10 Things #ContentCuration Can(‘t) Do For Your #Markting In 2016

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Content Curation is a valuable instrument in content marketing and social media. But for many people, it is not clear what content curation is.

Content curation is sorting through a large amount of web content to find the best, most meaningful bits and presenting these in an organized, valuable way.

In this very short definition, the most important part for me is that content curation needs to provide value. That is what makes the definition of content curation so hard to grab. There is a thin line between simple content aggregation and content curation. In social media, the simple difference may be that you check what you are sharing and maybe add a little comment of your own in contrast to blindly (or automated) sharing content provided by others without actually knowing what you share. In content creation, this thin line lies between aggregating a simple list of content sources and curating existing content and adding comments, additional information or even take a different point of view.Content Curation (3)

People often cross this line in an attempt to get more out of their social media without putting in the necessary time and effort. Some tools can help you automatically retweet content that includes certain keywords. That is content aggregation. Spending time on browsing your favorite blogs and share only what you read and liked that is social media content curation.

Content curation should always add more value and something from yourself. Your audience will recognize the effort. Trying to game social media and content marketing processes without considering the ground rules often backfires. To know how to use content curation in your social media and content marketing efforts, you need to understand what content curation can do for you and what it cannot do.

So, here is my list of 10 things content curation can do (or not do) for your business:

Content Curation can:

1. Help you grow your social media accounts and help you fill your content need

Many times I get asked: When I start with social media marketing, what should I post? I don’t have enough to say, and I cannot produce enough content.

And that is precisely where content curation can come to your rescue: No matter how much own information, content, and value you have to share, curated content can help you find even more valuable information to share in your social channels and thus add value.

If done right, you can use content curation to get your social account in front of a broader audience by adding the social account of the author or source of your curated content.
One of the biggest challenges for businesses in social media and content marketing is to come up with enough content. Content curation can help you fill that need.

2. Help you add value to your social media accounts

When you share curated content on your social channels, it will not only help you fill the gaps when you do not have enough of your content to share. Curated content can add value to your accounts by adding a new viewpoint and more expertise to your channels.

3. Position you as an informed and helpful person

By curating content and sharing this content, you can show how well informed you are. That you know the sources of valuable information. Your audience can see that you look beyond your existing knowledge and know where to find the best information. They will also recognize your effort to share this knowledge and information with them.

4. Give you ideas for more own content

Content curation cannot only help to fill your social channels, but it can also help you to come up with new content ideas. Of course, I am not talking about copying other peoples’ content. But you can respond to a post, you can make a collection of resources on a given topic, you can contradict a piece – or write your personal take on a subject.

5. Help you build relationships

Did you know that you can use content curation to connect to people? Let the author of a piece you share know that you curated his/her content. You can mention them in your social media updates. You can comment on their original piece of content. Or you can let them know via email how you responded to their piece of content. This can even inspire a public conversation about the topic, which will even add more value. Your audience will appreciate it.

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6. Save time (and money)

Content creation is a time-consuming task. Even finding topics for your content can be a hassle. Content curation can serve as an efficient way to find new content ideas and even help you with your content creation. There is so much great content and knowledge out there that it would be a shame not to use it.

Heidi Cohen gives some great advice on how to curate content into new valuable pieces of content by adding your voice to the information.

By now you should be able to see the value of content curation for social media and content marketing success. But however valuable content curation is to you, there are some things content curation cannot help you with, even though many people still think it can.

Content Curation can not

7. Help you grow traffic

Ok, this needs some clarifying. Curated content on your social media channels will not directly give you traffic. If you only share other people’s content, you will not gain traffic to your site. But if you use curated content to grow your social media audience, this audience may give you more traffic to your website once you share your content.

However, if you run our social media channels on curated content only you may well build a social audience, but you will not increase traffic to your site.

8. Position you as an expert

If you only share other people’s great content, you are not an expert in your own right. You are a content distributor and source of information, but you are not the expert. To position yourself as an expert in your niche, you need to add your own voice and share your own knowledge.

9. Help you run your social media on autopilot

As said before content curation is not the solution to all your social media problems. It can help you grow a social account by filling the constant need for more content. But even this content curation cannot be done on auto pilot. You will always have better results with social media if you put in the effort, add your personality and voice.

Some tools can automatically retweet and share content which fulfills given conditions, but this sort of automation always comes with the risk of hurting your reputation. You can never be sure if what you share per automation comes up to your standard or if you share crab.

10. Spare you the use of your brain

Content curation does not come with a magic button. You can use it to give impulses and ideas and fill gaps in your content marketing and social media marketing process. For real social media and content marketing success, you will still need to use your brain: Think about how to best use this curated content, how to connect with it and how to get the most out of it. A good content curator is easily also a good content marketer. A bad content curator can utterly fail in social media and content marketing.

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The 7 Easiest Ways to Start Utilizing Twitter Marketing

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So you haven’t started using Twitter. Why? What’s stopping you?

