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Archive for January, 2014

Content marketing is not king of trust

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Content marketing is very useful, but rarely for establishing trust and clinching a sale.

“Content is king.” Who could have guessed that those prophetic words by Bill Gates would today be such a well-worn phrase as to be taken for Gospel truth by pretty much everyone in 2014?

And who could have guessed that those same words would have taken on the misguided meaning that content marketing is king, with the 2014 gold rush to anything that can be labeled “content marketing”.

Content marketing can draw customers inDon’t get me wrong – content marketing is a very powerful tool for many businesses in a number of different circumstances. But the mass migration to the “content marketing” buzzword in 2014 will undoubtedly lead many, many businesses to take up something that is of little value to them, and use it for the wring reasons with predictably unsatisfactory results.

The context for the content marketing craze is the realization that authority is what people and now search engines are looking for.

Well, yes, that is true. It always has been. Google always measured website authority and trust; that’s what PageRank was (still is?) all about, as well as numerous measures of topical relevance, the longevity of a domain and how trustworthy are the websites that link to it. The difference now is that Google seems to have come up with a means of measuring an individual’s authority and trust.

Of course, the expertise of an individual is important when judging the value of his or her advice. However, no algorithm can do anything but make a rough guess on that point.

How does “authority” translate into marketing your business? Is content the marketing king? I recently found myself in a discussion with someone who insisted that content marketing is crucial because you have to build trust to make a sale, and expertise is the basis for trust.

The premise of his argument is that:

A) People read articles as part of the sales process.
B) People follow writers until eventually deciding to buy.

I disagreed, at least for most businesses.

Before going any further, let’s agree – and I think we can – that there are many types of businesses and there are many types of customers. One size does not fit all. The question for each business to determine is what methods fit its sales process and target market.

Let’s also put aside the usefulness of content marketing in the funnel, and content that is actually part of the buying process (demos, product descriptions, etc.), well expressed by Tom Shivers. Those are fairly widely useful, and not at all about building a reputation in the hopes that eventually readers will buy.

When you are the product, such as if you are a consultant or a writer or a designer, your expertise is crucial – no question about that. Trust in you as an individual and in your expertise (authority?) is your main selling point.

When the product is ball bearings or sandals, nobody cares about you as an individual. Yes, trust is crucial, but authority is not. What do they care about?

1. The manufacturer of a product – that the product is made well.
2. The retailer – that money handed over will result in the product being delivered.

Read Also: Make a Winning eCommerce Shopping Experience

In Part II of this discussion (next blog post) we will look at how to build the trust and confidence for a product (hint, it’s not by writing articles or designing Infographics) and for a retailer, too.  For now, let’s look at when the product is you – when authority can be part of the trust equation.

Nobody chooses a web designer for their articles.The number of purchases people make that are in fact expertise purchases is substantial. Consider the following services:

  • Legal help.
  • Accounting.
  • Web design.
  • Marketing.
  • Pest control.
  • Real estate agent.
  • Financial adviser.
  • Healthcare practitioner.
  • Trainer or educator.
  • Pet groomer.
  • Home renovator.

In all these cases, the individual’s expertise is crucial to the value one gets from buying, so authority on a subject matter could have a direct link to consumer trust.

One of the premises of the importance of content marketing as a means of building trust and using expertise to make sales is that people will follow you (and perhaps several competitors) for a while before deciding that you are the person to hire.

This might be the case with financial advisers, marketing help and web design. And maybe if you are planning a move in advance, you would do the same thing for a real estate agent. These are services that you might know about well in advance and might start shopping around before you are ready to make the purchase. And you might very well read their articles to get an idea of what their approach is, if you feel qualified to make some kind of judgment.

Or you might just read their sales pages and look at other trust indicators - ones that take less time and attention that reading through articles – that we’ll be discussing in my follow-up post, and maybe fill in a query form and engage in a few questions.

In fact, for web design, marketing and so many other services, a visual gallery of past projects is more likely what customers want to look at. They don’t usually have the patience to read through reams of words that they know they are unqualified to judge. But most people do feel comfortable looking at pictures and deciding if that looks professional and trustworthy.

I am not saying that articles on a website are useless. I am saying to think carefully about what a prospective customer will look for, on what basis they will decide that you have the expertise to deliver, and create the content that will be most effective – and often it is not articles or Infographics.

Who chooses a real estate agent for their articles?What about a lawyer? Chances are that you won’t even look for a lawyer until suddenly you need to hire one. You won’t read their articles for months before deciding to hire one. The same thing with accounting. And with pest control. People will not read tons of articles to decide if you are trustworthy; they will make a very quick decision – they need to find help fast!

