The Guide to Ecommerce Holiday Success [Part One]

ecommerce-holiday-success-before-season.jpg

Pumpkin spice is reappearing on menus and fantasy football is now the hottest hallway topic – fall is finally here. With the change in the leaves comes the inevitable countdown to Cyber Monday for ecommerce marketers.

In 2015, one out of every six dollars spent over the holiday season was spent online. To capture your share of that revenue, you need to plan early (and often). To help you get started, we’ve put together a three-part guide to help you succeed this holiday season. The first part, 1. Before the Season, kicks off the series by helping you reflect on 2015 and start putting together a plan for 2016.

The guide covers:

  • How to learn from 2015
  • How to develop key goals and metrics
  • Guidance to build a holiday marketing plan
  • Holiday campaign inspiration
  • Systems to audit before the holiday rush

Download The Guide to Ecommerce Holiday Success: 1. Before the Season to get started on holiday 2016 (and stay tuned for parts two and three of the guide).

Get the guide to start planning for holiday season success for your ecommerce company.

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What Librarians Can Teach Marketers About Weeding Out ROT

librarians-teach-marketers-rot

Editor’s note: This article grew out of a post published on the Content Strategy Inc. blog May 16, 2016.

Librarians can’t keep everything; bookshelves have only so much space. As books come in, books must go out. Librarians call the process of removing books from their collection “de-accessioning” or, more casually, “weeding.”

Marketers may use the term weeding, or they may talk about getting rid of ROT (redundant, outdated, trivial content). Whichever term you prefer, you probably know that you should archive or delete content that hurts you more than it helps. Who’s going to land a good job today with career tips from the 1970s?


Archive or delete #content that hurts you more than it helps says @jess_604. #contentstrategy

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Removing content from your site doesn’t mean it’s bad. It may have been perfectly good when it originally went up. But times change, and so should content.

Think of this process the way you think about buying clothes: Every time you add a piece, you’d be wise to consider removing something to make room in your closet.

Do you think of digital space (unlike closet space) as unlimited? Do you ever find yourself wanting to keep certain pieces of content because they could maybe someday be useful to someone – like that one user who needs to know a particular detail about the history of your organization or who may find a post helpful even if it talks about programs you no longer support? If so, keep in mind that just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it costs nothing to keep. Every link, paragraph, picture, and video that you keep – even though your priority audience doesn’t need it – makes it harder for that audience to find what it does need.


Just because it’s digital doesn’t mean it costs nothing to keep, says @jess_604. #contentstrategy

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If you’re a content professional, you owe it to your customers – just as librarians owe it to theirs – to regularly inventory and audit your collection and then weed out the ROT.

Decide what to pitch

Librarians take various things into account in deciding which books are important enough to keep on the shelf. A book is not necessarily irrelevant just because it gets old, and it’s not necessarily unhelpful just because it’s rarely checked out.

When you’re considering which content to retire, look not just at its publication date but also at its relevance. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do the tips work as well today as they did before? If they do, consider keeping the piece and refreshing anything that makes it look dated, like old screenshots or photographs.
  • Is something making your still-useful content hard to find? Maybe it lacks the metadata that search-engine robots need to find it. Consider retagging or re-categorizing that content or otherwise updating its metadata to support findability.
  • Are you promoting your content adequately? Maybe you can surface it on your company’s home page or social media.

Here are four more tips to simplify your weeding:

  • Can’t tell which section of your content needs the most weeding? To get a snapshot of how your content is doing at a high level, try the content scorecard template that Content Strategy Inc. has developed.
  • Have trouble deciding whether a particular piece of content is worth keeping? Ask a knowledgeable colleague.
  • Want to see how much your site has improved since you first started weeding? Check the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to see how your site used to look, and celebrate how much better it has become.

Create a weeding schedule

Your content team may want to create a schedule for reviewing pages or sections of your site. If you don’t weed your collection regularly, before long you’ll be buried.

You might schedule content reviews to align with the following:

  • Major updates or policy changes in your industry, company, or department
  • Product-development cycles – For example, if you write about software technology and your app developers make small updates on a two-week scrum cycle and significant updates once or twice a year, you might schedule minor updates of your content (revising or deleting old articles) every two weeks to stay on top of the small changes, while scheduling more significant updates every six months or annually.
  • Events – Let’s say that your company holds an event every month to attract new customers. Review your website content before every event to make sure that it hasn’t gone stale.

Make a schedule that addresses when different sections need to be audited. Some content rarely needs updating. If content on a page is likely to remain stable, such as a brand’s history (on an About page for example), you probably don’t need to check for accuracy and usefulness often. Other content may need to be checked for accuracy regularly.

