Digital Marketing

Digital Marketing Hacks Your Competitors Will Be Using in 2018

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Words by Toby Nwazor
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They say a marketer’s job is never done, and when it comes to analyzing your competition, nothing could be truer. Unlike large brands, small businesses generally do not have the resources to track their competition without spending a lot of money and time. But if you make a regular process of it, there are many ways to track your competitors easily and effectively. These digital marketing hacks are a great place to start:

Watch what your competitors are doing

If you are at a loss for what to do concerning your marketing efforts, this could be a good place to start. It makes sense to model an already winning strategy than to go through a series of trial and error phases. Why reinvent the wheel when you don’t have to? Here’s how to do it:

Spy on your competition’s email strategy

Email remains a very effective form of customer communication and engagement, so looking into your competitor’s email initiatives is necessary. Create two or more email accounts for this purpose and subscribe to your competitor’s list. Use one account for recon; strictly for collecting messages from your competitors, nothing more. With the second email, behave as any consumer would. For some of the brands you follow, open all their emails, read and act on all of them. For other brands, only open and act on their emails a few times, say one every five to ten opens.

When you act on these links, do something different every time; add a couple products to your favorites category, abandon a cart once or twice or just browse through the site without engaging. These actions can show you what remarketing messages your competition is sending customers, so you can compare it with your own messaging. This strategy works best for retail, especially around the holidays when purchase volumes are high. However, don’t stray away from repurposing it for any other market.

Become a part of their online following

This includes reading their blogs as frequently as possible, following their official pages, online forums, and communities, checking out reviews on them, etc. What kind of wording do they use? How is their page structured and what kind of content does their audience most engage with? What is their real-time response like? What is the general sentiment about their brands on these pages and online communities? Once you have a clear idea of your competitor’s marketing efforts and outcome are, you can compare this with your own efforts to better identify what is and isn’t working for you.

Test these insights before full integration into your strategy

Okay, slow your oars! The fact that your competition’s marketing is working wonders for them is not enough for you to assume that it would do the same for you. That is putting strategy before tactics. Sit down with your marketing team and focus on the “how” and more especially, the “why” of your marketing efforts. Based on those answers, you can review your research and focus on what actually make sense to implement into your own marketing strategy.

This testing phase is very important because marketing mistakes can be very costly. Try them out first, but do not fully implement them unless your testing shows that they work for your audience – you do not want to start 2018 a flop now, do you?

Advertise the right way

Following every digital marketing trend completely is not a very good way to achieve top-notch marketing results. However, some digital marketing developments tend to work across the board and every marketer should definitely integrate these into their efforts – and you can be sure your competitors are all over it too.

Extend your native advertising efforts

The beautiful thing about native advertising is that it is non-disruptive – no pop-ups and banners here. Whether it’s a promoted tweet or a sponsored Facebook post, native ads promote your message while not interrupting the flow of the platform.

About 75 percent of publishers and content marketers are turning to native adveritisng because it has proved so successful – you should too if you haven’t. Mobile Marketing Association stated in this report that mobile native ads did 10 times better than mobile display ads and had a 40% higher interaction time too. Native ads are also more likely to be shared (32 percent) than banner ads (19 percent) and spend growth for this strategy is expected to hit $21 billion in 2018, according to Business Insider.

Do a lot of location-based advertising

Talk about being at the right place at the right time. Location-based advertising – or geo-targeting – is a way to target your adverts to people within a specific geographic location. It could be broader categories like people in certain countries or states. Or it may be something more specific, like advertising to people within a specific mile radius of your business’s different shop and outlets – this is called geofencing. Since people move around a lot, it makes this strategy much more effective. Also, since 69% percent of Google searches include a specific location, this strategy is a no-brainer for any business. Location-based ad revenue, according to BIA/Kelsey, is expected to hit $18.2 billion come 2019, up from just $6.8 billion in 2015.

Focus on mobile devices

Location-based advertising owes all its success to the exponential increase of mobile device usage. People are always on their mobile phones, whether they’re at home, in the office or out and about. In fact, more than 50 percent of the time people spend on digital media is done with their mobile devices. Also with the increasing dominance of app usage, nearly 60 percent of searches now coming from mobile devices and Google’s mobile-first indexing, prioritizing mobile marketing is non-negotiable if you want to see increased success. So strengthen your mobile marketing strategies and 2018 and get closer to your bottom line in 2018

Prioritize video

Video marketing is not a trend; it is marketing evolution. Its relentless growth in popularity and usage, coupled with its effectiveness has made video marketing the new normal. Videos by their nature are way more engaging and shareable than any other form of media and they also provide the best ROI, and this according to 51 percent of marketing professionals. You’re missing out on a huge goldmine by ignoring or under-investing in video marketing, so stop being that guy!