If you like to be on the outskirts of trends, understand you’re making a pretty serious mistake in the realm of business and successful networking. Twitter has become the go-to tool for business exposure of the last couple years, and new ways to make the social network work for marketing purposes are being invented all the time. Combine these with already tried and true methods and you’ve got a guaranteed way to find success in online marketing.

If you’re already convinced but need a beginner’s guide to using the site, look no further. This will walk you through the seven first steps you need to follow to get Twitter marketing to work for you. 

Fill out your profile.

This is actually an extremely important step and necessary to follow if you want to succeed in your marketing goals. Go to your profile and fill it in completely. This includes adding a photo, a name, location info, a header, a website and also filling out your blurb. All your information should be present.

But why is this so necessary? When consumers visit your profile, they want to see that you are a legitimate person and that you can be researched and looked into. Internet-goers are a suspicious sort, and showing off an egg profile picture doesn’t instill faith in you in their eyes.

Start connecting.

One way to start looking for people to connect with is to see who is following you. If you haven’t gotten that far yet, start looking into hashtags and topics on Twitter that interest you. See if you can find anyone you can connect with and follow them or start up a conversation using a mention, aka using the @ sign and their username. Twitter is successful only when you utilize it to its full potential, and this means networking with people who can be meaningful to you in some way.

Not every tweet has to be about business, business, business either. Simply saying hello or giving words of encouragement can help you connect with others.

Blue bird on speech bubble

Planning your tweets.

There are multiple ways of setting up your posting, including using eClincher’s own scheduled content posting features, but first thing is first: you need to establish the best times to tweet. It’s good to post often, but when should you be doing this posting? This isn’t something that’s across the board, either. The best timeslots for tweeting are something you have to decide for yourself based on your reasons for Tweeting in the first place.

Tools like TakeOff can help you determine your ideal tweeting time, or trying out some tweets and using the eClincher analytics features to see when your tweets are most viewed and accessed can also work.

Make your content count.

Personal Twitters are for silly and asinine thoughts you have about day to day life. Your business Twitter, however, is for valuable and quality content. Some companies have gotten away with blurring this line, but it’s something that only works once in a blue moon.

What does work? Your content’s quality is something that is decided by your brand and image, as well as your purpose. Your tweets should ultimately give people a reason to follow you: they want to see more of you. Choose topics based on the demographics you’re trying to target and your business’ purpose and go from there.

Utilzing Twitter Chats.

Twitter chats are another way you can connect with fellow tweeters that sync up with your interests and niche. You can either create or participate in a chat geared towards certain topics and that take place on certain days. These chat sessions are conducted by individuals who are looking to meet people just like you are, so don’t be shy and join the conversation.

Remember, though: contribute value to your chats, regardless of whether you’re hosting or being hosted.

Automation isn’t always an answer.

The average consumer is hyperaware of when they’re being targeted for a marketing ploy and they certainly don’t like it when that happens to be the case. This is why automating messages to try and lure them in doesn’t work anymore…unless you do it wisely. If you have to make things automated, make your message look as personal as possible. Ask a question of your audience to get the engagement ball rolling.

Link your twitter everywhere.

Finally, if you have a chance to show off your Twitter, do so! People are eager to follow one another on Twitter, so don’t waste the opportunity to link your profile on content you post, other social media profiles and your website. You’ll definitely get more followers the more you put yourself out there.

Social Media Automation: The Biggest Misconception

social media automation

When it comes to social media automation tools, like eClincher, businesses and marketers alike agree that they are necessary in order to scale. Afterall, social media never sleeps and with this comes a lot of responsibility for typically small teams.

Despite the recent rise in popularity of automation tools, there seems to be one major misconception. We hear this from people all of the time and we decided that it is time to answer it on the record.

So, what is the biggest misconception?

“Social media automation turns your presence into a robot, meaning you are not authentic or social with your audience.”

Let’s be honest, we have probably all said or heard someone say this. On the surface it makes sense. By automating tasks, such as posting, businesses are acting more like robots and less like people.

However, when you dive a little deeper you will realize this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Yes, automation alone will make your business look like a robot.

Yes, no one wants to engage with or buy from a robot.

Now, let us ask you this question: How can you expect to have time to engage with new people or answer incoming questions if you are too busy with tasks like posting old blog content or manually checking each of your networks individually?

You see, automation has the potential to save your presence. It has the potential to make you significantly more social. Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at how we automate tasks at eClincher.

Things We Automate

1. Promoting Evergreen Content

The majority of our blog posts are evergreen, meaning they will not become irrelevant as time goes by. Smart businesses understand that evergreen content has extreme value, as it can be continually promoted months, or even years, after it has been published.

Unfortunately, remembering to continually share your evergreen blog content can be hard. It certainly was for us. That is why we created Auto Post, an easy way to recycle content. We simply add our evergreen blog posts to a queue and set up a one-time, weekly schedule.

Though this form of automation we have been able to consistently provide our audience with valuable content that they may have never seen otherwise. By simply not forgetting to promote older blog posts, we have seen our blog traffic increase significantly.

