New and established businesses can use surveys to gather crucial information for decision-making. If you’re a startup, there will be several decisions you’ll need to make about your products and services, whom you target, how you reach your ideal customers and what you will say to them. Typeform have good examples of surveys here. In this article, I will highlight five key decisions that marketing surveys can help you make.
Startup Decision #1 – Who is your customer?
You have a great idea for a business. The product is amazing! But do you really understand who your customer is and why they would buy from you and not from another business?
A survey of your market helps you create a picture of your ideal customer. We call these ‘buyer personas’. The survey can ask questions about job titles, key responsibilities, gender, income, educational background, main challenges, budget and so on. You can start by asking friends and family, then your professional network. If you require more responses, market survey platforms allow you to reach a wider audience for a fee.
Startup Decision #2 – What are your brand values?
If you are thinking about your brand values, this is great! Many startups ignore this at the beginning and do not make it a priority. However, your brand values guide your business by establishing the standards by which you operate. It also lets your market know what to expect from you.
Let’s say you know your ideal customer from a previous market survey. You also need to know what they value. If you say one of your values as a business is creativity, for instance, does your ideal customer care about creativity? In a highly competitive industry, would that customer buy a cheaper product even if it wasn’t particularly creative? Understanding the values that matter to your market helps you further define your ideal customer. Ask people what they care about. Use a survey to help respondents prioritise different values. How do you stack up?
Startup Decision #3 – Which content engages your target customer?
Startups and established businesses need to continuously engage their customers. This could be through a content marketing strategy that includes social media, blogs, videos etc. When you start creating content, monitor responses e.g. likes, comments and shares. This will give you an idea of what people engage with.
When you have built the readership of your content, ask your customers what kind of content they would like to see more of. Consider the format they prefer i.e. written guides, videos, infographics, live videos etc. Also, consider the topics they want to learn more about. Nothing beats actually asking your customers what they want and them witnessing you taking their suggestions on board.
Startup Decision #4 – How do you want your brand to be perceived?
A 2015 article by Brandwatch states,
Brand perception is owned by consumers, not brands. Regardless of your message, whatever people are thinking and saying about your brand, that is your brand.
This even truer now that it was in 2015. Surveying your customers is important for measuring how you are perceived or how you might be perceived based on elements of your branding such as your business name, logo, website design and content. If what you undercover through a survey is not how you would like to be perceived, you can take steps to influence that perception. Use social media and storytelling to create a relatable narrative around your brand and to build trust with your market.
Startup Decision #5 – How will you price your product to show value?
How you price a product could make or break its success. From the first decision about who your customers are, you might know enough about what they might be willing to pay. It is also important to know what your competitors are charging.
Pricing can be complex, including tiers and product bundling. This example of a product pricing survey:
Another approach could be to ask respondents what they would pay as a maximum. Something like this:
- Less than £100
- Between £100 and £250
- More than £250
If value-based pricing is your focus (as it is in many B2B sectors), ask your customers different questions such as which additional features they are willing to pay for (or paying for existing features to be bigger, faster or more durable) and what matters most to them when using a vendor like yours. You’ll be able to segment your market and give a price that reflects value to each segment. Each customer segment will be different.
Used well, marketing surveys are an effective way of hearing out your target market. You might not always change what you are doing because of the results but you will have information that allows you to put in place messages, content and support for anticipated customer reactions.
Have you used marketing surveys to make a decision? Tell us how it went in the comments!
Much has been said about the pace and volume of online activities. With over 3 billion people on social media, we expect activity volume to continue increasing. Lori Lewis and Chadd Callahan have illustrated what happens – on average – every 60 seconds on the internet. For instance, there are over 973,000 logins on Facebook and 3.7 million Google searches every 60 seconds! To put that into perspective, that’s 42 billion Facebook Logins and 159.84 billion Google Searches a month! I have analysed the growth trends of these platforms and what it implies for content marketing. In this blog, I will highlight some considerations for content marketing based on internet use in 60 seconds between 2016 and 2018.
