Posts by Alyson Shane

The Ultimate Guide to Pricing Plans (+ Examples!)

- by Alyson Shane

Do you want to learn how to price your services so customers click on your preferred pricing plan? Have you struggled to drive customers towards the option you want them to select?

Then you've come to the right place! This article explores the psychology behind consumer marketing, and uses research and examples to show you how to price your products and services to drive consumer behaviour.

Why is Understanding Consumer Psychology Important?

Knowing why consumers choose one option over another helps us make more informed decisions about our pricing.

Being strategic in our pricing doesn't only improve conversions! Understanding the psychology behind pricing allows us to create positive experiences for our customers, which helps them feel happy about their decision to buy.

How can we help our customers feel this way while buying from us? Keep reading to find out:

The Decoy Effect, aka Asymmetric Dominance

"The Decoy Effect" describes our tendency to change our preference between two options when presented with a third, less enticing option.

The third option, known as the “decoy”, uses asymmetric dominance to push customers to choose between one of the two better options.

What is Asymmetric Dominance?

Asymmetric dominance means that the decoy is priced to make one of the other three options more attractive.

The decoy is “dominated” in terms of perceived value (price, quality, quantity, features, etc.) and isn’t actually intended to sell.

The decoy exists only to nudge customers away from the “competitor” and towards the “target” (usually the most profitable option.)

Real-Life Examples of The Decoy Effect

One of the most popular examples of The Decoy Effect comes from the researcher Dan Ariely. In 2009 he ran a study that analyzed the pricing options for The Economist with 100 MIT students.

In one scenario, he gave students the option between a web-only subscription or a print-only option for twice the price.

Not surprisingly, 68% chose the cheaper, web-only option.

When given a third option - a web-and-print subscription for the same price as the print-only option, just 16% chose the cheaper option.

Instead, 84% opted for the combined version because they perceived it as a better value.

In the second scenario, the print-only option became the decoy and the combined option became the target.

Here's a video of him explaining how the study worked:


Another example of The Decoy Effect is an experiment by National Geographic to see if they could encourage customers to buy a large popcorn over other sizes.

They started with a small bucket of popcorn for $3, and a large bucket for $7.


The initial choice showed that most people bought the bucket of small popcorn.

When they added third, “decoy” option - a medium popcorn for $6.50 - most people chose the large bucket because they viewed it as being a better value.


In their test the medium bucket was asymmetrically dominated by the large one, so customers chose the more expensive option.

The Decoy Effect Takeaway

Using decoys takes the guesswork out of selecting the option that has the most value.

Adding a decoy that you don't expect to sell may seem counter-intuitive, but an option that makes the others look better empowers your customers.

Decoys make customers feel like they're getting a "good deal" by choosing the asymmetrically dominant option.

Protip: don’t be afraid to experiment with different decoys to test which comparisons yield the results you’re looking for!

Anchoring Bias

Anchoring Bias describes people’s tendency to use the first piece of information they get as a reference point when comparing related items.

Again, researcher Dan Ariely is one of the leading voices on this subject. In his TEDTalk, he describes research for his book Predictably Irrational, which confirmed that we assess and compare items based on the first piece of information we're exposed to, known as the “anchor.”

Real-Life Examples of Anchoring Bias

Anchoring Bias in Retail Pricing

This is one of the oldest tricks in the book: cross out the retail price and show your price beside it. If you make handcrafted items, like jewelry or pottery, provide a range for retail price instead ($150 - $200).

Anchoring Bias in Pricing Services

If your business provides a service, use the same strategy listed above on your pricing page, but list the typical cost of the service instead.

Anchoring Bias in Competitor Price Comparisons

Some businesses may want to consider showing their competitor’s prices for comparison. This tactic only works when

1) your price is actually lower, and

2) the comparison highlights extra benefits so your customer isn’t focused only on the price

But, beware: we don’t advocate pitting yourself against another competing company. Not only could they respond in kind, but aggressive tactics might turn off some customers.

Anchoring Bias in Price Comparisons

Create strategic price comparisons for your products and services to “anchor” the package you want to be the most popular in the middle.

You probably know what you want your ideal price for your product or service to be, so create a package that includes its features and benefits. Then, set this package in the middle of two other features.

On the left: create a slightly cheaper “base bones” package with very limited features.

On the right: create a much more expensive package with few extra features.

Placing your ideal option in the middle "anchors" it in the center, so anyone looking at it will subconsciously compare the other two options against it.

When done properly, most customers will naturally opt for the middle option because it appears cheap and offers the most value.

Anchoring Bias Takeaway

The first thing we see sets the tone for how we assess related items, so set the stage for your ideal price by “anchoring” it against less valuable options.

Use visual tricks like crossing out retail pricing and strategically arranging packages to guide your customers to click on the option you want.

Protip: right-align your prices. Studies have shown that customers perceive a bigger discount when the sale price is positioned to the right of the original price.

The Paradox of Choice

The Paradox of Choice describes the psychological phenomenon that makes us feel overwhelmed by too many choices.

This is why many of us feel "analysis paralysis" when trying to choose between a lot of options.

When we have only a handful of options in front of us, we feel confident and less anxious about our choices.

Real-Life Examples of The Paradox of Choice

The most famous example of this paradox is the “Famous Jam Study” set up by researchers at Stanford and Columbia University.

Researchers set up two sampling stations at real-life supermarkets, one with 24 jam flavours, and one with six options.

They found that while more people stopped to sample at the station with 24 flavours, only 3% of shoppers made a purchase.

The table with six jams had fewer shoppers stopping to sample, but a whopping 30% of those who did purchase at least one jar of jam - a 900% increase!

The table with fewer options obviously outperformed the table with more options - but why?

The researchers found that the larger selection overwhelmed shoppers to the point where they weren’t able to make a decision they felt confident in… and so they made no decision at all.

The Paradox of Choice Takeaway

Fewer choices reduce purchase anxiety and make the buying decision easier, so don’t overwhelm your customers with a bunch of overwhelming options.

Protip: use call-to-action statements like “Best value!” and “Customer Favourite” to help customers feel even more confident in their purchasing decision.

“Three Charms, Four Alarms”

Research shows that repeating a phrase three times makes it seem more true, but repeating it four times or more starts to make people feel skeptical. 

To determine this, researchers Shu & Carlson asked participants to read about five items, each with a range of 1-6 positive claims about it. Their results found overwhelmingly that repeating a phrase three times makes it sound more trustworthy and true.

Specifically, the study also found that repeating the same claim four or more times reduced how trustworthy the participants rated the statement, while fewer repetitions “charmed” participants every time. 

Real-Life Examples of “Three Charms, Four Alarms”

Finding examples of this principle in real life is actually pretty easy: most SaaS companies use this tactic to make their customers feel more comfortable and confident in their purchasing decision.

For reference, let’s compare a few different pricing pages:

Source: https://buffer.com/pricing/publish

Buffer’s pricing page has a lot going on, including calls-to-action, highlights text, and extra details to help customers feel more confident in their purchase - but you’ll note that there are only three options, not four.

We can see the same strategy applied to Sprout Social’s pricing options:

Source: https://sproutsocial.com/pricing/ 

Like Buffer, there’s a lot going on here - but it doesn’t feel as overwhelming because we’re only comparing three options. 

Now, let’s compare Salesforce’s pricing page: 

Source: https://www.salesforce.com/ca/editions-pricing/sales-cloud/ 

There are a lot of the same psychological factors at play in these three examples, but according to research the additional option on this Salesforce pricing page actually damages conversions overall by reducing customer confidence. 

