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The Art of Raising Prices: Three Practical Strategies That Will Change Your Perspective About Pricing

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Raising prices is one particular topic that almost every business owner is afraid of. The reason is quite common: they are scared of losing prospects and loyal customers.

However, along with that fear comes a big question: Why do so many entrepreneurs and startups lose their way at the game of business?

One of the biggest reasons why businesses fail is, simply, because their prices are too low. They don’t sell their products at higher prices, then they operate on small margins that are unable to expand. That said, unless you are extremely well capitalised, you should not attempt to offer the lowest prices in your market. The old marketing tactic that you have the most competitive price in the market will not work anymore. Trying to match or beat your competitors on price is a suicide mission, not a wise business practice. Your business needs the increased margins in order to expand and deliver better services to customers. Appropriate pricing is essential and, if necessary, you must raise yours.

Here are three practical tips to successfully increase your prices without hurting anyone:

1. Just Increase Your Price

You don’t need a reason or justification to raise prices. Just do it and see the result. Try increasing your prices, even a little, and see if it works. If you are still scared to raise the price,you can bundle your products and services to increase your average sales price.

2. Give Them Options

Choices allow buyers to rationalise the price. When you show the price of a desired product or service, always offer alternative products or services to help them understand the logical sense of your price. Provide a higher and lower offer on each side of every offer.

3. Menu Pricing

Organize your services on a menu with pricing from highest to lowest. People believe what they see more than what they hear.

Conclusion

These three strategies work whether you sell a product or a service, tangibles or intangibles, expensive luxury products or entry level trinkets, in any and all industries. Contrary to popular belief, selling your products or services at the lowest price doesn’t make your customers more loyal or happier. In reality, customers that cause you the most trouble typically are the ones who paid the least. Customers must get what they pay for, so sell your value and the overall exceptional experience associated with what you have to offer. People will always pay more for something they love that solves a problem. Never be afraid to raise price.

Five Most Popular Myths in Digital Business (Infographic)

Slowly but sure, the digital business has overtaken the dominance of direct transactions. However, many people are still reluctant to use Internet as the base of their business.

With the rapid development of Internet for business and social media, the expectations for digital business are higher than ever. Yet, many companies often assume that they are still doing well without being digital. On this infographic, you will learn the reason why every business can benefit from a strong digital strategy. Also, we will unfold the story behind five most popular myths of driving sales in the digital age.

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Six Best Practices for Creating a Content Marketing Strategy

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Content marketing is the linchpin of demand creation – the link between brand awareness and lead generation. Done well, it builds familiarity, affinity and trust with prospective and current customers by providing information that resonates – in the right format, through the right channel, at the right time.

Search queries for the term have more than doubled in the past two years, supporting the notion that content marketing is being seen as its own discipline. This places new emphasis on content creation and quality. it also spotlights a very real need for organisations to rethink their go-to market plans by adding content to their marketing mix, or refining an existing strategy.

But a content marketing strategy doesn’t create itself. it’s the result of clear intention, careful planning and focused execution. The question is, how does a company get started? Here are six best practices that can help you develop and deploy effective strategies for content marketing across channels and buying cycles.

1. Get Stakeholder Support

Content marketing is not a short term affair. It’s a long term commitment that requires continual collaboration and engagement to succeed. This means you’ll most likely need to sell the idea to the executive team, as well as other key people or departments within your organisation.

One effective technique for getting internal buy-in begins with not talking about content marketing at all, at least not initially. Instead, focus on your stakeholders’ goals and pain points, even their bonus systems – those areas that affect their own success. Then introduce content marketing as a valuable way for them to get better results.

2. Understand Your Audience

Content marketing isn’t about selling. It’s about educating, entertaining, or otherwise delighting your readers in order to earn their trust over time. To be successful, you need to understand who your audience is – and what they want and need from you – in order to gauge how much viable content you already have and what content you’ll need to create.