In fact, I’ll take this argument one step further. Even if you are a financial planner or a real estate agent or a marketing consultant, what percentage of your prospects do research months in advance, and what percentage wait until the last minute, search on Google or Bing (maybe comparing a few websites), ask friends for recommendations and make a flash decision whom to contact and most likely end up hiring?

Of course, if you are shopping for car parts, clothing, gadgets, etc, no individual’s expertise will factor into the buying process.

The reality is that for the vast majority of businesses – even those based upon the expertise of an individual – informative articles on a topic will not be a major factor in converting visitors into customers.  There are more effective ways to establish trust, as we will discuss in the follow-up article.

That does not mean articles are useless, just not a priority in establishing trust within the sales conversion process.

Nor does that mean that article marketing, video marketing and Infographics are useless, just not as a means of establishing trust with visitors to most websites.

What content marketing does very well is to draw in people who are not yet shopping, people who are gathering information and might not yet know that they need your services – top of the funnel. They seek information, in so doing they find your article, they read, they learn, they realize that maybe they need professional help, they visit your website…and then hopefully you can make the sale.

In my next post I will discuss what, rather than articles and “content marketing”, will establish trust with potential customers once they are on your website.

 


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Who uses Google Plus?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

So much talk online about the growing popularity of Google Plus, even while all your real-world friends are still on Facebook.  Let’s look at exactly who is using Google Plus.

There is a lot of background chatter online about Google Plus, and whether 2014 is the year that it replaces Facebook as the social network of choice.  I have seen a few smirky cartoons and signs about people leaving Facebook for Google Plus.

Why join Google Plus?

I have even written about how Facebook gave Google an orgasm not long ago.

Notwithstanding the chatter, I do not predict that Google Plus will eclipse Facebook this year.  The statistics still show that Facebook is way ahead of Google Plus, and that even if Google Plus accelerates its growth, Facebook should still dominate by the end of 2014.

Facebook still dominates social media usage.

Of course, both sites have been found guilty of cooking user stats:

“Google+ may have 540m monthly active users, but this year they disclosed that this takes into account anyone who clicks on a +1 button that may be embedded on an external page (such as this one). Likewise, Facebook also takes into account anyone who clicks on a like or share button on any external site, meaning that you don’t have to use Facebook directly to be considered one of its monthly active users.”

Never mind the stats.  If you go out onto the street and talk to “real people” – I mean people who don’t use the words “social media” in everyday conversation and who might not even know what the term means -  they are almost all on Facebook. They are there because that’s where extended family and friends (people they know in the real world) all are.  They won’t switch social networks easily because no other social network has what Facebook has – their real-world family and friends.

Many of these people have also heard of Twitter, thanks to mainstream media coverage in the news and promotion through shows like American idol.

Few of these people have even heard of Google Plus.

Until these people are given a very compelling reason to leave, Facebook will retain the upper hand.

Who’s on Google Plus now?

But a lot of people are using Google Plus anyway, and maybe you should be boosting your Google Plus mojo to reach those people.  Just who are those people?

 


 

 

Disaffected Facebook users.

There are many reasons people are leaving Facebook.  Some studies say that Facebook makes us feel bad about ourselves. Others suggest that Facebook’s privacy and ethics policies are driving them away. I know of people who are upset with the ads and sponsored posts that are invading their streams, although I have yet to hear any “real people” (offline friends and family) comment about this. Will Google Plus be any better on any of these points? Only time will tell.

 

And down she goes.

Smirky cartoon that has been doing the rounds on Google Plus

 

But who are these disaffected Facebook users?  They seem to cut across all ages, although they tend to be more men than women.  Which ones are moving to Google Plus? That is even harder to tell, since so many disaffected Facebook users might not be “leaving” one platform for another, but simply spending more time on Google Plus and less time (or no time at all) on Facebook.

But many of them fit into the groups below.

Artists and photographers.

This is almost a no brainer.  If you have images you want to share online, Facebook just doesn’t cut it. Facebook gives you very little control over images, clipping them automatically.  See what Facebook did to my New Year’s message:

Facebook hacked up my pic

Sharing pics on Twitter is not ideal, partly because of the 140 character limit to describe the image, and partly because the pic doesn’t show up unless you open the tweet.  Here is my New Year’s tweet:

How Twitter shows and image

Here is how most people saw it:

How most people see a tweet with an image.

Google Plus works just perfectly for sharing images, whether you are a photographer, and artist or just someone who like sharing lolcats.  And you can easily describe the picture in as much detail as you wish.  See the difference it made with my New Year’s message:

How an image appears on Google Plus

It is worth noting that for really large images, Google Plus gives extra width, so they sometimes span across two columns.  That makes for some superb online vistas.

Marketers.

This has suddenly become a no-brainer.  Small businesses and online marketers were recently told by Facebook that they are unwelcome.  Not officially, of course, but if you read my recent post on Facebook’s antics, it is clear that they have made the Facebook climate inhospitable for supporting small business life forms.

