weeks after sign-up, with some brands sending ‘welcome’ mailers up to two months after the initial sign-up date.

Here’s a rough timeline we put together to help you see how email frequency begins to slow down over the two month welcome period:

  • Email 1: Immediately after receiving a subscriber’s email address
  • Email 2: 3 days after receiving email address
  • Email 3: 8 days after receiving email address
  • Email 4: 15 days after receiving email address
  • Email 5: 30 days after receiving email address
  • Email 6: 45 days after receiving email address
  • Email 7: 60 days after receiving email address

Pro Tip: If your ‘welcome’ series is promotional, add segmentation criteria to cease sending emails if a subscriber becomes a customer within the 60-day welcome window.

Choose your words wisely. 

We’ll dive into some more specific email inspiration in the section below, however, when it comes to planning the content for your emails, you’ll want to keep these two things in mind:

Personalization

Welcoming subscribers and creating a personalized subject line is crucial. The read rates of welcome emails are highly predictive of how engaged subscribers will be with subsequent messaging and how much they’ll spend.

In exchange for just a few lines of code to personalize your email, your subscribers are more likely to open, interact, and engage in a lasting relationship with your company. Take the additional time needed to personalize your emails. And, if you can go beyond simply adding their name, that’s even better.

Expectations

Aside from personalized emails, we recommend setting clear expectations at the beginning. If you plan on email subscribers weekly, let them know. The same applies for daily, monthly, or any other interval.

Also, make sure it’s really easy to unsubscribe from your emails. The last thing you want is someone marking you as spam because they couldn’t opt-out of your communications. 

Need Inspiration? 

Let’s take a look at some examples of companies — both B2B and B2C — that are nailing their ‘welcome’ emails. (And check out this post for even more ‘welcome’ email inspiration.)

B2B Example: Wistia

After an initial activation email, Wistia sends out a simple, bright, and effective ‘welcome’ email.

From the beginning, Wistia’s ‘welcome’ email strategy is focused on bringing the subscriber value, rather than simply promoting their product. They ask the question, “Have you checked out the learning center?”

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This is a resource where customers are able to easily access tips and tricks regarding a variety of different video education topics. The Learning Center is provided to highlight the strengths of the Wistia service and also show how it can help the subscriber personally. (Great job educating, Wistia.)

If you’re in the software business, here are some ideas for your ‘welcome’ series:

  • Talk about the benefits of using your product.
  • Provide free resources and tips on how to get the most out of your product.
  • Establish credibility, focusing on ease of use, reliability, and convenience.

Click here to view the full Wistia ‘welcome’ journey map.

B2C Example: Coach

If you are an online retailer, your ‘welcome’ emails will be slightly different. For starters, subscribers are not searching for information regarding a specific topic, rather they are interested in certain products and receiving up-to-date information about new releases and discounted offers.

Coach is a great example of how to make a good first impression and doesn’t forget to welcome new subscribers with an upbeat subject line, “Welcome to Coach Emails!”

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As we discussed earlier, it is important to set email expectations so the subscriber fully understands what content will be included in future emails, which is something that Coach has managed well. 

If you’re in the ecommerce industry, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Create a product narrative around your products: talk about why they’re great, high-quality, useful, affordable, etc.
  • Feature your best-selling products to pique consumers’ interest.
  • If applicable, appeal to things that consumers value — include mentions of fair trade, locally grown, and use of organic materials.
  • Include a discount or welcome incentive.

Get Started Now

If you don’t have a ‘welcome’ campaign, don’t wait another minute. You can get started by subscribing to your competitors’ email lists to keep a close eye on their strategy, take note of what they’re doing and what you like (and don’t like). From there, you can borrow the good things and improve on the not-so-good ones.

Remember: In the beginning, you don’t need to be perfect. What’s most important is that you are welcoming subscribers and building a strong and lasting relationship.

What’s the best ‘welcome’ email you’ve ever received? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

free email planning and tracking template

How to Master a Successful Marketing Campaign in Trello [Free Guide]

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Efficiency, collaboration, communication, and meeting deadlines — these all seem pretty relevant to your team’s success, right? Especially when running big marketing campaigns with a lot of moving pieces.

Whether you’re the solo marketer at your company or part of a 25-person team, staying organized and accountable is super important to executing marketing campaigns. That’s where Trello comes in.

Trello is a free, easy-to-use organization and project management tool that just so happens to be an awesome tool for marketers. It can help you keep your company’s largest and most involved marketing campaigns organized. (If you’re not sold, it might be convincing to hear that 16 million other users are already taking advantage of it.)

