Ask any business owner what their biggest and most fundamental challenge is. Is it managing your people? Could be. Is it offering top notch customer service? Very important too. But before being a technology wizard or a financial management champ, you need to bring home the bacon – be able to sell.
The bottom-line for the survival of any business is simple – are there any takers for your product – if not, then your rose tinted dream will unfortunately remain just that, a dream.
A successful business has two founding pillars
- A strong brand identity and brand awareness among your target audience
- Sustained strong demand for your brand
If you look at the two concepts independently, you’ll note that brand awareness consists of the brand reaching out to users and establishing its presence in their minds. On the other hand, demand generation is the process of customers reaching out to the brand ‘demanding’ its services. In other words, they embody the contrast that exists between push and pull marketing strategies.
Push vs. Pull
Push marketing refers to marketing techniques used since time immemorial, where marketing messages are communicated to users via various media vehicles as an interruption to whatever activity the user happens to be performing on the media platform. A TV commercial between your favorite show, display ads scattered all over a website you’re browsing, a full page ad on the back of your newspaper, even a poster on the side of bus that happens to be passing by you all follow the ‘push’ philosophy of marketing.
Pull marketing is a school of thought that works towards attracting users towards itself, instead of using disruptive methods to reach out to the users. Users actively seek out these pieces of marketing material and enjoy consuming them as well as sharing them with others. The belief behind this method of marketing is that users who regularly consume content and marketing material from a specific brand will become more inclined to favor such a brand over its competitors. Content marketing is a prime example of pull marketing, where enjoyable and valuable content, even if it is created and distributed by a brand is sought out by users.
Together, ‘push’ and ‘pull’ philosophies form the crux of a good marketing strategy that puts your brand in the spotlight and builds organic demand from the right set of users on a sustained basis.
#1 – Accurate segmentation and market identification using analytics
We all know that to get the desired response we need form a user, we need to speak their language, help them identify with us.
To be able to ‘speak the customer’s language’, one of the first things that any marketer needs to do is to understand who our customers are and profile them into distinct categories that will help us tailor our marketing to each category for best results.
Understanding customers includes learning about the basic demographic profile of each customer – how old they are, male or female, where are they located geographically, what language they communicate in etc.
Next understand their psychographic and social profile. This will give you a deeper insight into why they do what they do, what their present habits are, how your brand can be relevant in their lives, how often they buy your brand, which is the best mode to reach out to them and so on.
A lot of this information is available straight from your website data. Google Analytics allows you to compare data and performance for various visitor segments. You can even create your own segments with parameters that are custom-made to your business. Some of the key segments that you might want to consider tracking include:
- Referrer or source based
- Based on Content Viewed
- Based on Action Taken
- Landing Page Arrived at
Check out this great post on KISSmetrics to learn how to create user segments on Google Analytics from scratch.
Source: Sample segments that include sources of traffic, converters, bounced visitors, etc.
Once we have the distinct customer cohorts in place, we are better placed to design strategies that will work best for each customer segment. For example, a marketing message aimed at a brand loyal user would be totally wasted on a user who is primarily price driven in all her purchases.
Identifying the right market for your product is almost as important as identifying the right customer segments to target. You can do this through market research to understand regional preferences and narrow down to the most profitable market that will work for your product.
Another (cheaper and easier) way to identify markets that might work for your brand is through website analytics (again!). Google Analytics gives you detailed information about the location, referrer source, type of device used and so on. Insights from this data can then be used to modify your marketing or even your product as the case may be. For example, you might find that the bulk, say 68%, of your traffic comes from mobile devices. This may prompt you to realign your advertising budgets to make them more mobile heavy. This could also push you to work on a better mobile app or a website that is truly responsive.
#2 – Search & Display Advertising
Now that we know who are customers are and where they come from; we know how to reach out to them. For businesses that have an online presence, Search Engine Marketing (SEM) ads and Display ads represent digital marketing in their most basic avatars.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) / Pay Per Click (PPC) Ads
The largest proportion of traffic to most websites comes from search engines. This can be either paid or organic search.
