5 Easy Ways to Improve Product Pages & Their Conversion Rates

By | eCommerce | No Comments

When a person lands on your product page, they’re no longer just an interested visitor, they’re a prospective customer. And this page is your make or break point. It’s where a consumer will either decide to buy your product or leave your ecommerce site.

But too often newer store owners neglect their product pages. They throw up a picture and short product description and call it good to instead focus their attention on refining their checkout page… and that’s the problem.

A consumer isn’t going to make it to your checkout page unless you have an appealing, user-friendly product page that’s going to convert. And a product page that’s going to convert is one that showcases features of your product, informs customers why they should buy it, builds consumer-business trust and makes it easy to purchase.

Here’s how you can achieve all of that.

1. Add lots of customer reviews.

No matter how many details and pictures you share or how much you rave about your product being the No. 1 of its kind in your market, customers need reassurance that your product does what you say it does and that they can trust what you say. You give them that reassurance with customer reviews:

Not only do they help sell new customers, they help you with your SEO efforts, like creating unique content and capturing more long-tail SEO traffic as well as web traffic from users searching for ‘product name + reviews’.

[Screenshots from fossil.com]

And posting some negative reviews helps, too. Don’t post a lot obviously (hopefully you don’t receive a lot or that’s something else you need to improve), but 68% of customers trust product reviews more when there’s a mix of positive and negative ones—because we all know no one, and no company, is perfect.

2. Build out trust signals.

Along with product reviews, clearly state how much shipping is, how soon the product will ship out, how soon it will arrive and make it easy to save to a wish list. These things don’t just make it easy for follow-up emails and retargeting campaigns, but they reduce anxiety, like giving a customer peace of mind to know if she buys this product from you it will arrive on time to give to her dad for his birthday.

You can summarize this information to save some space on the product page, but if you do that make sure to include a link to a page that has more detailed information.

[Screenshot from nordstrom.com]

Also, if your product has any kind of certification, don’t just write it in your product description where it might be overlooked; make it really stand out by creating a badge to showcase it. These badges don’t just make your product look better, they make consumers more willing to trust you and your product, especially if the certification is from another company they already know and trust. One online company saw a 7.6% increase in conversion when they placed a security seal on the page.

3. Include several product images.

In the world of online shopping, customers can’t physically try on or test your product. Help them imagine themselves wearing your sweater or using your gadget with high-quality pictures.

[Screenshot from vitamix.com]

The key to good pictures is showing the product from different angles, setting up an image zoom feature and if size matters, showing the product next to something known so people can better understand its actual size, like an earring on a girl’s ear or a pendent next to a quarter. Also consider showing your product in different settings if it makes sense, such as having one stock photo of your stroller and then one of it actually being used by a mom and her kid on a sidewalk.

Something that worked wonders for online retailer DueMaternity.com was using 360-degree rotating images, which converted at a 27% higher rate than standard images for them.

4. Integrate live chat.

Live chat is a simple way to improve a page’s conversion rate. People want questions answered and problems solved quickly—live chat makes both happen.

[Screenshot from cellercise.com]

Knowing a customer rep is right there to help makes a shopper’s life easier. It lets them know you’re readily available and increases trust. It also gives your customer rep a chance to make the sale happen. (Tip: This person doesn’t need to be salesy, just be helpful and honest.)

5. Offer a money back guarantee (if you’re bold enough).

How often have you asked yourself when shopping online, “What happens if I don’t end up liking this once it arrives?” I think we all have numerous times.

[Screenshots from llbean.com]

If you tell people that your product is the best and they won’t be disappointed by it, then you better be able to back up all that talk with some action. And that action is putting a money back guarantee and return policy on every product page. To earn a customer’s trust and get them to buy your product, you have to have confidence in your products, and adding a section on each product page that says they’ll be 100% satisfied and if they aren’t they can get their money back shows your confidence.

A well-designed product page translates into a well-designed online shopping experience that will increase your conversions and sales. Make these 5 things happen, and you’ll up your conversion rates in no time.

From Kickstarter to eCommerce – 10 Things You Absolutely, Positively Have to Get Right

By | eCommerce | No Comments

You’ve put countless hours, and probably a lot of blood, sweat and tears, into your product. And maybe like GoldieBlox, you’ve showed it to investors and retailers in your industry, and they shut you down. But like this company, you believed in your product’s value and didn’t want to give up on your dream or throw away all your hard work. So you turned to Kickstarter, and one morning you woke up to find you were one of its more than 117,000 successfully funded projects.

But… what do you do now?

Well like many inventors or entrepreneurs in your situation do (or should do), it’s time to start your own ecommerce store. And if you want to get orders and grow fast, then you better do these 10 things—and you better do them right.

1. Pick the right platform.

There are dozens of ecommerce platforms out there for you to choose. But, not all platforms are created equal. Most of our clients run on Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce, and we’ve found that clients on these platforms tend to outperform their counterparts running on different platforms. Just remember there’s no one-size-fits-all platform. Determine what features you need and then do your homework, and if you need to, ask platforms all your questions to ensure you choose the right one for your business.

2. Make sure your website is user-friendly and easy to navigate.

[Screenshot taken from wrightwoodfurniture.com]

The design of your site plays a crucial role in attracting and retaining customers, and getting them to buy your product. And while the colors, fonts and images you use are important, far too many sites these days are beautiful, but a total disaster to use. A well-designed, easy-to-navigate site makes it easy for consumers to find what they’re looking for and motivates them to check out more pages on your site. So make sure your products, contact information and about us pages are easy to find, since 86%, 64% and 52% of website visitors, respectively, want to see those pages once on the homepage of a site.

