You’re going to create a semi-fictional character and use it to attract the right people who will buy from your company. Yep! One of the best ways to help your company attract more clients or customers is to know precisely who you want to attract in the first place. The more you know about them, the better you can position your marketing to effectively engage them. That’s where creating buyer personas come in.
Content is king or so the saying goes (we prefer content is queen but that’s a whole other story). Over the last few years, as digital technologies and social networks have grown, content creation has become the main pillar of successful online marketing strategies.
The year 2020 has shaken up different marketing trends, and with 2021 just around the corner, there are many things worth considering to stay afloat.
Social justice movements, the changing global economic landscape and of course, the pandemic, have made our world more connected than ever. These events have completely transformed the way we look at digital marketing and advertising.
With every year’s end, it’s always a good idea to keep a close pulse on what’s on the horizon when it comes to marketing trends for 2021.
When customers are in the research phase of the sales cycle, how will they find you?
The research phase of the Buyer Journey is a stage that all customers will go through before making a purchase (we discuss this in greater detail in a previous blog post). It is a safe bet that many (if not all) of these customers are doing their research digitally.
Websites nowadays are making it even easier to connect directly with their customers using chatbot marketing. You’ve probably seen this on websites already. Some Chatbots are either a pop-up or appear as a small icon on the bottom right-hand corner of the page.
Since its inception in 2002, Out-Smarts has been a virtual organisation. We had a brief flirtation with bricks and mortar a few years ago but it wasn’t a good fit.
A virtual organization is an organization involving detached and disseminated entities (from employees to entire enterprises) and requiring information technology to support their work and communication. Virtual organizations do not represent a firm’s attribute but can be considered as a different organizational form.
Or in plain English – a business that has no physical location that depends on technology to operate effectively.
Virtual Business Benefits
In 2018, a business like ours doesn’t need to have an office. The ubiquity of online tools makes that possible. These tools make it easier to start and grow a business since your overheads are much lower (which is especially important in a place like Vancouver where office space is at a premium). But big businesses are clueing into the benefits too. Telecommunications giant TELUS has a goal of having 40% of their team members working on a mobile basis, 30% working within TELUS buildings, and another 30% working from home full time.
Not only does being virtual keep your costs lower but it’s also way better for the planet as well. Teams who work from their home office don’t have to drive or take public transit which means less pollution being emitted into our planet each day. It also leads to higher scalability. With a physical office, increasing your staff often requires moving into a larger office space. With a virtual team, you can scale up your business without worrying about the extra costs associated with the required square footage.
Even back in 2002, it was possible to run a business virtually as long as you had an internet connection (although those were a lot slower back then), good processes and communication channels in place. This still rings true, although it’s much easier now thanks to cloud computing, apps and social media.
More importantly, though, working for a virtual company is good for the soul. It gives your team more flexibility to put their lives and families before their work (which is the way it should be anyway), it gives them more flexible work hours and no commute time which makes them happier and more likely to stay not to mention more productive. Happy Team = Happy Company = Happy Customers.
Of course, no good thing is without its drawbacks. With a virtual business, there is a risk of isolation, less cohesiveness, and a lack of camaraderie amongst employees. In a virtual environment, there is much less opportunity for spontaneous conversations that could lead to collaboration or new ideas. There’s also the chance that things can get lost in translation or misconstrued in electronic communications. To tackle this at Out-Smarts, we make sure to stay on top of our social side, and even schedule it into our calendars each month. We have weekly update calls with our team members, take the time to ask about our respective weekends on Monday mornings, and get the whole team together for beers once a month.
We’ve come a long way since 2002 when it comes to optimizing our virtual business, but we’re always keeping an eye out for new ways to improve our company culture and create a rewarding experience for customers and team members. Along the way, we’ve picked up an arsenal of tools that have become mainstays for productivity and efficiency. Here are our favourite tools for running a virtual business:
Virtual business tools that we can’t live without:
We’ve never met our bookkeeper, she lives in the US but that doesn’t matter – online accounting and invoicing software (Quickbooks) allows us to easily share financials.
Teamwork – This project management tool has recently come to the top of our list of must-haves. Team members can see all ongoing projects, tasks, and deadlines at a glance which helps keep everyone on track. It also enables us to give clients an insight into what we do for them and lets us set deadlines, hours and stay on top of communications.
Boomerang for Gmail – This is a tool for anyone battling an overstuffed inbox! Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to be sent out at a later date, set reminders to follow up, and take emails out of your inbox until you need them.
Google Docs and Google Drive– We are able to share all of our documents and spreadsheets and it’s perfect for collaborating on a project in real time. We’re also able to categorize our projects and link back to Teamwork.
Google Calendar – The integration with Google Calendar and the rest of the G-Suite tools makes this an easy choice. We use it to schedule meetings, pencil in vacation time, and invite attendees to events. It also integrates with Google Maps which helps by calculating trip times and sending prompts for when you need to leave.
Office 365 – This classic suite of Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and OneDrive is a mainstay for creating content.