So why would Salesforce offer four options instead of three? We can’t know exactly why, but a guess would be that they’re testing various pricing decoys in order to promote the $150/month plan.

“Three Charms, Four Alarms” Takeaway

Limit the number of choices to three whenever possible. Avoid two, or even one option, as binary choices can feel limiting to potential customers and a single “take it or leave it” option also doesn’t leave them feeling empowered and excited to buy.

Protip: use the “three charms, four alarms” trick in your marketing copy as well. Never miss out on a chance to create a sense of trust with your customers!

How to Build Your Pricing Plan

Now that we’ve covered the consumer psychology behind it, putting together a pricing plan that (gently) encourages customers towards our preferred option is easy. Just follow these steps:

  1. Include a “decoy” option. Use asymmetric dominance to price your decoy option so it makes one of your other options more attractive.
  2. “Anchor” your customer’s expectations. Use visual tricks like crossing out text and strategically arranging packages on your pricing page.
  3. Remember the “Paradox of Choice.” Don’t overwhelm customers by offering so many options that they feel too overwhelmed to make a choice.
  4. Use the “Three Charms, Four Alarms” rule. Research shows that three options build trust, while four or more options decrease trust - so include three pricing options!

Start Building Your Pricing Plan Today

Using strategy and data to build a pricing plan that drives the sales you want and makes customers feel great about their choice is exactly the kind of thinking that helps businesses grow and thrive.

If you’re ready to start bringing strategy and clarity to your digital marketing, drop us a line and let’s chat

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Successful Content Marketing in 7 Simple Steps

- by Alyson Shane

Wondering how to build a content marketing strategy that gets results?

Different pieces of content (blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, etc.) are all intended to serve different purposes as a potential customer moves through the sales funnel.

Since these pieces are tied so tightly to a customer’s intent to buy, it’s important for us to understand what each piece is designed to do, how we’ll measure its success, and how it fits into our larger marketing strategy.

Below are seven (simple) steps to get you started:

1. Set clear goals

Be as ambitious or as cautious as you’d like — just be clear about what your goals are. 

Make sure your goals are achievable and measurable. This not only helps set expectations for your team (or your clients), but also tells you if your strategy is working, or if you need to adapt.

Once you’ve set your goals, decide how often you’ll review them and adjust - more on that below!

2. Do your research

Do keyword research to find out which topics are trending in your industry and the language your customers are using to talk about them. Tools like SEMRush, AnswerThePublic and (of course) Google’s Keyword Planner are great places to start.

Understanding keywords helps you identify popular content topics that you can develop content for in order to attract eyes to your brand. 

3. Develop a strategy 

Once your goals are defined, create a plan for how you intend to achieve them. Use your buyer personas to target the right audiences, and outline your plans for reaching them with your content. 

Pay attention to what your competitors are doing, and do research into the latest techniques for engagement and community growth before executing on your plan. Create a Content Marketing Master Document that acts as a “living document” and details your process, goals, and strategies for every aspect of your content marketing plan.

4. Create your content

The content you publish should be useful, timely, and clear.

Use the research completed in the previous steps to decide on topics, keywords, and content type before creating anything. 

Planning these elements out in advance helps you stay on topic and work your keywords into your text in a more natural way.

For blog content, start with a bulleted list of all the headers you want to write, and add the details in as you go, “fleshing” out the sections until you have a complete post. An example could look like this:

  • Intro/CTA
  • 1. Set clear goals
    • Be clear, achievable and measurable
  • 2. Do your research
    • Talk about keywords
    • SEMRush, AnswetthePublic, Google
  • 3. Develop a strategy
    • Content Marketing Master Plan
    • Mention/link to buyer personas

You get the idea. This is especially helpful if you’re planning a post that references a lot of resources since you can add the URLs of your sources in the list for quick reference.

5. Publish and share your content

The best place to publish your content is your blog. 

Here’s why: your blog exists on your website, which means that by the time someone is reading your blog post they’re already within your brand’s ecosystem — you don’t need to get them to click through to your website because they’re already there.

Other places you can publish your content include sites like Medium.com and as articles on social networks like LinkedIn. Don’t forget to share it on social media and in your newsletter, too!

Websites like Business Insider and Inc.com are also great places to write and share original blog content in order to reach a much broader audience.

6. Use eye-catching visuals

Once your post is ready to go, spend some time in the photo editing tool of your choice (we like Canva) creating additional marketing materials to use on social media.

Create images featuring quotes and wisdom from your posts and share them with URLs to your blog. This gives your audience a hint at what they can expect from the post, and increases the likelihood that they’ll click through to read.

7. Measure your success

Once your content has been online for at least 30 days, conduct a detailed analysis of whether or not it achieved your goals. 

If it didn’t achieve what you’d hoped, don’t get discouraged. Take this as an opportunity to learn from your experiment, and apply your knowledge to your strategy for the next piece of content you produce.

Improve your content marketing starting today

Content marketing is a big, complicated beast, and it can be hard to keep track of all the latest developments and what they mean for your business. That’s why we created our weekly newsletter, which features hand-picked articles to help you step up your content marketing game.

Looking for help developing a strategy that helps your customers connect with your brand and that grows your business? Drop us a line.


 

How to Avoid High Facebook Ad CPCs

- by Alyson Shane

Facebook and Instagram are more popular with advertisers than ever before, which means the marketplace is becoming more crowded and acquisition costs are going up. 

Most of our clients run Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns, and even within the past few years we’ve witnessed a steep increase in the cost-per-click: in 2020, the median CPC for Facebook ads is $0.72, up from $0.53 from the same time in 2018.

To stay competitive businesses need to stay up-to-date with the latest strategies, which is what this post is for. Let’s dive right in:

What is Facebook CPC?

CPC stands for Cost-per-Click.

CPC is how much you pay for each click on your Facebook or Instagram ad. Choosing to optimize for CPC with your ads will prioritize getting as much traffic to your website as possible. 

Understanding Audience Sizes

As a rule, the smaller and narrower your audience is, the more competitive your bid will need to be. If you’re noticing that your CPCs are really high, check your audience size and see if there are any additional elements you can add to broaden your targeting. 

Casting a wider net with your ads help reduce competition for your ads, which means your CPCs will be lower. This is a great tactic for more mature ad accounts who may be struggling to see a continued return on investment (ROI) on their ads. 

Understanding Account Structure and Segmentation

Ads run across a variety of locations within Facebook, from the News Feed to Messenger, to Instagram feeds and Stories. 

When we add segmentations like geographies or specific placements, the audience pool becomes more restricted and businesses may lose out on the chance to display their ads somewhere that would generate a lot of clicks.

Understanding Campaign Budget Optimization

Facebook recently announced that ad set budgets will be going away in favour of campaign budget optimization, which uses machine learning to automatically serve ads to your target audience based on predictive analysis.

Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes volume (the maximum number of eyeballs it can get on your ad) over conversion, so having larger audiences is ideal. 

Combining multiple, smaller audiences with similar size or reach potential helps the campaign budget optimization tool identify more opportunities for conversion. 

Increasing CPC Using Smart Creative

How we set up our ads behind-the-scenes can make a big difference in our CPCs, but the key to truly standout advertising is to, well… stand out. 

Here are a few strategies to help:

Apply the K.I.S.S. methodology

KISS stands for “Keep It Simple and Strong” and is a great rule of thumb to follow when it comes to marketing in general, but especially with your ad creative.

Use clear and direct language, and keep the text in the images to a minimum. Include keywords that are relevant to your target audience so they clearly understand the benefit of clicking on the ad. 

