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The Secret to Getting More Repeat Customers

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Rachel Daley– Enjoy! 

So you’ve made a sale. “YES! I sold my product! Ultimate goal met!”

Mmm… not quite.

One of the most critical post-sale mistakes is to assume that your job is done once you make the sale. What if I told you that you can turn that one sale into repeat sales to grow your business?

Turns out, what you do after the sale is just as important as what you do before. The ultimate success of your business depends on a strong, personable relationship with your customer base to build trust. Customer trust leads to customer loyalty, which leads to customer recommendations, which means more customers!

So how can you get the most out the sale you just made?

Ensuring customer trust and future sales all comes down to great customer service.

In fact, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.

But you already knew that.

So I’ll give you another little insider secret… your customers are your friends. Okay, maybe not exactly, but this is what I mean:

Friendships take work before, during, and after you become friends.

Customer relationships take work before, during, and after a sale.

You want those repeat customers who bring in other customers. They are the life line of your business! To build that kind of security, you have to build post-sale relationships with your customers even after their payment has been approved.

$ell 240x180

How to “stay friends”, Even After the Sale

Just think about how you treat your friends…

You keep in touch

Keep an email list of your customers so you can send newsletters with your business’s latest news and promotions to keep them in the loop. You can make things personal even by sending a mass email! Mailchimp has a great free plan, or check out Tiny Letter.

Answer all questions and respond to comments quickly! Staying on top of your social media, emails, and site comments is one of the easiest ways to continue the relationship post-sale. TIP: If you’re getting a lot of comments and questions maybe find some help to manage your social media.

You show gratitude

Remember those two magic phrases Mama taught us? Please and THANK YOU. Make sure to send a “thank you” when you receive notification of a sale. It may just a quick typed message, but it adds that personal touch even through the computer screen.

Offer a discount code to returning customers to make them not only want to come back, but also feel the love. EX: offer 10% off their next order.

  • Make things viral by getting them to share the deal with friends through a tweet. example: Yay, I just bought this item on www.shop.com and got 10% off my next order from @shopname

You go out of your way for them

Go even further and send a longer note with the product when you ship it. Bonus points if you handwrite it! Make sure to personalize each note with the customer’s name so they know you took the time.

You know them on a deeper level

Who knows what your customers want better than your customers themselves? Get to know them by asking for their input. TIP: Create an interactive quiz or ask fun yet helpful questions on your Instagram. Customers will be more likely to respond! The key is to not make customers feel obligated to answer questions because they are not paying for obligation.

Do it for free in 3 easy steps with Google Docs:

google docs survey 240x180

You respect them as human beings

Mama also said treat others the way you want to be treated. Keep that in mind and there’s your answer to how to engage with your customers before, during, and after a sale.

Similar techniques are used for pre-sales marketing of course, so these shouldn’t seem foreign to you. Just don’t assume marketing ends once the sale had been made. To create success with longevity for your business you have to create relationships with longevity. So after your next sale, follow these tips and you will gain a boost in sales and return customers that will bring their friends in no time.

Rachel DaleyRachel is the resident content wizard over at MadeFreshly. Helpful and inspirational advice for eCommerce is her specialty there, but when she’s not busy writing you will probably find her at a track meet or adventuring around California with her Canon T2i.  Follow her on Twitter.

 

9 Ways to Connect With Your Community

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Roger Connors and Tom Smith – Enjoy!

biz-community

photo credit: 123rf

Feeling out of touch with your business community? No connection, wrangling tough relationships, regularly brokering messy disagreements? Just how does a business owner or manager get back in touch and move the needle on even the most stubborn issues?

With consistent, well-practiced feedback.

Feedback is a principle that, if practiced, is the key to overcoming blind spots and achieving improved results in all aspects of your life—both personal and professional. Individually, with teams, and even entire communities and organizations.

The key: You just have to ask for it.

 

But before you gather your team or blindly ask what others think of you (highly risky without a bit of practice, by the way), consider these 9 proven tips that will help you get your head right—so you can solicit, respond to, and use feedback to succeed in business.

