How to Build & Execute a Facebook Marketing Strategy

When it comes to reach, no other social media platform comes close to Facebook. More than half of all active internet users worldwide use it, and two-thirds of users say they visit business pages at least once a week. The sheer size of Facebook means there’s likely an audience for any product. But that doesn’t […]

The post How to Build & Execute a Facebook Marketing Strategy appeared first on CXL.

When it comes to reach, no other social media platform comes close to Facebook. More than half of all active internet users worldwide use it, and two-thirds of users say they visit business pages at least once a week.

The sheer size of Facebook means there’s likely an audience for any product. But that doesn’t mean you can set up, start posting and watch the magic happen. 

Organic reach on the platform hovers around 5.2%. To succeed, you need to win the battle for attention and stay in the good graces of Facebook’s algorithm.

In this article, you’ll learn how to build and execute a Facebook marketing strategy around your audience’s interests. We’ll look at how to thrive with organic content and how to extend your reach with pay-to-play.

The building blocks of a successful Facebook marketing strategy

A successful Facebook marketing strategy is built using ingredients that are important to any digital marketing strategy:

1. Defined audience

2. Strong goals

3. Competitive analysis

4. Established voice

5. Consistent tracking and measuring

1. Define your audience

Effective engagement starts by understanding who it is you’re talking to. A lot of demographics data can be pulled from your market research, customer personas, and website analytics, such as:

  • Target audience age
  • Location
  • Job
  • Interests

Run this data against general Facebook demographics to understand how your audience uses the platform. 

For example, stats show that over half of Facebook users worldwide are male. But in the U.S. specifically, women are the bigger user demographic. Facebook is also the most popular social network with people over 65.

When you know how the general Facebook user base fits with your target audience, you can dig deeper into the details using Facebook Business Suite’s Insights (formerly Facebook Audience Insights).

Facebook’s data tool is designed to provide marketers with demographic and geographic information, such as:

  • Page Likes
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Top Cities and Countries
  • Location
  • Interests

With this information at hand, you can create better, targeted content.

2. Set clear goals

Every post and ad should work toward achieving your goal. That goal depends on how you plan to use Facebook to drive your overall marketing strategy and business objectives.

For inspiration, here are the ten most common goals according to Hootsuite research:

Infographic with common social media goals

To ensure your goals lead to real results, use a goal-setting framework like S.M.A.R.T., which stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

For example, a S.M.A.R.T. goal to increase brand awareness might be to:

Increase our post shares on Facebook by 20% in the next quarter. 

For every goal you set, choose the most relevant metrics to track. 

Facebook metrics infographic

So, if your goal is to generate leads, you’ll measure things like sign-ups and clicks on your cover photo CTA button. 

If you want to increase traffic, look at actions such as clicks, referral traffic, and conversions.

3. Research the competition

If you’re using Facebook, odds are at least one of your competitors is too. Running competitive analysis will help you unearth what they’re doing well and spot exploitable opportunities.

Pick out six to eight of your competitors and look for:

  • The kinds of posts they’re sharing
  • Which posts get the most engagement
  • What people are saying in the comments
  • How they interact with their audience in comments
  • How their Facebook Page is completed (How do they describe themselves? What category did they choose?)

Also, examine how they are talked about by the community. 

By going to More, and then clicking Community on a Facebook business page, you can read through public posts tagging them and posts shared to their page. 

Screenshot of Adobe Facebook page

This will give you an insight into the general sentiment around a company and how they deliver customer service.

Screenshot of Adobe Facebook page

Additionally, you can use social listening to understand how competitors are using Facebook.

For example, a search for “Adobe” brings up a stream of public posts and related searches. Results can also be filtered by Posts, People, Photos, Videos, Marketplace, Pages, Places, Groups, and Events to deep dive into the brand’s Facebook presence.

Facebook Page search results

Use this competitive strategy to your advantage when planning your content.

4. Establishing your voice

Before you create content, decide on how you’re going to present yourself.

Everything you do on Facebook is exercising your brand voice. It needs to be consistent with your brand personality and fitting for your audience’s personalities.

It also needs to be right for the platform. Your Facebook audience might not use the same language as your Twitter or LinkedIn audience.

Take Salesforce. The tone of its content on Facebook is conversational but professional and benefit-driven:

Salesforce Facebook post example

On Twitter, its tone is conversational but more quirky and fun. 

Facebook Twitter content example

It’s clear that the company has adapted its tone of voice to suit the specific platform.

Use your audience insights and competitive research, along with your brand guidelines, to influence how your content will look, feel, and sound on Facebook.

5. Track and measure performance

Facebook marketing is trial and error. Especially so in the early days. During this time, you’ll need to test different kinds of content with your audience.

Tracking and measuring are essential to understand what worked and what didn’t to better hone your content marketing.

Facebook makes it easy to analyze performance via Business Suite.

In the Insights tab we mentioned earlier, you’ll find overall and individual post results for organic and paid content. 

Here you can delve into metrics, trends, and visual reports. Use it to find out:

  • Post engagement (i.e. likes, comments, and shares)
  • Follower demographic data
  • Page reach

Facebook also has a Creator Studio designed for content creators. This also has an Insights tab that provides valuable data on:

  • Followers and viewers
  • Impressions
  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Loyalty and performance  

Use this data to continually adjust your goals and see where to focus your resources. Create, test, measure, tweak, repeat.

Use content to build a community

To know how to succeed with your marketing, it helps to understand how Facebook manages its algorithm. 

In 2018, Facebook rolled out a major update to its algorithm to center it more around content from individuals’ friends, family, and groups and less from businesses. It promised that public content from businesses users did see would “encourage meaningful interactions between people.”

In 2019, it announced the widespread use of surveys to gather feedback to ensure users saw relevant content in their News Feed.

“These changes aren’t meant to show more or less from Pages or friends. Rather, the Page links that are surfaced to people will be ones they find worth their time—and the friend posts will be from friends people want to hear from most.” [via Facebook News post]

This all means that, as a business, if you want to continually show up in a user’s Facebook feed, you have to be as relevant and valuable to them as their friends and family. 

Likes, comments, reactions, and shares are all indicators that your content is valuable. The more people engage with your content, the more relevant it will be seen by Facebook’s algorithms.

So the way to achieve a consistent level of engagement is by doing what Facebook wants you to do: bring people together.

There are two ways to build a community around your organic Facebook content:

1. Publishing via a Facebook Business Page

2. Creating a Facebook Group

1. Creating a Facebook Business Page

A Facebook Business Page is your brand’s corner of Facebook. It’s where followers can come to learn more about you, find out the latest news, read your content, and ask questions. It’s also the version of you that will show up in News Feeds.

Your Page profile photo and cover photo should be consistent with your brand. The former appears every time you comment on the post or publish in the News Feed, so make this your brand logo.

Slack’s Facebook Page, for example, is in keeping with its company branding. 

Slack Facebook page screenshot

Your Page information should also be filled out completely.

Facebook will show you tips on how to do this when you create your page and remind you to include all items.

  • Description: A brief intro about your company and Page
  • Categories: Industries that describe your business and help people find your page
  • Contact information: Website, email address, phone number, etc. 
  • Location: Your address if you have a physical premises people can visit
  • Hours: Business opening times if you operate selected hours

Here’s an example of how each of these elements look on Salesforce’s Facebook Page:

Salesforce Facebook page about information

Next, you should create a username for your Page. This will make it easier for people to find and give you a neat vanity URL to share.

Slack, for example, has @slackhq. Buffer has @bufferapp:

Buffer Facebook page permalink

Finally, add a call-to-action button. This gives you one more way to get visitors to take action. 

Buffer Facebook page screenshot

It’s also worth arranging tabs so that visitors to your Page can easily find what they’re looking for.

As well as the standard About, Photos, and Videos tabs, Buffer includes Reviews, Events, and Community tabs. It also integrates its Facebook Page with its Twitter and YouTube accounts. 

Buffer Facebook page CTAs

This allows people to find information and view additional content without leaving Facebook. Thus, keeping them interacting with the Buffer Page for longer. 

Creating engaging content for your Facebook Page

Content can be driven by your audience insights and competitive analysis. Start posting and then fine-tune as the data rolls in. 

To find the right balance, follow what Hootsuite calls the social media “Rule of Thirds”:

“⅓ share posts to promote your business, convert readers, and generate profits

⅓ share posts of ideas from influencers in your industry (or like-minded businesses)

⅓ share posts of personal stories to build your brand

Sharing out content shows your followers…

You know your industry

You’re collaborative

Where you’re positioned within the industry”

In terms of the type of content to use when sharing native posts, video is a safe bet. Research from Buffer and Buzzsumo shows that video generates 59% more engagement than other types of posts. Questions are a distant second, followed by photos and giveaways. 

Interestingly, vertical videos have a higher engagement rate than landscape and square videos. This makes sense when you consider that almost four in five people access the platform via mobile. By comparison, only 1.7% use Facebook on a computer.

Keep description copy short and let the post itself do the talking. Around 50 characters or less is the optimal number.

Uber uses short-form video posts with concise copy to educate followers, including CTA links for users to learn more. 

Uber Facebook post example

Mailchimp combines video and short statuses to sell the benefits of its products and services. 

Mailchimp Facebook post example

In both cases, however, video is used as part of a wider Rule of Thirds strategy that includes links to web content, shared insights from the community, and personal stories. 

Experiment with different kinds of posts, content volume (Facebook recommends posting two to three times a week), and posting times to see how it resonates with your audience. 

But keep in mind that what you post is only one part of creating an engaged community. What you do after hitting publish is every bit as important.

Let customers know you’re there

With an engaged community, followers will often interact with each other and even help each other out.

This comment thread from a Shopify Facebook post being a prime example:

Facebook comment thread from Shopify

You joining the conversation is a great way to get closer to your audience, humanizing your brand and giving Facebook what it wants: people interacting with people. 

Take Buffer. Rather than leaving a reaction to comments, members of the Buffer team jump in and reply: 

Facebook comment thread by Buffer

This shows that real people are reading the comments. It also leaves a positive impression on the user.

Shopify does a similar thing, using comments to respond to customer problems. 

Facebook comments interaction with Shopify

This not only gives people the help they need, it shows others that a team is on hand to answer their questions. 

This is important. Facebook research shows 70% of people expect to message businesses more in the future for customer service questions, while 69% of U.S. Facebook users who message businesses say it makes them feel more confident about the brand.

So, be responsive to customer messages on your page.

Hubspot research shows that users expect a business to respond almost immediately.

If your team can’t respond quickly, it might be a good idea to set up automated replies or chatbots loaded with FAQ answers for around-the-clock responses.

Ultimately, however, most customers will want to reach a real human, so it’s essential that your Page is closely monitored by a social team.

To decide whether live chat or chatbots is the best strategy for your business, take a look at Jared Cornell’s CXL post on the questions you should ask.

Getting people to like your Facebook Page

The more likes your Page has, the more people it will reach. Over time, content engagement will help bring new followers to your Page. In the early days, you’ll need to make people aware it exists.

Facebook has some tips on how to do this:

Share your Page on your personal News Feed. Tell your friends and family about your Page. In your post, ask them to like the Page and share it with people who may also be interested in your business. To share your Page, select Share below your Page’s cover photo.

Invite friends to like your Page. Invite friends you think would be interested in your business to like your Page. Learn how to invite friends.

Ask friends to share your Page with their networks. Your friends can help you reach even more people. Ask if they’ll share a link to your Page in a post on their timeline.

Post as the Page in groups. Post as your Page in local groups or groups related to your industry. This is a good way to reach your community.

In addition to these tips, you should link to your Facebook Page from your website, as well as in email signatures and footers. Basically, anywhere outside of Facebook where you interact with your audience. 

Nanit, for example, adds social media icons and a CTA to the bottom of its email newsletter.

It also links to each of its social accounts in the footer of its website.

Nanit website footer

These links may not drive a lot of traffic, but they make it easier for people to find the Nanit Facebook Page. This is the aim of the game: remove the barriers in your customers’ way. 

2. Creating a Facebook Group

Facebook’s algorithm is geared towards showing users conversations from the groups they’re in. So, starting a Facebook Group can help you consistently show up in the News Feed.

More than that, it’s a way to build a community for networking, building customer relationships, providing support, and developing brand advocates. 

If a Page is for broadcasting to your audience, a Group is for having conversations with them.

And they’re popular too. Facebook says that 1.8 billion people use Groups every month. 

Before you create a Group, decide on its purpose. A group needs to meet the needs of a community. Therefore, you should ask yourself:

  • What unites you and your audience?
  • What are your shared interests?
  • What are you an expert in and confident talking about?

For example, CXL has a Facebook Group for Conversion Optimization, Analytics & Growth

CXL Facebook group

This is what CXL specializes in and what its audience cares about, which allows for engaging conversations on a range of relevant topics.

Once you’re clear on its reasons for existing, creating a Facebook Group is straightforward:

“To create a group:

* Click in the top right of Facebook and select Group.

* Enter your group name.

* Select the privacy option. If you selected private, select whether to make your group visible or hidden.

* Add people to your group.

* Click Create.

Once you create your Group, you personalize it by uploading a cover photo and adding a description.

Note: We recommend that group admins share any commercial or business affiliations in the group, as well as updating the group if affiliations change. You can update the group by changing the group description and making an announcement.” [via Facebook]

Before sharing your Group with your audience, you should also set some ground rules. The larger the community becomes, the harder it becomes to moderate. Rules help to keep things civil and on topic.

For instance, Canva’s Design Circle asks its members to adhere to clear guidelines:

Canva Facebook group about information

CXL’s group admins also set no-nonsense rules:

CXL Facebook group rules

If your group is set to private, you’ll also have the option of keeping bots and trolls out with member applications. Additionally, it will give you a chance to find out if would-be members are suitable.

MobileMonkey vets its members with three questions that aim to discover a person’s motivations:

MobileMonkey Facebook group survey quesitons

This ensures that incoming members are genuine and bring value to the group.

Facebook Group best practices

Once your Facebook Group is set up with a clear code of conduct, you can begin generating engagement. Here are four best practices for keeping the conversation flowing.

1. Show up consistently

Your Group is predominantly a place for members to connect and chat under the umbrella of your brand and purpose. For the most part, they can lead the conversation with their questions and replies.

However, you shouldn’t be a ghost. Remember that the majority of people sign up because they’re fans of you. Take the time to join in with conversations and provide topics of discussion.

CXL founder, Peep Laja, is an active user of the CXL group, often jumping in to answer questions:

CXL Facebook group interaction

Other members of the CXL team are also regulars in the group, posting questions and keeping engagement high:

Facebook group member post

This helps bring the community closer together, removing barriers between company and fans.

