The Organ Of The Soul

Famed 19th century American poet and educator, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, was once quoted as saying, “The human voice is the organ of the soul.”  As true as it was then, Longfellow’s message is even more powerful today.

Why Is That True Today?

Voice commerce or vCommerce, an alternative to using a keyboard, is expected to soar in the near future.  A recent study by Juniper Research forecasted that more than $80 billion annually will be generated through voice commerce by 2023.  Juniper, which offers analytical services to global tech companies along with its research, also said it anticipates that most sales will start off being digital and money transfers. 

Juniper indicated that sales will migrate more to products when vCommerce comes up with a way for smooth cross-platform transactions.  Based on its forecast, the company also said it expects sales of multi-platform apps in smartphones and tablets to increase while predicting a decline in standalone apps.

If that’s not enough motivation, consider a study.  Research by Gartner for Marketers predicted that digital sales will increase 30% by 2021 for early adopters who redesign their sites.

Voice Ready

In order to successfully leverage vCommerce, more research relevant to a company’s customers is required.  Companies need to first discover when and how their customers use voice and then determine their own psychographic voice profile. 

Voicebot.ai reports that users of voice are of the alpha generation   They’re 18 to 29 years-old and have iPhones, and of that group 69%, they say, are male.

Drilling further down, it’s extremely helpful for companies to discover what kind of devices their target audience relies on.  Customers that participate in running and outdoor activities would likely favor earbuds and smart watches while home bakers and cooks might lean more toward smart speakers.

The Tricky Parts

Depending upon what findings about the favored devices of their customers, the next step is to pair up one or more voice assistants with the appropriate brand that matches up with their targeted audience.  This is critical for companies who want to be found.

The final step in the process is for companies to alter their SEO methodology.  Unlike an online search which generates a list of possibilities, vCommerce will deliver one finding.  Where companies wrote algorithms to be found on search engines, they now need to entice algorithms that generate the recommendations on voice assistants.

Remember that Google relies on information from websites to produce its search results.  Alexa, on the other hand, generates its results from a list of 70,000 skills.

To produce that good fit, it’s important to discover the questions customers ask about a company and/or its products or services.  One way to determine that is to survey customers. Another is holding focus groups.

Early adopters have an excellent opportunity to not only raise more revenue, but also increase their market share by adapting and incorporating vCommerce in making it easier for this young and growing customer base to find them.

Customer Experience Matters: How Businesses Can Audit Their Process

According to a recent report from Salesforce, customers are placing a heightened sense of importance on their experience with a brand now more than ever before. In previous marketing generations, what mattered most was the product or the service being sold and the value a customer received for their purchase. Now, however, marketing has become a more vital part of a customer’s life cycle with a brand and the user experience can no longer be considered outside of marketing’s hands.

Several factors have influenced this shift towards the favor of quality user experiences. For one, we now live in a world in which instant gratification has become somewhat of a norm and competition can be cutthroat. In order to have a hope of gaining traction in an increasingly crowded consumer market, a brand must offer the quickest responses, the best prices or value, and the best marketing campaign intent on capturing new audience members. This is far from an easy process.

In an effort to combat the competition, more brands are turning to user experience to make themselves stand out from the crowd.

Apple is a pioneer of this concept, helping shape the idea of experiential marketing well before other mainstream brands caught on to the effect. Visiting an Apple store is an experience — the minimalist store design is soothing, even in the most crowded spaces. There’s a lot of tactile feedback, customers are able to see, touch, and use the devices they’re considering. Everything is visually appealing and pleasant, so much so that the concept has become what Apple is known for. Soon, Apple was opening flagship stores with even more amenities and features for discerning shoppers. Shopping for Apple products became a destination event.

For this and other reasons, it’s no surprise that Apple consistently ranks near the top for customer experience. Other businesses can take pages from Apple’s book, learning ways to appeal to customers in a way that leaves them with a memorable experience.

