Plan Develop and Write – content workshop training

There’s a training event run by The Online Academy coming up next Friday 3rd March in Auckland.

 

Content marketing workshop

 

Learn more at The Online Business Academy – how to Plan, develop and Write content that will rock your brand.

 

 

Machine Learning

Machine Learning Impact on the Future of Content and SEO

The age of Artificial Intelligence is here and it’s powering up the simplest things in our daily lives. In a nutshell, Machine Learning is the science of giving computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Kinda like showing it pictures of kittens until it creates enough patterns to identify another kitten by itself from new images. It’s very similar to how our human brains learn while we are kids. A few companies already have this type of technology running (and evolving by the second), like Facebook and Google. Every day we input more and more content online as check-ins at favourite restaurants, search queries for hotels for our next vacation, pictures with friends and peers. The list goes on.

Big Brother is watching and he can help sell your stuff

This is a bit of a futurology exercise, I know. But don’t get it confused with any supernatural nonsensery, I’m certainly not writing this article on an Ouija board. It’s pure (computer) science that you don’t have to understand completely, just harvest its potential.

Taking advantage of the massive quantity of data stored online is incredibly useful to pinpoint your target audience, facilitating conversions. Because we blindly “agreed to the terms and conditions” of most online services, social media platforms can freely record information and trace it back to your profile for future use. In a world where virtually everyone is connected 24/7, this is actually a cool thing from the marketing perspective (if you ignore the obvious user privacy issues of having every move tracked online).

Ever noticed how Facebook shows (mostly) spot on sponsored content on your timeline? By analysing everything you like and share, Facebook creates a detailed persona of each user to target ads in the best way possible. And it’s not only what you do on the platform, they can track your footprint in other websites thanks to their Facebook Pixel.

Machine Learning helps predict your client’s future actions

As you probably know, we humans are creatures of habit, which makes recording our behaviour a simple task to the machines. Knowing that, Amazon and Netflix have mastered how to give the best “related products” suggestions you can find online. Their state of the art database is taking advantage of Machine Learning to predict your next clicks offering highly tailored content. Forget one-size-fits-all. To thrive in the current market, companies must pay attention to User Experience like never before.

A simpler (and free) way to implement something a lot less fancy as that is two tools called Content Analytics and Heat Maps, both part of the SumoMe suite. They record data of how far down your readers are getting in your articles and what links are generating more clicks on your pages. With this information, you can do very good educated guesses regarding what’s working and what to change on your website. This is not the “machine learning” approach, but I felt it was worth mentioning.

Forget that “beep-boop” bullsh*t R2-D2 has been feeding us for decades

Artificial Intelligence is also being used to write texts without human supervision. For example, the biggest Wikipedia contributor, Sverker Johansson, with more than 2.7 million articles published, is actually using a bot called Lsjbot to create all content.

If you think it would be obvious to differentiate between human or computer generated articles, think again. According to a study from Karlstad University, Sweden, “the readers are not able to discern automated content from content written by a human“. The researchers used two sports articles (these tend to be more factual and analytical) one written by a journalist and another by a software previously called Statsheet (now called Wordsmith). Big media outlets as Los Angeles Times and Forbes already use similar technology as a base for some articles, with humans later improving the content before they hit publish.

And what if I told you that the previous paragraph wasn’t actually written by me, but by software?

Well, I would be lying.

But for one second you actually thought about the possibility, right? Welcome to the future.

Get creative, experiment, innovate

And how can you take advantage of this in your business? There are a few services (like the IBM Watson) that offer the power of “computer minds” to businesses.

One experiment that I believe is worth the try is applying “robot talk” to your images SEO. Using a free tool like Microsoft’s CaptionBot you can let their machines determine the Alt tag for your image in your website. With Google giving more autonomy to RankBrain and relying more upon machine learning to deliver the best search results, it’s not about how you describe an image anymore. It’s how the machines see it.

