The Cloud9 Marketing blog covers trending digital marketing topics, industry tips and advice as well as, resort marketing tactics.

As we learn to navigate these uncharted waters, confusion and uncertainty are at an all-time high. Not only is this situation putting pressure on everyday life, but business owners are also feeling the pressure and impact of these troubling times. 

With people around the world being told to stay home, one of the heaviest hit industries has been the tourism sector. And here in Whistler, we have certainly felt the impacts of this. Many local businesses have temporarily shut down operations including tour operators, hotels, restaurants and more, causing a trickle-down effect to our mountain town.

If your business has been forced to close or limit its services, you may have questions as to what the best practices for marketing during a time like this are. A lot of businesses have chosen to “go dark” and have completely put a hold on all marketing efforts including social media.

But is going dark on social media the right move? In our opinion, no. 

The term “social distancing” has become a staple in our everyday vocabulary as of late. However, we believe the term we should be using is “physical distancing.” This is a time more than ever that we need to maintain connections with people and be social, digitally that is. 

(If you’re more of the listener than a reader, hear more about this topic on our very first podcast, Social Media Marketing During a Time of Crisis. Listen now at: https://bit.ly/2y79Ue2.)

Why You Should Be Posting

With most of our time now being spent at home and away from public situations, people are turning to social media for entertainment more than ever. For some, social media may even be the only social connection they have. Before this pandemic, the average adult spent two hours a day on social media, imagine where these numbers must be at now…

Social media enables businesses to connect with people all over the world. Maintaining a presence during these times will allow businesses to expand their community and maintain the one they have worked so hard to build. Now is the time to establish who your brand really is and invest in relationships rather than transactions.

And with so many businesses choosing to go dark, this could, in fact, be the least cluttered time ever on social media for tourism businesses. Use this time to stand out from your competitors enabling you to be top of mind for when things return to ‘normal’. 

What You Should Be Posting 

As these are unprecedented times, it can be a challenge to determine what posts are appropriate. With so much anxiety and heaviness surrounding the situation, businesses should be focusing on content that is light-hearted and inspirational. 

This is also the time to present the human side of your business. People are looking for a connection more than ever. Tell stories, show personality, find a way to connect with your audience. Be sure to also monitor and reply to any comments — this is a great way to make things personal.

Some examples of what to post:

  • Repost user-generated content
  • Create video tutorials
  • Share stories of favourite past memories
  • Introduce your staff
  • Support any local initiatives or emergency communications

Other Marketing Efforts

So we’ve established that maintaining social media presence during this time is important, but what about other marketing efforts? 

We recommend refocusing any efforts towards achieving conversion goals to efforts that help build community and engagement. This includes turning off any paid advertising across all platforms.

Planning For the Future

Although we hope this will all be over soon, we cannot predict exactly when everything will return to business as usual. We can, however, use this time to start planning for the future and ensure we have a strategy set for when the time comes. Because when it comes, it’s going to come suddenly and those that are not prepared will be left behind.

Create a plan starting at the beginning of the end of all of this. If possible, begin to create quality content to use in order to avoid scrambling at the last minute — Draft posts, create videos, write blog posts, etc. 

We also believe that focusing efforts on regional markets will be more successful at first. It will take some time for economies to recover and travel bans to lift, which may create barriers for international visitors. 

For more on this topic, be sure to listen to our very first podcast, Social Media Marketing During a Time of Crisis where Cloud9 Marketing team members Virginia-Rae Choquette and Hailey Elise discuss how to navigate social media during this current time of crisis. Listen now at: https://bit.ly/2y79Ue2

cash register - consumer journey

Depending on your type of business, there is almost guaranteed to be multiple touchpoints in which a consumer will interact with it before making a purchase. These touchpoints can range from seeing a print ad in a magazine, liking a social media post on Facebook, visiting your website or emailing your customer service department. 

All of these interactions are part of what’s called the consumer journey. The consumer journey looks at the overall experience of your business’s customers from discovery and awareness to (hopefully) purchase.

Consumer Journey Mapping

Although understanding the steps along the consumer journey is a great start, an even more effective strategy is to create a consumer journey map. 

