content marketing - WebSubstance

How AI and Machine Learning Can Change Audience Targeting

Maybe you're hearing a lot about machine learning or deep learning, or reading articles about artificial intelligence (AI), and you're wondering what this really means for business. The rapid progress that the data scientist community is making on machine learning and AI will change the ways that we do business forever -- and that's going to happen soon.

One fundamental change that these technologies will bring involves customer relationship management. Specifically, machine learning and AI will help marketers to target audiences in new ways, and generate campaigns that are hyper-targeted and much more effective. Businesses that don't evolve and get on the AI bandwagon will be left behind. Here are some ways that these new programming models will change the face of marketing and advertising forever.

Building a Better Interface

First, you'll see AI being integrated into all sorts of customer-facing company interfaces. Experts are already pointing out examples at Google and other large tech companies, where artificial intelligence is built into live chat response, product selection features, and more. In a very general sense, AI will be used to impress customers and offer new conveniences. But that's only one of the ways that these types of progress will have an impact on marketing departments.

Automating Data Collection

Some of those who are looking most closely at AI's impact on marketing are talking about how machine learning and AI tools will bring more real-time capability. Instead of having employees drawing out data from CRM systems in a traditional way, much more of the fact-finding will be automated, so that data will be brought to the salesperson's fingertips without a lot of outside human intervention. This speed enhancement is going to make yesterday's data mining practices look decisively sluggish, as marketers with new automation tools race to the finish line.

Modeling the Customer

Another way that artificial intelligence tools will remake the marketing world has to do with the essence of what machine learning really is. Unlike linear programming concepts, machine learning tools build a model from available data. That's an incredible shortcut to working up business intelligence -- companies don't have to go through hundreds or thousands of client files on the database to build a model. They can just use training data sets to create what they want on-the-fly.

The emergence of Facebook look-alikes is one of the best examples of this. If you haven't heard of this service, Facebook is essentially allowing users to create model-based audiences that are "similar to your best existing customers" -- as Facebook puts it. Google Display Network now offers targeting “Similar Audience” which is similar to Facebook’s look-alikes. Sizing tools help with customization. All of this is going to greatly increase the company's business intelligence assets, and that in turn will allow much more effective sales processes.

WebSubstance is a professional online marketing firm in Northern Virginia. We keep ourselves up-to-date with the emerging digital opportunities and help our clients to take advantage of the best new technologies and cutting-edge methods for captivating audiences and increasing market share in any industry. Ask us about how to move forward in 2018 with an improved game plan and a new outlook on enterprise tech.

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It’s All About Pictures

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words -- and while things tend to work a little differently on the web, images are still important.

It's true that online text is the meat of what web users interact with. In some ways, photos are just window dressing. But the quality of photos that you put on your website makes a big difference. Even in subliminal ways, readers tend to see these pictures and associate them with a certain level of quality, which influences your thought leadership impression. Pictures tell an important story about what you are trying to convey to your chosen audience and about the character of your business.

With that in mind, it really makes sense for companies to think about the ways that they use images. Your online image strategy shouldn't be limited to trying to work on a shoestring budget. This has led to many companies into the weeds of online marketing, and really diminished the effect of their online  campaigns.

Scraping By with Generic Images

Too many companies make an early decision not to invest in image selection for the web. Their rule is that they will only use free stock images, or ‘whatever is out there’ -- too often, they put the burden on freelance independent contractors, interns or entry-level marketing people to source images, and simply request that they be free of licensing limitations.

What these companies inevitably end up with is either extremely poor quality generic stock photos, or pictures that actually do have licensing requirements attached. That's because there really is no such thing as a large, free repository of high-quality images online. There’s a value attached to pictures – and the Internet has figured that out, even if many top-level business managers haven’t.

The Effects of Poor Image Strategy

One of the first things that companies will notice when they employ this losing strategy is that the images on their site will look bad. They'll have excellent writing with lackluster pictures attached, which makes the whole page look shabby and honestly, boring.

