Thinking About Hiring a Blog Writer? Watch Out for These 6 Common Mistakes

Few business owners have both the time and skill with words needed to do their company blog justice. Business blogs need to look polished and represent the brand well, yet learning to write professionally is a trial-and-error process. Considering all these personal limitations and high expectations, outsourcing blog writing makes perfect sense. But there is a right way and a wrong way to hire a writer. Many business owners commit hefty mistakes when offering someone the chance to take the reins on their business blog.

Business blogs need to look polished and represent the brand well

Here are six of the biggest of those mistakes. Watch out for them when hiring a blog writer to avoid frustrating setbacks and to ensure your blog is as great as it deserves to be.

Going With the Lowest Bidder

This is absolutely the most crucial mistake. Remember the maxim: “you get what you pay for.” Hiring the cheapest writer you can find creates problems because it assumes the only goal for your blog is to have something published on it. In reality, you want every article published to fit a few criteria:

  • Proper grammar, spelling and syntax
  • An engaging structure that is as easy to read to completion as it is to skim quickly
  • A compelling voice
  • Research and effort during prewriting so that your blogs are informative and offer value
  • Able to capture the unique perspective of your brand or company

Hiring the cheapest writer guarantees none of these things. In fact, you are highly likely to end up with a non-native English speaker who is going to copy the first article they find on Google search …badly. Have high standards in mind, and use them to make your budget reasonable. Keep in mind that a badly written blog can cause damage to your brand and marketing goals, making a poorly run blog worse than no blog at all.

Not Looking at Their Resume and Past Work

The best indicator of a writer’s strength is their past work. You will want to see a broad range of writing styles covering all the topic types you intend for your blog. Some writers work better in an editorial format compared to a list of “X reasons why…”, for instance, so ensure the writer you have in mind is capable of creating what you need. You should also look out for a writer who is able to write engagingly in several different voices. They should be chameleons capable of mimicking your particular brand. At the same time, they should have consistent stylistic devices that make reading their pieces easy and fun. Hold out for writers who can impress you with their past work and their overall versatility. As a final test, you should also commission a sample piece to ensure they can satisfy your desired writing approach.

Not Setting Goals and Expectations

The best writer in the world is going to struggle with meeting your expectations if you can’t make them clear. Since no one can read minds, you will need to explain the purpose of your blog and what you intend to get out of it to the writer. These guiding principles will help the writer shape their approach to your blog.

For instance, if your goal is SEO and generating traffic from social media shares, then the writer may take a more “viral” approach. If the aim is to generate leads and develop brand awareness, quality information and a strong brand voice matters most. If the goal is to create a guide to complex topics in your industry or operate as a sales funnel, the overall strategy for blog topic selection and publishing matters as much as each individual piece.

Define your goals, and make them clear to your writer. At the very least, provide an overview of the type of topics you want to cover and what you intend readers to do next. For example, if you have SEO goals, provide a sample of keywords they can work into the writing.

Establish guidelines for how casual or professional you want the language to be. Give a range of article lengths. Tell them what elements they need to include upon submission to make your life easier, such as adding images or including a meta description.

Put all of these guidelines in a document, and ensure your writer has no questions. You don’t want them reaching out via email at the last minute just to get a piece done. If they have a document to refer to, they can self guide and make the process for both of you easier.

Going With a Strong Writer Who Can’t Match Your Brand Voice

Make sure that any writer you hire can adopt the approach and voice you want to represent your brand. A great test is to provide them guidelines for a sample article using excerpts from blogs you like and some loosely described ideas you’ve had. If they can produce something that comes across as similar to something you’d write or close to a blog style you want to emulate, you know they’re a keeper.

Not Establishing a Set Workflow and Process After Hiring a Blog Writer

At the beginning of your relationship, you and your writer should know how the typical process for submitting blogs should work. Tell them the deadline for each piece. Tell them whether you want an outline or topic proposal submitted first. Explain how many revisions you might typically go through. Setting guidelines for touching base is also critical. Even though some professional relationships can work well on autopilot, the last thing you want is for your writer to go AWOL on you. Yet, this can easily happen if they didn’t have clear expectations on when you wanted to hear from them next. Your writer can also become frustrated if you change your process constantly or add on unexpected things like major changes between drafts. Try to work towards consistency.

Not Talking Strategy With Your Writer

When you hire a new writer, you form a relationship that can be quite beneficial to you both. The best way for this relationship to blossom is to have talk strategy, performance and feedback at key points in the year. Try to schedule a call or meeting with your writer at least quarterly. Discuss your upcoming plans. Offer both praise and suggestions for improvement. See if they have any ideas you could work into your blog strategy. Make a goal to push your blogging to become better month after month.

Following all of the suggestions above ensures you don’t just find a great writer, but that you also develop a professional working relationship that gets better over time. If you can do all this, you will be much happier with the work from your writer and happier about the results they help your blog achieve.

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Is Personalization the Future of Marketing?

