dark·​room | \ ˈdärk-ˌrüm  , -ˌru̇m \

noun

 

: A darkroom refers to a space where art and science come together to create something complete before premiering to the public. It’s where process and creativity combine to form a final product.

 

This is why we’ve chosen it as our name.

Why Retention Marketing Is Your Brand’s Foundation

Of all the marketing strategies that e-commerce brands use, few are more important than retention marketing. In fact, research from Harvard Business Review found that a five percent increase in customer retention could increase profitability by 25 to 95 percent. Those numbers are just as true for e-Commerce brands as for brick and mortar retailers; showcasing the need for retention marketing to be a top priority for every online seller.

What Makes Retention Marketing So Important?

Your most loyal customers are the foundation that sets your brand up for long-term success. Simply, it’s easier to sell to someone who already trusts your brand and products than to someone who has never heard of you before. Because of this, retention marketing tends to be far more cost-effective than other marketing efforts. Dollar for dollar, you’re more likely to sell through retention marketing, because you’re selling to people who already purchased before. The overarching goal of retention marketing is to increase the lifetime value of each customer. This increases ROI of your marketing strategies that you used to acquire those customers in the first place. Retention rates are also sometimes looked at in a more negative term, “churn rate”, but this should mean something positive for your brand.

In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Jill Avery of the Harvard Business School explains, “If I’m interested in keeping customers, I’m interested in understanding how many leave and the underlying reasons why they are ending their relationship with me. Looking at churn rates illuminates which types of customers are at risk and which may require an intervention. It’s a simple metric that tells us about when and how to interact with customers”. By making an effort to understand your churn rate, you can identify areas where your e-Commerce brand is falling short.

A Statista survey revealed that fast shipping, an easy returns process, and a personalized shopping experience were top reasons for customers to do repeat business with an e-Commerce brand. Analyzing your retention data can help you identify customer profiles need focus in your marketing efforts. Ultimately, guiding your brand to incorporate key changes that would increase customer satisfaction.

Successful eCommerce Retention Marketing Strategies

E-Commerce retention is greatly dependent on providing an excellent customer experience the first time around. This initial experience is crucial for your brand and its ability to effectively re-market to individuals who’ve already purchased. Having a strong, memorable brand will make it easier for customers to form meaningful connections with your brand. Leaving them buying from you time and time again. Of course, most customers are going to need a little nudge to keep doing business with you. Fortunately, there are many avenues for reaching out with creative email and sms marketing. Emails and social media tend to be the go-to retention marketing options for many eCommerce brands. After all, you need to collect customers’ email addresses during checkout anyway. Simple e-commerce integrations in checkout experience is a great way to get your marketing into their inbox.

As well, loyalty programs and subscription services are e-commerce integration that are proven to increase retention rates. Customers who join brand loyalty programs tend to spend far more than others. In fact, a Bloomberg study of Amazon Prime members found that Prime members spend twice as much as other Amazon customers. Such programs provide value-laden perks for continuing to shop with your e-Commerce brand, serving as a great way to drive revenue.

Retention Marketing for New Clients

Not all of your retention marketing should be focused on people who’ve already purchased. Cart abandonment is a huge issue for online retailers. The Baymard Institute estimates the average online cart abandonment rate to be 69.57 percent. This is where creative strategies make the difference like those used by apparel brand rag & bone. Rag & bone’s eCommerce site sends pop-up messages after abandoning your cart, saying that your cart has been saved, but that the items are going fast. Not only does this make it easy to return to the checkout process, it creates a sense of urgency for potential buyers.

That is just one great tactic for retention marketing, but tools like Facebook Pixel also exist and allow you to re-market to anyone who has visited your website, while also segmenting audiences based on specific actions they took while on-site. Making it easy to get retention effort to the customers who have already made a purchase, as well as those who have abandoned their shopping cart. 

Finally, don’t underestimate the power of your current customers in growing your customer base as a whole. Many loyalty programs offer additional rewards for new customer referrals. When loyal customers are incentivized to share your products with others, they can quickly become your biggest advocates. This word of mouth marketing tends to be far more cost-effective and natural growth oriented. Best of all, it means your loyal customers are sharing your products with their like-minded friends.

It’s Good to Add New Customers, It’s Better to Retain Them

Not everyone you try to reach with your retention marketing strategies is going to become a repeat customer, and that’s okay. As long as you are making consistent outreach to your current customers and prospects, you will be more likely to increase the average lifetime value of your customer base as a whole. With more profits from your existing customers, you will be in the perfect position for additional scaling opportunities. Ultimately, retention marketing can become the launchpad for lasting long-term growth of your eCommerce brand.

Image credited to firmbee via unsplash

Influencer Marketing vs. Paid Ads

A strong brand can help e-commerce startups grow substantially faster than just focusing on their product offering alone. A core identity is what gives your target audience a meaningful way to connect with your e-commerce brand. This meaningful engagement is what fosters the kind of loyalty that leads to consistent sales and word-of-mouth referrals. To get to this point, you have to help your target audience discover your brand in the first place. Two of the most commonly used e-commerce advertising tactics are paid ads and influencer marketing. But which one will deliver the highest ROI for your brand? Understanding how to incorporate these marketing strategies will finally assist your e-commerce brand stand out in your industry.

The Power of Influencer Marketing

Digital Marketing Institute reports that the average influencer marketing ad earns $6.50 for each dollar put into the campaign. In niches markets like fashion and beauty, the vast majority of companies integrate influencer marketing into their advertising mix. The high ROI generated from influencer marketing isn’t the only reason for brands to integrate these methods. More people are using ad blockers than ever before. At the same time, many prospective customers go to social media for product recommendations. These influencers outreach is able to offer more trust in product recommendation than any other marketing influence.

When first starting your e-commerce marketing efforts, your best bet is to focus on micro-influencers. These individuals don’t have millions of followers. Instead, they have anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 followers. While that may seem like too small of an audience, micro-influencers have a few distinct advantages for e-commerce startups. First, they charge much lower rates than larger influencers, as rates for paid partnerships are often based on follower count. In some cases, simply gifting them your product will be all you need to get featured on their account.

