If you’re looking to build your brand, engage your users and increase conversions, you need to be constantly thinking of content—value-adding sparks, conversation-starters, establishing yourself as an authority—to compliment your product and services. By sharing insights, advice and other solid gold nuggets of information through your online channels, you are becoming a contributor to, and eventually a leader in your industry.
Now we all know content is important throughout your online presence: your about page, your capabilities/offerings, case studies, testimonials—your basic brochure information. But in addition, are you producing fresh content on your blog and social media outreach? Is it in-line to boost your SEO standing? What reason do users have to keep visiting you? Do your users bookmark you, “like” you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter? These are all questions you need to think about in this digital, super-connected age—and not skimp on.
Before we start talking about content, let’s make one thing clear: there is no one-size-fits-all approach to content creation. Period. Every company and product has unique needs, unique users and unique opportunities for conversion-leading conversation.
Memorable content not only builds your brand but also ensures long-term repeat users. And then super-users. Above all, while establishing your identity, your values and solutions, your content—blog posts, tweets, web videos, sales sheets, newsletters, etc.—must be authentic and deliberate.
Of course you also want to be engaging conversations, so this means not just creating dynamic content but sharing others as well: reposting blogs, linking to other sites, retweeting, asking questions and responding to user inquires or concerns through social media channels. There’s a “sharing-is-caring” factor to increasing SEO, so be social and have fun. User-generated content is the best content—organize contests, take submissions whenever possible, reward super-users and be gracious to anyone taking the time to praise you.
The big question many of you may be asking now is: What do I blog about? And to know this answer, you must keep an eye on the ever-changing interests and concern your users and target market have. Keep an ear to the ground. You should be regularly visiting dozens of industry blogs and competitor and complimenting sites. Ask yourself: how can I provide the best solutions? What makes me an authority over my competitors? And what’s buzzing in my industry?
For Doejo, we’re in the entrepreneurial, startup and digital agency realm. Aside from our updated case studies, we are contently refreshing our blog with coverage of startup pitch events; panel discussions of interesting creative’s (showing love to other startups/ resources/ entrepreneurs); sharing updates of our new clients and partnerships; and goings on in our coffeeshops, for example. We’re active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, our weekly newsletter and relevant industry blogs. And we keep active with sponsorships of events and the hosting of meet-ups.
From this interaction and engagement, we’ve had new clients come to us after seeing our blog, read our case studies, subscribed to our newsletter or seen our presence at entrepreneurial events. With dynamic content creation, you talk with your users—and potential users—not at them. We see everyday how our clients love us and we jump at the chance to show them love right back.
CRAVE is a global community for female entrepreneurs that connects savvy business owners. Started 11 years ago in Seattle as a positive and supportive place to brainstorm and collaborate, CRAVE has grown to host events in 30 cities helping woman connect, inspire and succeed.
The Chicago chapter held an event last night at Shop 1021, a recently opened well-curated gift shop in Logan Square, focusing on leadership. The speakers explored the skills that make a great leader, how to motivate your team and gave tips for leaders in small entrepreneurial companies while fielding questions from the enthusiastic audience in a casual and informative presentation.
Here are a few of the skills they touched on:
Have a vision
Leadership is not about titles: a leader is someone who speaks up, provides a solution and gets the necessary people on board. Anyone can be a leader if they have a vision for the future and understand how to implement it. Because the changes a leader initiates don’t happen organically, a successful leader needs to be a good communicator. This means being responsive while having the ability to problem solve, achieve objectives, identify skills and bring people together. “The best leaders are ones who can figure out everything that is required to happen to achieve their objective. They can successfully bring together a group and move them forward until the task is complete,” said Sheila O’Grady, a consultant at Spencer Stuart. It is also important to be a good listener who is flexible and ready to adjust and bring new ideas to life.
Empower your employees
Communication is key when trying to empower those around you. Taking the time to explain things to your employees and let them know what they can do to be better is a huge motivator. “There has to be a certain degree of transparency to make you feel trust in the company. If you aren’t feeling like you are in the loop then you aren’t empowered to do your job as well as you can,” said Sarah Neukom, Producer of Positivity at Red Frog Events. Don’t be afraid to delegate tasks—this trust leads to empowerment. “When you let someone embrace an idea and run with it they are only going to keep producing more great things,” said Neukom.