For the last decade, most of the marketing world has focused on raw traffic acquisition through channels like SEO, content marketing, and digital advertising via Google AdWords and Facebook. But as clicks shift from organic to paid in some verticals, marketers are realizing that we are playing in a new world where driving the growth that seems to have come so easily for the last decade is going to require new strategies and tools. Conversion optimization is becoming a better understood practice, but at its essence, conversion optimization involves changes to your website or product to convert more visitors to customers. We’re not talking button colors here; we’re talking full changes to your website flows and funnels to drive exponential growth.

But what if that’s just the start?

shutterstock_298189988What if you could actually know who your website visitors are in real time and change your messaging to speak directly to them and sell them on your service’s benefits for their specific business? What if you could also know if they are already a customer and remove email fields to allow them to sign up to new products or email courses with just one click? Amazingly, this is now becoming reality and those who embrace it early will reap the benefits.

Here are four tools that are enabling the future of conversion optimization in our present day.

Drip

Drip is an email marketing platform that allows you to tag visitors who come to your site and drop them into specific campaigns and ad groups based on the pages they visit and the actions they take.

Depending on your business model, you can set up smart automations and emails that trigger based on their usage and other campaigns to which they are subscribed. Coupled with integrations to tools like LeadPages, Drip is a powerful tool for sending the right messages to your customer inboxes at the right time.

LeadPages

LeadPages is landing page software that allows marketers, entrepreneurs, and anyone with access to a website to design landing pages without having to write code.

LeadPages also allows you to send campaigns to your subscribers that include a one-click signup for events like webinars or meetups. This is a great way, among others, to lower the sign up barrier for your email subscribers by not requiring them to re-enter information you already have.

And with a bit of code knowledge and clarity around who your visitors are and where they come from, you can also change the messaging on your page in real time to speak directly to them and their needs.

But if that’s over your head, then there’s a new solution.

RightMessage

RightMessage is a new beta software tool that takes what LeadPages and Drip do and takes it to the next level. The founder is a longtime Drip user who has built seven-figure businesses off the back of Drip and smart personalization via tagging, and now is building RightMessage to make messaging personalization easier.

The goal of a tool like RightMessage is to help you message your offering or product to your visitor based off any combination of factors such as referral source or your email campaigns to which they are already subscribed. The creators have seen conversion lifts of over 250%, and now they’re helping you do the same.

Facebook Ads

You might be saying “Really John, Facebook ads? Everyone does those.” I have to mention Facebook ads because they are more powerful than most people realize.

For example, within Facebook ads you are able to run a video campaign to a broad yet still targeted audience. Once someone watches your video for a predetermined number of seconds, you can then move them into another audience and show them a different set of ads across the Facebook network.

And of course, the Facebook ad pixel installed on your site is the most powerful personalized marketing and messaging tool out there.

Based on their activity on your site, you can take the messaging they’ve seen via RightMessage or a similar tool and serve them ads that reinforce your message and encourage them to come back and take action.

By: John Doherty

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Is Your Company Blog Not Working? Here’s 5 Reasons Why That May Be

Content marketing and blogging have proven to be effective digital marketing methods. Done right, they can generate leads and convert people to the next stage of your marketing funnel. Yet, plenty of company blogs completely struggle to meet their content marketing goals. For one reason or another, they fail to find the right audience — or, for some, any audience at all.

Other blogs earn plenty of traffic but lackluster conversion numbers.

Other blogs earn plenty of traffic but lackluster conversion numbers. Still others have myriad issues of their own related to various mistakes in strategy, positioning, site design and more. To help you pinpoint where your issues may lie and how you can improve your blog performance, we have come up with five reasons why your current blog may not be working. These observations come from common company blog mistakes in the industry and how the top blogs fix them to find success.

You Don’t Have Your Target Audience in Mind

Before you write a new blog, you should always stop to check in with your audience goals. Namely: who is this blog for?

Consider your ideal target audience based on who you think will help you succeed in your business goals. If, for instance, you are a B2B software company, you may assume that your audience has at least a small level of expertise in your line of work. But if you are a financial services provider to a typical consumer, then you are going to have to cover even the most basic concepts to ensure your audience can keep up.

By the same token, you have to think about things your audience would be interested in reading. For instance, while someone in IT may be excited about “a new way to configure proxy servers,” the average consumer will want to know less about the solution itself and more about the benefits it offers. Looking at the latter type, they may need a headline that reads something like “New Method for Connecting Online Makes Actions Happen in Nanoseconds,” or something similar.

Think about what your audience needs to see to understand the point you’re trying to make, and think about the emotional triggers that can spur them to be interested enough to click. When you can understand what these needs, expectations and emotional triggers are, you can earn a higher volume of clicks from targeted audience groups.

Your Level of Quality Is Low

Spelling, grammar, and structure are all critical when writing blog entries. We say this not just because people will split hairs online (and they will), but more because rampant issues affect readability. If your sentence don’t make sense, no one will be able to understand your point. If you misspell words, people may be confused as to what you meant to say. Use a spell checker, and have someone with a solid sense of grammar review your posts for publication.

As for structure, try to lay out your blog in a way that makes it skimmable. Instantly start with a topic introduction that tells people what they will get out of reading. Then, break up your main point into several sub-topics that are easily read in small bite sizes.