Printed direct mail promoting a printer

Preparatory work for direct mail lowers costs

Direct mail is a highly effective marketing technique that delivers sales revenue in a short time frame.  

Some direct mail is poorly conceived and so does not achieve its potential.

[WARNING – this is not always true].

Printed direct mail promoting a printer

Printed direct mail promoting a printer

I received three mailers from a printing firm which serve as a great example of a campaign that could have been much more effective with some pre-planning working with an expert in direct mail campaign structure such as us.

Direct Mail campaign structure

Using a mailing list of marketing agencies, three print pieces of DM were posted out.

The copy promoted “digital by nature” and a new world of digital printing.

The positives

  • Each card had a number to show where it came in the sequence
  • Each one showed different paper colours front and back
  • Each card had the print specifications for the front and back detailed which was cute
  • All print was beautifully executed
  • The 3rd card showed how to set up artwork to work with digital White Toner
  • The 4th card showed how to set up artwork to work with digital Clear Toner

The negatives

  • I did not receive the first card so the campaign opener was lost
  • My agency does not buy print or do graphic design, we are not a good prospect for this service
  • No landing page for the campaign on the website
  • When I first visited there wasn’t a mention of the campaign on the homepage, there is now.
  • This goes to a landing page which has the wrong link in the contact us button.

    wrong link

    Wrong link – testing would have showed this up

How I would have improved the campaign

  1. Combined telephone canvassing with direct mail
    1. Checked the database by phone first asking one question “Do you design for print?”
    2. This would have reduced the downstream print and mailing costs, focused the campaign
  2. Published a landing page URL on the collateral
    1. Tested all the links so the contact us URL was correct (it currently references the same page it’s on)
    2. Included a “behind the scenes” video to show the inside track of the skill Valley Print used to create the mailers and the challenges they faced e.g. printing white on black for the envelope
  3. Used a courier delivery not NZ Post to improve delivery success
    1. This is particularly important for a posted print direct mail series
  4. Followed up by phone with
    1. an invitation to watch the video
    2. stay in touch
    3. subscribe to news updates
    4. further qualify for future work opportunities
  5. This would have built a mailing list, fully up to date and ready for in-house new business sales team to continue to work in the coming months
  6. Planned follow up campaigns including more of the excellent tutorials for designers

Ready to talk direct mail with us?

Give us your challenge and let the creative team loose!

2017 light trail fireworks art

January website checks you MUST make

It’s January – we are back from the Christmas break and many firms are still on a skeleton staff.  Some are back full time – but we’re all filled with the pressures of a new year – new marketing plans, new services, new products.

For most of us, we’ve already forgotten the marketing we did in December.  But we shouldn’t.

Because many websites are now inaccurate, out of date or just plain giving WRONG information.

Here’s a good example I called up today.  I got their “out of hours” telephone answering recorded message. It is past the 9th January and nobody’s home…. cooeee…..

Company contact information is wrong

Company contact information is wrong

So if you have a holiday closure message on your website – get that fixed up and corrected pronto.

Copyright dates on website footers are another culprit.  Some are obviously years out of date and others still say 2016

Website with date out of date

MOZ footer date out of date

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Automate publishing

Post Expirator Plugin for WP

Post Expirator Plugin for WP

Website CMS systems mostly offer automation services which allow you to set future dates to un-publish pages and posts.  Take a read of this explanation of how to “expire” a WordPress post using the WP Post Expirator plugin.  Set a future date at which the post will stop being visible – you can choose whether to return to draft or to delete the post.

Use code to update dates

Here is the code to insert into your footer to ensure that the copyright year automatically rolls over on January 1st.  Get it pasted into your website FAST.

<script type=”text/javascript”>

document.write(new Date().getFullYear());

</script>

Better marketing processes

Of course, fixing up your mistakes now is fine – but wouldn’t it be better to not have made them in the first place?

How about you set up reminders in your calendar to nudge you to manually remove or unpublish information?

