Takeaways from #FargoConnect16

By Kayla Koehmstedt, Marketing Intern

We understand there is more to a business besides the numbers stuff, so we try to cover lots of aspects of your business on this blog. We’re nice like that.

Recently, we were able to attend FargoConnect and now we’re able to bring some fresh new marketing ideas back.

Not sure what FargoConnect is? Well, it’s Fargo’s digital marketing communications and technology event that’s all about learning, collaborating and of course, having fun! (If you want to know more, check this out.)

The theme for this year’s event was “Tech Up Your Marketing Game.”

Here are a few of our key takeaways from FargoConnect!

Takeaway #1: Technology is changing the way we market

This one shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise, but there is more than meets the eye. Scott Stratten, President of UnMarketing, kicked the day off by giving a presentation on how to market your brand while using technology. Not only was Scott hilarious (seriously, we had tears from laughing so hard), but he was full of amazing thoughts and ideas.

Social media is a huge player in the marketing world, but it is also a handy tool for the three C’s: Community, Conversation, and Customer Service. According to Jay Baer, another one of the day’s keynotes, “Social media marketing and social media customer service are two sides of the same coin.” So how do we see this with the three C’s?

  • Community – Social media is an excellent tool for reaching out to customers and making them feel involved, whether it be in the business community, physical community or even just a sense of belonging to something.
  • Conversation – Social media gets people talking. It is a great tool to interact with your customers, get feedback, answer questions and even offer product support.
  • Customer Service – People are taking to social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, to air complaints about companies. With this becoming a growing trend, it is now more important than ever to keep up on social media, have a presence, and give your market the attention they crave.

Social media provides a great outlook to connect with people and provide them excellent customer service to keep them satisfied. However, if you’re going to be on social media, Stratten warns to not “be there just to be there.” If you are going to use social media to engage with your market, make sure your presence has something to offer.

“Don’t try to have a presence without being present” – Scott Stratten

Takeaway #2: People are changing the way we market

Just like technology, people are always changing; usually, where technology goes, they go. It’s clear to see that many people have developed a “want/need it now” demeanor when it comes to many things, and communication is at the top of this list.

People are changing the way we market because they want to be noticed, heard and taken care of. Baer reminded us of BEET: Be Empathetic Every Time. Relate to your customers, give them awesome customer service and let them know they are valued.

How do you practice BEET? Well, according to Stratten, what’s important is finding your market’s preferred way of communicating, and acting on it. In fact, Baer says, “Your customers will tell you what content they want if you just listen to them.”

It is important to note how consumers choose to get information about a product or service. Some will look online, some will go to the store and some will seek information from their peers. However, the preferred method comes from online reviews, ratings and discussions. In fact, 87% of American’s trust ratings and reviews just as much as recommendations from peers. This brings us to a topic that is often overlooked, but can actually be extremely important to how we interact with our customers: customer service. There will always be customers who are upset about something or not satisfied. How you react to this situation is what can bring success to your business.

Many people are now opting to air their dirty laundry about a company online, for all to see, or as Baer calls it, “onstage haters.” These “onstage haters” are posting online because they want an audience. However, the best way to react to this is to offer amazing customer service that addresses their needs and leaves them feeling satisfied.

“People who complain about your business are not the problem – ignoring them is” – Jay Baer

Lou D’Angeli, director of marketing and PR for Cirque du Soleil, reminded us that we should show our audience, not tell them. How then should we do this? By offering great customer service that will keep them coming back and satisfied. It is important to remember that no response is a response in itself.

 Takeaway #3: The (not so distant) future will change the way we market

When we think to the future, we picture George Jetson riding in his flying car, or his robot maid cleaning the house for him. We may not have these things, but the future is here, and we are seeing trends of some pretty cool tools that will change how we market.

Jon Pederson, Chief Technology Officer of Midco, spoke on the topic of augmented reality and how this will affect not only our professional life, but our home life as well. Augmented reality could provide new platforms to reach consumers, whether it be in marketing or just to hold conversations with them.

Garrett Moon, co-founder of CoSchedule, talked about the importance of embracing the process, which will be important in embracing the changes of the future.

“A culture that is willing to think big and learn is a culture that is willing to win.” – Garrett Moon

 

Key Metrics for Small Business

It’s easy to get distracted as a small business owner or entrepreneur. After all, you’re focusing on your product or service, growing your team and managing the day-to-day. So how do you know what’s important and what you need to pay attention to?

Determining key metrics for your specific business is a process. However, the end result should be 3-10 quantifiable metrics (your metrics need to be measurable, even if they are based on non-financial data) that can tell you if your business is heading in the right direction, or if you need to make adjustments.

