How to Find the Best Digital Marketing Agency

In order to find the best digital marketing agency, first, we need to understand “what is digital marketing”, “will digital marketing benefit your business” and answer the question “how do I get more leads for my business?” – which should be the purpose of any marketing.

What is a Digital Marketing Agency?
The dictionary definition of Digital marketing is the marketing of products or services using digital technologies, mainly on the internet, but also including mobile phones, display advertising, and any other digital medium. So simple to summarise in one sentence, yet it can be a complicated process to get right and to ensure that all of your digital marketing is working together, not as silo activities. This is where the expertise and experience of the best digital marketing agencies can be hugely beneficial.

Traditional advertising, newspapers and paper directories, such as Yellow Pages, are increasingly less effective for businesses. Whilst a few years ago people would go to a computer to search for a product or service, nowadays people are connected to the internet all day, every day and “live online”. Looking for information, a product or service is as quick and simple as searching on a laptop or computer at work or picking up their mobile telephone or tablet. Digital marketing focuses on getting your information, products and services in front of people when they are looking online. The best digital agencies understand the buying process of your products and services and ensure that your information is prominent to the potential customer at the appropriate time. In the digital marketing world, the various stages of the buying process i.e. research, consideration and purchase are called “micro-moments” and the very best digital marketing agency will present the relevant information, service or product at the targeted time in the buying process.

Whilst some digital marketing agencies will also create and manage traditional advertising or business marketing, such as newspaper advertising, specialist digital marketing agencies will concentrate on online marketing as opposed to “marketing companies” who commonly concentrate on TV, radio and print marketing.

Regardless if your business is business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), digital marketing can be a fast, often instant, and reliable way of getting leads into your business and driving up revenue. The very best digital marketing agencies will manage all of the digital advertising based on return on investment (ROI) ensuring the leads generated are at a cost that makes business sense and increases profit levels. Digital marketing will benefit your business and answers the question “how do I get more leads for my business”?

Digital marketing, sometimes referred to as website marketing, can be broken down into a number of important features and services:

SEO Services
Search engine optimisation, most commonly abbreviated to “SEO”, is the process of getting your website found on search engines like Google when people make a search relevant to your business, services or products.

Regardless if your website is e-Commerce or selling services it will drive leads and sales into your business if it is found for the search terms people use (often referred to as “keywords”) to look for them in Google.

SEO requires experience and understanding of how Google reads your website. What messages and information you want Google to read for a webpage or website and knowing where to place that information so search engines can find it. A good SEO company will have a proven track record of ranking websites high in the search results.

SEO works best when the proven methods of obtaining rankings are applied in conjunction with latest trends that are driving traffic. An example of this is the “near me” phenomenon, which has seen a 150% growth in the last 12 months, where mobile phone users are adding “near me” to their search query i.e. “SEO Company near me”. These customers are looking to buy and buy from a local service or product supplier.

Although SEO can be a stand-alone service, it is most effective when combined with PPC, social media and reputation marketing. SEO is also the cornerstone of effective PPC, social media and reputation management campaigns.

Pay Per Click
Pay Per Click (PPC) often referred to as “Google Advertising” or “online advertising” is where you position adverts at the top of the search results for specific search terms. These search terms can be the words people use when in the “research” phase of making a purchase or targeted at the “buying keywords” when potential customers are looking to buy.

Although your advert, depending on your budget, can be shown every time a search is made, you only pay when an internet user clicks on your advert and is taken to your website or calls you direct from the search results page meaning you only pay when you get a click from a potential customer hence the name for this form of marketing of Pay Per Click (often abbreviated to PPC).

How much you pay for each click is determined by a few factors. The “cost per click” (abbreviated to CPC) is determined by the quality and relevancy of the advert to the search term being used and the relevancy of the page on your website that the potential customer land on. These factors contribute to your overall “quality score”. The higher your quality score, the less you pay per click and less you pay per lead into your business.

