The Secret of Making Segmentation Work for You

What’s the secret to making segmentation work for you? It’s actually pretty simple: segment with conviction.

Marketing to segments may feel risky and take more planning time, but it cuts through noise and gives personality to your brand. Many advertisers only put one foot into the water, wanting to segment but afraid of leaving someone out.

But no business should be trying to market to everyone at any given time.

What Are Examples of Segments?

  • Geographic
  • Demographic
  • Psychographic
  • Behavioral
  • Journey position
  • Lifestyle
  • Product/service benefit

How Do You Begin the Process of Segmentation?

Start with an open mind. Let go of “the way it’s always been done” mindset. Once you know your segments, put yourself in their shoes. Consider that
specific segment’s perspective, as well as your CFO’s. What long-term value is possible, beyond immediate profit?

What’s the Magic Combination?

Honestly there are endless ways to segment your audience, and it might take some time to figure out the right mix. But when you are established in the
market, segmentation gives you a competitive advantage – it allows you to talk directly to your customers through advertising. Because here’s a simple truth: People want to buy from people who know them.

What Else Will You Find Out?

You may also have an epiphany or two once you start drilling into your segments. For example, you may find you have a gateway product. Gateway products may not give the highest returns on an individual basis, but they open doors for prospects to experience your brand. And just as important, they give you a chance to earn prospects’ trust.

All in all, when you fully commit to segments, your message will resonate a lot more with some individuals and may not be as relevant to others. That’s okay. Different messages to different segments won’t alienate your broad customer base. They will just drive home more relevant, meaningful messages to individual groups, rather than the whole. So try testing messages in various contexts, while keeping your customer segments in mind.

And when you find the right combination? That will be a secret worth sharing.

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Top Tips for Local SEO: Why NAP Listening Consistency Matters

Run a brick-and-mortar business? You probably face tough competition to turn search traffic into foot traffic.

But the majority of businesses fail to act on one of the most basic elements of local SEO: claiming listings on search engines and business directories. Not only that, but many also fail to maintain accurate NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) listings across those profiles.

The good news? With a little bit of knowledge and effort, you can develop a considerable advantage pretty easily.

How Does NAP Info Impact Local Search Rankings?

Search engines use instances of your business name, location, and contact information around the web to accurately understand who you are. Where you’re located. And how customers can reach you.

Since the number one goal of any search engine is to provide a quality experience, it’s important this information be accurate. That’s why they pay close attention to every detail of how your NAP information is formatted. Because if they present users with outdated or wrong information? It erodes trust between their service and the consumer.

Listen to our friend Dwight.
Listen to our friend Dwight.

When creating listings on local directories (as well as Google My Business, Bing Local, Yahoo Local and your Facebook page), it’s important to ensure that your business name, address and phone number are accurate everywhere they appear on the Web. This means all listings should match the syntax and formatting of these items on your website (and they need to be easily visible on your website, if they aren’t already).

Overall Tips for Formatting Your NAP

  1. Ensure your NAP information is included in the HTML of your website (rather than placed on an image file), so it can be crawled by search engines.
  2. Ensure the formatting is 100% the same (or as close as possible) all across the web. That means if your phone number started with a 1 on your website, it should start with a 1 on every profile and directory.

These may seem like minor details. But the tighter you can lock this down, the better your odds at achieving strong local search rankings.

Additional Tips for 4 SEO Avenues


  1. Google My Business (free) This service is a critical component of any local SEO strategy. Why? Google uses the information included on your page to determine how your site appears in local search results. You can access Google My Business through the same dashboard as the Google+ account for your business. When creating your listing, be sure to:
    • Select categories that accurately reflect your business.
    • Include a descriptive bio.
    • Upload high-quality photos.
    • Connect your Google My Business account to your Google Analytics account.
    • Make sure the name, address, and phone number matches the information on your website exactly.
    • Don’t forget to include your URL.

    NOTE: The Google My Business dashboard features a progress bar that will let you know when your page has reached 100% optimization. This should be your goal.

  2. Bing Places for Business (free) and Yahoo Localworks (free/paid options) Best practices for optimizing your profile are similar to Google My Business. Even if you rarely use these search engines yourself, neither should be ignored. With nearly 10% of total search market share each, the combined traffic could add up quickly for your business.

    Local search is competitive, and this is a battle of inches. Give yourself every advantage possible.

  3. Business Directories While directory links have long lost SEO relevancy for large websites targeting a national audience, they remain crucial for any successful local SEO campaign.