2. Collecting Incoming Notifications and Messages

As your number of fans/followers increases, so does your incoming notifications and messages. New followers on Twitter, messages on Facebook…

Sometimes it can feel impossible to keep up. We reached this point of feeling overwhelmed and decided to do something about it. We developed the Inbox to solve this problem once and for all.

With the Inbox, all of our incoming messages and notifications come to one place. That’s right, regardless of the network. This form of automation allows us to engage faster and ensures we never miss something important. You can certainly see how this form of automation makes a business more social and authentic.

social media inbox

3. Posting Other’s Content

Posting content is a major aspect of social media. That is why automation tools that allowed businesses to schedule posts ahead of time became so popular. We highly recommend that every business uses some sort of tool to at least automate this part of social media marketing.

At eClincher, we use scheduling to share content written by others. By scheduling it ahead of time, we can make sure we are sharing content covering a wide variety of topics throughout the day. With customers in countries around the world, scheduling content allows us to be active nearly 24/7.

4. Curation of Content

Sharing other people’s content is easy, but finding it can be very time consuming. That is why we automate the content curation process.

Through the use of a tool like feedly, we are able to easily find and share content based on our topics of interest. This form of automation has saved us nearly six hours per week.

Things We Never Automate

social media automation

The main reason that marketing automation tools as a whole are perceived negatively by some people is that certain tasks should never be automated. When businesses begin automating these tasks, the negative feedback is typically quick and harsh.

1. Connecting With New People/Businesses

There are plenty of tools on the market that will promise you thousands of new followers for a small amount of money. Now if these tools automate the process of finding relevant followers, this is ok.

However, if they automate the process of connecting with them all together, be very careful. Matter of fact, avoid them at all costs.

The problem with this type of automation is that it defeats the purpose of connecting. Since you will not be deciding, or even seeing, who you connect with, it will be nearly impossible to gain any value from the connection.

Another downside is spamming people. Most of these tools do not come with the ability to know if your account has already tried connecting with other accounts in the past. This means you could end up trying to connect with the same people over and over. This is one of the fastest ways to get block. We will guess that getting blocked isn’t high on your list of goals this year.

2. Answering Questions

When someone asks eClincher a question on social media, we can guarantee that you will get a response from a real person. Though machine learning technologies can adequately respond in many cases, they are never as effective as a real person.

Make sure that direct communication between you and current or potential customers is never automated. Use the time saved by our Inbox to respond manually. The people on the other end of the message will greatly appreciate speaking with a real person that can understand their needs and emotions.

3. Sharing Content

Another area of social media we do not automate is social sharing, meaning retweets on Twitter, shares on Facebook, etc. The reason we do not automate these activities is that it defeats the point of social media.

As we discussed earlier, a major benefit of social media automation is the time saved that can be spent on other tasks. This is one of the tasks you should devote some extra time to.

Throughout the day we monitor social media for great content to share. When we see it, we share it right then, in the moment. This type of engagement has led to many conversations and new connections. It is hard to imagine the same result if this task was simply carried out by a tool in the background.

4. Measuring Our Results

Being able to interpret and measure the results of your social campaigns is arguably the most important aspect of successful social media marketing. Without an understanding of what is and is not working, businesses are forced to “fly blind”.

On a daily, weekly and monthly basis, we analyze different aspects of our social media presence. This may be the effect is it having on our website traffic, the number of new connections formed in a given month or how many brand mentions we received. Though this task consumes several hours each month, it is important that we perform this analysis, as it helps us to optimize our efforts.

Final Thoughts

Do a simple Google search for “Social Media Automation” and you will find 62,600,000 results. What does this tell us? It tells us that social media automation is a hot topic.

Browse through the results and you will see plenty of posts telling you why you should never use automation. You will also find plenty like this one telling you why you should.
The bottom line is this:

When used right, social media automation will allow you to create a more authentic and engaging presence and it will give you more time to do the tasks you can’t automate.

 

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How to Make Your B2B Social Selling Strategy More Fruitful

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As a small business owner, it’s imperative you understand exactly what B2B social selling is and why it’s so important to your business’ future. In general, B2B is the shortened term for the phrase “business to business,” or how businesses interact with each other. In the context of social selling, this refers to developing a relationship with a business as a part of the sales process.

Social selling, especially in a B2B context, can be very fruitful, but only when executed in the right way. A common misconception in the world of social media sales is that it’s easy to post, pin and tweet and then all the work is done for you, but that’s simply not the case. Businesses with a mindset of “I’ll just post and tweet and see what happens” are more often than not unsuccessful in their sales efforts. Any business with a sales strategy, social media or not, needs to have a plan of execution.

The good news is that this is a pretty easy to problem to fix with the right kind of planning. Think about your own business’ strategy, if it exists. Examine how lax or ad hoc it truly is, instead of being strong and concrete. Social media posts shouldn’t be thought of as an extra form of marketing, but should be seen as something to integrate into an already set up marketing strategy.

