Woman scrolling through content online on her tablet showing native advertising

5 of the Most Crucial Digital Marketing Tactics for Fall 2016

We work with marketing managers of all types. Some marketers tasked with digital marketing are classically trained. Some were brought into the position because they showed a propensity for digital marketing, still others because their company recognized a need. But the fact is, every marketing manager, coordinator, or even CMO has a unique set of challenges based on their available resources, budgets, and of course their company’s goals. Many companies get stuck in the rut of “what they’ve always done”, while other marketers know they need to shift, having trouble convincing their counterparts of the needed marketing alterations.

Whatever your situation may be, no matter how big or small your company might be, we’ve found that there is always at least one area that every digital marketing strategy can improve upon. Often by the time you wrap your mind around a complex digital marketing principle or strategy, there is something new and more effective available. In the digital world, you must constantly be staying up to date and ahead of the curve. Very few marketers have the time to react to everything that’s possible with digital marketing, let alone be proactive in seeing and affecting change. Even if you are incredible at digital marketing, my guess is there is something else you know you could be doing to make your digital marketing strategy a more effective revenue generator.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Since it seems like there are SO MANY things you could be doing these days to implement effective digital marketing, we’ve put together a list of the top five most effective things to take your strategy to get the most out of your digital marketing this fall. Of course, we could always list more than five, but these will have the most significant impact to your digital marketing right now.  

Be Mobile, or Be Nothing

To be frank, if your website isn’t mobile responsive, you’re a dinosaur. Mobile responsive websites are imperative and the need to be mobile can no longer be ignored. Not only is Google giving preferential treatment to mobile responsive websites, users now expect it.  Also, Google Adwords is moving to a new ad system (in October of 2016) and to be a part of it, your site will need to be responsive.

Customize Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Face it, even your direct competitors have different digital marketing goals than you. Yes, the overarching goal might be to increase market share and revenue, just like you. But you have a different brand with different values and different ways of marketing yourself that they don’t. Own those differences. You might find success in places they haven’t even tried. Don’t be afraid to try something new because even if it doesn’t work, you’ve probably taught yourself important lessons along the way. Don’t try to keep up with the “Jones’”, do your own thing – and do it well. Your customers have their own unique needs, and each has their own journey they take to buy. I suggest spending a lot of time outlining your customer segments and then, even more time meeting them where they are at on their buyer’s journey.

Establish Measurements & Analytics

75% of marketers think their company’s performance is good in terms of creating brand intimacy or engagement with customers. But research suggests only about one-third of consumers feel they have an intimate connection with that brand. This suggests that marketers are not measuring their brand’s success properly. Marketers too often underestimate the challenges in creating true brand engagement. What blog posts are doing well? What searches are you showing up for? What searches are you NOT showing up for that you’d like to be? What social media posts get the most reach? The most clicks? Are you looking at your engagement from and setting goals for improvement? If not, you should be. Translating this data into actionable digital marketing strategy improvements will separate you from the pack – quickly.  

Secure Your Website’s Content

Do you know what an SSL certificate is? It is signified by an httpS:// at the beginning of a URL, as opposed to a http:// . Google has been pushing for SSL since 2014 and essentially telling the world that it’s related to a website’s trustworthiness, and therefore is a search ranking factor. In other words, it’s not just for eCommerce or sensitive data anymore. Even if you don’t think you have anything that needs it, it’s time to secure your content.  

Content: Quality > Quantity

Content and its delivery is getting more diverse. Instead of just text in your blog posts, you should consider multimedia posts including elements such as custom photos, infographics, other graphics, and video. Yes, this means spending more time on each content piece, but Google is measuring the value your content provides. So quality will always outweigh quantity when it comes to content.


A great (responsive) website, social media and content marketing, as well as digital presence beyond your domain, and quality over quantity are proven digital marketing trends that won’t be going away anytime soon. Which is why they’re perfect to be starting right now, in Fall 2016.


Startup Weekend Unwind

I’m sure you can quickly recall a moment when you didn’t feel prepared, or were worried about being good enough to pull off a big project. This is a story about that.