Use Video

47% of consumers watch video ads most often on Facebook, and 71% of consumers find Facebook video ads relevant or highly relevant.

Not only is video people’s preferred way to watch an ad, but those stats tell us that Facebook’s targeting for video ads is spot-on. 

Write Your Copy For the Viewer

Don’t talk about your business in your ad. 

Remember: ads are your chance to convey value, and help your audience understand the benefit of clicking on the ad. Focus on them, and what they get out of it.

Keeping your ad copy tied directly tied to the value of what you’re selling builds trust with your brand.

How to Avoid High Facebook CPCs: Conclusion

Businesses need to be adaptive in order to stay competitive with their ads as Facebook and Instagram become increasingly crowded, which means staying on top of the latest strategies and developments.

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How to Maximize ROI on Every Social Media Platform

- by Alyson Shane

By now most businesses realize the importance of having and maintaining social media accounts. With close to 3.5 billion people using social media each month, it’s a way to connect with your customers, boost sales, and increase brand awareness. 

If you own or manage a business, posting tweets and engaging with followers on multiple platforms likely isn’t at the top of your to-do list. It’s also not something you can pass off to just anyone. 

The person crafting your messages sets the tone of your brand, curates content that will resonate with your followers, and works on a strategy to yield a positive ROI. 


It’s not just playing on social media all day. Crafting your content takes time.

Here are some of the factors you need to consider for each platform and how much time they take.

Facebook

Post image size: 1200 x 630 (ads, cover images, profile pictures, link images, event images are all different sizes).

Character count: The max character count is 63,206, but generally, you shouldn’t be maxing that out. Keep your CTAs strong and put your important information first. The ideal length is 40-80 characters.

Hashtags: Use rarely on Facebook.

Strategic scheduling: Posts published between 1-4 pm have the best click-through and share rates on Facebook. This can vary, so make sure you measure the performance of your posts from Facebook Insights and schedule accordingly.

Tagging: With 1.69 billion Facebook users, it’s important to tag the correct people and companies.

Copywriting: Who are you speaking to? Do you have a strong CTA? Is there a link you can share in this post? Is your target market interested in this post? Is this shareable content? What’s in it for the reader to share this? Is this content timely?

Hashtags research: N/A

Image sourcing: Make sure the image you select reflects the content you are sharing. It’s important to have permission to share the images you select, especially if you plan on branding them. Pexels, Unsplash, Canva, Pixabay, and others offer a selection of free images, but make sure they are free for commercial use before you share them.

Graphic creation: Use a tool like Canva or InDesign to add your logo, copy, and other graphic elements that draw attention to your viewer.

Pin the post: You want your most relevant marketing campaigns to stay at the top of your feed. Your pinned post will likely be one of the first things people see while visiting your Facebook page, so make sure it’s timely!

Other factors: Facebook generally suppresses business posts, so the best way to get your content seen is to have your followers share it on their pages.

Total time: ~ 45 minutes


Instagram

Post image size: Landscape 1080x608 px, square 1080x1080px or portrait 1080x1350 px. (Instagram stories, Instagram Live, and IGTV are different sizes)

Character count: Max 2,2 00 characters. 138-150 characters is ideal for maximum engagement.

Hashtags: Max 30. The ideal number is 5-10. Too many hashtags can get your account shadow banned.

Strategic scheduling: The general best time to post is between 9 am-11 am, but the best time to post is based on your unique audience. An app like Buffer automatically calculates your best times to post.

Tagging: People and businesses are always looking for content to share. Do you have a pen from a local art store in your photo? What about flowers from your favourite florist? Tag whoever you mention in your post to maximize your chances of being shared on their pages.

Copywriting: It’s a good idea to write both short and long posts. If you are writing a long caption, write a short, engaging summary of what you are posting about first, so your audience doesn’t miss your key message. Make sure your post has value. Is your audience learning something? Will it make them emotional? What’s in it for them when they read this post?

Hashtags research: Did you know that posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than posts without a hashtag? Hashtags work to organize your content and make it easier for people to find. There are community hashtags, branded hashtags, and campaign hashtags. Use these to find your niche audience, collect UGC, or promote your campaign. Look for tags that your audience, industry leaders and competitors are already using.

Image sourcing: Since Instagram is a visual platform, the photos you post are very important. Not only do you need to worry about each image, but you should also consider how your profile looks as a whole. 

Do you have a colour scheme? What filters are you using? 

Free image sourcing is a great option, but if you want to make sure your brand isn’t being confused for other brands or you want specific quality, try buying images from Stocksy, Twenty20, or Social Squares. They provide quality content, and it still saves your business from costly photoshoots and time spent taking and editing photos.

Graphic creation: Since people are mainly using Instagram on their mobile devices, it’s important to use an image that will quickly draw attention and get your point across. Instagram is not the place for complicated infographics and small text.

Add to highlights: It’s a great idea to share your new posts to your Instagram story and increase the chances of your content being seen. If your post is important enough to keep at the top of your page, add it to your highlights so your viewers can easily find it!

Other factors: Instagram is one of the only platforms that doesn’t allow you to link to a webpage in your caption. Asking people to go to your link in bio and leave the app gives them more steps than people are generally willing to do. Make sure you have all of your important information on Instagram, and if needed, direct them to your link in bio for more information, but you better make sure it’s updated!

Total time: ~ 50 minutes


Twitter

Image size: Min. 440 x 220 px

Character count: Max 280 characters.

Hashtags: Twitter recommends using no more than two hashtags per tweet for best practice.

Strategic scheduling: The best times to post for B2B are 7 am-8 am, 11 am, 6 pm, and 9 pm. Schedule around peak times, but make sure they are the best for your business. Find an app like Later that will analyze optimal times to post content.

Tagging: Giving an @ mention informs people or businesses you posted about them. Everyone loves to share positive content about themselves or their business. One RT can lead to many more!

Copywriting: Be concise! The ideal Twitter caption is 71-100 characters. Since Twitter moves fast, you only have a few seconds to grab your audience’s attention.

Hashtags research: Give people a reason to use your hashtag. Are you running a contest? Can they participate in a larger conversation this way? Or use your hashtags to get your content discovered. Just use them sparingly!

Image sourcing: Twitter data says people are three times more likely to engage with Tweets that include visual content. Include video, images, and GIFs to your tweets.

Graphic creation: Make your visuals eye-catching, appealing, and informative while using your brand tone and voice. Use your logo to build brand recognition. Try using GIFs to add some humour to your posts.

Pin the post: If your pinned tweet is out of date it looks like you aren’t active on Twitter, or you don’t pay attention to detail. Update your pinned tweet as necessary.

Other factors: Twitter is big for sharing content. Look for opportunities to share content from your audience, affiliates, and industry leaders.

Total time: ~30 minutes


LinkedIn

Image size: 1104 x 736 px

Character count: 700 characters (business accounts) 1300 (individual accounts)

Hashtags: LinkedIn recommends 3-5 hashtags per post.

Strategic scheduling: Working professionals and college grads make up the majority of LinkedIn users. The most successful posts on LinkedIn are posted between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday.

Tagging: LinkedIn is all about making connections and showcasing your abilities. If you can tag people in your posts, do it! Often they will want to share their involvement with your company on their own pages to show off to their network.

Copywriting: You have 140 characters before LinkedIn will cut off your copy with the “See more” button. Make sure your first sentence in compelling. An interesting first sentence can get more eyes on your profile, and the rest of your content.