Micro-influencers also have the advantage of generally having stronger relationships with their followers. The more niche following means you can find audiences who are more likely to be interested in your products.  As Gil Eyal notes in a CMS Wire interview, “Micro-influencers have stronger relationships than a typical influencer. This is often driven by their perception as an opinion leader for the lifestyle and content they represent. A micro-influencer, as opposed to a celebrity or regular influencer, often has a very uniform audience.” The social proof and brand awareness offered by micro-influencer outreach will increase brands online following, while simultaneously lowering other paid social campaigns.

The Consistency of Paid Ads

Influencer marketing may be an effective marketing option for e-commerce brands, but there is no denying the consistent results from paid ads like social media ads and PPC marketing. For example, Wordlead reports that website visitors who click on PPC ads are 50 percent more likely to make a purchase compared to more organic methods. This is especially true of ads that include buying keywords; such as “best price”, “get”, and “buy.” These ads are geared toward shoppers ready to purchase. Social media ads can fulfill a wide variety of purposes for the message you want your brand to present.

There plenty of practices to enhance your PPC and social media advertising, but paid ads biggest offering is tracking results. Google Ads or Facebook accounts are able to track a wide range of data points for various ads and campaigns. From total number of impressions to the number of people who made a purchase; this data makes it easier to see the relationship between marketing and sales results. This allows you to identify opportunities to fine-tune your marketing to optimize your conversion rate and generate a higher ROI.

Both is Best, But If You Have to Pick Just One…

Let’s get this out of the way right now: in an ideal world, your e-commerce brand will take advantage of both influencer marketing and paid ads. Both can have a powerful influence on your brand-building efforts, and contribute directly to your product sales. They work hand in hand to improve your marketing ROI. That being said, if you have to choose just one in the early phases of your startup, paid ads are the safer option. Paid ads deliver more easily quantifiable returns that you can consistently improve upon for better your brand. When implemented properly, paid ads allow you to generate consistent, predictable sales. In the early stages of your e-commerce startup, this steady growth is crucial for you to turn a profit and generate positive cash flow.

Once you have achieved quality growth through your paid ads, you should have enough cash to be able to give away products or pay micro-influencers. Also, the greatest thing is influencer marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. Working with micro-influencers is extremely cost-effective and can likely begin sooner rather than later. The right influencer partnerships will further strengthen your brand and help you connect with your target audience.

Finding the Right Marketing Mix For Your E-Commerce Brand

At the end of the day, there is no true one size fits all answer for how e-commerce startups should allocate their marketing dollars. Our own experiences lead us to believe that whenever possible, e-commerce brands should use a mix of both paid ads and influencer marketing. However, determining how much of your budget will go to each type of advertising can vary dramatically based on your available funds, your product niche, your desired brand identity, and other factors.  By understanding your brand’s strengths and weaknesses and dialing in on your core identity, you will be better able to develop a messaging strategy that effectively communicates your brand and helps you increase your sales.

SMS Marketing – Modern and Effective

When it comes to communicating about a brand, you may think of well-known tactics like SEO, social media advertising, and even traditional forms of marketing like billboards or TV ads. But your phone has more marketing power than you might expect — particularly in the form of SMS marketing.

SMS marketing, or short message service marketing, is a strategy that allows you to communicate with customers through text messaging.

While the idea of sending marketing text messages to your customers might seem a bit strange at first, this is an undeniably powerful strategy that can deliver big results for your brand’s bottom line.

Easy to Deliver and Open

Woman in winter coat smiling and checking SMS

One of the biggest advantages of SMS marketing is that it is a truly immediate form of advertising. An email could sit unread in someone’s inbox for days. In fact, one British study found that the average worker has a whopping 651 unread emails languishing in their inbox. Meanwhile, PPC ads (which show as paid placements in a Google search) generally average a clickthrough rate of about 2%.

Now, compare that to how we use our phones for text messaging. A 2019 study found that the average person checks their phone 96 times a day — or about every 10 minutes.

Generally speaking, we are much more likely to immediately read and respond to a text than we are an email. 90% of people read a text message within three minutes of receiving it.

These stats have a direct carryover to SMS marketing. Gartner reports that SMS marketing achieves “open and response rates as high as 98% and 45%, respectively — in contrast to corresponding figures of 20% and 6% for email.” That means a marketing message sent via SMS is far more likely to be seen by customers.

With SMS campaigns, messages are sent out and delivered instantly. But like any other marketing campaign, you have to use this solution in the right way.

How Do SMS Marketing Campaigns Work?

First, it’s essential to remember that you must obtain permission to message someone before sending them promotional SMS texts. It’s annoying at best and unethical at worst if you don’t get permission. Thankfully, you can build a list relatively quickly using existing email lists or by collecting signups through your website.

With a list in place, SMS platforms make it easy to write and deliver texts to your customers. You can send out general texts to everyone on a list, or personalize the timing of texts to be sent after a customer makes a purchase or performs another relevant action.

These tools also make it remarkably easy to track the results of your campaigns. You can see how many people opened the text, clicked on the link, opted out of messaging, and so on.

Of course, the content and timing of your messages will make a big difference in achieving the desired results. Schedule texts to go out in the late morning or early afternoon, when people are less likely to be bothered. Sending too many texts is also a surefire way to get people to opt-out of your list.

SMS marketing is also a “short and sweet” approach to messaging – typically limited to 160 characters. This means you need to think critically about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Branded texts should typically introduce the brand right away (so customers know who is messaging them), and include a link or another call to action.

To make the most of this limited space, be succinct. Get to the point. At the same time, try to avoid slang or abbreviations that could be misunderstood. Make sure to personalize your texts with words like “you” and “your,” and of course, always deliver value. If your texts are informing customers of great deals or content that they will actually be interested in, they are far more likely to keep opening your messages in the future.