This summer our office attended a Startup Weekend. About a week and a half before our departure, our fearless leader (Jason Sasso) emailed an itinerary to our office. I read through it all with enthusiasm and an eye for detail.

A phone call to Jason went something like this:

Me: Ohmygod I think I’ve gotten myself in too deep, this seems really intense, this is a bigger deal than I thought. What should I be researching, what books do I need to read, how can I cram before this?!

Jason: Cool your jets, you’re gonna be fine. You have more to offer than you give yourself credit for. You bring wonderful and new perspectives to every project. You’re gonna be great.

Me: But, but, but..If you say so. *mumbled sounds of worry*

At Camp BluSky

After arriving to Camp BluSky for our event we chose teams and settled in. I quickly realized my team really didn’t have the skillset we needed in order to pull together a full business proposal by the end of the weekend. As I researched our proposed gadget I found it already existed. As I tried to improve upon the current design, I realized I had no idea how to do that. I had chosen a cool idea to hop on board with, but we just didn’t have what we needed to make it work the way I wanted or expected.

Jason was great. My coworkers are amazing. Always positive, always giving me gold. Always making wonderful suggestions. The mentors for the weekend were doing the same.

My brain was spinning, I was feeling overwhelmed and worried about flopping. Admittedly, I was making a bigger deal out of this than what it needed to be. But uh… that’s what happens when you’re a perfectionist. For better or worse, you put that pressure on yourself. I went to bed quite worried about how the rest of the weekend was going to pan out if I stayed with the team I had chosen.

What I Learned

You know what I learned? I learned it’s okay to know your limits, take a break, and decide to leave. It’s totally ok to switch teams, because it’s really important to be matched with people that can utilize your strengths and help bring out the best in you. I greeted the morning with determination. I respectfully switched to a different team. This is totally kosher, and happens a lot.

Camp BluSky Startup Weekend


My new teamies greeted me with smiles and love. They were lively, full of ideas, eager to do the work, AND had done startup pitches before. Yesssss! It is amazing when you find your fit. I felt a lift in my step when I found a better team for myself. The people you surround yourself with, the energy you gather from your team (in all areas of life), impacts the way you work in the most outstanding way.

You guys, this is a metaphor for life. When you come into any situation (whether it’s in work, school, a relationship) and it feels scary, you feel unprepared, you feel like a doofus… it’s good to put in your best effort. And, it’s good to know your limits. Take a deep breath and surround yourself with environments that bring out all the best in you! Because, I think you’re probably more awesome that you even know.

Finishing the Pitch

Time management can be a beast in normal life but this event really takes it to a whole new level. When you’re put into a large group with wonderfully intelligent thinkers and idea-havers, sometimes it’s tricky to stay on task. I sometimes felt like I was herding squirrels in a peanut factory. I was often reminding everyone of tasks at hand and the ever waning countdown to final pitches. At other times felt like I was a student amongst a tribe of gurus. I was often taking back seat while they organized financials and created in CAD.

All in all, the spirit of this group was just phenomenal. We’d found a dance and a balance with one another that allowed us to have fun in the midst of a difficult project. I once read that a characteristic of lasting relationships is being able to laugh in the middle of a big fight. The ability to see that even though this might be hard and stressful, there is definitely a happy end in sight. Everyone was so supportive of one another, upbeat, a real “we can do this!” attitude. I have to admit, I was the Negative Nancy more often than I would have liked. Because, you GUYS, we’re running out of time!

During the final countdown I was asked to present the final pitch for our idea. Honestly, in that moment, I was hesitant that we’d actually be able to pull it off and have a decent presentation by the time we needed to. My teamies praised me for helping everyone stay on task, and by golly, by the skin of our teeth, we totally pulled off our pitch. We totally did it. (And yeah, I helped pitch it.)

Coming out the other end of the weekend, I feel completely humbled. I feel bigger, and stronger, and braver for it. My team, my office of humans that see me for so many hours every week, have now experienced a version of me that I think a lot of us work to hide. There were moments where my anxiety was pretty high and I was totally checking out. In my head I was questioning whether I could be successful at this. I knew they could see it on my face. I don’t know if they realize it, but this event was hard for me and I felt so vulnerable to have these humans see me on the ride.

