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The beginner’s guide to buyer personas (and how to create them for your business)

How well do you know your businesses’ target audience?

Okay, so you might know their basic demographics, but what else do you know? Could you describe their average day, their typical spending patterns or what inspires them at work and in life?

If the answer is no, now’s the time to start finding out. Why? Because the more you know about your ideal customers the better placed you’ll be to make sound marketing decisions – the key to getting sales and growing your business and profits.

And what’s the best way to get to know them better? By creating buyer personas.

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What are buyer personas?

Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are marketing’s solution to achieving an in-depth understanding of your target customers and what makes them tick.

Basically they are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer which present a complete picture of who they are both as a person and as a customer which includes their goals, behaviour patterns, pain points and motivations.

Why your business needs buyer personas

The reason buyer personas are so effective is that they take you beyond surface demographics and into the mindset of your ideal customer.

And, the deeper you can get inside their head, the better equipped you’ll be when it comes to attracting, convincing and keeping them – which makes them the perfect tool for inbound marketers. Whether you’re developing your website, creating content or trying to connect on social media, you can use personas to better tailor your messages to align with their wants and needs.

Creating buyer personas also offers advantages for other areas of your business such as giving you insights for product or service development, helping guide you sales team to the warmest leads and aligning your staff so they all have the same vision and customer understanding.

How to create your buyer personas

So, while the benefits of buyer personas are clear, the question you might be asking is: “how I you go about creating them for my business?”

Importantly, buyer personas should not be based on speculation or educated guesses. The best ones are produced through a combination of market research and insights gathered from your existing customers, prospects and wider potential audience.

Here are the basic steps you need to follow:

1. Create your question checklist

Your first task is figuring out what information you need to know, and what questions you’ll need to ask to get it. While the specifics will need tailoring to your industry and business, for example B2B versus B2C, here are the general categories of insights you should be seeking to create your buyer personas:

  • Personal background – gender, age, education, occupation and role, marital status
  • Finances – income, spending habits, preferred payment methods
  • A day in the life – at work and/or home, pressures, hobbies, interests
  • Hopes, dream, motivations – personal and professional goals
  • Concerns and fears – general as well as related to your product/services
  • Technology – how they use it, how often, platforms used e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn
  • Influencers – where they look for info, who they ask for advice, decision-making partners
  • Brand affinities – who else they shop with or do business with

2. Collect your data

Once you’ve refined this list for your business, it’s now time to seek and gather the information. Here are some of the techniques you can use to carry out your research, which include a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods:

  • Look at your existing data to uncover trends in existing online customer behaviour
  • Use the lead capture forms on your website to ask specific questions
  • Visit industry forums/chat rooms to monitor discussions
  • Talk to your sales team and other colleagues to gain feedback/insights
  • Send out surveys to your existing customers and prospects (e.g. using SurveyMonkey)
  • Carry out face-to-face interviews with your existing customers and prospects

While you may want to place face-to-face interviews in the ‘too hard’ basket, they are actually one of the most valuable ways to create successful buyer personas. And, even if you only do 3-5 to start with, they can give you a rich, first hand insight into your ideal buyer and can help shape your personas when you put them on paper.

3. Look for trends

Once you’ve carried out your research, the next step is to compile all of the information you’ve collected into one place, for example into a spreadsheet.

Now you need to set about identifying any trends across the categories. For example, are there commonalities in their interests, spending habits or day-to-day routines? Is there a concern that keeps cropping up? Is there a particular social media platform they interact with most?

Hopefully patterns should start to form.

4. Create your persona(s)

Once you’ve identified the commonalities, you then need to create your buyer persona outline. This should cover each of the items on your checklist  and present a stereotypical picture of who your ideal customer is – from their demographics to their needs, goals and motivations.

Best practice is to create one primary persona as well as some secondary ones. Why? Because not all customers will be the same and typically fall into distinct groups. You can also look to create negative personas. These can help you keep in mind the type of people who you don’t want to target.

5. Tell your persona story

Finally, you should turn your persona data into a real-fictional person and tell their story.

This means describing who they are, what they do and what their behaviours, wants and motivations are in narrative form.  Be as specific as possible and to give them a real name for example Busy Mum Mandy, Software Engineer Sam, Retiree Regi. This will help make them more human and relatable.

You should also create a graphic or include a photo to go alongside it. This makes it easier to imagine that person and empathise with them.

How to use your buyer personas

Once your buyer personas are complete, share them around your business and start using them to inform all of your marketing decisions.

For example, every time you begin to create a piece of content or send out a social media update, ask yourself how it would sit with your semi-fictional customer. Would it appeal to them? Does it offer them a solution to their problem?  Will they be able to find it easily online?

Importantly, buyer personas should not be seen as fixed. You should regularly be collecting information and updating your characters in line with what you find.

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Emoji marketing: should you be using it for your business?

Emojis: they’re cute, they’re fun, they’re expressive and over 92% of the digitally savvy population use them (Source: AdWeek).

Once limited to our personal texts and emails, over the past few years they’ve entered the professional space, with more and more brands successfully using them in their communications. But while emoji marketing is a growing trend, is it right for your business and what do you need to do to get it right?

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The rise of emoji marketing

Born in Japan, emojis only really took off globally when Apple introduced emoji support to iPhones back in 2011. Since then, it’s become part of our native online language, even overtaking text-speak, and businesses have started to recognise its power.

From SMS messages to social media updates and email subject lines, brands today are using emojis across a range of marketing channels. Bigger brands, from Coca-Cola to Taco Bell, have even based national advertising campaigns around them. Now it looks like emojis are about to become a feature in Google AdWords – although this has yet to be confirmed.

According to a recent study by AppBoy, emoji use by brands in campaigns grew by 606% between 2015 and 2016. Some have been successful, others not so much, but the fact is for a jump that significant there must be something in the emoji that is turning businesses on.

Why the professional emoji love?

There are a number of reasons why businesses are embracing the emoji. Firstly, great marketing follows the latest trends, it pays attention to what consumers are doing and follows suit. We love using emojis, so it makes sense that businesses would start communicating in them.

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Secondly, they are effective in conveying personality and emotion quickly and effectively – something in business we are always looking to achieve in order to form connections and grow relationships.

