Looking for tips and advice on digital marketing, web development, branding or pretty much anything that helps your business to grow? Then check out the Cloud9 Marketing blog!

Check out this 4-part video series by Michele Romanow from CBC’s Dragons Den on what to know when running an online business. Originally posted on the Canada Post website.

 

 

 

 

 

In order to gain and retain loyal customers, you have to create a seamless online experience that leaves users with a lasting positive impression of your brand. Every single touchpoint with your company plays a role in converting your customer, so each one must be faultless.

A customer journey map is a visual representation of every experience your customers have with you. It shows you the route your customers take when navigating your website, and allows you to record every touchpoint. Developing a customer journey map can optimize your digital marketing strategy, as you can understand and address your buyer’s feelings, motivations and questions.

Here’s a breakdown of what customer journey mapping is, how it can help reveal gaps or issues within your strategy, and how to get started planning your own map.

What is a customer journey map?

The purpose of a customer journey map is very simple: it helps you understand the route your customers take when buying and using your products and services. It serves to tell the story of your customer’s experience, from their initial engagement with your brand, into hopefully a long-term relationship.

By charting and organizing your customer’s touchpoints with your brand, you’ll gain a holistic view of the process they go through when using your services.

Why do I need it?

A customer journey map is a powerful tool that allows you to clearly understand your audience’s needs. Here’s why it’s so effective.

It gives you clarity

Firstly, it gives you a complete overview of where and when customers are interacting with your business. You can understand the context of your users, and gain a clear picture of their needs, hesitations and potential concerns. From there, you can tailor your online experience and work towards establishing a long-term relationship with customers, based on consistency and trust.

You can address gaps and issues

While you can reward yourself for all the fantastically positive touchpoints you have created, you will also be able to see where you are currently lacking content and losing customers. This works in your favour, so fear not! Understanding where you need to invest time and money means you can immediately develop priorities to address these. You can then take steps to improve certain aspects of your customer’s experience.

Great! How can I create my own?

Now you’re fully aware of the benefits of a customer journey map, you’re probably wondering how to get started? As you can imagine, mapping out the customer experience takes some time, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

We recommend you start out by listing all online touchpoints your company has with customers. Keep it simple, and note what message your customer is receiving at each encounter, and what platform they receive this on. Once you’ve synchronized your messages throughout your customer’s journey, you can put together your map.

Below is an example of a customer journey map from Forrester Research. However, if you fancy something a little more visual, there are many tools such as Microsoft Visio and Glizzy that turn your data into flow charts and diagrams.

 

We understand that customer journey mapping is a complex process! At the end of the day, each and every map is produced differently, depending on your own, personal preferences. If you need help connecting with your customer and improving touchpoints online, as a full-service marketing agency here at Cloud9 Marketing, we would be happy to help. To arrange a strategy consultancy that focuses on your consumer’s journey, you can find us here – we look forward to hearing from you!

Can you identify your exact online target audience? If no immediate image or prototype pops into your head, you may need to re-evaluate your marketing strategy.

You could have the most visually appealing website to ever exist, but it will fail to make an impact if it’s not reaching the right audience. To make sure your hard work pays off, you’ll need to find out who your customers are and where they hang out online. By identifying your primary audience’s needs, you can increase your online conversations, optimize your social media marketing, and boost organic traffic.

Why identifying your target audience matters

If you know exactly what your customers want, you can optimize your site to maximise the likeliness of them coming across it in their online searches.

The same goes for what your customers don’t want- by understanding their state of mind you can structure and prioritise content on your site, and leave out what you know won’t interest them. Here are a few ways to identify your target audience.

Educated assumptions are a good place to start…

But they definitely wont deliver entirely effective results. If you have no paying customers yet, trust your instincts and make educated guesses. In an online world, location becomes irrelevant, so stick to making assumptions about your target audience’s lifestyle and needs.

The best way to identify your audience is to talk to them

While your own estimations are a good start, unfortunately you’re not psychic. Once you have a sketch of your target audience, put it to the test in the real world. Meet people and businesses that fit your customer profile, and converse and interact with them. Once you learn about the market you are operating in, it will be easy to tweak your previous assumptions and change course if necessary.

