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Create a Winning Business Personality to Standout from the Crowd

Tue, 02/25/2014 - 06:00

Marketing your small business is an ever-evolving project. Tweaking your message and staying in contact with customers are key components, but have you ever felt like you’re just not connecting with your audience? Sometimes, taking a step back and considering the personality of your business can be a game-changer.

In today’s modern small business marketing environment, companies with a consistent and compelling personality have seen greater success when it comes to enhancing their brand image. First, let’s define what we mean by a company’s personality:

A business with personality is one that has found a certain style and voice that speaks to their product and company atmosphere. Often times this is associated with a fun, laid-back or clever persona, which is used throughout their social media presence or website. In some cases the voice is needling or dry-witted as in the case of consumer-oriented online travel site Hipmunk. When you’re booking a hotel through Hipmunk and you select a checkout date more than 30 days away from your check-in date you’ll receive the following error message, “Why don’t you just move there? 30 days is the max.” While it would have been just as simple for them to say, “30 days is the maximum stay time per hotel,” they use this form of good-natured ribbing to inject a bit of humor. It can put customers at ease, give them a quick laugh and creates a memorable moment in the often stressful endeavor of booking a vacation.

Another excellent example of a strong brand personality can been seen in the South African discount flight provider, Kulula Airlines. Flying can nerve-racking for some, for others just picking which flight provider to use is the most difficult part. As a discount flight company in South Africa, Kulula needed to find a way to stand out. And they do so by allowing their personality to permeate every part of their brand. It starts with the planes themselves. One of their planes is painted with large lettering on the side saying “THIS WAY UP” and multiple arrows pointing to the sky. Some of the planes even have mustaches painted on the front of them. Next comes the in-flight experience; pilots and flight attendants on Kulula are famous for their quick wit and funny announcements. Overheard during one pilot’s welcome message was this gem, “Kulula Airlines is pleased to announce that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!” Want to see more of the personality of Kulula? Check it out here.

So how do you inject personality into your company?  First you need to decide what kind of personality fits your business.

1) Who are you and who is your audience?

A lot of companies lean towards funny, relaxed personalities these days, but that’s not always the best option for your business. You need to assess what it is you’re selling or what solution you’re offering and how best to project yourself to your audience. You could portray a wacky, tech-savvy company that’s constantly tweeting memes and YouTube videos, but if your audience is a more serious or old-school, you might not resonate with them. Marketing agency Melamed Riley talks about the importance of researching other brands to get a sense of your own style, “…try researching the brands you wish to emulate, but be sure to avoid outright copycatting anyone. Pay attention to how your target audience communicates and tailor your brand’s voice accordingly. A bipolar brand personality is an easy way to confuse and alienate customers. Identify your audience, operationalize your personality and stick to the plan.” Which brings us to our second point…

2) Stay consistent

While it’s important to be creative and continually challenge yourself to improve your marketing efforts, your personality needs to stay consistent. Once you settle on your voice and tone, don’t stray too far outside of it. If you start testing out different personalities, you run the risk of confusing your audience. This is where it helps to draw up an outline of your online personality so that all members of your business can refer to it when tweeting, posting or blogging on behalf of your company. This will help ensure a consistent experience start-to-finish.

3) Tell a story

In the past few years, companies have begun to pull the curtain back on the internal workings of their business. We’ve seen inside offices, they’ve tweeted, Instagramed and posted pictures and videos on Facebook of their employees hard at work. By showing off your business and the type of activities that occur daily around your office, you can help provide consumers and customers an inside perspective of your brand. You can showcase the very personality that you’ve created, as it’s often reflected in your employees and internal environment. It also shows that you’re not projecting a false personality but that it is actually one that is fully embraced at all levels.

So now it’s your turn. Take a look at your audience and make a list of adjectives you’d want consumers to use if they were describing your company. This will help you get a sense of the personality that will best fit your business and resonate with your customers. Research similar businesses in your industry and find some that have done creative things with their online presence and discover similar ways to make yourself stand out. Eventually, you’ll have a fully fleshed out personality that’s perfectly tailored to you and your business.

Have you made any changes to your company’s personality or have tips for doing it? Let us know in the comments!

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Create a Winning Business Personality to Standout from the Crowd appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Do This, Not That – SEO Edition [Infographic]

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 09:17

Wondering what to do, or what not to do to optimize your site, appear on Google and Bing or be able to tell who’s visiting your site? We answer these questions and more in this SEO edition of “Do This, Not That!” infographic.

 

Have any dos and don’ts of your own to add? Share in the comments!

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Courtesy of: VerticalResponse

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Product Strategy: Pictures are Worth a Million Words

Fri, 02/21/2014 - 06:00

I recently purchased a great coffee maker, the Nespresso. Sometimes when you get a product like this, you pull it out of the box and consider skipping the instructions all together given how long it might take to read the four point type, right?

But wow, what a pleasant surprise, the Nespresso manual was… you guessed it …made up of pictures! It took no time for us to be sipping some fine espresso out of our new green machine. They’ve also got a great section right on their website called, “You have just bought a Nespresso machine,” with content dedicated to the first use of your machine, troubleshooting, and how to register for the Nespresso club. It’s super visual as well.

So why don’t more businesses do this when pictures or videos can make things so much easier to understand?

Since I’m in the online biz, videos and screenshots are a huge part of what we do to help train and educate people on how to use our online marketing service. We spend a lot of time putting together quick and to the point 2-3 minute videos that tell the story about how to get from point A to B. And we get a ton of people watching them. We’ve even set up our own YouTube Channel, VRTube for this as well.

And remember, images can tell your story in a multitude of places and channels. We were at the New York Expo, a great show with over 4,000 small businesses attending that wanted to explore new ideas to grow. We put huge screenshots on a banner stand so we could visually illustrate what we do. It enabled attendees to be able to immediately understand how we can help them. A huge win when you only have seconds to get someone’s attention at a busy trade show.

Have you ever bought anything from the quirky Scandinavian company IKEA? They are well known for the use of images in their instruction manuals. Because they are a global company, it saves the effort of translation and printing in a ton of languages. (Even though anyone who has ever assembled a piece of IKEA furniture usually has a couple of extra pieces leftover at the end.)

How can your business use images and videos?

