Category Archives: Strategy

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5 Critical On-Page SEO Factors That Impact Your Ranking

5 Critical On-Page SEO Factors That Impact Your Ranking written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Having high visibility in a search engine’s organic results is critical to your business’ online success. 

People use search engines to find solutions to their problems. And if your product or service isn’t visibly ranking in search as a solution to their problem, that’s a massive missed opportunity for your business.

So what can you do to improve your rankings and where do you even start? 

Start by focusing on optimizing your on-page SEO. On-page SEO is one of the most important processes you can use to achieve higher rankings organically and start showing up in front of your target audience. 

Because the search landscape is constantly changing and evolving, it’s imperative you make sure your on-page SEO knowledge is up to date. Here are five critical on-page SEO factors that every business should be thinking about.

1. Content

Focus on your H1 headings and H2 subheadings

You need to use H1 and H2 tags. These help Google understand the structure of your page. Your headline should become an H1 heading. Your sub-points should be H2 headings, and bullet points can help organize information under each subcategory. 

While this strategy for organizing content makes it easier for readers to skim and settle on the information they’re looking for, it also helps Google to better understand your content.

Use your target keywords at the beginning of your pages

An old-school on-page SEO tactic that still works today is to use your target keywords in the first 100 words of your article or page. Google puts more weight on the terms that show up early on your page—it helps Google understand what your page is about.

2. Page Speed

Slow pages are a no-go. Page speed has been cited consistently as one of the leading SEO ranking factors for years. Slow loading sites provide a bad user experience. Search engines prefer sites that are going to show users the answers to what they’re looking for as fast as possible.

You can improve your site speed by reducing your number of redirects, compressing files, implementing website caching, reducing your page size, removing third party scripts, and many other steps that can speed up load time. 

3. Mobile Friendliness

Today, we live in a mobile-first world. More people use mobile devices than desktops to browse the web. And because of that, Google has made it clear that your pages need to be mobile-friendly. 

Google has a mobile-first index. On pages where content is not easily accessible for users on mobile, it’s unlikely that you’re going rank high in search results.

Google takes into consideration what the user’s experience is when they land on your site. Your site needs to:

  • Be responsive and automatically resize to fit whatever device your visitor is using
  • Use large fonts for enhance readability on a small screen
  • Have easy navigation—that means having accessible menus is a must

If you have any doubts whether or not your site is mobile-friendly, you can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing tool to see how your site stacks up. 

4. Domain names, extensions and URLs 

Your URL helps Google understand what your page is all about. And having the right kind of URL can improve your organic CTR.

URLs

Using the right kind of URL is important—every URL on your website should be short, sweet, and keyword-rich. It needs to be a URL that Google’s bots can easily reach and crawl. But the theme here is: keep things simple. Keep the URLs as short as possible, write them in plain english, avoiding number or letter sequences that might only mean something to your team, and use relevant keywords tastefully—don’t just throw in keywords just for the sake of it.

Domain names and extensions

Domain names and extensions do impact on SEO—however, the approach has changed over the years. The major factor that leads to website ranking is hosting valuable content and getting valuable backlinks from authoritative sources. But when you add a keyword-rich domain name and relevant domain extension, it’s icing on the cake.

Let’s take a look at this example. 

Say we have Website A with the domain name and extension of www.plywoodstore-london.com and Website B with the domain name and extension of www.londonply.store. Both can rank just as well as the other. However, the latter will garner more trust and will help the business get more on-topic backlinks for the keyword search of ‘London plywood store’. 

Your domain extension is an opportunity to communicate what you do—coming up with your domain name gives you the opportunity to be uniquely relevant to your business, and you can get creative while boosting your SEO ranking. 

Consider choosing a domain name based on your business type. Here are a few ideas:

  • If you’re in technology or IT, you could go with .TECH
  • If you’re in retail or eCommerce, .STORE could be a good choice
  • If you’re a journalist or publisher, try .PRESS
  • If you’re building your personal brand, then you can use .ONLINE

5. Internal and external links

The web is built on links—so links are a crucial SEO ranking signal. A well-optimized page will include both internal and external links.

Internal links

Including internal links to other pages with relevant content can help Google to better understand how all of your content is related. When you include internal links, make sure the anchor text has keywords in it. This can boost your rankings with search engines.

External links

Some people hesitate to include external links for the fear that doing so will just drive traffic away. This isn’t the case. You want to show that you’re creating quality content for your website visitors. When you link to other relevant, authoritative sites in your niche, it creates a better user experience and is good for SEO.

If you have a business with an online presence, on-page SEO has to be a focus to compete and stay relevant today in search. Thinking about SEO on each page individually instead of just collectively as a whole gives you the greatest chance at standing out in SERPs on multiple pages.

 

.store logoThis blog post is brought to you by .store.

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What’s more, www.yourbusinessname.store, instantly tells people your website is a “store” and lets your brand do the marketing for you! So, go ahead
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Why small business owners need to own marketing instead of renting it

Why small business owners need to own marketing instead of renting it written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Odds are this question has crossed your mind at one point in time if you’re a small business owner: “Should I hire someone in-house for marketing or continue to seek outside help?”

So many small business owners are afraid to hire marketing people internally. Where do you even start? And is there something wrong with keeping your marketing in the hands of an outside consultant?

Not exactly, but there comes a point in time when you need to stop renting marketing and own it internally. Here’s why.

The difference between owning and renting marketing 

First, let’s define what owning marketing vs. renting marketing really means.

Renting marketing is when you’re seeking outside help from a consultant or an agency to market your business.

Consultants are usually your strategic partners—the Duct Tape Marketing Consultants are an example of this. They can help you with high-level strategy, things like defining your ideal client, crafting core messages that set you apart, sharpening your brand identity, optimizing your website, or building your blog. 

Owning marketing is when you hire a marketing person internally to handle routine things like writing content for your blog, creating social posts, getting reviews for your business, managing your communities, public relations, working on referral programs, and more depending on your industry.

There’s a time and place for both. And there’s a sweet spot smack dab in the middle where ‘owning’ and ‘renting’ will work hand in hand. But more on that later.

Why you can’t abdicate your marketing

It’s common to delegate what you can as a small business owner. Marketing is one of those things that gets delegated most of the time. But when delegation becomes abdication—then you’ve got a problem.

Too often businesses have ‘someone looking after their marketing’. But when you look beneath the surface, it’s less about having someone effectively run their marketing and more about being a convenient opportunity for business owners to check the marketing box and turn their attention elsewhere.

When you’ve just abdicated and hired random people, you limit your bottom line results, and you aren’t building a long-term internal asset. 

