Whether you’re starting a new business or running an established organization, one of the major dilemmas you need to address is determining the appropriate budget for marketing. After all, you don’t want to invest heavily in developing a hip, niche product, only to end up with a fantastic product in your hands without the go-to market plan and promotional means to drive awareness and sales.
In the mid-90s, Steve Jobs took Apple Inc. (which was on the brink of extinction) and turned it into one of the most valuable brands in the world. Jobs understood that a strong brand and marketing strategy is a powerful asset and a vital role in the success of any business. Today, Apple is one of many successful companies that spends more on marketing and sales than they do on research and development.
However, unlike Apple and other global corporations, many small businesses struggle to balance between spending on marketing versus other functional needs due to limited resources and capacity. This is why it is important to take time to evaluate your marketing objectives and to prioritize specific marketing initiatives to maximize your returns. Below, we will break down the marketing budget and discuss where to allocate your resources to optimize your marketing plan.
Before You Start
Refer to your marketing plan, if available. There are a few questions that you need to answer before you begin to set your marketing budget:
There are 6 common approaches to setting a marketing budget:
1. The random allocation approach—Possibly the most common method. Businesses that use this method follow no marketing strategy or plan. Budget is allocated based on impromptu efforts: “We need more sales; let’s have a campaign!”.
2. Keeping up with the Jones approach—Matching what the competitors are spending or reacting to a competitor’s increase in marketing efforts. Keep in mind that it is very difficult to establish what competitors are spending or how efficiently their budgets are being used.
3. The last year’s budget approach—Many organized businesses look at previous budgets and make upward or downward adjustments based on their evaluations.
4. The percentage of turnover approach—Organizations that use this method strive to establish an accepted marketing spend based on percentage of turnover (sum of money that the organization has collected from its normal business practices such as sale of goods and services). The generally accepted spend for a business in a steady state is 5%-8% of turnover and higher for new businesses or if there is a need to open a new market.
Note: If there are major changes in strategy, do not base your budget on previous budgets as those are likely to be irrelevant.
5. The task orientated approach—This method involves looking at your strategy and tallying up the costs of all planned marketing activities to arrive at the marketing budget. This may create a figure that you are not comfortable with, but it is the most strategic method.
6. The hybrid approach—Many businesses will incorporate several of these methods to come up with a realistic and flexible marketing budget that matches strategy with affordability.
Two Other Considerations
Aside from selecting the appropriate budgeting approach, you also need to think about what you’re really investing in. Remember that advertisements, trade shows, social media, mobile apps, etc. are only tools to help you gain and retain customers. Thus, your first consideration should be “how much is a customer worth?”
The most straightforward way to calculate customer lifetime value (CLV) is to subtract the revenue you earn from a customer by the money spent on acquiring and serving that customer, where the total revenue you can expect to get from each customer is your average order value divided by one minus the repeat purchase rate.
Let's say that the value of an average ticket at your establishment is $35 and anytime someone makes an order there is a 15% chance of the customer coming back and making a repeat purchase. Let's also assume that it costs you $10 to acquire each new customer. (Figures are purely assumptions for demonstration purposes.)
Thus, CLV = [$35 / (1 - 0.15)] - $10 = $31.17
The second consideration is “what is the average conversion rate from inquiry to customer?”
Conversion rates (CR) are calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the number of total impressions, then multiply by 100.
Your site had 2,000 visitors last month and produced 125 sales. (Figures are purely assumptions for demonstration purposes.)
Thus, CR = 125/2,000 x 100 = 6.25%
Knowing your CLV and CR helps to set the upper limit of your marketing budget. Obviously, your budget should stay below your total expected CLV, but if your conversion rates are high, you can allocate more resources on the driving channel. The point is that a marketing budget should not be perceived as an expense towards a single, immediate sale; rather, it is an investment in acquiring and keeping a customer for the long-term.
By this point, you’re probably still wondering how much other organizations are spending on marketing to gain a point of reference. The answer is: It varies by industry.
Below are some figures gathered in a 2017 CMO survey published by the American Marketing Association.
Percent of revenue by industry:
The SBA recommends that small businesses with revenues less than $5 million should allocate 7-8 percent of their revenues to marketing. This budget should be split between brand development costs (promotion channels such as website, blogs, sales collateral, etc.) and the costs of promoting the business (campaigns, advertisements, events, etc.). This percentage assumes that your profit margin falls within the range of 10-12 percent.
Where to Spend
Using the SBA recommendation as a reference point, you may want to consider setting a 5% of revenue marketing budget for your regular marketing activities, with added spending on periods that require extra marketing efforts to meet changes in strategy or to upgrade/enhance your marketing foundation.
In general, your marketing foundation should include:
Essentially, your marketing foundations consist of establishing your brand, defining your missions and values, and building your basic communication platforms. Efforts toward building and maintaining your marketing foundations fall under brand development. You may also use budgeting approaches 3, 4, or 5 to determine the appropriate amount for your marketing foundations.
Depending on your industry, you may need to invest more in promotional campaigns during certain seasons or years to capitalized on additional traffic. You may also choose to run a couple of spontaneous campaigns to temporarily boost your sales. This is where you can tap into the remaining 2-3 percent of your marketing budget, or implement budgeting approach 1 or 2 to meet your marketing needs.