HubSpot went ahead and teamed up with Trello to bring you a free, step-by-step guide on How to Master a Successful Marketing Campaign in Trello to streamline your efficiency and collaboration beyond belief. Say goodbye to multiple shared Google Docs and never-ending email chains once and for all.

More specifically we’ll touch on:

  • Establishing a productive workflow for getting from start to finish that keeps your whole team involved and on track.
  • Developing key channels of communication within your team and across the organization.
  • Gaining perspective on success with visual retrospectives, accessible resources and a winning framework that can be recreated for your next campaign.
  • Achieving focus on the ultimate goal: more leads, sales, and buzz for your business.

Download your copy of How to Master a Successful Marketing Campaign in Trello.

free guide: how to manage a marketing campaign in Trello

How Building Tools Can Generate New Leads for your Agency

When you think of driving leads for your agency or business online, what comes to mind?

I bet it’s the usual suspects — SEO, paid search, content marketing — all of which are important and can be fantastically profitable. But what if you could build something new to give your clients an advantage?

Building your own tools can help bring in a serious influx of leads for your agency. When I say “tool”, that doesn’t mean you have to build an enterprise level piece of software — a tool can be anything that provides value to your target audience.

Some really good examples of free tools are HubSpot’s Website Grader, or CoSchedule’s blog post headline analyzer. These tools offer prospects a free service, and in return, your agency identifies qualified leads. For example, HubSpot’s Website Grader has been used over 4 million times.

But Why Should You Build Your Own Tools?

Upon first thinking of building a tool, many people are put off for various reasons:

  • Will it be too expensive for our agency?
  • What exactly should we build?
  • Will take up too much of our time?
  • What if it doesn’t get traction?

These thoughts are natural, but you need to approach building tools from your target audience’s perspective, and capitalize on your expertise. Think about it: if you create something that provides mouthwatering value to your clients, while also highlighting how well you know your service, you’re setting your agency up to deliver major results.

Instead of focusing only on the challenges, consider

  • How can our agency give clients results and benefits as quickly as possible?
  • We want to turn the people using our tool into clients, so how can we make a tool that is relevant to our agency’s core business?
  • How can we make sure the people using this tool see tangible results?

If you can get these things right, you could be on your way to developing a winning tool for your client.

Collaboration is Key

In an agency environment, you have a lot of talent in one place, and a lot of opinions concerning what’s valuable to a client or prospect. Tapping into this pool of knowledge can help your team choose what to build and how to make it a success for you and your clients.

Assuming you have web development resources, you will want to make the project as engaging for the person building it as possible. This can’t be seen as just another development project — you need to earn buy-in from everyone involved.

To ensure the success of your new tool right from the start, get everyone on your team involved and be transparent about your goals. Make sure everyone is on the same page about what you’re trying to achieve, and utilize everyone’s experience.

Keeping everyone on the same page is absolutely vital when it comes to building tools, since it’s often a new kind of project that your team hasn’t worked on before. When we initially started building our free SEO performance analysis tool, we brought the SEO team together with the web development team right at the idea phase.

Collaborating across multiple teams was vital to the success of our own tool. Our SEO team was able to share what they believed would bring users value, and our web development team was able to propose how that experience would look and function. Early collaboration between these two teams helped ensure that the vision was aligned right from the outset.

Deciding What to Prioritize 

It can be daunting to invest the time and resources needed to build a tool with no real idea of how people are going to react to it — let alone if anyone will use it. It’s important to know what to prioritize.

Here are some tips from my own agency’s experience launching a new tool:

  • Launch with your minimum viable version (MVP). With so many moving parts, it’s very easy for your new tool to get caught in a cycle of development, constantly adding little features and making tweaks. The best thing you can do is build a minimum viable version of your tool and get it out there. The most valuable feedback you will receive will be from real people using the tool in the wild.
  • Take any and all feedback seriously. Any feedback you receive is likely to be valid, so use it to create a dialogue. Be responsive to people that give you feedback, and make suggested changes whenever possible.
  • Don’t just publish and hope for the best. You’re spending a lot of time and energy developing this tool for people to use. If people don’t know it’s out there, then they won’t use it. Be prepared to put the time and energy into properly promoting your tool and if you can afford to, put some paid media budget behind it.
  • Put sensible limits in place. Your aim is provide value to the people using your free tool, but you have to be realistic and put sensible throttling or limits in place to make sure your tool does not get taken advantage of. Don’t forget the aim of your tool is to drive leads.

Those are just a few things I would advise when building a free tool. You will learn more as you go, but keep in mind why you’re building the tool in the first place and you will be fine.