Showing up regularly also helps to ensure content is moderated, so any flagged or spam posts don’t ruin the experience.

2. Post at peak times

Use Facebook Group Insights to learn more about your members and keep them engaged.

Examine engagement data to see when people are most active in the group. This way, you’ll be able to publish posts at times when people are likely to see and interact with them.

If your group is a global community, you may find that peak times are outside of your work hours. 

In this case, you can schedule posts to engage your audience and jump in on the comments at a time that suits you. This will also help you to bump posts back to the top of the feed, prolonging the conversation. 

3. Offer a unique experience

Groups offer a feeling of exclusivity. Members are part of something that the general Facebook population isn’t.

Play into this by giving them content they won’t get anywhere else. This might include:

  • Live Q&As
  • Product and feature announcements
  • Member-only discount codes
  • Quizzes

For example, founders of The Copywriter Club Facebook Group, Rob Marsh and Kira Hug regularly host live video sessions on a variety of topics that are relevant to the community. 

Facebook live video example

This gives members a reason to be in the group at a specific time. It also gives people a reason to join: being in The Copywriter Club is the only way to hear these tips from two successful copywriters. 

4. Spread the word

Share your group far and wide with regular posts on your Facebook Page, links on your website and other social channels, and in conversations with prospects. 

For example, Beard brand Mo Bro’s includes links to its Group in blog posts.

Mo Bro's blog post CTAs

This helps them capitalize on reader engagement.

Freelance Heroes does a similar thing with its Twitter account, encouraging active and engaged followers to join its popular Facebook Group.

Freelance Heroes Facebook group event

Make cross-promotion part of your marketing strategy. After all, the more people you have in your Facebook Group, the greater engagement.

Using Facebook ads to extend reach

As rewarding as your Page and Group will be for community building and forming lasting relationships, there’s no getting away from the fact that Facebook is very much a pay-to-play platform.

With organic reach hard to come by, paying for ads is likely a matter of time.

Running ads will be particularly beneficial to you early on when you’re looking to raise brand awareness and get people interested in your Facebook presence. It will also help you attract and convert customers when your Page and Group numbers are thin on the ground.

Facebook ads are a proven tactic. Facebook offers the highest CTR of the four ad placements offered by Ads Manager (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and Audience Network). And ROI has shown to be more than 4x better than Google Ads. 

The bottom line is: Facebook wants you to spend money on advertising. That’s how it makes its money. And it’s why it puts a lot of work into helping you succeed. 

It created Facebook Ads Manager to make ad management easier for marketers. It also developed a free course to help you get started.

Using Facebook Audiences to reach more people

Within Ads Manager, Facebook provides audience creation and data gathering tools to help reach the right people at the right time to increase visibility. 

1. Core Audiences   

Core Audiences let you create audiences based on their location, demographics, interests, connections, and behavior. This is data that can all be pulled from your customer persona and target audience information.

Use this option for reaching an audience who don’t know you exist with brand awareness ads, like this one from Miro:

Miro Facebook ad example

2. Custom Audiences

Custom Audiences can be used to engage people on Facebook who are already aware of your brand. You can use sources such as customer lists, website or app traffic, or Facebook engagement to create these audiences.

Use Custom Audiences to re-engage and retarget potential customers (more on the tool that enables retargeting soon).

For example, you can run ads to target people who haven’t visited your website in a while to encourage them to check out a blog post or special offer.

You can also upsell or retarget users who didn’t complete a purchase. 

This ad from Graze shows how a Custom Audience has been used to target trial users who haven’t subscribed.

By using an incentive (“Your fifth Graze box is on us!”), Graze tempts users into giving them another try. 

3. Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike Audiences use existing Custom Audiences to reach people who are likely to be interested in your business because they share similar characteristics. 

You can model these closely to your Custom Audience so that ads reach people that match your existing audience exactly, or more broadly, to reach a wider audience. 

This tactic is best used if you know what you’re selling (e.g., a specific product) and you have a detailed list of past customers in your CRM.

The Facebook Pixel

As well as Audiences, Facebook also lets you use the Facebook Pixel. It’s a piece of code that you add to your website to improve your overall Facebook ad campaigns. 

“If you have access to your website’s code, you can add the Facebook pixel yourself. Simply place the Facebook pixel base code (what you see when you create your pixel) on all pages of your website. Then add standard events to the pixel code on the special pages of your website, such as your add-to-basket page or your purchase page.” [via Facebook]

By installing this on your site, every action a person takes on your website is reported to Facebook. 

This data can be used to automatically create Custom Audiences of people who visit your site. You can then use this to show people targeted ads for items or content they’ve previously viewed.

What type of ads should you run?

Successful ads are the result of consistent A/B testing and much time spent going back to the drawing board.

A simple way to find out which type of ads your audience will engage with is to look at your most popular content.

  • Which of your Facebook posts get the most engagement?
  • What pages or products on your site drive the most traffic?

For example, say videos get the most engagement on your page. And your blog attracts a lot of visitors to your site. Short video ads promoting your Facebook Group as a place to discuss blog topics, targeted at blog visitors, might convince them to sign up. 

It also pays to look at benchmark data and trends to find out which ads perform best.

According to Socialinsider, status ads have the highest CTR, followed by photo and share ads (ads created out of existing posts). 

Status ads work well because they mirror what people see in the news feed and therefore appear less like blatant ads.

Styling ads this way is a tactic recommended by Successful Ads Club founder Tara Zirker:

“The best ads I’ve come across—and those I’ve run for my business—match the news feed in terms of copy and imagery, making the ads feel more like organic posts. The ads blend in with the other feed content, so people are more likely to stop scrolling and read them.” [via Social Media Examiner

Statuses, however, are only the fifth most popular ad format chosen by ad creators. Share and video ads are much more common.  

For video ads, Tara Zirker suggests keeping videos short:

“Often, businesses are intimidated by the prospect of creating video, thinking they need a three-minute or longer scripted video that’s polished and professional. One way to make the process easier is to simply create shorter videos. You may be surprised at how much content you can fit into a 20 or 30-second video and how effective it can be in your ads.” [via Social Media Examiner]

Facebook agrees. They reported that 47% of the value in mobile video campaigns is delivered in the first three seconds. So keep it short and sweet.

To maximize engagement, Facebook encourages users to capture attention early:

They also offer tips on how to improve the effectiveness of ads in general, including:

  • Using vertical video for a more pleasing view experience on mobile devices
  • Limiting image text to less than 20% and using a smaller font
  • Keeping ad copy short, clear, and concise. 
  • Using multiple images, also known as a carousel ad, to highlight different aspects of your product or brand
  • Adding movement to ads, such as animating Stories ads, creating timelapse videos, and using GIFs.

Whatever kind of ad you run, the most important thing is that it complements your Facebook marketing strategy. 

This should be, as Facebook Advertising Expert Curt Maly says, to build relationships:

“Instead of just asking people to buy your stuff, we want to engage them with relevant, high-quality content in the way they want to learn.”

Use Facebook Ads Manager to measure campaign performance and optimize ads so that they’re seen by—and bring you closer to—the right audience. 

Conclusion

There’s an audience on Facebook for your business. To find it and turn it into an engaged and profitable community, play by Facebook’s rules.

Be as relevant to your target audience as their friends and family by designing content around their needs and being an active presence in their News Feeds.

Start with a strategy built on providing value to a small number of your target audience. Secure their engagement and loyalty, and over time, your reach will snowball.

The post How to Build & Execute a Facebook Marketing Strategy appeared first on CXL.

How to Calculate & Maintain a Healthy Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

“You have to spend money to make money.” This seemingly good-natured advice has spelled doom for millions of businesses worldwide.  While it’s true that businesses occasionally need to spend more upfront to validate their idea, doing so with a complete disregard for unit economics can be fatal. That’s why Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is such […]

The post How to Calculate & Maintain a Healthy Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) appeared first on CXL.

“You have to spend money to make money.”

This seemingly good-natured advice has spelled doom for millions of businesses worldwide. 

While it’s true that businesses occasionally need to spend more upfront to validate their idea, doing so with a complete disregard for unit economics can be fatal.

That’s why Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is such a critical metric. It’s the single most important indicator to prevent reckless spending. In this post, we’ll show you how to calculate CAC, plus share a few tips to help you maintain it at a healthy level. 

How to calculate CAC

CAC can be calculated with the following formula: 

Total Spend on Acquiring Customers / No. of Customers Acquired

But “Total spend on acquiring customers” can be ambiguous. In most cases, it includes:

  • Salaries of sales and marketing teams
  • Advertising spend on acquiring new customers (Search/Display Ads, Social Ads, Sponsorship, etc.)
  • Cost of software/hardware used in sales and marketing
  • Agency, PR, or any third-party costs involved in sales and marketing

The sum total of these costs divided by the number of new customers gives you CAC. Here’s how this could look for Company A over a 3 month period: 

Table showing examples of CAC over a three month period

In March, for example, CAC is: 

$48000/1100 = $44

But what if your product offers a free trial and your data team tells you it takes 30 days on average for “free trial users” to become paid customers. That would mean the 1100 new customers in March are the result of February’s acquisition cost. 

Therefore, you need to attribute revenue by their monthly cohorts rather than when they converted in order to properly measure ROAS.

This calculation will get more complex for free trials of other durations, such as 14 days. Here, ROAS would be partially influenced by the acquisition cost of both the existing and previous month:

CAC for March (14 day free trial) = [(48000 + 33000)/2]/1100 = $37.

And what if your product is freemium (i.e. users can use your app for as long as they want until they feel the need to upgrade)?

The freemium version influences acquisition of new users. Some businesses even include a portion of freemium development costs (such as server maintenance) in their CAC. However, many leave it out for the sake of simplicity. 

Freemium users also have a much longer conversion funnel or “penny gap” compared to free trial users. 

For example, Mailchimp’s freemium plan gives you basic features with 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. As it might take a while to cross that threshold, you need accurate data to learn when each customer was first engaged. This will help you attribute the conversion to the correct acquisition cost.

Another common problem is how to calculate returning users. A popular way is to include the cost of re-engagement campaigns in the acquisition cost. This way, you won’t have to segment new customers.

But for more accurate data, calculate CAC separately for new and returning users. Re-engaging is often cheaper than acquiring new users and clubbing the two acquisition costs together might give a rosier view of your CAC.

The key takeaway? Understand whether a cost directly influences new (and returning) customers. If so, include it in your acquisition costs. 

But CAC only tells you how much it costs your business to acquire one purchase. Lifetime value (LTV) gives you a more accurate understanding of your CAC efforts.

LTV/CAC – Understanding the golden metric

Often touted as the north star for businesses, LTV/CAC is the single most important metric to gauge business health.

Lifetime value refers to the total amount a customer is expected to bring in during their stay with your business. Here’s how you calculate LTV:

[ARPC (Average Revenue Per Customer in a Month) X Gross Margin] / MRR Churn Rate

CAC tells you how much a new customer costs. LTV explains how much a customer is worth. That’s why the LTV/CAC ratio provides a holistic view of your business. 

For example, say CAC of Company A increased from $30 to $40 in one year. Whether this should worry stakeholders would depend on the change in the lifetime value during the same period. If the lifetime value increased by more than 33%, the overall LTV/CAC ratio would increase, which is a great sign for the business. Therefore, an increase in CAC isn’t always bad news.

According to most experts, the LTV/CAC ratio should be at least 3 for a sustainable business (i.e., a new customer should bring at least 3X value of what they cost to acquire). 

LTV/CAC of less than 3 is a red flag as it indicates you’re overspending on acquisition. It’s a sign that you need to review CAC of your prominent channels and look at the growth marketing funnel to understand where the fault lines are. 

The opposite is also true: three or higher means you can afford to spend more aggressively to acquire new customers. 

Note that LTV/CAC ratios can fluctuate month on month due to specific investments. So, you should look at overall trends rather than isolated instances. 

For example, on-demand graphic design service Manypixels ran a 40% discount at the beginning of the year on its subscriptions:

Email discount offer from Manypixels

This would directly impact the lifetime value of users signing up in the discount period by reducing the Average Revenue per Customer. But that shouldn’t be a cause of concern because discount periods are expected to impact revenue-related KPIs.

Using CAC to make key strategic growth decisions

Let’s come back to CAC and explore how it can help you make key strategic growth decisions. 

Segmenting CAC to prioritize channels

CAC is only one metric, but you can use it to understand how your message resonates with different customer segments and which customer segments get the most value from your product or service. This helps you justify marketing spend and discover new markets. 

For example, let’s say your CAC is $100 and LTV is $250, giving an LTV/CAC ratio of 2.5. 

While this is less than 3, it still doesn’t give the full picture. Suppose your product is selling in multiple countries. In that case, you should calculate CAC separately for all of the markets you’re in. 

Maybe in certain markets, CAC is low while LTV is high, giving a higher LTV/CAC ratio. By simply shifting spend across different markets, you might be able to bring overall LTV/CAC over 3. 

Similarly, you can also calculate CAC for different marketing channels such as Search Ads, Social, Content Marketing, etc. This will help you understand which channels are giving better returns and help with overall budgeting. 

Note that to segment CAC, you need to have flawless tracking. You should be able to attribute the customer to specific marketing channels, even if there is a delay in conversion. 

Involve your data team in the process of channel attribution and creating conversion pixels. This would ensure that tracking in your centralized dashboards aligns with the data in different marketing tools. 

Fixing the Leaks

Growth marketing is a funnel. From the first ad impression to the final conversion, there are several steps along the way. Consider the following funnel for a Google Ad campaign: 

Table showing data from Google Ads campaign

You spent $1,000 on a campaign that yielded 5 customers with a CAC of $200. There is leakage at each stage of the funnel. However, reducing leakage at any stage will have a direct impact on CAC. That’s why you should keep track of conversion rates across the entire funnel. 

Here, the sign-up and click-through rate is 10%. This is mostly dependent on your landing page. If by optimizing your landing page you can bring this rate to 12%, that alone will bring your CAC to $167 if all other conversion rates remain the same. 

Suppose the above Google Ad is to acquire users for a to-do list app. Here, the free trial/sign-up rate would depend on the initial onboarding that explains how to use the app. By making the onboarding more intuitive, you can improve the conversion rate, leading to a direct reduction in CAC. 

There are several tools available to help you optimize your growth marketing funnel. For example, HubSpot Academy wanted to increase its sign-up rate. They used a simple exit-intent survey widget from Hotjar to ask visitors why they were about to leave the page: 

Example pop-up form from Hotjar

Visitors gave answers such as: “I don’t know how this will help me with my career?” or “I cannot make an account. The form keeps asking me about a company name while I’m a jobseeker.”