Try to let one thought flow into the next. Make sure that almost everything you say builds off the last point, and always stay focused on the central purpose of your post. Getting feedback from others and rereading your post drafts after an hour or so of writing them can both help you think more like your audience and write more persuasive, compelling articles.

Your Blog Titles Aren’t Interesting

Certain approaches to headline writing can grab our attention, while others simply don’t work. If you find you have low conversions for your blog posts through search engines or social media, maybe your titles are to blame.

You can reference this guide to the most popular headlines on Facebook from Buzzsumo to get you started. Rand Fishkin of Moz also has a handy suggestion for writing short yet compelling headlines that don’t leave anything out.

You Don’t Have a Strong Call to Action

With limited exceptions, most business blogs will want to close out with a strong call to action (CTA). This section comes after the argument being made is completely wrapped up. It then instructs the reader on what they should do next in order to find even more information or benefits. Example calls to action include:

  • Take a look at our product page…
  • Sign up for our email list…
  • View further information for an upcoming course/webinar/event…
  • Visit a service page for more information…
  • Contact us to start the conversation…
  • Read our other content…

Whatever your call to action is, make sure it is clear and written as a strong command or suggestion. While that may seem pushy, people respond better to messages written in this format and remember them more clearly. You’ll start to notice that most marketers do this, too. A commercial would never say “consider visiting our store during our sales event.” Instead, they would lead with a commanding verb: “Come visit our store during our one-day sales event to get incredible savings!”

You Don’t Have the Right Landing Pages and Lead Capture Forms to Guide Your Audience to the Next Step

Sometimes when you can’t convert blog readers, the issue isn’t the blog itself but the website ecosystem around it. Put simply: make sure that your calls to action lead to compelling landing pages or website pages. These pages should capture audience interest and further direct them to the next step. If you don’t have anything like this available, make one! Even something as simple as a custom “Contact Us” landing page can help you convert more people compared to linking to your normal Contact Us page.

For normal website pages you want to link to, like explanations of your services, ensure that the page guides the reader through the most important information and benefits first, concluding in yet another strong CTA. You may not even need a landing page link to accomplish certain goals. For instance, many websites have found that email address capture forms displayed adjacent to blog content work better than a custom landing page.

Just make sure that any forms present on your content are short and involve minimal work. Their placement should also not disrupt the reader’s ability to digest the content at their own pace.

Let Data Tell You About the Company Blog Mistakes You’re Making

The above suggestions work well in general, but you need to know what you’re blog has to change to get better performance. To learn what that might be, look to your own data. You can configure Google Analytics for free to inform you about where, exactly, your blog is failing you. A low click through rate (CTR) on organic search means that maybe your titles or meta descriptions need work, for instance. A decent readership but low conversions means you need more convincing calls to action and easier access to the next step for readers. A high bounce rate means that people were intrigued by your headline, but didn’t like what they saw when they clicked.

Study your data, pledge to work on best practices, and write for your audience. These approaches will help you get better performance from your company blog in 2018 as you make marginal improvements over time.

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Using Social Media to Build Your Online Reputation

Building a long-term reputation has become an essential element of doing business online. In the face of the digital revolution, when you can successfully manage your business’ online reputation and social media presence, you can expand your growth and opportunity set. With an authentic and representative digital presence, your business can play to its strengths and capitalize on effective public relations.

Social media is a tool which when used at the right time and in an effective way yields better results.

A good online reputation also impacts sales and profit for long run. Statistics also reveal that people trust online reviews: 90 percent of survey respondents claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions. In comparison, 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews.

Reputation management can be precisely broken into three segments:

  1. Building your company and brand reputation: Whether you are new company or are launching a new product/service or have branched out to a new industry or a customer base, your primary focus should be establishing a stellar reputation for your business and your brand.
  2. Maintaining your company and brand reputation: Maintaining your stellar reputation is critical. Once your company has established a solid reputation, you have to take continuous strategic and formational steps to maintain it.
  3. Recovering your company and brand reputation: A negative word or image in the public eye can ruin your brand’s reputation. To effectively address such an occurrence, your need to thoughtfully rebuild your brand overtime. Consider partners with expertise in how to create a strong positive image in the minds of the public. Positive association with your brand comes as a result of planned promotional activity and building trust.

Successfully build your Online Reputation using Social Media as an effective tool:

1. Building compelling social media presence and proactive participation:

Social media is a tool which when used at the right time and in an effective way yields better results. Consider this-

  • Sometimes not participating on social media can be a liability, especially when something goes wrong and there is a customer complaint. In other words, without an active social media presence, dissatisfied customers may be sharing their frustration.
  • Responding quickly to a negative situation or accident is critical. If your team is not engaged, then your business cannot respond to issues and provide solutions.

Business certainly don’t want to risk their credibility with their customers so by participating actively on various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, they can build a communicative network and a community of loyal customers who will be become their biggest brand ambassadors. Companies often step up their game by creating a separate support handles which would be dedicated solely to responding customers who need help. For example, Nike has a separate support handle @NikeSupport solely for this purpose. The customer service focused team behind the handle responds in minutes to an inquiry. This high level of engagement builds trust and loyalty. Another example is Starbucks, which created a handle for customers provide feedback and submit ideas for discussion. Naturally, @MyStarbucksIdea is less active than Starbucks main account, but having such a communication medium is a competitive advantage and differentiator, one that is hard to quantify from a monetary or branding standpoint.