Consultants can’t be your entire marketing department. They can only carry so much on their plate, and they won’t have the opportunity to know all of the intricacies of your business as well as someone internally would. If you want to get your business to the next level, it’s time to start building an internal team.

How digital channels add complexity

There are so many digital channels out there available for you to use today—which makes managing them all so much more difficult. It’s nearly impossible for one person to do it all alone.

Not only are you responsible for the strategy for each of the channels that you choose to use, but without help, you’re also in charge of the implementation and execution.

Small business owners need help with marketing, but they often don’t want to hire. 

Why small business owners don’t hire for marketing

Business owners are often skeptical about someone coming in to help with their marketing—whether it’s in-house or even on a consultant basis—so much so they don’t hire marketing people for reasons like:

  1. They don’t see marketing as a priority—few business owners have a marketing background, and while great marketing can deliver, most don’t want to spend their time (or money) on it.
  2. They’ve been burned before—a lot of times small businesses have had a bad experience with a marketing guru of some sort or they’ve hired a marketing person who ‘knew’ how to manage social media, but didn’t have any broader direction when it comes to marketing strategy. (And that’s because there often isn’t a bigger strategy.)
  3. They can’t justify the cost—small businesses often have limited resources. Hiring is a commitment. It’s an upfront cost, and the ROI isn’t instantaneous. But your costs should pay for themselves quickly if you hire the right person.
  4. They don’t know how to hire or train the right person—business owners (usually) aren’t marketers. They often don’t know what to look for, where to find talent, or how to get someone up to speed successfully.

But small business owners can only do so much on their own. There comes a point in time when even the skeptics need to re-evaluate and consider getting help if they want their business to continue to grow.

The natural progression of a mature business

When a business matures, growth becomes stagnant, and sales slowly begin to decrease.

This is when it’s time for your business to be shaken up. You hit a certain threshold where you can only grow so much, and you can’t do it all as a business owner. You’re already spread thin. If you want to take it to the next level, having an internal marketing team is key.

You can combat slowed growth by upping your marketing game. Whether it’s researching ways to reach new audiences, creating new product offerings, building referral programs, focusing on new platforms, you need to refresh your growth in the marketplace.

And with stronger marketing efforts and an internal person dedicated to taking care of those things, you can do just that.

Get help but plan to make marketing an asset

When an outside consultant or advisor is your entire marketing department, you can only reach a certain level of growth. 

I mentioned earlier that there’s a sweet spot smack dab in the middle where ‘owning’ and ‘renting’ marketing work magically together, hand in hand. Where you can really win is when you marry an internal marketing hire with your strategic partner. 

A marketing consultant can help you with the strategic component like the plan, the operations of the plan, the analysis of results, and ensuring you remain on track on working towards your big goals.

Meanwhile, the internal marketing person who knows the intricacies of the business (or soon will) can be directed by an outside resource—like a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant—to execute on this plan and craft messages that align with your strategy. This is how you get the best of both worlds.

By hiring internally, you end up building an asset for your business. But that still brings us back to one of the biggest blockers for small business owners—how do you find, hire, and train the right internal marketing person?

Well—we’re creating a program to solve this exact problem. 

We’re using our proven systems to build a Certified Marketing Manager Program. The program comes with an experienced consultant armed with a proven marketing system and a personalized training program based on your business for your marketing team (even if that’s just one person). 

Our Duct Tape Marketing consultant will teach your team how to build, run and implement a custom marketing system tuned to evolve as you grow. They can even help you find and hire the perfect internal marketing manager or coordinator.

It takes the daunting task right out of your hands. And this is exactly what you need to get to the next level.

So, this all sounds great, right? But you might still be wondering how exactly these 3 roles work together and who’s responsible for what. We’ve created a visual ‘What’s Your Role’ Map that shows you exactly how the business owner, in-house marketer, and your marketing consultant’s roles and responsibilities work together in the Certified Marketing Manager Program. 

Why reviews are so much more than social proof

Why reviews are so much more than social proof written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Online reviews are a crucial part of marketing these days. The presence of lots of great reviews provides a layer of proof that you keep your promises.

But often overlooked in the obsession for 5-star reviews is the actual words used by the reviewers. A 5-star review often implies that this is an ideal customer. They had the right problem, you solved it wonderfully, and they had a great experience.

Then, they voluntarily turned to a 3rd party review site such as Google, Facebook, or Yelp and told the world how great you are – effectively referring your business to anyone who cared to read the review.

You want more of those ideal customers, don’t you?

Here’s the real point – if you want more customers like the ones leaving great reviews you should pay very close attention to how they talk about your business – in particular, the words and phrases that show up repeatedly.

There’s gold in those phrases as it’s essentially your best customers telling you over and over again exactly what it is that you do that solves the real problem they have.

Here’s a real-life example of excerpts from some reviews for a local business to drive this point home.

  • “They came and worked as scheduled and cleaned up nicely after it was done.”
  • “The guys showed up on time and did a wonderful job.”
  • “In the past, we have dealt with people who don’t show up or do a professional job. Everything was cleaned up very well.”

Do you spot a pattern here? It’s not ever clear from these excerpts what service this business provides, but the clues to how they provide it are obvious.

The core message this business should put at the top of the fold on their website is – “We promise to show up when we say we will and clean up everything before we leave.”

It turns out this business is a tree service, but the real problem they solve for their ideal customers is that so few people in the home services industry are organized enough to offer appointment times and often leave a mess behind when they leave.

For this business and so many others that I’ve worked with over the years, reviews are a strategic marketing asset as much as a vehicle for social proof. Mine them for your core message and they will become a tool to help you attract even more ideal clients.

The process of review research is pretty simple.

Turn to your reviews on Google, Facebook, or any industry-specific review sites and start carefully reading your positive reviews. (Negative reviews can tell you a lot as well, but for now, that’s not what we are looking for.)

As you read the reviews start noticing words, phrases, themes, and patterns that are repeated. This is your customer explaining the problems your company solves for them, the things you do that others don’t, these are the words, phrases, and themes you need to start using in your marketing message right now.

Sometimes you’ll discover that your happy customers simply love your people or your approach. That’s great, don’t discount how powerful this can be as a message. In some cases, you’ll uncover a complete and creative core message hidden inside a review.

A few years ago we were working with a subscription-based lawn mowing service that attracted busy professionals as their ideal customers. After culling through their reviews we spotted the following in several reviews – “I just love coming home on mowing day.”

So it seems that the problem this company solved was that they were very professional, did a great job, and could be relied upon to do what was promised, but the ideal customer expressed this as experiencing a moment of joy in an otherwise hectic world. That’s kind of magic.

So they began to promise that – “You’ll love coming home on mowing day” – begging prospects to wonder if that’s true for them with their current service.

