Global Trends

Content Marketing Best Practices: Content Writing in 2017

I don’t like the concept of “optimizing content for search engines.” It kind of gives you the wrong idea about the process: as if you are supposed to write content for flesh-and-blood readers and then, constrainedly, optimize it for bots.

Many writers do so. But instead, these days you’d better keep the requirements of SEO in mind before and while you create your piece of content. This doesn’t mean you should make your content machinelike - it’s about understanding how your article’s vocabulary and structure can influence your rankings.

We’re going to talk about three aspects a writer should consider in 2017 in order to write a good piece of content that will also attract more organic traffic.

  • Semantically related words
  • TF-IDF
  • Featured snippets

Semantically related keywords

The release of the Hummingbird algorithm back in 2013 made the topic of semantic search extremely important. Here’s an explanation provided by Danny Sullivan:

Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. The goal is that pages matching the meaning do better, rather than pages matching just a few words.

Semantically related keywords are one of the signals to Google that the page matches the meaning of the query and, thus, the searcher’s intent.

Let’s say, you are searching for “city bike.” You can easily guess which one of the two articles below will be more likely to satisfy the searcher’s needs (unless the searcher is Jay-Z):

So, to keep up with Hummingbird’s requirements, you basically need to find relevant words to build your article around to show Google that your content is really valuable by understanding the language your users speak, the terms they use, the questions they ask and the formats they prefer.

Easier said than done, of course. But not impossible. There are several ways to approach this challenge.

Start by taking a look at the SERP. Pages from Google’s top 10 tend to have a lot in common in terms of content. Quite often, you’ll be able to identify these similarities at a glance, like with the query “best city bike”:

1. Lists and guides rule the SERPs
2. Adding a year to a title definitely helps

Next, find out if there are terms that Google considers identical to your target keywords. For example, here we see that Google seems to treat “best city bike”, “best urban bike” and “best commuter bike” as the same term.

Also, explore autocomplete suggestions. These are probably the most exhaustive source of real people’s questions, pains and problems. You can use many of them as ready ideas for your articles:

Grabbing these data manually can take a lot of time. There are tools that scrape, organize and sort related words and Google suggestions: see them in the “Tools to Use” section at the bottom.

TF-IDF

You’re probably asking yourself at this point: OK, I’m sure that words like “and”, “the” and “with” can be found on every page in the Google top 10. Does that mean I should use them to get higher rankings?

Not at all. And this is where TF-IDF comes in.

The term TF-IDF is an abbreviation of “term frequency - inverse document frequency.” The two parts of this abbreviation are two separate metrics used to calculate how important a word is to a specific document.

TF (term frequency) defines how often a word is found inside a document; IDF (inverse document frequency) stands for how often the word is encountered in a larger set of documents, often called a “corpus.” IDF is meant to reduce the weight of words used frequently within the corpus that have little importance (articles, prepositions, etc.). This way, less weight is given to terms with a high TF and IDF and more weight is given to terms with a high TF and a low IDF.

So why is this concept essential for a writer these days?

At first sight, TF-IDF may seem like a scientific explanation of why keyword stuffing is important. You identify a nice keyword (for example, “city bike”) with a clearly low IDF, you put it into every paragraph of your article and show Google that your content is super-relevant compared to your rivals’.  But it doesn’t work like this. Google’s algorithms are trained to identify pages stuffed thoughtlessly with keywords and penalize them.

There are several SEO tools that use TF-IDF for keyword analysis. For example, SEMrush’s SEO Ideas and SEO Content Template tools rely on TF-IDF to provide you with a list of words to use in your content - your list will be sorted automatically according to the number of documents each word was encountered in.

Featured snippets

So you gathered a beautiful set of semantically related words, made sure these words have a good TF-IDF, and you expect your content to make it to the first page of Google and boost your organic traffic.

But there’s a risk that almost no one will click on your properly optimized snippet with a catchy headline, because there’s someone who monopolized the first screen and captured all the searchers’ attention.

This “someone” is a featured snippet.