2. Choosing the relevant social media platforms:

When starting out on social media, select one platform that is the most appropriate for your business. As you become familiar with social media, start integrating other social media tools.

The most important thing to consider is which social network your target audience is accessing.

LinkedIn for example, is an excellent platform for B2B professionals wishing to become an expert in a specific industry. Tools such as LinkedIn groups allow you to interact with people from specific professions, industries or interest areas by either starting, or responding to discussions.

3. Create conversations and curate quality content:

Creating a quality of good conversations and content will keep the audience engaged and it will also help to filter your website from other websites. Keep your audience engaged by posting consistently. Announce contest promotions and new service & product launches. Furthermore, engage with your customers, ask for their regular feedback, and communicate information that will help them view you as a resource when making the most informed decisions.

In the end, Reputation Management is about being transparent with the public, which of course includes your current and future customers. Remember that the eyes of social media have forever changed the playing field for how companies create brand equity and communicate. This can be a material and long-term competitive advantage when you are purposeful and proactive.

By: Sameer Somal

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How to Write Headlines Your Customers Can’t Resist Clicking

In many ways, the headline is the most important part of a blog post or article. Headlines spark action. They can make people click. An eye-catching headline on social media can draw tons of comments — many from people reacting off the headline alone.

Headlines can also shape how people digest the message of a blog by creating context and expectations — all through a strong first impression.

So how do you start to shape expectations and earn interest right from the headline?

But, most importantly, headlines tell us what we need to know in order to get invested. With so many distractions and options for reading content online, we need information that helps us choose how to spend our limited time.

The best headlines therefore serve as a promise to the reader about what they’ll get for their time. Never forget that a great headline acts like a bargain: “read this, and you’ll get something special or valuable or informative out of it.”

So how do you start to shape expectations and earn interest right from the headline? You can rely on a couple of tried-and-true formulas, as one option. You should also mull how accurately and succinctly your headline summarizes the central takeaway of your post.

Method 1: Distill Your Article Into a Headline by Gradually Dropping Your Word Count

This first method is time consuming and involves some hefty thinking, but after a few tries you’ll be able to do it subconsciously in seconds. In fact, most of us already try to use this method when writing headlines, we just don’t think about it. Getting practice makes your approach more deliberate while teaching you how to skim your content for an accurate central takeaway. The method works like this:

  1. Identify a central thesis, argument, idea or purpose of the article
  2. Identify two to four main sub-points or pieces of evidence for the main point
  3. Use the above two items to summarize your article in less than 200 words
  4. After writing your summary, edit it down to 100 words
  5. Edit your 100 word summary down to 50 words
  6. Edit your 50 word summary into a single sentence
  7. Take your sentence-length summary and condense it further into a headline below 90 characters
  8. See if you can condense the message into just a few words using less than 65 characters
  9. Re-read your 200 word summary to see if you left anything important out, then come up with an alternative <70 character headline
  10. Repeat steps 7-9 to come up with a few alternative options

This method may seem tedious, but it’s good practice for teaching your brain to recognize thought processes we take for granted. Translating a huge chunk of text into a short summary involves lots of mental processing, but we are able to do it in seconds thanks to our wonderful minds. At the same time, our minds are trying to do a million other things when we write headlines. Using the above method keeps us focused on a central idea, and it can steer your headline writing back to a more logical place if you ever feel lost.

Method 2: Use Headline Formulas That Earn Tons of Clicks

Publishers like Buzzfeed, Upworthy and Bored Panda don’t earn millions of clicks a week by coincidence. They have blog writing down to a science, including the practice of writing juicy headlines that generate stampedes of clicks. Based on research and performance data, here are a few of the most successful three-word headline phrases these publishers use to generate huge, highly engaged audiences:

  • will make you
  • this is why
  • can we guess
  • only X in
  • the reason is
  • are freaking out
  • X stunning photos
  • tears of joy
  • is what happens

Other common traits of popular headlines include:

  • Using numbers to imply a list (“10 Reasons Why…”)
  • Referring to the audience in the second-person (“You Won’t Believe…”)
  • Implying emotion (“This Hilarious Piece of Advice…”)
  • Lead with a strong, commanding action verb (“Take Control of Your Day by…”)

There are also many other tried-and-true blog headline writing formulas worth experimenting with. Now, when looking at these lists, some may refer to this data-based approach to writing blog titles as “making clickbait.” Those people would be correct. Even though clickbait-ish headlines have become a punchline, they still work. A post like “Watching This Baby See Her Dad for the First Time Will Make You Smile” sets a concrete promise to the reader for what they’ll get out of the post. Our cynicism towards headlines like these comes from the fact that we click on these posts only to feel deceived. E.g.: “No, #16 did not surprise us, Buzzfeed, because it’s literally the first thing we thought of.”

So, when writing headlines with this approach, make sure they still accurately reflect the actual content of your article. Which brings us to method #3.