Using reviews to develop a core message of difference – one that offers precisely what your ideal customers value is how you turn a simple review into a powerful marketing strategy. But, you can also often find a handful of recurring themes that make great blog posts topics, FAQs,  emails subject lines, and ad copy for your Google Ads.

It’s all about using the words of your ideal customers to attract more of the same.

Now that you have this review thing down let’s expand it a bit. Studying reviews is also amazing for competitive research. Finding themes in both the negative and positive reviews of your toughest competitors can provide a sales advantage or spark an idea or two about some things you could do better based on some of the reviews you read.

Reviews and the words they contain are more than social proof, they’re amazing content and a path to better messaging in your marketing.

Focus on Your Customer to Grow Your Business

Focus on Your Customer to Grow Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Simon Severino

strategy In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Simon Severino, CEO of Strategy Sprints GmbH, where their goal is to coach CEOs and their teams to ensure higher NPS (Net Promoter Score), higher sales conversion and faster execution.

Simon also teaches Growth, Strategy, and Innovation at select MBA courses across Europe. Simon is the host of a podcast The Strategy Show, a show from CEOs for CEOs, in every episode he promises you will find a new masterclass on how to grow and scale your business.

Questions I ask Simon Severino:

  • In your experience what are some of the biggest mistakes that you’ve come across that companies commonly make, especially in the strategy area?
  • Can you think of a business that you have been able to convince to simplify and that’s where growth came from rather than piling more on to get growth?
  • Would you say there is a type of business this approach works best with?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • What are Strategy Sprints and how they work
  • How to find the #1 bottleneck in companies
  • How to focus on customer growth

More about Simon Severino:

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

Zephyr logo

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Zephyr.

Zephyr is a modern, cloud-based CMS that’s licensed only to agencies. The system is lightweight, easy to use, and incredibly fast. And with an array of beautiful themes to choose from, you can get your clients’ websites up-and-running quickly and with less effort. Or, if you’d rather build a custom site, Zephyr includes agency services to be your plug-and-play dev shop.

Zephyr is passionate about helping agencies create great websites for their clients. To learn more, go to Zephyrcms.com.

Creating a customer success journey

Creating a customer success journey written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back in the 80s, there was a brand that became a cultural hit called Members Only. Yes, I had a Members Only jacket, there, I admit it. The tagline for the companies’ line of apparel was, “When you put it on, something happens.” (First off, if you’re too young to remember this fad, you can do a search and still find fan sites, and, if like me you had one, please reply to this email, and we can be team members.)

Here’s my point today – what if you could come to think about your customer or clients or patients or whatever you call them – as members.

Now, I’m not merely suggesting you create a membership aspect to your business. However, that might be a great model for you; I’m suggesting that you think this way about them.

If you did, it might change how you innovate, iterate, and support every aspect of your business.

In a stable membership relationship, your goal is to help every member get the transformation they are seeking. So, naturally, you would care more about them getting a result than you getting a transaction.

If that were so, you would have to ask yourself much harder (or at least different) questions.

Then you might start analyzing your customer journey more like a customer success journey.

So, here are a few things to ponder.

1) Where are our customers now in terms of the results they want?

Think stages – we use three stages to talk about our small business customers and their marketing – Build, Grow, and Ignite.

2) What are the characteristics of customers in each of these stages?

For us, we might analyze their online presence, marketing message, and lead generation activity to characterize what they are thinking, feeling, and doing during each stage.

3) What milestones must they achieve to move to the next stage?

Again, for us, it might be a website that generates email sign-ups or phone calls, all the way through creating a robust referral generation system.

Milestones are a pretty great way to think about activity because you can create a yes or no question – do they have this – yes/no are the only answers.

4) What activities or action steps must they take to achieve each milestone?

This becomes the project plan to move through the stages or take the success journey you map out for them.

And, this is a biggie, this becomes the roadmap for every system you need to create in your business, so you provide an incredible journey for every single customer no matter the stage of their journey.

5) What systems must we create to ensure passage through the stages of the success journey?

The beauty of this approach is that it keeps both you and your customers on the same path – a path this is based on transformation, a path that can be accurately measured, a path that is all about results.

Becoming Your Best Virtual You

Becoming Your Best Virtual You written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on Becoming Your Best Virtual You

Virtual and work from home is getting a lot of hype right now, for obvious reasons. I’ve been a big fan of virtual work for many years, and there are some tools I’ve come to love and rely on over the years. I’m going to talk about some of those tools that I think a lot of people have either underutilized or are coming to a new appreciation for right now.

Some of these tools you might begin to use out of necessity right now, but as you get to know them, you might discover that you enjoy them so much you’ll continue to rely on them once we’ve returned to business as usual.

I’m going to run down my list of go-to tools, give you some case studies, and share how I personally use those tools in my daily life as an entrepreneur.

1. One-to-One Video

A lot of people are relying on one-to-one video at present because we can’t meet in person, but one-to-one video is a great communication tool even when we do have flexibility with how we meet up and converse with others.

By one-to-one video, I mean a video that you record specifically for one individual. The greeting and message is personalized just for them. And I’ve found over the years that this technology has many applications, from sending internal messages to remote folks on my team to interacting with clients and prospects.

The first way I use one-to-one video is to provide clarification when I’m sending a message. Say I’m forwarding on a long document with lots of detailed information. I might send along a one-to-one video highlighting the most salient parts of the document to help direct the reader.

I also find it’s a helpful tool when you’re working with a distributed team. For example, I work with a lot of web designers, and it’s quick and easy to record a video that shows minor edits that I’d like to see on a webpage they’ve already mocked up.

It’s also great for documenting processes. Using the screen capture tool allows you to walk someone through a process, if you’d like to give them a guided step-by-step walkthrough of what needs to be done in a given program.

It’s also a creative way to interact with clients or prospects. Instead of just sending a standard introductory email, which doesn’t stand out well or capture attention, use a personalized video to catch someone’s eye in an otherwise crowded inbox. It’s also a great way to send a thank you or to ask for a review from a happy customer.

The Tool: Loom

My go-to for one-to-one video is Loom. Even the free version of the platform has tons of functionality. You can film yourself, do a screen capture video, or create a video that shares your screen and shows you down in the corner.

Loom also makes the sharing process seamless. As soon as you’re done recording your message, you hit stop, it produces a link, and you drop that URL into an email. If you’ve integrated Loom with Gmail, it will embed the video directly into your email.

When someone gets the email, Gmail users don’t even need to leave their inbox; the video plays right within their inbox.

2. Video Meeting & Webinar Platform

When you’re working with a distributed team, it helps to have a way for you all to come together face-to-face. That’s where video meeting platforms come in. We use them for internal meetings, to talk with clients (to present ideas, brainstorm, or offer updates); we even use it for one-to-one sales calls.