Featured snippets -- so called “zero positions” -- are the boxes shown right below the number of results found for your query. The goal of featured snippets is to provide you with content that fulfills your request without your having to click on any search result.

Most of featured snippets actually monopolize the first screen. As a result, the click-through rate of the content within it increases drastically - some studies report a four-fold CTR growth- and the other pages in the top 10 don’t get as many clicks as before. This is why organizing your content to appear in the featured snippet is crucial.

How to optimize your content to earn a featured snippet

There are actually no sure-fire recipes to get your content into this box. However, some tactics have worked for SEOs and are worth trying.

Identify your pages that already rank in the top 10

If you start by figuring out which of your website’s pages are already ranking well and concentrating on those, it will save you dozens of hours. Sad but true, only a miracle can make you appear in a featured snippet if you’re currently in the 98th position. Google tends to pick the pages from the top 10 for featured snippets. If you are in the top 5, even better.

Target question-based keywords and provide structured answers

It’s easier for Google to understand the searcher’s intent from the query “how to draw a dog” than from the query “dog drawing” (are you looking for beautiful drawings of dogs or do you want to draw a dog yourself?). Besides questions, there are words that narrow down a search intent quite a lot: “best”, “recipe” and “instructions” for example.

When it comes to answers, write the way you speak. The easier it is to understand, the better. “How to cook spaghetti? - Start with boiling water...”.

If a query starts with “how to” breaking your article down into steps is a must: use numbers or subtitles to divide your content logically.

Make sure to use header tags properly

Search engine bots love clear markups and flawless code. If they can easily scan the structure, extract the most valuable information and index it properly without spending any additional crawl budget, it definitely helps you get higher rankings. A correct use of H1-H6 tags is crucial if you want your content to be included in the featured snippet. Some SEOs, including Barry Schwartz, recommend also using Schema.org Markup.

Keep working to take snippets from your competitors (and defend your spot once you got one)

Nobody can guarantee that once a page gets into the featured snippet box, it will stay there forever. Google can remove your website (see this case study by Glenn Gabe) and replace it with another one, or just leave the page without a snippet (which is actually what happened with the “best city bike” SERP while we were working on this article):

Analyze what you could improve on your page and keep working. When it comes to highly competitive keywords, it’s really worth the candle.

Tools to use: SEMrush solutions

There are a number of SEMrush tools that can help automate the most time-consuming parts of your work. Let’s take a look at how they do it:

SEO Ideas

SEO Ideas tool helps you identify semantically related words. But there’s one important detail: it only gives you the words used by your successful rivals from Google’s top 10. There’s no point in analyzing hundreds of SERPs for a given keyword. Why look at those who are ranking lower than you?

You can find insights on semantically related words in the “Semantic Ideas” section:

They come with a detailed analysis of how many rivals use each of these words and how frequently each of them is encountered on their pages:

SEO Ideas will also notify you if any of your website's pages are ranking in the top 10 and have a good chance of appearing in featured snippets, with actionable recommendations on how to improve these pages:

SEO Content Template

If you just need to optimize the text on a single page without going too deep into detail, SEO Content Template is an extremely actionable yet simple tool. Simply enter one or more target keywords and the tool will analyze the first 10 pages from Google that rank for these keywords, and give you recommendations on:

  • Semantically related words to use on your page
  • The readability score you’ll need to achieve
  • Text length
  • Relevant backlink sources
  • Basic SEO recommendations, like length of page title and meta description

You can also get some insights on how to organize your content without leaving the tool - we’ll show you excerpts of your rivals’ texts with your target keywords highlighted:

Keyword Magic

It would be nice if you could type in a target keyword and see the semantically related words separated into groups, get quick estimations of search volume, keyword difficulty and competition level in one tool. Oh, and see the SERP features triggered by each keyword as well.

This tool does exist. Keyword Magic tool makes it easier by showing you all the information in one tab.

If you need more data, for example, the click potential or average difficulty for a keyword group, use the “Export to Keyword Analyzer” option.

