Nov 03

How to Quantify Return on Investment (ROI) in Digital Marketing

The ultimate goal of all forms of marketing is a return on investment (ROI). 

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Nov 02

China Effectively Bans Online Sales of E-Cigarettes

Seven of China’s most popular e-cigarette brands put out statements on social media late Friday saying that they supported the decision by the regulator. RELX, the most popular brand in China with 60 percent market share, said it “firmly supports” the decision by the regulator. “We will fully act to terminate all sales and advertising on the internet,” it said on its social media account.

Two of China’s biggest e-commerce platforms, Alibaba and JD.Com, did not respond to a request for comment.

“Most of the e-cigarette companies are doing the internet model,” said Zhang Jiafeng, 25, an e-cigarette lover who lives in Sichuan and runs social media marketing company that targets vapers and has more than 10 thousand followers.

“They are newly founded and need the internet to promote their product so this notice will be quite a hit on them,” he said. As a consumer, he added, this will mean more regulation and supervision from the government, something that he said would be a positive development.

For the industry, China provided a lucrative opportunity.

At an exposition for e-cigarettes in Shanghai this week, buyers and sellers milled about as 250 companies from all over the world advertised flavored liquids like Bulgarian rose, bubble tea and Moutai, a Chinese liquor. Models walked around in pencil dresses and heels handing out free samples of e-cigarette fluids, near booths from American brands like Twist and local players like the state monopoly, China National Tobacco.

“We want to be here and make our presence here in China,” said Mike Harcarik, a sales manager at Twist. “Look at it here, it’s a huge market.”

While Juul, one of the best known e-cigarettes companies, faces multiple state and federal investigations in the United States, it has targeted the overseas market for e-cigarettes, a strategy its new chief executive, K.C. Crosthwaite, highlighted to employees in an all-hands meeting in September. But that plan has hit roadblocks in Asia, with China’s crackdown and India’s announcement in September that it would ban the sale of e-cigarettes.

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Nov 01

Which Social Media Platform Is Best for a Business?

Most business owners and managers understand that social media advertising is important for their business. What they may not completely understand, however, is which platforms are best for their particular business. Many people also don’t know exactly how to use social media to propel the business forward. Internet marketing gurus say a business should be on every platform making multiple posts per day. This isn’t practical and it’s generally not a very effective way to reach customers. Targeting customers on the social media platforms they use on a regular basis is a much better approach.

How Should a Business Choose a Social Media Platform?

There are three key factors that will come into play when choosing a platform: the type of business, the target audience, and the social media marketing goals.

Business Type

This isn’t just about what industry a business is in and the kinds of products or services that are offered, although that’s part of it. It’s actually more about whether it is a B2B company, or a B2C company. Consumers are more likely to find a business on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Conversely, most B2B companies find their audience on LinkedIn. Of course, there are exceptions to these rules and some B2B companies do well outside of LinkedIn and some B2C companies don’t do well on Facebook.

Target Audience

social media platformsocial media platformConnecting to customers on the social media platform they’re most likely to use, and delivering the type of content they want are vital.  To do this, a business needs to identify its target market using demographics such as age, gender, marital status, parental status, income level, location, and other important aspects of who they are. It’s also important to define and understand their pain points, challenges, and goals. Armed with this information, a business owner or marketer can craft social media posts that reach the right audience at the right time, and that can translate into increased visibility, better branding, and more sales. 

Social Media Marketing Goals

When asked what their social media marketing goals are, many business owners don’t have a solid answer. They often have no real idea of what their goal is for social media marketing or how they’ll accomplish it. Goals can be anything from generating more leads, making sales, improving brand recognition, connecting with customers, to out-pacing a competitor. It would be wise to remember that most people on social media platforms aren’t there to buy, they’re there to see things, share things, and comment on things. So, be realistic and don’t set a lofty goal of making $1 million in sales in a week; it’s probably not going to happen.

Top 5 Social Media Platforms for Businesses

Once the questions above have been answered, it’s time to get down to the business of deciding which platform is best for the business. In a perfect world, there would be enough time to use them all, but this isn’t a perfect world. Instead, it’s better to choose one, two, or three at most to focus attention on.


With more than 2 billion monthly users who are active, Facebook’s stats show that they’re the largest social media network. Around 68% of adults age 18 and over in the U.S. are daily users and the majority of them are women. That’s a huge audience for businesses to promote their products, services, special events, deals, and anything else they want to. There are currently more than 60 million active business pages and the majority of them are only trying to get their brand noticed and keep their customers interested.


Owned by Facebook, Instagram boasts around 500 million users and the vast majority of them (64%) are 18 to 29 years old. Over half of the active users say they log in every day and most of them check in multiple times a day. And, more than 80% of them follow at least one business which makes it a perfect place for brands to post images to promote their products or services. Since more than one-third of Instagram users make purchases online, Instagram posts are a good way to capture their attention and increase sales.


There are around 330 million active users on this platform and around 40% of them are between the ages of 18 and 29. In other words, it’s a young crowd and businesses are vying for their attention. Twitter users tend to communicate their complaints about a company, and expect to hear a positive response. For the more than 65% of U. S. companies with more than 100 employees that are active on Twitter, that means staying connected and quickly responding. In other words, it’s all about customer service.