    Specifically, make sure your business is visible on these local directory websites:

    Not only will optimizing your presence on these directories improve your back link profile, they may also help send referral traffic directly to your site.

    TIP: You can use a premium Moz Local account to manage your data on all of the above sites and directories from one place. This will save you time, money and innumerable headaches in the long run.

  4. Other Websites In addition, consider other local directory and sites with business listing pages for links and citations, such as:
    • The Better Business Bureau
    • Your local Chamber of Commerce website
    • Local clubs and professional organizations
    • Local or regional industry directories

For more tips, check out some of our other recent SEO blogs.

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Sorry, Kids: Your Logo Isn’t Your Brand

So many clients ask for a logo, and then think, “Great, I’m done! Here is my brand.” Not to be the bearer of bad news, but actually, no. Your logo isn’t your brand. Of course, it’s one aspect of it, but it’s really not the most important part.

The Designer Perspective

One of my biggest challenges as a designer is creating logos. “Hey, can you just whip up a logo for me quick?” is probably my most frequent request. A designer’s specialty is conceptualizing how to convey your brand. In other words, no – I can’t just “whip up” a logo. (And you don’t really want me to.)

The Bigger Picture

There is a bigger picture to creating a good brand, and it’s not just visual. If you don’t know what your brand is, a designer can only do so much for you. In fact, a great brand can actually have little to do with design. But let’s be clear here: great design helps a whole lot. That’s why, before even diving in, a designer’s first priority is doing research and understanding the market.

The 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are a few questions that I want my clients to be able to answer:

  1. What is the feeling of your company? What do you do? How do you want your customers or clients to feel about your business? This is a key point for selection regarding the right color and fonts for your brand (and likewise, the colors and fonts to avoid). Some markets are easier for me to understand than others. For example, I’ve worked with construction and healthcare companies most of my career and understand their customers. There is no way I’m going to create a healthcare logo with paint splatters and dirt, or a construction company with a curly font. Industries do lay the groundwork for a particular look and feel, but that extra feeling behind your brand will make it stand out.
  2. What is your comfort level with design? At the end of the day, you need to like – or, better yet, love – your creative. Be proud of it. Share it. Logos can range from super simple to ultra complex. So how creative are you willing to get? This will also impact the collateral that goes along with your logo. We want design to reflect you as well as your brand, and we don’t want to veer too simple or too complex if that’s something you can’t accept. As professionals, we’ll make recommendations. But it ultimately is your brand.
  3. Who are your competitors? It’s important to know who you are, who you aren’t and who you want to be. But it’s also important to know who you’re going head-to-head with. The American Marketing Association defines a “brand” as a: Name, term, design, symbol or any other feature … that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Clients have come to me with work from their competitors, saying, “I want it to look just like that.” While there may be parts of another design to take into account, stand out on your own. You’re making a fight harder than it needs to be if you match everyone else.

The Takeaway

Design is easy when the identity of your business is clearly defined. Most of the time after doing the research, I can visually see a client’s brand. So what’s the moral of this story? Don’t just ask for a logo and call it a day. Logos, colors, typography, written and visual language are easy when you’ve focused on what you are, how you deliver that, and how you blow everyone else out of the water.

The logo and look will come.

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5 Ways to Engage Your Customers Along Their Buying Journey

The customer.

All this time, that’s the person you’ve kept in mind as you’ve carried out your marketing strategy.

But not every customer is at the same place in his/her journey.

Some might be reading a post about your company on Facebook. Others could be comparing your products to a competitor or looking for support. Maybe they are loyal customers who are making another purchase. Or they might be prospects who are still completely unaware of your product.

Each of these customers has a varying degree of product knowledge and technical aptitude, yet each of them expects a thoughtful, engaging and custom experience.

You’re starting to see the challenge. But there’s hope.

Here are simple five ways to start engaging your customers at the right time in their buying journey – right now.

  1. Use pay-per-click ads with landing pages. It’s a match made in heaven. Pair pay-per-click (PPC) ads from Facebook or Google Adwords and effective copy to attract buyers at a key part of their journey. Then engage them with a landing page that truly speaks to them. Suddenly, you don’t have a lackluster one-size-fits-all product page. Instead, you’ve created an individual destination that’s focused on what’s truly most important to the customer you’ve attracted.
  2. Use a bite, snack, meal approach. There’s a lot of depth on this framework, but here’s what you need to know most: You’re empowering your users to choose how deeply they’d like to dive into your product content. Users who want to merely understand what your product does can engage without a waterfall of feature lists and technical specs. You can read all about this approach in a recent white paper by Dean Froslie, our director of content.
  3. Intelligently target your blog content. Being strategic about your blog content is an easy way to make a big impact. There should be something for every kind of user. For each post, identify the customer you’re targeting. Then keep developing quality content for them.
  4. Choose your hero spots wisely. Hero spots are prime pieces of homepage real estate. But, too often, there isn’t much of a customer-centric strategy behind them. Use this important space to deliver specific messages to customers in different parts of their buying journey. Make sure the spot that shows up first in the rotation has the broadest appeal.
  5. Use your email list to bring back customers. Use your email list to match against users on Facebook. Using custom audiences , you can upload your email list to ensure your ads get to the right people. Facebook estimates average match rates to be 40-60%. Use the ads to draw past customers back with related products.

