Why Customer Reviews are an Important Part of Your Marketing Strategy

 

client-reviews.pngWe can all relate to the importance customer reviews play when we are making a purchase, whether for a high-dollar item or a less expensive one. In fact, consulting customer reviews has become second nature for us, a worthwhile step in the buying journey. So, it makes sense that this practice is spilling over into our business purchases as well. About half of all B2B buyers use reviews before selecting new products or services.

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While still a somewhat new practice in the business world, if customer reviews aren’t rolling in, you can use the ones you do have to their fullest potential by including them in your marketing strategy. This will increase their visibility while helping you build a trust relationship with your customers and prospects. This graph shows you why that’s so important.

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TrustRadius conducted another poll that found 76% of respondents in an active buying cycle used customer reviews during their decision-making process.

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The influence customer reviews wield is evident. Consumers trust peer reviews to give them honest, accurate feedback on a product or service to save them from making a bad purchase. Now that we agree customer reviews are important, let’s talk about how you can incorporate them into your marketing for the greatest effect.

4 Ways to Make Customer Reviews Part of Your Marketing Strategy

1. Keep Your Reviews Honest

There really is no such thing as a bad review. So called bad reviews often times point out limitations that are an important component of the fact-finding mission and an important objection that your sales people will know they need to address. Having this information upfront decreases customer dissatisfaction. It also gives you an opportunity to respond to the unfavorable review with a workaround, update, or great customer service that everyone can view. Your customers and prospects want to see that you care. Show them that, and you win their trust, and that wins you loyal customers.

2. Recruit Brand Ambassadors

It’s likely you have many satisfied, loyal customers. However, it’s also likely that most of them haven’t written a review of your product or service. There is nothing wrong with asking a happy customer to write a review. If appropriate, you can also invite them to record a video testimonial or write a guest blog about their experience with your product or service.

3. Make Your Reviews Easy to Find

You want to make sure your customer reviews are very easy to find. You’ll want to feature customer testimonials – written or video – on your website, in e-mail campaigns, and on social media. Stack the content to get the most bang for your buck.

4. Actively Monitor Your Reviews

Depending on your business, you’ll have reviews on the media you control, but reviews of your product or service may also appear on third-party sites. Make sure you are actively monitoring where your customers are leaving reviews and what they are saying. This enables you to get a complete picture and to respond to positive and negative reviews in a timely manner. Again, it’s all about sending the message that you care about your customers’ experience with your brand.

By encouraging, acknowledging, and promoting customer feedback, you are showing your customers and your prospects that you value their opinions and you want to make their buying journey with you a satisfactory one. Customer reviews are a great way to build trust, which goes a long way toward building your business.

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How the Leading E-Mail Innovations Help Marketers

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email-buttonE-mail remains a prominent player for marketers to drive both revenue and engagement. As this medium has seen significant developments and dollars invested in technology, marketers are wise to keep pace and not rely on the status quo for their e-mail marketing efforts. E-mail must play a central role in your marketing.

E-mail drives data, and we marketers know that’s key. The more we can learn about our prospects and communicate with them in meaningful and ongoing ways the better it is for not only getting a sale but also for forming a trust relationship. E-mail is about so much more than just sending a message to a prospect or an existing customer. It’s what marketers do with the data gathered and the e-mail platform capabilities that drives real results.

One of the primary obstacles of using e-mail marketing that I see is a lack of real dedication or buy-in to the e-mail initiatives. Without dedicating the proper amount of time, human and financial resources to your e-mail strategy, it’s likely not to perform well, or worse, fail completely. Just as the e-mail platforms must continue to innovate in the technology they provide, we marketers must also continue to innovate in how we use e-mail to market to our prospects and customers. We must think about what our prospects want to hear, what they need to hear, and how we need to say it.

By viewing your e-mail tactics not as single deployments but rather part of a comprehensive whole, you’re beginning to set the stage for success. How can e-mail be part of your marketing whole? Each component must compliment the other as well as feed this circular marketing message – from e-mail to website to YouTube to Twitter, etc. – the message must be consistent and well orchestrated to tell a story across platforms in a compelling and cohesive way. Push the limits of how you define e-mail and how you use it. Innovate!