Finally, they are successful engagement boosters. Because of their colourful pictorial nature, they can help brand stand out, whether in an overcrowded inbox or in Google’s search engine results – and standing out means more clicks and more conversions.

In addition, audiences are positively open to them with 39% of participants in the AppBoy study saying they are fun, 18% saying they are normal and 13% saying they are relatable (Source: AppBoy).

Should you follow the trend?

But while emoji marketing is accepted and offers many benefits, it’s not a tactic every business should pursue. In addition, even if it is something that you can use advantageously, you need to ensure you’re doing it right to get the positive results it promises.

If you’re yet to use emojis in your marketing, there are three major factors you need to consider before you do:

  • Industry suitability: emojis have been used widely and successfully by B2C businesses, but may not be as relevant or effective in B2B because they can still be deemed unprofessional and childish especially in more formal contexts. Look at which businesses are currently using them to assess their compatibility with your industry.
  • Audience affinity: knowing your audience is critical to knowing if emojis would be a win or fail for your business. What channels do they use? Are they a demographic that widely uses emojis or are they not yet ready or willing to be communicated to in pictures? While research shows that all ages do use them, the regularity at which they do varies, plus women tend to be more receptive than men.
  • Relevance to message: just because you can use emojis and they could work for your industry and audience doesn’t mean you should – at least not in every instance. Before you add them to your emails or social media updates, consider whether they add value to your message as well as whether they sit comfortably with your overall brand ideals.

Emoji best practices

If you think emojis could work for your business, before you start introducing them you need to ensure you know how to do so appropriately and effectively. There are many potential pitfalls when incorporating these quirky little characters – so take note:

  • Understand their meanings – there are around 2,000 emojis supported on current platforms – do you know what they all mean? Chances are you don’t. Not all are obvious and some have different meanings depending on context and audience so it pays to know. org is a great resource to help with this. If emojis are used or interpreted incorrectly, it could have negative consequences for your brand.
  • Use them sparingly – while the odd emoji here and there to enhance your message can really add value and increase positive engagement, use them too often and you’ll end up looking unprofessional. In addition, they’ll start to lose their impact.
  • Don’t be cryptic – while emojis have become a global online language, you shouldn’t assume that everyone in your target audience speaks it fluently. If you’re using them, don’t just use them i.e. ensure they enhance your words not replace them. Chevrolet infamously created an entire press release in emoji and, while it was creative, it was widely misunderstood.

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Put emojis to the test

Still unsure if emojis could work for your business or how effective they could be? The answer is simple: test them and see.

Next time you send out an email campaign, split test and try adding an emoji or two into the subject line of one and watch the results. In addition, try adding emojis to a few of your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram updates and pay attention to your engagement stats to see if they made any difference. But remember only include them when they enhance your message.

While they may not be suitable for all businesses, when used appropriately and sparingly for the right audience, emojis have the ability to grab attention, evoke emotion and ultimately boost your marketing efforts.

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The 7 steps to Google AdWords success for beginners

Keen to get your business in a prime position on Google’s search results pages?

While organic SEO is the answer, sometimes it’s just doesn’t work quick enough. Enter Google AdWords, the internet’s most popular pay-per-click (PPC) advertising service.

AdWords has the potential to put your products or services in front of the people that matter in the short term to increase awareness, build interest and get those all-important sign-ups and sales. But in order to realise its benefits, you need to create a campaign that works, at a price you can afford.

Unsure where to start? Here are the first steps to success.

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1. Define your objectives

Before you create an ad group (one or more ads with shared keywords), you first need to decide what you want to achieve. Are you looking to increase traffic to your website? Encourage sign-ups to your newsletter? Boost sales of a particular product?

In AdWords objectives are broken down into three categories:

  • Build awareness: get your brand in front of as many potential customers as possible
  • Influence consideration: get more people to engage with your content or visit your website
  • Drive action: get people to buy, fill out a form, call or visit

Whatever you goal, ensure it’s SMART and in line with your business objectives. Not only can your goals help you make better choices when it comes to creating your ad but they also act as a critical benchmark for measuring success.

2. Know your audience

Knowing your audience is essential to creating successful AdWords ads. As well as helping you target them more effectively, it can also help you write copy that is more relevant and engaging.

From demographics such as age, gender, location and income to likes, dislikes and interests, you should define exactly who you want to reach. Use insights from your existing customer data to guide you. You should also identify which stage of the buyer journey they are at for any particular ad you are creating e.g. new to brand, existing subscribers.

AdWords is set up to help you select the ad format and positioning best suited to your audience (as well as your goals), and can make some basic decisions for you.

3. Set a realistic budget

Paid advertising is great if it works, but you want to ensure you’re not spending more money than you can afford, or more than it makes sense to spend in relation to your anticipated returns. At the same time you also need to it to be enough to get your ads shown.

As the name suggests, with PPC you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. In AdWords the price you pay is based on a keyword bidding system. You set a maximum daily or cost-per-click (CPC) budget then, when a spot comes up for an ad, all bids for that keyword are put to auction. Your final CPC and positioning depends on the other bids and your quality score e.g. how good you ad is.

To give you some benchmarks, the average cost per click (CPC) in Australia is around 95c-$1.95. In terms of a good starting budget, anywhere in the region of $20 to $60 a day is recommended – but you’ll want to adjust this as you learn more.

4. Pick the right keywords

Selecting the right keywords will have a big impact on the effectiveness of your AdWords campaign. Instead of just using general keywords relating to your business, come up with 5-20 possible search queries that closely match your chosen ad theme – Keyword Planner can help with this.

Just as per organic SEO, choose long-tail keywords over single ones; the more specific the better e.g.  ‘kids orthodontist sydney’ or ‘mens running shoes’. This will improve the targeting of your adverts, preventing it being show to searchers who are unlikely to convert.

All keywords are given an estimated value; the more popular they are, the lower your chances of being displayed on the first page and the more you’ll pay per click. Consider choosing lesser-used ones for better positioning and ROI – Keyword Planner can show you what these are.

5. Write effective copy

AdWords copy is very restricted so you need to make what you say count. For your standard text advert the limits are as follows:

  • Headline: up to 25 characters
  • Description line one: up to 35 characters
  • Description line 2: up to 35 characters
  • Display URL: up to 35 characters

Being creative in an AdWords ad doesn’t pay; what does pay is clear, simple messaging which is relevant, engaging and speaks to your audiences’ objectives. Focus your headline on the key benefit, the thing your target audience is looking for. Next, follow up with a strong call-to-action e.g. order now, subscribe today. Finally, include some key features and benefits.