How to write content that succeeds in 2017: Key Takeaways

  • Spend time on keyword research and defining an SEO-friendly structure before you actually start writing. Stuffing ready articles with keywords and adding subtitles just because you need to will seem unnatural, both for humans and search bots.

  • Focus on adding valuable words associated with your topic instead of repeating the same keyword throughout your article.

  • Use multiple sources to enrich your list of related keywords. Explore your and your competitors’ social media pages for keyword ideas and questions to answer. Conduct a TF-IDF analysis. Ask your technical support to observe and note the terms your customers really use.

  • Make good use of tools to automate the research processes.

  • Many actionable takeaways can be easily found by simply looking at SERPs. You can discover which content formats are used by your top 10 rivals or borrow some nice ideas for headlines.

  • Use lists and “step-by-step” formats to increase your chances of earning a featured snippet. “Keyword-based question + direct and concise answer” is another proven format for getting into the featured snippet box.

  • If you write an evergreen piece of content (a guide, for instance), don’t hesitate to mention the current year in the title. You’ll eventually get back to this article to update it, so a “2016 guide” can then be renamed a “2017 guide” when you add new valuable information to it.

  • You can’t earn a featured snippet unless you’re already ranking high. To get results faster, start by optimizing the pages that are already ranking in the Google top 10 for your target keywords.

  • Pay careful attention to your formatting, tags and markups. Make sure these are used correctly and make your content clear, structured and easily crawlable for Google bots.

  • If your competitor has already earned a featured snippet for your target keyword, it’s not written in stone. Any other website can replace theirs sooner or later, so why not yours?

Passing the mic to you

Have you already incorporated these best practices into your everyday content routine? Or do you consider them newfangled or too far removed from the actual work of a content creator? Let us know in the comments!

[By Elena Terenteva] [From SEMrush Blog]

Facebook Bots 101: What They Are, Who's Using Them & What You Should Do About It

Back in April 2016, Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of Facebook's Messenger Platform -- a new service that enables businesses of all sizes to build custom bots in Messenger.

In the days following the announcement, the tech and marketing space lost its mind. Thousands of articles were penned about the news, each one speculating on what an open Messenger platform could mean for businesses.

Why all the ardor? For starters, Facebook Messenger already has about 900 million monthly active users worldwide. Not registrants. Not people who got forced to download it when Facebook spun it out of the standard Facebook app. We're talking about active users who have adopted Messenger as a primary communication channel.

Anytime a company as forward-looking as Facebook opens up a platform as heavily adopted as Messenger it should raise eyebrows. So the early excitement, well, it's justified. But what comes next is entirely undefined. And as marketers, we have an exciting opportunity to help shape it.

As Zuckerberg put it in his keynote, "No one wants to have to install a new app for every business or service they want to interact with.” And bots are much different than disjointed apps. In other words, building into the already popular Facebook Messenger app could enable businesses to get in front of customers without that added friction.

At least, that's the potential ...

What Is a Bot?

"Bot" is a generalized term used to describe any software that automates a task. Chatbots, which anyone can now build into Facebook Messenger, automate conversation -- at least the beginning stages of it.

What's special about the bots you can build on Facebook Messenger is that they're created using Facebook's Wit.ai Bot Engine, which can turn natural language into structured dataYou can read more on this here, but in short, this means that not only can bots parse and understand conversational language, but they can also learn from it. In other words, your bot could get "smarter" with each interaction.

You've undoubtedly heard of artificial intelligence (AI). And this is a type of AI. Natural language interface is common in most chatbots, but by opening up the Messenger Platform and providing developer tools like the bot engine, Facebook has made building an intelligent bot easier.

How People Find Bots in Facebook Messenger

So, now comes the classic marketer question: If you build it, will they come?

The answer? Maybe.

Users are able to search for companies and bots inside Facebook Messenger by name, so you'll probably get some users that way. But, as with any new pathway into your company, you're likely to find that adoption of this communication channel within your customer base won't happen without some promotion. Facebook is trying to make that easier for businesses and organizations as well.

