Low Sales? Here’s How to Read Minds to Close More Deals

People either do what you want. Or they don’t.

And there’s not a whole lot you can do about it.

Except react. Except follow-up based on a new set of rules.

That doesn’t mean you can’t predict it, though. That doesn’t mean you can’t manipulate it. It doesn’t mean you can’t choreograph it ahead of time.

Almost every single customer interaction presents an IF/THEN scenario. They either choose to do one thing, do the opposite, or do nothing at all. And each option means you should react in a slightly different way.

The good news is that you can do it in advance. You can determine what happens, before it happens, so the message they receive next is always the right one.

Here’s how to get this insight and react in real-time to give people exactly what they want, when they want it.

1. Start by setting objectives

Personalization isn’t “Hey $FNAME.”

It’s deeper than that. It’s about collecting various data points so you understand context. So you ‘get’ what someone wants before they want it.

In a Spy’s Guide to Strategy, ex-CIA case officer, John Braddock, says that creating a strategy comes starts with two moves:

  1. Identifying someone’s potential end game, and then
  2. Reasoning backwards to figure out how they get their.

That way, you can see what’s coming. Only when you know where someone is trying to go can you create scenarios for how they might get there.

Content mapping is a perfect real-world example.

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Some people come to your site to buy. But not most. Only a tiny slice ready to hit the Product Tour and Opt-in page before reading “Thank You.”

Others want pricing. Some want insights. And still more want information.

Which is why content mapping says you gotta give all those things to all those people. Make them stick around. Get them to click. Get them to come back.

The trick is to start here. Without determining who wants what, you can’t figure out how to get them there the fastest and easiest.

Marketing isn’t a singular campaign today. It’s not a banner ad or a drip email sequence.

Instead, it’s a series of IF, THEN statements. Conditional statements that show how people get form A->B, and then somehow to Z.

Z is what you want. Z is where you purchase. But people don’t start with Z.

That’s why you break the process down. A->B becomes a micro-conversion. It’s the step between the step. The guy behind the guy. That eventually makes stuff happen.

You start by hypothesizing. You try to infer what someone wants. Then comes the “then.”

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“Then” is when stuff happens. It’s your response.

Product companies are relatively simply. People check out a product but don’t buy. So you follow-up with retargeting efforts.

Easy, right?

Not so much for services. The sales process takes months instead of weeks. It takes nurturing instead of discounts.

Let’s say someone checks out your services. They check out some key pages. But they don’t opt-in.

“Free consultation” time? Not necessarily. That’s also not very inspiring.

So you switch it up. You could try an offer to get them to realize how much they need you. You need to make the pain real. You need them to place a dollar value on it. Otherwise, no sale.

That starts with a 1-1 conversation. It’s a spin on the “Free Consultation.” Except it doesn’t suck. It’s focused on their issues, not your own.

The goal: Get people who checked out our Services into this new 1-1 offer.

Next, you work backwards. You set-up the sequence to determine how someone is going to get from A->B.

Automation workflows can help you map this out. For example, if someone looks at the services page but doesn’t convert, do this next.

“This” could be “send new email.” Perfect.

Now do it again. This email goes out. Do they click on the CTA link?

Yes or no.

If yes, but they don’t sign up for your offer, it’s a no. Or it might as well be. So respond accordingly.

These sequences repeat ad nauseam.

There’s no limits. That’s the beauty. And with some iteration, you can automate most of the entire process.

Setting a clear objective like that leads you seamlessly into the next step. Select your segment.

Except, you don’t create these segments out of thin air. Or you shouldn’t.

You should let people tell you where they belong.

2. Segment new leads

How do people get to your site?

They could punch in the URL directly. They could serendipitously run across your blog post on Twitter. Or they could find your aforementioned Services page by clicking on your Google ad.

Each of these are different channels, sure. But they’re more than that. They’re giving you more information than that.

✅ The direct website visit? Brand-aware. Been to your website multiple times before. Probably transitioning from stranger to lead.

✅ Twitter? New visit. Stranger. Needs more info to develop brand recognition.

✅ Google search ad? Also not brand-aware. But problem-aware. Probably solution-aware. Show them why you’re better.

Now, keep them separate. Don’t treat them the same.

Their under-the-radar behavior is already telling you something important. So keep it going by segmenting their journey.

Create different flows. Create different segments for each.

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Sometimes you have control over this. And sometimes you don’t.

For example, if you’re creating an ad, you control the landing page destination.

When you’re writing a blog post, you can control the internal links or other navigation elements they see.

But when someone finds something from organic search? You can’t always control everything.

Once again, marketing automation platforms can tell you the trigger. They can tell you the exact page someone visited. First. So you roughly know who they are or what they’re looking for.

They could leave your site right now and it would be OK. They could get distracted. Bounce. And you’d be fine.

‘Cause you’ve got the same ability to retarget in other places based on individual page views.

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You can see which of the three products they clicked on. You can see which of the five services they expressed the most interest.

That tiny clue adds context. You should know what to follow-up with.

Similarly, someone views your opt-in form but doesn’t convert.

No prob. You can still follow up. You can still tailor the message based on their non-action. You can cycle through common objections until you land on what that sticks.

This is where personas often fail. This is where ‘segments’ often don’t work.

Your decision-making data should come from people’s actions. Not just your own hunches.

3. Nurturing & re-engagement

Eventually, someone opts-in.

Someone finds something like they like and gives you something in return.

On the one hand, it’s great. You’re one step closer.