A consumer journey map is “a visual representation of the process a customer or prospect goes through to achieve a goal with your company.”

How you create the consumer journey map is entirely up to you. For some, a blank wall with sticky notes is sufficient, while for others a detailed spreadsheet on Excel is the preferred method. The most important aspect is that you are able to understand the map and make use of it. There are some great consumer journey map templates that can found online with a quick search on Google.

Why It’s Important

“With the help of a customer journey map, you can get a sense of your customers’ motivations, needs and pain points.”

Consumer journey mapping is important because it allows you to see exactly how your consumers experience your brand rather than how you think/want them to.

A consumer journey map allows you to step into your customers’ shoes and understand things like abandoned shopping carts, page visits and more. This understanding allows you to better refine the journey leading to a better and more effective consumer experience.

And a better consumer experience leads to increased sales, brand loyalty and more efficient marketing strategies.

Need help with understanding your customers’ journey? Not sure where to start? We can help! Connect with us for your free one-hour consultation.

 

Quotes taken from this great Hubspot Article: How to Create an Effective Customer Journey Map

person holding phone - local SEO

Most business owners that have a website have heard about Search Engine Optimization or SEO. But what about local SEO? 

What is Local SEO?

SEO is the process of optimizing your website in order to maximize the amount of organic traffic directed from the search engine results. 

Local SEO goes one step further and is the process of optimizing your website for a local audience. This process will help ensure that people in your area will be able to find your business online, and in turn in person. This is especially important for businesses that offer regional services or have a brick and mortar location. 

Statistics show that over 46% of all searches on Google are seeking local information so optimization for local SEO is essential for any business owner.

The Google 3-Pack

Being in the Google 3-Pack is an important goal for any business. Google uses the searcher’s location and displays the top three ranked businesses in a prominent location near the top of the search results page. The Google 3-Pack also displays relevant information to the user that they may need immediately, including address, phone number, store hours and more. 

Local SEO is not the only factor that determines which businesses are displayed in the 3-Pack, however, it does play a significant role.

How to Optimize Your Website for Local SEO

Here are a few tips and strategies you can follow in order to optimize your website for local SEO.

Google My Business

Claiming your Google My Business (GMB) listing is the first step to improving your local SEO ranking. If you have not claimed your listing yet, you are not alone — approximately 56% of businesses have not claimed their GMB listing. 

Completing your GMB listing will enable your business to be listed on Google Maps and in local search results. Your listing will show location, business hours, a link to your website, reviews and more.

Claim your Google My Business listing here.

Location Pages 

Adding location pages to your website will also help increase your website’s local SEO ranking. This could be in the form of adding your location address to a “Contact Us” page, or by creating separate pages for each location if your business has multiple locations. 

It’s also important to ensure that your full and accurate address is listed on your website in at least one location. We recommend adding it to the footer of your website so that it appears on every page of your website.

Business Reviews

Reviews from customers can play a role in your website’s ranking and inclusion in the 3-Pack. Positive reviews also encourage search engine users to click on your listing. Encourage your customers to leave positive reviews through email newsletters, signage in your store or just simply by asking them. 

Local-based Content

Consistently adding local-based content will help boost your local SEO. Consider writing a monthly blog post about a local event or highlight and be sure to include keywords that are relevant to your local area. For example, if you are a Whistler-based business, you could write about the World Ski and Snowboard Festival and include keywords such as World Ski and Snowboard Festival and WSSF.

Mobile Optimization

Most business searches are done on a mobile device so ensuring your website is mobile-friendly is extremely important. Mobile-friendliness impacts SEO overall so it is an important aspect for any website in general.

Although these are just some of the ways to optimize your website for local SEO, following these steps will surely improve your ranking and increase your chances of being featured in the Google 3-Pack. 

Need help with your website SEO? Not sure where to start? We can help! Read more about our Search Engine Optimization Services here.

sparklers - Marketing Trends for 2020

With 2020 just a week away, it’s time to step into the future. Marketing is all about planning ahead so the time start is now! 

The online marketing world is constantly shifting as technology grows and we gain more insight into what consumers like. New tools and features are continuously being added to social platforms to make the experience better for both the user and the marketer. In order for your business to be successful online, it’s important to keep up with trends and shift strategies to include these new tools and features. We take a look at some marketing trends for 2020 to keep an eye on and consider when making your plan for the new year.