Hashtags research: Following hashtags on LinkedIn is a great way to find new content ideas and stay informed on what’s going on in your industry. Go to ‘Hashtags trending in your network’ to find relevant hashtags – choose ‘My Network’ and then ‘See all’ under the ‘Hashtag’ section.

Image sourcing: Many LinkedIn statuses will revolve around less visual topics like leadership, motivation, success, so you have more freedom and creativity with choosing images. Pair your image with a strong caption and you’ll be on your way to getting clicks and shares!

Graphic creation: Always stick to your brand guidelines with the same font, colours, and logo to create a cohesive, curated look.

Other factors: LinkedIn is the place to keep things professional. Make sure your profile is always up to date and offer plenty of opportunities for people to learn about your brand.

Total time: ~ 45 minutes

As you can see, hiring a social media manager is the best way to get your key messages across on each platform and maximize your ROI.

Social media platforms are constantly evolving their algorithms and interfaces. Marketers should be staying updated with the latest information. Starling Social’s high-level approach to digital marketing allows you to focus on your customers with the reassurance of knowing your social media channels are running seamlessly. 


Your business needs a marketing plan that aligns with your growth goals. We develop strategies that help you create memorable, lasting connections with your customers and grow your business.

Get in touch if you’re looking for help with growing your business.


 

How to Recession-Proof Your Business

- by Alyson Shane

If you want to recession-proof your business and minimize the impact of COVID-19, you’re not alone. Companies across industries are scrambling to keep a recession that could be as bad as the Great Depression from seriously impacting their business. 

As a result, we see a lot of short-term, reactionary behaviours in response to the pandemic. We’ve seen businesses furloughing or laying off their marketing teams. Other brands are cancelling advertising campaigns and taking a “wait and see” approach as things unfold.

Just like during the 2008 financial crisis, many businesses are putting their marketing plans on the chopping block to try and stay lean.

But is this the best strategy? 

Studies show that companies who protect their marketing budgets during recessions tend to do much better during the recovery period.

In fact, companies that increased their marketing spending during a recession earned an average increase of 4.3% in profit.

The companies that cut back spending during an economic downturn? They saw an average fall in profits of 0.8%.

To put it more simply: companies that cut back on their marketing earned 3.5% less than the companies that increased it.

Now, ask yourself: which business would I rather be?

If your answer is “the profitable business” then it’s time to leave the short-term thinking behind and focus on the big picture. 

Here’s why investing in your marketing right now helps recession-proof your brand:

Recessions don’t guarantee lower return-on-investment

We naturally assume that a recession will hurt every business, but brands that are adaptive can emerge stronger than ever, and with a higher return-on-investment (ROI) than before the downturn.

A 2018 report from ROI Genome found that in over 100 cases, more than half the brands studied saw improvements in ROI during the last recession. 

Marketing during a downturn creates short and long-term ROI

On average, companies that increased their marketing investment earned an average of 17% growth in incremental sales, and more than half sad year-over-year improvements over the next two years.

Why? Because marketing increases brand equity.

“Brand equity” is a fancy way of saying: the more people who are familiar with your brand, the more they trust in the value of your products and services. 

The more your customers see, hear, and interact with your brand - especially during times when they feel anxious, like during a recession - the more they’ll develop positive feelings towards your company, increasing the likelihood that they’ll buy from you in the future.

Cutting marketing guarantees losses during a recession

When you remove yourself from the conversation, people stop talking about you, thinking about you, and ultimately buying from you.

Leaving yourself out of the discussion also makes spaces for the competition to creep in and start converting your customers.

In fact, companies that cut their marketing investment suffer an 18% loss in incremental sales compared to those that didn’t.

Cutting marketing makes losses worse for struggling businesses

If you’re already operating on razor-thin margins, cutting your marketing may seem like a natural choice. But before you do, consider this:

Low consumer demand accounted for one-third of all losses in incremental sales during the last recession, while two-thirds of all losses in incremental sales were due to lower investments and the lack of market share.

It might seem prudent to cut back on marketing right now, but your business will have to make up for the lost time and try to compete in a marketplace that was more crowded than before.

How to recession-proof your brand: final thoughts

When companies allow short-term thinking to guide their decisions, they sacrifice not just brand equity, but also the long-term ROI of consistent marketing.

Agile businesses, on the other hand, take a data-driven approach to their business and develop strategies that balance short and long-term goals. 

During times of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to focus on making data-driven decisions. If you’re looking for a partner to help you make sense of the noise and keep your business top-of-mind for your customers, drop us a line.


 

10 Easy Ways to Promote Your Business During the Coronavirus Outbreak

- by Alyson Shane

Social distancing is our only option to flatten the curve of the Coronavirus spread. But the impact could be devastating for many businesses, especially those that rely on foot traffic and offer on-site services.

As a result, businesses are looking for easy and efficient ways to promote themselves during the outbreak. Luckily, there are lots of tools at your disposal to stay connected and build awareness about your brand.

Below are 10 ways to keep your customers engaged from a distance:

1. Be active on social media

People are turning to social media to stay connected so make sure your brand is active online.

This is the best time to focus on community engagement. Leaving comments and having conversations with your audience and followers shows your business is tuned-in and humanizes your brand.

If your business can afford to contribute to local food banks or other community services, now is the time to lead by example. Share the news on social media and encourage others to do the same. 

2. Connect with your customers through email

More businesses are online than ever before, so cut through the noise and to talk to your customers where they live online: in their inbox.

Use your email newsletter to promote discounts, events like live streams, webinars and online training, and anything your customers might care about.

Depending on your business, this might also be a good time to do something different with your newsletter.

For example, for the next few weeks the Starling Social weekly newsletter is switching to a “Good News” edition where we’re highlighting positive stories from our community and across the globe as a way to spread a little more joy in these uncertain times. If you’re interested, sign up here.

3. Revisit your pay-per-click strategy

With more people performing searches than ever before, now is a great time to invest in pay-per-click (PPC) marketing to help your business get found.

But if your customers need to leave the house to engage with your business, it may be worth hitting “pause” on any PPC campaigns promoting those services.

If you can, focus your ads on services and promotions that customers can access and enjoy from home. Revisit your keyword strategy and consider what new and different searches they might be making from home, and focus your ad dollars on those searches instead.

PPC marketing is also a great way to use any marketing budget that needs to be reallocated due to social distancing, as Google Ads offers an impressive return on investment (ROI) of $8 for every $1 spent.

4. Revisit your SEO strategy

With more people sitting at home browsing the internet than ever before, it’s vital that your business ranks as high as possible on a search engine results page (SERP).

For reference, before the pandemic started Google SERP rankings have a return-on-investment (ROI) of roughly the following:

  • 1st Position: 31% click-through rate (CTR)
  • 2nd Position 15% CTR
  • 3rd Position: 9% CTR
  • 4th Position: 7% CTR
  • 5th Position: 5% CTR

Organic CTR for positions 7-10 is virtually the same

As we can see, the CTR drops off dramatically after the first few results, so it’s critical to make sure your website ranks as high as possible. 

Looking for more insight on improving your SEO rank? We’ve got some resources that may help:

5. Publish content on your blog

People are hungry for content to consume with all this extra time. If your business has a blog, use this opportunity to share posts that inform, amuse, or excite your readers.

Use any SEO and PPC research you've done to inform the topics you discuss on your blog, since searches give you insight into what people are looking for. If you provide answers to the search in your post, your blog has a higher chance of ranking higher on the results page.

Bonus: publishing blog posts regularly gives you extra social media content to share, making this task a little bit easier, and gives your website a natural SEO boost.

