Article | June 9, 2020
Team communication is more important and more challenging than ever right now. The COVID-19 crisis has put more pressure on web teams to deliver as consumers rapidly change their shopping habits and increase their time spent online. Plus, the new reality of working virtually has created communication challenges for businesses, as well as exacerbating existing ones.
To overcome these difficulties and emerge as a stronger, more successful business, teams need to invest in fostering better collaboration. This means adopting a WebOps mentality, where teams work cross-functionally on web strategy and implementation. This organizational shift will help to improve productivity, drive results, and solve communication problems.
Article | June 9, 2020
As we enter 2021 with a fresh and positive mindset, we are also entering the New Year with a brand-new set of tactics to help reach new consumers by placing brands, products and services at the forefront of desired audiences.
When it comes to brand marketing, storytelling is pivotal when trying to create relationships with consumers. By utilising emotion and taking a humanistic approach in this, brands are able to provide consumers with reasons as to why they should buy into their products, without a pushy, non-emotive hard-sell.
And with that in mind, Matthew Hayes, Managing Director at brand agency Champions (UK) plc, explains why storytelling is a must-have tactic for the year ahead.
The art of storytelling
Now more than ever before, resonating with the audience on a personal level is key, and what better way to do that than through storytelling.
Marketing doesn’t always have to be about a direct sales pitch, but rather a connection and relationship that has been built up over time. And with that, comes brand loyalty and customer retention.
When done effectively, storytelling is truly an art within itself. Sales should equate to product education rather than direct instruction. And it is this, that makes people subconsciously realise their need or want for a product or service.
Storytelling takes the customer on an educational journey, allowing them to understand the brand, what it stands for, what the benefits are to them and why its products are good value for money. This then leads customers to build strong feelings of want and desire, rather than just need.
This is all part of creating a brand. Customers begin to feel something about it, which is want warrants a business or product the status of a brand. And it’s this emotional connection that differentiates you from being just a commodity seller based on price, and positions you as a recognisable ‘brand’ that people engage with on a deeper level.
And research demonstrates that messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable and effective than facts, which is why brand storytelling is a must-have tactic for 2021.
How to tell a story
Creating a compelling narrative requires a carefully devised long-term strategy. But, while this is an important element, what is perhaps the defining factor in commercial success is its ability to resonate with us, as humans.
Storytelling should be powerful and filled with emotion, in whatever capacity that may be. From laughter and happiness to sadness and grief, emotion can come in a plethora of varieties.
Emotion is what captures the consumer and when a story is both personable and relatable, it builds brand love and deepens the connection between the brand and the consumer.
Not only that, but emotion also impacts the purchasing decisions of consumers and without it, businesses are much less likely to make that all-important sale.
And if brands combine emotion with consumer needs, then they have the recipe for success.
With the rapid onset of digitisation across all industry sectors fuelled by the COVID-19 crisis, the way in which a brand tells their story is having to change in order to keep up with the times and meet the newfound needs of consumers and channels.
With the plethora of channels and shortening attention span of the consumers, video content is the best way to evoke emotion. Put simply, videos are more engaging and because of that, will continue to play an increasingly important role in the marketing mix throughout 2021.
They are easy to understand, digest and share and typically create a deeper connection between the brand and consumer, meaning that people will resonate with it much more.
Storytelling done right
No one is better at brand storytelling and investing in emotions than the world-famous Disney. From its theme parks and hotels to its films, merchandise and staff, the entire brand has been built from the ability to tell a story, and consistency of delivery.
For consumers to truly connect with a brand, they must implement consistency across their strategy, messaging and storytelling. And while there may be creativity in the way these messages are conveyed, the underlying messages and ethos must remain to be consistent.
The Disney experience plays a pivotal role in the brand’s story. It’s narrative and essence completely come to life when consumers interact with its offerings, taking on a role within the storyline. In doing so, deeper emotional bonds are created, bringing the brand to the forefront of both people’s minds and memories.
Similarly, gym-wear brand Sweaty Betty have also become well recognised thanks to its ability to tell a story. What began as a normal brand selling high-quality gym-wear that sat outside of the norm, became known worldwide for changing its narrative by becoming so much more than just a provider of gym-wear.
Sweaty Betty is not only a brand for women, created by women, but a brand that listens to its consumers. It’s messaging such as ‘respect your sweat’ and ‘empowering women through fitness and beyond’ is reflective of inclusivity, body positivity and raises awareness of diversity, using its brand, products and people to continue to tell that very story.
A must-have tactic for 2021
In order to keep up and remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds, brands need to focus their strategies on telling a story.
Storytelling is as old as mankind, dating back to cave paintings and the bible. And modern-day storytelling allows brands to use the full extent of multi-channel media, applying to all of the five senses. It allows the brand to educate, taking the consumer on an educational journey rather than advertising, which can only convey one message at a time.