Influencer Marketing

Since the beginning of social media, the use of influencers has continuously been on the rise. In 2020, it is expected that influencer marketing will only become more prominent on social media platforms. Social media users are increasingly becoming tentative towards ads and looking more to their peers for purchasing influences. When considering who their peers are online, social media users often will include celebrities, artists, and other influencers in addition to their friends and family.

Although influencer marketing can come with a hefty price tag, it’s not just reserved for big businesses. Smaller businesses with tighter budgets can take advantage of micro-influencers for their campaigns. It has often been debated if micro-influencers might be even more effective than big-name influencers as they have a niche following that is very focused on specific hobbies, likes and habits. Read more on micro-influencers here.

Shopping on Social Media

New tools and features on social media have made the purchasing process so easy for consumers. Social media users can now shop directly from their Instagram feeds without even having to leave the platform. This seamless process allows conversions to happen quickly and effortlessly, which is great news for businesses and marketers. In 2020, the use of shopping on social media will only grow as more businesses include this option in their marketing and consumers get more used to the idea of shopping on social media.

AR

Technological advancements have made the use of Augmented Reality (AR) a credible tool for marketing. We are already seeing it pop up in certain industries such as real estate, fashion, home decor and more. The use of AR makes the buying process so easy for the consumer allowing them to make purchase decisions without even having to leave their home. As technology grows even more, we can expect to see the use of AR become more mainstream in 2020.

Chatbots and AI

We have already seen an increase in the use of chatbots and AI-based technology, however as more data is collected and algorithms are improved, this technology will become “smarter.” In the past, chatbots mainly ran when triggered by certain keywords, answering with prewritten sentences. With new technology, chatbots are able to read and fully “understand” what users are writing to them. They now have the ability to search the web and adapt their answers. 

The use of chatbots and AI-based technology allows businesses to improve their customer service which has increasingly become an important aspect for consumers.

Voice Search

As people become more comfortable with the idea of voice assistants and AI-based technology, the usage of smart speakers has grown exponentially. We saw a 51% increase in the usage of smart speakers by Canadians from 2018 to 2019 alone. In 2020, it is estimated that almost 18% of Canadians will use smart speakers. This presents a huge opportunity for marketers, as well as a new list of challenges. Although it’s not mandatory to completely shift strategies for voice search, certain content optimizations should be considered — Generally, users are asking the speakers direct questions so including content on your website that answers these questions will ensure your content is found and used by the smart speakers. 

With 2020 just around the corner, it’s time to get cracking on your strategy. Need help with your marketing strategy? Not sure how to incorporate these marketing trends for 2020 into your business plan? Connect with us for a free consultation here.

christmas tree - social media marketing tips for holiday

The holiday season is a time of joy, festive fun and family time! But it’s also considered one of the busiest times for both online and offline sales as shoppers scramble to find the perfect gifts for their family and friends. 

When it comes to marketing, businesses are doing everything they can to inspire shoppers with amazing deals and catchy campaigns. Standing out on social media during the holidays can feel a lot like being the needle in a haystack, or a single snowflake in a snowball to be more seasonally relevant. So, how do you stand out in such a crowded environment? We share some social media marketing tips for the holiday season to help your brand get noticed during this busy time of year.

Holiday Spirit

Show that your brand has holiday spirit by posting holiday-themed images and posts. Use festive colours, imagery and symbols to evoke emotion from your followers. Be sure to include festive captions with your posts including holiday quotes, festive song lyrics and more. 

Storytelling

The holiday season is all about the warm fuzzy feelings and a good story is a great way to trigger those emotions. Storytelling is a great way to show personality and connect with your audience. It’s also a great way to create content that can be repurposed for multiple platforms. Read more about storytelling and what it’s something you should consider adding to your marketing strategy not just during the holidays but all year, here

Social Media Holidays

For social media marketing, Christmas and New Years aren’t the only holidays that you need to post about. There are many “social media holidays” such as #NationalHotCocoaDay or #InternationalMountainDay which are great ways to boost your social media marketing during the holiday season. Now, these holidays may seem a little cheesy, but they are a great way to take advantage of trending hashtags and increase engagement on your posts. Check a full list of social media holidays here.

