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When you have a business or you’re responsible for the success of one, you tend to focus on sales and managing the daily operations of the business like ensuring you have sufficient staffing, inventory, and your infrastructure is up to par. These are essential elements for your company and demand ongoing attention to reduce the chances of a catastrophic failure. However, marketing is the cornerstone of the business; marketing brings customers (and their money) to your business and, without effective marketing, nothing else you do matters in the long run. Get your marketing right, and your sales take care of themselves, get it wrong, and you’ll struggle to survive in a world full of competition. Even a momentary blimp with your marketing can have devastating consequences extending far into the future.
Get your marketing right
To get your marketing right, you need to understand marketing concepts and how to implement them effectively in your market. What works for one company may not work for another, while marketing efforts in very different industries might be effective. For instance, a concrete manufacturer had a serious problem with late deliveries, which have a very high piss-off quotient because the contractor pays workers to stand around waiting for the delivery. Rather than benchmark against other concrete companies, who, frankly, had the same problem his firm faced, he benchmarked against Dominoes with their 30-minutes or it’s free guarantee (since eliminated after several serious accidents caused when delivery drivers rushed to beat the time allowed). In short order, the competition to beat Dominoes in on-time delivery surfaced problems leading to lateness. Once fixed, the concrete company greatly improved its on-time delivery, customer satisfaction soared, and sales increased.
To understand marketing, you need to understand your external stakeholders—the customer. Consumer demands are pretty simple, even in the digital world where logistics and the lack of personal contact conspire to make it difficult to satisfy customer demands.
Customers, at the most basic level, want quality products at the right price and they want them now. They also want to know you think of them as individuals who matter, not as nameless, faceless cogs in the wheel of commerce. Consumers want to know that you understand them and that they can trust you. Building a culture of integrity within your business and your team helps create trust, and that message should come across through all your digital and traditional marketing campaigns.
Implementing a successful marketing strategy
Getting your marketing right takes planning and careful implementation of that plan.
A marketing plan is key to your success. So, it’s vital to sit down and create a strategy that fits your business, your target market, your external environment (including legal, environmental, economic, and technological elements), as well as capitalizing on the weakness of competitors. Adapting your communication strategy (messaging, channels, and mixture of communication elements) along with products, pricing, and distribution strategy to fit the external environment differentiates successful companies from those destined for the annals of history.
Sure, you may change your strategy organically as you test the waters of actual customer interactions, your plan guides you toward success. For instance, the founders of Adobe originally saw themselves as selling a bundle of products (computers and printers) along with their proprietary software for desktop publishing. The market had other ideas … ideas that favored the uniqueness of the software over a bundle containing products available from the original OEM companies. Luckily for all of us, Adobe listened to advice and survived versus over-reliance on their original plan. It helps to get a digital agency or other expert advisers involved to help guide you on crafting a winning strategy, as well as helping you adapt that strategy to the real world of commerce.
Advisors have expert knowledge on how to interact with the consumer, what motivates them to buy, and how to stand out from the competition. They’ve worked with other businesses so they learned hard lessons that help you avoid making common mistakes, and they have resources you can tap into when a need arises, including relationships with businesses that provide financing, advertising, and other skills you can’t afford to staff at this point.
Reaching customers with the right message
The Internet leveled the playing field somewhat, giving small businesses access to the types of advertising once available only to large companies with deep pockets. Not only can small companies compete in search through organic and paid options, through thoughtful keyword strategy and narrowing reach to their niche markets, small companies now have access to their markets at a reasonable cost.
Social media is a boon to small businesses, as well. Not only does social media provide ubiquitous access to your market, it allows the rich personal relationships that drive engagement and give small businesses an edge in an otherwise colorless world. Facebook, for instance, gives you the ability to reach specific demographic groups within specific geographic regions and with certain interests or personalities. Thus, for a very low cost, you reach just the folks most likely to want your products.