Often, soliciting feedback from those outside of a brand’s organization can help paint a picture of what the user experience is for a customer. In many cases, those within the company are so close to their products that it can be difficult to pragmatically assess the scenario from a consumer’s perspective.

A brand may miss simple opportunities to connect with customers, such as the persona with which the brand’s platforms speak to consumers. Or perhaps the customer service team needs to take a more pleasant tone when they’re corresponding with customers. In other cases, perhaps the customer is simply just not having a memorable enough experience with the brand to rank their user experience favorably.

Consider introducing ways that customers can tailor their experience. User testing options such as quizzes or questionnaires can help a brand identify more customized experiences that may appeal to customers. Even giving customers control over what type of communications they receive from a brand can increase the satisfaction they feel with their user experience.

Salesforce’s report shows that 80 percent of customers say that their experience with a company matters just as much as the product or service for which they’re shopping. This is an important statistic for businesses to take to heart as they design their marketing and customer experience strategies for the months to come.

TAKE THE LEAD

How often have we heard that phrase in a speech, movie or song?  In the digital marketing world, we hear it most often used with CRM, particularly when it comes to lead management.  Why is this important?

CRM lead management, along with analytics and content, are vital to a company identifying and attracting new customers and business.  Whether a marketing department has a system in place or is looking to improve its existing system, here are some key things to consider.

FIRST CHALLENGE

For many companies, the first challenge may be a surprise.  It’s internal. Marketing and sales are often not together on this.  Why? Marketing’s mission is to attract new customers while sales is to close the deal.   Sales, however, is sometimes accused of driving new customers away. When the latter occurs, the reason is not so much that didn’t know how to close the deal, but more because sales didn’t quite understand their potential new customer.

Both teams need to better support one another.  How? The simplest way to achieve greater success is to work better together which is what every management book says.  But working together means more than marketing handing over a list of new customers to sales. It means interpreting the data and arming sales with deeper information and a better understanding of its potential customers.

SECOND CHALLENGE

What’s extremely helpful is having a program that removes all or most of the guesswork.  All programs identify leads but one that can also prioritize them via predictive and/or behavioral scoring is invaluable.  Not only will such a program help the sales department land purchases more quickly, but it can also eliminate wasted time on prospects who aren’t as qualified. 

WHAT ABOUT NEW MARKETS?

Predictive scoring can be particularly valuable here.  A good program will compare the known characteristics of present customers against those a company believes their potential customers have.  That data can help direct a company to where and to whom it should target its resources and marketing efforts.

One of the biggest challenges is new markets is not giving in too early.  In spite of good data and help from predictive scoring, gaining a foothold in a new market can still take a while.   Don’t give up too soon.

The other important aspect to any market, but particularly a new one, is tracking and analyzing data frequently.  This allows companies that see trends or shifts I customer behavior to make adjustments in a timelier manner. Sales can also be helpful here by providing valuable feedback on how customers are responding and what they’re saying. 

Share the results of success, small and large, with both the marketing and sales teams.  Also be sure to include valuable lessons learned that might be applied in the future. 

Last, but certainly not least.  As always, be sure to honor and steward customers so they feel valued.  The new ones gained will appreciate this. This helps greatly in building customer loyalty.  Continue asking for and seeking comments. Great reviews and comments have the best credibility among potential consumers, especially new website visitors.

Are Email Re-engagement Campaigns Worth the Effort?

Email marketing has quickly risen to be one of the most influential areas of digital marketing in today’s environment. With more users gravitating toward their email inboxes for information, brands are using newsletters and marketing emails to engage with customers and build relationships.

However, one of the challenges of email marketing is connecting with subscribers who have lost interest or shown little engagement with the emails they receive. While there are multiple metrics to track for email marketing, engagement is perhaps the most valuable. Keeping a high unique open rate is an objective that any email marketer should be working toward, and often this involves some strategy for re-engagement of idle subscribers.

