Do You Know How Your Customers Shop?

Let’s face it, you don’t always buy a product the first time you hear about it or look at it. Usually you go through several different buying stages. Most commonly those stages are awareness, consideration, and decision. Consider for a moment if you just decided you wanted to buy a car, you wouldn’t go to the first lot you see and buy the first car that catches your eye (unless you were a billionaire, which hats off to you if you are.) Realistically, you would research and become aware of the different types of vehicles, such as SUVs, coupes, trucks, etc. Afterwards, you would narrow down a few options and consider only those. Finally, you’d go to the best lot and buy the car you decided on. It’s all about process, but unfortunately so many sales and marketing teams don’t incorporate a process. Most sales teams want to go for the jugular right off the bat, which hardly ever works. I’m here to help you teach your sales team the proper way to classify and market to your potential customers by automated marketing.

Are You Failing at Sales?

The whole objective is guiding people through the sales funnel and ultimately deciding to do business with you. However, most sales and marketing teams make 3 huge mistakes.

  1. They lack proper and engaging content to last the entirety of the sales cycle.
  2. They repeatedly use the same content for each step of the sales process.
  3. They send emails one time and never follow through.

Most sales teams don’t always see they’re making those mistakes, but with automated or “drip” marketing they can make sure they send content at the right time and capitalize on every opportunity.

How Automated Lead Marketing Can Help You

It is common knowledge that nurtured leads increase sales, but it’s typically a long process and labor intensive. As mentioned above about buying a car, most buying processes are long and complex. Therefore, every piece of content should be tailored for the 3 buying stages of awareness, consideration, and decision.
Automated lead nurturing allows for detailed tracking of lead engagements with your content and site, and accurately placing your customers in the correct stage of the buying process. That means you can drip feed appropriate content at the right time and to the right people.

Key Points How Automated Lead Marketing Can Help:

Your sales team doesn’t put in efforts that could be best used elsewhere nor waste their time going over the benefits of your product or service. With automated drip marketing, your leads are already informed so you can use your efforts toward closing the sale.

  1. Automated lead marketing takes time, but if done well you can see significant sales growth.
  2. Create relevant content to support each buying stage and track your information along the way.
  3. Automated lead marketing can show where in the funnel your leads aren’t “biting,” and allows you to develop your content based on such.

Automated lead or drip marketing can do wonders for your business. Never again let your sales team make rookie mistakes and in turn, capitalize on your leads. I mean, who wouldn’t want to give their sales team resources to save money and time. As always, go get em’!

Social media has become a major player in the realm of online marketing. We can all agree on the advances of social media since the old days of MySpace.com in 2003. And now with 27% of total U.S. internet time spent on social networking sites (Source: Experian), businesses are expected to have a social presence online.

Social media is a way for customers to interact directly with the brands they love. It’s not enough to just have a presence, implementing a strategy to correctly reach and cultivate these communities on social media websites is a must. In many cases business owners are just too busy, which is completely understandable. This is where you and I come into play as the savvy “social media specialist” we are. Follow these simple steps below and you will be on your way to social media bliss. These are some steps I would take to manage a company’s social media accounts.

Communication Is Key

The first step is to communicate with the client to discover the purpose of creating their social media profiles. Every industry is different, therefore there is no one size fits all strategy. Nor, is there an official right or wrong way to manage a social media profile, so communication is key to stay on the same page with the client.

Here are a few questions I would ask a client before I set up their profiles:

What do I want to accomplish through social media? What Are Your Goals? Example: To drive sales or to supplement customer service

  • What is your target audience?
  • Will there be anyone else, beside myself, who will be managing your social media accounts?
  • What’s your social media policy on what can be said and by whom?
  • What are some important topics you would like to cover?
  • Who are some of the industry influencers?

These questions will give you better insight to create the correct content, to reach the correct audience.

Research and Planning

The next step is to do preliminary research on your client’s industry news and trends. You want to create content that is relevant to the industry now. This would be a good time to set up Google Alerts to alert you of any new or interesting trends Google indexed, related to your chosen topic.

*Note: It is also good to speak to your client about any discounts, sale promotions, or any other company related news their audience may want to hear.

Keyword research would also be beneficial to stay on topic when creating content for a social media post.