3. Have your website up and functional before your Kickstarter campaign ends.

You can only put so much information about your brand and product on your Kickstarter campaign page. On your own website, you can tell your full story and provide more information that gets people better engaging with you. Some backers will find you on Kickstarter but want to know more, and if you don’t have a website, how can they? Plus, your website will live long after your Kickstarter campaign ends, so launch your website before to capture as much attention and as many leads you can, while also building an email list.

4. Use professional product shots.

[Screenshot taken from nike.com]

Everyone with an iPhone these days thinks they’re a “professional photographer”—but what someone should tell them is they aren’t. Great shots sell. So do yourself a huge favor and take professional product shots to put on your product pages and help you stand out above your competition. And if you have the budget, you might also consider using product videos to show consumers how to properly use your product.

5. Optimize your website.

An ecommerce website is a website, meaning you have to ensure it’s optimized. A common SEO error ecommerce websites make is not optimizing their product pages. Each of your pages should be optimized for consumer demand and keywords searched when making headlines, title pages and product descriptions. When doing SEO for your website, start out focusing on long tail keywords for the first 3-6 months, and then work in head keywords where it makes sense.

6. Have a solid content strategy based off your customers.

No customers, no money. And customers today don’t just go online and buy a product; they first do their research. They want their questions answered and pain points addressed, and they’re going online to find someone who’s going to do that. So figure out what your customers’ pain points, questions and decision making process looks like and produce useful, entertaining content to address each of them. I promise that having a solid content marketing strategy will help you generate higher sales.

7. Carve out an influencer budget.

Industry influencers have already built a loyal, engaging following. So utilize what they’ve already got by finding ones relevant to your brand and customers and then developing a working relationship with them. But developing this relationship usually comes at a small price. You’ll need a combination of cash, product and the ability to produce affiliate links and coupon codes to attract heavy hitters who can really help drive demand to your ecommerce site.

8. Get and put up customer reviews on your website.

[Screenshot taken from xdorialife.com]

People hate to be sold by businesses, but they love to be sold by other people. In fact, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 72% of consumers trust businesses that have positive reviews. If you want to earn consumers’ trust—and their money—then in the early days of your business, make sure to collect reviews from every customer you can. And if you have the budget, consider using video testimonials.

9. Pick one social channel and hit it hard.

It’s tempting to want to try and dominate all social channels. But you’ll quickly find yourself out of time and energy trying to post new things and respond to comments on every channel. Do yourself a favor and pick one or two that best fit with your product and target audience, and do it better than anyone else on said platform.

10. Tap into communities.

There are so many different communities you can play in to get visibility for your brand. Chances are there are at least half a dozen forums where you can establish yourself as an active member—answering questions, asking questions, providing useful industry information, etc.—and once you’ve done that, then you can start to promote your products within those communities.

Now that you know these 10 things you need to do, find out the 10 ecommerce marketing tactics that desperately need your attention.

50 Resources to Help You Slay Your Kickstarter Campaign

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According to Kickstarter data, the site has had 117,448 successfully funded projects and more than $2 billion total dollars have been pledged to Kickstarter accounts (as of when this was written). It’s no wonder this global crowdfunding platform is the go-to place to launch a crowdfunding campaign.

But it takes more than a killer idea to kill your Kickstarter campaign. You need a straightforward strategy to raise money. Use this roundup of resources to help you start, manage and slay your Kickstarter campaign.

Kickstarter Resources

1. Creator Handbook — This is the how-to Kickstarter guide. It takes you through the basics of setting up your project’s description, choosing rewards, sending out updates and more.

2. Creator Resources Page — This page is a giant list of services that have been tested and approved by creators. You’ll find everything from design services to packaging, fulfillment, shipping and more.

3. Campus — An online chat resource where you can talk to and ask fellow creators about any part of running a Kickstarter campaign.

4. Reward Examples — Kickstarter has listed 96 varying examples of campaign rewards to inspire you when determining your own.

5. Kickstarter Rules — There aren’t a ton, but they’re something you should read and know before starting your Kickstarter campaign, so you don’t ruin your chances of getting the money you need for your project.

6. Kickstarter Blog — Full of tips and tricks and advice for Kickstarter newbies.

Project and Team Management and Collaboration

7. QuickBooks — This tool is used by many small and startup businesses, as well as accountants. as their accounting and budgeting tool. With various features, like tracking expenses, balance sheets and profit and loss reports, it’ll help you easily and efficiently set and manage your budget and expenses with your campaign and your business.

8. Trello — Trello is a free project management tool that will keep track of everything for you, from your daily tasks to the big project details.

9. Google Apps — With Gmail, Hangouts, calendars, docs and sheets, Google provides almost all the project collaboration and management tools you need to stay on top of project communications and creations.

10. Evernote — This is another way to keep organized and share ideas. Type up to-do lists and notes or talk and record your notes hands-free from your computer or mobile device.

11. DropBox — Use this cloud storage service to keep all your documents and other project assets in one place and accessible to everyone on the project from wherever and whenever they need them.

12. BackerKit — User-friendly way to manage data and your fulfillment and communication efforts with funders after your campaign, so you’re not trying to do it all by email or spreadsheets.

13. Basecamp — The best tool to use if you and your team members work primarily out of office. Tasks are visually organized and completed in a clear and concise way, and it’s easy to maintain communication all around.

Social Media

14-17. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn — How you use or don’t use social media can make or break your Kickstarter campaign. Getting the word out about your project, building a fanbase and connecting with influencers is what’s going to help you reach your funding goal. Just look at how these successful Kickstarter campaigns utilized and benefited from social media.

18. Facebook Advertising — If you want the post that links to your Kickstarter campaign to land in more newsfeeds, you may have to spend a little money using Facebook advertising. A little can go a long way, however, and you can even choose the audience you wish to appeal to.

