When It Comes to Online Ads, Things Are Getting Personal

When It Comes to Online Ads, Things Are Getting Personal

Online Advertising

Let’s say, on a typical day, you wake up at 6 AM and go to bed at 10 PM. That gives you 16 hours during the day to live life. But check this out. During that time, the average American spends 10.5 hours in front of a screen, which is more than half of the day! That includes a smartphone, tablet, computer and/or TV.

Because of this trend, it’s becoming more and more impossible for brands to find success with traditional ad spends – billboards, street signage, terrestrial radio, etc. Instead, advertisers are spending those dollars more wisely on ads within social media, audio streaming services, streaming TV networks, websites, etc. And they should!

If you still aren’t advertising online, I’d say you’re not too far behind the times. Maybe only by about 20 years. But the good news is that, of about 15 of those years, most brands weren’t (or still aren’t) doing a good job with targeting. So there’s still time for you to catch up and find success. Remember, not every product or service is appropriate for all web users. In fact, there’s 286 million internet users in America. Even with a very popular product or service, your brand is probably still only applicable to 10 to 20%.

You can’t just blanket your ads on any ‘ol website. Especially the local news station or newspaper (gross!). Instead, you need to be smarter. You need to use technology that’s become available to take targeting to the next level and get your ads onto the screens of only those who may find interest, take notice, and take action.

When it comes to ads, artwork and messaging are extremely important (whether static or video). Let’s focus today though on placement. Here’s four emerging ways that you can do a better job at targeting with online ads.

Tailored Locations

Not all, but many businesses sell in certain geographical areas. Whether you’re a restaurant that typically sees customers come from within 10 miles, or a forklift distributor who reaches buyers across a three-county region, geographical targeting is critical to online advertising success. You can run location-based ads by zip code, DMA, or through geo-fencing.

Geo-fencing allows advertisers to place ads within a specific radius of a selected location (which is most often the storefront). You can do 10 miles, 20 miles, 30 miles, whatever distance you want. You can do multiple fences too. What makes this great is that it’s targeting IP addresses across devices. Here’s two options.

When someone on a device enters the geo-fence (desktops are stationary but mobile moves across points), they will see the ad. Alternatively, you can set up a program where it builds a list of all those who enter the geo-fence. It will recall their IP and allow ads to be served to them later, even if they have left the fence. Now you know you’re only exposing your ads to people who are in arm’s reach of your location (or who may be returning to arm’s reach). You can even have different ads that are served to different locations, called geo-aware ads, that are more impactful since the messaging can be more appropriate.

Contextual Targeting

This type of targeting focuses on the content that exists on a website – rather than the website itself. It looks for keywords found within the text of articles and places your ads on top, beside, or beneath. The hope is that the readers of the article will find relevancy in ads that relate to the topic of the article. This can be overlaid with geo-targeting and can run across multiple devices.

Let’s say you sell lawn care equipment: weed wackers, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, etc. Instead of your ads appearing randomly across usatoday.com, you would only appear alongside usatoday.com articles that relate to the keywords you specify. I’d probably choose keywords like: do-it-yourself, home improvement, real estate, landscaping, lawn care, lawn care equipment, etc. Now, when someone is reading a relevant, related story (i.e. “5 Ways to Improve Your Landscaping this Summer Season”), your ads will appear alongside and seem much more appropriate to the reader. Remember, your audience will be much smaller than normal if you were to advertise natively on usatoday.com, but the quality of your impressions and clicks will be greater.

Competitor Targeting

Geo-targeting to the Nth degree, this type of targeting looks at consumers who visit other businesses that you specify. It’s hyper-local. These can be businesses that pose as competitors, who are nearby, or those who complement your brand. Ads can be tailored to visitors who have shopped at one of the locations you indicate, or those who enter the geo-fence and are currently in those stores.

Let’s say you’re a restaurant in the same plaza as Macy’s. Consider the impact of running ads for people who are shopping inside of that store at 12 noon. They’re going to need to get something to eat for lunch when they’re done shopping, and now, your restaurant next door is top of mind through the ads that appear on websites or mobile apps. For related businesses, consider running ads for your landscaping company among those who shopped at Home Depot. The data can be stored to recall audience members who met the criteria in the past 30, 60, or 90 days, or even the past full year (for those who have longer sales cycles).