There are a few more important keys to successfully developing metrics for your business…

  • Keep it simple. If you have too many metrics to track or your metrics are too complex, you’re setting yourself up for likely failure. Plus, you won’t be able to get the right information you need.
  • Have a benchmark. You want to be able to measure your actual performance against a budget or a goal. If there is no target, what’s the point?
  • Make people accountable. Assign each metric an individual in order to establish accountability. Accountability is what gives the key metric traction.
  • Consider incentives. It’s motivation. Incentives generally lead to increased drive to achieve the metric assigned.

Still not quite sure what metrics you should be tracking? Here’s a list of common areas that we think small businesses should develop key metrics around and review on a regular basis:

Cash Balance | How much money do you physically have right now? Don’t forget to be cognizant of deposits in transit (money you have receipt of, but hasn’t been deposited in the bank) and outstanding checks (checks that you have written but haven’t cleared the bank).

Accounts Receivable | How much money is owed to you by your customers? What portion is greater than 30 days past due? How is this affecting your cash flow?

Accounts Payable | How much do you currently owe? How is this affecting your cash flow? Are you paying these in a timely fashion?

Inventory | How many days, on average, is your inventory sitting on your shelves? Are there any slow moving inventory items? Do you have any significant back orders? What is your return rate? What about shipping and delivery times or issues?

Sales Revenue | What are your gross sales? How is each sales individual doing? How many leads have you turned into opportunities won or lost? What does your sales cycle look like?

Gross Margin & Net Income | How high is your gross margin? Are you turning a profit on the goods you sell? Are you continually working to lower your cost of goods sold? Is your gross margin enough to cover your cost of operating? Speaking of gross margin, do you know your gross margin by profit center (ex. product line, customer, job, etc.)?

Reminders:

Total Sales – Cost of Goods Sold = Gross Margin

Gross Margin – Operating Expenses +/- Other Income/Expenses = Net Income

Customer Service | What ratings are you seeing via customer service surveys? How many incidents were reported? How many support tickets are open or have been resolved? How many new customers did you win? What does your retention of existing customers look like? Did you receive any referrals?

Marketing | How many active campaigns are you running? How many social media followers do you have? How many website hits have you had? What was the duration of each campaign?

In summary, there are hundreds of metrics out there. That’s why it’s important to understand what drives the success of your business. Once you know the key areas you would like to focus on, you can develop key metrics. And remember…keep it simple, have a goal, assign each metric and consider incentives.

Still confused? We can help!

Digital Marketing Trends You Should Measure (Pt 3)

Guest Blog by Tiffanie Honeyman, OpGo Marketing

Today we’re talking social media (Facebook specifically) and mobile technology. For parts one and two of this blog, go here and here.

Facebook

When it comes to social media, Facebook dominates. This is a channel that is not all about conversions, but more about brand building. With this platform you can build your brand, tell your story, foster loyal customers, and grow your audience. According to eMa rk e ter ’s sta ts, more than half of Americans will use Facebook this year.

So what do you measure?

  1. Reach and engagement. It is important to measure reach and engagement on Facebook. You want to know what content moves your audience to engage and create more of it. Reach is within the “Insights” tab on your Facebook pag Evaluate the organic vs paid reach and look closely at the posts driving the reach and engagement. Note, “fan base” is not synonymous with “reach”. Posts that garner “likes” and “shares” add organic reach well beyond the fan base (those that like the page).
  2. Conversions. It’s important to monitor the conversions through Google Analytics. Here you can see how the channel performs from a bottom of the funnel standpoint. Keep in mind the objective of Facebook initiatives are not always at the bottom of the marketing funnel; when the goal is brand awareness, monitor the volume of impressions and cost-per-thousand (CPM).

Whether it’s B2B or B2C, buyers are controlling the journey and doing their own research up front. Facebook is another common source in this research—a touch-point where you have an opportunity to get in front of them especially on mobile). Forrester shares survey results showing 75% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. Consider Facebook as a channel for strategies that involve branding and lead generation.

Mobile

According to Google’s blog, “more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries including the US and Japan”. According to Venturebeat.com, over half of Facebook users access the platform only on mobile.

So what do you measure?

  1. The percentage of web users (not sessions) and conversions that come from mobile.
  2. Campaigns. Look at mobile vs desktop performance. When setting up your campaigns, set up your mobile campaigns separately. This gives you the ability to truly see the difference in cost and overall performance by device.
  3. Channels. Consider which channels perform best on mobile for your marketing objectives. You may determine the mobile objective is “call conversions” while the desktop objective is “awareness”.