Of the more than 250 million active accounts, the majority are women (80%) who are over 40, and who have an income of $100,000 a year or more. They’re not just sharing recipes and home decorating ideas, they’re shopping. In fact, more than half have made a purchase because of a pin. And, 93% of users say they plan their purchases based on pinned items. In other words, if businesses that want to sell to women that are ready to buy and who have the means to do so, businesses need an active Pinterest account.


social media platformsocial media platformThis video-sharing social media site is huge with almost 2 billion users logging in every month. Nearly 80% of the users are between 18 and 49 year old’s watching videos on YouTube, and the majority of them use a mobile device. While entertaining videos are certainly popular, how-to videos, product use videos, and promotions are also well viewed. If a brand can combine those elements and make people smile, they’ll eventually gain a following, improve the brand’s image, and make more sales in the long run.

Get Social and Grow

The reality is that social media is here to stay and businesses have to become more socially active in order to compete. Regularly posting to the right social media platform is a great way to attract new customers, retain current customers, and improve a brand’s image and reach. The biggest piece of advice, whether a business has an account on one, or all, of these social media platforms is to go all out. Post frequently, keep the target market in mind, and keep the marketing goals in mind. Also, remember that what is said on social media by any representative of the company can, and will, have an immediate and lasting impact on your company’s bottom line. Social media isn’t much different than dealing with customers in person; just be positive, upbeat, and customer service oriented.

The Atlanta Small Business Network, from startup to success, we are your go-to resource for small business news, information, resources.

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Oct 30

What Might the FTC’s Crackdown on Deceptive Online Marketing Mean for Social Media Companies?

Nobody really knows what sort of impact an online review of a product has on sales of that product. But we might soon get an idea.

The Federal Trade Commission recently made its first two key decisions aimed at cracking down on fake online reviews and the sale of fake social media “followers” to brands and internet influencers.  

The first cost the CEO and owner of now-defunct social media influence company Duvemi a fine of at least $250,000 for allegedly selling “fake indicators of social media influence, including fake followers, subscribers, views, and likes to users of social media platforms…” That figure could be bumped up to $2.5 million if the FTC finds German Calas Jr. misrepresented his financial position.

The second settlement outlined by the FTC will cost Sunday Riley Skincare and the person behind the company, Sunday Riley, nothing, but explicitly forbids Riley and the company’s agents from posting misleading online product reviews. Similar decisions may already be in the works involving other companies, pointing to a much stronger effort to combat digital fraud than we’ve seen in the past.

The crackdown thus far has been aimed at the companies allegedly perpetrating fraud, and not the platforms facilitating it. In light of broad criticisms and new legal probes of so-called “big tech,” though, it’s not a stretch to suggest social networking platforms like Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Twitter (NYSE: TWTR), as well as e-commerce giants like (NASDAQ: AMZN) and smaller rival eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY) could eventually find themselves on the receiving end such decisions. 

Image source: Getty Images.

How, and which, companies could be affected

There are two prevailing schools of thought about how the FTC’s decisions could affect the platforms that deliver misleading reviews or facilitate the sale of fudged influence. On the one hand, cutting down on the fakes could bolster credibility for authentic product reviews and promoters. On the other hand, the government can’t possibly spot all product-pumping scams, leaving the legitimate players at a disadvantage.

If the FTC turns even more aggressive to fight online fraud — and pivots from the sources of fraud to the platforms for that fraud — some of the market’s biggest tech titans could bear the brunt of the shift. Others might benefit. Several could do both, and will be forced to walk a fine line.

Amazon stands to gain, probably. One study found that 61% of reviews of electronics sold on its website are fake, while 63% of its beauty product reviews are fake. More trustworthy reviews could drive even more sales for the e-commerce platform.

Outfits like Facebook and Twitter face a different challenge. They host the influencers and their businesses are built around the people who use the platforms and can make money from them. If marketing via social media takes a hit, that threatens the platforms.

Then there are outfits like Yelp (NYSE:YELP), which relies on online reviews to sell ads and allows local businesses to promote themselves above and beyond simply being listed at So far it’s evaded legal liability for negative reviews posted on the site — the legal onus seemingly falls on the shoulders of the reviewer. The FTC has now started to confirm that liability lies with the reviewer, forcing those reviewers to think twice, and choose their words carefully. That should make Yelp an even more credible source of reviews, and as such a platform where businesses feel more inclined to promote their service. 

In short, the sector’s biggest names now likely know change is coming, even if they’re not exactly sure what it will look like for them.

Ready or not, here it comes

The dust is still settling, so to speak. Two rulings are a good start, but organizations that have abused the anonymity of the internet are likely to continue testing the depth of the FTC’s interest in making the web a more trustworthy marketing platform.

This isn’t apt to be a matter that fades away over time. If anything, given the success the commission has achieved with its early efforts, it may feel emboldened to continue pressing.

It doesn’t hurt that there’s already plenty of governmental and consumer support for pushing back against the internet’s and tech sector’s biggest names. The FTC and the Department of Justice are probing the aforementioned Amazon and Facebook, along with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOGL) (NASDAQ: GOOG), largely due to antitrust concerns. Fake reviews and questionable ad metrics bolster the argument that “big tech” wields too much power.

Whatever’s in the cards, it would be naive for companies to not start adjusting to the new standard now.

