Spooky Study: Is B2B Thought Leadership More Challenging Than Ever? Part I

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*e-Commerce Halloween Scares – Boo! We wish you a very scary Halloween. In this blog series, we go over the frightening aspects of e-commerce (and how to deal with them). Spooky surveys, haunted shopping carts, and even the thought that marketing is harder than it’s ever been.

When people think of your industry, what companies come to mind? What ideas? What philosophies? Do they think of you and yours? With all the digital channels available in 2014, there are plenty of ways to grab at the ankles of thought leadership, but it may be more difficult than ever to actually get a foothold. At least, that’s what you find when you ask the strong majority of B2B marketers in the United States.

According to a study by Omobono and the Business Marketing Association, a whopping 85% of B2B marketers agree that being a marketer is more challenging than before. Among the US marketers surveyed, the number one focus is thought leadership with other objectives such as customer relationships and brand awareness following close behind.

Content is King? Content is Thinking.

You don’t have to be as omnipresent as Big Brother or Kim Kardashian to gain thought leadership. If you want to be a trusted voice to the market, you want high-quality original content. Originality matters. Product catalogues and “About Us” pages are important, but the type of content that strengthens thought leadership is informative and compelling and imparts a unique point of view.

For many B2B products, a customer doesn’t just buy into your solution; they buy into your vision of how to solve their pain points. B2B thought leadership establishes the authority of your voice as well as your means of solving problems.

Channels for Content

The Business Marketing Association/Omobono study finds that 41% of B2B marketing budgets go to email and websites, which not-so-coincidentally are also the most effective channels. 92% said website development raises brand awareness, and 85% say the same about email marketing.

The strength of these channels towards boosting thought leadership lies in a two-tiered approach:

First, email marketing allows a dialogue with the customer. Integration with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution allows your email communication to tap into all the data you’ve compiled about a given customer. This gives them a tailored, personalized experience that is more likely to provide relevant content.

Second, your website is the home base for your content. This is where you provide the type of content that builds up thought leadership through your original and compelling ideas. This content is helpful, not merely promotional. It engages the customer, builds trust, and raises your visibility.

Online video, whether webcasts, webinars, or pre-uploaded, is a particularly effective way for B2B companies to share their original vision. Video gives you a direct line of communication to your prospects, and the data backs this up. 86% of the survey respondents say that online video strengthens thought leadership, and 56% say it deepens customer relationships.

Top Challenges?

So with all these additional tools, why is B2B marketing and thought leadership harder to achieve than ever before? What do marketers find to be their top challenges? 80% say changing priorities. 75% say technical developments. 73% mention that they have to appeal to more audience types. And 69% say they must appeal to a wider range of territories.

These seem like daunting challenges for any B2B marketer looking to grow their thought leadership. In Part II of this blog series, we’ll cover how to properly utilize the email and website channels and optimize your content efforts to tackle changing priorities, technical developments, new audience types, and a greater range of territories.

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3 Reasons Customers Abandon Their Online Shopping Cart

abandoned cart*e-Commerce Halloween Scares – Boo! We wish you a very scary Halloween. In this blog series, we go over the frightening aspects of e-commerce (and how to deal with them). Spooky surveys, haunted shopping carts, and even the thought that marketing is harder than it’s ever been.

If you’re a fan of horror movies, you might think that the scariest possible epidemic is a zombie apocalypse. Well, there’s another epidemic going and, while not as bad as a global plague of zombies, it’s scary news for eCommerce. According to a compilation of statistics from the Baymard Institute, 67.45% of all online shopping carts are abandoned. That’s just over 2/3rds. And it’s an epidemic. In order to optimize your webshop for more successful conversions, here are three reasons customers abandon their shopping carts:

1. Unexpected Costs.

According to research from Statista, the number one reason that customers leave behind their online shopping cart is an unexpected cost. Customers don’t want to feel as if they were tricked when they go to check out. Be open with your prices and any additional costs. When you integrate your eCommerce solution with your ERP, your customers have access to the latest inventory and pricing information. This prevents sticker shock surprises from jumping prices.

Another unexpected cost for e-customers is shipping. Imagine yourself in their shoes. You meticulously fill up your online shopping cart, hit the checkout button, and then get surprised by a $100 shipping fee. We recommend offering free shipping if possible. If free shipping just isn’t feasible for your business, then try offering free shipping over a certain dollar or item amount. This also helps you up-sell to higher tiers of pricing as customers.

2. Website Navigation is Too Complicated.

For too many eCommerce sites, it’s just as easy to fill up an online shopping cart as it is to get lost on the site itself. Clear navigation is one of those fundamentals that is easily overlooked. Make sure your buttons for “check out” or “buy now” are obvious, so customers who are ready to buy don’t have to work to figure out how. Once they’re at the checkout page, it’s best to limit their options for navigation, so they don’t wander off.

3. Time Frustration.

The research from Statista lists a number of problems that customers have with e-commerce that we’ve compiled under the heading “Time Frustration.” Customers abandon their online shopping cart when the process takes too long or the website crashes or the website times out. All of these problems frustrate customers.   Website problems take time out of the customer’s busy day and crashes make the customer feel as if they’ve wasted their valuable time.

