Content marketing concept in word tag cloud on black background

B2C Customer Acquisition Through Content Marketing

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Many marketers believe that content marketing is best done in the B2B arena, and we won’t argue that it’s an important component; but the truth is that it’s equally important for B2C marketers.

Blog Map Displaying International or Worldwide BloggingFor many people, the term “content marketing” is roughly equivalent to the term “blog.” Right? The reality is that blogs are only part of content marketing. In fact, content marketing refers to any digital communication: a well-written email is content, a video is content, a great landing page is content, and social media posts are content.

So what kind of content marketing will help you with B2C customer acquisition? There are five pieces of content that can be particularly useful in promoting your brand and attracting followers, visitors, and prospects… and then turning them into customers.

  1. Blog posts: Yes, of course, you probably could have guessed that we’d begin with blog posts, since they are indeed what first comes to mind when most people think content. What blog posts can become customer-acquisition tools? Posts that are helpful, useful, informative, posts that show your brand to be aware of what’s going on in their world and has prepared a thoughtful response to it, these are blog posts that people will read, think about, and eventually act upon.
  2. Micro-content: Tweets, LinkedIn, and Facebook posts can’t go into the same detail that blog posts do, but they can point new audiences to your blog, your website, and other longer content that you have on offer. On their own, your micro-content can intrigue, engage, and interest potential customers.
  3.  RSS button- subscribeWhite papers: Blogs and micro-content pieces are conversational in tone, easy to read, and generally pull prospects in. Once at your site, however, you have to deliver the goods—that is, some more serious and useful information. White papers written on the subjects that are important to your prospects and customers deliver in-depth information that clearly shows you as a thought leader.
  4. Industry articles: Speaking of being perceived as a thought leader, writing articles that are placed in industry publications also indicates that prospects can trust your knowledge—and your generosity in sharing it for free. Make sure that your bio points them to a landing page where they can sign up for your email list.
  5. Sales page: The the most important of all the content marketing that you do is your sales page: presenting exactly the right content after your prospect has read all your other content is what finally will make the sale.

 

Content marketing is as important for B2C marketers as it is for B2B marketing firms, and will lift your customer acquisition significantly when used as part of an overall marketing strategy.

Car wash

Get New Customers With This Small Trick

car wash imageHere’s an interesting story:

Two researchers, Joseph Nunes and Xavier Drèze, conducted a customer loyalty experiment with a car wash and they found that “artificial advancement” increases customer loyalty by 82%. On two consecutive Saturdays, they gave out loyalty cards to car wash patrons. Half of the cards required eight car washes to earn a free car wash. The other half required 10, but instead of requiring the full 10, the car wash gave a two-car wash head-start as a free bonus. This bonus is known as artificial advancement.

During the next nine months, 28 out of 150 people earned a free car wash when they didn’t receive artificial advancement. However, 51 out of 150 people earned a free car wash when they received artificial advancement.

Why does it work? People are more likely to complete tasks when they’re closer to the finish line. When you start with a loyalty card, and you only have one car wash punched, that means you’re 12.5% complete.

vector-thank-you-notecard_fyejzXKOBut when you start with a loyalty card that has three car washes to start, you’re 30% complete.

Even though the patrons need the same eight car washes, in one instance they’re 70% away from the finish line… whereas in the other case they’re 87.5% away.

So you can do a lot with that concept in customer acquisition for email marketing. Make an offer to your current subscribers that will earn them something free, then give them some artificial advancement toward that goal—and watch subscribers turn into customers!

 

2015

What’s New for 2015?

gypsy with crystal ballAt the end of every year, analysts spend their time trying to figure out what trends they’re leaving behind… and which ones they’re looking forward to. The new year will see more of this, less of that … Some of it feels a little like gazing into a gypsy’ crystal ball at a fair: “I see a dark, handsome new customer in your future…” And of course, some will be spot-on and some will miss the mark entirely.

We’ve found a few predictions that we feel may be in the former category, so this is a good time to share them with you.

