Article | May 12, 2021
It has been over a year since retailers were forced to temporarily shut their doors or put in place restrictions to limit the in-store experience. Now, as we return to some semblance of normality, it’s essential that trust and brand value are retained for those operating a digital-only presence.
In this article, Nate Burke, CEO at Diginius, discusses how brands have effectively kept customers engaged, consequently building trust and brand value in the process, and what techniques to use while navigating the next steps of the pandemic.
As I write this, physical retail and outdoor hospitality are feeling a little more rejuvenated after welcoming customers back. My inbox and notification centre are full of alerts from brands offering high street discounts and incentives for scanning an app in-store. This is a prime example of how fast and timely brands need to be in order to capture their customers’ attention when trends and circumstances change.
It’s also a great example of how essential communication and marketing techniques are in building trust and creating brand value. While I might not be one to rush back to high street stores so soon, I do feel reassured and excited by these messages. And nothing could be more important at a time like this.
It’s a reminder that these shops are still there and are prepared to welcome customers back in. After all, if they’ve had time to plan and create a whole marketing campaign around the event, I can only hope their efforts towards a safe reopening have been given just as much thought and attention.
Digital tactics like those mentioned above have only ramped up during the course of the pandemic, where remote communication and at-distance offerings have been the only touch points between brands and consumers. And of course, this hasn’t been without challenge.
It’s human nature for us to trust and find greater value in something we can see for ourselves in person. Traditionally, brands have been able to create this through in-store experiences where customers know they can see products and services in action and are able to interact with staff and experts should there be any concerns. While digital channels do offer their own set of benefits, meeting these innate human needs is not one of them.
So, in a bid to retain consumer trust amid the uncertainty of forced closures, measures and constantly changing restrictions, we’ve seen a number of effective strategies from brands. Regular push notifications and email communications just scratch the surface. These tactics are a great way to generate instant response, whether it’s a brand reminder, an update on important changes or simply an alert of a new deal in an attempt to drive website traffic.
By now, it’s a known fact that personalised messages generate better results. And these forms of digital communication can certainly be personalised with little effort on the brand’s part. Whether it's a mass email with a tailored first name field, or an app alert that is sent as a restriction lifts - both feel personal and as though they have been sent by a real individual who knows who you are and understands the context of a situation.
But today’s customers need and expect more. These tactics have been used for years, and the sensitivity of the pandemic has called for a more human approach in terms of marketing and customer service. And that’s exactly what many successful brands have been doing.
While driving traffic to a website is important, it’s the service on offer once a customer lands on a page that makes the difference when it comes to building trust and brand value, and ultimately, converting. It’s all about translating the human in-store experience online.
For example, we’ve seen greater focus and uptake in live chat features on websites, with this now being an expected function for over half of consumers. Through such features, customers expect to be able to talk to a real person on the side of the screen who is able to understand their queries and responsively provide a solution.
Companies such as Currys PC World have taken this one step further, and now offer a ‘Shop Live’ feature that enables customers to video call a real sales representative who can help them with their purchase. In this way, brands are able to bridge the gap between themselves and their consumers, even in a time of social distancing. And as a result, are able to retain trust, while also adding value to their brand through the out of the box and supportive offering.
Other tactics have included offering incentives that encourage repeat purchases. For example, many online retailers offer unlimited next day delivery subscription services, whereby a one off higher yearly fee provides access to a year's worth of free delivery. With the delay between placing an order and it then arriving, as well as delivery fees being some of the biggest deterring factors from online purchases, the incentive has been incredibly effective in increasing loyalty. That feeling of the brand also offering you a better deal is also a great way to build trust, so even though a brand might be increasing the cost it incurs for delivery, the value of a repeating customer and their advocacy hold much more weight.
In this sense, it’s all about how a brand and its offerings are perceived by customers. And another sure fire way of improving brand perceptions is through PPC tactics. Anyone operating in ecommerce knows how competitive the market is. Ensuring your brand is seen above competitors is key in driving awareness and trust, as ultimately, a higher ranking and greater visibility reflect positively on a brand’s trustworthiness.
Clearly, there are a number of ways in which businesses can adapt and improve their offerings in order to encourage trust and add value. Of course, implementing all of these changes will be wasteful for budgets and not necessarily effective for every brand. Therefore, it’s important that you understand your market and customers, which can prove a challenge as things continue to constantly change as they have been.
But a solution may not be too hard to find. Insight software has advanced just as fast as these markets and customer behaviours. Therefore, with the right tools on your side, you can monitor shifts in the market in real time and adjust your offerings in response.