So how do you make this plan, if you are indeed without one? An effective social sales plan is made up of three components:

 

Understanding an Audience: Even when you’re focusing on B2B social sales, you still have to have a basic understanding of what you’re looking to show to the audience you’ve chosen. Without having at least some idea what your audience is looking for, your ability to form relationships is faulty.

 

  • Marketing Programs: Remember, social media should be integrated into your marketing strategy, not tossed in as a “yes, no, maybe so” form of exposure. As non-serious as social media might seem on its face, businesses with success in the social media sphere have fully realized ideas of where they want their social image to take them.

 

  • Tracking Effectiveness: You can pour all your effort into a social sales strategy, but it’s only actually worth it if you’re able to see if it’s working or not. An ineffective strategy is as bad as not having a strategy at all.

 

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When you have these three things in mind, you’re ready to start working on a new social strategy.

 

First you’re going to want to center in on your target audience. Think about commercials. While anyone has the ability to identify with most commercials, there is always a target audience or demographic in mind. The takeaway is to always have a set ideal in mind when it comes to who you’re trying to reach with your marketing strategies, and this should be pretty obvious.

 

Being specific to businesses, it’s essential that you look to create a sort of profile for any specific targets you have in mind. This should outline the basic biodata you know about the person or business in question. What is their position or purpose? What social strategies do they use? Once you have the answers to these and questions similar to them, you’ll be able to center a marketing style around them. You can now build a relationship based on this information.

 

The goal is to ultimately provide content to a marketing group that connects with them directly, and anyone else you happen to catch the attention of is a bonus. Just remember that the focus should be on the main demographic you want to target. Outliers are nice, but don’t try to catch everyone with varying success when you know you can catch a few with a guarantee of progress.

 

When the plan is concrete, execute it and start monitoring how successful it is. Without a way of measuring success, you’ll be unable to both understand how well the plan is working and any data you could use based on the plan’s execution is effectively lost. Resources exist to help track and monitor the data of social media postings, like eClincher’s own analytics features.

 

You’re looking for a strategy that will maximize traffic in two areas: one, the social media account of your business so that its value and exposure will grow, and two, the main business site so that traffic stats will rise and sales will potentially go up.

How to be Successful at Content Marketing with a Small Team

Global Finacial Business Meeting and Planning

 

If you’re running a small business, it’s understood that you probably don’t have the budget or resources to employ an entire top-notch marketing squad to be at your beck and call when you need them, or even at all. Just because you don’t have the cash to have the biggest team, though, doesn’t mean you can’t make the most and do the best you can with what you’ve got to work with.

Small marketing teams can still churn out great strategies and execute successful sales pitches just like the big dogs can. The key to doing so is simply knowing what you have to work with and utilizing it to the best of your ability. Don’t over or undersell yourself. If your goals are too lofty, it’s very easy to sink. Undervaluing your marketing team can also mean not working at your full potential. This means you’re missing leads, exposure and sales you could have gotten otherwise.

The first step is starting with a nice and sturdy team foundation. Both your content management and marketing team have to know they have a solid backbone in order to be happy and productive, so it’s your job to start setting them up for success.

 

Reuse and Recycle Resources

Chances are you have a pretty limited budget to work with in terms of your content production, and that’s okay. To start with, try to repurpose as much already existing content as possible. It’s not being cheap; it’s being financially responsible and fiscally smart.

This also allows for a content management team to get creative. There are a wide variety of mediums and platforms to post content on, and this leads to more opportunities to diversify the content you’re pushing out. This kind of repurposing saves time and money. You don’t have to continually pump out more content when you can just refashion content you already have.

The ultimate upside to this comes in when you think of how small your team is. The fewer team members that exist, the more each person has to give their all to support the cause. Recycling content means that a little bit of the pressure is pulled off of the generation of new ideas and into the realm of “how can I make this old idea seem new again,” an effort that many say is easier than starting over completely.

Make the Environment Positive

It’s not just something for feng shui and yoga: positivity in the workplace does lead to more productivity and happier employees. It’s been found time and time again that nurturing employees and team members leads to better quality work that put out at a faster rate.

This sort of dichotomy is especially necessary in smaller teams. Bigger teams have an expectation that a voice will get lost in the crowd. Think like this: you have a team of 50 marketing experts. How long will it take to hear all of their voices and how many will actually be valuable?

If you have five people on your team, each person has the ability to fully voice their opinion and every spare set of eyes and ears is absolutely necessary. When these team members feel heard and important, they don’t feel excluded and downtrodden, leading to a better work output.

You also don’t want to lose any employees on an already small team. If someone, even just one person, on that team feels excluded or like they don’t want to work anymore, their quitting can leave a huge impact on your entire marketing division and content goals. Remember that on small teams, no one is expendable.

 

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Outsourcing Rules

As a small business owner, you have a lot on your plate, and so do all your employees. Especially obvious when you’re just getting started, it can be difficult to juggle all of your tasks at once. Think about how this can make life hell for an already underfunded and resource-lacking team.

The answer can sometimes be outsourcing. It’s good to keep a majority of your work in-house and to not let employees fall by the wayside, but sending off some projects to outside sources can help alleviate the stressful load you and your employees are facing.