I would suggest building your list out of all the businesses within a mile or two radius, then adding in all of your competitors (radius will vary depending on your service area), and finally filling out your list with complementary businesses or services. You should have a minimum of 40-60 businesses listed, even for small companies. Overlay this targeting with geography and/or contextual targeting, and you can get even more specific customers. It’s a great model and has proven to be more successful than standard display advertising.

Remarketing

Remarketing, or retargeting, are ads that appear on a user’s device (on websites, apps, or social media) based on past browser history. Typically, if you’ve been on a website looking to buy a product or service, you’ll see ads from that company later as your move about the web. Remarketing reinforces messaging around recent interests and hopes to push you closer towards a sale.

If a business is good at it, the ads should be highly specific to the pages a user has been on. So instead of ads that are just about the brand (that send you to the homepage), they should instead be tailored to the actual product or service of interest. This is great if you have a funnel-based website and you have remarketing setup on your product pages or on abandoned shopping cart pages. Remarketing increases frequency, leading to higher recall, and drives people to your site to finish where they left off – with a purchase!

Summary

Remember that messaging within ads should be tailored to each of the audiences above since you have a bit more insight into where they are located and/or what interests them. Consider static ads as well as video ads. Make them highly attractive and very to-the-point. Pricing for these types of online ads is a CPM (cost per thousand impression) model. The greater the budget, the more impressions your ads will earn, which in turn, will lead to a greater number of clicks and conversions. Overall, it’s a great way to get onto the screens, during the 10.5 hours per day, of your most coveted consumers.

This article was original published for Site-Seeker. You can find it by clicking here.

How I Lost 2,000 Twitter Followers and What I Learned In the Process

How I Lost 2,000 Twitter Followers and What I Learned In the Process

Social Media

My story.

At my “Twitter peak,” I had around 11,000 followers. That was in late 2015. Today, I’m down to 8,980 and counting and I typically lose a few followers each day. Here’s what happened, and here’s why I don’t mind seeing them go…

I graduated from college in 2009. It was a tough time to be a college graduate due to the Great Recession that hit earlier that year. Thousands of companies were laying off so when positions did happen to open, those who were laid off with plenty more experience under their belts, were acting as competition.

On the flip side, this new thing called social media was beginning to gain traction. Though many platforms were a few years old, it was the period when businesses wanted to try to understand and exercise the benefits of these channels. I was instructed by several mentors to get involved, learn the tools, appreciate how businesses can take advantage, etc. So I did.

How I gained my following.

I set out on a – what would soon become a seven-year journey – to be a Twitter all-star. I treated it like a second job. I would get home from work each night and devote at least two hours to the cause.

I’m not Twitter famous by any means. I’m not even verified. But for someone who wasn’t/isn’t a full-time blogger, member of the media, or a celebrity, I think having several thousands of followers was a nice feat. It certainly helped give me credibility when I spoke to clients about social media marketing.

Throughout the time when I was highly active, I was often asked my peers and clients how I accumulated such a following. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a magic bullet, and it didn’t happen overnight. I don’t mind sharing some of my best practices for gaining a following:

I talked to everyone.

I would use the search tool and hashtags to find people in PR, marketing, and technology, etc. Then I would engage – the good ‘ol true definition of the word. I’d reply to people for hours on end, asking questions, commenting, getting involved in professional conversations with my opinion and limited expertise. This was before it was all too common to use the “fav” feature (now “like” feature) so it was all real commentary. Many users came and went. Some I continue to talk to today. (Shoutout to @jesslaw ‏@aubzim ‏@Courtz112 and @bitty_boop ‏ for holdin’ it down since day 1.)

I participated in a ton of Twitter Chats.

#PRChat, #JournChat, #ContentChat, #PPCChat, etc. These were/are weekly chats focused on a variety of topics in my industry – public relations, blogging, marketing, technology, etc. I’d answer every question and stay involved for the full hour. After each event, I would follow all users who I interacted with throughout the chat. Most would immediately follow back.

I hijacked live events.

There were many users who would list and/or follow users who were participating and tweeting about certain live events. This could be music festivals (#WarpedTour), TV shows (like the #Oscars), or trade shows (#NRAShow) and industry conferences (#INBOUND). By using the owned hashtags for the event, my tweets would be noticed among other participants (both live and online) and cause quite a few follow backs. I also participated in a few live Tweet-Ups, gatherings made up of active Twitter users in a certain area.

I followed relevant people.

