The Way We Work: Meet the LaunchPodium Team

launch-your-story

Over the next six weeks, you will get an in-depth look at each of our lives and see how we work, what we do and what we have learned along the way. Each week, one of us will take full ownership of our blog and social media and take you on the full journey of our work-life.

Here’s the breakdown of who you can expect each week:

Week 1: Robert Shabazz // Producer + Designer

Week 2: Kat Smith // Writer + Social Media Coordinator

Week 3: Bridie Parsons // General Manager

Week 4: Tulio Cordoza // Developer

Week 5: Mike Parsons // CEO

Week 6: Bear + Moose // Co-Chiefs of Security

 

There you have it! Sign up for our newsletter here and follow along on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest).

Welcome to our world!

#launchyourstory

The Content Flow: Tips for Overcoming Writer’s Block

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Creating unique and interesting content online is all fun and games at first, but the romance can wear off after a while. So how can you keep the content flowing and your audience engaged.

The answer is thinking about a year of storytelling as 365 daily experiments.

Writer’s block or is no stranger to online publishers. In fact, it can be argued that it is more common due to the frequency that one is required to create content. Perhaps we should call it blogger’s block!  There is no genre that is immune to the discomfort of writer’s block. Photographers, illustrators, writers, they all face the cycle of continuously discovering, creating and sharing their story.

Think of making it your goal to write one post a week for a month. That’s still 52 interesting ideas that you need to come up with!

The most important thing is that you are creating content that your audience will be interested in. It takes some research, a post of at least 300 words, nice photography and perhaps an infographic if you are feeling ambitious.

After you have written your post you need to make it available to the world and promote it over social media, your newsletter and other networks too.

One quality blog post can easily require 5-10 hours of work for someone with a lot of experience and insight. That’s 260 hours per year. Minimum.

Like getting fit at the gym, successful online storytelling is about discipline and motivation over a long period of time.

Technorati claims 95% of blogs are abandoned in a few years. That’s why this is such a big challenge for small businesses, sometimes there just isn’t enough time/help to get it all done. Similar to a new business, a successful website is one that can survive a year and beyond.

So, how do you survive the content battle?

Embrace a daily or weekly practice of content, conversation and conversion. By breaking down your publishing calendar into tiny little tests, you will create a powerful ritual. Over time, you will build a real, enduring story.

Here’s our playbook for these experiments:

1. Publish something daily.

  • Write a blog post once a week.
  • On the other days share 2 relevant links with your followers
  • For the remaining days discuss & comment on other people’s posts

2. Test and experiment.

Use a variety of different styles and format’s and check the analytics to see what’s catching on.

  • Test format: pictures, surveys, polls, posts
  • Test style: opinion piece, interview, top 10 list
break-through-bloggers-block
3. Involve your audience.

  • Let your audience inspire you for new topics and areas to cover.
  • Survey and interviews
  • Follow up on comments & discussions on your content

Keeping your online content going is hard work but it is worth the effort!

We are in the middle of an era of opportunity for storytellers. Tools like the Internet and microprocessors ensure that our content can travel and be seen all over the world.

Stories matter. When we share stories with one another we start a conversation, form a connection and grow as a community.

All we hope is that you continue to find inspiration in the world and your work and share your stories with us and everyone else.

Isn’t today the day to launch your story?

creating-content-is-a-marathon

Thank you for following along with this series! We are turning this content into a downloadable e-book to share with even more creators and marketers across the globe. If you haven’t already, sign up for our newsletter and pass our story along to a fellow creator.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for weekly updates, tips and inspiration.

#launchyourstory

The Ins and Outs of Web Analytics

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If you are placing your story in the right places online, chances are, you’ll have more data than you know what to do with. Unless your full-time job is to analyze this data, it can start to get pretty overwhelming.

You will have a number of different dashboards presenting hundreds of different data points and metrics. Before you give up and throw in the towel, keep this very simple approach in mind: start with the end result in mind and work from there.

It doesn’t matter what type of online business you have, any online business will have a ‘call-to-action’, something that you want your audience to do. From this end-goal, you can look at every metric through the lens of bringing this goal to fruition.

Find your sites call-to-action and become obsessed with the behavioral analytics data. It’s going to be a very healthy and profitable obsession.

An Ecommerce store will be focused on the goal of bringing as many people as possible to its confirmation page. While a publisher of an industry news magazine will be focused on taking users through the registration process and ending with a successful registration.