This presents a challenge, though. The cost of subscriber acquisition can rise quickly, and often going after disengaged subscribers can be a more cost-effective option. However, the effort put forth doesn’t always equal out to be a massive success, especially if a company starts the re-engagement campaign too late.

Research shows that re-engaging with subscribers around the 30 day mark has the most success. This gives brands an opportunity to check in with the subscriber before they forget that they ever subscribed to the list in the first place. Chasing after subscribers who have shown no engagement in months may not be worth the effort involved.

Encouraging subscribers to engage with content will help boost the open and unique open rates of the mailing list — a more valuable metric than just the number of subscribers. After all, if a mailing list has 100,000 people on it, but only 10 percent of those users are opening emails, how valuable is that to the brand’s marketing efforts and/or to any advertorial partners?

Another way to ensure that a brand is engaging with subscribers consistently is to put out high quality content. Consider putting in unique content that users won’t find elsewhere. Tweak the subject line of the email to be more enticing. Track the heat map of clicks in the body of the email to find out what content is converting at a higher rate. Find out what time of day users are opening the email, and what devices they’re using to view it.

All of this information can bolster the email marketing strategy that a company designs, and it provides more insights on audience behaviors so that re-engagement can be more thoughtfully initiated.

The great aspect of email marketing is that many steps can be automated. For example, re-engagement emails can be triggered at a certain point in time, by certain behaviors. A user who signs up for the mailing list but fails to open any emails in a 30 day period could trigger a re-engagement email. A user who starts out strong but then drops off after 30 or 45 days could also trigger an email to check in.

Brands shouldn’t be afraid to remove inactive users from their list. This action accomplishes different things: it increases the quality of the open rate and it ensures that a user won’t be “turned off” by too many emails that they won’t read. Remember, the open rate is a metric that should be carefully nurtured, and going for the high subscriber count won’t always accomplish the right goals.

Business Needs to Care About Employee Satisfaction

Often when a prospective employee interviews for a position, the interview focuses on the qualifications and skills of the candidate. Are they always on time? Do they have a college degree or relevant work experience? Do they have the right personality that would fit well with the existing team? All of these factors and more are taken into heavy consideration when weighing candidates against each other.

But what about the candidate? What about their satisfaction in their new position? Will this company be the right fit for the aspirations of this individual? Is the management style one that the candidate can work well with?

It seems that so much focus is put on the candidate — and for good reason, it should be said — but there is very little focus put on the satisfaction of incoming employees and whether or not the company seems like the best fit for that person.

Why is this so important? The answer is simple and is something that every company knows to be true: employee satisfaction is an important part of any work environment. Happy, satisfied, engaged employees are able to do a higher quality of work because they aren’t distracted by job dissatisfaction or by conflict with their supervisor.

With this in mind, more companies need to be cognizant of the status of their employees’ satisfaction in their work. And for prospective employees coming in to interview, focusing on what makes that candidate tick, what motivates them, and what will encourage them to do their best work.

In the interview process, how often does the interviewer ask the candidate what it is that motivates them or what makes them a success? This should absolutely be a part of every interview, as while a candidate may be excellent (or, less than ideal) on paper, their personality or work style may not be a great fit for the company. On the flip side, a candidate who works best under certain circumstances or under different management styles may want to suss out the idea of working at this company before accepting a job offer.

Employee satisfaction is a huge part of any business, and cultivating this should be a metric just as with any other aspect of performance. Cultivating a culture in which employees feel motivated and engaged is challenging, especially when different individuals have their own preferences on their work environment. By creating a group of employees that can work well together, a company will automatically set itself up better for ongoing heightened levels of employee satisfaction.

Soliciting feedback is another way for businesses to encourage employees to speak up and to feel that they have a voice. Better yet, having the ability to take that feedback and make tangible changes accordingly will go a long way in increasing levels of employee engagement and satisfaction.

Why is this so important? Because many companies prefer to have their candidates sell them on why they should be hired. While this is important, what about what’s best for the candidate? By trying to find out what makes that candidate tick, the company can help set them up for success right off the bat. This prevents the need for an uphill battle in creating an environment of satisfaction.