I wanted to follow (and get follow backs from) people who were in my industry. As a shortcut, I knew that people who engaged with marketing/ad agencies would be related to my field. I used Twitter lists like mad to classify and organize my following. I followed tons of those who were connected to local/regional agencies. I also used Twitter directories to find relevant handles based on topics. Having a professional headshot, detailed bio related to my job, and a website with supporting material helped ensure that I was legitimate and wasn’t a bot. It helped me get noticed.

I created and shared a lot of content.

I’ve seen Twitter users who tweet a lot, but it’s nothing meaningful. Content creation is important because people look to you as a source of rich information, as a thought leader. I created/shared blog articles, short videos, photos, charts, infographics, etc. Some on behalf of my business, some that I did on my own time simply to support my Twitter initiative. I also used relevant hashtags when posting. These pieces got shared, caused reactions, and led to follower growth.

There’s been a ton of articles over the years on ways to develop a following. Do a quick Google search. Blogs from 2009 up until yesterday. Many of them have decent suggestions, beyond some that I mentioned above. Here’s one.

How I lost my following.

I’m not sure if it was the changing usage patterns of Twitter or maybe I had just grown tired of reading tweets from total strangers. Either way, for me, Twitter had lost some of its luster. I decided to make a change.

It took me about four hours (since they got rid of all the mass unfollow tools) but I cleansed myself of about 8,000 following. I only left remaining: 1) those who I personally knew, 2) those who I had developed Twitter relationships with over time, 3) trusted media outlets that I often read, 4) select businesses and brands that I pay close attention to. I left myself with about 200 following.

A lot of users on Twitter play the “I only follow people who follow me back” game. It’s not a bad form of etiquette. If you don’t care about what I have to say, why should I care about what you have to say? It’s not like Facebook or LinkedIn. If we don’t know each other, there are no real repercussions if one of us hits “unfollow.”

After I had cleansed my list, I watched as 2,000 followers slowly unfollowed me over the course of about three months. Since then, a few followers fade each day. I still have 8,000+ but, more importantly, I have true connections with many that have stayed and I continue to engage with them regularly.

I had preached it for years but I wasn’t living it – until now. Quality > quantity. The number doesn’t mean anything if those individuals weren’t paying attention, engaging, sharing a connection, communicating. I have no interest in spectators – on Twitter, in business, or in my personal life, so the following number means nothing to me. It’s all about the conversations.

How Twitter has changed.

Twitter is very different today than it was in 2009. From my experience, it’s become much more of an article exchange center rather than a source of original content. What I mean is there’s a few creators, namely big bloggers or media outlets, and the rest of users simply add to the commentary with a RT, like, or reply (remember the 90-9-1 rule?). The ability to reply with animated gifs and emojis has only fueled this behavior since you don’t need to leave Twitter to find these reactions. Of course, Twitter as a source for instant news is still a critical function, especially with the addition of live streaming – but again – most people sit back and watch the 1% do their thing.

Jay Baer at Convince & Convert predicted this as soon as Twitter updated its software to algorithmically show certain tweets ahead of others. He also alluded to the rise of Twitter ads to help businesses find their way to the top of user feeds.

Here’s what I feel Twitter still does really well and where I feel it struggles. This can help you and your business decide if/when to use Twitter and how much attention to give to it.

Pros:

  • Customer service. Those on Twitter expect instant responses. That’s the nature of the tool. It’s real-time. Business can/should use Twitter as a way for customers to ask questions. The only caveat – you should be ready to respond immediately, at least within the hour.
  • Skews younger. If you’re a brand whose target audience is tweens, teens, and twenty-somethings, this is a great outlet. It isn’t as shiny and new as SnapChat, but it does boast these users in great numbers. Plus, Twitter outweighs SnapChat with the ability to add call to actions, have versatile content, and remain top of mind longer.
  • Show off your brand voice/personality. I’m sure you’ve read about Wendy’s on Twitter. It’s amazing. They are sassy, sarcastic, even sometimes rude, but it fits the personality they want to convey. Their target audience is younger, more urban, with less income. It fits them. Other brands should follow suit, find a voice that makes sense, and embrace it wholly.