Method 3: Compromise by Combining Headlines From Methods 1 and 2

Rand Fishkin of Moz offers a handy way to resolve the conflict between headline descriptiveness and viral appeal. He suggests creating at least one headline using each of the above methods. Then, try to combine them. Here’s an example:

  • Descriptive Headline: “Implied Consent Laws Demand Choice Between Incriminating Yourself and Mandatory Jail Time”
  • Sensational Headline: “This One Weird Trick Could Get You Out of a DUI, But You May Spend the Night in Jail!”
  • Combination: “Here’s What Happens When You Delay Your Breathalyzer Test in an Implied Consent State”

Now, an even better headline might read: “5 Reasons to Delay Your Breathalyzer Test in an Implied Consent State”. Why? Because they then know they don’t have to read the whole article to get the gist. They can just read the five subheadings in quick succession.

That particular headline requires the article to be broken down in list format, though, so consider the how you might use the structure of your article to create an appealing headline before you start writing.

A Few Other Tips to Help You Write Better Blog Headlines

  • Look up synonyms to replace weak words with stronger ones or multiple words with a single descriptive one
  • Use strong verbs
  • Avoid using “being” verbs like “is” and “are”
  • Use CTR to gauge how clickable your headline is; make note of high benchmarks to learn from them
  • If you have a high CTR but a high bounce rate for your content, that’s a sign your headlines need to more accurately reflect your post content
  • Beware of spam trigger words, especially when sending emails
  • You can A/B test multiple headline options when creating promoted social media posts or email campaigns; study the results to find patterns for successful headlines
  • When in doubt, come up with at least five alternatives and ask someone for their input!

Headline writing is a tricky dance, but when you recognize what’s important, it becomes that much easier. Keep your audience’s valuable time in mind, promise them something great, don’t misrepresent the post, and study your own data to discover what works!

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18 Marketing Trends to Watch in 2018

This year saw the release of new technologies like Google Home and the iPhone X. Digital advertising expanded gains made last year over television advertising, and markets rewarded brands that bet big on innovation and customer service (think Teslaand Amazon).

As 2018 approaches, there are a number of new marketing trends poised to make a significant impact on go-to-market strategy. Here are 18 of the most important trends to look for in the coming year.

1. AI takes over website messaging.

Thanks to tools like Intercom and Drift, marketers can already use artificial-intelligence-powered live-chat tools to communicate with customers. As this technology gets ironed out, it is likely that more brands will embrace AI live chat to better service website visitors.

2. Personalization goes to the next level.

A key tenet of account-based marketing (ABM) is providing content tailored to specific accounts or account types. As ABM principles go mainstream, look for content personalization to proliferate. Platforms provided by Adobe and Optimizely make it possible for marketers to recommend specific pieces of content similar to the way Netflix suggests shows.

3. Quant marketing goes mainstream.

The rise of quantitative-based marketing is upon us. Organizations like Unilever and Kraft, which previously relied on marketing “soft skills,” are now taking a playbook out of the tech world by building data-science teams to work hand-in-hand with marketers. Next year, quantitative-based marketing will continue to surge as organizations that focus on the data find it easier to grow.

4. Marketers begin developing augmented-reality content.

With the release of the iPhone eight and iPhone X, Apple has made it clear that they are betting on augmented reality (AR). As these new devices go mainstream, brands will begin experimenting with AR-sponsored and -branded content.

5. In-car ads become a new marketing channel for some.

Self-driving cars are on the horizon. The Waymo fleet of self-driving cars has driven three million autonomous miles and simulated over one billion miles. Uber recently ordered 24,000 Volvo SUVs to be outfitted with the latest self-driving tech. The Tesla Models S, X and 3, the Audi A8 and the Mercedes-Benz S-Class are all self-driving to some degree.

What will happen when drivers no longer need to pay attention to the road? They’ll consume content, of course, and with that content will come in-car ads. Watch for some brands to begin experimenting with this new marketing channel in the coming year.

6. Brands start to develop voice-optimized content.

Last year 20 percent of online searches were conducted through voice search. By 2020, that number is expected to increase to 50 percent. Just as marketers have optimized content for web 2.0 and mobile, they will start optimizing content for voice search as well.

For example, because voice search is easier than typing, searches tend to surface more long-tail content. By comparison, text search tends to surface sorter phrases.

7. Privacy protection becomes a major selling point.

There have been a number of high-profile data breaches in 2017. From the DNC email hack to the Equifax breach, cyber security has had a considerable impact on many aspects of our world. Moving forward, consumers will begin to favor products that protect their privacy.

If consumers don’t prioritize privacy, some government associations will, and many are already doing so. For example, a new law passed by the European Union called GDPR will have a major impact on what businesses must do to protect user data. Because of a confluence of factors, marketers will begin using privacy protection and data security as a value proposition across industries.

Instagram is poised to become the go-to channel for brands interested in social media marketing.

8. Instagram becomes a more valuable channel than Facebook.

Instagram is growing at an incredible clip. In 2017, Instagram announced that approximately 800 million people use the platform each month. Their latest tool, Instagram Stories, became more popular than Snapchat just one year after going live.

