Musings

Are Micro-Moments the New Battleground for Brands?

Posted by BSG Team on Jun 29, 2016 1:00:12 PM

mobile-devices-micro-moments.jpgWe recently shared some jaw-dropping facts that show just how big the mobile opportunity is for marketers. With 44% of Americans saying they couldn’t make it a day without their phone, our ever-increasing reliance on our mobile devices means that we are consuming media in different ways. Most notably, we have replaced periodic media sessions with many short bursts of digital activity throughout the day. As Google puts it, “The old model was a four-course meal in the same restaurant. Today’s is a series of constant bite sized snacks all over town.”

Google has coined the term micro-moments to define those instances when people reach for their phones.  Although some of those instances just entail making a call, sending a text or even checking the time, others are times when people turn reflexively to their devices to find exactly what they need.  Micro-moments occur when a person:

  • Wants to know
  • Wants to go
  • Wants to do
  • Wants to buy

Google believes micro-moments are the new battleground for brands as decisions are made and preferences are shaped in these “intent-rich” moments. Google says it sees them constantly across billions of monthly searches and billions of hours of video watched each month. These moments that matter equal a seismic shift for advertisers – they are more opportunities to both win or lose the hearts, minds and dollars of consumers. Here are some examples:

  • Of leisure travelers who are smartphone users, 69% search for travel ideas during spare moments, like when they're standing in line or waiting for the subway.
  • Of smartphone users, 91% look up information on their smartphones while in the middle of a task.
  • Of smartphone users, 82% consult their phones while they're standing in a store deciding which product to buy. One in 10 of those end up buying a different product than they had planned.

Our devices have trained us to expect brands to deliver instant gratification.  We want exactly what we are looking for when we are looking for it. And those companies that deliver quick, seamless, mobile-friendly experiences are going to have a leg up on the competition. Check out the graphic below or watch this video from Google for more information about micro-moments.

Micro-Moments.png

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses, Research

Why You Should Craft a Direct Value Statement

Posted by BSG Team on Jan 6, 2016 11:30:00 AM

Crafting_A_Direct_Value_Statement.pngWhenever and however you interact with a prospect the reality is you only have a very narrow window to capture his or her attention. This is where your direct value statement comes in to play. You will need to be able to confidently and quickly provide your unique direct value statement in order to keep a prospect listening.

So, what is a direct value statement?  It is a one-of-a-kind statement that offers a succinct overview of the value that your company provides; this is the foundation of your brand, the fundamental reason your organization exists. It should offer an insight into why someone should choose you above your competitors.

Above all, the direct value statement should be formulated so as to trigger your prospect’s curiosity and make them want to hear more.

Sounds simple, right? But it is still something that many companies overlook.

Although it should be unique your phrase can always start with the same formula:

“We assist clients [or customers] in the _______ industry [or business] to _______.  We do this by _______.”

Your Direct Value Statement is extremely important. You must be able to communicate the fundamental reason people or organizations do business with you and how you do what you do. It is useful no matter what type of business you are in.

Use these four questions to help you develop your own Direct Value Statement:

  1. Do you work with individuals, organizations, enterprises, associations, or governments?
  2. Do you specialize in an industry? Market? Type of business?
  3. What do you help your customers do? Reduce costs? Improve productivity? Reduce turnover? Maximize returns? Gain market share? Enhance stock value? Improve profits?
  4. How do you do that? By improving processes? Improving manufacturing yield? Providing upgraded equipment?

Remember prospects are all interested in securing solutions to their problems. Your direct value statement should be formulated so as to trigger their curiosity and make them want to hear more about how you can help them.

Create it and embrace it and it will prove invaluable in building relationships with even the most elusive prospects. 

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses

The Essentials of Great Mobile Website Design

Posted by BSG Team on Dec 30, 2015 1:16:01 PM

Mobile_Optimization_Essential_Web_Design.jpgWe live in a mobile-dominant world.  Smaller screen sizes and searching on the go mean consumers are coming to a website with a clear plan of action. If the site they visit can’t give them what they need quickly, they’ll find one that can.