Internet Use in 60 Seconds: Average Growth Rate, Activity Volume & User Accounts (2016-18) [INFOGRAPHIC]
Internet use in 60 seconds: High Growth-High Volume – Google Searches & YouTube Video Viewed
Google isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it guaranteed its position as the online search capital by buying YouTube for $1.65 billion in November 2006. Google searches and YouTube videos viewed had a 60-second usage growth rate of 26% between 2016 and 2018. Both platforms command over 3 million actions each (searches and videos viewed) in 60 seconds!
There is no ignoring the impact of search and video on content marketing. As a business, your content makes to be relevant and engaging. Organic search overtook social media for web traffic in 2015. The bottom line is people are looking for information. This includes how-to content, trends, in-depth knowledge of complex topics and entertainment.
If you don’t have a content marketing strategy, you’re missing out on the opportunity to engage a huge audience. With 56% of B2B marketers admitting that search is the most effective channel for driving early-stage engagement, relevant content is the anchor for building brand awareness.
Internet use in 60 seconds: Low Growth-High Volume – Emails Sent & Facebook Logins
Email and email marketing continue to be vital communication channels for business. Recent research by DMA reveals that email marketing receives more than 30 times ROI. As of 2018, there are over 5 billion email accounts! Email has been around a long time but its growth rate is the lowest (12%) of the internet channels reviewed here. The younger generation is less and less on email so consider your target market. However, emerging trends around email marketing could see future increased growth in usage.
It’s tricky mentioning Facebook (young and cool?) and emails (old tech, needing a refresh?) in the same breath. At 2.196 billion active users, Facebook has the highest number of users of any social media platform. But recent times has brought slowed growth for the social media giant. In the first quarter of 2018, Facebook grew by 3.14%, down from 3.39% of the prior quarter. The reasons for this slowed growth could be a range of recent changes such as modifications to its algorithm. In addition, the company has endured scandal after scandal in the last 18 months. With data showing new daily active users being its lowest quarter-over-quarter growth since early 2011, has Facebook’s user growth hit a wall as suggested by a recent Recode article?
Source: TechCrunch (2017)
Email marketing remains a key channel for reaching a known audience and it reaps significant ROI. Review and refine your email marketing strategy to include email-enhancing techniques such as basic segmentation, optimising for mobile devices and re-marketing to name a few. For Facebook, make a call on whether investing in advertising is worth it to reach your target audience. If it is, keep resourcing it. Remember it owns Instagram too so it probably won’t hurt to keep active on the platform.
Internet use in 60 seconds: High Growth-Low Volume – Instagram Scrolls
While Instagram has the smallest number of activities per 60 seconds, it’s had a massive usage growth over the last 3 years. The platform went from 38,194 to 174,000 scrolls per minute between 2016 and 2018. When Facebook bought it in 2012, it had around 50 million users and wasn’t making any money. Now, Instagram has risen to 1 billion active users per month!
As a result of Instagram’s development, it has become a crucial element of business-to-business marketing. Companies like Hubspot, Business Insider and Dell have thousands of followers by regularly engaging with target audiences. The launch of Instagram’s long-form video feature (IGTV) has added to its popularity among businesses. For instance, Hubspot often creates tutorial videos to educate its audience on topics such as Facebook audience targetting and SEO.
The future of Instagram is bright in the world of content marketing. To continue to grow, I foresee the platform enhancing its search capability to be similar to Google and YouTube. As far as I know, you can’t effectively search for specific content on IGTV. Adding this feature could further boost growth for Instagram. If you haven’t already so, get into IGTV and be one of the first few companies to use it. I’m having a blast with it!
Internet use in 60 seconds: Low Growth-Low Volume – Tweets Sent
Overall, the number of tweets sent on Twitter every 60 seconds has grown by 18% between 2016-18. This is a relatively low growth rate compared to Instagram, for instance. It also shows the general slow down of Twitter and its struggle to engage users on its platform. Recent stats show another struggle: Attracting new users.
In 2016, Twitter’s user growth rate almost halved from 7.8% to 4%. Growth is expected to slow down by 2% each year until 2020. Yet, Twitter is a widely used platform for B2B sectors with 77% of B2B marketers using it compared to 73% of B2C marketers.
