How to Use Infographics Effectively

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Click to view larger via Mammoth Infographics

Because of the constant bombardment of information we experience on a daily basis, the average human being now has a shorter attention span than a goldfish! In the digital era, marketers have to change and adapt their strategies in order to get their messages heard amongst the many other competing voices. Because humans are wired to respond more positively to visuals than text, infographics tend to get far more shares than traditional text-based content.

Additionally, infographics allow you to create an emotive story around a seemingly meaningless sea of data, allowing people to swiftly understand the key points without having to do any of the tedious reading. While anyone can pay to commission an infographic, there are certain factors you need to consider if you want your infographic to become a viral success!

Choosing the right topic

It’s important to remember that your infographic should never be a tout for your company; instead you should aim to tackle a contentious issue in your industry or cover a hot topic that you know will encourage sharing. In other words, aim to provide genuine value to people instead of simply promoting yourself. With resources such as Google Trends, Twitter hashtags, and numerous RSS aggregators, you’re sure to be able to find a topic that people will love to see encapsulated in a stunning infographic.

Content creation

When researching the facts for your infographic, always use reputable sources and ensure that they are airtight – particularly if your infographic is about a contentious issue – someone is bound to want to point out the flaws in your argument! You may wish to incorporate some quotes from industry specialists to serve as proof elements for your argument. Also, a few interesting lesser-known facts and quirky anecdotes may help to provide some light entertainment for readers.

When organizing your content, thinking visually is crucial. It’s important to remember that not every fact and statistic will make a good visualization, and conversely, not every great visualization will fit within the narrative of your infographic. In order for the infographic to work, the visuals must support the content and help to drive the narrative home. Never be tempted to sacrifice substance for style! As with any form of content marketing, well-researched, high-quality content is the cornerstone of an effective infographic.

Design

You may wish to design an infographic to match the branding of your company, and this may be a good idea if you are creating the piece for company presentations or other internal purposes. However, you should always avoid “over branding” the piece – in most cases you only need to include your company’s logo and website discretely in the footer.

In the design phase, less is more; if you’re used to creating long-winded text content, you may feel reluctant to omit certain pieces of data, even if they aren’t propelling the narrative forward. However, leaving in extraneous elements will only serve to clutter the infographic and confuse people. Always design from a holistic perspective and be prepared to sacrifice elements that aren’t contributing to the clarity and argument of the infographic.

Promotion

You may wish to create a specific landing page for your infographic, or you can simply post it as part of a blog post. Either way, you should make sure that the page has complete social media functionality so that people can share with ease. Additionally, it helps to include the HTML embed code directly beneath the infographic so people can post it on their websites with ease – this is particularly useful for bloggers within your niche who may wish to incorporate your infographic into their own unique content.

There are numerous infographic submission sites that will be happy to host your infographic and if you’re lucky you could even have it featured on Mashable. However, to get your infographic to go viral you’re probably going to have to do a lot of hustling. Promoting using social media is highly recommended, but don’t forget to leverage your personal network. If you know someone who has a large following online, persuading them to share your infographic can result in huge amounts of exposure, expanding your audience and bringing you new business!

Mammoth LogoJack Knopfler is the Lead Content Editor at Mammoth Infographics. He has a background in digital marketing and has helped clients in a range industries to improve their presence online.

How To Use Reverse Self-Promotion To Generate Exposure and Traffic

reverse self-promotion

The plethora of online social media outlets sure makes it easy to toot your horn these days.

You’ve seen the tweets (I’ve likely been guilty of doing this at some point) – “Just got off a quick call with Richard Branson, he said he loved my book” or “Feeling humbled to be included on this list of the top 1000 accounting bloggers.”

The thing is, even though there will always be people that are impressed by your self-promotional messages, an even greater number of people will be turned off.

But what’s a person to do – I mean you want to get the word out, right?

One of the most effective ways to promote yourself is to promote others.

I’ve used this tactic consistently and authentically for years. Let me start with authentically. In no way am I suggesting this as a corny, slimy way to gain exposure. This is an intentional practice, done in the spirit of sharing and referring, that just happens to pay dividends.

The idea behind reverse self-promotion is that you point out the success of other, give public testament to a great product or service, or share the promotional efforts of members of your networks as much as you share your own successes and offers.

Write a blog post reviewing a great product and then @ mention the tool provider in your tweet – here’s an example

Pick up on the promotional efforts of members of your network and share them

Thank people whose content you dig or whose webinar you attended

Thanks Andrea Sodergren Vahl for stopping by to drop some Facebook ad knowledge on the Duct Tape Marketing Network today.