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Oct 29

12 Product Marketing Campaign Examples

Here’s the first thing you need to know: “Product marketing” and “marketing a product” aren’t synonymous. Product marketing involves some traditional marketing, but it’s ultimately a hybrid, inter-departmental function that spans product, user research, marketing and sales.

Let’s say a company is rolling out a new product: a GPS-enabled dog collar. (Real thing, by the way.) At this point, a product marketer has already worked on user and market research to ensure that the collar fulfills consumer needs and stands out in the existing collar marketplace. 

As the launch approaches, a product marketer trains sales and marketing teams to clearly and persuasively articulate the collar’s charms. Why should people buy it over an off-brand version? How can a dog owner (or a dog) get the most out of it? Product marketers craft answers to those questions and others, which can provide fodder for traditional marketing. 

Often, though, marketing efforts focus on attracting new customers, or cultivating “awareness” — converting those who’ve never heard of a product into those who have. Product marketers focus on what happens to more deeply engaged customers.

As ClassPass CMO Joanna Lord put it to First Round Review: “Whereas marketing is traditionally about leveraging channels to drive prospects or leads — to get people at the top of the [sales] funnel and then move them through it — product marketing is more about helping existing customers understand your products and features and engage with them.” 

It is, as you might imagine, a long-term project. Product marketers work on launches, but they often stick with a product for the long haul, clarifying the value of every update and redesign. They can even help phase out unsuccessful features — say, a sound system add-on for that dog collar.

For a deeper dive into the realm of product marketing, check out these 12 real-world examples.


Facebook Blueprint

Facebook Blueprint: Free Marketing Tutorials

Location: Menlo Park, Calif.

How it uses product marketing: to make its ad tools more accessible. Facebook has cornered a major chunk of the online advertising market, but getting started on the company’s interface can be challenging — especially for small business owners with limited marketing experience. Newbies might wonder, for instance, why they can’t start an ad campaign from their personal Facebook page. 

The detailed sequence of free tutorials from Facebook Blueprint has the answer: You need a Facebook business page to start advertising. They cover much more, too, like the art of selecting a target audience, budgeting and choosing between the various ad formats and placements. Often presented as videos packed with screenshots and illustrations, BluePrint’s multimedia tutorials cater to many types of learners with a mix of spoken instructions, visual aids and dropdown video transcripts. Overall, Blueprint content helps new users make the most of Facebook’s platform — classic product marketing.



ClassPass: Sunsetting Bottomless Workouts

Location: New York City

How it uses product marketing: to phase out a popular but unsustainable product. ClassPass works like this: Instead of signing up for a particular gym or yoga studio, users sign up for a ClassPass membership, which lets them bop between a variety of in-network workout spaces while saving as much as 70 percent on listed drop-in rates. Every time members attend a studio class, ClassPass HQ pays the host fitness studio. In 2016, the ClassPass team realized that users with unlimited memberships paid ClassPass less than it paid studios.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of them. The ClassPass product marketing team spent a month crafting the story of the phase-out, brainstorming replacement offerings and ramping up customer service capacity. Under the new ClassPass structure, they decided, every membership would cover a finite number of classes, but they would sell cheap packs of additional classes through their app. 

They also framed the transition, smartly, as a compliment to clients. In an open letter peppered with positive, perseverant phrases (like “journeying onward”) ClassPass’s CEO explained the problem with the unlimited membership like this: “Many of you began to work out every other day – some of you even every single day! I applauded you for that. I applauded your drive, your desire to discover, your commitment to self. You were realizing the dream I always had for ClassPass.” The unlimited pass was savvily product marketed, even as it was discontinued.



Coca-Cola: Relaunching a Classic

Location: Atlanta, Ga.

How it uses product marketing: In the summer of 2014, Coca-Cola launched the Share a Coke marketing campaign. Essentially, the company replaced the classic Coca-Cola label, on select drinks, with a label that read “Share a Coke with ____.” In the blank, Coke slotted a rotation of the 250 most common names for American young adults. People rushed out to find cans that bore their names, or their loved ones’ names. 

The campaign boosted Coke sales, an impressive feat considering they had held steady for a decade prior. What’s more, it amounted to a reinvention of a classic product — a go-to product marketing move. Since that initial summer, personalized labeling has become an annual tradition for the company. 



Apple: The iPhone. Enough Said.

Location: Cupertino, Calif. 

How it uses product marketing: Apple rarely stumbles on the product marketing front, but it first-ever iPhone launch, back in 2007, was one of its most rousing successes. It started with Steve Jobs’ keynote at MacWorld 2007, where he pitched the iPhone as an “iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator” all in one. Though the device wasn’t the first touchscreen phone, camera phone, or internet-enabled phone (we had Blackberries, remember?), Jobs described it as a user-friendly fusion of all these things — the best of all worlds. In fact, he focused on convenience throughout his speech, enumerating the benefits and possibilities of each feature.

The rest of the iPhone launch was similarly effective. (People camped outside Apple stores for the chance to buy one!) Advertisements emphasized the phone’s most groundbreaking features, like the onscreen keyboard that pops up as needed. Meanwhile, every element — including Jobs’ keynote — addressed existing Mac and iPod enthusiasts, encouraging them to upgrade to the new device. That’s a hallmark of product marketing. 



