4 Steps for Marketing in the Digital World

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This article was written by Guidevine’s Head of Advisor Success, Khalid Usmani, and can be found here

Marketing is the cornerstone of growth for any business, and as the adage goes, one has to spend money to make money.

But advisors must ask whether they are spending their marketing budget effectively and whether their strategy is keeping up with consumer preferences.

An effective marketing and branding strategy should position an advisor and firm to evolve with consumer preferences. Not only must the messaging resonate with the target audience, it must also be easily accessible to them.

Clients are online, whether it is creating a Pinterest board for a new outfit, watching a YouTube video for a cooking recipe or checking their Instagram feed while standing in line at Starbucks.

And when it comes to financial information, studies show that 54% of high-net-worth investors between the 55 and 64 use LinkedIn for financial communication and research.

So advisors should be online with them. And the best way to do this is with an omni-channel approach to marketing.

Although it may seem that one social-media network is more important than another, each platform serves a unique purpose. Two-thirds of adults with investment accounts have a social-media account, so to ensure that advisors reach these prospective clients, it is important to be available to them on all platforms.

But it isn’t enough to simply post to multiple channels. With the vast amount of information online, the challenge to actually get the message through is increasing.

An advisor’s content must be interesting, engaging and relevant. Quality content about the client experience, investment approach or thoughts on the market can help enrich a digital footprint and keep people coming back for more.

Where to Begin

Here are some thoughts to get started on effective marketing in the digital world:

1. Clarify the target market and the firm’s objectives. Are you trying to reach a particular market niche; a specific age group; an interest group?

2. Create consistent and connected digital accounts (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube) to reach more consumers.

Do all the firm’s accounts carry consistent branding? Is it using a dashboard to manage accounts and ensure that posts are well-timed and appropriately coordinated?

3. Share and create interesting, informative and relevant content. Keep number one in mind when creating original content and links to others’ posts that will resonate with the firm’s target audience.

4. Engage with the audience, so that it is a two-way conversation. Advisors must ask themselves if they provide meaningful responses to comments on posts?

With 63% of affluent consumers taking action after learning about financial products and services on social media, an advisor’s digital presence must be relevant and robust. Considering these four steps will get the ball rolling.

How can you improve your customers’ digital experience? [Infographic]

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Why is a digital customer experience strategy important for businesses? First of all, 89% of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. In a real in-store shopping experience, customers tend to be more forgiving and far less quick to assign blame than in the digital world. In the digital world, the blame for a bad experience is immediately put on the organization and as a result of the digital revolution, customers ultimately have higher expectations for digital experiences.

Below is an infographic elaborating on why digital customer experience is important and 3 keys to ensure your business has an effective one.
3-keys-to-better-cx-1000w

An effective digital customer experience is centered around having a solid understanding of your customer, including knowing their age, what they value, challenges they face, their goals and so on.  Answering these questions and mapping your customer’s journey can help you identify what is missing from their perspective and experience.

A consumer’s impression of a brand is made up of many individual touch points; it is the sum of every experience a consumer has with your brand. With the number of different touch points on the rise, it is important that you take into account that each interaction with your brand is a piece of the overall experience.

Companies can continuously learn from the actions and behaviors of their consumers, and evolve the experience to match it. Use your customer data to anticipate the behavior of your customers, and plan for the future, instead of just reacting to what your customers are doing right now.

 

Life Insurance companies need to improve their websites, Forrester’s study finds

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The number of people who conduct research online before making a purchase decision continues to increase each year. Your company website is more important than ever to your bottom line as digital touch points are continuing to reshape the customer journey and the way that Canadians are researching and buying life insurance.

In a recent study, Toronto based Forrester Research used their Digital Sales Functionality Benchmark methodology to evaluate the digital functionality of leading Canadian life insurance companies, and how well they are using digital touch points to win new business. The evaluations were categorized into three stages of the client experience journey:

  • Discover: Make it easy for prospects to find relevant coverage details quickly
  • Explore: Help prospects research and find the right coverage
  • Buy: Simplify the application and sale
Results of the Study

Overall, the study found that most of Canada’s largest life insurance companies are doing a poor job of helping prospects find adequate information online about life insurance. The study also found that these life insurance firms are less effective in helping consumers pick the right coverage and Advisor.

The study evaluated the public websites of four Canadian life insurance companies:  Great-West Life Assurance based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Empire Life Insurance based in Kingston, Ontario, and Toronto based Sun Life, Kanetix, and Manufacturers Life Insurance (Manulife).