  • Your website–If you’ve got an e-commerce site, sharing images of your products is a must. And by sharing those images on image-centric social media networks like Pinterest, you can drive lots of visitors to your site.
  • Sales–Try sending a link to a video of your sales pitch to a prospect. Make sure you include the image of your video with the “play” button. YouTube provides the image to make it easy for you.
  • How-tos–Take pictures of what things should look like as you walk people through a recipe or set of instructions so they can check their work as they go. What about videos of how to take care of plants that you sell or how to make a famous drink from your bar? Or how to style the snazzy new jeans you sell?
  • What’s New–We do a great video series called What’s New Weekly where a few of our engaging marketing folks get down and dirty on marketing trends and tools. You can make a simple video to provide updates about things that relate to your industry or business.

So any business can use videos and pictures to sell, train, and retain customers. Are your pictures worth a mill?

Share how you use images and videos in the comments.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What LinkedIn’s New Blogging Tool Means for Your Business

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 13:19

LinkedIn just announced it’s adding blog features to personal profile pages. The company wants to be more than a search engine for resumes and professional contacts; it’s looking to become the go-to place for professional content.

What’s in it for you?

This new feature, which combines social media and content marketing, could mean big things for small businesses like you.

For starters, the content you create has a ready-made audience. It can be tough to get views on your business blog, but if you publish on LinkedIn, you share it with the professional contacts you’ve already built.

“The ability to compose blog posts that your connections can view means you have the ability to create targeted content that will be displayed directly in front of the people your business is looking to target,” says Victoria Garment of Software Advice, who is already thinking about how this new tool could fit into her company’s marketing plan.

Aside from getting traffic, the posts become part of your profile, so you’re showing industry leaders that you can walk the walk and talk the talk. By creating these longer-form posts, you become a thought leader in your field.

Plus, this new tool gives your brand a voice, Garment says. Through well-written posts you can educate people about your brand, tell them why it rocks, and start a conversation about your business in the comment section.

How is this feature different than what’s already available?

Right now, everyday users can share a few words or a link to an article, but you can’t write anything of substance.

Back in 2012, LinkedIn allowed high profile users, or influencers, like Bill Gates, to write blog posts. By following him, you could read the content he shared on your home page. You could also follow a news channel to see news that interested you. Everyday users could consume the information, but couldn’t write any kind of long-form content – until now.

This new feature gives you the same power as Bill Gates. Well, he might trump the number of followers you have (he has 1.5 million) but you can write and share content just like he can. People can follow you too, which makes your content appear in news feeds.

Wondering how a post looks on LinkedIn? Here’s an example.

How does the publishing feature work?

If you’re ready to whip up a blog on your LinkedIn page, here are some instructions to get started:

  1. Starting on your home page, go to the Share an Update box.
  2. Click the pencil icon. This opens a writing tool.
  3. Write your post.
  4. Add an image by clicking the camera icon. Click browse, select the picture you want to upload, and click submit.
  5. Click publish when you’re ready to share the post.
  6. You can also save a post or preview it before posting.

If you go to your LinkedIn home page and don’t see these options, don’t worry; you might not have the feature just yet, but it should show up on your page soon. According to LinkedIn, the new tool will gradually become available to all users.

Do you have plans to use this new LinkedIn feature? Share how in the comments.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post What LinkedIn’s New Blogging Tool Means for Your Business appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Webinar Mistakes to Avoid

Thu, 02/20/2014 - 06:00

When done right, webinars can be an effective and engaging marketing strategy that can achieve a range of goals: everything from establishing topic authority to lead generation and customer acquisition. Here at VerticalResponse, we highly recommend them and conduct a variety of free webinars every month on topics from content marketing, email design, search engine optimization to leadership and more.

Shelby Britton, senior product marketing manager at Adobe Systems is also a webinar guru and has been running them since 2007. She’s responsible for Adobe’s webinar solution and runs the company’s Webinar Best Practices blog. She’s completed hundreds of webinars and seen some consistent mistakes. Thinking of conducting your own webinar? Avoid the following five foibles and you’ll be well on your way to webinar marketing success.

Mistake #1: Promoting a webinar the wrong way.

Promoting your webinar isn’t just like any other lead generation program. Banner ads or search marketing is typically not as effective with live events.

“The best way to promote a webinar is a very targeted specific email invitation. Really, traditional email works the best,” she says.

Partnering up with another company or expert is also another great way to expand your audience. Have your partner send emails to their own audience and double up your promotion.

Mistake #2: Doing too little preparation before the webinar.

Take the time to learn the technology you’ll be using in advance. You wouldn’t show up to a physical venue to present without first making sure you’ve properly set up your microphones, video and so forth. Make sure to log into your webinar platform, set up your audio ahead of time and rehearse using the technology in advance of the time you’re presenting.

Mistake #3: Presenting the wrong content for the buying cycle.

Although webinars can be used effectively both as acquisition tools and for sales, the proper timing is crucial. Everyone should deliver the right content to the right people at the right time, no matter what the medium is.

“For instance, you wouldn’t do a demo webinar at the top of your sales funnel, because that’s just not the right messaging you need to give people as a first touch. When you don’t know them and are introducing yourself to prospects, you don’t want to demo because that’s just too hard of a sales pitch,” says Britton. That’s the time for thought leadership or best practice topics that educate the audience. A demo belongs at the bottom of the funnel, after a relationship with contacts is established and a purchase is being considered.

Mistake #4: Making little use of interactive tools.

The reason to host a webinar is to boost engagement and conversation. If a dynamic, interactive experience isn’t a necessary element you’re looking for, creating a video or writing a blog post or guide may be a better solution than delivering live content.

Otherwise, make your webinar interactive and engaging. “It’s not the same thing as presenting at a live event where everyone can see the presenter. It has to be visually stimulating, and you have to plan interactivity into the webinar,” Britton says, so make sure to embed polls, interactive exercises in the chat room and activities every five minutes or so.

This begins the moment your webinar begins—or even before, when participants are gathering. “Let them know you see them and acknowledge their presence, so they know they’re not the only person in the room,” says Britton. This can be as simple as asking them to share their name and location when they ask a question, or having the presenter acknowledge and read out some names.

Mistake #5: Not using the information collected during the webinar.

“I think a lot of people miss the boat when they don’t use all the information they collect during a webinar to qualify leads,” says Britton. “You can use all of that rich data, beyond whether someone attended or didn’t attend and how long they attended. There’s so much more information you can collect.” This includes using polls as a way to qualify leads or collect more information on attendees beyond what was collected in the registration process.