Separating your marketing budget into brand development and promotional campaigns helps to maintain a degree of flexibility and bridge strategy with affordability.
Finally, you need to determine whether you should use an in-house marketing team or outsource your marketing projects to an external agency.
In-House Marketing Team vs External Agency
While having a team of marketers in-house allows for greater control and access to marketing personnel, finding talented marketers takes significant upfront time and monetary investment, not to mention the ongoing costs or salaries, training, benefits, and technology infrastructure upkeep. Additionally, internal marketers are expected to stay on top of industry trends which may be challenging when they’re also fulfilling other responsibilities as full-time employees.
External agencies not only provide expertise on the subject matter, they also focus on all aspects of cutting-edge marketing practices and trends. Therefore, instead of getting sidetracked by your organization’s corporate culture, an external marketing team serves to enhance to your marketing visions and maximize your marketing capacities. Finally, agencies may be hired on a per-project basis, which makes them more affordable than a year-round, in-house marketing team.
Many types of marketing agencies exist in the marketplace, each with different sets of competencies, culture, and practices. Make sure you thoroughly interview each firm to discover the best fit for your needs and budget.
Setting your marketing budget may be a daunting task, but it is a necessary step to achieving marketing and business strategy synergy. Remember to reference your marketing plan before, during and after setting you budget, choose the appropriate budgeting approach, separate your budget for brand development and promotional campaigns, and consider outsourcing your shortcomings to the experts. Talk to a marketing specialist today to find out how you can increase the return on investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts. Most importantly, treat your marketing budget as an investment towards gaining and keeping long-term customers.
Originally published on Vervoe.
It’s a much-debated topic and a growing trend, but most companies still don’t seem to take a deliberate approach to flexible working. Instead, they just offer a vague middle ground of “flexible working” on a case by case basis.
There are strong arguments for encouraging remote working and, conversely, arguments for bringing everyone together under the one roof. As recent examples highlight, there is no “one size fits all” answer. The key is to tailor your company’s approach to your objectives, operating rhythm, desired culture and workforce composition.
Back to the officeYahoo!
CEO Marissa Mayer famously abolished working from home in 2013, saying that “people are more productive when they’re alone, but they’re more collaborative and innovative when they’re together. Some of the best ideas come from pulling two different ideas together”.
It’s a powerful argument. It also contains an inherent assumption that working from home increases productivity, which may not always be true. But Mayer had to do something to shake up Yahoo!’s culture and she put collaboration ahead of flexibility, which is what she felt the company needed at that point in time.
In 2014 Reddit decided to consolidate its workforce in one location, San Francisco, and abolished remote working. Reddit’s reasons were similar to Yahoo!’s.
More flexible companies
Envato, a marketplace for creative assets, takes a very different approach, explicitly promoting remote and flexible working on its careers site. Remote working, travel, flexible hours, paid parental leave and secondments are just some of the many employee benefits Envato highlights.
Envato’s culture is different to Yahoo!’s and, importantly, its head office is not in Silicon Valley but rather in Melbourne, Australia. Envato chooses to promote flexibility and optionality as important features of its culture.
Automattic, the company that developed WordPress, is another company that promotes flexible working, citing talent as its primary reason. Automattic CEO, Matt Mullenweg, said that remote working “… has been amazing for the company in that we can attract and retain the best talent without them having to be in New York or San Francisco or one of the traditional tech centers.”
Automattic uses chat, alerts and an internal blog to communicate effectively and ensures staff are adequately supported with great tools. WordPress is the most dominant content management system in the world so Automattic doesn’t appear to be suffering from a lack of productivity as a result of its remote workforce.
The conclusion is therefore that it’s different strokes for different folks. It depends on your company’s situation and, most importantly, how you execute your desired approach.
Here are some of the questions you should ask before deciding which way to go:
Under the right circumstances, remote working can hugely advantageous. The key is to put the right processes in place and maintain a structure, as Automattic has done. Otherwise it can get messy and very quickly. If executed well, the benefits can be tremendous.
Originally published on Vervoe.
Good hire or bad hire?
You’ve done the hard work, you’ve made the decision and your shiny new hire has finally joined the team.
Great, now what?
So much is written about how to hire great people and what to look for when hiring. But that is merely the start of the journey.
After the hiring decision is made, the work begins. Your team has grown and, at some stage, you’ll need to decide whether the person you recently hired is adding value. If not, it might be time to make some hard decisions, or even revisit your hiring methods.
Here are five powerful indicators that you’ve made the right choice.
“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”
– Abraham Lincoln
There is a lot of talk about hustling in the startup community. It’s a badge of honor. But hustling is not a skill, it’s a behavior. It is therefore a choice.
Every startup hopes its team members will make that choice every day
You can encourage hustling by communicating your company’s vision and values, as well as creating a collaborative and fun work environment.
Without those things, even the best hustler may run out of steam.
When people buy into your company’s vision, they are more likely to become dedicated to your team. A dedicated team member is an excellent outcome, but it takes both sides to make that happen.
Making the right hiring decision isn’t just about hiring someone who is great in isolation. Rather, it’s about hiring someone who is great for your team. In other words, a great hire is someone who will eventually become dedicated to your team.
Dedication looks pretty much like hustling, but it’s sustainable. So look for sustained and purposeful effort. It’s a good indicator of both performance and engagement.
“Initiative is doing the right things without being told.”