6. Highlight gift cards and take-out options

Gift cards give your business an infusion of cash right away and guarantee that the customer will return to your business in the future. In Seattle, customers are going out of their way to buy gift cards from local businesses to keep cash flowing. 

To promote social distancing, set up an e-card program and promote take-out as an option if you run a restaurant, cafe or bakery.

7. Host contests and giveaways on social media

Contests are a great way to engage your audience and gain more visibility for your brand, just make sure they’re tasteful. Book publishers can give away audiobooks and e-books to their followers as a way to pass the time indoors, for example.

A great way to support other local businesses is to collaborate on a contest giveaway - just make sure all the prizes are either digital or can be sent through the mail.

8. Promote discounts

Now is a great time to entice long-term purchases by offering discounts. If your business offers memberships, encourage customers to lock into a one-year membership now at a discounted rate. If you run a retail store, consider offering free shipping for online orders.

Depending on your business model, you can also use traditional promotions like “buy one get one” (BOGO) and free incentives.

9. Keep customers engaged with live video

If you have a store opening, product launch, or celebration planned, use Facebook and Instagram Live to stream it to your social media channels.

If you don’t have any announcements planned, use video as a way to go behind the scenes with your business. Share how your team is connecting remotely. Walk viewers through how a product gets made. Offer a live Q&A. The possibilities are endless, just be creative!

Video is a great way to keep customers engaged and put a face to your brand in addition to selling your products and services. Promote your live events and increase attendance by offering a special discount code to the first 50 or 100 people who join.

10. Host webinars and online events

Social isolation is leaving people more time to invest in training and personal development, so now is the ideal time to hone any online offerings your business may have, like webinars or online certifications.

Many businesses rely on in-person events to generate income and leads, so if you have a conference or training event that has recently been cancelled, consider reformatting it into a webcast that attendees can join from home.

How to promote your business during the coronavirus outbreak: conclusion

Nobody knows when things will go back to “normal” or even what that “new normal” will look like, so it’s more important than ever for businesses to connect with their customers online.

Invest in your social media and in content that keeps your customers engaged and excited about supporting you during this crisis. If you need help, drop us a line.

If you want more tips like this (plus good news from our community and elsewhere) sign up for our weekly, hand-picked newsletter

Above all, stay safe out there. 

xox 

The Starling Social Team


 

How to Successfully Work From Home While Social Distancing

- by Alyson Shane

Wondering how to successfully work from home while social distancing? 

If you said ‘yes’, you’re not alone. It’s only Tuesday, and many people across Canada and in my community here in Winnipeg are struggling with working from home for the first time as businesses close down to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

It’s a weird time, so I wanted to take a break from our typical marketing-focused content to share a few personal tips on staying focused while working from home.

I’ve been working from home for six years and manage the Starling Social team remotely. I love working from home, but I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t always easy. This is especially true during these strange, trying times.

So if you're new to remote work and want some tips on how to successfully work from home, check out these suggestions to say sane and productive:

1. Establish how you’ll communicate

Before I get into the personal stuff, let’s start by focusing on how you’ll get work done.

In my experience, the biggest time-waster and source of anxiety when working remotely is not having a process to discuss, assign, and manage tasks and projects to completion.

At Starling Social, we use a combination of four tools, listed below:

  • Gmail. All formal communication is done by email. 
  • Zoom. To discuss projects that are too complex for email.
  • Trello. Trello is how we keep track of multiple projects, due dates, and deliverables on an ongoing basis.
    • Each client has a Board, and each project has a Card that gets assigned, tracked, and completed for all collaborators to see.
  • Google Drive. Everything we do - blog post drafts, spreadsheets, strategy documents, all of it - is stored in the cloud.
    • We use Google Drive to track edits, changes, and updates to all our documentation. This reduces confusion and keeps email to a minimum.

2. Get into a morning routine ASAP

The act of going to and coming home from the office plays a big part in being able to separate our work and personal lives in healthy ways.

Find something in your morning routine that you can use to transition from waking up to focusing on being productive mentally.

Whether that’s a long shower or slowing down to enjoy making your coffee, find something that you can use to transition from “waking up” to “working” at home.

My morning routine is pretty simple: every morning I brush my teeth, shower, get dressed, and wash my face. I listen to a couple of podcasts (Up First and What a Day) to catch up on the news while I get ready. Each podcast is about 15 minutes, so I work a 30-minute “commute” into my morning. By the time the podcasts are over, I’m sitting at my desk about to start my day.

My office is right next to my bedroom, so I could slob over to my desk in my PJs every day if I wanted to. But the days when I’m most productive are the days when I follow my morning routine.

Trust me on this one!

2. Keep “regular” work hours

Treat your workday as a workday and keep regular work hours. If you usually work 9 - 5, stick to those hours as much as you can.

Being clear on when you’re available sets the expectation you aren’t on-call 24/7. It also has the added benefit of keeping your brain in a familiar pattern, which helps with staying focused.

The team and I keep 9 - 5 hours for our clients, but I like to be at my desk for 8:30 AM so I can get a jump-start on the day - and it usually means I can wrap up early if I get through my to-dos for the day.

3. Create a separate workspace

Working from places where you typically relax and unwind makes it harder to focus and be productive in those same spaces. 

I have an office with a door that I close when I’m not working. It helps me separate my professional and personal lives and helps m focus because mentally, I know that if I’m sitting at my desk, I’m working.

Having a "workspace" can also be helpful for communicating with kids about why you're not able to spend time with them even though you're home all day.


If you don’t have the space for a separate office, at least avoid working from your bed. Most people who work in bed tend to do it before falling asleep, which can reduce melatonin and decrease the quality of your sleep.

3. Drink water

Studies have found that staying hydrated can increase your productivity, so don’t slip on staying hydrated while working from home.

When we work in an office, getting up to refill a water bottle is a chance to take a break. We can be social, stretch our legs, and allow our brain to focus on something else for a few minutes as we walk to and from the water cooler or kitchen.

At home, we don’t have the same natural distractions or reasons to wander, so we’re less likely to stay hydrated.

One trick I’ve been using is to add a few slices of cucumber to a water bottle and keep it on my desk. Having it in arm’s reach means I sip more often, and when all that’s left in the bottle is cucumber slices, I refill the bottle.

The idea of cucumber slices languishing in the bottle makes me feel icky, so I naturally refill the container to keep them hydrated right away. This self-hack has helped me drink an average of 4 - 6 glasses of water a day - way more than I used to!

4. Take breaks and stretch

Working from home can easily lead to sitting at your desk for eight hours straight, hunched over your keyboard like Gollum from The Hobbit if you aren’t careful.

I take multiple 5 - 10-minute breaks throughout my day. Sometimes it’s just to go to the bathroom or refill my water, or just to wander through the house to pet the cats and check the mail.

Whatever it is, I’m moving around and away from my desk.

If I have time, I try to work a little yoga into my afternoon. Yoga with Adriene is a great YouTube channel with easy, 10 - 20-minute yoga videos designed to do at home, and in some cases, even at your desk.

Here’s one of my favs for you to try:

5. Manage your time with the ‘Pomodoro Technique’

I use this tactic to stay focused when working on something that isn’t grabbing my attention or when I have to finish something, and I don’t want to get distracted.

The technique uses a timer to break work into intervals of 25 minutes each, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for ‘tomato’.

I like this technique because it encourages breaks, which, as we just talked about, are essential for productivity and your mental well-being. The 25-minute breaks also feel attainable and tend to go by pretty quickly in my experience.

