The Current State of Marketing and Sales

The Current State of Marketing and Sales

Buying Behavior is Changing Rapidly

Consumer buying behavior is changing constantly, depending on the latest devices, technology or economic conditions. As professional marketers I believe it’s our job to have a pulse on this buying behavior. It’s our job to sift through the information and distill it in a way that helps your organization make more informed marketing, sales and business decisions.

Things have been unfolding at a rapid pace the past few weeks. Let me share a few insights that we’ve garnered from conversations and other resources:

  • In general, internet traffic has increased by roughly 50 percent.
  • Organic traffic and conversions are a bit of a mixed bag. It really depends on the industry.
  • The pandemic is rapidly shifting buying behavior. There’s obviously been an uptick in online purchases and 13 percent of consumers are using this opportunity to discover new brands.
  • The cost of digital ads like those on Facebook or Google Ads has fallen significantly. We’re seeing some clicks cost as little as three cents.

With some industries booming and others at a standstill, you might be wondering what your marketing and sales looks like in the coming months. In my last article, I wrote about the importance of continuing to market, but I want to take a closer look at what exactly that means.

Right now, experts and economist predict that consumer spending will resume anywhere within three to 18 months. You should be working now to prepare for that uptick because the most successful organizations see big wins during the upswing, not when the economy is at its peak.

Selling When Few are Buying

For many industries, now is not the time to sell. Simply put, many companies are not making purchases – or at least large purchases outside of immediate COVID-19 needs.

Rather than selling, focus on building relationships. If you look at any sales cycle, cultivating initial rapport with a lead or prospect is step number one. Building rapport is nothing more than making a connection with someone and establishing a relationship – that’s what you need to work on right now.

In the near term, your goal should be to remain top of mind. Demonstrate that you’ll be available when the customer or client is ready to buy.

Strengthening Your Marketing

If you’re not generating significant sales right now, strengthening your marketing should be a priority. Here are a few steps to take.

Revisit your target market. I harp on this one quite a bit, even when business is smooth sailing. Remember that the best marketers have a strong understanding of their audience. Use this time to clarify who you need to reach and how.

Identify your ROI positive channels. Rand Fishkin used this phrase in his latest Whiteboard Friday and it perfectly sums up how to approach any active marketing campaigns.

You don’t want to blanketly cut your budget.  Instead understand what’s working and what’s not. Analyze specific campaigns or keywords to understand what can be temporarily paused and what can continue to run so you maintain visibility. 

Continue to leverage your subscriber list. This is another thing I harp on constantly on our podcast! Your subscriber list is your biggest marketing asset. Make sure you remain in communication with the individuals who actively want to hear from you.

Use this time to educate and prepare for future marketing.  If you are slower than usual, it’s a great time to educate yourself on channels or tools that you’re not actively using. Maybe that’s Google AdWords or YouTube. You don’t need to become an expert, but it’s wise to have a basic working knowledge of the tools available.

Now is also a great time to revisit your past content and understand what can be updated or re-purposed. Ensure your content is ready when people start buying again because they will, and they’ll be looking for thought leaders like you.

Many organizations don’t know how to market during times of uncertainty. If you have questions or want to discuss next steps, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Marketing During COVID-19: Advice and Best Practices

Marketing During COVID-19: Advice and Best Practices

Organizations Can Not Only Survive, But Thrive

In April of 2009, I took a crazy leap of faith and started Hersh PR and Marketing. I was 23 years old, essentially fresh out of college and I had no idea how the Great Recession would play out. Fast forward to 2020 and it’s become clear that many of the lessons I learned in the early years of my business can be dusted off and applied once again.

Unexpected events such as floods, earthquakes or epidemics can rattle even the most prepared business. The events that have unfolded in the past several weeks have demonstrated that it’s important to have well-document strategies for your business that are based on sound data and can be revised quickly as economic conditions shift. 

During this time, I suggest that you have the right individuals participating during your internal conversations about business strategy and marketing. Be mindful that your initial reactions can and will affect the perception of your organization and it’s smart to have an external (third-party) voice participate in these conversations.