19. Hootsuite — Efficiently manage your company’s social profiles in one user-friendly dashboard and relieve some of the time-consuming burden or constantly posting and pushing content by scheduling posts to go out ahead of time.

20. Buffer — Buffer is another time-saving social management tool. But some prefer it over Hootsuite for its analytics and ability to add RSS feeds to your buffer.

Email and Outreach

21. MailChimp — This email service helps you grow your business, and it’s great for your Kickstarter campaign because you can easily create and send customizable, personal thank you emails to backers and donors and keep them updated on your progress.

22. BuzzStream — A highly-favorable CRM tool that allows you to research influencers, manage influencer relationships and outreach to media people and bloggers.

23. BuzzSumo — BuzzSumo is a free tool that helps you find keyword-related content and industry influencers. There’s no CRM functionality so pair this with BuzzStream.

Landing Pages and Websites

24. Unbounce — A quick tool to build custom landing pages, a must for your campaign.

25. Wix — You need to build a website before you launch, and Wix is a free tool where you can make a personalized, mobile-friendly website.

26. WordPress —WordPress is a good tool to use if you’ve got basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. Plus it provides various free themes and plugins for creating an online blog and website.

27. Weebly — If you’re new to site building and looking for something less daunting than WordPress, Weebly provides fairly inexpensive domain names and makes it extremely easy for users to drop in photos and text.

28. Shopify — If you’re going to be selling products online, Shopify is a great platform for ecommerce businesses. Shopify is the most popular of the ecommerce platforms.

Project Assets

29. Youtube — Want to get people pumped about your campaign? Inspire them with a video. Youtube even makes it easy to link your fundraiser site using annotations.

30. Webcam or Smartphone — Use one of these to shoot a video to tell your awesome story. Kickstarter projects that have a video have a better success rate than those that don’t (50% compared to 30%). So introduce people to your project, your work area, the people involved, etc. Get people excited about your project by showing them why they need to!

31. Apple iMovie — A great video involves some editing. For those of you with Macs, use iMovie. It comes free with your computer and has a good reputation for its editing functionalities.

32. Windows Movie Maker — This is another free and easy-to-use video editor, except it’s for Windows users.

33. Free photo editing software — Photos are also good to have with your Kickstarter campaign, with GIMP and being the best free photo editing platforms out there.

34. Adobe Creative Cloud — If you’re planning on creating the bulk of your campaign’s marketing content on your own, you’ll want to download Adobe software. Photoshop your own campaign photos, edit video footage, or design your logo with their specialized programs.

35. Nik Collection — This complete image-editing suite used to cost $500, but Google is now giving it away totally free. It includes seven plugins with different specialties. Take your campaign photos to the next level with this free resource.

36. Lumoid — This site lets you rent excellent gear for photo and video projects. This is a great way to use stellar equipment when building the media for your campaign without making full, expensive purchases.

37. Rent equipment from school libraries — If you or a team member attend a college or university, another way to rent photo and video gear for your campaign is through a school library. Most schools have updated equipment that can be checked for free out using a student library card.

38. Square — Most donations will be made to your campaign online—but not all. Square is by far the best way to receive money via credit card in person. The Square Card Reader can easily connect to your mobile phone or smartpad.

Video Resources

39. Promoshin — Unable to make your own video? This company specializes in creating professional videos for successful Kickstarter campaigns.

40. Explendid Videos — If you’re on a tighter budget, try this company. All their animated video packages start under $1,000.

41. Ydraw — One way to make your campaign’s video memorable is with a white board drawing. They’ve increased in popularity, and research shows people pay closer attention to scribe videos.

42. Voice Jungle — Depending on the content of your Kickstarter video, you may want to consider hiring a voice actor to read your script. This is much cheaper than hiring and filming physical actors, and a professional voiceover can bring your video to the next level.

43. Fiverr — On a tighter budget? You might be surprised at what you could find at Fiverr. From designers to content writers to voice actors, you’ll find a startling variety of freelance services. The best part is, the vast majority start at $5.

Media Coverage

44. Local Newspapers — Local media is hungry for a good story, so if there’s something unique or exciting about your project, you might be able to pick up some coverage after contacting local writers or newspaper or magazine directors.

45. Local Radio — There could be a local radio station that would be open to featuring you, depending on the content of your Kickstarter campaign. Spread the word and gather support in your area by landing a brief interview.

46. Hunter — It’s easier to contact local reporters and radio stations than you think. This website will help you find any email address simply by entering the site name. Have a press release ready about your campaign that you can send to local reporters in a personal email.

47. Press Release Template Download — If local media is interested in your campaign’s story, they’ll want a sharp press release. Stay ahead of the game by creating your own, using free online templates such as this one.

Advice from Experts

48. Cash from the Crowd EBook — If you’re a bookworm and a notetaker, you may enjoy reading from an expert before beginning your Kickstarter campaign. Dig into this affordable E-Book from Sally Outlaw, easily read on the free Kindle app.

49. Free Crowdfunding Bible — This PDF is completely free and easily skimmable. You could find nuggets of advice that will help guide your Kickstarter campaign into sure triumph.

50. Crowdfunding for Social Good — If your Kickstarter campaign is non-profit based, this free EBook is perfect for you. You’ll find inspiring success stories and solid advice on how to use crowdfunding to allow your campaign to make a lasting impact.

Decide which of these 50 resources are a fit for your project and dive in. Pair them with your determination and great teamwork strategy and you’re bound to get some serious boostage for your Kickstarter campaign!

2017 Digital Marketing Predictions For eCommerce Businesses

By | eCommerce | No Comments

It’s that time of year again. Time for family gatherings, lots of food and planning your digital marketing strategies for the new year.