Sun Life earned the top score of 75 out of 100 in the study. The report outlines how Sun Life communicates its strong value proposition, its ability to help clients navigate information to suit their needs and inform their choices, and the support it offers to clients looking for an advisor with a strong advisor locator tool. On the contrary, the study found that all of the companies have a ways to go to improve their websites, as the average industry score was only 47 out of 100. Forrester found that most of the other companies’ websites were inadequate in terms of providing tools to connect clients with local Advisors.

Given Advisors represent the most popular channel among Canadians to purchase life insurance, it is surprising that most websites fall short in terms of providing prospects with tools to connect clients with Advisors. A strong Advisor locator tool could help translate into more sales. One of the goals of a website is to take away the work from your prospects, making it as easy as possible to do what they want to do. The easier it is to complete an action, the more likely that action is to be completed.

Additionally, the report found the other areas of improvement include:

  • Tools to help clients and prospects get a quote and fill out an insurance application.
  • Information and tools to help prospects determine what type of coverage suits them, and how much.
  • After getting prospects attention, converting that attention into a sale.

The Forrester report explains that Life Insurance companies must address the cross-touchpoint shopping behaviors that exists in the life insurance market. Consumers are moving outside of the traditional buyer journey by changing the way they research and buy products. They are using digital touch points to research their options and move themselves through the buyer journey. Life insurance companies must respond to this new customer journey with a well designed, easy to navigate website, with clear calls to action. This is one of the most important factors in attracting and converting the new digital life insurance customer.

Financial Advisors: Beginner’s Guide to Improving your Website’s Local SEO

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Local SEO is one of the most important (and free!) online activities that you can do when building an online presence for your business. As a Financial Advisor, it is critical that you are found by your local market. By searching just one phrase, “financial advisors”, Google will output a map with all the local Financial Advisors’ business that have taken the steps to set up their business using online Google tools.  Bonus: it shows up at the very top too!

The statistics for local search alone are a reason to put in the effort to improve your local SEO. In Hubspot’s Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics, the numbers reflect how local SEO optimization can give your business an edge:

  • 72% of consumers who did a local search visited a store within five miles. (WordStream, 2016)
  • 30% of mobile searches are related to a location. (Google, 2016)
  • 28% of searches for something nearby result in a purchase. (Google, 2016)
  • Local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit stores within one day. (Google, 2014)
  • 78% of local-mobile searches result in offline purchases. (Search Engine Land, 2014)

To help you get started on local SEO, we’ve compiled a small beginners guide to help boost your Advisory business online.

Step 1: Get your business onto Google My Business.

What is Google My Business? Google My Business is a service offered by Google that helps connect businesses and organizations to individuals. It provides a consistent user experience across all of Google’s key search related applications and across all devices like smartphones, tablets and desktops.

The “Google My Business” service includes Google Search, Google Maps, and Google Pages. For more information on what each service is, click here.

As for how to get your business onto Google My Business, first verify your business within Google My Business. It may take 1-2 weeks but it will give you access to many more features to help get your business into the forefront.

guide-to-seo-1

Simply fill out your information through this service to get your business onto Google. The more information, the better! That way your business is better categorized and appears in more searches. Another important part of Google My Business is to get your business onto Google Maps. For a more in depth look at Google Maps, click here.

Google may be the king of search, but forgetting about other channels can reduce the amount of consumers that can find you. Remember Bing Places for Business!

guide-to-seo-2

Step 1.5: Create a Facebook and Yelp page

This is much easier to do and only takes a few minutes to get up and running! Don’t forget to take good photos that show off both the exterior and interior of your business.

Step 2: Include consistent information on Google, Bing, Yelp, and Facebook (and any other channels that I haven’t included)

Much like having your information on as many search engines as possible, having consistent information across the many channels that your business could be on allows all potential customers to reach you effectively. Having different information across these platforms leads to an inconsistent and unprofessional image.

Step 3: Get your customers to leave reviews!

Ask your happy customers to leave reviews – the more real reviews, the better ranking you will get locally. You can do this in many ways, for example, you can include a widget on your website to allow them to submit a review easily.

Getting genuine and consistent reviews helps your business stand out online since it indicates a high quality business. After all, 88% of consumers read reviews to determine the quality of a local business meaning reviews are regarded as highly influential in consumer’s buying decisions.


