Multichannel marketing is considered a top-of-the-line advertising method, but finding the best marketing channels for your agency can be a daunting prospect. With your precious marketing budget on the line, you naturally want to avoid missteps and keep waste at a minimum.
Fortunately, finding the best marketing channels can be achieved by following a simple, four-step process. Let’s review those steps, and explore how you can use multichannel marketing to bring in serious revenue for your business.
Step 1: Take a holistic look at your data
If your agency already has its own marketing efforts in place, take a look at both your pre- and post-sale data to set baselines for your marketing efforts. If you find that some channels are successful, don’t just throw more money at them — figure out why they’re doing so well, and then take that information into consideration when researching other channels.
For example, let’s say your CRM data tells you that clients earned from trade shows generate the most revenue. This could mean that you should invest in more trade show sponsorships, but it could also suggest that the language used in your booth marketing materials is compelling. You could apply that language to paid ads or content marketing, or you could get even more granular with this approach and research whether certain trade show locations, sizes, or themes were more effective than others.
Similarly, if other channels are operating at a financial deficit, dig deeper to find out why and adjust accordingly. If your paid ads generate plenty of clicks but not much revenue, your landing page messaging may not be registering with prospects. Perhaps your ‘Talk to a sales representative’ CTA comes across as too much of a hard sell in today’s anti-hard-sell landscape. In this case, softer copy like ‘Sign up for a free consultation’ could yield better results.
On the other hand, if you’re starting your marketing completely from scratch you’ll definitely want to perform due diligence on industry best practices and other general trends. In general, you’d be well-advised to start with organic channels like SEO and content marketing, plus a modest paid media presence on Google or social media channels (most likely LinkedIn for B2B companies).
Keep in mind that organic channels do require more time to yield results, and typically function as touchpoints on the way to a conversion. Paid channels cost more money up front, of course, but have a higher chance of leading to more immediate results. Depending on your agency’s goals or stakeholder expectations, one marketing channel may make more sense than the other.
Step 2: Research the market and your current clients
Market changes can (and should!) influence your marketing strategy. The best marketing channels for your agency depend on several variable factors, such as market expectations, industry-specific changes, technological shifts, and more.
For example, the manufacturing industry is often under-served when it comes to advanced marketing techniques, like multichannel marketing. Using this information, you could adapt your service offerings and marketing strategy to appeal to this industry.
Or, consider how Facebook advertising is mostly a pay-to-play platform these days — organic posts typically don’t do very well. Knowing this, you may choose to focus less on Facebook, and more on LinkedIn or other channels specific to the types of clients you work with.
Which brings up another key best practice: Do extensive research not just on your client’s industry, but their actual business operations too. Pay attention to which job titles are involved in the sales process — while managers and executives may be signing the checks, employees with lower-level titles are still key players the sales process. Keep them in mind when determining which marketing channels and content types to pursue.
You should also look at industry trends within your client base. If you notice certain industries appear frequently, consider making your marketing channels industry-specific. For example, if you have success with healthcare clients, you would be wise to consider a content marketing strategy that includes a healthcare-specific segment.
Step 3: Determine your resources and hiring capabilities
‘Quality over quantity’ rings true for many things in life, and marketing is no exception. While it may be tempting to hop on board the latest trendy channels, it’s usually not in your best interest to spread yourself too thin (especially if you’re a smaller agency).
Before expanding an existing marketing channel or adding a new one, crunch the numbers and determine whether the projected revenue from these ventures is worth the additional cost. That cost should include things like software subscriptions and ad spend, but also the cost of freelancers and outsourcing, or salaries if you decide to bring someone in-house.
You’ll also need to consider your sales bandwidth. Nothing frustrates a marketer more than crafting a high-volume lead generation engine, only for the sales team to not have the time or resources to follow up with them. Not only does this create unnecessary tension between your marketing and sales teams, but it also means you’re throwing marketing dollars down the drain.
If you determine you have the sales resources to keep up with all your marketing channels, keep at it! But if you’re limited on sales resources, take that into account strategically.
An agency with limited sales resources could benefit from prioritizing email marketing: As long as you have a strong system for lead scoring in your CRM or automation tool, your cold leads can be added to an automated marketing email list, instead of not being contacted at all. You could also invest in an AI sales tool like Conversica if you want something a little more sales-like.
In either case, you’ll free up time for your sales team to focus on hot leads while colder leads self-select into demos or or sales calls as needed.
Step 4: Look at your data (again)
Once you’ve figured out which channels to cut, expand, and create, it’s crucial to continue measuring your results. The metrics you’ll need for this depend on which channels you end up using, but it’s important to always avoid vanity metrics in favor of actionable ones.