There are two key activities here, both of which require stakeholder commitment and participation to be most effective:

1. Develop customer personas

This is an effective ways to uncover who your target customers are, which helps identify what  topics your content should be covering. Start by asking yourself and your sales stakeholders these questions:

  • Who are our ideal prospects and customers?
  • How do they go about making a buying decision?
  • What are their questions? Pain points? Objections?
  • What gaps in information are they lacking that my content can fill?

2. Map your content to the buyer’s journey

By assigning content to the most appropriate buying stage, you not only make the best use of existing content, you also discover maps that need to be filled. Typical steps include:

  • Map your sales cycle to the buying cycle, doing this by persona if it makes sense. A typical buying cycle is: need, learn, evaluate, negotiate, purchase, implement, advocate. A shortened version may be: awareness, interest, consideration, purchase intent.
  • Set up a spreadsheet that helps you visualize and track your mapping process. This does not need to be complex. It can be as simple as simply listing the buying cycle phases in the top row.
  • Audit and evaluate your existing content – tools, case studies, solution briefs, white papers, videos, demos, webinars, etc. – based on which persona it addresses, which questions it answers, and which stage of the buying process it will serve.
  • Create your content matrix by adding each

    asset – title and link – into the appropriate spreadsheet location. Focus on creating a  

    sequential flow where each content asset “continues the conversation” by building on  

    the previous content.

3. Identify the Right Content Formula

Content marketing is about helping your current and future customers solve an issue that’s important to them. To do this, your content needs to facilitate conversations among influencers, stakeholders, and decision makers, giving them the confidence to take the next step. If it doesn’t, your content marketing strategy will fail. (Or at the very least under-achieve its goal.)

These three steps will help you uncover the optimum content formula:

  1. Create content your customers want. Many organizations make the mistake of investing heavily in pushing marketing messages that are important to the company, rather than providing information that’s important to the customer. When planning content, always take a customer-centric approach to best ensure you create something of value for your readers.
  2. Develop an array of content to deploy across multiple channels and devices. Take the time to understand which channels and formats your customers prefer, and then diversify how and where you publish your content to extend your reach. In addition to printed (or PDF’d) content, consider other formats such as HTML-based articles, blogs, social media sites, webinars and videos. Given the steep adoption rates of tablets and smartphones, make deciding what you will optimize for mobile part of your strategy.
  3. Don’t just create content, curate it. There’s enormous value in not only creating original content, but in curating “best of” content from across the Web. By showcasing and sharing relevant content from other thought leaders – from magazines, blogs, research, etc. – you demonstrate independence and credibility, which can increase customer affinity and loyalty.

4. Create an Editorial Calendar

Every good content marketing program begins with a carefully planned, proactive editorial calendar. It’s the execution plan for integrating content into a cohesive story that you want your audience to see. You probably won’t follow it verbatim, but if it exists up front you’ll be far more consistent and successful at publishing the content you need and generating the results you want.

Your editorial calendar should:

  • Enumerate your customer-centric themes, aligning content with appropriate buying cycle phases and audience personas.
  • Provide a tentative outline of when different pieces of content will publish, on what platform, and via which syndication and social channels.
  • Clearly articulate cadence; that is, the date each piece of content will be developed and distributed. Publishing your content in a consistent, timely fashion is critical.

Additionally, since social promotion and content go hand-in-hand, be sure to map social campaigns to your editorial calendar. Work with your social team during the calendaring process to align the respective publishing schedules and help drive traffic to your website.Include social and share links in your various content – papers, webpages, emails, blogs, etc. – whenever appropriate.

5. Get Maximum Mileage Out Of Your Content

Developing the volume of content necessary to fuel a content program is a challenge. Try using the Rule of 5 – use one piece of content in five distinct ways. Five may not always be the optimal number, the goal is to extend the life of your content by using it in multiple ways, offering it in multiple formats, and distributing it everywhere.

Plan to break long content up into smaller pieces and different formats. For example, after putting time and energy into a fantastic webinar, convert it into a video and publish it on YouTube. Post the presentation deck on SlideShare. Make a PDF of the transcribed audio track available. Break the transcript into a short series of blog posts. Create a Q&A from the session.