Engaged employees do their best work because they feel confident and heard in their work environments. It’s vital that more companies embrace this idea, or else they run the risk of having a lesser talent pool to pull from as candidates abandon their prospects in favor of brands that have an actual investment in the happiness of their employees.

Ronn Torossian is the CEO of 5W Public Relations

May I Help You?

How many times have you walked down a store aisle and responded to a salesclerk’s query about assistance with, “Just looking”? Browsing appears to have migrated to YouTube which claims that 90% of people find new merchandise there with a 40% plus purchase rate.

Regardless of what the actual numbers are, the fact is that more and more shoppers are browsing and buying merchandise online. About 55% search on Google for a product, then often frequent YouTube to learn even more by watching videos of the items they’re interested in.

There are two takeaways from this data. One is that shoppers are becoming more inclined to purchase a product after they’ve seen and learned more about it. The second is obvious. Video has become more and more important in swaying potential shoppers to buy your product. Use video if you’re not already doing so.

With about 2 billion active monthly users, YouTube is a powerful marketing tool if you’re already employing it. If you’re not, you should be. Marketers who utilize video on You Tube garner 66% more qualified leads than their counterparts who don’t. And 83% claim that video also gives them a considerably larger return on investment.

But if only it was that easy. Simply creating a video and publishing it on You Tube is not the answer. Your video, like your product, will be competing with many others. It must stand out.

How To Stand Out

In earlier articles, we stressed the importance of knowing as much about your target audience as possible. When you’re armed with that kind of information, you can better tailor your video to them. Doing this will differentiate your product from the competition and stand out. It’s important that your videos be short and to the point. Two or three minutes work best.

Similar to your print pieces, share stories about and from happy customers. Nothing speaks louder and more credibly than a satisfied customer.

Leverage your influencers and utilize them in your videos, too. They already have a large following and word among followers will spread even more quickly. Consider having a competition among your influencers with the one garnering the most likes winning a special prize.

Utilize all of your social media channels for your videos. Even LinkedIn can be powerful since it’s home to many leading business and professional people.

What About B2B?

Most of the same guidelines apply but there are a few exceptions. One is timing. Mondays are generally the worst day to send out your video because it starts the work week and invariably there’s a pile of work on a senior executive’s desk. Fridays also don’t work week because many executives are trying to clear their desks so they can enjoy the weekend. Studies show Thursday as usually being the best day to send out your video followed by Wednesday.

Make your ask sooner than later and put some energy and emotion in your video. Your business customers not only wish to be informed, but also engaged.

And to foster enthusiasm within your organization, seek out some in-house talent. It will not only foster better morale and excitement, but get employees engaged and helping to spread the word.

time management

Time Management Best Practices for the Independent Worker

Congratulations! You’ve struck out on your own and plan to become a freelance worker or even an entrepreneur launching your own solo venture. It’s a liberating feeling, working free of bosses and conference rooms. But is it all it’s cracked up to be? The short answer is yes, but with an asterisk.

Working independently is a challenge that many underestimate when they first start out. After all, what could be better than working in a coffee shop or even at home? What could replace the feeling of freedom knowing that a schedule can be set free of restrictions? However, working independently isn’t just a vacation in one’s pajamas. This requires a high level of time management, prioritization skills, and focus.

These are often the three things that hold the independent worker back from success. We’re here to help those who are newly independent improve their workflow so that they can truly enjoy the benefits of being a “nomad” in working terms.

