Prep Your Website for Black Friday: A Marketing Checklist [UPDATED]

This post was originally published on October 8th, 2015. We’ve updated it with several new checklist items for 2016.

With Black Friday coming up on November 25th and Cyber Monday following right on its heels, your holiday marketing is no doubt well underway. In all the chaos, it’s easy to overlook some of the small but impactful online marketing tactics you can use to boost sales on two of the biggest shopping days of the year. With that in mind, we’ve put together a marketing checklist of things to do in the weeks leading up to Black Friday.

Download a PDF of our Black Friday Checklist

Web Design

o Update homepage for Black Friday.

Make sure anyone who lands on your homepage in the days leading up to Black Friday/Cyber Monday knows about the deals you’re going to offer. Add relevant banners and calls-to-action, change your home page header/hero image to highlight your Black Friday offers, and consider adding a countdown clock to build excitement. You may also want to create a banner that you can place at the top of all pages to remind shoppers about your deals.

o Simplify forms and checkout process.

Take some time before the holidays to go through your checkout process and identify steps where shoppers are likely to drop out. Eliminate unnecessary form fields and try to minimize the clicks it takes to complete a transaction.

Compress and resize any images that are weighing down your pages. 

Unnecessarily large images can slow down page load times, and online shoppers aren’t going to wait patiently for your site to load. Take some time before Black Friday to check images on your home page and most popular product pages, and either resize or compress high-resolution images.

o Test site to ensure all pages are mobile-friendly.

By now you likely know how important it is to have a website that looks good on mobile devices. Even if you think your site is fully responsive or adaptive to mobile, it’s worth testing individual pages—especially new ones you’re adding ahead of Black Friday. Enter page URLs into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test bar to determine if all pages meet Google’s criteria for mobile-friendly design.

o Set up live chat.

There are dozens of live chat systems available online, and you can easily set one up by adding a piece of HTML code to all the pages where you want the chat window to appear. If you don’t have a system in place yet, install one before your big holiday sales days so that potential customers can quickly get help from one of your team members.

Email Marketing

o Craft emails to build anticipation for your sales.

Schedule your emails so that subscribers receive an initial announcement about your holiday sale, followed by several messages designed to build anticipation and keep you top of mind. Consider revealing some of the upcoming Black Friday sales prices on top-selling items, or send out a sales offer that is exclusive to email subscribers.

A/B test subject lines.

Remember: before you can get readers to click on email links leading to great Black Friday deals, you have to convince them that opening your email is worth their time. Businesses flood their subscribers’ inboxes with promotional messages around the holidays (MailChimp delivered 1.2 billion emails last Black Friday), so you need to make sure your messages stand out. Be clear about the deals you’re offering in your subject line, and A/B test different subject line variations to see what gets the most engagement.

o Write copy for transactional emails.

Tailor order confirmations, abandoned cart notices, and other automated email messages to your Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales. Consider adding copy about upcoming holiday sales to encourage visitors to shop with you again before the end of December.

o Write emails to remind shoppers that your sale is about to end.

Create a segmented list of email subscribers who haven’t purchased anything on Black Friday or Cyber Monday and send an email several hours before the end of sale, reminding them that there is limited time to take advantage of your discounts.

o Test email links.

Before running any of your holiday email campaigns, take a few minutes to make sure none of your email links are broken and that all links go to the appropriate landing page.

o Create landing pages that align with email CTAs.

It can be jarring for email subscribers to click on a call-to-action that takes them to a landing page with a completely different offer—and shoppers aren’t as likely to convert if the initial CTA and landing page don’t match. Check the copy in your email message and on the landing page to ensure it’s coherent.

SEO

Make sure you’ve enabled ecommerce tracking. 

If you sell products through your site, you should absolutely set up Ecommerce Tracking in Google Analytics (if you haven’t already). Ecommerce Tracking will give you more insights in your customers’ behavior patterns so that you can better tailor future sales to your audience. If you’re not sure how to set up Ecommerce Tracking, check out our step-by-step guide.

o Check page load times.

Go to the Site Speed tab in Google Analytics to check the load times of your web pages. On average, people will give a page three seconds to load before abandoning the site, so if you have pages with slower load times, you’ll need to fix them. If you’re not sure what’s causing the slow load time, have your marketing team perform an audit.

o Create landing pages for sales categories.

Include ‘Black Friday’ or other holiday-related keywords in your title tags, header tags, and content so that the landing page has a better chance of being served to web users who enter relevant search queries.

o Research long-tail keywords.

Long-tail keywords will have a lower search volume than more general Black Friday-related keywords, but they will also have less competition and are more likely to attract shoppers who are looking for your specific products or services.

o Pitch products to influencers who curate gift guides.

Backlinks from high-quality third-party sites are a ranking factor for SEO, so it’s always a good idea to make connections with bloggers and journalists in your industry who may be interested in sharing your content. Lots of sites begin publishing holiday gift guides in November and December, so try pitching some of your best gift products to relevant sites. In addition to the SEO-value of backlinks, having your products featured in gift guides can also help drive traffic to your site.

o Local brick-and-mortars: check your online listings.

If you own a brick-and-mortar as well as an online store, go through all the major online directories to make sure your address, phone number, and other important information are up-to-date. If you have not yet claimed your business on Google, do so now using Google My Business.

PPC

o Set up meeting with your PPC team.

Keyword bids will be high around Black Friday because this is one of the busiest shopping times of the year, so you need to get the most out of your budget by choosing the keywords that are most likely to lead to conversions for your business. Unless you are a PPC professional, you should meet with your PPC team to discuss strategies.

o Create PPC campaigns tailored to consumers who are researching before Black Friday.

Most Black Friday/Cyber Monday shoppers will be researching deals in advance so that they can get the products they want before they are out of stock. In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, tailor the copy in your PPC ads to your customers’ research phase.

Prepare ads for several top sellers if you think you may run out of inventory.

Have you been promoting a particular product heavily? Is it possible that this product will be out of stock before the end of Black Friday? If so, write ad copy for several other top sellers so that you will have ads ready to go if you have to pull the ads for an out-of-stock item.

o Retarget web users who have already visited your site.

If you have a retargeting pixel set up on your site, start remarketing to customers who have previously browsed your site. This is a good way to stay top of mind and announce deals to people who may not be on your mailing list but who have shown interest in your products.