Create an archiving strategy

Make sure that the right people can still find the content you take away from public-facing platforms. You don’t want your audience to feel abandoned. Even if your priority audience will be OK with the change, some stakeholders might not be.

To make sure that audiences who need the content hosted on your site don’t run into problems after you remove it, consider alternative homes for that content. Appropriate places may be intranets, wikis, shared file servers, or even print pieces.

Notify people who might need your archived content so that they know where to find it.

Pace yourself

When Jeff Scott, the director of the public library in Berkeley, California, pulled 40,000 books from the shelves in one year, patrons were so angry, they demanded that he resign.

To avoid outcries like that, librarians Mary Kelly and Holly Hibner (authors of the hilarious blog Awful Library Books) recommend weeding gradually. Removing a book or two a week keeps a library moving in the right direction, making space for new books without shocking the system.

Besides, it’s easier to audit content a little at a time than to audit everything at once. If you remove content regularly, you don’t have to tackle all your digital properties at the same time.


Audit content a little at a time rather than everything at once says @jess_604. #contentstrategy

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Conclusion

Weeding out ROT isn’t easy. It’s easier to keep everything and avoid the following challenges:

  • Dealing with the emotions wrapped up in content – like the first post you ever published or the materials that helped one of your friends who isn’t part of the priority audience
  • Figuring out who is going to need those materials or miss them
  • Providing alternatives for people who may need archived content

For hundreds of years, librarians have taken on those challenges so that they could keep people coming back for more. Marketers can, too.

How do you keep the ROT out?

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Want more on managing your content strategically? Sign up for our Content Strategy for Marketers weekly email newsletter, which features exclusive insights from CMI Chief Content Adviser Robert Rose. If you’re like many other marketers we meet, you’ll come to look forward to his thoughts every Saturday.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

The post What Librarians Can Teach Marketers About Weeding Out ROT appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

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How To Increase Referral Traffic And Get More Leads

ThinkstockPhotos-546453534-384519-edited.jpgMost marketers have one goal in common: increasing the amount of traffic to their website. There are various tactics for accomplishing this goal including search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising (PPC), blogging, social media marketing, etc. The problem is that SEO takes times, PPC is expensive, Google is becoming oversaturated with blog content, and social media has always had a problem proving ROI.

One often overlooked tactic that can potentially have the greatest impact is referral traffic. So, what is referral traffic and how can you use it to generate more leads?

What Is Referral Traffic?

Visitors that come to your website from sites other than the major search engines are considered referral traffic. When someone clicks a link on a website or social network and is then taken to another site, tracking software, such as Google Analytics or HubSpot, counts that visitor as referral traffic. The originating website is called the “referrer” since it refers traffic from one website to the other.

Why Is Referral Traffic Important?

Referral traffic is important to inbound marketers because it sends potentially qualified visitors to your website from trusted websites. This in turn gets your content in front of new people, giving your website the opportunity to convert that visitor into a lead and your sales team the opportunity to convert that lead into a new customer.

But that’s not all! Referral traffic also has SEO benefits. When someone visits your website from another site they are usually clicking on a link or completing some type of social activity. Google and other search engines consider these links and social signals as positive ranking factors as long as they are coming from trusted websites.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, let’s get started on getting you some juicy referral traffic so you can brag about all the hot leads you have rolling in.

7 Steps To Generate More Referral Traffic

1) Publish Your Website To Online Directories

Submitting your website to online directories is one of the easiest ways to get referral traffic but you don’t want to publish your website to every directory out there. Instead, focus on the ones that are most relevant to your industry or generate the most traffic. Whether you’re a veterinarian in St. Louis or an assisted living facility in Daytona Beach, Moz has you covered. They offer a free resource for finding the top directories by category and city.

Once you’ve submitted your website to the top directories for your city and industry, I’d focus on finding directories that can generate some serious traffic. How do you know which directories will accomplish this? It’s as simple as performing a Google search. The directories that appear at the top of the search results should, in theory, generate the most traffic. For example, if you do a search for “personal trainer in los angeles” there are 4 directories that show up on the first page of the search results: Yelp, YourTrainer, IdeaFit & Thumbtack.

Google search personal trainer in los angeles

You can’t use SEO to pass up these directories in the search results overnight. What you can do, however, is list your website on these directories in order to generate quality traffic and get some free SEO juice. After all, if someone is looking for a personal trainer in Los Angeles and they find your website via Yelp, that referred visitor is just as valuable to you as them landing directly on your website.

2) Get Published On Review Websites

Review websites are a great source for getting more referral traffic. These visitors have already gone through the awareness and consideration stages of the buyer’s journey. They’ve now reached the decision stage and are comparing vendors or products. What better time to get your product or service in front of them for consideration?