– Elbert Hubbard
Having people who can do things well without being told is a gift. In his article, One Behavior Separates The Successful From The Average, Benjamin P. Hardy describes people who take initiative as follows:
“They don’t need to be managed in all things. They don’t just do the job, they do it right and complete. They also influence the direction for how certain ideas and projects go.”
But it’s not enough to just do things well. After all, that’s what is expected. It’s about doing the right things well. Knowing how to prioritize requires good judgment. Initiative coupled with bad judgment can be counterproductive.
When people take initiative, productivity increases and the confidence goes up. Team members know they can rely on each other to get things done.
3. Cultural Stretch
“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.”
– Bruce Lee
In his article, Hire for Cultural Fitness, Not Just Cultural Fit, Gustavo Razzetti argues that good hires should make the culture stretch, not just adapt to it.
That’s a great perspective.
When new hires form independent relationships with other team members, and impact them in a positive way, you can be sure that your culture is stretching. It’s evidence that they are adding something, not just assimilating.
It’s a beautiful thing to see the team growing. Not just in numbers, but in intellectual firepower and curiosity.
Any new hire that makes a contribution to the team’s growth is a leader in the making, if not a leader today.
“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”
– Benjamin Franklin
There is always room for improvement, no matter who you are.
It’s a wonderful feeling to see people improve over time and, for high performers, improvement is not an option, it’s an irresistible desire. In his article, 76% of high-performance employees say trade mastery, not money, most important in career decisions, William Belk argues that “corporate culture and directive”should encourage team members to develop their skills in the pursuit of mastery. This will result in high levels of engagement and sustained innovation.
Improvement is therefore a strong indicator of performance. Assuming people are set up for success, strong team members will look for opportunities to hone their craft. An ethos of continuous improvement needs to be encouraged and, sometimes, leaders may even need to get out of the way to give the team space.
People with a capacity and willingness to improve their skills become more valuable over time. Rather than having their careers developed for them, people who aim for continuous improvement create opportunities for themselves. For companies who believe in empowering their teams, constantly-improving team members are obvious assets.
“Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.”
– Boris Pasternak
Trying to hire people who will surprise us is a contradiction in terms. We hire people to perform certain tasks and we expect them to perform those tasks very well. High performers may exceed our expectations in the quality of their work, but that’s not what I’m referring to here.
Every so often, people do things that catch us off guard. These acts of wonder cannot be found in a job description, they require skills that we don’t necessarily associate with the person who surprised us, and they are not things we would have thought to do ourselves.
It’s something intangible, and there is no point looking for it. But when it happens, we know that we have someone special on our hands. We got more than we bargained for.
Then, You Know It’s Real
“To be natural is such a very difficult pose to keep up.”
– Oscar Wilde
When I reflect on the five indicators of a sound hiring decision – dedication, initiative, cultural stretch, improvement and surprise – what stands out is just how human they are. They are, more or less, what Seth Godin would call “real skills”.
That doesn’t mean that technical skills, which Godin calls “functional skills”, aren’t valuable. Of course they are. They are the baseline, the minimum standard.
But it’s the “real skills” that make a new hire stand out. They influence how the work is done, the impact on the rest of the team and the propensity for growth.
When the time comes to assess a hiring decision, it is helpful to look beyond how individual tasks are performed and see each new hire through through a “real skills” lens. In addition to an assessment of performance right now, you’ll get a strong indication of what you’re likely to see in the future.
Editor's Note: This is a collaboration piece with Emily Bartels from Constant Clicks.
Whether you’re new to business or a seasoned entrepreneur, outsourcing marketing activities is a great way to increase your capacity and improve your project execution. But what are the most effective ways to outsource? What resources should be outsourced, and what should be done by you? Read on to find out the top marketing activities to outsource.
Your logo appears on everything that your company puts out, so if you don’t have a professional designer, you should definitely outsource to a marketing agency to find one that best fits you. A skilled designer will have a better eye for this rather than, say, relying on someone who has never done it. Logos mean a lot since they’re an integral part of the public's perceptions of your company. Being able to have your brand value aptly communicated in your logo is essential, and it’s a marketing activity that should definitely be outsourced to the right people. That is to say, don’t just give it to a friend simply because they have a graphic design degree; go to a marketing professional.
Creating images takes a long time, about thirty or so minutes (longer if it's your first time). That's a lot of time to be used on just one task, and if you’re the one running an entire company, that certainly is a waste of resources. If you want pretty images for your business, consider outsourcing this task to save on effort and time. Plus, with the right designer, you’ll get the quality content you need to engage your audiences.
Assets for the Brand
This means any business cards, printed materials, whitepapers, and sales/marketing items with your business name slathered on it. A professional designer will make sure that everything carries continuity while looking beautiful and polished. You’ll want to make sure that you hire the right kind of freelancer. If you want the project done, and you want it done right, you’ll want someone that is trustworthy. Ask for referrals, read reviews, and check their portfolio of previous works.
When it comes to brand design, don't hire different people for different projects as that may disrupt continuity. Instead, hire a singular designer or an agency that is an expert in the field and can handle anything related to design.
Curating Social Media Content
Curating social media is an important but time-consuming task for any content marketing strategy, but you shouldn’t have to be the one to do it. You should be spending time running and growing your business. Have the outsourced party work on this. Give them clear instructions on the style and format of your content and then let them have it. That way, you’ve got someone growing the social media aspects without you having to devote hours in a week online.