Improving Time Management

We’ve touched on this briefly in previous articles, but managing one’s time is perhaps one of the single most valuable skills that any worker can have. This comes into play, even more, when an individual works independently. Why is this? Well, think of it logically. Without the constant supervision of a boss, or even of one’s cubicle mate, what is there to keep you from sitting on the couch watching reruns of The Office all day long? Self-motivation must come into play here, and time management also takes practice. Don’t sweat if staying on task or getting enough done is challenging at first. Make it a goal to improve your time management. Even if you feel you’re already killing this, we promise you can still improve.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Managing one’s own time, particularly when juggling multiple clients or assignments, calls on the skill of prioritization. It’s easy to get distracted or otherwise find ways to waste time. It’s also easy to spend too much time on a job that isn’t all that valuable. For example, let’s say a marketing freelancer manages social media for several different clients. Each week, it seems that the curation and creation of content, along with the scheduling of it, takes hours on end. It becomes tedious, and the freelancer hasn’t even started on the rest of the work she’s committed to this week! Social media scheduling is something that can be automated or done well in advance (within reason). Finding ways to make priorities shift will improve time management and free up windows of time that may not have otherwise been available.

Stay On Task

And finally, the old nemesis of staying on task. It’s something we all have struggled or currently struggle with. Just as with everything else listed in this article, improving focus is something that each individual needs to do in their own way. Nonetheless, this is important and also increasingly difficult to do with the reliance we all have on our mobile devices and computers, where so much information is available at our fingertips. So make a dedicated effort to improve your focus and stay on task. Many swear by the Pomodoro method of working, which simply sets work blocks at 25-minute intervals, followed by short breaks. Many users will say that this helps them stay on task for a dedicated amount of time. You may be pleasantly surprised by the amount of work you’re able to get done in this seemingly short window of time!

A concerted effort to streamline the work process will help any independent worker finally feel the liberation of working on their own. It’s certainly not for everyone, and it requires a healthy amount of self-sufficiency, but many thrive on this lifestyle. Sometimes, a little fine tuning is all that’s needed.

job search

Making the Most of a Marketing Job Search

David is a recent college graduate. He’s just graduated with honors from a well-known university with a dedicated Bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications. He’s done a couple of internships with reputable companies and was the president of the marketing organization within the school.

He’s excited to have the opportunity to expand his horizons, envisioning companies lining up outside the door to interview and offer him exorbitant salaries based on his carefully fine-tuned qualifications.

David even took an interview class that allowed him to craft his interviewing skills, both on the phone and in person.

He takes the time to carefully polish his resume, highlight achievements and his GPA and writes an engaging and unique cover letter for every job he applies for.

With all of this done, David sits back and waits. Surely his email and phone will be all but blowing up soon enough! The world is his oyster.

But then, nothing happens. His phone doesn’t ring. The only emails he receives are automated notifications letting him know that he’s been passed on in favor of another candidate. This happens over and over again, and soon David’s bravado and confidence begin to dissipate.

What happened?

The issue that many college graduates are experiencing is twofold. On the one hand, the job market continues to be competitive. With more startups cropping up each year than ever before, opportunities are plentiful but the sheer number of applications received allows the hiring managers to be highly selective.

The other issue here is that companies, particularly those looking to fill a results-driven position such as sales or marketing, are beginning to value results and performance over just education alone.

So here is what David could have done differently or better in his job seeking process, and what other college graduates and/or job seekers can do as they continue to find the perfect position to advance their careers.

Rather than solely playing up education, play up as many results-oriented highlights as possible. Get creative — some college graduates may not have a ton of experience, but there may be some examples to highlight.

For example, David was the president of the marketing club at his university. If he had thought back through any competitions or key events he was involved with, he may have found some results to highlight. This could be a business plan that won awards or a social media strategy that was implemented by the school.

Many companies now are results driven, and they want to feel confident that the person they are hiring has the competence to achieve those high performing results they seek. And unfortunately, simply having an education is not always enough proof that the person will be able to deliver.

So job seekers, take a look at the resume you’re submitting for job applications. Does it highlight what kind of results that have been achieved under your supervision? Does it show how much performance businesses can expect from their new hire?

It can be difficult to stand out from the hundreds of other applicants vying for a job, but with a bit of searching sometimes even the freshest college graduate can find some results to enhance their resumes and applications with.