Video is also a great tool for creating educational content and webinars. And some podcasters have started using video in their recording process. While they’ll only use the audio stream to produce the podcast, it’s helpful for them to be able to see their guest on the screen and makes the interview more natural and seamless.

The Tool: Zoom

The video meeting and webinar platform I’ve come to rely on is Zoom. What I love about Zoom is that there’s no software involved. No one needs to download anything to access the meeting; you simply forward a link and anyone can join from any device.

Zoom can be used for both webinars and meetings. The tool allows you to do a presentation (like a webinar) where everyone is an attendee and is muted. There’s a screen-sharing functionality, and you can incorporate features like chat, Q&A, and polls into your presentation.

Alternatively, you can use Zoom for meetings. Here, your team hops on the video and you can sit around and talk in much the same way you would if you were all around a conference table.

Of course, the one thing everyone must have to participate in a Zoom meeting is a way to connect. But it’s possible to do so via computer or phone. There’s an app for mobile devices, and people can even call in through a dial-in number, if that’s easier.

3. Live Streaming

Live streaming is becoming increasingly popular. And particularly during the current moment, where we’re not able to meet up in person, we’re seeing more personalities hopping onto Facebook, YouTube or LinkedIn to connect with their audience.

I think live streaming is an incredible tool for building community and speaking to your fans, but I find it’s often over-utilized. I think the key to creating great live streaming content is to start by asking yourself “What is useful for my community, prospects, or clients at this time?” That’s the question that should be driving you as you devise your live programming.

All of the major social platforms allow you to go live from within their individual apps, but I prefer to use an external tool.

The Tool: StreamYard

My go-to for live streaming online has become StreamYard. I find the tool helpful for a number of reasons. First, it allows you to broadcast to multiple platforms simultaneously. Rather than having to decide between addressing your fans on Facebook or LinkedIn, with StreamYard, you can do both at the same time.

It also allows you to add branding onto your video. You can put your logo or any relevant promotional information in the bottom third of your video screen. You can also easily incorporate Q&A and chat into your video, making it easy to engage your audience while you’re live.

It’s also really easy to record and hang onto your sessions. While it’s possible to download things that go live on other social media platforms, they don’t make it simple for you to capture that content. StreamYard makes it seamless, and then you have access to the content for future use, should you decide you’d like to reuse it.

Finally, StreamYard allows you to schedule out the time when you’ll go live and includes a notification on Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, or your streaming platform of choice. By notifying your audience of when you’re going live in advance, you create a built-in audience for your content and ensure that you’ll have people there to engage with—it helps you to create more of a live webinar experience.

4. Collaboration Software

For many folks who are used to sharing office space with their colleagues, the biggest hurdle to remote work is keeping everyone on the same page when it comes to advancing your projects and agendas. You need a unified communication tool and work space so that you can bring together all the emails, files, revisions, and to-do lists in one place. That way, everyone is always on the same page, and you always know right where to go to look for information.

There are tons of great collaboration suites out there, from Basecamp to Asana to Microsoft Teams.

The Tool: Slack

Our team loves Slack for collaboration and communication. When you’re used to working in an office, you can just pop down the hallway to ask your colleague a quick question. When you’re working from home, Slack is the next best thing.

It not only allows you to keep up a friendly and more relaxed chat environment, it also helps you to keep communications unified and to make sure all relevant parties hear announcements and are kept up-to-date on the latest company news. Rather than having to call around to each person individually, you can notify the appropriate Slack channel, and everyone who needs to receive your message gets it right away.

Is Virtual Me Here to Stay?

A lot of these tools have become necessities right now because of the coronavirus pandemic. People are using the tools in new ways. Some are conducting networking groups online rather than in person. Others have even set up co-working video sessions, where folks log on, go on mute, work individually, and occasionally come up for air to say a few casual words to each other.

We’re even seeing families adopt the technology for fun ways to stay connected virtually. I’ve seen scavenger hunts, science experiments, play dates, book clubs, and dance parties all occur on the web in these last few weeks of social distancing.

While some of these virtual ways of being will likely go away when life returns to normal (a virtual family game night will never replace the in-person hugs and warmth you’ll feel), I suspect some of these new ways of working will stick around.

For example, I host a number of weekend bootcamps throughout the year with our Consultant Network, and we’re planning to move them to virtual events. While there are some things you may lose in a virtual setting (the spontaneous conversation over lunch, say), in terms of cost and ability to include more people, virtual has got in-person beat every time.

Tips for a Better Experience

When it comes to connecting virtually, there are a few steps we can all take to make it a better experience for ourselves, our clients, our families, and anyone else we may be conversing with online.

First, audio is a big deal. There’s nothing more frustrating than listening to fuzzy audio that keeps going in and out. Particularly if you’re presenting to a group, it pays to invest in a nicer, USB condenser mic (like the Blue Yeti). These microphones pick up more depth and character in your voice, and they make you sound a lot more professional than the mic on your iPhone headphones.

Video matters, too. Rather than relying on the built-in camera that comes on your laptop, spend a little bit more on something like the Logitech C922 Pro. A nicer camera will give you higher video quality, with better light and clearer visuals.

Speaking of light, make sure that you have natural light on your face, if you can. Don’t have the light streaming in behind you, though, or you become a silhouette. If you don’t have natural light wherever you’re recording from, investing in a ring light can help your video look less dark and grainy.

Finally, do what you can to eliminate distractions. I know it can be difficult when you’re working from home and might have kids or pets running around in the background, but anything you can do to make your background as clean and seamless as possible is a major bonus for video calls and presentations.

I love the company Anyvoo; they create easily portable backdrops for video calls. You can get whatever you’d like printed on the canvas—your logo, a peaceful mountain scene—and you simply set the background up behind you whenever you have to take a video call. It’s on a stand, so it can be assembled anywhere and is taken down just as easily.

Many of us are adjusting to a new way of working that became a reality very suddenly over the past few weeks. I hope these tools make the transition a little easier for you, and that some of them become favorites that will continue to help you grow your business even after we return to normal life.

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

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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.

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Building a Marketing System in 7 Steps

Building a Marketing System in 7 Steps written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The Duct Tape Marketing philosophy is that marketing is a system. It’s not a series of tactics you approach willy-nilly. It’s not a blog post here, a podcast episode there, a social media ad once in a while. The kind of marketing that gets real results is driven by strategy and is constantly refined.

Today, I’m going to walk you through the seven steps any business must take to build a robust marketing system. Going through these steps now and revisiting them annually is the key to ensuring your business’s long-term success.