It’s also worth surveying some of your most recent customers on what they used your site for, and how your business has changed their life. Keep your questions short and neutral, but in-depth enough that you can gather some solid demographical data.

Do your online research

There are many web analytics services on the Internet, but Google Analytics is the biggest and the best. It tracks and reports website traffic to provide you with insightful data right at your fingertips. Use it to unearth near limitless data about your target audience’s demographic and psychographic profiles, and gain a better understanding of what they find important and interesting.

The custom reports it produces are also highly useful, allowing you to see which traffic sources convert the best so you can invest more time, money and effort into high performing traffic senders.

Target Audience on Google Analytics

Connect with your customers

Once you’ve identified your target audience, you need to make them stick around. Learn about them, understand them, and represent them on your site. You can try using social media listening tools, or manual monitoring, to learn your audience’s common dialect and understand their social media conversations.

Then, it’s time to take the plunge and dabble in your own online networking. Connecting with your target demographic and having a strong social media presence will help build trust and loyalty between your customers and your brand. Done right, your social media marketing will also provide proof that you are a well-connected, conscientious company that is worth following and supporting.

Blogging is also a great way to increase your following and maximise online conversations, as you’ll produce valuable optimized content that establishes your expertise to your audience.

If you need any help identifying and securing your target audience, here at Cloud9 we’d be more than happy to arrange a strategy consultancy. We focus our marketing plans around digital marketing strategies that are proven to gain customers. You can book an appointment here.

If you have a website, you’ve probably heard of SSL certificates, but are you actually aware of what they are and why they are important?

If not, keep reading…

SSL is an acronym for secure sockets layer. SSL certificates are the backbone of website security, and are vital for any business with an online presence, especially in 2018. SSL certificates allow someone’s browser to bridge a secure connection to your server, ensuring that the information is securely transferred.

You can tell if a website is SSL secure by looking at the URL structure. If a website’s URL starts out with “http,” it is not SSL secure. If it starts with “https,” then it is secure. Some browsers will also display a small lock icon to indicate you are browsing a secure website.

Here are a few reasons why all of this is important.

1. Stops Information Theft

When information is submitted on a website, it usually goes through a channel of computers before it reaches the intended party. So the chances of that information being stolen along the way are higher if SSL is not applied. SSL encrypts the information so that it’s readable only to the party it is intended for. It does this by adding random characters to the submitted information, which can only be accessed with an encryption key. The information is useless to anyone who doesn’t have that key.

With identity theft on the rise, information security is more important than ever. SSL ensures you keep everyone’s information safe, which builds confidence in people who are visiting your site.

2. Provides a Sense of Security to People Visiting Your Website

With identity theft on the rise, information security is more important than ever. SSL ensures you keep everyone’s information safe, which builds confidence in people who are visiting your site.

3. A Necessity for Online Payments

An SSL certificate is a requirement for any website that accepts payments with an encryption of at least 128-bit. So, if you have an ecommerce site, you have to have an SSL certificate installed if you plan on taking credit card payments.

4. It’s Mandatory in 2018

To ensure safer browsing in 2018, Google flagged any website that doesn’t have SSL certification by the end of 2017. It’s important to note that this change will affect all websites and not just ecommerce sites. So, if you’re a restaurant owner, lawyer, dentist, realtor or consultant, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this change doesn’t apply to you. It does.

Now that January 1st has passed, when people try to access a website without a SSL certification, a ‘Not Secure’ message will appear, which will more often times than not prompt them to leave.

Maintaining an online presence can be tough, so don’t make it any harder for yourself than it already is. If you don’t already have an SSL certificate on your website, NOW is the time to do so. If you would like to speak with a Cloud9 hosting specialist about making your website secure, contact us today.

digital marketing ipad

How to use Hashtags

There is a lot of confusion surrounding hashtags. They seemed to pop up out of no where and now have over run the social media space. Hashtags done properly can be immensely powerful marketing tools but when used carelessly can be extremely annoying and possibly detrimental to your online reputation. We could sit here and bore you with the history of the hashtag, and how they’ve evolved in the digital space over the years but we will leave that to PaultheTrombonist in his hilarious video History of the Hashtag # while we enlighten you on how to apply hashtags in each of your social channels like a Pro.

