Three Costly Social Media Mistakes Brands Should Avoid in 2021

The pandemic has driven brands to rely more than ever on digital channels to engage their customers. Social media, in particular, is one channel that has benefitted from this trend due to its low barriers to entry. However, organizations should avoid a shotgun approach to social media that can result in mistakes which negatively impact brand perception, alienate customers, and hurt sales. Instead, consider establishing social media protocol, identifying do’s and don’ts, and having a quality control process in place that protects your brand.

Here are three costly mistakes to avoid with your social media strategy in 2021:

  1. Wear gloves if handling products, especially food
  2. Avoid photos/videos that don’t reflect social distancing
  3. Don’t overwhelm your followers’ feeds by posting too frequently

Contactless Everything

As a result of the pandemic, consumers are ultra-sensitive to how the products they’re purchasing have been handled. How brands portray their offerings on social media is a representation of how those offerings are managed behind the scenes  — something consumers are factoring into their buying decisions now more than ever. For example, an establishment that sells food may send the wrong message by sharing a photo/video of a team member holding an unpackaged, ready-to-eat item without gloves. Although the intention may be to showcase the product, the result is a perception that staff members prepare and/or serve the food without gloves, which could alienate customers.

Six Feet of Separation

Avoid posting photos and videos that don’t reflect social distancing protocols, or at least ensure everyone is wearing a mask if maintaining 6 feet of separation is not possible. Failing to do so can send the wrong message and attract unwanted scrutiny. It’s also advisable to avoid posts that show individuals shaking hands, team members huddled together, or anything else that might make customers feel uncomfortable.

Law of Diminishing Returns

Posting too frequently can overwhelm your audience and result in unfollows or the social equivalent of ‘ad blindness’ where followers simply ignore your posts. This is akin to email marketing, where emailing subscribers too frequently can result in a greater volume of unsubscribes and a lower open rate. Just as you wouldn’t want to clutter your customer’s inboxes, you don’t want to clutter their newsfeeds either. A study published by Hubspot found that posting on Facebook and LinkedIn more than 5 times per week resulted in diminishing returns.

Something else that posting too frequently can diminish is your brand. Make sure your strategy provides value to your audience in a tasteful and tactful way, and elevates your brand. Posting content that could be perceived as out of touch with the current climate and posting too frequently can do more harm than good to your brand over time.

In summary, avoid costly mistakes like these by establishing social media protocols within your organization, identifying do’s and don’ts, and having a quality control process in place that protects the brand. Only by taking the steps outlined above can you ensure that your social media strategy has the intended effect of providing value to your audience while avoiding the consequences of negative brand perception.

How to Accelerate Your Organization’s Digital Transformation in 2021

Prior to COVID-19, did you rely primarily on word of mouth, referrals, networking, and conferences to drive revenue? Did you find it challenging to successfully pivot your offering and marketing efforts to digital channels in 2020? If so, it may be time to consider changing the way your business delivers value to customers in the digital age.

The adoption of technology is accelerating, and consumer behavior is rapidly changing, as evidenced by the record-setting e-commerce sales on Cyber Monday 2020. To take advantage of these trends in 2021, you’ll want to develop and implement a digital transformation strategy that ensures healthy customer acquisition and retention. This strategy should enable engagement with your audience through technology from initial touchpoint to conversion, and beyond.

Below are some insights to help as you develop your organization’s digital transformation plan.

Utilize Technology to Make Your Offering More Accessible

Thanks to Amazon, Zoom, Shipt, UberEats, and others, consumer behaviors and expectations are shifting dramatically to a preference for convenience. Brands that utilize technology to make it easier for their customers to do business with them will win out in 2021. As you craft your digital transformation strategy, think about how to make your customers’ lives easier by leveraging technology to make your offerings accessible from the comfort of their own home.