Drift: Welcome to the Shipyard

Location: Boston

How it uses product marketing: Drift’s conversational marketing platform generates hassle-free sales leads through robot-shaped chatbots — you can meet one in the bottom right corner of the company’s homepage. Instead of filling out reams of paperwork, Drift lets prospective clients message with their new blue robot friend.

It looks simple enough from the outside. Internally, though, the platform is a complex web of inputs from sales, marketing and leads. Drift constantly perfects its interface with updates and logs them in a page called The Shipyard, on which customers can watch a slideshow that details every feature released (or “shipped”) in the last month. Some slides highlight fairly nitty-gritty updates, like an integration with access management software Okta, or a feature that closes multiple windows at once. However, the headline on each slide always plainly states its customer benefit, a technique that propels readers through drier tech specs. One example header: “Get Conversations Started Faster.”



G2: Award-Winning Tenacity

Location: San Francisco

How it uses product marketing: Because product marketing is fairly new, the sector so far has only one awards ceremony, run by the Product Marketing Alliance. In 2019, G2’s three-person crew took home Best Product Marketing Team. It was something of an upset, seeing as the department had existed for only six months.

In that time, though, they launched an average of one new feature per week and reportedly persuaded more than 200 clients to add G2 integrations into their existing platform. One key to their success, according to team lead Yoni Solomon, was “finding a way to lean into the emotional components” of their product stories. How can the story of a new feature echo the classic hero’s journey of, say, The Odyssey? The pros at G2 have ideas.


Simon Data

Simon Data: Compelling Case Studies

Location: New York City

How it uses product marketing: This enterprise customer data platform succeeds in the B2B space, thanks in part to the internal relationship between the marketing and product teams. (Great product marketers facilitate exactly this connection.)

 “The interplay between marketing strategy and emerging products is mutually developmental,” explained Simon Data co-founder Joshua Neckes. “Creative marketers push product development by hitting the limits of current product suites and providing feedback; new products provide new ways for existing marketers to work, facilitating the development of new strategies.” 

One place marketing and product meet is in case studies. Though some companies only share these with vetted sales leads, Simon Data publicly posts this case study on its work with Social Media Week. The news platform and conference series used Simon Data’s platform to automate its manual marketing processes. The result? 40 hours of work — a full workweek —saved each month, and thousands of dollars in conference ticket sales revenue. 



Hubspot: The Answer to Product Ambiguity

Location: Cambridge, Mass.

How it uses product marketing: to clarify the nature of its product. Early on, HubSpot focused on inbound marketing, which meant that its rigorously researched educational content attracted major audiences. Its articles, however, focused on general industry concepts. As a result, readers often left the site with no sense of what the company sold. 

Rick Burnes, the company’s former director of product marketing, joined HubSpot to resolve this murkiness once and for all. He implemented a product marketing strategy that complemented the existing content strategy. It involved case studies and persuasive product descriptions (like “Why Go HubSpot?”) that clarified the platform’s features and value. It appears to have worked. HubSpot is now a marketing industry mainstay whose growth platform boasts more than 64,000 users. 



Squarespace: Taking a Case Study to the Super Bowl

Location: New York City

How it uses product marketing: We’ve already established that case studies are a staple of product marketing — a concrete example of the product at work in the real world. In 2015, though, Squarespace took an unusual approach, turning one of their case studies into a splashy Super Bowl commercial. It featured Jeff Bridges — synonymous in the public imagination with “The Dude” from The Big Lebowski — sitting at a sleeping person’s bedside, chanting one long “Om” and running a pestle around the edge of a metal bowl. 

How is this a case study? Well, Bridges built the slick and scrollable website for his sleep sounds album, Sleeping Tapes, with Squarespace. It’s a real feat of engineering, too; visitors can stream the album, download it, order it on vinyl or just gaze upon a graphic of three Jeff Bridges nested inside each other, Russian Doll-style. As Squarespace’s CEO explained to Adweek, it was meant to show that “any idea, no matter how wild or weird, can be presented beautifully and meaningfully through Squarespace.”

Success. The Super Bowl spot simultaneously promoted Bridge’s album and the platform he used to build its web presence. The cross-promotion made people aware not only of Squarespace’s brand, but specific features of its platform, like the option to embed purchasing and music-streaming.



Harry’s: An Enticing Trial Offer

Location: New York City

How it uses product marketing: Harry’s lets prospective customers experience their razors and blades firsthand. The company sells shaving paraphernalia at direct-to-consumer prices, which has some inherent appeal — razor blades are so technically difficult to manufacture that they can be strikingly expensive. Still, it requires shoppers to shift from the instant gratification of buying in store to a slower, mail-order experience. To prove this worthwhile, the company initially offers all new subscribers a special trial: a steeply discounted starter kit and free shipping. The trial features prominently on its homepage and in all its communications channels, conveying the same confident product marketing message as those free demos: “You’ll want to pay full price for this once you try it yourself.”



Metadata: Constant Product Updates

Location: San Francisco

How it uses product marketing: to keep users up to date on a steady stream of new features. This company’s account based marketing platform leverages AI to automate much of the marketing process, from data acquisition to sales attribution (It’s tech is so cutting-edge, it can even recommend strategy.) That means as AI evolves, so does Metadata. The company keeps clients in the loop on the platform’s new features via an email newsletter, which complements an array of online tutorials, social media announcements and more. That ensures old clients can adopt new features and paves the way for subscription upgrades. 