Except on the other, it changes everything. You need to update things. You need to evolve the conversation.

For example, let’s say someone downloads an eBook. Then your free trial or 1-1 offer. Both good things.

Except, it creates a rippling effect.

For example, you need to work backwards before you work forwards. You need to remove people from previous sequences because their status has changed.

Those top of the funnel eBook nurturing emails worked. Wonderfully! But now that they’ve moved deeper, they need a new sequence. Only after removing them from the previous one.

Bad news, though.

One person moved forward. They went from TOFU to MOFU or BOFU.

But most don’t. Or won’t.

So let’s plan for that, too. Someone downloads the eBook. Maybe they even enjoy it. But after the first few weeks, nothing else happens.

They received the same nurturing emails. But decided against taking you up on the next offer. For whatever reason.

Same objective as the first, but a new segment this time.

What’s happening here:

  1. It’s been at least 35 days since someone downloaded the eBook. The reason? It gives your other campaigns at least four weeks to try and move them down the funnel.
  2. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. The individual didn’t opt into any other offer you threw at them, either. No other forms were filled out.

Cool. No worries. Water off a duck’s back.

IF, you saw this coming. IF, you have a scenario planned out for them.

Typically, you want to get them to ‘reengage’ here. So new emails go out. Each, with different links like this next one.

Those are all unique links. They’re split up by topic. You’re setting a trap. You’re baiting a hook.

For someone’s action to once again tell you how to better segment them.

Let’s say someone clicks on the fifth option down: “Optimizing Your Website.” That indicates they’re interested in, well, updating their website.

Cool. You saw this coming. Savvy marketer, you.

That pulls them into a brand new segment. Seamlessly and automatically.

Now, you can tailor the next few messages better. You can send them website-related tips, instead of SEO ones. You can send them more relevant offers that they’re more likely to take you up on.

Which puts you one step closer.

4. Sales qualification

Ecommerce is easy. Someone buy’s or they don’t. Most customers are ‘good,’ as long as they’re paying.

Services ain’t easy. Most leads and prospects won’t become customers.

In fact, you can take this a step further. A small segment of people will want to work with you. But for a few different reasons, you won’t want to work with most of them.

You want the best customers. You want those that will be the best fit. The ones that ideally also have the longest lifetime value.

Which means you need to qualify. Which means you need to plan for this in advance.

You know many people who fill out your form won’t be a good fit. So you add a couple qualifying questions to the bottom of your form.

“Annual Revenue Range” can tell you a few things. It can tell you, right off the bat, if they can even afford you. Not worth jumping on the phone if they can’t.

But it can also tell you what product or service they might be best suited for.

As does “Biggest Marketing Challenge.” It helps you figure out what solution to line up with their problem.

It also helps you logistically. The person or division doing $100,000 websites will be different than the one doing $1,000,000 ad campaigns. So they need to be routed appropriately, too.

Now, think of your process and workflow. Each little decision or potential answer has another trickle down effect. It influences everything that happens afterward.

You need filters and branches and IF/THEN statements along the way. That way, you can take all of the various possibilities into account.

Before they happen. So you know exactly how to respond. When it eventually does.

Different sequences need to kick off when someone selects “Yes” vs. “No.”

Different people need to be notified. Different tasks and steps needs to come next.

Conclusion

Congratulations. You’ve made it this far.

You’ve sold a new deal. Closed a new account. Brought in a few bucks.

But a new customer isn’t the end of the process, so much as it’s the beginning of a new one.

“Marketing” doesn’t just mean advertising, after all. Onboarding is crucial. Customer service is key.

Keeping that account longer means more money in your pocket. Easier money than bringing in a new deal.

Retention is your job, too.

Which means you’re not done. Which means there’s more scenarios to account for. More sequences to create.

Marketing isn’t isolated. It’s not one-and-done. It’s systematic. It’s a process. It’s a series of IF/THEN sequences.

People do what they want. They decide or click or opt-in or don’t. You can’t control that.

You can only control how you react and respond. Or how you lead them to do what you want.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

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A Beginner’s Guide to SSL: What It Is & Why It Makes Your Website More Secure (es-la)

Have you ever noticed that some URLs start with “http://” while others start with “https://”? Perhaps you noticed that extra “s” when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online.

But where’d that extra “s” come from, and what does it mean?

To put it simply, the extra “s” means your connection to that website is secure and encrypted any data you enter is safely shared with that website. The technology that powers that little “s” is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

Is your website secure? Enter a URL here to test. 

In this post, I’m going to break down what SSL is, an updated version of Google Chrome that will soon flag websites which are not secure, and how you can evaluate and get SSL.

What is SSL?

First, let’s start with a definition from SSL.com:

SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private.”

Let’s break that down.

When you land on a website page that has a form, after that form is filled-in and you hit ‘submit’, the information you just entered can be intercepted by a hacker on an unsecure website. 

This information could be anything from details on a bank transaction, to high-level information you enter to register for an offer. In hacker lingo, this “interception” is often referred to as a “man-in-the-middle attack.” The actual attack can happen in a number of ways, but one of the most common is this: A hacker places a small, undetected listening program on the server hosting a website. That program waits in the background until a visitor starts typing information on the website, and it will activate to start capturing the information and then send it back to the hacker. Scary stuff that is no longer just is sci-fi movies.

But when you visit a website that’s encrypted with SSL, your browser will form a connection with the webserver, look at the SSL certificate, and then bind together your browser and the server. This binding connection is secure so that no one besides you and the website you’re submitting the information to can see or access what you type into your browser.