A Darkroom SMS Case Study

At Darkroom, we’ve seen firsthand how implementing SMS marketing can give a campaign a big boost — as perfectly illustrated by our recent work for ProperLBC.

ProperLBC is a brick and mortar store located in downtown Long Beach that focuses on sneakers and street-wear culture. Despite having a large email list, they were still struggling to scale revenue — and Black Friday/Cyber Monday was fast approaching.

We used their VIP email list as the groundwork for launching an SMS campaign. For this campaign, SMS content focused on highlighting exclusive sneaker releases and new product arrivals, as well as providing informative content and info on other promotions.

Thanks in part to some SMS-only offers, we grew their SMS list size and overall engagement twice as fast as their email list. Customer lifetime value also increased with these loyalty offers. And we didn’t have to wait long to see these results — overall store revenue increased by 15% within the first 90 days of the campaign.

Darkroom and ProperLBC were thrilled with these results. But it is important to remember that SMS marketing didn’t act as a competitor or replacement to the existing email campaigns. Instead, it serves as an additional channel that keeps the brand’s VIP audience even more actively engaged with the brand.

Ready to Try Your Own SMS Campaign?

The most innovative brands aren’t afraid to try new methods for reaching their customers — and this certainly applies to SMS marketing. By giving more immediate, direct access to customers, you will be better positioned to build awareness and sell products.

If you need help getting your SMS marketing campaign off the ground, contact Darkroom today. Our team of experts will help you generate quality SMS content (and any other marketing materials) to deliver lasting growth for your brand.

Social Video Advertising – Unconventional & Powerful

Social video advertising is one of the most powerful ways your brand can upgrade its content marketing strategy and connect with new and existing customers. Here is a closer look at why you should invest in high-quality video creative to continue communicating with your customers effectively.

The Explosion of Social Video

Consumers have had a high interest in video content, especially from brands they like, for a while. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Stay-at-home orders and social distancing kept millions of people at home and separated many of them from their usual social activities. Online content consumption – including video – skyrocketed as people looked to fill their time.

Research from DoubleVerify found that the amount of time people spent consuming online content (primarily video) each day more than doubled — from 3 hours and 17 minutes to a whopping 6 hours and 59 minutes.

People are spending more time than ever watching social video content — and this represents a big opportunity for your brand.

Time to Explore New Platforms

One of the most important things to consider when creating paid social video campaigns is what platforms to target. We believe that Facebook and YouTube are still great options, but there are many other rapidly-growing platforms that can provide even higher returns on your advertising investment.

TikTok

TikTok has seen an explosion in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the time users spent on the app each month nearly doubled between October 2019 and March 2020. Many may only know TikTok for it’s dance videos, but the platform is actually filled with a wide variety of sub-niches and communities, creating excellent opportunities to target an active and engaged audience. 

Social video advertising on TikTok operates in two primary ways. First, TikTok offers full-screen ads that work similarly to non-skippable YouTube ads. Brands create ads that display to users in a select audience. Second, TikTok offers in-feed ads that allow for more direct audience interaction. In-feed ads let users shoot their own videos with the same sound used in an ad, creating an avenue for UGC and further brand awareness. Additionally, brands can create branded hashtag challenges, encouraging users to create their own content centered around a campaign.

A screenshot of a profile on TikTok - a growing platform to produce social video ads.
A screenshot of the official TikTok profile on TikTok

Twitch

Platforms like Twitch are also getting more involved in video advertising. The live-streaming platform boasts an average of 2.5 million viewers at any given time and is incredibly popular among video game enthusiasts and younger audiences. The platform’s expansion into video advertising creates even more opportunities for brands with target audiences active on the platform.

Creating Relevant Videos

In all cases, video placements should be as relevant as possible to your brand’s target audience — especially when purchasing pre-roll ad space on videos. The previously cited DoubleVerify study also noted that 69% of viewers “are more likely to look at an ad that is relevant to the content they are viewing,” with food and beverage brands experiencing the biggest gains.

At the same time, brands should avoid paid video placements on content that is viewed as inflammatory or controversial. Over 50% of consumers said that such placements would make them less likely to buy from a brand. Your brand is safest avoiding political placements whenever possible.

The Platform Should Guide the Creative

The introduction of social video platforms like TikTok has changed what makes an effective video ad. A TikTok ad isn’t going to look as highly polished as the video ads you’ll see on TV or YouTube. The most successful ads more closely imitate the type of content users already expect to see from friends and influencers on the platform.

Consider these findings published in AdWeek: “Exaggerated emotions like expressing surprise and anger led to an average of 1.7 times boost in the number of six-second views, while cycling between four or more emotions in a single video led to a tripling of conversion rates. […] Clickthrough increased by 1.7 times when the subject looked directly into the camera for less than half of the video’s duration compared to more than half. Conversion rates boosted 44 percent when the ad’s call to action is included within the first few seconds of the video.”

Needless to say, when filming a social video ad for TikTok, everything from the framing of the shot to the content, structure, and emotions evoked within the video requires a different approach than most brands are used to.

Of course, TikTok may not be right for your brand — and that’s okay. However, the principle of tailoring your video content to the social platform you are using should always be top of mind. Paid promotion is about building awareness and generating leads. A strong call to action will boost engagement and allow brands to reach customers again later with additional video content.

For example, brands that are more technical in nature could benefit from additional video content explaining how their product or service works. This could include “live” demonstrations of how to use their product or responses to frequently asked questions. This type of content is usually best used to retain customers and nurture current leads rather than to prospect and build awareness.

Are You Ready to Grow Your Video Social Advertising?

Social video consumption has grown rapidly the past year and isn’t going anywhere. Brands that use social video in creative ways and adapt their content to new and growing platforms are better able to connect with their target audience and achieve the growth they’re looking for.

If you need help getting your video advertising off the ground, Darkroom can help. As a full-service digital agency, our team is uniquely positioned to help you create extraordinary video content on proven platforms and new ones. We provide the results your brand needs. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and see what we can accomplish together.