There have been suggestions about what Twitter could improve to make its platform a more enjoyable experience. For an amusing list, check out this Mashable blog by Tyler Schmall where he offers improvement ideas such as automatically filtering out Hitler praise and labelling which trending topics are depressing.
The increase in character count is the most recent of its updates but in my opinion, it’s not significant enough. I’d call it a “tweak” rather than anything that changes the game. Twitter appears to be the only social platform yet to make video a core feature for users. Current video use seems to be mainly for GIFs rather than serious content. There’s also the passive, attention-deficit nature of the platform and how easy it is to target abuse at other users. I wonder if an additional video capability will aggravate these issues or improve professional use. What do you think?
There are many places you could be on the internet. For marketers and everyone else, it is often overwhelming. Below is a summary of how I believe each platform/internet use might impact your content marketing goals.
- Instagram is growing. Get involved with new features for engaging your market.
- Videos and search are the now and the future. Establish your brand with it to build your online presence.
- Facebook and email won’t disappear just yet so watch trends and technological advances. Don’t be left behind – keep active.
- Twitter is key for some industries but if you are short on time and resources (and your target audience isn’t even on Twitter), do the minimum if you do it at all.
What I suggest in this article is based on my take on what is happening on the internet and its likely impact on content marketing in general. However, aspects of this might not apply to certain industries such as retail and media/news. That said, I’d love to hear what you think about the future of content marketing on the internet. Tell me in the comments!
**% growth are CGR
My first digital marketing specialism is social media. After doing research and subsequently publishing my best-selling book, The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media, I’ve become more involved in developing frameworks and guides for social media in a B2B setting. Social media is probably the most powerful channel for sharing information and knowledge. Over 3 billion people are social media users – that’s 42% of the world! In this blog, I will tell you how I help my clients get started.
Social Media: Do You Really Want It?
I spent over a decade in corporate organisations. One thing I learned is if senior management does not wholly back an initiative, the chances of it succeeding are almost ZERO. This is the same with social media; it is generally a great channel for boosting a company’s brand and developing thought leadership. But the lack of support at a high level could make it unsuccessful.
That’s why I start the “Getting Started” process by establishing affirmation from senior leaders. I work with the MD/CEO to understand the business objectives and expectations from social media use.
Are these expectations realistic?
Also, do senior managers use social media themselves?
For instance, it’s a red flag if the C-suite executives are not on LinkedIn.
Brand surveys such as Brandfog consistently reveal that C-suite engagement on social media makes a brand more honest and trustworthy.
“Since 2013, we’ve seen a 15% increase in the number of respondents who believe that social media engagement makes CEOs more effective leaders. Regarding the changing nature of communications, an astounding 93% of survey respondents view socially engaged CEOs as a means to build better connections with customers, employees, and investors.” – Brandfog survey, 2016
I establish that senior management will genuinely support social media participation for business purposes.
More than once, I’ve had to walk away because the C-suite really weren’t onboard and it saved a headache for all involved.
Social Media: What Do We Need To Do?
Let’s assume that all is well and your C-suite is game. Fantastic! This is when I put together a proposal that would include a policy, guidelines, training and ongoing support if required. The investment from the client will depend on:
- How extensively employees will participate in sharing on social media
- Existing social media policies and guidelines
- Size of organisation/ Employee number
- Availability of internal marketing resources
- Existing knowledge of social media marketing
As an example, I provide training for up to 8 employees with a limited understanding of using social media for business. This costs between £600-£800. More advanced training costs are a little higher.
If the company accepts my proposal, I work with the MD and/or a designated manager (usually a marketing or communications manager) to understand the current social media status in the company.
Are there existing social media accounts and if so, how well are they working at the moment?
Do employees use social media and are they engaging with their employer’s content?
If the company has an online presence, I analyse performance and highlight what’s working and what isn’t working.
I list the actions that will help close the gap between the current status and where the company wants to get to. These actions might include a policy refresh, basic and advanced training and developing strong personal brands for the leadership team.
Sales people using social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78% of their peers (Source)
Now that we have figured out what we are going to do, are we done?
You’ve guessed it: We are not done. In many ways, we have only started. Many companies spend a lot of time analysing and planning, watching the list of actions and nice-to-haves get longer and longer. It could become difficult to move into action.