To provide you with a little inspiration, here are some e-mail examples I like because of their simplicity. They each do a good job communicating a clear message, offer specific and highly visible calls to action, provide a few opportunities to click for info, and stay true to their brand image.

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2019 Marketing Challenges and How to Overcome Them

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overcomeThe role of marketing is changing and growing, covering multiple functions and business units now – traditional marketing, lead generation, online sales, digital marketing, etc. Not every company is prepared to handle this rapidly expanding and critical role. Many companies lack the staff, expertise, and infrastructure to pull off really effective marketing.

One of the biggest problems is that it’s not uncommon for the different marketing decisions to happen in a silo. Key players of other marketing functions are all too often unaware of critical decisions, technology purchases, platform selections, and strategy approaches that are being done in different parts of the company. Without a unified approach, opportunities are missed and important data isn’t gathered or analyzed, so necessary changes aren’t made.

These three steps will help you get your marketing efforts back on track for a unified and strategic approach that addresses the broad and ever-expanding needs of today’s marketplace and the challenges facing marketers.

  1. Know What Your End Game Is

We all know the importance of goal setting in determining the desired business outcomes. Equally important is that all key players (including executives) are involved in establishing and implementing the plan. Accountability alongside follow-up is key. Determine who is doing what and when, how it worked, what changes are necessary, and how it applies to the company as a whole.

  1. Determine Obstacles And Your Pivot Strategy

Likely, you already know what obstacles you face – low budget, board members, old or non-existent technology, incompatible platforms, etc. – and that’s good news. Now, you can work together with your team to address these obstacles head on. Brainstorm ideas with those from different areas of your company. You will likely get a broad range of good ideas, but more importantly you get buy-in from your team. No matter what level in the organization, employees like to feel heard and valued.

It’s important to also establish guidelines for when you’ll pivot to a new approach if the strategy for combating the obstacle isn’t working. Keep your communication clear and ongoing. Change isn’t always easy. Often you’ll encounter process naysayers who prefer to keep things “how we’ve always done it.” Ongoing education is critical to get buy-in from everyone in the organization.

  1. Implement Your Plan Incrementally

Effectively addressing your company’s changing and growing marketing needs is a big job – one that takes time. Determine the most critical gaps, the strategy to solve, who is responsible for doing the work, develop an implementation schedule, and create a process for analyzing the data you gather.

Successfully addressing your 2019 marketing challenges involves taking a holistic approach to how your company markets as a whole and working to build cooperation and communication among the key players to ensure your marketing and sales goals are being met.

Trends in Digital Marketing for 2019

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The new year is all about connectivity, and those who embrace it will thrive in the increasingly more digital world. Here are some opportunities I think will be leading the way in 2019.

 

Connected TV Will Continue Its Rise

Connected TV (CTV) found its momentum in 2018 with viewership steadily increasing and projected to reach 190 million users in 2019 while traditional cable continues to decline. According to Extreme Reach, the growth of CTV doubled in 2018 versus the previous year. And, it overtook mobile, which accounted for 30 percent of video ad impressions. CTV enables televisions to connect to the Internet, opening up a world of content not before available through traditional TV viewing. This translates into unparalleled reach and better targeting for marketers.

Instagram TV Will Take On YouTube

In 2018 Instagram set out to disrupt the video market by launching its own YouTube competitor called Instagram TV (IGTV). In the past, Instagram stories were only viewable for 24 hours, and videos could only be one minute. With IGTV, this is no longer the case, and marketers and Instagram users are taking notice. Marketers are seeing the potential IGTV brings to engage with prospects in a meaningful and highly targeted way. Video content is still a powerful tool in 2019.