By making adjustments in their landing page based on the feedback, they were able to increase conversions by 10%, leading to a direct impact on the CAC. 

Many organizations struggle to bring down CAC because these steps involved in the funnel are disjointed, lacking oversight of the entire process. That’s why marketers are often encouraged to visualize their projects in the form of a funnel. This helps them better understand the impact of their projects on the bottom line. 

Where does the payback period fit in?

No discussion of CAC and LTV is complete without bringing up the payback period. 

Although investors bet on the future, they can’t ignore the present health of the business. Knowing how long it takes a business to recover CAC gives them a great indication of its investment potential. That’s what makes the payback period a favorite KPI of the VCs. 

Payback period is the number of months it takes to recover CAC from a customer:

CAC / Average Annual Revenue per Customer 

In subscription-based businesses, it generally takes a few months to recover CAC. Most experts recommend it takes less than 12 months, i.e., your business should be able to recover CAC within a year. This is a good rule of thumb, but it varies considerably depending on your industry. 

This is a big reason why most subscription-based businesses offer heavy discounts on annual plans. By encouraging people to purchase for a year and pay beforehand, they can significantly lower their payback period:

Example of a pricing page from Taskworld

Note how Taskworld’s pricing page encourages visitors to subscribe to their annual plan. 

A note on churn

Churn is another factor that affects the LTV/CAC ratio. No matter how good your CAC is, profitability may stagnate or suffer if customers don’t stick around.

Churn refers to the number of customers or percentage of revenue that your business loses at regular intervals. Most businesses track it on a monthly basis for both customers (Customer Churn Rate) and monthly recurring revenue (MRR Churn Rate). 

It’s important to be aware of which churn you’re using in your LTV calculation, as they might give different answers. You’ll find examples of using both customer and MRR churn rates. We suggest using MRR, especially for products with flexible pricing. Here’s why:

Suppose you have 100 customers that contribute $5000 in MRR each month and one of them is a big enterprise that constitutes almost $250 of your total MRR. Now, losing that customer might show 1% customer churn, but the MRR churn would be 5%, which is a much more accurate reflection of the intensity of loss.  

Monthly churn figures might seem trivial, but a 5% customer churn every month will make you lose almost half of your customers by the end of the year, courtesy compounding. 

So, what is an acceptable churn rate? Unfortunately this simple question doesn’t have an easy answer. Countless studies have tried to estimate the average churn rates. For example, a study of 1500 SaaS products by Recurly revealed an average monthly churn rate of 5.6%: 

Recruly benchmark report on churn

Above, we see an industry-wise monthly churn benchmark based on Recurly’s study. Note that B2C organizations tend to have higher churn than B2B businesses. 

However, it can be tricky to assume that just because your churn rate is less than a “benchmark”, you’re in the green. A business with high growth might be able to survive a higher churn rate. 

Churn rates can also vary depending on the nature of your product or even the market. For example, if you sell a product in America and Japan, churn in Japan may be traditionally lower because there are fewer Japanese language alternatives to your product. 

Therefore, the best way to measure churn is against your own metrics. If your churn is showing a downward trend, that’s great news for all your SaaS metrics. 

Conclusion

Measuring CAC opens the door to several other key SaaS KPIs. That’s what makes it such a vital metric to track. 

SaaS products are always on the move—tapping into new markets, tweaking pricing, and exploring unique pricing plans. It’s highly unlikely that the way you define CAC will remain the same. Even with your existing pricing structure, there might be several approaches to calculating your CAC, depending on who you ask. 

Although CAC is included in various KPIs that affect marketing performance, it’s not a marketing exclusive metric. Every team should keep an eye on CAC and understand how their work affects it. By making CAC a common thread in strategic conversations, you can nurture a shared interest across different departments and prevent silos.

The post How to Calculate & Maintain a Healthy Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) appeared first on CXL.

Email Marketing Strategy: Collecting Subscribers, Users & Loyal Customers

If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you may well have heard the phrase, “the money is in the list.” It’s a proverb as old as the internet, probably older. It’s also true. And more relevant than ever. If you want to build a successful business, a strong email marketing strategy is […]

The post Email Marketing Strategy: Collecting Subscribers, Users & Loyal Customers appeared first on CXL.

If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you may well have heard the phrase, “the money is in the list.”

It’s a proverb as old as the internet, probably older. It’s also true. And more relevant than ever. If you want to build a successful business, a strong email marketing strategy is one of the best ways to do it.

However, it’s not without challenges. Over a third of email marketers struggle with acquisition and close to a half say increasing engagement is their number one challenge.

Email generates as much as $42 for every dollar spent, and is a top-three marketing channel for 87% of B2B and 76% of B2C marketers. 

In this post, you’ll learn how to overcome the challenges and reap the rewards to collect subscribers, users, and loyal customers. 

We’ll look at where email fits in the customer journey and walk you through how to create a strategy that fits your customer lifecycle. We’ll also break down the main elements of high-performing emails to show you how to drive action from your campaigns.

Email marketing’s place in the customer journey (and how it contributes to your marketing strategy)

Customer journeys are rarely linear. But if we consider that a journey map is built on the five stages of the customer lifecycle (awareness, consideration, purchase, retention, and advocacy), we can start to see how email contributes to a marketing strategy at every point.

1. Awareness

During the awareness stage, prospects are beginning to learn who you are and what you can do for them. Providing valuable content or assets is a clever way to build trust and familiarity. 

For example, you can partner with social media and PPC teams to create content that encourages subscribers to sign up to receive something of value.

Children’s education company Talu Tales uses its social channels to do just that—in this case, promoting free activity sheets: 

Talu Tales content offer

New subscribers are sent an automated email with their free goodies, as well as links to other relevant reading material:

Nothing is being sold at this stage. Instead, Talu Tales is delivering a valuable experience that can be nurtured towards a sale. They’ve also given subscribers a reason to learn more.

2. Consideration

Once intrigued, customers are interested in learning more about what you can offer them. Use the data you’ve gathered from your email subscription form to send personalized content addressing pain points. 

reMarkable does this by leveraging testimonials to show how its paper tablet has made a real-life difference: 

It’s a clever tactic. As many as 97% of people read product reviews before making a purchase and 89% consider them an essential resource. 

They also include links for prospects to check out those customers for themselves. This “don’t take our word for it” tactic is smart, given that people trust industry experts and people like themselves more than a company advocate or even influencers. 

Edelman authority research infographic

Emails in the consideration stage can also be used to re-engage customers who have abandoned their cart

Adidas does this with humor, as well as convincing reviews to entice prospects still on the fence:

Again, the use of “Think we’re biased?” is clever, as the customer is likely thinking “Of course you are.” 

The follow-up and additional reviews speak to the consumer’s subconscious mind. They work to justify the emotion the person was feeling when they initially added an item to their cart before the doubt crept in. 

Adding the product to their basket was the right thing to do. The reviews prove it.    

3. Purchase

Email can be used effectively before and after purchase. 

At the conversion stage, just before purchase, your aim is to hammer home why your product is perfect for your prospect.

There are several ways you can do this:

  • An automated email series, ebook, or PDF that goes into detail on the benefits of your product or service
  • An invitation to a webinar to show off your product or service
  • A free trial to your product

Alternatively, you can convince prospects with limited-time special offers or discount codes. 

Persona did this by offering a 50% first-month discount to new subscribers. This offer is backed by reasons why Persona is the best choice for the prospect, making a compelling case for hitting that CTA: 

Once you have a purchase in the bag, the rules of engagement change to earning customer loyalty. This is where transactional emails are a key customer experience tool. 

When a customer has bought from you, be sure to send:

  • Order notifications
  • Delivery updates
  • A thank you note
  • Follow-up emails with product recommendations

For buyers of The Perfect Grid, author Ales Nesertril sends an automated thank you email with instructions to help new customers make the most of their purchase, as well as what to expect going forward: 

65% of consumers say they would become long-term customers of a brand if they can provide positive experiences throughout the customer journey. A helpful and genuine follow-up email can be the difference between one-time shoppers and brand advocates. 

4. Retention

Building loyalty starts with what you do post-purchase and continues with retention emails. Unlike other digital marketing channels, email lets you provide a truly personalized experience.

This can be through subscriber-only discounts:

Acknowledging birthdays:

Or asking for feedback:

When a person opens your email, it’s just you and them. Use this space to show your customers they are a valued part of your community. 

5. Advocacy

Advocacy is when customers become fans and an important asset to your company. As Peakon’s Head of Customer Marketing, Larisa Sandu, points out:

“Customer advocates become extensions of a company’s employee base – they live and breathe your company’s ethos and spread the mission of your company to others out of genuine interest in your company’s success.” [via B2B Marketing Alliance]

At this stage in the customer journey, email can be used to capitalize on fans’ love of your brand by: 

  • Asking them to refer you or forward your emails to their friends
  • Promoting an affiliate or reward program where customers are given incentives for participation
  • Offering incentives for writing reviews
  • Collecting feedback to improve your products and services

For example, Coinbase offers customers and their friends $10 worth of Bitcoin for every referral: 

They also show how easy it is to get rewarded, which helps reduce barriers and spur involvement.

Email fits everywhere

Email works at every stage of the customer journey. 

That’s not to say it’s the right strategy to use every time, nor is it the only strategy. Customer journey maps should include a combination of content marketing, paid advertising, customer service, PR, and email at every touchpoint. 

But email should align closely with your marketing plans and be utilized whenever you need to: 

  • Build trust
  • Communicate with a qualified audience
  • Communicate through the acquisition stage
  • Deliver ongoing value that nurtures the customer through their journey

How to develop an email marketing strategy

Because it’s effective at each stage of the customer lifecycle, there are numerous types of email and tactics you can use.

But tactics aren’t strategy. Tactics are part of your strategy alongside objectives, goals, and analysis. They’re the methods you’ll use to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to convert prospects, dropping a discount code in an email can be a good tactic.

Strategy is the big picture thinking that drives email marketing campaigns.

Step 1: Define your goals

What do you want the end result of your email campaign to be and why does that matter?

To answer that question, look at the current state of your email marketing. What do you want to improve?

With that information, you can set goals. These should always relate to your overall marketing goals.

For example, if a wider marketing goal is to increase brand awareness, an email marketing goal could be to “grow our email list.”

But that alone is too general, so it’s important to get specific by setting clear metric objectives. For example:

  • Improve response rate by 20% in Q2
  • Increase the size of our email list by 25% in Q3
  • Increase nurturing content to new subscribers by 50% in Q4

These specific objectives give the campaign clear direction and your team a target to aim for. However, this target must be attainable. While it’s good to rise to a challenge, if it’s a challenge you’ve no chance of winning, morale can dip fast. 

Keep your objectives within reach by following the SMART framework:

Step 2: Find the right email marketing software

Email software is what’s going to drive your marketing campaigns. On a basic level, email marketing tools should let you do the following: 

  • Create and segment email lists
  • Send emails
  • A/B test
  • Read analytics reports
  • Personalize content

In terms of how to pick the right one for your needs, Campaign Monitor recommends checking out five different elements:

  • Product capabilities: Look out for automation capabilities, mobile-responsive templates, tracking tools, and list management. 
  • Customer support: Does the software allow for chat support if your team has immediate queries? What about social media support? Also, look for knowledge-based blogs that can help you navigate the platform with ease.   
  • Satisfied customers: As mentioned above, trust is key. Just like you should share testimonials to boost credibility, look for social proof in your ESP. 
  • User-friendly plans: Make sure its features align with your needs. Importantly, ensure it has the capabilities to grow with you as you scale.
  • Appropriate budget: Its price points must align with your budget. You don’t want to overpay for features you don’t need or find custom features to be extortionate. 

Ultimately, you want an email marketing solution that can help take care of a lot of the heavy lifting so that you can focus on optimizing your campaigns. 

Step 3. Build your email list

Anywhere you market your business online is a potential opportunity to capture email subscribers. This could include:

  • Opt-in forms on landing pages or in the header or footer of your website
  • Website pop-ups
  • Social media posts and ads that drive traffic to email sign-up pages
  • Gated content or content upgrades on blogs
  • Lead-generation forms on webinars or videos
  • Sign up links in social media bios and email signatures
  • Competitions

For inspiration, check out Alex Cleanthous’s CXL post on 14 list-building hacks to grow your email database fast

But getting people to see a sign-up form is only one piece of the puzzle. To incentivize them to input their details, it’s important to optimize signup forms. 

In her own post on how to build an email list, Justine Jordan suggests three ways to do this.

  • Only including relevant form fields. There’s a direct correlation between the number of fields you include and the number of people who convert. Don’t overwhelm your potential subscribers with long forms. You can use progressive profiling and subscription centers to gain more information about them over time.
  • Testing that they actually work. Ensure your forms work and that each signup is being properly tracked in your email service provider (ESP).
  • Providing a clear value proposition about why they should give you their email address. Whether it’s helpful content or a free t-shirt, make it obvious to them.

Step 3: Create value-driven content

To provide material value, email content needs to be sent at the right time to the right people.

Timing refers to the day of the week and the time of day your emails are sent, as well as where the recipient is in the customer journey. Above all, the best time to send an email depends on your audience’s lifestyle and habits.

In the long-term, A/B testing and measuring results by open rates and click-through rates will give you a clearer idea of when to show up in a prospect’s inbox. In the short term, industry benchmarks can be a good jumping-off point.

CoSchedule research shows that the best day to send an email is Tuesday. The next best is Thursday, followed by Wednesday.

The best times to send emails are 6 am, 10 am, 2 pm, 8 pm, 10 pm, and 12 am. 

As it relates to the customer journey, timing ensures subscribers get the content they need to help move them down the funnel. In this sense, it’s action-based and industry benchmarks hold little to no weight.

The right time to send a welcome email is immediately after a prospect has signed up to your contact list, for example. This will help you capitalize on their interest to increase brand awareness. 

The right time to send an abandoned cart email is after a prospect has left your site without completing a purchase. This will help you re-engage them to drive action. 

In general, it’s important to segment your lists so that content reaches the right people. Sending an introductory marketing course to an experienced marketing manager, for instance, wouldn’t have the desired impact.