As a Financial Advisor, many of your previous clients may have come from word of mouth. However, for the digitally savvy generations, being findable online is crucial. These days, only 49% of Millennials trust recommendations from family and friends, but, instead, they trust multiple customer reviews found on the internet. The easier it is to find your local business and see local reviews, the more likely they will be to choose you as a Financial Advisor!

Do Advisors Really Need Email Marketing?

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This post was authored by Claire Akin and originally appeared here on GuideVine.

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For all the fanfare social media marketing gets throughout the financial services industry, you would think email marketing is a thing of the past. But email marketing continues to be the most important marketing channel for financial advisors. For the top independent advisors I work with, 70% of engagement comes from email campaigns.

Email marketing still is the bread and butter of marketing for advisors for two reasons: it’s effective and it’s relatively inexpensive. McKinsey and Company have found that email conversion rates are three times higher than social media conversion, with a 17% higher value per lead.

But most advisors aren’t sending regular, thoughtful email marketing campaigns. You may be intimidated by email marketing or unaware of how powerful it can be. But with a few simple steps, it’s easy to get your email marketing up and running.

Upgrade Your Email Marketing Engine

First, you’ll want to use an email marketing engine. If you are still sending marketing emails through Outlook as text-only emails, it’s time to upgrade. Because over 50% of emails today are opened on a mobile device, it’s important to make sure your emails are mobile friendly. When you use an email marketing platform, your clients and prospects will receive professional looking emails that feature your logo and graphics that look great on every device.

Schedule Your Emails for Success

Next, it’s important to schedule your emails for success. The best time to send an email depends on your particular business. It’s interesting to examine the peak days and times for different industries. For divorce lawyers, most website activity happens at 11 pm on Thursday nights (after a long week and a fight, presumably). For nanny providers, most searches are at 11 am Monday morning (when the kids finally go down for a nap after a long weekend).

To determine the day and time your network is most active, you can run a “time and day” report using Google Analytics, then schedule your emails to go out at this time. 

Invite Recipients to Take the Next Step

“Calls to action” are critical at the end of your email or blog post to get the reader to take the next step. Offer several appropriate options so that no matter where a prospect is in the buying process, there’s a comfortable action for them to take. Examples include:

  • Download a free report
  • Watch a related video
  • Ask a question
  • Register for a webinar
  • Schedule a phone call

With varying calls to action, readers at different engagement levels can find an appropriate next step to take with you.

Segment Your List

It’s important to segment your contact list so the information you send to each group is highly relevant and they learn to value the emails you send. Advisors can segment into age groups of 35-45, 46-59 and 60+. Other segmenting options include:

  • By birthday month
  • By employer
  • By profession
  • By gender
  • Clients with or without children
  • Local and out-of-town clients

Using a CRM system makes this a snap. While some content will be relevant for many groups, in an ideal world, you should attempt to craft your marketing to be specific enough for one group at a time.

Be Consistent

We know that it takes more than one email to build a relationship with a prospect. Sending marketing emails with valuable information on a regular basis builds your relationship and keeps you top of mind. It’s important to send emails at a regular cadence to establish consistency. Research shows that “unsubscribe” rates are pretty low when emails are sent once per month but go up significantly when sent more than once per week. Commit to sending emails at least twice a month or even once a week.

Track Your Opens and Clicks

Most Email Platforms allow you to easily track how your campaigns are working. For each campaign, run the basic report to see how many opens, clicks, and forwards each email produced. Then, track these numbers over time and make a note of the topics that each audience enjoys and any email marketing home runs.

Email marketing is powerful, but it’s undoubtedly time-consuming. Constant Contact’s recent survey of small business owners estimated that getting an extra hour back from outsourcing email marketing is worth up to $273. If that sounds like you, try hiring a marketing consultant to automate the process so you can set a schedule for consistent email marketing that pays off over time.

Compliance and Marketing Shouldn’t be at Odds – The Goal of Both is to be Successful

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In the world of Financial Marketing, compliance is often seen as the wall that stops things from getting to market quickly. It can be seen as the bureaucratic mess that can impede time sensitive content from being circulated. Although, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Regulations in financial services marketing can change fairly rapidly and result in regulators fining companies millions. Compliance keeps up with all these regulations to ensure that there is no backlash to anything that the organizing is putting out. This process can take a lot of time when there is a disconnect.

