• Act-On Software
    Act-On Software on November 17, 2014

    The Rules of Engagement on Facebook

    If you want to make your content sharable and searchable on Facebook, you need to have a thorough understanding of Facebook principles and the general rules that apply to content and behavior.
  • Impersonator bots, according to Incapsula, “are the most advanced, malicious non-humans”. On a side note, their infographic makes the impersonator bot look like Darth Vader. The risk to a site is high because these bots are designed to do considerable damage to all websites by data theft, site/server hijacking, downtime, and degradation of service.

    Have you ever opened a gift that really wasn’t all that great? It was a filler — something that made your pile of presents look bigger than it actually was. This time of year is legendary for gifts being returned because it happens to all of us. The pressure to give what looks like a lot of gifts makes it tempting to give some real junk. (Kids are excluded from this rule by reason of being a child. They can give all the junk they come up with, bless their little hearts.)

    That’s Not A Person — It’s An Impersonator!

    For site owners, bloggers, and the like there is a similar scenario. For site traffic, the junk-present analogy looks like followers or visitors, but some of those “people” are impersonator bots. In fact, Incapsula’s 2014 Bot Traffic Report says that 56% of all web traffic is bots. Here are some other numbers from the report:

    • for most websites, bots are 63%-80% of the traffic
    • there are good bots (27%) and bad bots (29%)
    • small sites (1,000 visitors/day) get hit the hardest at 80.3% bot traffic
    • medium sites (10,000 visitors/day) see 63.2% bots
    • large sites (100,000 visitors/day) see 56.2% bots
    • no matter what size your site is, about a third of your visitors are bad bots
    • bad bots are impersonators, hacking tools, scrapers, and spammers
    • impersonator bots are the only group to consistently grow in the last three years

    What’s So Bad About Impersonator Bots?

    Impersonator bots, according to Incapsula, “are the most advanced, malicious non-humans”. On a side note, their infographic makes the impersonator bot look like Darth Vader. The risk to a site is high because these bots are designed to do considerable damage to all websites by data theft, site/server hijacking, downtime, and degradation of service.

    Incapsula uses their studies to figure out how to identify whether or not a visitor is a person or a bot by asking “who are you” and “why are you here” evaluation questions. Not all bots are bad, remember. It’s important to know the difference.

    Small Business Mavericks has discussed the subject of bots for years because bots are part of the Internet and always will be. It’s good to keep that fact in mind when looking at your visitor numbers for analysis — we have to go past the quantity to the quality of each one.

    App developers now know just how hard it is to “make it big” in the super crowded app ecosystem. There are ways to maximize the odds of success of an app and contextual targeting is an important one. Contextual targeting is essentially the practice of reaching the right users at the right time with the right message and it is crucial if you want your users to be loyal and engaged.

    Anyone who creates an app today has the ambition of the app becoming widely used, acquiring tons of engaged users and ultimately generating a good stream of revenue. That’s the dream right? However, the reality is very different. App developers now know just how hard it is to “make it big” in the super crowded app ecosystem. It is hard enough for apps to get noticed amidst the thousands of other apps that monetization remains a distant dream for most. Gartner predicts that by 2018, less than 0.01% of apps will be considered a financial success by their developers. Grim? Maybe. But there are ways to maximize the odds of success of an app and contextual targeting is an important one.

    What is contextual targeting?

    In simple terms, contextual targeting is essentially the practice of reaching the right users at the right time with the right message. Contextual ads are highly relevant as they are created while keeping the “context” in mind. This means that the ad is only served when it is most relevant to the user. For e.g. pushing a coupon for coffee to a non-coffee drinker in the afternoon is a complete fail. However, pushing a coffee coupon to a coffee lover in the morning as he is passing by his favorite coffee store is very relevant. Such contextually relevant ads have a higher chance of the user engaging with the ad and eventually converting.

    Why is it important?

    Today, at any given time, there are thousands of ads in different formats fighting for a user’s attention. Whether these ads are on television, desktop or on mobile devices, they are all trying to grab a piece in the user’s mind space.  The user is being bombarded by so many ads at the same time, it has become vital that ads are extremely contextual and relevant. Developers need to embrace contextual targeting if they want to stand any chance at grabbing users’ attention and eventually converting them.