Getting listed on a review website can vary depending on whether you are a B2B or B2C company. If you perform a search for “st louis roofing company reviews” there are 3 websites that you would want to be listed on if you were a roofer: HomeAdvisor, BBB & AngiesList.

Google search st louis roofing company reviews

By adding your website to these 3 directories you are increasing the likelihood of your website being found during the decision phase of the buyer’s journey. If you are operating a respectable roofing company that treats customers fairly you should have no problem standing out from other roofers that have not so positive reviews.

B2B businesses will find that it is more difficult to get featured on review websites. A lot of times you have to “pay to play,” meaning you will basically have to pay to be featured towards the top of the review listings. For example, if you do a Google search for “top mobile app developers” the first search result is Clutch.co. They showcase a list of mobile app development firms with reviews but if you look closely you’ll notice that they are “sorted by sponsor.” Essentially these companies are paying to have their website and reviews featured first. It’s a slick way for Clutch to make money but also maintain it’s reputation as a respectable source for reviews.

Clutch sponsored results

3) Publish Guest Blog Posts

Guess what? You’re currently looking at step 3 of the 7 steps for getting more referral traffic to your website. That’s right. You’re reading a guest blog post by Leap Clixx, a HubSpot Partner Agency. Guest blog posts create numerous opportunities to get referral traffic to your website. External links (like the two in this paragraph), author bios, and call-to-actions (like the one at the bottom of this post) are typically present on most blogs. If you can get a post featured on a well-know industry website you’ll benefit from the referral traffic and links coming to your site. It’s best to focus your efforts on websites that are considered thought leaders in your industry. Since we’re an Inbound Marketing Agency, HubSpot is the perfect place for us to post a guest blog post. Can you think of a more respected website when it comes to the topic of inbound marketing? I mean, HubSpot literally coined the term inbound marketing.

Here are a couple tips to keep in mind when guest blogging:

  1. Focus on websites related to your industry – No one wants to read about Fall fashion trends on a blog about guns & ammo, unless you’re talking about camo.
  2. Keep the target audience in mind while writing – Most blogs have strict guidelines in place for guest bloggers.
  3. Write content under your own name – After all, you don’t want someone else getting credit for your work.
  4. Link to influencers – They will notice and might even help promote your guest blog post, which in return will increase the referral traffic it generates.

4) Leverage Social Media

According to Social Media Examiner, a whopping 89% of marketers indicated that social media generated more exposure for their business. Additionally, 75% found their website traffic increased as a result of their social media efforts.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest were the top 7 social media platforms used by marketers. Being active on social media isn’t just trendy anymore; it’s a tactic most marketers are using to get more traffic, leads, and sales.

benefits of social media marketing

Everytime you tweet, share, like, or pin a piece of content you are creating an opportunity to drive referral traffic to your website. Plus, you’re increasing the likelihood of your content showing up at the top of Google. 58% of marketers using social media reported improved search rankings. Like I said before, referral traffic not only brings more potential customers to your website, it also helps with SEO.

5) Comment On Blogs

A question that comes up a lot is “Does blog commenting help SEO?” It not only can help with SEO but it can also generate more referral traffic for your website. According to Neil Patel, his 240+ comments on blogs have generated close to 4,000 visitors to his website. Commenting on blogs will definitely increase your referral traffic; just make sure you’re not filling the interwebs with more spam. Here are a couple tips for the newbie blog commenters out there:

  1. Make sure your comments are valuable – No one likes a complainer or bragger. If your comments are negative or promotional in nature just keep them to yourself.
  2. Focus on blogs that allow links in the comments – Remember, you’re trying to get more traffic. In order to do that you need to add a link to your website
  3. If you aren’t first, you’re last. – Just like search engines, if your link is at the top of the comments list you’re more likely to generate more clicks and traffic.

 

 

6) Be Active On Industry Forums

Online forums are a great source of potential leads and customers but are often overlooked as a marketing tactic for generating traffic. Similar to blog comments, you should focus your efforts on forums in your niche and always be trying to add value without sounding too promotional. I’ve outlined a couple steps and tips below for getting the most out of forum marketing:

  1. Make sure the forum is active – Don’t waste your time on a forum that hasn’t had a new post for a month.
  2. Register using your brand name – You want to make sure people associate your comments with a memorable brand name.
  3. Create a signature with a call-to-action link – This is how you’re going to drive traffic to your website.
  4. It’s time to participate – You’ll want to participate in the areas of the forum where you have the most expertise.
  5. Use real life examples – Don’t just offer your advice. No one likes a know-it-all. Try to provide value using your personal experiences.
  6. Share your resources – Start a new thread with a link to resource you think could benefit the group. If you’re proud of a particular piece of content it’s likely others will enjoy it too.  

