“I see clients, again and again, having to evaluate the value of making this [SEO] change over that change at the ticket level,” said Jessica Bowman, enterprise SEO consultant and author of Executive SEO Playbook, in her presentation at SMX Advanced.
While all SEO tasks are important for the success of your site, there’s a key distinction that should be drawn: those that have the potential to increase revenue, and those that are designed to prevent revenue decreases. SEOs who fail to differentiate these types of tasks often find themselves burnt out and unable to show how their work impacts the bottom line.
“What usually happens is SEO managers fall into this whirlpool of trying to build a positive revenue case for all of the tickets they have,” said Avinash Conda, director of organic growth at Williams Sonoma Inc., in the same presentation. “But that’s not something you need to be applying to all of the tickets.”
Marketers need to prioritize those tickets/tasks that will prove the most SEO value. But they must also choose which metrics should be reported.
According to Bowman and Conda, detailing click-through-rate (CTR) metrics for your brand’s target keywords is a simple yet effective way to prove your SEO efforts are worthwhile.
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To set up the template SEO impact on CTR, Conda suggested marketers first collect a list of specific URLs.
“This could be a subsection of the site, a folder on the site, or just a list of URLs which are impacting,” he said. “The second [step] is to get the list of keywords mapped to these URLs.”
This basic information will serve as the foundation for the formulas on the spreadsheet (see the template below).
To ensure your team gets the CTR metrics it needs, SEOs should also consider adding the following data from Google Search Console (past 12 months) for the URL/keyword combinations:
Once this data is added to the template, the formulas will help you calculate the increases in CTR and forecast fiscal-year growth from search. However, there are a few additional manual inputs marketers will need to include to ensure it functions correctly:
The list of URLs the SEO task will impact.
The list of keyword(s) each URL is targeting.
Assumed CTR increases based on high- and low-ranking keywords.
The average revenue per visit.
Using the CTR template
Marketers can use a template like this to calculate assumed CTR, clicks and revenue increases. This is a great way to connect URLs/keywords to your organization’s bottom line, helping teams better predict the impact of these efforts.
However, as most search marketers probably know, not every aspect of SEO value can be measured in such a clear-cut fashion.
“There are a few tasks which cannot be quantified on a traffic level,” Conda said. “Site speed [tasks] are a good example … We know they are going to have a positive impact on traffic because site speed is a big ranking factor, but I don’t think we’re there yet in terms of coming up with [quantifiable] methodologies.”
Trying to forecast traffic using CTR in such a scenario might not be the most effective plan. In these cases, Conda recommends estimating SEO gains with conversion rates.
For instance, a Portent study found sites with 1-second load times had a conversion rate that was three times higher than sites that loaded in five seconds. Tying less quantifiable SEO tasks to important metrics like this can go a long way in proving their value.
Still, CTR is a solid metric SEOs can use to show the value of their work, especially if the data is made accessible using templates like Conda and Bowman’s.
“This model is a straightforward way to see the updates we are making, which we know for a fact will have a direct impact on rankings,” Conda said.
Watch Jessica Bowman and Avinash Conda’s full SMX Advanced presentation
You may not have noticed this, but many apps and websites use white text labels on their buttons. Designers love using white labels on colored buttons because the white makes the text label pop against the background. However, using white button labels…
You may not have noticed this, but many apps and websites use white text labels on their buttons. Designers love using white labels on colored buttons because the white makes the text label pop against the background. However, using white button labels can sometimes get you in trouble. Apple’s Facetime app has this problem with […]
Are you afraid of being alone? Well, you’re not alone in that. In a 2014 survey of 2,000 adults, one in three said they fear being alone: 40% of women and 35% of men. Ironically, the more we subvert quality alone time with distraction, the more we crip…
Are you afraid of being alone? Well, you’re not alone in that. In a 2014 survey of 2,000 adults, one in three said they fear being alone: 40% of women and 35% of men. Ironically, the more we subvert quality alone time with distraction, the more we cripple our capacity for being alone—and stoke our fear about it. Giving in to fear of being alone perpetuates a cycle of loneliness.
But Amazon didn’t take over the market as a monolithic retailer. Instead, it essentially established itself as the world’s largest flea market.
Today, literally millions of retailers have set up their virtual booths on Amazon, selling everything from products found in physical swap meets to custom-crafted handmade wares to exclusively sourced items direct from manufacturers. In total, these third-party sellers account for 56% of items sold on Amazon.
Given the difficulty of competing with Amazon, it’s natural to consider whether you should just set up shop on Amazon, too. While it’s certainly possible to make money selling on Amazon, it’s not the right choice for every business.
In today’s guide, we’re going to help you decide if selling on Amazon is right for your brand by explaining:
That’s it. You can set up your Amazon business and start selling today!
However, if you want to really be successful selling on Amazon, you’ll need to prepare for these five pillars of your virtual booth:
Brand registry (if applicable)
Managing these pillars will help your Amazon booth become a profitable eCommerce outlet. That’s why we recommend learning more about them (and creating a plan for each) before you set up your Amazon seller account.
Product listings show off all the wares you have to sell on Amazon.
Amazon doesn’t really limit the number of different products you can list, and it doesn’t even start charging you for inactive listings until you have more than 100,000 SKUs. However, that doesn’t mean you should fill your booth with all the slapdash listings you possibly can.
To be successful, you’ll want to optimize your product listings to show up in searches and convert potential buyers. So, you should limit yourself to only the products that are worth the effort.
A product listing should include:
A+ content (if you’re a brand registered seller)
Dimensions and weight
Not all of these are required — but the more of these items you include, the better.
A+ content is only available for brand-registered sellers. This means that you’re either the manufacturer of the product or their exclusive distributor on Amazon.
Managing your product listing is basically the equivalent of SEO for an eCommerce website. You will want to constantly monitor, update, and optimize your product listing.
You’ll also want to make sure you have your inventory management down. You can’t make sales for products you don’t have, and if you try, Amazon will penalize you.
If your product listing is your SEO, then paid advertising on Amazon is your PPC.