Featured photo by Angela Compagnone on Unsplash

The Pros and Cons of Hiring a Marketing Agency vs. Taking Things In-House

No matter what type of products or services you sell, no matter how big you want your company to become, every business relies on marketing. It’s how you build awareness, acquire customers  and most importantly, make sales.

Naturally, when you are beginning to think about selling your product or service, the question then becomes, who should take care of your marketing? While some entrepreneurs have prior marketing experience that they can draw from, many do not or do not have the time or expertise to sell product at scale. In many cases, most business owners are most effective focusing on improving their products and services and leaving the advertising work to specialists.

Ultimately, your marketing options come down to two main choices. You can either handle things in-house, or you can hire a marketing agency. Both options come with their pros and cons. Here are some important issues to consider so you can make an informed decision.

Advertising Expertise

At first glance, the level of expertise between in-house and agency marketers would seem to be about the same. After all, they both bring extensive experience running advertising campaigns, which can help grow your business.

However, a closer look at the nuances of agency vs. in-house work reveal this isn’t necessarily the case. A report from Ad Age found that 45 percent of in-house marketers noted having trouble staying on top of industry trends. 43 percent said in-house work lacked creative innovation.

This seems expected. While many in house marketers become focused on their industry, making sales and acquiring new customers can become repeticie. Agencies can draw from multi disciplinary experiences working from a variety of clients in different industries, drawing on different situations to come up with creative revenue-generating solutions.

For one thing, ad agencies permit creatives to work on more than one account, which is often appealing to creatives. Secondly, as ad budgets on the marketer side tighten and expectations are set, agencies are employed to perform and, thus, push the barrier to come up with creative solutions that draw results. Here at Darkroom, our number one priority is relentlessly driving results for our clients. Oftentimes that requires a team of creative thinkers (all of which have multi faceted expertise across advertising, creative, and conversion rate optimization) to strategize and execute.

With that, and because agencies offer more varied and engaging work, they also have a tendency to attract the best and brightest the industry has to offer. We only look for and employ the best creatives and marketers who are top performers.

Level of Control and Information Sharing

For business owners who want a greater level of control over their marketing team, in-house could be the better route. An in-house team is more tightly engrained with your business culture. It is far easier to monitor their work and ensure that everything remains fully compliant with your vision for your company.

While you will certainly offer guidance and input to your agency, you don’t have the same level of day to day control. Not working in the same office could also mean that communications will sometimes be slower than with an in-office team. And oftentimes an agency will guide you on recommended marketing tactics insead of the other way around.

There may be a bit of a learning curve as the agency comes to understand your culture. However, this could also help them come up with more creative and innovative work.

The ability to easily share information could influence how intimately your marketing team comes to know and understand your brand. Both options can meet your expectations — it just depends on how much control you feel like you need.

Partnerships and Opportunities

Another important advantage of working with an advertising agency is that it already has a wide range of tools and partnerships that it can leverage to enhance your marketing opportunities. This is especially true of agencies that offer specialized marketing services, like paid social ads or email marketing.

Agencies already have the latest software and tools to maximize the effectiveness of campaigns. They have access to high-level partnerships and more in-depth research to ensure that your ad spend is being used as effectively as possible.

Because advertising is literally everything certain agencies do (and there are a lot who do this but do not drive results), they are constantly on the lookout for the latest trends, software and techniques that will help them improve outcomes for all their clients. The ability to have dedicated specialists assigned to different marketing tasks ensures a better ROI than having a generalist try to handle everything.

While an in-house team can certainly follow current trends, they may not have the budget to immediately adopt the most up-to-date tools and techniques. Perhaps most importantly, an agency brings an outside perspective to your business, in part thanks to their work with other clients. An objective, external view makes it easier to identify opportunities and challenges that those working in-house might overlook.

Understand the True Cost

Some businesses think that it would be more expensive to hire a marketing agency than to work with an in-house team. But this is a very inaccurate take.

Just consider the cost of employees. According to U.S. News & World Report, marketing managers have a median salary of $134,290. That’s just for the manager position. Add in the cost of social media specialists, graphic designers, copy writers and other crucial roles, and your expenses quickly pile up.

In-house marketing costs begin before your team even gets to work. After all, you have to spend money to recruit top talent to your company. And if you lose an employee, you’ll need to find a replacement. According to Employee Benefit News, the costs of recruiting, hiring and onboarding a replacement average about 33 percent of the former employee’s annual salary.

With a marketing agency, on the other hand, you have much greater control over how your marketing dollars are spent. Most agencies have tiered pricing plans, allowing you to direct your spending in accordance with what your budget will allow. One report from Entrepreneur notes that on average, monthly retainer contracts start as low as $1,000. Premier agencies come in higher but generate better returns for you that you can immediately measure. This means you know the value that you are paying for, which normally comes in substantially lower than an in-house team.

Should You Stay In-House or Use a Marketing Agency?

Now, I admit that my career choice leads me to be somewhat biased toward hiring a marketing agency rather than trying to build an in-house team from scratch. But while both options have their pros and cons, I do feel strongly that for most, working with a marketing agency (for most SMBs) is ultimately going to be the most cost-effective option.

At the end of the day, though, the decision is up to you. By evaluating the differences between these options and deciding what you most want to get from your marketing campaigns, you will be better equipped to make a decision that best helps your company’s bottom line.

*  Image Credit:

–   Featured Image, Pexels

The Benefits of Snapchat Advertising In Its Current State

Snapchat advertising has gone through a quiet revolution. For years, Snapchat was one of the most expensive advertising options on the market. With its array of unique features and raw, behind-the-scenes feel, the platform was carving out its own niche.

It did things differently, and advertising was no different; the platform relied on human curators to pick its advertising, rather than relying on the auction system many other social media platforms use.

That’s recently changed, though. Over the past couple of years, Snapchat has brought more and more of its business over to the programmatic side, automating its process and opening up its APIs to would-be advertisers eager for data.