Use day parting and bid scheduling to maximize your paid search budget. 

Look at your historical data to see which times of day you’re likely to see the highest levels of traffic and conversions. Allocate more of your paid search budget to the top-converting hours of the day to maximize your ROI.

Social Media Marketing

o Use Facebook and Twitter remarketing.

Retargeting pixels on your website aren’t just for PPC ads—you can also use them to create ads for custom audiences on Facebook and Twitter. Facebook even lets you serve ads to Lookalike Audiences—that is, people who are similar to your existing customers and therefore likely to be interested in your products. If you’ve never done this before, talk to your online marketing team about creating targeted social media ads before Black Friday.

o Create exclusive offers for followers on social media.

Offering exclusive discounts is a great way to reward your followers on social media—and to encourage those followers to recommend your social profiles to their friends and family.

o Put together holiday gift guides and share on social sites.

Use a design template site like Canva or Piktochart to create visually-appealing gift guides in different categories (e.g. ‘Stocking Stuffers’, ‘Gifts for Grillmasters’, etc.), and share those guides on your social channels. If you have a following on Pinterest, keep in mind that you can now create buyable pins that integrate with Magento, Bigcommerce, and IBM Websphere.

Use relevant holiday hashtags. 

Do some research into hashtags that are being used around Black Friday and think about how they pertain to your sale. You can, of course, use tags like #blackfriday and #cybermonday, but keep in mind that everyone else will be doing this as well. To stand out and get customers excited for your sale, consider using additional hashtags related to your store name and location. Let social media users know they can get updates on your sale (or maybe even get entered into a contest) by using your business-specific hashtag.

o Make sure at least one team member can monitor Twitter on Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

If you have an active presence on Twitter, you should assign at least one team member to monitor this social site for mentions. If customers are tweeting at you because they have a question or complaint related to your sales, you’ll want to be able to respond quickly.

Having trouble with any of the action items above? We’d be happy to help you check all the boxes on your holiday marketing to-do list. Contact us to get started.

5 Creative Cyber Monday Marketing Ideas

While brick-and-mortar retailers are planning sales to attract droves of shoppers on Black Friday, any business that sells products or services online should be thinking ahead to Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday, which takes place the week after Thanksgiving, has become the largest online shopping day of the year. Last year shoppers spent an estimated $3 billion on Monday, November 30th, setting a new record for the holiday.

Cyber Monday means lots of potential customers for your business, but there are also plenty of competitors trying to win the same customers over with their holiday deals. To convince customers to shop with you, you’ll need more than just a standard discount—you’ll need to get creative with your digital marketing. Here are five out-of-the-box Cyber Monday marketing ideas to help you get started.

Offer More Than Just Free Shipping

Bonus gift card as part of Cyber Monday marketing

Sure, free shipping is a nice incentive, but it’s an incentive that everyone and their mother offers around the holidays. Most customers have come to expect free shipping on their Cyber Monday purchases, and all those marketing emails promising free deliveries aren’t going to make them bat an eye.

To make your business stand out, try offering something unique—like a bonus gift that customers can only get from your online store. For example, you might tell customers that if they spend $x, they can get a pre-selected gift or choose a gift from several options. Make sure you’re offering a gift that will appeal to a wide swath of your target audience; for instance, if you sell at-home beer-brewing supplies, you might offer a free bottle opener with every purchase of $40 or more.

Create Special Interest Gift Guides

gift-box-row

Picking out gifts for friends and family can be challenging, so make it easier on your customers by creating a series of gift guides aimed at different segments of your target audience. Let’s say you run an online store that sells pop culture-inspired apparel and novelty items. You might create guides like “Gifts for the Classic Sci-Fi Fan” or “Gifts for the Netflix Binge-Watcher.” Perform keyword research to come up with copy that will drive organic traffic to these guides (for example, there may not be much search volume around “Gifts for the Netflix Binge-Watcher,” but there will likely be more search volume around relevant phrases like “gifts under $25”).

Once you’ve finalized your copy and images, run the gift guides on your blog and promote them on social media leading up to Cyber Monday. You could also send specific gift guides to email subscribers using lists segmented by demographic.

Ask Customers to Shop for a Cause

donation-canister

In 2012, a coalition of more than 1400 charities launched Giving Tuesday as a follow-up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On this day, consumers are encouraged to get involved in volunteer projects or donate to charities as a way to give back during the holiday season. As an online retailer, consider kicking off your charitable giving early by tying it in with your Cyber Monday sales. Choose a charity you care about and let shoppers know–through promotional emails, a slider on your website, a notification at the top of a user’s shopping cart, etc.– that you’ll be donating a percentage of your Cyber Monday profits to that charity.

The skin care and beauty company L’Occitane is a good example of a business that did this successfully last year. They ran a promotion from Black Friday through Christmas, telling shoppers that for every gift set purchased, their company would donate $10 to Dress for Success, a nonprofit that provides professional attire and career development resources to women in need. This kind of charitable act makes shoppers feel positive about their purchases and helps build goodwill towards your brand.

Get Humorous

A lot of holiday sales copy sounds the same (e.g. “One Day Only Doorbuster Deals,” “Only 8 Hours Left on Our Sale”), so try standing out by taking a humorous approach to your Cyber Monday email marketing and social media promotions. Rather than just telling customers to visit your site for great deals, you might frame your discounts in the context of a Holiday Shopping Survival Guide or email subscribers a list of the reasons why this is going to be the year they don’t procrastinate on their gift buying.

For inspiration, take a look at Dollar Shave Club’s “The Perfect Gift for Any Guy with a Face” graphic, which they used on social media last year.

dollar-shave-funny-holiday-marketing-example

The graphic is bold, simple, and looks a lot different than holiday sales promotions that just show product images or the words “50% Off” in a huge font.

At a time when people face an onslaught of promotional messages, humor provides a nice change of pace and can make your brand more memorable.

Surprise Customers with an Extended Sale

Who says that Cyber Monday deals can only be available on Cyber Monday? As the day winds down, send out an email to subscribers letting them know that you’ve extended your sale for x amount of time. This email will serve as a reminder for people who may not have shopped with you yet while also creating a sense of urgency—essentially, you’re giving shoppers a second chance to save but setting a deadline for your deals.