This connection happens instantly, and in fact many suggest is now faster than connecting to an unsecure website. You simply have to visit a website with SSL, and voila: Your connection will automatically be secured.

Everything You Need to Know About Chrome 62 and SSL

Google is getting ready to release a new version of their popular Chrome browser, version 62, which will begin to indicate that a page is not secure if it contains a form, but does not have SSL-enabled. Chrome has approximately 47% browser market share, so when this update is rolled-out a significant number of websites will be affected almost immediately.

According to recent HubSpot Research, up to 85% of people will not continue browsing if a site is not secure. In January 2017, Google rolled out a similar update that only applied to sites collecting sensitive information such as passwords or credit card numbers. With that in mind, users are now familiar with seeing this “not secure” warning, and per the research below will often leave a site because of it.

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If you utilize incognito mode in your browser, Chrome will always indicate a page is not secure if it does not have a valid-SSL certificate installed. If you use Chrome outside of incognito mode then this “not secure” warning will only display when starting to enter information into a form.

Image credit: 9to5Google

This means that wherever you host content that contains a form, even if it’s just asking for an email address, you should enable SSL. Keep in mind that if you have content hosted in different platforms, it will be important to talk to each of them and ensure SSL is setup before this Google Chrome update is live. In reality, if it’s not cost prohibitive for you, it’s best to enable SSL across your entire website regardless if a form exists on the page because it can have SEO benefits that we’ll cover in the next section.

Is SSL good for SEO?

Yes. While the primary purpose of SSL is securing information between the visitor and your website, there are benefits for SEO as well. According to Google Webmaster Trends Analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji, SSL is now part of Google’s search ranking algorithm:

Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We’ve seen positive results, so we’re starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal.”

In addition, Google has publicly stated that two websites which are otherwise equal in search results, if one has SSL enabled it may receive a slightly rank boost to outweigh the other. As a result, there is a clear SEO benefit to enabling-SSL on your website, and across all your content.

How can I tell if my website has SSL?

When you visit a website with SSL, there are a few distinct differences that display within the browser.

Check your site for SSL with our free tool.

1) The URL says “https://” and not “http://”. 

It looks like this:


2) You’ll see a little padlock icon in the URL bar.

It’ll show up either on the left- or right-hand side of the URL bar, depending on your browser. You can click on the padlock to read more information about the website and the company that provided the certificate.

3) The certificate is valid.

Even if a website has the “https://” and a padlock, the certificate could still be expired — meaning your connection wouldn’t be secure. In most cases, a site that displays as https will be secure, but if you encounter a site that asks for a lot of personal information it may be worth double-checking to be sure the certificate is valid.

To find out whether the certificate is valid in Chrome, go to view > Developer Tools. From there you will need to navigate to the security tab and you can see if the SSL certificate is valid, or expired. If you click the “View certificate” button you will be able to see more information about the SSL certificate and the specific date it’s valid through.

How can I get an SSL certificate for my website?

The first step is to determine what type of certificate you need. For example, if host content in multiple platforms (on separate domains/subdomains) it may mean that you need different SSL certificates.

For most, a standard SSL certificate will cover your content, but for companies in a regulated industry — such as finance, and insurance — it may be worth talking with I.T. because there are specific requirements within your industry that specify the type of SSL certificate you need.

The cost of SSL certificates vary, but you can get a free certificate or pay a few hundred dollars per month to obtain a custom certificate. On the free side — Let’s Encrypt offers certificates at no cost but I would strongly recommend that you have someone knowledgable about the DNS and technical setup of your website to help with this. These certificates will also expire every 90-days, so you’ll need to make sure they stay up to date. 

Many other domain providers will sell SSL certificates that generally range from $50 to obtain a certificate for one domain, up to a few hundred dollars for multiple-domains. This process will be easier than using Let’s Encrypt, but does have a cost associated with the certificate.

(HubSpot customers: If you’re hosting content on HubSpot, SSL is available for free within this promotion. To find out more, contact your Customer Success Manager, or visit our SSL page.)

One of the other key considerations is the validity period of a certification. Most standard SSL certificates that you purchase are available for one to two years by default, but if you’re looking for longer-term options, then look into more advanced certificates that offer longer time periods.

WordPress Plugins To Help Install SSL

If you utilize WordPress to host your content and website, depending on your domain provider, you may need to obtain an SSL certificate and then install it. Here are a few plugins that can help you:

  1. Really Simple SSL. Purchasing your SSL certificate is just the first step. This plugin helps you install it across your all your WordPress content. There are premium versions available to help you install it across sites, and verify there are no warnings on your website. Premium versions run from $20 up to $145 for a full-service configuration and optimization of SSL.
  2. Insecure Content Fixer. Once you have an SSL certificate and it’s installed, your not quite done yet. If your website is built with any hard-coded references to “http”, such as an image file, then it will show a warning when trying to load that securely. This plugin can help you find and fix anything coded that way so your site displays properly, and securely for visitors.
  3. WP Force SSL. Ok, now that you’re done obtaining SSL, installing it, and fixing any errors, it’s time to make sure all your traffic sees the secure version of your site. This plugin will force all traffic to HTTPS so it only loads securely. I strongly recommend that you check for insecure content (also known as mixed content) before enabling this. Without checking for mixed content first your site may appear with warnings because of those insecure files. 