For those of you in the ecommerce world, competition is going to steadily increase next year, for large and small ecommerce businesses, and customers are going to be more difficult to win, easier to lose and pickier about user experience and shipping. But, ecommerce sales are also expected to grow to more than $400 billion in 2017.

So if you want to be profitable next year, you need to know the latest ecommerce trends and incorporate them into your planning. Below are 8 digital marketing predictions for ecommerce businesses anticipated by some of the best in the business.

1. “A focus on brilliant mobile UX may help a few more mobile customers to convert without switching to desktop, but for higher value items the focus should be providing a seamless experience across devices so users can browse on mobile and convert on desktop.” —Robert Allen, smartinsights.com

You can’t think of mobile users and desktop users as different people—because they aren’t. While mobile traffic makes up most of the web traffic (51% for mobile compared to 42% for desktop/laptop), consumers would rather purchase via their desktop, as data shows smartphone add-to-cart conversion rates are lower than desktop’s. This information conveys that consumers may start searching on mobile, but most ultimately end up buying from desktop, so you better provide a seamless experience across mobile and desktop devices to see more revenue.

2. “Influencer marketing is set to explode next year.” —Julie Chomiak, socialmediatoday.com

This has already started, but in case you’ve been living under a rock, influencer marketing will help you increase your consumer reach and bottom line. Why? Because 45% of online consumers go to social media before making purchases, while 88% of consumers trust online recommendations over what a brand has to say about a product. So find the right influencers—YouTubers, fashion bloggers, etc.—and start building a relationship with them now.

3. “If you can consistently provide an audience with entertaining information, you can build a relationship with that audience, which in turn many result in sales and profit.” —Armando Roggio, practicalecommerce.com

Entertainment and information are both important parts of content marketing. Consumers don’t just want answers to their questions; they also want to be entertained. And Roggio believes you can do both by releasing your own episode-based content. This ecommerce marketing tactic will help you produce a better content marketing plan and receive a high number of returning visitors month after month because consumers will grow accustomed to your style of information sharing and want to regularly check in for what’s next.

4. “Brands will expand globally.” —Paul Thomas, Luxury Retail Consultant at Retail Remedy, cpcstrategy.com

To continue competing and driving more sales, ecommerce businesses will look to expand globally. And with technology and social media, overseas expansion and engaging with foreign customers is easier than ever before. And according to Thomas, with the UK leaving the EU, the weaker pound has driven an increased number of international visitors, and that trend will continue into next year.

5. “2017 should see the rise of local drop-off points for online orders and same-day delivery.” —Kit SMith, brandwatch.com

Today’s customers want what they buy as soon as they can get it. The internet has made us pretty impatient shoppers, with 61% of U.S. consumers saying they’d pay for same-day delivery. We’ve all used and appreciate Amazon Prime, and more and more brands will start providing faster and more flexible delivery options in 2017, perhaps more even using same-day delivery drones.

6. 2017 will be “the era of beacons” and combining them with loyalty apps.brightvessel.com

[Source: brightvessel.com]

Beacons first gained their popularity in 2015, but it wasn’t until this year that beacon technology started dominating the retail market. And Bright Vessel believes businesses that combine beacons with loyalty apps—by creating customized rewards and promotions via information gathered from beacons—ecommerce businesses can start better tailoring deals and special offers to their customers based on their past shopping behavior. And as consumers, we know the importance of personalization.

7. “Getting your face out there for people to associate with your brand is going to increase your bottom line.” —Luisana Cartay, digitaldoughnut.com

Videos are super effective at capturing consumer attention. Shoppers who watch online videos are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than non-viewers, and Syndacast predicts that 74% of 2017’s internet traffic will be video. And live videos are where you should focus some of your video efforts in 2017, as they capture attention and let you engage with customers. Periscope and Meerkat started the live video trend, but now Facebook’s live-streaming feature is taking over, as people spend 3 times longer watching a live video and Facebook generates an astounding 8 billion video views per day.

8. Chatbots are “going to change the way brands and consumers interact.”smartinsights.com

Chatbots imitate a person a consumer is able to communicate with online. Talking with your customers is important for business growth, but it’s hard to communicate with every customer when you’re running a growing ecommerce business. Chatbots were a breakthrough marketing technology this year, and are expected to come into their own in 2017. They’ll be able to provide one-on-one chats, give personalized marketing messages and shopping experiences and faster product searches and payment processes for consumers. They’ll increase your ROI while keeping your costs low since you won’t need to hire a handful of customer support representatives.

What do you think ecommerce business should know heading into 2017?

10 Ecommerce Marketing Tactics That Desperately Need Your Attention

By | eCommerce | No Comments

Looking to increase traffic and sales to your online store? Of course you are. That’s what every ecommerce business wants.

And that’s exactly why I put together this list of ecommerce marketing tactics you need to put into action—like right now.

1. Split testing product pages and working to improve conversion rate.

A good conversion rate is crucial to having a higher sales volume. And one of the smartest ways to improve conversion rate is split testing (or A/B testing) your product pages. When you can’t decide what headline or page layout will perform better, test two versions and let consumers make the decision for you. A/B testing tools evenly divide and send your traffic to the two different pages and then you can look at your analytics to see which page produced more conversions. In regards to what you should test with your product pages, I recommend:

  • Headlines
  • Page layouts
  • Navigation
  • CTA phrasing and size of buttons
  • Media used (i.e. if a video or written content perform better)

2. Simplifying site navigation.

Every site visitor should have a good user experience. If they don’t, they won’t buy from you or ever come back to your site. The key to a good user experience is making it stupid simple to navigate to any section of your site. All pages should be no more than three clicks away from the home page for starters. Have your friends and family navigate through your site and let them tell you if it’s simple or confusing (you know they’ll be honest with you). When you make it easy for consumers to get what they want, you both get what you want—a new item and money.