Interpreting the Data and Driving Conversions

Right from the start, you should be thinking about the end goal of generating new business leads for your agency. To get there, you need to think about the data points you are going to be able to collect and capitalize on.

Once you clearly define what an end goal or conversion looks like for your agency, you can build out other interactions and track those to get even more insight. Using our SEO tool as an example, I will run through what that process looks like for us, as well as what data we collect:

Our tool allows you to run an analysis on your site or a competitor’s site for free and get an instant performance score. It also provides a PDF breakdown of problematic elements and why each component is important from an SEO perspective.

There are many actions that users can potentially take, but when a user requests a PDF version of the report, we classify it as a conversion. This action is tracked as a goal within Google Analytics, and we receive the following data:

  • Website URL (URL of site that the report has been generated for)
  • Email address
  • Copy of the report (this has all the SEO points for the site they ran)

This gives us a significant amount of information and insight into the current SEO performance of a prospect’s site. If the email address matches the report URL we can probably safely assume that the person running the report works for the company they have generated a report for, and this is what qualifies them as a lead.

Aside from a conversion, we also use Google Analytics events to track how people are using and interacting with the tool itself. This helps us improve the tool and track any errors that can occur. The events we have set up are:

  • Analysis submit: When a user inputs and runs a report, but does not request a PDF.
  • Reset analysis: Resets the view and takes the user back to the home page of the tool.
  • Analysis error: When a user is returned an error based on a site they are trying to analyze.
  • Send PDF: When a user requests a PDF report (a conversion).
  • Analysis results cache cleared: When a user resets the cache of a report to generate a fresh one.
  • Send PDF fail: When a user requests a PDF but this action fails (this is a potential lost conversion).

With all the above events in place we have a really good idea of how people are using the tool and what they are responding well to. You can use this kind of data to make changes to the tool to help you increase the amount of leads you are able to generate.

Deciding How to Qualify Leads in Your Tool

If your tool offers users a variety of actions, you’ll need to chose a single action that signals that a lead is qualified. You need to define an action which gives you enough information and a clear follow up path.

Since you were able to gain valuable information about your prospect through the tool, you should be able to compose a really personalized follow up email. Knowing that a user has shown intent is a huge plus, and crafting a follow up that shows you have taken an interest in their site or brand by presenting unique information is a really good position to be in.

The lead nurturing process for our agency’s tool looks like this:

  • User requests a PDF version of the report
  • We receive an internal email with the user’s email and a copy of the report
  • We check to see if their email address matches the URL used on the report
  • We verify that the domain corresponds to a real company (usually using a tracking tool like HubSpot Sales)
  • The contact is added to our HubSpot CRM.
  • We send a follow up email after chosen time period.

After all the hard work of building a tool and getting people to use it, the data you get back is invaluable. The leads that come in through our tool convert at a staggeringly higher rate than other methods we use.

The key to developing a tool that drives meaningful conversions is providing something that requires action but provides instant value. By following this principle, you know the user has intent to fix a problem that your tool addresses. If a user then triggers your conversion point, you have a unique data set which qualifies that user as a lead. This process seems like a lot of work, but I promise you the returns will be much greater than cold email outreach or similar new business development methods.

Considering the Potential for Additional Revenue.

if you are able to build and execute something that people love and provides real value then you may find an opportunity to generate stand alone revenue from your tool. Additional revenue is a bonus that will likely present itself to you as an afterthought once your tool has been road-hardened.

Once you have gathered enough data and feedback to determine if your tool is a hit or not, you can make a decision to further develop it. At this point you can look at adding a paid for level to the tool, offering interested users additional value at a small cost.

If you see a good response and people are willing to upgrade to a paid version, then you have something pretty amazing on your hands. There are a number of routes you can take from here, but make sure it fits in with your agency and sticks to the original goal of bringing value to clients and prospects.

market-your-agency

Optimizing for RankBrain… Should We Do It? (Is It Even Possible?) – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

If you’ve been stressing over how to optimize your SEO for RankBrain, there’s good news: you can’t. Not in the traditional sense of the word, at least. Unlike the classic algorithms we’re used to, RankBrain is a query interpretation model. It’s a horse of a different color, and as such, it requires a different way of thinking than we’ve had to use in the past. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand tackles the question of what RankBrain actually is and whether SEOs should (or can) optimize for it.

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Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about RankBrain SEO and RankBrain in general. So Google released this algorithm or component of their algorithm a while ago, but there have been questions for a long time about: Can people actually do RankBrain SEO? Is that even a thing? Is it possible to optimize specifically for this RankBrain algorithm?

