6 Reasons Why Print Marketing Is Thriving

A few years ago, you might have heard marketers claiming we were facing the end of an era for print. Online marketing is cheap, available to almost any business owner, and capable of reaching a global audience, so it seemed like the natural order of things for print marketing to die out. But this isn’t the case at all.

A few years ago, you might have heard marketers claiming we were facing the end of an era for print. Online marketing is cheap, available to almost any business owner, and capable of reaching a global audience, so it seemed like the natural order of things for print marketing to die out. But this isn’t the case at all.

Print advertising spending has dropped only slightly in the past several years, and is projected to remain stable at roughly $24 billion per year in 2021 and beyond. Business owners are still relying on print marketing to spread word about their businesses, despite the advantages of digital marketing strategies. But why is this the case?

Lower Costs

First, the cost of printing has dramatically decreased over the past couple of decades, thanks in part to the availability of online services. Printing a brochure online, for example, is much cheaper than printing one at your local office supply shop. That’s because printing companies have invested in new equipment that can operate much more efficiently, and rely on digital files and tools to facilitate more efficient production. This is especially true of higher-run orders, where businesses can decrease their per-unit price to absurdly low levels. Ultimately, this keeps printed advertising strategies in line with digital marketing strategies in terms of cost.

Higher Accessibility

Printed materials also are more accessible than they’ve ever been in the past, again thanks to the prevalence of online tools. Most major printing companies offer online platforms where business owners can create an account, log in, manage their ongoing materials, lay out exactly how they want their items to look, and order something new with the click of a button. Rather than dealing with a salesperson or trying to navigate the complex world of technical printing requirements, they can navigate thousands of options in a simple, consolidated interface. This makes print more appealing than ever.

Mutual Existence

Traditional advertising and online marketing aren’t mutually exclusive. Naysayers proclaiming the end of traditional marketing tactics tended to assume that if a business was spending $60,000 a year on print marketing materials, they would soon shift to spend $60,000 a year on online marketing strategies. But this hasn’t been the case; instead, businesses would often split their budgets, spending $40,000 on print marketing and $20,000 on new online strategies. In some cases, businesses would simply increase their total budget, retaining their $60,000 traditional spending and experimenting with an additional $20,000 for online techniques. The success of online marketing in no way overrules or negates the power of printed materials.

Consumer Preferences

It’s also important to note that not everyone prefers consuming material in a digital format. About 10% of the U.S. population doesn’t use the Internet, basically rendering them unreachable through digital means. In addition to that, some people either prefer or are more easily persuaded by material that comes to them in a printed format; for example, they may like flipping through the pages of a physical booklet rather than browsing through online pages.

This factor is somewhat dependent on your target demographics. If your audience strongly prefers printed materials, or is better influenced by them, there’s no reason to switch to digital marketing.

Local Visibility

Printed ads tend to be more approachable for local businesses; it’s easier to distribute printed flyers and booklets around a neighborhood than it is to climb the search engine rankings for keyword terms related to your city (though this may also be possible). Accordingly, new businesses trying to cater to a local population tend to favor traditional, print-based advertising methods.

New Techniques and Integrations

It should also be known that the world of print marketing today is very different than it was 20 years ago. New techniques, and new integrations with other marketing technologies make it much more versatile—and powerful. For example, thanks to digital lists and inventive printing techniques, you can customize your printed ads with the individual names of your intended recipients. You can also use QR codes or other tactics to send your printed ad recipients to an online or digital destination.

The Caveats

Of course, this isn’t to say that print marketing is a perfect strategy in the modern era, or that it should be favored over online marketing. There are a wide range of tactics available, in both digital and printed formats, and how your business performs depends not only on which tactics you choose, but how well you execute them. A good high-level strategy, backed with research and grounded in creativity, will always succeed more than a poorly planned one, regardless of the specific tactics used to execute them. Keep that in mind as you plan your next strategy—and how your campaigns might evolve in the future.

How Music Can Shape Your Ad

With the exception of radio ads, advertising tends to be considered as a visual medium. However, if you’re creating a video ad that relies on both sights and sounds to sell something, you need to think carefully about the role your background music plays.

With the exception of radio ads, advertising tends to be considered as a visual medium. However, if you’re creating a video ad that relies on both sights and sounds to sell something, you need to think carefully about the role your background music plays.

Of course, it’s possible to produce a video ad without a musical backdrop, especially if you’re trying to go for a minimalist approach. But most ads can be enhanced by choosing and integrating the right music.

Original Music vs. Stock Tracks

If you’re working with a budget, you might consider trying to use stock music tracks in the public domain; these tend to be cheap or free, and can provide a decent enough backdrop to the rest of your ad. However, they tend to be used by a lot of brands and may make your brand seem unoriginal.

