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Video: the fast-track to online customer engagement

Video: the fast-track to online customer engagement

With more than 80% of senior executives saying they now watch more online video than they did a year ago, and according to Forbes, 75% of executives are watching work-related video on a weekly basis, this communications channel has risen to a stellar level in recent times.

And until recently, video was seen as a ‘nice to have’ channel but with research showing that using the word ‘video’ in an email subject line increases open rates by 19%, click through rates by 65% and reduces unsubscribes by 26%, it’s now impossible to ignore.

Strategic social media and SEO benefits

If you then consider that over the past year, Facebook video viewership grew from four billion views per day to eight billion, then video in a FMCG and B2B context not only makes sense, but becomes central to both prospect and customer engagement.

Video also now has a massive impact on search engine optimisation and online visibility, with rich media such as video being favoured by search engine algorithms, and with Google’s ownership of YouTube, video has become almost explosive in terms of channel growth.

Slick delivery drives engagement

But even with such huge opportunities for market development, many smaller enterprises often take big risks to save money through making video presentations internally. But caution should be exercised here because without professional-standard equipment and appropriate lighting, video can go from potentially very engaging to just plain annoying.

Cheap equipment can cause system or extraneous noise to be present on the audio channels, and bad lighting or inappropriate camera angles can render video productions mediocre – and that will reflect badly on your brand and any potential MROI.

Strategy-focused story-lining

While these quality issues need to be avoided, so quality in strategic story development and market messaging are also critical to a successful outcome. Scripting needs to be done professionally to ensure crystal clarity and optimum pace in message delivery.

If you are wise, and engage your digital agency to develop your story-lines and scripts, they will want to understand your brand strategy and build on this in the video story to drive brand strategy as an integral part of your marketing plan.

Joining the strategic dots

Given the compelling statistics at the top of this post, it is plain to see that if you integrate video into your marketing strategy, you are driving your brand message though an extremely powerful communications channel.

And if you have stuck to the guiding principles laid down here and delivered information quickly, engagingly and in a memorable way, there is little reason why your video work shouldn’t thrive on your brand-site, and even YouTube, and go beyond this to achieve viral success.

And until recently, video was seen as a ‘nice to have’ channel but with research showing that using the word ‘video’ in an email subject line increases open rates by 19%, click through rates by 65% and reduces unsubscribes by 26%, it’s now impossible to ignore.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

A five-point B2B digital marketing strategy for engagement and visibility in 2016

A five-point B2B digital marketing strategy for engagement and visibility in 2016

With a recent survey indicating that 77% of companies increased their digital marketing budgets – up from 71% on the previous year – and trends indicating further rapid growth in 2016, competition for B2B visibility is increasing significantly.

And what this means in terms of gaining competitive high ground in crowded B2B markets is the application of stand-out techniques in both new and existing B2B marketing channels. So what do these stand-outs look like in developing market share in 2016?

01.  More sophisticated content marketing strategies

In B2B marketing content is key. That is because B2B audiences do detailed online research, and have a good grasp of their chosen subject at the outset of that research, so are very demanding and discerning recipients when served relevant content.

This means that your 2016 content strategy must offer a clearly defined storyline over the entire year with detailed, accurate technical information that is directly aligned with the commercial reasons for considering and purchasing your products and services.

02.  Driving content marketing with marketing automation

More sophisticated and engaging content marketing will deliver significantly greater prospect and customer engagement if it is communicated to recipients through an organised marketing communications system that offers this as part of the prospect or customer sales journey.

This means that the content now has a dynamic, and is therefore explicitly designed to lead the prospect or customer to a sale – and as prospects are categorised according to their level of interest, so the served content may be segmented and streamed to reflect interests and aspirations.

03.  Lead conversion optimisation

Simply put, lead generation – driving prospects and customers to content on your website – is an important part of market development and revenue generation but converting leads to sales, and then retaining those leads as loyal customers is a whole different story.

Client-side marketers with clear strategic vision will aim to build on lead conversion performance and take it to the next level through creating content that continues to deliver prospect and customer engagement and nurtures leads, creating solid prospect relationships.

04.  Personalisation and interactive communications

The use of a more sophisticated content marketing strategy, introducing a marketing automation platform, and optimising lead conversions – if appropriately implemented by your digital vendors – will generate a considerable amount to prospect and customer personal data.

This valuable data will tell you a lot about your prospects and customers and allow you to build highly accurate buyer personas, meaning you will know enough about them to communicate in a more personal way, meeting their needs for information and guidance on the sales journey.