I’ll talk today a little bit about how RankBrain works just so we have a broad overview and we’re all on the same page about it. Google has continued to release more and more information through interviews and comments about what the system does. There are some things that potentially shift in our SEO strategies and tactics around it, but I’ll show why optimizing for RankBrain is probably the wrong way to frame it.

What does RankBrain actually do?

So what is it that RankBrain actually does? A query comes in to Google. Historically, classically Google would use an algorithm, probably the same algorithm, at least they’ve said sort of the same algorithm across the board historically to figure out which pages and sites to show. There are a bunch of different ranking inputs, which we’ve talked about many times here on Whiteboard Friday.

But if you search for this query today, what Google is saying is with RankBrain, they’re going to take any query that comes in and RankBrain is essentially going to be a query interpretation model. It’s going to look at the words in that query. It’s potentially going to look at things possibly like location or personalization or other things. We’re not entirely sure whether RankBrain uses those, but it certainly could. It interprets these queries, and then it’s going to try and determine the intent behind the query and make the ranking signals that are applied to the results appropriate to that actual query.

So here’s what that means. If you search today — I did this search on my mobile device, I did it on my desktop device — for “best Netflix shows” or “best shows on Netflix” or “What are good Netflix shows,” “good Netflix shows,” “what to watch on Netflix,” notice a pattern here? All five of these searches are essentially asking for the very same thing. We might quibble and say “what to watch on Netflix” could be more movie-centric than shows, which could be more TV or episodic series-centric. That’s okay. But these five are essentially, ” What should I watch on Netflix?”

Now, RankBrain is going to help Google understand that each of these queries, despite the fact that they use slightly different words and phrasing or completely different words, with the exception of Netflix, that they should all be answered by the same content or same kinds of content. That’s the part where Google, where RankBrain is determining the searcher intent. Then, Google is going to use RankBrain to basically say, “Now, what signals are right for me, Google, to enhance or to push down for these particular queries?”

Signals

So we’re going to be super simplistic, hyper-simplistic and imagine that Google has this realm of just a few signals, and for this particular query or set of queries, any of these, that…

  • Keyword matching is not that important. So minus that, not super important here.
  • Link diversity, neither here nor there.
  • Anchor text, it doesn’t matter too much, neither here nor there.
  • Freshness, very, very important.

Why is freshness so important? Well, because Google has seen patterns before, and if you show shows from Netflix that were on the service a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, you are no longer relevant. It doesn’t matter if you have lots of good links, lots of diversity, lots of anchor text, lots of great keyword matching. If you are not fresh, you are not showing searchers what they want, and therefore Google doesn’t want to display you. In fact, the number one result for all of these was published, I think, six or seven days ago, as of the filming of this Whiteboard Friday. Not particularly surprising, right? Freshness is super important for this query.

  • Domain authority, that is somewhat important. Google doesn’t want to get too spammed by low-quality domains even if they are publishing fresh content.
  • Engagement, very, very important signal here. That indicates to Google whether searchers are being satisfied by these particular results.

This is a high-engagement query too. So on low-engagement queries, where people are looking for a very simple, quick answer, you expect engagement not to be that big. But for something in-depth, like “What should I watch on Netflix,” you expect people are going to go, they’re going to engage with that content significantly. Maybe they’re going to watch a trailer or some videos. Maybe they’re going to browse through a list of 50 things. High engagement, hopefully.

  • Related topics, Google is definitely looking for the right words and phrases.

If you, for example, are talking about the best shows on Netflix and everyone is talking about how hot — I haven’t actually seen it — “Stranger Things” is, which is a TV program on Netflix that is very much in the public eye right now, well, if you don’t have that on your best show list, Google probably does not want to display you. So that’s an important related topic or a concept or a word vector, whatever it is.

  • Content depth, that’s also important here. Google expects a long list, a fairly substantive page of content, not just a short, “Here are 10 items,” and no details about them.

As a result of interpreting the query, using these signals in these proportions, these five were basically the top five or six for every single one of those queries. So Google is essentially saying, “Hey, it doesn’t matter if you have perfect keyword targeting and tons of link diversity and anchor text. The signals that are more important here are these ones, and we can interpret that all of these queries essentially have the same intent behind them. Therefore, this is who we’re going to rank.”

So, in essence, RankBrain is helping Google determine what signals to use in the algorithm or how to weight those signals, because there’s a ton of signals that they can choose from. RankBrain is helping them weight them, and they’re helping them interpret the query and the searcher intent.

How should SEOs respond?