Forbes CRM analyst Shep Hyken gives three predictions:

  1. Self-service: Customers are open to self-service solutions. In some instances, they even prefer it, such as easily finding solutions to problems. You can provide instructional and informative videos on YouTube and a Frequently Asked Questions page on your website. Customers appreciate being able to find information easily and solve their problems quickly.
  1. Social media: Customers are increasingly using social channels like Twitter and Facebook to ask for help. Considering the steady growth, what is surprising is that there are still so many companies that have yet to establish a social media presence.
  1. Higher expectations: Customers are smarter than ever – they know what good customer service is, and they expect it. They may be comparing your service not only to that of your competitor, but also to great customer service they received anywhere – at a restaurant, hotel or any other company, in any industry.

 

Forrester Research, predictably, has a number of—well, predictions. Among them of interest to digital marketers:

  • shutterstock_165303233mobile will go composable, contextual, and cross-touchpoint
  • modern apps will mean new technologies, processes, and skills
  • the data economy will go mainstream
  • marketing leaders will mix data, content, and insight to craft brand experiences
  • social media will “grow up”
  • most brands will underinvest in mobile

 

And the blog Client Heartbeat weighs in with these predictions for 2015:

  1. Customers will expect more: “Customers feel like they have the power in today’s business world. They aren’t afraid to switch to a competitor and they aren’t scared of voicing their opinions via social media.”
  2. Companies will increase their investment in customer experience: “Companies will look to hire experienced professionals that can lead a customer experience strategy. According to Google Trends, searches for the phrase ”customer experience jobs” has increased 40% from July 2013 to July 2014. Investment in customer experience technology will also increase.”
  3. Tracking and measurement will become even more important.
  4. Customer experience technologies will integrate with existing market technology.
  5. cmo-spend-gartnerCompanies will strive to create a one-to-one, cross-channel experience: “The companies that can bring all this data together and treat customers like individuals will be the ones that quickly create customer advocates, see growth in revenue and create sticky, strong competitive advantages.”
  6. Companies will move to a mobile-first customer experience. “Although most companies now have their websites and digital assets optimized for mobile devices, it’s still more or less an add-on feature. In 2015, we’ll see the progressive customer-centric companies moving towards a mobile-first policy. So instead of thinking about the mobile experience as an add-on to the customer experience, think of it as the priority.”

 

You don’t need a crystal ball to see what’s ahead of us: a better customer experience (including going where they are—i.e., to mobile and social networks) and better measurement of all your marketing efforts.

We can hep with your customer acquisition in 2015 in all of these areas. Why not ask us how today?

 

shutterstock_122501014

Should You Change … Just to Change?

shutterstock_129341612Marketers are always testing new campaigns to try and find better ways to inspire their prospects and customers to convert — as they should be. But what should they do when the campaigns they are testing don’t seem to perform significantly better than the tried-and-true campaigns they are currently running? Should they change things up just for the sake of change?

Absolutely! Here’s why.

One of the reasons is normalization. What happens when you create changes in your campaigns, or even in the strategy you use to develop campaigns, is that there is a boost to performance because you really have found a more productive way to communicate. The problem is that the effectiveness of these new campaigns, or this new strategy, wanes over time back to the norm.

In some cases the reason may be obvious. For example, your team sits down and creates great new subject lines, which boost email open rates. No one is surprised when after a short period of time the open rates go back to the norm, since people have seen the subject lines multiple times or have already responded to them. It’s time for more new subject lines.

shutterstock_107479076But what about when you decide to segment your list to better target customers? You execute the strategy and get a nice boost to performance. Yet over time you see your responses slowly moving back to the norm, to where they were prior to launching your segmentation strategy.

It really doesn’t make sense for the effectiveness of segmentation to wear off, yet it does. This is normalization. Believe it or not, it’s unclear why it happens. Possibly boredom sets in with the new strategy, or marketers don’t maintain a high level of energy to not only execute the strategy, but also to create great campaigns within the strategy. Maybe they think the strategy is the answer by itself.