In terms of measurement frequency, this depends on both the average length of your sales cycle and the channels you use. Agencies tend to have sales cycles that are several months, or sometimes up to a year or more, particularly if you work with enterprise companies. Take this extended timeframe into account when reporting your analytics to make sure your attribution is as accurate as possible.
You’ll also need to consider the marketing channels themselves. As mentioned earlier, organic channels like SEO and content marketing don’t bring success overnight. You should expect to wait several months — if not up to a full year — before feeling confident about whether a content channel is successful.
Keep in mind that a multichannel strategy that works one year may not work the next year. Digital marketing is a fast-changing industry, and even B2B services clients change their buying habits over time. It’s important to carefully monitor your analytics so you can stay on top of these changes, and adapt strategically where necessary.
There are plenty of marketing channels to choose from, but finding the best ones isn’t as difficult as it sounds. With the right combination of analytics, market and user research, and budgeting, you’ll be on your way to finding the best marketing channels for your agency.
Interested in learning more about the benefits that advanced call tracking and analytics can bring to your marketing agency? You can start right now: Begin your 14-day free trial or request a personalized demo.
The post Choosing the best marketing channels for your agency, in 4 easy steps appeared first on CallRail.
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New year, new News You Can Use.
That’s right, your favorite recurring segment on the CallRail blog is back. In this biweekly column, we review the top 5 most important recent news stories in business, marketing, and technology, and explore what it all will mean for your business.
As we’re fond of saying around here, staying on top of the news isn’t just good civics, it’s good for business. Now, let’s get to the news!
1) In ongoing trade war, US steps up pressure on Chinese telecoms (Reuters)
This week, US lawmakers in Congress introduced legislation that would ban the sale of hardware and components to Chinese telecom firms, including major manufacturers like ZTE and Huawei. The move comes as the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing shows no sign of cooling, with the US ratcheting up pressure over China’s alleged theft of trade secrets.
The bills were introduced shortly before the publication of a Wall Street Journal report that federal prosecutors were investigating allegations that Huawei stole trade secrets from US businesses like T-Mobile. An indictment is reportedly forthcoming over Huawei’s alleged theft of T-Mobile’s ‘Tappy’ technology, which smartphones can use to mimic and predict the input of human fingers.
It’s the latest sign that the current US-China trade war — ongoing since mid-2018 — shows little sign of stopping any time soon. The US Department of Justice has already moved to indict several Chinese manufacturers over theft of trade secrets, and plans to brings a raft of cases against the country in the near-future.
For digital marketers and those in the tech industry, these recent developments mark an especially critical escalation in this ongoing trade war. With smartphone hardware and device manufacturers squarely in their crosshairs, Washington’s latest move could seriously disrupt the supply chain for the mobile market, bringing pain to service providers and advertisers alike.
2) Apple facing cutbacks as growth slows and iPhone sales slump (Bloomberg)
Apple plans to make budget cuts and pare back its hiring plans for 2019, following sluggish sales of the company’s flagship iPhone device over the 2018 holiday quarter. CEO Tim Cook announced the news in a letter to investors that also highlighted difficulties the company has been facing in the Chinese market.
Cook also noted that iPhone upgrades were not as strong as expected due to fewer carriers subsidizing phone purchases, higher per-device prices, and users taking advantage of cheaper options for replacing phone batteries.
Apple has seen a slowdown in growth and revenue since the second half of 2018, and plans to shift towards a service- and subscription-oriented business model in order to boost lagging profits. The company recently announced its intention to crack open the gates of its (in)famous ‘walled garden’ and make its services available on non-Apple hardware, like Samsung TVs and Amazon smart devices.
It’s bad news for Apple, but great news for marketers: With the company adopting a raft of consumer-friendly stances, you’ll now have more opportunities than ever to reach the parts of your audience that use Apple devices. (And the increased competition should result in slightly reduced ad rates to boot!)
3) US gov’t shutdown creates snags for Net Neutrality rollback efforts (TechCrunch)
Due to the ongoing US government shutdown, the FCC had requested a delay to the Supreme Court hearing of its case concerning the rollback of Net Neutrality. However, the court denied the FCC’s request and ordered that oral arguments for the case begin as planned on February 1 of this year.
The move marks another setback for Ajit Pai’s embattled FCC, which has so far failed to block challenges to the department’s rollback of the popular Net Neutrality law. The FCC is among the US government organizations affected by the ongoing shutdown, with most of its workers furloughed or on leave without pay.
