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The holiday season may still feel like it is far in the distance, but most studies show consumers start their holiday shopping in November – if not earlier. That means now is the time to start preparing your holiday marketing efforts.

To help, Facebook is releasing a wave of new tools aimed at assisting businesses with their holiday marketing. 

Customizable Story Templates

Facebook is releasing a number of customizable templates for ads in Facebook Stories, Instagram, and Messenger. 

The templates are simple, visually pleasing ways to showcase products and brands throughout the shopping season, with customizable backgrounds, music, and CTAs. 

These templates will be available this week.

Improvements to Instagram Direct and Messenger

Closer to the Holiday season, Facebook says it will be bringing a number of new features to Instagram Direct to improve communication between businesses and customers.

As the company says in the announcement:

“From fulfilling orders to keeping up with customer requests, we know staying on top of customer communications is important, so we also created new messaging tools like labels, search and folders to help businesses stay organized.”

Within the coming weeks, Facebook will also be launching an ‘instant replies’ which lets businesses create custom automatic responses for when they are not immediately available. 

These “away” messages can be useful for days when your business is closed or when no one will be available to respond to messages for a prolonged period of time. 

Along with these improvements, Facebook is also introducing a new ‘saved replies’ feature which will allow you to respond to common questions with pre-written responses.

A new large-scale international study from Google shows that shoppers are increasingly using online videos to help make purchasing decisions. 

Specifically, the study – which used a mix of surveys and in-person interviews – found that more than half (55%) of consumers regularly use online videos as part of their shopping research. 

As the company says in its article:

“For more and more shoppers, video is becoming indispensable when they’re ready to buy. In fact, more than 55% of shoppers globally say they use online video while actually shopping in-store.”

Google’s Recommended Strategies For Using Video

Within the article about the report, Google also suggests a few ways brands can use videos to influence online shoppers:

Video Shopping List

One of the most surprising findings of the study is that many consumers are replacing traditional shopping lists with a video. 

“If I go to a store and forget what I need, I pull up the video to see the ingredients. I pull to the side, watch the video, and get what I need,” said one person interviewed. 

Getting Informed and Feeling Confident

For more technical fields or issues, such as finances or repairing complicated machines, videos can be an invaluable way to help shoppers feel more confident about their purchases. 

“YouTube has taught me that I’m capable of doing what I didn’t know I could do,” explained one consumer.

Video Reviews Can Be The Tie-Breaker

Video reviews are one of the most trusted forms of online reviews and are a popular reference point when making purchasing decisions. The wide variety of video reviews out there give people the ability to focus on the features they care most about and see which products will perform best for their needs. 

As one shopper told interviewers, “While I was in Home Depot the other day, I was on YouTube looking up drill sets to see which one was better and which one burned out quicker through stress tests.”

What This Means For Brands

It’s no big surprise that online shoppers are increasingly using videos to influence their shopping decisions. What is surprising is when and where they are referencing these videos and how they are actively using the videos within the shopping process. 

The biggest recommendation from the study is that you “think of ways your brand can show up to meet these in-the-moment needs, whether it’s through ads that spark ideas and inspiration or through more in-depth content to answer questions and help people along their path to purchase.”

It is no secret that our relationship with telephones and marketing calls has drastically changed over the past 5 years. There are mountains of anecdotal evidence that the vast majority of people have stopped answering phone calls from numbers they don’t know – even in the B2B space. 

However, it has been surprisingly hard to find reputable data on the matter, until now. This week, Zipwhip published a new survey which provides some insight into exactly how effective (or ineffective) cold-calling, outcalls and other forms of marketing calls are in 2019. 

People Aren’t Answering Calls

Unsurprisingly, the findings are not particularly positive for phone-based marketing or sales. The survey showed that more than 85% of people say they ignore phone calls from unknown numbers “often” or “very often”. 

What might surprise you, however, are the reasons why so many people are avoiding phone calls. 

The most obvious contributing factor would be the rise of robocalls over the past decade, with nearly half of all mobile calls in the U.S. this year predicted to come from mobile-phone spam. 

Despite several efforts to slow the tidal wave of phone spam, the FCC still says the best way to avoid these spam calls is “don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.”

Still, respondents to the survey cited several other reasons they prefer other forms of communication.

The reasons vary, but they all come back to a few central issues – talking on the phone is public, time-consuming, and disruptive.

In fact, when asked directly “how often do you find calls to be disruptive”, less than 4% of respondents said calls were never disruptive. The breakdown of answers was:

  • Always — 27.69%
  • Sometimes — 68.5%
  • Never — 3.65%

What This Means For Your Business

If you feel like your cold calls have been less effective in driving leads, you aren’t alone. As Zipwhip’s findings show, just getting people to answer unsolicited calls can be a big ask for today’s consumers and businesses. 

However, there is still one essential way phone calls should be a part of your business operations. Consumers may not like unsolicited calls, but they still widely agree that calls are the preferred way to contact local businesses or receive customer service for issues they are facing. 

When it comes to outbound marketing, phones are quickly becoming a pariah and those who refuse to adapt to the latest methods of contacting cold prospects will likely get left behind with the spam callers.

Google has started automatically adding a large “Request a Quote” button to eligible business listings in its local search results.

The button appears to be limited to just businesses who have opted into the Google My Business messaging feature, which would allow customers to directly message a company representative. However, it is unclear what specific industries the button is being added to.

With the new feature, users can now immediately request a quote from your company directly from the local search results – without ever visiting your website. 

While that means less traffic to your website – and potentially less informed leads – it also makes it more convenient than ever for potential customers to initiate the sales process.

While we can’t guarantee your listing will be given the “Request a Quote” button, we do know that being signed up for GMB’s messaging feature is a requirement for the new feature. 

To turn on messaging for your own listing, just follow these steps:

  • Download and open the Google My Business app
  • Log in with the credentials for the account associated with the listing
  • Open the location you’d like to manage
  • Tap Customers
  • Tap Messages
  • Tap Turn on

Once this is done, you will be able to receive messages from customers within the app. Users will receive their responses through their Google Maps app.

A new study focusing on small businesses in the US reveals that a huge number of small brands are working without any sort of plan for their marketing.

The survey from Outbound Engine asked 350 small and medium business (SMB) owners about a number of areas, including revenue growth, stress, their biggest hurdles, their marketing strategies, and more.

Of the business owners surveyed, approximately half of all SMB owners do not have a marketing plan for 2019 and are unlikely to create one.

Small Business Marketing Struggles

The lack of marketing plans in the survey is largely attributed to an increase in small businesses being overwhelmed or working with limited budgets.

According to the report, 62% of SMB owners say they are as or more stressed about their business this year compared to last.

Further, the study finds that:

  • 25% of SMB owners surveyed are unsure of how they plan to grow their business in 2019.
  • More than half (55%) of SMB owners spend less than 5% of annual revenue on marketing.
  • More than 58% of SMB owners spend five or fewer hours on marketing each week.
  • 86% of respondents say they prefer to spend their time on other business activities rather than marketing.

Small Changes Lead to Big Rewards

While the study shows that many businesses feel lost or unable to focus on their marketing, it also reveals that investing just a little more time or money can pay dividends and reduce business stress.

According to responses about last year performance, small increases in marketing investment led to more revenue growth for SMBs in 2018. Additionally, spending just 5% more time on marketing was tied to increased revenue growth.

This is reflected in the finding that 81% of respondents who invested between 5% and 10% of annual revenue into their marketing reported revenue growth in 2018. Meanwhile, only 50% of respondents who invested less than 5% of revenue into marketing saw growth.

The full report is available in PDF form here.

LinkedIn isn’t like most social media platforms out there. You can’t just transfer the same strategies and types of content you post on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter over to LinkedIn and expect people to be interested.

This is because people don’t use the platform the same way they use other social networks. Obviously, they approach the platform with a more professional, reserved presence that speaks more to their career goals and market knowledge than personal photos from vacations or the latest memes.

Still, LinkedIn can be an incredible tool for growing your business, whether you are in a B2B industry or primarily provide services or products to consumers. The key is knowing how to change up your typical social media strategies for the new platform.

Thankfully, Leisure Jobs has created a detailed cheat sheet which breaks down everything you could need to know about how to do LinkedIn right. It includes every area you could imagine, including personal profile construction, business listing strategies, some quick secrets to standing out from others on the platform, and much, much more.

You can see the infographic below, or check it out here for the high-resolution version.

A new survey sheds some light into the real reasons why consumers like, share, and follow brands on social media.

As Yes Marketing reports, their survey of 1,000 consumers reveals:

  • 63% of consumers follow retailers on social to learn about sales.
  • 60% follow retailers to keep up with new products.
  • 29% follow to show support for the retailer.
  • 23% follow because the retailer shares funny and interesting information.
  • 23% follow because the retailer has a positive reputation
  • 16% follow because they agree with the retailer’s stance on social and political issues.

When it comes to specifically why customers engage with content from retailers on social media, here’s what people had to say:

  • 36% engage with content because the retailer promises a discount for sharing the post.
  • 36% engage in order to share a product update or sale with their followers.
  • 35% engage because they agree personally with the content of the post.
  • 30% engage because the post is funny or interesting.
  • 29% engage in order to share positive feedback with the retailer.
  • 20% engage in order to share negative feedback with the retailer.

As for which demographics are active on which social networks, the respondents broke down as follows:

  • Gen Z consumers are more likely to have YouTube (77%) and Instagram (77%) accounts than a Facebook account (74%).
  • Millennials (89%) and Gen X (88%) are most likely to be on Facebook.
  • More Gen Z consumers (56%) are on Twitter compared to Millennials (50%) and Gen X (39%).
  • Snapchat is the least used social network among all respondents (30%), followed by Twitter (36%).
  • Only 11% of respondents are not on any of the major social networks.

Get the full report here to learn more.

A new survey of US consumers has some surprising findings about what customers expect out of business websites.

The results from 1,013 respondents between the ages of 18-60 show that consumers have high expectations when it comes to how frequently your website is updated, what features are implemented, and how you are advertising your business online.

What Consumers DON’T Want in a Website

Of the respondents, more than 80% say they view a brand more negatively if their website is out of date. Additionally, 39% of consumers say they would reconsider buying a product or service if the website isn’t current.

The issue of advertising is also a prickly subject for consumers, based on the survey results.

Less than 10% approved of brands showing ads on social media based on a person’s browsing activity. Meanwhile, approximately 26% feel negatively about ads appearing on their social media feeds based on their browsing or device history – saying it is an invasion of privacy.

On the other hand, 41% of consumers say they don’t mind if websites keep personal data, but only if it is secured on used exclusively to improve the user experience.

Overall, consumers are largely conflicted. Approximately 50% of respondents say that they like the convenience of brands keeping data for to improve ads and user experience, but they are concerned about how else it might be used.

What Consumers DO Want in a Website

In general, consumers say ease of use should be the top priority in making their online experience better.

Approximately 50% of the respondents said they prefer user-created content like reviews and photos to help inform their purchasing decision.

Meanwhile, 25% say their favorite website feature is receiving a reminder when they have left a product in their shopping cart.

Perhaps surprisingly, a major feature desired by users is an on-site search engine. Nearly one-third of respondents say they are put-off if a site does not have a search box, while more than 40% say a search box is the most important feature on a site.


The survey includes a number of interesting findings about consumer behavior and desires online covering a wide range of topics. You can read all the details from Blue Fountain Media here.

 

Twitter wants to help you plan out your marketing for the year with a new, free calendar with tips and ideas for your 2019 marketing strategies.

The calendar identifies the biggest, most hotly anticipated events of the year so you can plan your marketing ahead of time.

Additionally, Twitter provides some extra motivation to tweet during these big events with an estimate of the number of Tweet impressions each event is expected to draw.

The calendar doesn’t just highlight the obvious holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s day, either. It includes niche holidays such as Talk Like a Pirate Day, major sporting events like the March Madness final game, and cultural events like Coachella.

No matter what industry you are in, you are bound to find exciting opportunities to make your mark somewhere among the major and minor events.

For example, running accessory brands may plan their marketing around some of the major marathons included on the calendar – like the Boston Marathon which is predicted to drive an estimated 73 million tweet impressions.

Meanwhile, bars or restaurants may be more interested in taking advantage of the quickly approaching National Pizza Day on February 9th and National Margarita Day on February 22th, which are estimated to inspire 34 million and 14 million tweet impressions respectively.

View and download Twitter’s 2019 Marketing Calendar here.

A new survey shows just how prominent voice search is becoming in the journey from shopping to purchase.

According to the latest survey from Chatmeter, approximately 90% of smartphone owners say they use their device’s virtual assistant. More importantly, a large group of those are specifically using voice search to look for local business information.

Approximately 40% of smartphone users specifically say they “use voice search to ask for directions, an address, or business hours for a nearby location.” Additionally, more than a quarter of consumers say their “number one use for their voice device is to find a local restaurant, show, or business.”

This reinforces recent statements from prominent figures in the world of search, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who said: “local mobile searches are growing faster than just mobile searches overall, and have increased by almost 50% in the last year.”

One of the biggest uses for virtual assistants is also making in-person purchases or to visit new businesses, with almost 90% of users saying they turn to virtual assistants for driving directions.

While the rise of voice search will likely have huge ramifications for how we understand and optimize for online searching, these findings actually reinforce the importance of optimizing local listings on both desktop and mobile devices.

For example, a business’s Google My Business listing is responsible for providing all of these types of information, including giving directions, facilitating phone calls, and providing business hours.

Google My Business is already an essential part of establishing your business within your local industry and finding new customers nearby. Now, it is also becoming a necessity for helping voice search users find your business when they are ready to take action.