Reasons Why Social Media Marketing Is Still Underrated

Reasons Why Social Media Marketing Is Still Underrated    

So what’s the deal?

The numbers on social media marketing are impressive. More than half of small businesses in the United States are planning to increase their social media marketing budgets in 2017, and the number of businesses using social media marketing has increased, year over year, for more than a decade.

Still, social media marketing remains underrated. Business owners and marketers frequently treat it as a second thought—something for an intern to handle, rather than a strategically deep mode of building your reputation and attracting new traffic. Some have even abandoned the idea altogether, refusing to spend any time or money on a strategy that nets a positive ROI for up to 92 percent of businesses that use it.

Why isn’t everyone on board with the strategy?

The "fad" angle.

Believe it or not, some people still believe that social media—or its use as a marketing strategy—is still a fad just waiting to fizzle out. This is an argument I could have understood back in 2007 when social media platforms were only in use by a small percentage of the population. But now that Facebook has reached more than 1.2 billion users and is still growing, with a corporate foundation that rivals those of Apple or Google, it’s a hard argument to defend. Users have gotten used to the idea of socially interacting online, and platforms keep evolving in new ways to maintain their interest.

You get what you pay for.

Psychologically, people tend to place more value on things that cost more money. For example, in a blind taste test of identical wines whose only difference is price, people claim that the more expensive (yet compositionally identical) wine tastes better. Take this principle to social media marketing; it’s free to claim and build a business profile and to post regularly (as long as you aren’t leveraging paid advertising). Because of that, people don’t value it as much as they do paid advertising. They’re also less likely to pay a professional to work on a social media campaign, knowing that—technically—anyone could do it for free (even if they never actually do it).

Unmeasurable effects.

The return on investment (ROI) of social media is hard to measure, and I’ll be the first to admit it. One of your biggest goals is attracting a large following of people who are enthusiastic about your brand and improving both your brand’s reputation and brand awareness. These aren’t as objectively measurable as on-site conversions, but they can and do lead to greater consumer interest, which manifests as sales eventually. Trying to pin down an exact value for all these benefits is next to impossible, even for the pros, so the value of a social media campaign is almost always underreported.

Anecdotes.

People also use anecdotal evidence as a basis for their opinions about the strategy. For example, they may know of another business who used social media and didn’t see any results, so they stay away from it in the present. However, these anecdotal examples often don’t examine the types of tactics these businesses used, and they certainly don’t represent the average across multiple businesses.

Apples and oranges.

Ironically, these same business owners often cite the fact that anecdotal evidence can’t prove a strategy’s effectiveness for everybody. They point to major influencers or big businesses in the social media world, and explain that social media works for them because it fits naturally with their industry, or because they have the resources to invest in a heavy campaign. It’s true that some industries may be naturally inclined to perform better on social media than others; tech companies and consumer-facing businesses are two good examples. However, social media marketing can be used by practically any company—it may just require an adjustment to your approach.

Poor targeting.

Some businesses look at their own results and use those results as a gauge of the long-term potential of their campaign. But they may not realize that their strategic targeting is interfering with their results. For example, if you buy 1,000 followers using some super cheap follower-adding service, but only 4 or 5 of them ever interact with your posts or visit your site, it could be that the remaining 995 don’t belong to demographics relevant for your business, or that you haven’t been using the right engagement strategies to cultivate interest. Don’t underestimate the potential of a well-researched, strategically focused campaign.

Lack of investment.

Effective social media marketing can’t be done on a whim. It needs to be planned, researched, and strategically executed. That means you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time or a significant amount of money to see results; and since many business owners aren’t willing to make that investment, they never see a fraction of their potential results. By that point, they’ve seen what a small investment does, and they’re unwilling to make the jump to a larger investment.

Social media marketing isn’t an “underground” strategy; it’s talked about heavily (and I should know), and there’s no shortage of content covering its feasibility and best tactics. But the perceptions of marketers and business owners are still lagging behind the evidence, and they’re only hurting themselves in the process. The more you learn about the effective implementation of social media marketing, the more plainly beneficial it seems—but you have to treat it as a legitimate marketing strategy if you want to research it appropriately.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Components of a Magnetic Inbound Marketing Strategy

Components of a Magnetic Inbound Marketing Strategy

 

Email marketing, SEO, content creation, social media, influencer outreach, lead nurturing. Yes, inbound marketing encompasses them all. And let’s face it – that’s enough to inspire fear in the steeliest and most seasoned of digital marketers. With so many tactics to consider and too many leads to deliver it’s easy to lose focus of what you’re trying to achieve. That’s where a well-crafted plan comes into play. Below we’ll reveal the strategic 7 step process that will help you deliver a customer-warming, boss-pleasing, prospect-loving strategy that’s achievable, realistic and bang on target.