Search engine marketing directs search traffic to your website by placing ads related to users’ search terms on the results pages of search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. Advertisers pay only when users click on ads and land on their website i.e. SEM or PPC ads are bought based on Cost per Click.
SEM and PPC advertising is considered one of the most effective ways to build traffic and grow conversions on your website. They are used primarily to achieve very specific objectives relating to your website.
For your PPC marketing to be effective,
- Get your keyword strategy in place. Use keyword research tools like the Google Keyword Planner, SEM Rush or Bing Webmaster Tools to discover the keywords related to your product that your users search for. Create your PPC campaigns based on keywords that are relevant by having a judicious mix of direct and long tail keywords to cover all your bases.
- Create separate campaigns targeted at achieving different objectives – lead generation, brand awareness, website traffic, actual sales conversions and so on. Using more than one objective per campaign can lead to dilution of focus and an inability to measure results accurately. Campaigns can also be created based on your leading product categories and keywords around it.
- Make sure you create multiple sets of creatives for each PPC campaign. Write copy that catches the eye and preferably contains the keywords being targeted.
- Choose the landing pages for your PPC ads carefully. The URLs need to be optimized for the keywords that the campaigns are created around. Spend enough time on designing your landing pages to ensure conversions.
A much disparaged form of digital advertising owing to its perceived high costs; display advertising is to the internet, what commercials are to television. Considered the most important and visible form of branding on the internet, display ads can be measured in terms of clicks (like PPC ads) or in terms of impressions (CPM).
Display ads expose a brand and its identity to users while they’re scrawling the internet across various sites. Unlike search based ads, regular display ads are not shown in response to a keyword searched by a user. They are shown based on a match between your brand’s target audience and the types of users different publishers tend to attract.
However, display ads can also be used to increase conversion efficiencies. Display retargeting is a fast growing form of digital advertising where users are shown display ads based on specific actions that they perform online. Ever noticed the same bunch of display ads that seem to follow you around all over the internet? Those are retargeted display ads.
Typically retargeted ads are shown to users in response to:
- An online search for a specific keyword or phrase related to your brand
- The sites that users visit e.g. your own website, your competitor’s site
- Things that they have clicked on in the past e.g. specific products on your site, your SEM ads, your social media posts, content marketing articles etc.
- Clicking on your email campaigns
Retargeting is a great way to create brand recall, remind users to complete a certain action (e.g. complete their abandoned shopping) and encourage quicker conversions from qualified online leads.
#3 – Mobile advertising
With nearly 69% of all US mobile subscribers owning a smart phone and 78% of smartphone users reaching for their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up, mobile advertising is an essential tool in the modern marketer’s toolbox.
Mobile advertising works as a pull mechanism by following the basic principles of PPC and display advertising adapted to suit the mobile environment.
Source: Primary activities performed on smartphones
Mobile ads typically appear on mobile sites, social media, inside apps & games and on mobile optimized emails. They can be in the form of PPC ads or CPM ads. Native in-app advertising that is designed to mimic the app that carries it (in order to look as organic as possible), is another increasingly popular form of mobile advertising.
Mobile ads come with their own set of challenges. Their dimensions are very different from standard banner ads on the web. The number of characters that can be used per ad are severely limited. Mobile ads allow you to geo target customers based on their location. You can also get direct call-backs by adding your telephone number to your ads that appear on mobile platforms.
#4 – Television advertising
Television advertising the most common form of advertising that commands the lion’s share of marketing budgets around the world – television advertising. While a display ad or an email have to be truly exceptional to be remembered, even an above average television commercial sticks on in users minds with the double whammy of audio + video stimulation that these ads provide.
Television advertising can be used to create brand awareness, encourage brand recall and build brand preference through storyboards that have very specific objectives. Seize the opportunity to tell a story through your ad that clearly showcases your product, positions it to the right audience in a language that they identify with.
Create TV spots of 30 to 60 seconds in length to be able to convey your brand message most effectively. TV ads are played based on time bands that split the day into different parts – morning, afternoon, prime-time, late night etc. each with its own distinct viewer profile. Rates for prime-time, late night and weekend shows tend to be higher than say ad rates for day-time ad slots.