3. Creating an ongoing product review collection process.

Reviews give you credibility. Credibility gives you more sales. Customers trust reviews they read online almost as much as they’d trust their best friend giving them a personal recommendation. In fact, 55% of shoppers say that reading online reviews is a part of their buying process. Product reviews also improve your search rank, and the higher up you rank for something on a search engine, the greater your chance of increasing clicks and traffic to your site. Hands down one of the easiest ways to get people on your site to ultimately buy your product is having an ongoing collection of positive product reviews you highlight on your product pages. Get more reviews by selling awesome products, having great customer service and asking for reviews!

4. Recreating product descriptions and beefing them up.

fitbit[Source: fitbit.com/charge]

Fitbit understands good product descriptions and layout. But sadly, too many ecommerce sites, especially when starting out, underestimate the impact quality content has on boosting conversion rates. High-quality images are needed, but so are high-quality product descriptions. Consumers see the images, but search engines don’t. Some of the simple tricks to writing product descriptions that sell are using keywords, making them unique and actually writing to sell. Never use descriptions from the manufacturer—search engines will penalize you. Creating your own unique ones and beefing them up ensures you don’t have duplicate content and is just better for your SEO efforts.

5. Sending shopping cart abandonment emails.

The average online shopping cart abandonment rate is 68.81%. That’s high, and keeps good retailers from too many sales. So what can you do? You resolve any hesitation a consumer has or remind them that they left an item in their shopping cart by sending shopping cart abandonment emails. Convince them to return to their cart and buy by making it easy for them to do and giving them an incentive to purchase, like maybe offering a discount on their next purchase. Or, you could be bold like this company and show a picture of a cute puppy.

blackmilk[Source: shopify.com]

I mean, who could say no to that adorable face.

6. Managing and nurturing your email list…better than you are now.

Good email marketing strategies help any kind of ecommerce business generate sales. Part of having a good strategy is knowing how to manage and nurture your email list. Email marketing’s goal isn’t to get you sales—it’s about creating and developing relationships (which then get you sales). This is where nurturing comes in. With lead nurture emails you can “soft sell” consumers, but mostly you want to nurture your relationship with each subscriber by educating, entertaining and telling business and customer stories. As for managing your email list, it’s important to make sure you’re sending emails consistently and sending the right kinds to the right people. No one likes getting spammed at the end of the year with holiday products and sales when they haven’t heard from you the last 10 months.

7. Turning top-of-the-funnel browsers into leads.

Maybe a consumer just stumbled onto your site. Or maybe they know they’ll need a product like yours in the near future, but aren’t looking to buy right that very moment. But who says you can’t turn them into a lead while they browse? If you have a compelling digital asset, like say a guide or eBook pop up, whichever works best for your industry, you can generate a lead even if they aren’t ready to purchase. Once you turn them into a lead, you can use other tactics to nurture them and eventually convert them.

8. Putting a twist on influencer marketing.

Industry influencers already have an engaged audience. Why not tap into that existing audience? Utilizing influencer marketing aligns you with a well-known influencer—in your case it could be high-profile bloggers—as well as their audience. So don’t be shy. Reach out and find some who are willing to share your content and feature your items in a blog post or video review they share with their social followings. Other unique things you can do are offer affiliate commissions and discount codes for their audience.

9. Staying on top of technical SEO issues.

Ecommerce sites are often plagued with all the technical SEO issues you could ever imagine. Things like ugly URLs, 404 pages (since ecommerce inventory is always changing these happen more than you think), homepage redirects, stacked redirects, meta data, etc., which hinder your site’s SEO performance and keep it from converting. If you’re a SEO guru, then you probably already have all this under control. But I’m going to assume you aren’t, in which case you should hire a marketing agency to handle the technical SEO side of your website to ensure you have good search rankings and good user experience.

10. Installing the new Facebook pixel and retargeting your heart out.

If you haven’t heard of the Facebook pixel, read on. This cool tool lets you put a single pixel across your site to report conversions, build your target audience and gain insights into how people use your ecommerce site. After installing it, you can easily measure cross-device conversions, optimize ads to ensure they’re being seen by those most likely to take action, run relevant and timely Facebook ads based on products shoppers have checked out on your site and automatically build audiences to retarget. Facebook’s one-pixel solution makes conversion tracking and remarketing so easy, so start using it right now.

GUARANTEE

The Cost Savings of Working With A Content Marketing Agency vs In-House [Infographic]

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

in-house vs agency costs infographicThe Rise of Content

Content marketing is on the rise for Business-to-Business (B2B) and Business to Customer (B2C) companies. As both a cost effective and prosperous strategy, content marketing engages and retains customers while constantly building your brand.

  • 70% of B2B are creating more content than they were this time last year.
  • Companies with blogs generate 67% more leads than those who don’t.
  • Only 38% of companies who internally produce content report that their content is effective.

Agency vs. In-House Costs

Company leaders are having a difficult time hiring employees who have all the necessary skills for good In-house marketing. A fully loaded content team isn’t cheap and neither are their tools.

  • 96% of marketing leadership say that the skills needed to drive online results have changed.
  • 44% can’t find singular employees who have all the skills necessary to in-house market.
  • A fully loaded marketing team can cost upwards of $330k a year without benefits or insurance, sick days etc.

Keep in mind that these numbers are averages from across the US. Real amounts will depend on geographical location and current demand of marketing talent.

It’s also important to note that the only way to increase output in-house is to hire more people, it is not scalable like agency options!!!