Cons:

  • The novelty is gone. Twitter still continues to claim that it has 320 million users. But it doesn’t take a Twitter expert to browse around and see all the dormant, dead accounts that exist. Not to mention the crazy amount of spam or fake accounts. I think the numbers are inflated. The newness of Twitter has faded and many social influencers have taken to Instagram or SnapChat as an alternative.
  • Short life span. Despite the “In case you missed it…” feature, the very nature of Twitter means that tweets have a short life span. Within hours, sometimes even minutes (depending on the user), the tweet is buried and gone. This requires users and brands tweet often to stay top of mind and more resources are needed to make that happen.
  • Challenging ad interface. It’s not challenging to use. It’s challenging to find success. Unless you’re a company with a very broad target audience, it’s tough to find your niche. The targeting features on Twitter aren’t nearly as good as Facebook and LinkedIn. You can use keywords, related followers using handle names, geography, and interests, but even just a few keywords or handles will put a lot of people on your list that aren’t relevant. When I used Twitter ads, it took some time and a lot of babysitting and adjusting to find my sweet spot. You can certainly find success, but you may waste money in the process.

This article was originally published for Site-Seeker. You can find it here.

7 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Social Media Marketer

7 Questions To Ask When Hiring A Social Media Marketer

Social Media

Beyond my normal 9-5 at Site-Seeker, I also teach social media marketing at Utica College. I often tell students that social media, though 10+ years old now, is still seen as the new kid on the block. Because of this, some seasoned marketers still frown upon social and the abilities needed to actually do it well, do it right, and generate results.

They either:

  • Don’t see the value, or
  • Don’t respect the work

Either way, those professionals are setting their departments/businesses up for failure. When you aren’t recognizing the importance of social as a key component, or maybe even the single most critical component of your marketing plan, you end up shirking your responsibilities when it comes to resources. That goes for both tools and people.

Recruiting fitting talent to perform social media for business may not seem like it’s hard. But it is. And here’s why:

Everyone thinks they can do social media.

SPOILER ALERT: They can’t. Not by a long shot.

As a [somewhat] young marketing professional, I’ve been lucky enough to be on both sides of the coin. I’ve applied, interviewed, and secured (and didn’t secure) social media jobs. And I’ve job posted, screened, interviewed, and hired for social media jobs. In both scenarios, I’ve picked up quite a few tips on the best ways to prove your social media knowhow and worth.

Here’s seven questions I always ask when interviewing a social media marketer:

1) What’s your education?

I’ve found that some of the most talented people in new media and digital marketing don’t have any formal education in these areas. However, I’ve often found people that do, have an advantage. They can look beyond the work itself and answer the “why.” Why is engagement important? It’s not the “like” that’s valuable; it’s the advocacy that’s slowly being created to draw in fans, cultivate them, and turn them into brand loyalists. Sure, someone without formal education can grasp these concepts with the right training. But academic education often creates that foundational understanding and the roots that tie social media to the rest of important business activities. You won’t need to worry about taking on that training yourself. Consider majors (or master’s) in marketing, public relations, or communications.

2) Do you have executing strengths?

At Site-Seeker, we use the Clifton StrengthsFinder test to determine both current and potential employees’ top strengths. This is important in hiring for the right position and placing people on projects where they will excel. If you use this test when hiring, ensure that social media marketing candidates have execution strengths (which is one of the four categories that strengths fall within). Social media is such a detail-oriented environment. There’s a lot of planning involved, but also so much to follow through on. If you have a strategic mind, are a creative dreamer, or are an individual who just can’t seem to put pen to paper – forget it. You need someone who has an innate talent in taking loose ideas and turning them into something real and tangible.

3) What channels have you managed on behalf of a business?

I brush my teeth every day, but that doesn’t make me a dental hygienist. Just because you post photos on your personal Instagram or live tweet during The Bachelor, it doesn’t even come close to describing your abilities in using social media for a brand. We’re talking about creating a unique and professional voice, posting with intention associated with a buyer persona and pre-created objectives, being meticulous over engagement and responses that can aid in brand storytelling. You don’t discount the work of a dentist or dental hygienist. Don’t discount the work of a social media marketer.

4) What are the top metrics you feel would measure success in a social program?

You need to determine if they can analyze web data. This is often the most under-appreciated side to social media marketing. I’d even go to the length of saying it’s the most important. The inexperienced professional will automatically defer to “likes” and “follows” as top metrics. But experienced inbound marketers know that social media is just another one of the many media used to reach business goals. Namely, social should drive conversions, and in most cases, this translates to web visitors, leads and online sales. See how candidates handle this question and allow them to elaborate on their experience and comfort level with handling data and turning it into usable information.

