SMBs working to accelerate digital growth encounter a variety of challenges across internal operations, marketing platforms, site properties, and competitors. Part of the path to growth is identifying and prioritizing those challenges, which can be tough without looking at the right reports and metrics.
In this post, we’ll dig into four areas that often uncover growth blockers and explain how to assess the opportunities that overcoming them would present.
1. Site issues
Growth, in the advertising budget and in awareness, brings more demand on your site. This means more users, more tracking and tagging, and other factors that can affect site speed, which is a huge factor in user experience. One of the best tools out there to test site speed is Google’s PageSpeed Insight tool, which provides great data and insights on your site speed and user experience on mobile and desktop. In general, Google recommends site speeds between two-to-five seconds, and this is considering the faster end of that range in mind. Anything beyond that, and you’re losing money from users bouncing.
Beyond site speed, the way users digest and navigate your site may not be optimal. Although there’s a lot you can glean from click paths in Google Analytics, heat maps are a relatively tried-and-true way to understand:
- How users are interacting with your site
- Where they’re getting stuck
- Where you should relocate your most valuable CTAs and messaging
We’ve seen numerous clients improve CVR by over 20% with rapid testing cycles on top pages.
2. Internal obstacles
You can promise your users the world in your ad campaigns, but without aligning expectations with current internal challenges, that will only build a base of frustrated customers.
B2B companies may have slower-than-expected turnaround times to contact leads that your ads generate, ecommerce companies may experience inventory issues with best-selling products. If your ads are promising same-day calls that get placed weeks later or if you’re offering fast shipping of out-of-stock products, you’ve used ad spend to create a tide of negative sentiment.
Make sure you’re syncing with internal teams to understand challenges that may require you to adjust messaging, or even slow down/pause ad spend while the issues are being sorted out. Especially considering we’re in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, this is more important than ever for sites selling physical products whose supply chain has been affected.
3. Creative chaos
Images, headlines, descriptions, landing pages, ratios, messaging themes – each element can be a factor in attracting and optimizing user engagement, which makes prioritization of testing complicated. The creation of a testing calendar that aligns with your media plan is incredibly important. If you’re new to testing, start slowly and test one variable at a time to keep results clear. If you’ve got some testing experience under your belt and have the requisite budget and expertise, consider adopting a multivariate testing tool to help you execute a rapid testing schedule that will provide both insights and greater performance.
4. Competitive pressures
The challenge that lurks for companies in every growth stage and vertical is competition. More than simply driving up CPCs on Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, competition requires marketers to consider things like:
- Cheaper brand clicks vs net-new non-brand users
- Acquisition vs less-costly remarketing campaigns
It also requires frequent analysis of how the competitive landscape is changing – new entries, new messaging, new price points and offers. SMBs especially need to clearly articulate their advantages over better-known competitors to give themselves a chance to carve out market share in the face of rising costs.
Of the types of challenges outlined above, only competitive pressures are somewhat beyond your company’s control. Make sure to plan out your cadence of site analysis, internal check-ins, and creative testing roadmaps to keep your own house in order and position yourself to meet competitive challenges that arise.
Lauren Crain is a Client Services Lead in 3Q Digital’s SMB division, 3Q Incubate.
The post How to identify and address the four biggest digital growth challenges appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Alibaba issued its latest earnings report yesterday, and the Chinese eCommerce giant reported that cloud revenue grew 62 percent to $ 1.5 billion U.S., crossing the RMB10 billion revenue threshold for the first time.
Alibaba also announced that it had completed its migration to its own public cloud in the most recent quarter, a significant milestone because the company can point to its own operations as a reference to potential customers, a point that Daniel Zhang, Alibaba executive chairman and CEO, made in the company’s post-earnings call with analysts.
“We believe the migration of Alibaba’s core e-commerce system to the public cloud is a watershed event. Not only will we ourselves enjoy greater operating efficiency, but we believe, it will also encourage others to adopt our public cloud infrastructure,” Zhang said in the call.
It’s worth noting that the company also warned that the Coronavirus gripping China could have impact on the company’s retail business this year, but it didn’t mention the cloud portion specifically.
