Even the Changes are Changing

Not so long ago we learned how to “Google it” to learn anything we wanted to know. It was a rapid rise to freedom of information and instant knowledge.

Over the years since then there have been shifts in the Google landscape. Many people who wouldn’t even THINK of themselves as technical by nature have taken up conversations about the mysterious Google algorithms and the secret sauce to getting to the top of their search pages.

Numerous studies have been conducted that look at how we, as search engine users, relate to the search results presented by Google. According to a recent report from Mediative, the way people engage with the search engine result pages (SERPs) has changed significantly over the past decade.

serps-mediative-2005
2005

In 2005 they conducted a study using eye tracking and found that users tended to focus their gaze on the top-left corner of a SERP where the first result was usually displayed. This area became known as the “Golden Triangle.” Look at the heat mapped image of the 2005 study, you can see for yourself that the area in that upper left corner was the focus of attention for most participants.

serps-mediative-2014
2014

Today, the Golden Triangle has all but disappeared. A look at the 2014 results demonstrate how strikingly different behaviors are from those observed a decade ago. Users tend to scan down the page more now and vary their focus on other areas depending on their particular search. The 2014 heat map image indicates a much broader area of observation.

This change in behavior is partially the result of changes Google has made to its SERPs along with the impact of our increased use of mobile devices.  Consumers have become conditioned to scan vertically more than horizontally.

Back in 2005, the most relevant results were nearly always in the upper-left corner of the page. Google has introduced a number of new elements since then including the Knowledge Graph, Carousel, and Local Listings among others.

The study reveals some interesting details:

  • Users now tend to scan pages more quickly. In 2005, searchers spent just under 2 seconds viewing each listing; in 2014 that has dropped to 1.17 seconds.
  • The impact of a Knowledge Graph result varied significantly depending on whether or not the answer was relevant. Participants often skipped irrelevant Knowledge Graph results and went straight to the listings below them. However, if a Knowledge Graph result was relevant, it drew away a significant amount of attention from the subsequent listings.
  • Google’s Carousel—an image strip at the top of the page accompanied by other information such as ratings—had much less of an impact on the searchers results than did Knowledge Graph.

But, the most interesting details to emerge are these:

  • The highest placed organic result still garners roughly the same amount of click activity (32.8%) as in 2005. However, with the addition of the new page elements, the top search result is not viewed for as long, or by as many people.
  • Organic results positioned in the 2nd through 4th slots now receive a significantly higher share of clicks than they did in 2005.

Overall this means good news for smaller businesses in competitive markets. Search has evolved to allow for consumers’ attention to include more than just the highest position. The spots from 4th on up are seeing 30% more attention today than was the case in 2005 (see the chart). The coveted top spot is still the master of the page, but as consumers come to realize their needs are often broader than the largest or most invested participants. Those who make the “above the fold” group in the first five spots on page one will see their efforts rewarded.

Clicks are evolving. The top 4 slots have improved 30% since 2005.
Clicks are evolving. The top 4 slots have improved 30% since 2005.

How About LinkedIn?

You Need a LinkedIn Strategy

Why?

Simple, because as the largest professional network on the Internet you will find anyone who matters to your business on there — from customers to prospects, from business partners to employees. The network adds two new members every second and is home to more than 250 million members worldwide. LinkedIn has become the place for professionals to gather. And, when you have so many interconnected entities gathering in one place, you need to have a plan.

LinkedIn Has Gone Beyond the Job Search

Your employees? They’re all over LinkedIn. From sales reps to the people in the back office. Most are on it weekly, many are on it a few times each day. They check it on their smartphones during breakfast and on their laptops during conference calls.

LinkedIn header

LinkedIn – Can you afford to ignore it?

Sure, some employees will be job-hunting, yet the majority are using LinkedIn in many other ways. Ways that could benefit your business. They’re getting management advice from business thought leaders. They’re keeping up with industry trends. They’re searching for prospects. They’re building relationships with business professionals who will: buy from you, sell to you,or work for you. LinkedIn is bigger than the recruiting department. It touches all aspects of your business.