Social media also gives you insights into your target market through its platforms and apps. These help you really understand your demographic, which makes it easier to know why your target market is interested in your products, what they need from the product (what problem it solves), and their core decision variables. When you get your marketing right, you have information and access that lead to higher sales and increase the likelihood of long-term success.
Get your marketing right offline, too
While the internet helps with market research, there’s nothing better than getting to know your consumers personally. Holding events or product launches where you meet customers offline really helps build a relationship with your target market. Small businesses are in a unique position with respect to relationship building because they faceless bureaucracy and often have more time to spend with individuals shopping their stores, be they online or off.
Hold these events in private before the product or service launches, then use the feedback you get to make tweaks and to deliver your campaign in a way that leads you to success.
Get to know the leading influencers in your industry. An influencer is incredible at communicating and has a loyal set of followers who are fully engaged and trust their recommendations. They are also fantastic content makers and full of enthusiasm. If they like your product, they will deliver brilliant videos and campaigns of their own to help promote it to your key target audience.
Marketing doesn’t need to be complicated, but it is essential for increasing sales. So, get your marketing right and make your next marketing campaign your best one ever and watch your sales increase.
How to Start Your Content Cluster Strategy
When you think of content clustering—what’s the first thing that pops into your mind?
Yeah… we didn’t think about internal links and pillar posts either . Clustering sounds like it’s better left to chocolate and nuts, but it’s actually a content marketing strategy that can garner better rankings and conversions.
Content clustering uses pillar posts to drive conversions. We learned the ins-and-outs of content clustering from Aja Frost, the Senior Content Strategist on HubSpot’s SEO team. Thanks to Aja, we’ve been able to use content clustering to boost our own conversions, making us confident that this is a strategy you should know about.
For each pillar post in your cluster strategy, you’ll create several cluster posts that link to it. This creates a cluster of content on a specific topic and all links to the bigger, pillar post. The pillar post holds the weight of the team and is designed to be so awe-strikingly amazing that it boosts your conversions. The cluster posts are there to get more views on that pillar post and drive up its ranking in Google.
Let’s look at an example we can all get behind—puppies. An animal rescue could create a pillar post on “Everything You Need to Know About Adopting a Dog.” Then, they could create cluster posts on, “What to Buy When Adopting a Dog,” “Where to Adopt a Dog,” “How to Adopt a Dog,” and “What Kind of Dog to Adopt.” (For this example, we’re going to assume these are all high-ranking keywords.)
Each of those cluster posts are going to link to the larger pillar post of “Everything You Need to Know About Adopting a Dog.” That pillar post is going to have calls to action, like showing images of dogs that the shelter has for adoption—because who can resist puppies?!
That’s how you create a content cluster that drives conversions through your pillar post.
If this sounds like a good idea for your marketing strategy, here are the 5 steps to starting your own content cluster.
#1: Choose your pillar post topics
Your content cluster strategy starts with pillar posts that you’ll create content around. For example, a pillar post could be about content marketing, and then you’ll publish content that supports that pillar post. (For example, an article on content clusters .)
To figure out what your pillar topics should be, you want to look at the keywords that work best for your business. You want terms that are searched often and directly correlate to your products.
For example, if you’re an interior design decorator you’d consider keywords like “interior design for kitchens”, “decor for bathrooms, and “designing outdoor spaces”. These keywords would be your pillar posts and then you’d create your cluster content around it.
#2: Figure out your cluster post topics
Once you know what your pillar post topics are, you’re going to figure out what content can cluster around each post. For example, our interior designer can create content clusters like “decor for small kitchens” and “marble accented kitchens” around their pillar post for the keywords “interior design for kitchens”. Each of these clusters can point to the pillar post as a comprehensive post on everything someone needs to know about interior design for kitchens.
At DigitalMarketer our pillar post Everything You Need To Know Content Marketing has content clusters like:
- What is Content Marketing?