Fenty Beauty

Fenty Beauty: Inclusivity from the Product On Up

Location: San Francisco

How it uses product marketing: Fenty Beauty has never used the word “inclusive” in its marketing materials, because the brand’s inclusivity goes without saying. It’s built into the product. The multi-billion-dollar beauty brand, led by superstar singer and business mogul Rihanna, offers cosmetics for a wide variety of skin tones — Fenty foundations, for instance, come in a whopping 50 shades. Each one was blended with “nuance” and real skin tones in mind, writes the CMO of Kendo Brands, Fenty’s parent company. 

A diverse group can also see themselves reflected in Fenty’s marketing —  a synergy between product and messaging that suggests a stellar product marketing team. The Fenty Beauty Instagram, for instance, features models with a vast spectrum of skin tones, including an ultra-pale red-headed model, a Latinx woman and Rihanna herself.


Images via Shutterstock, social media and company websites.

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Oct 28

What you absolutely *must* know about digital marketing in 2019

Justin Staples is an entrepreneur who specializes in providing businesses with results-driven SEO, custom web design, and content development. Below, he offers a modern guide for any business to ensure their efforts are modernized and effective:

Growing a successful business is anything but easy.

If you want your business to scale, you need more than a good product or service. You’ll also need tried-and-tested processes to deal with anything from sourcing products, managing employees, dealing with customers, and more.

Beyond that, you also need to figure out how you can reach as broad of a customer base as possible, and that comes down to marketing.

There are a thousand ways to market your business. However, every day that passes, digital channels become more important. Now more than ever, customers are more likely to look up products online before spending a single dollar.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of digital (or online) marketing, now’s a great time to learn some basics, so let’s get to it.

A Quick Introduction to Digital Marketing:

Every type of promotional activity that involves electronic devices falls under the banner of digital marketing. However, some online channels are far more important than others when it comes to promoting your business.

Social media is the easiest example. Unless you’re a hermit, almost everyone you know probably uses it.

Perhaps the best thing about digital marketing is it enables you to reach a far broader audience than old-school approaches – such as handing out flyers, magazine ads, and others.

If you run a local business, you can use online marketing to gain customers from all over the country, and even the world (depending on what you’re selling!). It all comes down to choosing the right channels.

10 Must-Knows of Digital Marketing in 2019:

In this section, we’ll walk you through the key terms you must know to get started with online marketing and some of the best channels you can focus on.

Keep in mind – some businesses will find more success in some channels than others, and it all depends on who your audience is. By the time we’re through, you’ll have all the information you need to make some important decisions!

1. Framework

Throwing money at marketing without a plan might work, but it’s not a sustainable or scalable approach.

To reap the full benefits of online marketing, you need a framework, which is a fancy name for a business plan. Here’s what it should outline:

• What your goals are (i.e., finding new leads, getting more traffic, sales, etc.)?
• Who is your audience?
• What online channels will you focus on?
• How much money do you plan to spend?
• What process will you use for tracking your results?

Frameworks are the basis of a great online marketing strategy. By laying out all that information, you’ll gain insight into why some marketing approaches work while others fail.

2. Brand Story

Branding is essential for any business. It enables you to establish relationships and build trust with your audience, which can help transform them into customers and keep them around.

The concept of branding is often very vague, but you can boil down what your brand is by answering a few simple questions:

• Who are your ideal customers?
• What problem do you help those clients solve?
• How do you want your audience to perceive you?

To put it another way, the products and services you offer may be at the core of your business. However, it’s your branding, web design, and the value you bring to your customers that determines what they think about you.
Before you embark on any marketing endeavor, you need to have a clear idea of what your brand is or what you want it to be. That way, you’ll be able to keep things consistent throughout every channel.

3. Traffic Acquisition and Conversions

When it comes to online marketing, we often don’t talk about sales, sign-ups, or leads. Instead, we refer to those things as “conversions.”

The more traffic you can drive to your website using digital channels, the more potential conversions you get. Those conversions might not always lead directly to sales, but ideally, they’ll get you one step closer to that finish line.

At the end of the day, the value of your services is what convinces visitors to become clients. Digital marketing is just the set of processes you use to get them in the door.

4. Paid Ads

Most online channels enable you to pay in exchange for traffic. That includes social media platforms, search engines, websites, and more.

Depending on which channel you use, you’ll be able to run different types of ads. Usually, you’ll pay for clicks, impressions, or more specific interactions.

In online marketing, we refer to groups of paid ads as “campaigns.” Ideally, you’ll test different campaigns across marketing channels, figure out what works, and then scale upwards to get more conversions.

5. Email Marketing

When it comes to digital marketing, email is king.

Almost 90% of online marketers use it as their primary channel. That’s no coincidence, either – email marketing offers an average ROI of 4400%, and that’s not a typo.

To reap the full benefits of email marketing, you’ll need to build up a sizable list of subscribers and develop engaging campaigns. It’s a ton of work, but the numbers speak for themselves.

6. Live Chat

If you take a quick look at some of your favorite websites, we’re willing to bet a lot of them have live chat windows.

Nowadays, live chat is by far the most popular channel for customers to communicate with you. In fact, 44% of visitors say having someone that can answer their questions directly is a big factor deciding whether to make a purchase.