Artificial Intelligence Will Become More Pervasive

Marketers can’t beat the enhanced analytics AI provides, so it’s no wonder more and more marketers are using AI to plan and execute their campaigns. According to Salesforce, 51 percent of marketing leaders are already using AI in some form, and more than a quarter will begin using AI technology in 2019. With increased usage, we can expect to see improvements in this technology over time. Chatbots are a great example. Powered by AI automation, bots are reshaping the way customers interact with brands and shape the customer experience by answering queries and providing online assistance.

Augmented Reality Advertising Will Get Real

One of the most prevalent obstacles of online shopping is customers can’t personally engage with the product by touching it, trying it on, etc. Augmented reality (AR) technology solves this problem. Furniture brands like IKEA use AR so online shoppers can visualize what the furniture will look like in their homes, and makeup chains such as Sephora enable online shoppers to test products on themselves using an uploaded selfie. Consumers are opting to buy online now more than ever, so AR is going to become increasingly more important and more sophisticated.

Voice Advertising Will Enhance Customization

Currently, millions of people use voice devices to ask for information, make a phone call, text, or easily place orders — and advertisers are starting to take notice. According to Com Score, an estimated 50 percent of all searches will be conducted through voice by 2020. You can see the opportunity this technology provides to develop creative voice campaigns that use jingles or recognizable influencer voices targeted to your prospects. And, unlike text queries, which tend to be short, voice-activated searches provide marketers with greater context to more effectively tailor the message to the target audience’s needs and preferences.

Be On The Look Out For Visual Searches

This technology is just beginning to take off. A visual search enables a consumer to take a photo of a desired product with their smartphone and then locate the item (or one similar to it) in a store. Home Depot and Urban Outfitters are just two examples of brands using this technology. And, platforms like Pinterest, Bing and Google have rolled out search functions that enable users to locate items inspired by objects in the real world.

I am excited by these technologies and the possibilities they offer marketers in 2019. Don’t be afraid to try something new and take full advantage of all of the new ways we have to reach prospects. Happy New Year!

 

5 Strategies to Help You Meet Your Revenue Goals in 2019

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Business graphAs we prepare to say goodbye to 2018, the timing is perfect to concentrate our attention on developing a solid plan for success in 2019. That means you need quality prospects in your pipeline and a comprehensive marketing plan. Here are five tactics to help you drive performance.

1. Start small with a very precise target market, then expand.

Disclaimer: this means the number of leads in your pipeline will likely be smaller than normal. However, you’ll work toward gathering analytics that will enable you to cast a wider net to catch even more quality prospects. You’ll do this by capturing critical data about your highly targeted prospects throughout their journey – think: who, when, where, what. By focusing your energy and resources on identifying and speaking directly to a smaller, highly targeted pool of prospects, you’ll have the tools to develop a better long-term and broader reaching strategy.

  1. Respect your prospects’ time and privacy.

Global data privacy laws are being deployed, and they bring with them significant consequences for companies that don’t comply. It is essential in today’s digital world that your prospects and your loyal customers have transparency when it comes to how you will respect and protect the information you gather on them. Have a policy and make it available. Adapt a permission mindset and always use an opt-in option for building your database.

  1. Collect useful data.

I know this seems like an odd strategy, but it isn’t if you consider that a recent survey by DemandGen Report showed that on average more than 35 percent of the data in existing databases is unmarketable and can’t be used. That’s a waste of time, energy, storage, and money. Use 2019 as a fresh start and clean up your database, purging “junk” data like invalid addresses, duplicates, non-compliant, and unstandardized prospect information. This process should be done regularly. It will help improve your targeting results and save you money that can be used for other revenue generating initiatives.

  1. Pick up the pace.

We live in a “now” society. If it’s taking you several days to respond to a lead, you’re taking too long and risking losing a qualified prospect. Start the new year by identify ways you can route your data faster to respond more quickly. At this stage, it also makes good sense to take a look at the stages in your pipeline to see where changes can be made to shorten and streamline the prospects’ journey to a sale.

  1. Measure your results.

Success means different things to different people. Make sure you have agreed upon metrics to measure success. This means you want all the key players to agree on the key performance indicators (KPIs), what technology or tools you’ll use to measure performance, and how this information will be shared. Remember, there is no such thing as bad insights. It’s very valuable to know what’s not working in addition to what is.