In the UK, Google has the vast majority of search traffic and most of your budget should be placed their, however, you will not want to miss the smaller, yet still considerable potential for customers from search engines like Microsoft’s Bing platform, and a small part of the budget should be allocated to other search engines. Also, the very best PPC management companies will also discuss spreading your PPC budget over a number of campaigns aimed at different parts of the customer journey. A small part of the budget should be allocated to the research stage of the buying process when people are using broad search terms to find information, a small part of the budget when people are searching for yours, your competitors or market leaders company name. The majority of the budget when potential customers are using search terms directly related to making a purchase and lastly, a small part of the budget to re-market (show your advertising to people who have shown an interest in your services or products by visiting your website) to capture and drive up conversions from the customers previously advertised too.

The best PPC Agency will be a Google Premier Partner. A Google Premier Partner status indicates that the company has a proven track record in delivering high-quality campaigns, which generate good competitive/low CPC’s and deliver high and positive ROI’s. The very best PPC agency will have a robust PPC management process in place to quickly react and capitalise on changes in the PPC campaigns of your competitors.

Unlike SEO, that can take some time to be fully effective, Pay Per Click is instant in the fact that as soon as your campaigns are live they can be generating leads for your business.

PPC is highly effective when carried out in unison with SEO. A well-optimised website will improve the quality score of your Google advertising campaigns resulting in a reduced “cost per click” meaning you get more leads for your budget.

Social Media Marketing
Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are now legitimate places for a business to attract leads. Facebook has over 38 MILLION active and regular users in the UK and the number is anticipated to rise to over 42 MILLION by 2020. Regardless if your business sells to consumers or other businesses, your potential customers are on Facebook and using it often.

Facebook is excellent at raising awareness during the customers “research” stage, reminding them of your services or products during the “consideration” stage and putting your specific products in front of potential customers at the “buying” stage. With such a large audience and the flexibility to target customers throughout the buying process, Facebook can be a good avenue to generate leads and sales and to deliver a great return on investment.

A good digital marketing agency will have a proven track record in delivering highly effective Facebook advertising campaigns. The very best digital marketing agencies will be able to demonstrate the conversion rate and cost per lead of your social media marketing.

Again, social media marketing and specifically Facebook marketing can be carried out as a stand-alone activity however it works so much better when combined with SEO and/or PPC. When a potential customer visits your website their computer is marked as having visited. This then allows you to target the user of that computer, who has shown an interest in your products or services.

Reputation Management
When considering making a purchase, a potential customer will scour the internet to find feedback and reviews from previous customers. Your online marketing and sales can live or die by the reviews for your business, services or products. Ensuring that positive reviews are easy to find and that any negative feedback is managed well, can be a huge benefit to your conversion rate.

Digital marketing companies call this “reputation management” or “online reputation management” however, in reality, it is creating systems to generate customer reviews and customer feedback ensuing positive customer satisfaction is captured and easy to find for potential customers.

Many businesses are concerned with allowing the public the ability to openly provide feedback. You cannot please all of the people all of the time, and companies worry that a bad review will have a negative impact on their business. Firstly, if someone is determined to leave a bad review for your business they will find a platform to do so and there are 1000’s of platforms to choose from. It is better to have control of where customers are encouraged to leave a review. Secondly, a poor or bad review, if managed well, can be a positive for your business. Engaging with a bad review highlights that you care about feedback and subsequently, you care about your customers. One well managed bad review can be as good for your business ten good reviews.

A good digital marketing company will use one of the handful of recognised review platform and provide the tools and means of allowing you to capture, manage and respond to customer reviews.

10 Content Marketing Trends Everyone Is Talking About

Every year seems to bring a new set of marketing trends, those “can’t miss” opportunities that scream out for attention. If we were to hop on every trends, we’d certainly grow dizzy from exhaustion. Nevertheless, there are some trends that we’d be foolish not to recognize.

As we begin the last chapter of 2017, many companies are still working through the creation of a bona fide content marketing strategy. If that’s you, here are some hints: Native advertising continues to be the gateway drug to success, and mobile continues to be the flavor of every month.

That said, Smart Insights reports that content marketing is THE single most important technique for driving incremental sales in 2017. In an industry that’s all about experimentation, some key trends stand out.