A professional services firm would be the same. The would gauge their success on lead generation through an enquiry form on their site. The more businesses that make inquiries, the better.

You should be creating and sharing content across the ‘Big 4’: website, social media, email marketing and advertising. Creating conversation through this content will give you at least twelve major areas of analytics.

Some of the data you will be analyzing is your click-thru rate, user sessions, engagement rate, bounces and sentiment analysis.

To bring it back, the first step in getting control of your web analytics is to ensure that you are spending your time analyzing the right data. Here is a look at the 12 sets of data that really matter.

Website1. Who’s your audience? (Demographics)2. Where they come from? (Referrals)

3. What they do? (Engagement)

4. How do you convert them? (Goals, Orders, Downloads, Forms)

Social

5. Facebook (engagement and sharing

6. Twitter (distribution and sharing)

7. LinkedIn (sharing and referrals)

Email

8. Email newsletter (delivery, open, click rates)

Advertising 

9. Social (clicks, likes, shares, follows)

10. Mobile (reach, click thru, store visits)

11. Search (Click thru, conversion, cost)

12. Display (Brand, cost per visitor, leads)

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Next, you need to map your main website call-to-action to this data. Let’s choose the right call to action from the table below:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 2.43.21 PM

 

This framework reflects the goal settings in the most powerful tool: Google Analytics. By utilizing this model, you can directly map the data to your chosen functionality on your site.

Do not underestimate how important setting goals in Google analytics is to your business.

Here is an example of the power of goal setting in Google Analytics:

Let’s use our own website for this example. By setting enquiry and contact goals for Launchpodium.com, we can look back at our data from last year. For our goals, we measure new customer signups from the activation pages and enquiries from the ‘contact us’ page.

By looking back at our last 12 months of data, we are able to see what sources are delivering the most leads. Not just traffic, but real, quality leads in the form of potential customers.

Our top sources for leads are Google, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We also discovered that, surprisingly, our Twitter users stay on our site longer than any others. We can also see that Twitter and Google referrals sign up the most.

We also know that LinkedIn referrals don’t convert as much as Twitter and Google. Their average session time is high but they are not converting as much as we would expect. This is something that needs looking into…

By imagining the user journey as a funnel, we are able to see the end journey and evaluate the best way to get there. We are able to see what works and delivers us valuable business. By adding a dollar value to each of these goals, we can attribute a number to each goal and evaluate what channel is most valuable for generating high-quality business.

Instead of thinking about how much traffic your site had in a month, it’s much more beneficial to assess how many goal completions you have. Where did these people come from and what can you learn from them?

Without an end goal in mind, you will find yourself chin-deep in data. You have better things to do that swim around in a never-ending sea of data! You want to spend that time building your business. All you have to do is chart a clear course to your goals and make decisions that navigate towards it a propel your business to success.

No sailor circumnavigates the world by luck. It’s preparation, hard work and smart decisions that win the race. It may take time in the beginning to set up your analytics and set your goals but it will be well worth it. Soon, you will be running like a well-oiled machine and following only the highest quality leads and avoiding the noise.

You will set a clear path to launch your story.

#launchyourstory

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Starting Small is the Biggest Idea in Advertising

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Advertising is one of the most complex elements of the Internet. Just to put it in perspective, there are millions of companies providing technology, distribution and audience-related services over a $140 billion dollar per year industry.

There is a dark secret to the Internet advertising industry and it has to do with much more than scale.

The beauty of Internet advertising is that it has the unique ability to accelerate the distribution of content and the growth of users. It does, however, have one massive flaw: fraud.

It has been estimated that a third of all advertising clicks are fraudulent. Not to mention that advertisers are paying for every single click. That’s a lot of false data!

Knowing about the turbulent nature of online advertising, how can you get the best out of this resource?

Here’s how: start small.

Don’t worry, that’s not all we are going to give you!

Here is your playbook for stellar Internet Advertising:

1. Define Your Audience…Specifically!

One of the fundamental mistakes that advertisers often make is casting their net too wide. There are 3 Billion Internet users and it can seem like the more the merrier. Unfortunately, marketing to too many disinterested groups means that most of them will have no desire to buy your product.It’s best to start as small as possible when thinking about your audience because you will have the greatest level of return.