(HubSpot customers: All files hosted within HubSpot File Manager are automatically encrypted with SSL, and in one-checkbox you can force all visitors to utilize the secure version of your site, no plugins required. To find out more, contact your Customer Success Manager, or visit our SSL page.)

 

 
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Don’t Freak Out, but Facebook Added a New Kind of Feed

When Facebook makes any change to its algorithm or News Feed, the standard response is that it’s cause for panic.

For example, you may have recently heard some speculation around the channel’s recent “Explore Feed” rollout: an alternative News Feed designed to help users discover content outside of their existing networks, like friends and Pages they already follow. Hence, the name — it allows users to “explore” new content, without leaving Facebook.

That, of course, is likely Facebook’s main motivator here, and aligns with its growing efforts and modifications that encourage marketers to create content exclusively for this particular channel, rather than linking to content that requires users to navigate elsewhere. 

But here’s our take on the matter: It’s definitely not cause for panic. In fact, it could actually help your brand.

Let’s start with the fact that this alternative feed has actually been available to mobile users for quite some time now, under the “More” menu that you find in the navigation options toward the bottom of the app.

Now, it’s been rolled out to desktop users on the navigational sidebar, which Facebook confirmed in a statement to TechCrunch:

“We are beginning to roll out a complementary feed of popular articles, videos, and photos, automatically customized for each person based on content that might be interesting to them. … We’ve heard from people that they want an easy way to explore relevant content from Pages they haven’t connected with yet.”

But what does this mean for the marketers and brand managers who rely on Facebook to maintain a presence and grow awareness?

At this point, it appears that the Explore Feed is not replacing the News Feed, which will still be the main landing navigation for Facebook users. And that makes sense — there would likely be quite an uproar from users who were suddenly flooded with content from brands they haven’t actively followed, rather than their existing networks of friends, family, and followed brands.

So fear not: Users who have already Liked your page will still see your content, with the caveat that in 2015, it was reported that organic reach fell to 2.6% (you can read more about why that happened and how to work with it here). 

Users have to voluntarily navigate themselves to the Explore Feed, which means that they have to actively choose to discover new content there. How that will ultimately perform, we can’t be sure. But, according to my own scrolling experiment, it doesn’t contain any paid ads or sponsored content — yet.

Which indicates that, like so much else in the realm of a social media feed, the Explore Feed is based on an algorithm that curates content based on what you’ve liked and shared in the past. Admittedly, I don’t use Facebook for personal purposes much, so the algorithm seems to be trying to figure out what I might like — though, judging from the number of food- and dog-related posts appearing there, it could be well on its way.

But furry friends and food porn aside, the Explore Feed provides an opportunity for users to discover your brand if they’ve liked or shared similar content in the past. That presents an opportunity: If you’re inspired or motivated by a certain brand or its audience, for example, you can use that to guide the content you create for Facebook with the goal of growing and attracting a similar audience. Be original, though — you want your own content to offer something helpful and unique that users won’t find elsewhere.

“Take the opportunity to be present and engage more personally with your followers,” advises HubSpot Academy Social Media Professor Crystal King. “Spend more time developing quality content that your followers will be excited to share.”

The desktop rollout is in its earlier stages, so it’s likely to evolve and undergo modifications as users adapt to it. As always, we’ll be keeping an eye on it.

Featured image credit: Facebook

25 Last-Minute DIY Halloween Costume Ideas for Tech Geeks & Marketers

Halloween is a fun holiday, and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It doesn’t have recognizable songs or vacation days associated with it, and it falls on a busy time of year for most people in the workforce.

But that doesn’t mean you should skip the festivities at your office Halloween celebration. How many days of the year are you encouraged to dress up and goof around at work? Probably zero.

We want you to have fun this Halloween, so we’re taking the work out if it for you. We’ve compiled a list of DIY Halloween costume ideas that are easy to put together, inexpensive, and work appropriate. As a bonus, many are marketing and technology-themed, so even if your family and friends don’t get your costume, your colleagues definitely will.

25 Last-Minute Office Halloween Costumes for Marketers & Tech Geeks

Evergreen Office Costumes

1) Alt Text

This was HubSpot Director of Offsite Content Corey Wainwright‘s office Halloween costume a couple of years ago. It’s great because you don’t even look dressed up if you have a casual office dress code, so you can just blend in.

All you need is to dress in 90s alternative garb — she went with black jeans, combat boots, and a flannel — and tape a piece of paper to yourself that says something like img2017.jpg. Or if you want to follow best practice for good alt text, you can put something more descriptive, like “alt_text.” Your choice, you SEO rebel, you.

2) SEO Ninja

Speaking of dorking out on SEO, you could be everyone’s favorite LinkedIn title — the SEO ninja. Dress in all black, put on a black ski mask (kinda creepy if you already have one, but we don’t judge here), and tape keywords all over yourself.

3) Mobile App

Wander around holding an appetizer — candy, cheese and crackers, chips and dip … whatever you have on hand. Boom. You’re a mobile “app.”

This costume also doubles as a great way to introduce yourself and make friends at a party.

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Source: Opportunity Max

4) Instagram

Another way to turn handing out food into a costume: Dress up like a hipster and hand out graham crackers.

5) Ghostwriter

Grab a white sheet and cut a hole for your head and arms. Dob some black ink spots on the sheet, get a book and one of those feather quills (or just get a feather, I suppose), and you’re a ghostwriter.