Big Brands Trust Agencies

Agility, quick results, and innovative thinking are just a handful of the reasons the biggest brands in the world choose to partner with marketing agencies, in fact, 62% of companies now outsource some or all of their content marketing.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 9

Choosing the Right Agency: Repurpose Existing Content

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Time is money. And creating new content requires both. Whether you create the content yourself or like many businesses, have an outside content marketing agency create it for you, it still takes your time and money to ensure it’s created and gets created right.

Content is what fuels your marketing initiatives. Without content, you won’t reach any of your marketing goals.

You know you need content, and an agency knows you need to consistently be producing and sharing content. But what you both also need to remember is that not every piece of content produced and shared has to be new content.

Enter, repurposing.

Reasons Why You Should Repurpose Your Content

Repurposing your already existing content saves you time and money. It saves time spent researching and actually creating the content; time that can now be spent focusing on your overall marketing strategy and implementing other digital campaigns. And like I said above, time is money so saving on time repurposing also helps save your marketing budget.

This method also allows you to reach a wider audience. Let’s say you created a blog post a year ago. It was a good topic that got some good views, which is great, but it doesn’t mean you just leave it at that to sit buried on your blog. Repurpose and add new life to it by writing about the same topic from a different viewpoint, or take that post and turn it into a video or podcast or infographic. Consumers learn in different ways, so you’re going to reach and teach more of them if you repurpose your content into various forms.

Repurposing also allows you to add more links and calls to actions to your website. More of these opportunities will result in more leads over time.

Steps For An Easier Repurposing Process

A general marketing rule is that for every piece of content you create, you need roughly 10 ideas to repurpose that piece in the future. Seems like more than you or an agency can handle, am I right? Well actually, it’s not.

To more easily come up with ideas, follow these two simple steps:

  1. Review your analytics and social shares to find content that truly resonates with your target audience.
  2. Go over your buyer personas to determine specific content types for each persona.

Once that’s done, together with an agency you can plan out the different and best types of content to create and the best repurposing locations for each content type.

How A Content Marketing Agency Plays In

Now that you really understand the importance of repurposing your already existing content, you have to find an agency that grasps the same, if not greater, understanding.

Some content marketing agencies want to jump right in and start producing content for you day one. That’s not a good characteristic of a knowledgeable agency.

A good agency first takes the time to take a full inventory of your owned content—every blog post, infographic, video, etc., you’ve created—and after reviewing the content and its analytics and social shares, they can determine which pieces should be used or repurposed.

This inventory process does take time to complete, but the time put in in the beginning will save you tremendously in the long run. It’s going to save you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars that you can invest in other marketing initiatives.

So an agency may tell you that they understand the purpose and benefits of repurposing content, but if they don’t give you any specifics, especially about you and your content, get some specifics out of them. Ask them the following questions to see if they really understand and are interested in repurposing your existing content:

  • What’s your process for collecting all our owned content to discover what’s usable and what’s not?
  • How would you try and reuse some of the content we’ve already created?
  • How do you plan to save us money with our content creation?

Your sales team doesn’t send out one email to a customer and then never follow-up with them, and your content marketing agency shouldn’t do the same with your content.

Repurposing and resharing content gets you better organic reach as well as increases your website traffic and consistent leads. One of the biggest mistakes you can make (or allow an agency to make) is not repurposing and resharing your content—so don’t make that mistake.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 8

Choosing the Right Agency: Sensitive To Your Brand

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With an always-increasing number of competitors in the market, it is important to remember that your brand is what makes your business unique. Your business’s marketing team works hard to build and maintain constant messaging, awareness, and growth of your brand name—and your content marketing agency should be doing the same.

Branded Content

Good content marketing agencies know the importance of branded content. “If brands can create content that engages people, they will listen to it, remember it, download it, share it, post it, stream it and recommend it,” according to Matt Simpson of BrandRepublic. Good content should engage customers past an initial encounter; it should prompt people to keep reading and keep exploring what your business has to offer them.

Branded content ranges from your blog posts to your social media posts and everything in between. A content marketing agency that understands branding also understands how they can make specific content for each platform that is branded for your unique self.

Brand Engagement

Knowing you need branded content is the first step to improving your content marketing. The next is finding an agency that can produce the high standard of branded product you need. Good content marketing agencies will ask for brand engagement before they begin producing content for you.

An organized and prepared agency will also ask you to decide on a style guide of sorts before they begin writing. This style guide will tell them what type of tone, voice, grammar, and overall feeling your brand expects in their content. By setting these expectations before writing, you can make sure your agency is producing a unified message that fits your branding and content needs. 

Production Process

The last step a successful content marketing agency will take to prepare your content is to suggest an editing process that utilizes your branding team. This editing process is not for catching spelling mistakes or pondering word choices. Rather it is for gauging the message and style of the content before it is published. This type of editing process is crucial for two reasons.

First, it ensures the content being produced is up to your business’s expectations. By having a member of your branding team look over the content you can be confident that the final product matches the style and voice you’ve requested to further your brand.

Second, by having your branding team provide editing and suggested changes, your content agency can begin to develop a deeper understanding of your brand. An agency that understands how your brand speaks can better produce content that matches your branding message. When an agency is able to develop their own understanding of the brand, your team will eventually spend less time and energy managing content as your agency’s comfort level and brand accuracy grows.

Effectively branded content, and the processes you use to create it, are the foundations of content marketing success. Your content agency should be able to provide you with methods and style proposals to make your content as effective as possible. Then, they should be able to adapt to your branding needs as they become more familiar with your expectations.

Good content agencies know—good content stems from branded and engaging creations. If the agency you’re looking at working with proves to you they understand this, then you’ve picked a winner. Download our free How to Choose an Agency guide for an agency scorecard and sample questions to ask along the way.