5) What are some social media tools or software that have worked for you in the past?

There are too many components of social media today to not rely on tools. Whether it’s SimplyMeasured, If This Then That, SproutSocial, BuzzSumo, Canva, etc – there are a ton of software options that not only allow marketers to be more efficient, but to get work done that would be nearly impossible if done manually. Quiz the candidate on the various tools that they know can potentially work to make for a more successful social program. If they don’t know of any, they probably need a bit more experience. On top of that, advertising is critical for social media in business today. I usually tell clients that if they don’t have a social media advertising budget, don’t even bother. The candidate should be well-versed in online advertising and know the best techniques in how to manage and carry out successful ad campaigns.

6) What type of proof can you provide to showcase your writing skills?

It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a 1200-word blog post, or a 12-word tweet. Keen writing skills are crucial to everything we do in marketing. Research, putting information into an easy-to-understand way, writing to entice a share, a click, a purchase. Make sure you look at the candidate’s portfolio. There should be proof of sound writing skills and creativity. Look for example pieces of copywriting, blogs, email campaigns, or even formal writing like research projects.

7) What is your experience with creative work?

The only way to break through the crap, err, I mean clutter, is creativity. Think about it. What do you actually click on these days? You scroll through probably 100 videos on Facebook each day. 500 tweets. 50 snaps. Which ones do you actually take the time to watch or read? Or better yet, which ones do you actually recall an hour, a day, or a week later? The only pieces of content that work are those that are the most creative. Text, graphic, photo, video – it doesn’t matter the medium – it matters if it stands out (while also being relevant to the brand, industry, and goals of the campaign). Get a feel for the candidate’s creative work and experience. If they aren’t creative, they’ll likely fail hard in a social media role.

Based on all that above, consider some of the key skills needed for the most important jobs that social media marketers do on a regular basis:

Once you’ve given my seven questions some thought – and any other interview questions that you deem as valuable to making sure the candidate(s) is a good fit for your company or organization – you’re ready to start recruiting.

  • Consider LinkedIn and Facebook as resources to locate talent. Since it’s a social media position, they should be using these tools already and have rich profiles.
  • Be careful about your job description, ensure that talent must be local (if that’s the case, or else you’ll get a lot of remote workers due to the nature of the job). They should provide a resume, cover letter, and portfolio (this will weed out bad apples, and provide proof of experience/skills). Be sure to deeply explore their social channels and website.
  • Take time to explore portfolio work and check into references.

Good luck and happy recruiting!

This article was originally published for Site-Seeker Inc. Find the original article by clicking here.

Digital Marketing Today is More About Science, Less About Magic

Digital Marketing Today is More About Science, Less About Magic

Digital Marketing

We’ve seen so many changes take place as a result of the digital revolution. Think beyond “mobile” and “social.” I’m talking about an even greater change. A change that has made it easier for some of us to do our jobs and harder for others. I’m talking about the rise of data and its role in marketing and how various tools today can help marketers be successful with little to no creativity.

This past September, I had the pleasure of attending #INBOUND15 in Boston. It was a radical conference – so many great like-minded marketers, awesome entertainment and food, and wonderful breakout sessions and speakers. During the keynote, co-founder and CEO of Hubspot Brian Halligan spoke about the importance of software and tools today. At one point, he said this:

“Today, marketing is more about science and less about magic.”

I wrote it down. Along with another 50 pages of notes throughout the four days there.

It wasn’t until recently when I did a download of my takeaways that I revisited the quote. I let it digest and gave it a lot of thought. And finally I started to figure it what it meant (to me, at least). Come to find out, it really resonated because it was a similar theme that I’ve been preaching for a while. I just never worded it that way.

 

(Source)

Right and Left Brains

My interpretation is that there are two types of marketers. Those that are right-brained and creative and those that are left-brained and not. Because of the importance of data/technical-ness in our daily lives today, it’s becoming more and more common for left-brained folks to serve a real purpose. Of course, having teams made up of both is essential – but this concept of science trumping art (aka magic) is surely something to think about.

Now I certainly don’t intend to undermine the importance of creativity. Today, perhaps more than ever, requires great creative (copy, writing, graphics, video) to actually be noticed. On TV, through streaming ads, in social media – everywhere. The very foundation of marketing was built on that that is interesting, captivating and engaging. And that will not change.