Define Your Personas

Inbound marketing is all about your customers – you have no business in the um… business, if you center your plan around any other silly tactics, tricks or gimmicks. The first step of your plan should, therefore, focus on understanding what makes your customers click, tick and get excited. Get to the heart of your customers’ thoughts, behaviors, problems, needs, and desires by creating well-fleshed-out, fully-defined and real-to-life personas.

Use HubSpot’s (free) Make My Persona Tool to create personas worth referencing. Your entire inbound marketing strategy should be built around your core personas – you’ll storm ahead of your competition if you consult these fictional customers at every stage of your planning process. This includes when you’re creating blog posts, crafting email campaigns and conducting keyword research – you can even bring them into your brainstorm meetings to add real insight and depth to your ideas.

Discover Your Customer’s Triggers

Pain Points – You need to understand at which points your customers interact with your messages. It is important to identify the pain points your customer's experience and the problems they encounter to make them search for your product or service. This core insight alone can add true depth to your messages.

Think about it – identifying your customers’ pain points enables you to target people with both reason and emotion at a time that makes sense to them. You’re basing your messages on real solutions rather than assumptions. And make no mistake about it – your competitors will assume rather than take the time to identify real solutions for real persona problems. That way you’ll win.

Different Needs for Different Stages – You’ve probably heard many digital marketers talk about the concept of context. Not all of your customers have the same needs – some arrive at different points of the buying funnel. When mapping out your pain points it’s essential to add context by considering the needs and desires of your different customer types at each separate stage of the operation.

Set Your Inbound Marketing Objectives

You will need to determine from the outset which inbound marketing objectives you would like your strategy to achieve. These should support and help you achieve both your digital marketing objectives and your business objectives. For example, if lead generation is the most important objective for your business, your inbound marketing plan should be centered around generating leads. And every tactic you employ should support your lead generation mission.

As with every digital marketing plan, your inbound marketing metrics need to be SMART. That means strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. If in doubt, identify the information your CEO would want reported back to him/her in the boardroom – you need to answer the ‘what’, ‘how many’ and ‘when’ of your plan. For example, ‘We’re going to generate 200 new leads in a quarter.’ Each KPI needs to be realistic and achievable based on the success of past campaigns along with the predicted success of your inbound plan.

Define Your Content Strategy

Content is an integral part of inbound marketing. You will, therefore, need to create a content marketing plan to form the beating heart of your inbound marketing strategy. This is how you will keep your customers engaged with your brand and nourished with rich and valuable information. This is how you will keep your name on their minds at the point when they’re ready, willing and able to buy.

The Objectives – Your content strategy objectives should be SMART and need to support your inbound marketing objectives. Maybe they’ll be similar. If your inbound marketing objective is lead generation, for example, your content strategy should certainly support this.

Competitor Analysis – The purpose of this phase is not to copy your competitors but to define how you can be better. Research your competitors content marketing and investigate what they get up to on social media using a social media monitoring tool like Hootsuite. Sign up to their newsletter so you can partake in their lead nurturing campaigns and use a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to track backlinks and discover how your competitors score on their overall SEO performance.

The Content – First it’s important to define how your content will help your customers. Will it educate them? Inspire them? Entertain them? Then you can decide on the types of content you’ll create and the topics you’ll tackle. For example, will you concentrate solely on blogging or will you try video marketing and webinars? Will you create long form posts or opt for shorter but more regular features? Will you seek industry expert opinions?

More questions to consider at this phase include: Is lead generation important for your business and if so will you create gated whitepapers to help you generate new, quality leads? If you have a shoe company will you stick to writing about shoes or will you venture into the area of fashion and lifestyle?

Distribution – It’s equally important to create a plan for distributing your content. Will you enlist the help of industry influencers or will your trial paid promotion options like LinkedIn advertising, Facebook and Twitter ads or third party platforms?