Does that actually change how we do SEO? A little bit. A little bit. What it doesn’t do, though, is it does not say there is a specific way to do SEO for RankBrain itself. Because RankBrain is, yes, helping Google select signals and prioritize them, you can’t actually optimize for RankBrain itself. You can optimize for these signals, and you might say, “Hey, I know that, in my world, these signals are much more important than these signals,” or the reverse. For a lot of commercial, old-school queries, keyword matching and link diversity and anchor text are still very, very important. I’m not discounting those. What I’m saying is you can’t do SEO for RankBrain specifically or not in the classic way that we’ve been trained to do SEO for a particular algorithm. This is kind of different.

That said, there are some ways SEOs should respond.

  1. If you have not already killed the concept, the idea of one keyword, one page, you should kill it now. In fact, you should have killed it a long time ago, because Hummingbird really put this to bed way back in the day. But if you’re still doing that, RankBrain does that even more. It’s even more saying, “Hey, you know what? Condense all of these. For all of these queries you should not have one URL and another URL and another URL and another URL. You should have one page targeting all of them, targeting all the intents that are like this.” When you do your keyword research and your big matrix of keyword-to-content mapping, that’s how you should be optimizing there.
  2. It’s no longer the case, as it was probably five, six years ago, that one set of fixed inputs no longer governs every single query. Because of this weighting system, some queries are going to demand signals in different proportion to other ones. Sometimes you’re going to need fresh content. Sometimes you need very in-depth content. Sometimes you need high engagement. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you will need tons of links with anchor text. Sometimes you will not. Sometimes you need high authority to rank for something. Sometimes you don’t. So that’s a different model.
  3. The reputation that you get as a website, a domain earns a reputation around particular types of signals. That could be because you’re publishing lots of fresh content or because you get lots of diverse links or because you have very high engagement or you have very low engagement in terms of you answer things very quickly, but you have a lot of diverse information and topics on that, like a Dictionary.com or an Answers.com, somebody like that where it’s quick, drive-by visits, you answer the searcher’s query and then they’re gone. That’s a fine model. But you need to match your SEO focus, your brand of the type of SEO and the type of signals that you hit to the queries that you care about most. You should be establishing that over time and building that out.

So RankBrain, yes, it might shift a little bit of our strategic focus, but no, it’s not a classic algorithm that we do SEO against, like a Panda or a Penguin. How do I optimize to avoid Panda hitting me? How do I optimize to avoid Penguin hitting me? How do I optimize for Hummingbird so that my keywords match the query intent? Those are very different from RankBrain, which has this interpretation model.

So, with that, I look forward to hearing about your experiences with RankBrain. I look forward to hearing about what you might be changing since RankBrain came out a couple of years ago, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Why Blogging Is an Important Part of Digital Marketing

Digital marketingWhat if there was one
digital marketing strategy that would increase your leads by 67 percent, make it 13 times more likely that you would enjoy a positive ROI for your effort, and help you to receive 97 percent more links to your website? Would you embrace that strategy? Of course you would. Not to do so would be practically like throwing money away.

Now, what if that essential piece of digital marketing strategy is
business blogging? Would you still embrace it?

How Blogging Bolsters Digital Marketing Efforts

If you have embraced digital marketing as a way to reach more of your B2B clients, you know that your website is vitally important to the process. So, how does blogging help your website do its job? Blogging helps in several ways.

SEO and Traffic: First, think about the way a client searches for your website. In most cases, the client may not be aware of your business name. He or she is simply typing a question or search query into a search engine box somewhere. For instance, if the name of your company is XYZ Inc. and you sell widgets, your potential client is more likely to type in “widget sales” than “XYZ Inc.”

So, in order for your client to find you, your website needs to be ranking with search engines. By posting regular, high-quality blogs on your website filled with relevant content about the appropriate keywords and search phrases your client will be using to find you, you will acquire a higher page rank with search engines. The higher your rank, the more likely your website is to be seen and the more traffic you will have. So, business blogging helps with SEO. 

The more consistent a person blogs then the more frequent the search engine spiders will come and crawl your site.  When they come and crawl your site and see new content, they will determine that your site is active, is being managed and typically more relevant than static websites.  Our motto for the past several years has been your website needs to be more like a publication and less like a brochure.

Lead Generation, Nurturing, and Conversion: Once you have all that traffic coming to your site, a good blog will keep your clients interested in interacting with you. By providing content via your blog that answers client questions, addresses issues your clients have, and offers real solutions, you will turn traffic into qualified leads. As leads come back again and again to read your latest blog post, you are building a relationship with those leads, nurturing them through the customer journey. You are building trust and establishing your brand. The result? When it is time for your leads to make a purchasing decision, your brand will be top of mind for them. That is when conversions happen.

