How Do Customers See Your Brand?

It doesn’t matter if you think your brand has the potential to be the next Apple or Nike—what matters is what your target audience thinks of your brand.

Understanding brand perception is essential to succeeding in a competitive marketplace, according to Brian Woyt, founder of the branding agency Wolf & Missile. “Ultimately, your brand is what the marketplace says it is,” Woyt says, “Not what you think it is.”

To be long-lasting, your brand must form a connection with your audience. That connection is based on trust, and your brand earns trust when it remains true to what your audience expects of it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to remain true to your customers’ expectations when you don’t understand those expectations in the first place.

You need to research how customers view your brand so that you can develop resources that meet your audience’s expectations.

Brand Discovery: When You’re Starting from Scratch

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll be able to use real customer feedback to understand your audience’s perception of your brand (more on that later). But if you’re new on the scene, you won’t have any marketplace feedback yet. Instead, Woyt recommends performing a brand discovery exercise:

  1. List the attributes or features of your product or service. (e.g. The FidoVac 5000 has a power rating of 8.5 amps.)
  2. Determine the consequences of the attributes (With the power of FidoVac5000, pet owners will be able to suck up pet hair from all surfaces).
  3. List the benefits of your product or service. (FidoVac5000 owners will enjoy the appearance of a cleaner home and won’t have to worry about pet hair getting stuck to their clothes when they sit down.)
  4. Determine the value of your product or service to your customer. (FidoVac5000 owners will enjoy greater peace of mind in their clean home.)

This exercise should help you move from the features of your product (which you already know) to the value of your product (which is what customers care about). Once you’ve identified the value your product or service offers, you can use this to define your brand. Your value should stay front and center of your traditional and digital marketing branding.

Positioning: How Your Customers See You vs. Your Competitors

Your brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Like it or not, most of your potential customers are weighing you against your competitors. To stand out, you’ll need to determine what makes your brand different from similar brands. Ask yourself: What does my audience want that I can deliver but my competitors can’t?

Woyt suggests taking the following steps to position your brand:

  1. Research the competition.
  2. Create a four-quadrant map of the competition’s positioning, as in the example below.
  3. Add your brand to the positioning map.
  4. Ask yourself what you need to do to minimize overlap or set your brand apart.

Next, you should write a brand positioning statement. This can be a sentence or two that states your brand’s unique value in the marketplace. To write this statement, ask yourself:

  • Who do my products/services appeal to and why?
  • What are the people at my company passionate about?
  • What promise is my brand making to the customer?

Understanding Brand Perception

If you’re an established business, you should be talking to real customers (and potential customers) to better understand how they see your brand. Conduct surveys by phone and email, and organize focus groups if possible. Questions to ask your customers include:

  • What attracted you to our brand instead of a competitor? Or, if you chose a competitor, why did you go with them?
  • What are the biggest frustrations you experience when trying to do business with companies in our industry?
  • Have you ever recommended our brand to another person? If so, who? And why?
  • What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear our brand name?

In addition to interviewing customers directly, you can also use social monitoring tools to see what kind of online reputation your company has on social media and review sites.

There are dozens of social monitoring tools on the market, and you’ll have to do your due diligence to determine what’s best for your business. Here are just a few of the most popular tools:

  • Google Alerts: Lets you set up email alerts for mentions of your brand and other keywords in online publications
  • Hootsuite: Lets you view brand mentions (on social channels, blogs, and news sites) in real-time and gauge brand sentiment
  • Talkwalker: Lets you track mentions across all major social channels, print publications, and TV and radio broadcasts globally
  • Buzzsumo: Lets you view social shares of your brand’s content and identify specific users who have shared your content

Pay attention to both positive and negative sentiment. Looking at negative sentiment can help you identify what you need to change to improve your customers’ perception of your brand.

Your Customers See Your Brand Differently Than You Thought—Now What?

If your research reveals that brand sentiment is largely negative, it may be time to rebrand. As part of your rebrand, develop buyer personas. Identify buyer needs and pain points. Think about how your messaging can better connect with your customers. Work through the brand discovery exercise (if you haven’t already) to make sure you’re focusing on the value you bring to customers, not just the features of your products or services.

If brand sentiment is largely positive, but your customers think of your brand differently than you do, it’s still worth making some changes. Ask yourself if your brand’s actions and interactions are aligned with your positioning statement. If they’re not, think about how you can better tailor your marketing resources to your audience’s expectations.

Need help positioning your brand in a crowded marketplace? Leverage now offers digital marketing branding services—contact us now to learn more.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter to receive our latest blog posts in your inbox.

Should You Axe Your Comment Section?

Small business blogs struggle to get their readers to comment on their posts.  Meanwhile, larger online publishers have a different problem: comment sections are dominated by trolls who are more interested in picking a fight with the writer and other readers than in having a conversation. Whether it’s an issue of too little engagement or too much of the wrong type of engagement, many bloggers have decided it’s time to say good-bye to their comment section.

Many major online publishers (such as Recode, Reuters, Popular Science, Mic, NPR, and Vice) have already shuttered their comment sections and shifted their conversations with readers to social media. Of course, these are news sites that were getting hundreds of thousands of comments per month—their position is a little different than that of the typical business blog.

So what if you’re one of those business bloggers who is getting some well thought-out comments on each post but is also having to wade through spam? Should you soldier on with your blog comment section or shut it down?

Before making your decision, you should consider some of the challenges that comment sections create, the benefits (and limitations) of social media comments, and your blog’s audience.

Keeping Up with the Vocal Minority

One person speaks into giant megaphone, representing the vocal minority in comment sections

In a perfect blog world, the comment section would include remarks from a representative sample of readers. These readers would take the time to think about an article and share resources or ideas that add to the conversation. In reality, most blog comment sections are dominated by a small number of (often angry or combative) readers who don’t represent the views of the majority.

Let’s take NPR as an example. In an NPR commentary piece from August 2016, editor Elizabeth Jensen noted that while their website had 33 million unique visitors in one month, comments came from just 19,400 users (less than one percent). And of those users, just 4,300 were responsible for two-thirds of all comments. Digging deeper, NPR found that an estimated 83 percent of commenters were male, while an estimated 52 percent of all NPR.org users were male. It’s clear that their commenters were not a representative sample of the NPR audience.

The unrepresentative nature of the comment section isn’t the only issue. Many sites allow users to post anonymously, which means commenters can say incendiary things without worrying about their words being tied to their real-life identity. Not only can this be exhausting for writers and site moderators to keep up with, but it can also affect the way a site visitor views the article they’ve just read. One study found that people who read a scientific article accompanied by insult-laden comments were more likely to have polarized views of the technology described in the same article than people who read the article accompanied by civil comments.

Moving the Conversation

Social media icons in speech bubbles, indicating social media comments

Turning off their comments and shifting the conversation to social media has been a natural move for many publishers. After all, their readers are, for the most part, already on social media. And with many sites now seeing more than half their traffic coming from mobile, communicating over social media just makes more sense. Mobile users frequently access news and blog posts through apps like Facebook and Twitter, and they’re more likely to add a comment within one of those apps than they are to go to the publisher’s site, create an account, and add a remark to the comments section.

In addition to the convenience of social media platforms, many bloggers have found that conversations stay more civil when they move away from the comment section. There are still trolls on social media (especially on Twitter), but in general, there’s more accountability for social media users than anonymous commenters. Facebook and LinkedIn users are encouraged to set up accounts that are associated with their real-life identities, so anything they say through that account appears under their name.