To stay relevant in a mobile world keep these principles of mobile web design in mind.

Menus need to be simple and concise

The ideal menu should have no more than 5 or 6 items, giving users just enough information to guide their search. There should also be no more than two sub-menus within the main menu, if they are necessary at all.

It’s important that menus contain a high-level overview of the products and services you offer to allow visitors to narrow down what they’re looking for. From there, they can click to a specific category or utilize the search feature to filter their results further.

Keep forms short and sweet

Users are not interested in filling out field after field of information on their mobile devices. You should only ask for information that is absolutely necessary to accomplish the task. Be sensitive of the user’s time, especially as mobile traffic increases.

For example, if your contact form is to sign up for a newsletter, just ask the user for a name and email address. Even for payment forms, try to keep the number of form fields to a minimum. Consumers understand that more information is necessary to make a purchase.

Test to determine the right number of form fields. Try changing or removing one field at a time to assess the impact on completion rates. For example, people are more likely to fill out a form if you don’t require their phone number, so try testing your form with and without that field or compare it as a required vs. optional field to see how it performs. Then compare these results to the actual ROI earned through each method to determine whether or not you should include it.

Simplify form fields

The types of questions you ask in a form shouldn’t require too much input from users. It’s important that you utilize different field types in your form, such as dropdowns, checkboxes, and calendars. These are especially useful when typing in payment or shipping information, as well as booking travel.

Provide as much clarity as possible in your form; make it obvious which pieces of information are required and which are not. Use auto fill for returning customers to speed up the purchasing process, and offer guest checkout to new customers who don’t want to make an account.

CTA_Button.jpgEye-catching CTA’s

Just like in any web design, Calls-to-action play a vital role in mobile design. Typically mobile users have a specific idea of what they’re looking for when they come to your site, make it easy to find with CTAs placed in the most valuable real estate.

Ideally, CTA’s should be located above the fold, use contrasting colors or fonts to make them stand out. Clearly state what the offer is for and keep the following steps simple and clear so you don’t leave visitors wondering what they need to do next.

Know what your users want

Mobile users have no patience for vague menus or page after page of products. Your search results should provide exactly what the visitor is looking for on the first page. Once a user completes a search, provide filter options so that they can sort the results as it best pertains to them (e.g. price, relevance, top sellers, etc.).

You should feature an image, price, and short description with each item so that the results pages aren’t bogged down with text. Make the images clickable and expand them within the same window to help visitors get a better view of the product without having to go to a different page.

Make contact easy

The ability to quickly contact a company is crucial to consumers. For mobile users, this means having a prominent click-to-call feature on the website. This, along with a contact form or email address, will give visitors options depending on their preferences and the urgency of their need.

Have a FAQs page to give users the ability to seek answers to questions they have without requiring them to actually contact you. Most consumers would agree that if they can figure it out on their own, they would rather do so.

Thumbs-Up.jpgIt’s all about the thumbs

The most common complaint users have about non mobile-friendly sites are that the buttons are too small to click on and text is hard to read. When designing web pages, make sure that each button is large enough to be clicked on, and that they’re not spaced so close together that you might accidentally click on something you didn’t want to.

And don’t require visitors to pinch the screen to make text legible, just to have to zoom back out to click on another link or page. The minimum tap area to accommodate a user’s thumbs should be 44px by 44px. It might be hard to adapt to every smartphone’s screen size, but it’s generally advised that you try to design your site with a few older models in mind, since older phones tend to have smaller screens. That way you can ensure that your content is easily visible across platforms.

Keep load time fast

Consumers value speed, especially mobile users. Since many are accessing your website on the go, it’s important that you don’t leave them waiting around for pages to load. Your site should be able to accommodate both WiFi and non-WiFi connections equally. The ideal loading time for a page is less than four seconds.