Remember, by thinking about your customers through the lens of an individual journey, you can meet your customers at exactly the right time. That rings true from the first time they experience your brand, all the way to the moment they become loyal customers.

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Everything You Thought You Knew About B2B Marketing: How Millennials Are Changing the Game

Millennials have set new precedents in consumer marketing, placing increased importance on transparency, relevancy and engagement. But do their shopping habits have an effect on how they prefer to engage with B2B marketers?

Based on the Millennial study series conducted by IBM, the answer is simple: absolutely. With Millennials influencing more B2B purchasing decisions for their companies than ever before, it’s even more critical that marketers understand how to effectively target them.

According to Carolyn Baird, a Global Research Leader at IBM Institute for Business Value, “Millennials, even more than Gen X or Baby Boomers, prize a hassle-free, omni-channel client experience personalized to their specific needs. They want data, speed and trusted advisors who are eager to collaborate.”

3 Key Takeaways for Marketing to Millennials 

So how do you make sure they have the experience they’re looking for?

  1. More Content – Not only do you have to offer diverse forms of content, but you have to provide a lot of it. Start by addressing their business challenges and answering frequently asked questions. Then share information about your industry and company. If your audience knows they can trust you as an expert in the industry, they’ll trust you as a product or service provider, too.
  2. More Accessibility – Millennials have a reputation for wanting to interact directly with vendors’ reps – far more than Gen X or Baby Boomers. When they are in the research phase, they want to know what it would be like to work with a particular vendor and make sure it’s a good fit for them. Then, once they have the info they need, they prefer to make interactions with vendors quick, easy and virtual. Make yourself accessible and take cues from them on how they like to communicate (via phone, email or in person). They want to hear what unique solutions you can offer them for their particular business.
  3. More Personalization – Millennials aren’t interested in hearing a one-size-fits-all sales pitch. Take the time to do your research, find out what’s important to them and help them make an informed purchasing decision. It will be worth it in the end. If you’re not willing to make interactions personal and targeted, you’re wasting your time and theirs.

The bottom line? Millennials want trusted advisors. They want to work with experts who are willing to roll their sleeves up and work together to solve tough B2B problems. And if you can deliver relevant content, be accessible and create a personalized experience, you’ll impress decision makers of all generations, not just Millennials.

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4 Tips for Improving Image SEO

When it comes to interpreting and ranking images, search engines need your help.

That’s because Google, Bing and others are unable to actually “see” images. To understand what your images actually depict, they rely on a number of factors to accurately determine that your images, such as product photos, really are what you say they are.

Follow these four tips to get the most value from your image SEO efforts.

1. Optimize Your Alt Text, File Names & Title Tags.

One of the most important ways you can provide search engines with context for your images is to include the right keywords. This is done by properly optimizing your image file names, alt text and title tags.

  • Alt Attributes/Tags: Alt attributes, or alt tags, are important both for search engine rankings and for accessibility. For example, users who are vision impaired rely on them because screen readers use alt tags to identify images. Some browsers will also display them in case an image can’t be loaded so a user can find out what the image should be. Be sure to include a strong descriptive phrase, roughly five or six words long.
  • File Names: A lot of images come straight off the camera with weird file names like DSN_10013908w.jpg. If that looks like gibberish to you, you can count on it looking like gibberish to search engines, too. Try including a short, descriptive phrase that includes your primary keyword you’d like to rank for instead. Instead, you could rename this file to “blue-widgets-in-action.jpg” or something more descriptive and appropriate to help search engines understand what they’re looking at. Also, be sure each word is separated with a hyphen ( – ) and not an underscore ( _ ).
  • Title Tags: There is some debate whether or not title tags impact search rankings or not. However, they do provide captions for images when users hover over them, which may be useful for aiding understanding of what an image is (especially if it fails to load). For this reason, they may be useful from a user experience perspective in some cases, and they certainly won’t hurt your SEO efforts either.