Not sure where to start? This was the first pomodoro video I tried, and it’s still my favourite, but you can find a big list of them here.

6. Make your workspace somewhere you like to be

Here’s the truth: as long as we’re practicing social distancing, this is where you’re going to be spending a lot of your time. Why not make it an enjoyable place to be?

Here’s an example of what my desk setup looks like at home. 


My office is in the basement so unfortunately I can’t grow any plants near my desk, but I make up for it with big pieces of art and extra lighting. 

I burn incense, I have photos of my friends on the wall, and I choose desktop wallpapers featuring bright colours that inspire me (my wallpaper is a cenote in Belize - sigh!) All of these things make my desk a positive, inspiring place for me to get work done.

If you have a desktop setup to share, tweet it at me! I'd love to see it.

7. Work when you’re most productive

The key to working from home is to figure out when you’re most productive and do your best to focus on the most important tasks during that time.

If you have kids at home due to school closures, consider when you can get the most done in-between taking care of them.

For example, you know you’re at your best first thing in the morning, try to get up and get as much done as you can. Then, if you have to manage the house, focus on the kids, or if you just need to take a damn break (don’t we all?), then you’ve got the essential things out of the way.

If you can, talk to your employer about working “flex time” so you can be there for your family while also scheduling in the time you need to get work done.

8. Review and plan ahead

If having a morning routine is how I ease into the workday, planning out my next day and reviewing anything I have coming up is how I put work down.

If you don’t already use one, I suggest getting a day planner to use while you work from home. I use a Day Designer and swear by them, but if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, any daily planner will do.

At the end of my workday, I allot 5 - 10 minutes to reviewing the next day’s meetings and tasks and adding anything I didn’t finish to the next day’s to-do list. I typically have 3 - 8 “high” level tasks that I break down into smaller deliverables.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

  • Finalize spring ad campaign development
    • Resolve comments in GDoc
    • Approve ads / send back edits
      • If approved, send to client for final review   

Breaking down my high-level to-dos into smaller tasks feels more manageable. I’ve also found that breaking down my thought process this way helps me understand my workflow, which helps me be more productive in the long-term.

This technique helps me "put down" my work mentally so I can focus on other things. It also feels great to sit down at my desk every morning and know what I can expect from my day.

Be gentle with yourself

It’s OK if you don’t feel like you can work at breakneck speed right now. 

We’re all going through a strange experience together, and beating ourselves up for “not working hard enough” is the fastest way to tank our productivity and burn ourselves out.

One of the things working from home teaches us is to listen to our bodies. If you feel emotionally overwhelmed and have the time, take a catnap and come back to what you were doing later. (Odds are nobody noticed you were unavailable for that 20 minutes, anyway.)

Learning to be productive while working from home can be challenging at the best of times. If you’re struggling, don’t judge yourself. Be honest with your employer or team and figure out a system that works - we’re all here to support each other right now.

How to Successfully Work From Home While Social Distancing: Final Thoughts

With any luck, the social distancing we’re doing to stop the spread of COVID-19 will be short-lived, and our lives will go back to normal sooner than later.

In the meantime, be kind to yourselves and others. Working from home sounds glamorous until you realize it usually means not leaving your house for days at a time. That lack of social interaction can wear on people.

Please: regularly send messages to friends and loved ones. Schedule FaceTime with people you know who are self-isolating, or at home doing social distancing. Be honest with yourself and others about your mental health.

If you feel overwhelmed, want more advice on working from home, or just need to chat about how you’re feeling, DM me on Twitter. I’m always here if you need someone to talk to.

Stay safe, and don’t forget to wash your hands. 

xox,

Alyson & the Starling Social team


 

What to Say on Social Media for International Women’s Day 2020

- by Alyson Shane

Is your business ready to celebrate International Women's Day 2020?

Sunday, March 8 2020 is International Women's Day (or 'IWD'), an annual celebration of the important contributions women make to our businesses and communities, and to reflect on the work that's still needed to build towards a truly equal and equitable society.

As businesses, this is our opportunity to lend our voices to an important discussion. But that doesn't mean we should be happy with just ReTweeting someone else's post, or throwing up a generic "Happy IWD 2020" post and calling it a day.

It's more important than ever for businesses to find ways to tell stories about their brand, and leading the discussion with your own content articulates a strong point of view while also showcasing your brand's core values and purpose across your social media.

Luckily, it's easier than ever to tell thoughtful stories on social media. Here's how you can capitalize on storytelling for International Women's Day 2020:

1. Get Input From Women in Your Company

The first thing you need to do to prepare to celebrate IWD 2020 is to talk to the women in your business about the key challenges they feel need to be addressed to achieve equality in the workplace.

Whether that's not being talked-over by male colleagues, trying to succeed in male-dominated industries, or figuring out how to carve out a career path, the women you work with probably have strong feelings on these topics that you can draw from to create honest and appropriate content for the day.

Remember: "diversity" doesn't just apply to gender. Make a point to talk to women from diverse ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and across age groups to get as much information and insight as you can.

2. Increase Value by Being Specific

Anyone social media manager knows how easy it is to craft a post that says "Happy International Women's Day! We support diversity in the workplace" and consider the job done.

While this type of post may get you a few likes, but a generic post doesn't add to the larger conversation about equality, women's rights, or addressing diversity in the workplace.

A more generic post also suggests that you haven't taken the time to understand the event besides looking into which hashtag is being used this year.

Consider that International Women's Day has a history that dates back to the early 1900s, and has been highlighting women's rights and achievements since before diversity and inclusion became a priority in many companies. 

Considering how long it's been celebrated, it probably comes as no surprise that how we celebrate International Women's Day changes from year to year. This year the theme is "Each for Equal" - here's what their website says:

An equal world is an enabled world.
Individually, we're all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day.
We can actively choose to challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve situations and celebrate women's achievements.
Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world.
Let's all be #EachforEqual.

Your social media strategy should speak directly to how your business is working to create a more equal world for everyone.

That could mean hiring more women, creating a mentorship or peer-networking program, or participating in conferences that focus on women in business, like SHEday here in Manitoba. 

You should also consider using the 2020 hashtag #EachforEqual to show that you're speaking specifically to this year's event, as well as ongoing, more general hashtags like #IWD and #IWD2020 to make sure your posts are included in searches for similar kinds of content.

3. Be Creative With Your Creative

One of the keys to being successful this IWD is to do a little pre-planning to help save time (ad sanity) before March 8th.

For example, instead of posting a single image or post, develop a series of posts that can be added to your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram profiles (bonus points if you use Instagram Stories to share your International Women's Day stories!)

While planning your creative, remember that different social networks favour different kinds of content.

For example, while a post featuring short text with an image and a URL leading back to your website is perfect for Twitter, Instagram's layout requires a stronger visual strategy and doesn't let you link to URLs in the body of your posts. 

Once you've decided which social platforms to post to, take time to tailor your messages to each platform's requirements so they stand out and shine.

Walk the Walk

This year's theme for International Women's Day 2020 is "Each for Equal," and that doesn't just mean posting about quality for 24 hours and then ignoring these values until the same time next year.

Use International Women's Day as an opportunity to share how your business is addressing diversity issues in the workplace, and keep the conversation going - not just on social media, but around the board room table.

Take the time to listen to the women in your organization are saying, and use International Women's Day 2020 day as an opportunity to show that you're committed to a more balanced, equal future for everyone.

Want help developing a digital marketing strategy that tells your company's story on social media? Drop us a line

You can also tweet at us, follow us on LinkedIn, and connect on Instagram.