This disconnect is why compliance is sometimes regarded as the bad guy from the marketing department. Although, they’re only ensuring that there is no negative backlash – even if it’s in a slow and less engaging way. The marketing department may not know what specific regulations have been put in place or the recent developments and in the industry. There could be several gray areas that compliance can better interpret. For example, compliance can ensure that businesses do not get fined due to the ASC issuing penalties for social media endorsements. When it comes to this type of development, marketing may be too focused on their project to realize that it could be in a grey area – which is where compliance comes in and can assist.

If that’s all that compliance is doing, then why are they the “bad guys”? It’s because, in the marketer’s eyes, they stop, delay, or completely change their efforts. They stifle creativity.

In the compliance department’s eyes, they’re just protecting the firm as a whole. It’s not like they don’t want creativity, but they also don’t want backlash.

Given the tricky relationship between marketing and compliance, what’s a good solution? Some ideas to think about:

  • Establish a working relationship and use the right tools to combine marketing and compliance into one automated system
  • Create a platform to allow back and forth communication between compliance and marketing
  • Use the right tools to automate and personalize workflow management to streamline processes and make compliance quicker
  • Make it easy for compliance to approve, track, and review content
  • Have built in consistent branding and messaging across all channels with one platform

At the end of the day, both departments want the company to succeed. Marketing wants to expand their consumer base and help sales increase revenue while compliance wants to ensure that the revenue isn’t taken away due to fines. Building a close-knit relationship helps marketers gain the necessary knowledge to avoid spending unnecessary time and effort for things that may not get a good ROI or incur fines. The consequences for slow compliance result in sunken marketing costs as content may no longer be timely enough to react to current news and trends. The worst thing that can happen by not building a close relationship between the two is the blemish of deceptive marketing on a businesses reputation.

There will always be disagreements. With quick communications, compromise, and the right tools, the two departments can both reach their goal of success. For more information on Compliance and Marketing automation, take a look at The Business Case for: A Digital Marketing & Compliance Platform in Financial Services. Don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us if you have any questions!

Digital Transformation in the Age of Digital Disruption

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This post was authored by Adrian Johnson and originally appeared here on Liferay.com


It isn’t possible to read a news article or open a newspaper without reading about Digital Transformation. From consultants and software vendors to infrastructure providers and analysts everyone is talking about digital transformation and how it can improve customer experience, increase revenue streams and improve operations.

So what defines digital transformation?

Capgemini Consulting writes: The use of technology to radically improve performance or reach of enterprises.

Thought leader Brian Solis of Altimeter Group defines it as: The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.

Technology is an important component of digital transformation but the most successful stories feature organisations that combine digital activity with strong leadership to empower digital transformation. These businesses also recognise it is a major change management program. Technology alone can’t deliver a transformation. Organisations need to understand what their customer wants at any given moment in time. Think about how to effectively engage customers and think about all the touchpoints that customers have across their entire lifecycle.

Customers hold the power in the digital age

In recent years there has been a marked increase in the power of the customer. Customers now have the power of choice as barriers to change continue to lower and anyone can change suppliers, find a new vendor, or new source of services or goods.

As a result of the power shift to the customer, churn is now a key risk. Previously organisations could rely on a certain amount of loyalty from customers or apathy as change was often difficult. However, new technology and digital platforms have made it easier for customers to shop around and look for better services or value for their money.

Customers are expecting unique and tailored services that meet their needs. Generic processes that appeal to the masses are no longer acceptable. We live in an always on, just in time, on-demand world and if your organisation can’t offer personalised customer service your customer will find a company that can. Customers are no longer willing to put up with average service delivered to the masses. A single experience or interaction impacts customer satisfaction and therefore customer loyalty is often fleeting.

Digital transformation or digital disruption?

Repeatedly the organisations representing successful digital transformation in the new-age economy are Uber or Airbnb – but are they really digitally transforming?

It’s possible to make the case that these organisations are in fact digital disruptors not digital transformers. The challenges faced by legacy organisations are very different to an Uber or Airbnb business. These new disrupters didn’t encounter the challenge of changing existing systems in the same way that legacy organisations must. Maintaining existing business, managing current systems, dealing with operational processes and business models – these factors make digital transformation far more complex.

Feedback from our customers points to some of the main challenges of digital transformation:

·       Internal silos between business units and systems

·       Legacy systems that contain essential customer information were never designed to expose the data

·       Change leader to head the initiative across the organisations to drive digital transformation

·       Budgets being continually squeezed

·       Integration of organisation-wide systems

In fact a recent Forrester study identified that among customer experience decision makers the biggest technical barrier to customer-facing systems was inadequate integration with back-office systems.
Vendor Landscape: Digital Experience Portals, Mark Grannan, Forrester, 4 January 4, 2016

In light of the challenges a question we hear at Liferay consistently is “How do I solve the real problem of delivering our services across channels in a practical, valuable way to our customer?”