1. It Starts with Strategy

When you think marketing, your mind might leap to tactical elements: setting up a social media profile, creating share-worthy how-to videos on your YouTube channel, soliciting positive reviews on Yelp. Those are all well and good, and they are certainly elements you’ll want to tackle eventually. But first, you’ve got to start with strategy, and strategy starts with knowing your ideal customer.

If you don’t understand who your ideal customer is—their core problems and the value you bring to every engagement—how can you possibly find a message that resonates and identify the tactics that will work?

The short answer is that you can’t. Every great marketing strategy is rooted in pinpointing your ideal customer and honing in on the ways they want to interact with a business. Only once you’ve established your ideal client can you begin to connect what you offer with how you solve your customer’s problems.

2. Take Control of the Customer Journey

Today’s customer journey is driven by the customers themselves. People can go online to read your website, snoop on your social profiles, and get the inside scoop from existing customers’ reviews. If you let it, the buying journey can happen with hardly any input from you.

But smart businesses don’t sit back and let the customer do what they want; they take the reins on the customer journey. We like to frame the customer journey as one that flows through a marketing hourglass. The journey has seven steps: know, like, trust, try, buy, repeat, and refer.

We call it the marketing hourglass because your marketing tactics need to be involved at every step along the way. It’s not enough for you to leap in just before the sale. You must use tactics early on to help ideal prospects discover your brand. Your content should help convince them that you’re likable and trustworthy.

And your marketing efforts must continue long after that first sale is done. You’ll continue to be involved in the process of encouraging repeat business and a steady stream of positive reviews and referrals. As marketers, it’s our job to help customers take each step along the journey logically.

3. Content Has Risen to the Strategic Level

Don’t conflate the word “content” with “blog post.” Content is way bigger than that.

Content allows us to take the promise that we made to solve a problem and expand that so we can dominate search, social media, and all other places online where prospects are looking for answers about our brand.

We like to use content hubs to create one-stop-shops for the kind of informative, meaningful content that addresses a customers’ needs anywhere along the journey. Hub pages are designed to bring together all relevant information on a certain topic on one page. Think of them as the table of contents for a great online book in your area of expertise.

Whether someone’s just discovering your business, are coming back for one last look before they make a first purchase, or are sharing information about you with a friend looking for a referral, content hubs have something for everyone.

Content hubs are not only great resources on your website, they help improve your ranking in SEO and ensure that it’s easier for new audiences to discover your business.

4. Be Everywhere Online

People today live their lives online. The average internet user is online for six and a half hours each day! So that’s where every business needs to be, too.

Creating a total online presence allows you to greet people no matter where they are on the internet. Did someone drive by your brick-and-mortar store and look you up on Facebook? You should have a complete profile, with photos, reviews, and contact information, to greet them!

Did one of your happy customers refer you to their friend? Make sure your website is optimized for search, so that you will appear in queries even if that friend forgot to write your business name down and instead searches for a term associated with what you do.

The final piece of having a total online presence is ensuring that all of the pieces are integrated to work as a whole. Make sure that you use consistent branding across all of your profiles so people easily recognize you as the same business. Have your social handles on your website, so people can click from your homepage to your Instagram or Facebook profile. And vice versa! Use social media organic posts and advertising to drive traffic back to your website.

5. Keep the Leads Coming

A steady flow of leads is what will keep you in business for years to come. Not every lead will become a customer, but if you constantly have new opportunities coming your way, you’ll be able to continue to grow your business.

There is no one way to generate leads. In fact, it’s best to spread the wealth so that you’re there in the channels where your ideal customers live. That being said, it also pays not to stretch yourself too thin. You don’t have to be on every social media channel, guest blogging for every industry publication, appearing on every podcast, and showing up in every search related to your industry.

Instead, focus your efforts on the channels that are most likely to generate results. If your ideal clients are Baby Boomers, there’s no need to spend time marketing on a Gen Z-dominated social media site like Snapchat. It’s best to focus on building up those channels that are most likely to consistently generate leads.

6. Focus on Converting Those Leads

Are you doing what it takes to convert each and every lead? What about a plan to reactive old and lost clients? You can dramatically impact a business by setting up better experiences along the customer journey.

This starts with customer journey mapping. Mapping allows you to understand exactly what’s happening at each stage of the journey. If there are elements that are contributing to a less-than-stellar experience, you have the power to change those and make them better. Once you know you’ve built a great experience all the way through, you’ll have a better shot at winning back those clients you lost and capturing new ones, too.

Customer journey mapping also helps you consider all conversion behavior. It’s not just the sale that matters, it’s every conversion step leading up to that. Are people signing up for your newsletter? Are they downloading your free ebook? Are they booking an online appointment to video chat with your sales reps?

By tracking and measuring each conversion behavior, you can begin to identify those weak spots. If you can boost conversion at each weak spot by one or two percent, it adds up to a huge bump cumulatively over the journey.

7. Make a Plan

You don’t need to be like those giant corporations that have five- and ten-year strategic plans. But you do need a plan that says—for this year, quarter-by-quarter—these are our biggest priorities.

Most businesses try to bite off more priorities than they can chew. Limit it to three or four priorities each quarter. From there, you can break these big-picture goals into actionable steps.

Marketing isn’t something you can set-and-forget. It needs to happen daily, so you should schedule it in to ensure it becomes a habit. If you have a team, stay on top of them to ensure that your priorities are moving along and you’re hitting each of those actionable steps on time.

Once you’ve discovered the tactics and strategies that work for you, write them down. By documenting your processes, it’s easy to pass those tasks off to staff members or outside marketing support. That frees you up to focus on the next big strategy to grow your business.

Great marketing is a cyclical thing; it never truly ends. Once you’ve gone through these seven steps, go right back to the beginning and refine your approach. Do you need to revisit the profile of your ideal customer? Is there a new online channel you should be considering in your marketing efforts? Have your mapping exercises highlighted a new opportunity to boost conversions at a given stage in the journey?

By revisiting each of the seven steps of your marketing strategy each quarter, it keeps your approach fresh and helps you identify new ways to reach customers.

How Mobile Has Impacted the Customer Journey

How Mobile Has Impacted the Customer Journey written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The customer journey is influenced by many outside factors. As the use of mobile devices has taken off over the past decade, it’s changed the way that businesses market themselves and how customers interact with businesses.

In order to better understand the impact mobile has had on the customer journey, it’s helpful to go through and assess the effect at each stage of the marketing hourglass. By better understanding how mobile changes customers’ behaviors, you can begin to adapt your marketing strategy to meet their evolving needs.

Mobile in the First Stage: Know

How do people discover a new business? Before the days of computers, it was all print and television ads, word of mouth, or simply driving by your storefront. Now, there are dozens of channels for people to encounter your brand. And mobile only further diversifies the field.