Ads on Amazon are easy to manage. You can either choose the terms you want to show up for and manage your bids on each term individually or let Amazon manage them for you. A good bid strategy will make sure you’re showing up for enough results to generate sales without cutting into the profit margin of those sales.
After that, you just need to make sure you’re managing your product feed properly. Amazon makes this easy for you. Because it’s a closed system, the platform will automatically stop showing any of your items that are out-of-stock (OOS) or disapproved.
Depending on the campaign types you create, Amazon can also automatically choose the terms, categories, and product pages on which your products will be advertised. That’s why it’s so important that all the information in your product descriptions is as accurate and as detailed as possible (Amazon uses the fields in its automatic campaign placements).
When you’re selling products on Amazon, you have to choose a shipping method. You can choose either fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or fulfillment by merchant (FBM), i.e. you.
With Amazon FBA, Amazon handles the packaging and shipping of products from its warehouses. This costs more, but it comes with several benefits.
Of course, you wash your hands of all the hassle of shipping products to buyers. However, when you use FBA, your products also qualify for the same shipping incentives as Amazon’s own products. This means free shipping to Amazon Prime members and non-members who meet the order value threshold.
FBM means you manage shipping yourself. When an order comes in, you send it to the buyer. This can be more profitable if you already have well-developed logistics, such as a reliable drop-shipper. However, the lack of shipping incentives can be a big hurdle to overcome with customers.
Amazon also offers Multi-channel fulfillment (MCF), which lets you use Amazon warehouses and shipping to fulfill orders you receive through all sales channels (your website, Facebook, etc.). This is a good shipping option to consider if you have an established online store but aren’t happy with your current logistics.
Customer service is a tricky thing when you’re selling on Amazon.
For a great many eCommerce businesses reselling on Amazon, the customers you get there are not in actuality your customers. They are Amazon’s customers, and your ability to manage a relationship with them is limited. Amazon doesn’t want your private label remarketing to these customers or building a relationship with them.
It’s a little different if you’re a brand registered seller (more on that below). In this case, you have some degree of relationship with your customers on Amazon, and you should definitely do all you can to improve their loyalty.
Regardless, Amazon has expectations that all sellers provide optimum customer service. Whether you are a third-party reseller or a direct-to-consumer brand, there are several benchmarks you’ll need to monitor, including late shipment rates and response time to customer messages.
Fortunately, there are ways to set up your Amazon store to be flexible with shipping and still meet the platform’s standards. For example, keeping on top of your shipping schedule and holiday weekend settings will allow you to maintain a good account health score over three- or four-day weekends.
Amazon also takes some of the decisions about customer service (like return policy) out of your hands.
All that said, failure to live up to Amazon’s customer service standards can lead to penalties up to and including a ban from the platform.
If your store is eligible, enrolling in Amazon’s Brand Registry program gives you more control over your brand and your customer experience.
The program gives you access to:
Sponsored, branded ads
Free multi-page Amazon store
Expanded brand analytics
New seller incentives
By registering, you’ll be able to more directly build your own brand awareness (not Amazon’s) in association with your product lines and customer service — growing your customer base, even if they’re shopping on this platform instead of your eCommerce site.
Should I Sell on Amazon?
Now that you know how to sell on Amazon, the question remains: Should your brand sell on Amazon?
For many retailers, Amazon represents a necessary evil. It’s an entry point for many eCommerce entrepreneurs. If you’re a startup with little upfront capital, selling on Amazon can be an efficient way to kick off your venture.
But, if you already have an established online business, is selling on Amazon worth it? You might be missing big opportunities, but it might also be too much hassle for not enough profit.
Consider these pros and cons, then ask yourself the questions below to help make your decision.
You can easily launch products on Amazon.
As we explained above, it’s easy to start selling on Amazon. If you already have product listings on your website, you can duplicate all those efforts on your Amazon product listings.
It’s even easier if you’re working with an eCommerce digital marketing agency. Your team can take all your SEO efforts and convert them to Amazon listings. In our experience, most retailers can increase their gross revenue within 60–90 days, using a reasonable advertising budget on Amazon.
Amazon is also a great place to launch new products by helping you see if there is currently demand or a market for the product you’re launching.
Amazon comes with built-in reach.
Amazon gets billions of visits every month. Many online shoppers start their shopping on Amazon, and there are some Prime members who shop almost nowhere else. Therefore, selling your product on Amazon is the only way to reach these shoppers.
Plus, Amazon listings can rank high in Google searches, so this gives you another way to take up real estate on the SERPS (search engine results pages).
You can more easily influence your product rank.
Amazon rewards its most successful booths with better product ranking and other benefits (like more space in the warehouse for Amazon FBA sellers).
You can influence your rank by using Facebook and Google Ads to send traffic to your product listings on Amazon. This leads to more traffic and more sales, which will improve your product rank and help you get better sales within the closed loop of the Amazon marketplace.
Amazon can manage shipping for you.
If you choose FBA, Amazon can easily manage your packaging and shipping using Amazon’s fulfillment centers. This not only saves you the hassle of shipping to those customers but also gives you additional benefits within the Amazon ecosystem.
Your items qualify for free shipping to Prime members, plus free shipping when non-Prime shoppers meet the threshold purchase requirements. Free shipping is a big incentive, and it can lead to more sales for your products.
Plus, with the chronic shipping delays plaguing eCommerce, using FBA puts the blame for delays on Amazon, not your brand.
Your data is limited.
Amazon collects tons of data about customers that come to its site. However, it gives very little of that data to you. That’s because it considers these customers its own, not yours.
Amazon advertising doesn’t retain any historical data older than two months old. So, unless you partner with a third-party ads platform, most of your advertising data will be inaccessible to your team.
With limited data, it’s difficult to track how much of your Amazon sales may be cannibalizing your website sales.
Typically, expanding to Amazon leads to an increase in gross revenue. However, this doesn’t always translate into an increase in profits, and Amazon’s stingy approach to metrics makes it hard to figure out why.
The costs can be prohibitive for smaller businesses.