Do you conduct webinars of your own? Let us know your thoughts about these mistakes.

Speaking of webinars, be sure to check out our calendar and join us for a free webinar. We have them every week.

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This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 5 Webinar Mistakes to Avoid appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Make Your Email Campaign More Clickable

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 06:00

The makeup of an email newsletter can vary tremendously. Some businesses include entire articles in their emails, others send a list of headlines with a teaser paragraph and thumbnail, and some just list out headlines.

What works best, in terms of engaging recipients and getting people to click? We asked Stephanie Miller, vice president of member relations at the Direct Marketing Association. As a digital marketing expert, she helps businesses connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize their response and revenue.

Her first message: there’s no magic bullet that solves this question. However, here are five strategies that will help you arrive at an email campaign that works for best your audience.

Think about your users

It may seem counterintuitive, but putting an entire article in a newsletter can create a better experience for your readers. They can open your email on their computer or mobile device, read your content and then delete or forward it when they’re done. Most businesses want to strike a balance between the user experience and the needs of the business. “It can be a really good experience but, of course, you don’t have any clicks to be sure that they’re reading anything,” Miller says.

Listing a series of articles and links instead of entire posts seems like a solution, but it’s not always the user-friendly option. “You risk people skimming and not clicking on more than one article or not clicking on any articles because they’re on their device and maybe it’s just kind of clunky. Then they miss the content,” says Miller.

Sending too much content can also be stressful for some audiences, especially if they’re busy and don’t have time to read everything.

Explains Miller: “You really have to think about the experience and think about, ‘Is my objective to get the content and create a good experience that’s content-driven, or is my goal to drive them to a website?’”

Test everything

The best layout for your specific email newsletter depends on your audience, and the best way to determine an ideal format for yours is to test several options. “You don’t know what’s going to work best, so you test it,” says Miller. “You can certainly gather ideas and try some best practices, but you never know for your particular audience what’s going to resonate.”

Tracking the rate at which recipients click on the links in your emails over time is one way to test how changes affect audience reaction. Running split tests—where half of your readers get one format and the rest get another—is another way. Talking to your readers, via surveys, on the phone during support calls or in person at events is also key: ask them whether or not they find value in what you’re sending them and why. Use that feedback to guide your decisions and modify your newsletter layout, if needed.

Be relevant and consistent

Email subscribers like to know what they’re getting. If a reader finds a subject line intriguing they expect to be able to find that content easily when they open your email. Make it difficult for them, or worse yet, create a misleading subject line, and you’ll leave readers frustrated or annoyed.

Smartly segmenting your list, or targeting specific groups in your list with highly relevant content, is another way to make sure the recipients of a particular message are interested in the content, which will boost the rate at which they click.

Make links visible

“You want to make sure that your content is visible with images turned off,” Miller points out. Making sure that you have links within the text of your email for your readers to click even if the images, such as a call-to-action button, don’t load is essential.

Have any advice of your own to add? Share away in the comments.

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post How to Make Your Email Campaign More Clickable appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Want Better Results? Conduct These 4 Email Tests

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 06:00

What’s the secret to a successful email?  Testing, of course!

We’re big proponents of testing, or A/B testing as we call it in the industry. Why? Because it allows you to test whether aspects of an email marketing message—layout, photos, links, etc.—generate statistically significant differences in audience reaction. The more you know your audience, the better engagement you’ll get!

“You can’t assume you know your customers or adhere to a one-size-fits-all marketing strategy. The only way to find out what works best is to test,” says Len Markidan, who heads Markidan Strategies and works primarily with small businesses and startups.

While you may be using A/B testing on your subject lines, (you do, right?), here are four areas, other than subject lines that you should be testing:

Find the right frequency

How often is too often? It’s a question everyone asks and A/B testing can help uncover the answer.

Think sending one email a month is enough? Think again. Sending consistently and more often may just give you better results.

“Most business owners assume that fewer is better and that too many emails will overwhelm customers and cause huge unsubscribe rates, but that’s not always the case,” says Markidan.

Do you send one long email newsletter per month? Break that information into four digestible emails and send them once a week. Markidan tested this exact change with a software client, and it resulted in a huge boost in engagement and conversions.

Zero in on the best day of the week

At some point, a series of email marketing myths started traveling through the grapevine and there’s always been a lot of speculation about the best day of the week to send emails, but again, the answer is different for every business and audience.

As we mentioned in a previous post, “The Surprisingly Best Times to Send Your Email Campaigns,” Monday may not be the best day, and your test results may surprise you.

Markidan ran some A/B tests for an app development firm and found the best day of the week to reach their customers via email was on Sunday. Open rates went up 15% just by changing the day of the week.

“Sending an email on Sunday seems counterintuitive, but for this company it works,” he says.

Get the most out of your calls to action

A/B testing can help you find the most clickable call-to-action. Whether it should be a bright blue button or a just a text hyperlink within your email, testing will tell you what’s best. Think buttons will get better results? Not always!

A video producer working with Markidan had the call to action in her emails within an image. As a result, her click-through rates were dismally low. After changing the call to action to a hyperlink, she saw a jump in clicks.

Test the ‘from’ field

An area that many don’t think to test is the email’s “from label.” Some companies send emails from a generic account. An email from info@company.com can feel impersonal, but an email from the CEO or a company manager may get more traction. Or, if you have a persons name instead of a company name, some people may not recognize the sender and delete the email immediately. Make sure you test this on small segments of your list before you make a sweeping change to your from label.

Your takeaway? Testing will always reveal subtle changes that can make a big difference in your email campaigns. What have you tested in your emails lately? Share away.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Want Better Results? Conduct These 4 Email Tests appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Create a Compelling Company Explainer Video

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 06:00

Get this: 92% of B2B customers watch online video, and 43% of them watch online video when researching products and services for their business. So, I’m sure you’ve got a great explainer video front and center on your homepage to capture the attention of all your visitors, right?

If you answered no, you’re not alone. VerticalResponse doesn’t have one today, but we’re in the midst of some big changes and with that we’ve got a new video that will be out soon. Since we’re going through it ourselves, I thought I’d share some of the basics that go into creating an effective and compelling explainer video:

Keep it Short

When you decide to create an explainer video for your site, chances are you’ll want to try to extol all the fabulous things about your company. Don’t be tempted to go here or you’ll end up with a video that no one watches. Based on data collected over several years, we now know that online video views drop off significantly after only 60 seconds. So, you gotta keep it short. If you’re writing your own script (which I suggest you do), a 60 second video translates to about 150 words. That doesn’t give you much to say, so you’ve got to nail your message and ensure your animation or the style you choose reflects that.