Here are 10 content marketing trends that everyone is talking about.

1. Brands Will Continue to Invest in Original Content

Recently, it became public knowledge that tech giant Apple is planning to invest of $1 billion in original content. Though some gossip states that Apple is making this move to take on Netflix, we believe there’s more on Apple’s mind than video streaming. As competition in this space heats up, brands need to stay relevant. Valuable, original programming can help companies grow an audience and keep current customers satisfied.

Google is also purchasing original content from media companies and brands to fill in content gaps, while Facebook is investing huge amounts of capital on original video. Not to be outline, online shopping giant Amazon will perhaps be the largest investor of all. Though the consequences remain to be seen, one thing is for sure: content marketing is taking the spotlight.

2. Transparency Will Reign King (or Queen)

Consumers are becoming increasingly desensitized. We want — and often expect — companies to be transparent, authentic, and dedicated to giving back. After all is said and done, however, many consumers are reporting frustration with brand advertising, environmental claims, charitable contributions, and corporate support for various causes. Though such efforts have been successful for some brands, this type of promotion is increasingly being perceived as desperate or dishonest.

Moving forward, brands need to focus on transparency and disclosure to close this gap as much as possible. Enter: Influencer Marketing.

Yet, working with influencers can be sticky. The Federal Trade Commission continues to take measures to protect consumers from companies who aren’t transparent enough, including work with influencers. Take what happened with Machinima. In 2015, the FTC slapped Machinima, a YouTube gaming network, with a warning for not disclosing paid endorsements to YouTube influencers.

And this is far from the only instance. A quick Google search shows that a lack of disclosure and transparency have caused trouble for many brands. To build (and maintain) the trust of your audience, the next phase of influencer marketing and branded content needs to ensure that every piece of content created is transparent.

3. Content Marketing Budgets Will Continue to Increase

Across the globe, companies are spending huge amounts of money on content marketing. What serves as great news for content marketers also presents challenges for businesses with a limited staff. This is propelling the likelihood that companies turn to freelance writers and others who can produce content for a price.

4. Content Marketing Duties Continue to Overlap

Often, it’s difficult to determine exactly who is in charge of content within a company. Roles and duties shift within marketing departments and even in other areas of the business. PR and communications may have separate content creators, social media managers, and other writers that are not integrated with the official content team, leaving no one really in charge. Such disarray can lead to a very disjointed content strategy.

5. Internet of Things Will Take Content Off-Screen

Customers are no longer limited to the screen in the way that they view content. Although different content formats have long been available, the IoT has made it so content is interwoven into our lives in brand new ways. Consider how we current interact with technology, such as Apple’s Siri. When users speak, Siri responds with call-and-response content wherever and whenever they need it. Alexa, Amazon’s voice service, is becoming a digital doorway to content as well.

Many organizations already use Alexa to share content with their audience beyond a laptop, tablet, or cell phone screen. For example, the American Heart Association uses Alexa to provide details about performing CPR, including step-by-step information on how to perform the process in an emergency situation. This content is further embellished with information about warning signs of a stroke and heart attack.

With IoT, most content is becoming digital. Beacon-based proximity marketing, sensors, device pairing, and other features usher in the opportunity for marketers to invest in endless types of content interaction. This type of highly targeted content can help you reach your audience at the right place and at the right time.

6. Pre-Recorded Video is So… Yesterday

It isn’t exactly time to write the obituary for pre-recorded video, yet it is being overshadowed by live video. According to Buffer, 80 percent of marketing respondents to a 2016 survey want to create more video content, with 42 percent specifying live video as their preference.

While live video really exploded in 2017, we predict that it’ll become even more mainstream in 2018. According to Facebook, users spend three times more time watching live videos than videos that are pre-recorded. More, they comment 10 times as often during live videos. A Livestream survey confirmed this, with 80 percent of respondents indicating a preference for live video over reading a blog post. This presents modern-day marketing specialists with a unique chance to hop on the live video bandwagon before competitors do.