For example, if data shows you receive more website traffic at certain times, it may be an option to increase the number of customer service staff operating the live chat function during those periods in order to minimise waiting times and improve customer experience.
These tools can also help you decide which channels to focus PPC efforts on depending on those your customers visit most often. Using this data, you can then allocate budget accordingly, ensuring wasted spend is minimised while results are maximised. For example, during the pandemic, the figures were showing a greater uptake in use of marketplaces such as Amazon, as well as social commerce channels, including Instagram. If businesses understood this in real time, aided by collaborative commerce software such as VTEX, they may have been able to optimise their performance by increasing their PPC activity and consequently, visibility and status on such platforms.
Ultimately, commerce is facing a period of significant uncertainty that is having an effect on both customers and businesses alike. Regardless of whether stores are open or closed, customer behaviours and needs are constantly changing to keep up. And brands need to understand that how they communicate their messages and offerings is vital in retaining trust and brand value.
It’s evident that a humanistic approach is prevailing, as that is one thing that will never change. But as digital channels take centre stage, it all comes down to how a brand is able to translate its personable approach online. While there are a number of innovative methods brands are using to appear more human on online channels, using the tools and data available is key to ensuring activities help rather than hinder a business.
And in this way, not only will brands be able to retain trust and brand value, but they will be building on it too.
Article | March 24, 2021
Unfortunately, a website is no longer enough for a significant or successful digital presence. Essentially, a presence is non-existent without some consideration of search engine optimisation (SEO).
But this too has become one of the basics of ‘going digital’ – a must, rather than a ‘nice to have’. Which begs the question – has the playing field been levelled? And if so, how can your business possibly get ahead when it seems everyone is in on the so-called secret for success?
Well, Nate Burke, CEO of Diginius, a digital marketing and ecommerce specialist firm, explains the SEO sweet spots that remain unexplored, or at least under-utilised, in order to help businesses really get the most from their digital activity.
It goes without saying that the online marketplace is saturated, and is only going to become ever more so as an increasing number of businesses undergo digital transformation. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent impact on physical business practices, this transition has been accelerated much faster than anticipated.
Consequently, there hasn’t been a gradual switch where businesses have been allowed time to learn and adjust to the new and unfamiliar ways of conducting sales and interactions. Instead, many have found themselves thrust into a marketplace that already feels exhausted. Everyone seems to be doing the same thing and any guides or ‘how tos’ they may have read, are fast becoming outdated and no longer provide a way to get an edge on the competition.
But digital is here to stay, right? We can’t possibly have exhausted its possibilities yet. And we haven’t. Fortunately, this is one of the many benefits of the digital landscape – it is constantly evolving as new advancements and innovations are developed.
In terms of SEO, it once really was an activity that not many were focusing on and for the few that were, there was great success to be found. However, we have long passed such a time and SEO elements form the foundations of just about every professional website development project. Therefore, it can be incredibly difficult to get ahead of competitors with such tactics.
However, it should be noted that although you might not be able to use basic URL mapping, page speed optimisation and content structuring techniques, for example, to gain an edge, you can quite quickly find yourself falling behind if such foundations are skipped.
And this ties in quite nicely with one of the first and most important ways to continue seeing SEO success. Remembering that the digital landscape is forever evolving, one should commit time and resource to ensuring these foundations remain relevant, updated and able to support any additions or developments to the website.
When these elements have been built into the early stages of the website development, it can be easy to forget about them. But as core parts of the platform, it is not difficult to see why it is so essential that they remain functional and effective over time.
Think Bing and beyond
Another trap that many businesses can find themselves falling into is believing all effort and focus must be placed on Google. While Google does hold significant market share and influence in search engine optimisation trends, it is by no means the only platform that exists.
In fact, Bing holds more than 10% market share in the UK, and this is steadily increasing month by month. Therefore, consideration should also be given to how online presence can be optimised for the Microsoft owned platform too.
And when you begin to monitor your performance on the search engine, you may even find you are yielding better results, including greater impressions and consequently click through rates, and higher rankings due to less competition.
Similarly, YouTube and Amazon are rising in popularity and prominence when it comes to consumers searching for products and services. And what may come as a surprise to some, Amazon has actually overtaken Google as the first point of call when searching for a product to purchase.
In many ways the marketplace offers consumers with a greater intent to purchase, thanks to convenience, choice and better usability in terms of completing a transaction. They no longer have to scroll through pages and pages of text to then click through to various websites in order to get information regarding price, features and availability, as Amazon offers it all in a single view.