- 6 Easy Content Marketing Tips That Will Save You At Least an Hour This Week
- How To Figure Out What Content Your Customer Avatar Wants
For each of your pillar posts you want to create at least 3 related articles that point back to it.
#3: Write your pillar post
Now comes the fun part! Put pen to paper (or outsource) writing your pillar post. Since your content clusters are going to point to this post through internal linking, you want to make sure that it’s seriously valuable content and a great representation of what your business has to offer through their products.
For example, we want our “Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing” post to be exactly that—everything you need to know. We don’t want to sell you short by not coming through on the promise of our headline or by writing a subpar article. Your pillar post is going to drive the conversions, so you want to make it one of your best posts.
Since pillar posts tend to be longer than your cluster posts, make sure that you’re structuring them so they’re easy to read.
Use headers (H1, H2, H3, and H4), bold and italics, bullet points, images, emojis, and anything else that will help break up all of the text into something that’s easier to read. Feel free to reference our content marketing pillar post for an idea of how to do this.
#4: Write the cluster posts that surround it
With your first pillar post done, you can start writing the posts that will cluster around it. These don’t have to be as long as the pillar post and are generally more niched. You can still use the same structuring strategies (headers, bold, italics bullet points, etc.) to make sure these posts are interesting and engaging to read.
You’ll want at least three cluster posts and you need to make sure they all have internal links to your pillar post for that topic. For example, for our “Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing” post, we want to hyperlink the word “content” or “content marketing” 1–3 times in our cluster posts.
You can still hyperlink to other posts (and even cluster posts for other topics) in your cluster post, but you want to make sure the link to the pillar post is there—that’s kind of the whole point .
And just like that, you have your very own content cluster.
Questions to Ask When Planning for Personalization (5 W’s and 1 H)
Thinking about deploying personalization or strengthening your program? You may be looking to improve your digital experiences and take advantage of personalization’s proven benefits, related to increasing loyalty, conversions and more. When you treat your audience members like the individuals they are, these benefits often soon follow.
Now more than ever, technology enables you to deliver relevant messages, offers and experiences to your audiences across touchpoints, and automatically trigger next best actions, all at the 1-to-1 level.
It takes some coordination and planning to establish the foundation for success. Especially for companies just getting started, it’s helpful to ask – and, of course, answer – a variety of questions. We’ll look at the 6 key questions as they relate to your personalization planning efforts.
- are we targeting? Think about who you want to reach with your various personalization efforts. This will impact your campaigns and the type of personalization employed (e.g., rules-based, machine-learning-driven or both). In some cases, your targets will be audience segments, personas or industries. You may also want to distinguish between customers and prospects, and new vs. returning visitors. Many times, companies also look to map recommendations and experiences to each individual – and that person’s unique behaviors, history, preferences, stage in the buyer’s journey, etc. – to drive deeper connections.
- is involved? Who will help? The size of your company and your marketing organization – along with the channels and touchpoints where you’ll be deploying personalization – will impact the size of your team. We’ve also seen many companies, particularly large organizations, establish an internal Personalization Management Office (PMO). PMOs function as the main personalization strategy, solution and technical resource for the company – serving as the main point of coordination across business divisions.
- skills do we need? You likely already have some people on your team who can help implement your personalization strategy – including in roles such as web marketing, email marketing, product marketing, merchandising and analytics. If your personalization solution doesn’t require coding or the involvement of large teams, you can likely leverage the skills and talents of your existing staff. As you dive into more sophisticated strategies, you may want to hire additional resources – such as a director of personalization, to maximize the impact of your efforts. The ideal candidate would have a background in personalization campaigns, as well as experience with other digital marketing campaigns too.
- content and creative do we need? You probably already have a lot of the content assets, geared toward different personas, industries, etc., within your organization. Still, there may be some gaps, and it’s good to identify these early on, and allocate resources toward their development. For example, if you want to create multiple homepage experiences for different audience segments, you’ll need to write new copy and design new images.