Step 4: Track, analyze, and improve

Email marketing data helps you answer the important questions about who’s reading your emails and what actions they’re taking. This can be used to fine-tune future campaigns: 

Here are the key metrics to pay attention to when analyzing emails:

  • Open rate: The percentage of recipients who open an email
  • Click-through rate: The percentage of recipients who clicked on one or more links in an email
  • Unsubscribe rate: The percentage of recipients who unsubscribed after opening an email
  • Conversion rate: The percentage of recipients who clicked a link and completed a desired action (e.g. completing a lead generation form or purchase)
  • Bounce rate: The percentage of total emails that couldn’t be successfully delivered
  • List growth rate: The rate at which your list is growing
  • Sharing rate: The percentage of recipients who clicked on a share button
  • Overall return on investment: The ROI of your email campaigns (i.e. total revenue / total spend)

Use this information to improve your emails and clean up your list to enhance the value of your data. Also, compare your findings against your goals and objectives to find out if you’re meeting them.

But don’t rely on numbers alone. Discuss campaign results with sales and support teams to discover the why behind the what. 

If emails aren’t hitting the mark with a particular audience, collectively brainstorm new ways to reach and engage customers.

Elements of high-performing marketing emails

The specifics of your email (how it looks, what it says, the CTAs, etc.) will be influenced by your strategic goals. An email for someone in the consideration stage will be different from an email sent to a recent customer, for example.

But there are unifying qualities that every email should have regardless of whether you’re collecting subscribers, upselling, or creating brand advocates.

We’ve already covered timing and analyzing, both of which are crucial to your emails hitting the mark.

Let’s look at six other essential components of a high-performing email.

1. List segmentation

Segmenting your list goes hand-in-hand with timing. It ensures subscribers don’t receive emails that aren’t relevant to them, which could disrupt their customer journey and damage their personalized experience. 

Here are some statistics that show how powerful a tool segmentation can be:

  • Campaign Monitor research found that marketers have found a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns  
  • A SuperOffice segmented campaign experiment earned a 94% open rate and a 38% CTR, versus 42% open rate and 4.5% CTR in a non-segmented email campaign
  • 88% of users agree that they are more likely to respond to an email favorably if it looks like it’s been specifically created for them

Look at your email list and CRM. Start to group people based on similar demographics and characteristics. This can include: 

  • Interests 
  • Behavior
  • Customer personas
  • Location
  • Purchase history
  • Previous email engagement 

This will provide a basis for offers and allow you to align your audiences with your email campaign goals.

2. Email personalization

According to Hubspot, message personalization is the number one tactic used by email marketers to increase engagement rates. 

For good reason. 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. 

Segmentation is one form of personalization. Other tactics include:

  • Using subscriber names in subject lines and body copy
  • Creating content that’s relevant to the recipient’s interests
  • Dynamically suggesting new products based on previous purchases

Take emfluence. At the end of each year, Marketing Platform users receive an email that shows how many points they’ve earned, how many emails they’ve sent, and the different badges they can earn next:

Personalization starts with a name in the subject line:

“Smiles Davis, see what you’ve accomplished with emfluence!”

Then continues into the headline copy and the content, which is generated based on a user’s activity.

Without personalization, the email would come across as generic and lose its celebratory tone. It would also reduce the motivation for users to go after the next badges. 

Dominos also uses personalization well to tempt subscribers into ordering pizza: 

Again, the recipient is addressed by name. They’re also shown their account status and recommended products based on purchase history. 

At the bottom of the email, Dominos shows customers their local store, using subscription information to add the feel that Dominos cares for its customers. 

Learn as much as you can about subscribers’ preferences, purchases, and engagements to create a custom experience. 

If you’re new to this stuff, Shanelle Mullin’s excellent beginner’s guide to email segmentation and personalization is a great place to start.

3. Benefit-focused subject lines

The email subject line is the attention-grabber. It’s the first thing people see of you in their inbox and often determines whether or not they click through. 

33% of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone, while 69% mark an email as spam based on the subject line alone. So it’s important to get it right. 

Subject lines are trial and error. What works for one person or email may not work for another. 

Here are some core principles to keep in mind, from Shanelle Mullin’s CXL article on improving open rates:

  1. Continuously test your subject lines and measure your success by open rate.
  2. Research your audience’s voice through surveys and interviews.
  3. Use tasteful personalization meaningfully, but test it to prove that it works for your audience.
  4. Choose clarity over being trendy or clever. If you’re considering an empty suitcase or curiosity gap, think about the expectations you set with your audience upon opt-in.
  5. Be aware of mobile subject line character restrictions.
  6. Choose every word carefully. In subject lines, a single word can make a big difference.
  7. Segment your email list to uncover deeper insights about what’s working and what’s not.
  8. Treat preview text and from name as an extension of your subject line.

You can find inspiration for catchy subject lines by looking at your own email inbox. 

What compels you to open an email? 

Ask friends and colleagues too. What about a subject line makes them click-through?

Build a swipe file of examples that you can dip into for copywriting inspiration.

4. Compelling body copy

Your subject line hooks readers in. But it’s the body copy that turns attention into action.

Good body copy should simply help readers understand your offer and how it benefits them. It doesn’t need to be fancy or use any magic words. It just needs to get your message across. 

Take Smashing Magazine’s personalized email for its book ‘Click!’:

In three sentences, it explains what the product is and how it benefits readers. And they’ve managed to fit in compelling CTAs along the way. 

That brief intro gives readers enough information to make an informed decision.

For those who aren’t ready to jump in feet first, Smashing Magazine digs a little deeper. It explains why they’ve created the book and details exactly what readers will learn. 

The copy is clear, simple, to the point, and written in a tone and style that fits Smashing Magazine’s audience of designers and developers. 

To help you write compelling email content and position your product or service as the best solution, there are two easy formulas you can follow: 

1. BAB (Before-After-Bridge)

BAB is a conversion-driven framework that works in three parts. 

1. Before: Depict a problem that’s relevant to your audience and paint a picture of a world where they’re facing this problem. 

Example:

“For a busy social media marketer, it’s tough to find time to post daily across multiple platforms.”

2. After: Tell your audience how their world would be if the problem didn’t exist. 

Example:

“Imagine, there was a tool that lets you schedule content in advance and automatically posts it at times your audience is most likely to see it?”

3. Bridge: Introduce your product as the solution. 

Example:

“This is the power of Social Scheduler, a scheduling tool built to make social media marketers more productive.” 

2. The Four P’s

The Four P’s are designed to make an offer compelling to the reader by appealing to their wants and needs.

As the name suggests, it works in four parts:

1. Promise: The ‘what’s in it for them.’

Example: 

“Engage your social media followers at the best possible time.”

2. Picture: A picture of what the reader’s world would look like after you’ve delivered on your promise.

Example:

“By sending the right message at the right time, you can earn more clicks and convert those clicks into leads and sales.”

3. Proof: Backing up your promise with proof. 

Example:

“In fact, when PopularBrand used Social Scheduler to schedule and automate its social media content, they were able to increase traffic by 500% and conversation rates by 108%.”

4. Push: Driving the reader towards action.

Example: 

“See how powerful our tool is for yourself. Create a free account today!”

Optimized CTAs

CTA buttons are the triggers that get people to click through to your landing page. 

The words, color, and placement of these CTAs are all important in inspiring action. Getting them right requires a good understanding of your audience and consistent A/B testing.

Ott Niggulis’s CXL article on mastering the call to action is stacked with actionable strategies to improve your CTA. It’s well worth reading the post in full, but here are some of the key takeaways:

On the copy:

  • Use trigger words: These are the words that inspire action. If your goal is to get a reader to trial your product, “Book a demo” or “Start a free trial” are the triggers. Stick to simple language and do not try to be clever. Make the desired action as easy to understand as possible.
  • Call it what it does: The opposite of clever is vague, in this sense. Don’t do that, either. The button text must explain what the button does. “Download the report” is easy to understand. “Click here to discover what’s inside” is not. 
  • Add benefits: Directly next to the CTA, add copy that boosts value. For example, directly above “Order Now” in Domino’s email, they’ve put “$9.99”. Inserting the low price benefit next to the CTA is enticing and makes it harder to ignore. 

On creating a hypothesis

Ask yourself:

  • What is my prospect’s motivation for clicking this button?: Speak directly to this answer. If the motivation is to buy a retail item “Shop now” makes far more sense than “Head to our website.” The latter doesn’t light up their emotions. Shop now gets you to the same place, but with a purpose behind it. 
  • What is my prospect going to get when they click this button? If you’re sending them a free gift, for example, “Get my gift” is more straightforward than “Click here to see what’s inside.” The former tells the reader that the gift is one simple step away, while the latter is less straightforward and could potentially take more than one step to reach.

On placement:

Use email heatmaps to see how people are interacting with your email content. This will give you a good idea of where CTAs can have the best impact.

For example, this ecommerce example image from Mailchimp shows that the links and image at the top of the page attract the most heat: 

In this instance, it makes sense to place a CTA above the fold. 

To inspire your CTA button design, take a look at these 20 CTA examples put together by Alex Birkett.

Mobile-friendly design

81% of all emails are opened and read on mobile devices. If your email isn’t correctly optimized for the recipient’s device, 80% will delete it immediately. 

The leading email marketing software all offer drag-and-drop email templates designed to work responsively across all devices. 

However, you must create content with the mobile experience in mind. This means:

Putting important content above the fold

Users should immediately know what the purpose of the email is without having to scroll to find out.

If you look back through the examples we’ve used in this article, you can see how every brand has done this. 

Keeping copy concise

Reading text on a smaller device can be a strain on the eyes. Where possible, let images do the talking and use short-form copy to drive the message home.

Newspaper Club’s product announcement is a good example of email design for mobile:

Images give recipients a clear idea of the quality of the product, while brief copy tells readers what’s new.

The reader has all of the information they need to investigate and the email works seamlessly on any device.

Using clear spacing

Space text and CTAs so that they are easy to digest. Keep paragraphs short (no more than three sentences) with space between them to act as resting points for the eyes. 

Where you have key information to get across, consider bullet points. They help skim-readers pick out parts of the copy that grab their attention while easing eye fatigue.

This update from Airbnb is a good example of a well-spaced email: 

Sentences are short and paragraphs are given room to breathe. Bullet points (or in this case, icons) with bolded headers draw attention to the message.

Had this been written as a single block of text much of that information would have been lost. 

Optimizing for tapability

Mobile readers use their fingers and thumbs to scroll emails and click links. Make it easy for them to perform actions with links and buttons that are large enough to click.

Also, ensure that buttons are surrounded by whitespace to prevent the wrong link from being clicked.

Havenly’s product teaser is a great email example:

We can see here that website and social links are clearly spaced so they’re easy to tap. It’s a small detail, but crucial to a positive customer experience. It also means that actions aren’t being taken accidentally and thus distorting your data.  

Conclusion

Effective emails are built on timing: sending the right message to the right people at the right point in their customer journey. 

Getting that timing right is a combination of customer knowledge and your marketing know-how.

Think about where in the customer journey email will be most beneficial to your overall marketing strategy. Then, create segmented and personalized campaigns using the tried-and-trusted elements of high-performing emails to experiment and build templates that inspire action.

If you want to learn more about building lists and maximizing returns, take a look at Jessica Best’s course on becoming great at email marketing.

The post Email Marketing Strategy: Collecting Subscribers, Users & Loyal Customers appeared first on CXL.

A Complete Guide to YouTube Analytics

With more than 2 billion monthly active users and more than a billion hours of content consumed every day, the right Youtube strategy can increase brand awareness, engagement, and conversions.  But, cutting through the noise can be a challenge.  Strategically leveraging YouTube’s robust analytics can help you make data-backed decisions and improve performance. In this […]

The post A Complete Guide to YouTube Analytics appeared first on CXL.

With more than 2 billion monthly active users and more than a billion hours of content consumed every day, the right Youtube strategy can increase brand awareness, engagement, and conversions. 

But, cutting through the noise can be a challenge. 

Strategically leveraging YouTube’s robust analytics can help you make data-backed decisions and improve performance.

In this post, we’ll tell you how to use YouTube analytics to grow your brand and generate more video content views.

Why YouTube analytics is critical for measuring content and paid ad performance

YouTube generated $19.77 billion in ad revenue in 2020. Ahead of both Instagram and Facebook, it has the highest ROI for video content. Done right, YouTube ads are a profitable endeavor.

But you can also accumulate significant exposure and revenue through an organic YouTube strategy. Best practice is to start with organic, understand what techniques work for your content, then boost with paid. 

In both respects, you need to understand if your content and paid media efforts are performing. There are four key reporting areas within YouTube Analytics: 

  • Overview
  • Reach
  • Engagement 
  • Audience 

As with most platforms, there are metrics that matter, and vanity metrics. Similar to app store optimization (ASO), it’s easy to fall into the trap of chasing shallow wins. 

For ASO, this happens when you prioritize downloads over long-term value. Given that most users abandon apps within 30 days post-installation, high downloads don’t lead to high audience retention, satisfaction, or revenue. Time-to-value is much more important.

With YouTube, for organic, average view duration (AVD) and click-through rate (CTR) should be prioritized over YouTube search optimization, descriptions, tags, and other vanity metrics. YouTube elevates videos (and channels) that prove meaningful engagement, which is exactly what AVD and CTR do. 

By elevate, we mean high AVD and CTR can get you into YouTube’s recommendation engine. 70% of the time, content users consume is recommended by YouTube’s AI and algorithm, so you want to be on this ride. 

Why does YouTube elevate AVD and CTR? Both metrics represent high engagement. 

AVD is total watch time divided by total video plays, meaning viewers watch for longer, and sometimes even replay. And a high CTR represents that your hook and thumbnail resonate with your audience enough to click and view.  

Understanding which videos resonate and engage allows you to replicate success and optimize those that fall flat.

Once you do master your organic marketing strategy, you can bring YouTube ads into the game. With the right targeting and content, paid ads can expand your reach and revenue.

As with any marketing play, make sure to align your ads with the stages of the funnel. Choose an ad format and campaign that aligns with your end goals (e.g. are you looking to generate traffic or leads?).  

The three most critical metrics for monitoring ad performance, especially regarding ROI, are View rate, CTR, and Earnings per view. These tell you how many people actually watched your videos, clicked on them, and the money earned per video view. 

Of course, a video with low ROI can still generate awareness, expand impact, and lead to sales. Peripherally, you should monitor all metrics, but prioritize the ones that align with your goals and drive profitable traffic. 