Use a platform that will enable flexibility

The answer most commonly is to start with a platform with all the core components in one place and mitigate the risk in acting on a digital trend.

It’s not about trying to do everything at once, start somewhere but choose a platform that provides flexibility to extend and develop. Today’s businesses are constantly discovering new ideas, new source of growth and new initiatives that they want to unlock so they shouldn’t be inhibited by a digital platform.

We regularly see software development being a key differentiator as it enables organisations to develop on top of the platform selected at the start and deliver new projects. Agility to be flexible – in order to adapt and evolve as the market or your business changes – is critical as it’s difficult to predict what will change and how the competition will evolve. Therefore, flexibility in your chosen platform is key to overcoming these challenges.

Digital Experience Platforms to Power Digital Transformation

The concept of a digital experience platform (DXP) is now emerging as horizontal portal and content management systems (CMS) technologies converge. As businesses require a broad range of capabilities to deliver the necessary personalised customer experience a system with limited features is not enough.

Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals 2016 identified: The primary catalyst for change in the horizontal portal market is the response to digital business transformation: the evolution of traditional portal into the digital experience platform. The DXP reflects a business-driven focus on improving customer, partner and employee experiences across digital and physical channels.
Gartner “Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals” by Jim Murphy, Gene Phifer, Gavin Tay, Magnus Revang, 17 October 2016.

Responding to business’ need to manage and deliver hyper personalised experiences across every digital touchpoint Liferay introduced Liferay Digital Experience Platform (DXP). Liferay DXP is the next advancement of the Liferay portal platform redesigned and extended with greater capabilities for digital businesses. At the core of DXP is the portal acting as the integration layer connecting backend systems across business operations so that companies can give consistent and unified experiences to customers, partners and employees.

Align your business to better serve customers and attract new ones

So, whether you are just starting a digital transformation or you’re reviewing progress to date some key points are worth remembering:

  • Your customer should be at the heart of any transformation strategy – think about their experience and journey in every interaction with your organisation.
  • Digital Transformation is not just about technology; operational processes and people are just as critical to success
  • Silos within operations and systems are causing some of the greatest challenges – think about how you can incentivise the entire organisation to deliver a seamless experience and integrate all touchpoints.
  • Digital is constantly evolving so choose technology that allows your organisation to be flexible.
  • Start small and prove the concept, then grow from there.

2016 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals

Read what Gartner says about the role of horizontal portals in delivering on digital experience initiatives and key findings and recommendations in the 2016 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Horizontal Portals. Plus, find out why Liferay is named a Leader in the report for the 7th consecutive year.

Canadian fintech companies pursue future in the UK

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Veriday is proud to be one of the 13 Canadian companies participating in The Canadian, UK FinTech Mission Think Tank Team Challenges mission led by the Department for International Trade (DIT). The DIT will be leading the 5 day mission, accompanied by CIBC bank, to the UK from December 4th to 8th.  The mission, which is supported by British Airways, will give organizations the opportunity to network with leading fintech peers during the “FinTech Connect Live” conference and the “European Digital Banking Summit” in London.

The mission’s goal is to support companies’ growth plans for the UK, introduce them to the world’s leading financial centre and provide valuable insight into the market from industry experts and mentors.

This event will take the form of an open roundtable discussion; each Think Tank Team Challenge will explore a key area of the UK banking & FinTech landscape, presented to each team as a challenge.

The other 12 participating companies, from British Columbia and Ontario include: Blockchain Technology Limited, CIBC, Control, Grow Financial, Horizn, Kooltra, Lendified, OutsideIQ, Q4 Inc, RentMoola, Sensibill, and Zafin.

About the Department for International Trade
The UK’s Department for International Trade has overall responsibility for promoting UK trade across the world and attracting foreign investment to our economy. We are a specialized government body with responsibility for negotiating international trade policy, supporting business, as well as delivering an outward-looking trade diplomacy strategy.
About British Airways
British Airways, part of International Airlines Group, is one of the world’s leading global premium airlines and the largest international carrier in the UK. British Airways has a strong presence in Canada, operating daily flights between London and Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal and twice-daily flights between London and Toronto. On Business is a Global Loyalty Program that is free to join, and allows businesses to collect points to spend across our global network with American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia.