Posted by Duct Tape Marketing Consultant

Write an unsolicited testimonial and send it to a company that makes a tool you love – here’s an example

Create content, such as an eBook, and offer it to a blogger or site you love and let them cobrand it (or vice versa) – here’s an example

There are so many reasons that promoting others makes sense.

  • It’s a good thing to do
  • It makes you feel good
  • It activates the law of reciprocity
  • It creates influence and authority
  • It reins in blatant self-promotion
  • It makes sharing easier

While I am advocating this approach as a standing marketing tactic – I can’t state this enough – if your efforts along these lines are insincere and only driven by the hope that you’ll get something the impact will be crippled.

Look for ways to promote others as full 50% of your social network activity and you will find your own exposure and opportunities growing at a rate unmatched by any other practice.

The Minimalist Guide To Managing Your Brand Reputation Online

A dissatisfied customer, on an average, tells 25 of his friends, while a happy one tells only 15. Seems like if good reviews spread like wildfire, bad reviews would be rushing with light speed. Reviews, and how the masses consume them, are human nature, but this human nature can be fatal for online businesses especially at a time when 8 out of 10 customers treat and trust online reviews just like personal recommendations.

Let me tell you, brand value is diluting. And it marks an uprise of a generation of advocates and influencers that are a part of the crowd our customers identify with.

So here is a quick look at the ways you can ensure that your online brand reputation shines forever like gold and earns you higher AOVs, bigger ROIs, and ever increasing conversions.

How to ensure that each product has at least five reviews

Tip #1: Ask and ye shall receive

Most customers will happily review your product if you ask for it. Just call them up or send a follow-up email. This picture here shows how to get reviews on site through email:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.55.46 AMTip #2: Give an incentive for review

For the hesitant ones, incentivise the review process. Run a reward point campaign or a loyalty program. [editor note – the FTC frowns on this practice unless you disclose that the review was incentivized.]

Tip #3: Poach the influencers

Dig out the people whose reviews are most trusted and offer them freebies or trial packs to ensure that each product has been reviewed.

How to manage third-party reviews (off-site)

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 10.56.03 AMManaging third-party reviews can get a little twisted if you do not have an automated services like Yotpo, which will syndicate all reviews in one dashboard and give you a chance to monitor and reply them instantaneously.

The first thing you need is a customer content service and second, a Godly omni-presence. Staying social does help, but so does having a profile on every review site. A great idea would be to have a separate profile, maybe on Twitter, to handle customer complaints.

Finally, be open and amiable. A demonstration of ‘respect for your customer’s opinion’ and ‘openness to take up criticism in stride’ will take your business a long way in fetching you repeat, happy customers.

How to build a positive reputation online and leverage customers’ trust

Most of the marketing experts unanimously vouch for one factor that gets most conversions, which is openness for customer opinions.

Step #1: Patiently listen to your customer.

Step #2: Respond instantly, but in an appreciative, comforting tone.

Step #3: Be vigilant.

If you find a great review somewhere, spread it on social media and display it on your site as a badge of honor and proof of great service.

Pay special attention to negative reviews. Do not leave them unaddressed. As much as you try to delight your happy customers through giveaways and discounts, try to make amends with the angry ones too. Apologize with a genuine voice and thank them for pointing out the potholes in your service. Send them goodies or vouchers if they are really unhappy with your service. However, do not do this too often or with everyone as it will encourage bad reviews more than good ones.

Believe it or not, customer reviews boil down to one thing – perceived value or customer expectation. If you set it too high on your website and the product doesn’t live up to it, your customer is going to feel disappointed. Keep the product copy unique and compelling but do not exaggerate its features.

parasParas heads Product Marketing at TargetingMantra, a SaaS company that lets ecommerce retailers create a personalized shopping experience for their customers just like Amazon and Zappos. An expert in Personalization and behavioral targeting, Paras has consulted over 50 clients across the globe on conversion optimization and increasing customer loyalty. He is a serial entrepreneur from IIT-Guwahati and Indian School of Business, who loves to spend his time exploring new technologies. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Weekend Favs May Two

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr or one that I took out there on the road.

Lavender flower

Good stuff I found this week:

Boostsuite – tool that makes it easy to exchange guest posts with relevant sites

Toolset.co – suite of tools to help manage and grow your Twitter account

Talk@Anymeeting – simple and free way to schedule conference calls

Converting Subpar Writers In to Content Champions

Content- there is no easy button.Consumers love content. It entices them visit company websites. It inspires them to share business insights. It gives them trust in the brand. And, ultimately, it encourages them to make a purchase.

