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5 Important Marketing Trends for 2016 [Infographic]

While there are certain tenets of marketing that will always remain true, the industry is constantly being reshaped by new trends and technologies. For this reason, it’s all too easy for a marketer to fall behind and lose an edge on the competition. To get your efforts up to speed, look at these five important trends that are anticipated to make the biggest impact in 2016:

1. Community and Relationship Marketing
Consumers are more savvy than ever these days, which is why marketing in 2016 will stress the importance of building relationships instead of direct sales pitches. The goal of relationship marketing is to obtain customers who are loyal and engaged, instead of short-term goals like acquisition and sales. Having a solid relationship with your customers means ongoing business, free word-of-mouth promotion and leads for more business.

Having this kind of relationship must come from creating content that serves your audience in various ways, maybe through learning or problem-solving. Keep in mind that any communication with your audience, whether it’s through content or direct correspondence, should feel personal and interesting. A solid relationship is also contingent on having reliable and responsive customer service.

2. More Video Ads
Google searches already favor pages with videos, but it will also include video ads in search results this year. Now more than ever, this tool is an invaluable asset. When Google tested video ads with some of its business customers, most said it played a part in boosting revenue.

Regardless of Google’s plans in the coming year, videos continue to be extremely prevalent. In the U.S., 78.4 percent of Internet users watch videos online. The numbers are similarly high in other parts of the world.

Taking advantage of this popular platform follows the same protocol as any other type of content. On its website, ReelSEO, a resource for video and online marketing, wrote that those in the mobile generation, aka the demographic for videos, hate being the target of obvious sales pitches. Videos need to be fresh, creative and serve a bigger role than just promotion.

x_0_0_0_14121145_800Connected devices within the Internet of Things are becoming a pinnacle of marketing in 2016.

3. The Rise of the Internet Of Things
In any industry, the 2016 trend talk is all about the Internet of Things. With the advent of wearable devices and other technology that can communicate with one another, digital marketing has more platforms to work with than ever before. This means more insightful data for marketers, as well as an opportunity to better organize than information.

4. Location-Based Marketing
With so many people connected to devices, location-based technology has become a burgeoning focus of 2016. This type of marketing relies on data collected from consented location-tracking, whether it’s through a user’s check-in or in-store beacons, to deliver personalized advertisements to a customer’s phone when in a certain area. Across the U.S., digital markets have already begun using RFIDs and iBeacons in their strategies.

5. Increased VR Experimentation
As they’ve become available, marketers are also hopping on virtual reality products to provide more experience-based content for consumers. While it can cost more than other traditional methods, marketers are expected to have a worthy ROI.

While these aren’t the only trends that will crop up in 2016, they will make an indelible impact on how marketing moves forward in the next year. Anyone lagging behind will surely feel the disadvantage. So you can better remember some of these topics, check out this visual guide:

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The Growth of Video and How To Leverage It

Online video has shown tremendous growth over the last couple of years. From 2013 to 2014, the number of videos viewed increased by 49 percent, according to comScore’s 2014 U.S. Online Video Rankings. That upward trend is continuing into 2016.

In a recent report, Cisco found that by 2019, nearly three-quarters of the world’s mobile traffic will be video-based. This is a considerable jump from 55 percent in 2014. More so, video has grown as an important marketing medium. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 82 percent of B2C marketers use video as part of their content marketing tactics.

“In the digital age, your competitors expand beyond your own market.”

While online video has a certain prevalence, not everyone knows how to leverage its power. One of the biggest challenges is creating the content without spending a fortune. The other is standing out. In the digital age, your competitors expand beyond your own market – you’re in pursuit of someone’s attention against millions of other options.

However, there are a few ways you can make sure you’re producing quality content and using this rapidly expanding medium to best serve your marketing strategy. Here, we discuss four ways to do so:

1. Take an Integrated Approach
If you want to make sure your video content works with the rest of your marketing strategy, build your efforts around it. You want to offer consistency in your brand, which means no weak links in your content. According to Marketing Magazine, this means leveraging your budget to ensure that every aspect of your marketing strategy is working seamlessly.