Over half of mobile users expect a site to load in four seconds or less, and 80% are unhappy with the current browsing speed on smartphones. That’s a lot of potential customers bouncing from your website due to something that is almost entirely controllable (barring poor cell reception). Some goals to keep in mind for mobile web designers are to keep the entire site’s size under 1MB and use images and videos wisely. The more visual content you have, the slower your website will likely be.

Say “No” to popups

For the most part, users dislike pop-up ads or surveys, especially on mobile devices. Time is of the essence for mobile users, so using pop-ups simply gets in the way.

It can be tempting to include a pop-up to encourage people to sign up for email alerts or a newsletter, but the reality is that most mobile users aren’t looking for that. If they want to sign up for something, they probably already know that they want to and will take the necessary steps on your website to find that form.

How does your web design measure up?

Mobile use is on the rise and it is not going away. If you’ve decided to redo your website, you should prioritize compatibility across all devices through responsive design or a separate mobile site. Marketers must maintain a mobile-first mentality, or risk losing customers. Contact us if you need help optimizing your website.

 

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses

Does Your Law Firm Need Marketing?

Posted by Danya Hejazeh on Oct 16, 2015 2:58:49 PM

Undoubtedly. But what is the best way to find new clients and get the word out? Inbound marketing.

Content-Place-Time-Big-Heart-Final-235x235Wikipedia defines Inbound marketing as "[A set of] marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects' attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content." Inbound marketing automation platform HubSpot says that "Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be." 

Of course, as a law firm, you have a website. Websites are essential for every type of business today - but especially for law firms. Larry Bodine, editor of lawyers.com, a legal news information site from Lexis-Nexis, cites research showing that 77% of professional firms generate new business leads online. He also emphasizes the necessity for quality content linked with extremely specific long-tail keywords to ensure that prospective clients can find the right firm for their needs.

With inbound marketing, you create compelling content you can share with potential clients to let them know you're the right choice. Combined with SEO and a social media strategy, you can stop spending time looking for clients, your clients will come looking for you.

Sounds good, doesn't it? But how do we know that it works? Here are some amazing results from a law firm HubSpot case study:

law-firm

Want to experience this intense increase in leads? Inbound marketing may be the answer for you.

To learn more, download "The 3 most common SEO mistakes made by law firms." This one-page guide explains these typical mistakes and gives tips on how to get your website found so that you can get the clients you deserve. Click the button to begin the download process.

 

Law Firm SEO Mistakes

 

 

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses

5 Easy Email Marketing Optimizations

Posted by Michelle Lazarus on Sep 18, 2015 2:15:14 PM

In the world of digital marketing, new social media platforms may be sexy, but email still packs a punch. Digital marketing research firm eMarketer reported on a survey that called email "a digital marketing workhorse." In the survey, marketers declared email the single most effective digital program for reaching all goals, including awareness (41%), acquisition (37%), conversion (42%) and retention (56%).

Even though email has been declared so effective, it is regularly misunderstood, and still often abused. So, here are five ways to improve your email campaigns to ensure peak performance.Email-marketing

  1. Give a compelling reason to subscribe. You may have the best information in the universe, a blog that could literally change the world and solve everyone's problems, but if you don't explain why it is the best, no one is going to care. When you interact with people via email, keep in mind that they need solutions to their own problems, and address their personal interests. Explain how your email subscription will add value. 

  2. Use a trustworthy email service provider. Good email service providers ensure that your emails get to the recipient's inbox. They will also provide ways to manage your subscriber list, supply attractive email templates or facilitate their creation, segmentation of email lists for improved targeting and analytics for post-campaign measurement.

  3. Use an irresistible subject line. You might have an outstanding email that is targeted and has actually made its way to into the perfect prospect's inbox. But they won't open it if the subject line is not compelling. Your potential customers get a ton of email every day, and the subject line is the most important way of convincing the recipient that it's worth their time to open your email. Here are some great tips for writing an excellent email subject line.