The choice of channels, shows and day parts in which to advertise on depend upon a match between a brand’s target segments and the viewer profile of each television channel. If you are stuck with a limited budget but want to enjoy the benefits of television, cable and regional channels are a good stepping stone towards TV advertising.
Source: Advertising Age Marketing Fact Pack 2014
Supplement your TV ads with social media messaging like hashtags, memes, phone numbers or even QR codes to make them more interactive and measurable.
Without any direct way to pinpoint conversions, television advertising effectiveness is measured by extrapolating conversions based on the reach of each ad campaign.
#5 – Print advertising
The medium that was once the mainstay of advertising, has now been relegated to the lower rungs of advertising importance. The share of print advertising has been shrinking steadily in the last 5 years, almost mirroring the shrinking readership of print media like newspapers, magazines and other such material.
In 2012, digital marketing spends in the US officially overtook print media spends in what experts call the beginning of the end for print as an advertising medium.
Source: Advertising Age Marketing Fact Pack 2014
Print advertising works very well for establishing brand presence, creating brand awareness, driving immediate action like phone calls or walk-ins at stores.
However, print is not dead yet. While mainstream newspapers and magazines are having a tough time bringing their copies to the stands with every passing month, niche publications are not in the same dire straits.
Print advertising in niche publications like trade magazines, specialty publications, hobbyist and educational publications still make a lot of sense and are actively pursued by B2B marketers. Advertisers who see results are moving away from traditional print ads that measured a full page, half or quarter page; and are using creative formats to catch the eye and generate buzz around their brands via the print medium.
Volkswagen’s kooky ad for its ‘Vento’ model in India took the concept of clutter breaking ads to a new level. Together with The Times of India and The Hindu – two of India’s largest circulated newspapers – Volkswagen created the world’s first talking newspaper. While the ad got huge publicity for Vento and Volkswagen (as intended), it also led to numerous calls from concerned citizens about newspapers that talked to you as soon as you opened them!
#6 – Search Optimizing your Website
One of the principal aims of every business that has an online presence is to drive maximum traffic to their website and use it as an effective marketing tool to guide conversions.
As we saw in the section on Search Engine Marketing earlier, the share of ‘search’ overall (paid + organic) as a traffic source is humongous. If you isolate organic search alone, you’ll see that organic search is the single largest source of website traffic on the internet today. A full 64% of all website traffic comes from organic search.
Groupon carried out an interesting study to determine its true traffic sources. They suspected that Google Analytics was attributing a higher share to ‘direct visits’ than was really true. To eliminate any Google based bias on attribution of search traffic, Groupon deindexed its website from Google for 6 hours. What they found was astounding.
The share of direct traffic dropped by 60% when Groupon was deindexed from Google search while leaving all other traffic sources untouched.
This meant that 60% of direct traffic was actually organic search traffic that was wrongly attributed by Google Analytics.
This is a very interesting revelation. It means that more users visit websites by looking them up by themselves than by clicking on an ad or being influenced by paid marketing. In other words, users who are aware of the brand seek out more information about it on search engines. It is up to marketers like you and me to give these users the right type of content that stimulates demand in them and offers us real, qualified leads.
That’s a fantastic reason to spruce up your website and make it more ‘findable’ by users on Google. Some important fixes that you need to consider include:
- Great Content – Create and publish outstanding content related to your industry that is popular among users and hence ranks highly with search engines. Keep the fresh content coming, as new content helps keep your rankings consistently high on Google’s search results pages.
- Get on-page SEO elements right – title tags, alt tags for images, meta tags and descriptions, using key words appropriately on the page and so on. However, make sure that you don’t indulge in stuffing keywords into your content to make it rank higher. This, as we have learnt from Google’s past actions is only counter-productive to your page rank.
- Integrate social signals into your website – allow social logins, comments and follows – the more popular your site is on social media, the better it will be ranked on search result pages.