The People You Want to Connect with are on LinkedIn

People don’t buy from brands. They buy from people. When a client or prospect searches for people they’ve met, their LinkedIn profiles are likely to come up first. Employees use LinkedIn to represent both themselves and indirectly your company too. From a brand perspective, those profiles should be compelling. Ask your employees and most will reply, “I should do more with LinkedIn.” Yet, most of them are doing it poorly. Their photos aren’t professional looking, their profiles undersell their experience, and their networks are not relevant. These are the people who help create your brand, and they are often part of the first impression others will form of your business.

Help Yourself and Your Employees

There isn’t a simple solution to this issue. Each person’s use of LinkedIn depends on his or her role, as well as the industry, your company go-to-market strategy, and your overall company branding and messaging. For your company to get value from LinkedIn you will need to know what you want to accomplish, how your organization will get there, and how you will measure success. In other words, you’ll need a strategy.

Like all marketing programs (and make no mistake about it, this is also a marketing program) you have to set a strategy, then work toward implementation in a clear and deliberate way. Start small, focus on bang-for-the-buck; create a consistent brand message about your organization then ask your staff to use it in their profile. Develop a company page, so that when other people run across your employees the company information is clickable and exactly how you want it. Encourage your teams to build relevant industry contacts and ensure they are connected to one another right away. These are all solid building blocks.

Also, allow time for exploration and investigation. That time your staff is using to learn a leadership skill will manifest itself positively if you let it. The industry contacts that are cultivated from posting to related groups and interacting with regularity will have long-term value. Even the job hunting activities are beneficial in some ways, as keeping employees happy is often a matter of having a realistic perspective on market conditions.

Regardless of what you do, or how you prioritize it, give LinkedIn the respect it deserves. Craft a strategy then set about making it happen.

Low Hanging Fruit

Low Hanging Fruit

Seems too simple, right?

Nearly anything you do in life is subject to the principle that you’ll get 80% of your results from 20% of your input. Often referred to as “low-hanging fruit.”

Said differently…here are five important marketing problems that can be fixed quickly and make everyone look like geniuses.

When you begin using the web to market your business, there are a few important things that most people get wrong initially. Look over this list to see if you have any offenders in your business. Then, this week, work on cleaning them up. 

#1: Where is the call to action?

When you want someone in your audience to take some action (sign up for your email list, buy something, sign a petition, go for a walk, etc.), tell them what to do. Copywriters call this the call to action [CTA], and it’s the fastest way to make your copy more effective. Even huge businesses with massive marketing budgets can miss this one, so don’t feel bad.

Tell them clearly and succinctly. Please, don’t be “clever” with this element! If you want someone to click a link to sign up for your awesome email newsletter, use the words “Click here to sign up for our awesome newsletter.”

Your homework this week: Look critically at the key pages on your site. Do you have a clear call to action on each page? Are they simple and unambiguous? Could they be a little stronger?

#2: No one can figure out what you do

If you prepare taxes, the words Tax Preparation need to be right at the top of your site. Since you’re a hearing healthcare provider, those words should be hearing loss, hearing doctor, Audiology, etc. Make sure the word Hearing is front and center.

Too many businesses get into a marketing exercise of diving deep into what their customers want (which is a good thing to do), and end up with tag lines like “Enriching lives and communication through core auditory treatment strategies.”  That’s fine as your personal mission for how you’ll help people. But it leaves your audience with no idea what you do. Don’t get clever about how you describe what you do. Use the language that your audience uses. (This is particularly helpful  for your SEO copywriting.)

Tax preparer. Copywriter. Zumba instructor. Physical therapist… Audiologist. Hearing Doctor.

Your homework: How does a normal person describe what you do? What specific words do they use?  Go to your home page and your About page right now. Are those words clearly visible?

#3: There’s no benefit in the headline

First, you need to understand that “clever” headlines don’t work nearly as well as headlines that clearly communicate a benefit. Will your audience learn to identify the early signs of hearing loss in their friends and family? That’s what should be in the headline.