It’s usually much better to purchase the rights to a recognizable track, or even better, come up with original music of your own. You can recruit musicians online to write and perform a custom drum track, and incorporate other instruments as you see fit. With the level of customization and flexibility available, this makes it possible to create the “perfect” track to represent your brand or product.

Rhythm and Energy

The distinct “energy” of a song can also factor into its impact. Pay attention to the beats per minute (BPM) of the song; if you want to convey a sense of excitement or enthusiasm, something with a higher BPM is better. If you’re trying to evoke a feeling of sentimentality or sadness, something slower and more somber is more effective.

Lyrics and Instrumentation

Pay close attention to the instrumentation of the piece, as well as the lyrics (if there are spoken words). Heavy percussion can give your product an energetic or militaristic feel, while light woodwinds can make it seem ethereal or whimsical. Rock instrumentation, like distorted guitars, can give your brand an approachable, relatable appeal, while traditional orchestral instrumentation can give your product an air of elegance or class. Be especially mindful of the lyrics; it’s not necessary to choose a song with lyrics that match up with your brand or product, but make sure those lyrics aren’t actively working against you.

Genres and Audience Connections

Genres and artist selections are your best gateway to connect with a specific demographic, and these connections often make intuitive sense. For example, would you use country music, rap music, and EDM music to appeal to all the same demographics?

Also consider the artist preferences of your target demographics, especially when broken down by age. For example, 13-year-olds might prefer new and upcoming artists in the pop scene, while 64-year-olds will prefer classic established artists like Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, or the Doors.

Associations and Nostalgia

Nostalgia has always been a powerful force in marketing and advertising, and you can capitalize on that by choosing a popular song from a strategic time period. For example, if you’re marketing to people in their 50s and 60s, you can choose songs that were popular when the graduated high school (in the 1980s and 1990s) to evoke reminders of their teenage years. You could also choose songs associated with popular films and TV shows if you want to call to their existing fan base (assuming you can get the rights to the music). You may also be able to capitalize on similar associations, like songs that are affiliated with specific locations, moods, or scenarios.

Role in the Ad

You’ll also want to consider how the music helps the ad flow, especially if you’re incorporating a spoken narrative or audible dialogue. In some cases, pairing strong visuals with nothing but a powerful song in the background can create the effect you want. But in others, you’ll want the main focus to be on the words of the narrator; in these cases, it’s important to edit the music to be audible, but out of the way when someone is speaking. For example, you might cut to sections of the music with no lyrics, or lower the volume during moments of speech. You might also choose to time the song, so its climax or most important section corresponds with the end of the ad, or with a call to action.

Music is an art form that, when executed properly, can take your advertising game to the next level. It’s not something to be shoehorned in at the last minute, nor should you simply choose a song because you like it. There are hundreds of variables that need to be considered, and the deeper you dive, the more likely you are to come up with an ad that speaks directly to your target audience.

3 Types of Bias You’ll Confront in Consumer Research

Biases are ever-present in consumer research. However, there are several of steps to take to remove obvious biases and end up with objective takeaways that yield tangible value in your marketing endeavors.

As humans, we are, for better or worse, limited by biases and mental heuristics that impact the way we process information and make decisions. In certain situations, these cognitive shortcuts save us from likely pain and destruction. In other settings, they prevent us from tapping into the truth. For marketing leaders, research biases have the latter impact — introducing inaccuracies and confusion into consumer research.

3 Consumer Research Biases That Impact Your Findings

As any experienced marketing executive knows, biases are ever-present in consumer research. It’s unwise and shortsighted to assume that any piece of data is 100% free from the influence of these factors.

However, there are plenty of steps that can be taken to remove obvious biases and end up with objective takeaways that yield tangible value in your marketing endeavors. The first step is to get clear on which biases may be impacting your consumer research. There are a few common ones, including:

1. Confirmation Bias

One of the most pervasive forms of bias in consumer research is the idea of confirmation bias. This occurs when a researcher forms an opinion or belief before conducting research and allows these prejudices to influence the way the study is executed and analyzed.

The problem with confirmation bias is that it’s deep-seated and rarely obvious. Unless we’re actively looking for it, it tends to blend in and go unnoticed.

Let’s say, for example, that your business is investing large sums of money into a new product and you’ve been tasked with leading a research team to analyze customer opinions on the initial product prototypes. You know that the CEO is super excited about the product and everyone really wants it to be successful. Whether you realize it or not, when you go into a product testing phase with actual customers, this desire for success will leach into the way the study is conducted. As a result, the data may indicate a greater receptivity than is actually present. If you’re unaware that confirmation bias exists, then you’re unlikely to catch yourself in the act.

