Content Marketing

Market Research – Your Roadmap for Success

What exactly is market research? Why is this powerful tool important for your business? Market research provides valuable insights on what people will buy, why they’ll buy it, and how to incite them to buy. It’s also used to answer the age-old question, why do your customers choose YOU? In this blog, I’ll highlight why market research is so critical to your business, as well as provide you with key reasons why you’ll need to hire a professional marketing agency for unbiased research.

Why conduct market research?

Market research sets your company up for success by providing the information that you need to make informed business decisions. Experience alone is not enough; arm yourself with research and facts to understand your market and your customers. Market research can help you:

  • Understand your customers and their preferences
  • Identify potential issues you may not be aware of
  • Understand how your customers define your brand
  • Identify ways they value the services/products you provide
  • Learn how your customers compare you with your competitors
  • Test new products/services and/or new markets
  • Gauge the success of a new advertising campaign
  • Identify performance, pricing and/or promotion opportunities
  • Monitor the competition in your market
  • Keep up with the changing marketplace and economy
  • Mitigate risk in your business decisions

Market research methods

When conducting market research, there are basically two types of methodologies:

  1. Qualitative researchis information that comes from conducting deep “quality” research through the use of discussion guides, and is typically gathered via phone interviews, face-to-face interviews, or focus groups. Questions are typically developed by use of a discussion guide outlining issues or concerns you’d like your customers to weigh in on. The answers can help you understand why they chose your company to work with, what they value in your service/product, what they think of your brand, and how they respond to your marketing/advertising. This type of research is best used when you want to understand the needs of your customer so you can better target your marketing and messaging to their needs and values.
  2. Quantitative research is usually numeric, and done through a survey. It is far less detailed and there is no discussion with actual customers. It involves sending out a survey to customers and gathering statistical information, which can then be extrapolated to give you averages and percentages, e.g. 9 out of 10 customers are satisfied with your level of customer service. This type of research is best used for measuring customer feedback on an ad or a new service, or the launch of a new offering.

What unbiased research means

Almost every business owner I know says that they know their customers, that they speak to them on a regular basis and if there was a problem, their customers would tell them. Sorry to say, but this is rarely the case. Just like we don’t tell the server that the food was really bad, our customers may very well give us a truthful answer, but more likely they will give us a version of the truth. When a third party speaks with your customers, they feel this is their opportunity to really share the “truth” without hurting any feelings. If you are asking your customers directly then this is 100% biased research and is considered invalid because you have a vested interest in them being satisfied customers. Unbiased research doesn’t allow opinions, nor preconceived notions or preferences to affect the research. It is conducted with an entirely open mind and not biased in any way towards a desired outcome.

Market research benefits to your business

We’ve been conducting market research for almost two decades and I know how it can positively impact a business by providing actionable insights that can act as a catalyst for organizational growth. These insights will equip you for better decision-making and provide you with a greater understanding of customers, and competitors. Market research can help you to maximize the potential of your current business activities and create a roadmap for targeted marketing strategies and future growth. Every business, large or small, can benefit from having market research in their arsenal. 

Use a professional agency to conduct market research for your company

Market research is not a DYI project. It’s very time consuming and requires trained and skilled resources to perform, analyze and deliver results without any research bias. Set your business up for success and hire a professional marketing agency with proven processes, resources and analytics to maximize the potential of your market research.

CreativeWorks Marketing will work with you as a trusted partner in achieving your business goals. As a first step, we’ll establish clearly defined goals for market research in addition to determining what you need to know and why. We’ll perform, analyze and deliver results of the highest quality and keep the data confidential. Contact us today and let’s discuss how market research can benefit your company.

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How To Make Podcasts Part of Your Winning Strategy

In my previous blog post, I went over some of the key advantages of using podcasts as part of your marketing mix. Now I’d like to share with you 5 tips on how to incorporate podcasts into your marketing strategy.

1) Understand Your Strategy

Before you dive in head first, take a minute to understand how podcasting will fit in with your overall marketing strategy. Podcasts are great when they are used in addition to your company’s already-established brand, but they may not be the best method to get a new company up and running.

2) Differentiate Yourself from the Noise

Let’s face it; there are a lot of podcasts out there. You may be wondering how you are going to stand out. My suggestion to you is to come up with unique and engaging information. Do you have an interesting angle on a certain topic? Do you know any industry thought leaders you could interview? Imagine the types of content that would keep you engaged, and deliver that to your listeners.