For some publishers, the decision to ditch the comment section and focus on social media comments is also about visibility.  Kara Swisher, the executive editor of Recode, told Nieman Lab that Recode is focusing on social because they are more likely to have well-known people or industry influencers retweeting or liking one of their posts than going to their blog and leaving a comment.

Of course, social media conversations aren’t without their drawbacks. For one thing, sharing a post across several different social media networks can lead to fractured conversations: someone might make a great point on Facebook that doesn’t get picked up in the conversation on Twitter, or a helpful resource that someone shares in the comments on LinkedIn might not make it to Reddit.

Another potential issue is that not all readers are on social media. However, this may not be a noticeable setback for bloggers, since two-thirds of U.S. adults—and 90 percent of people ages 18 to 29– now use social networking sites.

Questions to Ask Yourself

If you’re still unsure whether you should keep or deep-six your blog’s comment section, ask yourself the following questions:

Is anyone leaving comments? If they’re not, your comment section isn’t doing you much good. You might as well disable it and encourage readers to connect with you on social media.

Are the comments thoughtful and productive? Some niche websites, like SEO-focused blog Moz, get lots of meaningful comments on each post because of the nature of their audience. In Moz’s case, the audience is largely made up of SEO professionals who are interested in sharing their knowledge and gaining new insights from their peers, which makes the comment section a valuable resource.

Are you prepared to moderate? If you do have an active comment section, you (or your writers) need to find the time to participate in the conversation with readers. When writers engage with their readers in the comment section, it helps keep the conversation thoughtful and lets the readers know they’ve been heard.

Whether you decide to keep your comment section, shift the focus to social media, or find some middle ground, be prepared to start a dialogue with readers—not the trolls, but the people who find value in your content and want to be part of the conversation. Engaging with site visitors or social media followers in this way helps to build trust, and that established trust will make you stand out from competitors when your readers are searching for the products or services you offer.


Leverage still has a comment section on our blog, so feel free to share your thoughts below. However, we’d also love to take this conversation to social media—share this post and your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Leverage Marketing newsletter—you’ll get all our latest blog posts, along with news about digital technology, marketing, and business trends.

9 Free SXSW 2017 Interactive & Networking Events

2017 is a unique year for South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX. Fresh visual technology and virtual reality will play a larger role than ever in the interactive sections of the event, and emerging mobile app capabilities are likely to dominate the floor. The ever-revolving marketing sphere turns on the axis of new technology, so wise marketers are already looking for free events that will upgrade their digital marketing game for the rest of 2017.

Enjoy these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events and share the info with your fellow entrepreneurs, marketers, and friends. These events are accessible at no charge with a free guest pass unless otherwise noted.

Treehouse Old School Happy Hour

Date Time RSVP
March 8 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM Yes

Treehouse is not only hosting a happy hour with free drinks, food, and music at Old School in Austin, they’re also giving away free one-month memberships to Treehouse for Business. The happy hour will unfold crawl-style, and you’ll get the chance to experience both Austin’s most unforgettable food and drinks as well as some of the most influential speakers of SXSW.

treehouse old school happy hour shot of crowd enjoying drinks

Austin Tech Happy Hour

(Note: This event allows entry by ticket. Free tickets are likely to run out fast, so reserve your tickets right away, or you may have to pay for tickets or cash at the door.)

Date Time RSVP
March 9 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Yes

The Austin Tech Happy Hour has been running for ten years, and it’s stronger than ever in 2017. Admission gets you two free drink tickets so you can loosen up with Austin’s tech crowd before the SXSW truly kicks off. The emerging technology community will be there ready to make friends online and offline.

austin tech happy hour logo

SX Create

Date Time RSVP
March 10 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM No

SX Create dives into the world of emerging technologies and the ways they can be customized and manipulated. Kids and adults alike can take in the wonder of 3D printing, drones, robots, biohacking, and whatever other secret projects with which inquisitive minds have been tinkering.

sx create r2d2 droid

Decoded Fashion: Content Is Still King

Date Time RSVP
March 12 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM Yes

Decoded Fashion wants to explore new and exciting ways to bring original content to fashion-hungry audiences. Even if you aren’t in the fashion industry, you’ll have the chance to learn a thing or two about PR, influencer marketing, and the very personal journeys that lead customers to relevant content.

decoded fashion house logo

Amazon Web Services ATX Startup Crawl

Date Time RSVP
March 13 5:00 PM – ? Yes

Amazon Web Services is pulling together Austin’s hottest startup businesses for a bar crawl that entrepreneurs and job-seekers alike won’t forget. The crawl is offering free drinks and pulled in a whopping 12,000 registrants last year. Guests can enjoy free drinks, check out local office spaces, share résumés, and talk with ambitious startup owners and employees.

atx startup crawl logo

Digital Media Women: Burgers & Bubbles

Date Time RSVP
March 13 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM Yes

Women are a powerful force in digital media, and the leaders of Digital Media Women want everyone to know about it. This is your chance to talk face-to-face with existing and upcoming digital media leaders as well as find out the secrets of women who are innovating at the forefront of technology. Plus, there’s food and tasty beverages.

digital media women sxsw 2017

Women in Digital Meetup

(Note: This event is already waitlisted, and the event coordinators are attempting to reserve an additional tent for those who want to attend. If you’re interested, register right away.

Date Time RSVP
March 13 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM Yes

It’s no secret that women are playing incredible roles in digital media and marketing, and this SXSW Meetup is set to celebrate the success of Women in Digital as it exceeds 450 members. This event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet some of the most astounding minds in digital marketing and media and join a powerful network of hard-working women.

women in digital homepage screen grab

Pet Rescue Lounge

Date Time RSVP
March 13 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM Yes

Pets are near and dear to the dog and cat lovers of Leverage Marketing, a sentiment shared by nearly all of Austin. Meet like-minded individuals that can’t get away from their preoccupation with pets, and help find homes for deserving dogs and cats while enjoying unique entertainment from famous pets and free pet swag!

pet rescue lounge event logo

Local and Vocal

Date Time RSVP
March 15 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM Yes

Local and Vocal is an event that focuses on local Austin talent in entertainment. If you’re a marketer, you’ll have a rare opportunity to find talent to which you can offer your unique services. This event includes free drinks for those who are over 21 years old – which, of course, lends itself to some serious networking.

local and vocal sxsw 2017

Even though the events are free, we welcome you to support the event coordinators, participants, and local businesses by enjoying an extra drink or dish. Network, learn about new technology, and hone your marketing skills at these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events coming your way very, very soon.

 

Want more free stuff? Sign up for our awesome Leverage Marketing newsletter. It’s packed with news about digital technology, marketing, business trends, and can’t-miss bulletins – and it’s all for free. FREE!

Brand Marketing at SXSW: How to Make Your Brand Stand Out

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media and music conferences that take place in Austin, Texas. With increasing attendance and new attention-grabbing tech displays each year, brands struggle to get noticed at SXSW. How can your brand bring a unique experience to SXSW that translates into something unforgettable? It’s increasingly difficult to get noticed when every consumer-facing company gives out free swag, throws parties with free beer, and shows off the latest technology.