Takeaways

Shoppers will have plenty of choices this holiday season, and you need to give them a reason to choose you. By exceeding customer expectations and offering unique incentives, your business can cut through the noise and get increased visibility this Black Friday and Cyber Monday.


Need help planning creative holiday marketing campaigns this year? Get in touch with our team of digital marketing experts– we can take an in-depth look at your brand and your competitors to come up with a strategy that drives sales.

How to Use Facebook in Your Content Marketing Strategy

There’s no doubt that Facebook is a useful tool in any company’s marketing arsenal. With the largest amount of monthly active users at 1.7 billion users, Facebook can provide an incredibly powerful way for your company to reach customers and personalize a message to them. But how can Facebook fit into your content marketing strategy? Your business may be generating content on a weekly or monthly basis to increase SEO rankings or just provide information to your clients, but how is it getting disseminated? Who is reading it? Facebook can be a valuable tool not only in improving your content marketing results but in helping you learn more about your audience.

Audience and Followers

The first step for using Facebook as part of an effective content marketing strategy is realizing that just having lots of likes on your page isn’t good enough. You need a strong audience that interacts with your page on a regular basis. People not only need to see the content but like the blog posts, comment, and share, instead of just scrolling right past. Even if you have fantastic content, if no one reads or posts on it, it might as well not exist. Focus on building a solid audience that is interested in your product or service, and not just buying likes from bots. You’ll find that it gets easier over time, likes will just come organically, and people will share more articles as you reach a critical mass. Just keep trucking!

facebook-article-2

Share, Share, Share

It’s important to use Facebook to link to off-Facebook content that helps to promote your site. If you have excellent content on your site, but no one reads it, it doesn’t serve any purpose. Facebook can help enhance and expand your audience. Don’t just share a link to a blog post without any description: make sure to use images, an exciting description, and share at a popular time for your followers. Blog posts on your site can help promote your product and increase SEO and traffic, but only when people actually read them. Facebook is a great way to accomplish this.

If you have a significant post, feel free to post it again on Facebook several days or a week later. With Facebook’s new algorithms, it’s likely people won’t see the post twice and you’ll get more hits on your site.

Pictures and videos are vital for increasing engagement. If pictures are worth a thousand words, videos may be worth even more. An exciting image or YouTube link can surge users commenting and sharing on a post. Facebook algorithms (much like Google’s own) change often, and keeping up with them can increase your reach.

Make use of blog posts, videos, and pictures to engage your followers on Facebook, post frequently but don’t inundate your users– and you’ll likely be successful integrating Facebook into your content marketing strategy.

Facebook Insights

facebook-article-3

Facebook Insights is possibly one of the most valuable parts of using Facebook in your content marketing strategy. Audience Insights give you information on just exactly who your audience is, basics like age, gender, and location, as well as more in-depth information like estimated income, interests, and more. You can then use this information to attempt to target the audience you have on Facebook or to fill in gaps you’re missing. Audience Insights is a mirror into who cares about your product or service and what areas you need to improve in demographically.

Page Insights are equally valuable in other ways. They allow you to see how the content you’ve been posting on your page has been performing, including reach and engagement. This information is useful for determining how well your content is performing on Facebook, but you can also use it in conjunction with Google Analytics to decide how to move forward with your content marketing strategy. You can directly ‘Boost Posts’ from within Page Insights, essentially creating ads and boosting engagement with your audience and their friends.

Facebook Ads

Though not always directly related to content, Facebook Ads can have a large impact on how your Page on Facebook performs. It’s a great way for followers to find your page and start reading your content. Facebook Ads can promote your blog posts that your Audience has shared. Remember that you always want to split test for ads to maximize your ad dollars. Use Facebook Ads wisely to increase your impact and reach.


If making Facebook part of your content marketing strategy sounds great, but you aren’t sure where to begin, contact the Leverage Marketing team today. We’re experts in social media and content marketing and help craft an integrated approach that will maximize your content offerings with Facebook’s social media potential. We can answer any questions you have and get you a path to more followers, enhanced content, and success.

3 Essential Online PR Activities for Your Business

Creating a PR plan for your company or organization can help set a solid foundation for current and future marketing efforts. To put things in perspective, you can view your company’s PR plan as a response to internal and external events and a way to keep your audience and other important stakeholders informed. You can either generate brand equity for your company or defend the most important asset: your reputation. Below are three key PR activities that your company can implement over time to help find new opportunities and stay relevant.

News Release Schedule

PR news releases let your business make announcements to the media about events that impact your industry, employees, and stakeholders. This tool can also be used to give news reporters and journalists quick ideas for new stories that impact local communities or larger populations.

You can start building your PR calendar by planning out news releases at the beginning of the year and revising stories as the year progresses. To capture the attention of news reporters, keep your news release relevant to a current event or issue and send it out promptly. Make sure that you write your news releases using the Associated Press Stylebook to make it easier for journalists to extract story headlines and quotes for publication or a news segment.

Never send out news releases on a Monday, since it tends to be the busiest for news, or a Friday when your audience may be focused on the upcoming weekend. Once you have scheduled and written your press release, send it out on to industry specific news wire services or target journalists that specialize in reporting on a particular subject.

Blogging

blogging-for-pr

Your company’s blog presents the ideal opportunity to establish leadership and expertise on a particular subject. You can start your company’s blog by asking upper management or other employees that may have interests on a topic that is relevant to your audience. A good way to kickstart this effort is by looking at other blogs from similar companies to see what topics they’re covering. However, always remember to write original content. If you want to write about the same subject, find another angle, or include a current industry report or an expert opinion that adds value to your audience.

Just like with your news release schedule, you can keep track of your blog ideas in a calendar to keep a steady flow of fresh topics for your company’s website.

Crisis Management

Social media is an amazing tool to engage your audience with new content and build new relationships. However, it also poses a significant risk for companies as negative news or external factors such as account hacks can tarnish reputations in an instant.

Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked to display the McDonald's logo and included racial comments and references to illicit drugs.

Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked to display the McDonald’s logo and included racial comments and references to illicit drugs.

Establishing a crisis protocol for your company’s social media accounts is essential. Your response to a social media crisis should be thought-out and acted on quickly. Unfortunately for many businesses, using a PR statement to issue an apology is no longer an option. You must address your audience directly and authentically, or you could risk losing control of the conversation on other blogs and forums. However, you should avoid escalating the situation and drawing attention to issues that pose a significant threat to your company’s online presence. Some issues can be resolved by simply providing customer support in a private message or issuing statements that assure the audience that you are investigating the issue internally.