To prevent frustration, optimize your website. Obviously website crashes are a negative, but site speed matters greatly as well. Customers bounce off sites that load slowly. In addition to the technical elements, it’s good practice to simplify your checkout process and allow customers to purchase items from their online shopping cart as a guest. Customers appreciate any tweak you make that ends up saving them time.

Customers Want A Smooth Shopping Experience.

Customers expect shopping online to be seamless and pleasant. Sticker shock, getting lost on the website, and interminable waiting makes for unhappy experiences and unhappy customers. The goal is to make it easier for your website visitors to take that online shopping cart all the way through checkout. So optimize your website, improve your navigation, and be upfront with your pricing. The better the customer experience, the less chance that your customer leaves their shopping cart tipped over in the aisle.

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Scary Survey: Most Traditional Marketers Don’t Know How To Go Digital

scary*e-Commerce Halloween Scares – Boo! We wish you a very scary Halloween. In this blog series, we go over the frightening aspects of e-commerce (and how to deal with them). Spooky surveys, haunted shopping carts, and even the thought that marketing is harder than it’s ever been.

When it comes to your business, transitioning to the future is difficult. Adapting to change is not as simple as hopping into your DeLorean time machine and driving 88 miles per hour into another decade. Especially for traditional marketers, leaping into the future of online marketing requires new skills and the implementation of new technology. And many marketers feel lost and confused when it comes to digital.

According to a study by Adobe, 40% of traditional marketers wish to reinvent themselves for digital, but only 14% know how! The survey, covering responses from over 1,000 marketing professionals, shows a staggering difference between the number of people that want change and the number of people who understand how to get it.

Looking at the responses to the survey, it’s no secret as to why the adoption of online marketing is becoming a hot topic. 64% of marketers expect their role to change in the next year, and 81% believe their duties will change in the next three years. Even if marketers don’t leap into the future, the future is coming to them.

30% of the respondents (from the original 1,000+, not just the 40% that want digital reinvention) said that there was no training available for what they need. This certainly makes sense. If there are no tools for teaching, how will there be learning?

The feeling that there is a lack of training underscores the importance of an easy-to-use Content Management System (CMS) for successful online marketing. Marketers know how to create content, but many don’t know how to deliver that content to customers on the web in a timely fashion.

When your IT team is the sole gatekeeper to your CMS, then it’s only natural for marketers to feel that they don’t know how to properly schedule and post content. It’s simply out of their hands. When your CMS is easy for your marketers to create and curate their own content, you empower them to run campaigns and build a foundation for successful online marketing.

Traditional marketers also felt that they’re under-informed when it comes to their digital strategy. 74% say they need to be more data-focused to find success with online marketing. Identifying who your customers are, knowing what they want, and measuring the success of past campaigns should be the basis for future marketing efforts. An online marketing tool that facilitates the capture and analysis of that information in addition to other key metrics is a huge boon to any marketer, especially one who feels lost in the digital age.

Understanding your customer is important, but it isn’t the whole story. Marketers also want to deliver the right products and the right content to that customer at the right time. 69% see the necessity of “hyper-personalization”.

Personalization allows you to tailor the experience of your customer on the web, ensuring they get the best content that fits their needs. First, you analyze the customer’s behavior and any data, such as the pages they click on, their interests, and their past order history. Then, you make product and content recommendations that are the most relevant to that individual. With the power of analysis, a personalized web experience is more successful at converting prospects to leads and leads to sales.

The future of online marketing is now. For traditional marketers looking to embrace digital, raise conversion rates, and increase sales, look for an easy-to-use CMS that allows you to manage your own content. Implement an online marketing tool that digs into your data for effective analysis. And use personalization to cater to your customers. The path is laid out, but it’s up to you to take the first steps.

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Get Started with Lead Nurturing

nurtureeCommerce isn’t horticulture, but there are some similarities For plants, you water the soil and nurture the seeds, which begin to sprout at a later time. And the same advice applies to lead nurturing on your e-commerce website.

Lead nurturing is all about giving proper care and attention to a prospect. Lead nurturing’s about building relationships, so those leads grow into loyal customers (even if it often takes longer than a month). And marketing automation is the tool that ensures you have the ability to give your attention to these prospects, whether you have five or 500,000 visit your site per month.

According to a new study from CRM technology research company Software Advice, the most-cited reason for buyers evaluating marketing automation solutions is to improve lead managementThat breaks down into two concerns: (1) nurturing leads throughout the sales cycle; and (2) scoring leads to determine when they are sales ready.

Additionally, the Marketing Automation Software BuyerView 2014 study shows that an overwhelming majority of buyers (91%) are looking at marketing automation for the very first time. So let’s look at the two primary concerns of marketing automation buyers when it comes lead nurturing.

How do you nurture leads throughout the sales cycle with marketing automation?

Content waters the seeds of sales. Many prospects, especially in the lengthy B2B sales cycle, take plenty of time before reaching out to the vendor of their choice. So without direct contact, how do you make the case that you should be that vendor? Content.