I am seeing more and more of these people – people just like you, perhaps? – heading over to Google plus. So it’s a great place to network with like-minded marketers, develop relationships, partnerships and collaboration.  But is it a good place to sell to them?  Time will tell.

Europeans.

As Google Plus grows so quickly, I suspect the data is changing quickly.  Nevertheless, you can expect Google Plus users to come from similar places as those on Facebook and Twitter.  My own experience, however, shows that Google Plus is skewed more toward Europeans.

If I remove the local bias in Facebook (so many fellow Canadian offline friends, former friends and family), both Facebook and Twitter tend to be USA-centric, followed by India, after which would be UK and Canada (at least for English speakers).

I do not find myself interacting with a lot of people from Italy, Spain, France, Greece, etc. on Twitter and Facebook.  But on Google Plus, I do.  Perhaps it is just that the avid sharing photographers tend to be Mediterranean, or it might just be an accident of a couple circles I was included in early on.  But I find much less participation from India, and Asia in general, on Google Plus that I find on Twitter and Facebook.

I also find the content split to be interesting.  Very few Europeans seem to be sharing links to blog posts, whereas that seems to be what I see the majority of Americans and Indians sharing.

Google Plus cartoon

Perhaps you have a different experience on Google Plus, in which case please share it in the comments below.  My own observations might be too narrow-based on which to draw any useful conclusions.

Have I missed any important segments?  Are there other large, identifiable groups blazing trails on Google Plus?  Please let me know (and your fellow readers, as well) in the comments below.

 


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Make a Winning eCommerce Shopping Experience

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

There are many pitfalls to running an eCommerce website.  Making a winning eCommerce shopping experience means easy to order, fast (and free) delivery, and actually delivering what was ordered.

While the shopping experience itself may seem like the most important element of running an eCommerce business, the most attractive online store in the world won’t make up for a difficult checkout process, suboptimal shipping or inaccurate fulfillment practices. An online shopper is no more likely to buy a product once it’s in their shopping cart – the Baymard Institute lists the current online shopping cart abandonment rate at just more than 67 percent – but once it’s there, it’s your website’s job to do everything possible to make sure the product is paid for and sent out efficiently.

eCommerce fullfilment - get it right

Worse Than Waiting in line

It may seem like there’s nothing worse than waiting in the checkout line at the end of a shopping trip.  But what if the cashier asked you to fill out a 10 page form let you swipe your card or hand over some cash?  Exactly. This is exactly what can drive away your customers online.

Make sure your shoppers have multiple payment options – major credit cards and PayPal are recommended, although Google’s new Wallet system is quickly gaining popularity – and that you break the process into a few simple steps.

  1. Personal information such as name, address, email, etc.
  2. Payment method and information, including billing information or PayPal login as needed.
  3. Shipping options, with rates and dates, as well as shipping address information.
  4. Confirmation, giving customers a chance to look over their order one more time.

Too many steps can make this process needlessly complicated for customers, and you can lose your sale. Requiring registration before checkout, persistent pop-ups asking for coupon codes and being forced to retype the same information several times – if a customer’s home, billing and shipping addresses are all the same, they shouldn’t have to type it three times – are more than enough to aggravate a customer into going somewhere else.

Ship It Right

Assuming your payment process is clear and easy and the client confirms their purchase, the ball is in your court.

According to Entrepreneur.com, 42 percent of online shoppers will abandon their shopping cart if the shipping time is too slow. Eighty percent stated that a free shipping option was extremely important in their shopping experience – and with the success of programs like Amazon Prime, is anyone really surprised? Your eCommerce website should be clear with shipping from the start. Offering free shipping for orders over a certain dollar amount can work to great success for simultaneously garnering higher sales (people will be inclined to order more) and lowering cart abandonment rates.

Choosing one shipment method for the ecommerce order fulfilment process, be it UPS, FedEx or the good old USPS, is usually the best option. However, if you intend to offer international shipping, keep that in mind when making your selection, as not all shipment services will ship everywhere you have a customer base.

A Fulfilling Experience

While half of shoppers will leave if shipping is too slow, just under one-third will never buy from a particular eCommerce site again if the order they receive is incorrect. This is where organization proves to be the most important aspect of working in eCommerce. If you mix up an order during fulfillment, chances are you’ve sent the wrong product to two customers, not just one. Yikes!  Fulfillment methods need to be customized to suit your unique situation. But regardless of how you run your business, out of your home or as supplement to a brick and mortar location,you need to keep a clear inventory, and track orders using software tailored to the process.

Don’t forget that you’re offering a product; when it all comes down to it the most important thing is to make sure it gets where it needs to go quickly and efficiently. Be concise, efficient and organized, and your website will have a winning shopping experience.

 


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