7) Publish Infographics

When asked to select the single most important form of content for their business, 37% of marketers picked visuals. The reason is pretty simple. Humans have attention spans shorter than goldfish and it’s easier for the brain to consume an image than a bunch of text. Plus you’ve probably noticed that an image of a cute puppy gets liked and shared more than a 100+ page industry report.

attention span of internet user

The great thing about infographics is they can help people understand complex data with simple visuals. The goal is to get your infographic shared, liked, and pinned on social networks and have others embed it in their articles (like I’ve done above), thus creating links to your website.

In addition to your own website, there are several websites where you can post an infographic. One of my favorites is Pinterest. After all, Pinterest is responsible for around 5% of all referral traffic to websites, second only to Facebook. Pinterest gives you the option to link your infographic to your website and makes it easy for it be shared on other’s boards.

Next Steps

Once you start receiving additional referral traffic, you’ll want to make sure your website is ready for these new visitors. In this FREE eBook “Turn Your Website Into A Lead Generation Machine,” we go over some best practices for ensuring your website is setup to convert visitors into leads for your business. Download it now by clicking on the link above or on the banner below.

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Scrolljacking: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

maxresdefault-23-391938-edited.jpgIn its simplest terms, scrolljacking is the web industry term for repurposing the scroll wheel/motion for something other than the expected advancing up or down the page. Though some may have a more specific definition, this is the one we’re going to work with in describing unexpected behavior triggered from scrolling.

There are several ways developers have scroll jacked different sites at varying levels of “jackedness,” if you will. Doing a quick Google search, you can find plenty of strong opinions on scrolljacking, most of which reveal vehement opposition.

In this post, I will explain and critique a few different scrolljacking techniques and give my thoughts on how and when this can be a positive experience.

Technique 0: Parallax

Probably the most common example of scrolljacking these days is a parallax background – when a background image moves at a different speed than the rest of the content on the page, creating an interesting layered effect. This is a very minor example of scrolljacking, though it does use the scroll to manipulate the page in a way that is not consistent with what users expect from a scroll wheel.

I’ve decided to make this “Technique 0” because at this point, though it is falling out of favor, most users don’t bat an eye at seeing parallax backgrounds. Of course any element can have the parallax effect applied to it, though backgrounds are the most common.

Technique 1: The Full Jack

Some sites feature elements that are essentially slides which take over the full browser area and use the scroll wheel to advance or rewind. Some examples of this technique can be found at Apple, Huge Inc, and Yapstone.

These are pretty easy to get used to, though this can be frustrating for a user who may want to jump around the content or quickly scan the whole page. These are sections that demand your attention the same way a pop-up does. You are not able to continue to the rest of the page until you get past the scroll-jacking section. Pop-ups are universally hated, so why should scrolljacking sections be viewed differently?

Technique 2: The Slight Jack

Some sites still show the expected scrolling of text with a background image that becomes fixed and perhaps changes to a different background image at a certain point. It eventually either becomes relative again and scrolls up the page or gets covered by content below the particular section. This would be a pretty low level of scroll “jackedness,” and perhaps the least offensive. A couple examples of this technique can be found at The New York Times and Grammarly.

Technique 3: The Fading Jack

A third variation can be found at dstillery. This technique utilizes both fixed background and foreground elements, and then uses scroll position to fade through text and imagery.

This is the least intuitive example for the end user. It is easy to get to a point where you can use the scroll wheel a bit and nothing will change because you have passed one trigger but have not yet hit another. Issues like this can make it seem like the site is broken by not responding to your scroll.

So What’s the Big Jacking Deal?

Scrolljacking alters the fundamental truth users have come to expect from using their scroll wheel. Think of it like renting a car and then when some a-hole cuts you off on the freeway, you go to honk your horn but instead you get a spray of washer fluid and the wipers start wiping at full blast.

OK, so scroll jacking certainly doesn’t create dangerous situations, but still, it goes against everything a user has learned to expect from their previous experiences with scrolling, both on the web and in most applications.

How Can Designers/Developers Practice Responsible Scrolljacking?

Probably my favorite example of scrolljacking, which I would call a slight variation to Technique 2 comes from Melanie Daveid. This is an example of half of the screen starting as relative, becoming fixed for a certain duration, and then becoming relative again.

Only half the screen gets jacked at a time, so you always see the continuity of the page scroll. We’ll call this technique “The Half Slight Jack.” Then she’s got the cherry on top at the bottom of her page with her scroll event animation.