There are tons of tools to help you conduct keyword research. My favorite tools are a Raven Tools, Google Keyword Tool, and Spyfu.

Once you have a finalized, client-approved list of keywords it’s your choice of how you want to organize the list on a content calendar, which brings me to my next point.

Organize Your Content

The next step after the research is completed is to organize the information in a content calendar. Again, how you organize the information is completely up to you. I recommend using a keyword as a theme for each month. Once that is completed you can further brake down the monthly theme into weekly segments, where you cover different topics for that week.

For example:

For month one your theme is chocolate candy.

Week 1 can be the health benefits of chocolate.

Day 1 of Week 1 can be “ Top 5 reasons Chocolate Can Lead To A Healthier Lifestyle.”

Content Calendar Example:

A content calendar is an amazing way to organize and create actionable content. It’s also a way to keep you and the client on the same page.

Again, there are tons of tools to manage social media profiles. Currently, an industry favorite is Houtsuite. Houtsuite is relatively inexpensive and offers ways to manage and schedule content on multiple profiles simultaneously.

Conduct A Reputation Audit

After research and planning is complete and you feel confident that you can effectively manage your clients social media profiles, its time to see what others are already saying about your client’s brand. 25% of consumers who complain about products on Facebook or Twitter expect a response within 1 hour (Source: American Express). Social media is an amazing tool to connect with your customer base, acknowledge them by responding to their concerns.

You should conduct a reputation audit. There may be various ex-employees, demanding clients, or even competitors that may have written bad reviews or complaints. These complaints, no matter how ridiculous, needs to be addressed. By conducting a search on Ripoffreport.com and other similar websites, you can start to get a handle on what’s being said.

You can also do a simple search in Google by typing the brand name and adding “scam” or “reviews”.

Monitor, Promote, Report

Once your audit is complete and all of your marketing ideas are organized into actionable items, the next step is monitor you’re content on the profiles, promote and report your successes . Once again, there are a plethora of tools available to monitor your audience and create custom reports. Followerwonk is amazing for monitoring a Twitter account. I use the reporting and monitoring features on Raventools, but you should find the one that fits best for your budget and your clients needs.

Marketing on social media is about brand exposure, acquiring new customers, and cultivating your client’s online communities. Social media produces almost double the marketing leads of trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail, or PPC. (Source: HubSpot) So, correctly managing a brand’s image is vital for any business. Remember to stay organized and respond to customer inquires because this is a two way conversation.

I welcome any ideas to do my job better, what are some ways you monitor your client’s social media accounts?

So, you want to start an online business? It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling lava lamps, tuba lessons, or web design services: you need a plan of attack. It’s easier than ever to toss up a website and set up shop—which means that for every bona fide brand out there, there’s an impostor who’s all talk and no follow-through.

Here’s how you can make your business stand out:

1. Do your research. Chances are there’s already a business out there similar to yours. Size up the competition, and see if there’s something unique you can offer. Learn what problems people are having with related products and services. Then, build your business to meet a real consumer need.

2. Define your products or services in detail. An awesome business idea is no good if no one understands what you’re selling. That’s why you need to write unique, compelling descriptions that speak to visitors’ needs. Check out Copyblogger for tips on writing must-read sales copy.

3. Create a plan for online sales. There are different factors to consider in building an online shop vs. a physical storefront. For example, how will you manage leads, sales, and fulfillment? How will you follow up with buyers post-sale? How will you handle unhappy customers?

You can always modify protocol over time, of course—but planning for problems will save stress as your business grows.

4. Build an awesome website focused on your customers’ needs. Create informative, entertaining content (including text, photos, and video) that shows visitors how your product will improve their lives. Explain services clearly, and offer a call to action to convert visitor traffic into sales.

Create an easy way for customers to reach you, like a contact form. You can use a ticketing system to organize and answer questions, or a CRM to manage communications across your business.

5. Decide how you’ll find your customers. Selling online is a combination of getting your name in the right places (through SEO, pay-per-click marketing, and social media) and in front of the right people (through thought leadership and email marketing to existing clients). Figure out what channels are best for your business, and put yourself out there.

Don’t know where to start? Try out different strategies, measure your results, and see what works.