Mobile matters because this is where many of your customers first experience your brand. If you neglect to consider mobile when over half the searches are done on mobile, you could be losing opportunity to those who make the mobile experience clean, simple, and user friendly.

 

 

 

Digital Marketing Trends You Should Measure (Pt. 2)

Guest Blog by Tiffanie Honeyman, OpGo Marketing

As a refresher, we’re talking about five essential digital marketing trends your business should be paying attention to. Be sure to check out part one here.

Today we’re talking Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM).

Search Engine Optimization

You’ve probably heard the term SEO many times, along with SEM and PPC etc. To clarify, SEO is “search engine optimization” (organic search) and SEM is “search engine marketing” (paid search). Another common reference for paid search is PPC (pay-per-click). SEO is number two on this list because buyers are in charge of the sales process, taking advantage of Google to help them seek out all options available vs just the ones being pushed out on paid ads. Google has the majority of search share, so Google sets the bar—the chart below was provided by comScore March 2016.

graph

So what do you measure?

  1. Pay attention to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and their one-page SEO Guide. If your web developer doesn’t understand SEO, contact a resource that does. There are several companies doing SEO audits and they can provide your webmaster a list of actions to make your website search engine optimized.
  2. All marketers have heard it, content is king. So how do you measure content? It can be overwhelming when you consider Google determines “relevancy” by over 200 factors, but the best rule of thumb is to just think logically. Put your customers’ “intent” first. How does your site help them accomplish what they are trying to do? (learn, explore, purchase, compare, make contact, sign up for more info, connect on social, etc.) Once you have outlined your website objectives, think about search queries. Put the terms and phrases your prospects will be searching for into your website. Be proactive in answering their questions to save everyone time. You want to pre-qualify your leads and they want to find the right fit for their needs. There are many tools to do keyword analysis; Google’s Key word Planner is one of them. And if you sign up for Google Search Console, you’ll be able to see which terms your site is being shown for organically. If you don’t like what you see, make changes and monitor monthly.
  3. Links. There are on-page and off-page links that play a role in When it comes to optimizing your site from an off-page standpoint, links are important (p.s. Moz has a blog about links with more info here.)

If you have invested in a website, you want Google to be able to find it. If Google can find it, you need Google to make sense of it so they can serve specific pages of your site to their users. Your website is not just a pretty face; it is a marketing investment that can deliver consistent ROI. If Google cannot index your site, they will not be able to process all of the content on your site the way you intended and your competitors’ sites will be served over yours.

Google Paid Search

SEM (search engine marketing) is paid search. When you sign up for Google AdWords, you are able to appear on search engine results pages (Google, Bing, Yahoo). It’s free to set up an AdWords account and it can be a cost effective way to advertise because you are paying for relevant clicks. Paid Search is a great interim solution to show up on Google when your site isn’t ranking organically. Get an expert to manage your SEM campaigns (someone certified with Google) or at least have them do the monthly report to make sure you’re not just paying for clicks, but you are getting relevant conversions (leads).

So what do you measure?

  1. Keyword quality score. Campaign performance is driven by keywords and their associated ads. If your keywords have a low quality score, Google may be serving your ads less and when they do serve them, they are more likely to charge you a higher CPC (cost-per-click). Keyword quality scores are associated with the ads and the landing pages (customer journey). It all ties to search intent and your ability to provide content relevant to each search.
  2. One of the biggest errors is monitoring “clicks” and not “conversions”. Clicks can drain your budget…unless they are converting. If your clicks are converting to transactions, you have a successful campaign. The performance of an AdWords campaign takes time to optimize, but Google offers recommendations that can speed up the process. When measuring success of a paid search campaign, always monitor the cost-per-conversion. As you optimize your campaign, the cost-per-conversion should go down.
  3. Do not forget to check on “search impression share”. If you are seeing the campaign deliver relevant leads, review your budget and bids. By increasing the budget with a campaign that has delivered results, you have an opportunity to increase the volume of leads by increasing the budget. A low percentage of search impression share is an indication there is missed opportunity.
  4. Optimizing an AdWords campaign requires adding negative keywords, testing messaging, recommending updates to landing pages, competitive bidding and knowing the platform settings. When trying to benchmark cost-per-click, cost-per conversion, click-through-rates, and conversion rates, know that bids are contingent upon your target audience and the amount of competitors targeting that same audience with the same content. The best benchmarks are the ones you set after starting your own campaign since each campaign is a custom set-up and performance is tied to your website.

Insights from a paid search campaign give you real-time info on what products and services are most competitive. You can also see which sites are winning search impression share over yours. You’ll also be able to see which locations (geography) are performing the best and which devices (desktop, mobile) so you can start investing in other tactics with more confidence. When you look beyond the “clicks,” you can see better insights that will help you make better marketing decisions.

