Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Top 10 Benefits Of Social Media Marketing

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This post originally published on this site

The Top 10 Benefits Of Social Media Marketing

To some entrepreneurs, social media marketing is the “next big thing,” a temporary yet powerful fad that must be taken advantage of while it’s still in the spotlight. To others, it’s a buzzword with no practical advantages and a steep, complicated learning curve.
Because it appeared quickly, social media has developed a reputation by some for being a passing marketing interest, and therefore, an unprofitable one. The statistics, however, illustrate a different picture. According to Hubspot, 92% of marketers in 2014 claimed that social media marketing was important for their business, with 80% indicating their efforts increased traffic to their websites. And according to Social Media Examiner, 97% of marketers are currently participating in social media—but 85% of participants aren’t sure what social media tools are the best to use.
This demonstrates a huge potential for social media marketing to increase sales, but a lack of understanding on how to achieve those results. Here’s a look at just some of the ways social media marketing can improve your business:

1. Increased Brand Recognition. Every opportunity you have to syndicate your content and increase your visibility is valuable. Your social media networks are just new channels for your brand’s voice and content. This is important because it simultaneously makes you easier and more accessible for new customers, and makes you more familiar and recognizable for existing customers. For example, a frequent Twitter user could hear about your company for the first time only after stumbling upon it in a newsfeed. Or, an otherwise apathetic customer might become better acquainted with your brand after seeing your presence on multiple networks.

2. Improved brand loyalty. According to a report published by Texas Tech University, brands who engage on social media channels enjoy higher loyalty from their customers. The report concludes “Companies should take advantage of the tools social media gives them when it comes to connecting with their audience. A strategic and open social media plan could prove influential in morphing consumers into being brand loyal.” Another study published by Convince&Convert found that 53% of Americans who follow brands in social are more loyal to those brands.
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3. More Opportunities to Convert. Every post you make on a social media platform is an opportunity for customers to convert. When you build a following, you’ll simultaneously have access to new customers, recent customers, and old customers, and you’ll be able to interact with all of them. Every blog post, image, video, or comment you share is a chance for someone to react, and every reaction could lead to a site visit, and eventually a conversion. Not every interaction with your brand results in a conversion, but every positive interaction increases the likelihood of an eventual conversion. Even if your click-through rates are low, the sheer number of opportunities you have on social media is significant. And as I pointed out in my article, “The Four Elements of Any Action, And How To Use Them In Your Online Marketing Initiative,” “opportunity” is the first element of any action.

4. Higher conversion rates. Social media marketing results in higher conversion rates in a few distinct ways. Perhaps the most significant is its humanization element; the fact that brands become more humanized by interacting in social media channels. Social media is a place where brands can act like people do, and this is important because people like doing business with other people; not with companies.

Additionally, studies have shown that social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing, and a higher number of social media followers tends to improve trust and credibility in your brand, representing social proof. As such, simply building your audience in social media can improve conversion rates on your existing traffic.

5. Higher Brand Authority. Interacting with your customers regularly is a show of good faith for other customers. When people go to compliment or brag about a product or service, they turn to social media. And when they post your brand name, new audience members will want to follow you for updates. The more people that are talking about you on social media, the more valuable and authoritative your brand will seem to new users. Not to mention, if you can interact with major influencers on Twitter or other social networks, your visible authority and reach will skyrocket.

6. Increased Inbound Traffic. Without social media, your inbound traffic is limited to people already familiar with your brand and individuals searching for keywords you currently rank for. Every social media profile you add is another path leading back to your site, and every piece of content you syndicate on those profiles is another opportunity for a new visitor. The more quality content you syndicate on social media, the more inbound traffic you’ll generate, and more traffic means more leads and more conversions.

7. Decreased Marketing Costs. According to Hubspot, 84% of marketers found as little as six hours of effort per week was enough to generate increased traffic. Six hours is not a significant investment for a channel as large as social media. If you can lend just one hour a day to developing your content and syndication strategy, you could start seeing the results of your efforts. Even paid advertising through Facebook and Twitter is relatively cheap (depending on your goals, of course). Start small and you’ll never have to worry about going over budget—once you get a better feel for what to expect, you can increase your budget and increase your conversions correspondingly.

8. Better Search Engine Rankings. SEO is the best way to capture relevant traffic from search engines, but the requirements for success are always changing. It’s no longer enough to regularly update your blog, ensure optimized title tags and meta descriptions, and distribute links pointing back to your site. Google and other search engines may be calculating their rankings using social media presence as a significant factor, because of the fact that strong brands almost always use social media. As such, being active on social media could act as a “brand signal” to search engines that your brand is legitimate, credible, and trustworthy. That means, if you want to rank for a given set of keywords, having a strong social media presence could be almost mandatory.

