Defining a video-centric strategy will be the key in the years ahead for small and medium-sized brands. Whether it be for Live Commerce, Social Selling, Digital Advertising, or simply to increase trust among consumers, video is the medium towards the next wave of scalable online models.
The market, as we are currently seeing, is rapidly evolving.
Social Commerce is set to unleash the power of video commerce within social networks. In particular, livestreams will offer a new way for brands to build trust with new markets and local audiences alike. Those with a community can use these trends to convert social capital into commerce.
Entrepreneurship rates are at all-time highs, yet the startup funding environment has been crimped by high interest rates. Can these new technologies and methods of engagement be used to help raise capital?
As the market evolves, so to will all of the below components, each of which can have relevance to different types of businesses.
- 80/20 Customer Analysis
- CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)
- Community Building
- Video Storytelling
- Local SEO
- SEO Pages
- Lead Capture
- Marketing Automation
- Direct Marketing
80/20 Customer Analysis
We need to assess and measure:
- customer-related risks relative to acquisition, loyalty, and profitability
This discipline typically falls outside of both accounting and finance in the traditional sense. The essence of CBCV is that it sits between marketing and finance:
- will you ask your accountant to audit your customer base?
- will you ask your CMO or Head of Marketing to analyze your customer base?
Unlikely. The leaders or entrepreneurs are the protagonists.
In essence, it is not actually that hard, but there are some thresholds to think about:
- ideally we want to know the top X% (say 20%) that drive outsized revenue (80%)
- then we want to go down the list (say we have four quartiles) and assess characteristics for those customers
- revenue per customer in each quartile
- year acquired (and how long they have been customers)
- assess churn in each quartile
- from there, we can get a picture of who the best customers are and are not, and start optimizing for strategies like word-of-mouth, referrals, etc.
A 80/20 Customer Analysis sets the frame for everything below.
CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization)
CRO is where you take your website and optimize it for conversion. It sounds simple in practice, but it is actually really hard.
It is arguably one of the highest ROI activities related to the web for a small business. It is likely to lead to a greater degree (potentially multiple magnitudes higher) of conversion into sales without investing in advertising/customer acquisition.
Simply put, when users land on a page on your website – particularly the landing page or a major product page – a series of conscious and subconscious signals go off in their brains and they decide within seconds whether to scroll, click, or leave.
Looking at Google Analytics data yields relatively little insight into CRO. Heatmapping software such as heatmap.com and a series of others can show how people parse through the homepage for example.
There are behavioral patterns that are heavily influenced by information architecture, which is the order in which the information is placed and how it is presented, including:
- colours and designs
- order of certain value propositions (ie. say you have multiple products, the order you surface one vs. another should be thought through)
- groupings, categorizations, and hierarchy (menus, etc.)
This ultimately feeds into CTA (Call to Action) which is the point where a user will ‘Book A Call,’ ‘Schedule an Appointment,’ etc.
But users do scroll, especially on mobile. The ‘below the fold’ user experience is obviously essential to get right as well. That’s why it takes a lot of work and experimentation to get CRO right.
CRO is a mix between feel and analytics. It requires a sense of design and aesthetic, but also some data-driven insights and decision making.
‘Community’ is in vogue but what does it mean for the average small and medium business?
Simply put, where there are there are opportunities to build communities there are opportunities to acquire customers and retain them over a mid to long period of time.
Building a community is not easy.
The Internet is saturated with advice on everything related to sales and marketing nowadays. A lot of this advice focuses on getting new customers. Community Building is related to nurturing and retaining existing customers, as well as creating a compelling channel for new customers.
High-level communities have a structure and set of principles to grow them in a sustainable manner. Ultimately, creating value and giving members an opportunity to consumer that value is the heart of the community value proposition.
The way that the communication is managed usually requires a dedicated Community Manager. The entire purpose is that these communities are active, interesting, and drive certain outcomes. Putting people on a platform and posting articles is not enough.
Facilitation of connections is required, as it typically doesn’t just happen. Onboarding usually comes with some different options, and many ‘community designers’ who are familiar with different platforms are engineering various prompts/software into the experience.
It is an explosive space that is changing rapidly, but some platforms are starting to figure out how to keep community simple enough but provide the tools for growth. The whole feel of a community can’t be engineered, people either feel it or they will get bored and leave.