Create an efficient, motivating environment
It’s important to foster an environment where people have a desire to innovate. This means forgetting about office hierarchy, using tech applications efficiently to free up time and knowing when to say "no." At Red Frog Events all employees are given a trail period. This time “is equally as important for the employer as it is for the employee. It gives employees time to make sure it’s a good fit while letting them embrace the culture and find their niche,” said Neukom. When working in government, O’Grady said that having pride in the work that you were doing and possessing the desire to do it better, or be first, were the biggest motivators. She says that creating an environment where people are always striving to be number one is key. Also, never undervalue appreciation: simply saying "thank you" can be the best motivation. Attention to small details like thank you notes or employee perks help keep people inspired, creative and motivated to foster ideas.
Good leaders make a point to be accessible to their employees, showing respect, being genuine, having good intentions and creating a sincere connection. This doesn’t mean you have to be an extrovert: leaders who are quiet and able to listen are sometimes the best of the bunch. “Joe, the founder of Red Frog, is this silent kind of stoic leader but his mind is always turning,” said Neukum. These quiet leaders should still be good communicators. O’Grady stresses the importance of making the job duties extremely clear when hiring to avoid worker unhappiness. She also suggests interacting and reaching out to both employees and clients: a simple ‘this made me think of you’ with a personalized link goes a long way.
You don’t need followers to be a leader
“A leader is a person who grabs the reigns and is in control,” said O’Grady. For entrepreneurs or small business owners becoming a leader is as simple as viewing yourself as one. This means saying you are in charge, this is my business and realizing you are doing something impactful. “Make your decisions like the business person that you are and think about the impact you are having on others,” said O’Grady. Leadership is not just based on the number of employees you have: even if there is no one working under you, you are a leader in your community and in Chicago.
Last week 1871 invited Howard Tullman, President and CEO of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy and accomplished entrepreneur, to discuss the future trends in technology and the power of social media. Tullman spoke about new technologies that are changing the way the world does business; focusing on the influx of data, the Internet has given us about the consumer, the power of games, the secrets to online advertising and the domination of Facebook.
Here are eight of the many lessons that Tullman shared with the crowd:
1. Context trumps content—if we are not listening it is meaningless
We are moving from the information web to the social web. This critical transformation means that content providers need to be at the right place at the right time to successfully reach its audience. Because Internet users can no longer be anonymous we now know detailed information about our chosen target audience. Tullman says the way to capitalize on this is by enacting ‘smart reach,’ explaining that a constant, honest connection is needed to increase your web presence. This presence will boost the value and utility of your product. The downside? It takes work: a website alone doesn't count, you need a strong social media presence to succeed at this.
2. The most critical attribute of the Internet is not its immediacy and low cost. It’s how much more we know about the user
In this age, no advertising should be wasted. Because customers are pre-aggregated and there is easily accessible behavioral data one hundred percent of energy and emphasis should be spent on the group that is on the fence regarding your product. Today, privacy is low on the list of personal priorities (especially if you can save someone time, money or make them more productive) making precision marketing an easy task. With the invention of nudge commerce, marketers can now target consumers based on their location. For example, if you are in a grocery store, marketers will not send you a car ad, instead, they will send you a targeted grocery ad. Tullman says that places and locations talking to us in real-time will only become more common as locations are the next dimension of interaction.
3. Brands are not as important as execution and speed. It takes being first, fast and constant improvement to succeed
Social media is not about saving money. It is about connections and getting data out to users. It is this connection plus the constant delivery of digital content that leads to invaluable consumer data. To succeed in social media you need to love it and create an authentic engagement with the audience. This means taking the time and energy to fully understand available information using free programs like Tweetdeck and Twistori. Tullman used an important example: Words With Friends beat Scrabble at it's own game by being the first, fastest, most innovative and providing a necessary social connection.
4. Gaming rewards, accomplishments and measurements of success are important validators
Games are how business and commerce are currently taking place on the web. They have a massive reach and are able to accurately target their audience, measuring their performance at a low cost. The most shocking part is the players of these games are not just children: more than 50 percent of them are adults. What have these games taught us? “Games signal the end of fixed pricing. Every product and business will now have to offer products across a continuum that the consumer will dictate,” Tullman said. And this is a good thing for business: instead of guessing the exact price for a product that comes out in two years they can now offer a micro-transactional model with an integrative spectrum of engagement, depth, sophistication and levels that will allow you to sweep in a broader and larger population.