Once someone gets to your website, it’s your job to explain what your products and services can do for them. The best way to do that, by far, is telling them yourself, and live chat provides you with a channel that enables you to do that.

7. Affiliate Marketing

Think about affiliate marketing as a commission program for the digital age. In short, businesses that run affiliate programs pay end-users or marketers to promote their products.

These days, affiliate marketing drives over 16% of all e-commerce sales, which is a staggering figure. If you can set up an attractive affiliate program, it can become a cornerstone of your digital marketing strategy.

8. SEO

If you’re trying to grow an online business, then you need to learn how to love search engine optimization (SEO).

Search engines can make or break websites. If your business shows up on a high position in the search engine result pages (SERPs) for popular terms, they can drive massive amounts of traffic to your website.

The problem is, there’s no magic formula when it comes to SEO. What you can do is follow best practices, which evolve all the time as search engines refine their algorithms.
SEO involves a lot of trial and error, but it’s key to the growth of most – if not all – online businesses.

9. Public Relations (PR)

If you want to get people talking about your business, one of the best ways to do it is through good old-fashioned PR.

Traditional press releases, for example, can drum up a lot of interest if you can get attention from publications with a big following.

Nowadays, there are a lot of online tools you can use to build relationships, with leading online publications. What that means is that in 2019, you don’t need the help of a PR firm to get the word about your business out there.

10. Social Media

As a marketer, the only thing you need to know about social media is that almost 44% of the entire world uses it.

Some platforms are more popular than others, of course, and not all of them might be a great fit for your business.

What you want to do is identify which social media platforms are more popular among your audience, and then use them to promote your business. In most cases, that means running paid ads, setting up profiles to promote your content, and engaging with your followers as often as possible.

What Digital Marketing Will Look Like in 2020:

The main thing you need to know is digital marketing is only becoming more important with every year that passes. Over half of the world’s population is already online, and a lot of them use the internet to decide where they’re going to spend their money.

As far as specific trends go, 63% of online marketers say they want to focus on social media in 2020.

Mobile use only keeps growing as well, which means more and more people are using voice searches to find what they want. Making sure your digital marketing strategy is mobile-friendly is key to staying relevant.

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Oct 27

Getting Ahead of the Digital Marketing Evolution Curve – E

Digital marketing was the firstborn child spawned from the invention of the Internet. It quickly became the major focus of businesses interactions — and transactions — both online and in person. Digital marketing now is fundamental to the success of your business.

Why is digital marketing so important? Simply put, it is the last remaining channel for “authority-driven content,” which is a fancy term for content that consumers can trust.

Because digital marketing came into being as a result of the Internet, it brought a new era of marketing to corporations and small businesses alike. The Internet provided open access to information, which brought forth heightened scrutiny of traditional marketing methods. Free access to information meant that people were less likely to trust the promises made by ads on television, and more likely to consult other sources on their personal computers.

This resulted in some positive cultural trends — and a few negative ones. For example, we now know far more about the health information in our foods than when we trusted advertising to tell us how to feed our kids. However, today it is much harder for a business to advertise effectively, at least without knowing how to produce quality digital marketing in our current landscape.

It’s helpful to revisit the past to understand the evolution of digital marketing from its creation to the present. Following is a snapshot of digital marketing’s rise to prominence.

Personal Computers Brought Ads Into Homes

When IBM released its first computer
in 1981, digital marketing didn’t exist. Businesses could market through word of mouth in their local communities, create physical mailers using a printing press, or produce audio and video recordings to run ads on TV and radio. There wasn’t much marketing at all, to say the least.

This is an important point to consider, given that Americans now
are exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads every single day.

Then Came the Internet

The U.S. military already had
invented the Internet a decade prior to the release of the personal computer — it was known as “ARPANET” back in 1969 — and in that same year the military created and
sent its first email.

After a decade of American families adopting home computers, the Internet finally
became available to the public in 1991.

By the end of that year, the Internet was
crawling with search engines. From Ask Jeeves to AOL, every website seemed to have its own native search function.

The early search engines functioned like digital libraries, with tons of manpower needed to sort and label each new website as it was created, meaning that subscriptions to the search engines were quite costly to consumers.

The Rise of the One True Search Engine and Its Creation of SEO

Then, in the fall of ’97, came the Google search engine — a free platform that used algorithms instead of human labor. Googling meant everything online was accessible instantly and at no charge. Google’s competitors were toast.

The emergence of Google was an important milestone for digital marketing because its algorithm is where the term “search engine optimization,” or SEO originated. Instead of indexing content like a library as other search engines did — by word, title and author — Google used its own algorithms for indexing, which is what brought SEO into prominence. Google created an automated ranking system related to popularity, authority and relevancy online, which meant that not all websites were created equally.

Google’s crawlers have evolved, but they still favor relevant keywords in highly trafficked sites that don’t look like spam. For instance, marketers used to employ cheat codes until the late 2000s by creating fake websites packed with keywords to rank a company highly for certain terms. Today, websites require authority in order to rank at all, which is why earned media is more important than ever.

Whether you’re a small business or a corporation, you’re aiming not only for links, but also for the targeted “right kind,” as determined by Google’s algorithm. Search engine optimization is the art of landing your business into domains that Google deems authoritative.

Along Came the Inbox

Much like the invention of the Internet, there is a certain amount of mystery around the creation of publicly available email, with many egoists attempting to stake a claim as the first.