Implementing these three components to your company’s PR plan is an essential step towards establishing and achieving your marketing goals. It is important to keep in mind that your company’s online reputation involves content strategies and social media management that are maintained and monitored over time. Contact our team at Leverage Marketing to find out how to our services can help your company.

Monthly Subscription Boxes May Be the Next Big Business Boom

Our online lives are drawing a curtain over the real world. We’re rapidly moving away from real-life experiences in favor of digital fulfillment, and at our fingertips is a world wide open with uninhibited possibility. But for most of us, that’s an incredible prospect. Having whatever we want available whenever we want it, especially with the help of monthly subscription boxes, can be overwhelming and confusing.

The online business world is feeling the effects of a limitless marketplace. Products and services abound, and even with filters such as internet search and B2C marketing, it’s a challenge to find interesting products that align with consumer interests. In that ether between what we want and how we find it, subscription boxes have come to life.

What Is a Subscription Box?

open orange bulu subscription box with giftsThe subscription box is a regularly scheduled, curated, and specially packaged goods delivery that caters to a specific market or interest. The concept borrows from the business model of the milkman, in which fresh deliveries of milk came to customers’ doorsteps carried by a friendly delivery expert. Customers could touch, taste, smell, and experience the product before them in real life, which contrasts rigidly with the intangible nature of our culture of online consumption.

That delivery model may be on its way back. Already, subscription boxes such as Birchbox, a monthly makeup and beauty product box, and Naturebox, an all-natural organic snack box, are reaching the size of traditionally successful enterprises such as corporations and chain stores. Small-time business owners are finding just-right-sized success with small customer bases and continuously creative offerings. The entire system is still remarkably new, and its shape will be molded just as much by customers as it will by subscription box creators.

What Makes Subscription Boxes Successful?

The pioneers of subscription boxes, including Birchbox co-founders Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna, have made the beginner’s mistakes and grown from them. They and others like them have learned what will stick with customers and what will push them toward the unsubscribe button. Together, these brave business heroes have created a blueprint for a successful subscription box company, and sites such as Cratejoy have built software systems that facilitate building from that blueprint.

cratejoy subscription box logo with lit red letters

Subscription box companies that grow their subscription base, profits, and influence share four characteristics:

  1. Earned Loyalty – Subscription box crafters need to have an honest inclination to curate box contents. Customers want to feel that the products they receive come from a company that shares their love, and the products that company provides have to fulfill actual needs. Boxes based on novelty tend to nosedive after the charm wears away.
  2. Consistent Change – Consumers are likely to scoff at even an item or two that is repeatedly delivered in a box over which they have no control. Duplicate items represent a lack of interest in dazzling the customer and are a concrete way to trim the number of subscribers to your box. Build a box concept around an interest with a wealth of competing products and make sure there’s freshness in every box.
  3. Multiple Revenue Streams – Don’t stop at subscription boxes unless you aren’t looking for growth. The most prolific monthly subscription box companies have set up e-commerce shops on their websites where customers can buy more of the products they love most from their monthly boxes. Storefronts work two-fold for your business: they will market to customers who are less in touch with e-commerce and provide immediate satisfaction to loyal subscribers.
  4. Sustainable Business Models – don’t go overboard with software development and overmanned sales teams. Stick to the script until you find your niche, then focus on growing that specific customer base through multiple channels. Keep overhead low by enticing vendors with free advertising if they provide free or discounted samples and full products for you to include in your boxes.

Consumer Benefits

graze monthly subscription box with fruits nuts chocolates and box art

At the forefront of the subscription box is the consumer – the beloved, fastidious, fickle consumer. The monthly subscription box business model relies on a steady monthly stream of subscriber money to maintain profit, and while the predictable income is a boon to business owners, it also means that customers are in strict control of growth potential.

That’s why clever business owners recognize and worship the benefits of subscription boxes to consumers:

They rekindle the elements of surprise and discovery

You’ve likely heard the comparison to an eternal Christmas with monthly boxes. When you get a new package of surprises every month, the delight of tearing open the package that you may remember as a child returns when your box arrives. Buying things you want is fun, but getting things you didn’t know you wanted is powerful.

They bring to light curiosities that are tough to find in a limitless marketplace

Customers can be blinded quickly by the most influential and well-known brands that cater to their interests. Exploration of new and exciting items is intimidating when products designed to please are available everywhere at all times. Well-curated subscription boxes provide a source for the lesser-known items that may cater to more individual wants and needs to reach target audiences.

They save consumers time when searching for new and interesting products

Streaming music services such as Spotify boast an intensely large library of available music on-demand. But Spotify customers don’t always know what to listen to when faced with such an array of choices, so the company provides playlists, searches, and filters to help guide customers to the music they want to hear. Monthly subscription boxes do the same in the consumer goods market – they provide a preset filter through which customers can discover what’s available without having to make guesses.

Business Benefits

Behind the scenes of the subscription box are the men and women who make each box magical. The monthly subscription box business model is still in its infancy, which allows potential business owners to shape it to their needs and goals without the added pressure of the grow-or-go traditional business model.

Business models are flexible for small and large businesses

Your subscriber limit and the ability to reach it will direct the scope of your subscription box business. Some of Cratejoy’s box curators sell just enough boxes to pay the bills and are not looking for additional growth. On the other hand, Birchbox’s owners are seeking prolific expansion. (Edit: Previously, we had mentioned that Birchbox bought Glossybox from European entrepreneur Charles von Abercon, but a kind reader pointed out that Birchbox had bought Joliebox, not Glossybox, as a part of their global expansion.)  Subscription box businesses can splash in the shallow end or dive into the deep end shame-free.

Structure allows low barriers to entry for hopeful entrepreneurs

Since most box businesses are low-overhead operations with few employees, it only takes the classic characteristics of hard work and dedication to make a subscription success. There’s no golden profit line and relatively few competitors. The landscape is open to creative ideas from just a few go-getters who want to create a business without the hassle of creating a business.