Don’t Exploit the Situation

I’m not a fan of (extreme) fear-based marketing tactics* and now is certainly not the time to capitalize on people’s fear. Attempting to make a quick buck as a result of COVID-19 is extremely short-sighted. Play the long game (more on that below) and be very mindful of the messages you’re distributing.

Don’t Stop Marketing

It’s easy to “turn off” your marketing. It’s extremely difficult to rebuild your momentum when you attempt to turn it back on. Studies going as far back as the 1920s indicate the advantages of maintaining or even increasing your marketing budget during a weak economy.

The relative noise level in your particular industry might drop as competitors cut their budget, creating an opportunity for you. This is also a great time to project stability and strength.

As my long-time business advisor Ron Finkelstein said, “I’ve seen companies cut marketing in times of crisis and it’s the single biggest mistake they can make.”

Think Long-Term

It might be tempting to focus time and money into short-term sales and promotions. But for many businesses that’s either not an option or could result in long-term damage to their brand.  Consider retailers like J. Crew and Banana Republic. During the Great Recession, they conditioned consumers to never-ending sales. Ten years later they continue to struggle to sell items at full price.

For many of Hersh PR’s service-based business clients, offering discounts would immediately cheapen the brand. Right now, it’s wise to focus on brand-building initiatives that support your mission. Remember that clients will return and will be in need of your products and services.

Flex Your Creative Muscles

Over the past week, I’ve witnessed some incredibly creative marketing – virtual bingo on Instagram, video trainings and businesses supporting those out of work.

Now is the time to flex your creative muscles. Try something you’ve been thinking about for ages but didn’t have the time to implement. Create the video you’ve been brainstorming, but perhaps held-off because you wanted the production value to be “perfect.”  Leverage the resources you have and market heavily to your existing clients. They need, and probably want to hear from you.

Many organizations don’t know how to market during times of uncertainty . If you have questions or want to discuss next steps, don’t hesitate to contact us.

*Generating action such as a phone call or a sale from potential clients will involve a level of healthy fear. For example, you can give clients a feeling of exclusivity without using doom and gloom.

5 Easy Ways to Generate More Website Traffic

5 Easy Ways to Generate More Website Traffic

After your website has been designed (or redesigned) and been successfully launched, it’s everyone’s hope that visitors start flocking to it immediately.

In reality, the concept of “build it and they will come” doesn’t always work.  The Internet is a crowded place.  You have to work hard to get your message and your brand in front of consumers.

Even if you’re getting a decent amount of traffic to your site, the more (quality) traffic you generate will help increase the number of leads and conversions.  Luckily, there are some fairly simple ways to actively drive more traffic to your website.

Generating More Traffic to Your Website

The first step in driving more traffic to your website is to identify your target audience.

Who are you trying to reach? Who is your best potential customer?

It’s recommended to create at least three different buyer personas/target audiences so you can align any type of advertising campaign with your target audience. Once you’ve pinpointed your personas, you can create customized campaigns designed to bring that audience to your website.

Here are five easy ways to generate more website traffic:

Facebook Advertising

Facebook has made it simple to advertise to a very specific audience. While having an engaging Facebook page is an important element to your marketing efforts, you can also designate a modest budget for getting more clicks to your website with Facebook ads. Choose the option of “Clicks to Website” from Facebook ads manager, and you’ll easily be walked through the ad creation process.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising with Google AdWords

Using Google AdWords, you can set an advertising budget and only pay when people click on your ads. You’ll need to choose the proper keywords to bid on and create ad text around them. These ads will appear at the beginning of the Google search results page when people search for the terms you’ve identified.

Guest Blogging

When you’re an expert in something, lend your skills to others! Reaching out to provide a blog post on another reputable website will help lead visitors back to your own site while helping to build your brand and prove your expertise.

LinkedIn Pulse Articles

LinkedIn is the world’s largest professional network on the internet, and LinkedIn Pulse is their award-winning daily news application. Pulse allows members to publish and share content to reach their potential audiences at just the right time. As you’re writing and publishing your article, make sure to backlink to your website and your own blog.

Email Newsletters

Providing a monthly email newsletter is also a great way to drive more traffic to your website. Just one successful email blast can result in a nice uptick in traffic, and you can also provide a form on your website for visitors to easily subscribe.

If you’re looking for more customers, increasing the traffic to your website is the first step to generating results. If you need help with any of these strategies, leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to respond!