Think of Your Website as a ‘Digital Experience’

Your website should no longer serve simply as a tool that provides information about who you are and what you do. It should serve as a robust digital experience that represents your brand, your culture, and the impression you want your customers to have when they engage with you. In essence, your website should drive the same perception that someone would have of your business if they were to walk in through the front door. Apple is one example of a brand that provides a digital experience through its website that is aligned with the experience a customer has when visiting one of their stores, through a visually stunning and engaging presentation (just like its products).

Take Advantage of the Growth in Social Media Consumption

Social media usage spiked in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, and social media savvy brands were rewarded. As an example, Instagram is forecasted to reach 1 billion users in 2020 according to eMarketer. That represents more than 20% year-over-year growth for the platform. To take advantage of this growth in social media consumption, your organization’s digital transformation should include a strategy to build a social media following on the appropriate platforms, and provide your audience with information of value that continuously reminds them why they followed you in the first place. Social media is also an excellent platform to introduce your brand to new customers and keep it top-of-mind with existing customers. Just make sure to keep best practices in mind and don’t overwhelm your followers’ feeds by posting too frequently.

Engage Your Audience Through Webinars and Podcasts

Consider using webinars and podcasts to engage potential customers and partners and strengthen your relationships with existing ones. These could include any presentation, lecture, or workshop that’s presented over the web, so long as it focuses on your areas of expertise and covers a topic your audience will be interested in. When done successfully, webinars and podcasts are extremely useful for capturing prospects at any stage of the sales funnel and boosting engagement amongst prospects.

Prioritize Search Visibility for Direct Response

Search engine visibility is still a key tactic for direct response advertisers, but increased competition makes it challenging to compete for top search positions as more and more brands shift to digital. Instead of only relying on SEO or paid search, consider using a hybrid approach that utilizes both tactics simultaneously in order to achieve a high level of visibility that drives customers to your website.

Invest in Software to Track Customer Data

If you’re still using spreadsheets to keep track of customer data instead of a CRM (customer relationship management) system, it’s time to make the transition. Staying in front of prospects and customers through first-party data advertising, email marketing, SMS marketing, and other channels is much easier with a CRM that serves as a central database for prospect and customer information. The next step in your digital transformation strategy will be impossible without a decent CRM system, automation.

Automate Recurring and Redundant Tasks

Automation will be a key element of your digital transformation. Given that your digital strategy will likely comprise a number of moving parts that have to be managed, establishing automation to assist with recurring tasks will save time and increase efficiencies. Look for CRM systems that include automation capabilities, such as Salesforce or Hubspot.

If you don’t yet have a digital transformation strategy in place to ensure healthy customer acquisition and retention in 2021 and aren’t sure where to begin, we can help.

Request a complimentary consultation today.

Facebook Advertising Simplified: One of The Most Effective Tactics

Facebook is much more than the most popular social media platform worldwide; it’s also where 86.8 percent of U.S. marketers create and distribute quality content, strengthen their online presence, and generate qualified leads. However, as Facebook’s advertising capabilities have become increasingly robust and versatile in nature, many businesses have said that the platform often feels overwhelming or confusing. Between a wide range of audience parameters, 11 advertising objectives, and five ad formats, it’s easy to see why some brands are struggling to wrap their minds around running a successful ad campaign. To remove some of the guesswork from this process and provide insight into what’s worked for us here at LEVERAGE, this article will explore one of the most effective Facebook advertising tactics you can implement: Retargeting.

Reconnect With Interested Customers Via Retargeting

Retargeting is an online advertising tactic that enables you to keep your brand front and center with prospective customers who have shown an interest in your products or services previously, based on their online activity. This could be visiting your website, adding something to their cart, or simply leaving a like on your Facebook page. This form of advertising is one of the most effective tactics in terms of supercharging your marketing ROI because you’re only showing advertisements to people who have already shown an interest in your business and, thus, are more likely to convert. 

Since only a small percentage of website visitors are likely to make a purchase or inquire about a service on their first visit, retargeting greatly increases the probability that they will return to your website to complete the process. With Facebook’s advertising platform, you can accomplish this by either installing a piece of code that helps track conversions and optimize ads on your website (Facebook Pixel) or by uploading a list of existing contacts from your database.