2. Look At Your Competitors
If you want to stand out in an age so rich in video, you’ll need to study what your competitors are doing and see how you can do it differently or better. For even more inspiration, look beyond your industry at anyone making interesting video content. Marketing Magazine points to TV channels that create extra content for their websites. Ask yourself: How do they separate this media from what they air on TV? What about it reels in an audience? Identifying what makes good video content will help you create yours.

x_0_0_0_14125252_800Some marketing experts argue that content is more valuable than video quality when it comes to online videos.

3. Serve a Purpose
While video quality counts, the content is still worth more. Your videos should serve a purpose, like to educate or entertain. If the content is interesting, your viewers will respond to it. MediaMiser, a media monitoring and analysis software provider, said it’s better to focus on creating the content than perfecting it. While certain quality details – like sound – do make a difference, making videos that portray your brand identity and exhibit a passion for the subject or industry is what counts when it comes to captivating an audience.

4. Don’t Limit Yourself
If you’re creating video content, the last thing you’ll want to do is limit where you share it . Don’t just share your videos on your website – post them on YouTube and other social platforms and get them out there for people to see. The more exposure you seek, the more views you’ll get. You’ll also give your audience more chances to share the video themselves. You can further expand how you share by repurposing content so each platform gets a unique experience.

Despite any challenges, online video is a great platform for any company in virtually any industry. The ways that consumers engage are always evolving, but online video has maintained an impressive growth. Now is the right time to take advantage of this medium – when it can be cost-effective and show a return on investment.

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How To Use Buyer Personas To Create Content For Every Part Of The Sales Funnel

Previously, we discussed the importance of creating accurate buyer personas that adequately represent the audiences your business needs to reach with its marketing efforts. To sum it up, buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customers. These profiles are created using a variety of data and research on your existing customers.

Creating accurate buyer personas can help your entire business become more customer-focused, but it is absolutely essential for the marketing team, especially when it comes to creating content. This is because it helps you create content that addresses specific pain points and hits on key geographic and demographic themes. This article will explain how to set up your marketing funnel to ensure you’re tailoring every piece of content to a specific persona and section of the funnel.

Matching The Sales Funnel To Each Buyer Persona
Once you have established three to five buyer personas, you can start mapping out their respective journeys through the sales funnel.  While many incarnations of the sales funnel exist, the most basic model, as laid out by HubSpot, goes like this: Awareness, Evaluation and Purchase. This is the map that illustrates the journey a customer makes from the time he or she first discovers your content to the time of purchase.

Essentially, you’ll want to split the funnel vertically among each of your personas and tailor the content for each buyer accordingly. How does Persona No.1 make it through the funnel, how does Persona No.2 get through it, and so on? It’s important to do this because businesses today no longer have a linear sales funnel – it’s more of a sales maze with varying points of entry. Because the Internet makes it so easy for potential customers to do a lot of their own research and evaluation without ever contacting a business, you could be dealing with people who are well past the awareness and evaluation phases by the time they contact you.

Customers in each persona could be very different in terms of how they find you and interact with your content, so it’s important to create a unique funnel that is geared specifically for them.

x_0_0_0_14116497_800Buyer personas can help you move prospects down the sales funnel.

Using Content To Raise Awareness
At the top of the funnel, it’s critical to discern what information each of your buyer personas are interested in learning more about. Do some personas already have an advanced knowledge of your industry or business? Are others more likely to have a beginner’s’ grasp of what you do? Here, you want to address each persona’s key pain points and adhere to a writing style and publishing schedule that fits into each reader’s life.

Here are a few types of content that work well for building awareness:

  • Blog posts
  • Landing pages
  • Whitepapers
  • eBooks
  • Infographics
  • FAQs
  • Social media posts
  • Videos (How-to’s, quick tips, etc.)