When I have a good understanding of actions that can make improvements to my client’s brand, I work on implementing their bespoke policy and delivering training that empowers employees to use social media effectively. This is crucial. I’ve come across policies that are heavily restrictive hence, demotivating employees from taking part in building an organisation’s brand.
Social Media: Smart Sceptic® Framework
I use my Smart Sceptic® Framework to ensure that my clients are getting the best start to social media. This framework summarises the essence of successful social media programs. The detail of this framework can be found in my book mentioned at the beginning of this blog. In summary, agreeing shared values with senior leaders and getting their support to embed those values is a key starting point. It ensures that employees feel affirmed and hence, they are more likely to be motivated to participate in social media for the business.
Content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels (Source)
The next step is to create a social media strategy that works for the business. The strategy should be based on the company’s values and it should support business goals. Research shows that experimentation is a big part of successful social media programs. Don’t be afraid to test your strategy with early adopters in your organisation. Experimentation can be controlled by using one social channel or a group of 5 employees, for instance. Having a group of early adopters that understand the policy and can guide others allows me to adequately handover social media participation to an in-house team when the time comes.
Finally, we move into action. Drumming up participation means resourcing the team. There must be a focal point for social media queries. It is important to equip the teams responsible for making social media a success. Train them, support them and recognise them.
Social Media: Taking Sustainable Action
Sometimes, companies want to keep me on a retainer basis. As part of a retainer service, I’d get monthly updates on social media progress and goals. Working closely with the MD and internal team, I would deliver refresher training on topics such as content creation and personal branding on social media. I am also part of the content creation team and available to be the focal point for employees when they have questions or require one-on-one support.
Retainers range from £350-£1,000 per month depending on support needs, contract length and the size of the company.
To make good progress, there needs to be sustained and deliberate efforts to build a participative culture. This takes time.
In research with companies like IBM, Dell and Cisco, marketing managers admitted that this could take as much as 18 months. So don’t give up too soon. Social media is worth getting right. Let me know if I can help.
Nearly half of B2B buyers read 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with any salesperson. If you are a B2B technology or computing company, for instance, around 63% of articles in your industry are found and read through Google searches. Depending purely on social media to tell your story is not sufficient as organic searches overtake social media for website referrals. One common way for your potential buyer to find and learn about your business is through content marketing. Therefore, you might consider starting a business blog.
Starting a Business Blog, Step 1: Setting Goals
Step 1: Setting Goals
Before starting a business blog, you must decide what your goals are. Goals differ from business to business so it is important you take time to:
- Establish your goals
- Identify ways to measure progress towards your goals
- Review your goals in case they need to change
Establish your goals
The ultimate goal of blogging is usually to attract new customers. But you must break down your goal into actionable chunks to allow you focus on creating content that meets specific needs. For instance, you might want to establish yourself as a thought leader in your target market. This goal makes sense if you are new on the scene and you have other competitors offering similar products or services.
A follow-on goal could be to build an email list of people who are interested in your services. Remember people read many things you have written before signing up for anything. Therefore, showcasing your knowledge through thought leadership is the place to start.
Measure your progress
How will you know whether you’re achieving your goal? If you are building your personal brand as a thought leader, you could measure how many followers you have each month. While it is great to see your follower count increase, don’t get fixated on it. It is more about the quality of your network. Invest in your online relationships by creating content that starts conversations. Get involved in those conversations and reach out via email if appropriate. Other measurements might include webpage traffic, number of likes, number of downloads and shares.
Review your goals
Starting a business blog with specific goals in mind is a great way to focus your efforts. However, things change. If you find that your business has changed or the feedback you receive from customers is not quite what you expected, it’s reasonable to review what you are doing. A Tel Aviv-based B2B marketing agency had to review their content marketing strategy after they discovered that they were being investigated for spam. They started tracking and evaluating everything they were doing including:
- Links in their content
- Which piece of their content linked to
- Groups where they posted content
- Who’s the buyer persona we’re addressing
- Actual post copy
- Which buyer personas each content addressed
- Feedback from their target buyer personas
They looked at a few other things but the above shows a thorough review, which led to positive changes in their goals and strategy.