[Learn – ‘How To Tell a Story in Video’ (YouTube)]
Video is obviously the booming medium of communication these days on channels like TikTok, YouTube, and even websites. Furthermore, we are seeing the early seeds of social commerce (or live commerce) being planted for a future where the commercial transaction itself will happen in video.
But starting off can be a challenge, with multiple different ways to do video, including natively on a website or hiring UGC creators to do them for you (paid social).
A story is a powerful, emotive way to draw people into a brand. Often times websites and related content comes across as bland and uninteresting, so a story is the quickest way to cut through the noise (ie. the why). Other times, video tools can be added to a site/customer flow to create more warmth, which can in turn help acquire and retain customers/talent.
Steve Jobs famously talked about the why behind any brand. Yes, on a landing page, people want to know (in clear terms), what the product/service is, what the features and benefits are, etc. But beyond that, there is room for creativity.
“To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world. And we’re not going to get the chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us.”Steve Jobs
Values still matter.
As we go into the ‘AI Era’ where you can basically create an AI video in minutes, the human factors stand out for any brand. The values can be communicated. The story becomes more interesting, especially the struggles. People identify with the underdog.
But if you have no experience ‘doing video’ there is a learning curve. Communicating to a screen is different than IRL. Certain subconscious speaking habits (“ummmmm….”) become amplified, along with body language. It is a skill that needs to be practiced.
It doesn’t always have to be a video of the people, it can be a creative video about the products, with images, etc. “Video” is so broad. If you are going to do it, make it compelling!
Components of a good video:
- need a hook! (to bring people in)
- writing a script out helps, even by hand
- what are the storybeats (key themes) to hit?
- memorize the key themes, not necessarily the whole script
- can use a basic iPhone or Android to film, but pay attention to background, etc.
- it is better to practice and get good at speaking on video than to invest in ‘professionals’ right away, as the video needs to feel authentic, not corporate
- end with a takeaway, something that the audience takes with them
[Learn – Good and thorough 5 hour (free) YouTube Course on Local SEO.]
Local SEO sounds simple, but it is a beast.
But as a business that drives any sort of local search traffic (ie. ‘hair cuts in [city]‘) it is essential to understand it because approximately 40% is driven to the local ‘Map Pack.’
There are a multitude of ways to improve these rankings, many of which are connected to SEO on the main website, others of which are connected to the Google My Business (GMB) profile, which is what surfaces in the Map Pack for relevant results.
For any business that draws in local customers, understanding Local SEO is a must. Not only are there relatively simple ways (still requires effort and persistence) to use it to draw in new customers, but the strategy can be connected to the main business to help retain customers.
Reviews are one of the main hallmarks of the any Local SEO strategy, but there in art to them. Beyond getting the 4 and 5 Star Reviews, the way that the rest of the GMB profile is built out and how those Reviews are responded to (tone, keywords, etc.) will impact rankings.
The Reviews can be added to the main website (ie. social proof) to inspire immediate confidence in the brand, a hallmark of CRO strategy (mentioned above). They can also be used in ways as part of an outbound Direct Marketing strategy to say, in some ways, ‘we are the best (with evidence), help us become better.‘
The vast majority of satisfied customers are willing to give a referral, but few do because they don’t have an incentive to. Local SEO can be done in such way to scale out word-of-mouth to acquire new customers, and retain current customers. Not on its own, but as part of an integrated strategy.
Google My Business (GMB)
- NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) in a consistent way across sites + citations
- Citations from relevant directories (use SEMRush, etc. to check competitors links)
- Add nice Photos to the GMB profile, fill out relevant information
- Respond to Reviews (even negative ones) constructively, subtly use relevant keywords
- Do keyword research and understand how to blend it into the Local SEO strategy
- Add the Google Map to the footer of the website
This starts with really good keyword research. A few free tools to start with:
Target low-volume keywords to start because the distribution of traffic skews heavily towards the top results on any search page.
If you can build organic customer acquisition into the client acquisition model for a business via SEO, it is a long-term competitive advantage that can produce outsized returns vs. always relying on a Paid Ads model.
The way keywords are embedded in the content is essential
- title tags (use main keywords in title but don’t make it a spammy title)
- headers <h1> (only 1) are more important than <h2> are more important than <h3>
- image optimization (size, image name, etc.) – original photos are better
- page speed (PageSpeed Insights)
- meta description of the post
- put the main keywords in the headers, don’t overuse them in the content
Naturally, there are no shortage of AI tools to write content nowadays. Nevertheless, the critical thinking around keywords and overall content strategy remains paramount.