Replying to Comments
If you're on social (as your should be) or run any type of blog, you’re going to realize that replying to comments takes time. If you can, delegate this task to someone else. Whether it’s an assistant or a 3rd party, let them handle it. Even if it’s the mundane task of writing “thanks” to a bunch of different comments, it'll take about 15-30 minutes a day to reply to each comment if you're running multiple blogs plus social media and a couple online review sites. Multiply that by 365 days in a year, and you'll end up with 5,475 minutes a year, or 11.4 days based on 8-hour days. That's a full week's time spent on typing "thanks" on the reply line.
While there are free DIY platforms such as Weebly and Wix, they tend to be generic and require some time to explore. As a business, and especially if you're hoping to generate business leads on the website, you'll want an interface that's professional, polished, and optimized for mobile. Therefore, regardless of which platform you choose to host your website, you want to hire an experienced website designer who is familiar with your industry to ensure that the website is functional, easy to navigate, and aesthetically appealing.
A skilled website designer can create a customized look and make sure everything works as intended. If you're thinking of selling products online, then you should definitely put your money into designers who know exactly what they’re doing.
Search engine optimization is somewhat of a mystery with multiple trials and errors for a lot of people. This whole process, which includes countless hours of keyword research and tracking results, is rather lengthy. Make life easier for yourself and go to an expert for help. SEO optimization, if done right, has a huge impact on the business and will save you so many hours. SEO experts will find the right keywords and phrases to help more potential clients locate you on the google search, and give you the content you need to get people to flock to your site.
And it doesn't stop there. Relevant directories effectively help with NAP citations. However, directory submission takes time and involves lots of forms. If you don’t want to handle all the paperwork, outsource it.
The concept of guest blogging is simple: You write a blog article according to the requirements of a particular blogger and get a backlink in return. Since links are a primary ranking factor in Google, and guest blogging offers a strong opportunity to secure a link back from another website, guest blogging is a commonly used tactic for SEO.
Additionally, guest blogging establishes a relationship with the blogger hosting your post and taps into their audience for additional exposure. This, in turn, not only increases your web traffic but also helps you establish authority among an audience.
Many marketing agencies offer ghost writing services to help you generate quality content and send them out to influential blogs in your industry. They will also help you manage your relationships with other blogs for future partnerships.
Outsourcing is often seen with a downcast eye because people have had bad experiences with outsourcing and many small business owners want to save money by doing everything themselves. However, if you outsource the right projects to the right people, you’ll not only save money and time but also get great results. The level of execution on your marketing projects can make a huge difference for your company. That's why outsourcing the tedious details of running a company’s marketing campaign, including design works, website, content generation, social media management and SEO are considered the best components to outsource to the experts.
About the Guest Author:
Emily Bartels is a Content Writer and Developer at Constant Clicks that helps businesses to grow using digital marketing practices. She has been in this industry for 5+ years and specialises in writing educative content on SEO, Social Media, businesses. She loves to read trending news to keep her updated!
With the drastic increase in mobile usage, Google has been striving to deliver a friendlier mobile experience to its users. The shift from “local 7-pack” to “local 3-pack” is an attempt from the search engine giant to cater to the mobile screens.
This new focus on mobile is urging local businesses to make changes to the way they are conducting their online listing to stay on top of the search. Some small changes in SEO technique could prevent a business from taking a hit on their online visibility due to drops in their search rankings.
What is Google’s “Local 3-pack”?
Simply put, Google used to show the company information, or “cards”, for seven local companies in the search results on the first page; now they’ve trimmed that down to three.
As a result, Google changed the information that users see when they conduct searches for a specific type of business or service. For example, the local cards for the top seven results used to be prominently displayed at the top of the search results; now, the name, reviews and the type of business are displayed for the top three business on mobile. If a user wants more information, they must click on one of the businesses, which leads the user to that business’s local card. If searching from a computer, the local card for the selected business will still be shown but a map will also be displayed along with the contact information and location of 20 other similar businesses.
Google local 3-pack
Map and list of 20 businesses after clicking on the first result of the 3-pack. Contact information for the business appears here
Why it matters?
What Factors Affect Search Results?
The proximity of the user conducting the search is the number one factor in the local three pack rankings. If a user is standing directly outside of a business and searches for what it specializes in, then it’s likely that the business will be the first to show up in the search results. Since users are often at a distant physical location when they do a search on Google where more factors are taken into consideration, we want to explore some of the other factors that affect the search rankings .
Here are 4 tips that you can easily implement to enhance your local ranking on Google:
I. Having up-to-date information about the business on the Google My Business
This means that there should be a good description, as many high-quality photos as possible, the correct telephone number, address and business hours.
Note: For businesses with multiple locations, in the Google My Business listings, the correct phone number for each location should be listed and the name of location should not be included with the name of the business.
Example: A pizza shop located in the town of Carlisle would be called “Two Brother’s Pizza Shop” as opposed to “Two Brother’s Pizza Shop-Carlisle”
Google will check these against local directories and the company’s website to make sure that everything matches. If a discrepancy is found, this could hurt the business’ position in the local rankings. Make sure that this information is correct and up-to-date.