What the #eck is the purpose of a hashtag?

Love them or hate them, hashtags are here to stay. There are many examples out there of hashtags done well (and probably even more of hashtags gone bad) but overall they serve three main purposes:

  1. To filter and categorize information
  2. To connect with people and unite messages
  3. To add to a brand

Here at Cloud9 Marketing, we represent a lot of businesses in the tourism industry here in beautiful Whistler, B.C. We obviously want people across social media platforms who are interested in travelling and visiting places like Whistler to view our posts. Because of this, we always ensure to append #Whistler to our posts. Other common hashtags we use are #ski #snowboard #adventure (you get it).  By doing this people interested in these topics can simply click on one of the above hashtags and all of our beautiful and engaging photos and posts will appear. If you went on Twitter or Instagram right now and typed in a hashtag that interested you (like #winewednesday for example), you will see thousands of posts all displaying the hashtag and theme.

If you run a business and want to connect with potential fans and followers, hashtags are an excellent way to do so. Say you have an online dog treat business and want to get more people following you on social media and ultimately order dog treats on your website. Conducting initial research on popular hashtags used in your industry on sites such as Tagboard will give you a good idea which tags will be popular with your target market. By consistently appending these hashtags to your posts you will get more likes, comments, shares and retweets simply by people interested in and following those hashtags.

Hashtags are also great tools for branding. If you have a promotion you are running or want to communicate your slogan or brand strengths in your posts, appending them as hashtags is a great way to communicate the message to your fans and followers. Take Coca Cola for example, their recent Share a Coke campaign has penetrated the social realm and the hashtag #ShareACoke has been appended to all of their relevant posts. The more your social community notices branded hashtags the more likely they are to engage with them.

Are they for all social channels?

Hashtags were born on Twitter, and are still important additions to any post on this channel although generally only one or two can be included due to the character limitations. Instagram is also the perfect platform for hashtags and relevant and trending hashtags are sure to increase engagement of your posts. Instagram has a maximum of 30 hashtags per post but it’s recommended to insert 5-10 relevant, trending and catchy tags. Unlike Twitter and Instagram, where hashtags unite the entire community of users, Facebook hashtags generally only unite current friends and followers, or large brands who don’t have their setting set to private. For that reason, individuals don’t use hashtags as much on Facebook as brands do however if you’re going to use them, it is suggested to keep them minimal, 1-2 shows the most engagement.

Hopefully now we’ve demystified the hashtag and you are ready to put them to use in your own social media strategy. Still confused or need help with your online marketing- we are here to help! Contact Cloud9 Marketing today and find out how we can assist you.

search engine optimization SEO digital marketing

Marketing has come a long way in the last few years, if you ask people in the industry many would probably agree there have been more changes in marketing in the last 5 years, then there has been in the 50 years prior. With the explosion of the internet, uptake of mobile and ability to seamlessly track and monitor advertising spend and ROI online, it’s no surprise businesses around the world are diverting their budget to digital in 2016. Here are some key Marketing Stats that are so important to the way a business markets their products and services in both the B2B and B2C space, they simply cannot be ignored.

  1. In 2016 67% more leads will be generated by companies with an active blog

Content marketing is essential for optimal SEO performance and is the best way to drive traffic to your website. Blogging about useful, informative and engaging information that is relevant to your target market will drive traffic to your website, ultimately increasing conversions for your business.

  1. The average person now spends more time online then TV and all other media combined

This should come as no surprise. Smartphones, tablets and computers have become an extension of people’s bodies and people now turn to the internet instead of traditional media like TV, print and radio to get information.

  1. Total spending on Internet advertising is predicted to grow 12.9% next year. The Internet will become the largest medium for advertising in 2016 (ahead of TV)

Internet advertising is cost effective, highly targeted and traceable. These three features along with potential reach have seen the internet surpass TV for total ad spend.