9. Richer Customer Experiences. Social media, at its core, is a communication channel like email or phone calls. Every customer interaction you have on social media is an opportunity to publicly demonstrate your customer service level and enrich your relationship with your customers. For example, if a customer complains about your product on Twitter, you can immediately address the comment, apologize publicly, and take action to make it right. Or, if a customer compliments you, you can thank them and recommend additional products. It’s a personal experience that lets customers know you care about them.

10. Improved Customer Insights. Social media also gives you an opportunity to gain valuable information about what your customers are interested in and how they behave, via social listening. For example, you can monitor user comments to see what people think of your business directly. You can segment your content syndication lists based on topic and see which types of content generate the most interest—and then produce more of that type of content. You can measure conversions based on different promotions posted on various social media channels and eventually find a perfect combination to generate revenue.
These are the benefits of sustaining a long-term social media campaign, but if you’re still apprehensive about getting started, consider these points:
  • Your Competition Is Already Involved. Your competitors are already involved on social media, which means your potential social media traffic and conversions are being poached. Don’t let your competitors reap all the benefits while you stand idly by. If, somehow, your competition is not involved on social media, there’s even more of a reason to get started—the field is open.
  • The Sooner You Start, the Sooner You Reap the Benefits. Social media is all about relationship building, and it tends to grow exponentially as your followers tell their friends, and their friends tell their friends, and so on. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to start growing that audience.
  • Potential Losses Are Insignificant. Realistically, you don’t have anything to lose by getting involved in social media. The amount of time and money it takes to create your profiles and start posting is usually minimal, compared to other marketing channels. Just six hours a week or a few hundred dollars is all it takes to establish your presence.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

10 Reasons to Treat Employees as People Not Assets

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This post was originally posted on this site.

10 reasons to treat employees as people not assets

For many businesses, nothing is more important than the bottom line. It determines if the lights stay on or not. But there’s a hidden danger there: treating your employees as if they’re nothing more than cogs in a machine. Once you’re in that mindset, you’ll find yourself on the losing end of a long and hard battle. Why does it matter? I’ll give you ten good reasons.

1. They’re family to someone

It may have no bearing on your company, but your employees are someone’s mother, father or child. They mean something very dear to someone else. You likely have family or someone who cares about you, so you know how truly important each person is in the life of another. When you examine your relationship to your employees through this kind of filter, you’ll see them in a completely different way, one of respect and kindness. That’s the kind of treatment your employees deserve.

2. They are human

Even if you have employees who don’t have family, or at least none that you know of, they’re still human and deserve to be treated as such. They’re not just a number on a clipboard or an entry in an HR database. Those workers depend upon you as much as you depend upon them. If you want to enjoy a happy staff of employees, you most certainly should consider viewing them as human instead of profit generators.

3. You were once at the bottom

Unless you came from very special (or privileged) circumstances, you were once at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Remember how that felt? Remember wanting to be more than just a cog in the machine, greasing the wheels for someone else? Each of those employees could be the next “you.” In fact, they could wind up being your boss at some point.

4. Your reputation depends upon it

The world we live in is very, very small. The second word gets out that you treat employees as if they’re nothing more than a way for you to build your financial portfolio, your company could find itself on the bad side of a beast called “reputation.” You may scoff at this, but with Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites spreading information faster than most PR teams can keep up, every company is just one bad move away from ruin.

5. They aren’t slave labor

I hesitate to even add this, because slave labor does exist and needs to be abolished immediately, but in a world where corporate greed is used as an excuse for inhumane treatment of workforces, it needs to be mentioned. You cannot in any way treat your employees as if they are yours to command and conquer. Do not be this type of owner or manager. Period. Do not let your company, something you’ve worked so hard to build, turn into tragedy.

6. They could have your next brilliant idea

Your employees are the ones that work closely with your product or service. They know best what works and doesn’t work. You never know if one of those employees will develop the next idea that could easily take your product to unimaginable of levels of success. Treat employees as if they hold the key to an idea that could make your company more profitable.

7. If they leave…

For whatever reason, employees do leave. When they leave, they carry with them emotions, experiences, secrets, data and much more. If you treat them as if they’re nothing but your pawns, that could easily backfire. Yes, those employees have probably signed NDAs and other documents that would protect you in a court of law, but not in the court of public opinion. It’s that latter court which could quickly bring you to ruin.

8. They reflect your vision

If you’ve built your company correctly, your employees reflect and share the vision you have for the company and its future. With that in place, employees will work hard to ensure that vision is made real. If employees don’t reflect your vision and instead reflect nothing but your greed or mismanagement, your vision simply won’t come to fruition.

9. Karma

You may not believe in Karma, but many people do. But even if you don’t believe in this reference to the principle of causality, the idea that no bad deed goes unpunished is very real. This goes back to reputation and if employees leave. Every action you make could have an equal and opposite (or parallel) reaction. If you treat employees as if they don’t matter, karma could reach through the ether and slap you across your profit reports.