- Minimize Advertising – Keep advertising on your site to the minimum possible – this will prevent a negative rank from Google.
- Navigation and URLs – Build simple and logical navigation throughout your site to make them user friendly and easily navigable by humans and search spiders alike. Let your page URLs be readable with keywords relevant to the page, instead of gibberish URLs that say nothing about the contents of the page to the user or the search engine.
- Local Search – Use Schema.org for creating more structured data and hence improving your local SEO.
- Improve Speed – Check your website speed using tools like Pingdom, GT Metrix or YSlow. Spot problems that slow down your site and fix them ASAP. A slow website is a key cause of high bounce rates, which in turn leads to lower page ranks on SERPs.
- Include Reviews and Feedback – Reach out to users and get their unbiased reviews of your products and services. Include social media reviews and posts on your site to improve authenticity. This helps in building confidence in the minds of new users looking for information to help make a purchase decision. It also offers trusted and original content on your website that helps rank it above competition on SERPs.
- Optimize for Mobile – With mobile penetration growing exponentially month on month, making your site mobile ready was never more important. Now it’s official. Not having a website that works well across devices and platforms can be problematic for your ranking on Google search.
#7 – Email Marketing
In the last two decades, email marketing has gone from being a novelty to being an essential part of every brand’s marketing strategy.
Email marketing combines those rare, disparate ideas all in one marketing tool – it is easy to use, cheap to roll out, can be measured using simple methods and most importantly, offers the one of the best ROI among all other marketing tools out there today.
Source: Email ranks second, only after SEO in terms of marketing ROI.
You might wonder how a tool that is sent out from a brand as a deliberate outreach attempt qualifies as a ‘pull marketing’ method.
The answer is pretty straight forward. For any email marketing plan to succeed, users need to sign up voluntarily to receive communication from the brand via email i.e. the users are pulled towards the brand and they sign up to know more about it through email marketing.
Once users are signed up, the job of email marketing campaigns is to create a positive brand image in the user’s mind and generate demand among this captive customer base over a period of time.
Some simple email marketing tactics that can stoke demand and increase conversions include:
- Unique Content: Create unique and readable content to be shared with your users via your email campaigns. Let your content be useful to your users, making them open and click on the email leading him on towards the next stage in the sales funnel.
- Subject Lines: Use catchy subject lines that will pique users’ curiosity and encourage them to open your emails.
- User segmentation: Move away from the one-size-fits-all mass mailing mentality. Analyse your audience and group users with similar characteristics together in a single segment. Use tailor made marketing ideas to be relevant to each segment.
- Personalization: Users respond to content that is relevant to them. Create content that is uniquely suited to the tastes of each customer segment. Use the recipient’s name in the subject line to give that personal touch and increase open rates. Email marketing tools like GetResponse allow you to personalize your email campaigns down to an extremely granular level.
- Integrate email with social media: Allow cross pollination of ideas by letting users share email content on social media with strategically placed buttons on every email. Grow your fan base by having social ‘follow’ buttons on your emails. Share social media posts and user comments on your email creatives to let subscribers get a taste of your social media interactions and spark demand for more such content from your brand.
- Test Constantly: Check how effective your content, design and subject lines are before releasing them to your entire user base. Carry out A/B tests to test for specific hypothesis and improve the quality of your email marketing. Testing fulfils two duties: It tells us what works and what does not. It also allows us to tweak our communication to generate more demand.
#8 – Social media engagement on new platforms
Social media is so widely adopted today across the world, that you don’t need me to tell you about its importance to the marketer. Every brand needs to be where their users are and since social media has become a pseudo second home for most of us, that’s where the best in the business hang out.
Social media helps primarily creating in brand awareness. The engagement and repartee that users often share with brands helps to move up users from brand awareness to brand preference and actual demand.
Source: Brand Republic Social Media ROI Study 2013
Picking the right social networks to be active on is of critical importance. Understand the type of audience your brand attracts and match it up against the typical user profile of leading social networks. Matching those two up, tells you which social networks will work with what time of a guy.
While Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are the clear favorites in the race to people’s social media timelines, smaller social networks are slow breaking through the noise and making their presence felt.