6 Lessons from Inbound Marketing in 2016 & What they Mean for 2017 [Part 2]

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This is part 2 in the series “6 Lessons from Inbound Marketing in 2016 & What they mean for 2017”. In part 1, we discussed local SEO becoming more important, inbound marketing and blogging becoming a bigger part of the marketing mix, and social media becoming a lifestyle. In this article, I will focus on advertising, video content, and inbound marketing as a whole:

  1. Advertisements will have to adapt to the prevalent use of adblockers and a more critical consumer.
  • 91% of people say ads are more intrusive today than two years ago. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • 73% of people dislike pop-up ads. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • 4 out of 5 of people have left a webpage because of a pop-up or autoplaying video ad. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • 72% of consumers say they would have a lower opinion of a brand if they subjected the consumer to a pop-up ad. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • 34% of consumers say they have mistakenly clicked on an online ad. (HubSpot, 2016)

Consumers are being more and more critical towards ads. If a webpage is hindered with advertisements that effect a positive customer experience, then consumers will respond with an adblocker or even worse, simply exit the page. In my experience, there have been many times where I have instantly exited a page the moment sounds from a video played without me having prompted the video myself. If I have to be on that website, the first thing I will do is stop the automatic video. If this is the type of response consumers have to a website, they will likely leave to go to a competitors How advertising will adapt is up to the creators, but what is true is that they will need to evolve in line with consumer preferences and keep customer experience a priority.

  1. Video content is now the most popular format.
  • 55% of people consume video content thoroughly. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • 43% of people want to see more video content from marketers. (HubSpot, 2016)

The ongoing trend and popularity of online videos will take the next year by storm as more companies will invest in creating video content. 48% will create content for YouTube, the king of user-created video content, and 39% will create for Facebook, which has recently become increasingly popular. Below is the complete graph showing what distribution channels businesses will use.

inbound-stats-1

  1. Marketers will put more emphasis on inbound marketing.
  • Inbound organizations are 4 times as likely to rate their marketing strategy as effective. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • Just 61% of marketers believe their marketing strategy is effective. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • One-third of marketers think outbound marketing tactics are overrated. (HubSpot, 2016)
  • 33% of inbound marketers and 31% of outbound marketers rank outbound marketing practices, such as paid advertising, as the top waste of time and resources. (HubSpot, 2016)

This is more of an internal trend. There’s a shift occurring in mainstream marketing to try and pull consumers towards you with engaging content. This could be in reaction to #4. Advertising is slowly being viewed more negatively, so more and more marketers have chosen an inbound strategy to combat it. For more information about the differences between inbound and outbound marketing, click here.

 


 

Overall, 2016 has kept a lot of marketing trends stable. There have been numerous improvements to local SEO, advertisements, and inbound marketing that will continue well into 2017. Companies have started investing more in creating content, specifically blogging and video. It is hard to predict the future, but these statistics can give us a good idea where the general direction is going.

Where should you start with your next Software Upgrade?

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Like most firms, our team at Veriday does not particularly enjoy software upgrades. When simple upgrades turn into projects it usually means some pain is coming associated with aging software, or significant changes to an existing platform. So, while we highly recommend investing in your software applications throughout their lifecycle, we have some tips from our experience, for how to successfully complete an upgrade to a more updated version of software.

Where to start? First off, you should create a “Sandbox” environment to get familiar with the new software. This will help you assess the benefits of moving and the potential change impacts associated with the move. A primary output should be documenting perceived changes that may have an impact on your team.

The second step to evaluate your upgrade is building your strategy and plan to complete the upgrade. Your strategy may need to consider whether you are going to consider making functional changes to your software to gain additional benefits from the upgrade. While this can be a very effective and timely strategy, it may add risk to your project since you are not able to directly compare old and new versions. For this reason, we often suggest planning a secondary project after the upgrade to add or change functions after the upgrade is complete. Creating your plan includes documenting tasks, effort, required resources, and a schedule. Finally, preparing your business case and budget request for the project using similar projects or customer experiences as your guide. There are many factors that should be considered in building a budget for upgrades and variability for risks, which can be considerable.

The last and very important step before proceeding with the upgrade is ensuring you have the right dedicated team and skills in place to meet your business case commitments. Leaping forward without validating this is a sure way to add risk and stress to your project.

Upgrading is not a stress free activity but with the right combination of approach, planning, and management you can minimize disruption and maybe just maybe end up with enhanced features and room to grow.