But uh..real life is a ride. We want our offices to be places we come to be experts at things. We are “Social Media Marketing Gurus” and “Executive Directors” and “Designers” and “Specialists”. We have our lives together, and these lives don’t impact the work we do inside the office walls. In this space we have answers, we have solutions, we finish projects, we meet deadlines, we don’t have problems, we don’t have issues. Or at least that’s what we strive for and want everyone to think, right?

But let’s remember that we’re real live humans. We can be honest and real about the fact that sometimes our separate worlds impact one another. And guess what? Even when there are bumps in the road, everything still works out just fine. Projects still get finished, pitches still get made, and the camaraderie that’s born out of working hard together is completely priceless.

If you sometimes feel worried about being good enough and pulling off overwhelming tasks here are some more suggestions from a successful newbie:

  1. Research your project! But, give yourself a limit on how much time you’re willing to put into your research before starting in on whatever your project is. If you’re like me, the more you know the more you’ll realize you don’t know and you’ll get totally overwhelmed. At some point you’ll have to jump in, but having a toolbox of information to draw from might be helpful. Also, know that there will definitely be others there to help you. You can always lean on a friend or coworker for extra input.
  2. Set your intention! Are you here to learn? Are you here to win? Are you here to party? Taking a moment to prepare yourself for what you’re coming into, and what you’re hoping to get out of it will help you feel more prepared to greet whatever comes your way. Now, throw half of that down the drain and just go with the flow. Take a deep breath, and chill out. Let go of hard expectations. Like they say, “You make plans, and the universe smashes them.” … or something like that.
  3. Be less cool! Better yet, just be yourself. When choosing a team, friends, new job, partner, or anyone else you’re going to surround yourself with, think less about how cool they are and more about how your skillset, knowledge base, and the things that make you unique will be utilized toward success. Will you feel appreciated, smart, well utilized? Will you feel like you can be the best version of yourself? Will you be welcomed for who you are? Sometimes we realize we’re just not a good fit, and that’s great! Because then we get to continue our adventurous search for the good fit.
  4. Mindset and attitude! When a project or problem feels overwhelming, reframing it in your mind can make all the difference. At Startup I pretended I was back in school. It felt like I had left my entire semester project to the last minute and had 36 hours before it needed to be presented to the prof. and entire class. With that mentality, somehow, everything felt totally doable.
  5. It’s okay to peace-out for a minute! Seriously. I’m someone that wants to always plow through issues and work that comes to me. I don’t want to leave a situation until it’s resolved. But, sometimes you just have to. You have to get up and go for a walk. Get up and have a beer. Get up and tell a joke. Relax. Deep breath. And then get back to it.
  6. Know that you ARE good enough. Or, fake it until you make it. There’s something to be said about Bill Murray’s tactics in What About Bob? Telling yourself, “I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful!” or something similar, actually does help your brain believe it. Google it, there’s empirical evidence to prove it.

SWELL team goes to Startup Weekened

(That’s me. Pitchin’ like a pro.)

Woman scrolling through content online on her tablet showing native advertising

Native Advertising vs. Display Advertising

As marketers (especially digital marketers) there is a constant battle being waged over how to effectively win the favor of their targeted audience. Just as in any medium for advertising, it seems that marketers are walking a tightrope, balancing enough face value to be recognized but not enough to annoy and turn off those solicited. Two popular ways of advertising online are display and native. When comparing the two methods and their general effect on audience members, there are some points to consider.

What is A Native Ad, What is a Display Ad?

Many of you reading this post may not even understand the difference between a native ad and a display ad. While both advertisements are digital and found on your web page, the placement of each is what varies. A display advertisement is what you are probably used to seeing. When scrolling through facebook or a blog of some sort, you probably can spot quite easily the ads on the sides of the webpage surrounding the content. These are considered display or banner advertisements. Comparatively, native ads (which are becoming increasingly popular,) are advertisements that are found within the content feed.    