5. You can no longer suppress or ignore online consumers: they need to be addressed
Today’s consumers are smarter and faster. They complain effectively and efficiently online giving power to the people. Conversations on social media can no longer be seen as trivial or dismissible: they are conversations with your customers, clients, consumers and employees. Integrating social media into your business plans helps to create emotional connections, see who the drivers of this conversation are and showcases the mood of the country. Popular examples of companies who effectively listened to the buzz on social media include Netflix with their Qwikster fiasco and GAP with their failed logo redesign.
6. Gamification and sharification are the new behavior drivers on the web
The old philosophy said that a business must save time, money and increase productivity to be successful. Today this has changed: people are driven by status. They want to measure their activities and share them. It turns out that the wisdom of friends is more valuable than the wisdom of consumers. Tullman refers to this change in behavior drivers as the gamification and sharification of the web. In this world engagement and connection are the new currencies.
7. Search should be a window, not a mirror
According to Tullman, Google is toast because of low engagement rates. In January of 2012 users spent 405 minutes on Facebook and only three minutes on Google. Despite Google’s ability to measure 57 things in a single search and their incorporation of the Google Knowledge Graph, Google is stuck looking backward. The search engine will ultimately fail because it works as a rear view mirror and not as a sniper scope like Facebook, he warns. “Google thinks because I searched for something in the past, that search is predictive going forward. Facebook has a much easier job: enormous amounts of people are raising their hands and saying, ‘here’s what I like, here’s what I want, here’s what I’m interested in,’” Tullman said. This is why more than 35 percent of all display advertising on the Internet is on Facebook.
8. Facebook is the master of modern social media
Because of social engineering like “Facebook Connect” users are constantly turning over their information to Facebook. Thanks to the current fascination people have with what their friends are doing, Facebook has built in filters that give them insights that Tullman refers to as "the best crystal ball." This extra information gives them the ability to be predictive, leading to hyper-personalization. This means they can target specific audiences cost effectively and accurately measure their success. Ventures like Facebook Marketplace allow for the convergence of identity, proximity, interest, commerce and currency, maximizing its precision and connection. And Facebook will continue to grow. “In this winner-take-all technology world, we all gravitate to the winners: the advertising gravitates to the winners and the traffic gravitates to the winners. People make conscious choices to opt for a specific channel because they cannot spread themselves across everything,” Tullman said.
On the eve of Chicago’s 300th shooting death this year thus far, Ryan Furgeson’s Skate or Die documentary seems all the more timely. The documentary follows Leo, a young man from Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, as he uses skateboarding to escape the gangs and violence that have been a pervasive part of his neighborhood and family.
Furgeson has shot over 100 hours of footage, focusing on the story of Leo, the rise of inner city skateboarding and the stray bullet that might end his skateboarding days. By providing a substitute for the community of gangs, the documentary shows how the sport also allows at-risk teens to express themselves and ride past the gang boundaries that create a barrier for many of their peers.
After four years of filming and more than 100 hours of footage, Ryan is seeking a final push of support to edit the film down to a feature length. With less than a three days to go, the fundraiser still has about $6,000 to go to hit their $35,000 goal. He’s already seen huge support from pro-skater Tony Hawk as well as the Chicago artistic community. Local coffee roaster, Metropolis has partnered to develop a Skate or Die blend and Jay Ryan has designed an 18x24 print, both of which are being offered as Kickstarter rewards. Best of luck, Ryan!
With a return user rate of under 50 percent for all apps, selling a service through a mobile app is an uphill battle. With this in mind, Phil Leslie hosted a workshop focused on customer acquisition in the mobile space on Thursday morning at 1871. Leslie, the founder of ProOnGo, a mobile expense tracking company that works on a software as a service model (SaaS), shared tips on how to optimize mobile apps and websites and how to convert casual browsers into paying customers.
Starting with pre-release marketing, Leslie talked the audience through the process of acquiring a new customers in the mobile space and why a shift to the web may be beneficial. He refers to the customer acquisition process as a “funnel”—to make a mobile business plan work you, you need a strong flow at the top because you will lose customers at every step. With multiple steps, from download to account creation, register to subscribe, and finally increasing average revenue per user, businesses in the mobile space need all the help they can get.