Importantly, ensure you include at least one keyword in each section.

6. Create a dedicated landing page

Rather than sending people who click on your advert directly to your homepage, best practice is to create a separate landing page to use as your click-through address. By using a landing page you have the opportunity to reinforce the message in your ad and guide people to take the next step. After all, whatever your objective, the end goal is always a conversion.

Related: How to create the perfect landing page

If you’re running an advert for a special promotion, for example, you’ll want to take people straight to that promotion when they click, and include a clear call-to-action to help them convert. What you don’t want is them searching your website to find it, only for them to then lose interest and click back.

7. Track, tweak and optimise

Creating a successful Google AdWords campaign doesn’t stop when you’ve clicked ‘run ad’. Once your ad is live you should be monitoring it at least once a week to see whether or not it’s working. Keep your reporting simple at first by tracking some basic metrics:

  • Clicks – the number of people who clicked on your advert
  • Impressions – how many people were exposed to your advert
  • Clickthrough rate – how many people clicked through to your website

In addition, you should also set up conversion tracking in your website using Google Analytics to see what actions people are taking once they reach your website.

If your advert is not performing well, you’ll need to optimise it so it works harder. Few impressions? Try out some different keywords. Low clicks? Rethink your targeting. Poor click-through? Revisit your copy or messaging. Low conversions? Adjust your landing page.

And finally…

Don’t forget to look at what your competitors are doing. Online tool SpyFu.com lets you enter a keyword then shows you the average CTR for that keyword as well as the number of companies who have advertised for it in the past 3 months. It will also show you what other keywords have done well.

Google AdWords success can take time, and is often a case of trial and error, but by following these tips, you’ll be off to a good start.

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How to get your small business started with video marketing

Video marketing is big right now.

Not only are more videos being consumed online than ever before but they also increasingly top the Google search results pages. Combine this with the fact that video has been proven time and again to powerfully hook in, engage and prompt an audience to action, and you’d be crazy not to consider video marketing for your business.

Okay, perhaps crazy isn’t the right word. After all, video marketing doesn’t at first appear to be as easy to get started with as writing a blog or posting an update on social media. In fact, there are many reasons why you might be reluctant to jump on board.

“It’s too expensive”; “We don’t have the right technical or creative know-how”; “We’re not comfortable being in front of a camera”.

While all of these are totally valid, there are ways and means around all of them. In fact, getting started with video marketing is perfectly doable whatever your budget or skills.

Here are the steps you need to take.

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Decide what type of video to create

While you may be convinced of the power of video for business, a significant block in the road is often deciding what your first video should be about.

There are many different types of video to choose from: ‘How-to’ tutorials, product/service demos, meet the team/behind the scenes, client testimonials’. These are all effective formats, and can satisfy different marketing objectives (make sure you know what yours are). However, the best place for smaller business to start is often with an ‘explainer video’.

What is an explainer video? Basically it’s a video that introduces your business and lets people know who you are, what you sell and, most importantly, how you can help. It’s great for growing brand awareness.

Go online for content ideas

Before you consider the technicalities of creating and filming your explainer video, do your research by looking at the kinds of videos your competitors are creating. Simply Google search or go to YouTube and type in ‘explainer videos’ followed by your business type and you’ll get plenty of examples.

Decide what format you like: live action or animated and think about what will fit best with your brand. Animations can be fun and quirky and good at showcasing more abstract products or services (plus you don’t have to get in front of a camera) – although they have been a little overdone.

By contrast, live action encourages a more human connection and is more credible – but is not ideal for the camera shy.

Consider your budget: outsource or DIY?

For many small businesses hiring in a professional video production or video animation company can be an impossible expense. However, there are many companies and freelance video professionals who cater to a more limited budget (search online and have a look on Fiverr or Freelancer) – just ensure you check credentials, testimonials and portfolios first.

If you have no real budget, there’s no reason why you can’t produce your own. In fact, you can get a pretty decent result with a smartphone or DSLR camera. Plus there are many apps and online video creation and editing tools – Animoto, GoAnimate, VideoScribe – which you can help you produce a professional looking video from scratch.

Create your script/storyboard

For your video to be well-received, a great script is essential. Combined with your visuals this will help you communicate your message and should do so in a punchy way. People have very limited attention spans online, so the shorter your video the better – 60-90 seconds is best.

A good explainer video script should focus on the key features and benefits of your business – and convey them in a way that will engage, and even better, emotionally connect with, your target audience. In addition, think about the tone and ensure it fits with your brand. Tell a story, write conversationally, and explain things clearly.

You’ll also need to create a storyboard which depicts the basic visuals in, and composition of, each shot and works alongside your script. If you have the budget, both may be worth outsourcing.

Shoot (or create) and edit

Once you’ve done the preparatory work, it’s time to shoot (or create, if you’re animating) and edit your video. If you’ve outsourced, this process and how much time you’ll have to invest will vary depending on the type of work you have paid for e.g. just a camera man, just editing, the whole video creation process.

If you’re shooting live video yourself on a smartphone or camera, you need to think about a few critical elements to ensure your video has a professional look and feel to it:  stability, lighting and audio. Purchasing and using a tripod, LED light (for indoor shoots) and a lapel mic can really boost the quality.

If you go the DIY animated route, as mentioned, there are various online tools and mobile apps you can use. Many have drag and drop interfaces, require little creative input and are simple to use.

Share, share, share

Once your video is finished and you’re happy with it, now it’s time to get it out there – it won’t get viewed without a little help from you. First off, add it to your home page (or a designated landing page) on your website. Don’t forget to optimize your video for SEO as you would any other types of content adding appropriate search terms and tag.

Next, share it with customers and contacts through your social media pages – Facebook, Instagram. Plus, if you don’t have a business YouTube channel, you might want to create one so you can post your video to it – this will help increase its search visibility.

Finally, be sure you monitor your video for clicks, likes, shares and action taken to see how effective it has been, and to give you insights for improving your video marketing in the future.