SXSW is known for helping to launch Foursquare and Twitter, and the conference regularly screens excellent films and television shows, many of which go on to great acclaim. Marketing at SXSW is an increasingly complicated endeavor, as getting noticed above all the buzz is difficult enough. Brands struggle to tie in product releases, navigate consumer trends, and figure out how to draw attendees to their events.

While every SXSW is different, last year some successful brand activations made their mark on attendees and marketers. Creating SXSW marketing that stands out sometimes means doing something a little different than what everyone else is doing (or what you think they’re going to do).

Each of these SXSW brand activations highlights a unique aspect of their product and communicates that to the audience—something every brand needs to do. While you may be successful by just following the current marketing trends– whether that’s virtual reality, make-your-own soda, or just giving out free stuff—doing something that conveys your signature SXSW brand image will likely be more successful.

American Greetings

american greeting sxsw branding

credit: @mullenloweus

It might seem odd for a greeting card company to even come to SXSW, let alone do a brand activation. But American Greetings wanted to disrupt the mold of disruptive digital technology by bringing in the analog. Their three-day 2016 promotion was entitled #Analog and allowed festivalgoers to do DIY printmaking and pop-up cards. They could learn letter-making techniques from an American Greetings artist, fill in a coloring book mural, and even get a selfie stitched with thread. American Greetings’ message is not to say that digital communication is not important or analog can replace digital communication, but rather that they’re complementary. Many people don’t slow down to send paper cards, and American Greetings’ SXSW marketing message is that analog still matters, and we should slow down to appreciate it.

Suicide Squad

Another unique brand activation at SXSW 2016 was Suicide Squad’s tattoo salon. Although the movie didn’t come out until Summer 2016, Warner Brothers started promoted it early through this special Harley Quinn-inspired experiential marketing. Instead of just doing a sneak peek of the film, Warner Bros transformed Affinity Tattoo and Body Piercing into Harley Quinn’s Tattoo Parlor—and offered free real (and temporary) tattoos. This brand activation got people excited about the film, created a unique SXSW marketing angle, and involved artists and fans in an innovative way, without using virtual reality or alternate reality to do so.

Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot, a techie show that launched at the 2015 SXSW festival and won the SXSW Audience Award, wanted to come back in 2016 and make a splash. The show’s marketing team figured there was no better way to do way to do that than to bring their iconic “Wonder Wheel” Ferris wheel to Austin. In one of the largest SXSW brand activations to date, USA Network designed the Ferris wheel to look like the Coney Island Wheel in the show, complete with nearby carnival games. The Mr. Robot cast and crew even visited SXSW to pay homage to the success the festival helped them garner—and of course, see the Wonder Wheel in real life. By creating SXSW branding that directly references the television show and allows the audience to experience a piece of their world—Mr. Robot succeeded in their SXSW marketing.

Mophie

If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably heard of Mophie. They make external batteries and cases to charge your favorite devices. As you can imagine, at SXSW, battery life gets eaten up pretty quickly. Between all the tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, and interactive brand activations and events, your smartphone may be dead before the day is half over. But Mophie is here to rescue you—with adorable St. Bernards. At 2016’s SXSW, Mophie partnered with the National St. Bernard Foundation, Glympse, and a motorcycle company to bring you a fresh phone battery when festivalgoers needed it. If someone tweeted using the hashtag #mophieRescue, the company would send one of its fleet of St. Bernards straight to them with a Mophie battery pack to charge up. This cute SXSW brand marketing makes Mophie look good, helps people out, and helps a good cause—dog rescues.

The Takeaway

SXSW is a brand marketing war. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different companies competing for attention from festivalgoers and consumers. Many companies try using the tried and true techniques of giving out free swag, throwing parties, and utilizing the latest technology trends. But these aren’t enough to truly make your product or company memorable. Take note of the uniqueness of the SXSW branding campaigns mentioned in this article—they all did something that was integral to their brand identity and helped their core audience in some way. If you can harness this mentality for your SXSW marketing, you can succeed in the crowded marketplace.


If you’re interested in reading our latest blog posts and learning about the latest digital marketing news, sign up for our biweekly newsletter. Leverage will keep you up to date on what’s going on in the world of SEO, PPC, content marketing, and much more.

4 First-Rate Examples of Storytelling in Content Marketing

Which of these sentences is more compelling?

Our hotel offers day-room rates.

Don’t spend that 8-hour layover propped up in an uncomfortable plastic airport chair—book a day room at our hotel and spend that time lounging on a private balcony.

You were probably more interested in what was going on in that second sentence, right? Humans crave a good story, and we’re drawn to the specific over the general. Specificity in a story allows us to imagine ourselves in different scenarios. In fact, studies of fMRI scans have shown that while reading straight data activates just the language centers of our brain, reading a story activates the language centers and the parts of the brain we would use if we were actually experiencing what we were reading about.

This is useful information not just for novelists but for digital marketers as well. Using specific storytelling in content marketing can help your brand forge an emotional connection with a niche audience. And, as much as we like to think that our product or service descriptions are what draw a potential customer to our brand, research shows that, when evaluating brands, consumers place more emphasis on emotions than information.

In addition to building an emotional connection, using storytelling in your content marketing can make you stand out. Let’s say you own a flower shop and decide to write a short, very general blog post titled “The Best Flowers for Spring.” Let’s take a look at some of your competition in the search results:

Google search engine results page for best spring flowers

Clearly, a lot of major publishers have already written about the best flowers for spring, and you’re not likely to stand out or rank anywhere near them with your blog post. But if you write a blog post called “How 5 Spring Flowers Starred in an Unconventional Wedding,” you’ve got a topic that’s unique to your brand. Your content might appeal to a smaller audience (in this case, people who are trying to get unique floral arrangement ideas for their wedding), but that audience will be more qualified than the average person entering general search queries about spring flowers.

So how can you incorporate storytelling into your digital marketing in a way that resonates with your audience? Let us show you using some examples of storytelling marketing from brands who nailed it.

ModCloth

When I started thinking about digital brands that have mastered storytelling, women’s fashion retailer ModCloth was the first company to come to mind. Creative storytelling has infiltrated every part of their site, even their product names and descriptions. Check out this page:

Modcloth product page with a model in a floral dress

Let’s zoom in on that product description in case you didn’t get a good look:

Modcloth product description provides example of storytelling in content marketing

Is the product description a little cheesy? Yes. But is it also memorable? Definitely. The descriptions may not directly apply to most of the site’s shoppers—I know I’m not currently completing an internship that allows me to drift around an art gallery—but you can imagine yourself in that situation, wearing an outfit from ModCloth.

The ModCloth blog also allows shoppers to imagine themselves in new situations inspired by clothes from the retailer. For example, a recent post called “Valentine’s Day Looks Inspired by Our Favorite Love Stories” recommends outfits inspired by books like Atonement and The Price of Salt.

The Takeaway: It’s not about the product, it’s about how the product makes you feel.

With its vintage-inspired clothes, ModCloth is targeting women who might frequent consignment shops or occasionally shop at fast-fashion stores like Forever21 and H&M. ModCloth’s prices are (generally speaking) higher than those you’ll find at consignment stores and fast-fashion retailers, so to win over customers, they focus their content marketing storytelling on the experiences a shopper might have while wearing ModCloth clothes.

The stories that ModCloth tells are aspirational but not out of reach. Shoppers can picture situations in which they would wear the clothes, which makes it easier to push that ‘Add to Cart’ button.