  1. Social ad spending has doubled over the past two years.

Social media advertising is easy, cheap and effective. With platforms like Instagram now offering ad functionality, total social ad spend is expected to continue with double digit growth over the coming years.

  1. By 2019 mobile advertising will represent 72% of all US digital ad spending

As smartphones become more functional, and websites more mobile-friendly consumers will increasingly use their mobile to research and purchase products and services online.

  1. Digital marketing spend is forecasted to account for 35% of total budgets in 2016.

How much has your business allocated to digital marketing this year? Companies have noticed the value of online marketing and larger portions of budget are being spent on digital marketing.

  1. The top four channels for increases in digital marketing spend last year were email marketing (61% of marketers increasing spending on this channel), social media (49%), mobile marketing (40%), and SEO/PPC (38%)

Most businesses have a combination of email marketing, social media, mobile marketing and PPC as part of their digital marketing portfolio. It is getting rarer for companies not to leverage all four of these components to varying degrees.

  1. Mobile commerce is growing fast, 87% of internet users now have a smartphone – mobiles are revolutionizing business

Around the world smart phones and mobile uptake is becoming the norm presenting an enormous opportunity for mobile advertising.

  1. 93% of shoppers buying decisions are influenced by social media

Although social media is not known as the best conversion platform it is absolutely essential for brand awareness and influencing customers to choose your company over the competition. To increase conversions, social media advertising is very effective.

  1. Marketers who have prioritized blogging are 13x more likely to enjoy a positive ROI

Content marketing is commonly agreed by marketing experts to be the most important SEO element and those who commit to prioritizing blogging are seeing results.

There is no longer a question of having an online presence or not, and a website that’s not producing fresh content, or a social media presence that’s sitting stagnant, can do more harm then good online. The question now is having the right mix of online marketing components for your business to ensure you are reaching clients with the right message at the right time.

At Cloud9 Marketing we specialize in creating customized digital marketing strategies for our clients in Whistler BC and around the world. Whether it’s social media, SEO, web design, graphic design, content marketing and blogging or branding, we deliver results-driven, customer-centric and highly engaging digital marketing services communicating unique brands to the right people at the right time.

google-search

Google has just made a big change to the way it displays search ads which could have significant impact on your business. The right hand side of search results will no longer display search ads and will only display Product Listings Ads (PLAs) on highly commercial searches. Find out what this could mean for your business, and how you can utilize these changes to your advantage.

In the past a search engine result page (SERP) would show three paid advertisements above the organic listings, a handful on the right hand side and some underneath the organic results. With the new changes, up to four advertisements will be displayed above the organic search results and there will be no ads shown to the right of the results, except for PLAs in highly competitive commercial searches (such as insurance or airfares). According to Google, the click-thru-rates (CTRs) of ads on the right hand side was poor and this new change is expected to benefit advertisers in the long run, while creating a more user friendly search experience for browsers.

The biggest change this will have for advertisers is unless you are in the top four positions- it is very likely your impressions and CTRs will diminish. Competition for the top four spots will increase resulting in higher bids needed to obtain these spots. Those businesses who do manage to snag a spot in the top four ad results will likely see an increase in impressions and CTRs. Businesses who don’t have a budget to position in the top four will need to be more selective with their keywords and compete on words with a lower CPC or will face being buried underneath organic search results.

These changes will also affect organic search results as an additional ad displayed above organic results will limit the space for organic results on each page. This and the increase of ad extensions will encroach on dwindling organic search result space. Some experts believe the new changes may actually increase the CTR of organic results on the first page as the portion of web traffic that click on right hand ads (5.61%), may now click on organic results instead. Either way vying for that sought-after first page of Google will be more difficult for organic and paid results alike.

The new changes will take on the same layout as mobile searches and will affect advertisers across all languages and around the world. The changes were rolled out on February 18th 2016, and were some of the biggest changes Google has made to the SERPS in years.

So how can you use these changes to your advantage? Paid advertisers need to be selective on their key words and bid competitively. Maintaining a high quality-score through relevant ads, keywords and landing pages, using ad extensions and maintaining strong click thru rates will help secure a top spot. Those selling products can take advantage of the product listing ads to the right and top of the browser. Businesses relying on organic search results need to ensure their SEO strategy is rock solid to compete for a first page rank. As users become more sophisticated and business categories become more competitive it will take expertise and strategy to be displayed on the coveted first page of Google.