    Contextually targeting users has the following advantages:

    1. Better click through rates: Studies have shown that contextually relevant ads have much higher click through rates in desktop display ads. Though mobile marketing is still in a nascent state, contextually relevant mobile ads still have a higher chance of being clicked compared to blanket advertising.  Therefore, It is also a better investment of your advertising dollars.
    1. Higher user engagement: If users are served in-app ads and push messages that are relevant and highly targeted, they will be more prone to engage with the message and consequently with the app. Apps that use contextually relevant push messages experience high levels of user engagement. Seeing an ad at the right time and the right place about something that a user cares about, will often result in the user clicking on the ad and engaging with it.
    1. Improved user experience: In today’s digital world, users are bombarded with ads from all quarters throughout the day. Contextually relevant ads will significantly lower the chance of annoying users and provide a much better user experience.

    Targeting users with contextually relevant messages increases user engagement and app developers definitely must use this tactic if they want their users to be loyal. 

    What is needed to contextually target users?

    Contextual targeting is crucial if you want your users to be loyal and engaged. To be able to effectively target users at the right time and the right place, it is vital to know more about who the end users are and what they are interested in. It is only when app developers have a deep insight into their users’ interests and their lives that they can serve contextually relevant messages to them. It is therefore vital for app developers to be able to understand their users better. Companies like Personagraph can help them do just that. App developers must leverage user understanding and put contextual targeting front and center of their mobile user engagement strategy.

    As 2014 draws to a close, I look back at the most important lessons Hinge has learned about professional services marketing during the past year in order to guide you on how to best use marketing to increase your firm’s visibility, growth, and profitability in 2015.

    As 2014 draws to a close, I look back at the most important lessons Hinge has learned about professional services marketing during the past year in order to guide you on how to best use marketing to increase your firm’s visibility, growth, and profitability in 2015. 

    1) Becoming or Developing a Visible Expert Positively Impacts Your Brand, Growth, and Profit

    According to our research on Visible Experts — professionals with high visibility and a reputation of expertise in their industry niche — having such a person within your firm can build your brand and enable your firm to grow faster and be more profitable. 

    For instance, Visible Experts at the highest level can have billing rates 13x higher than average professionals.

    Hourly rates firms will pay for Visible Experts

    Through our interviews with 128 Visible Experts and survey of 1,028 buyers of professional services, we discovered:

    One example of a Visible Expert is Joe Pulizzi. As the creator of The Content Marketing Institute, he attributes his success to finding a niche and distinguishing himself. Now, his company is not only able to exist, but excel. In addition to an increase in leads and partnership opportunities, Pulizzi was able to increase his billing rates by 1000% over the last three years.

    2) Strong Brand Differentiation Leads to High Growth

    Your professional services brand is the combined product of your reputation and visibility (reputation x visibility). So brand differentiation means just what it sounds like: making your firm’s brand different.

    There are some folks who say that brand differentiation doesn’t really matter. After all, most firms within the same industry offer pretty much the same services anyway, right?

    Not so fast. In our research on high growth, high value professional services firms, we found that high growth firms were almost 3x more likely to have a strong differentiator.

    We explored 21 distinct approaches to differentiation that work for many professional services firms and discovered 5 steps to find and own your firm’s differentiators.

    3) Firms that Generate Leads Online Grow Faster and are More Profitable

    According to our research on the effect online marketing has on professional services firms, firms that generate at least 40% of their leads online grow 4x faster. And firms that generate at least 60% of their leads online are twice as profitable. 

    Firm Growth and Online Lead Generation

    Profitability and Online Lead Generation

    This year we discovered:

    4) Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the Most Effective Tool for Online Lead Generation

    Search engine optimization (SEO) lies at the heart of online marketing. In fact, research has shown that SEO is the single most effective tool for online lead generation.

    Effectiveness rating: high growth vs. average growth firms

    If you want valuable prospects to find your firm online, you need to understand how search engines work, such as:

    5) Content Marketing is the Backbone of Successful Online Marketing

    When it comes to lead generation, not only is content marketing less expensive than traditional outbound marketing, it also works. Thanks to content marketing, your firm will:

    • Demonstrate its expertise to both prospects and competitors
    • Get found more easily on search engines
    • Qualify and nurture more leads
    • Become more transparent and relatable to clients and followers
    • Save time, because your content is always working even when you aren’t

    Developing a strategy is the best way to keep your content creation on track and organized. Determine your topics alongside an editorial calendar to make sure you’re always prepared with fresh, new content. Creating content in conjunction with specific lead nurturing campaigns can also work wonders on your conversion numbers.