2. Surround Images with Other Strong Content Elements.

Another way search engines interpret images is by making connections between the tags in the image data and the keywords that surround it. For example, if a page is well optimized for “blue widgets,” it can make the connection that any images on that page may also be related to “blue widgets,” especially if it finds that
term somewhere in the image file name or alt tag. Furthermore, not only can proper optimization help images rank in image search, they can also help the webpages themselves rank higher, too.

3. Keep Your File Sizes Manageable.

Extremely large image files require more resources from search engines to index. Plus, they tend slow down load times, which can negatively impact your webpage rankings. Avoid both of these issues by ensuring your image files are kept down to a reasonable size.

4. Make Your Images Unique.

If possible, use strong, original images. If you have to use stock images or photos submitted by a manufacturer, be sure to at least give your images a unique file
name and alt tag. This will help them stand out from the countless other sites using the same photography.

Interested in additional SEO tips? Check back for a full series of SEO blogs coming to our website this month.

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Why Do Personas Matter? Watch The Breakfast Club.

John Hughes’ 1985 coming-of-age tale challenges high school stereotypes with a story of five students from different cliques forced to coexist in Saturday detention. The Breakfast Club ends with an important social lesson (and if we’re paying attention, words of wisdom for marketers).

Dear Mr. Vernon,

We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain …

… and an athlete …

… and a basket case …

… a princess …

… and a criminal …

Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,

The Breakfast Club

The Lesson: Avoid the Stereotypes.

For decades (and sadly to this day, in some cases), marketers pigeonholed customer segments based on external factors. First, we lumped folks together based on demographics like age, gender, race and class. Then we sorted people by activities and interests based on social media keywords.

We don’t have to succumb to such primitive methods of understanding customers anymore. With data, we can go deeper to understand individuals as, well, individuals.

The Tools & Testing: Take It Further.

We have the technology to see how customers think, how they behave and what motivates them. We have the means of knowing customers on a first-name basis – not just one at a time, but on a global scale. We have the obligation to nurture customers along buying journeys through timely, relevant content.

Interview a sample of customers to get a baseline of their thought processes. Develop personas. Create and deliver content based on those personas. Test the results to see what actually is going on. Modify as necessary. Rinse and repeat.

The New Reality: Look Onward & Inward.

It’s been 30 years since The Breakfast Club showed us that people (especially teens) are more than silos of social classes. When will another movie provide insight on people’s true colors and motivations? It’s already here, and it was meant for children.

Pixar’s Inside Out elegantly explains the complexity of human emotion. If they can get kids to realize that feelings are necessarily layered, we as marketers should be able to embrace the overlapping wants and needs of customers and the underlying source of those desires.

It will be messy. It will be tedious. It will be crucial. It will be real.

And that’s good because it means no more over-the-top cheesy content, fear mongering or any other superficial methodology will do.

The reality is, as The Breakfast Club put it, “We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it, that’s all.” So think of your audiences as individuals.

Who knows? You might just find some common ground, even on a Saturday.

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5 Reasons You Need the Sitecore Experience Database

Want to fuel analytics and insights? Drive smarter business decisions? And leverage information for marketing automation?

The Sitecore Experience Database (xDB) is an add-on to the Sitecore CMS that allows you to capture data from your site visitors – and do all of the above.

5 Key Capabilities of xDB

Some of its core capabilities include:

  1. Creating highly relevant, personalized interactions. Think 1-to-1 conversations with your customers.
  2. Pulling in data from other customer-facing platforms to drive personalization.
  3. Creating a view of the individual customer experience. See who your customers really are and what they really need.
  4. Gaining insight into what happened yesterday, what’s happening right now, and what will likely happen tomorrow.
  5. Making data accessible for deep-dive analysis.

Power of Personalization

Personalization is one of the strongest features of the Sitecore CMS, and it’s becoming a hot topic among marketers. Capturing more data will only help better refine the types of personalization you can deliver. And leveraging existing customer data can drive personalization, too. In fact, xDB provides a way unified way to make the most of your new and existing data.

Smarter Tools, Smarter Insights

Insights are key for any marketer trying to maximize their marketing dollar. Using the tools offered by xDB, you can see an entire customer’s experience, gain insight and take a deeper look if you’d like – all in one place.

So why do you need the Sitecore Experience Database? It’s simple. You can fully leverage a personalized experience for your customers, and unlock the power of insights for your organization.