A recent study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth of the Fortune 500 companies and their social media practices, found that
“In the past year, Foursquare enjoyed the largest increase in adoption (42%), while Pinterest use increased by 27% and Instagram by 12%.”
Five simple steps to move from merely spreading brand awareness to actually generating demand include:
- Talking TO fans, instead of talking AT fans
Understand the fundamental purpose of social media – keeping in touch with your friends. If oyu have a user who’s signed up as a fan of your brand on social media, they are in essence telling you that they would like to have a conversation with you, get to know you better.
Stop right away with the boring speeches about latest company developments. Instead, listen to your fans and have conversations with them. Friends are more inclined to be open to suggestions from friends, and not from cold, distant brands. Subliminally suggest checking out your brand and your ‘friends’ on social media will oblige.
- Go slow on the sales pitch
Nobody likes being sold to. So stop being a broken record going on and on about this product or that service in every social media post. It will only put off your fans and make them tune out of your posts whether or not they are useful or relevant to them.
This however, does not mean that you should give up talking about your products altogether. Use the 80-20 rule to balance out related content and brand talk and you should be fine.
- Share relevant and useful content with users
Remember that friend that you had who always had all the answers? Somehow you and all your other friends instinctively turned to him for advice? Yeah, try and model your social presence on this guy.
Share content that is relevant to your users, immediately useful and extremely unique. In other words, make users look forward to your posts on social media where you reveal yet another cool new ‘how-to’ secret or share some interesting bit of information.
- Showcase success stories
That old saying ‘Nothing succeeds like success’ is perfectly true. People are impressed by a success story. They like to get a third party opinion before they put their money down on a product or service. This explains the popularity of user reviews.
Play into this need for external affirmation by blowing your own trumpet a little bit. Showcase examples of users who have bought your product and tasted success with it. It works on the subconscious mind of social media fans and makes them want to trust your brand and know more about it.
- Touch an emotional chord
A lot of important decisions are often made based purely on emotional appeal, instead of using cold logic and calculations. Certain human emotions that are hard to disregard for any user are hope, nostalgia, love, loyalty and amazement.
Use these specific emotions in your posts on social media to draw users to you like magnets. Lead them on to your website to make the association between the positive emotion they just experienced become stronger.
#9 – Content distribution and syndication
Content marketing may be the accepted poster child of pull marketing, but whatever said about it is still less. The power of a well-crafted piece of content to get hundreds of thousands of eyeballs is something that has to be seen to be believed.
The job of content marketing is to create and distribute content that sparks users’ interest and attracts users towards itself effortlessly.
Content can be in many forms:
- Expert articles
- How to guides and tutorials
- Original research
- Interesting infographics and more
Some of the most successful pieces of content marketing have one thing in common – they all are highly valuable from a customer’s perspective. This sense of value can differ depending on the user, the brand and the frame of reference; ranging from being educational to emotional to entertaining.
Source: The public safety video ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ by the Metro Trains Authority, Melbourne became such a viral hit that it spawned hundreds of copies, parodies and ‘inspirations’.
Here are 6 pro-tips to make your content marketing more magnetic and leave those users begging for more:
- Create Clutter breaking content
At the cost of sounding repetitive, I’ll say it again. Create brilliant content that users will fight over. Make it unique and useful to make users seek it out by themselves. ‘Pull’ instead of ‘push’.
A good way to know what type of content will interest your users is to check the keywords that they tend to search. Tools like BuzzSumo also help you narrow down the type of content created by your competitors or the content that is favoured by your users. Create content around these keywords and you know you’ll have their attention.
- Distribute it right
It is not enough to create great content. Pick the right channels through which you can publish it so your customers can find it easily. A starting point is logically your own company blog. For inspiration about sites that your users frequent, check out your ‘sources of traffic’ in Google Analytics. This will give you a fair idea of whether social media is a good place to post your fresh content or is it industry websites, expert blogs and so on.