6. Grow—and maintain—your reputation. Show potential clients that you’re the real thing. Maintain a regular blog and try guest posting on industry-relevant sites. Build a social media presence. Sign up for programs like Yelp and Google+ to enhance credibility.

7. Whatever you do, don’t set it and forget it. Building an online business takes time and effort. And these days, it also requires significant upkeep. Continually improving your business isn’t just good for SEO—it also forces you to keep up with changes in the marketplace. And it shows your clients that you care.

Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to a budding online business. Now, all you have to do is sell.

Need help getting your business off the ground? Atomic can help you build a web presence that rocks.

 

As Atomic’s business developer, I’m often the first guy clients talk about revamping their websites. You might think we start by brainstorming cool design ideas and interactive features. Our conversations are actually a lot more straightforward than that, though—but that doesn’t mean they’re not important.

Creating a new website is a little reading like a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

Remember those? You start with a mission. And every few pages, you make a choice that decides where the story takes you next. Before you know it, you’re fighting off mutant spider ants, space vampires, and killer slime. Make one wrong move and you’re in for a sure death. But play your cards right and you’ll live to tell an unbelievable tale (unless you get turned into a grasshopper, that is).

While CYOA missteps end with you getting eaten alive by sand dragons or abandoned in outer space, bad calls in web design can lead your site’s visitors to pretty bleak fates, too: unsure where to look for information, and lost in an abyss of subpages and links.

I’ll go ahead and spoil that story’s ending: After one failed mission, they probably won’t return.

Okay, maybe designing a new website isn’t quite a real-life version of Prisoner of the Ant People. But the choices you make at the beginning of the redesign process really do affect your end product—and whether user experience efforts fail or succeed. So I try to go over a few key questions with clients before we get rolling. Think of me as the narrator of your web design adventure. The choices you make are up to you.

These questions will help decide your site’s fate:

• What do you want your new site to do? Sell a product? Inform users about services?

Have people fill out a contact form? Decide your site’s main goals from the get-go, and you’ll be off to a good start.

• Who are your users? A review of your current site’s analytics will help you make some important decisions about your redesign. Are most of your users browsing on mobile devices? If so, build a responsive site. What terms are people using to find your business? Use those keywords in your copy. Understanding your audience’s needs will help you give them the best experience possible.

• How will you market your site? If nobody knows your site’s out there, it doesn’t matter how much great, user-friendly content you’ve got. You might as well await the lethal sting of a giant scorpion. Do you want to issue a digital press release or make use of other SEM strategies? How will you continue to promote your site once it’s live? We’ll plan your site with your chosen techniques in mind.

• Who will maintain your site internally? Launching your site doesn’t mean the mission’s over—far from it. Designate someone who can upload blog content, news releases, and updated company information regularly. Otherwise, you risk misinformation and broken-link black holes. Content management systems like WordPress are easy even if you don’t know code, but may require a little training at first.

A good user experience means more clicks, leads, and business for our clients. That’s why we ask customers these questions before getting started on a big project—and again during research and planning phases. The answers clients give help guide the layout, design, and information architecture of every website we create.

And when you consider that the alternatives include getting turned into bacon or becoming collateral damage in an interplanetary war, we think that’s a pretty important job.

If this doesn’t make you want to dust of your old CYOA books, I don’t know what will. (All plot references are real, by the way.) And if you want to avoid endings like these, talk to Atomic. We’ll help you guarantee mission success.

 

Last weekend, I was looking for a video game to buy as a gift. I used my smartphone to open up the GameFly app. (For you non-gamers, GameFly is the biggest video game rental service around—they offer around 30,000 games for PC, consoles, and mobile.)

I didn’t find a game to order. Not because there weren’t enough to choose from. I just couldn’t get past the way GameFly was using social media within its app.

It appears that any message posted by a GameFly member (an account can be linked to Facebook or Twitter, or created in-app) is immediately published to one of the app’s front pages. At first, this seems like a great idea: helpful reviews from real-live players! Seamless user interaction! Mad excitement-building for new product releases!

And GameFly’s not alone in adding this feature. Application programming interfaces, or APIs, make it easy for apps to pull tweets, likes, and posts from other programs into their own.