Selling on Amazon comes with costs. There are selling fees (usually charged on a monthly basis), referral fees, advertising fees, listing fees, refund administration fees, and possible FBA fees. If you aren’t moving all your merchandise fast enough using FBA, you can incur punitive storage fees and long-term storage fees, too.
If you have high-volume sales, you can still be profitable — but for many struggling small businesses, these costs can eat up your margins, especially in crowded verticals.
Your competition will be fierce.
With about two million sellers on Amazon, there can be cutthroat competition for sales. If you’re in a saturated vertical, it will always be a race to the bottom, with sellers trying to undercut each other for the lowest price.
Perhaps the dirtiest fighter of them all is Amazon, which always gives itself the inside track to the buy box. It’s hard to be profitable selling any item once Amazon decides to sell it.
They are not your customers.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: When you’re selling on Amazon, you are selling to Amazon customers, not your own.
(To be fair, Amazon has a lot of customers, so that might not be a problem for you.)
However, because Amazon restricts the data it gives you, it’s very difficult to create and maintain your store’s brand on Amazon. As a seller of your own branded products, you might be able to build customer relationships, but Amazon makes this very hard for resellers.
Amazon also doesn’t want you to remarket to its customers, so it can be hard to justify using your social media and Google advertising investment to increase Amazon’s customers.
Amazon doesn’t care about you.
Amazon is concerned about its bottom line, not yours. As long as Amazon thinks your success feeds into its profits, it will encourage your efforts.
However, once Amazon decides it will be more profitable to undercut you by selling the same or a competing product, it will do so.
Plus, Amazon makes it hard to get help if competitors target you with underhanded tactics. It also favors its customers, even if they’re making unreasonable demands that can put a strain on your business.
Questions to Ask
Rather than ask if Amazon is right for your brand, ask yourself: Is my brand right for Amazon?
These three follow-up questions should help make the answer to the first one clear:
Does your brand have a history of success?
As a general rule, Amazon won’t save a sinking ship. That’s not their business. Their business is in promoting successful products and taking a rake from the profits.
If you’re an independent brand, you should have already built a steady stream of buyers using your own website, a Facebook store, an Etsy store, or other channels. You should also have a sense that there is untapped demand for your product.
Only after you’ve done that can Amazon help you tap into that demand to improve your profits.
Do you have a reliable inventory?
Amazon is a great and hungry beast that must be fed.
If you can’t reasonably supply the demand of a successful Amazon campaign, you might not be able to profit from an Amazon booth. If you’re a private label reseller who doesn’t have constant inventory, either in your own warehouse or Amazon’s, you will suffer. In addition, if you have your own shipping solution, it will need to meet Amazon’s difficult standards — or you might suffer penalties that will affect your future sales.
For product manufacturers that can control their product distribution, Amazon can be a profitable channel, depending on your margins. Typically, you’ll split profits 50/50 with Amazon.
If you can sell your merchandise and be profitable under that arrangement, it’s a good business model.
Can you commit time to feed management?
Having successful products on Amazon depends on continually updating your listings. This includes adding new visuals, product details, A+ content, and user-generated content to make your product more appealing than others. These all need to be user- and SEO-friendly.
You’ll also have to dedicate time to responding to customer questions. Amazon demands prompt responses from its sellers.
Can your business really be profitable?
Most companies who are new to Amazon fail to understand their Amazon KPIs. An eCommerce website and an Amazon storefront will require different benchmarks in order to define success.
Properly recognizing your added costs for selling on Amazon and labor costs for managing your Amazon store is essential. You might see higher revenues on Amazon, but you will often see higher costs, too.
Choosing the Best Path for Your Brand
If you’re an eCommerce business owner or marketer, you must have an Amazon strategy.
For some businesses, setting up a virtual booth on Amazon can be a very profitable approach. For others, positioning themselves to compete with Amazon is the smartest approach. No, you won’t take the giant down — but with smart strategies, you may be able to live comfortably in its shade.
If your brand isn’t quite ready for Amazon or is better suited for an independent path, our digital marketing strategists can help you improve direct sales and revenue on your eCommerce site.
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Last Saturday, I received an email from Rich Wilan, founder of Fascinate Productions. Rich and his team help podcast creators build audiences and top charts, and they’re very good at their work, helping clients like Zoe: Science & Nutrition, Startup Dads, A Cuppa Happy (and more) launch, grow, and reach chart-topping numbers.
Rich kindly gave me permission to make my…
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The modern-day shopper looks for more than just products and information. They want to associate with brands that identify and interact with them. As a small business striving to cut through the digital crowd, your best ticket is an excellent UI/UX design for your website. This approach will help boost engagement, quality product delivery, and […]
Discover how to train your in-house marketing team for improved campaigns, results, and more with Inflow’s seven proven strategies.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2016. It has been updated for accuracy and to reflect modern practices.
While most corporate and eCommerce brands work with agencies for part of their marketing needs, others are increasingly choosing to manage their efforts on their own.
And who can blame them?
Bringing your marketing experts in-house provides immediate access and collaboration, in-depth brand knowledge and, of course, a way to weather unpredictable economic conditions.
But, if you want your in-house marketing team to perform as well as an agency, you’ll still need to invest — specifically, in your team’s skills and ongoing development.
If there’s one thing Inflow has a lot of practice in, it’s training new digital marketers. Today, we’ll walk you through the seven strategies we use to keep our team members in tip-top shape — strategies you can use for your in-house marketers, too.
How to Train Marketing Staff: Tips for In-House Departments
Like with any other aspect of your digital marketing strategy, you get what you put in when it comes to training initiatives.
The more continuous training you can provide for your team members, the more skills and knowledge they’ll be able to build — in turn, providing better campaigns and results for your brand.
Forget to schedule professional development opportunities, and your marketing campaigns will start to stagnate (not to mention the fact that your team members will leave your company for greener pastures).
Here are a few ways to support your team in their training and development:
Step 1: Understand the capabilities of each employee — and their skill gaps.
If you’re unsure what each person is capable of doing, it’s going to be hard to provide them with appropriate tasks to execute.