Helping Leads Evaluate Your Offerings
The middle of the funnel, the evaluation stage is all about moving prospects from awareness of your products to having an interest in learning more about them. People are looking for demos, prices and data that will help them compare your offerings to your competitors’. It’s important to also consider the persona’s schedule here – don’t only consider what the best subject matter is for the webinar/email, but also when to schedule the webinar/ email. The following are common formats for content at this stage:

  • Case studies/testimonials
  • In-depth webinars
  • Demo videos
  • Email marketing/newsletters
  • Product/services comparisons

Creating Content That Closes The Deal
This is where you move to close the deal with interested prospects. Again, you need to consider pain points here: For one buyer persona, price might be a huge factor if they have budget restraints or if they’ve been burned by another company before. Another persona might just need the right solution, no matter what the price is. Whatever the case may be, with your bottom-of-funnel leads, you want your content to eliminate any remaining objections your leads might have.

Here are some content types that can do just that:

  • Free trials
  • Customized, in-person demos/consultations
  • Coupons and deals
  • Estimates and quotes

By understanding your prospects deeply enough to create detailed buyer personas, you should be able to set up a sales funnel that is fueled by targeted content that speaks to the right people at the right time in their journeys.

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6 Ways Creating Buyer Personas Will Improve Your Customer Experience

Even the greenest marketers have likely heard of “buyer personas,” but it’s not always clear why they’re so important. In this post, we’ll look at what buyer personas are and how they can help you improve your total customer experience.

What Is A Buyer Persona?
Before we can understand why it’s important, it helps to know what a buyer persona is. HubSpot has provided a concise definition of the term: “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”

Essentially, you should use customer demographics, behavioral patterns gleaned from analytics and research and other data points to see what kind of personas comprise your customer base. As HubSpot noted, taking the time to create personas will help your entire business become more customer-focused, since you’ll know exactly what to do to attract buyers.

“Buyer personas will help your entire business become more customer-focused.”

Here are six ways that creating buyer personas will benefit your business:

1. Understand Your Customers On A Deeper Level
Well-defined buyer personas help you to better understand who your customers are on many different levels. You don’t want to look at your customers as an undifferentiated mass — each persona (which represents individual customers) has specific wants, needs and lifestyles, so it’s important for every customer to be aware that you understand and care. Using personas allows you to personalize the entire customer experience to specific individuals.

2. Facilitate Better Customer Service
On a similar note, you’ll have a better idea of whom you are dealing with at any given time and how to address his or her issues. Rather than starting with a blank canvas, you can paint the picture before the customer interaction begins. Customers will feel that you can relate to them, which will build their trust in and respect for your brand.

3. Generate Higher Quality Leads
Knowing what will attract certain personas, as well as where they spend time and find information, helps with creating and targeting your content. You can create content for a specific persona and even take it to the next level by basing the content on where that persona could be in the sales cycle. Marketing today is about reaching the right people in the right places at the right time with the right content. Using buyer personas can help you master that.

4. Increase Sales Efficiency
Buyer personas are extremely useful to your sales team in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Your sales reps will not only know which persona to focus on the most, but they will know how to communicate to the leads that fall under that specific persona. By understanding the leads’ motivations, your sales team will be able to accurately tailor their sales pitches before the conversation even starts. They’ll be prepared for questions customers might ask, and they’ll have a better understanding of what it takes to close that particular deal.

5. Build Understanding Of The Customers Across Your Business
Not only do personas help within the sales department, they also work across different functional areas. This is hugely important for the Sales and Marketing relationship but it also works outside of that. Using personas to reference individual customers ensures that everyone from engineering and product development to customer service knows how to respond to the customers’ needs.

6. Improve Product/Service Development
You can also leverage buyer personas for creating new products, services or features that better suit their needs. Knowing their issues and best ways to solve them will lead you to offer products or services your customers want. By growing and changing with your customers you will be more likely to have long and successful relationships with them.

Let’s start looking at our customers more like actual people with specific interests, wants and needs. You can get to know your customers a little bit more by creating buyer personas and improve the entire customer experience by using them.

What other benefits do you think you could leverage from buyer personas?

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