Start with a Succinct Script

But even before you begin writing your script, it’s helpful (and, one might argue, essential) to create a messaging grid that breaks down the key components you need to get across. You should outline the following:

  • Audience: Who are they? What are their pain points?
  • Content: What is the single most important thing you want your audience to know? Develop key messaging that supports your main idea.
  • Call to Action: What is the one thing you want your audience to do after watching the video? Remember, you don’t just have to wait until the end for the “ask.” Try to include it in the beginning and again at the end.

After you’ve outlined your messaging, writing your script becomes that much easier because you will essentially have all the ingredients you need. As you review your script, keep in mind that you’ll need to make decisions about voice over (do you want a guy or gal?), background music, and the type of video you want to bring your script to life. Instead of actors, maybe an animated cartoon or graphics and illustrations would be more effective at getting your point across. Pick what you think best reflects your company, your key messaging and, most of all, your customers.

Work with a Pro

Sure, you can produce your video in-house, but in this case you may want to leave it to the pros. Typically a high-quality video can be created for you in about four to six weeks. You can save lots of time, since most video production houses have the voice over talent and everything you need in-house. They’ll work directly with you to understand your goals, and then create storyboards from which your video will be based once approved. You can find video resources by searching “explainer video” online. Prices vary by vendor, so shop around for one that fits your budget. You don’t have to break the bank to get a great video.

I hope these three basics help get your explainer video off to a great start. I look forward to unveiling ours soon. Have any video tips to add to my list? Share in the comments.

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post How to Create a Compelling Company Explainer Video appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Email Marketing Promotions Gone Wrong

Fri, 02/14/2014 - 06:00

When Groupon celebrated their fifth birthday, they sent out an email marketing promotion to their subscribers. Here’s what they did right, wrong and what you can learn from it:

What They Did Right

Groupon did a lot of things right. They used email to reach out to their opted in subscriber base and they used a compelling subject line with a limited time offer “We’re Giving Out $5,000,000 in Groupon Bucks Today.” Plus, there was a sense of mystery–you had to log in to see if you scored bucks.

What They Did Wrong

But here’s where things went awry… when the recipient clicked the call-to-action button with great anticipation of scoring bucks, many were met with a lackluster response to the effect of, “You didn’t score.” Not very encouraging or friendly.

While you can’t expect everyone to win, Groupon ended up annoying some pretty loyal customers with this promotion. A few of my team members expressed the sentiment of “Couldn’t they have at least given me a dollar?” Their thought was, if they had gotten something/anything, they would have feel better about making a purchase vs. getting nothing after spending lot of dough with Groupon.

What You Can Learn From It

If your company does promotions, take a lesson from Uber. They totally nailed it in their National Cat Day promotion. You can also structure your promotions in a way where everyone feels valued, from your existing customers to new prospects you’re trying to get in the door. By offering a variety of offers all the way through the funnel, you’ll make sure you get customers and keep them.

For example, at VerticalResponse, we wanted to reactivate some customers who hadn’t sent any email in a few months. So we sent an email letting them know we were giving away 10 million email credits and had made a mystery deposit in their accounts. We made sure everyone on the list received credits as an incentive to log in and send some emails on us. And, the likelihood that they’ll buy more credits and send more email out went up exponentially. Plus, they got an unexpected surprise. A win-win.

How do your promotions serve your business and your customers? Share in the comments.

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Email Marketing Promotions Gone Wrong appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Facebook Offers New Custom Gender Option

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 13:32

Facebook announced today that users can now customize their gender option beyond the standard “male” and “female” options that previously existed. TechCrunch reports, “users can choose up to 10 different gender definitions to describe themselves out of more than 50 options, including “cisgender,” “transgender” and “intersex.”

On the Facebook Diversity page they say, “We collaborated with our Network of Support, a group of leading LGBT advocacy organizations, to offer an extensive list of gender identities that many people use to describe themselves. Moreover, people who select a custom gender will now have the ability to choose the pronoun they’d like to be referred to publicly — male (he/his), female (she/her) or neutral (they/their).”

Facebook also included the ability for people to control who can see their custom gender. Facebook says,”We recognize that some people face challenges sharing their true gender identity with others, and this setting gives people the ability to express themselves in an authentic way.”

The custom gender option is available today to anyone who uses Facebook in U.S. English according to the company.

To learn more about how to change your setting, visit Facebook help here.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Totally Terrified of Public Speaking? 4 Tips to Cope

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 06:00

Flashback to third grade and you have to get up and give your first book report in front of the entire class (even that cute guy or gal in the front row). Your heart is beating so hard you can hear it in your ears. Your palms are sweaty and your knees are knocking.

If giving a presentation or public speaking makes you feel like this, join the club, you’re not alone. In fact, I think Jerry Seinfeld has one of the best quotes out there about this, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Dr. Michael Telch of the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin says that for most Americans, “The biggest fear is public speaking, with 15 percent of Americans experiencing a dramatic fear of it.” Humor and statistics aside, how can you face your fear head on and speak like a pro in public? I’ll share a few of my favorite tips:

Know Your Audience

If you’re asked to give a presentation, the most important information you should get ahead of time is about your audience. What’s their background, how technical are they, what industries or companies do they come from? By knowing who your audience is (or isn’t), you can tailor your content to them. By doing this, your presentation, regardless of any nerves you may be feeling has a better chance of resonating and adding value for your audience and they will appreciate you for it. As an attendee, there’s nothing worse than paying a lot of coin to attend a conference and have presenters that don’t know who they are speaking for, or to. One great trick? Get there early and talk to a few folks to get to know them a tiny bit then you’ll have someone to connect to in the audience.

You’re the Expert

Remember, people are attending your presentation to learn something. And, you know your stuff or you wouldn’t be up there. Avoid the rabbit-hole thinking that the audience is out to get you and make you look stupid. They are there to gain knowledge so give ‘em what they came for. By knowing your audience, and your stuff, you’re halfway there.

Be Properly Prepared

Remember the saying, “Being properly prepared prevents poor performance”? I’m a firm believer in this one and definitely advise investing the time to put together a solid presentation.