Starting a Business Blog, Step 2: Identify Whom
Step 2: Identify Whom
Identifying why you are writing is great but it is arguably more important to know who you are writing for. Developing buyer personas will help you to create focused and relevant content. If your buyer is an Operations Manager with an objective to maintain staff morale while cutting costs, you can start creating articles that will resonate with that buyer. Every buyer has a different set of challenges so you must segment your content accordingly. Consider using categories and tags to do this. For instance, you might have content about time management hacks, improving staff retention and a separate category for the most effective team collaboration apps. When identifying who you are writing for, consider:
- Job responsibility
- Greatest challenges
When developing your buyer’s persona, you must understand what your target buyer is responsible for and what he is accountable for. Write a rough outline of what his or her job description is likely to be. Note key responsibilities. For example:
- Can he/she make buying decisions?
- Do he/she have a budget?
- How big is that budget?
- Is there a team reporting to him/her?
These sort of questions allow you to better understand the motivations and likely goals of your target buyer. There are several great buyer persona templates on the web like this one on the Alexa Blog.
Every job has challenges. To catch your target buyer’s attention, you should offer solutions to their greatest challenges. Now that you understand their job role, you can stand in their shoes and identify the likely challenges that they face. One way to do this is to make a list of all the tasks that are involved in their role. Then against each task, add a measure of performance. Ask yourself: What obstacles would stand in the way of performing well on this measure. You might need to speak to current or previous customers to develop a comprehensive list.
For instance, a Marketing Manager could be tasked with increasing brand awareness for his or her employer. How will the employer know that brand awareness has improved? Perhaps they measure web traffic, time on a web page and the number of followers they have on Twitter. What is likely to make it difficult to achieve good quality web traffic? Poor content, no content or misleading content. Now you can start to provide potential solutions…
Starting a Business Blog, Step 3: Be Practical
Step 3: Be Practical
The most valuable content is always practical and actionable. Valuable content leaves you with at least one thing you can do straight away. Therefore, your readers will be more inclined to tell others about your article. Some ways to create highly valuable content is to:
- Answer burning questions
- Share interesting/alarming stats about your industry
- Create a guide for a beginner or an ultimate guide with more in-depth content for advanced learners
Answer burning questions
There are some great places on the web to find questions that people want answers to. Check out Reddit, Quora.com and AnswerThePublic.com, for instance. Your customers are also a good source of questions. Also, talk to your customer service team to create a list of frequently asked questions that you can address through your blog posts.
Another approach is to follow popular comment threads in your industry to see what people are saying. This will give you an idea of what is topical. It gives you an opportunity to write content that showcases your knowledge and answers today’s burning questions.
Share interesting/alarming stats
Much like how I started this blog post, stating stats is a powerful way of drawing people in to read your content. Depending on your industry, there are likely to be a worth of resources for trends, stats and case studies that you could use. I often use MarketingCharts.com and WordStream.com. Articles in Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com tend to include stats. You can follow the links to those stats and find the original report.
Create a guide
I love it when I’m looking for advice on how to do something and I find not just a blog post, but a GUIDE. It’s like, “Wow! All my prayers are answered!” A guide is not just about blogging, it’s about creating lead magnets. Lead magnets are content that your readers are willing to give their email address in exchange for access. They are usually more than a 500-word blog and include more detailed information. Popular guides are how-tos, checklists and cheat sheets. You can also create a guide from a series of blog posts. For instance, if you’ve written a few blogs on start-ups hiring their first employees, you could create a kind of compendium for start-up founders. Designrr is a great tool for turning blogs into e-book guides.
Starting a Business Blog, Step 4: Share Online
Step 4: Share Online
The distribution side of blogging is often forgotten. If you write a blog post on your website, it is not automatically found and read. You will start to get organic readership through online searches but that will take time. A new blog needs lots of exposure and that’s where sharing comes in. Here are some channels to consider before starting a business blog:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Influencer marketing
- Online groups and forums
Let’s briefly go through each of these.
Part of setting goals and identifying your audience includes knowing which social media platforms are relevant to engagement. Don’t try to be everywhere. If you are just starting a business blog, pick 1-2 social media platforms and build an audience there. Follow influencers and engage in conversations.