Define Your Lead Nurturing Plan

Sometimes your customers will discover your website when they’re not quite ready to buy yet. Maybe they need more questions answered, maybe they need more time to decide whether it’s the right product/service for them, maybe they want to research competitor offerings or maybe they don’t have the money saved at that point in time. Whatever their reason for stalling, it’s your job to keep them warmed up for the sales team to prospect or until they’re ready to buy.

Automated email trigger campaigns provide the perfect means to nurture leads. It gives you the ideal opportunity to keep prospects engaged with your content, your brand and your mission. You can segment your lead database based on the action your prospects took to give you their details. You can then set about creating a series of tailored and relevant messages.

Establish Your Influencer Outreach Agenda

Building quality relationships with key industry influencers is one of the most important components for inbound marketing. That’s because these people hold significant reach and authority in your industry. They have already established trust and have hundreds of thousands of social media followers – followers who look just like your customers.

The Target List – Use a tool like BuzzSumo to help you identify and create an outreach list of potential influencer targets. Then you can set about creating mutually beneficial relationships with these industry influencers. Always give more than you take – offer value and lots of it well in advance of asking for anything back. Once you have established a true connection with these influencers you can ask for a quick quote and a potential share in the politest and most humble manner possible.

Guest Blogging Plan – It’s also important to define your guest blogging approach at this stage. Research potential relevant and influential blogs in your niche and read the submission guidelines. You’ll can create a pitch at this stage if you wish but you will have to make sure it’s customized and relevant for every publication you approach. Read this guide ‘Influencer Cheat Sheet: How to Connect, Engage & Get What You Want’ for more tips on how to perfect your personal approach.

Decide How to Analyse & Report

Now that you have your inbound marketing plan in place you will need to decide upon the tools you’ll use to report on the progress of your objectives and the success of your KPIs. Will you, for example, use Google Analytics to track your goals and conversions? Will you use BuzzSumo to track the success of your content marketing and break down your shares by platform? Will you use Moz’s Open Site Explorer to monitor your SEO progress?

Want to become an Inbound Marketing Specialist? Our Online Professional Diploma in Search Marketing is created, validated and accredited by industry experts and will give you the specialist knowledge needed to thrive in the field.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

The Business Development Mix: Do You Have the Right Stuff?

The Business Development Mix: Do You Have the Right Stuff?
Aligning your sales process with your target markets

  

Ever since the release of the Society for Marketing Professional Services / SMPS Foundation report, Sell. Do. Win Business. How A/E/C Firms are Using Staff to Win More Work (pdf), I’ve had a number of very interesting conversations with senior sales and marketing executives as well as firm principals. The research – which included almost 1400 surveys and several dozen phone interviews – reinforced some assumptions and provided clarity on others related to architectural practice, engineering practice and construction industry business marketing and business development.

If there is one over-arching theme to be gleaned from the research, it is that A/E/C firms are spending more money on business development (BD) than they have in the past – and they intend to increase spending in the future. This conclusion is not based upon any concrete expense forecasts (e.g., percent of net revenue spent on BD), but rather the significant growth of both seller-doer and dedicated business developer positions at architecture, engineering, construction, and related firms.

Compared with ten years ago, architectural firms have increased the number of business developers they employ by 20%, engineers by 34%, and construction firms by 45%. A decade ago we were enjoying the pre-recession boom in the A/E/C industry, so the growth in dedicated BD professionals is significant.

   BD Staffing Trends - Past 10 Years

                                     Business Development Staffing Trends – Next 10 Years
For the number of seller-doers compared with ten years ago, the statistics are equally impressive. Thirty-three percent of architects have increased the number of seller-doers on staff, while 43% have increased the amount of time that their seller-doers spend doing business development. For engineers, the numbers are greater: 45% of firms have added seller-doers while 45% have increased the percent of time that seller-doers focus on the sales portion of the equation. And for contractors, 41% have added seller-doers while 49% report that their seller-doers spend more time on business development than they did a decade ago.

To firm executives, this means one thing: more overhead. So what gives? Why are firms willing to increase their labor expenses for business development? There are numerous factors driving this trend, but the reality is that we are in a highly-competitive marketplace. Client loyalties have changed: whereas a decade ago there was so much construction happening that a lot of firms could “sit back and wait for the phone to ring” (it’s never really that easy, is it?), that isn’t the case anymore. We’re in a new era of purchasing, with the dreaded “three-bid mentality” destroying long-term relationships and potentially negatively impacting the owners/clients – when the A/E/C firm that knows their culture, facilities, and/or structures isn’t the low bid and newbies come in, this could be a good thing. Or a very bad one!