Here are some examples of starting small to illustrate what really works:

Google AdWords – try restricting the campaign by location such as your city
Facebook – Only advertise to people who like your page and their friends. If you choose to target others, do so by age and interests
Twitter – Try advertising to a particular device such as the I Phone or even by your audience’s favorite TV Shows
LinkedIn – Here you can focus on industry and job title

the-biggest-catch

2. Offer Real Value to Your Customers

It’s important when you advertise to be objective and really capture the value that your potential customers are looking for.
Starting with your headline, your message should immediately resonate.

The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him/her and sells itself.” – Peter Drucker

There are three simple starting-off points to determine what your customers wants:

  1. Price – “Oh! That’s so affordable”
  2. Easy – “That doesn’t seem very difficult”
  3. Benefit – “That’s really going to solve my problem”

Let’s do a little exercise and imagine that we are marketing this book. The plan is to do three different Google AdWords text advertisements.

Product Description:
The Modern Storytellers Guide To The Internet
Learn how content can tell your company’s story on the Information Age
By Mike Parsons

(AdWords Price example)
Content Marketing eBook
http://www.launchpodium.com/book
100% Free. Instant Download.
Get Tips. From Experts.

(AdWords Easy example)
Content Marketing *Download*
http://www.launchpodium.com/book
100% Free. Instant Download.
Expert tips at your finger tips.

(AdWords Benefit example)
100+ Content Marketing Tips
http://www.launchpodium.com/book
Learn how the experts master
content and clicks.

3. Compare and Contrast

There are a million different ways to run your advertising campaign. You can use different headlines, different images and different offers. You can also change your target by audience, time and interests. So many options can be overwhelming! Just take your time and experiment with different options to find your sweet spot.

Here are some examples of different variables you can test:

  • Different headlines
  • Different audience
  • Different visuals
  • Different time of day, or day of the week

 

4. Measure Your Goals

Coming up with an end goal for your advertising can help it make a lot more sense. What are your goals for your campaign? What are your actionables? Are you trying to build your audience or, perhaps, sell something?

Different goals will have very different measurements. Here is a little chart for you to reference when evaluating your measurable action:

Remember, it’s really important to view all of your marketing activities through the lense of these goals. If a portion of your content marketing is not contributing, why use it?

Using Google Analytics, you can set up these goals and track everything back to the measures that you choose.

It’s true that you have to exercise caution when approaching advertising, but don’t avoid it altogether! It is one of the most powerful tools you have to increase revenue, audience and grown your business online.

Knowing your audience is the key to online success. Say goodbye to the old bait and switch! Start the conversation with them by providing value right away.

Use these conversations to compare and contrast your success and errors over the years. Ultimately, you should be able to measure all of these goals to reflect what the business really needs.

Embrace online advertising and use it as a stepping stone to launch your story.

#launchyourstory

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online-marketing-find-your-niche

How to Avoid the Spam Folder and Maximize Your Email Newsletter


Email marketing is having a moment. More than a moment, actually. It’s a superstar. It stands out amongst your marketing toolkit because it lets your audience converse with you on their terms.

The ever-popular Facebook and Twitter pushed email newsletter to the backseat. The instant conversations on these platforms has distracted us from, well, everything else. It can sometimes feel like your Facebook feed is a never-ending list of junk. Do you agree?

This has put the spotlight back on email marketing and it’s biggest strength. It’s a permission-based conversation with the audience.

The beauty of an email newsletter subscription is that your audience has the power to control when they see it, what they see and how often. It drops into their inbox and, unlike all the other rapid-fire social media platforms, patiently waits until they have time to read it.

So how can you take advantage of this forgotten marketing goldmine? We’ll tell you!

Here are the most important things you need to know about email marketing:

1. The List

The list is the seed of your email marketing efforts. This list is made up of email addresses, names and other valuable personal information about your audience members. With this seed you can grow something much bigger.The people on this list are there by choice. They have ‘opted-in’ to your newsletter and are actively interested in what you have to say. This is the cornerstone of why email is so powerful. It only goes to people who actually want it!

Here is something important to remember: NEVER put anyone on the list that has not explicitly chosen to do so. You’re way better off having 100 opt-in members than 1,000 who didn’t and could care less what you are about.

avoid-the-spam-folder

2. Campaign

If email newsletters were snail mail, the email address would be the information on the envelope and your newsletter would be the letter inside, the good stuff.

