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Marketing Tactics

Richard Branson on How to Connect With Your Customers

Social media is changing how we interact with customers…

Richard Branson

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Richard-Branson

In the past few years social media has revolutionised the way businesses interact with customers, making it easier to market new products and maintain a brand’s image. By now it’s clear that platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google+ should be an essential part of customer service.

This wasn’t always obvious. Many companies were very cautious and slow to start using social media, putting in place all sorts of guidelines for their employees about what could be said and how to use these channels. My team and I jumped in quickly and started to experiment – over the years we have always pushed each other to be innovative and approachable.

We soon found that these channels were an amazing tool for reaching our customers and the public. One of the first things we learned was that our new social media accounts gave us a real-time view of how we could improve. Through customers’ comments, we started learning about issues with our products and services more quickly than ever before. In response, we set up systems so that a customer who has a question or a problem can get a quick answer from our team.

It seems to be working and we have built a strong audience. Today I have 2.4 million followers on Twitter, 250,000 on Facebook, and 2.9 million on Google+; each month, 500,000 people check out my blog. Many of our businesses have their own blogs and Twitter feeds as well, multiplying the number of people we can reach directly. If we need to talk to our customers, we no longer need to limit ourselves to placing ads with established media companies – we can just tell them directly.

Our online followers often help us to amplify our message by passing it along or linking to it. Just recently, our community of customers sprang into action when the British government decided to award the West Coast Main Line franchise – Virgin’s rail business – to a rival company rather than continuing with Virgin Trains, which has run it for 15 years. Who runs the trains and how to improve train service is a hot topic in Britain, and when we broadcasted our view that this was a questionable decision, there was an overwhelming response.

Our social media accounts and website were overrun with messages of support from our customers and the public. One passenger, Ross McKillop, posted a petition online challenging the government’s decision and asking officials to review the award. By enlisting the support of our customers and of famous British celebrities, we managed to gather more than 160,000 signatures in just over a week, which we hope will trigger a debate in the House of Commons.

The process of spreading the word about a new business has changed now that we have a social media presence. When we bought Northern Rock, a bank in the U.K., in late 2011, people had a low opinion of banks, and we knew it would be hard to change their minds. We asked our followers on Twitter what we should call the new business. Suggestions ranged from Virgin Vault and Virgin Rock to Virgin Trust – and the interest and thought that the discussion about the name inspired helped us to build stronger bonds between our new company and its customers. (We decided to keep Virgin Money as the name of the bank.)

Finally, we’ve been using our social media channels to spread the message that we are just as interested in making a difference as making a profit. I set up my first entrepreneurial venture, a magazine called Student, to protest the Vietnam War, and in many ways, I use my social media accounts today for the same purpose – to comment on issues I feel strongly about, such as the pointless war on drugs and the cruel practice of shark finning. Many followers respond, donate or even volunteer.

Whether you are launching a start-up or leading an established company, you should start establishing your social media presence if you haven’t already. The easiest way to start is often by setting up a help line, so that customers can ask questions about your product or service. Listen and respond thoughtfully, and you’ll be on your way.

Above all, remember to be authentic and organic, answering questions in a straightforward manner – there’s no need to check with your PR team first. You know your products and services, and people will see through any effort to parrot slogans or broadcast a marketing message. Like everything, if you’re having fun rather than just doing a job, you’re more likely to find success.

I try to answer a few questions every day from followers. People often wonder how I find time to tweet and update my blog so regularly. How do they not find the time, I wonder? Social media is such a terrific way to connect with our customers that I would never miss out.

Richard Branson is the founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active. He is the author of "Business Stripped Bare: Adventures of a Global Entrepreneur."

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Marketing Tactics

The Facebook Ads Strategy That Can’t Lose

It’s a numbers game.

Entrepreneur

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Running a profitable Facebook Ads campaign is simple. Not always easy, but simple.

There is a formula that can guarantee a profitable Facebook Ad campaign. Once you know the formula and the values to plug in, you’ll never sink money into a losing digital ad campaign again. I know it sounds too good to be true, but stick with me…

The Guaranteed Growth Formula

Here’s the entire formula: CPA < AP

Were you expecting coefficients, remainders and dividing by polynomials? Nope, there are only two values that matter when assessing your digital marketing funnel.