Sixty percent of B2C marketers anticipate increasing their content marketing budget within 2015, according to Content Marketing Institute. While this statistic isn’t necessarily shocking, marketers are increasingly concerned about the lack of trained professionals to fulfill these needs.

The report went on the state that more than 40% of respondents were challenged with “lack of knowledge and training” and “finding trained content marketing professionals” to produce engaging, converting content.

In-house marketing teams and digital agencies can help employees develop into skilled writers by providing growth structure and educational opportunities. This will not only strengthen the content team but can further propel clients toward online success.

5 Techniques to Help Writers Succeed in the Digital Sphere

1. Start With an Assessment

When a new content marketer is hired, provide them with an evaluation to get a better idea of the individual’s capabilities. The evaluation should be based on your company’s specific content needs and can come in a variety of forms.

One evaluation option is to assign an initial writing exercise followed by an editorial review that will note necessary areas of improvement, organization skills, pace of writing, improper grammar use, etc. Another assessment could be as simple as creating a grammar and punctuation test.

Assessments, in conjunction with writing samples, will give the content strategists a baseline understanding of where the writer may experience difficulties. Additionally, asking the writer if there are any key areas they’d like to develop further can set the tone for growth.

2. Establish a Style Guide for Each Medium

Consumers on each medium are typically there for different reasons, and it’s important to convey those needs to new writers. Clearly outline the company’s tone and objectives for blogs, email content, each social network and other marketing mediums to guide content writing. A concise overview of each platform’s needs is important to establish expectations for writers. Check out MailChimp’s Voice & Tone for inspiration on creating a style guide for your company and/or clients.

Additionally, new writers should be briefed on which standard of writing the company follows. Many bloggers use AP Style, others prefer Chicago Style and some companies have created an alternative variant. This resource will help the writer make quick, informed decisions and ensures the company’s content is consistent.

content-calendar

3. Stay Organized

Setting up processes for content construction is imperative to develop successful writers. There are three distinct necessities for any organization tasked with content construction:

  •  An editorial flow chart clearly outlines the process for creating, editing and approving content.
  • Utilizing track changes in Microsoft Word ensures writers and editors are clear on what changes have been made to a document and allows individuals to leave comments.
  • Content calendars track what topics should be covered and when. They can also include notes on the progress of each piece (see image). This streamlines communication and keeps everyone informed on content marketing efforts happening throughout the team.

If new writers require extra assistance, working on outlines together before the writing process begins. This can proactively address potential errors before the writer even makes them.

4. Identify Quality Resources

Editors and content strategists are often well versed on valuable tools and resource that newer writers can benefit from. Share these with content teams; advocate that writers regularly read informative blogs and stay attuned to techniques that established content marketers use. While each writer will undoubtedly have her own diction, well-written blogs can provide valuable insights on potential style and structural improvements.

The Web also offers an array of paid instructional resources that can aid in the writer’s growth.
Some websites to reference:

5. Schedule Time to Write Daily

Every writer should work to figure out when they are the most productive and creative. After learning when that is, give writers daily assignments or allow free flow writing during that time. Writing is a skill improved with regular practice. Daily writing gives time for experimentation, growth and learning new techniques and formats.

Training writers to fulfill your organization’s content marketing needs will help them feel professional fulfilled and grow with your business. It can take time and patients from an experienced editor or content strategist, but will have a lasting, positive impact on your company and clients’ online presence.

Jennifer ClineJennifer Cline is the Digital Account Lead at Element5, a Michigan-based web design, development, and marketing agency. With a background in Journalism, Jennifer enjoys working closely with content writers and companies to produce quality writing that not only informs, but also converts. Element5 helps companies achieve online success and is committed to crafting a better Web. For more article like this, visit Element5’s blog. @Element5Digital

Maximize Your Content Creation Efficiency

I get it, great content is difficult to produce. It is even more difficult to consistently produce day after day and week after week. But consistent content production is critical to reaching your content marketing goals. It allows your readers to get comfortable with your voice and your business, and reach the “Trust” step of your marketing hourglass.

Creating content takes time, and you don’t want to waste time thinking about what to write or produce. It’s going to happen, even I’m sitting here wasting time thinking about to write while finishing this post, but you want to minimize that wasted time. The key to achieving this is all in the planning.