  1. Go after it. Feedback doesn’t just magically happen with the wave of a wand. You have to be proactive and make it happen. Stay connected with customers or prospects by seeking feedback even when you believe things are going great—sometimes what you think isn’t what is actually happening.
  2. Have courage. Seeking constructive feedback can be scary. Remember, whoever you’re asking feedback from is already thinking about your performance; you’re just hearing what they already believe.
  3. Welcome awkwardness. Remember that almost everyone fears offering feedback about as much as they fear asking for it. People worry it will backfire, and they value their job or relationship over saying anything—which is why momentum stalls in the first place. Revel in the discomfort and seek feedback anyway.
  4. Be convincing. Assure your audience, customers, even your employees that you really do want to know what they think. They need to know there won’t be any blowback from you if they honestly tell you how they see it.
  5. Get positive. Though it might be hard to believe, it’s easier for people to offer positive rather than negative feedback. You have to ask for constructive feedback. Try “What can we do better?” instead of “What are we doing wrong?”
  6. Listen. After asking for feedback, you need to do the hard part—listen. Listening can be difficult, but it is one of the most meaningful steps of exchanging feedback, and it is important that you listen to everything. Then act on what you hear that makes sense.
  7. Be grateful. Don’t let constructive feedback, no matter how unpleasant, skew your view of the person who’s giving valuable input as to how you can improve your processes. Remember: their insight could help improve performance or efficiency. Express sincere gratitude for their willingness to share in the first place (see tip #2, courage).
  8. Make it a habit. Make getting feedback a habit, not a one-time thing. Ask if it’s okay to follow up, even suggesting you meet again for a reality check just to keep yourself in line.
  9. Be nice. Finally, be nice to yourself and others. You can’t make any important changes overnight.

Right out of the gate you might want to select someone you’re comfortable with, then get started by simply asking, “What feedback do you have for me?” You might need to tag it with some context; like “How do you think we could have improved this product?” or “What improvements would you like to see in your campaign?” Once you’ve listened, don’t impulsively respond with a long defensive response. Graciously and professionally say, “Thanks for the feedback. We really appreciate it, and want to do anything we can to make your experience with our company better.” Your gratitude will signal you aren’t defensive (even if you really are) and that you are happy they took the time to share their opinion.

RogerTom_150x150Roger Connors and Tom Smith are co-authors of a new book, The Wisdom of Oz: Using Personal Accountability to Succeed in Everything You Do (September 2014, www.thewisdomofozbook.com). They are multiple New York Times Bestselling authors and innovators of the most extensive body of knowledge on workplace accountability ever written. Their firm, Partners In Leadership (www.partnersinleadership.com), helps management teams facilitate large-scale cultural transition through proven methodologies, and has helped clients produce billions of dollars in improved profitability and shareholder value.

The Key To Ideal Customer Service: Making Exceptions

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Duane Forrester – Enjoy! 
photo credit: Copyright: kbuntu / 123RF Stock Photo

photo credit: Copyright: kbuntu / 123RF Stock Photo

It was a dark and stormy night as I entered the store. I’d ordered a (geekishly expensive) camera from said store and was still waiting for it to ship to my home, a couple of states away. However, my travels unexpectedly landed me in the town where the store-that-shall-not-be-named-because-I’m-not-that-vindictive is HQd. As such, I thought I would drop by and see if I could save everyone some trouble and just pick up the camera if it hadn’t yet been shipped.

So I walked up to the customer service desk to learn that my camera had not shipped and was, in fact, in the store. “Excellent,” I exclaimed. And that’s when the help desk staffer lowered the boom (or was that thunder?):  “I can’t give it to you. It has a shipping order attached.” Knowing the intricacies of running a retail business, I was sympathetic and, instead, offered to just eat the cost of shipping myself because I really wanted to leave with that camera. In other words, I was asking the staff to make an exception to their policy.

They wouldn’t. And here’s why in today’s social, everybody’s-got-a-mic-and-an-audience world, the first point on a business’ policies list should be “Know when and how to modify policy.”

But back to the store…

Long story short, no one would give me the camera—not even the manager, not even the head of sales. The camera had a shipping order and that was that. I left the store (absolutely for the last time) without a product I had already paid for that was mere feet from me. And you can rest assured my audience heard about it.

Policy can no longer always trump customer service. In fact, plenty of companies have been “modifying” policy for years.

Look at the companies that excel in customer service. Nordstrom’s is clearly not going broke even though it accepts returns on all products – even items they don’t actually sell. Zappo’s has become the darling of internet shoppers thanks to handling shipping issues with such grace and kindness people rave about them online. Companies like Comcast and Delta have learned to use social to keep customers happy. They understand the social currency and value of modified policy.

