6 Must-Dos To Maintain Human Connection in Digital Marketing

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Digital marketing is one of the fastest changing industries in the world and today’s digital marketing technology is more advanced than ever before. Automation and technology lets marketers do so much more in a fraction of the time. Technology helps us track, analyze and reach target customers.

According to a recent Forbes Insights survey, nearly 62% of brand and agency representatives around the world are satisfied with how well their current marketing technology is meeting their expectation and 57% plan to make new technology investments.

We have technology to help us understand customer behavior and characteristic trends. Growth in smartphone adaption and the popularity of mobile and messaging has exploded since 2005 with 50% of searches done on mobile. Artificial intelligence such as Facebook’s Bot Engine for Messenger, that offer consumer assistance, is one of the biggest trends of 2016. Marketing cloud solutions like Adobe, Salesforce, and HubSpot help us help us automate data across customer lifecycles.

Multi-platform internet usage requires marketers to manage email marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, paid and organic search and more across platforms. And more new technologies are coming!

With such powerful automation at our fingertips, it can be easy to overlook the ‘human connection’ involved in digital marketing. How do you think about your customers? How well do you understand your audience? What do they want?

Digital marketers can, and should, be considering customers and prospects in all aspects of digital marketing. Some ways to do this come right out of the traditional marketing playbook. Knowing your customer is the first step to winning others like them to your brand. Customer demographics like age, gender, income, education and occupation are on nearly every marketer’s radar. But what about customer psychographics? What do you know about a potential customer’s interests, activities and opinions?

Here are six ways to understand your customers and to maintain a human connection.

1. Focus Groups. Focus groups offer a great advantage to marketers. Invite a group of people who meet the demographics of those you want to attract to have a discussion. Ask them questions to get at a better understanding of what they want in a product, how they choose to make a purchase, and what motivates them actually make the purchase. The more people who join in, the better your chances to really understand your customer base.

2. Build Relationships. When promoting your product or service avoid pushing information or advertising at your audience. Instead focus on building an ongoing relationship. Social media is designed to let customers look for help and for you to provide feedback and resolve problems. Can you be empathetic with your audience? When you truly understand them and care about what they want, the better that relationship will become.

3. Create a Customer Persona. Consider creating a marketing persona to represent your customer. Include demographic information, their goals and challenges, their values and fears, as well as their interests, activities and opinions. How do you do this? Review your website analytics to determine additional demographic information about your customers. Use social media listening to find potential customers. What are they saying already?  You could also bring a group of colleagues together—human resources, customer service, accounting, etc—to share their customer perspectives with you. And, a really sound approach is to ask your customers questions directly. Conduct a survey, a focus group or one-on-one interviews. Once you’ve pulled together a customer profile or persona, give her/him a name. Bring them to life for your marketing team so every interaction is personal.

4. Use Emotion in Marketing. People are, after all, human and as humans most of us have emotions and often make purchasing decisions based on emotions. Rather than base marketing strategies on hard data, add emotion to your marketing. Tell a story with humor, excitement, action, adventure…whatever motivates your customer.

5. Show Your Own Humans. Marketers usually promote a company filled with people. Why not show—through photos and videos—those who connect with customers? This helps humanize your company and your marketing efforts. Use testimonials, statements about company philosophy, why customers matter, etc to show that the company cares about customers.

6. Get Personal. Can visitors find a telephone number easily on your website? When they call, do they get an automated answer or does a person pick up? The last thing you want is to lose a prospect because they can’t reach a real person. Ensure that customer service representatives—or anyone who interacts with customers—knows how to be friendly and professional on the phone. And, set up policies and procedures that reflect how you feel about your customers so everyone within the company understands how important this is.

Try not to get mired in digital marketing technology and automation. Learn to listen to your customers. Treat them like people by keeping human relationships at the forefront of your marketing and customer service.

7 Digital Must-Dos To Promote Your Cannabis Business

Light Bulb Concept

Promoting your cannabis business is challenging. Because cannabis is still illegal federally and laws vary from state-to-state, knowing what you can and cannot do isn’t always clear. While you want to avoid advertising with search engines such as Google and Yahoo, sending postcards through the mail, or setting up a store on Facebook, you do have options for reaching your patients and dispensaries.