 

 

 

Digital Marketing Trends You Should Measure

Guest Blog by Tiffanie Honeyman, OpGo Marketing

You have your business up and running. But how do you spread the word? And how do you do it in a world that’s constantly changed by technology?

Digital marketing trends can be overwhelming. It’s hard to figure out which metrics matter most and what channels you should be focusing on.

Never fear! There are five main focal points to help clear the fog of digital marketing metrics.

  1. Customer Experience: Micro-Moments
  2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  3. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
  4. Facebook
  5. Mobile

In today’s blog, we’ll talk about micro-moments in more detail. Stay tuned for blogs two and three, which will discuss the other metrics.

Customer Experience: Micro-Moments

With all the shiny objects in the digital marketing world, customer experience can be overlooked. Being customer-centric means having first-hand knowledge of what your customers want and being there at the right time to meet their needs. An example of a “micro-moment” would be when a customer is researching how to do something or deciding if a purchase is worth it.

To define micro-moments for your customers, develop personas and wrap your marketing initiatives around them by creating journeys and online experiences they will appreciate. Be proactive. Once you know your marketing is talking to the right people, in the right way, at the right time, set benchmarks for engagement and conversions.

How to measure customer experience.

Customer Feedback. Give your customers a voice, and you get valuable feedback on your products, services, support, and overall brand experience. There are many ways to give your customers a voice.

  • Emails
  • Online Surveys
  • Social Polls
  • Exploratory Interviews
  • Social Listening
  • Comment boxes

Reviews. In addition to the feedback options, customer reviews are another great way to shed light. Once you know you have a solid user experience, push for more reviews. Reviews will influence others who are making a decision related to your product or service.

On-Site Activity

  • Review the paths taken on your site that resulted in conversions to clients or sales.
  • Review the paths taken when conversions did not occur and analyze the reasons why, listing the differences from those that did convert.
  • If you’re doing e-commerce, investigate cart abandonment rate to know how many people made it to your cart, but did not buy. Investigate the “why” (i.e. Mobile issue) and make changes to reduce the abandonment rate and increase the frequency of transactions.
  • Review conversions by audience segment to learn more about the demographics, behavior, and interests of buyers. Apply this knowledge to future campaigns, include micro-moments, and find lookalike audiences.
  • Measure user experience by doing a site audit and assess whether or not your site follows best practices.

The driving force behind sales is meeting a customer’s need better than your competitors. If you are not creating an avenue for two-way communication in a digital marketing strategy, you are at risk of being ignorant of what really matters to your customers.

When you know what matters most, you can modify your marketing messaging to amplify how you are meeting those needs better than anyone else. Lastly, if you don’t create a great online experience for your customer, they will find someone who will.

 

Five Ways Your Team Can Build Your Digital Brand via @OnsharpKirsten

Guest Blog by Kirsten Jensen, Director of Digital Marketing at Onsharp | @OnsharpKirsten

Your employees are some of the biggest assets for your brand. They are the faces that welcome customers. And, the voices that engage to build relationships. The strength of your customer experience is built by many individual moments between your team and the people they serve. Yet, when we build our online communities, we tend to focus on connecting our customers to the brand – we ask them to “like” our brand’s Facebook page or “follow” the brand on Twitter. If this is our only focus, we miss the opportunity to extend the relationships that already exist between our employees and our customers into digital connections. Truly, we miss the power of social media to connect people to people. As Mark Burgess and Cheryl Burgess point out in their book The Social Employee, “Customers don’t want to speak to a brand; they want to speak to real people.”

A growing trend in marketing focuses on empowering individual employees to use social media as part of their jobs. The movement goes by several names – employee advocacy, brand advocacy, social employee – all focused on extending offline relationships into digital connections. If your small business has been struggling to create meaningful digital connections with your customers, consider a social employee program. You’ll see immediate benefits when you give employees content ideas that they can share in their existing social networks (LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter). And, you’ll see exponentially greater results with a company-branded program on Twitter (P.S. Check our more info on setting up a company-branded account here).

Here are five ways that your team can help to build your digital brand by being active in social media:

Tell more stories – be everywhere at once. Share more stories about why you do what you do. In most small businesses, one team member is responsible for social media as a small part of their role. When I visit with those folks, I often hear “I know that there’s so much more happening, but I can’t be everywhere at once.” When you expand your social program to include employees from across the business, you suddenly have the ability to be wherever those employees are going. For inspiration, check out how The Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead West Fargo has empowered each of their team members to share content about the programs they lead. (Read the story | See their Tweets.)