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3 Tips for Social Listening: How to Understand Where Your Customers Are Engaging

New to social listening? It’s a powerful way for marketers to monitor and respond to brand mentions in real time. It also makes it possible to use conversations around your brand, industry and competitors to help optimize your social media strategy. However, setting up a social media listening process, knowing what to do with all the data, and explaining why it’s important to stakeholders can be challenging and complex.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Configure the keywords.

The first step to implementing most listening tools is setting up keyword configuration, which allows you to specify a unique set of search parameters (keywords). Be strategic about your keyword selection and incorporate relevant keywords around your brand, industry and competitors, so you can efficiently listen to
conversations on mainstream news websites, blogs, forums and social media networks.

In addition to listening for internal mentions, brands should listen to conversations around specific campaigns or current events to learn about industry trends. Likewise, listening to your competitors will give you a comparison of online conversations. Constantly optimize these keywords to ensure you’re gathering quality mentions that are relevant to your brand’s goals and objectives.

2. Analyze the data.

Only gather the data you really need. With so much information available, it’s easy to get lost in the continuous conversations around your brand and industry. Frankly, it’s impossible to analyze every relevant conversation. So develop a strategic approach to help answer the following questions:

  • Which audiences will be most receptive to your messages?
  • What content is your audience interested in hearing?
  • What’s the sentiment and type of responses you can expect from messaging among different audiences?
  • Who is talking about your brand?
  • What is your industry talking about?
  • What are the conversation trends?
  • What is the conversation sentiment?
  • Where are people talking?
  • Who are the influencers?

Many social media tools pull conversations together into an organized, web-based dashboard with charts and graphs. While this type of visualization is extremely
beneficial, you need to dive deeper and look beyond the numbers. For instance, if there’s a significant increase in mentions around your brand, look beyond that percentage increase. Dive into what users are saying, where they’re engaging and what the sentiment is on that topic.

3. Take insights into action.

Delegate important posts to others within your organization for insight or immediate follow-up. At Sundog, we utilize Radian6 from the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud to listen to conversations in real time, develop campaign strategies and better understand audiences. We also use Radian6 for creative and content strategy prior to the start of a campaign. One of my favorite widgets in Radian6, the Conversation Cloud, helps our team determine powerful keywords and content to use for a campaign.

My second-favorite widget, Media Type (don’t take it personally, Media Type), allows us to analyze where conversations are taking place. For instance, if we
notice there’s a lot of conversation around a brand on a specific forum, we develop a strategy to advertise on that forum since there are already many users actively engaging and talking about the brand.

Interested in learning more about Radian6 widgets? Check out one of my previous blog posts: Look at the Salesforce Marketing Cloud – Radian6 Widgets

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How (and Why) to Create a Message Matrix

You diligently watch for logo misuse.

You obsess over capitalization.

You fret over color standards.

You ensure everyone has the latest document templates, fonts and design elements (and you crack down on the offenders).

Why, then, do we often overlook messaging in our quest for standards and consistency?

Much like documenting your core content strategy, building a message matrix can be relegated to a rainy-day project as we focus on our day-to-day priorities and fires. Yet if we don’t find the time and energy to strategically consider our messaging, our brand and content can greatly suffer.

Take a 3-Tiered Approach

If it seems too daunting to craft your overall brand messaging, begin with one channel or tactic such as your website.

In these situations, we often rely on Kristina Halvorson’s three-tiered approach to messaging that she presented during her Content Strategy Summit presentation in 2013. It includes:

1. One site-wide primary message that outlines what users should understand within a few seconds. This should identify what your organization can do for them. (In other words, it comes down to who you are, what you deliver and what they get.)

2. A handful (4-6) of secondary messages that guide what users should understand within a minute. They support the primary message by providing context for individual audiences, tasks and outcomes.

3. The supporting features, benefits, facts, explanations, case studies and other details that strengthen your primary and secondary messages.

Or Try an Audience-Centric Approach

As an alternative, you can frame the message matrix in more audience-centric framework. For a recent client project, we borrowed an approach from The Content Strategy Toolkit, a super-handy new book from Brain Traffic’s Meghan Casey.

Using Meghan’s approach – she calls it a messaging framework – we outlined:

1. The first impression we want audiences to have when they interact with our content. (Example: “Awesome. They will guide me through this complicated purchase.”)

2. A value statement that outlines what we want our audience to know or believe. (Example: “They look at my needs and goals, and create a plan that’s right for me.”)

3. Proof points that demonstrate what we want them to know. This might include claims about your experience, features, credibility or service.

Remember, an effective message matrix considers your audience while conveying your competitive differentiators. It also brings focus and clarity to your content. Don’t let it fall to your rainy-day to-do list.

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