Insight into Your Audience: Blogging also helps you develop your detective skills in two important ways. First, coming up with topics for a regular blog makes you have to think like your target audience thinks. When writing a good business blog, you are constantly asking yourself what the reader wants to know, how to best impart that knowledge, and how to move the reader to take action.

Secondly, capturing analytics for your blog reveals much about the way your web visitors think and feel. Blog analytics allow you to figure out what topics are most popular among your readers, which content they share on social media, and even what time of day they read your content. The more you know about your leads, the more empowered you are to nurture them and get them all the way through the sales funnel.

Don’t know how to get started, start blogging about the top 5 items your clients consistently ask you.  Whether that be product, services or something comparable about your business, blog about that.  Then you can have great article to refer them back too!
Digital marketing

The Hang-up

When new clients approach us, especially those that are in the B2B space, the first item of push back is content generation.  We usually get the “you don’t know our business, no one in our vertical market blogs.  That isn’t how business is done!”  Do you feel that way?

The purpose of blogging, to sum it up, is for the following reasons…

  1. SEO and Search Traffic – you may not think it is important but the search engines certainly do
  2. Subject Matter Expert – having a consistent blog article especially around market and specific product will make you the authority in your space
  3. Lead generation – blogs have proven to help generate more lead and move potential clients down the sales pipeline faster

 

The Bottom Line

Effective blogging is an essential part of an overall digital marketing strategy. It drives traffic to your website, generates new leads for your company, helps you nurture those leads, and gives you increased insight into your customer base. Blogging is cost-effective and yields measurable results in terms of positive ROI.

Would you appreciate more tips on how to integrate blogging into your digital marketing strategy? Contact us today to begin building your business blog.

 

30 Ways to Slice Your Email Database for Better Email List Segmentation

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If you’re new to the world of email marketing, you might be unfamiliar with the importance of segmenting your email lists. But it’s a big deal: According to DMA, 77% of email marketing ROI came from segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns in 2015. 

The best part about email segmentation? There are a ton of creative ways you can segment your email list to run innovative and effective campaigns that leads and customers will enjoy, from geography and industry to content format and topic. The more information you collect about your email recipients, the more opportunities you have to tailor your emails to resonate just right. Download our complete guide to email marketing here for even more email  segmentation and optimization tips.

To get your brainstorm started, check out the comprehensive list of email list segmentation ideas below. (Then, download this email marketing planning template to keep all of your email efforts organized.)

30 Ways to Segment Your Email List for More Targeted Email Marketing

The whole point of segmentation is to provide more relevant content to your email recipients. To do that, you’ll have to take the time to craft targeted campaigns that take into account not just list segments, but also lead data, and trigger events that help customize your email campaigns further. (Our marketing team uses the Email App and the Lists App in the HubSpot Marketing Platform in combination with HubSpot CRM to accomplish this.)

Bear in mind that while some of these recommendations will work wonderfully on their own, many of them are at their absolute best when crossed with other segments, triggers, and lead intelligence data. 

1) Geography

Knowing where your contacts live can be seriously powerful information. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business, you wouldn’t want to send in-store offers to out-of-towners, right? Or let’s say you’re a national franchise — you better be segmenting by zip code to ensure you’re not infringing on someone else’s territory, or worse, marketing to a location that your organization doesn’t even service yet.

Here’s a geographically-segmented email I received from Vamoose, a bus service I’ve used frequently to travel between New York and the Washington, D.C. area. (I can’t believe it’s already time to start planning travel for Thanksgiving.)

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2) Age

People of all ages have access to the internet these days, which means you could be emailing a college student, a retiree, or even a little kid. You may find knowing the general age range of the people on your list helpful to remove those not in your target audience, or to adjust the messaging of your email communications.

3) Gender

Just as you’d speak to a retiree and a college student differently, you might adjust your messaging and offers based on gender, too. If you have a wide product offering that extends across genders, consider segmenting your list in this manner — and beefing up the segmentation with other demographic and psychographic details as well.

4) Persona

Speaking of demographics and psychographics, you should have buyer personas that include information of this nature, as well as more detailed explanations of what makes these folks tick and why your solution provides value for them. If you don’t have buyer personas created already, use these free templates to create your own — and then segment your list based on them. Because each persona has different needs and value propositions, they’re all going to require different email content for the best clickthrough and conversion rates.

5) Organization Type

Do you sell to other businesses? Are they franchises? Non-profit organizations? Ecommerce companies? Enterprise organizations? Small businesses? They all have different needs, and as such, their email content should be different — so segment your list accordingly.

6) Industry

If you’re selling to other businesses, you may encounter leads and contacts across many different industries. Knowing your lead’s industry will allow you to add another level of personalization to your email marketing.