But there’s a critical place for all of you who are not so savvy. The folks who draw stick figures or have trouble writing. There’s a place for you because so much of what we do today is drawn from the ability to work with, navigate and excel at very important software that help us get the job done on a daily basis. A place because numbers and analytics are the battery that helps the marketing clock keep ticking. Because everything we do today requires measurement. It’s what allows us to track ROI and deem a project successful or unsuccessful. And the tools available to us today allow us to track at a microscopic level. It’s no longer guesswork like it was in the 60s. We can prove the true value to our work.

Important Tools Today

It was hilarious, a few weeks ago, when Google Drive crapped the bed and was down all afternoon. Twitter was buzzing with complaints and my office was refreshing Google’s support page every 5 minutes. We, as marketers, cannot work without three things: WiFi, our devices, and our software. Too much of what we do every day relies on it. And when we lose that connection, we are a waste of air. And it’s because so much of our day is consumed by powerful software that we use to get the job done. I betcha you use some these:

Reporting:

  • Raven Tools
  • KISSMetrics
  • Google Analytics

Marketing Automation:

  • HubSpot
  • Marketo
  • SharpSpring

SEO Services:

  • SEMRush
  • Raven Tools
  • Majestic SEO

Public Relations:

  • CisionPoint
  • Vocus
  • Meltwater

Social Media Management:

  • SproutSocial
  • Falcon
  • Hootsuite

The list goes on and on. It’s so important to have members on our team who are great at thoroughly using software to uncover and interpret data, manage projects, and strategically make wise decisions. That’s why young marketers (or those looking to come over from other fields) should understand this:

Creativity is not the end-all-be-all of marketing. If you are a left-brained, less creative person, you can find ways to excel in the field by using the many various tools at your disposal. Take advantage of technical traits, and you can find ways to be extremely successful.

I actually feel I sit more on the right hand side of the spectrum. So all of this came to me not because I thought I was technically-savvy, but because I thought it would be helpful to try and improve those types of skills. Alas, I did some research and found some help. Below, find 5 certifications that I believe to be less on the creative side, and more on the analytical side that can help individuals looking to become better at left-brained marketing.

Codeacademy: HTML and CSS

Code has been always Greek to me. I always felt intimidated in front of it. But as a content marketer and SEO professional, I found myself often times being faced with it. Now I wasn’t expecting to build full blown websites, but the opportunity certainly came up where I need to make tweaks, override CSS for styling, or identify errors so my development team could have a better understanding of what was going on. The basics are taught on codeacademy through an excellent hands-on approach that so many have completed to date to help improve this technical trade. I’m a fan.

Hootsuite Social Media Management

Social media is still that bad boy from high school that everyone thinks is cool but no one respects. But it’s slowly coming around as more and more brands find value (in terms of real, legitimate leads and sales) through these channels. Conducting effective social media require a whole lot of creativity – from the content that is prepared and distributed to the ads that are built to drive awareness, push content further or grows followers. But think about timing, measurement and monitoring. There’s definitely a place for technical minds to help with social media. Give them a thorough understanding of social media so they can assist with the efforts. Take advantage of Hootsuite’s offering.

Hubspot Inbound Certification

Inbound certainly requires great creativity – especially when it comes to the content creation portion, the landing page designs, or the clever email copy. But beyond that is building a system of workflows, triggers and emails that make sense to help nurture leads over time. It requires looking closely at data to figure out the best time to reach out to leads and make contact. And do not overlook A/B testing, heatmaps and more. It’s a must to create a plan that can take those quality pieces of content and get the most out it. These technical skills can be improved through HubSpot’s certification. (And even more through its partner program).

The Google Suite

If you aren’t familiar with Google software, it’s hard to be successful in marketing today. From Webmaster Tools to Analytics to AdWords to Tag Manager to Drive to Hangouts, it’s practically impossible to go an entire day without running into a component of the Google suite. Consider certifications from the tech giant to become better at using AdWords, Tag Manager and Analytics and understand both basic and advanced technical functions to get the most use out of these tools. It will likely allow you to not only do a better job on your next SEO, advertising or marketing project, but you’ll probably be able to work faster by knowing shortcuts and the right features to get the job done.