6) Whitespace

Dress in all white — add white face paint and a white wig if you’re ultra-committed. Then add a hint of color somewhere on the outfit, like a colored tie or scarf, or even a paint splotch. That color splotch will make the white space more prominent, transforming you into “whitespace.”

7) Error 404 Page

You’ve most likely encountered a funny error 404 page before, and you can make it a funny costume, too. Grab a sheet of paper, write “Error 404: Costume Not Found,” and tape it to your outfit.

 

A photo posted by RachAel Klopfenstein (@theklopf) on Sep 5, 2015 at 12:33pm PDT

8) (Monty) Python

If you’re into programming code, British comedy, and low-effort costumes, being (Monty) Python is perfect. Dress up in anything remotely snakelike in your closet: olive green clothing, snakeskin accessories, and fake vampire teeth that can serve as your fangs.

Then, to amp up the dork factor on this costume, add two coconuts or a gold chalice to embody Monty Python on his quest for the Holy Grail.

9) Facebook

Grab face paint or eyeliner and write “book” across your cheeks. Just like that, you’re the world’s biggest social network for Halloween.

And for your sake, we hope your colleagues actually get it:

Halloween-Jim_Bookface-Jim.jpg

Source: AndPop

10) Unicorn

Here’s another tech-friendly, double-entendre costume: Be your own version of a tech unicorn. Here at HubSpot, we love this tech icon, and you can easily make your own version of a unicorn horn with help from this article.

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Source: WikiHow

11) Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are nothing to joke about — they can seriously threaten your technology and data security. But on Halloween, you can dress up as a play on phishing emails for an easy DIY costume. All you need are a stick, a piece of string, and an envelope. Bonus points if you own a bucket hat and vest to complete the ensemble.

12) Copycat

Here’s a technology spin on a classic Halloween costume. All you’ll need are cat ears, eyeliner-drawn whiskers, and a sheet of paper. Write “Control + C” on the paper, tape it to your outfit, and you’re a copycat.

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Source: BuzzFeed

13) Fully Vested

If you work in a company where people would get the joke, put on a bunch of vests (at least three, but even more is encouraged), and that’s about it. You’re fully vested.

14) Nerd

What I love about the nerd costume is that it’s effortless and always unique — there are many ways to be a nerd in this day and age. Are you a tech nerd, a video game nerd, or a book nerd? The sky is the limit with this costume. Show up wearing glasses with your favorite accessories, such as a magic wand, book, or lightsaber, to complete the effect.

Topical Office Costumes

15) The 2017 Solar Eclipse

This summer, the solar eclipse took over the internet — and the country. As millions of people flocked to the path of totality to (hopefully) catch a glimpse of this rare event without burning their corneas, millions more made jokes about it on social media.

For this costume, you’ll need a work pal to dress up as the sun and the moon with you. One of you wears black, the other wears yellow, and you both wear dark sunglasses. Then, at the Halloween party, the one dressed in black spends the whole time standing in front of the one in yellow.

annular-solar-eclipse-promo.jpg

Source: CBS News

16) The ‘Evil Kermit’ Meme

If you haven’t heard of this mega-popular meme this year, you’ve probably seen it somewhere: It features Kermit the Frog, face-to-face with his evil twin, Evil Kermit. Evil Kermit looks identical, except for the black cloak.

evil kermit halloween.png

For this costume, you and a coworker can keep it simple: You both wear green shirts, and one of you wears a black hoodie or jacket on top. If you really want to commit to the costume, you’ll spring for some green face paint to complete the ensemble. Walk around the party together, facing one another, for maximum effect.

17) Eleven from Stranger Things

Eleven from Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things is universally beloved, and it’s a bonus that her signature look is a comfortable and easy-to-assemble costume. Rock your best Eleven with a dress, a denim jacket, and a box of Eggo Waffles.

the-stranger-things-actress-behind-eleven-doesnt-love-eating-tons-of-eggo-waffles.png

Source: Business Insider

18) Pokémon GO Trainer

Pokémon GO had roughly 45 million people walking around in cities glued to their phones last summer (and I was among them). To pay homage to the explosion of this tech trend, you’ll need a t-shirt that’s red, yellow, or blue. Using fabric paint or permanent marker, write Valor (for red), Instinct (for yellow), or Mystic (for blue) on your shirt. Spend Halloween walking around pointing your phone at objects, and you’re the spitting image of a Pokémon GO trainer.

Gotta catch ’em all, right?

 

A photo posted by Odinia (@marshmallowsie) on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:44pm PDT

 

Group Office Costumes

19) Google Algorithm Update

Find a couple of office buddies for this one — one panda, one penguin, and one pigeon. You might be thinking, “what the heck is the pigeon algorithm update?” 1) It’s a thing, and 2) we checked Amazon for hummingbird costumes and there aren’t any cheap ones available.

google-algorithm-update-halloween-costumes.jpg

Source: Opportunity Max

20) Black and White Hat SEO

This is another SEO-related costume, and I think you can figure this one out on your own. I recommend wearing a black hat for one, and a white hat for the other, and having “SEO” embroidered on each one — which you can easily custom order.

21) Dancing Girls Emoji

If you’re the owner of one of the nearly more than 1 billion Apple iPhones sold worldwide, you’re probably familiar with the dancing girls emoji:

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 2.13.14 PM.png

Source: Brit + Co

The easiest version of this costume is to find a buddy and dress all in black together. If you’re committed to emoji authenticity, buy black bunny ears to complete the look.

22) Series A Round of Funding

Get a bunch of people together, write the letter “A” on your shirt, and line up. (You could do subsequent funding rounds using the same principle, too.)