That’s had some downsides (among them the well-known feud with Chrissy Teigen over a false ad using her likeness). Bad actors have been able to leak through the cracks more easily than when Snapchat relied on human curation. Other platforms have had those issues as well, but Snapchat’s recent move has it going through some growing pains.

Despite the issues, Snapchat is an effective platform for advertising, and your brand can take advantage of it. There are some things you need to keep in mind with it that you wouldn’t with other platforms, though. Snapchat isn’t for everyone, but in the right hands, it can be a highly effective tool.

Dominating the Youth Market

Compared to the biggest players in advertising, Snapchat is miniscule. In revenue and in reach, it comes out well below Facebook, Google, and just about every other online advertising platform. The app comes in behind even Pinterest in share …

However, though Facebook is doing its best to poach Snapchat’s user base with its new Instagram features, Snapchat still holds a dominant position with one group: youth.

Youth between the teens and late twenties are significantly more likely to use Snapchat; with nearly half of this age group using the app. They have been early and ardent adopters of the platform.

Finding ways to get messages to this demographic will be key moving forward, especially as they begin to grow and mature and have more income. Getting a foot in the door on Snapchat is a great way to get started.

High Engagement

We’ve all had the experience of conducting an email campaign and watching the open rates with a little bit of sadness. Advertising often gets swiped by, scrolled over or left unread, no matter what the platform.

Snapchat, at least to this point, has been very different. Nine out of ten people who follow Gary Vaynerchuk on Snapchat watch his story. Eight out of ten open Taco Bell’s snaps. And these aren’t outrageous outliers.

The audience is engaged and attentive, and they want to hear what you have to say.

Simplicity of Use

Snapchat’s ad platform is one of the simplest and cleanest out there. It’s easy to use and understand, and has some features like time-gated ad runs that are really useful for short campaigns.

With Snapchat’s video ad features on their website, it’s easy to create video ads with few or no tools outside of their own. You don’t have to have a huge editing suite, which can be great if you want to put something together quickly.

Behind the Scenes

When you’re trying to give people a sense of behind the scenes, Snapchat is one of the best platforms you can use. Its users respond well to advertising that doesn’t have the slick, polished look that you’d expect from something like Facebook or Instagram.

Snapchat’s original premise is short, user-generated content that’s very much in the moment. Polish runs counter to the ethos. Especially for the demographic that you’re going to be hitting on Snapchat (Millennials and younger), too much polish will come off a little fake.

In some ways, that can make Snapchat harder to fit into a complete advertising strategy, because you can’t easily repurpose content from somewhere else. Often you have to create something completely new, and that takes time and effort that most companies don’t want to spend on a small platform.

Snap has definitely had its success stories, though …

If you’re willing to invest the time and you have a younger audience, its robust targeting tools will let you grab attention in a way you can’t on the more saturated channels.

How Do You Succeed?

Neil Patel took a walk through the Snapchat ecosystem and discovered that there was a common thread among many of the success stories: B2C companies with big advertising budgets. Those companies are using things like sponsored lenses that cost multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars a day.

However, if you want to dip a toe in the water, you’re well placed to do so. CPMs can be high, depending on what you’re doing—and they can fluctuate a fair bit—but overall, you can expect to see dividends in engagement over what you might on a platform like Facebook or Google that has more competition and less interested eyeballs.

What’s the takeaway for Snapchat advertising?

• Don’t make your creative too polished. If you make it too polished, it won’t look right on Snapchat’s less-formal platform. Save that for Instagram or Pinterest. It shouldn’t look like found footage, but it should be more raw and real than your regular creative.

• Use the targeting tools. You’ve probably used Custom Audiences with Facebook—you can use them here too. Snapchat’s ad platform is robust enough to allow you to target your customers with good detail.

• Keep the youth market in mind. For some businesses, Snapchat advertising just doesn’t make sense. Though it’s starting to make inroads into older generations, the bread and butter will still be teens and young adults for the foreseeable future. It’s a hard platform to learn for older people, and one that’s geared for younger eyes.

Your brand may or may not be right for Snapchat, but it’s worth taking a little time to experiment and see what happens. Snapchat’s sky-high engagement and easy-to-use advertising manager are benefits that any organization can use.

Who knows?

You may find that this small social media app turns into a hidden gem.

*Image Credit:

-Featured Image, Pexels

Use These Hacks to Avoid Blowing Your Ad Spend On the Wrong Social Networks

In 2014, Copyblogger did something that sent waves through the marketing community: they shut down their Facebook page. Copyblogger has been a key voice in the WordPress and content marketing spheres for a while, and when they decided to get off Facebook it was just part of a larger trend within their company.

They had been evaluating resources, trying to figure out which platforms were going to be best for them moving forward. At the time, Twitter and Google+ were offering results that Facebook was not. They’ve since returned to Facebook, and the landscape of digital marketing has changed significantly since then, but the reason for their radical move still exists.

These days, organic social is harder than ever and ad spend has become far more crucial than it was at the time of Copyblogger’s move. None of us have infinite time, money or resources, much as we’d like to. No matter what your company does, you’re going to have to pick and choose what platforms to invest your effort in.

If you spend money wisely on the right social networks, it can supercharge your business. If you spend money indiscriminately, you’re weighing your business down. You need to know how to find the right social networks for your business …

So how do you find the right place to spend your advertising dollars, exactly?

Know Your Audience

When Copyblogger left Facebook, they didn’t just leave and replace it with nothing. Instead, they invested their resources in platforms where they had more traction. At the time, these platforms were Twitter and Google+.

Though they were more niche than Facebook was, when Copyblogger’s team dug into the numbers, they realized that those platforms were the ones driving their growth. They had active, engaged users, and those users wanted the content that Copyblogger put out.

By contrast, their Facebook page had built up a following of 38,000 fans, but the engagement was so low that it didn’t matter. CEO Brian Clark even brought in outside help to figure out what to do, and they tried several different creative strategies.