2. Culture Bias

Culture bias is a big deal with international companies that market their products and services to customers in different countries. It’s rooted in ethnocentrism, which is the principle of judging another culture based on the values and standards of one’s own culture. This stands in stark contrast to the principle of cultural relativism, which says it’s more appropriate to view a culture’s beliefs and activities through the lens of that culture.

“To minimize culture bias, researchers must move toward cultural relativism by showing unconditional positive regard and being cognizant of their own cultural assumptions,” researcher Rebecca Sarniak writes. “Complete cultural relativism is never 100% achievable.”

3. Question-Order Bias

For customer surveys, it’s important to be aware of question-order bias. This bias refers to how one question can influence the answers to subsequent questions. Respondents can easily become primed by words and ideas and adjust their responses according to other signals. While sometimes unavoidable, a more strategic and thoughtful structure will lower the risk of question-order bias.

Consider a customer survey that’s being used to gather insights into how your existing customers feel about your business (which is of paramount importance to your future marketing campaigns). While the following two examples may seem similar, they’ll actually produce two very different sets of results:

Survey A

Please rate your satisfaction with the following aspects of our restaurant on a 5-point scale (5=Very Satisfied; 1=Very Dissatisfied).

  1. Overall Experience
  2. Speed of Service
  3. Friendliness of the Wait Staff
  4. Atmosphere in the Dining Room
  5. Food Quality
  6. Menu Selection
  7. Value

Survey B

Please rate your satisfaction with the following aspects of our restaurant on a 5-point scale (5=Very Satisfied; 1=Very Dissatisfied).

  1. Speed of Service
  2. Friendliness of the Wait Staff
  3. Atmosphere in the Dining Room
  4. Food Quality
  5. Menu Selection
  6. Value
  7. Overall Experience

The question order in these surveys is almost identical, but with one exception. Customers are asked to rate their “overall experience” at the beginning of Survey A and at the end of Survey B. Neither one is right or wrong, but both impact the data.

In Survey A, customers are asked to think generically and then specifically. There’s a tendency for customers to force the answers from questions two through seven into alignment with the answer from question one. In Survey B, customers are asked to think specifically and then generically. The tendency here is for the answer to number seven to mimic the answers to the previous couple of questions. If five and six receive low grades, then seven will, too.

You might not be able to totally eliminate question-order bias from your consumer research, but it’s imperative that you spend time thinking about it so you’re aware of how it influences your results. Using multiple surveys with different question orders may mitigate the impact on your overall data.

Pursuing Data-Driven Objectivity

Identifying the presence of a bias is one thing. Figuring out a way to eliminate the bias and strip away outside influence is much tougher. Here are some suggestions:

  • Be aware of weaknesses. Every research team will be more inclined to fall victim to one bias or another. Being aware of the biases that are most likely to affect your results will help you remain vigilant.
  • Hypothesis over expectations. It’s okay to go into a research opportunity with a hypothesis, but it’s unwise to enter in with strong expectations; the latter will get you into trouble. Nix the expectations and let your results guide your thinking.
  • Run tests. Sometimes you don’t know you’re exposing your data to a bias until you get some actual results from your research. The best thing you can do is run a handful of tests on the same research topic and compare results. Online surveys are great for this. You can create multiple surveys within the same research study and frame the questions, structure, flow, etc., differently on each. If there’s a high degree of variance between the survey results, this indicates a high presence of research bias. If the results are relatively consistent — despite the unique delivery of each survey — you can feel more confident in your results.
  • Involve multiple people. You’re far more inclined to fall victim to research biases when you’re the only one calling the shots. For a more objective approach, involve multiple people. This will lower the risk of a bias going undetected. (Though you’ll have to be careful not to let groupthink characterize your team.)
  • Study your data. Finally, be sure to study your data meticulously and cautiously. The results of your research tell a story, and it’s important you don’t jump to conclusions without considering it from every angle.

You’ll never obtain 100% objective results from your market research. There will always be some trace presence of bias, and you can’t do anything about it. However, by eliminating the obvious biases and emphasizing the need for greater subjectivity, you can enhance your results and maximize the value of your market research endeavors.

Millennials Are Spending More on Health and Wellness

According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, Millennials are spending both their own money and that of their Boomer parents’, and what has their focus the most is health and wellness. Brands can tap into this, even if outside of the traditional health and wellness industries.

Millennials may have more educational debt than any previous generation, but they also have disproportionate spending power. According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, Millennials are spending both their own money and that of their Boomer parents’, who are providing more access to money and credit than we’ve seen before. So with all that spending power, what are they spending it on — and how should brands reach them? The secret is to emphasize health and wellness across diverse industries.