23) Snapchat Filters

Here’s another group costume idea that pays tribute to Snapchat’s filters feature.

There are numerous options that you and your team can choose from to embody this costume. You could dress up as vomiting rainbows, cat and dog ears, a flower crown, or a face swap, and this could be as DIY or store-bought as you’re interested in pursuing. For example, here’s some inspiration for a couple of the dog filters:

snapchatfilter.jpg
Source: PopSugar

24) Snapchat Ghosts

Put a marketing spin on a classic Halloween costume by arriving as a Snapchat ghost. You’ll all need a white sheet and to pick which ghost you like the most.

maxresdefault-24.jpg

Source: YouTube

25) Instagram Filters

For this group costume, you’ll need white t-shirts and fabric markers. Draw an Instagram photo frame on the front of your shirts, and each team member can write a different Instagram filter‘s name inside the photo frame. Or, create frame props with different filters on them like the group did below:

M-nahalloween-1.jpg

Source: Nails Magazine

Increase Your Lead Conversion Rate: Prepare for Success in 2018

Digital marketingIt’s never too early to start planning for new ways to increase lead generation in 2018. In fact, having a digital marketing strategy ready and waiting is the best way to start off the new year. 2017 has given you the opportunity to identify what’s worked, what hasn’t and what needs improvement. You have the data, the analytics and the metrics to decide where to focus your efforts. Now it’s just a matter of revamping your inbound marketing strategy with a combination of proven strategies and new approaches to increase lead conversion. 

Don’t get stuck with the same tired approaches. Expand your horizons. Think outside the box and investigate some of the new lead generation approaches. There will always be a place for proven strategies like email marketing, content marketing and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. 

However, increasing PageRank isn’t merely a question of increasing organic and paid traffic. It’s about improving your customer’s experience, increasing customer engagement and about using a customer-centric digital marketing mindset, one where your inbound marketing strategy is driven by your customers. Knowing what they like, dislike, and the technologies they prefer will go a long way to ensuring 2018 is a success. So, how should you get started?

Review Your Marketing Technology (Martech) Stack 

How do your customers communicate with the outside world? What technologies do your customers prefer? Knowing the type of tools your customers use and rely upon is vital to ensuring your inbound marketing strategy is optimized. Maybe your customers prefer to communicate via the apps on their smartphones. Maybe they prefer real-time options like Twitter. Maybe they’re gravitating to your competitors because they offer live chat. Understanding the gap in your martech stack goes a long way to ensuring that your entire digital strategy is optimized for your customers and market. This is the critical first step to making sure your company is adopting a customer-centric digital strategy. 

Focus on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

No, CRO is not an outdated approach, and no, it’s not something that will put your company in direct conflict with a customer-centric mindset. All CRO implies is that you’ll continue to raise the bar and identify new ways to improve your conversion rates. It means you’re willing to deep dive into what works, what isn’t working but should, what should be abandoned altogether and replaced, and what you can’t optimize any further. While it sounds involved, it’s really just a matter of applying some common sense. Here are some strategies to help you make CRO a goal in 2018.

1. A/B Split Testing: Test everything. Test your call-to-action, your PPC campaigns, your content, your email marketing campaigns and every digital strategy you use. The more you test, the more likely you are to optimize that specific strategy. If you’ve segmented your customer base into buyer personas, then you’ll be able to do A/B split testing across all your personas. Take the analysis all the way to your conversion rates. Don’t stop at the individual strategy. Make it a point to test all the way to the end of the line. 

2. Speed of Response: Somewhere along the way digital marketing teams have forgotten about the importance of speed. It’s not just about your speed of response but also about the speed of your website and mobile platforms. As lead conversion becomes more complex, and the company’s martech stack more complete, it’s common to lose sight of the importance of a speedy platform. Be sure to check the page load times for each of your landing pages. Website performance monitoring sites like Pingdom can track your landing page’s performance by providing an in-depth review of the gaps in page load times. 

3. Know your audience:  One of the tools we like to use at Connection Model is a software program that heatmaps the “user experience”.  It provides us with insight on how each visitor intereacts with your site, what they feel is relevant or pertinent to their visit and then we reprioritize the layout, menu or options based upon aggregated user feedback

4. Simplicity, Clarity, and Purpose: Think about why some of your digital marketing strategies under-performed in 2017. Focus on some of the landing pages that failed to capture your audience’s attention. More than likely they missed the mark because of a lack of clarity and purpose. Landing pages with too many offers confuse visitors and lack clarity. Redundant messages distract prospects. Another issue can be summarized by too many links and a page that’s simply too busy to keep your audience engaged. 

Focus on simplicity. Identify whom you’re targeting and why. Make sure your entire solution is centered around a single solution. Cut down on the redundancy of your offer and the overselling of your product or service. Keep it simple, to-the-point and focused on what your buyer personas want, need and value. Take that analysis beyond your landing page and use it with all your digital strategies. This means using simplicity, clarity, and purpose when producing content, email campaigns and when putting together your digital advertisements. 

Digital marketing

5. Back to Basics: It’s easy to get sidetracked and ignore the basics when you’re managing multiple channels and trying to appeal to different buyer personas. Now’s the time to take a step back. Review your sales copy. Revamp your calls to action.  Revisit some of your content pieces and eliminate redundant and repetitive content. Recommit yourself to originality by using your own videos and images. 