Here are a few tools and updates they've released to help simplify that connection:

Messenger Links

If you've created a Page for your business on Facebook, Messenger Links will use your Page’s username to create a short link (m.me/username). When someone clicks that link -- regardless of where they are -- it will open a conversation with your business in Messenger.

Customer Matching

If you have phone numbers for customers and pre-existing permission to reach out to them, you can find them on Facebook Messenger via customer matching. Conversations initiated through customer matching will include a final opt-in upon the first Facebook Messenger communication.

                                                         Image Credit:  Facebook

                                                         Image Credit: Facebook

Messenger Codes

Messenger codes are unique images that serve as a visual thumbprint for your business and bot on Messenger. If you are familiar with Snapchat codes, these visual cues act in the same way, redirecting anyone who scans them using Messenger to the corresponding company page or bot.

                                             Image Credit:  Facebook

                                             Image Credit: Facebook

Messenger Buttons

You can embed these buttons, provided by Facebook, into your website to enable anyone who clicks them to start a Messenger conversation with your company.

                                            Image Credit:  Facebook

                                            Image Credit: Facebook

For all of the above, if you haven't developed a bot, the result will be a standard Messenger-based conversation. So you'll want to be sure you're monitoring that channel.

5 Examples of Branded Facebook Messenger Bots

Written definitions of bots are one thing, but sometimes it helps to understand how a bot works in action. Let's take a look at a few early examples ...

1) 1-800-Flowers

The example Mark Zuckerberg lauded in his keynote was the ability to send flowers from 1-800-Flowers without actually having to call the 1-800 number. A user, Danny Sullivan, subsequently tried it by sending flowers to Zuckerberg himself and documented the five-minute process here.

The bot took Sullivan through a few floral options and then confirmed shipping details.

                                                    Image Credit:  Marketing Land    

                                                    Image Credit: Marketing Land  

2) Wall Street Journal

With the Wall Street Journal bot, users can get live stock quotes by typing "$" followed by the ticker symbol. They can also get the top headlines delivered to them inside of Messenger.

3) HP

HP created a bot for Messenger that enables users to print photos, documents, and files from Facebook or Messenger to any connected HP printer.

                         Image Credit:  HP  

                         Image Credit: HP  

4) Facebook M

Facebook is releasing its own bot for Messenger, a personal assistant bot named "M". M can answer a wide range of requests -- from restaurant recommendations, to complex trivia, to last-minute hotel rates in the city.

Its flexibility is due to the fact that M is actually a bot-human hybrid. As Facebook’s chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer told Recode: "It’s primarily powered by people, but those people are effectively backed up by AIs." While the bots act as a first line of defense in fielding questions, the difficult questions are quickly routed to human assistants.

                                                      Image Credit:  The Next Web

                                                      Image Credit: The Next Web

 

5) Healthtap

Healthtap is an interactive healthcare provider that connects users to advice from medical professionals. On the heels of the platform announcement, Healthtap created a bot that enables users to type a medical question into Facebook Messenger and receive a free response from a doctor or browse articles of similar questions.

You can see here how the conversational interface works. The user in this example is inquiring in natural language about a specific health concern. From the user's standpoint, this is similar to texting a friend.

            Image Credit:  mobihealthnews

            Image Credit: mobihealthnews

This set up also helps the company filter inbound requests by solving some patient questions with existing responses first and then surfacing unique queries for live response.

(Intrigued by these examples? Engadget has a longer list of bots that are either released or under development for Facebook Messenger.)

Should You Build a Bot?

Ah, see that's not the sort of question I can answer for you. Building a bot for Facebook Messenger, like any marketing or product endeavor, is going to take resources -- mainly staff time and expertise -- and may not result in the outcomes you'd like to see.

That said, here's my best guidance for how you can answer the question for yourself:

Do you have a clear use case?

One of the biggest reasons so many companies went astray in building apps for their businesses is that they saw it as just another version of their website. They didn't take the time to study how being on a mobile device would change the types of interactions their customers would want to have with their company.