Third-party facilities managers are increasingly common, as are prequalification/screening firms. So a client you’ve worked with for twenty years may suddenly outsource A/E/C hiring decisions to a firm that doesn’t know you, or require you to go through a screening process (often online) to see if you meet their “new” criteria. Contract language is changing as well, with the dreaded “duty to defend” clause appearing in an alarming number of contracts, forcing firms to walk away from existing clients because the contract terms have become unacceptable – or even uninsurable.

Beyond that, Baby Boomer clients are retiring in droves, taking with them the loyalty to certain architecture, engineering, environmental, consulting, or construction firms, and their replacements often have no loyalties, forcing you to “start from scratch” with a long-term client. Furthermore, depending upon your geographic area and the markets you serve, there may very well be a lack of work to go around. Some areas and markets are booming; others not so much.

So because of these many reasons, and others, A/E/C firms need to have more “feet on the street” when it comes to business development. They need to search wider and deeper to find new clients – or even gain repeat commissions with past or current clients. But this isn’t permanent, is it? Certainly, the tide will change. Right? Well, according the SMPS/SMPS Foundation research, firms believe we are in a new norm – one that may become even more extreme over the next decade.

Survey participants were asked about anticipated staffing changes in the coming decade. Fifty-one percent of architectural firms anticipate adding even more seller-doers while 38% expect to hire more business developers. Engineers are projecting significant expansion of these positions as well, with 59% of firms planning to add seller-doers and 52% expecting to add dedicated business developers. The numbers were similar for construction firms, with 52% anticipating adding seller-doers and 53% adding business developers over the coming decade.

  
BD Staffing Trends - Next 10 Years

That’s huge. And again, that translates to major increases in overhead, above and beyond the increases that firms are seeing today. So where will this money come from? Profits? Cutting expenses in other categories (including non-labor marketing expenses)? The money must come from somewhere, but firms are expecting a simple formula to play out:

More business developers + more seller-doers = more contracts.

Simply put, in order to grow, they have to expand the ranks of people involved with sales. And they hope – expect – that “a rising tide will lift all boats,” so that ultimately they aren’t spending more for business development labor as a percentage of revenue, otherwise it comes directly off the bottom line. But are A/E/C companies approaching business development wisely? Do they have the right stuff, baby?

As much as firms would like to have a one-size-fits-all, out of the box approach to BD staffing, the reality is that every firm needs to develop the formula that works best for them, and their unique circumstances. This begins with a thorough understanding of your target markets. The majority of successful firms are focused on a few primary markets. Yes, there are still generalists, but they increasingly struggle when competing against niche firms, often being unable to pass the “sniff test” when it comes to baseline qualifications.

So take a good, hard look at the markets you pursue. Where do your firm credentials exist? How about staff credentials, which are often of equal or greater importance to firm experience? Are these markets profitable? Just because you do a lot of K-12 education work doesn’t mean you should, particularly if you keep losing money on projects!

When you truly understand your firm’s areas of focus, you next need to match your business development approach to those markets. Alignment is critical here, or you’ll struggle to maximize the value of your BD staff. Some markets make a lot of sense for the seller-doer approach. Clients are highly sophisticated and expect detailed, technical-driven conversations from the very first meeting. Failure to align your salespeople with the clients’ expectations can be the kiss of death: you won’t be invited back for a second meeting. An example of a market like this would be industrial or health care.

Even if the roadmap you are developing seemingly requires all seller-doers,t discount the role of the dedicated business developer. Other markets, however, do not require such technical conversations early on. The gatekeepers, and even decision makers, may not be technical in nature, and a non-technical business developer may offer perfect alignment for the client needs, excelling at the front-end “getting to know you” conversations. Local governments, for instance, often fall into this bucket.

Maybe all of your target markets favor the seller-doer approach, maybe they all favor the dedicated business developer. Most likely, there is a need for both. If you are a small firm, having a dedicated business developer may not be an option; yes, there are some very small firms that have fulltime sellers, but that is not the norm.