It can build in sub plots, ethos, ethics and values, bringing the full personality of the brand as well as the people behind these brands to life, while also highlighting how these ‘personality traits’ mirror those of the consumer.
It is through this 'bonding' that the consumer can feel for the brand, rather than simply seeing or knowing about it. Feeling is a pivotal part of branding, and without it, the brand and its products, are just a commodity, based on nothing more than consumer needs and cost.
Brands are consumed based on a want or desire, with price being far less prevalent. Therefore, brands offer businesses far greater profit margins and a more loyal consumer base - the holy grail.
And when executed effectively, the story helps build brand love through evoking a deeper, more authentic connection with its consumers.
As a result, brand storytelling is priceless, and quite simply a must-have tactic for 2021 and beyond.
Article | June 9, 2020
Since Hubspot coined the term “inbound marketing,” every kind of business has been trying to get the coveted inbound lead. And why not? Inbound leads usually buy things more quickly, complain less about price, and renew more often.
As a freelancer, inbound leads are especially valuable. You don’t have a sales team and scaled up marketing efforts - it’s just you and your time. I know this firsthand, because I’ve had a nearly 100% inbound freelance business since day one. My business has been profitable since I started it and increased in revenue each year, all without needing to send cold pitches. In this blog post, I’m detailing the four factors that helped me build my inbound funnel, each one corresponding to a timeless law of freelancing from my book, The 50 Laws of Freelancing.
Step 1: Have a good enough one-liner
I’m a freelance writer for startups and venture capitalists. If you asked me what else I do, I’d tell you that I edit, do content strategy, occasionally work with big corporations and governments, and more. But my “one-liner” when I introduce myself is simply that I am a freelance writer for startups and venture capitalists.
This is the essence of the “good enough” one-liner.
When you introduce yourself, you want to make sure what you say meets two criteria:
1. It’s easy to understand.
2. It’s easy to repeat.
If you want to build an inbound funnel, criterion number two is the most important. If I started all of my introductions with everything I do, people would get confused and understand less. But more importantly, they would repeat it less - or repeat it incorrectly.
The point of a “good enough” one-liner is so that other people talk about you the way you want to be talked about. When you focus on making it easy to understand and easy to repeat, you give people the language you want them to use. This alone has generated lots of clients for me, who reach out and say they heard I did freelance writing, and wonder if I could help them.
Step 2: Try everything and stick with what you like
Freelancers often work remotely, and unfortunately that comes with many pitfalls, particularly around freelancer mental health. Obviously, selling more is a critical element of mental health - making money can not only address anxiety about money but also pay for resources and help if necessary.
The way that I tackle both the pitfalls of remote freelance work and selling more is to try everything but stick with what you like. You try everything because you never know what might work or what you might like. When you only stick with what you like, you’re more likely to engage on a genuine level and more likely to enjoy yourself. Win-win.
In my case, I’ve tried every social media platform I can find, gone to hundreds of events and conferences, and even did a cultural exchange vacation to France to help a family restore their old chateau. If the platforms or experiences didn’t give me clients directly, they provided stories that rounded me out as a human and freelancer, resulting in more sales.
Step 3: Ask for referrals the right way
Asking someone if they will refer business to you is asking for a favor. Even if you pay them a commission, you’re still asking for them to use mental energy to remember your sales pitch then leverage their social capital to send clients your way.
Instead, make them the hero.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Instead of asking for referrals, remind them of your easy to repeat one-liner and tell them that if they know anyone facing the challenges you solve, you’d be happy to help.
Step 2: When that person interacts with someone facing a challenge, they can bring you up as a solution to the problem.
Step 3: Introductions you get from that person will be way higher quality because now you’re presented as the solution to a problem, and the person who referred you is the hero who made the introduction. The third person gets their problem solved, you get an inbound client, and your friend gets more social capital for being a problem-solver.
Step 4: Build partnerships
If you are trying to increase your client base without direct sales, then partnerships are a huge way to go. In making them, though, you have to be clear on the value you provide both to the end user (your potential client) and to the partner. In short, you have to make your partner the hero so they open up their network to you.
Here’s an example of what I did: I was working with a venture capitalist on their content, then we talked about a partnership. We agreed on a few pieces of content that I would offer at a discount to any portfolio company that the VC had. In turn, the VC would market me as the solution to any portfolio company needing content.
It was a triple win:
Startups have limited time and resources, but need good content. The partnership meant discounted rates and a high quality writer.
VCs want to solve problems for their portfolio companies. The partnership meant they got an “exclusive” deal for their startups that no one else could get them.
I didn’t want to chase clients. The partnership meant a discounted rate, but I still profited because I didn’t have to invest any time selling those clients.