  • Create your own slides: It helps if you’re the one creating the slides and notes so you can use examples that you and your audience can relate to. When you have a connection to the examples you use, it makes telling the story (or the presentation) so much more natural and easy.
  • Use lots of visuals: Spend quality time creating an engaging deck (remember to include lots of great visual examples because no one likes to look at an all text preso these days.)
  • Rehearse! Spend an equal, if not greater amount of time practicing and rehearsing your presentation. Find a quiet place and do as many dry runs as you need to. Then find someone willing to listen and provide you constructive criticism and do your presentation for them.

By feeling prepared you can lessen the factors that will make your nerves feel frazzled come show time. You can also get coaching through a group like Toastmasters International which can really help you gain a sense of confidence and ease.

Have Fun

No matter how nervous you feel, you will get through it so it’s important to remember to let yourself have some fun and allow your personality to shine through. You don’t want to be some stiff suit up on a podium that alienates your audience.

You can come up with your own ways of coping, from the old school imagining the audience in their underwear, to a cool trick I saw Tyler Willis from Unified do at one of our VerticalResponse user conferences a few years ago; Tyler brings his smartphone up to the podium with him and before he begins speaking, he tells the audience he’s going to take a picture of them. He then explains that if, at the end of his speech, he gets three questions, he’ll reveal why he took the picture (Willis explains at the end it’s because his parents don’t quite get “social media” and that people pay to hear him speak so he sends them the pictures). He not only gives himself a few seconds to get comfortable and have a little fun, he also breaks the ice and draws his listeners in from the get-go.

What are some of your favorite techniques to add to my list?

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Four Email Marketing Myths Debunked

Wed, 02/12/2014 - 06:00

Just like old wives’ tales, myths about what does and doesn’t work in email marketing can outlast unbelievers. We’ll let the medical establishment debate whether wet hair and cold weather gets you sick, but we think it’s time to set the record straight on some of the most common email marketing myths.

We sat down with Jerry Jao, the co-founder and chief executive of Retention Science, to clear the myth-filled air. His company helps small businesses keep customers around for the long haul by crunching marketing data. Jao says four myths seem to live on despite evidence that they’re not true and he’s more than happy to dispel them with numbers and facts.

Myth: Sending emails first thing in the morning is best

Many marketers insist that sending an email to a customer in the morning means they’ll open it as soon as they sit down at their computer. That has led to the general rule of thumb that the morning is the best time of day to send a marketing email. There may some logic behind the idea, says Jao, but it’s simply not true.

By combing though 100 million online transactions, 20 million user profiles and 100 email campaigns, Retention Science found that the afternoon is actually a better time to send an email. According to their research, most online shoppers are active later in the day but typically receive shopping-related promotional emails early in the morning. Other research supports this. At best, the rule of thumb about sending early is harmless. At worst, you’re killing your conversions.

Solve this conundrum by testing different times with similar or identical messages.

Myth: Emails sent on Mondays are the most successful

Sending emails on Monday is another rule of thumb that may have a logical underpinning but little in the way of convincing proof. Marketers assume that everyone has a case of the Monday blues. Since no one really wants to jump back into work, people are more likely to sift through their email on Monday, or so they think.

Retention Science’s data showed the opposite: Tuesday and Friday had the highest conversion rates. Test out different days to see if they make an impact on open rates and conversions.

Myth: More frequent email is better

If you send a bunch of emails to your customers they’re bound to open some of them, so why not send a dozen, right? Wrong. Jao says this is a common myth that needs debunking.

“It’s important to understand that less is more when it comes to email campaigns,” he says.

Of course, finding the right email frequency is tough. There isn’t a definitive number that works for every business, but Jao suggests testing your email frequency while watching unsubscribe rates to make sure you find the right balance.

Myth: Subject lines packed with info get opened

A subject line is important, no question about it. However, some people believe that packing a subject line full of information leads to high open rates. Untrue.

While you can squeeze about 70 characters into a subject line, that doesn’t mean you should. Rather than cramming the header full of words, focus on making the subject line conversational, Jao suggests.

“A subject line should sound like something a friend would say,” he says. “Don’t be wordy or pitchy, just be conversational.”

While there isn’t a plug-and-play formula to create a killer subject line, there are practices that you should avoid. Don’t use all capital letters, don’t be deceiving, ditch any symbols or emoticons, take it easy with punctuation and refuse to be boring. If you stay away from these no-nos, your open rates will improve.

When in doubt, A/B test your subject line to see what kind of wording works best for your customers. In fact, it’s a good takeaway message. Testing email content can give you statistics to back up your marketing moves, Jao says. It will not only give you an insight into the habits of your customers, but it will keep you from falling victim to marketing myths.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Reel in These 5 Video Marketing Must-Dos

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 06:00

Statistics show a greater proportion of consumers are watching video online than on TV. According to a Nielsen survey, 84% of consumers watch video on their home computer, a figure that surpassed television viewing for the first time. This is one of many arguments for increasing video usage in your content marketing. In a recent survey of VerticalResponse customers, 35% of respondents indicated they are using YouTube as part of their marketing strategy.

Dan Dinsmore, chief executive of marketing agency OverIt, says creative videos can increase click-through rates, decrease unsubscribes and boost customer retention.

“On average, the clients that we create video for have 60 to 80 percent lower opt-out rates and about a 50 percent increase in click-throughs,” he says. “With these numbers, you can’t underestimate the power of video.”

There are a lot of tools out there that can help small businesses make and share videos including GoAnimate, WeVideo and Vine, but before you set up a camera, here are some video tips that helped OverIt become a powerhouse in video.

1. Do: Try to keep videos to two minutes or less

There are a lot of other sites, emails and videos competing for your audience’s attention. Be respectful of that and pack a punch with a shorter video that gets to the point.

“You need a short video that doesn’t sacrifice your message,” he says. “Lead the consumer to the user experience you want (like clicking on a landing page) sooner rather than later, or it won’t happen at all.”

2. Do: Spend time on the pre-production process

Working within such tight time constraints means it’s important to make a plan of attack, Dinsmore says. You can’t just put your iPhone on a tripod and start talking.

“The key to a short and engaging video is pre-production,” Dinsmore says. “You need to sit down, get some creative ideas flowing and really figure out how to make the most of every second.”

3. Do: Create niche pieces

If you want the most bang for your video buck, create niche pieces, Dinsmore says. Just like you create different content for different target audiences, you should do the same when creating videos.