In my opinion Melanie Daveid has it right on, and Technique 2 is pretty good as well. When it comes to scrolljacking, as long as something on the page is still moving in an expected way, the user is getting that motion and a good deal of the control they expect.

It can be used as an interesting and interactive way to tell a story without the use of a slider or accordion, which, by the way, can be used against you when it comes to SEO.

Though scrolljacking has many opponents, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. I’m going to guess it will become more prevalent throughout the web and that UX designers will continue to come up with new ways to scrolljack, many of which will continue to get serious opposition from the web community.

Growth Driven Design eBook: Reboot Your Website Into a Lead Generation Machine

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3 Customer Research Tactics to Help Content Creation

customer-research-tactics-content-creation

As a marketer, you likely have a comprehensive marketing stack at your disposal – tools to help create compelling content, promote it, etc.

But which tools help you understand the challenges of your audience? Companies that focus on their customers are 60% more profitable than “non-customer-centric” companies according to Deloitte.


Companies that focus on their customers are 60% more profitable than ones that don’t says @deloitte.

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Similar results can apply to customer-centric content.

These three tactics will help yield information from your customers. You’ll understand their needs, challenges, and what they want to learn about.

Then you can take that insight and turn it into conversion-driven content. Let’s dig in.

1. Look at your website visitors

Users visiting your website, app, or online store are a gold mine of insight. What better place to look for content ideas than your own users?


Users visiting your website, app, or online store are a gold mine of insight says @TheTomWhatley.

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To gather this insight, Google Analytics is usually the first and obvious place to look – find out what content on your site your audience is already engaging with.

To do this, open Google Analytics and head to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and make sure the results are ordered by page views:

customer-research-tactics-google-analytics

Click to enlarge

In this example, three pieces of content rank in the top 10 page views. They have a decent time on site – except for the e-book, which is a landing page.

But Google Analytics only shows us the surface data and it’s difficult to curate this data into one place.

One tool that solves this problem is Woopra, a customer-intelligence platform that builds a profile for every website visitor, app user, and customer. It pulls data in from several sources (live chat, email, etc.) to fill in the gaps.

customer-research-tactics-woopra

Where Google Analytics gives us quantitative insight, Woopra attributes it to individual users. Woopra allows you to create dynamic customer segments based on behavior. You have more power to not only find the right content but attribute it to the right audience. Use these segments to laser focus your content. By doing so, your content will resonate with the right audience.

Hotjar is another tool to consider. Typically used as a conversion optimization tool, it’s also useful for generating insight that can be used in your content marketing strategy.

Its survey tools enable you to ask readers what they’d like to see more of. Does your current content tick all the boxes? Is there something missing that they’d like to know?

customer-research-tactics-hotjar2

Asking questions while they’re consuming your content generates more accurate information from them. Their needs are top of mind, and if you ask the right questions they’ll share them with you.

We’ve covered what to do when users and customers come to you, but that will only get you so far.

2. Understand challenges through customer development

Nothing quite beats talking to your customers to understand their needs. The biggest benefit of doing this? It allows you to question assumptions.

This is where customer development, a concept formalized by Steve Blank, comes into play. Customer development is the process of understanding your customer’s needs. It’s about knowing what they want from your product or service.

As Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, authors of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, put it:

Customer development will help you – force you – to make better decisions based on tested hypotheses, rather than untested assumptions. The results of the customer development process may indicate that the assumptions about your product, your customers, and your market are all wrong. In fact, they probably will. And then it is your responsibility, as the idea-generator (read: entrepreneur), to interpret the data you have elicited and modify your next set of assumptions to iterate upon.

In product design, customer development challenges assumptions. It tests new ideas with those who will have your product in their hands.

Customer development can be a tool to create not only the best content possible but also the right content.


Customer development can be a tool to create the best #content & the right content says @TheTomWhatley.

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Alex Turnbull, founder of Groove, used customer development to understand how his users felt about his product. But a side product of these conversations was a better understanding of his personas:

“We’ve always had (tested) assumptions about the personas of our customers. And many of them held true in these conversations. But as we’ve grown, things sure have changed.

“For some of the newly discovered personas, there were enough examples that we’ve decided to build case studies to try and attract more users that fit those personas, or at least test the market to see if there’s a strong fit.”

On top of this, Groove improved its marketing copy based on what its customers were saying. The benefits go beyond content marketing, but how do you execute customer development?

Start with a simple email. Reach out to your customers personally, not from a company-wide email address. Be sincere, telling them you understand the challenges they’re facing.


Start customer development with a simple #email to your customers says @TheTomWhatley.