The new year is right around the corner. It’s the perfect time to get started on making sure your revenue marketing strategy performs and delivers in 2019 so you meet or exceed your revenue goals. These five tips will get you moving in the right direction.

Do You Do These 5 Things Successful Retailers Do?

greatest_bannersIllustration: KrizzDaPaul/GettyImagesWhile online sales continue to take on retail, the most successful retailers have discovered that the secret to success is to prioritize what it is your customers truly want, invest in the technology and people to deliver it, and make the experience seamless across channels. Before I talk about the five ways they do this, I want to share recent Custora research that gives insight into what’s driving retail growth.

Average Order Frequency Beats Customer Acquisition

Yes, you read that right. High-growth brands invest significantly in acquiring new customers, but it’s relatively inefficient.

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Savvy retailers have responded, instead investing their dollars in things like welcome series, hybrid subscription models, and personalization across channels and devices to drive brand engagement and product discovery.

Increasing Average Order Size Increases Revenue

Another powerful finding from Custora is that increasing basket size is more beneficial than just trying for repeat business.  The most successful data-driven retailers excel at cross-selling by suggesting complementary products the customer may like or upselling by showing the customer premium merchandise and full-price new arrivals.

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But, most retailers will tell you that growing basket size is more difficult than driving repeat business. They are right – unless they are doing these five things.

The 5 Steps to Retail Success

  1. Analyze Your Customer Data: You gather lots of data on your customers. Take a look at it and see what it’s telling you about your customers’ relationship to your brand.
  2. Create A Plan: Are you going to try to cross-sell or upsell? Determine that objective and then set goals. In general, cross-selling is a good starting approach for retailers of relatively low price-point goods, impulse purchases, or a wide merchandise assortment. Retailers of homogeneous or high-consideration goods might instead focus on upselling.
  3. Look At Your Sales: Now it’s time to study your sales and see what that data tells you. What products are typically purchased together? Which customer type tends to buy premium products? Knowing this information is invaluable.
  4. Start Small: The most successful retailers keep it simple when they are just beginning. So, begin with just one offer and measure its impacts and adjust accordingly, then expand from there.
  5. Optimize And Automate: Once you have identified what works, keep your momentum going by continuing to monitor your data and tweaking your approach in response to what your data is telling you.

By implementing these five steps, retailers unlock untapped opportunity and increase their ability to grow and thrive – even in the digital age.

 

Demographics Don’t Gauge Your Target Market’s Mood – Why That Matters

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Unknown-1In a climate ripe with data gathering and advanced analytics, the mood of our prospects isn’t often considered. We’ve come so far since the early days of advertising, yet in many ways we still rely on the yesteryear approach to marketing. Think about how we price advertising, which is archaic when you consider it’s best to buy ads one at a time based on analytic analysis. Equally outdated is the basic premise of demographics – a practice that begun in the 1920s – and it’s enduring focus on greater segmentation and third-party data collection with disregard to how we consume media in today’s economy.

In all of our advances, we seem to have missed the boat. Social media is the closest we’ve come to hitting the mark. Only in that arena do we realize that we have the means to speak to our prospects in real time. But, that’s where we tend to stop. We don’t acknowledge that that means we can advertise to prospects frequently, optimizing campaigns around prospects’ given moods.

If You Want a Personal Connection With Prospects, You Can’t Discount Mood

Much (if not all) of our segmenting is hard fact centered; we never consider mood. Yet, we increasingly want to use our technological advances to make a more meaningful, personal connection. It seems counterintuitive, and I’m not alone in this thinking.

We should be putting more emphasis on prospects’ given mood and optimizing from that vantage point. Media buys would then be adjusted to the content that speaks to the prospects’ moods, using real-time reactions. Traditional, long-held demographic segmenting practices alone will not get us where we want to go. We have to dig deeper and consider the moods of our prospects to reach them in a meaningful way.