7) Job Function

As a B2B marketer, your email list could contain a whole melee of different job functions — office personnel, salespeople, marketers, consultants, developers, customer service, accountants … the list goes on. Considering the breadth of job roles within any given organization, doesn’t it make sense to segment your list accordingly?

8) Education Level

You could segment your list based on how many degrees they hold, or how educated a lead or contact is regarding your brand and the subject matter you discuss. If you segment your list based on the level of understanding they have on the topics you write about, you can tailor your lead nurturing content to speak at the right level.

Here’s an email I received from Idealist, which they sent to me based on my previous indication that I had already earned a Bachelor’s degree:

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9) Seniority Level

There are different job roles, and there are different levels of seniority. Perhaps your contact said they work in marketing, but is she the VP of marketing, or a marketing coordinator? Those two contacts will differ in years of experience, salary level, pain points, decision-making potential, and a whole host of other differences that make segmentation critical for effective email marketing campaigns.

10) Past Purchases

If a segment of your list has purchased from you before, use that information to send them emails catered to that which interests them. Then make your bottom line bigger by identifying upsell opportunities with additional services or complementary products they’d enjoy based on their past purchases.

Here’s Casper, the maker of my bed made of clouds, shooting me an email about the other products they offer:

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11) Purchase Interests

You can infer someone’s purchase proclivities from past buying behavior, or you can just ask. My colleague, Lindsay Kolowich, highlighted companies who do this in creative ways — such as with surveys — in a recent blog post about awesome email marketing campaigns to help them create better targeted emails.

12) Buying Frequency

Segment your email list based on how often someone purchases. Not only can you try to increase shopping frequency for some, but you can also reward frequent shoppers with an invitation to your loyalty program to make your brand even stickier. (Download this free guide to learn how to more effectively use and measure customer loyalty programs for your business.)

Here’s a customer loyalty email I received from my mobile provider, AT&T, about early ticket access to a concert they’re hosting. (Do you think they somehow know I attended a Panic! At the Disco concert when I was in middle school? This is embarrassing, readers.)

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13) Purchase Cycle

Do certain customers come to you on a weekly, monthly, yearly, or quarterly basis? Or perhaps they only need you at a certain time of year — a pool cleaner might see upticks in spring and fall, for example. Segment your list based on customers’ purchase cycle so you can be there right at their point of need.

14) Content Topic

Here at HubSpot, we’ve noticed that some of our leads and contacts are far more interested in certain content topics than others. There’s one segment that’s extremely interested in sales and marketing alignment, while another is far more interested in Snapchat for business. So it only makes sense that we segment our list based on the topics our contacts have showed interest in. Take a look at what content gets people clicking, and segment your list based on that.

Here an example of an email I received from Twitter featuring suggestions for who to follow next (and it worked):

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15) Content Format

You may find that specific content formats are more appealing to certain segments of your database — some like blogs, others prefer ebooks, and some may only show up when you put on a webinar. For example, in a recent HubSpot Research survey, 43% of respondents wanted to see more video content in the future. If you know how certain segments of your list prefer to consume content, you can deliver the offer content in your emails via their preferred format.

16) Interest Level

Just because someone converts on a content offer, doesn’t mean they actually liked it. Segment your list based on how interested leads are in your content. For example, we might email a segment of webinar attendees that stayed engaged for 45 minutes or more with a middle-of-the-funnel offer to help move them along in the sales cycle, while those that dropped off before 10 minutes might receive another top-of-the-funnel offer — or even a feedback survey to gauge what specifically lost their interest.

17) Change in Content Engagement Level

Have you noticed an increase or decrease in the amount of time leads are spending with your content? This is an indication of their interest in your company, and should be used to either reawaken waning interest, or move leads along through the sales cycle while they’re at their height of engagement with your content.

Here’s an example from Udemy, who segmented their email list to try to re-engage inactive users (I still highly recommend Udemy’s online classes):

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18) Change in Buying Behavior

Similar to a change in content engagement, a change in buying behavior can indicate a lead is becoming more or less interested in your company. Leads that decrease purchasing frequency, for example, might need a little extra love — and thus, a dedicated lead nurturing campaign.

I typically buy glasses and contact lenses at Lenscrafters once yearly with my vision insurance benefit, but I haven’t yet this year, so they wisely sent me this nurturing email with a gentle reminder to purchase from them:

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19) Stage in the Sales Cycle

I’ve mentioned it a little bit here and there, but the stage a lead is at in the sales cycle should determine which email segment they fall in. At the very least, set up separate lead nurturing tracks for those at the top of your sales funnel, in the middle of your sales funnel, and at the bottom of the sales funnel.