  4. Personalize. Always use the recipient's first name when addressing an email, and the return email address should be a personal address, instead of a faceless corporate one. When you share value-adding content from a personal email address on a regular basis, you reach a tipping point with your recipients, who will eventually see you as a trusted adviser with good information.
     
  5. Make the content easy to consume. You may craft an alluring subject line that impels people to open your email, but will they read it? People are time-pressed, and we're often looking for shortcuts and quick, bite-sized chunks of information. Keep your email short and skimmable to avoid boring your readers and reaching the point of tl;dr (too long; didn't read.) 

You can radically improve your email marketing by using these easy optimizations. In time, your subscriber list will grow and your readers and potential customers will gain trust in you and your company.

 

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses

Back to the Basics: 16 Key Branding Terms Defined

Posted by Danya Hejazeh on Jul 2, 2015 11:51:44 AM

No matter how large or small your business, branding is key to its success. Branding is fundamental, essesential and basic  -- without it, there is no differentiation between your product and anyone else's and no route to long-term profitability.

Because branding plays such a crucial role in overall business strategy, we're offering a little refresher in this Back to the Basics post.  Here's a list of 16 crucial branding terms every business owner should know.

 

Unknown-1-21.  Brand: A distinguishing symbol, mark, logo, name, word, sentence or a combination of these items that companies use to distinguish their product from others in the market.

2.  Brand Asset:  
Any aspect of a brand that has strategic value — e.g., visual symbols, slogans, sounds, photos, mascots, etc.

3.  Brand Equity:  A brand’s power derived from the goodwill and name recognition that it has earned over time, which translates into higher sales volume and higher profit margins against competing brands.

4.  Brand Experience: Brand experience is conceptualized as sensations, feelings, cognitions and behavioral responses evoked by brand-related stimuli that are part of a brand‘s design and identity, packaging, communications and environments. 

Unknown-2-15.  Brand Extension: 
A common method of launching a new product by using an existing brand name on a new product in a different category. Think Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner.

6.  Brand Identity
: How a business wants its brand’s name, communication style, logo and other visual elements to be perceived by consumers.

7.  Brand Image
:  How consumers actually perceive a brand.

8.  Brand Promise: Consumer expectations about what the brand will deliver. The experience — good or bad — one can expect from a brand. When an organization defines its brand promise, it should be differentiated, relevant, credible and irreproducible. 

9.  Co-branding: 
A marketing partnership between at least two different brands of goods or services. Think Dairy Queen and the Girls Scouts’ Thin Mint Blizzard.

10. Differentiation:  Creation or demonstration of unique characteristics in a company’s products or brands compared to those of its competitors.

11. Positioning Statement: A written description of the position that a company wishes itself, its product or its brand to occupy in the minds of a defined target audience.

12. Rebranding: When a business or organization decides to change a significant element of the brand. Changes can be very obvious such as a new logo or more subtle such as a slight shift in messaging.

13.  Repositioning
: Communications activities to give an existing product a new position in customers’ minds 

images-1214. Tagline: A frequently repeated word, phrase or statement that captures the essence of a brand’s promise. An expression that conveys the most important attribute or benefit that the advertiser wishes to convey.

15. Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
: The driving competitive advantage of a product. 

16. Visual Identity
:  What a brand looks like – including logo, typography, packaging, etc.

 

***Many thanks to Brand Channel, AMA, Investopedia, Financial Brand and Columbia Business School for these definitions.

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses, Branding, Back to Basics

5 Crucial Steps for a Successful Email Marketing Campaign

Posted by Josh Bernstein, BSG Contributor on Jun 5, 2015 10:49:32 AM

Unknown-1-1It should surprise no one that email marketing has surpassed direct mail in terms of sheer volume. The reasons are obvious: email is cheaper, more measurable and better targeted than direct mail. Email marketing is an effective way to grow your contact database and foster your existing contacts for increased profits. Here are some helpful tips for a better understanding of an impactful and successful email campaign.

Know your audience and speak directly to them.