1. Start With a Strong Brand. Creating a strong brand will build patient and dispensary recognition and give you a competitive edge in the market. Focus on what makes your products different and the shared values you have with prospects. From there it will be easier to connect with customers and introduce new products.

2. Go Organic Strategically. Choose your words carefully for your website and your social media posts. Hone in one the phrases and words patients and dispensaries use when looking for cannabis products, then hone in on other words specific to your brand and the shared values you project.

3. Follow Mainstream Social Media Rules. You can promote your brand on social media if you understand the ground rules. Earlier this year, Facebook dropped some dispensaries from its platform. This rattled the industry but the dispensaries hadn’t read the fine print for using the mainstream platform. Focus on education and brand recognition on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. (see How to Protect Your Cannabis Facebook Page for more insight)

4. Use Cannabis-Based Social Media Platforms. There are social media platforms specific to the cannabis industry and promoting your brand on them will be safer. By now you’ve probably heard of MassRoots, the first to market. But there are others including Duby, which is similar to Instagram and Social High, which is like Facebook–both are specific to the marijuana industry.

5. List Your Business on Cannabis Directories. Many of these directories are free and offer great back links to your website. Some worthy of mentioning include the Marijuana Business Daily Industry Directory, Medical Jane’s Database of Cannabis Businesses, and Ganjapreneur Business Directory, and Dispensaries.com.

6. Maintain a Blog. Writing your own content on your own blog is a great opportunity to share your story and your brand. Blog posts can easily be shared on social media platforms, can be extensions of your website, and can attract prospects based on your knowledge, industry insight, and personality.

7. Email, Email, Email. Connecting with existing patients and dispensaries by email is crucial. Collect emails at every turn if possible–at conferences, cups, online–wherever your brand intersects with prospects. Then create emails with impact and maintain contact consistently.

What’s been your experience promoting your cannabis business online? What’s worked best? If you’re struggling to promote your cannabis business, bring on a digital marketing expert to help!

 

 

 

How to Better Protect Your Cannabis Business Facebook Page; 6 Steps to Take Now

Facebook Cannabis PageIf you’re in the cannabis industry and have a page on Facebook, you are probably watching as one of the world’s largest social media platforms is taking down marijuana dispensary pages. With over 1.59 billion active monthly users as of December 2015, Facebook’s shutdown of three New Jersey dispensary pages made news early in February.

Medical cannabis is legal in New Jersey and three of the state’s five dispensaries received messages from Facebook saying their pages had been unpublished because their content didn’t follow Facebook terms. Dispensary owners and patients alike were surprised by Facebook’s move. Two of the three dispensaries now have pages back up on Facebook; one made edits and appealed to Facebook to have its page reinstated and the other dispensary started a brand new page.

A recent NBC News report about the page shutdowns included a statement from Facebook saying that the pages were taken down for “violating [the site’s] Community Standards, which outline what is and is not allowed on Facebook.”

While Facebook’s mission is “to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” the platform has a responsibility to all of its users. One paragraph in the company’s standards covers ‘regulated goods’ and states “We prohibit any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, or firearms. If you post an offer to purchase or sell alcohol, tobacco, or adult products, we expect you to comply with all applicable laws and carefully consider the audience for that content. We do not allow you to use Facebook’s payment tools to sell or purchase regulated good on our platform.”

Further, Facebook clearly states that it will “remove content, disable accounts, and work with law enforcement when we believe there is a genuine risk of physical harm or direct threats to public safety.”

And, though cannabis is legal in some form in 23 American states as well as the District of Columbia, it is still considered a Schedule I Substance under Federal Law. That makes publishing cannabis-related content on any social media platform a fine balancing act.

New Jersey dispensary Facebook pages are not the only ones that have been affected; news of other cannabusiness Facebook pages being blocked is filtering into the news from other states including Colorado and Arizona.

Could Facebook scrutiny of your page be next? Don’t wait to be warned to take action. Here are six steps you can take now to help safeguard your Facebook page…and what to do if your page is disabled.

1. Understand Facebook’s Community Standards and Terms. Many of us simply don’t read the fine print. When you create a Facebook page, you enter into an agreement with Facebook. Review the company’s Community Standards to understand what Facebook considers inappropriate and review their basic Terms of Service to understand the terms of your relationship with the social media platform.