Most leaders have a pretty good idea of what their team can and cannot do and has done in the past. This can typically be gleaned from internal meetings, resumes, and job descriptions.
But those will only take you so far.
To identify skills gaps and opportunities in a more structured, regular way, use a “Marketing Skills Matrix.” There are two steps to developing this document:
Define the different roles within your marketing department and the different types of skills necessary to fill those roles (for example, copywriters, coordinators, strategists, and senior strategists).
Assign a rating for each position (where a team member should perform based on their position).
How you define each skill’s “rating” will be based on your department’s goals and needs. Here are some general guidelines to start:
Low: You have little to no experience doing something, you haven’t used the tool, you’ve never completed that type of report, etc.
Medium: You have some experience here. You’re familiar with the tool/software/process and “know enough to be dangerous,” but you could stand to gain more with hands-on experience.
For example: If a skill were an SEO tech audit, you might have performed one with the help of team members but you’ve never fully executed one yourself front to back. You still have a lot of questions for team members during the process.
High: You have a lot of experience with the tool/software/process. You can use the tool/software at a high level. You’ve executed the process front to back yourself, without the need for involvement from team members.
Very High: You’re an expert. Team members come to you when they need help with this. You wrote the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and can explain the process to others. You’ve executed this process many times and have multiple success stories/case studies to prove it.
Once you’ve defined the required skills for each position, give the list of skills to your employees and ask them to “grade” themselves in each area. At the same time, grade those employees yourself based on what you know and have seen them do.
Then, lay out the required skill sets for their position, for the position they would like to grow into, and both of your assigned “grades.”
It might look something like this:
In the example above, the employee is a strategist that wants to become a senior strategist. You can see that there are discrepancies in how they rate themselves in keyword research (“very high”) and how their marketing manager rates them (“medium”). This opens up an opportunity for discussion and additional training.
Note: Any development tracking tool like this should continually be updated to reflect industry updates and your department’s changing needs. Just like your employees themselves, the skillset for each role should expand and update over time.
Once skills gaps are identified, you can provide your employees training to help them improve the desired skillset(s).
There are a plethora of possibilities, depending on your needs and department budget. Talk with your staff members and give them options to choose from; you want your team to be invested in the training path they choose, not forced into one they won’t use. (That’s why, at Inflow, we provide our team members an annual $2,000 development fund to allocate as they please.)
Here are a few options to explore:
From self-paced lessons to months-long training programs, consider the following:
Our recommendation: Have every team member become certified in Google Analytics through Google Analytics Academy, especially with the upcoming transition to Google Analytics 4. This training course provides actionable teachings that can be applied to your marketing work right away.
For a mix of industry training and networking, send your team members to a conference. But don’t just bankroll your employees’ getaway; add a couple of requirements to boost the value for your entire team:
Have them live stream a session they attend.
Ask them to post social media updates throughout their stay.
Let them turn their learning into a blog post for your website.
Require them to document their top takeaways and present them to other team members.
If you have a deep team, you don’t have to look externally for training options. Instead, use and share the knowledge that already exists among your senior team members.
Consider hosting a biweekly brainstorming session or a more formal monthly “lunch and learn” session. Challenge your team members to come with insights they’ve found over the past few weeks, or designate one sharer to dive deep into a topic (like advanced keyword research techniques, working with influencers, etc.)
In today’s marketing ecosystem, it’s impossible to keep up with all the new content being published each week. Save some room in your staff’s inboxes by dividing and conquering your subscriptions. Then, if they find anything interesting, they can post in a Slack channel or bring their findings to your regularly scheduled meetings.
We recommend subscribing to the following publications:
To get the most out of your team, they need to be on the same page in regard to which tools to use in different situations.
There is so much great software that can help you manage projects, plan capacity, gauge success, and keep tabs on how employees are feeling (and if they are staying motivated) that it can be overwhelming to keep track of it all. If you’re not careful, you can find yourself spending too much money on tools that are being underutilized and even have overlapping capabilities.
Take an inventory of your existing tools and ask your team: Which ones are they using most? Which are no longer necessary? Where are the gaps — and what other tools could fill those needs?
Here are a few tools that our internal teams use:
Jira: For project management and team workload planning
Trello: For project management and collaboration internally, as well as with clients
15Five: A weekly report from each team member of what has been accomplished, where struggles lie, how they’re feeling, and more
Auditing the tools we are paying for (whether they are being used and what they are being used for) is something Inflow does at least twice a year.
Each tool you use should have a specific purpose, whether that is internally or on behalf of a client. New tools are released all the time that might be better for what you need to get done — and potentially at a lower cost than what you’re currently paying.
Step 4: Provide clear instruction and goals.
If you want your team to perform a certain way, you need to communicate what you want clearly from the get-go. Your instructions should be easily understood and followed to reduce back-and-forth communication.
In a nutshell, this tool breaks down a project into its various components and estimates the time it will take to complete each component. For each project component, there is a clear action item and/or deliverable.
We track our time spent on each project component and, when the work is complete, we compile our data to see if the project went over or under budget (and try to identify why).
After completing this exercise for a number of similar projects, you’ll start to see team trends, set better time estimates, and identify ways to become more efficient with your work.
How many times have you been in a meeting or working on a project and returned to your messages to see something like this?
1:10 p.m. John: Hey, [what is the best way to/what would you do if/how would you/where can I find] _____?
1:15 p.m. John: Never mind, I figured it out!
You should certainly encourage team members to ask questions when they don’t know something or are stuck — but, at the same time, people can often answer their own questions with a little trial-and-error.
As a general rule of thumb, we encourage team members to spend about five minutes researching a solution themselves before reaching out to someone else.
When a team member does reach out to you, don’t give them the answer right away. Turn the conversation into a teaching opportunity by asking, “What would you do?” or “What do you think?” This will further encourage self-sufficiency and self-learning among your staff.
Step 6: Create processes and automate whatever you can.
There’s nothing worse than doing the same thing over and over again when it could be easily turned into a standardized process, made into a template, or automated.