II. Increase your reviews on Google and other directories, such as Yelp.
How to encourage customers to review your business online:
1. Don’t post fake reviews. Google and other websites do have ways to weed out fake reviews and if they find these, your company could drop in the rankings.
2. Actively encourage patrons to review your business. A little bit of tact could be helpful here. If customers feel like you are begging for good reviews, this could hurt your chance of getting a review and paint the business in a bad light in the customer’s eyes.
3. Respond to any negative reviews promptly. It’s important for the business to acknowledge the customer’s complaint and to inquire as to what may be done to fix the problem. If appropriate, the business can work with the reviewer to find a remedy to the situation (and hopefully receive a better review after retaining the relationship).
4. Don’t neglect the positive reviews! Write a quick thank-you note to show your audiences that you appreciate their support.
III. Categorize your company appropriately.
If a company find that it is not doing well in a certain category, one option is to try to specialize the category that your business is under. An example would be changing the category of a grocery store that specializes in selling natural or organic items from “grocery store” to “health food store”.
IV. Have a mobile responsive site.
Google recently started giving preferential treatment to businesses with mobile responsive sites to provide for a better experience when people are browsing the web from their phone.
Getting a top spot in the Google search results takes ongoing efforts on the part of the business. Any changes to business products and services, location, telephone number, or operating hours should be updated immediately to ensure that the most up-to-date information is available. If a company finds that it’s no longer ranking well under a certain category, experiment with different categories and track the results to find out if there is a category that receives a better response. Finally, monitor your online reviews regularly, and quickly respond to any negative reviews.
With some time and effort, businesses can increase their chances in landing one of the top three spots.
What’s your favorite local SEO tip? Please share in the comments below!
Finding the right software to create an infographic that fits your visual storytelling needs can be difficult. Luckily, I tried out some of the top-rated ones for you. Canva, Piktochart, and Visme are highly rated in the IOT, and each one offers a unique experience depending on what you are trying to create, and for whom you are creating it.
I am relatively new to this process of creating infographics, and therefore have an objective view of the three platforms I investigated. If you, like me, need to create graphics fast and easily on platforms that have a short learning curve then I recommend one of these three Canva, Piktochart, and Visme. Each of these platforms offers a free experience along with an upgraded monthly paid for service, which gives you even more content to work with.
For the purposes of this post, I tried each of these platforms in their free mode. Let’s take a more detailed look at the functionality of these websites.
The first thing I would like to mention about Canva is that this platform is not used specifically for making infographics. This site offers a myriad of different templates for creating things like Facebook Posts, Presentations, Logos, Business Cards, and many more. I have been using the presentation portion of Canva for some time now but have never used it for infographics.
When you first visit the Canva page, it offers a very ‘new age’ home screen, and from the start, it is easy to use. After you create an account and choose infographics, they bring you to a page with a blank graphic, and numerous templates to choose from, or you can also choose custom dimensions. The templates are labeled as free, or they let you know how much each one costs to use.
If there is any doubt at this point about how to use this platform, there is a help button at the top left that will help get you back on your way to creating something beautiful.
The features on the left side also offer an elements option which includes things like graphs, royalty-free photos, grids, shapes, illustrations, etc. It then goes down the list to text, which gives you plain text or pre-made groupings to choose from.
You can also change the background of your graphic, and like the templates section, and they offer you multiple free templates from which to choose. Alternatively, you can upload your own design. Designs can be layered or moved from back to front depending on how you want them placed on the graphic.
Canva offers a lot of free content to choose from, and it gives any creator the ability to easily find ways to be creative in their visual story. In the event that the creator wants to collaborate, Canva offers an easy solution. Simply hit the share button and enter people's email addresses, connect it to social media, grab a link, or copy code to embed somewhere. You can also download it as a PNG, JPG, or PDF, along with presenting it straight from the site.
To sum up, here are the pros and cons for Canva:
Canva is by far the easiest infographic platform to use. It is straightforward, easy to find free content to use, offers lots of sharing and downloading options, and easily answers questions during creation. Additionally, I love that it autosaves what you have created in case your cat decides to close the browser for you unexpectedly. Any company should be able to utilize Canva’s free version without really needing to upgrade. Since Canva is so simple and straightforward, it offers a lot of freedom for expression. However, unlike Visme it does not offer video or analytic data. Here is the result:
I would like to mention here that Piktochart also offers multiple presentations. It, however, offers fewer options than Canva. You can create infographics, presentations, and printables, i.e. flyers and posters, although you should check with your printing vendor’s dimensions before choosing their printable templates. You can also expand the bottom of your infographic to make it as long as you like. Canva does not offer this, but Visme does.
After signing up and clicking on the infographic button, they bring you to a page where you have a few templates to pick from. There aren’t as many templates in the free version, and you have to ‘Level Up’ and use the pro version to fully utilize their pre-made layouts. They offer the same categories of items that we saw with Canva, but the graphics you can use are less rudimentary and are more colorful in the free version. You can also upload any image or graphic you want, or choose from for their large collection of free graphics if any sparks your imagination. They have limited offerings of free images, but you can just as easily upload an image from a royalty-free site.
For those of you who have limited design background, Piktochart provides some templates with photos and in color schemes. You can choose the colors around what you want your template to be focused on, and it will automatically change some of the graphics to fit that scheme.