Therefore, businesses utilising the marketplace should place greater focus on optimising their product listings in order for them show higher in results pages. Just like SEO for Google, Amazon has its own best practices that leverage its ranking algorithm. These include elements such as product titles, brand or seller names, bullet point features, images, reviews, and so on.
While Amazon is great for high intent transactions, optimising YouTube content is a vital way to ensure you are capturing those customers still in the research or discovery phases too.
Similarly for YouTube, businesses should look to ensure video titles and descriptions are targeting the right keywords and phrases. And as the platform now transcribes content, it is also crucial that these keywords are mentioned in the video. But most importantly, content needs to be engaging.
Again, there are a number of best practices for each of these platforms, but essentially, what’s key here is that you remember to focus on them as well as any efforts on Google, as this will help you establish a strong overall online presence.
No matter the platforms you are choosing to optimise your performance on, it will always require a long-term commitment. And although the commitment will pay off in time, businesses looking for shorter term results should consider using PPC tactics to supplement their SEO efforts.
The two activities can run hand in hand. If equal amount of focus and attention is given to both, there is opportunity for one to help the other, too. For instance, if your ads are ranking well and raising awareness of your brand and traffic to your website, there is then a greater chance for this is impact people’s organic perceptions and recollection of your company. They may even search for your product or service by name, or look for your listing in organic results, which could certainly help improve a search engine’s interpretation of your authority and relevance – both of which are key factors for SEO.
Similarly, there really is no harm in taking up additional space on a search engine results page, which is only possible through a ranking ad and organic listing.
And while it might seem running both activities will create extra workload and strain on your resources, there are ways to minimise the burden. For example, keyword research can be conducted and applied to both initially, and then micromanaged using an integrated software solution in order to inform and streamline any areas for improvement.
Ultimately, there is still a lot to be discovered and implemented when it comes to optimising your online presence. There really is no one way to go about it, either. Businesses need to look at what is and isn’t working for them and those they are competing against, and identify the untapped opportunities that will help them get ahead. SEO isn’t a game of following suit, and that is the real secret.
Article | October 16, 2020
Q.1. As more platforms become available, generating traffic and leads seem to get harder instead of easier. What should marketers do differently to increase leads and traffic?
A.1. Testing, tracking responses, and evaluating all lead generation methods is the best way to reduce your cost per sale. The increasing options for traffic and lead generation can do nothing but increase your opportunities for improving your effectiveness.
A marketers’ preference for using one tactic over another by eliminating the channels or not considering all available methods reduces your chances for making the most of your marketing spend. By deciding not to use email, direct mail, phone support, Google ads, social media, or any combination of these methods reduces your company’s effectiveness.
Above all, become channel agnostic. Even if it didn’t work before, continue to modify and test all channels during the height of your selling season. Do not prejudge any technique just because you and your team may be unfamiliar with it.
Channel and market fragmentation continue to challenge all marketers. This particularly aggravates the marketer’s ability to find a reliable attribution model by channel. That’s why the evaluation process has evolved to include campaign spend rather than channel spend.
Q. 2. For many businesses across various industries, there’s just not much room in the budget, and marketing is not a major priority. From your experience, what should marketers do to justify marketing spend, and where should they spend more money on?
A.2. Budget allocation has always been a challenge for marketers. Nothing new there.
Most companies budget according to the overall budget’s percentage increase. If a company spent $10,000,000 on advertising, then they might add 3% or $300,000 to the new year’s budget. There is often little to no correlation to the budget and net revenue growth plans. The whole thing becomes more of a political exercise than real financial planning.
In my opinion, marketing budgets should include all marketing activities. This includes
- inbound telemarketing
- sales, and
- customer support.
All such areas should integrate and become almost invisible to the customer.
All company marketing activities speak with one voice and exist to serve the company’s customer for maximum return on investment.
If this is done, then the company must determine an allowable marketing cost for each new customer, and possibly an allowable new customer acquisition cost by channel.
For example, if a company wants to add 10,000 new customers, and the allowable marketing cost per customer is $250, then the marketing budget becomes 10,000 X $250 = $2,500,000.
A similar approach should be applied to customer retention. Eventually, customer retention and growth are merged into a single budget.
This is all an oversimplification, but it shows the potential for taking the guesswork out of marketing budgets. Some client companies have used this approach for the last 40 years. I think this approach to budgeting leveraging today’s sophisticated big data should be used to reduce the politics and emotions driving budget decisions.
Q. 3. How effective are digital marketing campaigns in these times? Should marketers complement their digital strategy with SEO and social media?