10. They are the reason you have a bottom line

To put it plainly and simply, without your employees you wouldn’t have a bottom line. Never forget that. Sure, you could just replace them, but what happens when the next round revolts and you have to replace them, too? Eventually you’re going to find you’ve spent more resources in training new employees over and over again than you have on improving profitability.
It shouldn’t have to be said that all companies, regardless of size, should see their employees as far more than just a way to improve the bottom line. Sadly, it is an idea (or ideal) that needs frequent repeating as many businesses still have not grasped this concept or have long forgotten about it. As you work your way up the corporate ladder, or as you reflect on how you’ve handled standing on top of that ladder all along, make sure you aren’t one of “those” leaders.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Developing an Annual Marketing Plan for the New Year

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Developing an Annual Marketing Plan for the New Year

This post was originally posted on this site.

Make your business New Year resolution to start the year with an integrated marketing plan that clearly outlines your business objectives and the marketing strategies and tactics you plan to use to achieve them

An annual marketing plan helps keep businesses on track with goals and objectives for the year and ensures that marketing opportunities and budgets are maximized. A solid annual marketing plan should be structured with a disciplined approach to reaching your business goals and objectives, yet flexible enough to adapt to changing market conditions and business opportunities throughout the year.

Start Annual Marketing Planning by Reviewing Previous Year Marketing Performance

Before you begin the annual planning process for the coming year’s marketing efforts, you’ll want to take a close look at how you performed over the current year. Even if you did not have a structured marketing plan in place previously, you should be able to review past marketing activities and results.
Here are some questions to ask when evaluating the performance of a previous annual marketing plan or year’s activities:
  • Did you achieve desired results from your marketing efforts (such as improved brand recognition, X number of leads generated or sales/revenue figures)?
  • Which specific marketing activities were effective?
  • Which specific marketing activities were not effective?
  • Should you reallocate resources to better performing targets, markets or marketing tactics?
  • Has your target market, audience or geographic area changed over the year?
  • Were you able to stay within a marketing budget at the end of the year?
  • What areas of your marketing budget do you need to cut costs in for the coming year?
  • What areas of your marketing budget do you want to invest more in for the coming year?
The answers to questions about your previous year’s marketing plan will play a big part in building an annual marketing plan for the coming year. Each year adjustments should be made to your marketing planning efforts that incorporate learning from the past – what works or what doesn’t work.

Develop Essential Components of an Annual Marketing Plan

A marketing plan is a written document that contains a business’ marketing strategies and tactics. The first step in developing an annual marketing plan is getting organized. Make a list of all the marketing components or categories that are important for your business.
(NOTE: See our Marketing Plan Templates below for free or low-cost planning tools to help you with the planning process)
Typical components in a marketing plan include:
  • Advertising (print and/or online)
  • Branding and Graphics (promotional giveaway items, photography, video production, graphic development)
  • Collateral (sell sheets, brochures, business cards)
  • Events (trade shows, webinars)
  • Direct Marketing (email, direct mail, list generation, promotional incentives/contests)
  • Public Relations (press release distribution, PR agency)
  • Research (focus groups, surveys, marketing reference books)
  • Social Media (social media networks)
  • Website (search engine optimization, web development/hosting)
Of course the actual components for your business may vary depending on your business, industry and marketing budget. The important thing is to identify all the potential components in your annual marketing plan so you can decide how you plan to address those components for your business. Even if you do not plan to allocate budget for a category – like social media – it should be included if you have any marketing efforts planned for the category so strategies and tactics can be outlined in an integrated planning approach.

Define Marketing Plan Strategies, Tactics and Budget

Once marketing components are outlined for the business, all potential strategies and tactics should be defined per category or component.
Here is an example of defining strategies and tactics for the “advertising” category:
Marketing Category: Advertising
Strategy #1 – Drive traffic to website via online advertising
Tactic # 1 – Google Adwords
Tactic #2 – Banner ads on industry association website
Tactic #3 – Internet yellow pages ads

Each tactic will also need to have an allocated budget, if applicable. The marketing plan should include fields to capture your allocated budget, actual spend and budget variance so that you can track throughout the year and make any adjustments needed. For example, if you are tracking under budget in one category you can shift funds to another category where you may be tracking over budget.

Flexibility to adapt an annual marketing plan throughout the year is important to adapt to a changing business environment and be “opportunistic” in marketing efforts. Be sure to take advantage of tracking mechanisms for marketing efforts whenever possible – such as unique 800 numbers or website analytic reports – so that you can make adjustments to maximize performance of campaigns (or dump marketing efforts that are not producing desired results). Goals should also be set for all areas of a marketing plan so that you can measure the performance of marketing tactics against business objectives.