Other examples of normalization for marketers occur when new products are launched, when companies change advertising agencies, or when there is a significant change in the makeup of the marketing team. Each of these cases typically will generate a short- or moderately longer-term boost in performance, but inevitably results work their way back to the norm.

window shoppingChange for the sake of change is a way to counteract normalization without having to go the extreme of switching agencies, changing the team, or blowing up what has worked successfully in the past. Build change for the sake of change into your company’s marketing strategy. Have one team member responsible for coming up with an “out-of-the-box” campaign or strategy every month and build it into the plan. Make a list of the really new and different things you want to try in the coming year and be sure to execute against them on a regular basis, even when the things you are doing are working just fine.

And always make a series of significant changes just prior to your busiest season, as you really don’t want buyer fatigue or normalization to set in just at the point you are counting on to make your year.

Another trick to use is that when you find campaigns, strategies, or tactics that work especially well, use them multiple times; but do it randomly when possible. Don’t run the same successful campaign every three months on the dot, as each time you run the results will end up closer to the norm than to the great success you had the first time you took it to market. If you randomly launch the campaign, six months later, then after a single month, then in a season you never used it before with tweaks to the creative, you can slow down the normalization process and boost the reiterative performance. Note that you can slow it down, but you can’t prevent it from happening entirely.

Normalization isn’t your fault, and some great minds are baffled by why it happens, but all agree that it does. Consider it and build your strategy around making changes for the sake of change, before results suffer.

 

(This is a reprint from a MediaPost column written by the CEO of CertainSource.)

 

businessman holding social media concept

Happy Boxing Day!

Boxing Day Dec. 26Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradespeople would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box,” from their bosses or employers.

Many marketers are breathing a sigh of relief right now: the holiday buying season’s run-up and major wave is over; now it’s about returns and after-Christmas sales.

But let’s take a moment to remember, on this Boxing Day, who made it possible. Take some time today to thank those who support your efforts. If you outsource any of your essential services—web development, copywriting, IT, and so on—then it’s a good time to drop a note, send a bonus of some kind, make a telephone call that will be the “Christmas box” for the people you couldn’t do without.

Not a bad way to end one year and begin the next! Happy Boxing Day from everyone here at CertainSource!

social media, communication in the global computer networks.

Your Holiday Gift: 20 Acquisition Channels

person using laptop. Lots of digits on the computer screen.Back in 2014 (that’s the way we start thinking around this time of year!) CertainSource did a survey and uncovered 20 digital channels for customer acquisition. Today we’re offering them again as a holiday gift as you begin your strategizing for the new year. Happy holidays!

Does Twitter work? Who’s been having success with YouTube? Does anyone still use direct mail? What about banner advertising? Is co-registration really dead? These and other questions are at every marketer’s top-of-mind as we look forward to 2015. And it is tempting to jump right into a list of acquisition channels and try to formulate a plan around them.

Before you select which channels around which to develop a strategy, however, you need to look at the sources within those acquisition channels. That is where your ROI is going to lie, as you determine which ones are the most cost-effective while producing the most customer growth—in other words, the most scale at the best price.

B2C customer acquisition is complex and significantly different from B2B customer acquisition: sources’ efficiency fluctuates more in the B2C arena. Marketers therefore need full transparency into acquisition performance across channels and platforms to optimize their budgets so that the majority of any marketing budget can be spent on top-performing lead sources. What that means is that success begins at the customer-acquisition source level: managing the acquisition budget at the URL level where best customers originate is what drives positive growth and long-term performance.

With that in mind, let’s take a brief journey through 20 ways that you can acquire new customers in 2014. We asked media service experts to analyze industry data and come up with an average rating for typical results using each of these 20 channels.

We’re looking specifically at the average cost to run the channel as well as the channel’s potential to grow a customer list. Each scale is assessed on a 1-3 metric, with 1 being the lowest and 3 the highest.

Marketers approach each of these channels with two goals in mind: to get someone to purchase a specific product, and/or capture an email address to add to a list of subscribers for future purchases. Each of these channels contains specific sources that we’ve scrutinized for cost and growth potential.