2. Remove Sales Content, Photos and Prices. Facebook’s reach goes beyond the state in which you can legally sell medical and adult-use cannabis. Remove any reference to the sale of such products. While it is tempting to make your Facebook page an extension of your website, that’s not recommended. And, if you have a Facebook storefront, take it down.

3. Avoid Paid Promotions. Facebook can be tenacious in its suggestions to pay to promote a post or get more likes; that’s how most businesses can grow a presence on the social media platform. The platform pushes such offers to all of its business page owners. Do your best to look away and avoid these options. Anytime you pay to promote information related to cannabis on your Facebook page, it could easily be viewed as ‘advertising’ instead of ‘educational.’

4. Up Your Organic Game. Using the best keywords in your posts will help you build an audience organically. This is true for any social media platform. Focus on writing good content. Choose keywords that relate to your business and approach content as a way to educate others. Use hashtags. This is one the most important tools in your social media toolkit.

5. Avoid Photos of Cannabis Products You Sell. From a cannabis business perspective, posting images of marijuana buds you sell may make complete sense–even educational in nature. However, Facebook may draw the line at this because it is product for sale.

6. Focus on Building Relationships. At its core, Facebook is about connecting with people. Selling product shouldn’t be your primary goal of using Facebook. Rather, work at building relationships and engaging people. Find information that will be of interest to others related to your business and staff. Do you best to curate existing news articles to share on your Facebook page.

7. If Necessary, Appeal the Take Down or Rebuild. Should you receive a warning that your Facebook page will be disabled, go through the list above. And carefully read the email you receive from Facebook. It will provide a link for you to use to appeal your page being taken down. If your Facebook page is taken down, you have the option to create a new one–doing it within the Community Standards set forth by Facebook.

Cannabusinesses are not the only pages that are being targeted. Soon after President Obama introduced an executive order expanding background checks for gun purchases in January, Facebook banned private, person-to-person purchase and sale of guns on the platform.

With a focus on marijuana businesses and private gun sales, Facebook is likely feeling the potential of things to come. They certainly don’t want to be perceived as promoting unlicensed gun sales and the same could be said about cannabusinesses as long as cannabis is federally illegal in the United States.

This is another sign to the cannabis industry that advocating for de-scheduling of cannabis is needed. While there is no guarantee that Facebook won’t target your page, the best advice is to clean up your content and go forward with an eye on providing educational information to build relationships with people on Facebook. It may seem nearly impossible to do this, but with some creativity it can be done. And, if you need advice or assistance in creating great content for your posts consider contacting us for help.

How to Establish Your Mobile App and Keep Users Engaged

Mobile Apps Concept

So you have a website and a bunch of followers on Facebook, but what’s next? Creating a mobile app can be the next big step for many small businesses. Here are five steps to ensure your app will reach your audience and how to keep users engaged once they’ve downloaded it:

  1. Start by reaching out to existing customer touch points. Share the grand opening of your mobile app on the homepage of your website. This way, you’re reaching people who already know and love your company and you’re not spending your marketing dollars.
  2. Remember all of the things phones can do, and incorporate them. You can add QR codes, short URLs, and even SMS codes promoting your mobile app to all of your existing forms of communication.
  3. Turn to social media. Facebook and Twitter both offer app-install ads you can purchase, or you could simply post about the launch of your new app.
  4. Ask yourself if you would download your app. Your app must offer something unique in order to merit a user’s download. Make sure your app has value.
  5. Plan ahead for a seamless app experience. Once your app in launched, use your app analytics to understand which features of your app are most valuable to your users. Use this information to decide which areas of the app to grow and which ones to get rid of.
  6. Create a tie between other sources of media. Ask users to allow push messages to their notifications center on their phone. Use consumer information such as email and phone number to send updates.

Now you’re ready to drive traffic towards your new mobile app! Using these tips, you can be sure that once users are there, they’ll be there to stay. Don’t forget to spice up your app to keep long-time users interested. Bring on a digital marketing expert if you want more tips on mobile apps.

Natalie Kane contributed to this blog post.

5 Things We Learned From Viral Media About Marketing In 2015

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More than ever before, there are tools available to marketers that allow them to understand who their customers are and what they’re interested in. Marketers are learning how to tailor their approaches to what their customers want using email, digital advertising, and endless other methods. How can we keep all of this in mind moving forward while also learning where to go from here? The answer can be found by looking where our consumers look: at viral media posts on social media.