How to implement YouTube analytics

Setting up your YouTube analytics is straightforward. To start, go to your profile in the upper right corner and select YouTube Studio:

Screenshot of YouTube account menu

You’ll see a list of icons and options on the left-hand side of the screen beneath your profile icon. Select Analytics:

Screenshot of YouTube channel options

There are four Channel Analytics tabs in your dashboard (five if you have a Revenue option). Here, you’ll find detailed metrics regarding your account:

Screenshot of YouTube report tabs

For more advanced analytics, select Advanced Mode in the top right corner. This will give you individual metrics for each of your videos: 

Screenshot of YouTube advanced mode

You can also connect YouTube analytics to your Google Analytics (GA) account. This makes it possible to track performance directly from your GA dashboard. 

From your GA dashboard, click the Admin gear icon in the lower left-hand corner:

Screenshot of Google Analytics admin menu

Then, select Create View in the upper right corner. Fill out the form by selecting a view name and choosing your time zone:

Screenshot of Google Analytics view creation

To create a filter that shows only YouTube traffic, select Filters. Name the filter and select Custom:

Screenshot of Google Analytics view filter

Next, click Include and choose Hostname from the drop-down menu. Type “youtube” in the Filter Pattern Box and save:

Screenshot of Google Analytics filter options

Getting the most out of YouTube’s reports 

Here are some of the key reports you can run in YouTube Analytics, and how to leverage them to improve your strategy. 

Overview metrics

The Overview tab is where you’ll find your overall YouTube channel performance analytics including:

  • Subscribers
  • Realtime views
  • Top videos
  • Channel watch time
  • Channel views
Screenshot of YouTube overview report

Use these metrics to identify average trends and get a quick snapshot of channel performance.

For example, subscribers are your most loyal fans. If your goal is to increase loyalty and engagement, pay attention to them. They watch 2x as many videos as non-subscribers. But that’s only if subscribers actually engage with your content and channel. 

You want growing subscribers and growing watch time from subscribers to increase in tandem. This way, you can measure reach next to engagement to monitor if your videos are having the desired effect. 

Reach metrics

If you are creating TOFU videos, the reach metrics is where you’ll learn how viewers are finding your content. Reach metrics include the following reports:

  • Impressions
  • Impressions click-through rate (CTR)
  • Traffic sources
Screenshot of YouTube reach reports

As mentioned above, most people find your content from YouTube’s recommendation engine. Only 15%-25% comes from search. The rest are served up as suggested videos or accessed via browse features: 

Screenshot of YouTube report traffic source types

You should still optimize videos to rank for keywords, especially if awareness and reaching a larger audience is important. But Google prioritizes “Video Keywords” when it comes to ranking. Video Keywords represent keywords that already are tied to videos on the platform. 

Brian Dean puts it this way:

“In my experience, if you optimize your video around a keyword that doesn’t already have a video in Google, it’s going to be VERY hard for it to rank. The simplest way to find Video Keywords is to search for your potential keyword in Google. If you see at least one video result in the top 10, great. If not, you may want to consider a different keyword.”

Don’t waste your time trying to make a nonvideo keyword rank. Also, focus on video keywords that have a result in one of the top three spots in Google. 55% of all clicks come from these top-ranking keywords.

Engagement metrics

For your MOFU content, focus on the Engagement metrics tab. This gives you insights into how viewers are interacting with your videos, including: 

  • Average view duration
  • Top playlists and cards
  • Top videos and top videos by end screen
Screenshot of YouTube channel analytics

We’ve explained why AVD is given so much weight in the recommendation engine. But what about playlists?

Good playlists promote replays. With playlist reports, you can see how individual playlists are contributing to your channel’s performance. Also, session watch time increases every time people watch your playlists. This is important.

Session watch time, like AVD, shows how long viewers spend interacting with your content. Longer sessions lead to better engagement. YouTube loves this, as it means people are spending more time on their platform. 

One way to optimize session watch time is to optimize playlists. An easy trick is to make adjustments to the video order. If you have a poor-performing playlist (or an old one that’s lost traction), simply reorder the individual videos based on video performance.

Use Analytics to see which videos are being viewed the most and move them to the top of the playlist:

Screenshot of YouTube report top video content

By frontloading the most engaging videos, you hook your audience in and boost the chances they’ll stay around for the duration of the playlist.

Also, make sure your playlists align with your core messaging. Who is your channel for? What is that person trying to achieve? We target experienced marketers looking to scale and drive conversions, so our playlists speak to the topics they care about:

Screenshot of CXL's YouTube channel

Audience metrics

The audience tab will show you who is watching your content. Here’s what you’ll find:

  • Unique viewers
  • Returning viewers
  • Watch time from subscribers
  • When viewers are on YouTube
  • Audience demographics
  • Top geographies
Screenshot of YouTube channel analytics and audience metrics

We mentioned watch time from subscribers earlier. This metric matters because subscribers alone can be a vanity metric. 

But subscribers that engage are like rewards members that make frequent purchases. Their intent (subscribing, or signing up for a program) actually matches their behavior (watching videos, or making purchases to unlock rewards).

To increase subscribers, make sure you have a great UVP. Potential subscribers must understand:

  • Who you are
  • Why they should care
  • What makes you different
  • What value they’ll get from subscribing

Create a compelling trailer that answers these questions right off the bat. And make sure to include CTAs at the end of every video.

Revenue metrics

This tab isn’t available for everyone’s YouTube analytics. If your account is eligible for monetization features, then this tab helps you track your earnings. To become eligible, you have to be accepted into the YouTube Partner Program (YPP).

To qualify to join YPP and run ads on YouTube videos, you need to have more than 1,000 subscribers and more than 4,000 valid public watch hours in the last 12 months.

Here are some of the reports that live within monetization:

  • Estimated revenue and estimated ad revenue
  • Revenue Per Mille (RPM)
  • Transaction revenue
  • Estimated monetized playbacks

Earlier, we noted that View rate, CTR, and Earnings per view matter above all. You can access key YouTube Ads metrics by creating reports from within your Google Ads account: 

Screenshot of Google Ads menu

If your ads aren’t effective, they’ll have a low view rate, which signifies people are skipping them. A low CTR means few people are clicking on your ad, so it’s not generating interest. Low earnings per view can mean a number of things. 

If you have high view rates and CTR, but low earnings, there’s clearly a barrier to purchase. For example, a CTA that prompts putting money down in a TOFU ad (the CTA here should be to learn more, not hand over money just yet). Or, your landing page could be broken, or have broken CTAs within it.

As for the revenue you can see from YouTube Analytics, RPM is important because it gives you a snapshot of ad earnings per 1,000 views. It represents revenue after YouTube takes their share, so it’s net earnings rather than gross: 

YouTube's RPM announcement on Twitter

With this data, you can better contextualize earnings while still measuring which videos have the most impact. 

How to optimize video content by analyzing your competitors 

Comparing your content to competitors in your industry helps identify gaps and opportunities in your strategy. You can find what’s trending in your niche, what type of audience base your competitors have, and what elements are successful in their videos.

You don’t need additional software or expensive tools to conduct a competitor analysis. 

Identify competitors in your industry

Find competitors on YouTube by searching for similar products, services, locations, and keywords. Make a list of a few competitors that have an active presence and a strong following.

For example, if you owned a content marketing agency, you could look for “B2B content marketing agency” or “content marketing” to see who has videos that rank:

YouTube competitor research example

You can also use keyword research tools, like Ahrefs and SEMrush, to augment your competitor research.  

In Ahrefs, set the Keyword Explorer Report to YouTube and search for “content marketing”. This will let you view search volume and identify potential ancillary keywords to target: 

Screenshot of keyword data from Ahrefs

You can’t leverage this to see who’s currently ranking for these keywords, but you can use it to identify what content to produce next. (Remember, videos that are tied to top-ranking keywords are easier to rank for yourself.)

Review their video content

Look through the competition’s videos, and analyze the following: 

  • What type of content is getting high engagement? 
  • What type of videos are they creating? 

Take outdoor-products brand Yeti. Their YouTube page is built for brand storytelling. Almost every video tells a story, and only sometimes features their products. 

Importantly, every video involves somebody doing something in nature, and people that spend time outdoors are their target audience:

Screenshot of Yeti's YouTube videos

Clearly, it’s working. Not only do they have high view counts, they have extremely positive engagement:

Screenshot of Yeti's YouTube comments

If Yeti was one of your competitors, it would be worth seeing if storytelling resonates with your audience, too. 

Freemium tools like BuzzSumo can help you turbocharge this research. You can analyze all of their content, see what gets the most shares, analyze the keywords they are ranking for, monitor content performance, and explore untapped growth opportunities (that they are ignoring). 

And, Tubebuddy is well-known among Youtube marketers as the browser extension of choice for more views and subscribers. The platform is designed to help you research, publish, optimize, promote, and test content quickly. The extension comes with advanced keyword research, time-saving templates and tools, and simplified A/B testing. 

Conclusion

YouTube is an excellent platform to build brand awareness, engage an audience, and generate revenue.

On its own, YouTube analytics is a powerful tool that can be used to grow your reach and revenue. Paired with Google Analytics and data-gathering tools, you can focus on metrics that matter and hone in on what’s working (and where there’s room for improvement). 

Be sure to regularly monitor your metrics to stay on top of trends and keep tabs on your competitors to take advantage of opportunities in your niche.

The post A Complete Guide to YouTube Analytics appeared first on CXL.

How to Create an Effective Branding Campaign That Inspires a Movement

Brand is the perception of your company in the eyes of the world. It’s shorthand for who and what you are.  Getting branding right gives people a reason to love you, which they’ll reward with loyalty. Getting it wrong, however, can create an impression you may never be able to change. In this article, you’ll […]

The post How to Create an Effective Branding Campaign That Inspires a Movement appeared first on CXL.

Brand is the perception of your company in the eyes of the world. It’s shorthand for who and what you are. 

Getting branding right gives people a reason to love you, which they’ll reward with loyalty. Getting it wrong, however, can create an impression you may never be able to change.

In this article, you’ll learn what’s required to create a branding campaign that strikes the right chord. We’ll look at the importance of strategy and cover the key ingredients a campaign needs to increase brand awareness. We’ll also give you creative fuel by breaking down how Lemonade has used branding to disrupt the market.

Branding strategy is more than a series of gimmicks

When we start in business one of the first things we’re encouraged to do is nail the branding: come up with a memorable brand name, a good logo, and a striking visual brand identity. These elements are important in making you recognizable. 

If you were to show a group of people the Apple logo, most would associate it with Apple the tech company and not a Red Delicious. The same goes for all of the major tech and consumer companies in the world: Facebook, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Nike, etc. 

If people see your name or logo and instantly know who you are, you’ve done a great job of creating the tangible aspects of your brand. 

But it’s what people feel when they see your brand that matters. 

Reading the company names we just mentioned probably triggered feelings and associations in you. These feelings are called brand associations; the stronger the brand association, the more likely a consumer will buy from you.

As companies, we don’t directly control these feelings. They’re intangible and personal to each individual. But we can indirectly influence them. In fact, everything we do influences how people feel, for better or worse.

This is where a good brand strategy comes in. It’s also why campaigns can’t ever be led by gimmicks. 

“Today’s audiences can smell a gimmick. Sometimes, they uncover the baloney within the first line of your ad content. They are more aware of marketing gimmicks than ever before. And, these potential customers no longer tolerate false promises and astounding claims. Instead, consumers want transparency and honesty from brands.”

– Steve Olenski [via Forbes]

Brand strategy helps influence how people perceive your brand. It maps out where you’re headed and helps you work out what (and what not) to do. It carries you into every campaign knowing the message you need to get across and how to say it. 

“A good definition of brand strategy is the considered intent for the positive role a company wants to play in the lives of the people it serves and the communities around it.”

– Neil Parker, Chief Strategy Officer at Co: Collective [via Branding Mag]

It also gives your brand the robust foundations to handle scrutiny and bounce back if ever you do get things wrong.

For example, when Nike made a shoe featuring the Besty Ross flag to commemorate the July Fourth holiday, it was a gimmick that went wrong. The company was immediately called out on the flag celebrating an era in U.S. history when slavery was legal and commonplace. Nike quickly recalled the product.

The campaign will have left a sour taste that negatively affects how some people view Nike. However, because the company’s brand strategy is rooted in empowering its audience and building community, it was able to apologize and move forward without significant loss.

Had this strategy not been in place, a misjudged shoe could have easily defined mass brand perception.

To generate long-term brand equity and trust, and maintain competitive advantage, every brand campaign should be influenced by a strategy that’s built on four principles:

1. Purpose

Purpose is your reason for existing. It’s the answer to the question at the heart of Simon Sinek’s famous Golden Circle presentation: Why?

“Every single person, every single organization on the planet knows what they do, 100 percent. Some know how they do it, whether you call it your differentiated value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP. But very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by “why” I don’t mean “to make a profit.” That’s a result. It’s always a result. 

By “why,” I mean: What’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? As a result, the way we think, we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in, it’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations — regardless of their size, regardless of their industry — all think, act and communicate from the inside out.”

Beyond being a successful, profitable business, what drives you? What sets you apart?

Answering these questions will help you define your purpose and separate you from the crowd so that your voice isn’t lost in the noise. It will give you that unique quality for people to attach themselves to and follow along with.

2. Positioning

How do you want people to feel about you? 

Apple positions itself as a brand that builds beautiful, innovative tech for innovative, imaginative, and creative people. 

HubSpot positions itself as a company that builds tools to help businesses attract and engage customers. 

Thrive Market is positioned as a provider of healthy food products for busy, eco-conscious shoppers.

If you’re unsure about where to position yourself, do some competitive analysis to identify gaps in the market and carve out your place.

3. Promise

Your brand promise talks to your employees, investors, partners, and customers. It lets people know what to expect.

McDonald’s brand promise is “to provide Simple Easy Enjoyment to every customer at every visit.” 

McDonald's brand promise

Noirbnb promises to “create a safe space for POC to travel and discover new adventures.”

Your promise is the combination of your position, value, and proposition.

Position + Value + Proposition = Promise

It should be relevant to your audience and simply explain how you aim to help or inspire them.

4. Consistency

Consistency is the look, feel, and sound of your brand at every touchpoint. All of your messaging should be cohesive so that it never waters down your brand or confuses your audience.

Why is this important?

Because consistency creates familiarity, which is crucial in onboarding customers. 

71% of consumers say that it is very or somewhat important that they recognize a brand before making a purchase. 

If we couple this with the “rule of seven” which states that it takes an average of seven interactions with your brand before a purchase will take place, it’s clear consumers will favor familiarity over the unknown.

Brand consistency is evident in every successful company.

Take Mailchimp. Its content style guide ensures branding campaigns have the same tone of voice across all marketing channels. 

“Using offbeat humor and a conversational voice, we play with language to bring joy to their work. We prefer the subtle over the noisy, the wry over the farcical. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.