A.3. Marketers should increase their budgets based on testing. Yet, evaluation relies on accurate sales attribution.
Social media, SEO, and mass general advertising, all require a long-term view when compared to direct response strategies using both digital and traditional advertising. Direct response is easily tested and evaluated in all channels. Social media, on the other hand, works like general advertising to support site visits, and leads from other marketing activities.
SEO is directly attributable to sales if the site is an ecommerce site. For other company websites, SEO is usually seen as necessary to support all other marketing activities similar to inbound sales support, customer support, and retail outlets.
Just like social media and general advertising, SEO budgets are not directly attributable to sales. Yet marketers know SEO drives considerable sales volume. SEO is not as easily evaluated as an ecommerce site, direct response mail, print, and broadcast. Yet SEO has become more important as overall web volumes increase the competition for customer views.
General advertising and social media do not work in a vacuum and should be supported with direct marketing strategies.
I think general advertising and social media should blend in with the overall marketing budgets and prove their worth by improving overall marketing performance.
Q. 4. What kind of content do modern consumers seek? Is there an ideal content mix you would suggest in terms of videos, infographics, and articles?
A.4. The content for all channels require what they have always required. The writer must answer these basic questions in clear and emotionally persuasive language (as appropriate).
1. What customer problem the product or service solves?
2. What are the customer benefits (not just features) from buying the product?
3. How is this product superior to competitors?
4. Prove that the benefits are real through customer testimonials and objective external evidence.
5. Make an offer as required to generate a sale or inquiry.
6. Use photos rather than drawings to support the product, or customers using the product.
7. Make minimal use of reverse type and only with short headlines.
8. Avoid small type and fancy font styles that are hard to read.
As for the mix, videos are hot right now. I think bloggers and social media should continue to test the length and impact of video, audio, and pure text.
Q. 5. How important is blogging in generating revenue for a company?
A.5. Blogging definitely builds website traffic if the content contains interesting information for the targeted market. As words continue to grow on the Internet the relevance is on the decline. This applies to many blogs.
Not everyone can write compelling copy or has sufficient subject matter knowledge to keep things interesting for the long term on a blog.
Blogs require a lot of time and consistency. Successful blogs may require more energy and company consistency than small companies can sustain.
I think that relevant blogs are almost impossible to assign to external bloggers without considerable customer input. The more complex the service, the more difficult it is to outsource successfully.
It always helps if the writer knows the subject intimately. Otherwise, the reader doesn’t gain much from reading the post.
Another challenge is the proliferation of posts, podcasts, videos, computer games, and the whole environment that competes with blogs for attention.
I question the long-term viability of blogs’ ability to warrant the writer’s efforts. But I continue the effort knowing that consultants generally get good response to their writings.
Q.6. What are the trends influencing the direct marketing industry?
A.6. I don’t really view direct marketing as an industry. Just like positioning advertising and public relations, direct marketing is a strategy. Direct response/direct marketing have always used all available channels well beyond direct mail. There is direct response TV, direct response radio, outbound telemarketing, ecommerce, mail order catalogs, direct mail fundraising, and direct response email. In fact, the Internet as a whole is probably 95% direct response driven.
The direct marketing strategy budgets have easily overtaken general or awareness advertising spending.
The trends that made this a reality is that companies are demanding accountability from their advertising dollars. This puts downward pressure on marketing activities that cannot be tracked such as general advertising and social media. In fact, sales for these strategies may never be attributable. The same applies to SEO even though the reality is that all of these activities are essential.
Marketers must discover more accurate ways to attribute actual sales by strategy, if not by channel. Showing accurate sales accountability for marketing activities has become essential in today’s highly competitive environment.
Q.7. What factors are used to test and optimize email marketing campaigns?
A.7.The greatest response predictors for email are the same as they are for direct mail. Here they are listed by priority.
1. The list source
2. The product’s ability to solve the customer’s problem
3. The offer
4. The creative execution such as benefit copy, promise support, format, and design
5. Ongoing testing of all of these elements singly, or in combination as A/B/C… splits
Once these basics are understood, implemented and tested, then the marketer is well into email optimization.
Beyond this, optimize email campaigns by overlaying support channels such as landing pages, outbound telemarketing to existing/high value customers, print, and direct mail.
Article | July 10, 2020
Position Demandbase as the leader in Account-based Marketing (ABM). The April Six team ultimately completed a redesign of the brand, a lead-gen campaign, corresponding content drivers, and an event-activation program aimed at convincing B2B decision-makers to “Demand more.”