The Importance to Millennials About Signaling Their Own Health and Wellness

To understand just how important health and wellness are to Millennials, it may help to look at a particularly narrow market: luxury water bottles. Remember the rise of Nalgene in the mid-2000s? Relatively modest by today’s standards, these colorful, indestructible bottles were the first “status” water bottles. Today, that market is dominated by pricey S’well bottles, but also includes Yeti, bkr, Hydro Flask, and others. And according to NYU marketing professor Tülin Erdem, flaunting these bottles are about more than hydration.

In Erdem’s interpretation, water bottles are a way that Millennials signal health and wellness, and those signals are important. They also do drink more water than previous generations, but even those with little physical investment in wellness sport high-end water bottles, athleisure, and other wellness markers on a day-to-day basis as a means of attracting like-minded peers and making a statement about their identity.

Food and Drink Are Obvious Targets

One sector that has an obvious edge in marketing to Millennials are food and drink brands, those companies who produce goods directly implicated in health and well-being, but there are also brands putting a spin on this classic angle. Consider, for example, the stark contrast between tea and alcohol.

Both tea and alcohol are getting a lot of buzz with Millennials, and both are leaning hard into the wellness message. This is easy for tea; products like matcha are popular precisely because they offer functional health benefits, which adds to its appeal. Traditionally alcoholic beverages, on the other hand, are typically bad for one’s health and are a harder sell. As such, brands are making small adjustments like making beer more like juice in order to market what seems like a more “refreshing” beverage. The repositioning of beer brands is an effort that other industries also could use to make their products more appealing.

Health and Wellness Extends to Pet Products

At the most basic level, the pet food market is an enormous growth area, expected to surpass $8.21 billion by 2024, not including additional products like supplements, treats, and toys purchased by owners, but the area that’s really growing is natural pet food products. That’s because 29% of U.S. buyers seek to avoid artificial ingredients in pet treats. They want their pets to eat how they eat, and they even budget for it. Millennial pet owners, in particular, are especially likely to spend money on grain-free or other “free-from” pet diets.

It’s also no surprise that pet treats have also taken on a functional bent — and that’s getting these products into the hands of users. In fact, Pedigree’s DentaSTIX tooth cleaning product won a major advertising award in 2018, and the company saw 24% sales growth, year over year. The product offers pet owners what marketers call “a positive treating product” as an alternative to many of the other options on the market, and this boost in sales hinges largely on Millennials.

Making a Marketing Move

Following family, health and wellness are Millennials’ top priority, with 53% deeming these issues important to them, far above spirituality and career — and marketing departments and brands must keep this in mind. Unlike so many other brand trends, health and wellness are changing the entire shape of what people buy at a structural level. It’s a big change, and even classically “unhealthy” products — snack foods, alcohol, etc. — need to find ways to reorient their brands in every sector, from clothing to home goods to transportation, to reach today’s buyers.

Maximizing the ROI of an Affiliate Marketing Program

Marketing is all about reach and engagement. It’s highly ineffective to have one without the other. And in today’s crowded and noisy online world, trying to reach and engage with the right people at the right time can prove to be enormously challenging. However, a well-developed affiliate marketing program could be the answer.

Marketing is all about reach and engagement. It’s highly ineffective to have one without the other. And in today’s crowded and noisy online world, trying to reach and engage with the right people at the right time can prove to be enormously challenging. However, a well-developed affiliate marketing program could be the answer.

What Is an Affiliate Marketing Program?

“Simply put, affiliate programs, also called associate programs, are arrangements in which an online merchant website pays affiliate web sites a commission to send them traffic,” entrepreneur Tom Harris writes. “These affiliate websites post links to the merchant site and are paid according to a particular agreement. This agreement is usually based on the number of people the affiliate sends to the merchant’s site, or the number of people they send who buy something or perform some other action.”

For the most part, online chatter focuses on affiliate marketing programs from the affiliate’s perspective. However, it’s actually far more beneficial for the business.

Here are a few of the business-side advantages:

  • Performance-based. Because affiliates are paid commissions only after successfully completing the desired action, there’s little financial risk on your part. Affiliates must perform in order to get paid, which leaves you in a desirable financial situation.
  • Increased exposure. Your marketing team can only do so much. When you have affiliates connected to your brand, you gain increased exposure and access to new audiences outside of your normal reach.
  • Third-party validation. It’s one thing for you to make claims on your website or in your marketing campaigns. It’s much more credible when someone outside of your company validates the things you’re saying.

How to Launch a Successful Affiliate Marketing Program

Clearly, there’s immense value in running an affiliate marketing program. But not all affiliate marketing programs are highly successful. To ensure you reap the full benefits, you’ll need to successfully plan and execute. Here are some tips and pointers:

1. Get Cozy With Your Numbers

The first thing you have to do is review your numbers and see how much of the pie you’re willing to share with affiliates. This is an important factor for multiple reasons. You need to give up enough to motivate affiliates to feed you traffic, but not so much that you hurt your bottom line.