1. CPA – Cost Per Acquisition

2. AP – Average Profit Per Client

If your Cost Per Acquisition, the amount you pay to generate a paying customer using Facebook Ads, is less than the Average Profit you make from each new customer you’re guaranteed a profitable campaign.

Calculating Average Profit

To get average profit per client, sum your total revenue from new clients and subtract what you spent to serve them. Divide the result by the total new clients. For example, if you made $75,000 from 10 new clients over the past year and it cost you $40,000 to serve them, your average profit is:

 ($75,000 – $40,000) / 10 = $3500 Average Profit Per Client

If your average acquisition cost for similar future clients is less than $3500, your campaign will technically be profitable.

Of course most businesses won’t want to spend all of their profit on acquisition. An average business can expect to invest at least 7 percent but no more than 15 percent of revenue in sales and marketing. If Cost of Goods accounts for 60 percent or more of total revenue, your low profit margin may make it difficult to afford successful advertising. Decrease operating costs by increasing efficiency or adjust your margin by raising prices.

Don’t make the mistake of calculating Average Profit based on revenue only from the first sale. Use at least six months of revenue or your lifetime client value as the basis for your calculation, or you risk underfunding your marketing and sales budget.

Related: Here Is Why Your Facebook Ad Campaigns Aren’t Producing Results

Calculating Cost Per Acquisition

Let’s assume you’ve considered all of your marketing and sales costs and determined you can spend $350 per new client on Facebook Ads. Let’s reverse engineer your ad campaign to see if a $350 cost of acquisition is reasonable.

The simplest Facebook ads funnel includes four metrics that build upon each other to determine your acquisition cost. I’ve included standard benchmarks for use as a starting point, but your results may differ:

1. Click-Through Rate (CTR) – Percentage of people clicking on your ad. Your CTR should be near or above 1 percent.

2. Cost Per Click (CPC) – The cost of one website visit. CPC should generally be below $3.

3. Lead Conversion Rate – The percentage of site traffic that becomes qualified leads. This value should be 20 percent or above.

4. Sales Conversion Rate – The percentage of leads that convert to a sale. Aim for sales conversion at or above 5 percent. (E-commerce companies often skip the Lead Conversion stage and have a Sales Conversion Rate of 1 percent or greater.)

If 10,000 people view your ad at a 1 percent CTR, you’ll get about 100 website visits. At a $3 CPC, you’ve spent $300. Since 20 percent of your traffic will become leads and 5 percent of those leads become closed sales, we can calculate that you’ll generate approximately 60 leads and three new customers.

Your estimated acquisition cost using Facebook Ads is $100 per client, which is well within your budget of $350. This cost may rise as you scale and target less optimal prospects, but as long as your acquisition cost is less than $350 you’ll make an acceptable profit.

Complex funnels can include several ads and conversion points, but the Guaranteed Growth Formula of CPA < AP still applies. There’s no immediate reason for concern if your metrics differ from the benchmarks. You can and should split test ideas for improvement if your numbers are far from what you expect, but don’t mess up a good thing until you’ve got a better one.

Optimising Your Guaranteed Growth Funnel

If unhealthy metrics cause your acquisition to cost more than what you’ve budgeted, start with these adjustments:

Click-Through Rate Too Low or Cost Per Click Too High

If your CTR falls far under 1 percent Facebook may stop showing your ads or show them to second-rate audiences causing your traffic to tank and CPC to increase. To improve your click metrics, adjust your ad copy (headline and body text), ad creative (image or video) and highlight the benefits in your offer.

Refine your audience. Tailor your copy, images and call-to-action to the audience you’ve selected and ensure that your audience has the desire and means to act.

Lead Conversion Too Low

If leads aren’t converting at 20 percent or more, either the promise made by your ad isn’t congruent with your landing page, or the process of moving forward is too difficult. Try using the same image and headline in your ad and reduce the form fields in sign-up forms to the bare minimum. Also try retargeting visitors who don’t sign up with ads stating the benefits of acting now, or with a different offer.