Content Audit Header

The Content Audit Process

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Content is quickly becoming one of the most influential and impactful tools for digital marketers. Good content educates, appeals to, and ultimately influences your customers. The Content Marketing Institute reported that in 2015 an astounding 86% of B2Bs (business-to-business) used content marketing, and of this percentage only 38% believed their content was effective.

How is it that only 38% feel their content was effective? One major issue that we see on a constant basis is businesses don’t have a clear content strategy. In order to make content marketing work you need to have some kind of strategy in place so that you can measure what is or isn’t working and then adjust accordingly.

We help clients build a strategy utilizing a content audit process, which takes a detailed and holistic look into your business from the ground up. We create content based on our audit results to make sure we are effectively creating content that will impact your market. This process includes:

  • Developing Personas
  • Understanding Buying Stages
  • Content Audit
  • Content Inventory
  • Content Calendar

Going through the process above has been useful to setting up an effective content marketing strategy. Here is what we do for each step in the process.

Step 1: Develop the Personas

Step 1- Develop the Personas
What is a buyer persona? It’s a breakdown of the different types of buyers who are looking at your product. Developing and then marketing to your buyer personas will lead to stronger messages, maximization of successful advertising, and overcoming buyer objections. Each buying persona includes demographic information, problems they’ll encounter, and values they hold.

A buyer persona will reflect the types of customers you currently have or the types of customers you are hoping to gain. A buyer persona defines the audience your content will be created for.

For help creating a buyer persona, feel free to check out some of these resources:

  • Buyer Persona Profile from Epic Content Marketing
    • This quick one-page worksheet from Epic Content Marketing allows you to create a snapshot of a buyer persona, their job description, priorities, and challenges.
  • 5 Rings of Buying Insights Template from the Book Epic Content Marketing
    • When used in conjunction with the worksheet above, the 5 Rings of Buying Insights template will help you glean additional insights around the journey of each buyer persona.
  • How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business from Hubspot
    • Hubspot provides a great step-by-step post and downloadable template to support your buyer persona creation initiatives.

While the buyer persona is a great start, the true gold is found in the buying stage/cycle for each persona. It is vital to understand the questions being asked in each stage for the buyer’s journey so that you can effectively answer those questions on your website, through blog posts and videos or other forms of content.

This should be your top-priority focus once you have established your buyer personas.

Step Two: Understand Buying Stages

Step Two: Understand Buying Stages

There are three basic stages for buyers based on each persona. The early, middle, and late stages, or as some in the content marketing world refer to them: the awareness, consideration, and decision stages.

Early (Awareness) Stage

In the early stage, customers are unaware of problems they currently have and need education on what solutions you can offer. They are gaining awareness of their problems and their need for a solution.

Middle (Consideration) Stage

In the middle stage, customers need a demonstration of expertise or differentiators between you and your competitors. The middle stage is also known as the consideration stage, where customers understand their problem and want to find a solution through consideration of your product. They are spending their time researching various solutions to find the option that fits their needs.

Late (Decision) Stage

In the late stage, customers are looking to validate the product or the company; they are in the decision-making stage. They have a good idea of what they want, now they just need to compare their top choices, maybe review each company’s costs and look into any references they can find, to ensure they make the right decision.

Content is created specifically for each persona in these different stages to target what questions or answers they need the most. It is important to understand the types of content that can be used at each stage of your buyer’s journey as well. Understanding the buying journey for each persona along with the types of content they consume along their journey is key to effective content marketing.

For B2C, an example of mapping content to the buying journey is provided below:

Content Mapping - Customer Journey for B2C Customers

Step Three: Current Audit Process

Step Three: Current Audit Process

After developing buyer personas and understanding the journey buyers take, it is necessary to take an audit of your site’s current content. To do this we recommend using Screaming Frog.

Crawl Your Entire Website for Content

Screaming Frog is able to ‘crawl’ an entire website (crawling is a fancy term for ‘pulling all data e.g. – meta data, URLs, word count of a page, CSS and other data from a website). Once you’ve crawled your whole site, simply filter the data by HTML pages. Example below:

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 2.41.19 PM

This will remove all JavaScript, Images, CSS and other files that you don’t need for your content audit.

Then export the data. The exported CSV file will give you a TON of data for each URL. We suggest only worrying about the URL and Title tag , which will be used for further analysis.

Separate and Filter Your Data

Next, you can separate/filter these URLs into different groups. Some suggested groups could include:

  • Key landing pages (home page, services, about us, etc.)
  • Blogs, articles
  • eBooks, white papers, resources

By separating the URLs into various groups you can start to analyze each group.

Analyze Your Current Content

Once these groups are separated out you can start to understand the social media impacts of each URL. To do this, you can use a tools such as Social Tally, SharedCount or SocialTally that allows you to identify social shares on all types of media platforms and analyze each URL’s social activity.

After you’ve analyzed each URL’s social activity, you should map it to one of your buyer personas. Finally, map out how your content influences potential customers at each stage of the journey – e.g. – Top of the Funnel, Middle of the Funnel and Bottom of the Funnel. This will be extremely useful when taking an inventory of all of your content.

Useful information to include in your Content Audit is:

  • Type – what kind of content is this – e.g. – Blog Post, Landing Page, eBook, Category or Product Page etc.
  • URL
  • Title Tag
  • Social Shares – Tweets, FB Shares, Pins, etc.
  • Buyer Stage
  • Persona
  • Call to Action
  • Keywords

Once you have all of this data you should have a massive content audit spreadsheet that looks something like this –

content audit process

You might want to also add any relevant notes about pages, styles, social trends, page view patterns, etc., that come up during the audit process.

Step Four: Content Inventory Process

Step Four: Content Inventory Process

Once you’ve organized all the current content, you should do an inventory based on the buying personas and stages in relation to the number of resources that correlate. Filter your large content audit spreadsheet by persona first and then by each buyer stage to get an idea of how much content you have for each individual.