 

This can also be a very good strategy based on understanding the skillsets present in your team. A team with a lot of people who are good at content creation but who lack in the management area can be great for content repurposing and producing, but content posting and management can be delegated to someone outside the business.

Top Ecommerce Web Design Trends for March

Top Ecommerce Web Design Trends for March

As designers and developers we bring a wealth of expertise to client work, but it remains essential that we keep an open mind, and allow clients to expose us to new and better practices.

Some of the web design trends I’ve observed this month at Growth Spark, are strategies we place significant emphasis on.

Hopefully, you’ll find these ideas intriguing and consider exploring them within your own client work.

Building a customer hub

Your client’s growth comes from creating a great experience for their customers, which can in turn lead them to referrals, increased conversion, and repeat purchases. This experience extends beyond just their website, and spans the entire ‘lifecycle’ of your client’s relationship with their customer.

A lifecycle consists of all the touch-points customers have with a company; it’s the buying journey of discovering a product, making a purchase, receiving the product, and beyond. The best way to create a great experience for customers across this lifecycle is to first better understand them. This can be achieved by building a profile of your client’s customers by looking at all the data touch-points can provide.

Ideally, you have a single tool that is building this centralized profile, something we like to generally refer to as the Customer Hub.

By sourcing data from every touch-point, such as on-site behavior, purchase history, email marketing, support tickets, etc., you begin to form a holistic profile of your client’s customer. As you begin to form these profiles, you can look at them in aggregate and start identifying interesting patterns and groups. These groups – based on factors such as purchase volume, location, and demographics – are often referred to as Segments.

Once established, you can use these Segments to create more personalized marketing and a better customer experience. Suddenly, you can identify which products sell best to which Segments, and create specific offers and messaging to appeal to those unique audiences. The result is a highly personalized customer experience driven entirely by the data you’ve captured in your Customer Hub. I highly recommend looking at Klaviyo, Lumiary, or Sauce as potential Customer Hubs that enable this sort of analysis.

In addition to an aggregate categorization of customers based on Segments, creating a Customer Hub allows for improved one-to-one customer support. Rather than your client handling customer support issues with only the context of a single order, using the enriched profiles created in a Customer Hub allows a more holistic understanding of the customers they’re helping.

Your client will have a better sense of how long they’ve been a customer, their entire order history, how engaged they are with marketing, and whether or not they’re even profitable (someone on their sixth support ticket might not be worth the trouble).

Once extended into a physical retail environment, the power of a Customer Hub grows exponentially, as service representatives are able to both utilize and capture heaps of data on customers. Over time, as more data sources are pulled into a Customer Hub, your client’s understanding will only continue to grow and improve their customer’s experience.

Merchandising over cataloging

Roughly a year ago, I walked into the retail store of a client. We were kicking off the design of their new Shopify website and I figured it would make sense to spend an afternoon at one of their physical locations. What struck me almost immediately was the emphasis on themed displays, located at the entrance of the store. There were several tables set up with products all inspired by similar themes, whether movie-related, season-related, meme-related, etc.

This client certainly was not the first to set up these sort of displays, in fact, it’s an age-old retail technique known as merchandising. Companies such as Macy’s became famous for their themed window displays, spawning an entire industry of agencies that specialized in creating highly-decorative displays. In thinking how we could apply elements of our client’s in-store experience, we gave more thought to this concept of merchandising and its role in ecommerce. Specifically, we started with thinking through their site structure and navigation.

When discussing strategies for site navigation with our clients, the bulk of folks focus on a catalog approach to their structure. This entails attribute-driven navigation, which allows users to browse and filter products by basic attributes, such as gender, type, color, and size. Attribute-driven navigation is effective for users who want an experience focused on finding a specific product, but leaves something to be desired for customers interested in a discovery-driven experience. It doesn’t provide a curated display table that might inspire a wandering customer to dig a little deeper. This is where we saw an opportunity to apply merchandising to the ecommerce world.

Using Shopify’s Collection feature, it’s easy to manually curate groups of products based on any sort of shared theme. Paired with unique imagery and content related to that collection’s theme as a whole, we can create our own  online display table. The key is to use this additional imagery and content to build as much of a story around the theme as possible. Customers often purchase products for the story they tell, rather than for its attributes or features. Merchandising allows you to craft this story around products and provide a unique means for customers to discover products they might not have initially searched for.

Designing for accessibility

The concept of optimization is often brought up during the process of designing and developing an ecommerce website. Search Engine Optimization, Load Speed Optimization, and Conversion Optimization are all commonly-discussed strategies in such a project.

One area of optimization that doesn’t get discussed as much is Accessibility Optimization. According to the National Federation of the Blind, it’s estimated that there are more than seven million people affected by blindness within the U.S. alone. This fairly significant population should also get a great website experience, and has money to spend like anyone else visiting your site.

Recently, one of our clients requested we improve the accessibility of their website, and ever since we’ve been paying more attention to this often over-looked aspect of web design.