05.  Social media and search optimisation

LinkedIn has grown massively in recent years as a B2B networking tool, and if you are a B2B services business, your prospects are likely using LinkedIn to research and identify potential consultants and vendors.

But even if your prospects and customers are not significant social media users, Google uses social signals in algorithms for calculating search engine rankings and therefore social media will be used to boost rankings and therefore search visibility.

Reaching out and driving B2B prospect interactions

This five point strategy will allow you to develop, nurture, engage and convert prospects and customers in the year ahead. But first you’re going to need to find them. Will online advertising do that?

Well no, because ad-blocking is still a major obstacle here and as an issue, blocking is likely to become more of a significant barrier in the year ahead.

The best options for attracting leads in 2016 will be – in order of effectiveness – native advertising; LinkedIn, and Facebook Click to Website ads with call-to-action buttons; Google Customer Match which allows you to upload a list of contacts and target them through search. This feature is also available on Facebook and Twitter, and is effectively making search and social work more like email marketing.

Key to survival for 2016

But what is really going to matter in the year ahead is quality. Starting with the quality of your marketing strategy; through the quality of your marketing content, to the quality of your prospect engagement and customer retention and loyalty performance.

Because whatever else 2016 will be in the digital space, the most confident prediction I have for you is that B2B markets will be very crowded indeed.

In B2B marketing content is key. That is because B2B audiences do detailed online research, and have a good grasp of their chosen subject at the outset of that research, so are very demanding and discerning recipients when served relevant content.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

Five tips on digital marketing agency search and selection

Five tips on digital marketing agency search and selection

Digital communications (the transmission of marketing communications by digital means) covers a wide range of marketing platforms and a spectrum of channels and for client-side marketers, deciding on what is the best-fit for your enterprise is a complex equation.

And to compound this best-fit identification issue, actually seeing beyond the hot technology offers or the hype and such claims as ‘we’re the largest’ or the ‘only EU’ and so on, and to get a solid understanding of actual agency capabilities is a tough assignment for any marketer.

Platform or channel: what’s the difference?

Today, many digital marketing agencies will offer information on expertise such as marketing automation (MA) platform capabilities. Others will offer expertise in social media (SM) or pay-per-click (PPC) or online display advertising.

But while agency promotion of these platforms or channels is useful, what it is not telling you is what specific expertise they have in delivering marketing prospects or sales leads – the very thing you need to build your sales, profitability and long-term customer loyalty.

So, where does this leave you?

End-to-end approach

As can be seen, many of these communications elements are either delivery platforms or communications channels and while critical for targeted communication, they are certainly not the strategic marketing message in themselves.

So, cutting to the chase, working through all the platform and channel offers, to discriminate between pure platform or channel provision and those who offer platform or channel provision with truly solid strategic communication skill and associated marketing communication capabilities is a critical starting point in your search.

Conspicuous by its absence

Most of these digital marketing agencies will aim to provide content marketing as a part of their offer. This is key, but the quality of this content, its power to engage with your prospects and ability to deliver marketing qualified sales leads that actually buy from you is the ultimate criteria.

Remember, marketing platform and channel experience are key, but to achieve sustained growth and loyal customer acquisition, you critically need focused content marketing that drives these platforms and channels to success. Here are five points to consider in order of relevance.

Research and strategic market planning

Any long-term and sustainable marketing campaign will require careful strategic planning. This not only helps to optimise prospect engagement, but also to ensure that brand visibility is gained and maintained throughout the campaign.

Always explore a prospective agency’s strategic market planning capabilities when you open discussions. A good way for the prospect agency to demonstrate strategic planning capabilities is through the provision of current client case studies.

Integrated multi-channel digital communication specialisms

To develop successful digital marketing strategies, your agency will need to provide a multi-channel communications strategy, and this will require a number of integrated communications platforms, delivering communications across several marketing channels simultaneously.

This means you need to satisfy yourself that any potential agency has not only proven expertise in all required platforms and the marketing channels through which they will deliver, but can fully demonstrate how this will work in line with initial – pre-proposal – strategic plans.

Sector-specific marketing experience

Again, as with the points above, in order to identify precisely which marketing communications platform or channel is appropriate at which particular point in the marketing journey and at which point a channel will need to close the sale requires critical expertise.

To optimise communications performance in this marketing-to-sale journey, it is vitally important that the proposed agency has a deep understanding of your marketplace, target prospect behaviours and how to engage with them. In short, sector experience counts.

Content marketing and search optimisation expertise

In many respects, and like the point above, long-term experience and close market sector expertise are very important in achieving optimum prospect engagement through understanding and delivering what it is potential and existing customers want from your enterprise.