They can also experience quite a bit of turnover. Writers and web designers will become frustrated with this unachievable task -- the task of finding the perfect picture for free. They may drop projects due to the legal liability of trying to comb images from the web and crop them to utilize them on a site. Anyone without their own home studio and an endless cast of characters available for portrait taking is not going to have the ability to turn in excellent images without a budget.

The Solution -- High-Quality Stock Images

There is an easy solution out there -- again, it's one that a lot of companies shy away from because they don't understand the investment. But it is easy -- and it is reasonably priced.

High-quality stock image companies are in business for a reason. They play a vital role in web design -- arguably even more important than some of the other design component of a web site.

Simply put, companies need to sign up for a reputable stock image account. They get a real, valuable archive of pictures, and they get to stop worrying about how to get quality images on a site.

WebSubstance understands the trade-offs between budget and necessary investment. We will help counsel our clients on how much to invest in stock images, which images to choose and when this kind of investment is truly necessary. Let our professionals help to build you a website that works and doesn't lack any of the fundamental features that will help you compete in your field and markets.

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Three Useful Types of Audience Targeting

Is your business doing a good job of reaching out to specific customers, or just putting out a generic message on the web, hoping that people show up?

The idea of tailoring a message to a customer is extremely important today, as businesses do a lot more with valuable business intelligence that they get through cloud services with other vendor options. Businesses of all sizes will want to be profiling and targeting their customers, because it can save a lot of time and effort, and generally improve conversion and profit.

Here are some ways to take advantage of your valuable data to get better results on the web.

Target by Customer Status

One of the most fundamental kinds of audience targeting is targeting a customer according to their relationship with the business. Bigger companies have big, fancy customer relationship management (CRM) platforms that help them to do this -- but that's not specifically necessary. Even a very simple database can easily keep track of whether a particular customer has bought from the business before -- and that makes a big difference. You're going to want to send a different message to a returning customer than you would to a new one, making this one of the most common ways to define customer audience.

Target by Role

Both B2B and B2C companies also tend to target by role. If it's a retailer, they may target customers by their age and demographics, or whether they are the head of the household or not. Just this simple key factor can make a lot of difference in efficient messaging in how you reach your customers.

For a B2B company, businesses will often target customers by their job roles. There is a lot of talk about gatekeepers, and how to get to the right decision makers involved with business messaging. Again, a CRM platform can help with this, but you can also ‘go DIY’ and keep track of people's job roles by hand, or with other electronic tools. In fact, LinkedIn provides options for such role targeting for B2B marketing.

Target by Positive Interest

Another type of audience targeting is as old as business itself -- companies want to identify customers according to their hobbies and what they like, to try to sell them the right products. What’s brand-new, though, is the flood of data that businesses now have about customers, due to the big data revolution and the digital age. Your in-house business data can be a treasure trove of information that can help you to sell better and sell more -- but somebody has to do the research and make that happen.

At WebSubstance, we understand the importance of audience targeting. We know that the research that goes on behind the scenes helps to make web sites and marketing campaigns even better. Let us work with your company to perfect the art of audience targeting, bringing in higher ROI for your marketing.

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Content Marketing for Local Business

At WebSubstance, we've often talked about how valuable good content marketing can be. We know that we want to inject excellent content into the structure of a corporate website. But how does this work?
Here are some of the aspects of creating great content that local businesses can use to compete in today's digital world.

Brainstorm Before Jumping In

Too many content projects start with a hastily written list of topics and a green light for a race to the finish line. We're not suggesting that writers need handholding -- but there should be some creative process serving the creation of valuable content. It shouldn't just be a keyword and a knee-jerk reaction. Planning is important, and that's why writers need to do a bit of research and understand what's needed for a particular client.

Go Companywide

It's also important to have content writers and creators connected to your local business as a whole. This might look different in any given company -- writers may be interviewing suppliers. They may be talking to internal department managers. They may even be talking to customers. All of this collaboration is useful when it comes to creating a vibrant content platform.

Get Sharing

It's also important to have a sharing program for content. For example, many companies now link content to Facebook either with short-form social media blurbs, or with an actual link to a blog post. This is just one model, and companies can feel free to innovate and brainstorm their way to sharing success. One rule of thumb is that it's not a good idea to try to ask content writers to post business  items on their personal Facebook pages. Instead, a dedicated business Facebook page can be a central way to get this social data out to customers. Having a sharing plan that’s equitable and well-supported can make a huge difference in readership and return on investment.
 
Test Content

When content is out in the world, local businesses can go further by quickly looking at the metrics, and figuring out what works. Did a certain post net an extremely high volume of traffic and spike your page views for the month? That's valuable data that so many companies overlook. Just a few minutes of analysis can make a huge difference in managing an editorial calendar to reach more customers on an ongoing basis.

Talk to WebSubstance about setting up a great content marketing programs for your business that works. We’re specialized in content marketing for local businesses in Northern Virginia and can take care of everything from the initial ideas to the quality finished content. Make your website more competitive in the age of organic search and thought leadership.

 

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Multi-Format Content Marketing for Local Business

Most local businesses now understand that they need a web site to reach out to customers. But when it comes to what to publish on the website, some companies are still confused.

There is a sort of generic setup that you could refer to as “Web 1.0” -- it's a landing page with a menu that includes a blog and some other critical links for core information about the business. Set up one of these, post pictures, and you're done.

However, increasingly, in the Web 2.0 era, this approach is not enough. Companies compete over the Internet for business -- so they know that customers want to see specific types of resources on the web. Welcome to the era of multi-format content.

Content in Many Forms

First, there are a number of types of information and digital assets that are important to customers.

Businesses can include case studies and testimonials, or other fact sheets or visualized data solutions to show their track record in an industry, how they approach a product or service, and what they can do to help someone who's researching a company online. All of this helps make that very important “elevator pitch” to each web visitor, and in many cases, keeps them on the site, helping out reducing bounce rate.

In leveraging these types of resources, the company has to think about format, as well as the grammar and presentation of the different pieces of text. Copy editing and graphic design are a big part of this process. Quality matters in web presentation, and everything has to be just so to get the best result.

Multimedia Strategy

Businesses are also realizing that their customers appreciate the company going beyond digital text into the realm of visual resources.

You might embed a YouTube video showing a virtual tour of a local business. You might set up infographics that show key information about a field or industry at a glance. Mobile apps and user friendly web forms are other parts of a “Web 2.0” approach -- a more diverse set of resources that lets people do much more through the Internet to interact with the business, rather than just reading long blocks of text.

However you slice it, by leveraging the power of multi-format content to drive traffic to its website, a company can generate interest and leads for its business.

WebSubstance can help. Our battery of digital strategists, designers and creative copy writers work as a team to deliver nothing but the best. Let us help your business with designing infographics, embedded videos, and other items to dress up your web site so that you go to Virginia market with confidence. We can consult on how to do this, and help you figure out what formats of content make the most sense for your company. Contact us now for your next project!

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Content Quality Matters - Investing in Original Marketing Materials

Take any market or industry, and go through the web looking at a collection of company web sites.

You’ll almost always find a wide spectrum of efforts -- while some companies will put a lot of value into their web footprints, others will not.

This online investment is a big part of what separates the most successful companies from competitors that tend to lose out in terms of market share. It's not just that these other successful companies are spending more money -- it's that they understand the power of online content.

Stocks, Generic and Syndicated Content

At too many companies, management teams just don't want to make the financial investment in original, personalized web content -- or they don't want to make the effort of engaging with contractors. So they have an easy out -- a web-design vendor might offer stock or syndicated content that's previously been written, and sits in a digital hopper. Companies can simply choose the pieces that they want for their blogs and newsletters.

Some of this takes the form of syndicated content -- the idea is kind of like syndication in the newspaper world. The company will have the same column, written by the same professional, that’s highlighted on some other company's website.

The Real Dangers of Generic Content

Although this might seem easy and appealing at first glance, it's a really bad way to go. There are several reasons for this.

First, in an age where we value organic marketing, generic content is one of the best ways to turn people off. Someone who clicks into a website and sees that it has the exact same content as another company's site immediately understands that nobody put time and effort into crafting a message showcasing the company's value. They’ll often assume that it’s because the company really doesn't have much value at all – or has some bad management.

With syndicated content, there's another issue -- where newspaper syndication is made to appear professional, a lot of syndicated web content is written with a personalized narrative approach -- it's written to look like it's original. So when you see it pop up somewhere else, it just looks like it was copied and pasted.

There is one more excellent reason to avoid the generic content track -- it's called Google.

As Google is streamlining and tweaking its algorithms for search ranking, it's putting emphasis on both quality and originality of content. The reason is it duplicate content puts off Google and it has hard time spotting the original source unless such content are coded properly to say the source (e.g. canonical tagging). And in most of the cases, it does not rank any of the sites involved and even can penalize them. It is rather wise to avoid such penalty and rather invest a reasonable amount in creating original content.

WebSubstance knows how to help companies invest in quality and originality. Along with all sorts of other accessories like photography, branding, designs and more, WebSubstance people understand why companies need well-written, original content on their sites. And the ROI from content marketing is huge.

So next time, you come across a generic content solution, think twice.

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Mobile Site Optimization Guide

We live online, or should we say, we live mobile.

Our smartphone has become our go-to-assistant for a lot of our daily tasks: texting, emailing, calling or social networking.

When your business invests in mobile, it is investing in reaching a big audience -- with so many Americans and others around the world now carrying smartphones, mobile-first and responsive design is something that companies can't afford to ignore.

When you create a better mobile system for your company, you’re automatically boosting customer loyalty and building incentives for customer engagement. You'll see interest in your company soar as so many people who are searching on smartphones are able to better interact with your business online.

Mobile Moments – Some Statistics
Google loves to call it “Mobile Moments”, means, we just don’t go mobile, we live mobile. According to its recent studies, an average American checks her/his mobile device 150 times a day! Out of that more than 80% of time, s/he is wants to do something (take some action on a website) or buy something.  74% of the people say they will come back to a site which offers good mobile experience. A case study shows that companies who don’t have a mobile-friendly site experience 37% increase in bounce rate, 33% drop in customer interactions and 27% drop in organic ranking. These numbers are alarming and cannot be ignored. So the message is clear – “Go big on mobile and tap into new opportunity for your business.”

Winning on Mobile – A Customized Three-Step Plan for Your Business
At WebSubstance, we know how to renovate a business site to make it mobile-first and responsive, and create the kind of attraction and interest that your business deserves.

First, it's important to create a great mobile experience for customers. As with other kinds of interface and customer experience designs, you have to see things through the customer’s eyes. You have to guide them through your website in an easy, transparent way, and show them just the best parts of your business, without giving them any frustrating road blocks or obstacles. When you design a great, easy and engaging mobile experience, you're going to reap a harvest of new activity and interest online.

You'll also need some custom design recommendations that will help your mobile site achieve your business goals. WebSubstance can offer specific suggestions and recommendations, such as changes to text and image layout, the use of responsive icons, and the re-ordering of landing pages or other web pages to help create a better journey for customers. Responsive icons are one of the big features that can enhance a customer's mobile experience -- by making controls intuitive and simple, you are cutting down on the workloads for your site visitors, and helping them to access your business more easily and more quickly.

With that in mind, it's also important to have adequate site support. Your mobile site needs to load at a decent speed -- it's not just a question of designing the best interface, but also making sure that even customers with older phones will be able to navigate your site easily.

There are several strategies you can pursue to make sure your site is fast enough. You can test the site on a range of devices, to make sure that last year's smartphones can still browse your site well. You can minimize big downloads, so that pages load more quickly. You can also change the order of page loads and otherwise shuffle the layout of your site in order to meet responsive design benchmarks.

WebSubstance is willing and ready to help you with these changes to your business model online to make you more mobile-friendly. Let us help you to craft a mobile footprint that is competitive, to help your business achieve a winning reputation in the world of iPhone and Android platforms that we live in now.

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Contact Us

WebSubstance
21800 Town Center Plaza, #266A-281
Sterling, VA 20164
(703) 470-0808
Jenny Le - President
contact.info@WebSubstance.com