Attract New Customers Likely to Be Interested in Your Brand with Lookalike Audiences

Once you’ve established an audience of interested customers who have previously interacted with your brand, you can use a Lookalike Audience to reach new people who are likely to be interested because they’re similar to those who have already expressed interest. Essentially, you’re identifying common qualities of the people in your source audience and delivering your advertisement to those consumers to generate a wider, new audience. The better data you provide and the more information you have about your source audience, the better your results will be.

With these two advertising tactics, strong messaging, and a compelling offer, you’re bound to recapture previously lost opportunities and attract new leads likely to convert in the future.

Leads Not Converting? Here’s a Likely Reason Why

Are you driving a lot of qualified leads, but they don’t seem to be converting? One possible reason for this is that you may be using the same sales strategy with top and middle of funnel leads that you use with bottom of funnel leads.

Whereas bottom of funnel leads are typically ready to make a purchase decision, top and middle of funnel leads require more nurturing and more touches before making a purchase. Top of funnel leads are in the research phase. They’re still trying to figure out what exactly they want, and who to buy it from. They’re far from making a purchase decision. Middle of funnel leads are more informed than top of funnel leads, and have likely narrowed down their consideration set, but are still evaluating options before making a decision.

If someone finds you on Google because they searched for your offering specifically, they’re likely a bottom of funnel lead, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to close them fairly quickly. This is one of the reasons we love SEO and paid search advertising. It’s incredibly effective at driving motivated bottom of funnel leads. However, if someone finds you on Facebook because they stumble across your ad in their newsfeed, it’s likely they are a top or middle of funnel lead. Facebook advertising and social media advertising in general is also very effective, but more so for generating awareness and driving top of funnel traffic.

In the Google example, you may be able to close that lead on the first call, or at least advance them to the proposal stage. However, in the Facebook example, a completely different approach must be taken. Rather than trying to close the lead or advance them to the proposal stage on the first call, the goal should be to get as much information as possible about them, assess their needs, and determine how you can best serve them.

Then, have a follow-up process in place to help nurture the relationship, and ensure that you remain top of mind, while the prospect works their way through the funnel. Depending on your sales cycle, this process might take days, weeks, or even months. Certain marketing tactics, such as retargeting and email marketing, can help increase touch points and nurture the relationship. Combining these tactics with personalized email outreach and follow ups by phone can also be very effective.

Finally, it’s critical to understand that just because a lead isn’t ready to buy today, doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified. They just have to be nurtured. Mislabelling qualified leads as unqualified because they weren’t ready to convert after the first touch is a huge mistake, and can cost your business opportunities. If you have enough of these leads in your pipeline, and they’re nurtured effectively, a percentage of them will convert, adding another source of new business in addition to the bottom of funnel leads you’re accustomed to working with.

No PPP Loan? Here’s What You Should Do Next

Most of you know by now that the PPP program loan funding has been exhausted. Unfortunately, there are a lot of you out there that applied for the PPP loan and didn’t get it. Your application may not have even finished processing before the program ran out of money. 

There’s a lot of us in the same boat, so don’t feel that you’re alone.

Don’t Rely On Unreliable Entities

There are a lot of creative ways to continue driving revenue for your business. You shouldn’t be reliant on loans from banks or the government. Quite frankly, the banks and the government aren’t reliable. They have good intentions, but they are not reliable. You cannot count on that. 

What you can count on though is your perseverance and your ability to adapt, innovate, and come up with creative ways to continue driving revenue for your business. That is the one thing you can count on. 

That is what we are doing here at LEVERAGE. 

How to Find Creative Solutions

We are finding creative ways to continue servicing our clients as best we possibly can. We’re not relying on our bank or local state or federal governments to bail us out. 

One way that a lot of you can benefit and continue driving revenue is by simply updating your website to let your customers know that you guys are still open for business. For any of you out there who haven’t updated your website yet, look at your home page. At the very top, front and center, it should say “We Are Open For Business.” 

Make sure to have a very clear message to your customers confirming that you are open. Don’t assume your clientele knows that you’re open because they might not. 