Tom’s of Maine

Tom’s of Maine is a personal care company (think toothpaste, deodorant, body lotion) with a focus on sustainability. Like ModCloth, Tom’s of Maine is slightly more expensive than some of their bigger name competitors, but they’re not trying to compete on price point. Instead, they use their website content to attract consumers who care about sustainability and responsible manufacturing.

Check out some of the content on their homepage right now:

Tom's of Maine homepage highlights their community involvement

This page encourages readers to:

  • Meet the winners of two recent community contests
  • Learn how companies can reduce their environmental footprint
  • Learn about using recycled materials for product packaging
  • Watch a music video encouraging kids to brush their teeth
  • Explore Tom’s of Maine products, knowing that 10% of profits are donated to charities

That’s obviously not just one story (in all honesty, it’s probably too many calls-to-action for one page) but it paints a clear picture: Tom’s of Maine cares about their community.

When you visit their blog, you’ll find that this thread of community caring runs through all their articles. Topics include healthy living, natural products, DIY projects, and parenting tips, all of which tie into the story Tom’s of Maine is trying to tell.

The Takeaway: Don’t just be a seller—be part of your audience’s community.

People like a story that they can relate to, so when you’re marketing through storytelling, look for ways to align your narrative with the things that matter most to your audience. This approach will help you build trust and position yourself as a member of your audience’s community, rather than just a seller.

BoutiqueHomes

BoutiqueHomes is a short-term vacation rental company, much like Airbnb or HomeAway. However, unlike those larger competitors, BoutiqueHomes carefully curates short-term rentals with interesting architectural features, luxury amenities, and spectacular views. They cater to a niche audience of travelers who are passionate about home design, and the stories they tell on their website are tailored to that specific segment of customers.

BoutiqueHomes’ blog, which they call their Journal, highlights some of their properties but also includes posts on design trends, films made in interesting locations, unusual furniture, and more. They also feature interviews with some of the homeowners with whom they partner, which helps them put human faces to their brand.

BoutiqueHomes' interviews highlight their storytelling in content marketing

The Takeaway: When you’re going up against big competitors, tell the story of what makes you different.

BoutiqueHomes can’t compete with Airbnb and HomeAway when it comes to the number of vacation properties on their site, so they’ve made their story about something different—the care they take in selecting architecturally significant properties. Since they’ve focused their digital brand storytelling on their passion for home design and travel, it makes sense that their blog content aims to reach an audience that shares those passions.

Mint

Mint is an app that lets you track your spending, set budgets, and manage your bill payments. To use Mint to track your personal finances, you have to submit sensitive banking information—something that can understandably be a hard sell. Mint’s marketing team recognizes that they have to win their users’ trust, which is why their website content focuses on stories about finding solutions to financial problems.

The MintLife blog has become a valuable resource for young professionals who are trying to become more financially literate. Topics range from navigating student loans to identifying tax deductions, and every post includes actionable advice that readers can apply to their financial life. MintLife even has a monthly Money Audit post, in which a financial expert helps a real Mint user analyze their current finances.

Mint blog solves problems for real Mint users

The Takeaway: Identify your audience’s pain points and tell stories that offer solutions.

Mint uses content marketing storytelling to walk site visitors through common financial dilemmas and their solutions. By identifying the biggest money-related pain points that their audience members face and offering actionable tips, Mint has established themselves as a trustworthy financial advisor. It’s a strategy that has paid off—Mint now reaches over 10 million users.

Final Notes on Storytelling in Content Marketing

Although they operate in different industries, there’s one thing that all four of the brands described above have in common: they have a deep understanding of their target audience. The key to getting specific with your digital brand storytelling is to develop detailed buyer personas based on data, not just what you think your audience is like. Once you know what kind of consumers want or need your products or services, you can start creating the types of stories that will appeal to your specific audience.


Not sure where to begin when it comes to buyer personas or storytelling in content marketing? Contact Leverage Marketing to learn how our team can develop SEO-friendly content that connects with your audience.

How to Make an Explainer Video

An explainer video describes a product or service in a short time with simple language. It is designed to provide potential customers and clients an overview of your offerings as directly and concisely as possible and help interested viewers decide whether to purchase. Short and simple videos are popular in marketing because they carry effective messages to customers with little resource investment.

 

 

 

You can start making your own explainer videos with an affordable setup and just a little bit of basic video knowledge, and we’ll show you how.


What Do I Need to Make an Explainer Video?

The setup for explainer videos is straightforward. There’s no need for expensive jibs and advanced sliders. Cover the basics and you can start learning how to create explainer videos right away.

Must-Have Shooting Equipment

The following items represent the bare minimum equipment needed to shoot the footage for an explainer video:

Camera

Two types of cameras cover the essentials of shooting for explainer videos: Smartphones and prosumer digital cameras.

Smartphones now record video at shockingly high resolutions and output quality video files when you prepare your shooting space correctly. They are a perfectly viable option provided you can steady your shot by propping the phone against solid objects on top of a flat surface.

If you want more advanced control over your shoot than what is offered by smartphones, you can opt for a prosumer camera. Prosumer is a portmanteau of professional and consumer, so called because it combines the features of professional products with consumer-friendly functionality. Most prosumer digital cameras shoot video in 1080p, even premium compact cameras, and they usually perform advanced functions like shutter speed adjustment and iris control automatically so you can focus solely on getting the right shot.

Microphone

Your microphone captures the subject’s voice, which is essential to explaining your product or service. Unfortunately, the on-board microphone that comes with your camera is usually omnidirectional, which means it picks up sound from every direction. Omnidirectional microphones are great for recording ambient sound, but they also pick up echoes that will distract your viewer and lower the professional quality of your video.

cardioid audio pattern graphTo capture clean audio, make sure you have a lavalier or shotgun microphone that is directional, which means that it only records sound in a single direction and within a limited span. Cardioid microphones, which capture audio in a heart-shaped pattern, are also effective, affordable, and wildly popular.

Must-Have Editing Equipment

The items below represent the minimum equipment needed for editing.

Desktop or Laptop Computer

Desktop computers tend to house more power than laptop computers, but if you work on the go, a laptop can still help you fashion a formidable explainer video.

Ideally, you’ll operate with a computer that has a video card inside. Video cards provide exclusive memory for video-related tasks, which allows your computer to process and handle visual information at a higher speed. If you don’t have a video card, modern graphics chipsets such as the very common Intel HD Graphics chipset will provide slow but functioning power for basic graphics tasks.

sd card reader with small and large 16 gb sd card insertedMost modern cameras use an SD card to store video information, so your computer should have a port for an SD card if you’re using it to edit. If not, you can email slightly compressed videos from your smartphone to any device that connects to the Internet, but you’ll be sacrificing video quality.

Optional Shooting Equipment

The following are items that will make your shoot look more professional, but are not needed to create a basic video.

Tripod

The tripod is the three-legged device that holds and stabilizes your camera. If you have one, you can steady your shot and adjust much more easily than you could with a smartphone and a stack of textbooks. The most rudimentary tripods start at about $10, but professional-grade tripods can reach $10,000 or more.

Most tripods will fit most cameras if they have the right baseplate. When shopping for tripods, you won’t need to worry too much about whether your camera and tripod are compatible – just make sure that when you get a baseplate, it fits both the camera and the tripod.