Leverage customer testimonials and focus on how you can reconnect with specific buyer personas. Determine where conversion rates on specific landing pages are less than acceptable and why. Did you clearly convey your product’s value? Did you fail to create a sense of urgency with your offers? Were your special discounts, rebates, and promotions not enticing enough? Did you ignore the importance of social media? Did you employ too much of a sales pitch and not enough of a branding strategy? 

Understanding where you went wrong allows you to itemize the strategies you must improve in 2018 and beyond. Now is that time. 

Increasing conversion rates doesn’t merely involve scrapping your entire inbound marketing strategy and starting from scratch. It means identifying what’s working. It means backtracking results and seeing where you went wrong and it means having the martech stack to keep up with your customer’s communication demands. 

If you need help upgrading or revamping your inbound marketing strategy, then call us and request an assessment. Find out how we can help your business grow in 2018.

Are Amazon ‘Sponsored Products’ Ads Worth It?

 

Say you’re in the market for a new pair of headphones or a new guitar tuner. Where would you start your search? Google, right?

Not so fast. According to a 2016 survey of 2,000 consumers, 55% of people actually skip Google altogether and start their online shopping searches directly on Amazon. Google still remains the top search tool for B2B purchases and services, but Amazon is steadily overtaking them in the B2C market.

Need help getting started with inbound ads on Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook? Book a free meeting with The Center for Inbound Advertising here.

So what does this mean for you, the advertiser?

When you’re thinking about your online advertising strategy, you want to meet your consumers where they are. And if you’re a B2C company, that place is — more likely than not — Amazon.

Google and Facebook still command the biggest slice of the pie in the online ad market, generating respective revenues of $80 billion and $27 billion in 2016. But the two tech giants only control around 20% of the market, leaving plenty of room for a new player (say, Amazon) to emerge.

Experts estimated that Amazon earned around $1 billion from ads in 2016, but some say that number will surpass $2.5 billion in 2017. They’re on the fast track for exponential growth in the coming years, but since they’re still not officially a major player in the online ad business, there’s an incredible opportunity for advertisers to get in early and score better ad positions at a lower cost than more established properties like Google AdWords.

Who can benefit the most?

If you are an e-commerce company, advertising on Amazon is something you should definitely explore. B2B companies, consulting firms, lawyers, others will still see better ad returns on more established properties like Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook at the moment.

Getting Started With Amazon Ads

Amazon has several advertising programs to chose from, but the best one to get started with is Amazon Sponsored Products. The Sponsored Product ads are really just image ads — similar to display ads in Google Adwords — but the cool thing is that they appear in search results on Amazon right next to the searched products. So when I do a search for “guitar tuners” in Amazon I get this: 

The only visible difference between the sponsored and the non-sponsored results is the gray “Sponsored” tag that appears above the product title. You’ll also see sponsored products can appear in the sidebar.

The same search in Google yields this: 


 

The process for Amazon Sponsored Products is very similar to advertising on Google AdWords: you select keywords, and your ad will show up when someone searches for them. Like AdWords, you pay only for the clicks you receive on your ad.

And when someone clicks on your Sponsored Product Ad, they’re sent to your landing page, which would typically be your Amazon product detail page. You could also send them outside to a page on your website if you choose.

You Might See Better Results on Amazon vs. Google AdWords

A major difference between Google AdWords and Amazon ads is where people current sit in the purchasing process when they search on each platform.

People searching on Google are more likely to be at the beginning of the buyer’s journey, i.e., they just began their search and or are currently just browsing for solutions/products. But when someone begins their search on Amazon, that person is usually more prepared to make a purchasing descision.

Building Your Amazon Ad

Amazon provides a complete introduction to getting started you can see that here.

But just to highlight the process:

  • You will need to have an active seller account on Amazon.
  • You need to have active product listings in at least one of Amazon’s product categories.
  • You need to have Buy Box.

The Buy Box is the box on a Amazon product detail page where customers can begin the purchasing process by adding items to their shopping carts.

Some Nuts and Bolts: Keywords, Ad groups, and Bidding

Just like Google AdWords, Amazon sponsored products uses keywords to trigger your ads. You can choose automatic targeting — letting Amazon choose your keywords for you (this is the right choice for new advertisers), or you can choose manual targeting — where you choose your own keywords (a good choice after you have accumulated some data from a running campaign).

There are three types of keyword matching: broad, phrase, exact.

Ad groups are used to group SKUs together for automatic or manual targeting.

Reporting in Amazon Ads

Amazon will also provide advertisers with data about searches for particular keywords. Similar to Google AdWords, you have to be an advertiser to get access to this informative data. The data includes which search terms are working and performing the best, enabling you to add new keywords and refine the performance of your campaigns.

For each keyword, the search terms report will include data on:

  • Campaign
  • Ad group
  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Click thru rate
  • Cost per click
  • Conversions/number of orders placed
  • SKU for the sale
  • And more

 

The Dollars Make Sense

While Google and Facebook (and even LinkedIn) dominate the marketplace in online advertising, that dominance comes with a corresponding higher cost-per-click. According to content26.com, “the average CPCs on Amazon Marketing Services was about 38% lower than Google Adwords”.

Why is this? Google AdWords has been around for over 15 years, and originally cost-per-click was not very high. But with increased visibility and popularity of the platform, CPC rates have continued to rise along with the number of advertisers. This means more and more advertisers are competing for the same amount of space.