Some tasks are just not well-suited for mobile. As a result, many apps sat unused. When you're thinking about a use case for Facebook Messenger, make sure you're thinking about it from the standpoint of the customer or user, not from the company's standpoint. That's the real driver of use.

Is your audience on Facebook?

This question is often too quickly dismissed by companies that see Facebook as a purely social platform, rather than one for businesses. Even if your audience doesn't currently use Facebook for business needs, you need to start by determining whether or not the potential is there.

If you have an audience who uses Facebook heavily in their personal lives, they're likely to adopt Messenger as a communications tool. And how they use Messenger may expand beyond how they use Facebook. Today, usage of messaging apps has actually outpaced that of social networks. And as new use cases arise, behavior evolves with them.

Can you support inbound inquiries from Messenger?

Don't open a communication channel with your prospective and existing customers if you can't support it. Even with the automation of a bot, you'll still need to carve out time to 1) promote it 2) monitor any questions your bot can't answer and 3) keep tabs on the overall customer experience you're creating with it.

If you've thought through the above three questions and think you've got a good foundation for a Facebook Messenger bot then dive in. There's a benefit to being an early adopter in this space. And as a newly open platform, Facebook Messenger needs thoughtful and strategic companies to shape it.

Have you used any branded bots on Facebook Messenger? What's your favorite use case? Share your thoughts in the comments.

[By Meghan Keaney Anderson] [From HubSpot]

Hyperlocal marketing will soar in 2017: 5 tips to stay on top

The conversation about local search is not a new one; marketers have been discussing the importance of targeting customers by location for the past decade. Recently, it has been pushed back into the industry forefront with the rise of hyperlocal search and its relationship to mobile. Google Trends clearly show a dramatic increase in “near me” queries, particularly since mid-2015.

Hyperlocal targeting, or marketing to customers within your area based upon their location, has the potential to help brands answer the immediate needs of their prospects. Understanding how to optimize your content for these users can provide brands with an excellent opportunity for success.

Google has also been showing signs of pushing people toward hyperlocal. Back in 2016, Barry Schwartz reported a noticeable reduction in the number of pages offered for Google Maps search results, suggesting an effort to narrow the results down to a smaller geographic area. Google wants to better serve users by personalizing their results based upon their exact location.

Brands that do not prepare for the impending hyperlocal trends may end up seeing a considerable drop in both online and in-person traffic. According to retailers, as many as 82 percent of customers research online before making a purchase, which includes those who end up making a purchase in-store.

A poor online presence can harm a brand’s reputation and visibility, thus hindering business growth. Understanding the rise of hyperlocal marketing will be an important key to business success in the near future.

The relationship between hyperlocal and mobile

The increased focus on hyperlocal results can in part be attributed to the explosion of growth in mobile adoption. Mobile searches surpassed desktop back in 2015, and usage has only continued to grow. At the same time, our understanding of the user’s intent — and the impact of the digital ecosystem and mobile devices on the buyer’s journey — has improved.

It is important to note here that the buyer’s journey is no longer a linear path of relatively predictable steps that consumers follow until they make a purchase. Instead, this path has been shattered into a series of high-intent touch points that users may hit in any order, on a variety of devices, before they convert. For brands to reach customers during these high-interest points, they must be able to accurately interpret the user’s intent for particular keywords and queries, then design content that fits with that micro-moment.

Between 2014 and 2015, Google saw a 2x increase in “near me” and “nearby” searches, with 80 percent of those searches occurring on mobile devices. This indicates a rise in searches with hyperlocal intent, and Google refers to these searches as “I-Want-to-Go moments.”

                   Source:  Micro-Moments: Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile

                   Source: Micro-Moments: Your Guide to Winning the Shift to Mobile

The rise in searches indicating an “I-Want-to-Go” micro-moment also explains why the local 3-pack generally includes valuable information (such as the address, business hours and a “Directions” button) for those interested in making a trip to the location. A single click on the name of the business will also bring up more information, including user reviews. Google designs their search engine results pages (SERP) to have the optimal user experience, and this includes making it easy for people interested in contacting a business to accomplish their goal.