Keep the camera rolling

Now you’ve created your explainer video and you’re no longer a video marketing beginner, keep the momentum going and start creating some different types of videos to help you build your brand, grow loyalty and encourage action – testimonials, behind the scenes, products demos. Even if you’re doing it all yourself, there are so many free and accessible tools to help you produce them on a regular basis.

The winners at video marketing will be the ones who jump on board now.

So don’t wait, be an early small business adopter and you’ll reap the rewards.

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7 (+ 1) smart New Year’s resolutions for your e-commerce business

What are your resolutions for 2017?

I’m sure you have some personal ones, but have you set any for your e-commerce business?

While growing your customers and your profits are likely to be your overarching goals, in order to realise them, you’ll need to focus in on the specifics. So what better time to take stock, reflect on last year’s successes and failures and ask yourself: what practical steps do I need to take to get there?

To get you started, here are some smart e-commerce resolutions to consider.

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1. Increase mobile conversions

Despite preference for mobile in terms of usage, e-commerce conversion rates are still nearly 3 times higher on desktop (Source: SmartInsights).

There are three main reasons for this. Firstly, navigation is typically much smoother on a big screen. Secondly, it’s easier to see the product images. Thirdly, it’s less painful entering payment info. So what can you do to improve sales this year? Simple, focus on improving these aspects of your mobile experience.

2. Retarget cart abandoners

According to retail marketing firm Listrak, the average rate of customer cart abandonment before making a purchase is 81%.

While testing and making changes to your site is crucial e.g. including a progress indictor, improving your call-to-action and giving them a guest checkout option, cart abandonment to some extent is unavoidable. Therefore make this year about retargeting – hitting those people who have left before purchase with ads and emails to bring them back. It works.

3. Explore new digital advertising channels

Talking of ads, the start of a new year is an ideal time to review your existing channels and to branch out and try new ones. Google AdWords can be an extremely effective advertising channel for e-commerce businesses, as can Facebook, especially if your product is very visual.

However, social media also offers many different options, some of which may work better for your business. For example, Pinterest can effectively target female audiences while YouTube can be good for males.  Try a few out and use online analytics tools to see which works best for you.

[Related: Which social media sites should your business be on?]

4. Review your email marketing

Email marketing is still one of the best way’s for e-commerce businesses to convince customers to buy, but getting it right can make all the difference.

Because of this, set yourself the task of reviewing you current subscriber list – who’s responding and who isn’t – and then delete those who haven’t engaged in the past year. The next step is then moving from ‘batch and blast’ to segmentation – a proven factor in success. Try splitting your emails by gender, age or location for B2C or industry or past purchases for B2B.

5. Improve your customer service

Providing exceptional customer service should be a key part of any e-commerce strategy, so make 2017 the year to kick yours into shape.

Buying something online involves a great deal of trust and by offering customers easy ways to ask questions and give comments, as well as better ways to receive and return products you can win favour. Aim for positive experiences, but also seamless ones. E-commerce customers respond particularly well to the immediacy of a live chat option, so consider adding this feature to your site.

6. Get on board with content marketing

While you may have already dabbled in content marketing, make this year the year you get serious.

Statistically, content marketing can increase your e-commerce conversion rate almost 6 fold and generate twice as many leads as traditional marketing (Source: Lemonstand). In addition, it can build positive brand awareness and loyalty by giving customers the information they want while they’re searching and making pre-purchase decisions.

As well as blogs and articles, try eBooks, audio and video – put products in context, give demonstrations and share behind the scenes information.

7. Launch stores on multiple platforms

The more places people can purchase from you, the better your chances of increasing your conversions. So, as well as focusing on making improvements to your e-commerce site and strategy, now is a great time to branch out onto new platforms to widen your reach.

One option is to create an eBay store which works alongside your site. Another is to venture into social media selling. Facebook’s Online Store Tab includes direct buy buttons and is touted to become an increasingly popular way for people to purchase.

 + Write a plan

Once you’ve decided what your New Year’s resolutions for will be, don’t forget to make an actionable plan and put it into writing. This will not only help you stick with achieving your goals but   will also provide you with a benchmark against which to measure your success.

Just like with personal resolutions, don’t get downhearted if you veer off-track. Simply get back on and keep going – fulfilling your goals is more than possible with some persistent, consistent effort.

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Google Analytics for beginners: Top 8 metrics for website tracking

What’s more important than having a business website? Knowing how it’s performing. Why? Because if you don’t know how many people are visiting, what they’re doing when they get there or if they’re converting to paying customers, how can you gauge its success?

Luckily, tracking your website activity is something anyone can do with the help of Google Analytics – a free online tool which tracks visitor behaviour and converts it into stats. However, due to the vast amount of data it provides, it can be hard for beginners to know what figures to focus on.

To help get you started, here are the top eight high-level metrics you want to be tracking – and what you should be looking for.

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1. Users

Where to find it: Audience > Overview

This metric tells you how many people have visited your site. It’s a decent starting point as it gives you an insight into your current audience size. It’s also useful if you’ve just started running an ad campaign – if your figure goes up concurrently, it’s a fair indication it’s working.

But don’t rely on this figure as an indication of success. While it might be nice to see your audience growing, it doesn’t tell you anything about the level of site interest once people arrive.

2. Bounce Rate

Where to find it: Audience > Overview

Displayed as a percentage, your Bounce Rate lets you know how many people have left your site after only visiting a single page. While no bounce is impossible – people can end up on your website by accident or may only be interested in reading one of your blogs – the lower this figure the better.

If it’s high, this indicates that people aren’t exploring your site, which begs the question, why? Perhaps your navigation isn’t clear, your calls to action aren’t strong enough or your content is weak. To better your Bounce Rate you’ll need to make changes where you think they’re needed and then watch to see if the figure improves.

3. Traffic Sources

Where to find it: Acquisition > Overview

The Traffic Sources report – which is technically not one metric but a number of related ones – tells you where your site visitors are coming from. Knowing this can be useful in understanding how different aspects of your marketing efforts are working. Google groups sources into three points of site entry:

Search – via search engine listings (organic) or by clicking on an advert (paid)
Referral – via another website e.g. Facebook
Direct – by typing your URL directly into the browser

If your Search traffic figure is high it’s an indication your content is good (organic) or that your campaign is working (paid). High Referrals can indicate that your social media marketing is working well. While a high Direct figure can be an indicator of brand strength or a successful email campaign.