The charts option does require some time for exploration because they offer almost every chart imaginable. You can even upload data from your Google Drive, SurveyMonkey, and Excel. My favorite feature is the chatbot who checks on you throughout your process and is always live to answer any questions you may have.
Overall, Piktochart is easy to use. A few downsides include the inability to collaborate through sharing and limited exporting options under the free version, all of which is available in Canva.
To sum it up, here are the pros and cons for Piktochart.
With what Piktochart offers it seems that any business could utilize this site without having to upgrade. The only issue may be collaboration, sharing, and downloading. This may cause inconveniences for a larger business, but less applicable in a smaller setting. They offer a huge selection of graphics to choose from that will meet any visual storytelling needs. I would consider this and Canva to be almost equal on the learning curve, and both equally as useful in the presentation world. Here is the result:
At first glance, Visme is a website created like Canva. It offers a wide variety of items you can create such as Social Media Posts, Menus, Flyers, Presentations, etc. It offers more items than Piktochart does, including the option to create custom dimensions as well. You can expand the bottom of the infographic to make it as long as you like. A downside is that you can only create a few free graphics before you have to upgrade and pay to create more.
At first glance, this site seems daunting. While it is easy enough to choose the template with which you’d like to start, the tools are labeled in a slightly confusing manner. After clicking on what you need, it brings up a screen that offers some help as to where to find items on their page, but this is hardly helpful. They do have a help section that is easy to find at the top of the page.
After having spent 30 minutes or more, this website is still confusing. It is definitely more difficult to use than Canva or Piktochart. They do offer more features to create advanced infographics, but that also makes their site more complicated to use. They also offer analytical data, which makes their site more valuable if that is what you’re looking for with an infographic.
The elements along the side are set up in the same way as the others, Canva and Piktochart. It includes basics (font/text, graphs, and figures), graphs, data, media, theme, and uploaded files. The downside to their pre-made groupings is that they are difficult to change. However, it is equally as difficult to make your own groupings.
Just like Piktochart, they offer a large quantity of graphics; however, you have to pay for most of the interesting and useful ones. They do offer a library of royalty-free photos to use, which is nice. They boast having a library of over 500,000 photos.
On another note, when you add items to the infographic, they snap to a grid and are nearly impossible to move around without it bringing other objects along for the ride. This interface is difficult to use and not as user-friendly as the other two platforms.
Additionally, the only available free exporting option is JPG. Sharing is also not available under the free version, but you can publish it to the web and get a sharable link.
To sum up, here are the pros and cons for Visme.
Visme is by far the hardest platform to use out of the three. It does offer more features, most of which requires purchasing. The free version is comparable to a demo and not intended for actual business use, especially for a larger organization. The upside to Visme is the built-in analytic data which allows you to see graphic views. Here is the result:
As we can see, none of these platforms hit all the desired points when used for free (which is to be expected), but depending on what you are trying to accomplish, one of them will fit the bill. If you want to pay to use one of them, I would recommend Piktochart because it offers everything Canva does plus video and sound capabilities, with an easy to use interface. Each of these platforms works well and offers a lot. Your preference will depend on your skill level as a designer, what you are looking for in a design platform, and what you are ultimately trying to create.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Ameya Deshpande from Market Inspector.
Chatbots have been the main talking point in last few years in conversational commerce due to the rapid growth in artificial intelligence. They primarily help automate customer support by answering basic queries in a structured way. As they have built-in keyword analysis and natural language processing in some cases, it helps them break down queries in a matter of seconds. In the E-commerce industry, which is an online marketplace of buyers and sellers, chatbots have shown tremendous potential.
In the E-Commerce space, users have become more and more dependent on businesses to guide them all the way through their purchase journey. As many E-commerce websites can have heavy traffic in busy periods, it becomes a challenge to personalise shopping experience for each and every user. This is where chatbots can step in and add value to user’s purchase experience. For instance, many users face issues navigating through a website to reach their desired product. Moreover, the problem is made worse when customer agents are unavailable or not able to give a satisfactory answer. A chatbot that is implemented on a website’s landing page can be perfect tool to guide users to their desired product pages based on their queries. This will help E-commerce websites improve their conversions in the long run. As chatbots are capable of engaging multiple users to answer basic queries, it increases overall efficiency of customer support process as agents can focus on more complex queries which are subjective in nature that chatbots are not capable to answer yet. Thus chatbots add value to customers’ online purchase journey by complementing and working together with the support agents.
As most E-Commerce businesses are driven heavily by shopping seasons, chatbots have also justified their relevance as promotional tools. Many users are unable to make purchase decision and often abandon their shopping cart in the process. Chatbots can turn out to be very useful on a specific pricing page in order to give deals and offers about relevant products that users are searching for. In addition to being very effective marketing tools, chatbots can also be used as a great learning tool to understand your audience and improve user retention in the long run. If chatbots are given a significant role to play further in customer’s online purchase journey, it will enable them to collect statistics on user behavior and collect relevant data. This will be beneficial for businesses to provide more relevant products to its users in the future.
The future of chatbots in customer service is definitely something to look forward to. Due to its cost savings to businesses and ease of use, they have shown great potential in B2B transactions. As more and more websites experiment with chatbots on their website, users will get accustomed to talking to a bot which is also likely to increase their relevance in B2C transactions. The following infographic by Market Inspector will help readers visualize the role of chatbots in optimizing customer’s online purchase experience. It uses the most recent survey results to describe challenges faced by users when interacting with E-commerce businesses and suggesting ways chatbots can increase overall efficiency.