A campaign has an element of consistency that packages the letter and includes the letter itself. In this case, the form is through email.

Important campaign settings will include these elements: subject line, frequency and personalization.

3. Design + Testing

The look and design of an email is a crucial element to think about as it can/will be read in many different types of email readers. For example, emails in Outlook and Gmail can look very different and it is important to create emails that are industry compliant.

In our modern times, the most important trend in the design and development of email marketing is its compatibility with mobile usage. Just like your website, many people will view your email on their phones during their commute, while at coffee, etc…

Traditional templates were designed to look fantastic on a PC and can tend to looked chopped or ‘squished’ on mobile.

Make sure to preview your email on your smartphone before you send it to your audience!

4. The Numbers

Ok. You have created a beautiful email newsletter and it is consistently being sent to the inboxes of your subscribers. Excellent! Now it’s time to see if it’s working.

The most crucial of all the numbers you might be analyzing is your open rate. This number reflects how many people actually opened and viewed your email.

You should expect 15-25% open rate as a broad standard. Keep in mind that this number will fluctuate based on industry content, relevance and subject lines.

The next important number is your click rate. This reflects the percentage of people that open the email and click on one of the links. These clicks can be embedded content, outgoing links or social media clicks.

Once you cover these bases, you will have healthy and happy newsletter! Once you have some experience under your belt you will be able to offer an increasing level of customization and automation options for your readers.

There is more to email marketing than you thought, right? It’s a whole world just like websites, social media and advertising. Take it from us, it really works. Investing time into this part of your marketing strategy is worthwhile and, when executed properly, very fruitful.

The ‘opt-in’ relationship of email marketing is the Internet at its best. What are you waiting for? Start the conversation with your audience and #launchyourstory !

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3 Ways to Make Your Social Media Sing

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Mastering social media is not much different than refining your face-to-face conversation skills. It is a meaningful exchange between two people. There is no need to get distracted and overwhelmed by the complex world of posts, pins, tweets and podcasts! It’s really just as simple as starting a conversation.

Make sure you’re talking with the right people, about things they care about, in a format that works.

There is a lot going on in social media. Sometimes the ‘signal’ can be hard to find. YouTube serves up approximately 4 billion videos a day. That’s a lot of cat videos and vlogs and it’s easy to lose your focus.

Here’s your guide to social media success:

1. Choose Your Network Wisely

Imagine that it’s a Friday night and you are taking your friends out to dinner. It’s your job to find the right place to eat, no pressure!You’ll decide whether you want fancy or casual, loud or intimate. It will also be important to look at your relationship with your guests. You probably wouldn’t take your frat brothers to the same place that you would take your new in-laws. There are a lot of factors that go in to making your choice.

A successful social media ‘outing’ is no different. You have to choose the right social platform for your audience and customers, there is no need or reason to be on every single one.

Here are some planning questions to help you stay on track and have the right social media conversations:

Demographics

Q: What’s the mix of male and female in your audience?

Gender varies a great deal over the different platforms. Pinterest has far more women than men while news.ycombinator.com has more men. Platforms like Linkedin are split down the middle at 50/50.

Business or Personal

Q: Are you talking about business or pleasure?

Another big differentiator between the social media platforms is the topic of conversation. Linkedin and Google are all about work and productivity. Facebook and Instagram is more personal and intimate. Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest are the networks that can go either way and house a broad range of topics.

social-media-snapshot

Format Selection

Keep in mind that the audience determines the characteristics of social networks. Two important elements are the format of the content and conversation, and the value driver for the audience.

It’s crucial that you understand the value your audience is looking for on a social network. Don’t shoot yourself in the digital foot by talking about things that the network could care less about!

Here are some examples of audience value drivers:

Here are some examples of content formats:

2. Recruit Influencers

Seeking out Influencers in your business domain is a fail-proof strategy that will help you build an engaged and long-term audience. It’s important that you provide the Influencer with valuable new content and conversation. If they take notice and the value exchange takes place, it is a great opportunity to leverage their audience and grow your business.

How are you supposed to find your Influencers? Good question! Here are some tools that will help:

Remember, don’t go straight for the big dogs, start with small and mid-size influencers as the leaders will be nearly impossible to reach. Also, when you do reach out, make it short, sweet and preferably not only via email.

3. Plan Your Editorial Calendar

The last element of making your social media conversations work is establishing an editorial calendar. You want to share YOUR content and expertise on social media. You want to be the leader and provoke online conversations.