  1. Facebook. Facebook ads score a 2 in program cost and a 1 in customer-list growth. Two URLs can be captured and analyzed here: the ads themselves, and postings on the company’s FB page.
  2. Mobile. Mobile ads score a 2 in program cost and a 2 in customer-list growth.
  3. iAds. iAds score a 3 in program cost and a 2 in customer-list growth.
  4. Display. Display ads score a 3 in program cost and a 1 in customer-list growth.
  5. Contextual. Contextual ads score a 3 in program cost and a 2 in customer-list growth.
  6. Twitter. Tweeting a URL for followers to click on rates a 1 in program cost and a 2 in customer-list growth.
  7. Organic search. SEO scores a 2 in program cost and a 2 in customer-list growth. URLs can originate from the search page, from directories, or from links from other website pages.
  8. Paid search. PPC scores a 2 in program cost and a 2 in customer-list growth.
  9. Google +. Ads on Google + score a 2 in program cost and a 1 in customer-list growth.
  10. Google AdSense. Ads on Google AdSense score a 2 in program cost and a 2 in customer-list growth.
  11. YouTube. Video advertising on YouTube rates a 2 in program cost and a 1 in customer-list growth.
  12. Co-registration. Co-reg rates a 2 in program cost and a 2 in customer-list growth. Giving customers multiple opportunities to raise their hands may increase this ratio.
  13. Blogs. Blogging URLs for followers to click on rates a 1 in program cost and a 1 in customer-list growth. Blogging can feed into viral marketing as well.
  14. Landing pages. Website landing pages capture email addresses and other information, and score a 1 in program cost and a 1 in customer-list growth.
  15. Affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing scores a 1 in program cost and a 1 in customer-list growth.
  16. Webinars. Webinars score 2 in program cost and 1 in customer-list growth. Webinars can feed into viral marketing as well.
  17. Email client advertising. Using emails scores a 1 in program cost and a 3 in customer-list growth.
  18. Point of sale. These large display ads in brick-and-mortar sites score a 2 in program cost, and a 1 in customer-list growth.
  19. Third-party email. Using Groupon or other third-party affiliates will score you a 2 in program cost and a 1 in customer-list growth.
  20. Viral marketing. Getting the word out via satisfied customers scores a 1 in program cost, and a 1 in customer-list growth.

 

video buttonWhile mobile, SEO, PPC, Google AdSense, co-reg, blogs, affiliate marketing and viral marketing are all even—that is, they score the same in cost and in growth—and Twitter comes in ahead of all of them with a 1:2 score, the clear winner (at a ratio of 1:3) is email marketing. This confirms what other recent studies have been showing: that email marketing delivers consistently significant results in ROI and customer growth while keeping the cost of acquisition down.

It’s important to reiterate that success is driven at the customer-acquisition source level. Every acquisition platform and channel uses multiple discrete acquisition sources—each one of them a unique URL where consumers indicate their desire to become a prospect—and keeping the costs down while identifying the top-performing sources is how marketers use every platform and channel successfully to get the most out of their marketing budgets.

 

macro picture of old typewriters, retouching retro

Content Marketing for Getting New Customers

Antique TypewriterFor many people, the term “content marketing” is roughly equivalent to the term “blog.” Right? But it isn’t so: the reality is that blogs are a very small part of content marketing. In fact, content marketing refers to any digital communication: a well-written email is content, a video is content, a great landing page is content, and social media posts are content.

So what kind of content marketing will help you with customer acquisition? There are five pieces of content that can be particularly useful in promoting your brand and attracting followers, visitors, and prospects… and then turning them into customers.

Blog posts: Yes, of course, you probably could have guessed that we’d begin with blog posts, since they are indeed what first comes to mind when most people think content. What blog posts can become customer-acquisition tools? Posts that are helpful, useful, informative, posts that show your brand to be aware of what’s going on in their world and has prepared a thoughtful response to it, these are blog posts that people will read, think about, and eventually act upon.