However, by 1995, AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe all
had released the service.
Email completely transformed the Internet from a digital repository to a portal of instant human connection, without the bother of a telephone. It was no longer just a place for information — it was a place to socialize and communicate.

Businesses were the first to adapt to the speedy information exchange medium. Soon thereafter, savvy marketers realized that email marketing was merely the cost of collecting personal information, versus the production and shipping costs of traditional mailers, taking mail marketing costs down essentially to zero. The email marketing trend was born.

The trend of cheaper options via digital channels has continued throughout digital marketing’s evolution.

And Then There Were Blogs

By 1999, a company called “Blogger” had invented the personal website, aka the “blog.” It was the next game changer for digital marketing, because it marked the moment when content became king (or queen). Blogging turned the Internet tables. Instead of being a collection of websites owned by businesses, the Internet became a place where any individual could build a platform and have a voice.

The blogosphere
quickly boomed, from zero to 50 million blogs by 2006. Why should companies care? Companies online at the time could not even attempt to keep pace with individuals voicing their opinions, and they still can’t today. Understanding blogging is like understanding the ocean versus land. Individuals always will be dominant across the Internet; businesses are the digital minority.

Most importantly, though, is that blogging was the precursor to social media. The blogosphere became a place where people could post content and comments, and connect with one another over common interests.

Social Media’s Rise to Infamy

In 2000, a site called “Myspace” quietly launched,
spreading like wildfire across the United States. Its predecessor, Friendster, had gained a small following, but its popularity was nothing like the national frenzy over Myspace.

It was the first open platform for connecting everyone from musicians to moviestars, and everyone in between. In 2003, LinkedIn was created as the business version of Myspace, and in 2004, Facebook Harvard was created exclusively for Harvard students. In 2005 came Youtube, then in 2006 came Twitter and Reddit, and by the end of 2006, Facebook opened to everyone. Exciting times, to say the least.

However, these platforms were all free, and their creators eventually would need a means to generate revenue. This became the unofficial slogan of Silicon Valley: “If you’re not paying, you’re the product.” Free social media platforms were exchanged for privacy.

User information then was packaged and sold to advertisers, because the only value social media platforms had were their data insights and large user bases. The eventual monetization of social media meant that companies could hyper-target their ads and speak directly to people they never could reach before.

Whereas television commercials would speak to anyone in front of them (whether they might be potential customers or not), those who ran ads on computer screens would pay only for reaching their highly customized target audiences.

That was the beauty of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Reddit ads, and it is why these platforms are so popular for businesses that want to target potential customers today. Once monetization through ads took place, marketers instantly began running digital advertisements. The rest is history, bringing us to our present state of digital marketing.

Digital Marketing Automation

With new digital marketing channels appearing in such abundance, and so quickly, marketing automation software began appearing as well. By 2005 and 2006, Hubspot, Marketo, Pardot and many other platforms designed to make the world of digital marketing easy and user-friendly appeared on the scene.

Digital marketing automation offered businesses a way to segment prospects across multiple channels, and create and track multiple campaigns with large bundles of highly customized content, which is still done today.

Things went a step further in 2008, when Hootsuite and other social media-specific software turned management of social media content and data analytics into a breeze.

All of these management tools are still available today, and all are used by digital media agencies, large and small. There is no clear winner in any category, but they all solve the one clear problem of digital marketing: In a world where content is king, creating more of it creates more value, but managing it can be a real mess.

Digital Marketing Now

Today, email marketing, social media marketing, SEO and blogging are still every bit as relevant, if not more so. Realizing that traditional marketing no longer works, large legacy organizations slowly have been adapting to the cheap, content-heavy world of digital media marketing.

In addition to these channels, there are a few important additions we see on the rise.

Voice Is the New Everything

It all began with audiobooks and podcasts, and then voice took hold as the next major digital marketing trend. People quickly realized that a piece of audio was far more consumable than any other format because the user’s hands were completely free, opening the door to multitasking while consuming digital marketing. Reading a book, or even an ad, requires full attention, but a piece of audio can be listened to while running, or running errands.

Soon, major networks jumped on the trend in a play for continued relevance, releasing major news outlets into 10-minute consumable podcasts. Thought leaders in marketing began releasing thousands of podcasts with sponsorship from major brands, and small businesses were able to target niche audiences with the right small podcast sponsorship. As of 2019, 90 million Americans
have listened to a podcast in the last month, and the numbers are growing.

Then came audio search. With technologies like Alexa and Siri, consumers are using tech like their personal digital assistants to help them find everything from the next great restaurant to their next purchase of laundry detergent.

By 2020, it’s predicted that half of all searches
will be voice searches. The businesses that utilize search algorithm rankings will be early entrants in the latest contest for digital attention.

Geo-Marketing Up Next?

What comes next? Driverless cars, smart everything, and AI that can predict your every move — and much of it will be marketed with geographic tagging and geographic optimization.

Imagine hopping into your driverless car and directing it to “the best restaurant within five miles,” or having your smart refrigerator tell the nearest high-end grocer that you’re low on cheese selection.

The future is unknown to everyone except the technologists, but as we move forward, what is clear is that all of our devices will get smarter, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which means that digital optimization is still the greatest challenge to be won.