3) Provide Great Conversations

It’s all about the content you deliver, but we can’t forget about how you deliver that content. In my experience, using a conversational tone works much better than simply dumping information onto your listeners. Consider having two speakers on your podcast, and try drafting your script as a question-and-answer style. This will make your podcast more accessible to your listeners.

4) Use Your Resources

Podcasts are all about the audio, so when it comes to choosing the right recording equipment, it’s crucial you don’t cut any corners. I suggest investing in a high quality microphone, good audio software, and a headphone. As you can probably imagine, this can get a little pricey. It may be a good idea to evaluate whether you want to invest the money and energy in creating your own content, or outsource it.

5) Promote Your Content

Just because you’ve finished recording doesn’t mean the process is over! The last step in creating a podcast is sharing it with your audience. Promoting your content won’t take you too long, but it will make all the difference. Some great ways to promote your podcast include: encouraging subscriptions, sharing it on your social media channels, and promoting it through email marketing.

Podcasts really have become an invaluable tool for marketers. I encourage you to consider adding podcasts to your marketing mix – it may just be your business’s next big thing.

To find out more about how you can use podcasts in your marketing strategy, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today.

The Social Media Election

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to the American presidential election since it began to heat up earlier this year. This election is different from others for a number of reasons. For the first time ever, a woman is the Democratic nominee for president. Her opponent, the leader of the Republican Party, is loudly entering the political arena for the first time. Whatever the outcome is tonight, the 2016 election will be looked upon as a “social media election”.

In the 2012 American presidential election, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were the first candidates who really used social media to gauge voter interest in their campaigns. Facebook was a reliable channel for distributing key campaign messages for both parties, and Twitter was just starting to make waves. Obama successfully generated almost 20 million more followers than Romney did on the platform, and secured the presidency in November of that year. Obama’s victory tweet after winning the election became the most retweeted piece of content on the platform up to that point.

While social media had a huge influence on the last election, nothing can top how it’s altered the current presidential race. The two candidates have been using social media for years, thus allowing voters to tap into their past posts. Take this tweet by Donald Trump, for example:

Somehow I can’t see Ronald Reagan saying something like this.

The use of social media allows presidential candidates to give minute-by-minute updates on their campaign and gives voters direct access into their professional and private lives. Donald Trump has been successful in using his Twitter account to influence his voters throughout his presidential campaign. His brash language and brutal honesty has positioned him as a “no-nonsense” candidate. While some voters find this behavior unsettling, he has appealed to the untapped demographic of American voters who want to abolish political correctness.

Hilary Clinton might not be as “honest” as Donald Trump, but she also has an impressive social media presence. Her slogan “#ImWithHer” has been shared millions of times all over social media. Due to her large celebrity fan base, Democratic social media influencers like Katy Perry and Lena Dunham continue to share supportive messages and images.

Trump relies heavily on his Twitter account while Clinton has broadened her social media presence through Snapchat, blogs and apps. While running completely different campaigns, both candidates have secured a huge social media following. Twitter and Facebook accounts are free to use, but don’t let that fool you into thinking social media hasn’t cost each campaign dearly. Donald Trump’s campaign spent $200,000 to purchase the promoted hashtag of the day, allowing it to be seen from every Twitter user in the U.S. through sponsored posts and the trending hashtags sidebar.

What has me so concerned as a marketer is that social media has provided voters with an inside look into the candidates, but it might not be the most reliable way to judge a future president. As we all know, social media is great for storytelling but that doesn’t mean it always reflects reality. One thing I have noticed throughout this entire campaign is that we’ve begun to lose sight of the actual issues at hand. Stories about Donald Trump’s latest misogynistic tweets are as much of a story as the crisis in Aleppo. While social media has played an important role in this election, it’s important to note that it is not the only factor Americans should be looking into when electing their next president.

So where do we go from here? I think it’s safe to say that neither candidate will have their own true voice on social media if they are elected President of The United States.

From a marketing standpoint, both these candidates have utilized social media to their advantage by creating consistent content marketing campaigns to appeal to their voters. However, voters in the United States need to consider that a candidate’s social media personality is likely to change once they have been elected, so they need to be confident in their candidate as a leader, not a tweeter.

Does My Business Really Need A Blog?

Blogging-for-Business-The-Ultimate-Guide The marketing industry kicked off 2016 by announcing it is the year of content marketing. One of the most valuable content marketing tools that businesses have to engage and connect with customers and share relevant information is a blog.