When people start to sign up to hear from you, that’s a big deal! Email marketing allows you to make direct contact with someone who you already know is interested in what you do. You may build this list from online sign-up forms or from your own list of contacts if you’re starting from scratch. Start somewhere by emailing your blog posts to your contacts. And remember to ask them to share.
This type of marketing focuses on influencers rather a target customer. To use influencer marketing, you must identify people that might have an influence over your potential customers. These people usually have a passion for sharing content. Direct your content to them and get them to share your content. Influencer marketing platforms such as Mavrck and Social Bakers are good places to get started.
Online groups and forums
If you create content for a niche audience, online forums are your best friend. You can answer questions with your content and explore the real challenges for people in your industry. Over time, you will be known as a thought leader in your area of choice. This is a great way to build an audience for not just your business blog but for your personal brand too.
Have you recently started a business blog? What is working for you? What isn’t going quite as you thought it would?
When was the last time you engaged and became persuaded by a set of bullet points?
One reason you may not have been persuaded (apart from the potential for boredom) is that our brains are not built to retain information that is set out as bullet points on a slide. In fact, bullet points are the least effective way of sharing ideas.
This explains why Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos repeated his ban of Powerpoint in his 2018 annual letter.
“I’m actually a fan of anecdotes in business”
Neuroscientists have found that the fastest way to share ideas in business is through stories – particularly ones that trigger emotions.
The narrative structure of stories is more impactful than bullet points on PowerPoint, our brains are wired for narratives such as storytelling.
Other studies have proven that social storytelling is responsible for more than 65% of conversations had in public. It, therefore, makes sense that when you write content for your business, you’ll get more online engagement if you tell stories about your brand. Storytelling is a great way to keep your online messages consistent throughout your website, social media and blogs.
So why do we try to sell our vision and spread ideas through bullet points? It isn’t very inspiring.
Here are four storytelling ideas for creating content for your business:
Storytelling: Customer stories & anecdotes
Through Your Customers’ Eyes: Customer Stories & Anecdotes
Jeff Bezos notes that when the anecdotes and metrics (data) disagree, the anecdotes are usually right.
Customer stories are a credible way of demonstrating your expertise as a business. Ask customers about how they came to use your product and/or service. What did they try before and how did it feel to work with your company? Document the customer’s journey from finding out about your product/service to getting real outcomes from their interaction with you. It could be rags-to-riches, which develops an instant rapport with your readers and is inspiring.
Storytelling: Pictures, Videos, Action
A Picture Tells A Thousand Words: Use Images, Videos & Action
Neuroscientists have proved that we recall things better when we see pictures compared to when we read text on a slide.
According to a report by Social Media Examiner, 74% of marketers are using visual assets. Visual marketing can help you tell a consistent story with every image, matching with your brand style. Also use video when possible, with eye-catching shots and engaging conversations by staff, suppliers and customers.
Storytelling: Analogies & Metaphors
Get Creative: Use Analogies & Metaphors
As a child growing up in Africa, I was told many stories about the tortoise, the hare and the elephant. There were always lessons in those stories – lessons about the world, manners and good character.
Stories are not just for children and young adults. A great story teaches, inspires and engages. Try using analogies and metaphors to convey your idea to your readers. I once used the analogy of a duck on the water to describe the ease of using a certain software. The duck represented the simplicity and slickness of use while the duck’s feet pedalling like mad in water represented the robustness and accuracy of the algorithm behind the software. It worked very well in conveying a distinct competitive advantage.
Storytelling: Fictional Characters, Buyer Personas
Show You Understand: Use Fictional Characters & Buyer Personas
One of the coolest ways to engage your target audience is to show them you know what is it like to be them.
In a recent video, I used a fictional company to show how B2B companies struggle with internal and external alignment. This video was based on buyer personas, created from years of experience dealing with marketing, sales and engineering teams in medium to large technical industries. Sometimes, they fail to understand their competitive environment well enough to create a unique competitive advantage. The video illustrated an understanding of that misalignment and proposed a solution.
Are there any other types of stories you can tell about your business? Tell us in the comments and share this blog with your network!