            An example of banner advertising                         An example of a native advertisement on mobile

The Consumer Experience

Since it’s becoming more apparent to digital marketers that banner ads are going the way of the dodo, ads have strategically been placed within online content where viewers are looking anyway. This is to increase the likelihood of reaching consumers even without getting an interactive click. Studies have confirmed that consumers look at native ads 52% more often than banner ads which has created a lot more attention for the native ad platform in marketing.

Brand Lift

Because the nature of native advertising is to blend in with actual content, it makes sense that more consumers would take the time to view these targeted ads if the content pertains to their lifestyle. For instance, Consumer A is really into a particular sport. They follow or subscribe to team or athlete social media pages and some of their favorite brands that also promote this athletic lifestyle. By monitoring Consumer A’s behavior online with who and what they pay attention to, placing the native ad for a related product (e.g. sports equipment, nutritional supplements, performance clothing/wearables) seems much more natural to interact with, even if it’s not a purchase right away.

Let’s say consumer A didn’t buy anything from the native ad, but they did “Like” it on social media or better yet, they shared it with their network. This both promotes the ad to (assumingly) other targeted audience individuals, and keeps the brand fresh in Consumer A’s mind if they continue to subscribe to their social content. Viewing through a social media filter makes the brand much more relatable and appealing to the consumer. Therefore native advertising both increases brand affinity, and funnels consumers through the buyer’s journey to eventually making a sale with their audience.

Consider This:

  • Native ads came in 9% higher lift for brand affinity and 18% higher purchase intent compared to traditional digital banner ads.  
  • When comparing the likelihood of social sharing of ads, 32% of people surveyed said they would be likely to share the native ad compared to 19% sharing the banner ad.
  • 71% of existing customers of brands said they personally identify with the brand after viewing their native ad compared to 50% of those identifying with the banner ad after purchase.

The Future of Banner Ads

So with all the above hype for native advertising, the question remains: are display ads dead? Not necessarily. Are they as effective? It all depends on your numbers. Analytics are so important to advertising campaigns because they are able to show the amount of interactions and impressions an ad gets. You may find that with paid display advertising your click through rate (CTR) is high, but may be decreasing each time you pay for a banner ad campaign. It’s important to realize that at some point paying for paid banner ads may not worth their cost with a poor return on investment.

One positive thing to keep in mind about banner ads though is that they work in the same way that billboards do. This counts as a number of “impressions” the advertisement has on a given audience (how many eyes it’s reached). There is no “true” way to measure the impact of a billboard or really know how many people driving by actually looked at it well enough to register what it is for, and the same goes for a display ad on a content page.

People will always adapt to avoiding or ignoring a medium of advertisements when they become mundane. That’s why the role of marketing and advertising is constantly changing and evolving with the consumer population’s interests. It also explains why native advertising is proving to be much more effective and relatable to an online audience.  

Nudge marketing and dual process theory in consumer decisions

Nudge Marketing & 4 Tips for “Nudging” Customers Effectively

If you know anything about nudge theory, you know it’s a bit controversial. If you don’t know anything about nudge theory, let’s start by thinking about all the little decisions you make throughout your day. How many decisions do you control? You might be quick to say “all of them”, but I would suggest you consider the autonomous act of breathing. Did you make a conscious decision to breathe today when you woke up this morning?  

In Psychology, the phenomenon where actions and decisions we make seem to happen outside our conscious control, though still fully aware of others, is known as Dual Process Theory (DPT). DPT is the foundation of nudge theory. DPT explains what happens when we act, unaware that we are doing so. It also explains how we are equipped with the tools to make an otherwise unconscious act conscious to us, or even change the context so we can choose another, possibly better path without thinking about it.

Think about what happened when I asked you if you chose to breathe this morning or not. Did you immediately become aware of your breath? Did you begin to breathe a bit deeper? Is it possible you began to breathe deeper and didn’t even realize it? That is DPT in action.

Dual Process Theory in the Brain

Our brain works in two different ways. Those two ways happen simultaneously and are handled by separate parts of the brain. One is called the automatic system and the other is called the reflective system. These two systems reflect different ways of handling information and forming responses.