7. Blurred Lines

If you look at how content has changed over the past decade, you’ll notice that it has evolved outside of its original “container” of owned media. As social media expands, as well as the ways we interact with and engage audiences, the lines between owned, earned, and paid begin to blur so that they’re almost indiscernible from one another. Content can no longer be confined to these silos.

With the entire buyer’s journey in mind, the content shifts to take on the form of all three approaches. This underscores the importance of each form working seamlessly together to support a company’s growth strategy. That means you must adjust your internal and external teams to handle content development, deployment, and promotion.

8. Strategic Documentation

Ask a marketing specialist about the effectiveness of content marketing, and chances are he or she will be able to pinpoint what makes the cogs turn effectively. That’s because companies are becoming laser-focused on developing thoughtful content marketing strategies.

In 2015, only 32 percent of marketers had a documented content marketing strategy. The following year, this grew to 37 percent. This year, however, the number has ballooned to well over 40 percent. Our prediction for 2018, then, is that developing an effective, efficient strategy will be a job expectation.

To remain competitive in the upcoming year, what strategies will you include? You may want to consider more targeted content, expanded content, more efficient content creation, or other elements that will help you foster greater growth.

9. Interactive Visual Content

We all know that live video is engaging and responsive, yet there’s another type of visual content that allows you to craft an entirely different experience for your audience.

Virtual reality.

VR offers new opportunities for content marketing, as well as customer engagement. Shopify, for instance, has taken this to heart and developed a VR app that allows online shoppers to customize clothing from the comfort of home.

International Data Corporation reports that, based on sales and forecast models, revenue for augmented reality will grow from just over $5 billion in 2016 to more than $160 billion by 2020. Revenue forecasts from Digi-Capital are equally optimistic, reporting an estimated growth to $108 billion by 2021.

While the prospect of virtual reality may seem daunting, it will likely be worthwhile for anyone willing to give it a go. Forbes Global shows that up to 30 percent of consumer-facing brands will experiment with virtual reality marketing by the end of this year.

Keep in mind that it isn’t solely for consumer advertising and marketing, however. Consider what the Golden State Warriors did when they wanted to recruit Kevin Durant to the team roster. Using content marketing in VR, they immersed him in the “Warrior’s Experience,” thereby placing him courtside at Oracle Arena as well as in the thick of talks with coach Steve Kerr in the locker room.

10. Distribution, Distribution, Distribution

While most marketers recognize how instrumental content is for companies now, what still remains uncertain is the means of which content is distributed. And though there are countless other blogs, newsletters, and email campaigns out there, the sure way you’ll have your message heard above the rest is through optimum content distribution.

If you want the attention of the 2.789 billion active social media users, you need to adopt a strategic distribution plan. Smart brands are going to make investments in not only acquiring content, but in distributing it strategically through multi-channel approaches as 2018 unrolls.

Think out of the box for profitable rewards.

Commercial Marketing – The Greatest Fishing Sport There Is

According to scientists, humans have been fishing for over 40,000 years – and they do not appear to be letting up anytime soon. When speaking of the lure (pun intended) of fishing, whether it takes the form of commercial, sporting, or recreational – fishing enthusiasts the world over describe the thrill of the “hunt,” and the euphoria of the “catch.”

Interestingly, I have heard nearly the same terminology used in the business world to describe the ever constant cycle of finding and acquiring new customers. If truth be told, I calculate that there is more “fishing” occurring in global business than in all other forms of fishing combined. Moreover, if we can compare business to the sport of fishing, then commercial marketing is the discipline of fishing, and marketing collateral becomes the gear.

While not intended to be an exhaustive treatise on the subject, this article will focus on six of the fundamental questions a company should ask before creating new pieces of collateral or creating a new marketing campaign. It will also look at some of the common marketing mistakes companies make as they attempt to land the “big” one.

Choosing the Right Gear

1. Who is Your Audience?

The most important thing to know when buying your fishing gear is what type of fish you want to catch. Are you going after salt water, lake, or river fish? The equipment you will need is dependent upon the answer to that question.