Affiliate marketing rates typically run anywhere from 5 to 30 percent (with most landing around 10 or 15 percent). You’ll have to determine whether these percentages are worth parting with.

2. Join an Affiliate Marketing Network

When launching an affiliate marketing network, you have two options. You can either set up your own tracking software and system — which requires a lot of time and work — or you can get set up with an affiliate marketing network. Most companies go with the latter.

“[Affiliate marketing networks] provide a marketplace where your affiliate program will be advertised to other affiliate marketers,” Shopify explains. “They also provide the tracking software for your affiliates so you don’t have to build your own tracking system.”

3. Recruit Affiliates

With all of the work you put into starting an affiliate marketing program, it’s important that you have affiliates in the program. In the early days, recruiting affiliates should be a major focus. Some will find you via your affiliate marketing network, while others will require some courting. Loyal customers are a great place to start.

4. Keep Them Happy

Finally, you need to keep affiliates happy and satisfied so that they’ll continue to promote your products. In addition to attractive commission rates, you may also offer other benefits and perks to those who stick around.

Maximize Your ROI

It takes a lot of strategy and creative energy to run a successful affiliate marketing program. However, most brands discover that the benefits far outweigh these upfront costs. Use this article as a guide to get to started and continually look for ways to scale and improve. Three to five years from now, you could look up and see a totally different business with greater reach, higher profits, and more opportunities.

What’s the Secret to Managing Digital Nomads and Remote Teams?

For businesses that want access to the best marketing talent, it’s nearly impossible to look past freelancers and digital nomads. But learning how to manage them efficiently can prove to be a significant challenge.

For businesses that want access to the best marketing talent, it’s nearly impossible to look past freelancers and digital nomads. But learning how to manage them efficiently can prove to be a significant challenge.

Who Are the Digital Nomads?

If you’re a business owner or CEO, you better get used to working with digital nomads and remote workers. Studies suggest that more than half of the workforce will work in a freelance capacity by 2020. And if you’re operating in a digital industry like marketing, that percentage will likely be much higher.

But before you can manage these remote workers, you need to understand who they are, how they think, and what sort of management styles and structures they respond well to.

According to HubSpot, “Digital nomads are remote workers who usually travel to different locations. They often work in coffee shops, co-working spaces, or public libraries, relying on devices with wireless internet capabilities like smart phones and mobile hotspots to do their work wherever they want.”

The average digital nomad is a Millennial between the ages of 22-35 who is tech-savvy and in hot pursuit of optimal work-life balance. In fact, scheduling flexibility is often more important than salary. They want the ability to live life on their terms, rather than being chained to a desk for 40 or 50-plus hours a week.

4 Management Tips

Some of the most talented people in today’s workforce are freelancers and digital nomads. And if you want to reach these people, you must be able to manage them well. So, without further ado, here are some techniques and strategies you may find helpful:

1. Hire the Right People

You’ll do yourself a huge favor by adopting a meticulous approach to hiring. In fact, you’ll make or break your ability to successfully manage digital nomads by how and whom you hire.

In the search process, look for candidates who possess high levels of self-discipline and motivation. Speak with past employers and clients to see how well a candidate adheres to deadlines. You’ll also want to consider how responsive a candidate is.

2. Set Clear Priorities

There shouldn’t be any question about what’s expected of your team. Whether an individual spends part of the time in the office or operates remotely on a full-time basis, they should understand exactly what your priorities are for their time, effort, and responsibilities.

For example, do you expect team members to be available during certain hours? Are there mandatory meetings that require attendance? Is there a certain approval process for requesting time off or extending the deadline on a project? These aren’t questions you want to answer on the fly. It’s best to have them established ahead of time.

3. Stay in Touch

When managing remote employees, communication is supremely important. Stay in touch with your team and don’t let distance create separation in how you work. There are lots of free and/or cost-effective tools to make remote communication seamless. Learn what works for your team and utilize them!

“Instant messaging tools can be more efficient than email for quick questions. However, if there is a complex problem, it is worth bringing relevant freelancers into the office to talk through the challenge together,” entrepreneur Peter Johnston writes. “If they are based abroad, this would be the time for a phone call or video conference.”

4. Be Transparent

One of the more challenging aspects of managing a remote team is helping them feel connected to the business. There’s no office or water cooler to gather around, which means employees and contractors can feel isolated.

One of the top ways to enhance the corporate culture and identity within the company is to be transparent with your leadership. Let your team know what’s happening and allow them to suffer through challenging times and celebrate big wins. Keeping everyone in the loop will strengthen the trust your team has in you as a leader.