At Duct Tape Marketing, we use several strategies to help maximize our production of content, and these can be easily implemented by any business using a content marketing plan. Here are three tips for maximizing your content creation efficiency:

Create a content calendar

We’ve preached about the importance of a content calendar in the past, but I can’t stress how important this tool is. If created at the beginning of the year or month, a content calendar can help you guide every piece of content you create, and help you stick to your marketing strategy and plan.

In order to create a great content calendar, you must include the dates you want to plan to produce content as well as what type of content you want to produce. If these are blog posts, you can keep a line for the title or general theme, and a place to write thoughts or notes. Once you’re done distributing the post, you can add links for an easy reference to share in future posts.

Duct Tape Marketing Content Calendar

Duct Tape Marketing Content Calendar

Here is an example of the style of content calendar we use at Duct Tape Marketing. You’ll notice it isn’t structured in the typical “Grid” pattern you see most calendars, instead as a line-by-line, color-coded spreadsheet. Because we have multiple people involved in content creation here at Duct Tape Marketing, we use the color-coding to keep track of who’s writing what. We created ours in Google Sheets, so that everyone can update their lines as they create their individual pieces of content.

Use Themes

Themes can be a great way to keep you from asking yourself “What should I write about today?” You can have monthly, weekly or even daily themes across all of your content distribution platforms.

But how do you come up with themes? A great place to begin is to think about key local search terms in which you want to improve your ranking. Are you a mechanic that wants to improve your ranking in “engine repair” in local search. Spend a month creating content that specifically focuses on your engines. Posts like “How to keep your engine running well beyond 100,000 miles” or “How To” posts for general engine fixes will help increase your mentions of your keyword.

Use varying formats

If you’re a regular reader of the Duct Tape Marketing blog, you know John use formats every week. On Tuesdays, John writes a blog post. On Wednesday, we post our podcast, and every Saturday John posts his weekly favorites. Every week, three of our posts are dictated by the formats we use for those posts. Essentially, we know what to post.

If you create regular formats, you’ll have a great baseline to create content. Maybe you can do a “Mailbag” post where you answer regular questions posed to you by customers or fans. Maybe you can post infographics or other multimedia content on the same day every week. Combine this with your monthly themes, and you’ll know what you’re posting every day and the topic you are covering. Your content calendar will practically fill itself in.

Having a plan when approaching your content creation will result in better, more consistent content that helps you achieve your goals. Besides, who wants to sit around wondering what to write?

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

How to Write a Press Release

Today’s Guest Post is by Nash Riggins, Enjoy!

The web is filled to the brim with static content. That’s bad news if you’re an up-and-coming business owner because there’s a never-ending sea of competition out there – and so if you want your brand to stand out, you’re going to have to move beyond that generic company blog and start making some real headlines.

In order to do that, you’ll first have to come up with a story. It may be that you’re releasing a quirky product, sponsoring a charity event or have discovered some intriguing market insights. Either way, it’s got to be interesting, and it’s got to be genuine. That’s the easy part. The tricky bit is convincing journalists that it’s worth publishing.

So, here are three quick tips on how to craft a fool-proof press release that’s guaranteed to raise eyebrows:

1. Put a label on it

It might seem trivial, but the most important part of your press release is the headline. Most journalists are incredibly busy, and their inboxes are overflowing with generic press releases. Unless you’ve got a snappy subject line, chances are that your press release will go straight in the bin without getting read. So, what constitutes snappy?

First and foremost, don’t try to be clever, and don’t bother with puns. Think about it: what is the key message you’re trying to get across? Shrink that message down to no more than 15 words, and make sure there are a couple colourful verbs or jagged adjectives in there. Be objective, and make a bold statement that’s a little controversial. By hooking a journalist in with an audacious opening line, you’ve passed your first hurdle. Now, it’s time to turn your attention to the story itself.

2. Start with a bang

News reporters are under a tremendous amount of stress to churn out stories. Consequently, any news item that’s delivered to them press-ready is a blessing. Translation: if you can craft a press release that already reads like a quality news story, it’s far more likely to get published. So, how do you write a news story?

Let’s start with the basics. The opening line of your press release has got to tell the reader everything they need to know about this story. You need to tell them who the story is about, where it’s happening, what is happening, when it’s happening, why it’s happening and how. Do your best to get all six of these details into the top couple of lines – and preferably the opening sentence if you can.