“Whether people know what they need from us or don’t know the first thing about marketing, every word we say informs and encourages. We impart our expertise with clarity, empathy, and wit.”

You can see this in everything from its website:

Mailchimp's home page

To its social media:

Tweet from Mailchimp

Regardless of how or where you find Mailchimp online, the company’s branding always delivers a consistent perception of a company that aims to help small businesses “look pro and grow.

Use your marketing strategy to ensure campaigns never dilute your brand perception. 

Keeping these four principles in mind, let’s look at an example of a company using branding to stand out.

How Lemonade positions itself in a crowded market

Lemonade is an online insurance company offering low-cost renters’ and homeowners’ insurance.

From the name alone, you get a sense that the company is different. Lemonade couldn’t be further away from the likes of Berkshire Hathaway and Allstate Insurance. Those names sound corporate. Lemonade sounds, in the words of its CEO Daniel Schreiber, “juvenile.”

But it works, for a couple of reasons. First, as Bud Hennekes points out in breaking down the brand’s positioning:

“For many, the thought of lemonade brings back memories of a pleasant childhood experience or the refreshing sensation of cooling down after a hot summer day. Contrast that to how one feels when hearing the word ‘insurance.’ There’s quite a difference.”

Second, the company’s whole M.O. is about being contrarian.

“Traditional insurers often equate trustworthiness with financial strength, which they project by erecting monumental buildings that dominate the skyline.

“Skyscrapers weren’t within our budget, but in any event we believed such extravagance sends the wrong signal. People worry their insurer lacks the will to pay, not the means. So we established Lemonade as a Public Benefit Corporation, with a view to signaling something very different.” [via Lemonade]

Lemonade is for people who want a change from the norm:

“Lemonade isn’t simply slapping P2P technology atop existing insurance companies. Insurance has remained fundamentally unchanged for centuries, so an insurance product for today’s consumer required re-architecting every part of the value chain. We created Lemonade as a purpose-built, technology-first, vertically integrated and legacy-free insurance carrier.

“Insurance brands are some of the least loved and least trusted, and we came to understand that the cause is structural: every dollar your insurer pays you is a dollar less for their profits. Their interests, in other words, are profoundly conflicted with yours.

“Brands that make money by delighting their customers deserve to be loved; those that make money by disappointing customers are destined not to be. With Lemonade we’re hoping to deliver an insurance experience that is instantaneous, un-conflicted and downright lovable.” [via Lemonade]

Its name fits with the brand’s lovable intentions. As does its identity.

Rather than opt for stock imagery, Lemonade uses illustrations on its landing pages. These add to the laid-back, non-corporate feel of the brand and complement the fun name.

Lemonade's value proposition

The tone of voice follows suit, delivering information in a light, conversational tone that carries through its website, blog posts, and social media content marketing.

Lemonade's brand mission

It all helps towards Lemonade’s image as a transparent company that understands and relates to its audience.  

Also prominent in its branding is the color pink. 

Explanation of how Lemonade's model works

Other than black and grey, pink is the only color Lemonade uses. And it uses it consistently, in its logo, across its website in images, text, and CTAs, and on social media. 

Pink is drastically different from the palettes used by Lemonade’s competitors, helping them stand out. It’s also a color associated with calmness, love, and kindness. These are feelings you wouldn’t typically link to insurance, but they’re perfectly in tune with what Lemonade wants people to feel about its brand. 

Its use of pink also became part of a branding campaign when Deutsche Telekom went to the courts to demand they ditch it, as Daniel Schreiber revealed in a blog post:

“So we decided to fight back, and filed to invalidate DT’s Magenta trademark – calling on anyone who wanted to join us to #FreeThePink. We also bought a bunch of swag from DT and T-Mobile, and Team Lemonade got decked out in “their” pink, emblazoned with their mission statement: “Life Is For Sharing.” Who can argue with that?”

“The response has been amazing: the largest publications in Germany covered the story prominently, as did the media across Europe and the US; several CEOs of companies from a bunch of industries and countries wrote to say Deutsche Telekom threatened them too, and encouraging us to stand firm; and people around the world came out in droves calling to #FreeThePink.”

Had Lemonade not been as consistent and committed to the use of the color, it’s unlikely the campaign would have carried the same weight. 

For a final example of how Lemonade does things differently, take a look at the company’s Instagram feed.

Rather than using the platform to push its own content, the company puts the spotlight on its community, commissioning artists to create stories:

Lemonade's Instagram profile

This is closely tied to the company’s Medium account, which promotes its #ConnectedByLemonade campaign.

Snippet from Lemonade's Medium profile

This gives Lemonade an endless stream of engaging branded content (the color pink is a feature of each commission). It also adds to its perception as a company that cares about its audience. 

There’s no selling going on here, just relationship building.

For existing customers, #ConnectedByLemonade brings them closer to the brand, increasing loyalty and making them more likely to purchase and recommend Lemonade to others. 

For prospective customers, it acts as one more way to stay front of mind. When the time comes to purchase renters’ or homeowners’ insurance, where better to get it from than the cool brand on Instagram that’s passionate about the same things you are?

And if you’re wondering what kind of impact this branding had, three years after launch, Lemonade’s had welcomed over 18 million visitors to its website and sold over 1.2 million policies.

How to create a solid branding campaign

With strategy providing the backbone, a successful brand marketing campaign consists of three key ingredients:

1. Fit

2. Focus

3. Consistency (again)

1. Find the right fit

You need to think about this in two ways:

1. Audience fit

2. Platform and channel fit

Audience fit

Audience fit is much the same as product/market fit. If you already have a deep understanding of who your customers are and how they feel about your product, you’ll have a good idea of who your branding campaign needs to be aimed at. 

But it pays to revisit your target audience demographics. Not so much to go back over buyer persona characteristics like age, location, job, income, and gender (although it’s worth checking if these remain relevant), but to look how your campaign will resonate with them.

Ask yourself:

  • What do we have in common with our audience?
  • How does our brand fit into their lives?
  • What can they expect from us?
  • What do we want them to feel about us?  

Answering these questions will give you an understanding of what your common vision is and how you can build relationships with your audience moving forward. 

Let’s look again at Noirbnb’s vision to create a safe space for POC to travel and discover new adventures.

Noirbnb shares a love of travel and the desire for POC to be able to travel safely with its audience.

It fits into their lives by allowing them to book safe places to stay or list their properties for other people to stay. Its branding is heavily focused on showcasing experiences and inspiring people to embark on their own adventures.

Instagram post from Noirbnb

This makes travelers of color feel confident in Noirbnb as a company that caters for them in a way that Airbnb perhaps doesn’t.

2. Platform and channel fit

Platforms and channels are terms that are often used interchangeably, but there’s a clear distinction.

“Platforms are the foundation on which you can build your brand presence, such as the web, phone apps, social media, and gadgets.

“Channels serve as a more direct means of communication and include email, advertising, search engines, chatbots, phone, and more.” [via Digital Brand Blueprint]

The overall goal of your branding campaign is the same regardless of where the message is, but how you communicate it differs depending on the platform or channel.

For example, Lemonade’s Instagram artist commissions are perfectly suited to that platform. The Instagram audience is largely creative and receptive to images and videos. 

Had Lemonade decided to approach Twitter in the same way, where the average lifespan of a tweet is 15 minutes, or the professional audience of LinkedIn, content marketing wouldn’t have had the same impact. 

Instead, the company uses Twitter to share news and engage in direct conversations.

Twitter content from Lemonade

The tone of voice and pink theme is consistent, but the approach matches the audience.    

Find out where your audience is. Then work out how they interact with the platform or channel.

This will involve some trial and error, especially early on. So be prepared to experiment and analyze results to get in tune.  

Measure brand awareness metrics and KPIs success by analyzing:

  • Coverage
  • Share of voice
  • Mentions
  • Shares
  • Traffic
  • Links
  • Conversations

Also, pay close attention to sentiment to get an understanding of how consumers feel about your brand.

You can measure sentiment via:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS) Questionnaires
  • In-app ratings
  • Direct feedback (customer interviews)
  • Social monitoring (comment velocity and tone, and reaction tone)

2. Focus on things that are important to you and your audience

Your brand is defined by the words you say and the actions you take. And while speaking up on potentially divisive issues isn’t always easy, staying silent isn’t an option.

Kantar research shows that 68% of consumers say they expect brands to be clear about their values and take a stand on them. And doing so earns trust.

Edelman’s Trust Barometer report shows that brands are far more likely to gain trust than lose it when they take action. 

This is rewarded by loyalty, engagement, and advocacy. 

“Loyalty: 75 percent of people with high brand trust say they will buy the brand’s product even if it isn’t the cheapest, it is the only brand of the product they’ll buy, and they will immediately check out a new product from that brand to purchase 

Engagement: 60 percent of people with high brand trust say they’re comfortable sharing personal information with the brand, and they pay attention to the brand’s communications 

Advocacy: 78 percent with high brand trust say they’ll likely share or repost content about the brand, they will recommend the brand to others, and they will defend the brand against criticism.” [via Edelman]

If an issue of social, political, or environmental importance matters to your employees, purpose, and audience, make it a visible part of your branding campaign.

Dropbox did this with its support for the Black Lives Matter movement, sharing an email from CEO Drew Houston with its community:

“…starting today, I’m making an additional pledge to match every donation made by a Dropboxer in June to the Black Lives Matter Foundation, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Urban League. This is in addition to the company matching program, so it means that your contribution will have triple the impact.”

“For those who can’t give right now, there is still much that can be done by getting involved with your local organizations. Even taking the time to hit pause, look inward, and reflect on your own thoughts and actions can be immensely impactful right now. To help you all find the time and space to do this, we’ll be holding a half day of reflection this Friday, June 5th. Please cancel your meetings after 12pm so that you have the afternoon to do whatever is most valuable to you — volunteering, reading, or taking a moment to process everything that’s happened over these past several weeks. We just ask that you make the best use of the time given your own thoughts and experiences.”

Tommy Hilfiger ran a branding campaign involving a partnership with learning platform, Future Learn to provide free digital learning courses covering topics including LGBTQ+ allyship and community building.

Tweet from FutureLearn

Pernod Ricard launched an #EngageResponsibly campaign with the Association of National Advertisers to fight against hate speech and misinformation on social media.

Branding campaign example from Pernod Ricard

The campaign aims to give companies a tool to track and report hate speech and earn an “Anti-Hate Certification”. 

In each example, brands have been led by purpose. They’ve also backed words with actions and empowered their communities.

Go back to the question of what do we have in common with our audience?

Look at how to use these shared values for social good.

3. Be consistent

We’ve covered consistency from an identity perspective (i.e visual and tone of voice consistency), but let’s go beyond that.

Consistency should be a feature of everything you do so that people know what to expect from you.

This means three things:

1. Posting regularly on social media

2. Engaging with your audience

3. Never setting and leaving a campaign

1. Posting on social media regularly 

There’s no need to post multiple times a day or even every day if you don’t have the resources or it doesn’t make sense for your brand. Still, your audience should know you’re active.

For example, posting on Facebook six times in one week and following that up with two months of silence runs the risk of your audience perceiving you’re no longer active. Or worse, that you don’t care. It’s much better to post once a week over six weeks. 

2. Engaging with customers

Prioritize customer engagement on every platform and channel linked to your campaign. This is important for brand satisfaction, as 64% of consumers say they want brands to connect with them. 

It’s also crucial to the customer experience, with 78% of customers preferring to engage with brands on multiple channels.   

To make sure you’re meeting customer needs and generating good feeling, consistently engage customers in three ways:

1. Reactively

Responding to customer questions, queries, or feedback. 

You can see this in practice on MailChimp’s Twitter feed.

Twitter conversation between Mailchimp and a user

With reactive customer engagement, it’s important to monitor your mentions and inbox closely.

Sprout Social research shows that 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media, while 79% expect a response in the first 24 hours.

On email, nearly half of all customers (46%) expect a response within four hours. 12% expect a response in 15 minutes or less. 

The quicker you can react, the better.

2. Proactively

This is all about delivering information and support before the customer has to ask. Forbes’ Brie Tascione has an example:

“Consider banking. The moment you open a checking account, a number of questions about your new account may arise. Instead of leaving you to navigate the bank’s website to find the information you need or telling you to call customer service (just to wait on hold), your bank immediately reaches out to share your account information, a link to activate mobile banking and answers to common questions, such as how to set up a direct deposit. You receive one personalized experience containing everything you need.”

This has nothing to do with brand (the name and visual stuff) and everything to do with branding. 

By understanding your customers and delivering a seamless experience, you can create positive brand experiences that carry through to a customer’s friends, family, and followers via word of mouth. 

3. Socially

Social engagement is less about where you engage customers with your digital marketing and more about how.

“Social customer engagement can happen not just on social media platforms, but across other channels such as online forums, customer review websites, crowdsourcing platforms, charity fun runs, roadshows, and trade events.

“Social engagement can be both, a mix of proactive and reactive types of customer engagement, depending on the context. If a customer initiates an engagement first, it’s reactive. When your brand does it first, it’s proactive.” [via RingCentral]

We’ve already seen how Lemonade and Mailchimp use a casual tone of voice and humor to engage their audiences on social media. But there are inspiring examples everywhere.

Like IKEA, which utilizes online chat and augmented reality so that customers can choose furniture without having to visit a store.

Or Netflix, which provides social engagement by using algorithms and audience analytics to recommend shows and movies based on their viewing history. 

Each example shares two things in common:

1. Brands are open to listening to their customers and adapting

2. They provide a valuable reason to come back

3. Never setting and leaving a campaign

A branding campaign is a hands-on effort that needs to be measured, assessed, and tweaked as you go.

Keep a close eye on how your campaign is performing. Make sure it’s striking the right chord with the right people and hitting your targets.

A/B test ad campaigns and marketing campaign materials to see which customers most engage with.

Remember, you can’t directly control what people think about your brand, but your marketing efforts can indirectly influence it.

Consistently analyzing your campaigns will keep things moving in the right direction.

Conclusion 

Jeff Bezos once said that “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”.
Think about that when creating your branding campaign. What impression do you want people to have of you? What do you want them to say about you to their friends and family? It’s this that will determine whether your branding and, ultimately, your business is a success.

Start by developing your strategy and build every campaign from that. Stand up for what you believe in and invest heavily in consistency. Be visible so that your customers know what to expect. That familiarity and reliability is what will keep them coming back.

The post How to Create an Effective Branding Campaign That Inspires a Movement appeared first on CXL.

Build vs. Buy: Which is Right for Your Business?