There are many techniques for producing a more effective headline, and you should spend the time to learn and master them, or allow those who write yours the license to apply their skills.

Here is one method you can implement right away, and that you can mentally check every time you publish a piece of content:

Your homework: Take a look at any content you’re publishing this week. (Blog posts, email newsletter articles, videos, etc.)  What benefit does the audience get from reading, watching, or listening? Make certain that benefit gets into your headline.

#4: The customer isn’t ready for you

Most businesses don’t work like lemonade stands. If you are walking down the street and  see a lemonade stand, you’ll buy lemonade, assuming you’re thirsty. Very simple. But your business is more complex than that.

Because you’re using “content marketing” to build an audience, you’ll be attracting some people who aren’t thirsty just yet. Some of your audience may have plans to be thirsty at some point in the next 30 days. Some of your audience isn’t ever going to get thirsty, but they interact with a lot of thirsty people, so they may want to refer you later. You need a way to “park” your entire audience, and keep them interested and engaged until they’re ready to make a purchase.

There are a lot of ways to do this, and not all of them fall into the “quick fix” territory. But one that you can implement this week is to add “no obligation” actions to your marketing plan.

For example a sequence of messages that you’ll send to every new subscriber to your newsletter  list. It’s a brilliant way to hold your audience’s interest until they’re ready for what you have to offer.

You don’t need to write an entire sequence this week. But you can get one or two messages written (say, a “Welcome”  and a “Did you know?” message to start.) Then add others to the mix as you get customer feedback, until you’ve got a robust sequence that holds on to your prospect’s attention until they are ready to buy (or refer).

Your homework: If you have a newsletter list in place now, outline a sequence of messages that will keep your audience interested and connected. Then write the first message and add it to your plan. If you don’t have a newsletter list yet, get one in place. Your customer’s attention is a precious commodity. Don’t waste it — capture it so you can continue to benefit them.

#5: You’re ignoring your existing customers

Want to know the smartest, most effective, and least expensive place to find new customers? It’s your database of existing customers. Those existing customers can bring in new business in at least three different ways:

  1. They can buy something else you have to offer.
  2. They can refer their friends.
  3. They can pass along marketing content you create (like blog posts or email newsletters. )
    Of course, that means those content items have to be great – and identify benefits clearly!

You need one important characteristic to make this work: You have to care (a lot) about your customers, and you have to let them know how much you care. Most companies, large and small, make a transaction with a new customer, and that’s the end of it. They might send additional offers at some point, but they rarely do anything to make the relationship tighter and more meaningful.

So while you might think your homework would be to craft some kind of sales pitch to go out to existing customers, you need to do something entirely different instead.

Your homework: Think of a small way to surprise and delight the customers who have already given you money.

–  It might be a free Q&A.
–  It might be a special piece of content, like a newsletter, article, or white paper, that you offer them for free as a thank-you for their business.
–  It might be a convenience discount on a related product they’ve been thinking about picking up or adding on.
–  It might be some special after-purchase information on how to get more out of what they’ve already bought from you.

So, what small “thank-you” gift could you send your customers today, to let them know you think they’re pretty awesome? Then “bake that in” to your sales timeline, so that your future customers have just as great an experience after the sale as they do before the sale.

Want more direction or help with these concepts?

Speak with your Consult YHN Associate Manager today or send an email to AssociateServices@ConsultYHN.com.

List Generation: Buying vs. Building

With any marketing strategy, it’s imperative to make sure you are targeting the right audience.  Development of target names and addresses, known as list generation, should be a priority in your planning and implementation strategy.  After all, if you don’t reach your intended audience, how will you generate sales?   But when attempting to reach this audience, is it better to buy a list or build your own?

Let’s look at the facts

When marketing, it's important to reach the right audience. Concentrate on your most qualified leads first and your target prospects second.

When marketing, it’s important to reach the correct target audience.

  • Buying a list is quick and easy.
  • Building a list takes time and resources.