Engagement

Engaging with your social media followers is important at any time of year, but putting an emphasis on it during the holidays can help your brand stand out amongst the competition. As businesses put a focus on promotions and sales, social media users can start to feel less like an appreciated fan and more like a business transaction. Maintaining engagement with your followers will help build personal connections between your customers and your brand. 

Collaborations

The holidays are a great way to collaborate with relevant and/or other local businesses. As the saying goes “two heads are better than one” and this is true when it comes to social media marketing — working with other brands helps expand your audience and reach a lot more users. 

One strategy for the holiday season could be a group of local businesses working together to raise money, toys, food, etc. for a local charity. It could be a friendly “competition” between businesses or just a nice way to give back to the community. Another great way to collaborate could be a prize giveaway featuring prizes for a group of businesses. 

The festive season is a magical time of year, but it’s also a busy one when it comes to marketing. Be sure to follow our social media marketing tips for the holiday season to make this festive time for your brand merry and bright! 

how to use hashtags

 

Knowing how to use hashtags is essential for any social media marketing. Hashtags are a great way to expand your reach as they allow users to find your posts based on specific topics that are relevant to their needs and interests. 

What is a Hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by the pound sign, or hash (#). Putting a hashtag before a word on social media turns it into a link that can be searched or clicked in order to find similar content.

Hashtags had their start on Twitter in 2007. Developer Chris Messina tweeted a suggestion that Twitter begin grouping topics using the pound symbol. Initially, Twitter rejected the suggestion. In October 2007, journalists began using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire to tweet updates on forest fires in the San Diego area. This was just the beginning of the hashtag’s widespread use across most social media platforms.

Why Use Hashtags?

Hashtags are a great way to build your brand’s awareness, engagement and expand your reach to new audiences. For example, if you add the hashtag #skiing to a photo on Instagram and someone searches for that hashtag, your photo will appear in their search results. The hashtag allowed your content to be found and potentially gained you a new follower.

Hashtags are also a great way to build momentum for a specific campaign. When businesses are running contests or large campaigns, you will often see unique branded and creative hashtags. This helps expand the reach of the campaign and also allows users to easily follow the campaign. Check out some awesome examples here.

Which Hashtags to Use?

When using hashtags, it’s important to use the right ones. It will take some time to brainstorm and research which hashtags will provide results for your accounts. 

Things to consider: 

  • Are the hashtags relevant?
  • What hashtags are other relevant accounts using?
  • What hashtags are trending?

How to Use Hashtags on Social Media

How you use hashtags will vary depending on the social media platform you are using. Currently, hashtags are used on most major social media platforms. See below for information on how to use hashtags for some of the most popular platforms and the optimal number of hashtags to use, as recommended by Hootsuite.

Twitter

Optimal number of hashtags: 1-2

On Twitter, hashtags are used to categorize ideas and topics. 

Facebook

Optimal number of hashtags: 1-2

Hashtags aren’t used as often on Facebook, and there is a lot of debate as to whether or not they are relevant for the platform. Keep your hashtags to a minimum to prevent your post copy from looking crowded.

Instagram

Optimal number of hashtags: 9-15 (up to 30)

Hashtags on Instagram are used to categorize photos and videos based on what the content is representing.

Have any further questions on how to use hashtags? Or need some help with your social media marketing? Check out our social media marketing services here.

Mountain Alpenglow - Cloud9 Photography

We live in a busy time. And not only are our schedules busy, so is the world around us. When it comes to marketing, it can be hard to stand out amongst all the noise. Both the “real” and digital world are full of distractions, competitors and consumers with short attention spans (by choice)

In a world that is so saturated with marketing, how does a brand stand out? When you have 2.7 seconds to grab someone’s attention, how do you accomplish that? The answer is great photography! 

Naturally, humans are visual beings. 90% of the information absorbed by our brains is visual. Research at 3M Corporation concluded that we process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Photography has the power to capture a person’s attention, keep them interested and make them remember. These are all important characteristics when it comes to marketing. 