Creates opportunities where they may not exist otherwise

To launch a full-fledged enterprise is a gigantic undertaking. You need a solid business plan, a team of investors, and the will to sacrifice personal time to get things running. Or, you could create a solid product that stands out in its market and let your customers decide whether or not you should succeed by creating a subscription box specifically for your product. The small-scale business opportunity affords a chance of success to those without the startup capital or time to build an empire.

Marketer Benefits

Marketers who work in tandem with monthly subscription box companies receive something of a dream assignment when they sign on for services. Traffic for subscription-based companies tends to outpace funding in almost every scenario, which means marketers have plenty of resources with which they can work.

Target audiences are hand-picked

The success of most subscription boxes depends on the depth of the niche through which it is trying to delight customers. LootCrate has an easily researchable and well-targeted demographic to which it sends boxes. The target audience will be the only consumers of the product, and the marketing practically writes itself.

Subscriber bases are smaller

Even the largest companies in the industry tend to have fewer than 1 million subscribers at a time. Where traditional businesses may deal with millions of unknown customers every year, box companies nurture a loyal base of interested men and women who rotate much more sparingly than customers at a storefront or e-commerce shop. Marketing for these solid, smaller customer bases tends to be much more focused.

bark box with dog treats and dogContent creation is more interesting and personal

Excitement is part of the allure of subscription boxes, and it doesn’t have to begin and end when the package arrives at the door. Getting audiences electrified about the company’s next offering affords magnificent opportunities to wow audiences with creative copy, illustrations, videos, and whatever else your marketing team can dream up.

Organic growth is indispensable

Low-cost production and the need to earn customer support leads naturally into healthy, organic growth. Marketers can take advantage and sharpen their approaches to inbound marketing through showing customers what their clients’ subscription boxes can offer in the realm of new and interesting consumer goods, and will relish the times when business is flourishing organically.

Will the Monthly Subscription Box Model Last?

Numbers look promising for growth in the subscription box industry. When profits began to rise enough for boxes to be a reliable business in the first quarter of 2013, it would have been difficult to guess that growth would explode by nearly 3,000% in the next 3 years. With about 11 million subscribers in 2016 in hundreds of different product categories, the demand is certainly scaling with the supply.

empty blue mailbox transparent backgroundHowever, Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali asserts that these businesses may be at the bursting point of a huge bubble. “The energy has already died down,” she says, and she may be right. Despite the shocking appearance of the growth charts, the entire industry is terrifyingly new. There’s no long-term reference to the possibility of success, and the joy of receiving monthly gifts could wane when something newer arrives.

Large-scale companies already threaten the smaller markets as well. Sephora uses advanced loyalty data analytics to determine what customers want most in a box and send their Play! box monthly to subscribers for $10. Starbucks started the Reserve Roastery that offers artisan coffees to enthusiasts at a paltry $19 a month. Established businesses may well take over the open marketplace before new box services reach their ultimate potential.

Until we see the ultimate rise or fall of monthly subscription boxes, however, the potential still exists to turn classic charm into gold. If subscriptions take off, we could see an unprecedented quake in business, marketing and the way that customers consume goods – perhaps permanently.


TL;DR – Starting with a handful of remarkable successes, subscription box companies have grown exponentially in just a few years. Consumers, business owners, and marketers all get something out of the business model, but consumer benefits may decrease as the novelty of monthly surprises wears off. Major, well-established companies are also eager to take a large share of the market before new business owners have a chance to succeed with ventures from Starbucks and Sephora already in the works.

To some market researchers, the trend seems like just a fad, but the monthly subscription box model is too new to make a sound judgment. Either way, it would be wise for consumers and business owners to heed their current popularity.


The marketing team at Leverage Marketing is adaptable to all kinds of markets. Talk to us about your subscription box service and find out how our marketing experience can help you achieve your dreams. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for up-to-date marketing news and invaluable tips you won’t get anywhere else!

4 Tips to Increase Traffic with Older Blog Posts

You publish a new blog post, promote it on social media, and watch your page views go up for a few days. Then the page views start to decrease, and you move onto the next post on your content calendar. What’s wrong with this picture?

You’re not getting as much out of your blog posts as you could be.

If you’re taking the time to write and promote blog posts, you should maximize their value—and that means looking for ways to drive traffic to high-quality older content. Not sure where to start? Check out our four tips for getting the most out of your existing resources.

Spruce Up Your Evergreen Content

Trimming Hedge

When reviewing your past posts, look for your evergreen content. These are the pieces that aren’t tied to current events or frequently-changing technology—the posts that remain relevant to your audience month over month (possibly with a few minor updates). If the post is mostly evergreen but has some outdated elements, remove or change those parts to make the content relevant again.

That’s exactly what Michael Holeman, one of the PPC analysts at Leverage, did with the blog post ‘4 Ways to Track Conversion When Your URL Doesn’t Change’.  Michael noticed that the blog was consistently getting a lot of hits, even though it had been published over two years ago and included some out-of-date information. In March of this year, he reworked the post to cover Universal Analytics rather than Classic Analytics and changed the sample code snippets mentioned in the post based on updates Google had made. Since then, that blog has been one of our most informative and top-performing posts every month.

Updating the post didn’t take long, but the payoff has been significant in terms of driving more traffic to our blog.

Add Images

Breathe new life into old posts by updating them with relevant images. Articles with images get 94% more views than those without, and adding images can help you get more traction if you recirculate your posts on social media (more on that in the next section). To make your images especially social media-friendly, try superimposing the name of your post over a colorful image, as pictured below:

web designer painting web page

You can do this using a free tool like Canva; it doesn’t take long, and it will allow viewers to quickly identify the subject of your post on sites like Pinterest where images are more prominent than headlines.

One quick caveat: make sure you’re using royalty-free images so that you don’t run afoul of copyright law. Try a free stock image site like Pixabay or Morguefile, or spring for a subscription to a stock photo site like Dreamstime.

Recirculate Posts on Social Media

Try re-sharing posts on your social media channels, even if you’ve shared them already. Recirculating an old post can lead to more engagement than you might think: some marketers see as much as 75% of the engagement of their original share when they share their posts on a site like Twitter for the second time.

Rather than just randomly re-sharing old posts on social media, look for opportunities to promote the posts when they’re most relevant. For example, if you wrote a post last year with Black Friday tips for ecommerce businesses, promote the post in the lead-up to Black Friday this year.  