But here’s the problem. There’s zero filtering of vulgar, profane, hateful comments. And trust me, there’s plenty of potty-mouthed posting going on. That means when my 7-year-old daughter opens the app and looks for an age-appropriate title, she’s assaulted with this garbage. And short of deleting the app altogether, there’s not a thing I can do about it.

For me, this was a really negative experience. But it got me thinking. As more and more companies integrate user feedback into their digital marketing strategies, brands need to be aware of what exactly their fans, followers, or users are posting—and where their words are showing up.

That’s not to say you should delete or edit user comments. (As Applebee’s recently learned, moves like these can backfire, and may make you appear untrustworthy.) But you also don’t have to give nasty commenters the spotlight. In GameFly’s case, “mature”-rated games (and their associated commentary) could be sorted into a separate menu. And smart programmers could add “safe-word” filters to weed out bad language.

I’m all for a collaborative user experience. But not when that experience is hurtful to others. Above all, companies should ensure that they’re the ones in control of their content—on social pages, apps, and everywhere else. When a 7-year old has easy access to content that would shock a 70-year-old sailor, something needs to change.

At Atomic, we want to build a great user experience—for everyone who uses our apps. We can help you create content filters and choose features that will best highlight your brand. Contact us to find out how.

At Atomic, we want to help you spread the word about your brand. We do that through awesome-looking websites and killer social media strategy. But we also do it the old-fashioned way: by creating and distributing press releases.

Press releases are a great way to build brand awareness. They’re perfect for letting people know about a cool new website or upcoming product launch. Their format has changed plenty since the snail mail days: now, press releases are media-rich, and built with sharing in mind. (Today’s press release isn’t complete without a custom hashtag, a tweet-worthy title, high-quality images and video, and links to social sites.)

We write and distribute content to press release companies, who then share info with relevant news outlets. News can get picked up by anyone from bloggers to traditional journalists in print or broadcast media. But like every other corner of the content world, there are plenty of people out there trying to game the system, manipulating distribution services to boost exposure.

News wires are starting to fight back, which is good news for the rest of us. Until then, we tell our clients this: focus on content. If it’s unique, creative, and informative, the links will come. Here are some of our other musts for creating a quality release:

• Present a legitimate news angle. If it’s not new or timely, journalists won’t be interested. Ditto releases that copy previously submitted content.

• Give proper attribution. Correctly name key players (don’t forget to check spelling!), and clearly describe who did what.

• Use an objective tone. Save casual, first-person language for blogging—it doesn’t belong in a news release.

• Be free of ‘salesy’ language. You know what I’m talking about: “Are YOU looking for ways to make money online??” “Buy now!!!” Don’t do it.

• Not contain excessive links. Direct readers to your content—not all over the Web.

• Be at least 250 words. The more detail and depth you offer, the better writers can describe your brand—and the greater your chances of getting picked up.

In a world of oversharing and SEO, you might think that press releases don’t matter much. But it’s actually the opposite: successful press releases lead to instant web traffic. They also raise trust in your brand—among journalists, customers, and Google alike.

Need help creating a headline-grabbing digital press release? Contact Atomic, and we’ll help you out.

 

Business is changing fast. But as technologies come and go, these principles withstand the proverbial test of time: Marketing is about connecting consumers with messages. Find your consumers where it’s convenient for them, and make your message heard.

If you’re still wondering what social media has to do with your business, think for a minute about where you’d start if you were looking for a new TV and needed to compare prices. Or wanted to see what an old college friend was up to. Or were hungry for some Thai food, and were looking for good restaurants nearby. Still wondering?

I didn’t think so.

Create your plan of action

Once you’re on board with social media, the most important thing is to decide—in advance—what exactly you want your social media efforts to do for you. Do you want to provide better customer service? Sell more products? Increase brand awareness? Decide what the goal is, and strategy will follow.

Make your presence known on the social media platforms best suited to your product. If you’re targeting career-minded professionals, be sure your LinkedIn profile is top-notch; if mommy bloggers are your market, try daily posts on a well-maintained Facebook page.

Above all, make sure branding is consistent across platforms, down to the font and images you use. Customers want to feel reassured they’re getting a high-quality, dependable product—no matter where they go looking for it.

Don’t forget to designate a person within your company to take charge of social media efforts—and make sure it’s someone who really gets social media, and who enjoys it (or risk tweets of “I hate my job” going out to your followers).