Related: Staying Relevant In The Facebook Age Of Meaningful Social Interactions

Sales Conversion Too Low

If you’re an Ecommerce brand with sales conversion below 1 percent your shopping cart or sales process may have too much friction. Simplify the sales process to decrease clutter, or increase trust by adding testimonials and trust signals near important calls to action.

Your sales process may need improvement, but that is beyond this article. In the meantime, you can still increase revenue by cross-selling and upselling those who convert. You may also improve client retention with recurring contracts. Yes, that’s why many software companies are switching to cloud-based subscription models.

When used properly, The Guaranteed Growth Formula of CPA < AP makes Facebook Ad marketing an investment, not an expense. Using the formula, the most you should ever risk is a small initial budget to test whether your estimated calculations hold true in practice.

If your net profit is 3X your acquisition cost, your funnel returns $3 for every $1 you invest. Instead of asking “How much should I spend on marketing?” The question becomes, “How much do I want to make?” I’ve built a Facebook Ad Growth Calculator that incorporates the Guaranteed Growth Formula to help execute your growth strategy. Input your revenue goal and it will estimate the Facebook Ad impressions and traffic required to reach it.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Marketing Tactics

How Is Influencer Marketing Going To Change In The Future?

How is influencer marketing going to be in the upcoming time? Read on.

Maulik Patel

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Influencer marketing is definitely not a new story. It’s been more than a decade now that it is immensely dominating the world of digital marketing. While being extremely cost-effective, influencer marketing strategies have very soon ended up with a great exposure. The businesses are building an immense level of reputation and earning various links with the help of this innovative marketing concept. In fact, the influencer marketing agencies are coming up with new approaches of implementation with each passing day.

Moreover, like any other type of marketing, the trends of influencer marketing are ever changing. Like how the story was five years back is not the same now and it is going to further evolve in the future.

The anticipated influencer marketing challenges

With the continuous growth of social media, influencer marketing is definitely going to face a myriad of obstacles. A few of the most expected ones are as follows:

Expenses

The demand for influencer marketing is continuously on the rise and eventually, the cost is going up. If you want to enter into the market of influencer marketing and establish yourself as an influencer then you need to give a lot of efforts while building a personal brand and earning the reputation for yourself.

You want to become one among such influencers who’ve already amassed a great following means that you’ll need to make it worth it- sometimes paid promotion could be the right tactic. In the future, this scenario is going to be even more prominent as people will have to spend huge bucks to be a worthy influencer.

Customers faith

In recent times, consumers have gradually started distrusting the huge brands when they realised that the corporations are working for only profit without having the user’s interests in the mind. So, for them, influencers are now no more than some mere conduits for big commercial names. So, it is going to be really tough for the influencers to get the trust of consumers back.

High level of competition

Social media is no doubt such a place now which is teeming with massive competition and threats. Many influencers who are already thriving and the people who have an urge to become influencers turn it into a complicated scenario for you to enter in this space as an influencer in your own right.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Influencer Marketing Really Works

How can influencer marketing unfold in the future?

Of course, there are multiple ways in which the entire story of influencer marketing can change in the coming years. Let’s check out some of the most expected developments:

Exchanges will be ahead of favours

The chapter of influencer marketing is probably going to be a pretty much an impartial marketplace in the coming time. The brands are more likely to enter into a mutual collaboration with the influencer marketing agencies in terms of interchanging shares, posts, audience visibility while being more organic rather than asking for the favour of mentioning the brand’s name to the influencers

Networking will be preferred over individuals

Gone are the days when influencer marketing used to be the story of respective individuals. Now, markets are assumed to start focussing on the entire networks or industries. The future influencer marketers can get rid of the problem of being based on individual interactions by getting the insights of blog comments, forums etc.

Change in the concept of disclosure

Why has not native advertising sustained over the long term?

It’s because the publishers always negate to disclose which posts are the paid promotions. In such a scenario, influencer marketing strategies can move a bit ahead of this transparent problem in the future. All that they are expected to do is formally announce the sort of partnership or arrangement that is existing behind each and every content. The experts believe that this process might end up being quite a tedious one. Howbeit, the consumer trust will not be hampered at all.