Don’t Lose Control

If you’re going to work with digital nomads, freelancers, and remote employees, you have to be cognizant of how you’re managing them. You don’t want to micro-manage, but there’s danger in not keeping a close enough eye on what they’re doing. It’s imperative that you establish some structures and parameters so you don’t lose control.

The Psychology of Social Proof and Its Role in Marketing

In order to successfully master marketing in a crowded marketplace, you have to think like a customer. And in order to think like a customer, you have to tap into their psyche and understand what influences their perceptions and decision-making.

In order to successfully master marketing in a crowded marketplace, you have to think like a customer. And in order to think like a customer, you have to tap into their psyche and understand what influences their perceptions and decision-making. At the heart of this topic is social proof.

The Psychology Behind Social Proof

Have you ever spent any time around sheep? While they don’t smell great or look particularly cute, they’re fascinating animals, and their psyche and decision-making can teach us a lot.

Sheep have an incredibly strong instinct to follow other sheep – particularly the one right in front of them – regardless of where it’s going. There are many documented cases of one sheep walking off a cliff and dozens more following the same sheep toward inevitable disaster. On the flip side, there are plenty of situations where one sheep saves hundreds of lives by leading a flock to safety during a threatening blizzard.

In this sense, people are very much like sheep. Whether we do so intentionally or not, we tend to flock together and make decisions based on what others are doing. In the consumer marketplace, this idea of flocking together is closely connected with the social proof theory.

Popularized by psychologist Robert Cialdini, this theory says that people look to the actions of their peers to make decisions in situations where they’re uncertain of how to act.

Marketers who understand social proof can use it to their advantage by incorporating elements of this psychological phenomenon into their engagement and promotion strategies. It’s essentially the act of borrowing third-party influence to persuade potential customers towards your brand or products.

“As customers we buy products that make us feel good about ourselves, products that change us and make us better,” conversion expert Talia Wolf writes. “By using social proof in the form of testimonials, reviews and trust icons you’re helping customers make a decision, feel confident about their choice, and a part of something bigger.”

Leveraging Social Proof in Marketing

Social proof is a vast topic with thousands of intricacies and individual theories, but it’s helpful to boil things down to a few salient, overarching points. Sales and marketing consultant Lincoln Murphy believes there are three basic types of social proof:

  • Similar social proof. This is the most basic type of social proof. It’s the type of social proof that brands use when they integrate testimonials, reviews, and logos of other companies into their marketing materials. The goal is to show prospective customers that your products have the approval of their peers.
  • Aspirational social proof. This form of social proof is used to convince your target audience they want to be like someone else. In other words, you’re convincing people to aspire to be like your customers.
  • Endorsements. While most people think about endorsements in terms of celebrity advertisements, famous people are just part of it. Customers also rely on recommendations from authoritative third-party websites. For example, Top10.com ranks products in different categories as a way of helping customers identify their best options. This is a type of endorsement.

If you’re going to develop a social proof strategy for your marketing efforts, start with these elements. Specifically, you should try some of the following techniques:

1. Use Hard Numbers

There are plenty of ways you can go about inserting social proof into your marketing and engagement strategies, but in today’s climate, people respond best to facts and statistics. The more hard numbers you can use, the more persuasive your efforts will be.

2. Insert Visuals

The human brain is hardwired to like visuals. If you want to take your efforts to the next level, you should incorporate as much visual information into your marketing as possible. When it comes to your website, for example, including headshots of your customers next to their testimonials and reviews will pay dividends.

3. Tap Into Social Media

Social media is the perfect medium for maximizing social proof. If you can get your most satisfied customers to be organic advocates for your products – sharing, liking, promoting – you’ll see your results skyrocket. You can make it easy for your customers to share on social media by providing them with shareworthy content and chances to engage with your brand on their favorite platforms (Facebook and Instagram, in particular).

Are You Utilizing Social Proof?

Social proof isn’t something that you can control with 100 percent accuracy. There will always be some element of social proof that naturally arises in the marketplace. However, you have much more influence than you realize.

As you develop and hone your marketing strategy, be on the lookout for ways to leverage social proof and tap into the sense of collectivism that humans, like sheep, are naturally drawn to. Ultimately, this will strengthen your brand message and energize your marketing efforts.

In a Digital Era, Trade Show Interactions Still Matter

In today’s digital-first ecosystem, it’s easy for businesses and their clients to build high-value connections without ever meeting face-to-face, yet many industries continue to present at trade shows. What motivates these efforts?

In today’s digital-first ecosystem, it’s easy for businesses and their clients to build high-value connections without ever meeting face-to-face, yet many industries continue to present at trade shows. What motivates these efforts?

Unlike online marketing and networking, trade shows offer opportunities for businesses to perform recon on their competitors, track industry trends, and build supplier and distributor relationships. From a competitive perspective, then, trade shows are a must-attend event — but that doesn’t mean technology hasn’t changed how these shows operate.