Have a robust white paper? Extract two main ideas and create short articles. Take two more ideas and create blog posts. Promote them all through social media channels. Link them to each other, inviting readers on an information journey with your brand. Use the articles in lead-nurture campaigns.

Maximize the visibility of your content and brand by including social and share links in your various content pieces – papers, web pages, emails, blogs, etc. – whenever and wherever appropriate. And don’t forget about search engine optimization. Use keywords and metadata to make your content findable by the people you’ve created it for.

By planning your content for scalability, you’ll reduce resource overhead while increasing visibility and providing value to your audience.

6. Develop a Process for Measuring and Reporting

Decreasing costs and increasing profit margins are as important as increasing sales and revenue. An effective content marketing program can do both. Make sure you track that and measure it over time.

A recommended method is to develop Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are tied to the business value of your content marketing program. Take a look at everything you’ll need to execute the strategy you’ve created.

  • Do you have enough resources?
  • Do you have the capabilities – in-house or outsourced – to effectively execute?
  • Do you have enough budget?
  • What else is on your plate or in development that may affect program deployment?
  • Have expectations been set – and bought into – among stakeholders?
  • What are the leading indicators of success? The lagging indicators?
  • How can the program’s financial impact be measured?
  • How can we compare the financial impact relative to other programs that may be more costly?

Expert Content Has a Bigger Impact on Product Purchase Considerations Than User Reviews or Branded Content

Today’s consumers are not supposed to believe in branded content or user reviews when making buying decisions. Instead, they are likely to be influenced by third-party expert content providers.

According to latest research, expert content providers, like product reviews or articles from third-party websites and blogs, was 83% more effective at lifting product purchase considerations than user reviews. They are also 38% more effective than branded content.

The research surveyed 900 consumers, measuring their responses to different forms of content marketing for nine separate product types, ranging from smartphones and video games to car seats, new automobiles and auto insurance. The study analyzed how the different types of content marketing (especially expert content, branded content and user reviews) impacted product affinity and familiarity, as well as purchase considerations. The result is quite surprising: not only were consumers more likely to be influenced by expert content when making purchases, the study also found that expert content from third-party sources also had a greater impact on product affinity and familiarity. Here is an excerpt from the result:

On average, expert content lifted familiarity 88 percent more than branded content and 50 percent more than user reviews; they lifted affinity 50 percent more than branded content and 20 percent more than user reviews.

expert-content-effectiveness

While expert content had a greater influence overall, the study revealed that branded content had the most impact in categories where product specifications were a critical component of the evaluation process, such as smartphones or TVs.

On the other hand, user reviews were most valuable for products where users were considered to have a “higher degree” of product expertise. For instance, although expert content was most effective at increasing familiarity and affinity, user content provided the strongest lift to purchase intent in car seats.

Here is the detail of how expert content, user reviews and branded content impacted the different stages of the buying process for all nine product categories:

positive-lift-by-content-and-product-type

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Pepsi “Unbelievable” AR Bus Shelter

Pepsi has done another cool campaign. The promotion takes on New Oxford Street, London, where they have altered a bus shelter to create a seamless augmented reality experience for the people who happen to stop by. From crashing meteorites and aliens to lions and balloons, this ‘Unbelievable’ Bus Shelter Installation from Pepsi is a a little bit of branded fun (and expensive). Amazing stuff indeed!

Black Friday Marketing Strategy For Small Businesses

Black Friday is one of the most long-awaited moments for small businesses. In 2012, consumers spent $423 on average during the Thanksgiving weekend, or $59.1 billion total (a 13% increase from the previous year). This year, retailers will open their stores early to persuade Black Friday shoppers with attractive discounts and bundled services. Entire shopping communities are abuzz with ad-scan leaks, rumors, and analysis of Black Friday offers.

What about small businesses?