With the case set to proceed, tech industry activists are rallying support to restore Net Neutrality, making this an issue that most business should continue to watch closely. As we’ve discussed before on the CallRail blog, the end of Net Neutrality could mean higher prices and slower speeds for marketers and service providers.
4) Netflix sharply hikes subscription costs amidst uncertainty over debt (Hollywood Reporter)
The streaming company Netflix announced it will make its biggest price-hike ever, raising the price of its most popular plan from $11 per month to $13. Netflix says that the price rise is necessary to offset increased programming and production costs, which have skyrocketed in recent years as the company released a wide array of original content.
The announcement arrived just days after NBCUniversal unveiled plans to launch a rival streaming service in 2020, which may result in popular programming like ‘The Office’ being pulled from Netflix. Media companies like Disney and Warner are also planning to launch their own direct-to-consumer streaming services in the near future.
Analysts are struggling to divine meaning from this move by Netflix — Business 101 usually cautions against consumer-unfriendly moves like big price hikes right before a major competitor enters your marketspace. Most commentators are pointing to the company’s gigantic long-term debt load, which now totals more than $8.3 billion — when viewed in that context, an 18 percent price increase starts to make a lot more sense.
5) Facebook toughens advertising rules ahead of major elections (Reuters)
2018 was pretty much nothing but bad news for Facebook, which suffered a string of embarrassing PR crises around account security and the handling of user data. There were also damaging revelations about the extent to which the platform had been manipulated and exploited to spread misinformation and violent hate speech, as in Myanmar.
The company is, no doubt, attempting to start 2019 off on the right foot with their announcement that they’re tightening their rules and regulations around political advertising on the platform. In addition to the tougher rules, Facebook has also pledged to deploy tools to curb election interference ahead of major votes in Nigeria, India, Ukraine, and the European Union.
Under these new rules, advertisers will only be able to run election ads on Facebook if they actually reside in-country. The company also plans to create an indexed, searchable online library for all political ads in each country, allowing for easy access by both election officials and the wider public.
It remains to be seen whether these efforts will make a serious change on Facebook, or whether this is a case of ‘too little, too late.’ Marketers should pay careful attention to how these coming elections are handled — the results will be critical in determining whether Facebook has worked through the dysfunction that made it an unreliable marketing partner.
The post News You Can Use: 2019 kicks off with FAANG woes, shutdowns, and streaming wars appeared first on CallRail.
By: Youmna Sirgi, Marketing Intern
Let’s talk legal structures.
We’ve all seen those jumbled letters at the end of a company’s name: (LLC, Inc., C-Corps, S-Corps, B-Corps, 501(c)(3), LKJASDFH)… okay, maybe not that last one, but what in the world do they mean?! And more importantly, which one should you choose?
The legal structure a company chooses on formation will impact many things, including the way a company and its security holders are taxed (both before and after its sale or liquidation), as well as management and ownership structures. Remember, we’re not lawyers, so chat one of them up for questions and advice before you file!
With help from Geoff Ossias, Partner at Perkins Coie, LLP, we broke the process down into three big factors to consider: taxation, management, and ownership.
Limited Liability Company (LLC)
Taxation: LLCs are pass-through entities by default, which means that the profit (and loss) flows directly from the business to the owner(s), and is then taxed individually at the owner level. A drawback of LLCs is that all owners are treated as partners in the business unless an election is made to treat the LLC as a corporation for tax purposes. This means an owner who is also an employee receives distributions treated for tax purposes as guaranteed payments (as opposed to being paid a W-2 wage) and he/she must make quarterly tax payments to the IRS with respect to such guaranteed payments. They lose certain deductions as well. A benefit of LLCs is that on a sale of the company, no matter whether structured as a sale of its equity or its assets, there is only a single level of tax.
LLCs (and other non-corporate entities having limited liability) are considered “eligible entities” under tax law. They may choose whether they are treated as pass-through entities (such as partnerships, sole proprietorships, or S-Corporations) or not (like C-Corporations). Under new law, a tax deduction of up to 20 percent of income from partnerships, sole proprietorships, and other pass-through businesses may be allowed. But the size of the deduction varies, depending on the nature of the business activity and the total income of its owner. It may also depend on how much the business pays its employees and how much property it owns.
Management: LLCs are typically managed directly by the owners (referred to as members) or one or more managers (who can also be organized as a board, like a corporation). LLCs provide for a lot of flexibility in how members and managers govern the affairs of the company — generally these types of decisions can be determined as matters of contract as opposed to being dictated by a state’s code.