Micro-content: Tweets, LinkedIn, and Facebook posts can’t go into the same detail that blog posts do, but they can point new audiences to your blog, your website, and other longer content that you have on offer. On their own, your micro-content can intrigue, engage, and interest potential customers.

retro typewriter with white paper page on wooden table. vintage style toned pictureWhite papers: Blogs and micro-content pieces are conversational in tone, easy to read, and generally pull prospects in. Once at your site, however, you have to deliver the goods—that is, some more serious and useful information. White papers written on the subjects that are important to your prospects and customers deliver in-depth information that clearly shows you as a thought leader.

Industry articles: Speaking of being perceived as a thought leader, writing articles that are placed in industry publications also indicates that prospects can trust your knowledge—and your generosity in sharing it for free. Make sure that your bio points them to a landing page where they can sign up for your email list.

Sales page: The the most important of all the content marketing that you do is your sales page: presenting exactly the right content after your prospect has read all your other content is what finally will make the sale.

Content marketing is as important for B2C marketers as it is for B2B marketing firms, and will lift your customer acquisition significantly when used as an integral part of your overall marketing strategy.

E-shopping

Bring Them Back by Christmas!

blog-image-11-18-13-002As we enter the final insane days of marketing, offering free overnight shipping, urging customers to come into our stores now, remember that you can still get those few elusive last customers through paying attention to who is leaving your website, when, and why.

Page abandonment occurs when a customer comes to a website, clicks on various pages or items, and leaves … without making a purchase. In the world of brick-and-mortar stores, this is called browsing.

In the online world, it’s called a lost opportunity.

While several technological solutions exist that address the issue of shopping-cart abandonment, there seems to be little attention paid to the greater loss (and bigger opportunity for marketers) occasioned by page abandonment prior to the prospect placing items in a shopping cart.

The reality is that many companies engage site visitors—once items have been placed in the shopping cart. They send emails to customers who abandon their carts, in an attempt to have the customers reconsider making the selected purchases. This is fine, but it doesn’t go far enough. It’s important to understand that only five percent of site visitors ever get as far as the shopping cart.

That can only mean one thing: that marketers are missing out on a potentially lucrative opportunity.

holidays-11-4-14-001The best solution is a series of triggered reengagement email cascades. As soon as the subscriber leaves the page, that action is communicated—in real time—to the marketer, who is ready with a series of targeted appropriate emails that reengage the visitor while the website page they just visited is still top-of-mind. The email cascade refers specifically to the page or pages visited, and encourages the subscriber to return and complete the purchase.

Page abandonment technology is a logical extension of a responsive, customer-centric email platform, and it provides a multitude of benefits:

  • 25% or more of the marketer’s total email revenue can come from these emails. At the same time, email volume is less than two percent of the total emails the marketer sends.
  • Activity rates are so high, with opens averaging well over 50%, that these emails actually improve a marketer’s reputation and inbox delivery.
  • Complaints and unsubscribes are lower than average, because the marketer is truly meeting customer needs with relevant responses to their actions rather than merely pushing segmented messages to them.

Triggered page abandonment emails change the basic paradigm of online marketing. They enable marketers to segment in real time, based on live customer data, saving tons of actual and resource costs associated with segmentation based on demographics. And to top it off, they get far better results.

In our experience, these emails outperform standard email campaigns by as much as 10 times—results are measured by revenue generated from online orders. For over 50 ecommerce, retail, and catalog brands using this technology, open rates consistently exceed 50%.

Bring them back. By making sure that they have a way of trapping the information about what customers do on their sites, and responding immediately to that activity, marketers can follow up on the live data they’re being given. And what’s even better is that the cost and effort required are minimal.

 

 

stop & think

Practicing Customer Acquisition: 3 of the Best

doctor's bag with stethoscopeMarketers are like doctors and lawyers: we’re always practicing! Sometimes we call it testing, yet we know the truth—it truly is the practice of marketing.