4. Avg. Session Duration

Where to find it: Audience > Overview

This metric shows the average amount of time visitors are spending on your site once they arrive. If you’re adding new content on a regular basis, this figure should be increasing over time. If it’s not, or if people are staying for a relatively short period of time e.g. less than one minute, this is a sign that your content is not working hard enough.

To grow your Average Session Duration, you’ll need to focus on improving the quality and relevance of your content. This will ultimately involve doing more research into your target audience and working out what their needs are. It could also mean hiring in a copywriter to help.

5. Page Viewed Per Session

Where to find it: Audience > Overview

Like Avg. Session Duration, Pages/Session is another useful metric for tracking the level of interest visitors have in your site and your content. Again, the more useful, relevant and engaging your content, the more pages visitors are likely to visit and the higher the figure.

What number should you be looking for? Three or four is ideal. If it’s less than that there is work to be done. Again, this work could be around improving your content. Alternatively, it could be focused on making the navigation on your site more prominent and easier to use.

6. Landing Pages

Where to find it: Behaviour > Site Content

By looking at the Landing Pages results you can identify the pages visitors are arriving at when they first visit your site. Why look at these figures? To work out what pages are driving traffic in order to better understand which content is the most effective.

Importantly, visitors may not always enter your site at your homepage. They many arrive via your blog or from a product page. Once you’ve identified what the popular pages are, you can then look at the other stats here such as Bounce Rate, making improvements where it’s high.

7. Goal Conversion Rates

Where to find it: Behaviour > Site Content

A site that is performing well is ultimately one that’s hitting the objectives you’ve set for it. Therefore looking at your Goal Conversion Rates is critical as it can help you track this.

If you haven’t done so already, you’ll first need to set up the Goals feature by inputting your objectives and then assigning a certain action to them to indicate success. For example, if your objective is to get more visitors to fill in a contact form, you can ask Google Analytics to calculate this based on the number of people who arrive at your thank you page.

8. Exit Pages

Where to find it: Behaviour > Site Content

The section can help you identify the pages where visitors are leaving your website. This is important to know as it can again tell you which pages are not working hard enough in terms of content, calls to action or navigation.

It’s normal for the figures on your completion and thank you pages to be high however, if you’re seeing high numbers for your homepage – you should be acting on this information.

Don’t stop here

Importantly, using and making improvements based on these eight metrics is just the beginning. Once you get more familiar with Google Analytics you can start making sense of some of the other more advanced features to further boost your efforts.

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8 ways to win at trade show and event marketing

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C business, setting up a stand at a trade show or event is a great marketing tactic.

Not only can it help you build brand awareness, generate leads, nurture prospects and enhance existing client relationships, it’s also a chance to get out there and see what the competition is doing. In addition, face-to-face continues to be one of the most effective ways to sell.

However, appearing at a trade show or event can be costly – what with exhibition fees, travel expenses and stand collateral and equipment. Because of this you want to be sure you’re getting it right to secure a decent ROI.

Here are eight ways you can make your business stand out and succeed on the show floor.
 

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Do your pre-show marketing

Don’t presume that because you have a stand people will stop by. As with any event, ensure it’s a success by building awareness prior to the day. Send out a promotional mailer to existing clients or customers or drop them an email with the details, including your stand number and why they should visit. In addition, actively publicise it on your website and social media accounts.

Give out useful, creative freebies

People love a freebie – but don’t just stick to the standard promotional pens, caps and mugs. To get noticed, give people something a little bit different. Headphones; laptop skins; sunglasses; USB drives; lip balms; water bottles; recyclable bags – there are so many options. Importantly, make it something useful so people as less likely to throw it away and tie it into your brand.

Get yourself a speaking gig

If you really want to get noticed at an event or expo, contact the organisers and see if you can get yourself a speaking slot. Whether you’re a featured speaker, participating in a panel or hosting a table, it’s a great way to boost your company’s profile and visibility.  Even if you don’t get selected this time, you’ll be on their radar for next year.

Invest in quality display materials

Nothing creates a poor brand impression like a cheap looking stand.  Therefore, it’s worth investing a bit of cash into your event display materials. Pop up and pull up banners and flags are great options, as they’re easy to transport and assemble. The average attendee spends just a few seconds looking before they stop or walk away, so keep the designs simple, eye-catching and on brand.

Use videos, iPads and touch screens

Visual tech can be a really effective at events. Creating a company video and having it playing on a monitor is not only engaging but is also an effective way to communicate information. Plus, if your staff are already busy, it can maintain interest so prospects don’t walk away before you get a chance to chat with them. If you can add iPads and interactive screens, even better.

Choose your staff wisely

Who you put on your stand can make a huge difference to your trade show or event success. Don’t just draw names out of a hat. Think about who has the right skills to build relationships with your customers. Not only do they need to be outgoing and know their stuff, but you also need to be confident that they’ll ask the right questions to work out who’s a lead and who isn’t.

Engage in lead generation exercises

This basically means setting up a schedule of mini-events at your stand throughout the day which offer visitors a little bit more of an incentive to come and see you. This could include holding live demonstrations of your products, contests or setting up a raffle where people have to sign up or leave their business card to be picked to win a prize.

Tighten up your printed material

Marketing collateral is a must for any event. However, don’t go overboard. Stick to the essentials such as business cards, small brochures/leaflets and sign-up sheets. Not only will this save you money but it’s also not necessary when people can go away and look you up online. A nice idea is to put some info on a USB that people can take away and view.

In addition to the above, make sure you spend some time having a look at what the big players are doing in terms of event marketing. Plus, have a wander around the next one you attend for ideas.

Post trade show and event must-dos

Importantly, make sure you follow up on any leads you capture at an event as soon as possible to prevent them going cold. And, don’t forget to measure the success of your event marketing against some pre-decided measurable goals e.g. capture 15 good quality leads.

Keen to attend a trade show or event but not sure what’s on or which one? Check out the Exhibition & Event Association of Australasia’s website – http://www.eeaa.com.au/

Need some help creating display materials or other marketing collateral for your next event? Contact us today.

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Is Instagram relevant for my business? (And how to get started)

Unless you’re in the business of food, fashion or travel, Instagram might not really be on your social media marketing radar. As a mobile app designed exclusively for photo and video sharing, it’s easy to question whether it’s relevant if your business is not visually focused.