Looking to stay up-to-date with our posts? Subscribe to our newsletter.

**This post was originally published for International Women's Day 2019, and has been updated to include new and relevant info.**


 

20+ Useful Marketing Terms to Help You Grow Your Business

- by Alyson Shane

Do you struggle to understand the marketing jargon you read online?

If so, you’re not alone. Many of the business owners we talk to and work with give us blank stares when we start talking about SERP rankings or keyword proximity.

That’s why we compiled this handy list of 20+ marketing terms to help you grow your business.

These are the expressions that seem to stump people the most often, all listed in one handy place.

If you’re a business owner who wants to develop a deeper understanding of how to market your business online, then keep reading:

20+ Useful Marketing Terms to Help You Grow Your Business

1. Application Programming Interface (API)

APIs are rules in programming that determine how an application extracts information. Essentially, APIs act as windows into a software program that allows other programs to interact with it without accessing the entire code database.

We typically encounter APIs in digital marketing when sharing information on social media. The Facebook API, for example, is the set of rules programmers need to follow when writing their code so that websites can interact with elements of Facebook.

Similarly, there’s the Twitter API, LinkedIn API… you get the idea.

2. Business-to-Business (B2B) 

The term used to refer to businesses that sell to other businesses. Examples include Salesforce, Google, and HubSpot.

3. Business-to-Consumer (B2C)

The term used to describe companies that sell to consumers. Examples include Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify.

4. Buyer Personas 

Buyer personas are exactly what they sound like: they’re fake people you create in order to develop a better understanding of different customer types. 

Many businesses are tempted to say “everyone is our customer,” but that’s an over-simplification. Even if your business serves a variety of demographics, like Amazon or Netflix, there are still specific areas about different customer types you can dig into in order to better understand your customers’ needs, and how they vary depending on the category they fall into.

Ready to start building your own buyer personas? Click here to use our free guide.

5. Call-to-Action (CTA)

A call-to-action (CTA) a web link (text, image, button, etc.) that encourages a website visitor to take a specific action, such as signing up for a newsletter or contacting a sales rep. Some examples include:

  • Subscribe now
  • Download our free PDF
  • Contact us

CTAs are how marketers move potential customers through various stages of the sales funnel by enticing them to take the action we want them to take.

6. Churn Rate

Your “churn” is a metric that measures how many of your customers you retain, and at what value. This metric is especially important for companies that rely on a monthly recurring revenue (MRR) model.

Calculating churn is easy: take the number of customers you lost during a specific time frame, and divide that by the total number of customers that you had at the start of the time frame (don’t include any new sales.)

For example, if a business had 1000 customers at the start of January 2020, but they only have 750 customers by the end of the month (excluding new customers gained), their churn rate would be (1000-250)/1000 = 750/1000 = 25% churn rate.

7. Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

Your clickthrough rate is the percentage of your audience who “clicks through” from one part of your marketing campaign to the next. 

To calculate your CTR, just divide the total number of clicks that your page or CTA has received by the number of opportunities people had to click (emails sent, total number of pageviews, etc.)

8. Cost-per-Acquisition (CPA)

CPA is a sales-based measurement that identifies the total marketing spend needed to move a lead (potential customer) from Awareness to Decision stage in the sales funnel.

CPA is useful when applied to marketing because it’s essentially on par with ROI (return on investment) and can be a strong indicator of long-term success in a lead generation campaign. To calculate your cost-per-acquisition, divide the total campaign/channel spend by the number of new customers acquired from that campaign or channel.

By working to lower and optimize your CPA, marketers can respond to challenges in a campaign quickly, which makes their campaigns more cost-efficient in the long term.

9. Cost-per-Click (CPC)

Cost-per-Click (CPC) is an ad model used to drive traffic to websites where a business pays a publisher (usually a search engine or social network) whenever the ad is clicked.

Calculating your CPC is easy: just divide the total cost of your clicks by the total number of clicks. 

CPC is sometimes used interchangeably with pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, though most marketers use PPC to refer specifically to marketing through Google Ads, and CPC to refer to the process of calculating a click-through rate.

10. Cost-per-Impression (CPM)

Cost-per-Impression (CPM, or cost-per-mille) is the rate that your business pays per 1000 views of your ad.

If the goal of your ad campaign isn’t to generate click-throughs, but is more about getting as many eyeballs on your ad as possible, then you can select this option and only pay when your ad is displayed in front of someone. 

Each time an ad appears in front of a user counts as one impression.

11. Custom Audiences

Custom Audiences are also exactly what they sound like: they’re groups of people who are defined by a series of shared characteristics (geolocation, for example) and served ads based on those characteristics.

12. Evergreen content

Evergreen content is content that can still be useful no matter when someone reads it. For example, a post referencing a specific event or cultural moment can become less relevant over time, whereas a how-to article may stay relevant and useful for years after it’s been published.

One of the biggest benefits to evergreen content is that it’s extremely good SEO material because people keep clicking on the same link for an extended period of time. This tells the search engines that your website has highly valuable content, and will reward your business with a higher SERP rank.

13. Key Performance Indicator (KPI)

KPIs are how marketers track progress towards specific marketing goals, and the best marketers continually review their KPIs in order to understand and evaluate their performance against industry standards.

Examples of KPIs include:

  • Website and blog traffic
  • Homepage views
  • Cost-per-acquisition

14. Keyword Proximity

Keyword proximity is one of the factors that Google’s search algorithms take into consideration when weighing different keywords. It refers to how close two or more keywords are to one another, and you can increase your SERP rankings.

If a website is hoping to rank for the search term “digital marketing agency Winnipeg” you might be tempted to use a heading that reads: “Trust our digital marketing agency to grow your business in Winnipeg.” This phrasing isn’t bad, but a better version would read: “the digital marketing agency Winnipeg businesses trust to grow.”

15. Lookalike Audiences

A Lookalike Audience is an audience created from people who share similar characteristics to another group of users on a social network, but who wouldn’t otherwise be included in more detailed targeting.

Lookalike Audiences are created b analyzing existing customers (or other audiences) and finding commonalities, which allows businesses to find highly-qualified customers who may have been harder to reach. 

Though originally pioneered by Facebook, Lookalike Audiences are not available through GoogleAds, LinkedIn Ads.

16. Mobile Optimization

“Optimizing for mobile” is the process of formatting your website so that it’s easy to read and navigate on a mobile device. 

Most modern websites are built with mobile optimization in mind, and will generate different layouts depending on the size of the screen being used to view the website. The process of building a website that can detect and react to screen size is called “mobile optimization.”

Google and other search engines reward websites that are mobile-friendly, so if your website isn’t fully optimized for mobile devices, you may rank lower on a search engine results page (called a SERP — more on this below.)

17. Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)

MRR is the amount of revenue a subscription-based business generates per month. There are several aspects to calculating MRR, including:

  • Net new: MRR gained from new users 
  • Net positive: MRR gained from upsells 
  • Net negative: MRR lost from downsells
  • Net loss: MRR lost from cancellations

18. Pay-per-click (PPC)

Pay-per-click (PPC) is another way of describing cost-per-click (CPC) ad revenue models where businesses get charged whenever someone clicks on their ads. 

Within marketing circles, however, PPC is generally used to denote using the GoogleAds advertising platform, whereas CPC is used to discuss the actual cost of the PPC ads.

19. Return on Investment (ROI)

ROI is a performance measure used to assess the profitability of an investment. 