Write a Response to an Older Post

Has your perspective on any of your older posts changed? Are there new resources available that enhance your understanding of the subject? If so, consider writing a new piece that engages with and links to the original post. On a similar note, if you’re writing a new post that references something you talked about in an older post, you can include a link to the original post in the body. Get familiar with your blog archives so that you can identify relevant posts to link to whenever you’re working on new content.

 

TL;DR: Repurposing old blog content is a low-risk, high-reward way to drive more traffic to your website. By updating content with new information and images, recirculating posts on social media, and linking to older blog posts in new content, you can increase the value of your existing resources.

Don’t have time to update your blog posts or to produce blog content at all? Contact Leverage Marketing to learn how we can create an effective SEO and content strategy for your company.

 

How Your Healthcare Practice Can Reach New Patients Online

Want to bring new patients to your healthcare practice? You’d better have an online presence. Consumers expect to be able to do just about everything online, and that includes looking up health-related information and making medical appointments.

One of the most important components to consider when reaching new patients online is having a website full of patient-friendly information. In addition to building up your website, it can be valuable to engage with potential patients on the social media networks and review sites they’re most likely to frequent.

Need more tips to get started? Below are five ways your healthcare practice can gain new patients online.

Optimized Health Practice Websites

Medical Center Website on Mobile

According to a recent Pew Research Center report on U.S. smartphone use, 68% of respondents have used a mobile device to search for information about a health condition. Because of this trend, mobile design is an important component to acquiring new patients online. Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a web development process that allows patients to view your medical practice site across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices without lag or disruptive design elements. This approach will enable your medical practice to provide a rich site experience and empower patients with quality information about symptoms and health conditions when they need it most. Another benefit of having responsive web design is that users will be easily able to access one of the most important components of your site: the contact form. Optimized contact forms should be quick to fill out and should only request essential information needed to follow up with the patient.

Health Content

Google reports that around 1% of all search queries they receive are about health symptoms. Searching for illness indicators to self-diagnose is all part of the digital patient journey. However, one of the biggest challenges for some healthcare practices is providing easy-to-understand health information to prospective patients. An easy way to draft and implement content for your medical practice site is by focusing on common health conditions first and then moving upwards into more complex illnesses. A content strategy for your site should include critical information about diagnostic methods, possible outcomes, and ways your medical practice can provide solutions. Having this type of search engine-optimized content will allow your medical practice to gain new patients who are seeking health-related information.

Quality Care through Online Services

A recent 2016 Physician Compensation Report found that most doctors spend around 13 to 16 minutes with each patient. With such limited time, your medical practice can face challenges meeting the new demands of quality care. An effective way to improve efficiency through your website is by enabling online users to submit documents such as patient questionnaires and other intake forms electronically. Adding this feature to your medical practice site can help speed patient wait times and improve overall satisfaction. Another way to improve the quality of care and gain new patients is to provide additional online support after the consultation. Website content about common procedures, chronic illnesses and medication guides can empower patients to make necessary recommendations, support adherence to treatments, and improve outcomes.

Social Media Engagement

Embrace social media and acquire new patients by building relationships and credibility. Many healthcare practices avoid using social media because of the liability of patient information and other legal considerations. However, it is possible to create protocols for social media communication that are compliant with all regulations and state laws. For a full list checklist on how to use social media for your healthcare practice, check out the Forbes guide.

Online Reviews

Doctor on Laptop

Healthcare review sites such as ZocDoc and Yelp are important to patient acquisition. In fact, a Software Advice survey found that 77% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor. Review sites can provide your practice with a wealth of information regarding patient experiences and overall satisfaction with the services provided by your practice. This valuable feedback can be used to make improvements in quality of care and present to prospective patients the key benefits of choosing your practice over others.

Considering technology use, search trends, and emerging services can help your healthcare practice get new patients and retain existing ones. Your website should serve as a portal with the most reliable and up-to-date health information. You can make that information accessible using proven and reliable web optimization strategies that connect new patients with your services.

For more information on establishing your medical practice website, contact Leverage Marketing and ask about our web design and content creation services.

Key Takeaways:

  • Creating your site using responsive web design will help patients reach your site across all devices. This is especially important for patients who want to book an appointment on mobile devices without any lag or annoying web design problems.
  • Before looking for a doctor, patients first search for health symptoms to self-diagnose. Having easy-to-read content about common health conditions, symptoms, treatments, and potential outcomes will help your site reach those patients.
  • A higher level of service can be achieved by taking advantage of timesaving processes such as electronic patient questionnaires and providing additional patient education sources.
  • Don’t be afraid of using social media for your practice. Establishing proper protocols that comply with regulations and laws can help you establish relationships with new patients.
  • Analyzing patient reviews on sites like ZocDoc and Yelp will help you gain a better perspective of your practice. Use positive and negative reviews to come up with ways to improve the overall patient experience.

5 Tips for Content Marketing on Reddit

Reddit is a beast of a content curation tool, and it’s certainly not for the weak willed. It has the potential to put hundreds of thousands of eyes on your content overnight, but you must be armed with confidence and clad with knowledge to come out of the Reddit arena victoriously. You’ll also need some serious fight in you to claim ultimate exposure for your content.

Reddit users, lovingly called Redditors by the online community, are given a massive amount of power for the shockingly low price of free when they sign up for a Reddit account. Each person can vote for or against a piece of content once per piece, and they can comment with the loftiest praise or the foulest criticism as often and loudly as they see fit. Redditors determine what other Redditors see and with what they interact, and their hammer of judgment is mighty.

How do you walk amongst Internet titans and stake your claim on the pages of Reddit? You follow these 5 tips for pushing content to Reddit, and you start on them early.

 

1. Know Reddiquette

reddit logo with reddiquetteRedditors have composed an extensive list of guidelines for all users to follow that help govern an otherwise completely lawless content board. The Reddiquette document is available anytime to anyone on the Reddit website. Ideally, all users would follow the rules set forth as a token of loyalty to the community ethos, but as you spend more time on Reddit, you’ll see the rules uncannily broken on a daily basis.

But if you want to be taken seriously and would like to see others fairly criticize your content, take the high road and follow the rules. The people you want to impress are those who understand the value and power of a content curation machine on the scope of Reddit. The people who read, understand, appreciate, and share your content that follows Reddiquette are the thought leaders who will push your content to the top – provided it deserves to be there.