It’s not a fair fight for small businesses or entrepreneurs to face large companies or chain retailers that make Black Friday a success through steep discounting, aggressive marketing, and massive advertising budgets. Still, small businesses, too, can take advantages during Black Friday. The most important point to make Black Friday work for smaller businesses is to position on the value of their products and services while marketing creatively to consumers. It’s likely customers won’t spend Thanksgiving camping out at their front door, yet small businesses can increase sales and do it in a calculated, meaningful way. Here are seven simple marketing strategies for small businesses to win this year’s Black Friday:

1. Don’t heavily discount your products or services

It’s tempting to discount your products that have the highest margins. It’s actually not a good idea, since you won’t win against larger retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or Target. Instead, incorporate more value into what you are selling. A brilliant way to do it is to offer extra warranties or extend your guarantees. In the mind of the buyer, this reduces the risk involved in the purchase. When you set a monetary value to your actions, you will be able to give the impression of an attractive discount that other retailers simply can’t match.

2. Build a meaningful relationship with your customers

Think about the genuine, personalized marketing activities during Black Friday for a moment. There are almost no human-friendly activities during Black Friday, since everyone is so focused on shopping and price. The value of a personal relationship to both loyal customers and prospects is essential because you will have a better relationship with your customers. Think of it as a long term “investment”. Consequently, do something personal and friendly for your best prospects and customers. Consider a simple handwritten thank-you note wishing them a great Thanksgiving. Let them know that you appreciate their support during the holidays. Don’t make a sales attempt. Just be genuine to your prospects and customers, and you just might have hot leads show up to buy.

3. Use guerrilla marketing

You’re a small business. You have to be crafty and creative.  Sometimes you need to take a few more risks than others. Do you sell cupcakes, coffee, baked goods? Head to your nearest Wal-Mart or Best Buy to hand out samples and provide a small flyer reminding people that they can buy from you after the Black Friday rush. No need to place flyers in the windows of people’s cars. Be friendly, genuine and try to make people’s day a little bit better. It could be even as simple as handing out free coffee or sample products to frenzied shoppers while you have your business cards on hand.

4. Be useful

Consumers will be receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of sales and marketing offers. By adopting the tactic of being useful, you can be on top of their mind and engaging while creating memorable experiences people will tell others about. Basically, by being useful, you are promoting your authority on the subject while building trust with your audience. Whether that means reporting on traffic jams in your local area, helping people choose between two similar products, or spotting the best deals for products and services your customers care about, you can absolutely add value while demonstrating your strengths.

5. Never aim for new customers

Never aim for customer acquisition. It will not worth your effort. Focus instead on the people who have already done business with you. Why? It’s easier to increase sales by marketing to customers who have previously purchased from you. How? Perform some analysis on your customers. Think about the ones who have spent the most or bought most frequently, or simply those who have been long-time supporters of your company. Send them a targeted, segmented email explaining that they are VIPs to your company and that you are happy to apply a “customer appreciation” discount or to offer an exclusive bundle to create more value. Your customers will have a sense of feeling rewarded, as though they’d earned a discount, which often translates into a repeat sale.

6. Harness social media and email marketing

You ought to use the social platforms that customers use, and email is social. People forward emails, share discount codes with friends, and even talk about specials with their friends. So craft a useful and engaging email marketing campaign to your customers and prospects. The better targeted (and therefore fewer recipients), the more personalized you can make your offers. Extra tips: be brief with your messages. Consumers don’t have enough time to read a 1,500 word email.

7. Don’t forget about search engine optimization (SEO)

SEO is not something that will bring in droves of customers come Black Friday morning, but it will help your site stay visible during the overall holiday shopping season. Consumers often search for a product’s model number or features and do so with an intent. It means they are specifically looking for price or availability to purchase the given product or service in their local area. Google and Bing do their best to present timely and accurate information to their users. One such bit of information is structured data that is coded on the website. Some examples of structured data include product name, model number, features, price, location, reviews, ratings and more. That data is displayed in a special way within search results to promote the visibility of your website content.