Need help with your Adwords (PPC) or SEO? Cloud9 Marketing creates and implements results driven digital marketing strategies using the latest trends and innovations in online and search engine marketing. Contact us today and see how we can help you.

marketing-agency

Marketing is fun in the beginning. It’s all about ideas and vision and finding incredible ways to get your product or service out to the world. This is why so many businesses undertake this momentous task themselves. What businesses fail to realize in the honeymoon stages of a marketing plan, is how much work is actually involved, and how hard it is to stay focused. Once the ink has dried and the glow of a new idea begins to fade it’s easy to abandon ship, switch direction and never achieve anything worthwhile in the end. Marketing is an essential function for any successful business and hiring a marketing agency is the best strategy to reach your goals – here’s why…

Lightning Pace of Trends and Technology

Technology and trends are moving so fast that by the time you’ve familiarized yourself with the latest SEO tactics Google’s algorithms have changed once again. As a business owner, or with an internal marketing department, it can be hard staying abreast of the latest technologies and trends. There is just too much other work to distract. Marketing Agencies live and breathe change and innovation, it’s what sets them apart from their competition. It is a blatant waste of time for business owners to stay on the bleeding edge of innovation – of course having an idea of what is happening in your industry and how technology is changing is important – but staying on the pulse of everything new and trendy is best left to professional marketers.

Agency Wide Skill Sets

Marketing Agencies are often collectives of highly skilled strategists, brand specialists, web and graphic designers, copy-writers and bloggers, and social media managers. Business owners and internal marketing departments very rarely have the same extensive skill sets as agencies. When out-sourcing to a Marketing Agency you can leverage all of the skills and experience in that particular agency. This is great for long term marketing plans as well as one off projects. Not only can Marketing Agencies cover a broad range of projects they can do so with trained expertise.

In it for the Long Haul

Persistence is the key to any marketing plan’s success. Results cannot be expected over night. Marketing Agencies have experience executing marketing plans. They know that taking small consistent steps in the direction of your goals and vision are key to long term success. Too often when businesses execute their own marketing plans they get impatient if results aren’t immediate. Marketing agencies have the skills and experience to execute marketing plans but also have the understanding to step back, re-evaluate and shift focus if necessary.

It’s Cheaper

When you look at the hourly rate of a Marketing Agency or the cost of a one off project you might gasp. Although the hourly rate may appear more than the hourly rate of an internal marketing coordinator or manager, when you look a little harder you will find out-sourcing is a lot more affordable. When hiring a staff member internally there are many fixed costs that you may fail to consider. Taxes, vacation and sick pay, CPP contributions and health benefits can be as much as the base salary. Considering recruitment, training and human resource issues the costs of an internal marketing department can escalate very quickly. When you hire a Marketing Agency you are generally not doing so on a 40 hour per week basis. An Agency may be able to do the same amount of work as an internal team in a fraction of the time.

Finally, licenses and software programs to support marketing efforts can be costly and time consuming. Marketing Agencies generally have licenses to all the required software already, and may pass on a nominal charge for you to use them. This saves businesses the stress of training staff on various software programs plus the ongoing cost to upgrade and update the programs.

Outsourcing to Marketing Agencies is becoming more common as today’s marketing environment becomes more complex. Here at Cloud9 Marketing in Whistler, BC we operate as a marketing collective with a team of freelance web designers, graphic designers, social media coordinators, photographers, strategists and bloggers. When we receive a project from a client we have a full team of experts on-hand to get the job done quickly and professionally, using the latest tactics and technology. As many business owners strive for a better work/life balance, out-sourcing is becoming an essential way to achieve this lifestyle. Let Cloud9 Marketing rock your world by turning your marketing dream into a reality.