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Here’s how Alex reached out to his Groove customers:

customer-research-tactics-email

It worked because he put the users at the heart of what he’s asking for. He shares that he values what his customers think over his own assumptions. There’s also a call to action that sets the expectation up front.

The responses to his email quickly filled his inbox. Over the course of four weeks he talked to 500 customers.

Now that you’ve got them on the phone, what should you ask?

You need to elicit the right information to guide your content efforts. This means not only understanding their challenges, but also how they apply to their business, work, and personal lives.

As with any interview situation, getting the right insight requires going deep. Take their answers and go down a layer or two. For example, if you’re creating content around an analytics proposition, you might ask “What are your biggest marketing analytics challenges right now?”

The question is broad for a reason. The idea is to let them talk as you note down keywords. Then, you can thread these keywords into more specific questions.

Not only are you generating ideas for content, you’re adding context to it. They want to learn more about a topic for specific reasons. This gives you fuel for compelling introductions and killer headlines.

The key to successful customer development is not only understanding what your customers need but understanding why they need it. This shines a light on the best possible topics to focus on. It also helps build evergreen content that captures your audience’s attention long term.


Successful customer development is knowing what your customers need & why they need it by @TheTomWhatley.

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3. Use social listening tools for mass-market demands

Customer development is invaluable but difficult to scale. Sometimes, we need to react to what the market is saying. This requires tapping in and listening to what is already being talked about.

Fortunately, various tools can help you do this. The first being Mention. Given that conversations are happening all over the web, people are not just talking about your business but also the topics that your content will serve.

Mention monitors these conversations across social platforms, communities, and billions of other channels. Whether they be on Reddit, Quora, Facebook, Twitter, TechCrunch or Forbes, Mention keeps an eye on it all.

To test out this approach, sign up for a free trial and create a new alert and select “Anything Else”:

customer-research-tactics-mention1

Enter your target keyword under “Optional Keywords,” then hit next. Select any priority sources followed by channels and language. You then have a feed of tweets, articles, and other forms of content that contain your keyword.

To avoid being overwhelmed, track several long-tail keywords because the narrower you are, the fewer alerts you will receive. This will make crunching any trends easier.

You can use BuzzSumo to research which content is resonating well with your audience. Use broader search terms to find popular content around a topic.

Let’s use our analytics segmentation from earlier as an example. Here you can see there’s a lot of buzz around segmenting data in Google Analytics:

customer-research-tactics-buzzsumo

While tools like Mention and BuzzSumo are great for mass-market analysis, you should still talk to your customers. Speaking with individual customers is the fastest way to understand their challenges.

Conclusion

The data, insight, and understanding your customers offer are priceless. By listening to them and analyzing their behavior, you can better serve them with the content you create. The more insight and data you collect, the greater vision you have on the competitive content landscape.

How often do you talk to your customers? Have you had any aha moments from your own customer development efforts?

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Want to add more plays to your content marketing mix? Download CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook.

Cover image by mconnors via MorgueFile

The post 3 Customer Research Tactics to Help Content Creation appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.

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Scrolljacking: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

maxresdefault-23-391938-edited.jpgIn its simplest terms, scrolljacking is the web industry term for repurposing the scroll wheel/motion for something other than the expected advancing up or down the page. Though some may have a more specific definition, this is the one we’re going to work with in describing unexpected behavior triggered from scrolling.

There are several ways developers have scroll jacked different sites at varying levels of “jackedness,” if you will. Doing a quick Google search, you can find plenty of strong opinions on scrolljacking, most of which reveal vehement opposition.

In this post, I will explain and critique a few different scrolljacking techniques and give my thoughts on how and when this can be a positive experience.

Technique 0: Parallax

Probably the most common example of scrolljacking these days is a parallax background – when a background image moves at a different speed than the rest of the content on the page, creating an interesting layered effect. This is a very minor example of scrolljacking, though it does use the scroll to manipulate the page in a way that is not consistent with what users expect from a scroll wheel.

I’ve decided to make this “Technique 0” because at this point, though it is falling out of favor, most users don’t bat an eye at seeing parallax backgrounds. Of course any element can have the parallax effect applied to it, though backgrounds are the most common.

Technique 1: The Full Jack

Some sites feature elements that are essentially slides which take over the full browser area and use the scroll wheel to advance or rewind. Some examples of this technique can be found at Apple, Huge Inc, and Yapstone.

These are pretty easy to get used to, though this can be frustrating for a user who may want to jump around the content or quickly scan the whole page. These are sections that demand your attention the same way a pop-up does. You are not able to continue to the rest of the page until you get past the scroll-jacking section. Pop-ups are universally hated, so why should scrolljacking sections be viewed differently?