For example, when the New York Council for Problem Gambling asked OverIt to create a video about addiction, the company responded with two different niche videos. One focused on tweens, the other on adults.

The gambling videos generated two million click-throughs in just four months.

4. Do: Use tools to jazz up not-so-visual content

Fast cars and delectable food lend themselves naturally to images, but what do you do if you’re trying to make a video about something not quite so ready for its close-up?

Think about using tools like music, graphics or effects. For example, OverIt used a little music and kinetic text to bring a fundraising video to life for Siena College.

5. Do: Be creative

It goes without saying that the more creative your video is, the better your return on investment, Dinsmore says. Get your creative juices flowing and think about out-of-the-box content like an animation or a cartoon. For example, when a holiday rolls around create an animated card like this.

Right now, Dinsmore considers video marketing an underutilized tool, but he expects big changes this year. And he’s not the only one. Marketing predictions for 2014 include video as a top marketing tool in the next 12 months.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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3 Ways to Avoid Burnout by Working Smarter, Not Harder

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 06:00

Think just because you run a business that it’s got to be all work and no play? Don’t remember the last time you took a vacation? Do you regularly put in 80-hour weeks? If you answered yes to any, or all of these questions you may be headed for burnout; an all too common side effect of the ultra busy work life we’ve programmed ourselves to believe is necessary to succeed. But is it? Here are a few tactics I use to work smarter, not harder that you can try for yourself.

Get Rid of Time-Wasters

Do you really need that meeting or can you just walk over to someone and get to the bottom of an issue?

Do you really need to “take it offline” in a meeting? To me that means another meeting.

Do you check your e-mail all day long? Cut the cord and start checking it only a few times a day. Trust me, you can do it. And if something is so urgent, it can’t wait a few hours for a reply, the sender will find another way to ask you such as in-person (fathom the thought!), via text, phone call or IM.

Are you trying to do everything yourself? You.must.stop.now. As the leader of a company, you’ve got to delegate and delegate well. Sure delegating means giving up control, but when you’ve got talented people, this is no big deal. And if you don’t delegate and allow others to be part of the decision and execution of projects, you’ll start losing people pretty quickly, resulting in more work for you to hire new ones.

Categorize Then Prioritize

For instance, if you’ve got to pay your vendors and return a few phone calls, paying your vendors might take priority. Put the phone down and give yourself a half-hour to write checks.

Block your calendar out for specific things, then check them off the list – If you’ve got a ton of e-mail to read, shut your door and pound through a day of e-mails.

Work at home (if you can) one day per week. Many times if you remove yourself from the day-to-day you’ll be surprised how you can be creative about your business, as well as plow through some things that have been on your to-do list. I’ve made Sunday a day of work, not rest, but that may not be the right fit for everyone. The point is, take some time that you can be away from distractions and get laser-focused on what needs to be done, or take a different look at your business. You’ll be amazed at what you might think of when you clear some time for it.

Use Evernote

I’m a huge fan of Evernote. It keeps me sane. Seriously, I keep all my notes, and follow up organized with Evernote. If I didn’t have it, I may have forgotten that I needed to contribute to Inc. twice a week. And clearly, I’m not the only one who’s a fan. Evernote says it has 50 million users around the world (a third in the U.S.) and is adding 100,000 a day.

What are some other ways you work smarter not harder and avoid burnout? Share away in the comments.

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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What’s New Weekly – Facebook Paper [VIDEO]

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “What’s New Weekly,” we share Facebook’s newest iOS application called Paper. Paper allows you to organize content and your Facebook news feed into a magazine type layout.

 

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Facebook or Twitter – Which is Better for Your Small Business?

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 06:00

Did you read the predictions about social media use for small businesses in 2014? One of the biggest predictions states that small businesses will get more selective about their use of social media and the sites they have a presence on. So what about the top social media networks, Facebook and Twitter? If you have limited time and resources and can only devote your time to one site, which is best for your biz?

Some businesses have already found their winning platform for success. In the Facebook camp, take a look at businesses such as Talking Finger, Earthegy and Chocolate for Breakfast for inspiration. In the world of Twitter, look no further than Tacolicious, Odell Brewing and Food in Jars.

For our purposes, let’s start by looking at a head-to-head comparison of these two social media network powerhouses:

Facebook


(Statistics via Statistic Brain at http://www.statisticbrain.com/facebook-statistics/)

Twitter


(Statistics via Statistic Brain at http://www.statisticbrain.com/twitter-statistics/)

Now that you see how they measure up,  let’s look at some key comparisons to see which of these top social networks might be the best fit for your business.

Size

Yes, Facebook has more than double the active users of Twitter, but their algorithm determines which content you see in your news feed, and how often in a given period of time. This can make it more challenging for your audience to see your content, especially with the algorithm changes they’ve been making recently, which impacts business content even more, unless you pay to promote your posts.

Twitter, however, is composed of one consistently streaming news feed of content/tweets, no restrictions applied. As people who follow your business Twitter account follow more people and businesses, their stream also becomes noisier. It can be easy for your content to get lost in the mix.

On the upside, the search function within Twitter is more robust and is utilized more often than Facebook. If you’re tweeting information people care about, the likelihood that it will be found is much greater via Twitter.

Choose Facebook if: You have a little budget that can be put towards promoting your posts.

Choose Twitter if: You have a lot of content to share and plan to be proactive in your interaction with other accounts.

Business vs. Personal
Another key difference between the two largest networks centers around business and personal accounts. Unlike Twitter that lets all the accounts commingle, Facebook makes a definite distinction between business and personal. This can be an issue because your business page cannot proactively connect with individuals with personal profiles. Individuals have to first like your page and you still can’t reach out to them directly unless they message you first. This is not the case with Twitter, as you can follow pretty much anyone as long as they haven’t blocked you or have a protected account.

Choose Facebook if: You have a large follower base on your personal profile that you can leverage for your business page.

Choose Twitter if: You have a niche product or service that people might be using Twitter search to investigate.

Staying Power
One of the key disadvantages of Twitter is the speed at which the information flows. Depending on how many people you follow, a tweet can literally stay in your feed for mere seconds. And there isn’t any way for the ‘good’ tweets to rise to the top, unless you pay to promote a tweet. With Facebook, if your content is really good and a lot of people interact with it via likes, comments and shares, it’s possible for your post to have a longer news feed shelf life. And if your community shares it, there’s a higher probability that it’ll be seen by people you aren’t connected with. This is true, however, with retweets on Twitter.