This is a real misconception. The reality is that any brand can harness the power of Instagram – when they know how. But what is it about Instagram that makes it such a great option for business?
 

instagram

 

Impressive, inclusive user stats

Firstly, Instagram has a huge active following – in fact, it’s now bigger than Twitter. This means it offers a glut of potential new customers. In addition, demographically it hits wide.

Here are some of the latest stats for the platform:

  • 500 million+ monthly active users
  • 300 million+ daily active users
  • 80% live outside of the US
  • 2 billion likes daily
  • 95 million+ daily posts

Of those using the platform, the male/female user split is pretty even at 51% and 49% respectively (Source: Search Engine Watch). Age-wise 16-24 year olds make up approximately 37% of total users, followed closely by 25-34 and 35-44 year olds. The 45-45 and 55-64 age groups are less active but still involved (Source: Smart Insights).

Strong user engagement

Visual content is extremely powerful – it’s been proven time and time again. As well as being more engaging than written communications, photos and videos – the required format of Instagram posts – are more sharable, easier to understand and universally more meaningful.

To back this up, research by Forrester named Instagram as the ‘king of social engagement’, with its top brands receiving 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook, and 120 times more engagement per follower than Twitter.

Ultimately what this means is that Instagram can help your business connect more effectively with your audience – the key to getting those leads and sales.

So, what are you waiting for?

Getting started with Instagram

If you already have the app, setting up an Instagram profile for your business is pretty straightforward. In fact, the process is exactly the same as for a personal account.

When you’re filling in your details, add your company name in the name section and a short, snappy business description (150 character limit) in the bio section. For the profile photo it’s best to keep it simple and display your company logo.

Make sure you connect your account with any other social media accounts you have for your business. This will allow you to share your posts across platforms.

Basic steps to posting on Instagram:

  • Take or select an image or video from your device
  • Choose a filter/border – to enhance your posts or give it a different feel
  • Write a caption – 2,200 character limit
  • Add #hashtags – these help people find your posts
  • Click share

Making it work for any business

Now that we’ve shown just how powerful Instagram can be, and how to begin using it, you might be wondering how you can use it for your business. Here are some suggestions for the types of visual content you could share:

  • Photos of your products or services
  • Behind the scene glimpses e.g. the manufacturing process, your office
  • Your company culture e.g. employees, team outings
  • Industry relevant quotes or images
  • Details of exclusive deals and offers

Before you start sharing, ensure you have a clear strategy in place. This should include your goals – e.g. increase product sales, drive traffic to your website – as well as your plan of attack in terms of what you will post, when you will post and how you will manage the process.

Instagram marketing best practices

Finally, here are some expert tips to help guide your Instagram efforts:

  • Keep your photo style consistent and in line with your brand
  • Use trending hashtags to attract more views
  • Stay aware of what your competitors are doing
  • Try to post at least 1-3 times per week to keep visible in the newsfeed
  • Ensure you always have the needs and interests of your audience in mind
  • Tell a story with your captions
  • Encourage customers to upload photos and add your Instagram handle e.g. @companyname
  • Reply to follower comments to show that you care
  • Use Instagram Stories to test content – this new feature allows you to share a succession of photos to tell a story which then disappear after 12 hours
  • Monitor your success with an Instagram analytics tool such as Simply Measured, Iconosquare or Sprout Social

Time to get snapping (and sharing)

With Instagram figures continuing to rise, if your business is not on board, you’ll miss out. In addition, because of the popularity of the app with young people, you may alienate yourself from the next generation of consumers.

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The beginner’s guide to writing a marketing plan

Every marketer needs a documented marketing plan. As well as acting as a practical guide and benchmark of success, the process of creating one demands in-depth research and strategic thinking – the key to making better, more informed decisions and winning those customers over.

It doesn’t have to be elaborate – so don’t be put off – but it should be objectively sound. To help you get started, here’s a detailed rundown of how to structure it and what to include.
 

the-begginer-guide

 

Section 1: Your current situation

This section should be a concise, realistic assessment of where your business currently sits in the market based on a SWOT analysis. By making you think in terms of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, SWOT offers a structured way to evaluate your position and present it.

  • Strengths/weaknesses – consider internal factors you have direct control over e.g. organisational structure, company culture and image, staff, operational efficiency and capacity, brand awareness, financial resources.
  • Opportunities/threats – consider external factors within the environment your business operates you can’t control e.g. market trends, competitors, suppliers, partners, customers, new technology and the economy.

This analysis should help highlight your capabilities, the value of your product/service and your unique selling points (USPs).

Section 2: Your target audience

Here you need to clearly identify who your target audience is and what they look like. The more specific and segmented you can be the better.

Demographics are where you start e.g. are they male/female? Young/old? Where do they live? What’s their educational background?

Next you should describe your more detailed audience personas – there won’t just be one. Name them, detail their motivations, likes/dislikes, daily activities, purchasing patterns, preferred communication channels etc.

The better you understand your audience, the easier you can create marketing that resonates with them and the more likely you are to win them over.

Section 3: Your objectives

This section should outline what you hope to achieve. Importantly, don’t be vague. Your objectives should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound (SMART). Importantly, your marketing goals should stem from your business goals.

Ultimately, your main business goal is to generate profit. So when coming up with your marketing objectives, you need to ensure they’re focused towards this end.

  • Example of a poor marketing objective: I want more website visitors/leads/sales
  • Example of a good marketing objective: I want to generate 5,000 more website visitors, 200 leads and 10 new customers in the next 6 months.

To help you come up with your objectives, work backwards. How much profit do you need to make? How many sales do you need to achieve it? How many leads do you need to make those sales? How will you achieve this?

Section 4:  Your strategy and tactics

This is the heart of the plan and the place where you define your marketing mix or your 4Ps – product, price, place and promotion. To do this you need to consider the following:

  • Product: What is your product/service message? g. the features and benefits
  • Price: Are you high, mid or low end? g. Will you use discounts or command a premium
  • Place: How will you distribute our product/service? g. Direct online or in store, franchises
  • Promotion: Which channels will you use to communicate your message? g. advertising, word-of-mouth, social media, direct mail, PR, online content. How will you organise, create and monitor your efforts? What are your timelines? Who will be responsible?