Creating this process often takes extra time up front; however, that time will quickly be eclipsed by all the time you save repeating that activity in the future.
At Inflow, we create these automations for every kind of project we execute on a regular basis, including:
Process (SOPs): Client kickoff call agendas, audience persona building, eCommerce content audits, hiring copywriters, etc.
Automations: Client dashboards, monthly reports, etc.
The more of your daily activities you can automate, the more time you will save in the long run — and the more time you will be able to spend on all of the other training methods above.
Step 7: Consult with the experts.
No matter how much you invest in your internal marketing teams, there will be times when the required expertise or knowledge is outside of their scope. This is where a consulting project with an agency can help.
You don’t have to commit to a long-term contract with an agency to mine from their experience. Instead, many professionals offer project-based consulting services to help your brand establish itself and create a marketing plan moving forward.
For example, here at Inflow, we frequently consult with teams on paid social media and organic social media strategies. Several of our clients manage these channels in-house, and our experts review their campaigns and strategies on a regular basis to provide feedback and new ideas.
It’s a win-win for our clients: They get access to our team members’ insights and experience at a limited cost, and they grow their in-house knowledge and capabilities through our training.
Continuous Team Training: An Investment that Pays Off
However large (or small) your internal marketing team is, you must allocate room in your budget for continuous training and development opportunities. Without it, your employees’ skillsets will stagnate (as will their job satisfaction), and you’ll end up paying more in the long run with failed digital marketing efforts.
We encourage you to speak with your leadership team to decide how the abovementioned strategies can fit into your business plans. Don’t forget to ask for your employees’ opinions, too; after all, they’re the ones you’re doing this for!
Or, if a professional marketing training/consultation is on your to-do list, reach out to our team and set up a call today. We’ll help you train your team on a revenue-generating strategy for your individual business anytime.
Given today’s digital landscape, consumers have come to expect a more immersive experience when it comes to the content they consume. Whether on social media, at the gym, or even watching television, consumers have grown so accustomed to personalizatio…
Given today’s digital landscape, consumers have come to expect a more immersive experience when it comes to the content they consume. Whether on social media, at the gym, or even watching television, consumers have grown so accustomed to personalization that the concept of choice has become table stakes for brands when trying to acquire and retain consumers.
Consistency is the cornerstone of good marketing. You only have to look at top brands to see this in action: Apple’s sleekness, Coca-Cola’s playfulness, Disney’s magic. Consistency is equally critical for startups. Stacked Marketer turned a free newsletter into a six-figure revenue generator by staying actionable, convenient, and entertaining. Being consistent earns trust and cements […]
Being consistent earns trust and cements brand status—qualities that add 10–20% to your overall growth, according to LucidPress research. On the flip side, inconsistency confuses consumers, limiting your chance to generate leads.
A marketing playbook helps you achieve brand consistency across channels and campaigns.
In this article, we’ll explain how to create a marketing playbook to align your teams and boost your sales opportunities.
A marketing playbook gets everyone on the same page
A marketing playbook is a reference guide that outlines how a business will manage its marketing on a particular channel or campaign.
It’s a concept borrowed from American football, where a coach has a folder of plays to defeat the opposition in different situations.
In the coach’s playbook, every player knows their role and what they must do to make the play work. This helps players achieve objectives consistently, even when team members change.
Marketing playbooks work the same. They map out a repeatable process to avoid chaos and confusion in your team and with customers.
Generally speaking, each playbook should have five main parts.
1. Marketing strategy
Strategy is necessary for broader playbooks, like a social media playbook. The more specific you get (e.g., a Twitter threads playbook), the less likely you’ll need to include all of your high-level goals.
Goals and objectives. What you want the playbook to help you achieve.
Positioning. Where your product or service fits into the market.
Target audience. Your customer profiles and buyer personas.
Marketing funnel. Where the campaign fits into your wider marketing and the customer journey (e.g., top-of-the-funnel for raising awareness or button-of-the-funnel for driving sales).
Content channels. Where you’ll engage audiences.
Leading with strategy clarifies why the playbook is required and the short- or long-term benefit of the channel or campaign.
It’s also subject to change. Goals, position, and personas can all be tweaked based on what you learn from the success (or failure) of a campaign. Treat your playbook as a living document rather than something set in stone.
2. Content creation
The content creation section covers the type of content required, who’s creating it, the process, and how you expect assets to look and sound.
It explains the assets needed based on goals. For example, if your goal is to generate leads, assets might be webinars, landing pages, and emails. If the goal is to raise awareness, they might be social media content and blog posts.
Each person in the content team will refer to this section to find out their role and responsibilities in the overall workflow.
This section should also feature your brand guidelines. Users should be clear on tone of voice, fonts, colors, and etiquette for each channel.
Zendesk’s playbook clearly explains how to tailor its messaging to different audiences.
Zendesk offers tech industry people a concise description of how Zendesk can benefit their company.
The press might be looking for more details about Zendesk so they can accurately report on the tool. They are given a longer description, adding context and detailing the company’s history.
Teams are clear on what to do, so audiences get what they need.
3. Promotion channels
This playbook chapter lists everywhere content will be shared, how to share it, and how often. Depending on which channels you use in your marketing, this might include:
Users should easily understand which assets are promoted on which channels and the distribution schedule.
For example, let’s say for every new feature launch, you create a new landing page. To drive traffic, promotion might look something like this:
Deliver content to two industry influencers two weeks before launch;
Talk about it on a company podcast one week before launch;
Publish blog post on launch day;
Schedule six posts on Twitter in first week of launch;
Schedule eight posts on Instagram in first week of launch;
Share once on personal team accounts one week after launch;
Answer questions on Reddit and Quora in first two weeks of launch;
Run a four-week-long ad on Facebook.
Base your promotion plan on successful past launches and highly engaged channels.
Here’s an example of how Nightwatch uses Asana to organize distribution:
The color-coded initials in the right-hand column correspond to different members of the marketing team, so everyone knows their role.
Creating distribution checklists in your marketing playbook feeds into content creation, ensuring each new piece of content gets lift.