In some ways, mobile has shortened the customer journey. Mobile searches with the phrase “near me” and “can I buy” or “to buy” increased by 500 percent between 2015 and 2017. That boost means people are turning to mobile to discover immediate solutions to their problems. By entering this search term, they’re able to quickly check out your website, read reviews, and even find your hours and location on a map. What would have taken more in-depth research in the past is now condensed into a few minutes and a handful of clicks on a mobile device.

It’s also important to remember that not everyone finds you via an internet browser search. With the advent and rise of mobile apps, some people are discovering businesses through a specific app. For example, those who search for local businesses on the Yelp app are only being presented with businesses who have a presence on Yelp. If you haven’t claimed your profile there, you’re not going to be discovered at all. So making sure your business’s profile is claimed on the major local listings sites, like Yelp and Google My Business, is critical to winning at mobile.

For that same reason, you need to have a presence on social media. Some people turn to Facebook or Instagram for advice on which local businesses to patronize. Again, you’re not even going to be in the running if you don’t have a profile on those sites!

How Mobile Influences the Like and Trust Phases

Once someone’s discovered you online, they want to get to know you better. And to do that, they need to be able to learn more about you. Just like you wouldn’t get married after the first date, prospects want to make sure you’re the right fit before they dive in.

You want your content to build that familiarity and trust, while being easy to consume on a mobile device. That starts with creating content that can be enjoyed on the go. Podcasts are an easy listen for folks who are on their commute, and video is often a bite-sized way to share meaningful information that builds trust and authority.

Social media is also critical in this stage. Posting regularly on social media means that those who discover you on mobile can do a quick inventory of who you are and what you do by scanning backwards through your recent content.

For those who aren’t looking to make an immediate purchase, social media remains a great way to stay top-of-mind on mobile devices. People often check their social media accounts multiple times a day, and so if you’re appearing at the top of their newsfeeds each time they log in, you build that familiarity quickly.

Advertising can also help you stay top of mind. Social ads are a way to remain omnipresent on prospects’ feeds. And display ads allow you to keep you name on people’s minds even when they visit other websites from their phone’s browser.

How to Try on Mobile

When we get to the try phase of the customer journey, mobile has an important role in ensuring that customers don’t slip away at this critical stage.

Mobile tactics can help to facilitate the try process by making it easy to prospects to sign up for a demo or appointment. A smart use of chat or SMS marketing techniques can make it easy for you to automate the sign-up process, while providing prospects with a more personalized encounter with your business.

Newer technologies like augmented reality (AR) are changing the way people try on their phones. Take furniture store IKEA as an example. They built an app that allows prospects to try out a piece of furniture in their home through the power of AR. Prospects can point their phone at an empty corner of their room, select the sofa, chair, or lamp that they’re considering, and see on their screen what the item would look like in their home.

While AR technology might not be readily accessible to all small businesses yet, it’s definitely a trend to watch, as more and more retailers incorporate it into their marketing strategy.

Mobile Makes it Easy to Buy

A recent survey found that 79 percent of smartphone users had made a purchase on their phone within the past six months. So not only are folks using their mobile devices for research, they’re actually doing transactions on their phones.

For any small business with an e-commerce component, it’s critical that you make it easy for people to purchase via mobile. This is all about creating a customer experience with the least amount of friction in the buying process. Make it easy for people to navigate to their cart. Don’t ask for lots of additional information in the checkout process–only collect information necessary to process the transaction.

After the initial purchase has been made, great mobile UX can also help facilitate the onboarding process. If you’re an e-commerce brand, provide updates on shipping status, and make sure that customers can easily track their packages.

No matter what kind of business you’re in, there is content that you can create in a mobile-friendly format to make it easier for new customers to get the most out of their new purchases. Put together an email series with responsive design (so it looks great on any screen, big or small!) that outlines special tips and tricks for using the new product or service.

Use Mobile to Inspire Repeat Purchases

Once you’ve gotten a prospect to convert to customer, there’s still work to do! And pushing existing customers towards a repeat purchase can be achieved with some mobile-friendly tactics.

Retargeting is a great way to bring existing customers back into the fold. You can advertise on social media or via display ads, and direct certain content towards those who have already bought from you. If someone recently made a purchase, you can target them with advertising for a related product or service in order to encourage an upsell. If a customer has drifted away over the past few months, you can show them ads welcoming them back with a special offer for return customers.

Building out a rewards program is another way to engender loyalty amongst existing customers. This can be done either through your website (which should be mobile-friendly!) or with an app specifically for your business. The additional benefit of creating an app is that you eliminate the competition. Your existing customers come directly to you via the app to make a purchase, rather than going onto the web to search for your solutions and run the risk of getting drawn in by one of your competitors with a smart SEO or paid search strategy.

Mobile and Referrals

The final stage of the customer journey is getting your customers to refer others. As I mentioned in the earlier phases, reviews are a key part of the referral process, and that’s particularly true on mobile. People who are searching for solutions on the go will turn to reviews in lieu of asking friends or family for recommendations. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’re doing the work to solicit reviews from your customers.

You can also consider creating a referral program. If you have a mobile app for your business, creating a program directly through the app is a great, easy way to help your mobile-minded customers refer their friends.

Finally, social media can help you generate referrals. Share user-generated content that sings your brands praises. Create contests and opportunities for your existing fans on social to give your brand a shout-out to their friends. Get influencers to try your product and vouch for you to their followers. A referral from a real friend or trusted influencer on social can go a long way in winning over new customers.

Mobile marketing has changed the way consumers buy, and so businesses have had to adjust their marketing accordingly. By considering how to get the most out of mobile at each stage of the customer journey, you can position yourself to reach the majority of consumers, who have become more and more focused on mobile over the years.

Small Business Marketing Insights for 2020

Small Business Marketing Insights for 2020 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch on 2020 Small Business Marketing Insights

I wanted to close out the year with a solo show looking ahead to the next one; let’s talk small business marketing insights for 2020.

While there have been some big trends in the world of marketing—things like AI—getting a lot of buzz, I’m not here to talk about those. Trends like that are often not relevant to small business owners. Instead, I want to cover what I think are the insights for 2020 to give you some things to think about, that can actually add to what may be your long list of planning elements.

Insight 1: Audio Content Will Prevail

I think audio content is going to be something that people need to really embrace for 2020. If you’re not podcasting already, now is the time to start. It’s a great way to produce content. It’s also a great way to open up lines of communication with people you want to speak with, whether those are authors and influencers or folks in your target market or even your very own customers.

So podcasting is a great way to build relationships. But beyond that, the format appeals to the needs and sensibilities of a modern audience. People have less time and attention to sit in front of a monitor and read content. I certainly know I’m that way! Same with video. I have a lot of trouble sitting in front of a monitor and devoting time to a video when I could be doing other things.