Even if the roadmap you are developing seemingly requires all seller-doers, don’t discount the role of the dedicated business developer. Recent SMPS research has found that the role of sales professionals is changing, evolving. They are still actively doing business development, but increasingly they are coaching seller-doers, training them to be effective sellers. They are looking at strategic plans and aligning the sales programs. And they are often the first voice or face that a prospective client encounters, opening the doors for the seller-doers. I often hear it said that business developers are openers – they open the doors at prospective clients, while seller-doers are closers – they are closing deals, landing contracts.

Because both roles are so critical, firms are adding and will continue to add both positions. But only you can determine what makes the most sense for your markets, your services, and your geographic regions. One size only fits one size, so don’t try to force square pegs into round holes – you may lose clients, project opportunities, and talented staff along the way.

And for many firms, losing talented staff is as terrifying a proposition as not landing new project commissions. Highly effective seller-doers are rare, and when a company loses one, they may lose a lot of business when that person leaves. Likewise, while only 8% of participants in the SMPS/SMPS Foundation survey reported that they can’t find qualified business developers, that number will certainly grow in the coming years. Rainmakers are retiring, and veteran business developers – who came into the A/E/C industry in the early days of the profession (until the late 1970s, it was illegal and considered unethical for professional services firms to sell or market) are retiring. Plus, the demand for BD professionals – and seller-doers – is growing, so it will become more difficult to find these positions in the future.

So what’s the takeaway? Look at your markets and your BD approaches to ensure that you are aligning the sales function with the client/prospect needs. Evaluate your staffing and identify the gaps. And develop a plan to ensure that you are not only effectively responding to the market today, but will be in the coming years.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Cyprus SEC gets Tough on International Forex, Bitcoin Traders

Cyprus SEC gets Tough on International Forex BitcoinTraders

Cyprus SEC gets Tough on International Forex, Bitcoin Traders

International Forex trading hub Cyprus has signaled that “comply or close shop” standards will be enforced within nine months, causing uncertainty among FX companies, some of them holding Bitcoin/fiat positions.

 

Retail trading companies located on the island offering clients Bitcoin/fiat pair options have yet to be instructed on Bitcoin options but the latest Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC) statements and the Central Bank of Cyprus’ view on cryptocurrencies may put these operations into question.

Cyprus is host to about 80 percent of the world’s retail FX and binary options companies, nestled in the financial district of Limassol. The rising number of complaints risks tarnishing the industry that is still growing at a fast pace.

Abrupt meeting

On Tuesday, CySEC Chairman Demetra Kalogerou lined up the executives of the island’s Forex firms for an abrupt closed doors meeting. Sources presented at the meeting told Finance Feeds that the change is coming to the industry in what may be a make or break phase
 

The retail forex trading industry grew rapidly lately, surviving some scandals. Some firms have already paid heavy fines, already to the tune of over three million euros on the island alone.

Uncertainty

As early as 2014, the Central Bank of Cyprus issued a warning on the risks associated with virtual currencies when certain companies have introduced the dollar/Bitcoin pair.

It still holds a neutral stance, while suggesting traders or holders of virtual currencies take steps to protect themselves as they are yet to be regulated. It is uncertain how the latest development will influence companies offering dollar/Bitcoin pairs.

New regulations aimed at protecting clients might affect the cryptocurrency trading options
 

Call centers to be banned

Calling out the boiler room tactics used via call centers, Kalogerou looks to ban them entirely. Sales staff will be required to change from cold callers into CySEC licensed and examined professionals starting this year. A warning was raised against reports of giving clients financial advice and offices will have to be set up in countries where a substantial number of clients reside to better represent them
 

Affiliate marketing has yet to be called out for a strict ban or not, while Ms. Kalogerou sternly raised concerns as to how to monitor marketers on how and what they advertise to potential clients.

“We do not like introducing brokers at all, we do not like affiliates,” said Kalogerou on the topic of affiliates.

Leverage limits

Leverage limits will now be set to a maximum of 1:50 until clients request and show an aptitude for more. Currently, leverage as high as 1:500 is available to retail clients. The commission already requested a 1:50 cap in November 2016, calling anything above that “excessive leverage.
 

With European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and Markets in Financial Directive II (MiFID II) legislation set forth by the EU, the market it set to get its act together. Furthermore, CySEC has made it clear that the corporate tax efficient environment of Cyprus will not play host to those who cannot or will not comply.

David
Ogden

Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member

Look Mom I have a blog