So, what’s the best strategy?  The answer is: it depends.  Meaning, it depends   on who you are trying to target and what type of message you are communicating.

Buying a List

When your objective is to reach a new pool of prospects within your area, buying a list is necessary.  Whether that’s for direct mail or telemarketing, you’ll need to reach out to those prospects within the community who don’t yet know about your services.  Be sure that you are reaching the appropriate audience – in this case, the 65+ active senior and Baby Boomers.

While buying a list for the traditional outreach like direct mail and telemarketing will help feed the pipeline with new opportunities, we recommend steering clear of purchasing lists for digital marketing [i.e. email marketing].

Building a List

We all know that retaining a current customer is more cost-effective than bringing in a new customer.  That’s why developing your customer database for future marketing [out of warranty, tested not sold, etc.] is so important.  Your customer database [read more here] includes your most qualified leads – those that are not as price sensitive – and nurturing these relationships will reap continuous rewards.

Reaching out to your current database with targeted messaging across the traditional mediums – direct mail and telemarketing – will result in a higher response rate and more positive return on investment [ROI].  And as mentioned earlier, it’s best to take the time to build an email contact list by collecting email addresses from you customers – let them ‘opt in’ to receiving email communication from your practice.

What’s Next?

Once you have your targets identified [compiled from both your customer database and prospect lists], remember to develop a marketing plan to reach these consumers on a frequent and consistent basis.  Also, think about the communication strategy [i.e. “what you want to say”] in order to convey relevant messages to each segment of your list.  Your target audience will appreciate the time and effort you put into speaking to them based on their needs via the mediums they prefer and you will reap the rewards.

Questions?  Consult YHN Marketing is here to help!  Contact marketing at marketing@ConsultYHN.com

What Is Public Relations and Why Should I Implement It Into My Marketing Plan?

What Can Public Relations Do For Me?

A strong and effective public relations plan can build your practice’s reputation and position you in the best light with your community/target audience. With a competitive market especially in the hearing device industry, you need to determine strategies to stand out among your competitors. Incorporating public relations into your marketing plan increases awareness and highlights why your hearing healthcare services are the best.

Successful Public Relations is the development and telling of a good “story.” You may be curious as to how you can turn industry news or clinical information into a compelling story? The key is finding the hook.

For example:

Oticon recently unveiled its new Alta hearing device. Ask yourself:

  • How can this hearing aid make a difference in the lives of my current and prospective customers?
  • What new technologies does it feature?
  • How can it improve the quality of life for customers?

The stronger you develop the “story,” the greater the acceptance by the media and public, which will add to the success of your public relations strategy.

Positioning Yourself as an Industry Expert

The importance of integrating public relations into your overall marketing strategy continues to evolve. According to The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR (Harper Business) – American marketing strategists argue that public relations has become the most effective way to build a brand. Business owners, like you, become known in their respective fields of concentration through public relations and the associated media generated.  Therefore, integrating a public relations strategy into your overall business plan will help solidify you as an industry leader while bringing focus to your individual services.

Explore the Benefits of PR

Public Relations, if done right, can reach a large audience without the traditional expense associated with advertising and marketing. A few of the significant public relations benefits include the following:

  • An economical way to reach your target audience in masses
  • The awareness of, and the demand for, your company’s products or services
  • Strengthening your company image and perception
  • Painting the picture of a company that is active and innovative
  • Creating additional credibility within your community
  • Giving you an advantage over competitors that are not utilizing PR effectively
  • Increasing online visibility, when integrated into your digital marketing strategy

If PR is not a part of your marketing plan currently, it may be time to consider implementing a public relations campaign to complement your existing initiatives. PR is an influential and cost-effective way to reach key audiences and influencers. PR focuses on promoting your company, establishing your business’ identity, and maintaining credibility – all with the end result of building an engaged and happy customer base!

For additional information on getting a PR campaign started, please check out our other PR blog post here: Public Relations: Beyond the Parties & On a Budget or contact marketing at marketing@consultyhn.com to explore Consult YHN’s PR archives and ‘How Tos.’