    6) LinkedIn is the Most Effective Social Media Channel for Online Lead Generation

    According to our research on how professional services buyers evaluate providers, prospective clients use social media to “check out” providers more often than they consult references. As shown in the chart above, LinkedIn was found to be the most effective social media channel for online lead generation for high growth firms when compared to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

    With over 329 million members belonging to its network, LinkedIn has many options for marketing and business development, including connecting with valuable contacts and demonstrating your individual professional background and experience as well as that of your firm. In 2014 we discovered how to develop and execute creating an effective LinkedIn strategy for you and your professional services firm, including:

    7) Cultivating Media and Partner Relationships Leads to Increased Visibility and Website Traffic

    Establishing and expanding relationships involves taking advantage of the already existing audiences of relevant publications, blogs and partners in your industry. By pitching and writing compelling and educational articles for media sources that have a similar target audience to yours, you can gain visibility and drive more traffic back to your website.

    Similarly, partnering with prominent firms allows your firm to leverage their relationships to build more traction online. By demonstrating support for one another publically, you can reach each other’s target audiences at the same time. Consider hosting an event together, conducting a research project or sharing content to each other’s audiences.

    8) Email Marketing Can Be Highly Effective, But There Are Many Traps To Avoid

    Email marketing is one of the most sophisticated tools in the online marketing toolbelt. When used effectively, email can form the backbone of a successful online marketing campaign, generating and qualifying inbound leads while maintaining an ongoing (and measurable) line of communication with your audiences.

    SEE ALSO: 10 Email Marketing Tips for Tech Firms

    Unfortunately, many professional services marketers aren’t making the most of email, treating it like a simple direct mail campaign that just happens to be digital. Some are even actively undermining themselves, using poorly conceived strategies that alienate their audiences with off-target messages.

    This year we provided you with a guide to taking full advantage of everything email marketing has to offer – without falling into the same traps that many service providers do, including:

    9) Measurement of Online Marketing ROI is Possible with the Right Metrics and Tools

    Many professional services firms often ask “what is the return on investment for my marketing expenditures?” However, the ROI for traditional marketing investments is notoriously difficult to measure.

    In contrast, online marketing offers opportunities to track ROI as well as prospect interaction and engagement down to individual clicks and page views thanks to tools like marketing automation software, Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and social media monitoring software.

    What marketing lessons have you learned in 2014? What will you do differently in 2015 based on your new knowledge? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

    Check out The Visible Expert book to learn about our latest research on the benefits that industry stars bring to their firms and how to become or develop one.

    On Twitter or LinkedIn? Follow us @HingeMarketing and join us on LinkedIn.

    Mobile platforms give us something to think about. The Android vs. iOS debate rages on, especially after holiday gifts are exchanged. Which one is for you and why?

    Are you thinking about exchanging that new smartphone for the one you really asked Santa for? Have you done your research and decided which platform you want to be on?

    The popular line is everyone wants an iPhone 6 but let’s face it, it still costs a lot, particularly at a time when there’s already a squeeze on your wallet. And if you use Gmail, does it make sense to try to mix hostile competitors like iOS and Android? Do you really want to switch all your thought patterns to an iOS sensibility? It’s really a dilemma.

    Some argue Apple is falling behind as far as innovation goes. iOS 8.1 operating system’s new features are features Android rolled out years ago. iOS 8.1 may be more stable, but that stability makes it slower. And, there’s no argument that if you go Android, there are many many more devices to choose from.

    Does battery life affect your decision? Do you want a phone that allows you to carry a spare battery and swap it out when your phone dies?

    What about screen size? The Apple iPhone 6 Plus sports a 5.5-inch display. The plethora of Android phones have screens much larger then that and several that are smaller if that’s what you prefer.

    What about display quality? The Retina display was truly awesome when it first came out 4 years ago and has been beefed up to 401 pixels per inch (ppi), while LG G3’s 5.5-inch screen offers a whopping 534ppi.

    Both Mobile Platforms Have Their Share of Performance Issues

    ZDNet, using information from the mobile business management company Crittercism, reports the new iOS8 adoption rate reached 40% a mere two weeks after it was released. And Android’s latest, Lollipop, was a fraction of a percent at the same point in time. While Lollipop got some very positive reviews upon release, it appears to have some pretty serious problems, particularly in new Nexus devices.

    Given the huge investments in these platforms, it never takes too long for major problems to be fixed and solutions widely distributed. But, it’s still looking like Lollipop may never catch up.