Lazily copying a campaign model from someone else will get you nowhere. Be aware of who your potential clients are and provide them with something they can use. Use any and all information you have gathered about your customers to personalize for them targeted, relevant messages. Each one of your target audiences should have a developed offer customized for them. Take the necessary time to promote a specific product or service to generate repeat business from existing customers, as well as finding ways to drive your product and message home to a new set of customers.

Write a great subject line and grab the reader’s attention quickly.

A solid email marketing campaign grabs the attention of the reader immediately, most often with a killer subject line. Besides, the subject line is the very first thing that your clients will see when they are poring over the emails in their inbox. The subject line should be simple and straight to the point. It should tell the reader what to expect inside. Personalizing the subject line to each recipient and including the name of your company is a tested method that encourages high rates of emails being opened, as opposed to being “spammed.”

templatesDirect customers to a purposeful landing page.

You’ve already succeeded if your customers have opened your email and read it. Now is not the time to have their interest fade! Instead of sending them to your homepage or a basic product listing page, you should be sending them to a purpose-built landing page, specifically designed to convert click-throughs into leads and ultimately, into sales. An email landing page should:

  • Only include content that is relevant to your email campaign
  • Mirror the headline on the landing page to your email campaign so customers can quickly evaluate the relevance of the page
  • Display the most important information where it is likely to be read (at the top and to the left) 
  • Ensure that the copy can be easily scanned
  • Make sure your call to action is clear and distinguished so that your audience knows what the next step(s) should be
  • Make your call to action clickable 

images-3-1Your message needs to be succinct and to the point.

Let’s face it… this is a challenge for everyone. Easy writing is the hardest type of writing. Investing in a great copywriter will undoubtedly strengthen your campaign. Hiring a strong writer—someone who is entrenched in the field and who has specific experience crafting effective copy—will ease the burden of having to write all the copy yourself.

Test your campaign before you click send.

Your message needs to be vetted, edited and tested many times before it is actually sent. Send test emails to yourself to get a sense of what the email will look like with the more popular email readers (Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, etc.). It will also help you to ensure that images aren’t broken and that the details of the email won’t lead any customers to mistake it for spam. The only way to find optimal combinations of copy, design, etc. is to test and keep track of different combinations. You must edit and re-edit until your specific message is 100% crystal clear. Keep track of these key elements when considering what to edit and refine:

  • Subject Line(s)
  • Style, tone and context of the copy
  • Font sizes, colors and formatting
  • Call(s) to action 

If you don’t have the time to construct an email campaign or if you feel overwhelmed and don’t know where your business stands, take advantage of these helpful tips and begin developing an effective email marketing campaign that will nurture leads and transform them into successful sales. And don’t forget that your email campaign can also be used to generate additional income from your existing customer base. It’s a win-win situation, so stop procrastinating and get started!

 

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses, Content Marketing, Creative Marketing, Content Creation

5 Great Reasons to Focus on Your Blog

Posted by Michelle Lazarus on May 7, 2015 11:48:58 AM

Here at Black Stag Group, we are passionate about blogs and blogging. We love telling a good story, and reading one, too. An exceptional blog consists of topics of interest to potential customers, items that may be educational and provide insight, and tidbits that offer a glimpse into a company's culture and values. With a consistent publishing schedule, companies can build credibility and gain customers' attention. blog

Research has shown that brands that create 15 blog posts per month average 1200 new leads per month.

Not convinced yet? Here are five more reasons to focus on your blog:

1. Blogs give websites 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links. 

Want to be more findable on the Web? Blogging helps majorly with SEO. (Source)

2. Blogs on company sites result in 55% more visitors.

Company blogs are an amazing way to drive traffic to websites without spending a lot of money. (Source)

3. Companies with blogs get 97% more inbound links.

Blogs can become useful resources that others want to link back to, another way websites gain traffic organically. (Source)

4. Interesting Content is a top 3 reason people follow brands on social media.

Offering blog content that is consistently thought-provoking or helpful makes a blog worth reading. People will want to know what you have to say. (Source)

5. B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those that do not blog.

If you're a B2B company that isn't blogging, you may be losing potential leads to competition that does blog. (Source)

Even if you're not blogging, it's never too late to start - by blogging, you can begin building trust with your leads, increasing web traffic and gaining social media fans today.