Creating and adhering to a regular schedule of content will not only diminish your stress but it will also give your audience something to look forward to and establish a trusting bond.

Here is an example of an editorial calendar for an accounting company: 

 

You probably get the gist of how vast the Internet is by now, and you have learned a lot so far. Now is not the time to dive in before you’ve got your story straight. Start small, see what works and learn from your mistakes.

When you feel confident, start your conversation and have fun.

Buckle up and #launchyourstory !

and-let-the-conversation-begin

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Your Ultimate Playbook for a Winning Website

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Just a few years ago, building a website was a challenging task that required a great deal of experience and education. Today, anyone with an Internet connection and a general knowledge of the web can piece together a professional looking page in a few hours! How things have changed!

Technologies like WordPress and Squarespace have opened the door to self-developing and made getting online easier than ever.

According to Netcraft, the number of web sites has exploded over 100% in just the last eight years to over 600 million sites. This has shifted the focus of web development.

Building a website has gone from a technical challenge to a business marketing challenge.

To help you better understand these changes and how to maneuver them, we have put together a little playbook for building and marketing your website in the 21st century.

  1. Get a Solid Foundation.

There is no shortage of website hosting companies online. While there is a lot of opportunities, it can also make things confusing and overwhelming. Which one should you use?

There is no one answer for everyone but the best choice lies in the right content management system needed for the website you desire.

A content management system (CMS) is the backend tool that enables the creation of websites or mobile applications. The top three systems are generally:

  1. WordPress (simple, elegant and very popular)
  2. Drupal (very powerful, complex)
  3. Joomla (good functionality, easy to use)

In general, it’s best to start with an affordable shared hosting plan. This means that your website will be published on a server where many other websites are published.

Please note: A dedicated server only makes sense if you are doing a lot of transactions and traffic on your site.

Now, hang on, it’s not all sunshine and roses on shared hosting platforms! The one downfall that they have is that they have a tendency to overload their servers with too many websites causing bugs, slowness and other technical issues.

Your CMS needs adequate allocation of space on servers disk, processor and the network that connects it to the Internet.

The only real way to test a hosting provider is to actually buy an account for one month and install your CMS. Publish a test version of your site on their ‘live’ servers and run performance tests. Gtmetrix.com works very well for site performance evaluation.

Finding the right website hosting comes down to trial and error. We recommend starting small, scaling your hosting and choosing a provider with responsive customer support.

rule-the-internet
  1. Match Your Business Model to the Design Experience

An exciting opportunity for your online business is choosing your website’s ‘theme’. A theme is a pre-designed template for a website. When using a professional template, you can customize your website with great design to match your brand in no time at all!

Choosing the right theme is another tricky decision. This is where knowing your business model comes in very handy. By choosing a theme that functions specifically for the transactions you want to obtain, you are off to a great start.

Here are a few examples of great themes:

Minimal and Parallax: Themes for corporates and business

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  • Full screen slider images
  • Simple
  • Clean

Magazine: Themes for bloggers and publishers

magazine
  • Featured post
  • Trending topics
  • Overview of content offering from homepage

Portfolio: Themes for designers and personal usage

portfolio
  • Showcases work visually
  • Blog

Retail and Shop: Themes for retailers and makers

retail-and-shop
  • Feature Product
  • Product sessions
  • Cart
  • Customer Tickets

These are just a few, but there are also niche industry themes like weddings, restaurants and real estate services that come with many custom templates.

Regardless of the theme you use, make sure it covers these bases:

  1. Responsive on a mobile device
  2. Compatible with latest browsers
  3. Social integration with Facebook and Twitter
  4. Well documented instructions and FAQ
  5. Provided by reputable business
  1. Build a Daily Ritual

As much as we would like it to, building a business online is not something that happens overnight. It takes a great deal of cultivation and hard work.

A successful online business is the daily art of content, conversation and conversion.

You increase your online presence through consistent and purposeful creation of new content that is relevant to your area of focus. Think of the reach you could acquire by posting one blog post per week for a whole year. That is 52 quality posts for your readers!

Not only will your audience love your consistency and high-quality content, big search engines like Google will also respond to your diligence and insight.

These 52 posts should be an open conversation with your readers, fellow thought-leaders and influencers. It is a powerful and compelling tool to offer interviews, guest posts and open conversations with your audience.

When your website has a clear call to action (CTA) you will have a defined metric of success to focus your efforts and your viewers. Do you want them to subscribe to your posts? Maybe share them with their friends? Let the reader know right off the bat.

This CTA is a great place to start each day. Check your metrics from the day before and evaluate what is working, what’s not and what is igniting online conversations.

Transforming your website into a successful business is like training for a sport. It requires discipline, focus and endurance. Keep your eye on the ball and build a daily practice of focused content and conversation.

Are you ready to rule the field?

#launchyourstory

rule-the-field

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The Secret Formula for Launching Your Online Business

to-do
So, you woke up this morning and decided that you could not wait another minute to start your online business. Congratulations! The Internet is your oyster and you believe you have the goods to succeed in its vast marketplace.

You are all ready and feeling exhilarated, then it hits you. “Where do I start?”

That’s the most important question you can ask right now and we are here to help. The foundation that you set when starting a new business is a pivotal part of your growth and success. Your options for proceeding at this time are unlimited and overwhelming. We are excited to unveil, what we believe to be, the three most important steps when starting your online business. By setting a solid foundation with the following steps, you give your brand a fighting chance online.

To illustrate this, remind yourself of this mantra – find focus, build a business model, take off with transactions.

Step 1. Choose an area of expertise and stick to it.

The web is such an extensive and experimental place that it is really easy to lose focus or get distracted and lose yourself and your story.

A common mistake by brands and storytellers is lack of focus. They fall into the trap of either not publishing enough or covering too many unrelated topics.

Too much varied content confuses not only your clients but also search engines like Google! Your social media strategy will suffer too because your influence and point-of-view will become muddled.

It is for this reason that the most important place to start is to do some soul searching and determine exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it. Here’s a little questionnaire to help you on your way:

  • What do I love doing?
  • What area do I want to be an expert in?
  • What do I want myself (or my brand) to be famous for?
  • If someone didn’t know me or by business, what keywords would they type into Google?

The key is to find the common theme in these answers.

Here’s an example:

Business: QuickCounting

What: Small Business Accounting In QuickBooks

How: Fast and efficient

Why: We believe that businesses that have good control of their finances thrive and prosper.

Focus keywords:

‘Accounting bookkeeping’

‘Online bookkeeping for small business’

‘Bookkeeping for small businesses’

finding-the-sweet-spot
  1. Choose your online business model.

Your business model will be paramount in creating all of the content and technology on your site.

Think about some familiar companies like Amazon and Facebook, one is a retailer and the other a social platform. We use these companies all the time and part of the reason they work so well is because they clearly defined the technologies needed for their vision.

There are hundreds of content formats and theme options to choose from (podcasts, blogs, tweets etc…) but by establishing your business model you are able to narrow them down to only those that would serve your brand best.

Here is a helpful layout of different business models you can choose from:

MODEL EXAMPLE DESCRIPTION MAIN SITE ACTION
Retail Amazon, Priceline Ecommerce web store that sells goods Buy Now!
Professional Services accountants, lawyers & consultants Thought leadership content Contact Us
Subscription & Membership linda.com or linkedIn Learning, communities Subscribe
Blogging and Publishing huffingtonpost or lifehacker Content (ad or subscription supported,) Register
Marketplace Ebay, AirBnB, 99designs Connects two parties by adding value Join
Infomediary Nielsen, Google, AdRoll Selling data as a service Purchase, Subscribe

 

  1. Choose the most important ‘transaction’.

By this time you should have a clearly defined focus and a stellar business model. Hooray! Now that you know who you are and what you want, you must define what success means for your business. After all, if you’re a food-blogger without any products, number of transactions or dollars in revenue would be a discouraging way to gauge your success.

To be frank, you have to become a little data-crazed at this point. Your mission now is to monitor your online business and, through educated trial and error, figure out what is working best for your business and how to do more of it.

We love using the Goals within Google Analytics, a service that measures your site traffic and sales.

Here are some examples of different types of transactions:

REVENUE

  1. Place an order – Completed purchase or pre-order request

ACQUISITION

  1. Create an account – Successful sign up, account, or view created

INQUIRY

  1. Contact us – Viewed phone number, directions, chat or email
  2. Read reviews – Viewed reviews and ratings
  3. Get callback – Requested service or a phone call
  4. Live chat – Contacted via chat
  5. Update – Downloaded or installed new version

ENGAGEMENT

  1. Compare information – Compared features, products, or options
  2. Add to favorites – Saved product or information to a list
  3. Media play – Played interactive media, like a video, slideshow, or product demo
  4. Share / social connect – Shared to a social network or emailed
  5. Sign up – Subscribe to newsletter, update alerts, or join group

There is no way around it, starting an online business is hard. There will be curveballs and setbacks along the way. By using these three tools, you set yourself up for more success and brand clarity when things get difficult.

Take your time and follow these guidelines and investigate your options.  You will be able to move your story forward with a greater sense of confidence and vision.

#launchyourstory

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The Only 4 Tools You Need For Online Marketing Success

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There is no shortage of Internet tools to help you with your online marketing. In fact, there are WAY too many. A simple search for ‘online marketing tools’ yields millions of results. 218,000,000 to be exact, and the number keeps growing!

This can make your search for the right tools overwhelming and frustrating. We’re here to tell you that out of all those options, there are only four that you really need.

Really? Only four? You may be asking. Yes, and we can explain why these four are more beneficial than all the other 217,999,996.

Here’s what the loop looks like:

  1. Website
    This is where your content starts. It’s important to have a website that loads quickly on both PC and mobile devices.
  2. Newsletter
    Construct a content-rich regular newsletter. This is your chance to communicate directly with your customers. There is no need to rely on social media alone! With social media, you are competing with hundreds of other distractions. In your newsletter you have your customer’s undivided attention.
  3. Social Media
    Spend your energy on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. These are the biggest players and yield the greatest value. Don’t let your social media be an afterthought. Integrate your story and voice and create exciting and meaningful content.
  4. Advertising
    Focus on Search, Mobile, Social and Display. Your content should peak your customer’s interest and leave them wanting more. Also, customers can smell desperation a mile away, keep your content fresh and enticing.

In order to understand the power of these tools, we need to remind ourselves of the unique nature of user behavior.

Since you have made it this far, you probably feel confident that your product will help a certain group of people solve a problem in the best way possible. After all, you are the expert! This is wonderful but there is one problem, no one knows who you are.

Customers online are  not thinking about you, they are thinking about the tasks on their lists and the problems they need to solve.

How do customers find services in the digital age?

It’s important to know what your customers are doing when purchasing something that matters to them and/or their business.

The answer is surprisingly simple and can be broken down into two parts.

  1. Purchasing begins with people and conversations.

Word of mouth and social media content and the primary factors in a customer’s journey. A study performed by Forrester estimates that online conversations will influence over half of all retail in the U.S. by 2016.

For more information, check out this article from McKinsey & Company that outlines, in detail, how customers look for social content, reviews and conversations.

  1. Shopping takes place everywhere.

Can you believe that 90% of customers use three different devices to complete a single task? This study on Google’s “The New Multi-Screen World’ report monitored the various devices used by customers to perform any task.

Nielsen recently found the average person spends approximately 60 hours a week consuming content across multiple devices.These factors can be summarized like this:Customers only purchase after engaging with social and authoritative content across several devices.

Here is an example of customer purchase behavior:

Step 1: You’re thinking about taking a vacation

Step 2: During a conversation with a co-worker you mention the vacation.

Step 3: Your co-worker recommends their favorite place in Hawaii

Step 4: You look it up on your smartphone. Wow! That looks nice!

Step 5: After work, you go to Priceline and research flights and hotels in Hawaii. There is a great deal for 5 nights for $2000!

Step 6: Later that night, you bring it up to your partner and look at photos of your friend’s trip to Maui on Facebook. Looks like a pretty good time!

Step 7: The next morning, you go for it and purchase flights and a hotel on Priceline after Googling great prices. Don’t forget to save the best activities on your Trip Advisor app!

Does this sound familiar? Probably. We all do this! Trips like this can require months of research but the patterns email the same. We always read reviews for books we want to read or Tweet about our decision to buy a new TV or check out someone on Facebook before a first date.

Customers do not move consistently in a straight line when faced with a task or goal. They move cyclically in a loop of content and conversation. It’s only when the ‘Triggers’ of authoritative content resonate with them that they are then propelled to the target. This is why the ‘big four’ tools are so important.

By utilizing these tools repeatedly over the course of your business,  you will propel your story forward and reap the rewards.

#launchyourstory

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3 Things That Make Online Marketing Hard and How to Make Them Work For You

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So you’ve decided that you would like to integrate your story into your online marketing. Congratulations! Now, where to begin? The world of online marketing can get pretty confusing. To illustrate this, take a look at an industry snapshot compiled by                                 Chiefmartech.com:

Yikes! Our goal with this section is to break down the challenging elements and give you simple ways to manage them.

Here is a brief outline of the progression of the journey:

  1. Decide on an interesting story you would like to tell
  2. Decide how you want to tell it
  3. Evaluate the outlets for content i.e. podcasts, case studies, blogs, images

From there, a whole new world of decision-making comes into play.

This includes:

  • Evaluating various technologies
  • Coming up with your newsletter template and content plan
  • Assessing advertising opportunities and costs
  • Evaluating the need to hire someone to manage your online presence
  • Enlisting a developer to manage your website

This seems like a lot! There are a few key factors that can make things difficult when planning an online marketing strategy: complexity, user control and art & science. By looking more deeply into these elements,we are able to better understand the way the internet works and formulate a strategy.

Complexity

The Hard Part:

New technology is being introduced at a break-neck speed. We barely have time to familiarize ourselves with our upgraded phone before the new model comes into the market!

The Internet makes the entire world available at our fingertips. There are over 30 trillion web pages and over 2 billion users and the numbers continue to grow each day.

Internet users access these webpages on five major browsers installed on three leading operating systems. Each system has its own style and flow that makes the information look and act differently.

This is a lot different than the old-fashioned method of obtaining information in newspapers and magazines!

Make It Work:

Ok, so you’ve seen the hard part. Now what? Follow these simple guidelines to harness the complexity of the Internet and make it work for you:

  • Choose one topic and be the expert
  • Create and open conversation with your audience instead of barking information into the cybersphere
  • Decide on your format early on and stick to it. Examples of formats are videos, blogs, podcasts, white papers, and infographics
  • Be everywhere that your audience is. This means meeting them on your website, social media pages, newsletters and through advertisements
  • Publish one good thing per week and your audience will grow
  • Get familiar with data so you can better understand what is working and what isn’t

User Control

The Hard Part:

In the early days of marketing, the marketers were in complete control of the customer experience. They would make a product look wonderful, tell everyone it was wonderful and, if they did a good job, people would buy it. Today, this is not the case. Users are in complete control of the experience and one bad review on Yelp can seriously hinder a business’s success.

In addition to platforms like Yelp, there are other tools like ‘Social Commerce’, ‘Livecasting’, and ‘Social Bookmarking’ that we can do in places like Flickr, Vine and Pheed.

Did you know that over 500 million Tweets are sent every minute? That’s a lot of characters! For a better idea of the scale of online data, check out this link by Domo.

Make It Work:

Here are some easy ways to benefit from the control of your customers:

  • Listen to them and acknowledge their voice
  • Find your authentic voice and make a connection with them
  • Show, don’t tell
  • Ask questions that provoke action
  • Invite and reward them for their participation and contribution

Art & Science

The Hard Part:

The main challenge of sharing your stories online is that you are required to use both sides of your brain. On the right, we have our creativity and storytelling. On the left, we must tap into our logical and analytical brain. It’s crucial that we use these two sides constantly!

According to a study by Awareness Hub, 53% of social media marketers don’t measure their success. What’s the point of telling your awesome stories if you never check to see if anyone is responding to them?

Make It Work:

Don’t worry. It’s easy to avoid neglecting one of these tools. Here’s how:

  • Divide your efforts into two parts: creation and distribution. Make sure you don’t have one without the other
  • Identify the areas of creativity where you write and edit copy, graphics and videos and work together with writers and designers
  • Identify the key distribution areas where you post and measure data and work together with engineers and analysts
  • Make sure you have a well-rounded team of creators and engineers that understands the overarching language of your brand

You might be having mixed feelings right now but there is no reason to be afraid. By utilizing these techniques and integrating them into your daily practices, you will find yourself befriending the complexity of the Internet.

By creating a harmonious balance between art and science, you will be able to connect your story with a greater audience. You will have the beautiful story and the data to back it up. By analyzing this data, you will know where to focus your creative energy and truly launch your story into the world.

#launchyourstory

Your Online Marketing Should Think Like Einstein and Look Like a Renoir