Since brands tend to see better engagement on Instagram than any other social media platform, and because of great advertising controls, Instagram is poised to become the go-to channel for brands interested in social media marketing.

9. Leading brands invest in live events.

Approximately two-thirds of marketers say that they will increase the number of live events they host in 2018. This is because marketers recognize that live events are one of the most effective marketing channels.

There is a reason that some of the world’s most successful organizations, including Salesforce, Airbnb and Google, host an annual event designed to bring existing customers, prospective customers and the press together under one roof.

10. B2B marketers create multichannel cold-outreach campaigns.

The average cold email response rate is low, and it will continue to decline as email clients get better at filtering out junk mail. The best marketers develop integrated marketing campaigns that use a combination of email, digital ads and other channels to engage prospects in new and exciting ways.

For example, by using Twilio marketers can send text messages in addition to email. They can then retarget highly qualified prospects with custom audience ads offered by platforms like Facebook and Google AdWords.

11. Twitter dies a quiet death.

Twitter has been unable to grow users in 2017. The platform has focused on user acquisition rather than on making improvements to their ad platform. As a result, marketers are already using other social media platforms to connect with prospects. This trend will continue in 2018 as Twitter continues to struggle.

12. LinkedIn sees new life among B2B marketers.

While Twitter struggles, LinkedIn has made a number of great improvements to their platform. A site-wide revamp refreshed the LinkedIn user interface in 2017. The platform also saw good improvements to the LinkedIn ad platform. Thanks to these and other changes, B2B marketers will utilize LinkedIn more in the coming year.

13. Machine learning changes how marketers manage ads.

Why pay a digital marketing agency thousands to manage ads when a machine-learningplatform can do it better? New platforms like Acquisio and Trapica promise to optimize ad spend through advanced machine-learning algorithms. Marketers simply need to set basic campaign parameters, and the platforms then do the work of identifying ideal audiences and effective creatives.

14. Predictive lead scoring makes marketers rethink lead routing.

Using predictive lead scoring, marketers can identify the prospects that are most likely to convert to customers. All that’s needed is an email address, and tools like Infer crawl the web looking for buying signals. Leads are then scored and sorted, so that only the most qualified people are passed to sales.

15. Virtual reality is called into question.

A few years ago, virtual reality was predicted to be the next big thing in content. While VR is popular in the videogame community, it has not gone mainstream. This is probably for the best, as it can be difficult for brands to produce content with a controlled point of view. Instead of virtual reality, augmented reality is slated to make waves next year. Look no further than Apple’s rumored AR glasses.

16. Consumers expect more from brands.

Thanks to a confluence of services, consumers will have increased expectations from brands of all kinds. Voice assistants, same-day delivery and on-demand content will mean that both B2C and B2B marketers must find innovative new ways to delight prospects and customers with nearly instant service.

17. Influencer marketing remains a useful strategy.

Nearly 95 percent of marketers who use an influencer marketing strategy believe it is effective. Brands interested in connecting with prospects via social media will continue to turn to influencer marketing. Influencers create compelling content that appears to be organic in many cases.

onsumers, especially younger ones, prefer content that feels less “staged” and more natural. The world of advertising is changing. It is moving toward subtle sponsored content promoted by influencers or micro-influencers.

18. Gated content falls out of vogue.

In the B2B world, gated content is how many marketers generate leads. But, some of the best brands, including Hubspot and Zendesk, are un-gating content in order to develop a stronger organic search presence in an increasingly crowded content landscape.

Conclusion

Unknown marketing surprises await in 2018, and some of these predictions will probably fail to come to fruition as technology and the expectations of consumers change. Nevertheless, many of the trends outlined here are likely to come to pass.

Based on current trends, marketing is likely to become more analytical, and more focused on digital marketing through organic search, voice and social media. In addition, new content formats like augmented reality and in-car ads will probably go mainstream.

By: Deep Patel

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5 Email Marketing Trends to Watch for in 2018

According to The Radicati Group, more than 3.7 billion people use email around the world as of January 2017. And it’s expected to grow by 3% (or surpass 3.8 billion) by 2018. Despite the false predictions by the so-called experts, email is not dead. Yet it’s only getting stronger and more powerful. The year 2017 proved this to all with 59% of marketers choosing email to be the most effective channel for generating the highest revenue. Email continues to dominate the marketing world. So, what kind of trends and changes can we expect to see in 2018 for email marketing? Here are our predictions.

Interactive Emails

Depending on your target audience, making your emails fun to read is a great way to increase the engagement rates and reduce bounce rates. Creating interactive emails is the best way to approach this. According to a poll by Litmus, more than 27% of marketers believe interactive emails to make a big impact in email marketing. Apparently, people love interacting with emails that include image galleries, sliders, buttons, quizzes, search bars, and surveys. This trend will continue on in 2018. We’ll be seeing a lot of Add to Cart buttons and polls in future promotional emails.

54% of emails are now opened in mobile email clients.