Backlinks (links to your website) are major ranking factors in search engines
- creates ‘Domain Authority’ and boosts ranking if links are from good sites
- various ways to find other sites to contact
- use Google Search Console to see links to the site
The various layers and strategies around link building is enormous. Here is a beginner’s guide, but the best way to think of it is like ‘partnerships.’ Find people with good websites, even if they are small, who share something in common, and look for mutually-beneficial outcomes.
The goal is to get a link to your site, so most often you have to give to receive. That’s why trying to find the best strategy for link building is usually dependent on the person doing it. It is similar to the points brought up in the ‘Video Storytelling’ section.
People are after relevant stories and insights. Drab and/or spammy offers are uninteresting. Link building is a business, so understanding the business model of the potential target is essential because while link building can be done for ‘free,’ it is not really free for people to run websites, blogs, or web businesses.
As the web becomes more and more a part of peoples’ daily lives, their expectations evolve. Nowadays, when people land on a business’s website that they like or are interested in, they want to be able to take some form of action right away.
Many more advanced websites now have ‘funnels’ right from the outset where they enable customers to ‘Book a Call,’ ‘Schedule a Consultation,’ or any other direct line into the business in a couple of simple steps.
The era of ‘Contact Us’ is changing . The context matters of course (ie. nature of product/service), but people are less inclined to read endless amounts of content. If they know what they are looking for (high intent), they want to take action. A clear ‘customer flow’ to take action is essential.
Lead Capture can get complicated because it involves:
- a front-end, design component to bring people in
- a back-end, database component to connect to a CRM
Brands that are generating 10s or 100s of leads across multiple channels require ‘marketing automation,’ which will be explored below.
But to start simply, you can take a CRM like Hubspot and uses its integrations with a web platform like WordPress to get the ball rolling. Or funnels can be linked to Calendly, which can be automatically exported into spreadsheets via automations.
There are many other examples of forms + apps to aid in Lead Capture; fundamentally, we want a smooth process and the ability to follow-up efficiently with potential prospects
With so many possible funnels, nowadays, automation is becoming a must to provide a smooth customer experience. The array of possible options and pricepoints can be dizzying.
As we enter the ‘AI Era,’ Marketing Automation and AI will start to become one and the same. But for now, automation is still a somewhat complex area that requires a relatively high amount of expertise to both navigate and execute on. That’s because many of the top automation tools are both expensive and require ongoing maintenance to run effectively. When executed on, however, the ROI is through the roof.
A few of the most basic examples of marketing automation:
- Email Marketing
- Integration from Lead Capture to the CRM
- Sales-based strategies
Fundamentally, most Marketing Automation is linked to Lead Capture, which is linked to the CRM, which is linked to Sales & Marketing; therefore, a lot of what will and won’t work from a Marketing Automation perspective needs to be mapped out against the Sales & Marketing flow for an organization.
The various Automation applications can each be used on their own, or in combination, to increase conversion rates of leads into converted customers, and from there into loyal customers.
For example, we see automation in play at many car dealerships or dental practices, where a series of texts or emails are sent before and after a scheduled appointment. At scale, this type of marketing automation helps improve the customer experience and boost CLV. The additional CLV must be weighed against the cost of the technology + management of said applications.
Direct Marketing includes everything from email to text messaging, direct mail and even door-to-door.
Much has changed since the days when we would look at Direct Marketing through the lens of junk mail in the post or a knock on the door. Now it can fly at us in multiple different forms via the digital ether; nevertheless, the art of Direct Marketing typically is built around the messaging. Even with the inception of ChatGPT and other ‘writing companions,’ there is still an art to writing copy that compels us to buy.
Where Direct Marketing typically works is when it is strong enough to get the target market to act by being the right product or service at the right price; there is a strong element of personalization required, in both the product/service itself and the messaging.
Where Direct Marketing usually fails is with a spray-and-pray, mass market approach that ends up in either spam or the garbage.
The medium – despite the plethora of possibilities – is still less important than the message. Even Cold Calling is still alive, and we see the rebirth of ‘live selling’ coming up in the era of social commerce.
As has always been the case, the Maestros of Direct Marketing will be able to adapt to whatever changes emerge with AI + everything else, and deliver a message to the market that is personalized, targeted, and tempting.