As you work your way through each persona you should build out an additional spreadsheet to connect the number of content pieces you have to the stages of the buyers journey. This will give you a quick snapshot of where you are. Here is an example of what that might look like:

content inventory process

You can quickly tell which parts of the buyer’s journey are not being addressed. By creating content for these holes we can create a more fluid journey and eventually give customers all the information they need to choose your product or service.

Step Five: Competition Content Audit

Step Five: Competition Content Audit

The competition audit is a key step in understanding your company or product’s place in the market. An audit of the competition’s content is twofold. First, it helps you understand how many other people are competing within your market. Second, it gives you ideas for content that have performed well in the past.

The competition audit is similar to the original content audit—you use Screaming Frog to crawl the competition’s sites, and then use Social Tally or Social Count to see their activity on social media.

After using Social Tally you should be able to identify the top 5-7 posts that are performing on social media platforms.

Finally, you should identify why these pages are performing well on social media platforms then analyze if the content was written well, hit a target persona, answered questions, etc. Mostly, you need to identify what need it is filling within the buying cycle. This is perhaps the most important step in the competition audit because it helps you understand how and why the competition is successful.

Step Six: Content Editorial Calendar

Step Six: Content Editorial Calendar

The last step is creating an editorial calendar based on all of the data you have collected. The editorial calendar allows you to plan content initiatives moving forward. You need to identify what content is needed based on holes in your buyer personas and buying stages. After identifying these holes you should generate content ideas and modify what has worked for the competition.

An editorial calendar is a way to focus on your content marketing efforts, and measure, monitor, and modify the content within one document to ensure you meet your content marketing goals. It provides detailed content plans, anywhere from 1-3 months in advance, keeping everyone up-to-date on past, present, and future content.

Here’s a sample of how weekly content can be planned and recorded:

Stryde content calendar

The content audit process is vital to your success. By taking the time to really research owned and competitive content, you can develop a holistic content strategy. Content marketing is one of the most useful tactics to leverage for a successful online presence. Your customers are looking for information online, usually via blogs and other content resources, to help them make an educated decision on what products or services to buy.

By utilizing a content audit process you can develop content ideas that will add to your current visibility and truly make an impact on your potential customers.

Choosing an Agency: Requirement 7

Choosing the Right Agency: Understand The Buyer Journey

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Good content marketing agencies should do more than just produce content; they should understand how buyers make their decisions, how they move through the sales funnel, and how to maneuver prospects from leads to customers. A successful content marketing agency knows how to create content that maps to each stage in the buyer journey and sales funnel. Content that resonates with specific areas of these stages helps keep prospects interested in your product and will move them through the full cycle—all the way to a rewarding sale.

The Buyer Journey

The buyer journey maps how your customers experience your product marketing. There are three broad stages of the buyer journey: early, mid, and late. Each of these stages matches a section within the sales funnel that explains the buyer’s behaviors.

In the early stages of the buyer journey, consumers are gaining exposure to products and developing a real need for services. They are looking for educational content, testimonials, and even product reviews to get a sense of your brand.

In the mid stage of the buyer journey, they are delving deeper into specific companies that appear to meet their needs. In this stage, prospects are looking for content that helps them develop specific company comparisons while also detailing individual features of your product and a justification for purchasing your solution for their original need.

The last stage of the buyer journey revolves around the final decision to purchase or pass on your product. In this stage, prospects are looking to change from a lead to a customer. They are looking for content that includes demos, implementation guides, and best practices for your product.

The Sales Funnel

The buyer journey and sales funnel are extremely fluid. A general sales funnel also has three stages that are directly related to the buyer journey and necessary content.

In the first stage of the sales funnel your prospects are looking to gain awareness of your product. The prospect has developed a need and is seeking companies and information to satiate their demand. In the awareness stage of the sales funnel, prospects are looking to narrow the field of eligible companies while gaining awareness to your product. Good content should provide basic awareness about who you are, what you do, and why you do it.

The second stage of the sales funnel is interest. During this stage, your prospect has decided your company likely can provide a solution to their problem. They are looking for specific information on products so they can compare and justify their final purchasing decision. This is the stage where people begin to reach out to salespeople or initiate contact with the company.

The final stage of the sales funnel is the decision and action phase. In this stage, the prospect has decided to select your company. They are looking to discover content that shows them how your product works and why it’s better than your competitor’s.

Moving Prospects

Your content marketing agency should understand both the buyer journey and the sales funnel in order to provide you with content that fulfills all types of prospect needs. When your agency can provide you with a variety of content that fits each stage in the buyer journey and sales funnel, you are more likely to move prospects from interested consumers to dedicated customers.

To move prospects your content must be relevant, immediate, and robust. Content that is relevant drives prospects to stay engaged with your company. Good and relevant content pushes prospects to keep researching and reviewing your site instead of seeking another company for their needs.

Immediate content means you have both value and promotion in your marketing. Prospects can gain something immediately from coming in contact with your content regardless of the platform they discover it on.

And lastly, your content needs to be robust! Meaning there is more than one content option for each stage in the buyer journey or sales funnel. If someone is looking to research your product, you should have social media accounts, a blog, and testimonials instead of just your website’s ‘about us’ section. Moving prospects is all about understanding what they need from your content, as well as delivering valuable, useful, and diverse information.

Good content marketing agencies know that the first two stages of the buyer journey and funnel are the responsibility of a solid content marketing strategy. This knowledge is key to creating content that serves your prospect at every level of their journey. Make sure your content marketing agency understands your customer’s journey to purchase. If they do, their suggestions for content marketing strategies will be effective in turning leads into loyal customers.

If you loved this post, you can download the full guide and checklist here.