Build relationships and strengthen your business on Black Friday

Black Friday, to many retailers, is about shortening their revenue gaps within a weekend. For smaller businesses, it’s about improving customer relationships and providing extra value. Since you’re in the business of developing strong relationships with customers, consider developing a robust customer lifecycle so every prospect is receiving follow-up, and every customer is being satisfied. That will make your Black Friday efforts last longer and provide more business value all year.

20 Most Shared Video Ads in 2013

Unruly, a video marketing company, has released its list of top 20 most shared ads for 2013. Based on the number of multiple social media shares – like Facebook, Twitter, and Blog – Unruly states that the most viral ad this year was the Dove Beauty Sketches video ad with 4.24 million shares since its release in April 2013. According to Unruly, not only is the Dove Beauty Sketches ad the most shared ad for 2013, it is also the most viewed video ad of all time.

Following the Dove ad, Geico’s Hump Day ad took the second place with 4.03 million shares and Evian’s Baby & Me ad at the third position with 3.34 million shares. Geico’s ad has trended every Wednesday since its May release which is a departure from normal trending patterns where a quarter of total ad shares usually happen during the first three days following an ad’s release.

According to Unruly’s data, top ads in 2013 have earned 28.8 million total shares, representing a year-on-year increasing of 52.1 percent in shares since 2012. Not only are more video shares happening at a dramatic rate, but Unruly claims the “most significant trend” in video advertising is the adoption of short-form content players such as Vine and Instagram Video. Here is the complete list:

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Some media, such as tweets or photos, are naturally quicker to create than others. Video, on the other hand, has traditionally been a slower medium, with longer lead-in times. However, the arrival of short-form content platforms changed this in 2013 and presents brands with an excellent opportunity to create and distribute video in real-time, without the production lead-in times and expenses usually associated with longer form video content. The fact is 40 percent of the top 1,000 Instagram videos are created by brands. This upward trend in short-form video accompanies a significant drive in mobile video consumption, with smartphone and tablet campaign CTRs tripling over the past four quarters.

Virgin Mobile Australia’s Campaign: Game Of Phones

This is another creative digital marketing campaign that was created Virgin Mobile Australia. Recently, the company has just launched ‘Game of Phones’, an app that parodied on the famous TV Show, Game of Thrones. The app itself utilises the main concept of “MINI Getaway Stockholm” campaign in 2010. In this new Alternate Reality Game that’s played out in the streets, you battle to other contestants to become the King and win a share of $200,000. Along the way, you can earn prizes, all you have to do is find them, “steal” them and then keep a distance between you and other player who also trying to become a King.

The Customer Engagement Framework For Inside Sales Success (Infographic)

Here’s an interesting question for you: “What do all customers want that’s easy to give, yet many companies fail to provide, especially across multiple channels?” It is customer engagement. If you don’t own your customers’ attention, then you don’t have their business, loyalty or advocacy. Many times, business owners fail to provide effective engagement. In order to win your customers over, you need to listen and give your marketers and sales teams the resources they need to engage in a two-way dialogue.

With the huge conversations among brands everyday, your website, store or phone line is no longer the first stop for prospects when they want to inform themselves. You don’t drive the conversation. Your community of customers, prospects, and interested bystanders are leading the conversation about your brand, whether you like it or not. These drastic changes in the way customers interact with brands means companies are battling for attention with increasingly less effective methods. Here are the three levels of customer needs:

1. Get in the game – it’s about efficiency.

The second level of customer engagement isn’t always easy to achieve, but being efficient in how you communicate with customers will help secure and protect your brand advocacy.

Think about it. How many times have you called a customer service department, given them your name and account information and once transferred to another agent, they ask you again for the same information? Providing a seamless experience across all channels, giving customers answers in real-time and offering new ways to solve their problems are the hallmark of best-in-class customer service. By responding to and addressing customers concerns in a timely fashion, you will see greater loyalty and commitment to your brand’s success. To reach the top of the hierarchy and separate themselves from the pack, though, businesses must work to address their customers as individuals.