It’s measured by measuring the gain from the investment minus the cost of the investment. The results are presented as a percentage that tell us whether a company is losing money on the investment (a negative percentage) or generating revenue (a positive percentage.)

For marketers, we want to measure the ROI of every tactic and channel we use to promote businesses online. Some ROI is easy to track, like cost-per-click (CPCs), while longtail forms of marketing like content marketing are harder to track 1-1.

20. Sales Funnel

A sales funnel is the visual representation of the journey a customer takes from the first time they become aware of your brand, to when they complete a purchase.

The sales funnel is usually broken up into four stages:

1. Awareness. Potential customers are encountering a specific problem and are researching and learning about how to solve it.

Content at this stage should inform and educate, and should be easy to produce like blog posts, quizzes, and videos.

2. Interest. Potential customers are diving deeper into the specifics of their problem. They’ve moved from “why does my back hurt?” to “how do I choose the best mattress for lower back pain.”

3. Discovery. Potential customers are aware of your brand, and are weighing their options.

The content that works best during these two stages are in-depth guides, checklists, pro and con lists, and other pieces that offer insight and guide the purchasing decision.

4. Action. Potential customers are now ready to become actual customers.

The best content for the bottom of the funnel are FAQ pages, videos and product features, competitive analyses, and live demos. These content pieces should serve to reinforce your potential customer’s view of your product or service as the best option to solve their problems.

21. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) + Search Engine Page Ranking (SERP)

SEO is the process of optimizing your website so that search engines like Google can read and index it as quickly as possible. 

How quickly your website can be indexed in a search engine depends on a variety of factors, including page load speed, keyword relevance, how many websites link to your website, and many other factors.

Your SERP ranking is where your website ranks among organic (non-paid) search results, and is influenced by your SEO efforts.

22. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

SaaS businesses are internet companies who host a specific service, like Salesforce or HubSpot, that stores your information in the cloud. 

Improve your business’ digital marketing strategy today

If you’re looking for more resources like this one, make sure to subscribe to our newsletter. It’s jam-packed with all the digital marketing resources you need each week.

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How to Use Hashtags Like a Pro Pt 2: How to Use Hashtags on Social Media

- by Alyson Shane

Do you wonder how to use hashtags on different social media networks?

Then you've come to the right place! In the second instalment of our "How to Use Hashtags Like a Pro" series, we'll cover:

  • How to use hashtags on Instagram
  • How to use hashtags on Twitter
  • How to use hashtags on LinkedIn
  • How to use hashtags on Pinterest
  • How to use hashtags on Facebook

How to use hashtags on Instagram

Hashtags may have started on Twitter, but they've become one of the most important ways to find and connect with others on Instagram.

Once you've figured out which hashtags to use (for more info on choosing the right hashtags, click here), keep these tips in mind:

  • Add hashtags in your post captions. Type the related hashtags into the caption section of the photo. Add your hashtags below the image caption whenever possible.
  • You can also add more hashtags in the comments if you'd like.

The maximum amount of hashtags you can add to an Instagram post is 30, though we don't recommend maxing out your hashtags every time you post.

If you want to use an aggressive hashtag strategy to help more people find and follow your account, go nuts - just don't post 30 hashtags with every post. 

Instead, space out the posts with lots of hashtags in-between posts with limited numbers of hashtags. This helps your content feel more authentic overall.

Using blended hashtags on Instagram

Here at Starling Social, we like to use a "blended" hashtag strategy to help our clients' content be seen by the maximum number of people. It works like this:

When choosing which hashtags to post, use a combination of popular and somewhat-popular hashtags (vs. focusing only on high-performing hashtags.)

This tactic helps your posts be seen by a large number of people right away. But because content gets buried quickly in the Timeline, those additional, less-popular hashtags will mean your posts will stick around at the top of those feeds for a lot longer.

For less-popular hashtags, we suggest choosing niche hashtags related to your brand or geo-location. These tend to be less popular by virtue of being more niche, but still allow you to connect your content with people who may be interested in seeing it.

How to use hashtags on Twitter

Twitter is the easiest place to get the hang of using hashtags.

You can get started by checking out the 'Trending' column on the right-hand side of your desktop view. This is a great way to stay on top of the hottest topics and trends.

You can add hashtags to your Tweet as you compose it, and as you write, Twitter will suggest hashtags based on what you've typed, like this:

This makes discovering new hashtags super easy!

As for where you should put your hashtags in your Tweet - the jury's still out on this one. Some brands love to embed hashtags into their Tweet text, like this:

But lately, we've been seeing lots of Tweets that are adding hashtags at the end of the post, which is an interesting way to keep followers focused on the content. Check it out:

Which way do you prefer? Tweet at us and let us know.

How to use hashtags on LinkedIn

Since LinkedIn is a professional network, the best hashtags are the ones that are content focused, or specific to a topic.

When writing an update from your LinkedIn homepage, you can add hashtags to your post by typing # and the combination of words/terms you'd like to use, or you can click on any of the suggested hashtags next to the the 'Add hashtag' button.

Like with other social networks, hashtag suggestions will pop up when you start writing your hashtag.

You can also add hashtags to articles you publish on LinkedIn. Just follow these steps:

  • Write your article.
  • Click 'Publish' in the top-right corner
    • A pop-up window will appear
  • In "Tell your network what your article is about" field, add text and hashtags to help readers find your article. 

The hashtags you choose won't show up in the article but can be found in the description that shows above your article on users' feeds.

Important: you can't edit, add, or remove hashtags after you've hit 'Publish' - so choose wisely!

How to use hashtags on Pinterest

Hashtags are an essential way for your Pins to be categorized and seen by the right people, so don't leave them out! Make sure to add them to your Pin descriptions whenever possible.

When adding hashtags on Pinterest, be specific and descriptive. Use hashtags that are closely related to the topic of the article you're Pinning, or your brand hashtag.

Related: we covered how to create a brand hashtag in part 1 of this series.

Like Instagram, make sure to add your hashtags at the end of your description. This helps keep your reader's attention focused on your content and prevents them from accidentally clicking away to a hashtag feed before they can click through to your website.

To add a hashtag on Pinterest, follow these steps:

  • Create your Pin and type "#" followed by a keyword or phrase in the description.
  • If you're Saving a Pin using the Share button, you'll see the suggested hashtags pop up as you're sharing.

Pinterest recommends adding no more than 20 hashtags per pin, but similar to Instagram we want to keep our "spammy" use of hashtags to a minimum. 

Ideally, try to use 4-8 high-quality hashtags per Pin.

How to use hashtags on Facebook

Despite being available for use since 2013, hashtags on Facebook have never really exploded in popularity. 

One reason is that most Facebook profiles are private, compared to other social networks like Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, which are public by default. People with private accounts can't be involved in public hashtag conversations, so their use is quite limited on the platform.

Another is that Facebook hasn't really promoted their use or published a lot of material on "best practices" to date - clearly it's not a priority.

Do hashtags work on Facebook?

There's a lot of conflicting information about whether or not hashtags increase or decrease your reach on Facebook, but generally they don't seem to have a net positive effect.

If you choose to use hashtags on Facebook, limit yourself to using one or two. Bonus points if one of them is your brand hashtag since this will help users see all the posts about your brand on Face.

How to use hashtags like a pro: conclusion

Hashtags are one of the most important ways to help new users discover your brand, and to engage in relevant and timely interactions with your followers. 

If you're just getting started with using hashtags, check out our first post in this two-part series, called How to Use Hashtags Like a Pro Part 1: The Basics for all you need to know.

Do you have a fav way to use hashtags in your social media marketing? Tweet it at us!

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