Can you bend the rules all the time? Of course not. Even some of the time is probably too much. But if you can school your employees on business decision-making and its potential value instead of hammering home hard and fast rules, you’ll be better off on multiple fronts. Happier customers. Empowered employees. Awesome stories shared.

And in case you’re wondering, I did eventually get my camera. It’s great. But every time I shoot with it, I remember this experience and I remember how I won’t shop at this particular retailer again. Today, a couple of years after this happened, I’m in the market for another camera and simply refuse to even think of them as a point of purchase. Flexible customer service could’ve changed that.

duane-bw-fullsizeDuane Forrester is a Senior Product Manager at Bing and just an OK photographer. Say hey on Twitter:@duaneforrester.
 

5 Foolproof Tactics to Create Strong Customer Advocates

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Andrea Gellert– Enjoy! 

shutterstock_104307092As marketers, our job is to create narratives that resonate with our end-users and increase our brand’s visibility. However, whenever I ask small business owners what their best channel for new customers is, they always tell me “referrals from other customers.”

The reality is that any potential customers interested in your brand will always look to validate your marketing claims with what your current and past customers say about your brand. Social media has made finding out what those thoughts and opinions are easier than ever, which is why enlisting a small army of customer advocates can easily be part of any smart marketers overall strategy. If nurtured properly, these customers become an extension of your team and help amplify all of your efforts.

While having a great product is a prerequisite to getting great customers, it doesn’t always lead to referrals. What does is creating an experience that so delights your customers that they want to tell everyone about you. By following these five foolproof methods, you will demonstrate your commitment to your customers and encourage them to talk about your brand.

1) Go over customer communications with a fine tooth comb.

Ever received an email or piece of mail from a company that was completely tone-deaf or seemed written by a computer? Or spoken to someone on the phone who seemed to be reading from a script regardless of what you said? Your customers want to be spoken to in a way that respects their time and lets them know you understand them. You can create an amazing emotional connection through your communications, so give them all the time and attention they deserve. Be human, be thoughtful, be clear and be authentic.

2) Create conversations.

Every brand these days is on social media, but what separates the so-so companies from the rock star companies is engagement. Don’t just tweet out a press release and call it a day — tweet a response to a customer who is maybe confused about your product and is looking for information. Showing you care on social media is the foundation for all of your customer advocacy efforts.

3) Put in some face time.

There is simply no substitute for face-to-face interaction with your customers. Part of your ongoing advocacy strategy should include regular in-person conversations with your end-user — whether it’s taking them out for coffee or frequenting their place of business for an informal chat. The benefits to developing a strong rapport with your advocates are exponential in terms of word-of-mouth and social media marketing, as well as potential press needs.

4) Say “Thank you” loudly and say it often.

Nothing like waking up to a positive review from one of your customers on social media! But now isn’t the time to consider it a job well-done — rather, write a public comment praising the customer for their kind words, or better yet send them a gift or note thanking them for their efforts. Small acts like this let your advocates know you appreciate them, which makes them more inclined to continue to advocate on your behalf.

5) Admit when you are wrong.

You’re going to mess up from time to time — whether it’s not getting back to a customer quickly enough or if a policy changes and you forget to let everyone know. Remember, it’s never the problem that makes customers mad, it’s how you respond to the problem. So, if you know something you did rubbed your customer the wrong way or didn’t meet their expectations, just apologize, thank them for the feedback and work to fix the situation. Demonstrating to customers that you are bending over backwards to make things right shows how much you care about them, which can go a long way to creating advocacy.

It doesn’t matter what product or service you are marketing: if you don’t have strong customer advocates your marketing efforts will always miss the mark. Starting off with a hallmark customer experience, and then doubling down in areas your advocates present themselves (think: social media) are key to creating brand advocates for your business.

How do you create customer advocates? Please weigh in with your comments.

Andrea GellertAndrea Gellert is Senior Vice President of Marketing at OnDeck, where she brings more than 15 years of small business marketing and client service experience. Most recently, she was VP of Client Services/Operations at Group Commerce. Andrea also spent 15 years at American Express, holding key leadership positions in both the OPEN small business and Merchant Services divisions. Andrea graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and received an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern.

 

Just Work the Program

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Justin Belmont – Enjoy!
Work The Program

Photo Credit: Barber Chair

Many barbershops go beyond a simple haircut to treat customers to a grooming extravaganza. A haircut may come with a beer, great conversation, hairstyling tips, full shampoo and conditioning with top-notch men’s hair products, and a massage chair. A repeat customer will likely expect a repeat performance. Yet, if the barber falls short on the friendly conversation, if he forgets to offer a beer, or even if the massage chair is out of order, the customer may not return.