The problem with most small business websites + how to fix it

The problem with most small business websites + how to fix it

You know that having a website is an essential element of your marketing strategy.  But just having a presence online isn’t enough to get the results you’re seeking; your website needs to do more than just exist.  It needs to attract your target audience, engage them, educate them, and convince them to buy from you.

The problem with most small business websites is a lack of engagement. People visit your site and don’t get “pulled-in” with an interesting or relevant message. As a result, visitors leave and never come back.

Estimates say that 75% to 85% of people who visit your site will never return.  That means you spent a lot of time and money developing a website that makes a terrible first impression.

Or you spent a ton of time developing and launching a website, and haven’t bothered to update in months or even years. (check out this article to understand why frequent website updates are important.)

If you’re curious about the level of engagement on your site, take a look at your bounce rate in Google Analytics – this is one of the metrics you should be checking regularly. Anything over 70% is much too high. Ideally you want to see a number between 30% and 55%

Basically, just having a website that is easily found online is simply not enough. Visitors need to have a reason to stay on your site.

Getting visitors to stay on your site

Regardless of whether you’re building a new website from scratch or considering a redesign, there are certain key elements to include. Remember, your website is a representation of your company.  The overall design and color scheme is important, as is the message/content.

Visitors will take note of your company’s credibility, professionalism, and stability from the moment they land on your website. They’ll want to feel welcomed and know they’re in the right place to get their questions answered or their problems solved.

Getting visitors to stay on your site and connect with your brand means you must:

  • Have an understanding of your customers/clients pain points and how you solve them
  • Have an understand of the journey they take in order to solve these pain points
  • Then you’ll align your website and sales process with this journey (also known as the buyer’s journey)

If you’re thinking “I just built a website so I’d have something out there for people to find,” then it’s no wonder why your website doesn’t generate leads for your company!

Remember that a website is always in development.  The time and energy you spent on your current website was not wasted – it’s a place to start. Now you need to update your site so it’s helping you generate and nurture leads.

Elements of a great website

In addition to having a very clear and concise message, the visual and technical components are important as well.

A study conducted by Stanford University found that the visual design of a website is the first indicator of a site’s credibility.  Make sure your site’s design is consistent.  Take care to use the right types of images. Stock images are acceptable, but make sure they represent your company accurately.

Make sure you have clear navigation at the top of the site.  Visitors shouldn’t have to think too much about where they need to go; good navigation will lead them throughout the site naturally.

Finally, make sure your site is accessible for all users, regardless of what browser they’re using or what application they’re in. Your website needs to be mobile and tablet-friendly, too!

Remember, along with these design elements, the content on your site will ultimately convince visitors of your credibility. Keep your content organized and useful so your customers don’t abandon your site to move on to a competitor’s.

Have more questions about your website content or design? Leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to respond!

25 website must haves

Why Website Content Matters + How to Update It

Why Website Content Matters + How to Update It

Do you want a website that converts traffic into leads?  You should be nodding your head in agreement.  You should also be seriously evaluating the content and the message your website communicates.

Your website is more than a digital brochure that potential clients might peruse at their leisure. This is an important step in the sales process – or what we call the buyer’s journey.

It’s important because it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, expertise and capabilities.  Buyers who are just starting to do their research are looking for some preliminary insight on their problem (i.e. – reading blogs and downloading checklists and tip sheets.)

Other buyers who are closer to making a purchase will take a detailed look at the products/services you offer (i.e. – evaluating the benefits and reading testimonials.)

If you’re thinking to yourself, “crap, my website is so outdated it’s embarrassing,” you’re not alone.

Many small business owners launched their website a few years ago and haven’t bothered to update it since.  This means product/service descriptions are outdated and what you’re actually saying and delivering to the client has changed.

It creates a disconnect for your clients and hurts the brand you’ve spent so much time building.

The bottom line is that along with having a great design for your website, it’s also vital that the information you’re providing is high-quality, relevant, and can convert visitors to your site into customers.

Quality content on your website

So, what kind of quality content should be included on your website? First of all, it should be unique.  This will help with your search engine ranking, and it will also set you apart from the competition.

Second, you have to appeal to your target market, or what we call buyer personas.  The content you publish should inspire them to take action.