From print to audio to geo, smart businesses will cover all of their bases. How do you do it? Well, the good news is this: Most of the same optimization metrics today apply to all of the forms of digital marketing covered, meaning that if you work toward optimizing on all of these platforms now, you’ll be positioned not only for an increase in revenue, but also for what the digital marketing future may hold.

Point-of-Sale Payments

The final point of any transaction today may be processing a payment — but that won’t be true for long. Both product and service businesses that wish to have a competitive edge in the near future not only will have to market more effectively, but also will need to build the process of a transaction directly into their consumer interactions. The purchase shouldn’t feel like the end, but merely a point along the way in a business-to-customer relationship.

Whether customers are buying directly from an image on a social media site or seamlessly transacting with your company online as easily as in person, payment processing is an essential element to digital marketing that is often overlooked.

Simply put, the average consumer wastes no time. If a checkout becomes complicated, the customer will abandon the entire cart. Take Amazon, for example, whose smooth checkout and recurring purchase options grew the company tremendously.

As more businesses implement innovative payment processes, revenue opportunities will grow correspondingly.

Chad Vanags is chief marketing officer of
Talus Pay, where he is leading the effort to help America’s Main Street retailers grow beyond Main Street.

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Oct 26

5 Hit Business Trends to Keep an Eye on in 2020

Presented by

If you are an entrepreneur, you know how competitive the business world can be. In order to stay on top, you need to have your finger on the pulse of modern technology and keep up with the latest innovations. With that in mind, here are five unique trends that are expected to drive business growth in the coming year and beyond.

1. Capturing the Youth Demographic

Older readers may remember a time before the internet, but for younger generations, it’s an essential part of everything they do. And as they age and make up more of the consumer market, companies must do their best to relate by moving their marketing to a digital platform. Take TikTok, the mobile-centric video platform that has experienced crazy growth in the past few years. With 500 million active users worldwide, it ranks ninth in that category among social-networking sites, ahead of LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat.

YouTube has also made digital marketing more accessible to this audience. According to a recent VidMob survey, “59 percent of Gen Z respondents said they use their YouTube app a lot more than they did a year prior,” showing that this market is just getting started.

Related: 13 Expert Tips to Increase Online Conversions in 2020

2. Going Green Is Picking Up Steam 

More people are adopting a green lifestyle. Beyond Meat, maker of plant-based proteins, has increased its stock prices by more than three times since its IPO launch. But for consumers, the eco-conscious lifestyle doesn’t stop at vegetarian diets and organic hygiene products. Lunya, a popular women’s-clothing maker, constructs its products from natural fabrics and fibers, and its sleepwear and intimates lines use Pima cotton for durability and comfort. Using natural materials lowers the carbon footprint of their business, as well as that of the individual consumer.

According to Small Business Trends, when it comes to tapping new consumers in an already-crowded green market, “The answer may lie in supplying consumers with details — and authenticity.” It’s not enough to be green anymore; you have to help the customer understand what making eco-friendly choices means for you and them.

3. Machine Learning and AI Advances

The artificial-intelligence industry is continuing to grow and will have a significant impact on the world economy in the coming years. Even smaller uses of AI and algorithms can improve the user experience in nearly all industries. Spotify, for one, uses artificial intelligence to make the listening experience more personal by creating customized sessions for each user. 

AI is also transforming customer service. As Omer Khan, founder and CEO of VividTech told Entrepreneur, “Today’s chatbots and virtual assistants are able to handle more customer service tasks than ever before to better facilitate the customer journey. As they utilize machine learning to better respond to customer requests, these interactions become even more efficient.” Through the smart use of technology, business and consumers will all benefit. 

4. E-Commerce Will Continue to Dominate

In the coming four years, global e-commerce is expected to reach around $5 trillion, as reported by Statista, causing many retailers to move investments from brick-and-mortar storefronts to online stores. Fashion Nova has utilized the power of online shopping with only a small handful of physical locations, leveraging social media to generate hundreds of millions in sales. They even created a state-of-the-art warehouse that can ship out orders faster. As more specialized retailers appear on the market, there seems to be no limit to what can be sold online.

Related: 5 Marketing Experts Share Trends to Jump On

5. All-Encompassing Digital Platforms Will Keep Rising

As companies look to provide more services and options to their customers, demand has risen for all-in-one platforms to handle financial transactions, security and banking needs. Consumers and business owners alike appreciate the ability to accomplish more than one of their goals with a particular vendor, and these comprehensive systems are gaining popularity. 

We’ve seen companies and products like Cyfe and Tableau (who had a massive IPO) create central business-intelligence platforms with APIs and integrations that continue to push the tech pace. Another example is Prime Trust, which offers one-stop shopping for business owners by providing financial services and infrastructure solutions, saving them time and creating a more convenient experience for customers, which is the ultimate goal. As the demand for diverse payment methods grows, these types of full-service banking and financial platforms will be necessary for even small businesses or storefronts. Customers want contactless credit options and the ability to pay with crypto currency or their phone. They also demand high security and instant, 24-hour access to funds. Having experts to guide your business through this ever-changing financial maze will be crucial moving forward. 

Competition for new customers is always fierce, and adapting to the changing consumer market can be crucial for the success of any business. It is essential to know what your customers are demanding and where they are spending their dollars. To help your business make the right decisions for the year ahead and beyond, seize on these trends that are likely to influence business growth into the coming years. 


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