 

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Skills of a Photographer

When it comes to taking a photo, it may seem as simple as the click of a button but that is definitely not the case. Like any specialty, photography takes experience, skill and a natural touch. 

The skills of a photographer include:

Creativity

In order to create a photo that stands out and captures a user’s attention, a photographer must be able to think outside the box. A photographer must be able to evoke emotion and tell a story through their photos.

Lighting 

Lighting is an important factor that contributes to professional-looking and polished photos. This is especially true when it comes to shooting product photos. Lighting can affect everything from colour to size, and the right photos are needed to showcase a brand’s products properly. 

Editing

There are endless amounts of editing software available, but knowing how to properly utilize them is an important skill. A photographer not only has the skills to take the photos but also the skills to enhance them post-shoot. 

 

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Photography in Marketing

Having a solid portfolio of photos to use is extremely important for any brand. Photography can be used in all of your marketing material both on and offline including brochures, websites, social media and advertisements. Showcasing good-quality photos is important to create a sense of professionalism and capture attention.

Check out more of our photography portfolio here

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a great picture tells the whole story. Cloud9 offers professional photography to our clients, often in support of other marketing projects. If you are in need of excellent photography to showcase your business, products or yourself, contact us today.

 

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computer - is email marketing effective?

Email marketing is often overshadowed by flashier marketing techniques such as social media and paid advertising. But just because it doesn’t seem as “fun” or “cool” as other methods, doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. 

Email marketing is one of the oldest and most effective channels of digital marketing. If you’re asking, is email marketing effective? Consider this stat, email generates $38 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 3,800% ROI.

So what makes email marketing effective? Here are just a few reasons:

Affordable

Most small businesses are working with a limited marketing budget. Email marketing is a great, inexpensive marketing method. It allows businesses to reach a wide audience with very little investment and significant ROI. Most email marketing platforms, such as MailChimp, offer low-cost or even free plans. 

Measurable and Testable

Most email marketing platforms offer thorough analytics and data on email campaigns that you send out. Everything from the number of opens, the number of clicks, and unsubscribers can be tracked which will enable you to make adjustments and improve your email marketing. 

Most email marketing platforms also allow A/B testing which enables you to send out multiple versions of an email and test which version performs better. This information will help you learn about your subscribers and figure out what they respond better to allowing you to construct more effective emails in the future.

Customizable

One of the reasons that makes email marketing effective is that emails can be customized for different groups of people on your subscriber list. This is called segmenting. Segmenting allows you to deliver more relevant emails to your subscribers based on various criteria such as their geographic location, interests, purchase history, and much more. This creates a more personalized experience for your users and will help increase the success rate of your email marketing campaigns. 

Mobile Friendly

Email marketing is a great way to reach people on their mobile devices. Reading and checking emails is the most popular activity for smartphone users. Email marketing allows you to reach your subscribers instantaneously. When designing your marketing campaigns, it’s important to keep mobile users in mind and ensure your emails are mobile-friendly. 

Action Oriented

One of the great things about email marketing is that it is so easy to incorporate CTAs into your email campaigns. Whether you’re looking to direct traffic to a website or encourage people to make a purchase, it’s as simple as adding a button linked to an appropriate landing page. Consumers are looking for the easiest way to take action and email marketing makes the experience hassle-free.

 

If your business doesn’t have an email marketing strategy in place, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Email marketing remains one of the most effective marketing methods. 

Need help putting together your email marketing strategy? We can help with that! Cloud9’s team of experts build successful email marketing strategies designed to cultivate audiences and nurture relationships with customers and clients, with the ultimate goal of growing sales. Read more on our email marketing services here

girl taking photo - micro-influencer

Guest Blog Post Written by The Hosting Tribunal

Influencer marketing has fast become one of the most preferred marketing methods. In fact, 81% of marketers feel that it is an effective form of advertising.

An influencer has the potential to become a real brand asset. But, the tricky part is finding the right one to work with. In order to maximize your return on investment, conventional wisdom would suggest that you hire the influencer with the highest number of followers. After all, the more followers they have, the better the reach will be, right?

Actually, no.

