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5 Optimization Tips to Maximize Sales This Holiday Season

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5 optimization tips to maximize sales this holiday season

Advertisers will be facing a shorter time frame this year for the usual holiday hustle and bustle.  However, eMarketer is still forecasting total US sales to climb 3.8% making it the first-ever trillion-dollar holiday season. According to Forrester, 2019 online holiday sales will reach $138 billion.

As advertisers, we need to take advantage of these predictions and position ourselves for an outrageously successful holiday season. To set yourself up for success, we’ve highlighted 5 tips to maximize your online sales.

1.     Images and Video

Because your users cannot feel, touch, test, or try out your products, high-quality photos are crucial. A user needs to be confident in their purchase decision, especially when purchasing online, and being able to zoom in and see the details of the product they’re purchasing could make or break their decision. Consider what happens if they try to find better product images on the web just simply to get a better idea of what they might be purchasing, and they stumble across a better deal. Don’t let this happen to you!

Product images are extremely important, but it’s just as important to show off your hero shots or promotional images as well. Entering the holiday season, you want to stay relevant and purposefully target those holiday shoppers. Avoid using stock imagery. Create your own holiday imagery that will keep your customers engaged and create likability and credibility. Also, keep in mind the creative you’re using in your advertisements. You want to remain consistent so that users’ experiences are uninterrupted, and they feel a smooth transition from the ad through to the site.

It’s important to think about the video that you make available to your customers as well. Do you have video of your product in action? Consider utilizing this on your product pages but also use this material in your ads; intrigue your users by the use of the products and leave them wanting to learn more about it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen video advertisements on Facebook of hair products (specifically L’ange) being used by brand reps and now I own three of their hair styling tools. This is because they have great holiday deals (see tip #3) and because the videos truly helped me learn how to do my hair and got me excited to try new things. Fun fact, or slightly embarrassing, – I’ll let you choose – I never would curl my own hair because I was terrible at it. That is, until I stumbled across these ads and was repetitively shown videos of brand reps curling their hair. Now, I have a scar from burning myself, despite also having a heat-protectant glove. BUT, in all seriousness, thanks to the help of these videos I’m able to curl my hair on a regular basis.

2.     User-Generated Content

Going into the holiday season, find the time or resources to look for and utilize user-generated content. Of course, be sure you have permission prior to sharing or using any of this content. Think about the credibility and trust you could build when you’re speaking on behalf of your customers rather than trying to sell it yourself. There are a number of things you can do with user-generated content.

  • Images
  • Video
  • Testimonials
  • Website or landing page copy

See what people are posting on Facebook or Instagram and use those to your benefit. These images will look even more natural and may actually reduce the work your team has to put in to create your own images. Below is a perfect example! Someone I went to high school with simply posted pictures of her daughter’s birthday party and, as you can see, Party City asked for permission to use this photo for marketing purposes. It’s as simple as that!

instagram marketing permission

Many brands have brand representatives creating images, videos, their own sponsored material, etc. These videos are the exact videos I was referring to in tip #1. Get permission to utilize this content and place some of these helpful videos throughout your site where people are going to purchase. Heck, use them as testimonials!

Speaking of testimonials, browse through your brand’s Facebook page or Instagram posts for testimonials within the comments. Sure, there’s a review section within Facebook but taking the time to see what people are commenting should provide you with authentic testimonials. Taking a brief side-step – I think it’s important to also ensure you’re responding to these comments when necessary. Let your customers know you hear them and you’re taking action. That’s how you’ll build trust, keep users coming back, and show new customers that you care and you’re putting them first.

Lastly, consider the content throughout your site. It’s extremely easy to write a paragraph, or page, full of jargon. As employees or advertisers of a brand, there’s a language and a way you speak about the brand. However, your users or customers probably don’t understand your product or service in the same terms or language that you do. Therefore, it’s important to keep things simple. Use the comments from your customers, whether it’s from reviews, testimonials, Facebook posts, or Instagram stories, and use that language in your content. Talk to your customers the way they will talk about your product. Take some work off of your team, minimize the need to create copy from scratch, and take advantage of user-generated content.

3.     Discounts & Promotions

As we prepare for the holidays, customers will be expecting deals. Promos. Discounts. Whatever we can offer them, they’ll be searching for it. Utilize the imagery we spoke about before to highlight the current or upcoming promotions and be sure that these align with what’s being advertised. It’s crucial to make sure that your advertising messaging and promotions match what’s being promoted on your site at that time. It’s easy to miss this around the holidays as things get busy and many ads are in motion, promotions are changing, etc. But if a user gets to the site and doesn’t see messaging related to that 40% off promotion that was in the ad they just clicked, they’re likely to bounce and now you’ve wasted money on that click. Check out the example below that I saw many times this week, from different brand representatives.

facebook lange sponsored post
facebook lange site

From the ad, you can see that she highlights “up to 76% off” but once you open the site, the first thing you see if “up to 80% off.” I don’t think this is a huge concern but a small example of mismatched messaging. This is also a great example of holiday promotion imagery within the hero images. There’s no way a user will miss this sale.