While any of these mistakes is forgivable, the customer has come to expect a certain type of haircut. As the owner of a new luxury barbershop, you would need to set the standard of service and stick to it.

Marketing is no different. Patience may be difficult in the midst of a marketing program, but if you lay out a plan and follow it consistently, you build customer confidence in your brand.

Work The Program

Photo Credit: Maplay out a plan and follow it consistently, you build customer confidence in your brand.

For example, if your social media campaign begins with three tweets per day and you begin to build an audience on this strategy, that audience is going to expect to find tweets three times a day. Along the same lines, if you only tweet once or twice a week, you may build an audience that prefers a sparse style. If you start to ramp up your daily tweets, this audience may un-follow you.

In either case, decide on a consistent strategy that is appropriate for your brand before execution. If your social media ship has already set sail without a consist heading, reevaluate the program. Start anew, but be faithful to the new program. In some ways, correcting course on a social media program may be easier than on other marketing platforms. Format is fairly standardized, making frequency the primary consideration. As long as you supply relevant content, there are relatively few corrections to be made. Traditional marketing campaigns, such as pitching media or running online advertising, may require more work to recover.

Work The Program

Photo Credit: Marketing

Whether the business is a barber shop or a new real estate investment firm, the rules are the same for any small venture. Consistency is key. The logo on social media pages should be the same as the logo on emails signatures and on the bandit signs posted around town. If you want to build consumer confidence that your business is legitimate, maintain branding across platforms to establish recognition. For example, the Nike “swoosh” branding is so recognizable that Nike no longer needs to supplement it with the brand name. The logo speaks for itself.

Inconsistencies are a red flag to audiences that something is amiss. Sloppy marketing may indicate that the product cuts corners as well. Audiences may think your company can’t handle the work, either because distractions have let the marketing program fall to the wayside or because the company cannot afford proper business promotion. No matter the cause, inconsistent marketing will elicit shaky confidence, which in turn will make customers disappear.

 

Justin BelmontJustin Belmont is the founder and editor-in-chief of Prose Media (prosemedia.com), a writing service that creates high-quality content for brands–from blog posts and newsletters to web copy and white papers. Prose (@prose) employs top professional journalists and copywriters with expertise in a variety of industries.

With a background in corporate communications, Belmont has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and was formerly an editor at Google.

Why Live Chat is a Powerful Sales Tool

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Sunir Shah – Enjoy! 

As you read this article, potential customers are browsing your website, looking to buy something from you. Lost, confused, skittish, they will abandon your site before buying anything.

If only you had talked to them in time.

If you still think live chat is just for technical support, you’re in the wrong decade. As your ever present salesperson on every page of your website, the new live chat finally gives online companies that shop floor presence the average customer needs before buying.

What live chat has become

bonobosWhen I say live chat, I’m talking about the chat tab in the corner of websites like BonobosHipmunk, and Birchbox.

I’m talking about live chat that is immediate and personable, where real humans answer questions and provide helpful, actionable information. The kind of live chat that provides you with direct, one-on-one conversations with customers.

It’s no surprise that a study conducted by Shopify showed that chatting customers were 3 times more likely to become return shoppers and had 48% larger order sizes.

Why Live Chat Improves Sales

A customer clicking through from search or advertising is not a loyal customer. They just want to know, ‘What’s in it for me?’

Live chat gives you a chance to show you’re more than a landing page by being there, answering their questions, and If you’re not online to answer that question for them, customers will move on to the next website that can.

By simply initiating a chat, a customer instantly qualifies themselves as a lead.  That one-on-one interaction gives you the opportunity to answer a question or solve a problem that converts them from ‘lead’ to ‘customer.’

More importantly, you get the chance to delight them with an amazing experience that might win you a future and returning customer.

How to rock live chat

Be available. If you’re going to do live chat, you need to staff it. Not answering an incoming chat is worse than not answering the phone. It’s gives customers the same feeling as when walking into a store and not being able to find a salesperson.

Make it snappy. Customers expect immediacy, so aim to respond to their first message in under 30 seconds. A few seconds more and they could be on to the next store. Even a simple hello will get the conversation started.

Make it human. Fire the robots. Burn the scripts. Let your staff be natural when they’re helping customers. Like this Netflix customer support rep who managed to delight the customer with a deep knowledge of science fiction programming. This is a chance to build a relationship with your next loyal customer.