- data sources will we use? Data underpins a successful personalization strategy. Behavioral data, attribute data, explicit “zero-party” data and third-party data, related to your customers and prospects, will likely fuel your efforts. (See more information on those data types in this recent article.) Organizations often amass and collect that data across their channels, but it can be siloed across teams and systems. Start thinking early about bringing your cross-channel data together into a central system, so it can be part of each person’s unified customer profile (UCP), used to trigger in-the-moment experiences. Even if you’re only deploying personalization in a limited number of channels (for example, just email and in-person), it’s still helpful to collect and synthesize data from other channels (e.g., web and mobile app behavioral data), to determine the most relevant and timely experiences for each individual.
- campaigns will we start with? Go for some easy (but still important) projects and wins, such as reducing your homepage bounce rate with a dynamic hero area or boosting clickthrough rates by tailoring calls-to-action. Rather than attempting to boil the ocean, it’s often easiest to start in a single channel, demonstrate success, and then expand the scope and sophistication of your efforts.
- resources are available to me? It can be helpful to see how other companies in your industry (and even outside your industry) are using personalization, for some inspiration.
- are we deploying personalization? In other words, what are our goals? Though it’s toward the bottom in this article (because: who, what, where, when, why…), this is actually the most important question to ask – and the first one you should tackle as you begin your efforts. Document your goals with personalization (e.g., improving engagement, increasing email sign-ups, driving more revenue, optimizing conversion rates, etc.), and tie them into larger, corporate goals. Keep these goals front of mind as you evaluate and plan potential campaigns.
- do we know if our campaigns are working? Many platforms natively include A/B testing and multivariate testing capabilities, so you can evaluate your campaigns against a control, measure lift and optimize your efforts.
- can we measure success? Think about the goals you set and how you can measure them. For example, do you have a method for scoring customer engagement? How do you measure lift? Is revenue tracking tied to the success of your website? Mapping out the analytics that are essential to supporting your personalization initiatives will enable you to put the reporting aspects in place starting from Day One.
Birthdays are contagious. No one actually remembers the day they were born, other people remember it for you. And the way we celebrate them is cultural, a shared process that keeps changing.
People keep track of birthdays, and today used to be mine.
Sixty of them.
It doesn’t feel like it’s been that many. Time flies when you’re busy. Lots and lots of projects. Countless friends made, lessons learned and ideas shared. Quite a journey, with lucky breaks and advantages again and again, beginning with my parents, the cultural identity, time and town where I was born… I wouldn’t have been able to go on this journey without you, thank you.
But today’s not my birthday (no need to send an email or a card). I’ve never really liked my birthday (it’s a long story involving a non-existent parrot), and the only reason for this post is to talk about who owns my birthday now.
What happens if we start celebrating our birthdays differently? Today belongs to the 20,000 + people who are on their way to a permanent supply of clean drinking water because readers like you brought their birthday (and mine) to charity:water. Thank you. Now, particularly now, when the world is in pain and when so many people are wrestling with health, the economy and justice, it’s more urgent than ever to think of someone you’ve never met living a life that’s hard to imagine.
And today, because it celebrates a round number, I’m hoping you will join in and help us break charity:water’s birthday record. And maybe donate your birthday too. Better still, if you subscribe as a monthly donor, you become a core supporter of a movement that changes lives with persistence and care.
How it works:
If you have the ability, I’m hoping you’ll click here and donate to charity:water to celebrate what used to be my birthday.
And either way, I’m hoping you’ll also donate your birthday to them. Because when it’s your turn to celebrate a missing parrot or a lost cake, you can ask your friends, and they can do what you just did.
It’s hard to visualize 21,000 people, mostly kids, fighting illness because the water in their village is undrinkable. That’s about three times the population of the town where I live. Thanks to all of you, my projects, including this blog, have already raised nearly a million dollars to build long-term solutions to this problem.
Will you help me double that?
Even one kid who lives the life he or she is capable of is worth this blog post and worth your support.
How to Start Your Content Cluster Strategy
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