Lights

Setting up lights is the fastest way to turn the look of your video from grainy home movie to glamorous silver screen film. Lighting has become astronomically more affordable in the last 10 years. The base price for an entire lighting kit now starts around $50. Even two well-placed standard lights can breathe new life into dull, flat video sets.

explainer video shoot subject with white background no lights

No lights – tough to see, not much dimension, fades into background

explainer video shoot subject with white background key and fill lights

Key and fill lights – easier to see, separated from background

How Should I Set up for a Shoot?

The shoot is all about the subject. If you want a great performance, make your subject comfortable by creating a fluid studio experience.

  1. explainer video shoot subject with white background no lightsPlace Your Subject – Using a stand-in (you, a friend, or a coworker), find a comfortable place for your subject to stand or sit that is at least a few feet away from your background. In any video, keeping the subject separated from his or her surroundings will make your video less claustrophobic and distracting to the viewer.
  2. smartphone in studio on book ready to shoot videoPrepare Your Camera – If you have a tripod, place your camera securely on it and place it far enough away from the subject so that the bottom of your shot ends at chest-level or mid-thigh. If you don’t have a tripod, stack books on a table and balance your camera or smartphone on a flat surface. For an explainer video, place the camera as close to the height of your subject’s eyes as possible.
  3. explainer video lavalier microphone sound checkTest Your Audio – Ask your subject (nicely) to count down from ten slowly or to try an enunciation exercise such as, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” while you record the audio. Play it back to make sure that reverb (echo) is minimal and each vowel and consonant sound is clear enough for your audience without popping.
  4. explainer video with optional key and fill lightingCreate a Lighting Scheme (Optional) – If you have lights, set them up so you have at least a key and fill. The key light is your main source of light that you place in front of and slightly to the side of your subject to create dimension. The fill light is a subtler light placed in front of your subject and slightly to the opposite side to soften the harsh shadow created by the key light.
  5. explainer video subject test shot with hand motions and speechShoot a Test Shot – Once your subject is framed, lights placed, and microphone tested, try a full single shot while your subject practices enunciation again. Ask him or her to do another countdown or exercise with a bit of facial expression and movement so you can ensure that your camera is focused. Review the footage and correct any errors.
  6. explainer video subject comfortable on chairSeat or Stand Your Subject – Bring in the real subject to either sit in a backless chair or stand in front of the camera. If you’re doing an interview-style video, let the subject know that you’ll be asking a few questions and that you would like for him or her to repeat the question in his or her response. For example, if you ask the subject “What is your favorite color?” the subject should respond with “My favorite color is green.”

Once you’ve prepared and your subject is in place, you can begin your shoot. The events of each shoot will vary, and it’s best to learn how you work with your actors to find out what process will work most efficiently for your sessions.

Remember these tips for your explainer video shoots:

  • If your subject is reading from a script: Try to begin and stop recording at the end of each section of speech. Unless your subject has memorized the entire monologue, it will be easier to scrub through takes than to try to pick out usable lines from one long, continuous shot.
  • If your subject is answering interview questions: Record the entire interview without stopping – you never know when your subject will say something unexpectedly profound or pertinent. Give yourself an audible cue before you begin a new question to make the editing process more fluid.
  • Keep water around for your subject to drink between takes. Even in the middle of an interview, a dry throat makes lines of monologue and answering questions nearly impossible.
  • Be ready to adjust lighting. If your subject is blinded by your lights when facing the camera or the interviewer, the lights are probably not properly placed. Maintain the dimensions created by your lights while improving comfort for your subject.

What Do I Do Once I’m Done Shooting?

Immediately after shooting, turn off your camera and microphone, shut down all lights, thank your subject for participating, and place your equipment safely away. Remove the SD card or DV tape from your camera before storing it.

Your next step will be importing video to your computer. The process will differ depending on your recording medium.

  • SD Card – SD cards store recorded information as ready-to-use digital video files. Most operating systems provide an importing wizard for you as soon as you plug an SD card into the port. If they don’t, you can use the Finder on a Mac or Windows Explorer in Windows to locate your SD Card and click and drag the files onto your hard drive.
  • DV Tape – Digital video (DV) tapes are an older technology, but if you have a camera around from the early 2000s, you might still be using them. You’ll have to use the Capture feature in your editing program to get DV tape data from a tape deck to your computer.

Your microphone audio may be attached to your video files, saved as separate files on your SD card, or may need to be imported from your smartphone or audio recording device if you’re using an external audio recorder. Pull them onto your computer before beginning to edit.

Once your footage has been converted to digital files via the Capture tool or imported from an SD card, you can bring those files into your editing software. Most video editing programs now have a click-and-drag feature that allows you to pull footage from your folders directly into the application by clicking and holding your footage, then dragging it into the application window. If not, your software should include an Import option that will open a Browse window where you can locate and import your footage.

Prepare Additional Assets

To make your video look ultra-professional, you may want to whip up or purchase some graphical assets. Consider grabbing some of the following, depending on your needs:

Logos

leverage marketing logo

Short Animations leverage monster suspicious animation Icons leverage guy flat icon

Buttons

green 3d button example

 

Make sure the assets you use are not copyright protected under a copyright that is not your own. Lots of companies offer royalty-free images and icons for a small up-front price or subscription fee. You may even be able to find free assets from graphic designers who are looking to garner a more elite reputation.

Organize your video and assets into distinct folders under a parent folder with your project’s name. Your editing process will benefit in speed and accessibility if you organize before you edit.

How Do I Edit?

Editing is the process of piecing your shots together into a seamless video. It’s where you get to see your video come to life.

Operating systems these days come with basic editing software that has a surprising number of features:

Mac: iMovie

iMovie becomes more powerful with each iteration, and its interface closely resembles that of professional video editing software. It includes templates for animations, trailers, and entire videos. Use a template if you wish, or customize your edit by clicking and dragging footage on the user-friendly timeline provided.

PC: Windows Movie Maker

Windows Movie Maker has come bundled with the Windows operating system for many years, and though it has been discontinued as of January 10, 2017, those who still have the software on their computers can use it without software support from Microsoft. It has significantly fewer features than iMovie, but can still help you perform fundamental edits.

Editing your video is a 6-step process:

  1. Choose the shots you like – Find the shots with the best audio and video combination and pull them into your timeline, the area of your editing software in which you make cuts, inserts, and changes.
  2. Arrange your clips – Make your clips fit the flow of your script or the goal of your interview. Remove questions from the interviewer so that only the interviewee’s answers remain.
  3. Trim the beginning and end of each of your clips – Give your video a distinct rhythm. Make sure any pauses at the beginning and end of lines of monologue or answers match as closely as possible between clips.
  4. Add an intro and outro – You can put your company logo or a title card at the beginning and end of your timeline. Editing software has tools that help you make quick and easy title cards. You can also import your logo graphic and plug it in.
  5. Add transitions – Apply a dissolve or fade to your cuts where appropriate. It makes the transition between clips smoother. At a minimum, you should apply a transition between your intro and the body of your video, then another between the body of your video and the outro.
  6. Export your video – Each application handles exporting differently, but most will have an Export option with default settings that make Internet-ready videos.

Your files will work best in AVI, MP4, MPG, or MOV format for web use. If you know how to compress your video, do it slightly so that when your page loads, your video will load quickly as well.

How Do I Use My Explainer Video?