Prepare your team to sell. Train your staff to know solutions for common problems and problems the customer hasn’t yet considered. Ideally your operators are good listeners and strong critical thinkers, able to solve immediate problems and anticipate future needs based on conversation context. Share transcripts of good and bad chats to show your team what works and doesn’t.

Practice starting chats. The beauty of live chat is you can see who’s on your site and what pages they’re viewing. You can initiate a sales conversation by posing a targeted sales opener. For instance, if they are looking at bikes, “Hey, we have a big selection of mountain bikes. I can help you find the right one. Are you staying near the city or going offroad?

Close the sale. You can lose a lot of sales at order and fulfillment, either from customers who lose faith in the purchase, don’t trust you, or are having problems. Set an automated rule to initiate a chat for any customer that hesitates on checkout, such as “Hey, want to know more about our money back guarantee?”

Big Finish

There are tens of thousands of companies just like you using live chat for sales. Like Farms Technology, LLC, which uses it to approach sometimes introverted farmers with useful product information. Or WhoIsHostingThis.com who uses live chat to establish trust and build a rapport to boost sales.

Live chat is a powerful, if not the most powerful, sales tool you have. It’s the only tool that lets you talk to customers while they are shopping on your website.

It’s immediate, helpful, human and more like a real world sales experience than any other online channel.

‘Carpe Chatem’ – seize the opportunity in each conversation to win a customer and close more sales.

 

Sunir 1Sunir Shah is a marketer, developer and startup guy who loves making the Internet a more glorious place. Currently he’s the Chief Marketing Olarker at Olark live chat where he spends his days winning markets through engineering and his nights losing Settlers of Catan.

 

The Power of Video Throughout the Customer Journey

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Brad Jefferson – Enjoy! 

The business benefits of video for brand discovery, web traffic and customer engagement have been widely documented over the years. But do people really find videos helpful in making purchasing decisions? In a recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults, we learned that videos created by businesses really do help people make more confident shopping decisions and feel more connected to a brand. A whopping 96 percent of all respondents said they find video helpful when making purchase decisions online, and 73 percent said they are more likely to purchase a product after watching a marketing video. These are pretty convincing reasons to invest in video!

SMB Survey Infographic

photo credit: Animoto

 

Before you dash off to the scripting table, it’s important to understand that not all videos are created equal. Videos play different roles throughout each phase of the customer lifecycle, and the best approach is to create videos that are useful for each situation.

Stage 1: Drawing them in

At the acquisition phase, first impression is everything — and video can be the most personal and engaging way to reel in customers. The visual and storytelling nature of video lends itself to engaging prospects in a way that evokes emotion, reminds them of a need or desire, or teaches them something new.

The survey revealed that 64 percent of consumers find it helpful to watch videos to learn more about the company they’ll purchase from. Whether it’s a funny video that’s low on branding but likely to be shared, or an informative video introducing your business, products or services, make sure it’s easy to find and not too long. Eighty-three percent of consumers we surveyed said the ideal length of a video to inform a purchase decision is five minutes or less. Post video on your homepage as well as Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo. Include a call to action at the end, such as an invitation to visit your website, so viewers know where to go to learn more.

Stage 2: Inspiring action

After hooking the prospect, you need to inspire action. Videos can play a big role in converting sales since they provide a quick and simple way to bring a product to life and turn a prospect into a paying customer. Ninety-five percent of consumers surveyed said they find video helpful in researching a product before they buy, and 93 percent find video useful when comparison shopping.

Videos at this stage should include product features and use cases in greater depth, as the prospect is looking to understand your offering better. A good place to start is with simple informational videos, or if you have a tangible product, a 360-degree view video. Sixty-seven percent of consumers surveyed said they watched an instructional video in the past six months , and 57 percent watched a product or service demonstration in the same time frame.

Brief customer testimonials explaining the problem your product or service solves can also give the prospect the connection they need to feel compelled to purchase. If you’re selling professional services, consider giving people a behind-the-scenes look at the people running your business so prospects build a personal connection to your team.

Stage 3: Building loyalty

It’s imperative to keep communications strong after purchase to earn loyal customers who will spread the word about your business to their own networks. Video can be a great post-purchase touch point. Ninety-three percent of consumers surveyed said that instructional videos related to products they have already purchased are useful. They are also likely to seek more video from a brand after an initial purchase; in fact, 87 percent of consumers find video helpful for researching additional items from the same company.