Project Management Institute

Projects today are very complex. If you’re a believer in an integrated approach, you’ll start with a strategy, have multiple players involved, set benchmarks, assign tasks, budget costs and hours, and more. Great project management skills require organization and focus. It’s not for the faint of heart, or a loosy-goose mind. Take advantage of the skills that can be attained through this certification and manage projects better, from start to finish. It’s not “technical” per se, but it certainly requires much more of a focused, rigid mindset than that of a creative set of skills.

Wrap Up

More of a left-brained individual? Don Draper had no room for you in 1964. If you couldn’t draw or write copy, you were wasting his time.

Now, our teams are more diverse. Marketing encompasses more duties and responsibilities. And the skills required for this field are dense. Analytics, measurement, data, and using powerful software to its fullest potential and abilities can make a regular ‘ol marketer a certified genius. If you’re a numbers guy/girl, development guy/girl, and an overly tech-savvy guy/girl, you can probably find a suitable niche.

Listen, I’m one of the biggest advocates on the face of the earth for great creative. And more importantly, I appreciate good artists and I despise those who try to be something they are not (the “I know my way around Photoshop a little bit” type artists). Good content writing. Good visuals. Good copywriting. It’s all an integral part of successful marketing and developing a powerful brand – especially online. But it’s still a piece. And there are other shoes that need to be filled. Measurement is a must. And those analytical, technical minds are so important.

We need you.

This post was originally featured in SEMrush.com. To view the original article, please click here.

What Mario Kart Taught Me About Business

What Mario Kart Taught Me About Business

Business

I’m not much of a gamer anymore. I used to be. Then again, weren’t we all in the 90s? Nintendo was pretty much our generation’s iPhone. Mostly everyone had one. And those who didn’t have one, wanted one. It was fresh, cool and continually being modified with newer versions and games that were better than the last. I fell in love with Super NES in 1994 when my brother and I got it as a Christmas gift. And on it, we loved playing one of the greatest party games of all time: Mario Kart.

 

 

Parents used to always rag on video games back then. Remember? They advised us that we should go outside and throw the ball around instead of sitting on the couch playing video games. “It will rot your brains,” they preached. “Those games don’t teach you anything.”

But now as an adult, I find myself constantly feeling nostalgic, thinking about those great games and if what our parents said was actually true. And then I started to realize something.

Mario Kart was a great parallel to the business world.

It didn’t rot my brain. No sir, Mario Kart taught me everything I know about life! Okay, maybe that’s a stretch, but there’s certainly something to be said about the game and the lessons it lends to today’s business world, especially those looking to excel in marketing. Here’s three key reasons why I find Mario Kart to be the perfect metaphor to succeeding in today’s workplace.

Every Employee Has Different Skills

You turn on the game, and before you can even start thinking about all the fun you are about you have, you have to make a decision. In the worry-free 1990s, this was probably the most important decision you were going to make all month. Which character are you going to be?

I love how Nintendo made each character distinct. Not only in who they are, but in the strengths they possessed. Mario was well-balanced, for example. He didn’t have any stats that were off-the-chart, but was a great well-rounded driver. You could count on him to do a good job on all courses. Toad was light and had excellent handling abilities but his size and stature didn’t fair well when getting bumped by the big boys. Speaking of which, Bowser’s size and weight made him have slow acceleration speed but top off at the highest speed once he got going.

In the workplace, we all have unique strengths. At my company, upon hire, our president makes us each take the StrengthsFinder test as well as a personality test. By doing so, the group can quickly get a feel for a new member’s work style and what he/she might be great at. There’s a total of 33 strengths in this particular study. Some include:

  • Achiever
  • Belief
  • Competition
  • Developer
  • Discipline
  • Empathy
  • Focus
  • Futuristic
  • Positivity
  • Strategic

What I love about the book (that supports the test) is that it instructs readers to not focus on trying to compensate for weaknesses, but rather take time to understand and accentuate strengths. Just like Mario Kart, different employees, based on their strengths, might be better suited for certain projects, tasks, clients, etc. Maximizers are wonderful at working through the details, woo (winning others over) are great in client facing roles or in sales, etc.

It’s also helpful to take a look at personality types. Using the Jung and Briggs Myers model, learn which of the 16 personality types you fall in. By carefully understanding your personality, you can do a better job at adjusting your work style to find greater productivity and efficiency and settle into roles where you will succeed.

In Mario Kart, you have to know what you are good at to compete at the highest level. Understanding each team member’s strengths in your company can help you do a better job at aligning the proper resources to each project, while seeing far greater quality in work. Manage by strength, not by name or title.