Track your progress

Once you’ve got a campaign going, take a step back to assess your work. In Web 3.0, success is measured in fans, followers, shares, and clicks, so make sure you’re keeping up.

Advanced analytics tools (I recommend Google Analytics) can tell you how many people viewed your Facebook profile, how many of those viewers followed a link to your home page, and how many of them went on to buy something from your site. A little Big Brother-ish? Maybe. But for companies trying to understand what makes their customers tick, it’s seriously cool.

Assess and adapt

So you’ve launched your campaign, upped your likes, and tallied some results—what’s next?

If you’re reaching your goals, well, by all means keep doing what you’re doing. Maybe reallocate some of your budget toward further social media awesomeness.

On the other hand, if you’re not getting the results you expected, it’s time to reevaluate. Figure out where your strategy is lacking, and adjust accordingly. Maybe your message isn’t consistent from platform to platform. Maybe you’re not reaching the audience you want. Maybe you need to try a different site altogether (are you on Pinterest yet?).

If you’re not sure where you’re going wrong, try A/B testing—test one campaign against another. See which one engages the audience better. Stick with what works, and ditch what doesn’t.

But whatever you do, don’t let fear stop you from breaking into the social media webosphere.

By not giving your customers an easy way to find you (and, in turn, doing some analytic sleuthing to learn about them), you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. And if you’re not getting your message out there, you can bet your competitors are.

Ready to jump on the social media bandwagon? Contact Atomic for help launching a killer social media plan of action.

Optimizing your website for search is a critical way of bringing visitors to your site. And you do that, in part, by matching the keywords in your site with the words that users type into their search engines. Sounds straightforward enough.

But finding just the right keywords? That’s another matter.

Tools like Google Adwords can be helpful in developing an initial list of targeted keywords and phrases. But there’s no way to predict exactly what phrases web users are going to search to find your site. And it’s difficult to predict what phrases Google will associate with your site.

The answer? Google Analytics.

After your site has been initially optimized and is up and running, you can use Google Analytics to learn exactly what phrases were typed into search engines to find your site. By regularly checking what phrases are attracting visitors, you’ll get a better idea of what phrases should be dominant on your website, and which to target. Often, Google Analytics will turn up phrases that would never have occurred to you on your own.

Here’s an example.

Say you’re a beanbag importer and you’ve optimized a page on your site for “Beanbag Chairs. ” But when you check Google Analytics, you discover that “Children’s Furniture” is unexpectedly attracting lots of web users to your site.

Now you have real-world data on how real users are getting to your site. Here’s what you do in response.

  • Search. The first step is Googling “Children’s Furniture” and locating the first page of your website that appears on Google. You’ll want to make this page your landing page for “Children’s Furniture.”
  • Adjust. Once you’ve identified that page, you can adjust the page’s meta data, content, headlines, images, and image alt tags to increase number of times this new phrase appears.
  • Observe. Over time, these adjustments should improve the Google positioning of your site when “Children’s Furniture” is searched, thus increasing the number of visits to your site.
  • Repeat. Monthly or quarterly, you should repeat this process, discovering what new phrases are taking hold and bringing visitors to your site. And you would adjust your landing pages and content accordingly.

This process is time-consuming and can be tedious, but it’s a critical part of a complete SEO process. Doing it religiously is the only way to ensure that your site stays aligned with what real users are searching for online.

By now, many of you many have heard about J.C. Penney’s epic fail: their recent attempt to trick Google and claim search superiority on a number of phrases you wouldn’t normally associate with Penney’s — phrases like area rugs and skinny jeans.

The story goes like this. Over the course of several months, at the end of 2010 and moving into 2011, Penney’s started appearing at or near the top of searches for a variety of terms: everything from dresses to home décor. The trend was spotted by the New York Times, who asked online search expert Doug Pierce to investigate.

What Pierce uncovered was what’s called “black hat optimization”; in other words, cheating.

Essentially, J.C. Penny (and its search engine consulting firm, SearchDex) engaged in a massive effort to game Google’s search algorithms. Their method of choice? Creating thousands of links to JCPenney.com across hundreds of sites across the web. Most of the referring sites were little more than “link farms”—sites set up for the sole purpose of creating outbound links to other websites.