This chapter of the marketing playbook covers how you’ll track the success of each campaign, channel, or asset.
It should include primary and secondary KPIs and metrics related to marketing goals, as well as the platforms (e.g., Google Analytics and CRM) used to track them.
This example from 3Q Digital shows which KPIs are tracked and how:
This section will typically be tied to a wider marketing measurement plan and used to inform strategy and implementation decisions. It also helps to align processes and keep teams accountable for performance.
If specific elements of your content assets are tested after launch, these will also be detailed here. For example, email subject lines, type of social proof, image placement, and call to actions.
When teams know what to track and how metrics relate to the overall objective, they can transform data into actionable insights to improve the play.
The final chapter acts both as a summary of previous chapters and a guide for the marketing team moving forward. It should include:
Usage policies. The do’s and don’ts of each platform, including details of the channel manager and project manager.
Marketing software. Any marketing automation, social media, analytics, and performance tools you use.
Automated replies. Standard email reply and social media message templates that can be used for out-of-hours customer service and engagement.
Evaluation reports. Monthly, quarterly, or annual templates for individual and campaign reporting. Individual reports should cover a specific channel. For example, for Twitter, a social media manager will generate engagement reports, whereas a content marketing manager will look at click-through rate and conversion rate. Campaign reports will cover results such as sales figures, leads generated, and cross-channel engagement for the period.
How to create a marketing playbook
Few people will read your marketing playbook word for word. Instead, they’ll pick out parts that are relevant to them.
NN Group’s most recent eye-tracking study found that people still love to skim online. Depending on the motivation, people will collect information in different skimming patterns.
A copywriter looking to see how to write email subject lines for holiday campaigns will likely look at headings, searching for the most relevant information to their task.
As Maryanne Wolf notes in the Guardian, skim reading is the new normal:
“Many readers now use an F or Z pattern when reading in which they sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text.”
Skim-reading is an incredibly efficient way to absorb relevant information. Design your playbooks so they’re easy to skim, and at all costs, avoid density in the writing and formatting.
Here are some tips to make your playbook usable as a quick reference tool:
Tell readers what they’ll learn and what that information can help them achieve and you’re more likely to get their buy-in.
2. Build consistency with clear audiences
For marketing to work, it has to reach the right people. If you’re at the point of creating a content marketing playbook, you’re likely clear on who your target audience is.
List your buyer personas to help readers understand who they’re talking to. In its playbook, organic snack maker LivBar gives its persona a specific identity:
Buyer personas should be created based on data, not guesses. The goal of including personas in your marketing playbook is to help them relate to realistic prospects who are likely to buy your product. It’s much more effective for marketers to speak to real pain points past customers have reported.
As well as your core audience, list secondary and fringe audiences. These are the people who you’re not targeting with your primary messaging, but who the message still impacts.
For example, let’s say you sell accounting software to law firms. Your primary audience is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) who has the spending power to buy your product.
Though your marketing is aimed at the CTO, an accountant who shares the same interests might see your ad. While they have no power to make the purchase, they’re ultimately the ones using it. The accountant tells the CTO about your great product, who then green lights the purchase. The accountant is a secondary audience who can influence sales.
Fringe audiences act in a similar indirect way. This could, for instance, be an admin assistant or receptionist who shares a common interest with the accountant or CTO. They might not see the ad on LinkedIn where your primary audience is, but they might stumble across your Twitter account and bring up your software in conversation.
Providing this extra information will help marketers understand the bigger picture and craft the right message for the channel.
3. Establish which content assets will engage customers
What is the ultimate goal for your campaign or channel? Answering this question will help readers understand why they should use certain assets. It will also give them something to work towards—92% of marketers who have a goal are successful in achieving it.
Use the SMART framework to set realistic goals. Make the objective clear by writing it as a statement.
Here’s an example framework to follow:
By 2022, the [team] will reach [number] [metric] every [time frame].
Let’s flesh that out:
“By May 31st, the content marketing team will reach 100 MQLs every month.”
Or for a specific channel:
“By Q4, the content marketing team will reach 500 new YouTube subscribers every month.”
Follow this with the content assets you’ll be using to achieve it. For each channel, include where it fits into the customer journey, what its purpose is, and where it’s shared. This will help marketers understand its purpose.
Customer journey stage
Answer a commonly asked question, promote product
Website, Medium, LinkedIn
Contribute to an existing conversation
Promote a product
Press release, industry publication
Don’t get bogged down in the details of how to create each asset here. Link to additional playbooks or guides where that information can be found.
Focus on the “what” and “why.” This, combined with buyer personas and brand guidelines, will give marketers the need-to-know information to maintain consistency.
4. Summarize marketing communication guidelines to set the right tone
Brand guidelines are the glue that holds everything together. They ensure the customer experience on Instagram is consistent with the experience on your website.
If your brand has a style guide, link to it in your playbook and summarize key information. Focus on design and copy rules. Give marketers what they need to do the work, such as:
Logo requirements. Approved sizes and placements.
Color palette. Brand color, functional colors, background colors, and accent colors.
Editorial style guide. Words marketers can and can’t use, topics they can and can’t talk about, and other companies they can and can’t mention.
Typography. Preferred typeface and fonts, kerning, tracking, leading, and visual hierarchy.
Use images and screenshots from existing assets to show guidelines in practice and include any templates related to content assets (e.g., newsletter templates and automated replies), but encourage readers to refer to the full style guide for specifics.
5. Align teams with clear roles and responsibilities
A winning play relies on every team member knowing their role and working together to execute it.
An editor needs a draft from a content writer, who needs a brief from a content marketing manager, which is based on information from a content strategist. If any link in that chain is broken, content doesn’t hit the mark.
Getting teams pulling in the same direction can have a big payoff. On average, aligned companies have 19% faster growth and profits 15% higher than non-aligned competitors.
Define your content workflow so that everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Identify who is involved in the project and what their tasks are. For each task, explain what’s required. This will help cut down on edits and redundant steps.
For example, if the task is to create images, list the dimensions and what they should include. If more in-depth details are required, link to any reference material.