If you’re open to introducing this practice into your design standards, there are tools and tactics readily available for anyone willing to spend the time improving the accessibility of their websites. The United States Access Board has put together detailed guidelines for ensuring accessibility.

For those looking for a more abridged version, Tech Republic has put together a great article summarizing many of the key points within these standards. In addition, screen reader tools such as Apple VoiceOver and JAWS make the process of testing and optimizing for accessibility easier.

Frankly, many of the tactics suggested for Accessibility Optimization are good practices in general. Many relate directly to Search Engine Optimization, and as new devices and technologies emerge that might rely on accurate text reading, these practices could help the future proofing of your work. Some of these best-practices include adding alt tags and title tags to images, ensuring form fields are properly labeled and tab-ordered, and adding external links to embedded content.

In general, taking a little extra time to make your website more accessible not only opens up your market to a demographic of seven million plus consumers, but also ensures you’re building good technology.

6 Ways to Sustain a Multi-Year PR Campaign

Several years ago, the active lifestyle brand LifeSpan hired my agency to launch its line of treadmill desks. Novelty was on our side. When consumers imagined workplace activity, they didn’t usually think past dusty company gyms and sweaty lunchtime jogs. We had something new and different, but if we were successful launching the line, what would happen after the newness wore off? We created an approach that has driven consistent national media results, year after year, with minimal running tweaks, and could be written on one side of a napkin.

Based on what we learned in the process of earning hundreds of millions of consumer impressions, here are six ways to put together a campaign that’s built to last:

 1. Use Every New Study as an Opportunity

“Sitting is the new smoking.” “Your desk job is killing you.” “Get out of your chair.” Those were the headlines as we prepared for launch, and are still the headlines today. We’re very lucky major universities are always publishing research on the negative effects of sedentary lifestyles, linking too much sitting with increased risk for serious diseases. We use each new study as an opportunity to engage our extensive editorial contacts at national health, business and technology media outlets, to remind them why this product matters. But we don’t wait for studies to fall into our laps, and we certainly don’t spend hours checking the health and science sections of CNN, or combing through medical journals. We set up a broad set of monitoring terms covering the downsides of being sedentary. If there’s an issue affecting your customer, which your client’s product was designed to help, monitor for that issue poking its head into stories. It doesn’t even need to be a serious issue. For example, we’ve been toying with the idea of monitoring around the post-lunch food coma.

2. Keep Putting the Customers Out Front

The best stories aren’t about products; they’re about people using the products in interesting ways. Some LifeSpan customers purchase their treadmill desks after suffering the adverse effects of sedentary behavior, like heart attacks and blood clots, following the advice of a doctor. Many of their doctors are treadmill desk advocates, as well. These individuals are a running focal point of our campaign, and sharing their stories helps reporters understand this product isn’t simply a gadget; it’s a potential lifesaver. This is where an open line of communication with the sales and customer service teams comes into play. Sales can alert you of big-name or big-quantity orders as they happen. And customer service can forward you emails from super-fans who’ve had their lives changed by the product and are probably willing to go on the record. A constant influx of fresh success stories is key to a sustained campaign’s longevity.

 3. Constantly Mine the Company for Employee Stories

From the head of the company down to the mailroom, people within the organization may have personal stories that fit your communications goals. Nearly a year into the campaign, we learned one LifeSpan executive spent a good portion of his career in the office equipment business, at a time when the goal was to eliminate movement. Rather than skimming over this detail, it’s used to illustrate how a trend has been turned on its head. His front row seat to science influencing the reintroduction of physical activity into the workplace makes him an undeniable trend expert. These stories may come from the oldest company veteran to the newest hire. Ask around.

4. Start With Your Rolodex, and Never Let It Get Stale

In the opening rounds of any PR campaign, any good agency knows who its targets will be: top-shelf reporters with whom we’ve earned trust and respect over time. These relationships remain a large part of why we’re hired. But after you’ve knocked on all the right doors and created your first set of opportunities, it’s time to create new relationships. Daily media monitoring to uncover fresh editorial contacts reporting on the intersection of wellness and technology keeps our LifeSpan connections growing, and ensures efforts stay up to date. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on who’s moderating panels at major industry conferences. Not only are those individuals major influencers, they’re often asked to select their own panelists—which could include your company president.

 5. Never Stop Walking the Talk

When starting on a new account, the team should make a commitment to understanding the product by bringing it into their lives. There’s no better way to explain to the media how something works. If it’s a beer, drink the beer. If it’s mouse traps, set them around your house. If it’s a treadmill desk, start walking. LifeSpan sent a treadmill desk to our Boston office near the beginning of the relationship. During pitch calls, I would often tell reporters, “By the way, the entire time we’ve been speaking, I’ve been using the product.” This drove home the ease of walking and working, sparked journalists’ interest and was often a factor in getting them to commit to a story. In three years, I logged more than 3,000 miles on it—the distance from Boston to San Francisco. Firsthand experience with a product also prevents easily-avoided critiques from appearing in stories. For instance, if a reporter complains about a beeping noise when a product’s buttons are pressed, your familiarity will guide them toward the mute option. A commitment to using the product shouldn’t end with the first results report. It should stay current through every product refresh and update.