20) Email Type

There’s a lot you can tell by someone’s email address. You design your emails for different email clients if you’re really into sophisticated email design, or if they’re Gmail clients, responsive email design.

21) Satisfaction Index

Many businesses use satisfaction indexes to determine how happy their customer base is — Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a very popular one. If you’re measuring satisfaction numerically, consider sending an email segmented based on your customers’ level of happiness with your organization. Those with a high NPS score, for example, might provide opportunities to gather reviews, referrals, or even upsells. Those with lower scores, however, may get emails that give them access to educational materials that will make them happier and more successful customers.

Here’s Wayfair‘s email asking me to review how a recent purchasing and delivery experience went:

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22) Customers Who Refer

Consider creating a list segment full of those customers who repeatedly refer new business your way. These are your biggest brand advocates, and should receive emails targeted towards loyalty programs, refer-a-friend discounts, even possibly trials for new products or services you’re releasing to get honest feedback before widespread rollouts.

23) Customers Who Haven’t Reviewed

You should always be trying to get more positive reviews of your business, so why not create a list segment that targets those customers who haven’t written a review yet? You could combine this list segment with, say, those that are also social media fans and have a high NPS score. Think about it … you know they follow you on Twitter and their NPS score indicates they love you. That’s just begging for an online review email campaign. (Check out this case study guide + template to help you successfully reach out to potential participants and engage them in the process.)

Here’s LinkedIn‘s email asking me to participate in a feedback survey:

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24) In-Store vs. Webstore Visitors

If you have both a brick-and-mortar location as well as a website, segment your list based on where your customers like to shop. You can give invites to in-store events to those customers that give you foot traffic, while those that only visit your webstore might receive offers that should only be redeemed online.

25) Shopping Cart Abandonment

After analyzing 34 online studies of ecommerce shopping cart abandonment, Bamyard Institute determined that, on average, 68% of shopping carts were abandoned prior to purchase. Yikes. If you run an ecommerce webstore, you absolutely must have an abandoned shopping cart email program, and you should be segmenting your contacts based on this behavior.

26) Form Abandonment

Not an ecommerce company? You still have abandoners on your site — form abandoners. If someone starts filling out some forms on your website and then loses interest, gets busy, has a lousy internet connection, gets eaten by a zombie … you know, whatever … segment out those leads for nurturing aimed at bringing them back to your website to complete the form. The offer was interesting enough at one point in time to pique their interest, so why not try to recover some of those form abandoners?

27) Usage

Whatever it is you offer, there are some customers who you could consider “power users.” These are the ones that totally get how to navigate your website, use every feature in your software, and make the most of their relationships with your service providers. Then there are the rest of us. Segment out the power users and the strugglers, frequent users, and infrequent users; then send email content that teaches them how to be more successful with your product or service. The more customers use your product, the more likely they are to stick around: Bluenose found that lack of use was the number one driver of software customer churn.

Here’s a use-segmented email I received from MapMyRun. I feel misleading including it because I truly can’t remember the last time I went running, but it’s still a good example of list segmentation:

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28) Event Attendance

Does your organization host book signings, conferences, or social events? Don’t miss the opportunity to reach out to leads and potential customers you’ve already made a positive connection with. Segment your email list depending on the type of event, the topic or theme of your events, or even to RSVPs who didn’t make it out. You’ll be able to keep inviting them to events while sharing relevant content offers based on what you learned about them from past events. (P.S. – Have you registered for INBOUND 2016 yet?)

29) Page Views

You can tell a lot about your contacts from their behaviors, and the web pages they’re browsing are no exception. Are there certain blogs they’re reading or questions they’re asking when they come to your website? Experiment with lead nurturing campaigns dedicated to different topics your website covers to appeal to your site visitors’ patterns.

30) Call-to-Action Clicks

A clickable call-to-action is what takes your website content to the next level because it helps you generate leads and contacts. (Download 50 customizable call-to-action templates here.) You can tell which types of language work on your contacts based on what makes them click, or not click, on your CTAs. Are they more inclined toward time sensitive offers to “act now” or “try this month,” or do they prefer more explicit offers of “free” or “discounted” products? Use their clicking habits to determine how you segment your email list, and what language you use when reaching out. 

I hope this list has given you ideas for ways to segment your own lists, and most importantly, sparked some creative email campaigns you can run as a result of this new segmentation.

So what about you — what other ways can you think of to segment your email lists? Which of these segmentation ideas could you combine with others for really epic results?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

free guide to optimizing and segmenting email

 
free guide: how to segment your email marketing