Finally, name one person to oversee project management. This can be a project manager, content strategist, or senior marketer.
It’ll be their job to identify bottlenecks and keep projects moving. They’ll also be the person the rest of the team can go to if a task is blocked.
6. Map out key dates to keep your project on track
For a play to have the desired impact, it needs to be executed at the right time. It’s no good driving traffic to a landing page for a product that’s not ready to ship.
Time management is crucial for organization, and deadlines are necessary to set expectations and motivate teams.
Outline the steps you’ll take to achieve your objective, including the key dates for launches, publishing, and project reviews, as well as any events you’re running or attending.
Supplement these with marketing milestones related to your goals. These can be tied to metrics (e.g., gaining 1000 followers on Instagram) or moments in your marketing journey (e.g., hosting a conference).
Milestones, like goals, should be realistic and attainable. While you want to challenge your team to hit targets, don’t make a task seem insurmountable.
8. Define how success is measured
Set KPIs for your team to track. These will act as a success measure. Each KPI will show whether a play is on course to hit a goal and flag up underperforming tactics.
Depending on the channel or campaign, KPIs you might measure include:
CRM for lead generation ROI and revenue by device type;
Mailchimp for email open rates and click-through rates;
Ahrefs for inbound links;
Hootsuite for social media engagement;
There’s no need to get any deeper than that. Your playbook is not there to teach readers how to use the platforms. It lets them know what to use and when so they can quickly put their skills into practice.
Use marketing playbooks as a tool for learning
Every marketing playbook feeds the next. Putting together this playbook can highlight areas that let down previous campaigns. Putting together the next one can make that play even stronger.
Take HubSpot. Its original conversion playbook followed a rigid extended sales process that involved long email chains and booking multiple meetings. After running multiple campaigns, it learned how customer expectations had shifted.
The team realized how essential it was to offer different purchase preferences and adjusted future playbooks to suit. Today, HubSpot’s conversion playbook is built to reduce friction and sales have increased as a result.
“In addition to offering multiple ways for people to connect, we allow buyers to choose between getting a demo or getting started with our free software and upgrading through the product at a time that suits them. By doing so, we have increased the number of self-purchases by 10X while still growing our inside sales model.”
When analyzing campaigns or reviewing channel performance, look at how your playbook contributed. Ask yourself:
The team that stands still gets left behind. Use each playbook as a blueprint to fine-tune future marketing activities.
Your team already has the skills to do their job. A great playbook is simply a roadmap that supports them to do their best work consistently, the way your company always does it.
Build your playbooks around the information your team needs to know. Make them clear and concise, and organized so that team members can quickly understand what’s required to successfully run the play.
Remember that no play is beyond improvement. Reflect on real-world use and update playbooks as your team and company evolve. Strive for marginal gains that keep you winning.
Users can access Spotify’s extensive music library for free, yet their Premium subscriptions grew 15% in 2022. Meanwhile, ecommerce marketing software Privy is generating 10% higher average order value for Shopify users with their related product recommendations add-on. These tactics are upselling and cross-selling (respectively). While both effectively drive revenue and enhance the customer experience, […]
These tactics are upselling and cross-selling (respectively). While both effectively drive revenue and enhance the customer experience, upselling is ideal for companies with a single product or freemium model.
In this article, we’ll show you how six companies employ the best upselling strategies. Then we’ll tell you how to do it yourself so you’re not leaving money on the table.
1. How Calendly deploys FOMO
It’s hard to sell customers on something they don’t know they need. Sometimes users need to experience your product, get a feel for it, get invested in it, before they’re convinced they want it.
Furthermore, upselling doesn’t exclusively occur at checkout. It’s not about selling additional products (this is cross-selling), nor is it only for selling more expensive items to happy existing customers.
In Calendly’s case, the scheduling tool’s upsell is teased for new customers in the free trial stage.
Calendly uses a freemium model, offering a free tier and encouraging users to upgrade for access to advanced features.
Instead of waiting for users to need their advanced features, Calendly gives access to everything for a limited time.
This works like test driving a car, playing on two unconscious psychological biases called the endowment effect and loss aversion. The endowment effect causes us to value items that we already have higher than those we don’t have.
Loss aversion explains why we fear losing something more than we enjoy gaining the same thing.
In the case of Calendly, once users become used to having these advanced features (such as creating multiple calendars or scheduling by priority) they’re less likely to want to give them up.
Likewise, users will feel inclined to avoid giving up the features (more so than they would feel inclined to sign up to get them without having first experienced them).
Calendly helps their users see the value in their advanced features by giving them free, full access straight away. It then reminds them when they’ll lose those features if they don’t choose to upgrade.
If you’re growing a freemium SaaS company, consider offering access to your full suite of features upfront. Demonstrate to users how your product can help them solve problems and fulfill jobs to be done (JTBD) by allowing them to try it themselves.
Once this trial is ended, remind them of the features they’ll lose once the trial is over. Include this in your reminder email marketing, offering a call-to-action to subscribe early.
2. How WeTransfer makes things simple
On the other hand, your customers might not be interested in all the bells and whistles you offer. In fact, forcing new customers to learn the full functionality of your product before an offer expires might create friction and frustrate them.
If you’ve learned through customer research that your buyers are busy people, simplifying their lives and saving them time might speak more to their needs than lifting the hood on your tool.
In this case, stick to one winning message.
Dave Trott reflected on his work under John Pearce, echoing a similar message:
“If I throw six tennis balls to you, you won’t catch them all. You may catch one, but the chances are six to one against you catching the most important one. In advertising we know you can only catch one message. So, it’s our job to decide which is the most important message and only throw that one.” – John Pearce as told to creative director and author Dave Trott [via MarketingWeek]
Like Calendly, file sharing service WeTransfer uses a freemium model: a free plan offering limited features with premium features unlocked in a paid plan.
WeTransfer doesn’t sleep on its free plan users, hoping they’ll one day discover its Plus plan. The platform encourages current customers to upgrade to their paid “Pro” plan in a simple upsell email.
WeTransfer doesn’t go for the hard sell. Neither does the platform list all the features users can get by upgrading.