Technique 2: The Slight Jack

Some sites still show the expected scrolling of text with a background image that becomes fixed and perhaps changes to a different background image at a certain point. It eventually either becomes relative again and scrolls up the page or gets covered by content below the particular section. This would be a pretty low level of scroll “jackedness,” and perhaps the least offensive. A couple examples of this technique can be found at The New York Times and Grammarly.

Technique 3: The Fading Jack

A third variation can be found at dstillery. This technique utilizes both fixed background and foreground elements, and then uses scroll position to fade through text and imagery.

This is the least intuitive example for the end user. It is easy to get to a point where you can use the scroll wheel a bit and nothing will change because you have passed one trigger but have not yet hit another. Issues like this can make it seem like the site is broken by not responding to your scroll.

So What’s the Big Jacking Deal?

Scrolljacking alters the fundamental truth users have come to expect from using their scroll wheel. Think of it like renting a car and then when some a-hole cuts you off on the freeway, you go to honk your horn but instead you get a spray of washer fluid and the wipers start wiping at full blast.

OK, so scroll jacking certainly doesn’t create dangerous situations, but still, it goes against everything a user has learned to expect from their previous experiences with scrolling, both on the web and in most applications.

How Can Designers/Developers Practice Responsible Scrolljacking?

Probably my favorite example of scrolljacking, which I would call a slight variation to Technique 2 comes from Melanie Daveid. This is an example of half of the screen starting as relative, becoming fixed for a certain duration, and then becoming relative again.

Only half the screen gets jacked at a time, so you always see the continuity of the page scroll. We’ll call this technique “The Half Slight Jack.” Then she’s got the cherry on top at the bottom of her page with her scroll event animation.

In my opinion Melanie Daveid has it right on, and Technique 2 is pretty good as well. When it comes to scrolljacking, as long as something on the page is still moving in an expected way, the user is getting that motion and a good deal of the control they expect.

It can be used as an interesting and interactive way to tell a story without the use of a slider or accordion, which, by the way, can be used against you when it comes to SEO.

Though scrolljacking has many opponents, I don’t see it going away anytime soon. I’m going to guess it will become more prevalent throughout the web and that UX designers will continue to come up with new ways to scrolljack, many of which will continue to get serious opposition from the web community.

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3 Customer Research Tactics to Help Content Creation

customer-research-tactics-content-creation

As a marketer, you likely have a comprehensive marketing stack at your disposal – tools to help create compelling content, promote it, etc.

But which tools help you understand the challenges of your audience? Companies that focus on their customers are 60% more profitable than “non-customer-centric” companies according to Deloitte.


Companies that focus on their customers are 60% more profitable than ones that don’t says @deloitte.

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Similar results can apply to customer-centric content.

These three tactics will help yield information from your customers. You’ll understand their needs, challenges, and what they want to learn about.

Then you can take that insight and turn it into conversion-driven content. Let’s dig in.

1. Look at your website visitors

Users visiting your website, app, or online store are a gold mine of insight. What better place to look for content ideas than your own users?


Users visiting your website, app, or online store are a gold mine of insight says @TheTomWhatley.

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To gather this insight, Google Analytics is usually the first and obvious place to look – find out what content on your site your audience is already engaging with.

To do this, open Google Analytics and head to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and make sure the results are ordered by page views:

customer-research-tactics-google-analytics

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In this example, three pieces of content rank in the top 10 page views. They have a decent time on site – except for the e-book, which is a landing page.

But Google Analytics only shows us the surface data and it’s difficult to curate this data into one place.

One tool that solves this problem is Woopra, a customer-intelligence platform that builds a profile for every website visitor, app user, and customer. It pulls data in from several sources (live chat, email, etc.) to fill in the gaps.

customer-research-tactics-woopra

Where Google Analytics gives us quantitative insight, Woopra attributes it to individual users. Woopra allows you to create dynamic customer segments based on behavior. You have more power to not only find the right content but attribute it to the right audience. Use these segments to laser focus your content. By doing so, your content will resonate with the right audience.

Hotjar is another tool to consider. Typically used as a conversion optimization tool, it’s also useful for generating insight that can be used in your content marketing strategy.

Its survey tools enable you to ask readers what they’d like to see more of. Does your current content tick all the boxes? Is there something missing that they’d like to know?

customer-research-tactics-hotjar2

Asking questions while they’re consuming your content generates more accurate information from them. Their needs are top of mind, and if you ask the right questions they’ll share them with you.

We’ve covered what to do when users and customers come to you, but that will only get you so far.