All Markets Are Different

I bet running a small business was easy in the 1880s. You opened your business, maybe put an ad in the local newspaper, and dealt with all those great, loyal customers walking through the door. Life was good.

Today, it’s much more complicated. The web and mobile make geographical reach virtually non-existent. Remote staff and sales teams allow us to hire anyone, anywhere. The ability to reach all sorts of customers let even the most niche product or service have the potential for success beyond any sort of borders.

And at that same time, competition is fiercer than ever because anyone can start a business, raise funds, operate a staff, and sell a product. You see how much some of these GoFundMe pages have raised? It’s more important now, more than ever, to fully understand your market and target audience.

One of the coolest things about Mario Kart is the different courses that you encountered. Each was unique with different themes, roads, and enemies. It took weeks or even months of playing before you could master them all and know the special nuances of each. But let’s not mention Rainbow Road.

Tying back to real life, your market is the course. Each with a different landscape and makeup.

You may not have a bird’s eye view of your market like Mario, but you can research and pull from past experiences. As long as you have the time, talent and resources, you have access to data and information that can help you understand your market and audience and better lay out your business plans.

Explore blog posts, case studies and online statistics, and lean on research to build out buyer personas to see what your target audience is like – from both a demographic and psychographic perspective. Read into the cultural makeup of the areas that you are selling in to see if there are any correlations with buying habits.

Some activities to gather this information could include:

  • Google Consumer Surveys
  • Email Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Google Analytics and Social Media Demographic Data
  • User-Testing
  • Customer and Company Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Secondary Research
  • Negative Persona Development

The information gathered should be complete and help establish a comprehensive understanding of the audience. Some things you’ll definitely want to gather include:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests
  • Education
  • Income
  • Company
  • Title
  • Family
  • Language
  • Favorite Website
  • Favorite Apps
  • Preferred Device
  • Buying Motivations
  • Buying Concerns

There are resources out there, you just need to find them. Do so before you create any action plans so you can tailor the product, service, brand, and messaging for the audience within that market. And make sure to keep a close eye on your competitors too. You wouldn’t want Donkey Kong sneaking up on you and blasting you with a triple red shell now, would you?

Different Tactics Work At Different Times

When the race began, you had one goal. Get a weapon as soon as possible.

The genius behind Nintendo is their creativity with things like this. Each weapon offered a different advantage, and some even could come back to haunt you. The green shells were sent flying to try and knock off a leading racer. Red shells were similar but tracked the competitor for increased accuracy. And the blue shell chased the race leader! Banana peals were dropped behind you and hopefully forced your nearest enemy to slip and wipe out. And of course you also had mushroom boosts and the beloved star power.

In the business world, and most especially in marketing, we have an incredibly wide breadth of tactics at our disposal to try and reach our goals and/or improve our bottom line.

I came up with a list of 99 marketing tactics one day just to try and see how many were available to me while I was working on a new marketing plan. The fact is: we have a ton of options. Here’s just a few:

  • Affinity programs
  • Blogger outreach
  • Contests
  • Employee videos
  • Lead nurturing
  • Loyalty programs
  • Mobile apps
  • Podcasting
  • Social Media
  • Remarketing
  • Webinars
  • Websites

But what works best?

Of course that all depends on the company, the competitive landscape, the industry, budget, the audience and more. Before your new calendar year begins, put together a marketing plan that will map out everything you are looking to accomplish this year and why.

And before you start making the decisions on what to include, begin with research. Not all tactics are created equal and some companies see greater success than others, depending on how well they’ve crafted their plan.

In Mario Kart, some items work better than others. That depends on the course, the player, your current positioning, and the enemies in front or behind you.

In the game, it was a toss up what weapon you’d receive each time. And you were left dealing with the hand you were deal. Fortunately, in the business/marketing world, it’s not random. You have the power to choose whatever tactics you want.

Do the research, understand the market, lay out a strategy, and select the tactics that work best for you to help your company reach your goals. Choose wisely and work towards earning the most profound ROI around your work.

So, there ya go. See, Mario Kart really did teach us kids something. Happy personality test-taking, buyer persona-creating, marketing plan-building, and of course, Mario Kart playing. Have fun! And good luck!

This article originally appeared on Steamfeed.com. To view the full article, please visit: http://www.steamfeed.com/what-mario-kart-taught-me-about-business/