    So, what’s a guy or gal to do? If you don’t already own a Nexus device you’re best off doing a strategic comparison of the two platforms to determine what’s in your best interest.

    One thing to consider is how you use your smartphone. Chances are, you use it for web connectivity as much, or more, than for talking. What other features do you use? If you take a lot of photos on the go, there’s no question iPhones have superior cameras to most Android options. But if you put your phone through a lot of activities, Android batteries last longer and are a lot less expensive, as PocketLint points out.

    The biggest issues for most are the apps. There’s a lot more of them for Android because the operating system is more flexible and developers have been encouraged to build apps for the platform. If one doesn’t work well, there are plenty of other similar ones to try.

    Don’t Fall for the Mobile Device Personality Test

    Business Insider recently reported findings from a British firm improbably named YouGov, which reveal major characteristics of iPhone and Android owners, at least in the UK.

    • Typical Apple users are women 25-39 years old, pretty well off, who work in media, publishing, or marketing. Think London.
    • Typical Droid users are guys 18-24 who are just starting out in IT, energy, media, or publishing. Think Scotland.
    • Apple owners spend big. Droid owners look for bargains.
    • Apple owners are politically in the center. Droid owner are generally lefties. (Keep in mind, though, European nations, including the UK, have mixed economies which lean socialist.)

    Apple owners contradict themselves when asked to self-describe. How can someone be confident in one sentence and admit to being insecure in the next? Droid owners are pretty consistent describing themselves: a worrier, needy, and nerdy, although they also claim to be “calming.”

    The demographic data probably doesn’t matter as much in the US. I suspect our culture is more Android even as we admire Apple and the genius of Steve Jobs. But given the healthy range of Android-powered products out there, more of us use them even if we don’t stand in line for days to be the first to own a Nexus or even a discounted Galaxy s5.

    Here in the US, saving money is as popular as football. This makes Android more appealing. Even as the Samsung Galaxy costs about the same as the latest iPhone, it just doesn’t carry the same reputation. Judging from overall sales, Americans like it like that!

    So, what’s it going to be? Android or iOS?

    Photo by NRKbeta / Marius Arnesen

    Pricing, and specifically the issue of raising prices, is a very complicated part of eCommerce. One which merchants often think about with dread. There are times though when it becomes necessary to raise prices in order to keep up with rising costs of supplies, to increase profit margins, or for any number of other reasons. This post discusses a few effective pricing strategies to help avoid losing customers and boost profits when raising prices.

    Pricing, and specifically the issue of raising prices, is a very complicated part of eCommerce. One which merchants often think about with dread. There are times though when it becomes necessary to raise prices in order to keep up with rising costs of supplies, to increase profit margins, or for any number of other reasons.

    Frequently though merchants will raise their prices at a whim without the appropriate amount of research, and without employing a pricing strategy. This often leads to a loss of customers and a decrease in sales.

    A rise in price does not have to go hand in hand with a decrease in sales though.

    In this post we’ll discuss a few effective pricing strategies that you can use in your eCommerce store the next time you want to raise prices that will help you not only cut your losses, but increase profit as well!

    Know When a Price Raise is Needed

    The most important part of your pricing strategy is your research, because this is the main way you will know if it is time to raise your prices.

    Rising pricesThe first thing you should be researching is your costs. That means you need to know the prices of your materials, production, shipping, packaging, etc., so that if the price of one part of your production process rises, you will know about it, and be prepared to respond.

    For example, if you sell clothes and the price of fabric rises, and you continue selling your products at the same price you will definitely see a shrinking profit margin, or even end up with a loss.

    The second thing you need to stay on top of is your profit margin and your sales levels for specific products.

    A product that is selling well might be a good candidate for a price raise so that you can increase your profits on it. Another product to keep your eye on would be your new products. If, for example, you started selling a new product at a lower price so that it could gain traction, you have to know when it has actually caught on in order to know when you want to raise the price.

    Keeping tabs on your sales and profits, aside from obviously being necessary to your business, will also give you a good idea of when you can safely raise your prices.

    1) Just Raise Your Prices

    The first method you could use for raising your prices is the simplest – just raise your prices! Of course that doesn’t mean you should raise your prices at random and not say anything to your customers. That would be bad.

    So what should you do?

    You should do your research, determine when and by how much you need to raise your prices, and then act with full transparency. Meaning, raise your prices and tell your customers why you had to raise them.