Step 1: Determine price
Start by focusing on the top of the funnel. The first major decision is to determine your price. Free is not an option: a free app is not sustainable, lacks a business plan and quickly goes out of business. If you are unsure, Leslie recommends just guessing for the initial price—you an always change it later.
Step 2: Optimize app store description
The next obstacle is crafting your app store description and attempting to optimize it for SEO. Rapidly changing and less mature then website SEO, Leslie says there are no tricks to this black art. The solution: day-to-day attention, effort and focus are they only way to track what works.
Step 3: Get usernames
When you reach the username creation stage simplicity is key. Leslie discovered that Android and Blackberry software allows app creators to pre-populate a username based on the users current email addresses synced to their phone. This is an ideal situation because it cuts down on the number of fields users need to complete to get to the next step.
At this point, an obvious call to action is needed above the fold. Leslie uses OpenID, a platform that allows companies to partner with another service, eliminating the need for users to create a new account. An example of this is the “sign in with Facebook” button that is seen all to frequently across the web. Leslie only recommends doing this with a site partner that you are symbiotic with—don’t just choose Facebook because it is popular. This incredibly powerful tool not only allows you to skip an entire part of the funnel, it also makes the experience easier for the user.
Step 4: Move beyond mobile monthly subscriptions hurdles
Subscriptions, the next stage of the funnel, comes with some problems in the mobile space. To thrive SaaS businesses need subscriptions that re-up automatically every month. Unfortunately, this is not yet allowed by for services in the App Store: currently only content creators, such as newspapers, or games can charge using this model. The Android Market does allow subscriptions but Leslie describes them as hard to manage and laments the multiple restrictions that include not being able to change the price.
This leaves creators of SaaS apps with no straightforward way to charge. Because most SaaS marketers also have a web presence the solution lies in driving traffic to your website and forcing customers to sign up for monthly subscriptions there. To workaround app store limits (you are forbidden to put website links into app store descriptions) businesses must start a conversation in-app and move it online.
Step 6: Expand from mobile to online
For ProOnGo, Leslie uses auto mailers that let customers know there is a web-based experience working along side the mobile app. “As you go thorough key parts of our app experience things that you do will start triggering various auto mailers to you, presenting an aura that there is a whole web side of this experience,” said Leslie. This takes advantage of SaaS companies resources: you have back-end services and reasons to approach the user in these kinds of ways. Other consumer perks for online service include always having a back-up.
When given the opportunity to show in-app subscription offers, the key is testing and tracking the responses. ProOnGo uses A/B testing to track the first 60 days, analyzing the revenue per view. “Turn it on, try it and see which one cranks out the best results. Sitting around guessing what will work is a waste of your time,” said Leslie. He has found that bigger buttons that offer a larger target area always perform better and taking the guesswork out is key: the less decisions the user has to make, the better.
Step 7: Market online using SEO
After flipping his focus to the web, Leslie learned that increasing traffic is more beneficial through good SEO, not expensive ad words or paid advertising. He recommends using Traffic Travis, a free service that will analyze your pages, your competitor’s pages and compile a list of your strengths and weaknesses. Picking two or three “trophy phrases” or keywords will help improve your ranking while having a blog with content from your company and outside content consumers care about can help dramatically increase site traffic.
Video can also be beneficial. Leslies uses YouTube’s playlist function to increase his companies presence on the video search results page. He also adds annotations that link to similar informative videos and provides YouTube with a full English translation of the audio that helps the site better index the content. YouTube annotations only allow links to other YouTube videos but Leslie has found a workaround that lets him advertise his company website: running a $1 ad campaign on YouTube allows you to add popups that lead directly to your site.
Step 8: Turn customers into buyers
Once you have customers browsing the site it’s time to turn them into buyers. To do this, Leslie recommends offering a 30-day trail with a card and providing a self-service check out. “Focusing on making sure your biggest differentiated feature is something the user can get to on their first session,” said Leslie. You want them to use it and love it. To get the highest average revenue per user sometimes it makes sense to route some transactions other places. By using PayPal Micropayments for some smaller transactions, ProOnGo was able to save almost 20% on the dollar.
For Leslie, the bottom line is simple: you better be a solution on the web and mobile—not just an app. If you are trying to build a real, sustainable cash flow business do not focus on vanity metrics. Focus on starting a conversation, taking out the guesswork and providing what is relevant for your average consumer so they fall in love with using your product.