About the Author:
Ameya Deshpande is a Communications Assistant at Market Inspector, a B2B digital marketplace for comparing quotes and offers from a range of suppliers. His work mainly involves content writing and SEO. He graduated with honors from Copenhagen University with a degree in Economics.
See the original article on Market Inspector
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Josh Wardini from 16best.net.
The term ‘Social Commerce’ is a fairly new addition to our daily vocabulary. Unlike the word ‘selfie’ this one doesn’t really have a clear definition in the dictionary yet. However, it is universally accepted fact that it represents another subset of eCommerce, one that involves social media platforms. We’ve already seen how all the different social media sites have slowly been integrating into online marketplace, with their main goal being to get the shoppers to purchase things online using their platforms.
You may be wondering how they do all this. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, there have been ads by Amazon and eBay popping up all over Facebook feeds. The eCommerce giant eBay has also been offering on Twitter eBay discount codes. You can also shop directly via Pinterest and Instagram too. These two different types of platforms - Social Media and eCommerce - are pairing up nowadays. We shouldn’t be really surprised to see on a daily basis more and more influences on our social media coming from eCommerce.
Let’s start with Facebook and their feature Marketplace. According to Facebook, this is a great place where you can buy and sell things in your community. Following this feature, they introduced Messenger Payments, so you can do your shopping smoothly. Lately, we’ve seen the option to buy tickets for various events directly via Facebook, and you can now buy eBay daily deals here as well.
We can also see changes with smaller social media platforms. Before Twitter rolled out their ‘Buy Now’ button, they were increasing profits by alerting users about the latest sales that were happening as they were scrolling down Twitter feeds. Then, Tumblr started allowing their users to shop on their platform via ‘Buy’ button, while Pinterest did something similar by introducing buyable pins. Meanwhile, Shopify and Instagram decided to collaborate and thus Instagram created their shoppable feeds. So, any time you see something you like, on any social media platform, you can just click a button and it’s practically yours!
As for Amazon, one of the biggest eCommerce platforms, they decided to take the route of designing their own social media platform. The idea is obviously derived from Instagram and their feed system, but with the ability to directly make a purchase. They’ve named it Spark.
All of the aforementioned points show us that as soon as social media and eCommerce platforms decided to collaborate on a larger scale, both shoppers and buyers ended up with certain perks. However, the idea behind all this is to promote companies with the goal for further growth, which this is apparently the best way to accomplish this objective at the moment.
One of the perks includes being communicative with your audience via your social media profiles. Your buyers have plenty of questions they are eager to post, and all you have to do is listen and give answers.
Another great perk that you can provide to your audience as a brand is to introduce reviews of your products. You should always aim for great communication and customer service in order to really give your reviews a boost. This way, when people leave reviews of your products, they’ll only have nice things to say, which is going to make your audience even bigger and increase your conversion rate.
Whether you are someone with a brand or just a simple seller, one of your top priorities should be earning plenty of positive reviews of your products. In order to increase your conversion rate, positive reviews can boost it by 133% for mobile shoppers. And if you’d really like to show that you care both about your brand and your buyers, leaving a response to reviews and comments that you receive is also going to improve your brand’s perception in the public, by a whopping 71%.
If you choose to use Facebook, it is also going to translate into a higher conversion rate. This platform is shortly followed by YouTube and Instagram. If you are unsure about how to exactly build a strategy for your social media accounts, try to get some inspiration by looking around and researching the most popular brands and their profiles.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to take advantage of both eCommerce and social media platforms. You just need the right strategy and mindset.
About the Author:
Josh Wardini, Editorial Contributor and Community Manager at 16best.net.
With a preliminary background in communication and expertise in community development, Josh works day-to-day to reshape the human resource management of digitally based companies. When his focus trails outside of community engagement, Josh enjoys the indulgences of writing amidst the nature conservations of Portland, Oregon.
In 2018, having a social media strategy to grow your brand is no longer an option. It is a must. With the plethora of social media channels and contents available today, finding the most effective route to differentiate your business and generate a strong presence may be a daunting task. Here are some ideas to help you get started!
1. Introduce yourself by following and engaging opinion leaders.
Meeting the gatekeepers is the most direct way to enter an industry, and social media is the most convenient way to connect with industry leaders who may otherwise seem unreachable through traditional means. Every industry has its recognized influencers with passionate and loyal followings. By connecting with the leaders, you’ll have an easier time building credibility among their audiences. Just opened a coffee shop? Introduce yourself to popular local cafes. Follow their profiles, interact with their posts, attend their events. Soon enough, you’ll be one of the insiders with a share of their connections.
2. Generate a constant stream of quality contents.
Blog posts, visual posts, videos, links… There are many different forms of contents you can create to attract visitors. The most important thing is whatever you post is what your audiences want to see. Do some research on who your customers are, their trends, interests and concerns, and create contents that meet their needs so they keep coming back for more. Once you created your posts and edited them with care, create a posting schedule to get them out to your readers timely and effectively. Use services like Buffer or Hootsuite to help you manage your social posting timeline.
3. Be human.
Social media consist of two words. Make sure you act the first. The best thing about social media is that it closes the distance between you and your customers. Optimize the customer experience by responding promptly to comments and inquiries. Show them your sincerity and kindness. Share your passion and your sense of humor through your posts. Don’t forget to follow and engage with your follower’s posts too.