Ownership: LLCs can have an unlimited number of owners (though at certain levels registration with the SEC may be required). By filing as an LLC, you are separating your personal finances from the business, which will generally provide you with protection against personal liability for business debts. Be sure to confer with your counsel about the ways you can lose this shield as it is not absolute, especially if you are a manager or an officer of the company.
Taxation: C-Corporations are not pass-through entities and owners are generally subject to “double-taxation”. Business income is taxed independently at the corporate level (at a current maximum rate of 21%) and at the shareholder level (once distributed by the corporation) at the prevailing rate for individuals. A benefit of C-Corps is that stockholders who are employed by the Company can be paid a W-2 wage. A drawback is that, on a sale of the company, if structured as an asset sale, there may be two levels of tax — one corporate on the sale of assets and one on the distribution of cash to shareholders. However, this issue generally goes away if the sale is structured as a stock sale.
Management: C-Corporations are often well-structured and have large governing capacity. Management is held accountable by the Board of Directors, and must adhere to corporate bylaws like any other employee.
Ownership: C-Corps can have an unlimited number of stockholders (though at certain levels registration with the SEC may be required). Owners often do not take part in the day-to-day affairs of the company and the company is often not affected by other shareholders’ activities. By filing as an corporation, you are separating your personal finances from the business, which will generally provide you with protection against personal liability for business debts. Be sure to confer with your counsel about the ways you can lose this shield as it is not absolute, especially if you are on the board or an officer of the company.
Taxation: S-Corporations initially incorporate as C-Corps, but an election can be made (if done relatively soon after formation) to be taxed as pass-through entities (i.e., income is not taxed at the corporate level but instead only at the shareholder level). This can be right for some entities that want the advantage of a single level of tax while being able to pay owners as W-2 wage-earning employees. A drawback is that, on sale of the company, S-Corps can add a high degree of tax complexity and they are also limited in the ways described below.
Management: The management of S-Corps is the same as C-Corps.
Ownership: S-Corps are limited to 100 shareholders, who must be U.S. residents. Like C-Corps, the company is often not affected if one shareholder pulls in or out of the company. S-Corps may only have one class of stock (differing voting rights among stock does not, however, create a second class of stock for these purposes). But distributions must generally be pro rata (in accordance with ownership percentage) to all shareholders. Shareholders retain the same protections that they do in the traditional corporate model.
Taxation: Benefit Corporation is a new way to incorporate as a company to protect the social mission of the company, while still filing as a for-profit company. The company still can elect whether it will be taxed as a C-Corporation or an S-Corporation (assuming it meets the requirements for the latter). Federal tax law does not recognize Benefit Corps for tax purposes, but certain states may make distinctions.
Management: Benefit Corps have higher accountability and transparency standards. The Benefit Corp status provides additional legal protections so management can balance financial and non-financial interests when making decisions. Benefit Corps like Patagonia and BetterWorldBooks are also required to make annual benefit reports publicly available, which assess social and environmental performance.
Ownership: Shareholders retain the same protections that they do in the traditional corporate model and may have mission-related rights too. Shareholders have the legal power to force the company to enforce its mission, and can vote on mission insurance standards.
Note: Benefit Corporations are the legal entity, while a B Corp is a certification by the nonprofit B Lab.
501(c)(3) Charitable Corporations
Taxation: 501(c)(3)s are charitable corporations organized under state law as non-stock organizations approved to accept charitable donations which donees may be able to deduct on their taxes. 501(c)(3) corporations must be both organized and operated for charitable purposes. None of the company’s earnings can inure to private shareholders or individuals; they must be invested directly into the company (with significant restrictions on the company’s business activities). Nonprofits may have a better chance of obtaining grants as well.
Management: The Board of Directors has the responsibility to actively participate in the company and decision-making, but most of the day-to-day is run by the staff.
Ownership: 501(c)(3)s must have a Board of Directors in order to take in charitable donations or be classified as a nonprofit. The Board has the legal and financial power over the organization. There are no stockholders.
Needless to say, choosing the right legal structure for your venture can be overwhelming. Remember, lawyers are your FRIENDS. Operating without a corporate form will generally land you as a partnership or sole proprietorship of some kind, where you will likely be liable for the debts of the company, among other things. This is generally not advisable. Use this information as a basis for your questions to a lawyer, not in place of a lawyer.
To get connected with great legal help, apply for an upcoming SEED SPOT 2-Day Launch Camp or 8-Week Impact Accelerator. We have a strong network of firms who have represented many SEED SPOT alumni, and can connect you with pro-bono legal counsel specifically geared towards social enterprises.
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