Product leaders often believe it’s cheaper to buy software than build it. But that’s not always the case. You don’t need a large development team or outside capital to build your own software from scratch.  Whether you decide to build or buy, the technology you adopt must align with your business goals. In this post, […]

The post Build vs. Buy: Which is Right for Your Business? appeared first on CXL.

Product leaders often believe it’s cheaper to buy software than build it. But that’s not always the case. You don’t need a large development team or outside capital to build your own software from scratch. 

Whether you decide to build or buy, the technology you adopt must align with your business goals.

In this post, we’re sharing a build vs. buy framework to help you consider the opportunity costs and make an informed decision on whether to buy software off the shelf or build a custom solution.

How to decide when to build versus buy: A decision framework

Gartner forecasts enterprise software spending will total almost $572 billion worldwide by 2022. Companies are investing in enterprise software not just as a platform to run their business on, but the engine that moves it forward.

Whatever option you choose, it must bring real business value. Typically, this value falls into one of three categories:

  1. Differentiation: The features you’re looking to build or acquire will help you stand out among your competitors. Nobody else is offering it, but your customer research has identified a need among your existing users.
  2. Market maturity: Conversely, competitors are investing in a new featureset and thus, they’ve become table stakes. You need to build or buy these features to keep up.
  3. Market share: You may already be a category leader, and growth requires you to expand into new verticals.

Business requirements trump features. Building or buying software that doesn’t align with your business goals or meaningfully help you stand out can be wasteful.

Here are the key factors you’ll need to consider.

The problem your new software or technology will solve

Investing in acquiring or building new software can help you solve a specific problem; one you’re suffering from internally or a pain-point your customers are looking to overcome.

A common barrier to investing in specific solutions often comes from a lack of core competencies. The skills, technology, or experience to build in-house are lacking.

Therefore, acquiring existing software can provide you with a cookie-cutter solution. It can be less costly and faster to implement a “pre-made” solution.

If nobody else has solved your problem, finding existing solutions may be tricky. This is especially true if you’ve found a better way of solving it than existing products in the market.

The scope of the project

To build a new product or featureset, you must fully understand the scope of the project, resources required, and potential costs before enlisting in-house developers.

Poor project planning can lead to development cycles running over budget or over time. Worse, you may end up with a sub-par product because you simply didn’t have the resources to build what you needed.

To avoid these pitfalls, ensure your project scope includes the following:

  1. Clearly defined documentation: Building out user stories and acceptance criteria will help your team understand the value your solution must deliver to users.
  2. Communication and accountability: Avoid misinterpreting requirements by having regular all-hands meetings. Make sure everybody understands the information that is being communicated. Centralize your communication using project and task management tools.
  3. Stakeholder engagement: Keep senior decision makers and the boardroom informed and involved during the entire project cycle. Seeking their feedback at each milestone will ensure the project keeps on track.

In-house teams need the right project management systems and processes to ensure the build stays on schedule and within budget.

Resources, costs, and time needed to complete

The costs associated with building or buying software go deeper than resources and price tags. Proprietary software will have more cost considerations, but even existing software has customizable and ala carte options that add up fast.

Say you decide to build software in-house. How many people will be contributing? And for how long? New development projects will shift resources from other initiatives.

No-code/low-code solutions can reduce costs and development cycles, and are forecast to grow to 23% by the end of 2021. But no-code software can come with the added cost of technical debt.

Technical debt happens from unexpected bugs and additional development work that results from using short-term solutions (like templates or open-source code). When going the no-code/low-code route, make sure you account for these risks. Bugs can be difficult to identify unless properly QA tested.

Integrations

When building or acquiring new technology, integrations must go deeper than “connecting with Zapier.” 

Will your new product need to integrate with your existing product? If there’s an issue integrating the software, who will fix it?

Get clear on the integration plan in your project scope and documentation. If you’re building new technology, get clear on how it will work with your existing software (if it needs to). When buying, evaluate the development languages your acquisition is built on to understand how complex the integration process will be.

Ongoing support once the project is wrapped

Product development and maintenance are important, but you’ll also need customer support when you launch your new product, featureset, or conduct a handover.

58% of American consumers will switch to a competitor due to a bad customer experience. If your customers can’t access the support they need, it won’t matter how impressive your solution is.

Do this by developing training for your customer success teams. Launching to a small cohort of users allows you to identify recurring issues or questions. Use these to guide your customer support processes.

When you can expect to see a positive ROI

Time-to-value also has a direct impact on ROI. Will the software be a part of your business’s core offering? Can you realistically expect the ROI to lead to compound growth?

Shifting requirements is a common hurdle to reducing time-to-value. Development teams must complete the project in a reasonable time frame while making sure the end product solves the problem it set out to.

The faster you can deliver a product and drive value (to the business and customers alike), the stronger your upper hand against the competition will be.

Other associated risks

Risks vary based on whether you develop or purchase software. Consider:

  • What are the security risks?
  • Who is responsible for issues or bugs?
  • What happens if the project goes over budget?
  • How likely is it that the software development will be delayed?
  • What are the risks of working with a particular vendor or platform?

These should all be accounted for in your project scope and development plan.

When to build custom software in-house 

Building custom software makes sense if the problem is difficult to solve, complex, or accessible via your product and development team’s capabilities.

The software is tied to your company’s core competencies 

Look at your most valuable services or core competencies when deciding what software to build.

If your company specializes in email marketing software, building an email deliverability tool in-house would align with your core company competency.

Custom-built accounting software would not.

Specialized competencies can lead to a “snowflake” scenario. The problem you’re looking to solve is so aligned with your software or service that retrofitting an existing software to meet your needs would be too expensive or impractical.

For example, Penske started offering logistics solutions back in the 1980s. Today, they continue to implement proprietary technology and recently launched a truck rental app

Screenshot of Penske's mobile app (acquired)

A truck rental app is a competitive advantage for Penske:

  • It simplifies the logistics for customers planning a move
  • It drives more awareness for Penske’s locations
  • I tprovides a friction-less way to make reservations

You need full control

If your operational processes or software need drastic changes, waiting on a third party can negatively impact time-to-value. Owning the development process gives you complete control over the product roadmap, data, and ongoing support.

For example, WordPress development agency Aktura created a custom client portal, called Content Snare, after feeling frustrated with existing solutions on the market. Their team was spending hours on repetitive administrative and data-entry tasks to collect necessary onboarding documents from clients.

This solution streamlined the process for onboarding new clients and led to higher customer retention rates. Having full control over the product roadmap, they were able to spin off, rebrand, and sell their software to other agencies and web development shops.

Most out-of-the-box software or low-code platforms may struggle to fully integrate with your existing solutions. Developing your own solution will ensure it has full connectivity.

You have excellent project management and support systems in place

Reliable project management systems are critical for successful development cycles. They’ll help you keep your projects on budget and on time, ensuring you stay the course and solve the problem you set out to when starting this journey.

Take into account potential issues like gold plating and scope creep that could delay the process. Ensure enough resources are dedicated to the teams in charge of bringing your software to life.

You can take advantage of economies of scale

The benefits of your software should compound over time. 

For instance, you might build a tool for sales reps that reduces the time it takes to conduct high-impact activities. The more they use your tools, the more deals they’ll close in less time.

If software decreases in value as it ages, even with proper maintenance, it might make sense to pivot to a cheaper, pre-made solution that can fill a temporary need instead.

This starts by building out a new solution. As the software becomes fully built, you’ll need to create a migration plan to transition all users and data onto the new platform with little interruption.

You have outgrown your existing software

This isn’t uncommon for growing businesses. What once worked to scale your business may soon reach a ceiling as your product and growth goals become more aggressive.

Uber moved away from Greenhouse and Zendesk to build their own user support platform. While they shared positive case studies with both companies, eventually they needed a more cost-effective solution that aligned with how users interact with their platform.

When to “buy” and adapt existing software 

If the problem is well defined, common in your industry, and software can solve 70% of it, then you should consider buying, acquiring, and adapting existing software.

Market expansion: The problem you’re solving is outside core competencies

Many companies build software that doesn’t align with their core competencies and waste their investment as a result.

There’s no point in making a large investment to create software that already exists or you won’t fully utilize. If you’re trying to solve a common problem that isn’t specific to your company, it’s likely that the right commercial software is out there waiting for you.

This approach works well if you’re looking to capture existing market share. For example, if you’re a category leader in the CRM space and looking to step into marketing automation, then it’d make sense to acquire an email marketing platform to expand your capabilities.

You have strict time, budget, or internal resources constraints

Predicting when it’s time to move on can be easy as software slowly becomes obsolete. However, surprises happen, and a change may be forced on your due to market conditions or explosive growth.

For instance, the pandemic changed the software needs of companies across the world. You don’t always have the luxury of time. Even with the procurement process, you can still deploy existing software faster than a custom build.

Adobe Experience Platform has witnessed competing companies investing up to three years in developing software and features from their product suite. Many of these companies were still not able to meet the needs of the market.

Software requirements and consumer demands shift fast. Your software must keep pace as it’s being built. Developers must adapt as the project progresses or risk launching an already outdated product.

You have internal resource constraints

You may not have the time, funds, or staff needed to build software from scratch. After the software is built, you’ll still need to dedicate resources to maintaining and supporting the software.

For many companies, this isn’t feasible. Resources that were dedicated to the initial project need to move on to other initiatives. And if the support workload exceeds the capacity of your existing customer success teams, you’ll struggle to keep up with the influx of tickets.

To overcome this hurdle, you’ll need both the technological resources of the software you’re buying and the people that drive its success.

When to acquire a company outright  

There’s a happy medium between using existing software and building a solution from scratch. 

Here’s how to decide if acquiring a software or SaaS company is right for you.

You share core competencies

Take your time to research the company you plan to acquire. Do their core competencies align with yours? If not, you’ll run into the same issues when buying and retrofitting existing software. 

Say you are a leading email marketing software. Acquiring an up-and-coming competitor, who is growing exponentially, is a smart move. 

This competitor has an overlapping audience. Acquiring them as a startup allows your company to capture market share at an attractive price.

You see an existing differentiation 

The company’s software could have significant market share or product differentiation that would be difficult to replicate.

If acquiring the company is cheaper than building the capabilities from scratch, it’s worth pursuing. They’ve already invested the time and resources in developing the solution so you don’t have to.

This is especially true if the company has proprietary technology. If there’s a patent for a cutting-edge AI development, replicating their approach in your solution violates their IP. The workaround? Buy them.

You can tap into network effects or economies of scale

In 2017, Target acquired Shipt, a grocery delivery service. In 2020, it was announced they’ll acquire Deliv:

Screenshot of Shipt delivery (acquired by Target)

These acquisitions gave them new technologies, a fresh user base, and the transportation logistics that made them a success.

This proved to be a major competitive advantage in 2020 with the first and second-order effects from the pandemic.  

Owning the software outright and having an in-house team at Target manage it gives them complete control over the product roadmap, data, and support.

You have the potential to acquire key talent and customers

By acquiring a business, you also acquire their employees. It’s a strategic way to hire specific talent or leadership capabilities your company is actively seeking.

For instance, if you want to build out your team’s software developing capabilities, acquiring a company founded by a niche, senior software engineer can help you do that. 

Just as acquiring talent, buying a business gives you their entire customer and user base. In this way, company acquisitions foster growth in all areas.

If you are ranked second in a competitive market, acquiring the third or fourth player can help you grow your customer base and create leverage to become a category leader.

Conclusion

Deciding whether to build or buy comes down to competencies, capabilities, and growth goals. If you have the internal chops to build a featureset that will give you a competitive advantage, then it makes sense to do so.

Aggressive growth goals require a different approach. Here, it can be worthwhile to buy technology or an entire company outright. Use this guide as a checklist to make the right strategic decision.

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Developing a Social Media Marketing Strategy that Builds Loyalty and Awareness

Building loyalty and awareness are top priorities for any social media marketer. And for good reason. The greater your visibility, the more your brand is in front of potential followers.  By turning those fans into customers, you can create long-term advocates that spend more money and recommend you to others.  In the past, it was […]

The post Developing a Social Media Marketing Strategy that Builds Loyalty and Awareness appeared first on CXL.

Building loyalty and awareness are top priorities for any social media marketer. And for good reason. The greater your visibility, the more your brand is in front of potential followers. 

By turning those fans into customers, you can create long-term advocates that spend more money and recommend you to others. 

In the past, it was possible to achieve these goals through promotion and advertising. However, the rules of engagement are changing. Today’s social media users are more discerning about where they place their trust. Brands have to work harder and smarter to earn it.

In this article, we’ll look at how the social media landscape has evolved, and what you can do to grow your presence and create a community of loyal fans.

What does a good social media strategy look like?

Recent years have changed social media for better and worse. On the one hand, it’s played a critical role in bringing people together during a pandemic that forced us apart. It’s also provided a platform to speak on areas such as climate action and racial and gender equality. 

On the other, it’s been damaged by concerns over privacy (see The Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal) and fake news.

More people than ever are using social sites, which is good news for social media marketers. But more of these people are using it to interact with friends and family. What’s more, fewer people trust what they see and hear in their feeds.

So, how do you build awareness in a landscape favored for person-to-person interaction? And how do you build loyalty when people are more skeptical?

With a social media content strategy rooted in relationships and communication. 

As Neal Schaffer points out:

“…Companies still look at social media as a promotional and advertising channel rather than as a grand arena to collaborate with social media users, primarily customers and influencers, and work them through a relationship funnel to incite word of mouth marketing for your brand in social media.”

[via Smart Insights]

Edelman’s Trust Barometer study shows that trust is second only to price in becoming a loyal customer. And 70% of people say trusting a brand is more important today than in the past.

To earn that trust, word-of-mouth marketing leads the way.

Communication builds lasting relationships. You have to make social media a two-way street. Neal again:

“The social media algorithms will always favor people. It’s time to wake up to this fact and be the first in your industry to craft a radically different people-first social media strategy that is driven by the voice of your employees, customers, and influencers.”

[via Smart Insights]

More than ever, your strategy needs to embrace and engage people who have an affinity with your brand. They will help generate awareness and inspire trust.

Social selling app Depop does this by combining user-generated content with influencer Q&As.

“A lot of our content on Instagram is just reposting the coolest shit that is on Depop for people to see.

At the core, that’s our strategy. And then we add a little bit of influencer marketing, we have paid marketing on top of that, and everything is interlinked.”

Yoann Pavy, Head of Digital Marketing, Depop [via MarketingWeek]

Microsoft Surface curates content by sharing its users’ art and testimonials and responding to their posts.