Be as concise as humanly possible so that you’re able to give readers a meaty chunk of what they’re about to eat without giving away all of the ingredients. From there, the paragraphs that follow should work like an inverted pyramid – expanding on the bullet points you’ve touched upon in your first line with bigger (but non-essential) facts. This is the time to present products specs or a few quirky tidbits from your survey. As you progress, try to keep your language snappy and mildly objective – because nobody wants to eat a dry piece of toast.

3. Create a figurehead

After you’ve provided a couple hundred words of in-depth coverage, you must include at least two separate quotes from someone within the company. Most newspapers won’t even consider publishing a story without quotes. Bearing that in mind, there are two rules you absolutely must not break when adding these quotes.

First rule:

Do not use a quote that simply repeats what it says elsewhere in the release. Journalists aren’t going to settle for redundant soundbites that just take up space. This is your chance to add some analysis and spice to the story. Don’t blow it.

Second rule:

You must put a name to the quote. Journalists despise having to quote faceless representatives. When businesses choose to hide behind the word “spokesperson”, it demonstrates a clear lack of resolve. Tell the world exactly who in your company thinks what, and busy reporters will be eternally grateful.

To be honest, a lot of this boils down to a matter of luck. Newsrooms are chaotic and distracting places – and so even the most intriguing press release on earth might slip through the cracks if it’s sent to the wrong reporter at the wrong time of day. But if you follow the aforementioned writing tips, you should emerge with a fairly ironclad press release that will almost definitely get published somewhere.

Just remember: keep it concise, keep it snappy and don’t take no for an answer.

Nash RigginsNash Riggins is an American business journalist based in Scotland. You can connect with him on Twitter @nashriggins, or follow his blog at www.nashriggins.com.

Earning Referrals Takes More Than Luck

With the madness of the annual NCAA tournament upon us and St. Patrick’s Day behind us, there’s a lot of talk about luck. The luck of the Irish or that team was lucky to pull off the upset. Some of you may be thinking you could use some of that luck in your business for turning your current customer base into a steady stream of referrals.

The bad news is that whether or not you believe in it, luck it is hard to create. You also can’t just go to a store and buy a bottle of luck or a program to make yourself and your business lucky.

The good news is that you don’t need luck to get more referrals, what you need is just a bit of hard work and focus on your customers.

Referrals are the culmination of your customer’s experience with your business. They are the reward for completing the customer journey, and doing it in a way that surprises and impresses them to the point that they recommend that experience to their family and friends.

But here’s what is most important about referrals: people want to refer you. They want to be wowed by your company, and they can’t wait to tell everyone about it. It is your job to take advantage of this by meeting and exceeding their expectations.

Here are some ways you can increase referrals for your business:

1) Take Time to Educate Potential Customers

In order to meet and exceed your customers’ expectations, you must first make sure they are reasonable. Take the time to educate your customers about your product or service, and don’t rush them into buying it. If your customer knows exactly what they are buying, their expectations of what you will deliver are realistic.

2) Surprise Your Customers and Show Gratitude

Now that your customers have a clear expectation of your product or service, you can now take an opportunity to surprise them. Give them something extra, whether it be a promotion or a gift, which they aren’t expecting. It can be something as simple as a short personal letter to your customers or, as Sara describes here, you can send them a loaded new customer kit.

It is also important to make sure your customers know you appreciate their patronage. Go out of your way to thank your customers, and try to add as much of a personal touch as possible. The “Thank you!” at the end of an invoice is expected, but a Holiday card from you or your whole team still carries a lot of weight.

3) Resolve Issues and Welcome Feedback

In college, I spent a fair amount of time waiting tables, as I’m sure many of us have. One of the main lessons I will take away from that time is that people are willing to recognize that things don’t always go as planned. Whenever there was an issue with food or the environment or the wait times, I worked hard to resolve those issues as quickly as possible. Customers in those situations often tipped better than most, because they recognized and rewarded those efforts.

To bring that same principle to business, work with your customers to resolve any issues that may arise during the customer journey, and ask for feedback on how to improve. If you take their feedback seriously, they are more likely to refer your business. Just because something goes wrong doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve lost their referral.

4) Ask for a Referral

Too few businesses ask for referrals at the end of their customer journey. I don’t know if businesses feel like they are asking too much, or if asking somehow cheapens the referral. But because we know people want to refer your business, you should give them an opportunity to do so. Digital media has made this so much easier because your customers no longer need to be in the same room as their friends and family to refer you.

You’ll want to make this as easy as possible, or even give them an added benefit. Offer a gift or discount for a positive Yelp review or Facebook post, or use a tool like Get Five Stars to increase your reviews.

Just remember: you have to be constantly working to earn referrals. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC