How to Clearly Articulate What You or Your Brand Do: Clarity Consultant Steve Woodruff on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

Potential customers or clients don’t buy what they don’t understand, which is why clarity is so important. Clarity consultant Steve Woodruff offers insights on how to connect your brand with its purpose, with its message, and with people–and so create new business opportunities. Read the full article at MarketingProfs

Model for Marketing Maturity, Stage Three: Ignite

Model for Marketing Maturity, Stage Three: Ignite written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on the Model for Marketing Maturity, Stage 3: Ignite

This is the third episode in our three-part series on the Model for Marketing Maturity. Want to learn more? Check out the previous two episodes on Stage 1: Build and Stage 2: Grow.

We’ve reached the third stage of the model for marketing maturity. Stage one was focused on building your house and getting the five most essential elements in order. Stage two was about getting those five channels to a level where they can start to pay dividends, and then adding on three additional channels.

Now, in the third phase, you can take the foundation you’ve built and go even deeper into expanding upon the elements that will grow your business. Here, we’ll look at adding a final layer that will amplify and ignite the work you’ve already done.

In addition to going even deeper into the channels you’ve already established, here you add CRM, marketing automation, and analytics and tracking into the mix.

Expand On Your Website and Content

With a fully functioning website, your focus now should be on optimizing the various elements even further. You’ll want to track your conversion rate and make changes to optimize those numbers. This is also where you should think about segmenting your content. You might even build mini-websites on top of your larger website, with content that is targeted at specific groups and buyer personas.

Finally, you want to think about harnessing your existing content for specific stages of the customer journey. How can you use content to ignite sales? How specifically can it assist in cross-selling and upselling? And how do you create content that gets shared and establish viral loops?

Add to SEO

Once you’ve created your on- and off-page SEO approach, you can continue to build on it. This is where you can add other forms of content, like a podcast, to increase your authority and ranking within search results. Appearing as a guest on existing podcasts allows you to build up even more links to your content.

Continue to dive deeper into your Google Search Console data. Take what you learn there and use it to increase organic click through rate on your website. This data can also help you to make changes that will allow you to appear in voice search and featured snippets, both of which are becoming increasingly relevant in the Google landscape.

Build Social Media Campaigns

Now that you have a presence across all relevant social platforms and have begun to boost posts and take a stab at paid advertising, now is the time to create broader campaigns. You might even look to create your own community online, with groups that encourage your fans and customers to come together.

Live video is another critical element in social media, and a lot of business owners are tempted to start putting out video content immediately. In reality, it’s not worth adding live video into the mix until you’ve done the work in the build and grow phases and have the basic framework of your social media presence in place.

Enhance Email Marketing Campaigns

In the earlier stages, you cleaned up your email marketing list and ran reengagement campaigns. This is the phase where you can begin to further segment your audience and run more and more complex campaigns.

Grow Your Paid Search Approach

The next step with paid search is to build an even more robust approach to your Google Ads. Establishing landing pages on your website that are tailored to specific campaigns is a great way to enhance the personalization of your messaging and impress prospects. You can also add display ads and re-marketing to your paid approach.

Establish Processes Around Sales Enablement

In the ignite phase, you’re able to get even more strategic about the way in which you present your offers to prospects. What gives you the greatest shot at making the sale? How can you best nurture leads that come in? If someone is already a customer, what do you do to get them to repeat?

You can also consider adding speaking engagements into the mix, here. Like what you did earlier in establishing a partner network, speaking allows you to tap into others’ existing networks and grow your brand’s reach even further.

Delight as Part of the Customer Experience

A top-notch customer experience is about delighting them so much that they not only repeat, but refer your business. What can you do to stand out from the competition and win their repeat business? Maybe this is something like the talk triggers that Jay Baer advocates for, which not only encourage repeat business but create word-of-mouth marketing. Maybe it’s an event that offers a unique experience or access to valuable information to your existing customers.

Whatever it is, you should be using customer feedback to inform these marketing decisions. When you understand how your current customers feel about the service they receive from your business, you can create future campaigns, events, and products that directly address their needs and any gaps they’ve identified in your current approach.

You also should establish a concrete way to generate referrals; this is where a referral program comes in.

This is what a fully realized marketing maturity model looks like. It’s the groundwork for your marketing plan moving forward. Use this as your roadmap, and in some cases it can be your three-year marketing plan.

From here, we add in the final three elements of the ignite phase.

1. Customer Relationship Management

You’ve already organized contact information in the build phase. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool can help you further organize and track all relevant customer data.

What does it take to initiate a record? How are you going to segment prospects and customers? What does the customer journey look like within your CRM tool? Once you’ve answered these questions and established a clear process for tracking and responding to customer behavior, you can go back in and take a look at the results.

Which approaches are generating conversions, and which ones are falling flat? When you’re tracking responses within your CRM, you can continue to refine your marketing approach over time.

2. Marketing Automation

Most CRM tools today include a marketing automation component. This allows you to track behavior, score leads, and create and launch campaigns that are triggered by specific behaviors or actions.

You can create campaigns that are triggered when someone opens an email, clicks a link, visits a website, or makes a specific purchase. This again speaks to the importance of personalization. When your business responds to customers’ actions with relevant follow-up, that is a key component in creating a great customer experience.

3. Analytics

Hopefully, you installed Google Analytics on the very first day you created your website. But now that the site is up and running, you can begin to set goals within Analytics. Decide on the KPIs you want to monitor, track your results, and tie all advertising activity back to what happens in Analytics.

Call tracking is another important element for any small business. Interactions through your online channels generate tons of data. You can see where you got a click on your website, who liked and shared your social media, or who opened your email newsletter.

But beyond that, you want to understand who actually became a customer. Call tracking allows you to keep tabs on who actually called your business, what happened in the interaction, and whether or not they decided to make a purchase from you.

The model of marketing maturity is divided into three phases for a reason. The build phase is about getting your house in order, and some businesses remain there for a very long time. Hopefully, though, you aim to progress to the later stages. But you can’t do that without the fundamentals from the build stage being in place. And you can’t do the work to ignite your marketing efforts until you have established all the channels in the grow phase.

The key thing to remember is that all of these elements are the tactics that make up a larger marketing strategy. You must have the larger strategic picture in place first, and use that to guide the implementation of the individual tactics.

If you want to learn more about the model of marketing maturity, or you feel like this strategy first approach is missing from your business, reach out to us.

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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Model for Marketing Maturity, Stage Two: Grow

Model for Marketing Maturity, Stage Two: Grow written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on the Model for Marketing Maturity, Stage 2: Grow

This is the second episode in our three-part series on the Model for Marketing Maturity. Want to learn more? Check out Stage 1: Build.

The idea behind the marketing maturity model is that every business needs to begin by building the foundation for their marketing. Once they’ve built a solid foundation, they can start to grow and later ignite, or amplify, their marketing approach.

Website, content, social media, SEO, and email marketing are the primary five channels. In grow, now that we’ve built those foundational elements, we can add on paid lead generation, sales enablement, and customer experience.

1. Grow Your Website

In the build phase, you established a modern website. It has a clear promise and is mobile-friendly. Now is the time for you to add your business’s story. Incorporate your customer into the experience. Create segments so that visitors feel like the story you’re telling is speaking directly to them.

You also want to address additional technical concerns. Your website must be HTTPS secure. This is something that Google is taking note of, and those visiting your site on a Chrome browser now see a big “Not Secure” warning next to your URL if you haven’t switched to HTTPS (more on how to do that here).

Your website must also load quickly. Not only is this an important element in the customer experience, Google will also punish you in search rankings if your site loads slowly. Not sure where you stack up? You can check your site’s load times for both desktop and mobile with the PageSpeed Insights tool.

2. Get the Most Out of Your Content

Once you’ve begun the process of creating content, you want to use it as a lead generation tool. In the grow phase, the focus should switch from getting traffic to winning conversions.

In the build phase, you established a site with a review funnel, video, and core pages. The next step is to create hub pages.

Hub pages are the best way to create a content asset for your website. The pages bring together all of your relevant information on a given topic all under one roof, and so readers love them and Google rewards them in their rankings.

3. Grow Your Email List

Hub pages have an additional benefit. Once you’ve proven your thought leadership and expertise on the hub topic page, you can marry these hub pages with content upgrades. Visitors will be convinced by both the quality and quantity of information on these pages that you are the subject matter expert, and so they’ll feel there’s a good reason to give you their email address in exchange for more information.

Once you have obtained their email address and captured, you can begin to nurture your relationship with them through effective email campaigns.

3. On- and Off-Page SEO

In the build phase, you established your Google My Business page, ensured that data directories were all correct, and included descriptive, keyword-rich title tags and meta descriptions for all pages of your website.

As part of the grow phase, the first step is to master Google Search Console. This free tool from Google gives you remarkable insight into how and why people are coming to your website.

You also want to begin thinking about SEO beyond the bounds of your own website. How can you get other people to link to your content? Guest posts are a great place to start. Reaching out to relevant thought leaders in your industry and offering to write for their blogs (and asking them to contribute to yours) is a way to build up a network of external links—not to mention meaningful business connections.

Refreshing and updating your existing content is another part of the equation. For your evergreen content, what can you do to keep it relevant? Is there updated information that will keep this content useful for readers finding it today for the first time? Can you add new links that will enhance its usefulness and boost SEO?

4. Social Media Engagement and Outreach

Once you’ve established your social media presence, branded it, and have started posting content, you want to begin thinking about generating engagement. This is about asking questions that get your followers involved and start a conversation. It’s also time to think strategically about how to get people to like and share your content.

Media outreach can be a part of this next phase of social media as well. Are there publications in your area that you can share your content with? This will open you up to their established readership base, and introduce your name to new people who might be interested in what you do. Reaching out to influencers in the industry is another part of outreach. How can you get those who already have the attention of your ideal prospects talking about your products or services?

The key to expanding on the strategy you established during the build phase is doing it in a logical order. This chart provides an overview for the three stages of the marketing maturity model, and how you can begin to expand your existing channels and add new ones as you move through each stage.

Now that you’ve progressed to the grow phase, it’s time to add the following channels:

  • Paid Lead Generation
  • Sales Enablement
  • Customer Experience

Once you have the foundational assets down, you can use these assets to generate leads and get sales conversations going.

1. Paid Lead Generation

Paid lead generation is about advertising on social media and search engines. I’ve written before about best practices for Facebook and Google ads, but this is also the phase where you should begin boosting your existing content on social media.

This is precisely why paid lead generation isn’t introduced until the grow phase. You can’t boost content that doesn’t exist, and you don’t want to begin spending money to generate leads if you don’t have a solid foundation of content, reviews, and trust elements for them to look to. Spending money to drive prospects to a bare-bones website will not generate leads and may, in fact, scare people off. Prospects need to have a clear sense of what they’re supposed to get out of your website once they arrive there.

2. Sales Enablement

The first step of sales enablement is looking to establish strategic partnerships. Are there other business owners that you can network with to generate leads for your business? These partnerships are great because they’re mutually beneficial: you get access to their existing network, and vice versa. For more on how to establish a strong network of strategic partners, check out this post.

This is also the phase where you should introduce what I like to call the discovery process. Someone visits your website, clicks your ad, or gives your business a call—now what? How do you know if they’re a good fit for you, and if they’re someone you want to work with? In this phase, you want to build a concrete process around what you do when someone expresses interest in your business.

3. Customer Experience

The build phase was about generating reviews, the grow phase is about responding to them. How you respond to reviews is a critical part of the customer experience, not just for the reviewer, but for any other customers who may happen upon the review in the future. And in fact, your responses to reviews, when handled properly, can become a great form of content that business owners often overlook.

You also want to build a structured onboarding process for new customers. Marketing is about so much more than just getting the sale; it’s about keeping an existing customer happy and coming back for more. Once you acquire a customer, what happens? What does their welcome kit look like? How do you set expectations moving forward?

The build phase was focused on the fundamentals. The grow phase was about adding components onto those essential channels, plus introducing three new channels to the mix. Once you build these areas out, you have a well-oiled marketing machine. There is, of course, still fine tuning and tweaking to be done, but this establishes a strong basis for all marketing moving forward.

In the final episode on the model for marketing maturity, we’ll cover the ignite phase, where you build even further on these channels and introduce new tools to automate and strengthen your approach.

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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The Sales Team Dos and Don’ts for Creating Content

The Sales Team Dos and Don’ts for Creating Content written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Content creation falls squarely in the domain of your marketing team, right? Yes, it’s true that marketers set strategy and create the content that supports that vision. But no team is an island, and in reality, it’s the sales team that is out there interacting with prospects and customers each and every day.

Your sales team should feel empowered to share and create content for your business. Here’s how you get them involved in the process, and the dos and don’ts for making the system work.

Do: Ask for Their Input

Your marketing team might be the wordsmiths of the group, but your sales team are the boots on the ground. They’re out there talking to prospects every day. They hear the same questions, hesitations, and sticking points over and over again.

When creating your content, you want to be sure that you’re proving to prospects that your business is the best one out there to solve their problems. The sales team understands better than anyone what those problems are, and how to communicate your solution.

You should be turning to them for advice and input. They’re the people who can point the marketing team in the right direction and help them create the type of content that will be most meaningful and helpful for your audience.

Do: Create a Process for Gathering Their Ideas

Your sales team have their own impressive skill set, but marketing writing is not necessarily part of it. In order to gather their input, don’t ask them to think like a marketer. Make it easy for them to share what they hear in their role as a salesperson.

Consider putting together a worksheet that asks them some basic questions. What are the top three questions they hear from prospects? Do they hear similar reactions across the board to pricing and specific products? What kind of content do they wish they had available to them as part of their sales arsenal?

Gathering responses to these questions will help your marketing team understand and meet the sales team’s needs.

Do: Provide Them with Content Extras

Salespeople are dealing with prospects and existing customers who are at all different stages of the marketing hourglass. Whether they’re speaking with a prospect who wants more information or a return customer who’s thinking about referring a friend, it’s helpful for them to have unique content to share, that goes above and beyond what’s available on your website.

These prospects and customers are already speaking with your sales team—they’ve proven that they have a high level of interest in what your business is offering. Why not go the extra mile and dazzle them with a content upgrade that the Average Joe scanning your website won’t be able to access?

Providing the sales team with content like ebooks, checklists, or templates that can enhance the customer experience at any stage of their journey will help them to establish a deeper sense of trust with the prospect or customer, which can help them close the sale in the long run.

Don’t: Leave Them to Their Own Devices on Social Media

Social media is a great tool for salespeople to use. It can help them generate conversions, but only if they’re using it properly. Again, the sales team are not marketing experts. It’s up to your marketing people to share best practices and make sure that the sales team is using their social media profiles to greatest effect.

While the marketing team creates the social media persona and posts for the brand, salespeople can cultivate their own followings and voice on social channels. Encouraging them to use hashtags effectively, tag the company in relevant posts, and incorporate video into their posts are great ways to help them drive sales. For more on the specifics of how to use social media as a part of the sales process, check out this webinar.

Do: Establish Brand Guidelines and Provide Templates

The sales team shouldn’t feel afraid to take ownership of sharing company messaging. After all, they’re not going to turn to the marketing team to write every email and script out every phone call they have with a prospect.

However, your marketing team has worked hard to create a brand identity, complete with a set voice and look, and you want to be sure that any content your sales team does create is working in harmony with the marketing team’s strategy.

That’s why it’s helpful for your marketing team to provide salespeople with brand guidelines and templates. What are the approved color palette and fonts for marketing materials? How do you want sales pitch decks to look?

Providing a style guide can help salespeople stay on the right track when communicating with prospects. Your marketing team should also put together a template for the types of communications your sales team will use regularly (and that includes things as complex as pitch decks and as simple as the formatting for their email signature line).

Part of building trust in your brand is establishing consistency in the way you communicate. Prospects and customers might not realize it consciously, but when they’re getting materials from a brand that are all over the map in terms of appearance and tone, some distrust might start to creep in. That’s the last thing you want for your business, so you must provide your sales team with the tools they need to put their best, most consistent foot forward.

Your marketing team might own the content creation process, but your sales team is a valuable asset in establishing and executing their approach. Making sure that their input is collected and considered, and providing them with the guidance to confidently communicate with prospects is the key to creating effective, trustworthy content for your brand.

Weekend Favs March 16

Weekend Favs March 16 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

  • Rank Math – Incorporate SEO best practices into your WordPress site with this plugin.
  • Haiku Animator – Create animations for websites and apps.
  • Miro – Bring your distributed team together with this suite of visual collaboration products.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

Model for Marketing Maturity, Stage One: Build

Model for Marketing Maturity, Stage One: Build written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on the Model for Marketing Maturity, Stage 1: Build

A lot of small business owners hear about the latest trends in online marketing—AI, paid marketing, marketing automation—and begin to feel overwhelmed. There are already so many channels and tactics to consider, and it seems like there are new ones each day.

Of course, in an ideal world, your business would be taking advantage of all the available channels. But there’s no point in trying to jump ahead to the latest and greatest technology if you don’t have the basics under control.

That’s why I propose a specific model for marketing maturity. Made up of three stages—build, grow, and ignite—it encourages businesses to start with a solid foundation and work their way up to the final stage where all channels are being used, and you’re optimizing and maximizing your existing marketing assets.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the first stage, build. What goes into building the foundation of a business’s online marketing presence? There are five key elements you must include, and we’ll go through them here.

1. Marketing Website

The first step to getting online is building your website. A small business can’t survive today without one. It is the hub of your business’s online presence. And it’s not just about creating any old website, it’s about building one that is modern, accessible, and gets your story out there.

Websites today must be mobile friendly. Mobile sites are getting indexed first by search engines, and the vast majority of searches are now happening on mobile devices. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you’re starting at a deficit.

Once you have cleared that first technical hurdle, you need to ensure that your website clearly articulates your promise to solve the greatest problem your audience has. It needs to tell the story of why your audience should trust you to do the job. If those most essential elements are missing, you shouldn’t pass go.

The other key to creating an effective website is having your full editorial plan and SEO approach in place before you begin the design or build process. Your website, content, and SEO techniques have all risen to the strategic level in terms of marketing importance, so your plan to get your website up-and-running must seamlessly incorporate those three critical elements.

2. Approach to Content

Your content must all work to tell the story of why a prospect should choose your business. This means leading with that value proposition on your home page. Each subsequent core page should build upon that message, and include video to tell your story.

A review funnel should also be a central component of your content program, particularly if you are a local business. These funnels are a way to stop bad reviews from being posted across various sites, and they make it easy for your happy customers to share their thoughts on Google, Yelp, Facebook, or any other platform of their choice.

Once you’ve built your content, you want to make sure the meta data (the titles and descriptions that display on search results) are keyword rich. It should be clear exactly what you do in your title tags, so that prospects looking to solve a problem understand immediately that you offer a solution.

3. Search Engine Optimization

SEO sounds confusing, but in reality it’s pretty simple. The most essential SEO component for any local business is making sure your business’s name, address, and phone number are correct on your website, and that that information is the same as what’s displayed on your Google My Business page. Just go onto Google and claim your profile there to make the appropriate changes and keep your information up to date.

If your business has moved, you’ve changed your name, or you find that there is conflicting information online, you can use a service like BrightLocal to ensure that your data is correct across all of the directories out there on the internet.

4. Social Media

The first step to building your social media presence is making sure you’re present on the major networks where your customers are. Claim your profiles, make sure your branding is all over it, include links back to your website, and ensure that it’s a good experience. Even if you don’t plan to be active on social media, these profiles still must be claimed and established, because they’re going to show up in searches related to your business.

In order to tackle the branding aspect, a free tool like Canva can help you create images that are the right dimensions for each kind of social media profile.

Once you’ve got the pages established, claimed, and branded, you can begin thinking about putting out some basic content. If you have promotions, products, or sales that you’d like your audience to know about, a channel like Facebook can be a great place to tell them about it. You don’t want every single post to be a promotion, but you can begin to get the word out there on social media.

You can also begin to show off a bit of your brand’s personality. I like to call these culture posts. How can you start talking about a “day in the life” of your business? Show off how a product is made. Share posts about the office birthday party of one of your colleagues. This allows your audience to see the real people behind the brand and builds trust with your audience.

5. Email Marketing

You already have a list, but what state is it in? Before you begin thinking about marketing campaigns, you need to do some list hygiene: how old is the list, how long is the list, and how relevant are the names on it?

If the list is full of people who haven’t purchased from you in five years, it’s time to get rid of those names. If there are people on there who have made a purchase in the last 24 months, those are contacts that are still valuable.

Once you’ve cleaned up your list, you can run a reengagement campaign. What’s the best way to reach back out to those who have bought from you in the past, to either get them to buy again or get them interested in doing something new (passing on a deal, referring us to their friends, or otherwise reengaging them)?

You also want to think about how to grow your mailing list. That’s where having calls to action on your website come in. And I don’t mean a tiny box at the bottom that says, “Sign up for our newsletter.” I mean offering up valuable information, which visitors can access if they share their email address. How about a free evaluation, comparison, or checklist?

You should also provide a variety of calls to action on your site. Multiple calls to action are ways to engage people no matter where they are on their individual customer journey. Different calls to action address the different needs of your various prospects or clients.

These are the basics of the build phase of the model for marketing maturity. In subsequent shows, I’ll talk about the grow and ignite phases. Once we have the foundation built here, we want to address paid lead generation, sales enablement, and the customer experience component—the factors that go into growing your marketing. Then once we add those, we’ll start talking about data, CRM tool, marketing automation and even AI. Stay tuned over the next week for the next two installments.

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Transcript of How Small Businesses Can Compete in the Online Marketplace

Transcript of How Small Businesses Can Compete in the Online Marketplace written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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Klaviyo logoJohn Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth focused e-commerce brands drive more sales with super targeted highly relevant email, Facebook, and Instagram marketing.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, this is John Jantsch, my guest today is Dan Breeden. He is a senior manager of strategic alliances for Yahoo Small Business, so Dan, thanks for joining us.

Dan Breeden: Yeah, thanks for having me.

John Jantsch: I think that Yahoo has been around forever, one of the early players certainly in online and in search, I think it probably would bear … I think there would be some value in just kind of talking about the state of Yahoo small business right now and actually what it offers, because I think a lot of people still probably don’t differentiate it from the search unit.

Dan Breeden: Sure, no, thanks for that. So Yahoo Small Business has been around for a while, we were started a little over 20 years ago when Yahoo bought one of the original e-commerce platforms and then since then we’ve added other products. Our web hosting product was once Geocities, which was a wildly popular platform. We do domain registration, we do direct relistings management, we have a product called local works, and then we also have some advertising products. We’ve got some merchants that have been with us the entire 20 years, very few that have been around longer than that, of course over those years e-commerce and local marketing has changed a lot, so we’ve seen that change, our customers have seen that change, and of course we’ve had a lot of small businesses come and go as they rise and fall with market changes.

So we’re not part of Verizon, we were once part of the broader Yahoo, but we’re in a team that works with alongside Verizon’s small business teams, which has been a great fit for us.

John Jantsch: So since you kind of alluded to this and you’ve been at Yahoo for a while so you’ve seen some of these changes, how would you describe … you know I always tell people that yeah, we’ve got all these new marketing platforms and all these things that come along, but I think what’s changed the most is how people buy. So how would you describe how customer behavior has evolved over the last decade?

Dan Breeden: Sure, if we’re talking about e-commerce, it’s been … it’s been a revolution, right. In fact I have been around for a while and I’ve met with a number of our merchants as well as people who sell on other platforms and the story is the same, we’ll meet with successful merchants and they will marvel at … they worked really hard but they’ll marvel at how they were able to launch a successful store 10, 15 years ago, that they wouldn’t be able to launch in the same way that they would have to do now. It’s a much more crowded marketplace, we have some massive marketplaces that are competing against individual stores, right. We’ve got Amazon, we’ve got eBay, you’ve got kind of the niche marketplaces like Etsy as well. So someone that wants to launch a successful e-commerce venture now has to really be smart.

They’ve got to do more than just come up with a set of products and descriptions, you know, and post it and hope that customers will find them because it’s not that easy and you won’t find success that way.

John Jantsch: Well and since you mentioned Amazon and you know, I buy a thing or two from them so I’m not going to pick on them, but they literally are the everything store it seems, including any innovation that seems to be out there in the market, they’re able to kind of … imitate. I just noticed the other day, maybe this has been around for a while, but this whole buy … you have a designer help you pick out clothes, they send it to you, if you like them great you keep them, if you don’t you send them back. Companies like Stitch Fix, you know, is one that I know is kicking up a lot of dust lately. Well Amazon just basically copied that, I mean so how do you fight or play in that environment where you’ve got an organization, a company with that kind of distribution and that kind of buying leverage?

Dan Breeden: Sure, so I totally agree, Amazon is the gorilla in the room and I buy from them as well for some items. You’re not going to beat them at their game though, so Amazon [inaudible] and this is no way disparaging, but Amazon’s game is they are super convenient, you log in, you have a single check out, you may be buying from multiple merchants, you … you often get incentives around shipping, et cetera. So if you’re playing in that marketplace and you’re trying to differentiate yourself, it’s going to be extremely difficult unless you’ve got a line on a product that you’re able to offer a lower price than anybody else. That can happen if you’re sourcing your products directly from the manufacturer, it typically is a fairly short window before somebody else starts finding your source and undercutting you by nickels and dimes. Instead, where we’re seeing merchants have success is by providing a different shopping experience.

A more customized, more personal shopping experience. When you go to Amazon, you may be buying from multiple merchants. Often you don’t care if those merchants don’t have the ability brand themselves, and so it’s not the same in depth high touch field, it’s really in the super convenient. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something very specific around something you love, a hobby, a pursuit, maybe a gift for someone, you’re more likely to be looking for something that is not one of thousands that’s offered on a marketplace, right. You might be looking for something very specific that’s not like everybody else’s or you may be looking for a store where you know that it’s not just kind of almost a nameless retailer. Instead it’s people that have touched the product, they have product knowledge, they may use the product themselves, and you’re more involved in that purchase, right. You’re more invested in that purchase and in the company.

John Jantsch: Well I know I personally like … I’m kind of almost a Cheers model, I like going to stores where they know my name. That to me and my wife laughs because it’s like okay, you’re going to be a customer there forever now because they just called you John, and she’s right. I get an emotional attachment there, but some would suggest that the Amazon’s of the world actually created personal experience in some ways … in the online world because they were the first ones to know what you bought before. They were the first ones to suggest oh if you like this, you’re going to like these, I mean isn’t that the basis of personalization?

Dan Breeden: It has a personalization feel, it also has an artificial intelligence field right, everybody that came before me that bought brown socks, 75 percent came back for blue socks, so the next thing I see is blue socks, right. So they’ll do that artificial intelligence kind of following the pack and that can work but I think when we’re talking about personalization, it’s more than just throwing more products into … in front of a consumer. It often is getting in front of that and knowing what the consumer is going to want even before they have seen the product, right. One of our merchants is … their site is called Pro Tuning Lab, and these guys sell import automobile parts for people that customize their cars. It’s a family run business, these guys are super in touch with the marketplace, they know what is gonna be hot on the street before it’s even on the street and they are very intuitive.

They’re very much in touch with the different clubs and their promoting products and they are putting products out there so when their followers, their customers see that, they know that it’s not only going to be one of the first time seen on the streets but you know, it’s cool. It’s trending or it will be trending, right. Amazon can’t do that because they’re going to have to wait until the buying trends show that this is a popular product, you know, but this merchant knows because they are themselves an aficionado, right. They are themselves a thought leader in that area and so they’re able to lead that buying purchase by getting the products ahead of time.

John Jantsch: Yeah and I think a lot of times … I know what makes me … connects me is maybe not even technology that’s involved but it’s the branding, it’s the story about the product, it’s the story about the company, those … so I think a lot of times personalization can come from knowing your audience so well that you’re able to tell a story that really connects with them.

Dan Breeden: Yeah, that’s exactly right, and actually that reminds me another merchant that we’ve had whose been around a long time, in fact it’s a family run business. One of the brothers that’s involved in the business wrote the original Yahoo Stores for Dummies book which was probably one of the first e-commerce guides that was ever written. These guys run a specialty store for pet supplies for people that have sporting dogs and it’s called Gun Dogs Supply and they started out as a small pet store. They were basically selling pet food out of a shed, they decided to get online when they first started hearing about people selling online, and they have a really interesting site because they have managed to outlast the, the Pet Smarts that sprang up in their neighborhood, and they have such product depth of knowledge that when you go to their site they have product videos … they aren’t just putting up your generic product descriptions.

They do their own testing, they take things and literally field test it, right. They put the collars on the dogs, they try out the retrieving tools, they write about it, they blog about it. When you buy from them … and I don’t have a sporting dog but I have a … one of my dogs is deaf and so I bought a signal collar for her. When you call them and I ended up calling them to get what I needed, I mean they’re able to tell you exactly which product they’re recommending because they’ve used it before. You’re not going to get that in a marketplace, right, you’re not going to get anywhere near that, that level of high touch.

John Jantsch: I want to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klaviyo, Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening and understanding cue’s from your customers, and this allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages. There’s powerful segmentation, email auto responders that are ready to go, great reporting. You want to learn a little bit about the secret to building customer relationships, they’ve got a really fun series called Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday. It’s a docu series, a lot of fun, quick lessons, just head on over to, beyond BF, beyond Black Friday.

I think that’s the real message, we don’t have to out tech them, we have to out story tell them I think and I think that’s really … that can be a huge differentiator but however, now that consumers are getting really used to this nice technology that works a certain way and flows a certain way and removes friction and makes it easier for them to buy.

You know what tech needs to be involved in that personalization because we want high touch but we also want … we don’t want friction, right, does that make sense. So what does a small business do now to sort of adopt the technology that we as consumers have come to expect?

Dan Breeden: Sure, so a lot of the technology that you’re going to find in the marketplaces can also be added to stores. I mean we have some of the more sophisticated stores … have things like customer reg, they’re building email lists for news letters, et cetera. The … if they’re using customer registration they’re able to recognize the buying history of that customer and so they know that maybe they’re coming back and ordering something they’ve ordered before, or maybe they’re coming back and they’re ordering something similar, right. You can recognize that they’ve ordered Chevy Blazer parts for that type of car, it’s a very good possibility they’re going to be looking for more parts for that type of car, so you can display those types of products in front of them. So all of that segment … I mean one of the great things about the internet is that it democratizes a lot of that technology.

So a lot of that is available, it’s just a matter of implementing it. I think one of the things that’s even more interesting though and we see it on some of our top merchant sites is things as simple as product categorization that are based on the owners in depth knowledge of the product. So it’s putting things into categories that might not otherwise be apparent but because they know their customers, because they touch their customers so often, they know that people shop for certain things in certain ways. I mean I was just looking this morning on the Gun Dog site and they have product categorization around the type of dog you have because certain dogs I guess have certain things that work better with them.

Then they also have areas where if I’m just shopping for a collar and I know I want a yellow one or a pink one, I can just go there and find all of the products that fit that categorization.

John Jantsch: So staying with this story telling theme, how does small business … how do you feel the small businesses can take their story out off of the site? So a lot of the places where people get recommendations, ask for recommendations, write reviews or are on social media. How do you take that story out off of the actual e-commerce platform … obviously the intent is to get them back there to buy it, but how do you integrate those two ideas?

Dan Breeden: Yeah, that’s a great question, now we’re kind of talking about content marketing and story telling is huge, right. You know, it wasn’t long ago where people thought content marketing meant just talking about the products features and benefits but you’re right. People like to buy things that they’ve heard about that they’ve heard about the product being used, sometimes it has a backstory. You need to get into social channels, the ones that are working for you, the one where your users are active, and that’s really key, is don’t just think you’re going to go into three channels because they’re your favorite channels, right. You want to choose the channels that your customers or intended customers favorites, and then find ways to incent people to try things or find ways for people to incent people to blog about or post about a product they’ve used, a product that maybe they’ve used in a different way, you know.

A lot of it becomes a conversation, it’s fascinating to me how often marketers will run and small businesses will run small programs to try and get things like product reviews or somebody to post about shopping on their site or using a product but then they don’t continue the conversation, you know. The more you’re able to make that two way back and forth, the more likely that people are going to not only share it more broadly, but also understand that this is the conversation with a person, right. This isn’t just a campaign where you’re trying to drive new posts and clicks.

John Jantsch: So I think you even mentioned it and of course it’s almost a sin to have a marketing conversation today to go more than about 10 minutes without using the term AI. So how does artificial intelligence play into the mix, I mean every … you know, I talk to small business owners all the time and they’ve all heard the term and they can’t … it’s all over network TV talking about it as the wave of the future. What’s the implication of AI for a small business right now?

Dan Breeden: Yeah, for most small businesses the implication of AI is understanding what kind of data you’re getting and trying to figure out how you can use it to make intelligent choices. It’s … every site has Google analytics and Google analytics is an amazing tool, one of the problems is it’s so rich and the data is so deep that a lot of small businesses just … they get buried in it and they’re not sure exactly what it’s showing. But the key is figuring out number one, what am I actually seeing, what is this data telling me, what’s important because a lot of it … it may all be interesting but it’s not all necessarily important and you need to decide as a small business what you’re trying to drive, what it’s showing, and then really what you need to do is you need to figure out what you’re going to do about it, right.

Then measure against your future data, if all you’re doing is just tracking this monster of data, you’re not going to get anything out of it. The business that succeeds is the one that’s constantly improving, constantly trying things, unfortunately constantly failing, but pivoting into a successful position from that.

John Jantsch: So let’s end up topic that we’ve kind of led to this … one of the things that I think is really challenging for a lot of small businesses, particularly e-commerce folks is the segmenting of promotions. We’ve all experienced that oh I went to this new website and they offered me 10 percent off because I’m new or I’m a returning customer and I’m going to get a certain price or it’s a holiday and I’m going to get a certain promotion. How do you really balance because I tell you one of the things that happens is if you’re not really good at that, you actually run the risk of alienating your best customers by promoting and giving special offers to everybody except them. So how do you kind of balance that promotion and maybe the exclusive feel of it without alienating your best customers?

Dan Breeden: Yeah, you’re right, and it’s a balancing act. It’s something that each business is going to have to look at individually. You do have to be very careful about acclimating your shopper to expect a constant discount unless that’s your business model, right, and if it is your business model, then it’s a good idea to just not waste time, just put it right up front right on that front page that we offer free shipping or we’re running a promotion and there’s 15 percent off. One of the interesting things I’ve seen and it’s used on our site, it’s actually a third party developer that does it, is a very intelligent product that the merchant decides how many pages someone clicks. How long they maybe sit on a single page, and then at a certain point and in particular if they start to show signs of going to a back button or leaving the site, it will then bring up a discount.

It will bring up sometimes a shopping timer that says that if they check out within the next five minutes they’ll get a discount. Those are really interesting highly valuable tools but they are tools that you’ve got to use intelligently, right. You don’t want to cannibalize your sales, you want to be … and that’s where data comes in right. You’ve got to run some tests, you’ve got to see what’s working, what’s not working, certainly if you’re going to do something like that though there’s a lot of ways that you can incent repeat customers to come back to your site, loyal customers to come back to your site, then you can often do it through news letters, email, et cetera.

You know, one thing that you remind me of though is one of the traps that a lot of e-commerce customers or merchants fall into, is having a check out with a discount code that can be entered at the end. If you’re displaying an area, a field for a discount code, my recommendation is you’ve got to also provide that discount code somewhere on that page. The last thing you want to incent people to do once they are … here I am in the cart, I put the three items in, I’m ready to go, and then I see that some people have a discount code. Well that’s going to often prompt the shopper to go out on Google and do a search and unfortunately I may find some discount codes but I’ll probably find alternative sites to buy the materials and products I may be buying from you. That’s the last thing you want to happen, right.

So if you’ve got that kind of program, figure out how to keep those people there, right, those are your customers, you’ve worked so hard to get them into the cart and get them … on the cusp of claiming that purchase and you want to follow through with that. If you need to give them a discount, display it right there, that’s part of your incentive and part of your promotions than put it right there to keep them on the checkout page.

John Jantsch: So Dan, where would you like to send people and of course we’ll have any of this in the show notes too, to find out more about Yahoo Small Business?

Dan Breeden: Well check out our site at Yahoo Small Business, we’ve got a number of products that are available, we’ve also got an advisor site as well. Like I said we’ve been around 20 years, we provide not only the tools that we know merchants need as well as brick and mortar companies, but we also work really hard to provide advice and guidance. We know that running a small business can sometimes be a lonely job, it can be confusing, a lot of times the things that small businesses struggle with especially early on is figuring out what to do next. So we provide articles and conversations, we of course have social content as well and so we’re happy to engage with new merchants and figure out how we can help them succeed.

John Jantsch: Awesome, well thanks for joining us and I invite people to check out the offers at Yahoo Small Business. Thanks, Dan.

Dan Breeden: Hey thank you.

