Andrew Thanksgiving Image

It’s this time of year that we all take a moment to reflect on the things for which we are thankful and also begin to think about goals for the impending New Year. Myself included.

With that in mind, below is my list of the five technologies that keep Altitude buzzing along that we can’t live without – all of which should be added to any business’ list of New Year’s resolutions.

1. Thankful for … analytics.

Whether we’re talking about Google Analytics or using one of the fully integrated customer management tools available like Salesforce or Hubspot, we now have at our disposal a wealth of information that gives us previously unimaginable views of our customers and prospects. We also have blinding transparency when it comes to the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, PR efforts and social media strategies thanks to all the analytics packages out there.

But it’s not enough to simply have these tools and data at your disposal.

Your resolution: If you’re not already doing so, review the analytics for your website at least once per month – at a minimum. Look for patterns, trends, red flags and opportunities. If you don’t want to bother with logging on to check your data, you can create an automated report that emails a set of PDFs with all the charts you want. Set it up and go. And pay attention when it hits your email box.

2. Grateful for … social media dashboards.

It’s not enough to have a social media presence anymore. Businesses need to actively manage it – engage with prospects, customers, peers and influencers, publish relevant content, monitor what’s happening in the market, listen to what’s being said about your brand and analyze results and trends. It’s a daunting set of tasks spread out over any number of social media networks and all happening 24/7.

Thankfully, there are a variety of social media dashboards out there that pull it all together. Some are low-featured and free. Others are enterprise-strength with a commensurate investment. After putting about a dozen SaaS offerings through its paces, we chose Sprout Social, which costs us about $60/month, enables us to plan very far in advance for a number of clients in addition to our own Team Altitude efforts, saves us time and provides excellent data that illustrates clients’ ROI.

Your resolution: Resolve to assess, candidly, whether your company has a true handle on its social media marketing and to review available options for a dashboard that meets your business needs and budget.

3. Appreciate … email marketing systems.

Email marketing is great way to raise visibility, drive website traffic and disseminate thought leadership content. I still get at least one mass email daily that’s unformatted, poorly branded, offers no opt-out mechanism and includes all the recipients in the bcc line – a surefire way to damage your brand and get sent right to the Spam folder.

There are dozens of email marketing programs from which to choose, each offering a variety of options, pricing models, list management tools and analytics. I applaud the efforts of some of the platforms to ensure list quality and make it easy to send and analyze the results. Campaign Monitor and Hubspot get the bulk of the work here at Altitude.

Your resolution … In 2014, resolve to assess your current email marketing system. Is it delivering the right blend of functionality for the budget? Are you using it to its potential? Is it the right pricing model? Do you have other systems in place that are doing similar functions?

4. Indebted to … social media advertising.

Thankfully, there are a variety of social media dashboards out there that pull it all together Social media has given companies previously unimaginable ability to target prospects with laser-like precision based on job title/level, industry, interests, geography and more.

Daily, I see complaints from people about advertising in their Facebook feed. But I love it because we can zero in on exactly who we want to reach based on how that target prospect defines him/herself.

For example, we ran a contest for a client designed to build their prospect email database and fan/follower base. This particular client offers a niche product to six different niche hobby markets. We developed 12 sets of creative – an A/B test for each niche – to see which creative resonated with each audience based on click-through rate and conversion. We quickly saw the top performing creative and set that as the default as the campaign kicked into full gear. The Facebook ad campaign beat every metric we established for a fraction of the cost of the alternatives.

On the B-to-B side, I am very thankful for the emergence of LinkedIn advertising. We recently needed to reach a very specific group of leadership-level administrators with a client’s software offering so we ran a test between an oversized postcard and a LinkedIn campaign. Final tally for demo requests? LinkedIn: 11. Postcard: 0. As an added bonus, LinkedIn’s PPC model means you pay when someone clicks – not for all the targeted impressions being generated along the way.

Your resolution … Resolve to take a serious look at your advertising plan and assess whether your company has made enough of a move into social media advertising as part of its mix.

5. Grateful for … Hummingbird.

This summer, Google unleashed its new search algorithm, Hummingbird. Without getting technical, Google uses 200+ measures when compiling search results. With Hummingbird, Google is paying more attention to the entire query – not just select keywords – so when you type a sentence into Google – or as is happening increasingly, when you speak into your smartphone — you are going to get even more targeted searches. Beyond better search results, this means “white hat” SEO approaches – developing original, high-quality content – is more essential than ever and “black hat” will be increasingly discounted or penalized.

Your resolution … Pledge to take a holistic view of your company’s SEO standing and approach. Where do you and your competitors rank for important search terms? How often are those terms searched? What is the SEO-related health of your website – page load time, meta, title and image tags and so on. For help, reference our SEO Checklist for driving traffic with perfectly optimized pages.