Whether a prospect finds you through an ad or a search engine, your website is your opportunity to turn visitors into leads and leads into customers. Content that engages, educates, and entertains these potential customers gives you the opportunity to show how your products solve their pain points. Engage, educate, entertain. Emphasize these ‘E’ words.

The strength of marketing automation is the ability to identify and segment these budding prospects by a variety of different factors, including where they are in the buying cycle. Segmenting potential customers into groups allows you to deliver personalized content to them directly on your website.

Personalization is important in building up a relationship with your potential customer. Gardeners don’t use the same type of soil to grow every type of plant. Lilacs, for instance, won’t grow in sandy or acidic soils. Similarly, you have a better chance to nurture your prospects and leads with content that is tailored specifically to them.

Content such as whitepapers, webinars, or other downloadable material often requires a lead form. This is where you exchange your content for the prospect’s contact info (email, phone, etc.). The more relevant the content is to them, the greater chance they have of filling out the lead form. And make sure you get permission to contact them! Nobody likes a spammer.

Once you obtain permission to get in touch and stay in touch, you want to continue lead nurturing with automated email marketing. Continue to personalize these emails to where the recipients are in the buying cycle. And while your email campaigns are going, your leads continue to consume your content.

This entire process is a proficient way of nurturing leads. You move leads towards more and more engagement, not with a pushy hard sell, but with their own blooming interest in you and your products. Of course, you still want a way to score these leads, so you know when your leads are sales ready.

Determining the level of engagement of your lead (and what they are engaged with) informs your decision on when to reach out with a call or email. As seen in the Software Advice study, this is a crucial part of lead nurturing with marketing automation, and it increases your chance of success. For instance, Dynamicweb’s lead tool uses an Engagement Index to measure how engaged your customers are. Rather than contacting customers when they’re not ready, the lead tool gives insight into when they are.

Fostering your leads begins with a steady diet of curated content and carefully-planned contact. And scoring these leads gives you information when to connect with them to maximize your sales success. The lead nurturing process is most effective with the power of personalization and marketing automation, and ultimately, it creates the best environment for your leads to blossom into long-lasting loyal customers.

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Report: Mobile Websites Surpass Desktop for Online Retail

Responsive DesignAre you reading this on a phone or tablet? Even if you’re not, mathematically it’s a solid guess. We don’t profess to be psychic (although we’d like to be), but we do follow trends.

One trend for online retail is the continued rise in the use of mobile devices. In fact, according to a study by comScore, more time is spent on mobile devices than PCs for online retail.

Instead of looking at a crystal ball, let’s take a gander at the data. 55% of the total time for e-retail is spent on mobile websites. That combines both smartphones and tablets with 44% and 11%, respectively.

For companies that want to engage their customers, the numbers prove that it’s never been more important to be mobile-ready.

Imagine customers who squint in front of their computers in order to read a website. Think about customers who pinch and flick and endlessly poke at their monitors. These customers are engaging with technical difficulties, not with your brand. But this scenario is precisely what happens when companies don’t have responsive design for mobile websites.

Responsive design fits your content to the device your customer wants to use.

Whatever screen size your customer prefers, responsive design ensures the optimal web experience for their chosen device. Without responsive design, content on websites has a very hard time engaging with mobile customers. Text is displayed too big or too small. Images are cut off. And entire content is left off the page.

Responsive design fixes these issues by offering fully-featured mobile websites. And best of all, responsive design works with the website you already have in place. There’s no need to build an entirely new website or app. Customers dislike when searching for content online, clicking an enticing link, and then getting pestered with requests to download a separate mobile app.

While responsive design is crucial for a good mobile experience, many companies merely settle for adapting their websites to fit a screen size. But companies gain a real competitive edge when offering advanced features on mobile websites.

Your customers aren’t psychic either. They don’t always know what they’re looking for. That’s why guided selling with product recommendations help the customer to find what they’re looking for and then to buy that solution from your company. That’s a truism whether the customer is using a desktop or a smartphone.

But while the majority of time interacting with retail sites is done on mobile, the majority of time shopping is not. According to the comScore study, most customers use their time on mobile websites for research, which emphasizes the importance of responsive content. Online shoppers mostly make their purchases on desktop, although mobile’s share of this is also increasing.

Device hopping is another common behavior for users on mobile websites. 67% of customers say they begin shopping on one device and complete the purchase on another.

All of this shows the great opportunity for mobile websites that use analytics and other customer information to tailor content. When targeting the buying phase for specific customers, a company raises the chance of engagement by offering the content most relevant to those customers. To the customer, it might even appear as if the brand is clairvoyant!

Logins, user profiles, online shopping carts that save products and preferences, easy bookmarking, and instant emailing of products are all features that encourage impatient customers to engage on one device and come back later on another. And of course, mobile shoppers with existing profiles or logins love one-touch ordering. Companies have a real opportunity to get creative when figuring out how to best engage a generation of mobile consumers. But it has to start with a website that actually works on mobile, and that takes responsive design.

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