    This works best for a raise in price that comes as a result of rising costs. If, like in the example from above, you sell clothes and there has been an increase in the cost of fabric, then you can simply tell your customers that that is the reason for your price increase.

    You can announce this in a blog post, on social media, or even on your website. However you feel is best to inform your customers. You could also choose not to mention it directly to your customers, but to have a formal response prepared for customers who inquire.

    The advantage of this approach is that you are being very honest with your customers, and, so long as you’re not lying about the rising costs, there is no reason for them not to believe you and understand your decision. They will also be able to see from the rising prices amongst your competitors that you acted honestly.

    The disadvantage of this approach is that you state very clearly to your customers that you are raising your prices. This might lead them to go to your competitors who did not mention their price increases.

    If your prices remain competitive though, this problem shouldn’t really effect you.

    2) Raise Prices Gradually

    If you want to lessen the blow of a price raise, you might want to consider raising your prices gradually. This way there won’t be a shock caused by a larger change.

    The disadvantage of this method is that by raising your prices gradually, it means that you will be raising your prices more frequently as well.

    This frequency might actually cause you more problems than you think. First of all, it might be more noticeable to your customers. Secondly, and possibly more importantly, it will be harder for you to explain your price raises to your customers than if you had done it all in one shot.

    3) Increase the Perceived Value of Your Products

    A great way of getting away with a price raise is by increasing the perceived value of your products. Something that has a greater “value” can also be sold at a higher price.

    How can you do this?

    Let’s go back to the clothing example, and let’s say you specialize in jeans. You could release a “new line” of jeans that are essentially the same as your current line of jeans in terms of production costs, but with a superficial change in terms of appearance. You could then market your new line as “Premium Jeans.”

    What sets your Premium Jeans apart from regular jeans? They’re made with better fabric, they’re more durable, the color is bolder. Choose whatever added value that you want to be the focus of your new product line, and focus on that in your advertising.

    For example, the Gap uses it’s “Limited Edition” section to sell “premium products.”

    Gap limited edition

    Jeans in the Limited Edition section cost around $40 more than the Gap’s standard jeans.

    By increasing the perceived added value of your product you can sell something with the same cost as your other products at a higher price.

    4) Increase the Actual Value with Added Services

    Another way of adding value is by actually adding value. What do I mean? Well if you can add services above and beyond the physical product that you sell, then you can add these costs in as premium prices.

    For example, you could add in the option for gift wrapping, a personalized card, or a warranty. These are services that are not related to the product itself, but add value to the purchase.

    Best buy warranty 

    By charging for a profit on these premium services you can increase your profit margin.

    5) Add Premium Price Options on Your Products

    An additional added value method you could use is to add different price options on all of your products. For example, you could charge different amounts for special colors or added features (this is especially good for electronics).

    Different prices different colors This pricing strategy actually gives you two advantages.

    First, for those who are looking for the lowest price there is a lower price, and for those willing to spend more, you have a product to sell to them too. This can be a great way to make more profit out of the same product.

    The second advantage it gives you is an anchoring price.

    Think about it like when you get popcorn at the movies. You choose between the following options: Small - $7, Medium - $8, and Large - $8.50. Now if you’re considering getting a medium, you’ll probably think to yourself “Hey, it’s only another 50 cents to get the large, so I might as well get that.”

    On the other hand, if you just saw the price of $8.50 you would probably think that that is too much money for popcorn.

    This little psychological trick that your mind plays on you is called anchoring. You anchor your expectations for price on the prices that you already have in front of you.

    By adding premium options on your product pages, you will achieve the same effect as with the popcorn. People will see the base price, and use that as their anchor when considering the premium options.

    6) Offer Multi-Product Packages

    If you sell related products, as I’m sure you do, you can put together product bundles that will offer added value to your customers. For example, if you sell computers you could create a bundle that contains a computer, a mouse, and a keyboard. If you sell clothing then you could sell complete outfits together.

    Here’s a sample bundle from Best Buy’s website:

    sell a package deal

    You can put this on your site as if it were a regular product, or you can add it on the bottom of your product pages as an upsell option. Either way, this bundle will result in a larger sale for you than you would have gotten for an individual product.

    Your Turn!

    When the time comes for raising prices in your store, make sure that you think about the different methods available to you. Consider which option will fit best with your store, and which methods have worked for you in the past.

    It’s tough (or impossible) to predict how your customers will react to a price change, but if you follow these methods then you certainly have the best chances of not only avoiding a negative reaction, but actually boosting your profits!