Your decisions here should be informed by everything you know about your market position and your audience, as well as your objectives. In addition they should all work together to create a consistent customer experience.

Getting this right is essentially about putting the right product (or service) in the right place, at the right time for the right price.

Section 5: Your budget

This final section is where you set out how much you have or are willing to spend. Not an easy task. You might have questions like: how much is reasonable to invest? What kind of returns will I see? These are fair questions and writing this section should help you work out the answers.

Here are some rough overall revenue percentages for what you should be considering spending:

  • Companies in business 1-5 years: 12-20 percent
  • Companies in business more than 5 years and have some brand/market equity: 6-12 percent

(Source: Elevate My Brand)

As well as outlining an overall budget, you should also break it down. Detail not only how much you will dedicate to each marketing channel, but also how much you are allowing for upfront research, planning, testing, creative production and tracking.

And that’s it. Marketing plan done. Well, actually that’s not quite true. A marketing plan is never finished – it should always be viewed as a working document to be revised and updated based on the outcomes of your efforts.

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5 reasons why you should be doing case studies

If you’re not doing case studies as part of your content marketing, you should be. As well as being   one of the most widely used and effective formats in the B2B market – with 73 percent of businesses turning to them to inform purchasing decisions (DemandGen) – they are increasingly being recognised by B2C companies aware of their power to inform and convince in a non-salesy way.

It makes sense really, I mean, what business wouldn’t benefit from showcasing real examples of how their product or service makes their customers or clients happy? They are like testimonials on steroids. But why do they work?
 

 

1. They leverage the power of storytelling

Numerous scientific studies have shown that stories are a powerful way of communicating. By offering information in a relatable way, they help an audience engage with, remember and form emotional connections with what is being said.

Because a case study is essentially a customer success story, businesses are able to draw on these benefits and use them to influence potential customers into making positive purchasing decisions. To get it right, ensure you foster a solid narrative, beginning with the customer then following with the challenge, the journey, the discovery, the solution, the implementation and finally the results.

2. They enable others to do the selling for you

Customers love social proof. They like to know that other people have had a good experience with a company before they make the decision to do business with them. Although this can be achieved with reviews and testimonials, a case study goes one step further by offering a much more detailed account of how a solution was successfully delivered.

The most effective case studies are ones that are based around an interview with the actual customer or client involved.  Why? Because quoting your customer in their own words will make the case study more authentic and therefore more believable.

3. They prove your marketing claims

While typically businesses try to sell themselves by explaining what they can do, a case study does one better by giving a real life example of what they have actually achieved, backed up by hard data. Because of this, they help lift your credibility in the eyes of even the most sceptical client.

The more factual and statistical information you can provide in a case study, the better. People trust facts much more than marketing blurb, especially in the B2B market where they often look to case studies towards the end of their decision-making process and want that final reassurance.

4. They give you a competitive edge

Although case studies are effective, to get them right you do need to invest a bit of effort into compiling and creating them. But herein lays your advantage. Because they are much more involved than your standard testimonial, and often require time spent pulling together information and interviewing customers, it means fewer businesses use them and therefore they can help you stand out in even the most competitive marketplaces.

With a customer teetering on the edge of a product or service purchase decision, if your website has some solid case studies on it and your competitors don’t, it’s more likely they’ll be picking up the phone and calling you because you present less risk.

5. They teach you a lot

A less obvious benefit of case studies is that they provide you with a fantastic opportunity to learn more about your customers and your product or service. Through the interview and information gathering process, you’ll likely find out things you didn’t know before and, because of this, gain a better understanding of how people use what you sell.

This is beneficial for two main reasons. Firstly, the more you know about your customers the better you can tailor your marketing communication efforts. Secondly, it can point you in the direction of improvements that could be made, therefore assisting your businesses R&D.

When done right, case studies can become one of the most effective forms of content for your business. If you’re not sure how to get started, contact us today for a chat.

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5 reasons why your business needs video marketing

When it comes to content marketing in 2016, it’s all about video. Both B2C and B2B Businesses are all over it, and if yours isn’t you might want to get on board. Here are five compelling reasons why.
 

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1. It can powerfully engage an audience

In the face of information overload, your business needs to be paying attention to what is engaging audiences today. The answer? Video.

According to strategic consulting and digital business firm Insivia, one third of all online activity today is spent watching video. In addition, YouTube is now the second most popular search engine after Google.

As well as offering a means of engagement, videos are also a powerful communication tool. Not only do us humans process and retain information much faster in visual form, but we respond much more receptively to human faces and voices. Because of this, videos can build both brand and trust.

2. It can help you rank higher in Google search

The Google gods favour websites that regularly publish good quality content – and rich media is up there. In fact, according to Forrester Research, your chances of getting a first page listing on Google increase 53 times with video. The caveat to this is that they have to be relevant, quality videos with high shareability.

To help videos boost your site to first page status, you should ensure you do the following: upload videos to YouTube first then embed on your site; write some introductory copy on the same page as your video to help the spiders better understand what it’s about; submit a video sitemap to Google; focus on long tail keywords in your video titles.

3. It can drive more traffic to your site

According to MarketingLand, 62% of Google searches now include video, making it highly likely you will come across video content early in the results. And because people love video content and like to click on the first few listings, if one of those videos is yours, boom, more traffic. If you still need convincing, take a look at these recent stats:

  • Videos have been shown to produce a 157% increase in organic traffic from search engines (Brightcove)
  • Companies using video enjoy 41% more web traffic from search than non-video users (Aberdeen Group)
  • Online video will make up 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2019 (Cisco)

4. It can up your conversion rate

Videos not only encourage clicks and traffic but, when used effectively, can significantly increase your conversion rate.

Research from the Aberdeen Group shows that while the average conversion rate for websites is 2.9%, when they include video this increases to 4.8%. In addition, a further study by eyeviewdigital shows that using video on landing pages can increase conversions by 80%. There are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, video increases the length of time a visitor stays on your site, giving you longer to ensure your brand message sinks in. Secondly, if you include yourself or company employees in the video you can raise the trust factor. Thirdly, it communicates your message more effectively.