2. Win the Game – it’s about effectiveness.

Just as humans need food and water to survive, companies need effective customer engagement to survive – it’s a basic function that all businesses must now adopt. Being effective in understanding your customer’s unique challenges is no longer a choice, it’s a necessity. As people turn to online information, social networks, and communities to inform themselves, they are engaging with sales people much later in the buying cycle. You now need to understand your customers’ issues and preferences sooner rather than later, and be effective in bringing them new approaches to achieving business objectives through the platforms they’re most comfortable with.

For example, half of the time users are online, they’re using mobile devices. According to a recent SAP survey, already 27 percent of mobile users purchase products or services online, and 80 percent say they want to buy more on their mobile devices. Mobile usage has created such a radical shift in how consumers and businesses interact with each other that digital marketers must have a deep understanding of how consumers use their devices. That’s the only way they can be effective in developing mobile marketing strategies that deliver the right experience to each mobile user. Once a company has achieved effective customer engagement, they must continue to adapt to garner more loyal customers in the customer engagement hierarchy.

3. Change the game – it’s about 1:1 customer interaction.

The final and hardest level of engaging your customers is realizing the full potential of the relationship. Believing that the goal of customer engagement is to make a sale or considering every customer service call as an instance of customer engagement, will only result in a loss. In order to win and survive, customer engagement needs to be viewed as customer’s experience with you – a personal encounter and not a business transaction.

Part of this process is the need to apply new processes and technologies to develop the insights needed to anticipate and respond to customers’ unpredictable and ever-changing buying journeys. No customer is ever the same and using the same approach across the board only creates frustration and disappointment with customer service.

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Customer and Small Business Perception Survey

website design, advertising and marketing company at sydney, australia

Most small business owners will know that having a business website and social media presence is important to the business’s growth and success. The question is, are you just giving a “lip service” to this concept, or, is your website and social media outreach really delivering what customers want?

Sadly, according to the latest Web.com Consumer and Small Business Perception Survey, most small business owners are unaware of consumers’ expectations. As a result, these people are missing out on opportunities to increase their sales, create a base of loyal customers and build longer customer relationships.

The poll of consumers and small business nationwide has good news and bad news for entrepreneurs. The good news is: generally, consumers prefer to do business with small businesses than large ones, citing personal involvement, engagement and connection as important reasons to choose small businesses over larger brands. Consumers used words like “personal, intimate, human, face-to-face;” “customer-focused;” “reliable, there when you need them most;” and “local, close-by, convenient” to explain why they prefer small businesses.

Now, the bad news: While 83% of consumers state that “having a business website and using social media are important factors” when they’re considering which businesses to patronize, only 34% say the small businesses they’re familiar with have a business website. Even worse, just 50% say the websites are meeting or exceeding their expectations.

Small business owners have a significant perception gap. Although nearly two-thirds said having a business website is important, just 41% actually had one. Of those, 61% rated their sites positively, just 46% of consumers rate the websites of small businesses they’re familiar with positively.

If your website does deliver what customers want, there’s a lot to be gained. The study found that 58% of customers would be influenced to take positive actions if a small business delivers on their web/social media expectations. About 60% say they would be likely to visit the business’ website and social media to find out more about the business, recommend the business to family and friends, visit the physical store or office, and learn what other customers have to say about the business.

So what do consumers want from your site and your social media presence? Consumers seek empowerment, engagement and relationships, while business owners tend to focus on transactions, awareness and marketing. This may be part of the problem. If you want to build loyalty, grow sales and develop relationships with customers, here are some basic tips for you:

  • Post news about your business, alerts of sales and special offers are great ways to drive traffic and boost sales—but for long-term success, you also need to focus on posting content that’s not purely transactional.
  • Ask customers for their input on what your next menu item should be or what kinds of products they’d like to see in your store.
  • Encourage customers to share photos of themselves engaging with your business—using or wearing your products, eating at your restaurant or attending an event at your location.
  • Use your website and social media to survey customers and find out what they like, what they don’t like and what they want more of.
  • Always be responsive when customers like, post or comment on your social media sites.