Tips for you to implement in your video marketing efforts:

  • The shorter an ad video, the more complete views you’ll get from prospects. This is according to Facebook – and simple logic. Try to make your ad videos as short as possible, definitely less than a minute. People prefer it that way.
  • Subtitles are key, try to utilize it in all your videos. Why? Because 85 percent of videos on Facebook, for instance, are watched on mute.
  • Placing a video on your landing page is a good idea; they can boost your conversion rats by 80 percent or more.
  • The newest addition to the Facebook ad media family – use GIFs in your Facebook ads as they can boost your ad click-through rates, not to mention help you keep the ad video way less than a minute.

Prioritize  customer experience

There was a time when all a business had to do was consistently and seamlessly create and deliver a top-notch product or service and retain their position as market leaders. Those days don’t exist anymore. For the past decade or so, the focus has been on crafting experiences – usually emotionally – for the customers that would trigger them to make a decision and take action in favor of your business. Smart marketers are increasingly innovative about crafting interactions with their customers, instead of a mere transaction. Your marketing efforts should seek to drive emotional engagement that translates the why and who of your brand into experiences for your customers that create a lasting emotional bond.

Care for your customers’ non-business needs

Always actively seek out ways to meet customer’s needs that though not necessary, will be much appreciated. Try not to overthink this as it doesn’t really take much brainstorming to discover these needs. It could be providing a bowl of fresh water for dogs that are brought into your coffee shop by your customers, occasionally helping a customer with tuition and medical bills for their child or rent for their home. When a customer associates your brand with something positive in their life on an emotional level, they are more likely to stay loyal.

Genuinely care about your employees

Your customers do not do business with your brand, they do business with your employees. Your staff are the flag bearers of your brand’s messaging and so if you trust and care for them, it will reflect in the way they communicate and deal with your customers. Make sure you’re investing in your employees by providing them with growth opportunities and rewarding them when they meet their goals. Feature them in the content you put out (especially video), instead of some other bigwig in your company or industry. Let them talk about everything from your company values to what if feels like to work in your company to a popular office prank. If customers can see that your employees are happy, friendly and believe in your brand’s values, they’ll believe it too.

If you want to hear happy and passionate employees talk about their employer and the work that they do in a positive light, visit any Apple Genius bar near you – or maybe I should say Apple Grove. Apple tweaked the operation model of the bar to make it an even more personal space where customers can work one-on-one with employees in a very comfortable, natural setting.

Listen more than you talk

Communication is a two-way street; you talk and then you listen, in this case to your customers. By focusing mainly on delivering great content and services, you might overlook your customers’ responses. Customer feedback can be as important as good content. So before putting out the next great content, listen to your customers. They need to know that you care more about their needs than yours – that fosters trust.

Amazon is definitely a top dog when it comes to building seamlessly effective and thoroughly satisfying customer experiences that stem from paying attention to their worries. A good example here would be their launch of a grocery store in Seattle that has no line ups or checkout points. All shoppers with an Amazon account need to do is pick what they want and walk out of the store, using their phones as a turnstile. This definitely a revolutionary technology for brick-and-mortar shopping.

Get involved in hot-button social issues the right way

Donald Trump says something divisive and offensive about Mexican immigrants and loses some serious business dealings with top brands. A former employee of Paula Deen files a racial and sexual discrimination suit and she loses her Food Network show along with some endorsement deals. Former Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick joins President Trump’s economic council and is ousted as CEO, which was just the trigger of a really bad year for Uber.

If you are toying with an emotional hot button topic, you will get burned. These examples are the greatest proof that a wrong move, even outside business circles can cause havoc for your brand. But there’s good news! Involvement in social issues can foster a positive emotional connection between your brand, your customers and people in general.

Understand your social impact

Companies like Cisco are at the forefront of social impact. They use their vast technology and resources to bring economic empowerment, disaster relief, healthcare and education to less privileged communities. They have also set a mark to impact 1 billion people by 2025 through their corporate social responsibility programs.

General Electric does something special too; they match the contributions their employees and retirees make through their GE Foundation Matching Gifts Program. Besides their contribution of over $88 million in 2016 to community and educational programs, they have a dedicated website – GESustainability launched in 2012 – solely focused on delivering their corporate social responsibility. Through this CSR portal they focus on projects that have to do with community development, corporate governance, and building sustainable systems.

You do not have to be a established conglomerate to be socially responsible either. Check out these “lesser” companies and business owners effecting change in their own way and at their own pace.

Final Thoughts

In today’s world, marketers constantly have to find new ways to engage with their audiences. Looking at your competition more broadly will help you understand all the marketing messages directed at your audience. Only then can you stay on top of your game. So take care of your digital marketing the right way and continually seek ways to connect with your customers with more depth and empathy. Who knows, someday someone else may write about your brand’s exemplary strides in marketing excellence.