Potential Reach vs Engagement 

In reality, having more followers does not automatically translate into more reach. In fact, the opposite is often true. As influencers start to build a larger following, it becomes more difficult for them to maintain that same personal relationship with their audience.

It’s a simple logistical matter – answering two hundred comments a week is relatively simple. But, as the number of followers increases, it becomes harder to maintain that action. Imagine dealing with ten thousand comments a week.

The downside of this is that the audience grows accustomed to having a more personal relationship with their influencer. In the early days, influencers work hard to show their audience that they’re valuable. As the influencer takes a step back, followers are bound to feel the difference.

As a result, followers will start to take a step back as well. They’re still likely to follow the influencer, but they’re not likely to check in as often. That also means that they’re less likely to repost, like, or comment on posts – they might not even see the posts on their feeds anymore.

That’s not going to do your campaign much good. What should you do instead, then?

The Micro-Influencer

A micro-influencer is someone who has anywhere between 1,000 and 50,000 followers. They have a following that’s large enough to make it worth your while, while still being able to maintain a relationship with their followers.

Here are a few benefits of working with a micro-influencer:

  •         It’s likely to cost you less: Influencers are typically paid on a scale according to how many followers they have. A micro-influencer is often willing to work for free products, or, at least, a lower rate.
  •       They will get to know their audience better: The larger the audience, the harder it becomes to get to know each person. A micro-influencer normally has a better grasp of what their audience likes and expects.
  •         You can diversify your risk: If you put all your budget into one campaign and it doesn’t work out, that’s money wasted. It’s better to choose two or three smaller influencers, as opposed to opting for one big name.

Final Notes

Working with a micro-influencer makes sense if you’d like to increase engagement, understand your target market better, and save yourself some money. Why pay big money for one influencer when you could get better results from a few smaller ones?

Interested in learning more about influencer marketing? Wondering if this strategy is right for your business? Connect with us for a free consultation here.

 

influencer infographic - micro-influencer

Infographic sourced from: https://www.smallbizgenius.net/by-the-numbers/influencer-marketing-statistics/

planner and coffee cup - SMART goals

Goal setting is an important aspect of marketing, and really in all aspects of your life.  At Cloud9 Marketing, we set our bars pretty high. We are goal setters not only for ourselves but for our clients. But we aren’t just spontaneously and carelessly going about making wishes and hoping they come true. No, there is a method to our madness!

In order to help guide our goal setting, we use the SMART method. The SMART method of goal setting is a method used by many businesses and people in order to help them stay focused and increase the chances of success in obtaining their goals. 

Although this method will not guarantee success in achieving your goals, it will definitely make the process of goal setting more efficient and give you a sense of direction.

S – Specific

Avoid making generalized goals and keep them specific to you and your brand. Answering the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When and Why) will tailor your goal to match the needs of your business. 

M – Measurable

How do you know if you’ve been successful if you haven’t predetermined what success is? Setting tangible indicators of success will allow you to track your progress and let you know whether or not you have achieved your goal. 

Lucky for us in the digital marketing world, there are many useful tools and platforms which provide us with detailed analytics and metrics of our webpages, advertising efforts, social media profiles and more. Read more on tracking website metrics here.

A – Achievable

Of course, it’s great to set the bar high, but avoid setting it TOO high. If your goal isn’t achievable, then you’ve ultimately set yourself up for failure. It’s important to look at where your business stands currently and understand where to set realistic benchmarks. An Important question to ask would be: do you have the resources and abilities to achieve these goals? 

R – Relevant

When setting goals, it’s important to ensure that they are relevant to your ultimate business objectives. If your ultimate goal is to increase in-store sales, perhaps it’s not the best idea to spend your annual marketing budget on a campaign to increase traffic to an e-commerce store. It’s essential to look at the big picture and create a plan and goals that are relevant.

T – Timely

Setting timelines is essential when setting goals because it creates a sense of urgency and pushes you to start working towards achieving success. If you don’t set a start and finish date, your goal is just going to sit in limbo like those tasks that have been on your personal to-do list for the last two years…(obviously not speaking from personal experience).

The next time you are setting marketing goals for your business, try the SMART goals method. If you need even further guidance with your marketing initiatives and strategies, connect with us for a free consultation