Remember: freelancing is a business
Too many people assume freelancing is this in-between zone. You’re not an employee, but you’re not a corporation either. The reality is that freelancing is firmly in business territory. That means you have additional administration to work through, but you also have the ability to leverage business frameworks to make you more successful - particularly around building inbound funnels.
Article | June 9, 2020
Despite the rise of video content, 8 in 10 digital marketers still have blogging as a strategy in their back pocket. The simple answer is that it works. For example, more than 5 in 10 marketers claim that they gained new traffic from blogging.
Here are some of the statistics about blogging you should know about:
More than 400 people read at least 20 billion blogs monthly
Readers comment on blogs 70 million times each month
The average blog has more than 1,000 words
Bloggers on average finish the blog in three hours and fifty-seven minutes
3 in 10 readers prefer a list post to a long narrative
Websites featuring blogs have more than 400% indexed pages
More than 7 in 10 users read and skim through blogs
But you need to understand one thing about blogging--it is challenging. For one, blogging is time-consuming, especially for a new business that needs to build its audience.
It is one thing to speak to a captured audience (your loyal customers), but it is quite another to use it as a tool to funnel traffic into your website. So, why do you need to include blogging in your content strategy for 2021? We list down the reasons for doing so.
Blogging is still the king of content -- More marketers are using video to reach out to their target audience, but the strategy has not replaced blogging on top of the totem pole. More than any other form, blogging can establish your authority as an expert in your field. As an added benefit, blogs are still the cheapest form of SEO, compared to video, infographics, and images. They are perfect for small businesses with limited budgets. You can outsource the assignment to professionals, and it will cost you between $20 and $250 per blog post. But you can drastically cut costs if you are doing it on your own. In comparison, professional videos will cost you upwards of $1,500.
Boost your rankings -- Last year was a surreal one as the pandemic upended the world. This year does not bode well for bringing things back to normal as the coronavirus continues to lay waste to economies. However, despite the pandemonium, you know what has remained consistent? Blogging continues to drive traffic to websites at exponential rates. Some businesses may take a more conservative tack in terms of marketing spend. But you do not have to erase your previous gains by abandoning your strategy altogether. Blogging is the perfect way to reach out to your audience and assure them that you are still fighting along with them. You also rank higher when you manage to position your website as the primary authority in answering the user’s relevant queries. Another way to boost your rankings is if other websites link to your blog post as a primary source of information.
Demonstrate your credibility -- blogging helps establish your credentials. There is nothing like putting thoughts to paper while inviting scrutiny. It is like putting a challenge out there to question your authority on the matter at hand. But you can build your credibility further by adding stats and studies to back your claims. You can also invite industry experts to write their perspectives on the topic. Finally, you can include videos, infographics, or images to prove a point. Again, it is not easy for most businesses to produce high-quality posts regularly. You can outsource most of the writing jobs to competent SEO professionals out there. But make time to write a blog at least once a week so that you can continue to connect with your audience. If anything else, you blog because you offer a unique perspective to add to the ocean of opinions out there.
Promote your products -- E-commerce websites do not put too much stock on blogging, which is a shame since they can increase sales this way. Most businesses do not understand that the amount of quality content on your website is crucial in search engine indexing. You can post special events, discount offers, flash sales, and other announcements. Another reason to blog is to engage your customers, especially if you open your post to comments. You can ask satisfied customers to include their testimonies and highlight these success stories on your website. The trick in promoting your products is to be truthful. You should also list down the cons, along with the pros, and let your customers decide. But it would be best if you did it so that you do not sabotage your product. You can still pitch a product without peppering your post with too much sales talk.
Reach out to new markets -- blogging can drive new traffic to your website as Google tends to recommend websites with updated and high-quality content. The important thing is to be patient. Your blog should work to funnels sales to your website. You would only be wasting space otherwise. Finding new markets will guarantee a steady stream of revenues. You have zero chance of expanding your business if you are always relying on your existing customer base. More importantly, you can use blogging to make your loyal customers feel rewarded while reaching out to prospects. However, it takes blogs at least three months to gain traction, especially for new businesses. You cannot demand results immediately just because you are producing premium content.
But one thing to remember about your blogs is ownership. Make sure that you do not use free blogging platforms to host your thoughts. You will be at the mercy of these platforms, and they can delete your content anytime.
One of the most significant challenges of blogging is finding the right person with the talent to put their thoughts on paper with their business goals in mind. It is intimidating for most people to stare at a blank screen as the pressure to churn out a product increases. Fortunately, in today’s age, you do not have to do it on your own. Social Media Marketing agencies can cost-effectively handle your content strategy. We already demonstrated that blogging establishes authority and generates traffic. Now, the easy part is for you to decide to place that call.