In past years, memes dominated the viral media space that reaches millions of users. Viral media in 2015 was more about activism, entertainment, news, and politics. Here are 5 things we learned from viral media about the inner workings of digital commerce:

  1. Big name influencer marketing can weaken the merits of a practice to the point of harm. Taylor Swift’s public disagreement with Apple Music and Spotify was a huge detriment to both services.
  2. “Nerd” culture has completed its transition into the mainstream. The vast success release of Fallout 4 and the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens are prime examples of this.
  3. Social media puts consumers directly in touch with companies and organizations. Regular people candidly share their opinions about products, services, and even political candidates.
  4. Buy buttons are starting to pop up everywhere. They are now directly on Pinterest pins, Twitter ads, Facebook ads, and beyond.
  5. Personalization is key. Consumers are watching, retweeting, and sharing heart-wrenching videos of people’s personal accounts. They’re looking at other individuals in a sea of people and considering themselves individuals. Treat them that way.

By watching consumer trends, we can become more aware of what works and what doesn’t. As the new year moves forward, watch viral trends to become more aware of what’s happening in consumer spaces and you’ll likely be on top of your game when it comes to knowing what your consumers want.

What viral media did you notice making a marketing impact in 2015? We’d love to hear from you!

Natalie Kane contributed to this blog post.

 

 

How to Target Your Audience in 5 Simple Steps

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Every good marketing plan starts with a target audience. This is the segment of consumers you want to target to see the highest return on your investment into a marketing plan. To define a target audience and channel your marketing efforts towards them, follow these five steps:

  1. What is Your Product or Service? Analyze it to find out what problem it solves for the consumer who buys it. Is it a cleaning product for messy houses? Is it a medication to relieve extreme aches and pains?
  2. Who Has the Problem Your Product Solves? If you’re offering a cleaning product you will want to target the head of the household, maybe a mother or a father with children. If your product relaxes the body and mind, you may decide to target individuals by age group or ailment.
  3. Where Does Your Audience Get Their Information? The parents with a messy house who need your cleaning product might receive a daily or weekly email newsletter. Baby Boomers may look to Facebook to learn what others in their age group are doing to relieve arthritis or chronic pain, while college students may turn to Instagram or Twitter. Consider advertising in the email newsletter, create and use the appropriate social media platform, or simply be present wherever your audience tends to get their information.
  4. How to Engage Your Audience? Pay special attention to sources your audience trusts and begin to associate your brand with these sources. For example: parents may rely heavily on Parenting Magazine and people with physical ailments might frequent WebMd looking for relief ideas. Also be sure to explain why your product or service will solve their problem more successfully than all other products.
  5. What Does Your Audience Profile Look Like? Create an audience profile. This way, your sales team, writers, and designers can refer to the profiles to ensure the product is being represented to the correct audience in a constructive way every step of the marketing process.

Forming a relationship with your customers takes time, but once you do, you can be sure that you’ll have a marketing plan that is sure to have a solid return on investment. Bring on a marketing expert to help create your target audience and expose your product to those who need it most!

Natalie Kane contributed to this blog post.

iOS9 Changing How We Advertise; 5 Rules to Follow

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Ad blockers have been around for years, but recently, when Apple released iOS9, they made their way out of our web browsers and onto our mobile devices. iOS9 users can now purchase apps that will block ads on their phones and tablets.

These ad blocker apps (for example, Crystal) function similarly to AdBlock Plus that many people use on their web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc. to ensure that online users have a stress-free, comfortable online experience.

How can a small business ensure that its digital ads are still seen? Here are five steps to take while creating your online ads to make sure  they aren’t blocked by an ad blocker:

  1. Make sure your ad file size is small and loads quickly.
  2. Steer clear of animations and pop-ups. Ads that interrupt the user experience are the reason ad blockers were created.
  3. Cater your ads to the environment they will be in. Ad blockers are more likely to block ads that blatantly stand out from the rest of the site.
  4. Clearly mark your ads as an advertisement.
  5. Be sure that your ad doesn’t distract too much from the content on the site.

As a company looking to advertise online it may be your first inclination to ask for flashy, complex advertisements to attract users’ attention, but with the increasing rate of ad blockers used it is clear that simple ads will be more successful and reach more consumers.

Contact a digital marketing expert to assist in the creation of your online advertising campaign to assure that your ads will be seen by users.

Natalie Kane contributed to this article.