 6. Always Set Up the Product for Success

You can’t be there for every press demo you secure, but your clients’ affiliates can be. When the product you’re working with is large enough to require a crew to deliver it, you’re running a risk, but also creating a golden opportunity. If the crew is well-prepared, not only will they leave the reporter with a demo unit that’s ready for primetime, they’ll be able to give them a one-on-one tutorial. LifeSpan’s sales team and retailer reps are frequently our boots on the ground, delivering and setting up review units at editors’ offices across the country, and breaking them down after each extensive review. If you’re promoting a box of crackers—sure, you could mail the crackers to a food editor and hope for the best. Or you could set up a tasting with an in-house expert who could guide the editor through the range of flavors they’re experiencing. Guess which scenario sets the stage for a more detailed review? Something to consider when repeatedly counting on company personnel is to space out your requests over time. Group them in batches, so you’re not asking non-communications team members to make too many trips on your behalf too often.

Three years later, our media placements are a key piece of LifeSpan’s workplace marketing. Highlights include LIVE with Kelly and Michael, CBS News, BBC World News, Newsweek, BuzzFeed and many more. Our ongoing approach creates a steady flow of media coverage that keeps LifeSpan out front as the category leader. The most significant tweak we’ve made along the way is in the messaging. We initially positioned the product as a way to work out at work. It sounded good, but it wasn’t right for a product that when used correctly, prevents users from getting sweaty or sounding out of breath. We sometimes find ourselves encountering and having to correct that initial messaging in the marketplace—an important lesson for anyone deciding on a launch message. Today, it’s about replacing time spent sitting with time spent moving. Over the long term, the campaign has helped popularize the idea of treadmill desks, educated people on their proper use, helped evolve their perception into accessible, easy-to-use pieces of office equipment and assisted the category’s transition out of a niche and into mainstream corporate America.

5 Tips to Prepare for the Ultimate PR & Marketing Question: What’s the ROI?

The sophistication of the discipline of measurement has grown by leaps and bounds, as everyone in the PR and marketing worlds knows. The thing is, word has gotten out, and it’s not only people in those worlds who know. Those who enlist your services are going to want to see evidence of ROI, and what’s more, they’ll want to see that your practices are up to date, meaningful and impactful. Savvy clients and execs aren’t going to be satisfied by a bullet point that says “We do measurement.” Check! Next item! No, those days are past.

In her article in The Book of PR Measurement Strategies & Tactics, Laura A. Borgstede, CEO of Calysto, suggests that answering questions like “What am I getting for my budget?” with analytics should be a complimentary service to clients. To show clients or senior leaders that you offer the total package in a convincing and thorough way, absorb her five tips for effectively communicating the value of your services.

  1. Pick the right metrics. Map your company’s service offerings to the warranted KPIs. Remember that the objective of your PR and marketing metrics is to drive sales of your services. Therefore, avoid pointing out deficiencies that you are not prepared to address.
  2. Find the right tools. The Internet abounds with marketing metric measurement tools and techniques. They range from free services to paid commercial services to hybrids (so-called “freemiums” that may provide basic features for free with more comprehensive capabilities). Pick one that best fits your needs in terms of KPI measures and budget. Note that in some cases it may be necessary to use more than one platform to cover all the KPIs your client needs to measure.
  3. Get in the habit. Run client analyses on a regular basis. Your clients’ needs (or perhaps budget cycle) may dictate the frequency of each analysis. In any case, analysis should be undertaken often enough so that clients come to expect it as a normal part of their PR or marketing communications process.
  4. Let account teams carry the ball. Running marketing metrics for clients is an excellent way to provide consultative selling opportunities for your teams. To do so, running the reports, meeting with clients to explain the analytics and using results of the analysis to chart next steps in the client’s account plan need to be inherent parts of the process. To empower teams in this manner, they’ll need extensive training in the use of the tools employed as part of your service so they become comfortable using them with clients.
  5. Market, market, market. For marketing analytics to become an integral part of your professional service offerings, it needs to be promoted in the same manner as your other services.

7 Inspiring Ecommerce Call to Action Examples and Why They Work

Your storefront looks great.  You’ve spent a lot of time tweaking it and making sure everything flows properly.

But why aren’t any visitors adding products to their cart?  You’ve taken time to advertise your store and it’s getting traffic, but it isn’t converting.

Perhaps your visitors are having a hard time navigating your store because there isn’t a clear call to action.  They simply don’t know where to click.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some inspirational examples of stores that have fantastic call to actions. You’ll be able to take their techniques and apply them to your own store.

Let’s get started.

What is a Call to Action?

Your call to action is what tells visitors what to do, where they should click, and what to buy.  It’s what lights a path to your checkout and turns a visitor into a customer as quickly as possible.

The most obvious example of a call to action is a “Buy Now” button, or a “Shop Now” button on your storefront.