This means selecting an agency that has proven experience in your market sector. That is not to say you should exclude marketers from closely related sectors, but you need to be sure they can demonstrate a very clear understanding of your target audience, and their needs.

You will know your market, so make completely sure your agency does too, because if they talk your prospect’s language they will raise your brand and campaign profile and visibility through powerful search engine optimisation (SEO).

Performance analytics and management

The final piece is for you to understand the marketing return on investment (MROI) your agency is delivering across the campaigns you will be working on together.

You will already know what your required marketing performance metrics are, and you therefore need to ask your prospective agency to formulate and demonstrate performance analytics to closely mirror these requirements.

It has to be said, agency capabilities in the area of performance analytics is variable, but a good agency with a competent analytics team should be able to offer all of what you are likely to need.

Content expertise drives success

As can be seen, technology in the form of marketing platforms or communications channels, and the expertise in utilising these is a very important element in digital marketing communications.

But what really counts when selecting a new digital marketing agency is confidence in knowing that they not only understand marketing technology, but understand what emotional and aspirational marketing content to load into it to make it work successfully.

Remember, marketing platform and channel experience are key, but to achieve sustained growth and loyal customer acquisition, you critically need focused content marketing that drives these platforms and channels to success.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom

B2B social media and social marketing: really an effective business tool?

B2B social media and social marketing: really an effective business tool?

Many b2b marketers still perceive social media and social marketing as purely the domain of consumer marketing programmes and dismiss them as (probably) an ineffective business communications channel.

And this is interesting, because in the b2b space, prospects and customers may be up to 57% of the way through their purchase decision process 1 before ever contacting your sales team. So where does that leave you?

Reaching out further, faster

This means that while reliance on a well search optimised website with skilful on-page key phrase placement is good practice and will certainly provide visibility, a huge inbound volume opportunity is being overlooked.

Let’s look at some hard statistics:

40% of B2B buyers say LinkedIn is important in researching technologies and services for purchase; 19% say the same for Twitter 2

45% of B2B marketers have gained customers through LinkedIn 3

43% of B2B companies acquired customers from Facebook 4

Don’t wait to be found

What social marketing will do is start creating awareness of your enterprises’ products or services long before these prospects and customers visit your website. Why? Because through the use of social media, you have reached out to them, rather than waiting for them to find you.

And this is where many B2B marketers lose the plot. There is for some reason, a perception that any social media presence must be light-hearted and fun. Well, it can be; but it really doesn’t have to be; and your social media presence can be as business-like as you wish.

Creating relevant messaging

B2B social marketing doesn’t have to have offers; gimmicks or funny cat videos – it just needs to guide prospects and customers – through the delivery of relevant messaging – to your website or marketing automation (MA) system.

If you believe social media and social marketing requires a different communications strategy to web content, then you’re right. The difference with social is the narrative is constantly moving forward, so needs to be treated a bit like storytelling.

That is to say, in social, your story is being revealed piece by piece in a blog or post – revealing one fact at a time – and therefore requires careful strategic planning. The trick is, using that one fact approach to point readers to web content that builds out that message.

Planning makes perfect

To extend your reach, and reach out to potential customers beyond your competitors and before they even find you, sound planning and the development of a solid communications strategy is essential. And this strategy has to fully align will your marketing plan.

Because using social channels – whichever they may be – will require you to roll out an engaging, regular and episodic story – single fact, by single fact, that aligns with your communications strategy and may run over many weeks or months.

Feeding the funnel

This regular, episodic storytelling guides prospects to your website where marketing content takes up and embellishes the story, guiding the visitor along their sales journey and towards the sales funnel and a transaction.

In B2B marketing where high value transactions are common, the sales journey is often a long one, as decision-making takes place, with many divergences and digressions as B2B procurement teams and other decision-makers would expect.

Using social media, you will have got to B2B prospects earlier than most not using these channels, and if you are using an MA system, no matter how basic, you’ll be able to interact with these prospects in exactly the way they would anticipate ahead of a transaction.

So, maybe social marketing is much more appropriate to B2B marketing than it might look to the uninitiated first-timer.

1 CEB best practice insight and technology
2 Social Media Today
3 Social Media Today
4 HubSpot: State of Inbound Marketing

B2B social marketing doesn’t have to have offers; gimmicks or funny cat videos – it just needs to guide prospects and customers – through the delivery of relevant messaging – to your website or marketing automation (MA) system.

written by Will Yates,
Client Services Director at Novacom