Tie up with distribution partners to ensure a solid audience for your content. The distribution partner in turn gets some great content on their site for their readers. A win-win situation! (On a side note, this is exactly what we at E2M Solutions do with our content. Our posts are syndicated on leading industry blogs like SteamFeed)
- Promote your content
Once you know where your content is going to be published, drive eyeballs to it by talking it up. Let users know how to find your content by posting it on your blog (obviously!). Promote your content on social media through multiple posts. Send out emails to your subscribers with your premium content. If budgets permit, tie up with content networks like Outbrain or hire a specialist content agency promote your content across various websites and drive traffic to your premium content.
- Get influencers to endorse your content
Identify influencers that mention your brand or like your brand and reach out to them proactively. An ‘influencer’ can be identified in terms of number of followers, Klout score, site rank of their blogs/websites etc.
Share your fresh content with them and use their reach to amplify your own reach.
When a follower of such influencers sees them openly endorsing your brand, it encourages them to try out the brand for themselves. The implicit trust that followers have in influencers rubs off on your brand and creates a positive bias towards your brand in users’ minds.
- Post Frequently
Out of sight is truly out of mind in the Wild, Wild West that is the internet. Great content sometimes gets lost in the stream of non-stop posts that users are bombarded with on social media, blogs, news sites and more. The sure-fire way to prevent getting lost in the clutter is to post content on a frequent basis.
This means creating fresh content on a regular basis. It can also mean licensing third party content that is relevant to your audience and posting it. Curating content posted by other brands (non-competing, of course) and reposting it with the right attribution. It can also mean reposting an old piece of your own content that you think is still relevant and can use some more visibility.
- Offer Variety
Posting the same type of content can get boring beyond a point. Ditto for using the same content marketing tactic. Another problem is that you end up reaching out to the same set of users is you stick to just one type of content.
A study by Social Media Examiner found that the most successful content marketers used an average of 15 content marketing tactics vs. the least effective ones who used only 10. So mix it up a little. Don’t feel scared to try out new content formats. What’s the worst that can happen? It will not be viewed by too many of your users. Big deal. At least, now you know what works with them and what does not.
#10 – Events, Trade shows and Sponsorships
Trade shows are typically attended by buyers and sellers alike. Mingling with colleagues, learning about the latest happenings in your industry, carrying out covert competitive analysis, checking out new products and services that are now available in your industry are some of the many reasons people attend trade shows.
Participate in trade shows and events related to your industry to create brand awareness among your peers and users. It allows you the chance to meet users on a one on one basis, get feedback, show them interesting stuff that they can do with your product and so on; in short build a relationship with users.
Taking on speaking engagements at trade events is another way of putting your brand in the spotlight and indicating to attendees that you are an authority in your line of work, hence making them more open to looking you up the next time they have a query, concern or even product related requirement.
Sponsoring events is a more passive way of creating brand visibility. Ditch the standard sponsor logo on event collateral or a poster here and there around the event premises. Event sponsors can get better mileage by creatively infusing their brand into the actual event proceedings.
Intel played its cards smartly when it dropped $25 million to sponsor soccer club FC Barcelona. Instead of having their logo stuck in some corner of the players’ uniforms, Intel made a bold move. It decided to put its logo on the inside of players’ shirts, probably drawing on their ad slogan ‘Intel Inside’.
Source: FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi celebrates a goal by pulling up his jersey and simultaneously displaying Intel’s logo
The reasoning behind this was sound. Every time most soccer players scored a goal, they tended to lift their jerseys, exposing the underside of the jerseys effectively. Intel’s move meant that it would be associated with the triumphant moment when a player scored a goal and its logo would flash in front of millions of eyes (with no other competing logos alongside!). Now that’s a smart way to handle a sponsorship.
Just as a great dish depends on the coming together of each ingredient in just the right proportion and at just the right time; a great brand is born when each of these marketing elements blend together in perfect harmony with each other.
Leaving out any one element in the hope of ‘getting by’ just fine is alright for the short term, but can mean disastrous for the long run. Put in the time, take the effort and you’ll not regret the results that a meticulously planned and brilliantly executed marketing strategy will bring you.