Both of these brands involve their target audience. They actively engage with them and create content that’s for and by them.

This helps to break down the barrier between company and consumer. It shows the audience that their brands are accessible, interested in them, and—through customers, influencers, and thought leaders’ validation—trustworthy. 

Regardless of which way social media networks move the goalposts, if you base your marketing strategy on relationships and communication, you’re well-positioned to get noticed and grow a loyal following.

Build a new social media marketing strategy from what you already have

Social media goals should always align with your overall business objectives. Building awareness as a goal is tied with growing the brand.

On the other hand, loyalty falls under engagement and consumer perception (how customers think and feel about your brand). Because of this, it spans two objectives: 

  1. Turning customers into advocates
  2. Improving customer retention

Combining these goals and objectives will give you meaningful metrics to track.

Objective GoalMetrics
Grow the businessIncrease awareness and perceived valueFollowers, fans, shares, retweets, etc.
Turn customers into advocatesIncrease engagementComments, mentions, likes, messages, etc.
Improve retentionImprove consumer perceptionSentiment, testimonials, reviews, customer support and service response time, etc. 

Before you formulate a new plan to meet these goals, look at your existing social presence.

What are you currently doing that’s helping to build loyalty and awareness? 

Start by examining existing accounts, official and unofficial, those you’re active on, and those that have fallen by the wayside. 

Put them into a spreadsheet to keep them organized and consider:

  • Why are we on this social media platform?
  • Does it fit in with our social media mission statement?
  • Is our audience demographic using it?

If an account isn’t contributing to your goals or reaching your target demographic, consider dropping it. This will help free up resources for more profitable accounts. 

Next, check that all social media profiles are consistent.

Are logos identical, branding the same, and descriptions and URLs present and correct? Brand consistency can increase revenue by 33%, as it connotes familiarity and builds trust. Take into account your brand messaging strategy to ensure you deploy customer-centric content that resonates.  

Each profile should also be consistent with the social network. For example, Mailchimp’s avatars are the same across its social accounts. However, its tone of voice differs slightly.

On Twitter, it’s laid back to suit the B2C, creative audience segment. 

screenshot mailchimp on twitter

“Helping you build your thing is our thing.”

On LinkedIn, their tone is geared more towards a professional audience. 

screenshot mailchimp on linkedin

“We’re on a mission to help entrepreneurs grow with our smart, all-in-one marketing and commerce platform.”

Finally, examine how your social accounts are performing. Look at three things here:

  • Followers: Has your audience grown over a period (e.g., six months, a year, two years)?
  • Post frequency: How often do you post? Does posting more make a difference to engagement or follower numbers?
  • Engagement: How do people interact with your posts and in what number? Do certain types of posts generate more likes, comments, shares, leads, and conversions than others?

By running this analysis, you’ll be able to see which elements of your current strategy can fit into future social media marketing plans. It’ll also mean that you’re not completely overhauling your social media and risking alienating fans that enjoy your content.

Find out what the competition is (and isn’t) doing

There are two reasons to dig into how others in your niche manage their social media:

  1. Find out what they’re doing well to improve your social content marketing
  2. Find out what they’re not doing that you can do to stand out

Pick out six to eight brands that operate in the same space and speak to the same audience. Run a takedown of their accounts by asking the following questions:

  • What kind of personality or culture do they promote?
  • How many followers or likes do they have?
  • How often do they post?
  • What types of content do they post, and how do people engage with them?
  • What do they talk about? Are there important topics that you’re neglecting?
  • How many people are talking about them? Does it exceed their follower numbers?

This analysis will give you an idea of where you fit in, which social media channels are the most fruitful, and what you can do to engage your audience.

Combine this with what you’re already doing that works well, and you have a solid platform to work from.

Create and curate content that engages your audience

By this point, you’ll have a good idea of what to publish to social media sites based on your goals and internal and competitive research. 

But social media is driven by trends. And these trends can change fast. 

Take Clubhouse, for example. The audio-only app went from 9.6 million downloads in February 2021 to 900,000 downloads in April 2021. That’s not to say the app is over—retention among users is strong. But with Spotify Greenroom, Facebook’s Live Audio Rooms, Reddit Talk, and Twitter Spaces all offering a similar service, it’s clear that the novelty has worn off.

To keep growing, keep your finger on the pulse and continually analyze your content. As trends evolve, optimize your content to align with audience needs and expectations. 

We’ve already seen how Depop and Microsoft Surface are doing this. Let’s look at some other examples of popular and engaging content to consider as part of your social media strategy. 

Short-form video

A study by Wyzowl found that people share videos at twice the rate of other types of content (great for raising brand awareness). It also found that 84% of people were convinced to buy a product or service based on a brand’s video (a key step in securing loyal customers). 

“Video content is the now, but short-form video content is the future.”

Jess Ostroff, Managing Editor at Convince & Convert [via Convince & Convert]

According to Hubspot, anything up to 2 minutes and 30 seconds in length is considered short-form. But videos can be much shorter than this. And they often are.

On TikTok, videos are less than 60 seconds long. On Instagram Reels, they’re 30 seconds long. 

Those marketing channels are (at time of writing) the dominant players in the space. However, YouTube Shorts and Snapchat Spotlight are also worthy of attention. Naturally, what is popular will get copied in due time, which is why a differentiation strategy is critical for survival.

But regardless of the platform or how short the video is, content must always entertain. 

Whether this is through helping the viewer learn something or solve a problem, like United Nations IFAD does with its informative TikTok videos:

Or inspiring them like Mailchimp does with its Reels: 

In both cases, videos add value. They give people a reason to watch and provide rewards (i.e. value nuggets) in exchange for their time. 

Focus on what your audience wants. Ask them what they’d like to learn and how you can help. Then, create videos based on their feedback.

Live content

Live social media is not a new concept, but its role in connecting isolated people has made it more valuable than ever. Social media expert Danny Bermant explained to Smart Insights

“I work with aesthetic clinics both in the UK and US who carry out procedures such as Botox, laser hair removal, and body sculpting. A major way in which these clinics generate revenue is through open days where patients get to see live demos of new treatment and are able to book the treatment there and then, often at a discounted price. With [COVID-19], however, such events are no longer feasible and are unlikely to be for the foreseeable future.

However, the industry has been fast to adapt and has gone virtual. Instagram live has proven to be the ideal platform, enabling housebound audiences to attend virtual demos whilst giving them the functionality to interact through asking questions and posting comments.”

Live content offers a direct and personal connection to each person watching.

Benefit Cosmetics takes advantage of this by hosting Facebook Live sessions with exclusive offers hosted by a member of its team. 

screenshot benefit cosmetics facebook live session

Not only does this give fans a reason to attend, it increases FOMO. It also gives Benefit the chance to sell the product.

Fitness studio Barry’s Bootcamp engages its followers by running workout sessions on Instagram Live.

The live sessions let them interact with viewers in real-time, delivering words of encouragement to keep them motivated. Following along live is, in many cases, more engaging than a pre-recorded session. 

Barry’s is also able to see how many people are watching along with their reactions to class, helping them glean insights in real-time to optimize future sessions.

Bon Appétit used Zoom and YouTube to host a live stream. From their homes, members of its provided tutorials, played games, ran cooking challenges, and generally engaged its audience in food-related chat. 

screenshot bon appetit zoom live stream

As well as interacting with each other and fans, the live stream brought people together in the comments to chat in real-time. 

The result was over one million views, 21K likes, and 1K comments. It also helped Bon Appétit raise over $200K for World Central Kitchen.

It’s a great example of using technology that people are familiar with to engage them creatively. 

Use live content whenever you want followers to share in the moment, including: 

  • New product launches
  • Major announcements
  • Q&A sessions
  • Behind-the-scenes videos
  • Interviews 
  • Collaborations

Purpose-driven content

Edelman’s Trust Barometer found that 81% of people rate trusting a brand to do what’s right as an important buying decision. It also found that 85% (net) of people want brands to solve their problems and 80% (net) want brands to solve society’s problems.

56% of consumers also say they have no respect for businesses that remain silent on important issues. 

Social media has empowered consumers to be more vocal on social issues, and they expect the brands they follow to support them.

This doesn’t mean speaking out on every issue. But if you have an opinion on an issue and aren’t willing to speak on it or do anything to back it up, expect to be criticized.

Hotjar, Nike, Airbnb, and Ben & Jerry’s are all examples of brands that have acted on their brand purpose and used social media to react to important matters and educate their audiences.

None have been met with universal praise. Often there is a backlash from people that don’t agree with a stance.

You should expect this too. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. Staying true to your values will strengthen relationships with followers that care about the same issues. It will also earn you respect from your core target audience, which works to improve loyalty, retention, and even ROI.

While some might have seen the backlash against Nike as a public relations nightmare, the company didn’t waver. And it was rewarded for it. Ten days after the Dream Crazy campaign that prompted the hashtag #boycottnike, Nike reached an all-time high on the stock exchange and made six billion dollars.

Think about your corporate social responsibility. What matters to you and your audience? And what can you do as a business in a position of authority to educate and inform followers?

Social commerce

According to Facebook, 81% of shoppers research products on Instagram. 80% also use Instagram to decide whether to buy a product or service.

On Pinterest, 459 million people use the platform for purchase inspiration, and more than 25% of time is spent shopping. 

Given this data, social media is the natural place to target online shoppers. Selling products or services directly on Instagram, Facebook Shops, or Pinterest lets you provide a complete shopping experience.

Rather than going the ecommerce route and completing a purchase on your website, social commerce lets you take users from research to checkout without leaving the app. 


This seamless process taps into what shoppers want, as Maisie Tomlinson points out:

“Infiltrating social media, where consumers spend a large chunk of their day, improves the shopping experience, and shortens the process. As humans, we’re always looking for simpler ways to get what we want.

Brands want to convert customers as soon as possible, therefore why waste time sending them to your website for them to potentially leave because of user experience issues. Reduce drop-offs by selling directly from your social media post. Marketers will want to focus more on their social media reach, engagement, and the effectiveness; evolution is necessary if you want to survive.”

[via Smart Insights]

Teeth whitening company, Zimba, is a great example of using Facebook and Instagram to engage users.

screenshot zimba teeth whitening company using facebook to engage users

“Because Zimba already had a presence on Facebook and Instagram, and had already uploaded its online catalog, setting up its Shop using the Commerce Manager tool was turnkey and completely seamless.

People could then find Shops on Zimba’s Facebook Page or Instagram profile or discover the brand through Stories or ads. From there, shoppers could browse through the products, add products to their bag and place an order―all without ever having to leave the app.

With the addition of Shops, people could also message Zimba through Messenger or Instagram Direct Message (DM) to ask questions, get support, track deliveries, and more.”

[via Facebook]

The campaign helped Zimba secure 1,200 incremental orders from Shops in one month, with an average order value of 6.7% higher than orders through its website. 

Social commerce makes it easy for followers to become customers, which is crucial in building loyalty.

Where does advertising fit into social media marketing?

In a utopian landscape, we’d all be able to develop and run people-first social media marketing campaigns based solely on organic content.

In reality, organic reach has declined to such an extent that success is a long game. To get quick wins, the likelihood is you’re going to have to pay to play. 

However, it’s important to pay and play wisely.

In the era of fake news and hate speech, social media advertising has a bad reputation. Kantar research shows that as few as 14% say they trust ads as a source to garner information about a business. And only 17% trust social media as a medium.    

On the flip side, a consumer research poll by Iterable found that 58% of consumers feel positive about receiving a hyper-personalized ad.

What does this tell us?

Trust is low. But if you use data responsibly to craft targeted ads that appeal directly to sections of your audience and complement your organic strategy, it’s possible to earn and maintain it. 

Use paid social media to cut through the noise when you need to promote a brand message or offer. But make sure that ads stay true to your tone and personality.

While you want your ads to get noticed to build loyalty and awareness, they should not feel pushy or intrusive.

Let’s look at some examples.

CitiGroup

CitiGroup put ad budget behind content that highlighted its support for Paralympic athletes. 

screenshot citigroup paid ad on twitter in support for paralympic athletes

This ensured the campaign would be seen beyond the company’s followers, bringing more attention to its importance. It also showcases Citi’s social good. 

Promoting feel-good stories is a good way to build relationships without direct selling. 

Headspace

Headspace takes a more traditional retargeting approach to keep its brand front of mind for potential customers who aren’t ready to commit at the first touchpoint.

screenshot headspace traditional retargetting approach using facebook

This Facebook ad grabs attention because of its substantial offer. It’s also on-brand, which helps it stand out in an ad-heavy feed.

screenshot headspace facebook ad

The call-to-action button helps drive traffic to a frictionless landing page using Facebook Shopping; simplifying sign up. This further adds to Headspace’s “stress free” mantra.

Scribd

Scribd also uses a time-tested approach, targeting people who follow similar accounts. 

screenshot scribd ad targeting people who follow similar accounts

This is a great way to raise brand awareness, but consumers may see it as intrusive.

Scribd cleverly uses social proof to appeal to viewers and minimize objections. Rather than Scribd telling you how good its product is, it lets its community do the talking. 

79% of people say they trust online reviews from other consumers as much as recommendations from personal contacts. As mentioned earlier, word-of-mouth marketing is the best way to earn trust. 

Assess, measure, and tweak to stay ahead 

Leveraging social media as a means to keep your finger on the pulse can inform your content.

Like all marketing initiatives, no matter how well strategized, measurement and optimization is key to short and long-term success.

Continuously monitoring metrics via social media analytics tools gives you insight into how campaigns are performing. 

Follow Buffer’s revolving four-part testing process to optimize performance:

screenshot buffer's revolving four-part testing process
  1. Set benchmarks: Look at the average engagement (clicks, shares, comments, and likes) on your posts over a set period and use this as a benchmark, adjusting as your business grows.
  2. Test (launch something new): Video, Reel, hashtag, different length of post—run with whatever you think could be successful on a platform.
  3. Check the stats: Did the test work? Compare the data against your benchmarks.
  4. Make changes: Tweak content that needs to be improved and test again.

This process helps you remain proactive with posting new content (e.g. trying a new medium) while simultaneously optimizing existing posts. It will also help you stay relevant as trends change and algorithms evolve.

Conclusion

Social media for business has always been about audience building. But now more than ever, it’s important to get hands-on with social media management.

Be active on platforms. Talk, listen, and respond to followers. Show you’re there for them and let the content you create reflect that.

If you can do that, you’ll earn their trust, which breeds loyalty, turning customers into advocates that help to amplify your presence.

The post Developing a Social Media Marketing Strategy that Builds Loyalty and Awareness appeared first on CXL.