Read and Follow Subreddit Rules

reddit rules for worldnews subredditCommunity rules don’t begin and end with the almighty Reddiquette document, though – you’ll also need to read and adhere to the conditions set forth in each subreddit, a forum within the grand Reddit framework. Most subreddits will have an easy-to-spot link at the top of the page to their rules or will list them in the sidebar so you can easily access them.

Most forum moderators will also direct you to the subreddit guidelines just before you post a link or comment so you can make doubly sure that you’ve checked off every item on their wishlist. Take advantage of this opportunity – your content may fall off immediately if it violates a condition of the subreddit.

 

2. Develop a Reputation

As in any other community, every member has a reputation, but Reddit actually records your reputation and puts it on display in the form of karma points. The higher your karma count, the more reputable you may be considered, though the actual mileage of those Karma points is negotiable among Redditors.

Even if you’re representing a company, you’ll need to develop morally righteous Reddit skills and experiment with posting, commenting, and sharing knowledge and insight in areas that you feel comfortable speaking as an expert. Start building your reputation by:

  • Helping people with their problems
  • Providing courteous responses to simple questions
  • Politely and fairly participating in hot discussion topics
  • Genuinely critiquing the work of those in your field
  • Contributing to community content curation with upvotes and downvotes

Take a moment each day to do one or more of these and you might be shocked at how quickly your karma and reputation builds.

thank you comments on reddit

Grateful reddit users adding thank-yous to threads.

Remember also to keep things as fresh as possible. There are some Redditors who have dedicated almost all of their free time to Reddit, and they may have considerable influence over how well-received your content is. Karma is divided into link karma and comment karma, so you’ll need to take 2 separate approaches to your reputation growth.

Post a Variety of Content

a variety of content on the science subredditDon’t stick to blogs or articles exclusively – there’s so many ways to consume information on the Internet, and those who spend a lot of time in the digital world become bored quickly.

Spice up your content cocktail with fun videos, infographics, interesting products, and even animations to really grab the attention of your fellow Redditors. Though they may not realize it, they’ll be quenching their thirst for entertainment and knowledge and see your name next to their favorites.

Comment Often

Comments get buried by other comments fast. Eager Redditors will leave replies in the desert of feedback miles away from those few relentless commentators that make it to the oasis.

If you want to make an impact on readers, have a large footprint. When you have something to say, comment, and do it with confidence. Above all, never be rude, and don’t participate in digital tantrums.

 

3. Strike a Balance Between Self-Promotion and Community Interaction

In most cases (and is so written as a rule on many subreddits), Redditors don’t want to see content posted by someone who has a connection with the content’s host. At the very least, they’ll expect you to contribute articles from sources other than the ones you’re associated with much more regularly than you post your own content. Accordingly, you’ll have to balance self-promotion and community interaction.

The 9:1 Ratio

Reddiquette recommends that for every link you place on Reddit to your own content, you should also post 9 links with which you aren’t affiliated. The rule has 2 functions:

  • Prevent spam – In an openly linkable world like Reddit, it’s easy for users to post unreasonable amounts of articles and blogs in a bid to gain karma points and page views. The 9:1 ratio helps keep posts thoughtful and engaging rather than spammy.
  • Encourage interaction – The 9:1 ratio pushes users to explore content that isn’t their own. This helps open the gates of your chosen subreddit to opinions that force you to think outside your own carefully crafted box.

Corralling one’s ego is tough, but the 9:1 ratio provides users with a great excuse to learn what competitors are up to and how they’re failing and succeeding. Armed with the knowledge of your 9 community posts, your 10th post that promotes your own content will enjoy rapid evolution every time you post.

 

4. Decide Which Content is Worth Pushing

In accordance with the 9:1 ratio, provided that you follow it, you won’t be able to push out absolutely every piece of content that you create. Choose carefully the stuff you want the world to see, then run it through this checklist:

  • Is it new?
  • Is it worthy of discussion?
  • Is it well written, drawn, or edited?
  • Will Redditors care?

Keep in mind that digital age youth are now becoming adults and will soon become thought leaders in the very industries that create your salary. Young men and women in the digital age have an attention span averaging no more than 8 seconds. It doesn’t stop there – the age range for those with waning attention spans is also swelling.

top reddit frontpage content

Redditors want it fast and easy to digest.

Consequently, there’s a new need to limit the content you promote to ideas and thoughts that will challenge the 8-second attention limit. Hook your audience with powerful messages and witty writing and keep them coming. Don’t sit all of your engaging thoughts on the shoulders of your content. Let the body of your work share the burden.

Once you’re convinced that Redditors will select your content, put it out at that same quality or better regularly. You’ll gain the trust of Redditors, and they’ll start to promote your content for you. Congratulations, you’ve engineered some serious brand awareness.

 

5. Learn to Deal with Difficult Feedback

Redditors are real human beings with genuine thoughts, but the shield of anonymity provided graciously by the Internet gives them the keys to the criticism machine, and their fuel can be anything from jealousy to wonder. You’re not likely to post anything without hearing about how terrible or wrong it is, so get an approach to criticism ready before you share your content.

Spot Fake Experts

Everyone knows better than you. The legions of subject matter experts on Reddit will be sure to let you know that as often as possible.

Keep in mind that the community in which you’re posting content is opinionated and will transform their opinions into facts if they can pull it off. Fake experts are quick to criticize and cite anecdotal evidence without prejudice. Know your content back to front and be ready to back it up with real facts if you choose to reply.

Identify Trolls

rude comment from redditor

Comments like these, which are neither kind nor constructive, are commonplace on Reddit.

Some folks just relish in pushing people’s buttons, even if that person is across the world. When a Redditor tugs at your emotions, always take a step back. Set your ego aside and take personal attacks at face value, which actually amounts to nothing. If you overcome the instinctual need to bicker, comments from Internet trolls will meet the grave and fertilize real discussions with meaning.

Pick Your Battles

Don’t ignore your critics, just vet the ones that aren’t contributing to thought evolution. If someone has an interesting idea or a new take on what you’ve provided to the community, engage with that person in an enlightened discussion. You and many other fellow Redditors will enjoy the exchange and you’ll earn karma, page views, and exposure.