1Password – It took us a few tries to find a password vault that worked well for us. We found 1Password to be the right fit for our company as it lets us store documents, logins, and other confidential information in one place.
SquareUp – This is a free point of sale app that lets us accept card payments, manage invoices, and give digital and printed receipts.
WordPress – We build all of our websites on WordPress. We love the versatility of being able to create beautifully designed custom websites on a trusted platform.
Hootsuite – We schedule, manage, and monitor social content for our clients through Hootsuite.
Grasshopper – Virtual phone systems like Grasshopper have helped us run our business through our cell phones. We can host phone extensions for everyone on our team, set up call forwarding, voicemail, and more.
JoinMe and Zoom – For a team to work together towards the same goal, there needs to be the occasional conference call. We like web conferencing tools like JoinMe and Zoom, and even use them for meetings with out of town clients.
Skype – For getting in touch with clients in the US, we rely on Skype for free online calls, messaging, and affordable international calling to mobiles or landlines.
Milanote is a tool for organizing creative projects into beautiful visual boards. By design, it feels a lot like working on the wall in a creative studio – visual, tactile and sometimes a bit messy – Milanote is a great fit for designers who work in teams remotely.*
With the use of the tools above, office communications are available to us from almost anywhere in the world. These technologies we’ve adopted not only streamline communication but provide practical services that empower our team to stay on task and stay engaged.
Need help growing your business? Contact us to find out what we can do.
We were woefully late to Instagram as a company. Our team members had been using it for years and we’ve been building there for our clients but our corporate Insta feed was sorely neglected. In fact, we just launched it this spring, but in true Out-Smarts fashion, when we decide to do something (however late to the game we are), we do it right. We’d like to share with you some tips on how we went from 34 to 1034 followers in the space of 2 short months.
But first a little about the app, Instagram is a photo and video sharing app owned by Facebook. There are currently 800 million users on Instagram, and 51% of users access the platform at least once per day. Over 80% of accounts on Instagram follow a business, but two-thirds of profile visits to businesses come from people who aren’t following that business. The largest segment of Instagram users are aged between 18 – 24 with a pretty even split between men and women. With impressive stats like these, it’s no surprise more and more businesses are joining the Instagram game.
Tips to Build your Instagram Business Following
- Take time to craft a good bio that conveys what you do, who you do it for. Make it upbeat and interesting. You can also use the bio to link back to things you want to promote through hyperlinks, mentions, and hashtags. With a bio that speaks directly to your target audience, you’ll attract more quality followers who are more likely to become your customers.
- Post regularly – the best way to determine how often to post is by trial and error and will really depend on your audience. Test and try different frequencies and monitor engagement to help you decide. Once you have found a rhythm that works – stay consistent for the best results.
- Like and comment – the more you interact on Instagram, the more people will interact back with you. Be focused as to who you interact with – remember your target audience and hone in on that.
- Follow – to build your following you have to follow the right feeds. Get in the habit each day of following Instagram feeds in your target area. Keep an eye on your follower to following ratio. You can also use tools like Instazood that help automate this for you but be extra careful to monitor this often to ensure you don’t run into any issues that could get you banned.
- Share the love – despite all the selfies out there, your Instagram business feed shouldn’t just be all about you. Share the love and great stories of your clients and customers and tag them in your posts.
- Use hashtags, these are key to getting your content found. You can use up to 30 tags but 11 seems to be the optimal number (again trial and error will help determine this for you). Hashtags are a series of letters, symbols or emojis preceded by the # that makes them hyperlinkable. Choose hashtags that describe your business, the purpose of your account, your target market, and your location. We also recommend choosing hashtags that have between 50,000 to 200,000 tags so you have a better chance of standing out. …. You can use tools like Hashtagify me to help identify popular ones to use, then there are also hashtags that encourage reciprocation.
- How does your feed look – Instagram pages are quickly becoming the home page for many companies. While a matching feed isn’t necessary to grow your following, take the time to curate your page so future followers know exactly what to expect when they follow you. Be consistent and plan out the look of your Instagram feed before you post, using a visual planner like Later.
- Share with Instagram Stories – Posting to your Instagram Story as a business is a fun and creative way to connect with your audience, grow your engagement, build brand awareness, and drive traffic to your website. Since stories only have a 24-hour lifespan, it’s the perfect place to share your journey, community posts, behind-the-scenes shots, and sneak peaks.
- Take great photos – Curate your feed to be the best representation of your brand. Put your best foot forward and post relevant, high-quality photos to attract your target audience.
- Take advantage of captions – this is the space where you have an opportunity to share more about your brand and your story with your followers. This is also an area many businesses overlook, so take the time to write out an engaging caption and you’ll be rewarded with a more engaged audience.
With over 1 billion active monthly users, it’s no surprise that getting more Instagram followers is a big priority for most businesses. We hope these tips serve as a helpful start for anyone hoping to grow their Instagram following. Not sure how to implement these strategies for your business? Learn how Out-Smarts can help you achieve success on Instagram.