According to the Times:

“There are links to JCPenney.com’s dresses page on sites about diseases, cameras, cars, dogs, aluminum sheets, travel, snoring, diamond drills, bathroom tiles, hotel furniture, online games, commodities, fishing, Adobe Flash, glass shower doors, jokes and dentists — and the list goes on.

Some of these sites seem all but abandoned, except for the links… When you read the enormous list of sites … the landscape of the Internet acquires a whole new topography. It starts to seem like a city with a few familiar, well-kept buildings, surrounded by millions of hovels kept upright for no purpose other than the ads that are painted on their walls.”

After the Times revealed its information to Google in February, the search giant went all medieval. Within a span of 10 days, Penney’s average position for 59 search terms dropped from 1.3 to 52.

When we talked about this scam internally, here at Atomic, we were surprised that such a major retailer could make such a stupid mistake. Trying to game Google might get you some short-term increases in traffic, but you’re going to pay for it in the long run. You’ll pay with a loss of customer trust, and you’ll pay big time when Google drops the axe on your search results, as it did in this case.

Zach Hensler, our SEO guy, noted that one of Penney’s goofiest moves was loading links on sites with totally random subject matter—like putting links to dresses on websites about fishing. Google’s all about content and context—a disconnect like this raises a big red flag for them. Especially when they see it multiplied hundredfold on link farms across the internet.

The big lesson here? Be attuned to Google’s SEO approach, and for goodness sake, don’t try to outfox their engineers. Focus on your customers and what they need, and fill your site with that content. If you’re providing valuable material that people want to read and share, inbound links will come naturally. And your search will improve as a result, now and into the long term. Inbound links are valuable but they should come from quality sites of similar subject matter.

Want to learn more about the right way to improve your search results? Contact Atomic.

testimonials

Nearly across the board, we recommend that clients include customer testimonials on their websites.

Testimonials allow you to incorporate an objective perspective on your business as part of your marketing. They let you showcase how great your business is — without having to say it yourself.

Here are some other reasons why testimonials are so important, and some tips on using them successfully.

Don’t be a salesman.
Yes, you need to include compelling features and benefits on your site. That’s marketing 101. But Nielsen studies have shown that recommendations from people you know or opinions written by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising.

So readers will take your marketing copy into consideration when they’re making a buying decision. But they’re more likely to be convinced by product reviews and testimonials written by other consumers. That includes everything from reviews on Expedia and Amazon, to case studies that include customer comments,  to customer quotes in the sidebars of a B2B site.

Include  testimonials that resonate.
Another study, this one by Edelman, showed that people trust their peers as the best source of information about a company. And the individual they most trust as a company spokesman is “a person like me.”

So when you’re thinking about asking customers to write a testimonial, think first about the potential customers you want to reach. Which of your current customers are most like your target customers? Try to include testimonials from customers who your prospects are likely to see as people “just like them.” Those testimonials will be the most meaningful and have the most impact.

Include specific results.
Testimonials are at their most powerful when they include tangible details. Check out this testimonial, for example, from a website we built for Burton Pools: Our in-floor cleaning system …  is now the talk of the neighborhood because it is so efficient and keeps the pool looking so clean and inviting. Larry helped me draw the outline on the lawn and spent a lot of time developing what we had in mind to do, while staying within our budget. Grant, Robert, Josh, Terrell, and Mark worked harder in the heat of the summer than anyone I have ever seen. Jessie even got in the cold water to monitor the in-floor system without a complaint. I had wanted a pool all my life and this is truly a dream come true built by a “dream team.”

If you had to choose between a builder with that kind of specific testimonial on their site, versus one with no testimonial, which would you choose?

Be real.
If you’re going to the trouble to include testimonials on your site, make sure they’re from real people. Reading a glowing testimonial from “Susan T. in Florida” is meaningless—even if Susan actually exists. If you don’t have customers who are willing to stand behind their testimonials with a full name (and, even better, a company and title), you probably shouldn’t have testimonials on your site at all.

And one final caution. Don’t even think about asking your marketing staff to pen bogus testimonials or product reviews. One company who did this is now paying out $300,000 in penalties to the State of New York. If they weren’t sure customers trusted them beforehand … now they know.

Want to talk to Atomic about developing strong content for your website?