2. Understand challenges through customer development

Nothing quite beats talking to your customers to understand their needs. The biggest benefit of doing this? It allows you to question assumptions.

This is where customer development, a concept formalized by Steve Blank, comes into play. Customer development is the process of understanding your customer’s needs. It’s about knowing what they want from your product or service.

As Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits, authors of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development, put it:

Customer development will help you – force you – to make better decisions based on tested hypotheses, rather than untested assumptions. The results of the customer development process may indicate that the assumptions about your product, your customers, and your market are all wrong. In fact, they probably will. And then it is your responsibility, as the idea-generator (read: entrepreneur), to interpret the data you have elicited and modify your next set of assumptions to iterate upon.

In product design, customer development challenges assumptions. It tests new ideas with those who will have your product in their hands.

Customer development can be a tool to create not only the best content possible but also the right content.


Customer development can be a tool to create the best #content & the right content says @TheTomWhatley.

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Alex Turnbull, founder of Groove, used customer development to understand how his users felt about his product. But a side product of these conversations was a better understanding of his personas:

“We’ve always had (tested) assumptions about the personas of our customers. And many of them held true in these conversations. But as we’ve grown, things sure have changed.

“For some of the newly discovered personas, there were enough examples that we’ve decided to build case studies to try and attract more users that fit those personas, or at least test the market to see if there’s a strong fit.”

On top of this, Groove improved its marketing copy based on what its customers were saying. The benefits go beyond content marketing, but how do you execute customer development?

Start with a simple email. Reach out to your customers personally, not from a company-wide email address. Be sincere, telling them you understand the challenges they’re facing.


Start customer development with a simple #email to your customers says @TheTomWhatley.

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Here’s how Alex reached out to his Groove customers:

customer-research-tactics-email

It worked because he put the users at the heart of what he’s asking for. He shares that he values what his customers think over his own assumptions. There’s also a call to action that sets the expectation up front.

The responses to his email quickly filled his inbox. Over the course of four weeks he talked to 500 customers.

Now that you’ve got them on the phone, what should you ask?

You need to elicit the right information to guide your content efforts. This means not only understanding their challenges, but also how they apply to their business, work, and personal lives.

As with any interview situation, getting the right insight requires going deep. Take their answers and go down a layer or two. For example, if you’re creating content around an analytics proposition, you might ask “What are your biggest marketing analytics challenges right now?”

The question is broad for a reason. The idea is to let them talk as you note down keywords. Then, you can thread these keywords into more specific questions.

Not only are you generating ideas for content, you’re adding context to it. They want to learn more about a topic for specific reasons. This gives you fuel for compelling introductions and killer headlines.

The key to successful customer development is not only understanding what your customers need but understanding why they need it. This shines a light on the best possible topics to focus on. It also helps build evergreen content that captures your audience’s attention long term.


Successful customer development is knowing what your customers need & why they need it by @TheTomWhatley.

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3. Use social listening tools for mass-market demands

Customer development is invaluable but difficult to scale. Sometimes, we need to react to what the market is saying. This requires tapping in and listening to what is already being talked about.

Fortunately, various tools can help you do this. The first being Mention. Given that conversations are happening all over the web, people are not just talking about your business but also the topics that your content will serve.

Mention monitors these conversations across social platforms, communities, and billions of other channels. Whether they be on Reddit, Quora, Facebook, Twitter, TechCrunch or Forbes, Mention keeps an eye on it all.

To test out this approach, sign up for a free trial and create a new alert and select “Anything Else”:

customer-research-tactics-mention1

Enter your target keyword under “Optional Keywords,” then hit next. Select any priority sources followed by channels and language. You then have a feed of tweets, articles, and other forms of content that contain your keyword.

To avoid being overwhelmed, track several long-tail keywords because the narrower you are, the fewer alerts you will receive. This will make crunching any trends easier.

You can use BuzzSumo to research which content is resonating well with your audience. Use broader search terms to find popular content around a topic.

Let’s use our analytics segmentation from earlier as an example. Here you can see there’s a lot of buzz around segmenting data in Google Analytics:

customer-research-tactics-buzzsumo

While tools like Mention and BuzzSumo are great for mass-market analysis, you should still talk to your customers. Speaking with individual customers is the fastest way to understand their challenges.

Conclusion

The data, insight, and understanding your customers offer are priceless. By listening to them and analyzing their behavior, you can better serve them with the content you create. The more insight and data you collect, the greater vision you have on the competitive content landscape.

How often do you talk to your customers? Have you had any aha moments from your own customer development efforts?

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Want to add more plays to your content marketing mix? Download CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook.

Cover image by mconnors via MorgueFile

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