Once your video is done and exported, it’s ready for use on the Internet. The easiest way to get your videos onto your website is to attach them to a video hosting service first, then embed them using a special code.

youtube official logo flatYouTube is owned by Google and is a fantastic hosting service since it’s likely to boost your SEO efforts as well. If you haven’t already, you can create an official account for your business or agency, then begin uploading videos directly to YouTube. Each one has an embed code that you can add to your website’s HTML built into the YouTube page that displays your video.

wistia official logo white backgroundMany businesses also use Wistia to host their company-related videos since the Wistia platform offers comprehensive analytics and open-ended APIs that allow video to integrate into many different platforms. You may need a plugin to place a Wistia video on your site, but installing one is usually free and takes only a minute.

still image of video from leverage comprehensive digital plan landing page

Using either your YouTube or Wistia embed code, find an attractive home for the video on your website and implement the ready-made player that comes with the code.

The most potent ways to use your explainer videos once you know how to create them are:

  • On Your Service Pages – When you offer a complex product or service, it’s tough to find an audience that wants or needs it. Make it easy on those searching for your solution by creating short videos that fully explain the broad concepts of what you offer.
  • On Your Landing Pages – Help your audience make the right decision about whether to take advantage of your product or service by providing fast-paced, to-the-point videos on your landing pages that will save them time and clinch their decisions.

As you get better and faster at creating video, you can find more ways to implement video into your marketing. You can start using video in blogs, articles, social posts, and even in the background of your website. Learning how to make an explainer video is an easy first step into the world of video, and there’s no better time to start creating videos than right now.

 

No time to make videos? No problem – your friends at Leverage Marketing have the know-how and the tools to make professional-quality videos that go well beyond the explainer video. Start a conversation with us about video marketing – there’s no obligation, just powerful marketing knowledge and friendly faces.

Valentine’s Day Campaigns You’ll Love—and What You Can Learn from Them

Valentine’s Day marketing can be difficult for content creators and marketing companies alike. How can you tap your marketing arsenal into a holiday where the message is all about love? The most successful Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns utilize the “human factor,” connecting with their audience and establishing trust. Building a relationship with potential customers is the best way to go about Valentine’s Day marketing.

However, it’s easy to strike a false note when attempting to create efficacious Valentine’s Day marketing ideas. How do marketers seem genuine when creating their marketing campaigns? We’re going to look at several Valentine’s day marketing campaigns that hit the mark and analyze why they worked for their respective companies.

With an average spend of $142.31 per person, and nine out of 10 people buying a gift for their partner, Valentine’s Day is a big retail holiday. While certainly not in the same league as the winter retail season, over $18.9 billion is spent on Valentine’s Day, more money than Easter or the Super Bowl, and in the same league as Mother’s Day. Let’s take a deeper look into how you can capture a share of that spend with a successful Valentine’ Day marketing campaign.

WestJet Proposal Campaign

The #WestJetLove Valentine’s Day commercial was an exceedingly popular campaign in 2015 with over 1.2 million views, detailing two couples’ surprise proposals on Barbados. Canadian airline WestJet flew two couples out to Barbados with the catch that the men had to propose when WestJet asked them. This situation results in a tear-jerking, beautiful video of two couples’ love stories, watching love come to life on screen. With just the right degree of awkwardness, the video strikes a personal tone, brings the love element of Valentine’s Day, and gives you access into the couples’ lives.

As a Valentine’s Day marketing campaign, #WestJetLove succeeds because it focuses on building a relationship with its customers. The ad isn’t describing how wonderful WestJet’s services are, but rather is a funny and sincere love story—a unique take on proposals that succeeds in showing the quirkiness of the company. Both JP and Stephanie’s and Mike and Heather’s love stories are relatable to the audience, but it’s the fun tone of the videos, complete with anticipatory music each time the host shows up—that push this campaign over the top.

The Takeaway

Try using personal techniques in crafting your own Valentine’s Day marketing ideas. How does your company or product appeal to your customers? Your Valentine’s Day advertising doesn’t have to correlate to your business—as long you’re connecting with your clients and driving traffic (and positive reception) to your site.

Cartier- The Proposal

Cartier’s “The Proposal” advertisement from 2015 is in some ways more insidious than WestJet’s—but tells a beautiful story in the process. Cartier lures you in with a touching three-part love story, telling simultaneous tales of Valentine’s romance (and struggle) between couples. The three couples in Paris are all slightly different ages, but the men’s aims are similar—to proclaim their love for the women in their lives.

The first, set in the Rodin Museum, tells a story of a man sending his wife on a scavenger hunt to find him until she finds the jewelry box (from Cartier) and he proposes. The second is set in the airport, as the wife is going away on a trip for six months. Her husband deftly removes her passport and re-proposes to her with a new ring (from Cartier). The last is set as a man and woman are separated by an elevator, and he desperately runs up the stairs, catching her as the doors open each time, making pleas that he cares for her. Eventually, he proposes—while she’s still stuck in the elevator.

The Takeaway

These intertwining stories of love in the City of Lights follow established rules of a Valentine’s Day marketing campaign. While enhanced by fantastic acting and a great storyline, the primary aim and focus of the advertisement are the Cartier rings. These gorgeous, diamond-studded rings make the audience want Cartier, associating love with the Cartier brand. That red box is instantly associated with love. Cartier has set up a world through these three stories, and at least eight million people have watched. Creating a successful Valentine’s day marketing campaign means associating your product with love, romance, and engagement. Cartier has done this—and you can do it too.

Netflix Binge for Love

Netflix’s 500 Hours Binge for Love video from 2016’s Valentine’s Day campaign capitalizes on Netflix’s successes in reaching out to its customers. The idea of “bingeing” a television show—watching a whole series quickly and viewing many episodes back-to-back– has grown familiar with the streaming service’s growing triumphs in the video space. This advertisement takes that concept and connects it to a blossoming love connection.

The man in the ad, after falling for the young woman shown at the beginning of the commercial, immediately watches all the available series of the Netflix original Orange is the New Black. It takes over his life for the span of the advertisement—he wants to impress the young woman. He is “bingeing for love.” The commercial cuts the tension when she hasn’t watched the season three finale with a singing group reprising the modified I Would Watch 500 Hours to them.

This advertisement succeeds on multiple levels. It capitalizes on Netflix’s new cultural cache and the concept of bingeing television shows. It also modifies an existing popular song for its purposes—successfully (unlike many commercial jingles), and it leaves the audience hanging. We don’t know if this couple will succeed, but the man has gone to absurd lengths to like her interests—and many in the audience can relate. We’ve all be in the situation where we’ve pretending to have an interest or like something as a conversational piece—and it works well here.

The Takeaway

What are your company’s strengths? Netflix has unique advantages in the cultural cache that they can incorporate into a Valentine’s Day marketing campaign, but it’s about founding your company or product’s individual assets—and utilizing them. Use popular culture to your advantage—tap into ideas and concepts that appeal to your target audience (your buyer personas)—and you’ll come up with great Valentine’s Day marketing ideas.


If you need some help creating Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns that will hit the mark, talk to the marketing experts at Leverage Marketing. Contact us today, and we’ll assist you in crafting a Valentine’s Day campaign of your dreams. Our team can help you understand the sophisticated new marketing technologies on the market and how they can work for your business.

Technology Trends Driving Digital Marketing in 2017

Introduction

It’s only the beginning of 2017, but it’s clear that digital marketing technology trends will change the way we do business. With a rapidly advancing tech sector, marketing and technology work hand in hand to create new methods for companies to target consumers and change the digital marketing landscape. With 2016 over, there are emerging digital marketing technology trends we can identify that will drive the market in 2017 and beyond.