There are a few less-common things to keep in mind regarding promotions and discounts around the holidays.

  • A lack of Black Friday deals
  • Your only sale of the year
  • Urgency

I suppose you could say these could all go hand-in-hand. If you’re an online retailer that either doesn’t have a Black Friday sale or only has a sale once a year, I think it’s important to call that out to your customers. Set expectations for the lack of sale so they don’t wait to purchase, expecting a sale, and potentially miss out or decide not to purchase all together. If this is the only sale that happens, once a year, remind them of that to create that sense of urgency. Below is a recent example I stumbled across as my husband and I were preparing for Christmas.

no black friday sale faq

The reason I felt it was important to bring this idea to light is because of a few companies I follow on Instagram for children’s products. I discovered Nugget Comfort in the last year or so through another company on Instagram and knew that was what my husband and I were going to get the kids for Christmas. Though I’ve known of the company for a while now, I only started following them on Instagram recently. I’m so thankful I did because they announced their release calendar in October for all of their new prints and restocks of previously sold-out prints. With the transparency that they do not have Black Friday sales and knowing that these would be limited-edition prints, this created a great sense of urgency. Therefore, even though I’ll have to wait 2 months for Christmas, I set my alarm and purchased when my print was released so I knew I wouldn’t miss out.

nugget calendar release

 Here’s another great example I came across this week. This company has decided to do Black Friday deals all month long with different sales each week. Many of their products are also limited-edition colors and styles, so once they’re gone, they’re gone. As you can see below, each week they will be putting some of their limited-edition colors on sale. They’ve made it clear that these sales will be Monday and Tuesday of each week, with different colors, and once the sale is over, those colors will be taken off the site.

lemonade black november sale
sky blue black november sale

Not only do they do a great job of creating urgency, but this is also a great way to get even more revenue as a company. Because colors will be taken off the site each week, customers will likely make multiple purchases throughout the month of November rather than having the ability to wait and purchase all at once.

4.     Mobile

Mobile, mobile, mobile. At this point, I sense this is a buzzword. But I think it’s still a work in progress and something that needs attention. As we’ll discuss in tip #5, the purchase process needs to be easy. Specifically, for mobile, the process shouldn’t cause frustration or uncertainty. It needs to be mobile-friendly. A user should feel just as confident making the purchase from their phone as they would from their computer. A number of my completed purchases today come from advertisements I’ve clicked on through Facebook and the process is made so easy, they get me every time. In instances where I don’t purchase, unfortunately rare, I either don’t have my debit card near me, or the process has created a sense of hesitation or friction that I’ve paused and not completed the purchase. This type of interaction is what you want to avoid. Quick things that come to mind:

  • Subscriptions: make it easy to cancel or crystal-clear how to cancel
  • Guest checkouts: have them – don’t force account creation or login (@Target, you’re killin’ me)
  • Expensive products: create a way to “email to cart” or “save cart” so users can easily continue their purchase from their computer
  • Keypad: be mindful of the type of field a user is in and give them a numeric keypad when applicable
  • Phone number: if it’s easier to place an order over the phone for a larger ticket or complex items, make it easy to call for users at any stage

5.     Checkout Experience

Keep it simple. Eliminate distractions. Improve usability. Checkout is the last place you want to lose a customer when they’re THIS close to completing their purchase. Don’t make it easy for them to leave the checkout. Eliminate the navigation and create a sense of urgency to motivate them to complete the transaction. Do not encourage them to go searching for coupon codes. Let them put in the effort to locate this field if they already have a coupon code but don’t flash it in front of their faces so that they go on the hunt for one. I’ll say it again – allow for guest checkouts. People don’t want to be forced to create an account or login. They want simplicity. Lastly, pay attention to your cart expiration. Don’t make a customer work harder to re-add things to their cart just because their cart expired. Keep their items in their cart so they’re ready to check out when they come back. (I feel like more should be added here or a better way to end this section)

Final Thoughts

I hope this gets you just as excited as I am to start thinking about new ways to maximize your holiday sales. Though this is a great way to get ahead for the holidays, don’t let this stop you from taking these tips and applying them throughout the year!

After you’ve prepared for this holiday season, check out these predictions for online marketplaces in 2020 as you begin to prep for the new year and new opportunities!

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

​​

via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 298 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755163 789 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To
  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 910 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To1716755164 348 Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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