How Small Businesses Can Compete in the Online Marketplace

How Small Businesses Can Compete in the Online Marketplace written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Dan Breeden
Podcast Transcript

Dan BreedenToday’s guest on the podcast is Dan Breeden, senior manager of strategic alliances for Yahoo Small Business.

Breeden and the team at Yahoo Small Business have been helping entrepreneurs establish their presence and compete in the crowded online marketplace for 20 years.

On today’s episode, we discuss the seismic shifts in customer behavior that have occurred over the past 10 years, and how small businesses can leverage their strengths to compete with the giant corporates using AI and machine learning to create highly personalized shopping experiences.

Questions I ask Dan Breeden:

  • What is the state of Yahoo Small Business, and what do you offer?
  • How would you describe the evolution of customer behavior over the last decade?
  • How can small businesses compete on the tech that consumers have come to expect in their dealings with giants like Amazon?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • How storytelling and personalization are linked, and why knowing your customer empowers you to build real relationships with them.
  • Why knowing your customers really well can help you compete with the AI and machine learning used by the big guys.
  • Why the most important part of analytics for a small business is deciding what to do with all the information you gather.

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Dan Breeden:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

Klaviyo logo

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. If you’re looking to grow your business there is only one way: by building real, quality customer relationships. That’s where Klaviyo comes in.

Klaviyo helps you build meaningful relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers, allowing you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages.

What’s their secret? Tune into Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday docu-series to find out and unlock marketing strategies you can use to keep momentum going year-round. Just head on over to

Why Hub Pages Can Be A Game-Changer for Your Business

Why Hub Pages Can Be A Game-Changer for Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

I’ve become more and more vocal of late about the importance of establishing hub pages on your website. Focused around a single topic, hub pages become a foundational source for readers, providing them with all the information they could need or want on a given topic.

No matter what kind of business you run, there is value in establishing hub pages for relevant areas of expertise. Still not convinced about why you should take the plunge? Here are the ways they can transform your business.

Organize Existing Content

If you’ve been diligently following the rules for content creation over the years, you likely have hundreds—maybe even thousands—of blog posts, webinars, and podcasts. That means you’ve shared a lot of useful information on the topics you know the most about. But right now, if someone is looking to do a deep dive into a specific topic, they have to go to your blog, search for a relevant term, and sort through articles looking for the ones that are most relevant.

Hub pages allow you to bring order to the content chaos and help guide your visitors’ experience. Let’s say you’re the owner of a yoga studio. You might create hub pages around various topics like nutrition for yogis, dealing with and recovering from injuries, pre- and post-natal yoga, and information on the different forms of yoga.

On each hub page, you would then create sub-categories, allowing you to share related content in an organized way. That makes it easy for visitors to quickly find the information they need, and maybe even discover related content they wouldn’t have thought to search for on their own!

Give Old Content a Second Life

You put a lot of time and effort into creating content that is meaningful and helpful for prospects and customers alike. But if you’re adding it to your blog or posting it on your podcast hosting site, it’s eventually fading into the background as you add more posts and episodes. Eventually, it ends up buried in the recesses of the archives.

Hub pages allow you the opportunity to highlight your evergreen content—those “oldies but goodies” that remain as relevant today as they were when you first posted them—bringing it front and center and getting the most out of the work you put into creating it!

Establish Yourself as an Industry Expert

One of the best ways to build trust with customers and prospects is to prove that you really know what you’re talking about. If all of your knowledge is spread across your website, it’s difficult for visitors to get the full scope of the expertise that you bring to the table.

When your content isn’t centralized, people might only be aware of a small sliver of the knowledge that you have. For example, if you run a landscaping business, someone might be aware that you handle fall leaf cleanup, but they might be unaware of the work you do to protect trees and mature plantings from diseases.

Without a hub page, visitors might also be missing out on understanding the depth of the knowledge you possess on each respective topic. Returning to the landscaping example, they might have heard from a neighbor that you saved their old pine trees from an invasive species, but they might not know that you are the only landscaper in the area that uses a highly-effective method for controlling the pests and keeping them at bay in the long run.

Hub pages empower you to define the terms for your visitors. You can showcase the expertise that you know differentiates you from your competition.

Increase Trust and Authority with Google

Trust and authority are two of the biggest ranking factors with Google. Creating hub pages allows you to link out to other industry experts who have content that is relevant to your hub topics. They also allow you to drive a lot of traffic internally to and from the page.

When you can create more high-quality internal linking, Google ranks you more highly in both authority and trust. These factors, over time, will help you to rank higher in Google’s search results, meaning that your best content—featured on your hub pages—will be seen by an even broader audience.

Boost Your Content Upgrades

You likely already have content upgrades offered on your website. It’s great to create extra content, like ebooks or checklists, that not only provide valuable information to interested parties, but also help you identify your most qualified leads.

When you include content upgrade offers on your hub pages, you’re able to generate even greater interest in this content. First of all, you’ve already established your expertise on the topic at hands, so who wouldn’t want to sign up to learn even more from you about this area of interest?

Second, since hub pages increase your standing in Google rankings, your content upgrades included on these hub pages are being seen by a broader audience, meaning you have the opportunity to capture even more qualified leads.

I strongly believe in the power of hub pages to transform a small business’ content marketing game. They allow you to harness the full power of all of the high-quality content you’ve created throughout the years. Plus they help you rank better in search and drive conversions with the most promising leads. What’s not to love?