WeTransfer highlights one main feature with one smaller feature mentioned below.
Each plan highlights a maximum of three features. If users want to read more, they can “jump to more features” below.
This is a great strategy to simplify the journey for customers. Not all customers need to see everything you offer at first glance. This can add to their cognitive load, driving them away by overloading them with information.
As mentioned above, this is worth considering if your audience is busy. In WeTransfer’s case, they know people who want to transfer large files (and who might be interested in branded backgrounds) are likely to be busy professionals.
Instead, highlight your most important features (backed up by your data), limiting to around three.
According to academic research by Shu and Carlson, when it comes to persuading people to accept claims about a product or product features, three is the magic number. After three items, attitudes toward the item begin to drop and skepticism sets in.
This finding explains why three tends to be such a favorable number in marketing. In the experiment, the researchers tested several variations of marketing statements with a range of numbers of claims.
Respondents felt less favorably toward products with more than three claims, such as this one about shampoo:
“Makes hair cleaner, stronger, healthier, softer, shinier, and fuller.”
The researchers determined that when trying to be persuaded, customers become more skeptical the more claims they see. Essentially, customers start to think the quality dips with each additional feature.
Stick to a single message where possible. And avoid overwhelming your audience with too many claims. They’re either too busy to cope, or they won’t believe you.
To incorporate lessons from WeTransfer in your upsells:
Look at your data and determine the single, most important message for your audience
Identify the top three features of your tool and highlight them
Don’t overwhelm a busy audience with all-access
3. How Squarespace plays on emotion
Emotion is a powerful marketing tool. It can be used to manipulate, but it can also motivate audiences to reach their goals.
Website creation platform Squarespace plays on the latter. Squarespace is a free website builder, but if you want to connect a domain and launch, you’ll need a paid plan.
This means that users will sometimes sign up, start building a website, and never convert.
When that happens, Squarespace sends out a series of emails:
And this one:
Squarespace knows its audience of creators is busy, and likely distracted. Instead of accepting their conversion rate and cutting their losses, the platform reminds users why they started their website in the first place.
The platform’s emotive email copywriting is intentional. While people often think they’re acting on logic, emotions play a key role in decision-making.
People particularly like it when brands empathize with their needs and problems. Squarespace demonstrates their understanding of user goals. Instead of coming from a position of “seller with a product,” Squarespace communicates that they want to help their users accomplish what they set out to do.
To connect with customers on an emotional level, get to know your customers’ needs. Understand which pain points they’re itching to solve.
When creating your messaging, show how your solution helps them solve these problems. Paint a picture of how you’ll lead them from their current state to their desired state. Use message testing to get qualitative insights and ensure you’re resonating with your audience.
4. How Google Drive uses urgency
Similar to following up with leads, audiences using a free or lower-tier version of your product might need reminding that your premium offers exist.
Plenty of studies show that people are unlikely to act unless reminded (here’s one, for example). The balance lies in staying top of mind without pushing customers away.
Google Drive reminds free plan users that the storage across their workspace is limited. And it does so with a constant visual reminder at the side of the Drive dashboard:
A subtle visual reminder with a CTA button is all Google Drive uses to show its users how much storage is left. Once they start getting close to the end, the message turns from blue to red, using design to create a sense of urgency.
Users also receive top bar notifications and emails so their service isn’t disrupted if they run out:
Google Drive isn’t pushy. It offers opportunities to clear more space alongside their upgrade CTA.
Google Drive has found a balance. It doesn’t lambast users with notifications and its visual reminder reinforces the message (“you’re running out of storage, so you probably want to buy more”).
Does your product offer a free plan? Emulate Google Drive’s approach by reminding your product of its limitations. This could be resource-based (such as storage and “credits”) or feature-based, providing a call-to-action for users to upgrade their plan.
5. How Zapier puts their data to good use
Customers love it when you can personalize their experience. If it encourages users to take an action that adds to your bottom line, even better.
Way beyond using merge tags in your emails, effective personalization involves knowing your customers and using their data to serve them better.
Zapier uses personalization to monitor when users are coming to an end of their trial. If they’ve engaged with their tool over a certain threshold, users receive this email:
This is a genuinely useful email for users. They can see clearly how much of the tool they’ve used, knowing that at this rate, they’ll run out of free “zaps” before their renewal.
The email also tells them which services they’ll lose access to that they may have used during their trial.
The data makes Zapier’s upsell helpful and informative. It appears to come from a place of assistance, rather than revenue generation.
Take your user’s behavior and apply it to your upselling efforts. Illustrate the value they get from your product using cold, hard data. If a user has saved 10 hours per week by using your tool, quantify and communicate this to them.
Personalize your messaging further by segmenting based on how invested they are in a product. For example, if a user still hasn’t reached an “aha!” moment, offer a free consultation that walks them through how your product will solve their specific problem.
Meditation brands like Headspace and Balance have cottoned on to this with daily reminders about their practice.
Pop-up tool Hello Bar encourages users to build a habit around their app by becoming indispensable.
Tracking the progress you’re making toward your goals can be highly motivating. Hello Bar gives its ecommerce users performance stats to increase stickiness and use the app more often, building up habitual use.
Once users are engaged, upgrading offers a friction-free way to continue enjoying their tool (no ads, personal branding, more statistics, etc.).
To incorporate lessons from Hello Bar in your upsells:
Measure and share performance metrics
Help users build your tool into their habits through reminders and notifications
Offer engaged users an upgraded experience
For physical products, highlight how more expensive versions can reduce friction in their daily lives
Upselling is a mutually beneficial sales technique. It increases your average order value and customer lifetime value, while also giving customers a better experience or higher quality of service.
As with any move in marketing, the way you approach upsell opportunities will depend on your customer. Customer data will uncover their pain points, highlighting which of your premium features they should know about. It will also uncover the best delivery format: simple and streamlined for busy users or full access for those who want to try it all first.
The best way to optimize your upselling technique is to zero in on a method and test it. Then you can continually tweak to ensure you’re always delivering the right message at the right time.