4. Post call to action.
A lot of following don’t mean much if you don’t inspire them to act. Incentivize your visitors to like or share your posts to engage and expand your network. Run a small promotion or giveaway to circulate your products. Give your visitors a friendly nudge to make the purchase they are thinking of making anyways. Better yet, create Q&A sessions and contests to generate buzz and awareness. These are great opportunities for your followers to learn more about you and your business.
5. Be yourself.
If possible, don’t outsource your social media marketing. Make your own posts and interact with your customers on your own. Nobody understands and represents your brand better than you. Even if you’re not social media savvy, you can add an original twist that differentiates your business from your competitors by simply being yourself. People will always be responsive to enthusiasm, sincerity and passion.
How do you attract followers on social media? Please share in the comments below!
Is your company struggling to balance its marketing budget between acquisition and retention? According to Invesp, it costs five times as much to attract a new customer, than to keep an existing one. This resonates with the 80/20 rule of marketing investment which states that, in general, 20 percent of marketing messages should produce 80 percent of campaign results. If we further expand this rule by applying it to the customer pyramid, we can conclude that a typical business earns approximately 80 percent of its profits from the top 20 percent of its customer base. On the customer pyramid, this 20 percent would be the platinum customers at the tip of the pyramid; just below are the gold customers who also contribute to profits and might eventually migrate to the platinum group; the next tier is the silver group which may or may not include profit-generating customers (this is your cost conscious group that seeks basic services at minimal costs); finally, at the base of the pyramid lies the unprofitable customers. These customers demand time, resources and services, but are unwilling to pay for them.
This visualization of customer groupings make it obvious that marketing resources should target efforts that move customers upwards to the platinum level and keep them there for as long as possible. An effective retention strategy emphasizes building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with the gold and platinum customers to secure the longevity of the business.
Despite monumental evidence supporting the need for retention oriented strategies, only 18 percent of companies focus on retention, whereas 44 percent of companies have greater focus on acquisition.
This gap provides opportunities for businesses to reevaluate their marketing strategy, and to place more emphasize on customer retention. Being able to accurately calculate your customer lifetime value (CLV) is an important step to assessing your budget allocation needs.
First, some definitions:
Annual Customer Attrition Rate – Rate at which customers cease their relationship with the company each year.
Annual Customer Retention Rate – Rate at which customers continue their relationship with the company each year.
Note: Attrition rate and retention rate are complements of each other. If a company has a 30% attrition rate, it will have a 70% retention rate.
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) – Prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a customer.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – The cost of acquiring a new customer.
Cost of Attrition – Amount of revenue loss due to customer attrition.
Now, let’s dive into the math:
Annual Customer Attrition Rate = (Number of Customers that Leave Each Year) / (Total Number of Customers)
Annual Customer Retention Rate = (Total Number of Customers – Number of Customers that Leave Each Year) / (Total Number of Customers)
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) = 52 weeks x (Average customer weekly spend) x (Average customer lifespan)
If you want to customize the CLV calculation by incorporating seasonal traffic and coupons, you may expand on the average customer weekly spend value. In that case,
Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) = 52 weeks(s x c x p) x (Average customer lifespan), where s is the average expenditure per visit, c is the average number of visits per week, and p is the average profit margin per customer.
Note: Depending on the nature of your business, you can use other increments such as 12 months or one year instead of 52 weeks. Just remember to adjust average customer spend accordingly as well.
Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) = (Total Marketing and Sales Budget Including Salaries) / (Number of Customers Acquired)
Cost of Attrition = (Single Customer Lifetime Value) x (Number of Annual Customers Lost)
Putting it Together
Suppose that you began the year with 100 clients. By the end of the year, 10 clients had cancelled their subscriptions. In this case, your annual customer attrition rate is (10/100) = 10%. Your annual customer retention rate is [(100-10)/100] = 90%. Notice that attrition rate and retention rate are complements.
Now let’s suppose that on average, each customer spends $2 per week on services, and the general customer lifespan for your industry is 10 years. In this case, the total CLV of 100 clients would be [52($2 x 100) x 10] = $104,000. However, since you lost 10 clients this years, the cost of customer attrition would be $104,000/100 x 10 = $10,400. As such, a single CLV is $1,040.
Here’s the fun part:
Let’s say your CAC is $20 per client. To replace the 10 clients lost, you would spend $20 x 10 = $200. That’s a great return on marketing investment, as $200 would bring you potentially $10,400. But what if you increased your retention rate by 1%? That’s just one additional client retained, decreasing attrition rate to 9%. Additionally, you may only need to spend $5 to retain that client. Thus, a retention program that cost as low as $50 to retain those 10 clients may help you obtain the same $10,400 in a shorter amount of time!
The choice is clear. Who wouldn’t want to spend less money and time to achieve the same results? Furthermore, effective retention strategies often focus on building solid customer relationships to increase long-term business potentials.
The next step is to determine the most effective platforms for your retention efforts. According to Invesp, the following are some of the most used channels for retention communications:
The prevailing wisdom is that the cost of acquiring a new customer is far above the cost of retaining an existing customer. Talk to a marketing specialist today to find out how to optimize your retention program for long-term sustainability.
Qinghua Lao & ERC team