Choose Facebook if: You like to use a lot of photos for your products, as they tend to get a lot of interaction, which will then result in longer news feed staying power.

Choose Twitter if: You want to share great information that’s not directly tied to your company. Answering questions, retweeting, sparking up conversation, and being helpful on Twitter can lead to people investigating you more and following your account.

Overall
There are obviously some key differences between Facebook and Twitter that make them appealing to different people as well as businesses. If at all possible, you should try to leverage both networks in your marketing efforts. But time and resources often dictate the choices you have to make. If we were hard pressed to choose one of these social networks we would probably lean toward Facebook at this time. Let us tell you why:

First, with 1.3 billion active users, it’s probably a good bet that your current customers (and potential ones) are already on Facebook. Second, you probably have an active Facebook account, so you have an established network that you can utilize in your business efforts. Finally, at the current time, Facebook is still leading the pack on driving social traffic to most company’s blogs and websites.

Which social network is best for your business? Share in the comments.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Guidelines for Getting Awesome Guest Blog Posts

Wed, 02/05/2014 - 06:00

Bringing guest bloggers on board is a great way to diversify the content on your site and introduce your product or business to a new audience.

“Guest bloggers can boost profits by growing the exposure of your brand,” says link-building specialist Matt Zajechowski.

If you’re ready to add guest bloggers to your site, Zajechowski says you need to create some guidelines first to ensure the content fits your audience and that both you and the guest blogger get the most out of the partnership.

“I think guidelines are necessary to let potential writers and contributors know what you expect from them,” Zajechowski says. “With specific guidelines, you’ll get well-written, organic content that mimics the kind of quality articles you already have on your site.”

Here’s a list of features that Zajechowski says you should have in your guest blogging guidelines:

Spell out the topics you want

Don’t assume that guest bloggers will figure out what kind of content you want based on your company’s name or About Us page, Zajechowski says.

For example, an obvious topic for an office supply company might be an article on organizational tools but the blog may be chock full of them already and they may be looking for other content for their readers. Often you need to create content that fills voids so you have a variety of topics and information available.

“I think qualifying the content you are looking for is important,” Zajechowski says.

Copyblogger, a content marketing company, gives guest authors a list of recently approved topics in its guidelines.

Ask contributors to use Google Authorship

Google has a tool called Google Authorship. When a writer signs up for the service, a picture of the author is attached to the article in search results.

“I think this is the most important guideline to include for guest blogging in 2014,” Zajechowski says. “It’s a new tool that can make content stand out, which is a bonus for both the company and the blogger.”

Set a word count minimum

Word count is tricky to specify. In the digital world of short, 140-character messages we assume that concise content is best, but that’s not always the case.

QuickSprout, a company that helps businesses boost website traffic, says longer posts get higher Google rankings and they’ve got the stats to back it up.

“Longer is better,” Zajechowski says. “Longer content not only ranks better, but it tends to be more shareable.”

Make clear that you want original content

You assume that guest bloggers will create original content for you, but you should still list it as a requirement in your guidelines, Zajechowski says.

Your guidelines can let potential guest bloggers know their articles will be run through a plagiarism scanner, he says. “Duplicate content is a big no-no in Google’s eyes so the importance of this must be stressed.”

Moz, an SEO company that accepts guest blogs, spells this out in their guidelines.

Consider asking for a visual element

Visual content is more engaging, so ask the blogger to provide a photo or a graphic element to go with the post. If you pair a vibrant image with great content it will get more attention, Zajechowski says.

Require interaction

Once the post is live, require the author to check in from time to time and engage with readers, Zajechowski suggests. Ask the writer to monitor and respond to comments for a certain time period, maybe 72 hours after the post is published.

Set a rule about links within the post

Unfortunately, guest posting is often camouflage for seeding links around the web in an attempt to fool Google, Zajechowski says. To avoid a crazy amount of promotional links in guest content, set a link limit and require links to be engaging, not promotional.

Once you’ve got your guidelines established, Zajechowski says companies should update the information regularly depending on changing seasons, new business needs and industry trends.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Camera Shy & Short on Time? Try Screencasting to Create Video Content

Tue, 02/04/2014 - 09:48

Whether you’re already doing a lot of video marketing, or just figuring out how to make video a part of your mix, consider screencasting: capturing your computer screen output in a video, along with audio narration and sometimes video of the presenter. In contrast to a videoconference or webinar, screencasting lets you create a video from your desktop that can be viewed again and again. And it cuts down on setup and production time by using your screen as a visual asset.

“You can then peruse it at your leisure. You can stop and pause, rewind and watch it as many or as few times as you need to get the information conveyed to you,” explains Jason Valade, a product manager at TechSmith, a software company developing screen capture and screencasting tools such as Camtasia, Snagit and Jing. He shares some tips and tricks and best practices for more effective screencasting.

Before getting started, make sure screencasting is the best tool for your goals. In some instances, having a live conference is preferable to sharing a video—specifically, if you’d like to walk someone through a process and answer questions on the fly. In that case, tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect and GoToMeeting might be preferable.

Why and when to screencast

Screencasts aren’t just for public presentations or product demos, though. You can drop in a link to your video in an email or on your blog, making sure you’re sharing something valuable with your audience that benefits from screencasting.

The whole point is to intersperse faces and screens, narration and demonstration, creating a more interactive experience but one that is recorded for later consumption. For example, take a look at TechSmith’s video on screencast recording best practices, which includes video of a narrator, screencast and visual examples of proper and improper lighting. Some instructional videos omit video of the narrator altogether, but include audio narration and various images.

Tailor your presentation to your audience

As with any video endeavor, technology can become a preoccupation: don’t get bogged down with editing and re-recording screencasts. Valade recommends tailoring your level of editing to your audience.

“If I’m sending something out to someone I don’t know who I’ve never interacted with, I’m going to make sure that thing is as polished as I can get it… good edits, nice music, all sorts of stuff,” he says. “But if I’m sending something out to a colleague, a co-worker, or someone I’ve had all sorts of interaction where I can do a down and dirty recording, then I can get away with the coughs or the umms or the ahhs or the subtle pauses while I’m thinking of information.”

In addition to the audience, the amount of time you have to get a video out is also a factor, as well as how often your audience will be viewing the video. If they’ll only have a chance to view it once, it’s a good idea to focus more attention on production quality.