Deepen relationships. Start a dialogue in social media. Engage. Recognize partners. Thank donors. Share ideas with customers. Inspire or, perhaps, intrigue prospects. To deepen relationships, tag that person or organization in your tweet. For inspiration, read how these social employees are saying “thank you” with Twitter.

Extend your reach. According to @WeRSM, only 2-8% of an employees social media network overlaps with that of the brand they work for. That means, more than 90% of the folks connected to your employees don’t follow your overall brand. Encouraging your employees to share can help you reach a whole new audience that is currently only one degree removed. And, we’ve found that individual connections inspire brand connections, too. CCRI, for example, has seen their rate of new followers to their overall brand account nearly double, since starting their social employee program. Read about @CCRIAnna ‘s experience as a social employee.

Share expertise. Share the unique passions, expertise and responsibilities for each team member. Leveraging the unique interests of many team members makes for richer content that does a better job of telling your brand story. List areas of expertise in each team member’s Twitter bio and post on those topics regularly. For inspiration, see Twitter these Twitter bios that share areas of focus: @FMWFSamantha, @OnsharpAbby, @OnsharpKirsten

Demonstrate culture and values. Let your light shine! Your culture and values should be strong recruitment tools. Go beyond listing your values inn the About section of your website. Let your employees share social proof of what your culture and values really look like on a day-to-day basis. For inspiration, see how the FMWF Chamber uses #ChamberCrew, how Sanford Health uses #SanfordFamily, Onsharp uses #TeamOnsharp, how American Crystal Sugar Company uses #CommunityRoots.

Empowering individual employee voices in social media provides powerful social proof to build your digital brand. You can learn more about social employee programs by visiting onsharp.com. I look forward to connecting with you on Twitter!

 

 

Business Planning 101

Has this ever happened to you? You get in the car, begin your journey and realize you have no idea where you’re headed or how to reach your destination. So what do you do? For some, they keep on driving, assuming they’ll figure it out along the way. For others, they pull out a map or plug their destination into their smart phone and let GPS take it from there. Then, if they still need help, they stop and ask for directions.

The same scenario can apply to starting your business and mapping out where you’ll go in the future. Some people start a business with no clear end in sight or no true direction or course. While this “fly by the seat of your pants” approach can be fun and exhilarating, we’re here to tell you it’s not the ideal way to start and run a business (sorry to rain on your parade).

Rather a business should model itself after the latter group in the above example.  By pulling out a map or plugging in your end destination, you can plan a trip that will get you to the place you want to go. Hopefully, it may even get you there in record time.

This is the heart of business planning, an essential function of running a business. Consider your business plan a roadmap or GPS for your organization. It’s an important step, because it keeps you on track during the early years of your business and gives you a defined destination to reach, as well as keeping you on track along the way. A business plan generally includes:

  • Company description (What is it exactly that you do? What sets you apart? Who do you serve?)
  • Organization (we’re talking the structure of your business and what management looks like)
  • Service/product line (What are you selling? How does it benefit a potential customer?)
  • Marketing and sales (How will you sell your product? How will people hear about you?)
  • Funding (How are you going to get started? Are you asking for funding?)
  • Financial projections (How are you going to make money?)
    • Projections for 3-5 years ahead
    • Yearly milestones (and how you’ll get there)
    • Revenue projections

So now you have your destination. You’re trucking along, enjoying the scenery and gaining momentum. But wait … you’re lost again. Your GPS told you were coming up on a national park and instead, you’re in the Walmart parking lot. Now what?

ASK FOR DIRECTIONS. A business plan is a really great map for your organization and an excellent exercise in understanding not only why you got into business the first place, but where you want to go and eventually end up. However, it’s not a concrete plan and sometimes, you encounter unexpected obstacles (hey, if you could see into the future and predict with 100% accuracy, you’d be a pretty wealthy business owner). So don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions or help along the way.

Here a few common questions to ask along your business journey:

  • What would have to occur over the next three to five years for your business to be where you want it to be?
  • What are your profit and growth plans? How have they changed since you started this journey?
  • How much longer do you want to work in the business?
  • How quickly can you make effective decisions? Do you even have the information you need to make these decisions?
  • How do you stack up against your competition? (benchmarking anyone?)
  • Do you still have a clear vision/mission for your organization?

Take a step back every once in a while and reassess where you’re going and if your original destination is till where you want to be headed. If not, there’s always time to readjust.

Further, enjoy the journey. What you’re doing is pretty cool, and we want to see it succeed, grow and thrive.

Too wordy for your taste? Check out this infographic:

Business Planning