5. It can increase your profits

Because videos are powerful customer converters, they also lead to increased sales – the ultimate goal. According to stats from Insivia, 64% of users are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video. In addition, the Aberdeen Group found that businesses using video grow company revenue 49% faster year on year than organisations without video.

Why does it work? Because it provides your prospects and customers with quality, effective content to tip them from possible purchaser to buyer. And as well as increasing profits by increasing sales, 51.9% of marketing professionals globally name video as the type of content with the best ROI (Invodo).

As you can see, video marketing can reap many benefits for your business. Don’t be put off by thinking it’s a costly option – effective videos can done on a budget with a phone or webcam and a little imagination. Wondering what to put in your videos? Introduce your business, do a product demonstration, create how-to instructions or bring your testimonials to life.

Ready to get started? Speak to us today about our web video production services.

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How to Write Effective Copy for your Website: PART 2

In our last blog we covered the basics of crafting effective web copy, focusing on language, style and structure. Now it’s time to focus on the content. People frequently ask, “What pages do I need on my website?”, “How much copy should I write on each page?” and “What should I write on them?” Here we aim to address these questions.

Although every business is different, we recommend you include the following six pages as a minimum: Home; About Us; Product/Services; Pricing; Contact Us; and FAQs. Each serves a specific purpose and targets a unique stage of the buyer journey.

When it comes to length, each page should have as many words as it takes to cover everything the reader needs to know about that topic. But remember – be concise.

Now let’s look at what you should include, page by page.

how-to-effective-web

Home

Your Homepage is the introductory page to your site and the place where first impressions are made. According to research by both Google and Microsoft, most people spend about 10 seconds or less on your homepage before making a decision to hit back or look around, so you need to get it right.

The copy here needs to do three things:

  • Immediately draw the visitor in
  • Show them the navigational options
  • Establish your credibility

Your headline is the most important element. Even if people don’t read the rest of your copy they will read this. So make it impactful and persuasive. Never be generic e.g. ‘Welcome to our website’. Instead, use these 6-12 words to describe your most highly desired and unique benefit.

Uber, for example, uses ‘Get there, your day belongs to you’ – this is simple, effective and connects with their audience.

You then need to highlight your key features framing them as benefits. Use bullet points or subheads with short snippets of copy to clarify.

Your Homepage is also a good place to include testimonials as well as social proof. This will help convince people they are making the right decision. Last but not least, tell them what to do next – include a strong CTA and clear navigation.

About Us

The About Us page is the place where you can tell your story and let people know what they can expect when they buy from or work with you. This is often one of the most difficult pages to write. You need to sell yourself but you don’t want to drive customers away by being too self-focused. So ensure you bring each part of your story back to how it can benefit them.

So what should you include?

  • A strong headline that focuses on what you can do for your customers/clients
  • A short story of how your business came to be
  • The nature of your company – big/small, private/public/family owned
  • Your core values
  • What sets you apart from your competitors
  • The problem you have solved

The best way to approach this page is as if you were meeting someone for the first time. You need to focus on building a friendship and gaining trust. Keep the tone conversational and show them that you are a company made up of real people who can change people’s lives.

Include your credentials, awards and testimonials from happy customers or clients. In addition, add links to your professional social media site.

Products/Services

This page is your opportunity to describe your product or service in more detail. It’s your chance to help visitors decide if what you are offering meets their needs. Depending on your business, you might have a single product/service homepage or a series of subpages.

Although you copy here should highlight features, these should again be framed in terms of benefits to the reader.

The overall approach you should take is: the more you tell, the more you sell. If you don’t provide all of the information users are looking for they’ll simply head to a website that does.

Importantly, there are distinct differences between product and service pages:

  • Product pages are about getting the sale, services pages are about getting the lead
  • Trust is more important when selling services. Why? Because products can be faulty and returned, whereas if a service is not up to scratch the recourse is often unknown

These differences mean that service copy should work harder at offering reassurance.

Pricing

If there is one thing users will be looking for when they land on your website, its prices. Therefore, having a dedicated pricing page on your main navigation can help potential customers find what they’re after quickly and easily.

Whilst ultimately your pricing strategy is the most important thing to get right, writing effective copy on your pricing page can seal the deal.

So how should you approach it?

The best way is to keep it simple, straightforward and as specific as possible. Set out the different options and tell them why they should choose each one.

If you don’t want to publish exact prices, include a range or a ‘from’ price. If you don’t include prices ensure you explain why e.g. because prices are tailored to individual client needs.

Be sure to address any fears, uncertainties and doubts that might arise at this point. Offer a money back guarantee, social proof e.g. highlight the most popular pricing option, and point out that you have a secure site.

If your business is international, consider giving currency options. And be sure to include a call to action.

Contact Us

Your Contact Us page should include a variety of ways for visitors to get in touch with you. The more options you include, the more likely you are to have one that covers the preferences of every potential customer.

What to include:

  • Telephone/mobile number
  • Email address
  • Store/office address
  • Social media handles – e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter

In addition, most websites today include a contact form. These are best kept to the bare minimum which a field for the users name, email address and a space for their comment. If you ask too many questions people may simply click away.

Your Contact Us page should also begin with a sentence or two introduction. Keep it short, relevant and try to inject a bit of your brand personality. If you do include a contact form, let users know when they can expect to hear back from you.

FAQs

A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is often overlooked, but including one will not only help directly answer any questions potential customers might have but it will also save you time by minimising enquiries.

Your FAQ page is your chance to:

  • Include more quality, informative content
  • Speak directly to objections that hinder sales
  • Reiterate your key selling points

What types of questions you ask and answer will depend on the nature of your business. Not only should you include the questions that customers ask most often, but you should also cover questions related to your industry to position your company as an authority.

The key to FAQ copy is to keep it short and sweet. Answer each question directly and in a straightforward manner. This isn’t the place for creativity.

To make it easy to follow, put your FAQs in a logical order. Start off with the simple, most common questions first then move onto the more complex ones. You could even group them together under different subheads.

Pages should both work together and stand alone

All of your pages need to work as a whole so avoid overlap and keep each highly focused. This will also improve your SEO as you can include unique keywords on each page helping Google determine page relevance. They should also standalone so ensure your main value proposition and a CTA is visible on each page.

Follow these guidelines and your website copy will have a much better of engaging and persuading your target audience. Once these are written you can focus on other valuable pages such as landing pages and your business blog.

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