Even focusing on building up engagement didn’t produce much fruit—why?

Because their audience wasn’t there.

As Erika Napoletano wrote in the article explaining the decision, “It’s not our job to tell our audience where we live. It’s to grow communities where they live.” If you’re putting your ad spend into a platform where your audience doesn’t live, what does it matter how good your strategy is? You’ll never get good ROI from talking to an empty room.

Measure, Measure, Measure, etc.

As Content Marketing Institute discovered in a 2016 study, brands that document their social media strategies are more confident and more effective in making that strategy work.

That’s not rocket science, as any business major can quote the axiom, “What gets measured gets managed.” Even if you’re still spread across multiple platforms, you need to carefully consider how to prioritize your resources.

For social media you’re already comfortable with, dig deep into the analytics that you’ve built up over time. You already have a history to draw from. Take a look at your growth over time, and prioritize ROI, not just surface-level engagement numbers or followers.

If you have a lot of people clicking or tapping your ads but no one taking action, it’s time to take a second look. Is it your creative? Is it going to the wrong audience? Or is the platform even one that works for your business?

If you’re dipping your toe into the water on a new social media platform, you need to be doubly careful to measure your results. The carpenter’s phrase “measure twice, cut once” is just as applicable to social media. Don’t come in trying to make a big splash all at once—start small, then look at the results.

Slowly work your way up. Set low spend limits on your first few campaigns, and then once you get comfortable with the platform and feel confident you’re using it correctly, re-evaluate. Should you invest the effort? Is it worth it for your business? If you’re measuring every step of the way, you’ll have the answer you need.

Kill Your Darlings

“Kill your darlings” is a common phrase in writing circles, often attributed to Stephen King, who quoted it from William Faulkner. It means to get rid of your pet phrases and favorite bits when they don’t serve the interests of your audience.

In terms of your social media platforms, that means taking a long, hard look at what your ad spend is actually doing. Are you putting money into a platform because you think it should perform well, but it doesn’t? Are you spending money on a platform because you personally like it?

When you write, the easiest way to tell when someone’s suggesting you kill one of your darlings is the instant defensiveness that comes with it. You’re emotionally attached to that phrase, chapter or paragraph. The very same thing can happen in business.

Think with your head, not with your heart. Look at your analytics. Figure out which platforms are getting the best results—then either spend less on the ones that don’t or cut them loose entirely.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for choosing which social media platforms to use your ad spend on. Every business is different, and the audience and strategy that works for one may not work for another. But if you’re using industry best practices and good creative and still not seeing results, it may be time to decrease or stop your ad spend for that platform.

You’re not made of money or time, so you have to prioritize what works best for your business. Know your audience, measure everything, and cut loose any platforms that are underperforming. 

Build out a laser-like focus on what works for you and don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Know yourself and know your customers. If you do that, you’ll be well on your way to success in every avenue of social media advertising.

*Image Credit:

-Featured Image, Pexels

Interested In Instagram Video Ads? These Strategies Will Produce Immediate ROI

Though Facebook may still have more total users than any other online platform, there’s no denying that Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most powerful and influential social media networks out there thanks to its engaging method of presenting photos and videos. 

This trend isn’t going to change anytime soon …

According to data from the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of U.S. teens say they use Instagram, compared to only about 51 percent who use Facebook. If your brand plans on targeting Millennials and Generation Z, it’s clear that Instagram is where you’ll find your audience.

It’s also worth noting the changes that Instagram ads have undergone over the years, with video now more fully integrated into the advertising experience than ever. There’s good reason for the rise of Instagram video ads — according to the social media company’s own numbers, video viewing time increased by 80 percent between 2016 and 2017 alone.

Needless to say, if you want to reach a younger, highly-engaged audience, Instagram video ads are a great marketing tool — here are some advertising guidelines that I’ve found to be most effective in delivering a strong ROI for your brand:

Utilize Different Video Ad Options

A basic Instagram video ad is a great starting point, but it’s far from the only option available. Depending on your campaign goals or the type of story you wish to tell, other video advertising options will likely prove even more effective.

For example, you can use a video carousel ad so that users can swipe through a series of videos that have been shared as part of a single post. This is a great way to highlight multiple products that are currently on sale or provide a helpful “how-to” ad featuring a tutorial for one of your products or services.

For limited-time offers or special sales, a Stories ad or Canvas ad could be even more effective. Stories ads are visible for 24 hours, after which they disappear, making them a great way to create a sense of urgency for a special promotion. These full-screen video ads also make it easy to get customers to your site by swiping up — no call to action button needed. 

Story ads have been found to be especially effective at generating a high clickthrough rate thanks to their more immersive approach and the sense of urgency created by their fleeting nature.

Capture Users’ Attention In the First Seconds

When I scroll through my own Instagram feed, most posts will have only a few moments to capture my attention — and the same is true of your customers. This makes the initial seconds of your video ad of the utmost importance.

So what can you do to increase your chance of hooking your viewers? It helps to keep content from looking like an ad. If a video ad looks more like the relevant content that users engage with on an everyday basis, they will be more likely to watch.

You also need to make sure that viewers can immediately recognize that your ad is a video — otherwise, they’ll keep scrolling. Even a tiny hint of movement in the first seconds of your ad will be enough to signal that your content isn’t a photo. Following that initial movement with engaging, relevant ad content that stays focused on a single product, idea, or call to action will keep viewers watching until the end.

Finally, you can’t ignore some of the unique aspects of posting a video to Instagram. Videos that appear in a standard Instagram feed use a 1:1 square ratio. Stories, on the other hand, utilize full-screen vertical video. Filming with the proper aspect ratio in mind will streamline the editing process and help you create more visually striking content that immediately captures a viewer’s attention.

Unleash the Power of Captions

Video has long been viewed as an experience that combines both audio and moving images. But for someone browsing through their Instagram feed on their smartphone, the audio portion is often neglected.