Amazon is just getting into the game, having only been around advertising-wise for about five years. The number of advertisers seeking space on the platform is much lower than Google, which means less competition. In addition, the advertising on Amazon is only focused on products, which means less competition from related services like you see regularly on Google AdWords.

All of this implies a lower cost-per-click for advertisers of products on Amazon.

Plus, while Amazon uses past performance and sales on Amazon to determine positioning, sponsored content on Amazon can turbocharge newer and smaller companies and get them more consumer attention. You can use sponsored content to help push your listing to the top of the search results.

Get In Early

If you have a product to sell, now is the time to consider using Amazon sponsored products ads. You can get in relatively early, at a lower cost-per-click, and have a chance to promote new products at the top of an Amazon search. It’s still very early days for Amazon advertising — this creates a big opportunity.

For more information about inbound advertising on Amazon or any of the other platforms – AdWords, LinkedIn, or Facebook you can arrange a meeting with me here — there is no charge for these meetings.

Which Social Media Network Makes Us Feel the Worst? [New Data]

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve deactivated Facebook, re-joined, and deactivated again, only to repeat the process. 

It began last fall, where much of social media was full of contention and — as it was later revealed — dripping with promoted political content with links to Russia.

Everyone was digitally screaming at each other, loathing and lamenting until, come November, I thought to myself, “Enough already. I’m outta here.”

Sound familiar to anyone?

If so, you’re not alone, and you certainly aren’t limited to being joined by experience. After running a consumer survey in Australia, the UK, and the U.S., we discovered that out of six social networks — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube — 43% percent of respondents said that Facebook makes them feel the worst.

So, why is this happening — besides the personal reasons listed above? And for marketers who rely on Facebook to maintain and build an audience, what are you supposed to do with this information?

Hey. We’ve got you. Let’s take a look at some of our additional data, and see what you can do from here.

Facebook Makes Us Feel the Worst: What That Means and What to Do About It

The Data

So, we hate to break it to you, but while Facebook might make us feel worse than other social media networks, it seems like these digital communities are making us generally unhappy.

On average, about a third of respondents say that they “feel awful,” or close to it, after visiting social media sites — remember, this is across the board, not just Facebook. While that may not seem like too much more than the average 12% who say they “feel great,” it’s still not exactly an encouraging number.

After all, our optimism dictates that these networks weren’t created to divide, even if that’s how some groups have leveraged them within the past two years. Rather, they were created to keep friends and family connected, and eventually evolved as platforms to promote shareable content. 

But as these networks have evolved, so has the content distributed on it — 62% of U.S. adults consume news primarily through social media, 66% of whom do so via Facebook. So, is that what’s making us miserable? If I’m being honest, it would appear that bad news has been taking the lead lately.

That could be why, when we asked respondents which type of content stands out most to them on Facebook, the primary response was “posts from friends and family.” Whether that content makes them feel good or bad isn’t clear — but I imagine that, among the noise and ads (which an average of 45% of respondents say they “really dislike”), content from familiar faces might be welcome for consumption.


What to Do With This Information

I know — this data is kind of a downer. After all, if people start to stray from Facebook because it makes them so unhappy, then it might not be of much use to your brand.

But it’s not all bad news, if you’ll excuse the pun. People are still using Facebook — after all, just look at this user data:

In a way, our findings create an opportunity for marketers on Facebook. You can modify your brand’s presence to stand out among the content that could be making users unhappy, and instead, draws them to your page and makes them want to share your content. And no, that doesn’t mean you have to shift your Facebook strategy to dog videos and riddles — although, if someone could get on that, I certainly wouldn’t mind having a look.

However, it does mean that you can revisit the idea of what drew your audience to your brand in the first place. You can build upon the more positive elements of the answer to that question to provide content that stands out among the more negative noise.

But what does that content look like? Here are three key characteristics to start with.

1) Relevant

While it’s tempting, you don’t have to pretend that bad things don’t happen and that unhappiness doesn’t exist. However, you can address it on your Facebook Page in a way that emphasizes and encourages optimism.

Do you have employees who are volunteering to help with hurricane relief efforts? Are you donating a portion of your proceeds to an organization that does so? You can draw attention to those things without bragging about them by emphasizing a sense of solidarity. After all, there’s a reason why these Pages and networks are sometimes called “communities”: They’re groups of users that share a common interest.

2) Helpful

That said, you still have to maintain relevance to your brand and the product or service it provides, as well as the world-at-large. One of the primary tenets of inbound marketing is to create content that is both aligned with your product or service, and answers the questions that your audience is likely to have. Don’t abandon that. Rather, continue to establish yourself as an authentic, helpful Page that, despite all of the other less-than-awesome stuff that appears on Facebook, stands out as an oasis with resources that serve and assist.

3) Familiar

Remember those data points about content from friends and family standing out the most? In a way, that goes back to the idea of your Page serving as a community of people with a shared interest. Again, what drew this audience to your brand in the first place? How do they feel when they see your name or your other creative assets? You may need to ask these questions of your users to truly know how you’re perceived, but in these troubled times, it can pay to maintain consistency and stability in the type of content you distribute, and the way you do so. Keep that in mind as you create the copy that you share with Facebook posts, like videos or images.

And, if all else fails, don’t be afraid to check in with your audience. Try something like, “It’s Friday! How’s everyone doing?” It’s neutral, friendly, and conveys that you care.

So, how does everyone feel now? Tinker around with these ideas and see how they go.

Oh, and about those dog videos …

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fharlowandsage%2Fvideos%2F1513581405345320%2F&show_text=0&width=476