 

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses, Content Creation, Effectiveness, Blogging

One Simple Must-Have For Your B2B Vendor Website

Posted by Michelle Lazarus on May 5, 2015 1:41:52 PM

It seems like common sense - a no-brainer -  but there's one basic content asset that many B2B vendors are lacking on their websites: thorough contact information.

That's right. The 2015 Web Usability Report from Huff Industrial Marketing and KoMarketing found that a lack of thorough contact information can cause 44% of your visitors to leave. This chart from the research shows just how important contact information is, compared to other content assets:

contentassets

Thorough contact information reinforces trust and credibility. And it's not only contact information - it's any information that invites your customer to learn more about your company. Dianna Huff of Huff Industrial Marketing explains:

Think of contact information as a subtle cue, similar to the way we assess people upon first meeting. When a company doesn’t share its physical address and other contact information, and forces contact through a form, you as the potential prospect have a sense of unease:

  • Who is behind this company?
  • Where is it located?
  • If I have a problem, how will I reach someone?

Basically, you want to know if the company is legitimate or if it’s the Internet equivalent of a dog. By placing phone number, email address, and a physical address on a website, a vendor helps overcome some of these concerns – and thus establishes the beginning of trust.

Contact information doesn’t have to be relegated to the Contact Us page. Depending on your company and its size, you can add a phone number and/or email link in the header of each page. If you’re a large enterprise, consider adding “Contact Us” to the main navigation versus burying it in the footer. When “Contact Us” is buried, it’s harder for people on mobile devices to find and access it.

About pages and team bios confer credibility

In The New York Times article Quenching Consumers’ Thirst for Authenticity, James H. Gilmore, author of Authenticity, stated, “A sense of authenticity reinforces trust in what is real in an increasingly staged, contrived, and mediated world.”

Authenticity also is a tangible driver of revenue. In its 2014 global study, The Age of Authenticity, Cohn & Wolf revealed that 63% of consumers would buy a brand they perceived as authentic over its competitors.

The MediaPost article Unlocking the Power of Authenticity with Millennial Consumers, discusses how authenticity and its allied trait of trustworthiness are two of the top brand attributes sought by millennials before they decide to hand over their money.

Yet, many companies still rely on standard-issue boilerplate when it comes to their About page – a practice that does little to show a company’s authenticity or build trust and credibility.

The About section of a website doesn’t have to be limited to a brief “About Us” page or team bios. You can also include a press room, charities supported, awards, events, videos, and testimonials.

In addition, if you're able, Huff suggests:

Posting a client list builds credibility and trust, especially if you have A-list clients or well-known companies in your niche. A prospective buyer comes to your website and sees that you’ve worked with Recognized Brand Name A, B, and C, and automatically assumes that you know what you’re doing.

Ms.Huff includes many more suggestions! Read the full article here, and get great examples of being transparent with your company and culture to build trust and credibility on your website.

How do you do it? We'd love to hear from you! Let us know below.

 

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses, Effectiveness, Content Strategy

G.E.'s Digital Gamble

Posted by Michelle Lazarus on May 4, 2015 10:43:01 AM

General Electric (G.E.), founded in 1892 by Thomas Edison, has always been innovative. This 123-year-old company is still reinventing itself, even today, especially when it comes to marketing. As one of America's largest multinationals, the company is taking risks by experimenting with digital platforms. Linda Boff, G.E.'s executive director of global brand marketing, shares her best practices for being a world-class B2B digital marketer, in B-to-B Marketer Magazine

boff

Ms. Boff's advice reveals that even a huge company can be successful with a smaller budget, and that simplicity and honesty always work best when it comes to digital.

What are your best practices for digital marketing? Let us know below.

Click to Read More

 

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses

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