 

 

social-media-goals

You are probably tired of hearing how important social media is for your business. If you are like many you may be wondering how the effort spent on social media actually translates to a return on investment (ROI). It is not uncommon for business owners to delegate social media efforts to front-line staff, or take a stab in the dark themselves, with no notable results. Like any business venture, setting measurable goals is essential for ensuring the hours spent posting and tweeting is time well spent. Setting SMART goals on the most important social media metrics is essential for achieving results. Don’t recall SMART goals from Business101? They are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Below are 5 social media metrics with an example SMART goal for each.

Followers/ Likers

Think of Followers and Likers as your audience. These are potential customers who are interested enough in your brand to tune in to what you say and do. There are two ways to generate followers and likers, organically and through paid advertising. Organic followers are the cream of the crop as these people are genuinely interested in your brand and took their own initiative to follow what you do. Paid advertising is a great way to boost your followers/likers and social media advertising is targeted so you can ensure you are recruiting your target market through these ads.

GOAL: To increase followers/likers organically by 10% between September and December 2015.

If you currently have a following of 500 people a 10% increase would equate to an additional 50 followers. This is easy to measure and a 10% increase should be achievable for most businesses.

Reach

Reach is an important metric when posting on a Facebook Page. Reach is the number of people who saw your post. Don’t confuse reach for impressions. Impressions are the times your post was viewed keeping in mind your post could be viewed multiple times by the same person. Facebook algorithms have changed significantly over the last few years and organic reach is harder to achieve. To get the furthest reach on Facebook you need to pay for advertising. Measuring your paid reach is a good way of assessing how effective your Facebook ad campaign is.

GOAL: To reach 1500 people with Facebook ad XYZ between Sept 1st and Sept 15th 2015

As your ad runs you will be able

Video Mistakes You Might Be Making

It’s no secret that videos are trendier than ever. From hilarious cat videos, to live news on your smart phone, our society is in love with videos. Embracing film as part of your marketing strategy can drastically improve your reach. We are all for video content because we know how powerful it is, when it’s done right that is. Whether you are gearing up to incorporate video into your marketing strategy or already have it implemented, these considerations for a successful video are key.

Concept

Whatever your concept is, make it clear in the first 8 seconds. The first couple of seconds are when the viewer decides if it is appealing or not. This is your do or die window for their attention. Reflect on what audience you are trying to reach and what you are trying to say about your brand, this is your time to shine.

Overselling

Finding the balance between being clear about your product or idea and drowning people in it can be tricky. The goal with any video is to make a lasting impression and call the viewer to action. You want them to remember your brand, and dig a little deeper on their own free will. It’s about creating engagement from the viewer. Rather than spill all the beans, lead them on with excitement and have all the info they’ll be craving ready in another video, or written on your website and point them in that direction.

Feedback

Everyone needs more feedback. Ask strangers in your target audience what they think about your video. Outside sources are best for feedback as your team, family and friends will have a bias.

Call to Action

As mentioned in overselling, each video needs to call the viewer to some kind of action. The call can be just to create curiosity, generate a referral, get a free quote, how to use your product and so on. Maybe all you are trying to do is get them to like your Facebook page, whatever it is, make sure it is clear in your objectives before and after the video is created.

Boring

A few things can make a video boring. If it is too long, it’s boring. If the concept isn’t portrayed in an engaging way, it is boring. If the people in the video are, well boring, it is of course going to be a boring film. Spending a couple of extra bucks to hire someone to film and act in your video could make all the difference. This is something you’ll need to weigh out for yourself, but if you were planning on using Larry, the monotone receptionist as your lead star, maybe rethink that one.

Placement

Now that you’ve created your perfect video, don’t let it go to waste! Placement on your website should be front and center. On YouTube it should be on your own channel which will eventually have more videos to fill the auto play, this will keep your target audience much more excited about your company as there is even more material for them to view. Be sure to cross post on other outlets like Vimeo and Facebook. If you choose to do paid advertisement with your video choose the sites that will appeal to the right demographic, and again watch placement of where your video will be on each page that you are paying for.

We can’t say this will make video-making fool proof, but it is a step in the right direction. When creating or perfecting your video content keep these helpful hints in mind. If you are interested in video marketing but don’t know where to start, check out Cloud9’s video production & marketing services.