Limited and sensible partnerships

Influencers might lean more towards self-preservation in the coming days. Rather than establishing a relationship with hundreds of marketers or products, influencers are expected to focus more on developing authentic professional relationships which really make some sense. For examples, the influencers are intended to concentrate more on such relationships which can be profitable for themselves as individuals and also seem to be appealing to their followers. Say, a move towards quality over quantity!

Winding Up

No doubt, the evolution of influencer marketing is not only dependent on the aforementioned factors. There’s much more that can happen. The time can only reveal that. Influencer marketing is certainly going to change on its own in either of the two ways, a more sophisticated one or become a mere peripheral strategy which won’t be completely accessible.

Let’s just wait and watch how it comes up to us in the future!

Aren’t you taking an advantage of the current extraordinary status of influencer marketing in the meantime?

Related: 4 Young Marketing Influencers You Can Learn From

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Marketing Tactics

Top Marketing Trends For 2019

When you reflect on marketing trends that have taken centre stage in 2018, what stands out?

Emma Donovan

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2019-marketing-trends

Maybe it’s the proliferation of Instagram stories or  influencer marketing? Or the fact that video content has become even shorter and simpler with the rise of GIFs.

The real question is how have you incorporated these trends in to your marketing strategy, and what should you focus on in 2019? Here are six up and coming trends that you don’t want to miss:

1. Say hello to the social CEO

Customers want ‘real’ brand stories and to know what drives them. Leaders who are successful on social media show their companies’ human side and give their brands’ credibility and personality. This builds loyalty and, in some cases, an emotional connection that goes beyond the product or service.

Customers who feel this connection may even go on to become brand ambassadors.

Tip: Share stories that demonstrate your leadership style as well as company culture.

2. Initiate conversations

While 2018 brought the chatbots, the trend for 2019 is really using these bots to gather information about consumers by engaging with them on a personal level and steering them towards a sale. Bots are being trained to be authentic and sound more like people than the robots they are.

For example Facebook Messenger becomes more and more useful for brands as the platform allows customisation of automated messages and the ability to initiate a conversation at the right time.

Tip: You can also integrate this with Facebook shopping and increase conversion rates by enabling the bot to sell products to a consumer through the Facebook platform.

Related: Pay Per Click Advertising. When, How And For What?

3. Keep it local

Influencer marketing can be short lived or a little superficial. So try to identify and partner with local influencers that are happy to work on long-term campaigns. Also use multiple touch points including podcasts, YouTube and Snapchat as well as Instagram and Facebook.

Tip: Before you reach out to an influencer, follow them and learn a bit about the way they represent brands and engage with their fans to see if they’ll be a good fit. 

4. Try Instagram ads

As Facebook ads continue to dominate our feeds, advertisers are looking for a new place to stand out and get noticed. Instagram ads are on the rise, according to the Merkle report that showed that while Facebook ad spend grew 40% year-on-year in the second quarter of 2018, Instagram ad spend jumped 177% in the same time period.

Tip: Do some A/B split testing with different styles of images and calls-to-action.

5. Personalise email communication

Make sure to use automation and personalisation to really make your customers feel that you are listening.

Using hyper-segmentation, you can target very specific parts of your market. This will ensure that they receive personalised emails based on what they have expressed interest in or actions they have taken with regards to your brand.

Tip: Use automated campaigns after a first purchase; to request a review on social platforms; or just thank customers for shopping and remind them to share their purchase online.

Related: Free Sample Marketing Plan Template

6. Post in real time

In an effort to bring offline marketing into the online world, Instagram TV or IGTV allows brands to create a place for consumers to watch live events or brand content in their own time.

In addition, IGTV replaces the need for YouTube in some cases as brands are able to upload 10 or more minutes of footage directly to Instagram for consumers to watch as ‘episodes’.

This will become more prevalent in the years to come as businesses include this in their strategy. IGTV videos are less formal and will typically cost less than a traditional TV advert to create.

Whatever trends come our way, the key is to remain agile and adapt to how customers engage with your brand. And more than ever before, it’s important for all marketing touch points to align and communicate the same message.

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