While it’s impossible to know for sure which technologies will have the biggest impact, we think these are the ones you should invest your marketing efforts in and look for when planning how to use digital technology in marketing in 2017:

Livestreaming

As a technology, livestreaming has been around for more than a decade. But in 2017, we’ve finally reached the point in marketing and technology where it’s easy to implement due to faster Internet on smartphones and advanced marketing techniques. With companies like Facebook, Periscope, and YouTube enabling companies to stream their videos easily—it’s up to your marketing departments to decide how best to do it.

Using livestreaming successfully is difficult, as your audience will often dictate how conversations move and what kind of content they want to see. So, make sure your marketing and technology are adaptable to customer needs. Whether you’re holding Q&As about your brand, livestreaming special announcements or product introductions, or hosting a panel, make sure your client is your first concern. Livestreaming won’t be perfect, but you want to interact with your customers through the platforms that matter to them (whether that’s Facebook, Periscope, YouTube, or even Spotify).

Drones

Drones are one the most exciting products of the last several years. Companies and consumers are interested in them for many purposes: war, commercial, or personal. Simply put, drones are everywhere. With models that can capture high-quality 4K video and high-resolution photos, they’re perfect for marketers. Whether used for livestreaming or just taking photos, drones are a brand-new medium that mixes digital marketing and technology.

With their ability to fly high in the air, drones are ideal for taking gorgeous shots of real estate and architecture for those firms. They’re also an innovative new way to capture a wedding or other special event from a new angle. With the ability to explore new viewpoints and vistas, drones can take pictures and video for travel and tourism companies.

Drones are a new frontier for marketing companies—they can traverse new areas and shoot photos at angles humans just can’t. Incorporating drones into your marketing campaign is necessary to stay ahead in the game—just make sure you’re following FAA and local ordinances.

Amazon Alexa and Google Home

With the advent of voice recognition that finally works—digital technology and marketing are changing to meet the demands and new challenges of integrating with systems like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Both of these virtual assistant programs can coordinate with your app ecosystems, including Spotify, Nest, IFTTT services, Uber, Google Calendar, and hundreds of services. They can control aspects of your life with an ease that was heretofore unimaginable. But what does that mean for marketers? When you can order the latest gadget from Amazon with your voice, how do you market to consumers?

Without needing to search on a smartphone or computer, keywords become less useful. I’m not saying keywords or SEO are going the way of the dodo, but marketers must search for new ways to reach out to customers ordering from smart assistants. Marketing and technology meet in targeting the individual through the smart voice-controlled gadget ecosystem—learning about them and figuring out new ways to market to them. Marketers must understand how to use the technology in the right means to reach their consumers.

Wearables

When you hear wearable, what do you think? Perhaps an Apple Watch comes to mind, or Google’s failed Glass experiment—but wearables encompass a broad class of connected devices that are quickly becoming a digital marketing technology trend. Wearables can, of course, be smartwatches, but they can be technology embedded into clothing, fitness trackers, virtual reality devices, and much more.

With focus turning to wearable devices as a new way to consume media and grab consumers’ attention, content marketing needs to shift to meet those needs. It’s difficult to read a lengthy online article on a small wearable screen—some wearables don’t even have screens. Content marketing may need to shift its focus to audio, which wearables will have connectivity for, in the form of Bluetooth headphones.

There will also be new forms of interactivity marketers can work with to engage their consumers. With virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, HTC Vive, and Google DayDream, VR is coming into the mainstream. Alternate reality and virtual reality will be new lands for consumers to explore—and places to create content to peruse. There are opportunities for location-based content, weather-based content—countless opportunities we couldn’t imagine ten years ago.

Conclusion

With the new year, it’s clear that new digital marketing technology trends will drive the industry in exciting directions. Whether it’s coming up with new ways to reach consumers with social media and livestreaming, taking advantage of the unique capabilities of drones, or utilizing the extensive connectivity of Amazon Alexa and Google Home, marketers have their work cut out for them this year. Wearables and Virtual Reality headsets represent the new frontier in technology, as content marketing must adapt to the new ways the public consumes content. The possibilities with these technologies are almost endless. Technology and marketing must continuously evolve together as marketing professionals determine how best to utilize digital technology in their marketing arsenal.


Make sure you’re on top of the latest digital marketing technology trends by talking to the marketing masters at Leverage Marketing. Read our Guide to Planning Your Digital Marketing Budget eBook to figure out where to spend your budget to get the best return. We’ll help you understand the sophisticated new marketing technologies and how to take advantage of them.

Why You’re Getting Your Buyer Personas Wrong

  • Buyer personas are target audience profiles based on customer interviews and other data.
  • Well-researched buyer personas can help you develop marketing materials that speak to your target audience, but poorly thought-out buyer personas can waste your time.

Whether you’re in marketing, sales, product development, or customer service, developing buyer personas can help you deliver what your customers want. However, your buyer personas may not give you the insights you need if you’re going about them the wrong way.

Before looking at how you can go wrong when creating a buyer persona, let’s define the term. Inbound marketing pioneer Hubspot sums the buyer persona up nicely as a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” You can use customer interviews and other historical data to create profiles for different segments of your target audience. You can even give them names like C-Suite Cecily and Freelance Freddy if you want (Hubspot is really into this). However, what’s much more important than the names is determining how and why the persona makes certain purchasing decisions. By figuring this out, you’ll get better at developing marketing materials that strike a chord with your audience.

Creating accurate buyer personas is harder than you might think, and there are a lot of mistakes that both novice and seasoned marketers can make. Below are six common mistakes you should be aware of while developing your company’s buyer personas.

Mistake #1: Your buyer personas are works of fiction.

When creating buyer personas, you shouldn’t be polishing your creative writing skills. Don’t just write personas based on what you think you know about your customers or what your sales team has told you. Look at real customer behavior, from time spent on different pages of your website to survey form fills. You should also conduct interviews with a large swath of prospects and customers.

Mistake #2: You’re only focusing on your best customers.

It’s easy to call up a few of your company’s best customers and let the praise wash over you. However, that’s not going to give you insights into your typical buyers. It’s okay to reach out to your biggest fans, but you should also interview the people who make infrequent purchases, started as prospects but didn’t close, and even those people who have had a bad customer experience with your company. Figuring out the stumbling blocks that prevent people from making a purchase will help you develop better personas—and that may help you remove those stumbling blocks.

Mistake #3: You’re getting hung up on irrelevant information.

You probably don’t need to know if your target customers are married or if they regularly eat French toast for breakfast. Here are a few things you probably do need to know:

  • What causes them to invest in your products or services
  • Concerns they may have when purchasing from you
  • What selling propositions (e.g. free shipping, high-quality materials) are most important to them
  • How they expect your products or services to solve a problem for them
  • Who or what influences them during their decision-making process
  • How they prefer to shop for your products (e.g. in-store, on their smartphone)

Mistake #4: You have too many segmented personas.

It’s easy to get carried away when creating buyer personas. You’ve collected all this data, and you start to convince yourself that maybe there really are 20 different buckets into which you could segment your customers. There’s no right or wrong number of buyer personas, but creating a bunch of microscopically specific personas is going to be confusing and unhelpful. Start with one or two core personas and build out from there as necessary.