Get those plugins and extensions installed so the work is done for you by machines.

Or pay an outsourced marketing consultant like Creative Agency Secrets to do it for you.

Happy new year – and if you’re in need of some marketing and new business year planning, come to our Auckland workshop on 26th January.

Why Whitespace Matters in Web Design

Your website is a valuable marketing asset.

So it makes sense to invest in its design to make it better for potential prospects. In fact, many of the largest companies pour a tremendous amount of resources into their websites. Because even a single design can have a dramatic impact on conversions and bounce rates.

But it is also important to remember that a simple design is key to driving conversion goals.

Cluttered designs with poorly contrasting colours only serve to confuse visitors. Your website design should be readable and easy to understand so that visitors have an intuitive sense of what to do next.

One way to create a more enjoyable browsing experience is to implement whitespace. The use of whitespace is perhaps one of the most important elements of web design. Yet there are still a countless number of websites that look like an infomercial with elements that bombard new visitors.

Here we look at whitespace in more detail and how this simple design principle can boost engagement on your pages.

What is Whitespace?

Whitespace refers to negative space, or the empty space between elements on a page such as images and text. In other words, whitespace is the portion on page that is not filled up. Although it is called “whitespace”, the empty space can actually be any colour such as black.

Perhaps the best example of whitespace is Google’s homepage:

Google homepage

Other businesses including Dropbox make ample use of whitespace on their sites:

Dropbox Business Page

Now contrast those two examples with this website:

Gates N Fences page

It is not immediately clear what the business offers or what actions visitors should take.

Just with a simple comparison, the advantages of a clean design is immediately apparent. Whitespace may seem like a waste. But as we have seen, it can be used to great effect and keep visitors on the page longer. And this can ultimately mean the difference between exceeding sales goals or struggling to meet them.

Why Whitespace Matters

Whitespace is advantageous for the following reasons:

  • Improved legibility: Nothing is more frustrating than landing on page with text that is too small or with minimal line spacing. Improved legibility is one obvious benefit of whitespace. Just by adjusting line spacing and adding more space around images can help visitors better understand what they are reading. This is key to boosting engagement and reducing bounce rates.
  • Ability to highlight CTAs: Imagine if Google’s homepage was filled with links to other pages or other elements such as banners. Both would likely have a negative impact on the number of search queries, which is the last thing that Google would want. Making use of whitespace then is a great way to highlight call to actions and get visitors to take a single action.
  • Creates a lasting impression: There is a reason why some of the largest invest heavily in their website design. Because online users are quick to make impressions based on what they see. Whitespace is especially important as it adds a sense of elegance to your site.

Less is more as whitespace can really make a difference in terms of your website design.

A clean interface makes it easier for visitors to immediately grasp what a page is about and what actions to take next. The goal for any website is to keep visitors engaged and generate more sales or leads. Whitespace helps to achieve those objectives.

The use of ample whitespace is a basic web design principle that can dramatically improve your website performance in terms of conversions. So take a closer look at all the aspects of your website to identify how you can make your design simple and uncluttered.

 

 

 

What’s a typical response rate for personalised B2B direct mail?

What’s a typical response rate for highly personalised B2B direct mail? What provider would you work with? I’ve heard of Enthusem and Pebblepost.
It’s a well designed card with their logo, name or website on it.

Logo for Enthusem

Logo for Enthusem

Your response rate for B2B direct mail depends on a couple of things

  1. What you’re selling and whether the recipient has heard of you or has the need right now for your product/service.
  2. If you are already known, you can get response rates over 10%, particularly if you are trusted.
  3. One way to improve your “response rate” is to do a follow up by telephone to check they got the message and to elicit a reply verbally.
  4. You will get the best results by working with someone experienced in Direct Response Mailings. This is a skilled position – do not expect high % returns without expertise in creating the mailing asset. If you’re inexperienced buying direct mail services, I suggest meeting a few agencies for a “Chemistry” meeting where they will show you their work and ask you about your business needs. This will educate you about the process and likely outcomes.