Rise Of List Segmentation

When it comes to sending more effective email campaigns and boosting email open rates, list segmentation has been the best strategy that’s helped businesses generate more than 14% email opens and get 100.95% clicks from email campaigns. Most small businesses are still not utilizing list segmentation in their email marketing strategies. Thankfully, more and more marketers are now slowly adopting this technology to their advantage. In 2018, marketers will collect more data to create better email campaigns and for effective retargeting. Of course, we will also see email opt-in forms that collect more than just the name and email.

AI-Powered Email Marketing

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies are the future. Many tech companies are already investing billions of dollars in developing new technologies that use AI to make our everyday lives easier. And it seems like email marketing will also receive more AI-powered tools in the near future. Adobe is one of the many companies that has already invested in AI-powered email marketing. Adobe Campaign already has impressive AI features, like its ability to suggest users the best subject lines for an email. The company plans to take it a bit further by suggesting marketers the best images to use in a promotional email. In the future, machine learning will make email marketing so much easier by suggesting us ways to segment email lists, integrate product recommendations, and send more personalized emails that target individuals.

More Plain-Text Emails

Creating high-quality email templates with HTML and filled with images used to be a trend. But today, only the big corporate brands are using them to annoy users. Plain-text emails are proven to be more effective than HTML emails. Plain text email campaigns see better deliverability rates, higher email open rates, and increased engagement rates. Many expert marketers, like Noah Kagan and Neil Patel, have already switched to plain-text emails. Why? Maybe because plain text emails render the same across all devices and seem more personal. You don’t have to open plain text emails in the browser just to read the email. Plain-text emails are also easier to format for mobile screens.

Mobile-First

54% of emails are now opened in mobile email clients. Needless to say, mobile devices have been taking over the desktop devices for quite some time. And it’s about time we design emails mobile-first. Responsive design will no longer be a “nice to have,” it will be a “must have.” And it won’t just be emails that marketers are formatting for mobile. Email subscription forms will start becoming more mobile friendly as well. Since most mobile visitors come to websites from an article vs. the homepage, we’ll start seeing more articles ending with email sign up forms to increase conversions.

Marketers are now realizing the importance of optimizing email marketing for mobile screens. In 2018, more email campaigns will focus on offering the best experience to mobile users. Whether it’s adding a sticky header to your mobile site that asks for emails or embedding sign up forms to each blog post – marketers will need to get creative when it comes to increasing email conversions on mobile.

Summary

In addition, we can expect to see more advanced automation technologies, deeper personalization, and beginner-friendly A/B split testing tools to optimize emails for maximum effect. Above all, hopefully, the year 2018 will help more marketers realize the true power of email marketing and use it to grow their businesses.

By: Syed Balkhi

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Visual Advertising: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

We’re exposed to ads by the boatload — far more than I think most of us would like. This is why it’s all the more important that, as an advertiser, your design team really explores all the details to make sure your ad doesn’t fall into the bad and especially not the ugly category.

When creating an advertisement for a client, there are dozens of things to consider before firing up your design software. The first big question I ask is “Where will the ad live?” This leads to several subsequent “smaller” questions. Is it going in a magazine? If so, what kind of magazine? Who reads it? Or is it going to be on a specific social media platform or perhaps on a website?

A visually pleasing aesthetic

All of these questions are important to think about because you’d be surprised at how much adjustment can go into moving an ad from one media to another. It is almost never as easy as stretching an existing ad to fit new corners (although most people seem to think this is a breeze). Of course, designing an ad for one audience and then finding out an entirely different audience will see the ad basically forces you to start over.

The next big question I ask is “What is the objective?” There really needs to be one clear objective — not 5 small objectives. The more difficult you make it for someone to act as a result of your ad, the less likely they are to do so. Most often, ads are selling something, but they could also be trying to change the way a brand is perceived, increase brand recognition, or demonstrate a product.

Good ads have:

  • A strong concept
  • A simple and clear message
  • A visually pleasing aesthetic
  • Consistent elements across all platforms

Bad ads:

  • Lack a clear concept
  • Have an unfocused message
  • Create negative controversy
  • Tend to be visually displeasing

Ugly Ads:

  • Have no concept
  • Bad design AND confusing message
  • Use Papyrus font (shudder)
  • Have pixelated images

By: Clark Beggs

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Revamping Your Email Marketing Program for the New Year

For an email program to be successful, marketers need to analyze and revamp sending strategies, tools and message content at least once a year to ensure recipients are engaged and enjoying the content their brands are sending them.

photo-1466228432269-af42b400b934The coming of a new year is a time for resolutions and fresh starts, so it’s a perfect time to reevaluate and revamp email marketing programs.

By cleansing email lists, reworking templates and refreshing content, marketers can begin 2018 with a fresh approach to their programs that will re-engage and even win back some customers who may have disengaged toward the end of the year.

Clean your Email Lists

Cleansing subscriber lists of invalid emails lowers the risk of bounce-backs, which directly impact deliverability rates. If a marketer emails a list with too many invalid addresses, there’s a good chance that a domain will take notice and assume the brand has poor collection practices. Therefore, the brand’s emails may end up in the junk folder, or the sender may be blocked altogether.

To avoid this, marketers can use list verification services — such as BriteVerify, Kickbox or others — as a first step to improve their campaigns. Next, marketers have the option of implementing web form verification, which ensures new registrations go through the verification process at the point of collection.