One of the largest mistakes I see companies make in their marketing collateral is that they often seem confused as to who their audience is. Your message should be clear and compelling. That is hard to do when you don’t know to whom you are marketing. Are they an end user, a business, a reseller, or perhaps a specifier? The type of collateral and the message it contains should always be a clear reflection of that answer.

Some may state that it doesn’t really matter all that much – the product or service remains the same, right? Well, some may also say that a fishing pole is a fishing pole and it doesn’t really matter which type you use. Any professional fisher will tell you that this just isn’t the case. The actual story (your product or service) may remain the same, but how you tell that story and what form that story takes should depend completely on whom you are telling.

I spent years working with and making presentations to both architects and engineers. While my central message remained the same, I had to tailor that message to my listener because both groups were interested in different things. The architects were interested in the aesthetics and more of the big picture features. The engineers were much more interested in the details and the mechanics of the product.

While some types of collateral may cross over multiple groups, such as a brochure or video, you should try and create multiple versions of the same collateral piece to target the particular type of recipient to whom you are reaching out. If this is too expensive, then you should always tailor the message to your largest, most valuable audience.

Learning How to Use Your Gear

2. What is your Call-to-Action?

There are a lot of different pieces of equipment used in fishing. Before going out to the stream or lake, you should have a clear understanding that every component has a different purpose and not mistake the use of one device for that of another. Individuals often make this type of error. For example, job hunters often mistake the purpose of a resume as a tool to get a job. This is a complete fallacy. The purpose of a resume is to get an interview.

Companies often make the same sort of blunders with their collateral. Just as a lure has a different use and objective than a hook, you should develop different kinds of collateral for all the various stages of the sale. Every brochure, ad, or campaign should have a clear and distinct purpose. Is the piece designed to get someone’s attention, build company credibility, provide product or service information, or perhaps a sales call Leave Behind? Sales personnel should also be trained on the various distinctions between the material and know when and where to use what.

After you know what the objective of your marketing piece is, it becomes much easier to decide what your Call-to-Action should be. Once you have an individual’s attention, what do you want them to do after they have read, heard, or viewed your material? Do you ask for an appointment? Do you ask for an order? Don’t make them guess – tell them. Don’t get them all excited and then walk away. Every campaign or article should leave them with clear instructions on what they should do next. Perhaps you can’t compel a horse to drink once you’ve led it to water, but you would be remiss if you didn’t at least ask it to drink.

Casting Your Line

3. How Are You Delivering Your Message?

Some novice fishers may wonder how far out they should cast their line; will the larger fish be further out or hidden in a hole closer to shore? In business, it is important to know how and where to deliver your message. The answer to this question largely depends on what your product or service is, and how large your business is.

If your product or service is widely used, you may choose to cast your line way out there using global or national press releases, email blasts, and expansive social media campaigns. If your product or service is more of a niche market or industry vertical, you may have more success using a combination of internet, radio, television, email, or direct mailer campaigns that target a particular fishing hole such as specific geographical locations, companies, or individuals. For a standalone retailer, the hole may be as small as a particular town or even distinct neighborhoods. Market research goes a long way to identifying the holes that you should be fishing in.

The size of your business is also important when considering how far you should cast your line. It is important to ensure that you can support your product or service in every location you market. You also need to be confident that your company can handle the amount of business you may generate. While it may seem like the whole point of the game is to bring in as much business as possible, you may not have the inside structural support and manufacturing to handle all of the sales. More than one company has collapsed in on itself because they did not have the infrastructure to handle their incoming sales volume. Your business, marketing, and sales should all grow together at a planned, even rate.

Using the Right Lure

4. What Sort of Impression Do You Want to Make?

Different types of lures attract different types of fish. Using the wrong type of lure can make for a very long, fruitless fishing trip. Whether you like it or not, your marketing collateral can wordlessly make an impression that will either attract buyers or send them scurrying into the water’s depths.

What sort of impression do you want to make on potential customers? First impressions are important and you need to know beforehand whether you want your product or service to be seen as dependable, fun, exciting, expensive, inexpensive, or whatever. Keep in mind that the images, colors, layout, music, and quality of materials you use will all tell a story – you just need to ensure that it is telling the right story.