Lastly, both the services you suggest seem good, I’ve not used them. But a competent Direct Marketing Agency (like Creative Agency Secrets) will do a similar job of customised direct mail pieces as these businesses. Which may be much cheaper. It depends on how big your database is as to which is a good / cheap option.

We use our 8 Step New Business Development process and each has a category – this blog post is related to Step 2 – Marketing Communications and Step 3 – New Business Pipeline

Click on the icons to see more posts in each category.

Symbol for marketing communications symbol for new business pipeline

 

 

This answer was first submitted on Clarity.fm

Marketing segmentation icons

How to use brand icons to drive sales

My philosophy of marketing is that every part of your marketing toolkit that you’ve spent money developing should be working hard to generate sales for your business.

Creating a strong visual identity is a given.  But what about extending it into other marketing areas?

We have been experimenting using content marketing to reinforce visual identity branding and the USPs (unique selling points) and key points of difference of the brand.  Here’s how.

Your business philosophy

When applying content marketing tactics we find that the effectiveness is enhanced when the content is aligned with either buyer personas, pipeline stage, business philosophy or point of difference.  These all help to bring a prospect closer to purchase.

A strategic marketer will help you define a positioning can demonstrate continual advantage and which you can defend against competitors.   

Helping your prospective clients to recognise this positioning and then to relate their experience or their expected buying experience to it is the job of the tactical marketer.

Once you’ve established the philosophy positioning, identifying each part with an unique visual identity or icon is a neat way of enabling the customer to recognise elements in your content marketing and their relation to each other.  From this, they can navigate to find other related content pieces on the same theme or topic.

Case Study – the sports coach website

This client identified five buyer personas and now has a unique landing page for each one.  Their website has over 20,000 pages because they have been blogging since 2007.  This means new visitors find navigating the site challenging.  We identified a deep resource of ‘evergreen’ content which was not getting traffic and so not getting read by visitors.  From this we evolved a segmentation strategy built around a landing page and a visual icon for each visitor type.

Rowperfect Customer segmentation as icons

Customer segmentation as icons

The landing page includes links to the most popular evergreen articles and also gives guidance for the visitor on where to look for similar content. 

Case Study – the marketing agency

At Creative Agency Secrets, we have 8 icons which are all steps in the new business development process. On the blog sidebar are our list of categories – the first eight are numbered and each relates to one step in the process. 

Working on our own blog, we needed to reduce the bounce rate and encourage deeper browsing.  And so we leveraged our 8 Step New business Development Process.  This identifies a clear set of stages for a tactical marketer and a framework for their marketing year planning.  Each stage has a small icon and links to all the blog posts written about that topic.

Marketing segmentation icons

Marketing segmentation icons

It’s easy to read, easy to cross-link articles and also to reference more than one icon in each blog post.

Case Study – the financial advisor

Selling services is often harder than products – defining a clear point of difference is even more challenging for the marketer.  Collaborative Consulting was set up in response to the same-ification of the financial advisory marketplace.  The founder, John Milner, uses his long experience to advise clients differently from others – he calls these the Six Max Factors.  And using a simple graphic, each one is named and ordered.

The goal is to enable readers to become familiar with each icon so they quickly recognise them and can relate to the marketing content more easily.

This tactic will serve to reinforce the firm’s investment philosophy, remind readers why they chose Collaborative Consulting as their advisor and set the firm apart from competitors who are less explicit about the foundations of their advice and investing activities.

How to spot an opportunity to use icons

The key insight a marketer needs to bring to using logos as a sales device is to discover

  1. Is the company able to articulate its USP?
  2. Can you split that USP into several subsidiary elements?
  3. Does your content marketing strategy allow the use of visual and written elements?
  4. Can you measure changed customer and prospect behaviour as you make these changes?

That’s a great starting point – off you go!