For brands to optimize for this micro-moment, they must similarly consider the needs and understand the intent of customers interested in going to or contacting a business. This means adopting a mobile-first mindset, which includes using mobile-friendly site design, keeping contact information prominently featured and including click-to-call buttons. The more you work to understand the needs of your mobile user, the easier it will be to draw local traffic.

Let’s look at an example of hyperlocal mobile listings in Google. When searching for hotels in Foster City, Calif., we see mobile results that display up to four ads, followed by the local 3-pack, which includes a map and three listings. Within the local pack, Google is displaying filters, such as “Deals” or “Cheap,” to help guide the audience to refine their queries. There is also the ability to select check-in dates for availability, and the listings themselves display pricing and reviews.

These features provide opportunities for marketers to refine and match content to searcher intent, which will factor into how you optimize your content pages and your Google My Business Page. (I discuss these options further in the Tips section below.)

Notice that when we refine the search query to a specific part of Foster City (Emerald Hills), the search results become “hyperfocused” on the business results. A search for “hotels foster city emerald hills” gives us the only hotel in the area. A map is also provided, along with “in Google” options to get more information. Four call-to-action buttons (call, directions, share, website), along with the address and business overview, are all prominently displayed, driving the audience to further engage.

What follows are five tips to succeed with hyperlocal marketing.

1. Master the basics

For your marketing strategy to succeed, you need to make sure that you have your Google My Business page ready and optimized. Fill out every field relevant to your business, ensure that your page has high-quality and appealing pictures, and verify that your business is listed in all the correct categories within Google.

Remember, every element added into your Google My Business page can provide important signals to assist with hyperlocal ranking and audience targeting. Your Google profile will determine how your business appears on the local 3-pack, so each step that boosts the appeal of your organization’s page will be beneficial. Encourage past satisfied customers to leave reviews to improve your business’s reputation and increase the positioning within the Google 3-pack.

2. Focus on your city and things of interest in that area

Develop localized website content that would interest people in your area. If you run a restaurant in San Mateo, for example, your site should focus on issues related to food lovers in the area rather than general information that would interest people everywhere.

Your content can also focus on local points of interest, such as landmarks and destinations, that people might use when looking around the area. For example, in Washington, D.C., people might search for “restaurants near the White House.” This can boost your geolocation targeting and help your business sound more appealing to those looking around a particular area.

3. If you have multiple locations, create local landing pages for each

To maximize your appearance in search, you want to have a local landing page for each of your destinations. This will allow you to optimize the content for each place and develop content that is more personalized for customers in that specific area.

Use keywords related to your location, such as the name of your city or your ZIP code. Do keyword research to find which words are applicable to your business and would be the most beneficial. Optimizing your local landing pages for these keywords can help draw in more traffic.

4. Include any structured data markup that relates to your business on your content pages

In order to provide Google with as much information as possible about your business, you may want to consider incorporating structured data markup (also known as schema markup) on your website pages where appropriate. Using structured data markup, you can precisely define various business attributes, including business type, hours, address, latitude and longitude, phone number and more.

Although Google may be able to glean this information simply by crawling your content, there is some degree of guesswork involved in doing so. With structured data markup, you remove that guesswork and make it clear to Google exactly what information is being presented on your page.

With your data properly marked up, it becomes easier for your business to appear for relevant queries. Note that on both Google Maps and the local 3-pack, users are able to filter queries based on business hours — so you’ll want to define your business hours with markup to help ensure you’re eligible to appear in these filtered results.

If you have multiple locations, mark up each one with the appropriate markup to ensure that potential clients can find your location nearest to them.

5. Track your progress on a local level

Once you begin to optimize your content for hyperlocal targeting, you need to make sure that you track your progress within the right location. This means monitoring the local search engine results pages serving your particular area. It will do you little good to monitor clicks and ranks for “Italian restaurants near me” on a national scale, for example, when you just want to rank for the keyword in the Springfield, Illinois area.