Audio content, on the other hand, is totally portable. I can download a podcast, stick my phone in my pocket and go for a walk. I can turn it on in the car and listen during my commute. I can walk the dog, I can go for a run. The portability of the format makes it incredibly easy for even the busiest of people to consume the content at some point during their day.

So, if you are not producing audio content, I’m going to encourage you to do so. And there are a number of ways to get started. If you have videos you’ve already produced, you can strip out the audio from those videos and run it in another format. You can use audio to talk about your business, then get the audio transcribed and use that on webpages as written content.

And you can create a non-traditional podcast. It doesn’t have to be all guest interviews. You can occasionally do a rant (like this one I’ve done on marketing insights!) to get results.

Getting started with audio now isn’t just about getting immediate results—it’s also about the long game. I see smart speakers eventually playing a bigger role in the way people consume more of their daily content. So “Alexa: play my flash briefing,” might deliver a daily recap of audio content. While I think this is a ways off, it’s never to early to get prepared for a shift like that!

Insight 2: Take Your Marketing In House

As a marketing consultant and person who trains marketing consultants, I think more small businesses should bring things in house. And there’s two areas in particular that should be outsourced less: marketing tactics and technology.

In the case of both of those areas of focus, it’s not an either-or proposition. You hire a marketing person to handle routine things that include both sides of that coin, from writing content to doing social posts to getting reviews to making Instagram posts. Those are all things that I think you should have an internal resource to do, but the secret ingredient is to marry that with a strategic marketing partner.

A lot of times, small businesses will hire a marketing person who knows how to manage social media, but isn’t given any broader direction when it comes to marketing strategy. (And that’s because there often isn’t a bigger strategy.)

That’s where a marketing consultant or advisor comes in. They can help you with the strategic component, the plan, the operations of the plan, the analysis of results, and make sure that you remain on track in working towards your big goals. Meanwhile, the internal person who knows the intricacies of the business can be directed to execute on this plan and craft messages that align with your strategy. That way, you get the best of both worlds.

In fact, I think this is going to be so critical in 2020 that we’re creating a certified marketing manager program, where we’ll train small business marketing staff on how to hire internal people and have that person directed by an outside resource, like a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant.

Insight 3: Humanize and Automate

Remember how back in the day, every deal was done with a handshake with a trusted partner you could look in the eye? Then technology came along, and suddenly you could do business without ever actually speaking with another human being. Now, it seems the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way, and we’re finding a happy medium.

So this insight sort of seems counterintuitive, but I’m saying you need to both humanize and automate. It comes down to finding the right balance. Both customers and business owners want things to be convenient and efficient—which is where automation comes in—but they also want that human touch.

There’s a tremendous amount of research being done around what makes someone love a company. And in many cases it’s things like convenience, knowledge, communication, efficiency, friendliness—all human traits. But a lot of the reasons a company is convenient and efficient are now aided by technology.

So I think that we need to get to the point where we are automating everything that can and should be automated and we are humanizing or re-humanizing everything else. My insight for 2020 in terms of a recommendation in this case, is get back on the phone. Let your phone ring, answer your phone, call people, that is one of the easiest ways I think to re-humanize our businesses. I’ve certainly been guilty of the opposite, and I look forward to picking up the phone more this year.

Insight 4: Focus on Customer Experience

Customer experience and retention is the golden opportunity for every single business.

PwC did extensive research into why customers stay loyal. They found that very few reasons had anything to do with the actual product or service. For the most part, it was all about customer experience—things like convenience, knowledgeable communication, efficiency, and a friendly staff.

So, how can we look at this in our marketing? You’ve probably heard me talk about the marketing hourglass, where we get people to know trust, try, and buy. But then we think marketing ends at the repeat and refer stages.

In reality, though, all seven stages must come together under the marketing umbrella. Everything from building knowledgeable, efficient communication to reporting results and providing friendly interactions for customers all go hand-in-hand.

I think we as marketers ought to spend at least half our time on creating a better customer experience and then you can spend the other half on generating more leads and converting more leads.

Insight 5: Paid Search Matters More Than Ever

Paid search—Google ads, Facebook advertising, LinkedIn, all the banner ads—have been around forever. So it’s not their existence that’s a new insight. In fact, certain types of businesses, like e-commerce brands, have used paid search to dramatically grow their businesses. But we’ve now entered and era where the small local business of any stripe must embrace paid search. Increasingly, Google is where people turn to find any and every piece of information about a business. Even if they’re already a customer!

An interesting anecdote for you: I did a search the other day for a plumber in Kansas City. And the first real result, meaning an actual business that wasn’t either an ad or an aggregator like Angie’s List or Home Advisor, showed up on page two. So, pay to play is definitely here. Making paid search a real, significant part of your overall marketing plan is no longer optional.

My first bit of advice on that front is to make sure you’re involved in the paid search process and are doing it in a smart way. Do your research about what paid search actually entails. You don’t have to do it for yourself, but you need a baseline knowledge to know you’re not getting scammed.

I see so many small business owners that work with pay per click firms that basically set up templated campaigns and forget them and don’t communicate and just say, “Oh, you got 27 clicks this week”. Well what does that mean? It means I spent X amount of money, that’s all you can tell me. It’s not about how many clicks you got, it’s about how many customers you won.

My next piece of wisdom is the use paid search to capture people with the highest purchase intent. There’s a lot of categories of business where paid searchers converted two to one over people that just went out and had a long tail search and found your blog post.

I’m not saying abandon everything else. In fact, never abandoned your website, SEO, or content. But you want to supplement it with paid search to get that high intent stuff. Maybe there’s categories where you’re having trouble getting your content to rank. Maybe there are certain really competitive search terms like an emergency service for something that you know if somebody finds your ad they’re going to buy it, because they’re trying to fix something.

I believe that the local service ads are going to only get bigger as a category. Eventually, you’re going to find accountants, lawyers, and more in those service ads because Google is making more money on those ads than anywhere else. And, consequently, the ads are going to take up more real estate on the results pages.

One final note on paid search: if you set your campaigns up correctly and are checking in on reports regularly, you come to understand that you’re not really bidding on keywords. You’re bidding on search terms: what someone puts into a search term to make your name pop up.

Once you begin thinking of things in those terms and use analytics to track your results, then you can build a complete roadmap for your marketing plan. When you understand the tactics that are working, and how people are moving throughout their customer journey from start to finish, then you can tailor your content further to encourage others to take that same path to conversion.

Those are my five insights for 2020. I hope you get out there and make moves to implement some of the tactics around these insights, because I really do believe they can make a huge difference in your marketing.