This step helps ensure the email list is as accurate as possible.

Give your Template a Facelift

Branding inconsistencies in email templates can easily happen between marketing and other types of emails. For example, password resets or other transactional emails may look vastly different from other brand messaging.

This is because transactional emails tend to get set up and forgotten about because they’re automated. Marketing emails tend to be updated more frequently because marketers are constantly testing and adjusting their messages.

Be sure to compare your different mail streams for branding consistency to ensure a holistic brand experience is being communicated to the customer across the board.

Don’t be afraid to refresh the look and feel of all your emails in 2018 if there are inconsistencies. Consider how each template will resonate with different customer personas and ensure that the structure and format flow.

Remember to include the call to action (CTA) in the header, and make certain that the message hierarchy is consistent with the brand’s strategy and goals.

Lastly, when updating email templates, keep responsiveness in mind, as well as consistency across platforms. Often, inbox providers will make small updates to their email platforms throughout the year, so brands need to check that their code is compliant and that the emails will be responsive.

Refresh Your Content

Once templates are refreshed and ready to go, marketers should revisit their content strategy for the new year.

A brand’s objectives and goals may have shifted throughout 2016, so make sure that in 2018 the content and messaging of the email program reflect those changes and echo the voice of the brand. This is also a great time to cut back on content and streamline the messaging to create more impactful emails.

To kick off the process of refreshing content in 2018, try collecting emails and content of the brands that your brand emulates and strives to be like. It’s important to see what other marketers are doing and be able to play off of the features and assets that also resonate with your brand in your email program.

Launch a Win-back Campaign

Perhaps you discovered that some subscribers were less engaged towards the end of 2016. If that’s the case, now is an opportune time to launch a win-back or re-engagement campaign. This type of campaign can round out a marketer’s approach to a holistic email program and help bring back once loyal customers that may have had a busy holiday season.

Begin by analyzing engagement metrics and reaching out to those who have not engaged for 30 days. Craft a campaign with A/B testing and reach out to users to understand what is resonating with them. Try reminding the subscriber of when they opted in to receiving emails from your brand through humor or incentives. Lastly, always include at least one link for them to re-engage with the brand, perhaps one to the email preference center.

Whether cleaning up lists or launching a new campaign, marketers can use the beginning of a new year to freshen up their email programs and re-engage with their subscribers. Healthy email hygiene is important throughout the entire year, but capitalize on this time of reflection to evaluate your program and maximize engagement.

By: Scott Heimes

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4 Trends for Social Media Content Marketing in 2018

Social media content marketing is continually evolving, and businesses around the world need to make sure their marketing campaigns are keeping up.

Here are four trends for social media content marketing that are expected to make a big impact on 2018:

Invest in Talent

By this point, most companies are clear that social media is vital from a consumer-engagement and brand-awareness standpoint, so they’ve progressively invested more and more in their social strategies. By the next year, we will continue to see strong investments in these strategies, but with a bigger emphasis on hiring qualified individuals that can constantly generate content for all social platforms out there.

social_media_1510106723-300x300The time for just cross-promoting the same old content on every platform is gone. We are now witnessing how the savviest companies are hiring folks that not only know how to grow your audience on a particular social platform but also have the knowledge to create specific content that engages that audience through every channel. These individuals must be highly organized and tech-savvy, and they must communicate beyond acronyms.

More Mobile-ready Content

According to recent surveys, mobile now represents 70% of all the time a user spends engaging with digital media, with smartphone apps alone accounting for the majority of this. The Facebook app maintains its leadership as the app with more penetration in the U.S. in 2017, while Instagram and Snapchat kept their seat in the top 10. Twitter is also continuing to be one of the most popular apps in the market, as reflected in the recent rise of its shares.

Its clear users are spending more and more time using social media from their smartphones, therefore, is likely that we’ll see how brands will invest more time and resources on mobile-ready content. This type of content is characteristically simpler and with fewer key presses to engage with it, yet it requires experienced and knowledgeable workers to create it.

Richer Forms of Content

It’s very simple: rich content tends to drive more engagement. But what does ‘rich content’ even mean? Depending on whom you ask, those two words can have different meanings. But most people can agree that rich content refers to any content that facilitates user interaction. A video would be the perfect example of this, as it requires the users to click play and encourages them to leave a comment. Twitter polls are another great way to ask users to weigh in on a certain topic. By creating these richer forms of content, you’ll be encouraging user interaction while at the same time collecting consumer insights.

Leveraging on User-generated Content

According to recent marketing studies, 66% of users trust online consumer opinions and an even higher percentage trust recommendations from people they know. Now that it’s clear people trust one another more than influencers or celebrities, it’s time to leverage on user-generated content more heavily when creating a social strategy. In 2018, we’ll likely see how brands spend more time encouraging and integrating this type of content into social campaigns professionally and organically.

Social media is now presenting many new and exciting opportunities to use cutting-edge content into building meaningful relationships with consumers. Brands must look forward into 2018 and start adjusting to the new trends if they wish to remain competitive in the market.

By: Marvin Magusara

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