Consider Adding a COVID-19 Resources Section

Also, if you haven’t already added a COVID-19 resources section to your website, keep your customers apprised of what your business is doing during COVID-19 to keep operating and servicing them. They need to know you are up and running and are able to service their needs. So if you guys haven’t done that, go do it now.

The Importance For Brands to Convey Empathy & Compassion During This Crisis

I’ve talked a lot about the importance of creating content and serving as a resource for your clientele during this time, but something I have not touched on yet is the importance of conveying empathy and compassion and letting your clientele know that you understand what they’re going through. 

You understand exactly what they’re going through, and you are there for them during this difficult period. There are ways that you can help your clientele that they would find great value in. It is up to you to look at your business and figure out the best ways to accomplish that.

Reach Out to Those Around You

Simply reaching out to your clients and letting them know that you know what they’re going through is enough. “Here are the ways we can help.” “We want you to know we’re there for you.” It’s gonna go a long way once this is all said and done. 

The brands that are not doing that — the brands that are still pushing the hard sells and trying to get the short term, quick transactions — are doing more harm than good to their long term brand equity.

Compassion Breeds Long Term Benefits

Long term, the companies that are going to be remembered or at least thought of fondly following this are the ones like the distilleries, who are no longer bottling alcohol but are bottling hand sanitizer, and the remote work technology companies like Zoom who are now offering their technology to schools and hospitals for free.

That is what’s going to be remembered after this. Those are the brands that are going to come out way ahead as a result of all of the good will they are building.

You can do the same. 

Look at the Big Picture

Take a step back and look at your business. Think about your customers and how you can help them right now.

It will pay off big time in the long run. Of course, that’s not why you are doing it. You’re doing it because we’re all in this together and we need to help each other out.

Gain More Attention And Position Yourself As An Authority

We’re all experiencing declines in new business.

Except for Amazon, Zoom, and Netflix, there aren’t many businesses right now generating significant levels of new business. 

The way I look at it is, now is the time to really focus on gaining your customers’ attention.

Gain More Attention

Your customers may not be buying right now. For example, you might be in health care and your patients have canceled their appointments. Maybe you do elective surgeries but are now unable to do so. Now is the time to position yourself as the authoritative resource for that clientele.

Using the health care example again, if you’re a physician, or maybe you manage a Healthcare Group, now is the time to post content to your website and your social media profiles regarding: 

  • COVID-19 
  • Medical implications regarding COVID-19 
  • The latest that’s coming out in terms of vaccines.

There’s a lot of opportunity right now for healthcare professionals, in particular, to distinguish themselves as the subject matter experts in their field and really garner attention from not only their existing patient base but also potential new patients down the road. 

This thing is going to end at some point. When the smoke clears, the companies that are going to thrive are the ones getting eyeballs and getting the attention through providing valuable content and information to their clientele. 

Another great example is legal professionals attorneys. 

Right now is a prime opportunity for attorneys to provide their clientele with resources regarding all federal, state, and local legislations being passed, in order to help individuals and small businesses. 

You should be out there publishing content to your website and your social media profiles regarding all this new legislation and serving as that trusted adviser that is an authoritative resource for your clientele. In addition to that, you can also be talking about how COVID-19 may impact your clientele specifically.

Position Yourself As An Authority

One example is a divorce attorney. I suspect that with spouses locked in the same house together for long periods of time you’re probably going to have some friction at some point. A divorce attorney can provide guidance and advice on how to make sure that you maintain positivity in a household when you’re locked in the same house for 30 days or more. 

Bankruptcy is on a lot of American’s minds right now. Maybe they’re not in the best position financially, and depending on how long this goes on for, it could lead to bankruptcy.

Pushing bankruptcy attorneys to discuss and produce content that serves as advice and guidance on how Americans can avoid bankruptcy would be very compelling and help position you as an authoritative resource and as that subject matter expert.

Once the economy rebounds and once things begin to normalize and people start hiring attorneys and going back to their physicians offices and so forth, they’re going to come to you, as opposed to your competition. 