Instead, track your keyword rankings at your location of choice. The closer you can get to your exact business location, the more accurate your information will be. Use this kind of data to gain insight into the online local search experience of your target audience. You can then use this insight to guide your strategy as you move forward.

Final thoughts

Hyperlocal search has begun to grow as local search and the I-Want-to-Go micro-moment rise to a prominent position within search engines and the minds of consumers. Incorporating these tips in your local strategy will establish your brand strongly within this space and position you well for success moving forward.

[By Jim Yu] [From Search Engine Land]

Making the most of multichannel (with data’s help)

In today’s environment, you can pretty much forget about creating a simplistic, linear customer journey. It’s a lot more complicated than that.

The reason for this is that your prospects are highly active and mobile, operating across a whole variety of different devices, channels, networks and platforms.

In the UK, more than six out of 10 adults use at least two devices every day. And some one in four use three devices a day. Internet users have on average over five social media accounts.

The same person will interact with your brand at different times in different ways. And then there are those who are talking about you and not to you. 96% of people discussing brands online don’t follow the brand’s owned profiles.

The goal for marketers in this fragmented environment is to strive for a single customer view. You need to bring together all the multifaceted complexity of each person’s online footprint into one manageable, marketable unit.

In this post, we’ll show how marketers can make the most out of multichannel by gaining access to and harnessing all the data available about their prospect. We’ll see how data management platforms are the key to making sense of all the information now available to us.

The multichannel conundrum

An excellent explanation of the multichannel conundrum that modern marketers face was put forward as far back as 2011 by Tom Hoffman of Customer Strategist:

"It's become the norm that customers interact with companies through an assortment of channels. The more channels they use to connect with a given company, the higher their potential loyalty and spend. Conversely, the more frustrated they become when their experiences are inconsistent across channels when interacting with their preferred providers.
Unfortunately, few companies have equipped themselves to monitor, manage, or optimize their customers' multichannel experiences, thus increasing the chances of dissatisfaction, churn, and decreased customer value by failing to meet customer expectations."

In the five years since that, the challenges have only been exacerbated by the vast proliferation of data. Internet users are generating information about themselves at an alarming rate. One estimate puts it at 2.5 quintillion bytes a day.

Enormous volumes of untapped data

Unsurprisingly, this glut of disparate data is causing real headaches for marketers. We know that only 12% of data collected by businesses is currently analysed.

The sheer volume means that many of the insights that could be extracted and exploited are going untapped.

Silos and archaic systems

Yes, we’re still talking about silos in 2016. It’s the perennial problem of different departmental data banks, separated by virtual (or co-operational) walls.

Once again the issue is magnified by the flood of data now on hand - it’s more essential than ever to rationalise, streamline and combine databases.

Duplication of customers

Inevitably, siloed data leads to duplicate records, with customers existing in different places and inconsistent audience profiles resulting in disjointed marketing efforts.

It’s time to think of each customer not as an entry in each database, but as a single profile accessible to everyone in the business.

How data can help you to make the most of multichannel

The good news is this: There is a new weapon in the modern marketer’s arsenal. The data management platform is designed to address these very challenges and make data work the way it should.

Matching customer identities is the key to unlocking value from the plethora of data available to us today. Data management platforms do this by harmonising data from across multiple channels - including transaction data, online profiles, interaction records, cookies, device IDs and more.

Second and third party data is also incorporated, to build a single, silo-busting view of the customer.

Marketers are increasingly taking up the new technology. In one survey 35% of marketers in Europe had started using one within the previous year, and 26% within the last two years.

And it’s not just about programmatic adverts - 60% of DMP users harness them for more than just display advertising. In fact 55% of DMP users say it helps ‘create a targeted profile of the audience’ - the power to accurately segment and pinpoint audiences is a crucial benefit. 

The proof, as they say, is in the pudding, with 64% of marketers who use DMPs employing them ‘to drive higher ROI’. 

Overcome the multichannel conundrum

The multichannel conundrum is real, but it can be solved by the clever and intelligent use of data management platforms to make sense of the vast volumes of data generated.

By combining all available insights about each prospect or customer into one single view, you will gain the power to deliver an engaging and effective customer experience across all channels. 

Takeaways:

  • Today’s customer is operating across multiple channels, devices and networks, making the simplistic linear customer journey an outdated concept.
  • Focus your data management efforts on building a single, unified view of each customer.
  • Bring together information from different first, second and third-party data points.
  • Silos must be broken down and duplication of customers eradicated.
  • Data management platforms are designed to defeat the multichannel conundrum by assembling data from multiple origins into a central hub.

[By Chloe Young] [From EConsultancy]

Why Culture is the Pathway to Digital Success

For many people, digital transformation is about selecting the right hardware and the best software. Buy or build the best tools: get those two things right and you might think the rest will surely follow. But you’d be mistaken.

As we make tracks into 2016, we stand at a crossroads that will define the future of business. Companies must innovate to stay relevant, adapting their technology and their teams for success in the dynamic 21st century.

Digital window dressing

Today you might be giving your business a digital overhaul, bringing in new tools and systems. You might even devise new ways of delivering your products or services. But will they work if the culture and behaviour in your organisation remain unchanged?

In an interview with McKinsey & Company, Ericsson’s chief HR officer, Bina Chaurasia reveals how Ericsson tapped into the power of their people to undergo a successful digital transformation.

Start with culture

As Bina explained, “our culture was our strongest asset.” There was already a mindset among Ericsson employees that collaboration and innovation are important. Employees were also aligned with the brand’s wider purpose of creating technology that helps people and communities.

If your culture isn’t quite as robust, this is where you can take the Barclays approach: select staff that are already aligned with your wider aims and empower them to help their colleagues understand the benefit of the transformation process.

Involve everyone

When undergoing any change in business it can be normal practice to make the decisions at the top, hand the edicts down to management and let the bulk of the staff scrabble to adapt and catch up. This is something that Bina feels she and her colleagues didn’t get quite right.

No matter how alien it might feel, it’s necessary to open up communication from top to bottom, and leave the lines open. This doesn’t mean that everyone has a say in everything, but when people are suddenly told that the way they work is changing, they can become very resistant.

Use your ambassadors for change as a way of keeping teams up to date, and show them why change is both important and beneficial.

Remove barriers

When Ericsson began their process of digital transformation they had twenty three regional groups, all of whom had their own processes and ways of working. There were no joined up systems, and the different groups often worked in isolation. Now they have ten groups, all of whom share platforms and processes.

You don’t need to be a global corporation to learn from this. The more teams and silos you have, the harder it is for people to deal with change and support each other. They begin to think that what’s going on won’t apply to them, and perhaps if they carry on with business as usual everything will be OK. This is a dangerous belief that must be tackled if businesses wish to successfully implement their digital transformation into the psyche of all employees.

Getting on the front foot

Two other critical elements that are vital for your new digital approach: iterate, and be ready to fail. You cannot precisely predict the next technology that’s due to change your world. Your best hope lies in an approach that may appear unnatural if not altogether unreasonable: work faster, make as many mistakes as you can and learn from each failure.

Some of the world’s foremost innovators and visionaries all share this trait – they learn faster by doing more in a short space of time, learning from their failures to strive for greatness. Elon Musk’s SpaceX program is a case in point. What began as a revolutionary idea – that rockets launched into space could be flown back to earth and landed safely – has now become a reality.

In the face of massive adversity, repeated failures and mounting pressure, Elon Musk’s resolve remained strong as he crashed his way to success. Each instance of “failure” was actually a stepping stone to success.

Remember that your people are your greatest asset. They are not only vital to the continued success of your business, but employees who feel supported and empowered will be the best advocates you can have for your brand.

If you fail to impact the minds of employees and change the way they work then digital transformation will never happen and will just be a costly exercise in futility. Culture is the key that unlocks the door to nimble and dynamic business growth.

[By James Moffat] [From Digital Marketing Magazine ] [Read More]