To help you in your marketing efforts, I wanted to announce that—while I don’t have a release date yet—you should keep your eyes peeled for a significantly revised edition of Duct Tape Marketing, the original book. Also, we’re creating a certified marketing manager program, which should be launching at the end of Q1 2020. The program will allow business owners to provide personal development and training to their team. You’ll have your own private coach or consultant, and they won’t just go through the plan, but will also apply the plan to your business.

So keep an eye out for all that and more in 2020. Take care and have a great rest of your 2019. See you in the New Year!

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This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by SEMrush.

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How Did the Customer Journey Evolve in 2019?

How Did the Customer Journey Evolve in 2019? written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

The customer journey is at the heart of all marketing efforts. I wrote last week about how the marketing hourglass and the marketing maturity model are the two frameworks to guide you through the creation of your entire marketing system.

While the marketing maturity model helps you to establish and grow your own marketing assets, the marketing hourglass teaches you how to interact with customers throughout their journey with your brand. In today’s digital world, where things change quickly, the customer journey continues to grow and evolve. And it’s critical that you’re aware of these changes so that you can continue to deliver an effective marketing message to customers, even as their journey shifts.

Let’s take a look back at how the customer journey evolved in 2019 and where we might expect it to go in 2020.

The Omnichannel Experience Expands Further

Digital marketing allows you to create multiple touchpoints with your customers. From your website to social media to video platforms to paid advertising, there are dozens of channels for you to explore. And in 2019, you gained even greater options.

Voice search continues to grow. Experts expect that 200 million smart speakers will have been sold by the end of the year. While smart speakers and voice assistants provide another way for you to get discovered by new prospects, you may need to pivot your SEO efforts to get noticed by Alexa and Siri. Things like having a mobile-friendly site that is fast and secure, and making sure you’re listed on relevant local listings sites (think Yelp, Facebook, and Google My Business) can all help you to be the brand that’s suggested by a voice assistant.

Augmented reality (AR), which first gained widespread attention as the tech that powered the popular Pokémon Go app, is now being used by marketers to sell products. We’ve seen retailers in the fashion, beauty, and home furnishing spaces develop apps that allow people to virtually try before they buy.

Visual search is also something to keep on your radar screen. Social platform Pinterest has added visual search to their site, allowing consumers to upload a picture of a product they like and presenting them with suggestions for where they can purchase the item—or something similar—online. For tips on how to make Pinterest work for your business, check out this Duct Tape Marketing podcast episode with Pinterest expert Alisa Meredith.

Data and Automation Are More Important Than Ever

Data and automation are buzzwords we’ve heard tossed around for several years now, but they’ve established themselves as critical elements of business operations and marketing. On the marketing front, they allow you to better understand the unique shifts in your customer’s journey, so that you can modify your approach and direct the right message at the right prospect at the right time.

As the technology becomes more widespread and costs of implementation decrease, small businesses are able to tackle personalization on a level that was previously only possible for giants like Amazon.

This year, 80 percent of regular shoppers indicated that they’ll only do business with brands that serve up personalized experiences. So if you’re still sending the same emails to everyone on your mailing list, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Understanding customer data allows you to segment your customer base into different personas. Very few businesses serve customers that are all exactly alike. For most of us, we mean different things to different people. Let’s say you’re a florist. Some of your clients purchase flowers only for special occasions, like birthdays and anniversaries. Others are event planners who place large orders on behalf of their clients. Others still are individuals with standing orders for arrangements at their home or office.

Each of these customers have very different needs, and so they should be getting very different marketing messages from you. By using the data you already have on your customers to better understand their behaviors and actions, you can craft your marketing messaging to speak directly to each segment of your customer population.

And with marketing automation tools, you can set your system to send certain messages to customers that are triggered by specific behaviors. That means everyone is always getting the marketing message they most need and want, and you’re likely to generate more business.

Online and In-Person Worlds Collide

If you’re a marketer today, there’s so much to think about in the digital world that it’s possible to get carried away and forget that your customers still exist in the real world! That’s why it’s important that, even as you keep an eye on digital trends, you work to bring the digital and real worlds together for your customers.

Eighty-eight percent of consumers who do a local search on their phone end up calling or visiting the business within 24 hours. This means that the online portion of the customer journey is leading directly to in-person sales.

How can you better facilitate the customer journey from online browsing to in-person purchasing? Make sure your business is present on local listings sites like Google My Business so that you can get found in the first place. Have your contact information and hours listed prominently on your site and local listings, so that prospects can actually call and visit.

Webrooming is another digital-to-real-world trend that local businesses need to be aware of. Webrooming is the practice of searching for a product online while you’re physically in the store. I know I’ve done it myself to check out specs and reviews on the top one or two items I’m considering. Reviews and ratings are important to any small business for SEO, but they’re also relevant in the real world as they have the ability to sway a webrooming consumer in real time.

Engagement is Key

As the customer journey has grown more and more complex, engagement has become even more important. When prospects or customers reach out to you via any channel, you must respond quickly and effectively.

Engagement is your opportunity to capture more of your audience’s valuable attention. If someone comments on your social media account, don’t just let it sit there or simply reply with a like. Instead, ask a question or write a response that invites them to engage in conversation. The longer you can keep that volley going, the greater their sense of connection becomes with your brand. If you’re able to make a good impression now, it’s the kind of thing that will make them think about you later when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Building Loyalty is Critical for Long-Term Success

Because the customer journey is no longer a straight light, you need to build loyalty. Otherwise, people will abandon you when a better offer comes along.

Be honest: How many times have you done your product research on one site, settled on your product of choice, and then opened up a Google tab to search for the same product elsewhere, cheaper?

Digital enables people to go through all of the steps of the journey with you, and then at the last minute jump ship to go with a cheaper competitor. The only way to combat this is to offer an incredible customer experience. Your brand has to be about more than your products, or you’ll lose your differentiation (and your customers). And you need to be going above and beyond at every stage of the customer journey, because they can slip away at any point.

The Journey Can’t Just Happen, You Need to Guide It

With so many marketing channels in place, you can’t leave customers’ paths to chance. Instead, you need to take control of your destiny and guide the customer journey.

This starts with mapping to understand your current customers. When you know how your existing ideal clients behaved on their journey, you can work to recreate that experience for others. Not only is it more likely to lead to conversions, it also means you’ll be attracting new customers who fit your ideal profile

When you’re refining your approach, it’s good to use testing. Research your existing customers, posit a theory, test it out, and measure results. A/B testing is a great way to run side-by-side comparisons of different approaches to see which resonates best with your target audience.

The customer journey is constantly evolving, and I’m sure we’ll see even more changes—big and small—in 2020. No matter where the customer journey goes next, if you keep the marketing hourglass and a commitment to serving your customers as your North Star, you’ll be able to weather any ups and downs in the marketing landscape.