Right now your competition is silent. They’re not doing anything!

If you’re the one putting content out there and helping them through this crisis, they are going to trust you. They’re going to want to come to you once all this is over.

How to Adapt and Thrive During Times of Uncertainty

As a business owner, you can adapt and thrive during times of uncertainty. 

One of the things I’ve noticed companies doing is that they’re taking their eye off the ball in terms of generating revenue. This is because they are so focused on cost-cutting and borrowing. 

The Time to Generate Revenue is Now

Both of these things are necessary at this time. Companies have to contract and reduce costs and, where necessary, borrow in order to remain cash flow positive. But that should not be in lieu of generating revenue. Revenue generation should be just as important now as it was prior to the pandemic. 

This is an issue that companies are failing to recognize. Just because times are tough and we are stuck in our home doesn’t mean we can’t still generate revenue. You just have to figure out how and pivot and look for those opportunities within your specific business.

  • One way to continue generating revenue is by taking care of your existing customers. Make sure sure you’re continuing to provide them with value.
  • Another way is to reallocate your short-term marketing budgets you had set aside for tradeshows and conferences and apply that to digital marketing. 

Although demand for services has declined, it’s not like it’s nonexistent. People are still buying; where they were once buying in person, they’re now buying online. You have to be present when they are searching for your product or service offering.

Ramping Up Virtual Consultations

One of the things we’re having a lot of success with and seeing our clients have a lot of success with is consultations. Instead of doing in-person consultations onsite, they are doing virtual consultations using Zoom, UberConference, or GoToMeeting. We are also seeing seminars being conducted virtually. Where a seminar may have been conducted in-person, now they are being done virtually and with great success.

The opportunities are there. You just have to take a step back, assess your current situation, and think about the needs of your customers and how you can meet those needs even though you may not be able to physically be in front of them when you do.

How to Continue Driving Revenue During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As a business owner, one of your primary goals right now should be to find ways to continue driving revenue during the pandemic. Your business needs cash flow, and while you can certainly borrow, you’ll have to pay that money back at some point. As we may be headed for a recession or already in the midst of one, finding ways to maintain positive cash flow through revenue instead of debt will put your business in a much better position now and in the future.

Here are a few ways to continue driving revenue during this uncertain time.

Focus on Your Best Customers

Depending on your line of business, your best customers may need you now more than ever. So, pick up the phone and call them to see how they’re doing and what you can do to help them. Our best customers are the reason we’re in business and you better believe we’re working harder than ever to make sure their businesses not only survive this crisis, but are well positioned to come out of it even stronger.

Increase Your Investment in Digital Marketing

If you’ve historically relied on in-person networking, trade shows, or conferences to drive revenue, you need digital marketing now more than ever to replace that lost revenue. We’ll likely see both the volume and duration of online usage achieve record breaking levels during the pandemic as people spend more time on Google, Facebook, Youtube, and other platforms as a result of being at home. This is the perfect opportunity to make sure your brand is front and center, and top of mind with potential customers. People will still need goods and services despite the pandemic.

Utilize Video Conferencing

If you typically meet with customers face-to-face, video conferencing can be a great alternative to canceled appointments. There are plenty of video conferencing options available, such as GoToMeeting, Zoom, and UberConference. Don’t settle for trying to replace in-person meetings with a phone call. Video conferencing is a much more effective alternative, because it mimics an in-person interaction more. With a phone call, you’re unable to see your customer’s facial expressions and body language, which may communicate more to you than what they’re saying verbally.

Serve New Segments

Consider serving new segments that can benefit from your offering. We already have clients pivoting to serve segments that they historically haven’t served to help diversify their clientele. For example, perhaps you typically focus on high ticket items, but may find there are fewer of those now, while there is still demand for lower ticket items. These lower ticket items will help keep the revenue coming in until demand for your more profitable higher ticket offering resumes.