Pre-Show Assessments

Trade shows last a few days, but anyone who’s spent time on the circuit knows that the majority of the work takes place before you arrive.

Businesses need to build pre-show media connections to boost publicity, perform research to determine the best shows to attend, and plan their presentation, from giveaways to booth display. Luckily, technology is helping businesses reduce the costs associated with participating in trade shows, particularly through the use of AI to select shows.

One option is using the program SummitSync. Companies can map past conference and trade show participation against internal CRM data to determine whether attending a given event will be beneficial to them. This allows the company to estimate their ROI on a given conference and only attend those that are the best use of their time and resources.

The B2B Advantage for Trade Shows

Unlike many digital marketing efforts, attendance at trade shows isn’t typically focused on building connections with individual customers. Instead, trade shows lean heavily on the B2B angle, connecting companies with each other and, in the case of manufacturers, providing opportunities for one-on-one interactions with distributors.

Since it’s much harder to target distributors via online marketing campaigns, trade shows are a powerful setting for promotion, negotiation, and product demonstration. Shows also offer companies a chance to solidify previously digital relationships and consolidate brand loyalty.

Certain industries place a special emphasis on trade shows and consider them an essential element in their marketing practices. The specialty foods market, for example, which is projected to control 20% of market share in the next few years, has always relied heavily on trade shows as part of their distribution and sales model.

Using aggressive educational campaigns and an appeal to health, fresh food, and interest in local eating, specialty food brands have long used trade shows to get their products on shelves around the country. Other niche brands can learn a lot from food companies’ practices.

Industries in Transition

Ultimately, trade shows provide valuable insight into changing market trends, and this is the greatest motivation for companies to attend.

At this year’s L.A. Textile Show, brands demonstrated how they’re embracing sustainable fashion, integrating technology and textiles, and centering activism in their work. Though the show isn’t one of the largest yet, the producers are focused on becoming a must-attend show for the industry. That means promoting the show online, demonstrating the quality of past events, and encouraging attendees to act as boosters, advertising their planned attendance at the 2019 event.

Business relationships today take place largely online, but it’s time to rethink this kind of digitization. Though online networking can form the foundation for professional connections, email will never replace a handshake and one-on-one demo. That’s where the trade show comes in: to roll data and direct connection into one powerful event.

Analyzing the Marketing Value of Onsite Resources

As a business, your primary marketing priority is, of course, your products. Those sales keep you afloat and fulfill key user needs. As you establish a core customer base, however, how do you keep them coming back? This is where your onsite resources come into the picture.

As a business, your primary marketing priority is, of course, your products. Those sales keep you afloat and fulfill key user needs. As you establish a core customer base, however, how do you keep them coming back? Businesses need to offer something new or supplementary to build customer loyalty, sustain site traffic and further develop your reputation as a high-value brand. And this is where your onsite resources come into the picture.

Your onsite resources are a valuable tool for keeping the line of communication open with clients and maintaining your reputation during lulls in the formal business process. If you’re going to make the most of these tools, however, you can’t just create them and hope for the best. No, you need to set goals and measure the performance of those supplementary materials if they’re going to benefit your entire operation.

These three KPIs pair with different design styles and can help you assess how well your add-ons are performing.

Time on Page

Time on page is a common KPI, described by the marketers at Vertical Measures as a key way of measuring user engagement. Historically, sites have used this measure to determine if their blog content was interesting, if people were reading sales offers, or even to measure the value of news-style content. Similar principles apply when using time on page to measure the effectiveness of supplemental resources.

At IncFile, a company whose primary business is helping small businesses incorporate, supplemental material both attracts new customers and assists current ones — and time on page is a vital measure in both cases. For example, their page on forming an LLC in Florida provides a step-by-step breakdown explaining the process, followed by an array of links to added resources. IncFile, then, has the ability to measure both time on page for the initial post and clickthrough and bounce rates for the resources that follow — and that information can be used to measure conversion rates.

Counting on Downloads

For many companies, supplementary resources are designed to go beyond the page and into the real world — users are encouraged to download them. Downloadable resources are a powerful format for customers because it’s very easy to measure how many users select the file. And unlike some measures — including time on page, which may count false-positives because a user left the page open on their computer, for example — downloads are targets of intention. In both cases, though, the user activity is a measure of overall engagement.

Scholastic, the publisher of such well-known books as “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “The Magic School Bus,” is recognized for their educational resources, but at first glance, their Teacher’s Tool Kit page appears to consist largely of blog posts.

Look further, though, and you’ll find countless downloadable lesson plans. These individual files allow Scholastic to measure the efficacy of individual lessons, teaching styles, and topics, as well as what age group’s lessons are downloaded most frequently. That’s a lot of data packed into each interaction.

Measure by Media Type

Though the majority of content marketing focuses on written materials, modern outreach demands a multimedia approach. Videos, infographics, and other visually enticing content hold user attention longer and can convey a greater amount of information with fewer words. They can be harder to measure, however.

When it comes to developing KPIs for non-standard content types, you may need to combine several different data points. For example, you might try launching video via both website and social media platforms and comparing engagement rates. Social media analytics can provide greater real-time feedback and direct user commentary than onsite variants of the same material. With video, you should also measure the length of video watched and determine when viewers tend to bounce out so that you can maximize content within the limited view time.

Don’t undercut your supplementary resources by ignoring the resultant data — you invested time and money into creating those tools for your customers. Now, take the time to apply the same key metric you would use to measure activity on the rest of your site to assess this content and then use it to enhance your monetized offerings. There’s a lot you can learn from those add-ons if you take the time to read more deeply.

Why Niche Marketing Has Become a Necessity for New Businesses

Niche marketing is the practice of targeting a narrow audience with specific wants, needs and personalities. However, intuition frequently leads new marketers to take a broad, general approach; they want to cast the widest net possible. But in today’s marketing climate, niche marketing reigns; it’s become a practical necessity for all new businesses.

Niche marketing is the practice of targeting a narrow audience with specific wants, needs and personalities. However, intuition frequently leads new marketers to take a broad, general approach; they want to cast the widest net possible, claiming to have expertise in an entire industry or speaking to all consumers, rather than one segment. But in today’s marketing climate, niche marketing reigns; it’s become a practical necessity for all new businesses.

So why is niche marketing increasingly important as a strategic element for new businesses? And what can you do to ensure your targeting is specific enough?

The Driving Factors

Let’s start by examining the factors that make niche marketing more valuable than a general or industry-wide approach:

  • Sheer competition. For starters, there’s a ton of competition out there. Depending on your industry, there are likely thousands of businesses just like yours competing for space; targeting a narrower niche immediately alleviates you of some of that competition. Take SEO as an example here; there aa re millions of businesses competing for the top spot in search results for general terms like “marketing firm,” but far fewer going after specific phrases like “marketing firms for personal injury lawyers.”
  • Visibility opportunities. The internet has opened up worlds of possibility for marketers; there are more visibility opportunities than ever before. This allows you to utilize highly targeted channels, appealing only to a specific demographic segment. These possibilities weren’t as plentiful or as accessible a few decades ago.
  • Data availability. Marketers also have access to far more consumer data than ever before, thanks to the big data revolution. With more information on demographic trends, preferences, and habits, marketers can more effectively target a narrow segment of the population and craft more relevant messaging for them.
  • Authenticity and relevance. Consumer trust for brands and major corporations is near an all-time low. People don’t trust advertising messages or PR from brands because they know there’s an ulterior motive in play; brands want to make money. But targeting a specific niche and speaking directly to them allows you to create content that comes across as more relevant, and therefore more sincere and authentic.

Bigger, more established companies don’t face as much pressure; they have more resources to draw on and more of a brand reputation to back their efforts, so they can afford to target a wider audience. But as a small business, these pressures should lead you to get more specific.

How to Reshape Your Niche Marketing Strategy

If you’re interested in taking a stronger position in niche marketing, these tips can help you become more successful:

  • Study your competition. Part of your motivation for pursuing niche marketing is to target a segment that your competitors aren’t going after (or at least one they aren’t targeting properly). If you want to make the right selection, you need to study your competition carefully. Who are the big players in your industry targeting? What about some of the smaller players—what niches are they trying to develop?
  • Narrow your focus. If you’re struggling to find the right audience, or the right subsection of expertise to develop, start with a general concept and narrow it down from there. Use brainstorming tactics, like charting related ideas in an interconnected web, and start dabbling in market research, so you know what you’re getting into.
  • Get to know your audience. Once you’ve settled on a niche, spend as much time as you can getting to know your target audience. The success of your niche marketing strategy depends on your understanding of them, and your ability to communicate effectively to them. Rely on third-party sources of information as well as your own research to fuel the development of your content.
  • Choose the right strategies. Almost any marketing strategy can be modified with niche targeting, but not all of them will be equally effective for your audience. In general, it’s better to choose one or two highly effective channels than to broadcast across dozens of potentially less effective ones; learn which channels your audience prefers, and prioritize them.

Targeting a niche is a broad strategic objective that affords you plenty of flexibility to accomplish your other marketing goals. It even allows for the gradual expansion of your targeting to a more general, further-reaching audience (once you’ve established yourself). If you want your marketing and advertising to be competitive, you need to get specific and focus on just one niche to start.