A blog is a key aspect of your content marketing efforts, offering fodder for your business’ social media and online content in the form of Facebook and LinkedIn posts, tweets and email newsletters. Not only do blogs fuel SEO, as search engines love valuable content and will reward you for it. According to a HubSpot survey, 82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog, as opposed to 57% of marketers who blog monthly.

In addition to marketing reasons, there are compelling ROI reasons for having a business blog, yet so many business owners are still reluctant to start a blog because the time commitment and level of writing expertise required. There is no doubt that blogs require an investment of time for planning and of course writing, but the benefits of blogging (creating content and sharing it online) far outweigh these downsides which is why you need a blog.

Here are the top 5 reasons why every business needs a blog:

  1. A blog creates a two-way conversation with customers, prospects and industry peers, positioning yourself as a subject area expert and thought leader, and encourages interaction, comments and feedback
  2. A blog builds confidence, relationships and sales. Customers will look to you as a reliable resource for information on your industry, then come to you to buy.
  3. Helps you stay ahead of the curve. You have to stay on top of news, trends and competitors to be a successful blogger. It helps you be a leader, not a follower.
  4. You can tell your brand’s story. It gives your company a voice. A blog is a great place to offer more insight into your company, philosophy, employees, and ideas. Tell your customers why you’re in business and how you can help them.
  1. Blog analytics allow you to track readers, click-throughs, popular topics, shares and comments. You can even tell what day of the week your visitors prefer to stop by.

If your business doesn’t have a blog, and as the CMO or CEO you don’t feel you have the time or skill-set to write one, consider hiring a marketing agency with a solid content development team. In addition to helping you create a content strategy, they can create a blogging schedule for you, write the blogs, categorize them for you, and also post them with appropriate visuals that are all in line with your brand and business direction.

Have you made blogging part of your content strategy? What are you looking to get out of your blog?

Why Generic Content Won’t Cut it in 2016

content-is-kingWith 76 percent of marketers indicating they will increase their content marketing this year, businesses need to take note and not only create quality content but focus more on tying their content to business results and driving activity around creating content, connecting with audiences, and optimizing the entire process.

With all this attention on content, we can’t forget the importance of a content strategy because without one it often leads to inconsistent content with no core themes or purpose. This is confusing to your target audience and can negatively impact your brand’s credibility.

Additionally, the days of content being generically created and without a strategy like that from inbound marketing companies like HubSpot simply doesn’t cut it any more. Generic content is unlikely to rank organically. Generic content doesn’t get shared. Generic content doesn’t engage people and is therefore unlikely to deliver against your wider marketing objectives.

If you skip the strategy and head straight to delivery you’re in danger of creating content, which could either confuse or alienate your audience, or fail to reach them at all.

As a strategic marketer, I’d like to share with you some essential steps to help you create a content strategy for your business. A content strategy is the high-level vision that guides future content development to deliver against a specific business objective.  Make sure your content strategy:

  1. Ensures your content is consistently aligned with your brand message and values
  2. Ensures your content enhances your credibility
  3. Ensures your content helps you stand out from the competition
  4. Ensures your content delivers against your objectives

To develop a content strategy you need to start with clarifying your brand’s values and core strengths as well as reviewing the content you already have to make sure it is delivering on your objectives.

Once you have conducted an internal review, take a look at your customers to understand their wants, needs, and purchasing journey as well as where and when they consume content.

As a final step before developing your content strategy, you’ll need to look at your commercial competitors to better their brand values, unique selling proposition, and how they are communicating them to their customers. It would also be worth looking at your content competitors. These might be different from your commercial competitors, as they could be anyone who creates content about the service or product you offer.

With this research conducted, you need to conduct a GAP Analysis to determine what is and isn’t working and identify the gap where you’ll position your brand.

As content is usually goal-driven, so too is your content strategy. What you create depends on what you want to achieve.

There’s a great book I’d recommend on content marketing by Dan Norris. He outlines the importance of content marketing and is worth a read!

Content Machine: Use Content Marketing to Build a 7-figure Business With Zero Advertising by Dan Norris (2015-08-09)

 

 

Predicting 2016 Marketing Trends

digital_marketing_predictionsAs we near the end of the year, customers often ask me for my predictions for the year ahead and the latest marketing trends: “What’s Hot?” and “What’s Next?”

In this post, I’ll look at what I see as the latest trends in marketing and specific questions for the smaller business owner looking to be a part of the trend in the coming year.