The average person doesn’t want sound to suddenly blast out of their phone because they scrolled past an ad, and as a result, Instagram ad settings require that users physically tap on their screen to start playing sound.

If you’re like me, you’ll often be scrolling through your Instagram feed in a public place where you don’t want to play sound. Using captions in the video itself is a great way to ensure that your message doesn’t get lost.

This doesn’t mean that you have to create word-for-word captions for the entire video. Many brands find success by overlaying key pieces of text over certain parts of the ad, or by alternating between text-only images and normal video. The key is that you should still be able to effectively communicate your message without sound. Don’t forget about adding a compelling caption that incorporates your call to action below the video!

Create a Mobile-Friendly Landing Page

A great Instagram video ad isn’t enough on its own …

It needs to be paired with an equally engaging landing page. You don’t want customers to click through to your site after viewing your video, only to click away moments later because the page isn’t optimized for mobile users or because the content appears irrelevant.

You can get around this hurdle by using responsive web design, but this isn’t the only step in creating an attractive landing page for Instagram leads. In my experience, someone coming from Instagram probably isn’t going to want to read through huge blocks of text — they’re going to bring that same “scrolling” mentality from when they first stumbled upon your ad.

For best results, your landing page should be relatively light on content. Text should be limited to bullet points or short paragraphs, paired with vibrant, attractive images related to the video ad. One-step conversion buttons for key calls to action like signing up for a free trial or placing an order for a product will also streamline the experience and increase your likelihood of achieving your campaign goals.

Start Advertising

Your audience is out there — you just have to reach them.

By creating high-quality Instagram video ad campaigns, you will better appeal to the highly engaged users of this social media platform. With the right videos, you’ll be well on your way to seeing the growth your brand hopes to achieve.

*Image Credit:

-Featured Image, Pexels

This Marketing Medium Will Prove to Be a Game-Changer for Your E-Commerce Store

Would you use a medium that had a 98 percent open rate? One that’s guaranteed to reach people wherever they are and whatever they’re doing? How much effort would you put into a marketing medium like that?

That medium exists, and it’s been around for a while. Yet far too few companies take advantage of the boundless possibilities of this medium — I’m talking about text messaging.

Text messaging is an incredible tool in your marketing toolbox if you harness it right. 81 percent of Americans own a smartphone, and almost 100 percent own a cell phone. SMS marketing has the distinct advantages of brevity, immediacy and reach—you’re giving people a very low-friction message on a medium they’re basically guaranteed to check.

There are two main areas that text messaging can help you cover. Firstly, text messaging allows you to reach both current and prospective buyers with your message. Secondly, text messaging helps you stay relevant in the minds of your customers.

Reaching Prospective and Current Buyers

We have to get one thing out of the way first: sending text messages to people who haven’t opted in is both illegal and bad business. It will get you in trouble faster than just about anything else you can try.

Email marketing has been dealing with the same restrictions, though, and we all know how effective it still is. The opt-in method that email marketing uses works just as well for text message marketing. Give people something that they can use and ask them for their contact information so you can keep them up to date.

Dirty Lemon has used this strategy to great effect with their customers. The wellness drink company has used text messaging as the main platform to grow their customer base, and they’ve built their own in-house platform that allows their customers to use text messaging for everything from ordering to customer service.

They answer tens of thousands of text messages a month, using automation technology to help streamline the process. The capability to reach buyers directly in their pocket — and vice-versa — makes text messaging the powerhouse that’s driven Dirty Lemon’s success.

Ashley Furniture is another company that’s seen success with text message marketing. Through giveaways and a weekly shopping spree, they were able to build up a database of text message subscribers. Once they’d reached a critical mass, Ashley created a “Secret Sale” that was only promoted over SMS and email.

The results?

Ashley received $138,460 in revenue over four days. Over $85,000 of that was attributed to SMS messages. For every dollar they spent, they received $76 via their email campaign — but their text message campaign did even better, with $122 of return for every dollar spent.

Ashley had been a regular buyer of newspaper advertising, but when newspaper advertising began to go downhill, they had to find other avenues. SMS marketing, once derided by executives as “spammy”, now forms a central piece of their marketing mix.

Stay Relevant With Current Customers

After reading some of the statistics and case studies above, it’s clear that text message marketing is extremely effective. And it’s just as effective for keeping up awareness and relevance with your current customers.

Chipotle Mexican Grill was an early and fervent adopter of text messaging to stay in contact with its customer base. Its receipts have long had the SMS short code at the bottom, and they routinely run giveaways, contests and other activities that are centered around the text messaging platform.

There’s a caveat to that, though…

As explained by Fuzz Productions director of business development James McNally in a Retail Dive interview. “What becomes less ideal is maintaining the dialogue between brand and fan through SMS beyond that initial action. The text client is a ‘personal’ space — it’s where parents, significant others, friends, etc. reach us,” he says.

“No surprise that brands want in, but the risk of alienating fans is extremely high … if Chipotle wants to engage users via SMS after the contest, it needs to do so very carefully and tactfully.”

So far they’ve mostly hit the nail on the head. Chipotle doesn’t spam with its campaigns, instead focusing largely on bigger promotions that aren’t so likely to get screened out.

The company has also been smart about using cross-platform strategies for its SMS campaigns, combining email, web, social media and text into effective campaigns. Look at its Tough Mudder campaign for an example.

They offered a massive trip to a Tough Mudder event in Australia as a grand prize, with a year’s worth of free burritos as a runner-up possibility. A custom landing page and email campaign drove engagement through the web as well.

It’s useful for other purposes too. According to one report commissioned by Quiq in 2017, nearly two-thirds of respondents wanted to use mobile messaging to help with a purchase after the fact, not make one. Billing issues, delivery status, troubleshooting, reservations and bookings were among the uses customers wanted from text messaging.

Smart companies can leverage the brevity and immediacy of text messaging to create a quick two-way channel between themselves and their customers. It’s especially important in e-commerce, where you don’t necessarily interact with customers in person through a storefront. If they don’t see you in the physical world, text messaging can help keep you top of mind in a way that other mediums just can’t match.