When done well, videos can make people feel a strong connection to your brand. Seventy-seven percent of consumers consider companies that produce online videos to be more engaged with their customers, and 71 percent agree that videos created by companies leave them with a positive impression of the company, brand or product.

With increased loyalty and brand affinity comes the powerful strength of word of mouth. Because online videos are so easy to share, they are a great way to raise brand visibility and bring the customer lifecycle full-circle. Eighty-nine percent of consumers surveyed said they are likely to share video if they consider it educational, 86 percent will share if there’s an incentive (e.g., a promotion or discount), and 80 percent are more likely to share if there’s a “share” button included.

Get started

Video has been an incredibly powerful marketing tool for quite some time now. Yet only recently has it become a tool that’s accessible for marketers and businesses of all sizes with clear benefits to both customers and businesses. If you haven’t discovered video for yourself, there’s no better time than now to get started.

About Brad Jefferson, CEO and co-founder, Animoto

Brad JeffersonAs founding CEO of Animoto, Brad leads the charge in driving Animoto to be the global standard for automated video creation. Prior to co-founding Animoto in August 2006, Brad spent eight years with Onyx Software, an enterprise software company. At Onyx, he was Director of Sales Operations and managed the national team of sales engineers. Previously, Brad managed Onyx’s Professional Services team and customer base in the western US. Through Brad’s career at Onyx he saw the company grow from a 17-person start-up to an 800-person public company, and eventually an acquisition. Brad graduated from Dartmouth College and currently resides in Oakland, California, with his wife and their two children, both of whom are stars of his frequent Animoto video creations.

 

Why It Might Be Time to Start Taking Gifs Seriously

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Danny Groner – Enjoy!

Gif Images

Photo credit: shutterstock

You’re probably familiar with gifs. You see them in stray articles on social-media-minded sites like BuzzFeed. They are playful and lighthearted. And when you’re in the mood for that, they can really hit home. But as the lines between entertainment and marketing continue to blur, the techniques for one are starting to find their way into the other. After all, what works, works. All kinds of experimental native advertising are popping up in unexpected places.

Right now, we’re living through a time of transition and exploration that may frighten some but excite others. Gifs are the natural next area for small business owners and marketers to conquer. There are a number of different ways to incorporate them into your materials and your website. For example, some companies, on the About Us pages of their sites, are going in a slightly different route than the traditional one. Take a look at what your competitors and other companies have written in that space; these pages are full of unthoughtful writing and wasted space. Plus, many are chock full of professional-sounding jargon that doesn’t mean much of anything.

Now, consider what others are saying about themselves, their companies, and their approaches to customer service with the inclusion of some motion graphics and gifs. They are giving off the clear impression that they’re digitally-savvy and in touch with modern trends. Instead of a picture of their employees sitting together and smiling, they have gifs showing them hanging out and having fun. Pictures don’t deliver the same punch that gifs can.

But that’s just a small opening. There are bigger and better ways to make a solid impression through gifs. Content marketing, the hottest form of marketing this day and age, is pretty much whatever you make of it. It’s so open-ended by design that you can put your own staple on your projects. But this isn’t as simple as just turning a photo into a rotating series of them.

You’ll want to start with a brainstorm about what your customers expect from you and how content marketing can add value to their experience with your company. What’s most important to remember, though, is that people have preconceptions about what gifs are and what they do. They fall into the sillier side of the marketing you’ll do, and there’s room to maneuver there without sullying the service you offer. Once you have identified the direction you want to go in, and what emotion the content is aiming to evoke (happiness or something else), you can get started with the content creation.

Content marketing can be shared on social media, or it can exist for social media. With the advent of and addition of Vine and Instagram video to your social media repertoire, you can try things out. These platforms are built along similar lines as gifs, which you can use to your advantage. If someone on your staff has a good idea, let them test it out on Instagram and see how it resonates with your audience. Then take what you see is working and apply the methods and messages elsewhere.

Everything you do for digital marketing should convey a certain consistency of your brand. Start by thinking like a consumer and what he or she is interested in when not at work. Appeal to that sentiment. Every company is trying to show consumers that they are similar to them. Gifs can help you get there fast.

Danny GronerDanny Groner is the manager of blogger partnerships and outreach for Shutterstock. He encourages everyone to consider how they achieve visual storytelling in the age of desktop editing and publishing.