Here are my top 4 predictions for marketing trends in 2016:

  1. Content Marketing

70% of surveyed marketers say they are creating more content than they did a year ago.

Writing engaging content will become the central component of all marketing campaigns. Look for terms like “content optimization” to be popping up everywhere as marketers look to content as critical to their strategic success. You should strive to provide readers with information they likely haven’t seen elsewhere, information that’s shareable and keeps people invested from beginning to end. Do you have a professional content writer on staff? If not, where will you go to generate content for your marketing materials? The creation of consistent, high-quality content is a must for any successful content marketing plan.

  1. Big Data (including market and customer insight and predictive analytics)

65% of business executives from global brands say they embrace big data to stay competitive.

This is a term used to describe how companies can target the right message to the right person, at the right time for the right price. The message is delivered once consumer behaviours are captured and analyzed to determine what is the right message, who should it go to, when should it go to them and what is the right price point. Big Data often assumes your company has the appropriate IT hardware/software infrastructure in place and personnel to manage it, but for a smaller business, Big Data could simply mean tracking downloads, social media, e-blasts, customer calls, clicks on PPC advertising, and conducting some customer research.

  1. Mobile Marketing (Mobile advertising, site development and apps)

70% of mobile searches lead to online action within an hour.

According to Forrester Research, mobile is predicted to be the fastest growing channel among all digital channels, so make sure your campaigns are mobile or involve a mobile component. It goes without saying that your website needs to be mobile-friendly if you hope to engage an audience that is using this platform to engage with your brand. App downloads surpassed Facebook friends and Twitter followers for most brands in 2015, and they continue to do so in 2016. Expect for brands’ mobile apps to replace their social communities as the tag of choice on advertising, including TV. For the smaller brands, as mobile development has become more mainstream, think about whether there is an opportunity to develop an app to help interact or support your customers.

  1. Social Media Marketing

46% of web users look to social media when making a buying decision.

Most platforms are moving towards “buy” buttons which allow consumers (FB app or Twitter app) to buy a product instantly without leaving the app. The goal of most of the social media platforms are aimed at keeping consumers in their apps which is a good opportunity for marketers to advertise directly to their customers via PPC campaigns. If you are a smaller business, you might want to consider “owning” a specific social media channel that speaks to your targeted audience instead of spreading your budget across multiple platforms. Instead of being the small fish in the big pond, if you pool your financial resources you can be the big fish in a smaller pond.

 

I anticipate we’ll see these trends pop up and continue through 2016. Be prepared to make some changes to step up and beat your competition to the punch!

 

 

How To Kick-Start Marketing Automation for Small Businesses

indexThere is so much “talk” about marketing automation, and we all know it is here to stay, but there is very little talk about what this means for small businesses.

Online conversations surrounding marketing automation have predominantly been about choosing or reviewing the marketing automation tools with players like HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, and Eloqua. However, many small businesses are not even at the “tool” step in their process – they still need to understand how this applies to them, and if it can dramatically increase efficiency and output as it claims to do for so many larger brands.

I’ve outlined below a few tips on how to get started with your marketing automation. I hope that it will help you determine if this is even something worth investing your time, and if so, whether to start on a small scale or outsource it to a marketing agency.

Assess Your Needs: Before you can determine if you need MA, first review your current level of online marketing tools including PPC, web, and social media. Look at what is working and what is not. Look at your lists – how large are they and what type of responses are you getting from them? Are you running individual online campaigns that require manual segmenting of email lists? How much time do all these tasks take and what revenues/leads are being generated by them?

Create a Strategy: For best results, you need a marketing automation strategy and it should be revisited regularly, adjusted, and optimized. You need to clearly spell out what type of MA you are willing to invest in, what lists you will use or acquire, and most importantly from where you will get your content.

Content Development: In the world of MA, content is still king, so you will need a content library. Do you have an in-house resource or will you work with an agency that can provide you with content? These need to be value-add pieces that resonate with your audience.

Just the Basics: Consider starting out small with a technology that offers very basic functionality, but once in place can yield significant results. Even if you don’t have time initially to take advantage of all of the capabilities of marketing automation, just building one or two early-stage lead-nurturing campaigns can increase your quarterly volume of qualified leads by 120%— a very small time investment for game-changing results.

We as small businesses are set to become some of the biggest beneficiaries in the age of automation, but whether it’s the right time for your business or if it’s even the right fit for your business is worth exploring.

Do you think you know enough to start assessing the value for MA in your business?   If not, what would you like to know more about to help you decide if it’s right for you?