Mistake #5: You think of a persona as an individual.

Don’t lose fact of the sight that Freelance Freddy isn’t a real person. In fact, Freelance Freddy (or whatever you’ve named your buyer persona) isn’t even supposed to represent a specific person. To paraphrase Hubspot again, your buyer personas come from an amalgamation of data provided by your customers. That means that there will be some variation within each persona (for example, some people who fit the persona might be Content Marketing Managers while others might be Directors of SEO).

Mistake #6: Your personas have gotten lost in the shuffle.

Maybe you and your team decided to create buyer personas as a marketing exercise a year or two ago but filed them away and haven’t looked at them since. If that’s the case, you’re wasting a tool that can be valuable across the sales funnel. Get those personas back out and bring them up to date. And even if you have been using buyer personas consistently, you should make a goal to update them periodically, especially when your business goes through major changes that could affect your personas (e.g. a new product offering, a subscription price increase).

Take the time to get your buyer personas right, and you’ll be able to use them to develop marketing materials that attract qualified visitors, leads, and customers.


Need help developing buyer personas or creating content that speaks to your audience’s needs? Contact Leverage Marketing to learn how we can help you target the right prospects.

SEO Trends and Predictions for 2017

The beginning of 2017 may be a fresh start for you, but for Google, progress in the sphere of optimizing Internet search won’t slow for a second. The preference for mobile Internet consumption, the desire for quicker and denser content, mounting pressure to increase ad revenue, and the unstoppable development of digital assistants and voice search point to a new golden rule for search engine optimization (SEO) trends:

Make it for mobile.

Mobile-First Is Undeniable

chart of hours spent daily on mobile devicesSEO experts have been predicting the latest SEO trends as part of their jobs for years, and there’s one that keeps making an appearance in the latter 2010s: mobile is the future of Internet and search. Major search engines are putting mobile at the forefront as trends in SEO continually point toward the indomitable strength and convenience of mobile consumption.

More Americans are spending more of their free time watching the screens on their smartphones and tablets, according to comScore. If the amount of activity on social networks is any indication, it’s likely that most of those hours are spent scouring Facebook and Twitter feeds for images and videos. Social apps and mobile search are in line to become some of marketing’s biggest targets for paid advertisements and organic efforts. Changes in the way that search will respond to mobile users as well as desktop users point to an almost certain future of mobile takeover.

Mobile-First Indexing

In the latter half of 2016, at the beginning of October, the first iterations of mobile-first indexing became a reality. Mobile-first indexing resets the priority of Google’s indexing bot to read through a site’s mobile version when determining how a site should be indexed. That means Googlebot looks at the relevance, speed, and technical organization of mobile sites over desktop sites when it decides where your page goes on the search engine results page (SERP).

Desktop SERPs Match Mobile

December also saw a UI update for desktop search engine results pages that helped them match the appearance and function of mobile SERPs. Specifically, desktop users see more specialized cards such as featured snippets and maps when they perform searches that trigger those cards. Of course, in such early stages, the desktop experience isn’t quite optimized for desktop searchers:

how long does google take to index serp with mistake

As of 2016, producing cards for desktop searches runs into trouble when wording is ambiguous. In our example, it seems that Google understands our query to be something closer to “How long does it take, Google, to [get to] Index, [WA]?”

Fortunately, development of semantic search promises to inch ever closer to matching the meaning and understanding the context of searches and the searcher’s intent. Consistent improvements in machine learning allow more of your searches in 2017 to reflect the intent of your search rather than the face value of the words you have typed into the engine. While returning relevant search results has long been a goal of Google search, the rise of digital assistants and voice search has lit a new fire in the quest to teach machines to parse language in the same way as humans.

Progressive Web Apps

Google has created a streamlined way for business owners to build progressive web apps, mobile applications that integrate the in-app experience with web capabilities. In many ways, they are web pages that look and act like apps. The intent of progressive web apps is to keep users engaged with apps by:

  • Provided online and offline service
  • Drastically decreasing loading times
  • Eliminating the need for purchase and installation
  • Offering an app experience without the maintenance of an app

Progressive web apps are perhaps the first step toward creating seamless product and service shopping experiences without the need to download apps. Users can keep progressive web apps on the home screens of their mobile devices and load them instantly.

The goal is customer retention. According to Smashing Magazine, users are three times more likely to reopen a mobile application than a website, especially after receiving push notifications. If integrating the app experience with the web experience can make purchasing easier for users, SEO experts will need to focus efforts on driving more customers to those progressive web apps organically.

Video and Images Are Next

The Content Is King mantra is steadfast, but SEOs need to consider more than ever that content has a greater reach than text articles. Major search engines, too, are looking for ways to read and organize all types of content. The term content includes video, animations, and images as well as text. Quality videos and images are proven ways to increase customer engagement and retention, and SEO experts will need to find ways to optimize videos for search in 2017.

Multimedia works in all parts of the marketing funnel and matches the goals of SEO:

  • The intent to purchase of users who enjoy video ads increases by 97%
  • One-third of all online activity is encompassed by watching video
  • 87% of marketers are using video content

These incredible facts from HubSpot make the user preference for video and image content clear. Check out some of the ways marketers are using video content in 2016:

Branded Video Content on Social Networks

titanfall advertisement with video on facebook

Autoplay pushes social videos straight to the brain. When advertisements combine exciting content with beautiful presentation, customers watch – and buy.

Live Streaming

new york times live stream video facebook

Anyone can instantly live stream a video on lots of social networks. Companies can get on-the-spot engagement by sharing stories, information, or just entertaining audiences.

Background Video on Home Pages and Sales Pages

life of pi home page background video

Companies can capture attention instantly with moving backgrounds, then entice users to stay with text overlays or an in-video call to action.

GIFs everywhere

giphy home page with trending gifs

GIFs resonate with young audiences, and marketers are learning how to pull on their heartstrings with simple animations that celebrate their favorite people, movies, shows, and music.

Closer Ties for SEO and PPC

Ad-heavy search results mean that competition for top rankings in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising will likely push advertisers to improve the quality of their paid content. SEO experts must be ready to focus on improving quality scores for ads in 2017 as Google search moves toward a role as a PPC giant as well as an organic search engine giant.

Voice Search and Digital Assistants

The artificial intelligence that governs the functions of voice search and digital assistants is the focus of research for many of the companies developing such technologies, including Google. Digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant use artificial intelligence to attempt to understand natural language and harness that knowledge to produce useful information and resources for live people.

If they weren’t already, SEOs should look to improve relevance, usability, and permanence of content so that digital assistants and voice searchers can utilize the real language contained within the content to find the highest quality information.

What Should We Focus on in 2017?

In anticipation of an even more quickly changing search landscape, SEOs should focus on:

  • Crafting all SEO strategies and making design decisions based on mobile use
  • Building a video strategy that integrates with other marketing solutions
  • Sharpening PPC and paid search knowledge to keep customer rankings high in the paid sphere
  • Optimizing organic content to be found by digital assistants that understand real language

Don’t be afraid of change, be ahead of it, and remember: Make it for mobile.

Leverage Marketing can take you every step of the way through the SEO process – but we also do so much more. If you’re thinking about changing the way you market your business, let us guide you through it. Start by getting your hands on our 2017 Digital Marketing Budget Guide and find out what it will take to pull your marketing into 2017.

Page 3 of 712345...»