In general, Valade recommends a balanced approach: some people are even intimidated by a video that’s exceptionally polished and most are turned off by one that looks as though it was produced with little attention paid to the viewer’s time and expectations.

Preparation is key

Not only should you know in advance what you’re going to be showing in your video, Valade recommends doing a run-through while paying attention to what is on your screen. “If you’re sharing your screen, you’re going to see everything that’s on there, such as notifications popping up or messages coming in.”

If you choose to be on camera for your screencast, make sure you’re dressed appropriately for your audience. And since you don’t take up the whole screen, pay attention to what’s going on behind you before you hit record. “If the desk behind me is messy, that may convey a bad message to whoever I’m sharing information with,” Valade explains.

Preparing, of course, also includes making sure your camera and microphone work well, and that you’ve got everything you want to share open and ready to go instead of fumbling around on your screen during the shoot.

Don’t obsess over what you look and sound like.

Paying attention to your presentation quality and making sure your clothing is appropriate for your audience doesn’t mean you need to go overboard.

“Some people get really hung up on how they sound or how they look,” says Valade, who sees this as a challenge people need to overcome. He points out that the audience’s expectations are usually realistic ones. “If someone’s watching a video that I created, they’re hopefully expecting me and not Steven Spielberg.”

Rehearse, sure, but don’t try to be the voice behind those movie trailers.

“Your voice is what it is. If you’re going to put on the fake radio voice and talk in a way that’s concise, you can do that, but then you have to carry it through the whole presentation.”

Have you tried screencasting? What was your experience like? Share with us in the comments.

 This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Camera Shy & Short on Time? Try Screencasting to Create Video Content appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Are You Making These 5 Common Content Marketing Mistakes?

Mon, 02/03/2014 - 06:00

There are over 27,000,000 pieces of content being shared every day, but did you know that 60-70 percent of content produced by B2B marketing goes unused? Why? Most often it’s due to common content marketing mistakes like not knowing who you’re producing content for, trying too hard to sell with your content, and other content mishaps.

If you’re creating any type of content for your business, find out if you’re making any of these 5 common content marketing mistakes and what you can do to clean up your content act.

Don’t Know Your Audience

One of our biggest challenges is to create and deliver content that people actually want to consume. With so much competing for their attention, if your content can’t break through the noise, it’ll never be seen.

To create content that’s valuable, you need to know what your prospects and customers care about. You can get started by creating a list of the traits your very best customers and ideal buyers have. Identify what their biggest pain points are, what their concerns are in relation to your product/services and what they hope to accomplish. Too often, we fall into the routine of creating content that’s all about the benefits of our product and services instead of helping a potential buyer. Once you identify the types (or buyer personas) you’re interested in targeting, you can better create content with the intention of helping these folks.

Trying too Hard to Sell, Sell, Sell

Around this time last year, we saw Jay Baer speak at New Media Expo. Baer blew the roof off by preaching a revolutionary thought to bloggers and marketers in attendance: Stop selling and start helping. Wait, what? You want us to stop selling? How’s that going to work?

Baer outlined it in his book, Youtility. He explained that “Youtility” is the concept of providing valuable content for your readers and customers, to the point where your company becomes valued, trusted, and synonymous with being useful. So when the time comes to make a purchase, your company is the obvious choice.

As an example, Baer shared a story about Marcus Sheridan from River Pools and Spas. Back when the economy began to go south, River Pools and Spas was hit hard, as not many people install pools during tough economic times. However, the folks at River Pools and Spas didn’t give up. They got smart and started answering questions via their blog that customers and potential buyers had. Then they turned those blog posts into a popular eBook. In just four years, River Pools and Spas grew their company from nearly going out of business to the largest pool seller in the US. Based on all the information they provide, 75% of their customers complete a purchase without ever talking to a real person!

Don’t Create Enough, or Create Too Much

Many of us struggle to have enough content to share on our social networks, in our emails and in our newsletters. Then there are those of us who blog 6 times or more a week and have content pouring out of every corner of our website, social networks and emails. So what’s the magic content frequency number? There isn’t one that’s right for everyone, but keep in mind that quality trumps quantity. You can and should create different types of content from short tweets, digestible blog posts, longer case studies/whitepapers/guides, infographics and videos and even eBooks if you’ve got the resources. By producing a variety of content types, you can also repurpose content into different formats, say by taking a data rich blog post and turning it into an infographic. Or take a few guides or whitepapers with a common theme and turn them into an eBook.

Trying to Do it All Alone

While you may be a sole proprietor, it doesn’t mean you have to create everything yourself. You can share content that others have created, as long as you provide proper source credit and attribution. By sharing other points of view, opinions and expertise, you can grow the quality and quantity of content you have to help your audience. You can also recruit guest writers or bloggers to help contribute to your efforts. Just ensure they create unique, high quality posts that add value for your customers and potential buyers. Another way to create content, while not having to be the expert, is by interviewing someone. You can interview a supplier, a new vendor, a customer or an employee. We’ve got 17 more ideas for creating content in this post.

Not Measuring Results  

If you’re not measuring your content marketing results, don’t stick your head in the sand and hide, you’re not alone. Stats indicate that only 15 percent measure results. It’s important to know what’s working (so you can do more of it), and what’s not so you can either ditch it, or tweak it to perform better the next time around. To measure your results, there are lots of performance metrics, but to start, you can focus on the big four:

  1. Consumption – Page views, video views, document views, downloads and social chatter
  2. Sharing – Like, shares, tweets, +1s and pins, forwards, number of inbound links
  3. Lead Generation – Form completions and downloads, email and blog subscriptions, blog comments
  4. Sales – Look at both online and offline sales that are influenced by content

Many of these results are available in free tools like Google AnalyticsFacebook, Twitter, YouTube, your email service provider, content management systems (like WordPress), as well as your own internal data from sources like your CRM system (if you’re using one).

If you’ve been making any of these common content marketing mistakes, you’re now armed with the knowledge to fix what’s broken.

Have any content mistakes to add to our list? Share in the comments.

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© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Are You Making These 5 Common Content Marketing Mistakes? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What’s New Weekly – Calendar Scheduling with Appointlet [VIDEO]

Sat, 02/01/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “What’s New Weekly” we share a Google calendar application called Appointlet. This application allows people to secure appointments through your Google calendar.

 

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post What’s New Weekly – Calendar Scheduling with Appointlet [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

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