Never forget – Reddit is not and never was a marketing tool. It’s a place to share groundbreaking content with a captive audience, and marketers would be wise to treat it as such. Respect the community, share new ideas, and overcome the negativity, and you’ll learn to walk one of the brightest paths to success in awareness and engagement.

The marketing team at Leverage Marketing can handle your content marketing alongside paid search, social media management, and search engine optimization (SEO). Right-size your marketing team or sign up for our newsletter below for more tips and awesome information about marketing in Austin and beyond!

Should You Put Your Money on Video Marketing?

If your online marketing efforts don’t include video, you’re now in the minority. An estimated 87% of online marketers are using video content in some form, and advertisers are spending $10 million annually on digital videos. Of course, “everyone else is doing it” isn’t enough to justify using video for marketing. Let’s look at some of the advantages of video marketing that may help sway you if you’re still unsure where to allocate your digital marketing dollars.

Benefits of Video Marketing

Informative and entertaining online videos can provide a great return on investment for your business. Videos can:

  • Increase your links and brand visibility. That’s because 92% of mobile video consumers share videos with people in their network, according to Invodo. Having videos from your site shared doesn’t just increase your visibility, it also helps your search engine rankings.
  • Increase a web user’s average time on your site. Many web users prefer to consume information through videos rather than text; in fact, Diode Digital found that video promotion is 600% more effective than print and direct mail combined. Web users are more likely to engage with your site if they can watch a video. More time on your site means greater engagement and a boost in search engine rankings.
  • Help your potential customers make a purchase decision. 90% of web users say that watching a video about a product helps them decide whether or not they want to purchase it, according to Insivia.
  • Help your B2B company reach its audience. Insivia also reports that three-quarters of executives watch videos on relevant business websites on a weekly basis.
  • Boost your email engagement. Forrester found that adding video to a marketing email can increase the click-through rate by 200-300%.

Determining Your Online Video Costs

Filming Online Ad

It’s clear that there are numerous benefits of video marketing for your business, but can you afford the upfront costs? The good news is that the barrier to entry for video production is lower than you might think. You can even make company videos using a smartphone, some basic editing software (typically costing around $40-$100), and your in-house team. Of course, the quality of the video generally increases along with the budget. Marketing company Hinge estimates that a basic 1-2 minute video produced by a professional corporate team will cost about $5,000-$20,000, while a premium 1-2 minute video with top-level talent, high-end cameras, and a studio will cost $25,000-$50,000.

Free to $50,000 is obviously a pretty wide range, so if you’re thinking about using video for marketing, you’ll need to spend some time working out your own budget and determining if the cost is worth the benefits.

Your budget can be broken into three basic categories: time, labor, and equipment.

Time

If you’re making a simple explainer video with members of your in-house team, you might only need to set aside a few hours for shooting, but if you’re making a larger-scale video advertisement or case study, shooting might take a few days. In addition to actual filming time, you’ll need to account for pre-production planning, writing the script, traveling to and from the filming location, and editing. Remember that you’ll have to account for the time of everyone working on the project, so the more people you have, the more man-hours you’re likely to log.

Labor

Some companies are able to produce quality videos using employees as their actors, camera crew, and editors. However, if your in-house team has limited experience with video production, you may need to set aside part of your budget for hiring a professional videographer, editor, and/or spokesperson. The more experience these contract workers have, the more you can expect to pay.

Equipment

As previously mentioned, it is possible to make a DIY online video with a smartphone camera and basic editing software. However, for a more polished product, you may need to purchase (or rent) high-end cameras, multiple lenses, and sound and lighting equipment. Depending on the shots you have planned, you may also need specialty video production equipment such as a tripod, dolly or jib crane. Each of these items will add to the cost of the final product.

Investing in Video: Know What You Want to Achieve

Video Streaming

Before deciding exactly how much you want to spend on video marketing, it’s important to determine exactly what you’re trying to achieve. For example, are you trying to increase your brand visibility with top-of-the-sales-funnel advertising? Are you trying to show consumers who are at the decision-making stage how to use your product? Are you trying to establish yourself as an authority in your industry? Make sure the goal of your campaign remains top-of-mind with everyone working on the project so that your online videos have a significant impact.


Still unsure how much your company should invest in video marketing, or any other form of online marketing? Talk to our team at Leverage– we’ll be happy to help you come up with a strategy for success.

 

Why Your Site Needs More Than an Instant Audit

This blog post was written by social media intern Ali Flowers. Ali is a Senior at the University of Texas at Austin, where she studies Public Relations. Ali enjoys good food, good friends, and spending time with her family.


So you’ve decided your company needs to invest in digital marketing. Great! Every business or organization can benefit from actively promoting themselves online. You are on Google and you search for ‘digital marketing near me’. You’ll likely be served thousands of results and several top-of-the-page advertisements about digital marketers in your area. Regardless of what link or ad you click on, you will probably be offered an instant audit.

What’s an Instant Audit?

With an instant audit, a marketer (or marketing automation software) analyzes various aspects of your business or organization’s online presence so that they can then advise you on the efforts you should take to promote yourself online. Some agencies claim they can audit your site in minutes or even seconds.

This might leave you thinking: Great! I can get all of that information at the click of a button? Who knew! Well, yes, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Why are Instant Audits Risky?

Digital marketing is a huge investment in both time and money.  It ranges from things like search engine optimization to paid search and even social media, all of which can work together to increase your sales, and none of which are free. Would you really feel safe making such a big move for your company based off of such a quick assessment of your site? That would be kind of like buying a house immediately after seeing a few pictures of its exterior online.

So What Should You Do?

You do need an audit–but one that is done thoroughly. You need trained professionals to look at your previous marketing efforts and your competitors’ marketing efforts, find your strengths, identify your weaknesses, and then give you a full overview of your company’s situation. Your marketing agency should conduct interviews and create a report of your company’s digital marketing history so that you can identify specific areas for improvement. A real, fully-developed audit takes time, and you shouldn’t just settle for one that was given to you at the click of a button.

If you are ready to move your company into digital marketing, find a company that will provide you with a thorough audit. Look for a marketing partner who can accurately tell you where to invest and how to push your business forward. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your audit shouldn’t be either.


Check out our methodology page to learn about the in-depth analysis Leverage Marketing performs for prospective clients. If you’re ready to have us review your digital marketing opportunities, schedule a call.

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