There’s no definitive answer on which button, phrase, styling or size works best, so it’s important to always test and optimize your storefront.

Let’s dig in to what some of the basics are for an effective call to action.

Making an Effective Call to Action: The Basics

While this is something that can be tested, optimized and modified for years depending on your store, it’s good to have a basic understanding of what techniques should be used to make an effective call to action.

Urgency Increases Conversion Rates

When shoppers feel an opportunity is limited, they may be more inclined to purchase.

You see it in retail store displays all the time.  Often, you’ll see end of season sales that run for a week.  The same can be applied to your ecommerce store.

For instance, if somewhere on your storefront you included a stock level, or something that says “Buy now – only on sale until midnight” then you’re building on the sense of urgency.

A case study by the team at ConversionXL shows that by adding a sense of urgency to their product, they were able to increase their conversion rate by 332%.  That’s a huge lift for any business.

Test Different Colors

While there’s no definitive color that converts best, it’s important to ensure that you’re using a color that resonates with your visitors, and your brand.

Here are a few tips to consider when determining which color to use for your CTA.

  • Use white space around your CTA to make it clear where to click
  • Make sure it stands out from the background
  • Don’t make it too crazy with colors and animations

Use Simple Buttons and Copy

While most Shopify themes already include this feature, it’s good to make sure your CTA appears as a button and not just text.  Even if its surrounded with a small border, it’s better than having just a text link.

There is a lot of data and studies that show that buttons work well for directing visitors to the checkout process.

Make sure to keep the text within the button short and sweet as well.  A simple “buy now”, “add to cart”, “buy” works well.

Tip: You can cater your button copy to the market you’re selling. If you’re selling something like coffee, try changing the copy on your buy button to “Brew it” and see if that helps with conversions!

Hero Images Are Important on Your Storefront

Hero images can be used to highlight a product or collection – in other words, they can be used as a massive call to action.

One study by Notre Dame University shows that the first image out of five images received 84% of all clicks on stores with rotating slideshows.

Be sure to have your hero image link to a product, or collection to get visitors to checkout faster.

Keep it “Above the Fold”

Try to keep everything above the fold if you can.  The “fold” of a storefront is the point on any website that comes after scrolling down.  Any content above the fold is what visitors immediately see upon entering your store.

If you can grab a visitors attention above the fold, chances are they’ll continue to click through and navigate through your store.

Let’s take a look at some stores that have achieved success and employ some of these techniques on their store.

Beastmode Apparel

Why it Works:

By clearly stating that their hoodies in black and gold are limited edition, it immediately adds the notion of urgency and scarcity to the product.

Chances are, if you were looking to buy some Beastmode Apparel after the Superbowl and saw that, you’d be more inclined to complete a purchase.

Secondly, they utilize the idea of encapsulating the call to action button by surrounding the “Shop Now” text with a rectangular border.  It stands out from the background, and grabs a visitors attention.

Sriracha 2 Go

Why it Works:

Looking at their storefront, you’re probably inclined to click on one of their buy now buttons.  You know exactly where to click.  There’s no question of how to purchase their product.

They show what the product looks like, what it does, and how to buy it – all above the fold.

Bixbi Pet

Why it Works:

They take advantage of some very bold colors on their storefront, and use a contrasting “purchase now” button to attract the attention of the visitor.

Another clever approach that Bixbi uses, is encapsulating their product collections with a banner.

Normally we see additional frontpage products lined up by name, but by making the entire collection a section of its own, a visitor is more inclined to click on them.

Department of Motivation

Why it Works:

Department of Motivation takes advantage of keeping the most important aspects of their store above the fold.

By taking advantage of a powerful hero image, the visitor knows what the product is, what it looks like, and exactly where to click.

By using a responsive theme, their storefront looks great above the fold on any device at any resolution.

Carry on Cocktail Kit

Why it Works:

Perhaps one of the most custom Shopify stores of the list, the Carry on Cocktail kit is a beautiful example of a powerful storefront that employs a simple, but effective call to action.

Upon entering their storefront, we see exactly what their product looks like.  A simple “Scroll down” message is intriguing, so as a visitor we continue to scroll down to read more about the product.

It’s a fantastic example of a call to action that guides the visitor to the checkout.  Plus, it is a fun spin on their branding and product.

Manpacks

Why it Works:

The Manpacks storefront is an excellent example of all of the tips we went over.  Their main call to action is located above the fold, is in their hero section, and is extremely clear.

They have a clear description of what they’re selling, a very apparent call to action, as well as a secondary option to get started using Facebook.

Grovemade

Not only does Grovemade use beautiful hero images that are full width, full bleed on their storefront, but they’ve managed to make a fun and fantastic call to action.

A visitor knows exactly where to click upon visiting their store, as their call to action is very apparent without being too distracting.

Furthermore, their navigation menu is very simple making it obvious where a visitor would need to click if they wanted to purchase a product.

Conclusion

Now that we’ve seen some call to action examples, it’s your turn to take action and apply some techniques to your store.

Try testing a few variations of colors, text, and more on your own store to see how well it works!