Pivot Your Offering

Restaurants that typically rely on in-store dining are doing an excellent job of pivoting their offering right now by focusing on delivery and takeout. Gyms can pivot by offering virtual personal training sessions and classes. Physicians can pivot to virtual consultations. Attorneys can pivot to different practice areas that are in higher demand during a recession. Home service business can pivot from installs to repairs. These are just a few of many examples of how you can pivot, which ultimately depends on your business and unique circumstances.

Remember, this is a temporary event. So, focus on driving revenue not only to secure your business now, but to set it up for success once the pandemic ends and the economy rebounds.

5 Steps to Help Your Business Thrive in a Time of Economic Uncertainty

With the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), you are not only responsible for your personal health and the health of your loved ones, but also for the health of your business. With the U.S. economy potentially headed for a recession, the country is in a severe state of economic uncertainty, and that is not good for business. However, it can be good for your business if you take certain steps to adapt. 

Consumers will continue spending, and someone has to be there to meet that demand. Just because there’s economic uncertainty, doesn’t mean that you still don’t have payroll and other financial obligations to meet, or sales goals to achieve. You must adapt in order to keep the train on the tracks, and potentially come out of this economic turmoil with an even stronger business.

Here are five ways you can take advantage of the current state of uncertainty.

Step 1: Ramp up marketing while your competitors sit on the sidelines

Henry Ford once said, “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.” With many of your competitors pulling back, this is the perfect opportunity to ramp up your sales and marketing activities, potentially at a lower cost. Advertising costs in general will decline, which means your marketing budget will go further than it did before. This presents a prime opportunity to gain market share from your competitors, and position your company to be even stronger and more dominant than it was before.

Step 2: Evaluate expenses, and trim the fat

Times like this present a great opportunity to evaluate your expenses and determine if there is any fat you can trim. Do you have any unnecessary expenditures that can be reduced? For example, we recently replaced K cups in our office with a 30oz can of Folgers. With this change, we went from spending roughly $80 per month on coffee to just $7 per month. This resulted in a savings of almost $900 over the course of a year. We also reduced the janitorial services for our office from twice a week to once a week. The office is just as clean as it was before, but for half the cost. We’re now saving over $1000 per month from those changes, and have since reallocated those funds to our own marketing efforts, where we typically see a 3x to 5x return. So, we’re not only saving $1000 per month, we’re actually earning an average of $4000 per month from those reductions in our office expenditures.

Step 3: Strengthen your team and encourage professional development

Use this opportunity to strengthen your team. Economic uncertainty impacts your employees just as much as it impacts you. It’s important to keep employee morale up during this time. Take a few minutes to check in with each of your employees and see how they’re doing. This also gives you an opportunity to provide your employees with feedback and encourage them to take advantage of professional development opportunities if business slows. If you have any employees who are underperforming, this is also a good time to address those issues. You can’t afford to have employees who aren’t significant contributors to the company’s bottom line during uncertain economic times.

Step 4: Reevaluate your business plan and be prepared to pivot

In the event business slows, use that time to reevaluate your business plan. There may be opportunities for growth that you haven’t thought of, or weren’t present before. For instance, you may be able to pivot to a different offering or serve a different audience. There may also be opportunities to improve your operations. For example, if and when things slow for your business, use this time to focus on building better systems and improving efficiencies. This can result in increased productivity and ultimately a more profitable business once things pick back up.

Step 5: Place more emphasis on digital marketing

Companies that typically rely on in-person networking, conferences, and tradeshows to drive new business will have to find alternative means of generating business. Sales quotas must still be met, but the traditional planes, trains, and automobiles method isn’t going to work as long as COVID-19 is an issue. There is a tremendous opportunity here for those that have historically relied on networking to create a digital marketing strategy to replace this lost revenue. Develop a digital marketing plan with a heavy emphasis on search engine optimization, social media marketing, and retargeting. Keep in mind that if people are stuck in their homes for long periods of time, they will be spending a lot of time on Google and Facebook.

Regardless of what the future holds, take this opportunity to evaluate your business and make the changes that are necessary to not only survive, but to continue to grow and thrive.