Yesterday’s revenue report puts Alibaba on a $ 6 billion U.S. run rate, good for fourth place in the cloud infrastructure market share race, but well behind the market leaders. In the most recent earnings reports, Google reported $ 2.5 billion in revenue, Microsoft reported $ 12.5 billion in combined software and infrastructure revenue and market leader AWS reported a tad under $ 10 billion for the quarter.
As with Google, Alibaba sits well in the back of the pack, as Synergy Research’s latest market share data shows. The chart was generated before yesterday’s report, but it remains an accurate illustration of the relative positions of the various companies.
Alibaba has a lot in common with Amazon. Both are eCommerce giants. Both have cloud computing arms. Alibaba, however, came much later to the cloud computing side of the house, launching in 2009, but really only beginning to take it seriously in 2015.
At the time, cloud division president Simon Hu boasted to Reuters that his company would overtake Amazon in the cloud market within 4 years. “Our goal is to overtake Amazon in four years, whether that’s in customers, technology, or worldwide scale,” he said at the time.
They aren’t close to achieving that goal, of course, but they are growing steadily in a hot cloud infrastructure market. Alibaba is the leading cloud vendor in China, although AWS leads in Asia overall, according to the most recent Synergy Research data on the region.
Now that you reviewed your SMBs’ 2019 performance, it’s time to refocus and think about goals for 2020. Have your goals changed? Are you now focusing more on efficiency, new customer acquisition, or building upper-funnel leads?
Are you trading efficiency for awareness or vice versa? Are there new customer segments that you are pursuing? Do you have new products, services, or functionalities to introduce? The answers to these questions should form the foundation of your digital growth strategy and should define the tests you run to support that strategy.
In this post, we’ll talk about the alignment of goals and tests to get you on the right path for 2020 growth.
If your main goal is building brand awareness and your base of engaged users, testing new audiences should be a key focus, with a secondary step planned for retargeting these users in the future. Facebook/IG has great demographic intelligence to tap into, and LinkedIn allows B2Bs incredible targeting capabilities by title, industry, company size, and other relevant parameters.
If you’re more focused on getting more value out of an already-healthy customer base, bringing them back to your site and working to earn more conversion, turn your attention to remarketing and user experience.
What does this mean for B2C and ecommerce?
For B2C and ecommerce, this means optimizing remarketing campaigns (testing promotions and other messaging) and running CRO tests to make sure your landing pages are finely tuned and moving the users through the conversion funnel.
What does this mean for B2B and lead gen?
For B2B and lead gen, moving a strong upper-funnel base of leads through the funnel means making sure your content and messaging is aligned with their place in the purchase journey – so test different copy and themes to see which resonate the best, then target leads that went dark during the sales process with retargeting campaigns on LinkedIn and GDN.
If your goal is to lower CPA and establish more reasonable CPCs in a world of oversaturation on Google and Facebook, I recommend testing new channels with less competition and lower CPCs/CPAs. Those platforms include Instagram, Pinterest, Quora, and Reddit.
No matter what your overall campaign goals or business type are, it’s critical to establish a testing strategy and framework for creative assets and automated features. For creative, this includes everything from ad format (video, single-image, carousel) to the aspect ratio, and specific messaging/offers. For automation, consider that Google and Facebook’s powerful machine-learning tools, including automated bidding and campaign budget optimization – can help improve performance. However, they would require oversight to ensure they’re on target. Automated creative tools, including Google’s responsive search ads and Facebook’s dynamic creative, blend machine learning with creative testing and should be tested and monitored to leverage in campaigns for all business types.
Once you begin these tests, the rock-solid measurement must inform decisions and optimizations moving forward. If your goal is to drive brand awareness, focus on improvements, on metrics such as impressions, clicks, site visits, and reach. Customer acquisition goals for B2B and lead gen should incorporate metrics including upper-funnel leads, converted leads, opportunities, CPL, and lead-to-opportunity conversion rates.
Ecommerce businesses focused on driving sales should focus on metrics like ‘add to cart’, purchases, CVR, ROAS, and CPA. Reviewing these metrics at a campaign level, ad group or ad set level, audience, and creative level will help inform decisions and future tests.
There are many more testing layers to get into, but make sure you have started towards your 2020 goals by aligning the first wave of tests and KPIs accordingly to give yourself a foundation for growth in the coming quarters.
The post How to uncover digital growth opportunities for SMBs in 2020 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Q4 is the most competitive time period for ecommerce businesses, deals and promotions offered to capitalize on holiday season traffic bring hordes of potential purchasers to your site.
One of the most valuable groups of users that comes out of the holiday season is net-new users, who could have found out about the product from an ad, friend, influencer, or some other referral. These users are more expensive to acquire because they have no knowledge of the brand, so they need more touchpoints when compared to your current customers.
Whether or not you convert those new users into customers in Q4, convincing them to be long-term customers should be an important part of your Q1 strategy. In this post, I will walk through the value of some of these different holiday audiences and how to engage with them in Q1 to turn them into paying customers.
Often, the largest and best-converting Q4 audiences are current customers who are loyal to the brand and looking for some type of discount during major holiday times like Cyber Monday and Black Friday. These audiences are highly valuable, and you don’t have to pay much to bring them back to your site, but there are other audiences you should consider to help you reach your goals in Q1. These pointers will help you figure out how you can engage them.
1. Potential customers who visited but didn’t convert
Plan to re-engage potential customers who visited the site but didn’t purchase.
This could be for a variety of reasons:
- They didn’t find the product they were looking for
- Increased competition
- They didn’t think the deal was enticing enough, and others
With this audience, your lowest-hanging fruit is the group of users who added something to their cart or added payment information but didn’t convert. I recommend getting in front of them with special promotions or discounts.
2. First-time purchasers from Q4
First-time purchasers from Q4 will be even more valuable if converted into long-term customers. Consider two segments: those who purchased during Cyber weekend and new customers in general. You can infer that customers that purchased during Cyber weekend are more inclined and driven to purchase when there is a deal, so make sure to target them with ads that speak to this.
All of the audiences above represent retargeting audiences. In order to help reach acquisition goals in Q1, I recommend using data from these audience segments to build acquisition audiences as well – notably, building Facebook lookalike audiences from your segments of highest-life-time value (LTV) and most frequently engaged customers.
Other interesting LAL audience tests for Q1 could include building audiences off of first-time customers and potential customers who visited the site but didn’t convert.
Now that you’ve established the holiday customers to re-engage in Q1, it’s time to develop the messaging and offers to advertise to those users. Since many of these customers converted because of the discounts and sales offered in Q4, messages to consider would be incorporating Q1 holidays into the media plan and offer another discount or sale.
Audiences to target with these ads include
- First-time purchasers
- New users generated from lookalike audiences
- Users who visited the site without converting
For longer-term customers, consider showcasing new products or top products to retarget customers. To see what resonates the best with users test these with a variety of creatives – carousels, videos, and single images that feature these different product groupings.
Another strategy is to showcase complementary products to users who purchased a specific product or product type during the holiday season. For example, if someone purchased an Xbox, retarget them with Xbox games in Q1.
The holiday season brings increases in traffic, new customers, and site revenue. Don’t just celebrate these wins, use the data to keep winning by building strong audience segments and messaging to help push growth in Q1 2020.
Lauren Crain is a Client Services Lead in 3Q Digital’s SMB division, 3Q Incubate.
The post How to utilize holiday season traffic for 2020’s Q1 growth appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Growth Pilots is one of the more exclusive performance marketing agencies in San Francisco, but they know how to help high-growth startups excel at paid marketing. CEO and founder Soso Sazesh credits his personal experiences as an entrepreneur along with his team’s deep understanding of high-growth company needs and challenges as to what sets Growth Pilots apart. Whether you’re a founder of a seed or Series D stage startup, learn more about Growth Pilots’ approach to growth and partnerships.
Advice to early-stage founders
“I think a lot of times, especially at the early stage, founders don’t have a lot of time so they’re willing to find the path of least resistance to get their paid acquisition channels up and running. If things are not properly set up and managed, this can lead to a false negative in terms of writing off a channel’s effectiveness or scalability. It’s worth talking to an expert, even if it’s just for advice, to ensure you don’t fall into this trap.”
On Growth Pilots’ operations
“Something we pride ourselves on is working with relatively few clients at a time so we can really focus all of our team’s efforts and energy on doing the highest quality work. Each of our team members works on a maximum of two to three accounts, and therefore they’re able to get very invested in each client’s business and integrated into their team. We really try to simulate the internal team dynamics as much as possible and pairing that with our external capabilities and expertise.”
Below, you’ll find the rest of the founder reviews, the full interview, and more details like pricing and fee structures. This profile is part of our ongoing series covering startup growth marketing agencies with whom founders love to work, based on this survey and our own research. The survey is open indefinitely, so please fill it out if you haven’t already.
Interview with Growth Pilots Founder and CEO Soso Sazesh
Yvonne Leow: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got into growth.
Soso Sazesh: I grew up in northern Minnesota where there is no tech industry whatsoever and then after high school, I came out to Silicon Valley and got exposed to the epicenter of the technology industry. I became very interested in startups and hustled to find startup internships so I could get experience and learn how they operated.
After a couple of startup internships, I got accepted to UC Berkeley and that gave me even more exposure to the startup ecosystem with all of the startup events and resources that UC Berkeley had to offer. I worked on a couple of startup projects while I was at UC Berkeley, and I taught myself scrappy product management and how to get software built using contract developers.
Editors Note: This article is part of a series that explores the world of growth marketing for founders. If you’ve worked with an amazing growth marketing agency, nominate them to be featured in our shortlist of top growth marketing agencies in tech.
Startups often set themselves back a year by hiring the wrong growth marketer.
This post shares a framework my marketing agency uses to source and vet high-potential growth candidates.
With it, early-stage startups can identify and attract a great first growth hire.
It’ll also help you avoid unintentionally hiring candidates who lack broad competency. Some marketers master 1-2 channels, but aren’t experts at much else. When hiring your first growth marketer, you should aim for a generalist.
This post covers two key areas:
- How I find growth candidates.
- How I identify which candidates are legitimately talented.
Great marketers are often founders
One interesting way to find great marketers is to look for great potential founders.
Let me explain. Privately, most great marketers admit that their motive for getting hired was to gain a couple years’ experience they could use to start their own company.
Don’t let that scare you. Leverage it: You can sidestep the competitive landscape for marketing talent by recruiting past founders whose startups have recently failed.
Why do this? Because great founders and great growth marketers are often one and the same. They’re multi-disciplinary executors, they take ownership and they’re passionate about product.
You see, a marketing role with sufficient autonomy mimics the role of a founder: In both, you hustle to acquire users and optimize your product to retain them. You’re working across growth, brand, product and data.
As a result, struggling founders wanting a break from the startup roller coaster often find transitioning to a growth marketing role to be a natural segue.
How do we find these high-potential candidates?
To find past founders, you could theoretically monitor the alumni lists of incubators like Y Combinator and Techstars to see which companies never succeeded. Then you can reach out to their first-time founders.
There are thousands of promising founders who’ve left a mark on the web. Their failure is not necessarily indicative of incompetence. My agency’s co-founders and directors, including myself, all failed at founding past companies.
How do I attract candidates?
To get potential founders interested in the day-to-day of your marketing role, offer them both breadth and autonomy:
- Let them be involved in many things.
- Let them be fully in charge of a few things.
Remember, recreate the experience of being a founder.
Further, vet their enthusiasm for your product, market and its product-channel fit:
- Product and market: Do their interests line up with how your product impacts its users? For example, do they care more about connecting people through social networks, or about solving productivity problems through SaaS? And which does your product line up with?
- Product-channel fit: Are they excited to run the acquisition channels that typically succeed in your market?
The latter is a little-understood but critically important requirement: Hire marketers who are interested in the channels your company actually needs.
Let’s illustrate this with a comparison between two hypothetical companies:
- A B2B enterprise SaaS app.
- An e-commerce company that sells mattresses.
Broadly speaking, the enterprise app will most likely succeed through the following customer acquisition channels: sales, offline networking, Facebook desktop ads and Google Search.
In contrast, the e-commerce company will most likely succeed through Instagram ads, Facebook mobile ads, Pinterest ads and Google Shopping ads.
We can narrow it even further: In practice, most companies only get one or two of their potential channels to work profitably and at scale.
Meaning, most companies have to develop deep expertise in just a couple of channels.
There are enterprise marketers who can run cold outreach campaigns on autopilot. But, many have neither the expertise nor the interest to run, say, Pinterest ads. So if you’ve determined Pinterest is a high-leverage ad channel for your business, you’d be mistaken to assume that an enterprise marketer’s cold outreach skills seamlessly translate to Pinterest ads.
Some channels take a year or longer to master. And mastering one channel doesn’t necessarily make you any better at the next. Pinterest, for example, relies on creative design. Cold email outreach relies on copywriting and account-based marketing.
(How do you identify which ad channels are most likely to work for your company? Read my Extra Crunch article for a breakdown.)
To summarize: To attract the right marketers, identify those who are interested in not only your product but also how your product is sold.
The founder-first approach I’ve shared is just one of many ways my agency recruits great marketers. The point is to remind you that great candidates are sometimes a small career pivot away from being your perfect hire. You don’t have to look in the typical places when your budget is tight and you want to hire someone with high, senior potential.
This is especially relevant for early-stage, bootstrapping startups.
If you have the foresight to recognize these high-potential candidates, you can hopefully hire both better and cheaper. Plus, you empower someone to level up their career.
Speaking of which, here are other ways to hire talent whose potential hasn’t been fully realized:
- Find deep specialists (e.g. Facebook Ads experts) and offer them an opportunity to learn complementary skills with a more open-ended, strategic role. (You can help train them with my growth guide.)
- Poach experienced junior marketers from a company in your space by offering senior roles.
- Hire candidates from top growth marketing schools.
Vetting growth marketers
If you don’t yet have a growth candidate to vet, you can stop reading here. Bookmark this and return when you do!
Now that you have a candidate, how do you assess whether they’re legitimately talented?
At Bell Curve, we ask our most promising leads to incrementally complete three projects:
- Create Facebook and Instagram ads to send traffic to our site. This showcases their low-level, tactical skills.
- Walk us through a methodology for optimizing our site’s conversion rate. This showcases their process-driven approach to generating growth ideas. Process is everything.
- Ideate and prioritize customer acquisition strategies for our company. This showcases their ability to prioritize high-leverage projects and see the big picture.
We allow a week to complete these projects. And we pay them market wage.
Here’s what we’re looking for when we assess their work.
Level 1: Basics
First — putting their work aside — we assess the dynamics of working with them. Are they:
- Competent: Can they follow instructions and understand nuance?
- Reliable: Will they hit deadlines without excuses?
- Communicative: Will they proactively clarify unclear things?
- Kind: Do they have social skills?
If they follow our instructions and do a decent job, they’re competent. If they hit our deadline, they’re probably reliable. If they ask good questions, they’re communicative.
And if we like talking to them, they’re kind.
Level 2: Capabilities
A level higher, we use these projects to assess their ability to contribute to the company:
- Do they have a process for generating and prioritizing good ideas?
- Did their process result in multiple worthwhile ad and landing page ideas? We’re assessing their process more so than their output. A great process leads to generating quality ideas forever.
- Resources are always limited. One of the most important jobs of a growth marketer is to ensure growth resources are focused on the right opportunities. I’m looking for a candidate that has a process for identifying, evaluating and prioritizing growth opportunities.
- Can they execute on those ideas?
- Did they create ads and propose A/B tests thoughtfully? Did they identify the most compelling value propositions, write copy enticingly and target audiences that make sense?
- Have they achieved mastery of 1-2 acquisition channels (ideally, the channels your company is dependent on to scale)? I don’t expect anyone to be an expert in all channels, but deep knowledge of at least a couple of channels is key for an early-stage startup making their first growth hire.
If you don’t have the in-house expertise to assess their growth skills, you can pay an experienced marketer to assess their work. It’ll cost you a couple hundred bucks, and give you peace of mind. Look on Upwork for someone, or ask a marketer at a friend’s company.
- If you’re an early-stage company with a tight budget, there are creative ways to source high-potential growth talent.
- Assess that talent on their product fit and market fit for your company. Do they actually want to work on the channels needed for your business to succeed?
- Give them a week-long sample project. Assess their ability to generate ideas and prioritize them.
The newly public documents provide a rare window into Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s thoughts on how to expand his social media juggernaut.
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In this live webinar, Hanapin experts Kelsey Hadaller and Emma Franks will show you how to set up the different types of Youtube campaigns, how to find results with different verticals, and how to implement an ongoing strategy.
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