And because we are “practicing” marketing, I’m always surprised by how many marketers ignore best practices—that well-defined marketing roadmap that marries what is best for the target audience while meeting success metrics determined for a specific campaign. Why would anyone overlook the very things that drive the best results?

Online acquisition is a great case in point as to best practices that should never be ignored, but are rarely followed. Most people don’t realize that there are a few clear steps in the online acquisition process:

  • getting someone to raise their hand and show interest in your company (lead generation)
  • nurturing that lead to help people establish the beginning of a relationship (prospect qualification)
  • closing the deal by providing relevant content and offers that meets the prospect’s needs.

To successfully accomplish this—and get a positive ROI—is another matter entirely. There are three simple best practices that are straightforward and must be followed:

1) Best practice number one: Freewill opt-in

This is not only what consumers want, it’s also what you should want: to build your pipeline and customer base with consumers who are the right fit for your company. Whatever you do, you do not want to damage the reputation of your company by ignoring freewill opt-in.

deliver on your promises2) Best practice number two: Make-a-promise, keep-a-promise

From advertisement right through customer lifetime value, you need to promote a consistent message flow. Your first email should refer to the ad that caused the prospect to raise his or her hand and provide information consistent with the ad message. This should be standard email practice for your company.

3) Best practice number three: Use email to immediately respond to consumer actions (live data)

Actions taken by consumers show they are ready to do something, whether it’s to learn more about your products and services, make a purchase, or disassociate from your company. Responding in real time to these actions increases conversions and often brings people back in the fold who were ready to leave.

Making sure you have very tight, automated controls on these best practices will improve your overall performance many times over and eliminate the risk of having acquisition hurt your online reputation or decrease the percentage of your inbox delivery.

 

 

email envelopes

Acquisition Vendor—or Partner?

The end of the year is a good time to take stock of where your marketing has been this year, and where it’s going in 2015. And it’s a good time to ask yourself the difficult questions, questions such as: Is your current email vendor preventing you from growing your email list, and from acquiring new customers? 

Here are the symptoms.

colorful emarketing icon swirlIt’s possible that your current email vendor encourages you (actively or passively) to continue to email people on your list who no longer respond at a level that is ROI positive, or perhaps your vendor doesn’t even give you a way to know which of your subscribers are ROI positive. This keeps you from acquiring qualified prospects and new customers because:

  • You are wasting budget on non-responders, money that could be effectively used on new customer acquisition programs.
  • You are hurting your inbox delivery due to low activity, and losing money. New qualified prospects and customers are far more active than the low-responders on your current list and improve inbox delivery.

 

Another symptom is that your current vendor has no technology in place to help you nurture leads to qualified prospects outside of your current email domain and IPs. This means if you aggressively try to acquire new qualified prospects and customers, you are placing a high risk on your reputation and inbox delivery. In fact, the risk is big enough that you back off on acquisition and stunt the growth of your business.

What else? Perhaps you’re being told that list appends are a “no-no” when in fact list appends, done properly and following best practices, are one of the best ways to acquire new online customers and qualified opt-in prospects.

Or maybe your current email vendor does not enable to you trigger emails when your subscribers visit your Facebook page, or watch your YouTube videos, or read your blog or follow you on Twitter, or take any of a hundred other social interactions with your company. This is a huge problem because these are the very people who are most likely to help your company virally acquire new qualified prospects and customers

email on computer monitorAnd then you might notice your current vendor isn’t able to track all new prospects and customers from the source all the way through lifetime value, so you know exactly where you get the most bang for your buck when it comes to new customer acquisition.

If any of these are true, then your current vendor is not your acquisition partner!

Your ESP should be your acquisition partner, helping you grow your opt-in subscriber list and customer data base aggressively, by having “best practices” technologies in place to assure you only add active prospects and new customers to your email database, and create no threat to your reputation or inbox delivery.

We know the future of your business depends on growing your most important asset, your email database, and we have built market leading technologies to make sure you can do just that, cost-effectively and without risk to your reputation. Why not give us a call and find out about CertainSource Acquire today?