It has been eight years since the book Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, was published. Since then, “nudges” have become a widely used marketing and consumer influence strategy. Nudge marketing refers to deliberately manipulating how choices are presented to consumers in order to steer them toward only the options you WANT them to take or with the simple goal of stimulating purchases.

The double cheeseburger in dual process theory and marketing

Here are a couple examples. A burger place has a single patty burger that looks rather small on the menu, and a triple patty burger that looks excessive. These two are there as decoys for the choice they REALLY want you to make; the DOUBLE patty burger, which is most likely a profit center for them. A grocery store places plastic mats with large arrows marked “Follow the green arrow for your health…” directing shoppers to the produce. Within two weeks, produce sales increase by 10%. Maybe a company automatically enrolls new employees in its retirement savings plan with the option for the employee to opt-out if they want. Enrollment obviously rises from 60% to 95%.   

Now, if you ARE aware of nudge marketing (and now all of you should be), you know that doing it poorly can backfire. As marketers, we should have some fundamental concerns about the practice. Improperly planned and thought out nudges can hurt a company’s credibility and tarnish its reputation.

For instance, nudging can come off as condescending. By its nature, a nudge is intended to make a buyer’s current behavior seem inferior to the behavior you want them to take. In other words, “unless you accept my nudge, you’ll be doing it wrong.” Whatever “it” is. In other words, a nudge assumes if the grocery store didn’t put a literal “path to health” on their floor – their customers wouldn’t buy produce.

Many argue that if nudging runs the risk of being condescending, the better option would be motivating and empowering your customers to make decisions for themselves. Encouraging your customers to set goals and implement processes with your products or services works far better to build lasting relationships than manipulation.

However, if you know anything about sales and marketing – indecisiveness is a huge barrier to conversion. And there are ways to nudge your online customers into making a choice by making it easy for them to take another look. Sending someone a personalized email about a new feature/benefit of a product they talked to you about last month, or having an ad pop up in their sidebar about an item left in their cart, can mean the difference between your customer engaging in the buying process again, or leaving it altogether.

Arrow representing nudge marketing and dual process theory

Guide them, don’t manipulate them

Nobody likes an aggressive salesperson. By leaving “arrows” to guide your customer down a path and allowing them to choose to walk down it, you help customers follow their own interests, make their own decisions, making the purchase their own idea. If you nudge in little steps, proving slowly over time that you have quality and consistency, your customers will come to you.

Don’t condescend, inflate their ego.

Find what motivates your audience and appeal to THAT. If your goal is to help your customers be healthier, then instead of guilting them into better health by saying “Right now you’re not eating enough fruits and vegetables. You should be eating more.” try saying “You want to eat healthy, and we have the best produce in town to help you do that (what you ALREADY want).”  

produce in the grocery store representing good habits in nudge marketing

A nudge + motivation = the BEST combination

When using nudging to influence customer behavior, we must fully understand its proper applications as well as its limitations. The benefits of nudges are likely to be amplified, while at the same time neutralizing their dangers, when nudges are used in combination with effective motivational psychology tools as well. We shouldn’t just put a path to the produce aisle on the floor; we should place guides to eating healthier, easy to make recipes including fruits and veggies, and tips on how to get your kids to eat more vegetables throughout the produce area to help our customers form those habits long-term (therefore selling more produce long-term as well).

Nudges aren’t for everyone. BAD nudges aren’t for anyone.

Good marketing is relational marketing. Effective relational marketing is placing the marketer (or company) on the same level as the customer. If marketers employ a nudge to influence customers, they run the risk of claiming superiority over them. Motivational psychology shows us that differentiation is unnecessary and entirely less effective. Know your audience and how they’ll respond to different marketing techniques. Any goal can be achieved (and probably at more significant returns) by treating customers as equals and empowering them. We need to equip them with motivational tools while using them alongside well-designed nudges.

If you don’t know how to nudge effectively, seek help, or just don’t. The risks you’re taking by doing it poorly are too great. In other words, are you helping your customers to be great, or are you telling them they’re not great if they don’t choose your product? Happy nudging!