Besides the typical, “Hey, look at me over here” type of lures, another powerful lure your sales people should carry is the “credibility” lure. This sort of collateral can come in the form of case studies, images of past jobs, testimonials, etc. The use of these devices helps ensure the buyer that you can be trusted to deliver on what you are promising.

One last thing to keep in mind, when it comes to marketing, the truth is not always as important to a buyer as their perceived truth. In other words, if it is true in their mind, there isn’t much you can do to change that. The more your marketing materials reflect the truth as they see it, the more success you’ll have. Now, I am not advocating false advertising or unethical practices. I am merely stating that you should use situations and terminology where with they are most familiar. For example, a widget may be called an “ABC Device” in the engineering world, but if your targeted clientele all think of this particular widget as an “XYZ Component,” then you should probably market it as an “XYZ Component” – regardless of what the engineers say. Yes, it may be semantics, but this can make a big difference as to whether someone will be attracted to your product or not.

Using the Right Bait

5. What Problem Do You Solve?

Depending upon the type of fishing you’re doing, you may use cheese, worms, elaborate flies, or even smaller fish as bait. In marketing, it is important to make sure your intended clientele know which of their problems your product or service is going to solve.

Too often in marketing, companies are scrupulous about listing all of their product’s incredible features, but then they rely on the potential customer to build the bridge in their own mind as to which of their problems that feature is going to solve. Your marketing materials should build that bridge for them. In other words, Product, Feature, Benefit; “Our product is ‘A,’ therefore you should enjoy ‘B.'”

Along these same lines, it may not be enough to share with someone how your product has solved a similar problem in a different market – they want to know how your product is going to solve their problem in their market. This situation is where vertical specific marketing material is hugely beneficial.

Hooking Your Fish

6. Does It Evoke the Desired Emotion?

We have all heard the saying that “People buy emotionally and defend their decisions logically”. Well, it’s true, and if your marketing doesn’t stir any emotion, most of those large fish are going to get away.

If we are honest, we must admit that a portion of that excitement is generated by a sales person, but not every company is fishing with live bait; some rely almost entirely on their marketing materials. Even if you do employ sales people, why should they have to do all the work? They should have professional tools at their disposal to assist them in their efforts.

One of the pitfalls I see many companies fall into (especially those with technical products) is their marketing materials only show the product. There is a place for this in some pieces such as specification sheets, but people have to understand that most individuals are not moved to emotion by an image of an inanimate object. Your marketing materials should include people either a) Needing your product or service, or b) Enjoying the benefits of your product or service.

What if a potential buyer is unable to make a decision at the time of the sales presentation, or perhaps they are not the only decision maker? Your sales professional’s presentation may have generated all the needed emotion for the potential buyer to want to say “yes,” but if they are unable to move forward immediately, you cannot expect that emotion to remain indefinitely. They will settle back down and start thinking about all the reasons why they shouldn’t buy. Alternatively, they will talk to the other decision maker, and because they are not as skilled a presenter or as knowledgeable about the product as your sales person, they will not be able to generate the same level of emotion in their counterpart as they initially experienced themselves and they will decide to pass. This reaction is the reason it is so important to have a good Leave Behind, a video or brochure that can remind the potential buyer of all of the important highlights of the sales presentation. This material will allow them to get excited all over again while remembering all of the relevant facts when sharing the information with others.

To conclude this section, just remember – If they feel nothing, they buy nothing.

Packing Up and Heading Home With Your Catch

Conclusion and Summary

Once again, this article was not meant to be an in-depth discussion on all the salient points of commercial marketing and marketing collateral. Instead, it was designed to focus on some of the fundamental questions a company should ask before creating a new piece of collateral or creating a new marketing campaign. Those questions are:

1. Who is Your Audience?

2. What is your Call-to-Action?

3. How Are You Delivering Your Message?

4. What Sort of Impression Do You Want to Make?

5. What Problem Do You Solve?

6. Does It Evoke the Desired Emotion?

Like fishing, commercial marketing can be very challenging. It can also be an exhilarating and rewarding sport. I wish all those who read this article – Sunny Days, and Good Fishing!