In order to demonstrate that you’re the expert, you’ll want to provide statistics, case studies and testimonials. Your content should be educational and written in a way that people can easily understand; in other words, don’t sound like a robot and limit the use of jargon.

Finally, the content on your site should also be fresh and updated often. If a potential customer lands on your home page only to find the information is three years old, they probably won’t continue much further along the buying cycle.

Your content should:

  • Be uniquely you
  • Appeal to your audience
  • Demonstrate that you’re the expert
  • Be updated regularly

Keeping the content on your site updated regularly

Developing the messaging for your website shouldn’t be done on a whim.  This takes careful planning. You’ll want to consider your goals, target markets and your unique selling proposition.  These are also a few of the components in a marketing strategy – you may want to spend time updating that as well to make sure everything is consistent across all channels.

Adding quality content to your site does take some time and effort, but the results can be well worth it.  If it’s done correctly, you’ll see improved engagement on your website and an improvement in your search rankings.

For years I touted blogs as the go-to source for fresh content on a website.  While I still think blogging is important, it’s not the only type of content you should consider.  You might also want to publish:

Remember, the types of content you publish regularly need to align with your buyer persona and your sales process.

You can keep organized with a content and promotions calendar.  You might also consider delegating some of these tasks to a marketing agency or consultant because you may not have the expertise in-house to do this effectively.

Final thoughts

Remember, the content on your site should be clear and concise and the value you offer should be front and center.  With search engines getting smarter and buyers getting more selective, it is the content that will ultimately turn a prospect into a lead, and then into a valuable customer.

Have more questions about publishing quality content on your website? Leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to respond!

5 danger signs

3 reasons why delegating your marketing to your admin staff is a big mistake

3 reasons why delegating your marketing to your admin staff is a big mistake

As business owners, we’re always trying to work efficiently with the time we have.  The best way to do this is to delegate various tasks to our support staff.

I do this all the time with tasks like proofreading, email follow-up and social media scheduling.  It allows me to focus on more important revenue-generating tasks like campaign strategy for clients or marketing for the agency.

But there are some tasks that your support staff is just not equipped to do. Marketing is one of those tasks. Sure, your team will be part of the process and can help with some of the execution, but they shouldn’t be solely responsible for the growth of your company or organization.

Here are three reasons why your administrative staff shouldn’t be running your marketing campaigns:

Reason #1 – They aren’t marketing experts

Marketing is a bit of an art and a bit of a science.  You must have a good understanding of consumer behavior, buying trends and what’s going to make someone take action (i.e. – move them from a visitor to a lead to a customer.)

Developing lead generation campaigns that get measurable results comes with experience.  Relying on someone who has executed one or two campaigns won’t provide the level of insight and confidence you need in your marketing.

Research from Capgemini Consulting (PDF) indicates that 90% of companies lack the necessary digital skills to run effective marketing campaigns.  This includes the areas of social media, mobile marketing, process automation, campaign performance monitoring and analysis.

Remember, it’s about leads, customers and a return on your investment (ROI).

Reason #2 – Technology moves too fast to keep up

On any given day, I might get the office and find a new update from Google or Facebook.  It’s my job to understand these changes and how they might affect our clients.

And the effects might not be evident right away – it might take some additional testing to learn more.

Unless your support staff is willing to take on this responsibility for all the channels you want them to manage, they shouldn’t be running your marketing.

Reason #3 – They don’t have time to do it effectively

Think about the reasons you hired your support staff.  Perhaps it was because you needed someone to schedule appointments, answer the phone or assist with the product or service you deliver.

That’s important work, and I’m guessing it keeps them pretty busy.  Is it really wise to give them more work?  Or will you be spreading them too thin?

What’s the solution?

It seems like delegating your marketing and lead generation to your support staff is an ideal solution to ensure the phone is ringing.  But in reality they probably lack the expertise and the time to do it right.

It’s a better use of your time and money to hire an expert who knows what they’re doing.  It will certainly be an investment, but one that can also save you money in the long run.  Hiring a digital marketing agency takes some careful considerations so check out this blog article for additional insight.

Have more questions about hiring a marketing agency? Leave a comment below and we’ll be sure to respond!

25 website must haves