The Power of Text

Text message marketing is an incredible tool, and it’s still underutilized by many marketers.

Why?

Probably because they’re afraid of screwing it up. Using a tool that has that much penetration carries a bit of risk for turning off buyers entirely. There’s a reason customers are so likely to open messages: because texting is still largely personal.

There also seems to be a little bit of a misunderstanding among small and mid-size businesses of the impact that SMS marketing can have, too. They may think that only large companies can afford to do it.

Or they may not realize how many services are out there focused on providing SMS marketing for smaller businesses. Whatever the reason, it’s a niche that hasn’t seen the degree of attention it should.

Are you using text message marketing?

If you haven’t explored the possibilities, it’s time to start. Establish communication with your customers. See what the incredible open rates and penetration of SMS can do for your business. You might be surprised.

How Voice Search Is Changing The SEO Game

When was the last time you talked to your phone?

If you’re like most people in the developed world, it was probably today. Siri today is far from the disposable novelty most people thought it was; now, talking to your phone or your home speaker is as natural as breathing.

That has huge repercussions for search. ComScore estimates that by 2020, fifty percent of all searches will come via voice. Even more impressive (depending on who you ask), voice shopping is predicted to rise to $40 billion by 2022, with an estimated fifty-five percent rise in smart speakers in homes. It’s obvious at this point where the market is heading.

If you want to stay ahead of the competition, now is the time to be focusing on voice search. You need to know the who, what, when, where, why and how of voice, and have the vision to capitalize on it.

Key Question #1: Who?

Who exactly is using voice search? At the moment, it’s mostly mobile users.

Voice search is integral to mobile search. Twenty percent of all mobile search queries are voice, and that number’s going to keep rising. Smart speakers don’t yet have the penetration of smartphones, so for now, you’re usually dealing with people on the go.

In the future, though, this isn’t going to necessarily be the case. We’ve already seen how significantly smart speaker penetration is supposed to rise. That’s going to mean more people using voice search for things they used to do through their computer.

For the moment voice search leans towards mobile. You can’t forget about the home user, though, especially if you’re keeping an eye towards the future.

Key Questions #2 and #3: What and When?

What are people doing with voice search? And when are they using it?

That voice search is most likely to be someone looking for local results — more than three times as likely. Google Voice Search statistics show that Google in particular is used mostly for local information. Those include movie times, “near me” searches, directions and other obviously mobile queries.

These queries have high intent, contain more conversational words and tend to be longer. Typed searches are usually two to three words, while voice searches are usually five to seven.

There’s an immediacy to voice search that isn’t always there with text search; with high intent, very local queries and a clearer focus on what’s wanted, voice is narrower and more clearly defined. They’re not looking to browse your website. They want to call you, or find your business, or see what’s available in the area.

That can be an opportunity.

Even more than text search, voice search is a chance to grab people’s attention immediately with high intent. The hard part is making sure you show up when people are looking.

Key Question #4: Why?

Why use voice search instead of text search?

Noted entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has been talking about voice search for a few years now, mainly because of one characteristic: lack of friction. In an interview with Paul Cutsinger at CES 2018, Vaynerchuk noted that “Alexa and voice is the future of a frictionless world.”

That’s one of the biggest factors that drives voice search — it’s just plain easier. The high number of searches for directions are tied in to that; if you don’t have to use your hands to search while driving, your phone suddenly becomes a much more powerful tool.

Second screening is also a significant driver of voice search, especially for teens. Almost sixty percent will search via voice while watching TV or doing other leisure activities.

One thing to keep an eye on moving forward is voice search’s grasp of context, with Google undoubtedly leading the pack on this front. With the Hummingbird update, Google became far more adept at figuring out intent in sequential searches. It’s still not perfect, but as voice search becomes more of a focus, voice search will become more popular for rapid follow-up questions.

Key Question #5: How?

At this point, it’s clear how important voice search is.

We know why people are using it, what they’re looking for, and the way they want to get there. Now we come to the million-dollar question: How do I capitalize on this?

There are some very easy tips you can do to make sure you’re voice-optimized going forward:

• Make more specific, smaller content. Voice search is much more likely than regular search to pull from a feature (particularly on Google). If you can get your content in a featured box on the page, you’re ahead of the game. Tagged micro-data can allow you to grab attention that would otherwise never come to your website. Expect less people to actually go to the content itself in the future, with more of them accessing it through voice search.

• Use question-based and long-tail queries to optimize your content. Most of your voice search queries will fall in this bucket, rather than the shorter, more general keywords that might get you better results on desktop. Voice search optimization is basically the same for these as it is for regular SEO, with the caveat that you’ll probably need to make them longer than you would for desktop.

• Organize, organize, organize. Neil Patel recommends using specific markup language and submitting a sitemap to Google — this will help with traditional SEO as well.

• Claim your My Business page. Google’s My Business is one of the biggest keys to voice search. Making sure you have the right category, the right phone number, high-quality photos and an up-to-date listing could be the difference between showing up immediately on voice search or not showing up at all.

• When you write long-form content, answer a common voice-search question. This may take some doing, but doing some keyword research on very long tail keywords, especially those that take the form of a question, can make your content pop up on voice search where it wouldn’t otherwise. This, again, will also help you with your regular SEO.

• Be mobile-friendly. Your site should be mobile-friendly already, with low load times and an adaptive design; this will be even more key moving forward, as more search goes mobile.

In general, if you’re doing good work on your SEO already, voice search isn’t going to change much of what you’re doing. It just requires some tweaking to make it more specific to the way people use voice. Figure out what people are searching for, then constantly keep refreshing that list.

Consistency is key in any SEO strategy, and that goes for voice as well as text.

No matter what your business, you can use the power of voice search to drive high-intent traffic to your content. Voice search is getting more important by the day, and today is the time to start optimizing for it.

Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.