Smart Work: The home office is just an intermediate step

What many years of discussions failed to achieve was forcibly implemented overnight by the corona crisis: working in the home office is the new standard for many, at least up to date. This is only the most apparent change because other unique work aspects are also experiencing an enormous upswing. But what remains of it after the crisis? And what needs to improve on the way to smart work?

Abstract business background with meeting room and blurred people. Double exposure

Home office: comfort zone or nightmare?

In the past few weeks, you could get the impression that we were thrown into the middle of a new era: Finally, all knowledge workers are allowed to work in the home office! It is almost irrelevant that many employees did not want to do this themselves – it is better not to speak of employers at all.

At the same time, the water they were thrown into is colder for some than for others. Because: Whether you discover the home office as a new comfort zone for yourself or rather feel like a nightmare depends on many factors: 

What does the workplace look like at home?

Is there a real workroom with commercial equipment, or do you sit at the kitchen table in a chair that is perceived as comfortable for a maximum of a meal? The latter cannot be easily changed if furniture stores are closed. The spatial situation could only be modified by moving.

How good is the infrastructure?

Is the internet access sufficient, is there a work computer provided by the employer, does one have access to all important company resources? Not everyone had a fully equipped home office with appropriate hardware and all the necessary access even before Corona.

What is the work situation like?

Do you work alone here, or do you have to share the room with a partner who also had to change abruptly to the home office? Two different video conferences that take place simultaneously in one room take at least some getting used to.

How well is the organization doing?

Can I organize myself so well that the loss of the usual guardrails does not affect my work? What do I eat for lunch, for example, when the canteen or lunch walk with my colleagues is canceled?

What is the life situation like?

What do I have to take care of parallel to work? Anyone who has to take care of their children in addition to the new work situation because daycare centers and schools are closed will quickly reach new stress limits. 

There are also soft factors. For example, not everyone can cope with isolation in their home office equally well. Depending on the type, employees need a certain amount of feedback to work effectively in the long term. If you need a lot of direct contact and exchange with colleagues, you will never feel the great need to work voluntarily in the home office for a long time. Only the situation is currently very far from this voluntariness. People can deal with this constraint in different ways. Some accept it because they see no alternative anyway. The others cling to the familiar and feel the inner resistance to the news every day.

And despite all these factors, which make the framework conditions very different for each individual, should the home office now be the new standard?

It’s not just about the home office.

The home office has been one of the central aspects of the new work concept for many years. And rightly so, because distributed work can only succeed over a more extended period if other unique work aspects are also taken into account. Ultimately, the establishment of a home office era also stands or falls. But how well are these aspects considered and developed during the forced transfer to the home office?

Let’s take a look at what this is all about:

  • Flat hierarchies: The reduction in management levels is intended to enable self-initiative and independent work. This makes the entire company more flexible and dynamic as decision-making processes are shortened and accelerated.
  • Agility: Agile working methods complement the flat hierarchies and, together with learning agility, form all upcoming challenges.
  • Collaboration instead of silo thinking: departments work on common goals and share data, knowledge, and insights, instead of locking them away in department silos for others.
  • Individuality: Employees can choose an individual working model (working time, duration, location).
  • Openness and transparency: Every employee gets an insight into the corporate strategy and knows his role very well.
  • Meaningfulness of the work: The corporate strategy pursues communicated goals with which the employees can identify.

There are other new work aspects, but these six are particularly relevant to the current context. How far the individual factors have already developed in a company ultimately decides how well the employees can deal with the current crisis: Working permanently in the home office increases the necessity of the individual aspects many times.

Digital tools do not replace a missing corporate culture.

Without flat hierarchies and quick work, the organization of work itself becomes an additional full-time task for a higher-level coordinator who will hardly have time for this in times of crisis. In strictly hierarchically related companies, the communication technology that is now necessary is often missing. Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Mattermost stand for openness and transparency within communication, while email represents the symbol of silo communication. Employees lose close contact with the company if they no longer have the usual exchange in the morning at the coffee machine or noon in the canteen. You lose a sense of belonging if the lack of communication is not compensated for by digital channels.

This puts particularly high pressure on companies that are still very traditionally organized. In the crisis, you not only have to deal with the challenging market conditions but, at the same time, keep the workforce happy. Because it is not only suffering from the crisis, but also the digital failings of the employer. Anyone who has yet to introduce new technology for communication and collaboration in such a situation runs a marathon with a substantial additional weight.

The tools now required and required not only to have to be carefully introduced but they also absolutely need a corporate culture basis. In a work environment where knowledge is not shared because there is fear that it would give a personal advantage, tools designed for openness, transparency, and collaboration simply cannot work. If they are then set up ad hoc in a crisis, without their functionality and benefits being adequately explained and specific use cases being shown, the motivation and energy of the users as a fuel for the successful use of these collaboration tools are lacking.

The will to change is often missing.

Here and there may also be approaches for corporate culture changes that will eventually make digital remote working possible in full. As a rule, however, these will remain exceptions. The current emergency is often described as a disruptive change that sets long-term changes in motion, but economic factors are usually given top priority in the crisis.

This behavior may be understandable, but ultimately the companies that set the course for the future will benefit. Companies that have already developed such approaches before the crisis suddenly find themselves in a better position. For them, relegation to the home office is a field trial with an acceleration function that can lead to long-term changes.

As soon as the situation around Corona permits and the necessary easing has been decided politically, most companies will quickly switch to the usual work model. It will feel like liberation to them, but in truth, it will be the opposite. They will not learn anything from the crisis, except that emergencies are challenging times.

Politicians have already recognized this. For example, Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil is trying a new law for a right to a home office, which he plans to present in the fall. Unsurprisingly, there was already headwind from the Federal Association of German Employers’ Associations. Chief Executive Steffen Kampeter said: “Warming up political shopkeepers from before the biggest economic downturn in many decades seems a bit out of time.”

Sticking to traditional work models that had to be abandoned during the crisis is much more modern than the employers’ organizations’ perspective.

What companies could take out of the crisis

The tentatively recognized benefits of working in the home office should now be supported and expanded with targeted measures. Because one thing is clear: If working in the home office is carefully planned and strategically wanted, it can work much better for both employers and employees than the unplanned forced situation and generate more significant benefits. The limiting factors listed above could, for example, be reduced to a minimum in a planned home office.

Better meetings are possible.

But analog resource guzzlers such as meetings are suddenly much more effective. There is no more chatting in between because that bothers virtually more than analog. There are no distracting side discussions because they are not technically possible. There is also no shortage of conference rooms or overbooking.

Now you could argue and say that virtual meetings are much more demanding. That is true and even has a name, but it only means that sessions do not run out of time, but remain very specific and focused.

Meetings will also change structurally if they are practiced virtually over the long term. On the other hand, we are currently experiencing a 1: 1 transmission of face-to-face meetings into the digital space. The fact that the many non-verbal communication signals fall by the wayside is a logical consequence that should not surprise us.

In the future, virtual meetings could also run very differently. Technology such as virtual and augmented reality (VR / AR) could bring back part of the lost non-verbal communication. In the coming months, we will very likely also see new functions in the video meeting tools that enable interactions and make better use of digital opportunities.

Teams can develop a closer bond.

Interestingly, even those who have previously worked from their home office benefit from the status “Everyone works remotely” because, for example, they are docked on a project as a freelancer. Suddenly the work situation is the same for everyone, and there is a greater understanding of the concerns of the colleagues who work remotely. In turn, they can certainly give the newcomers to the home office a tip or two from their everyday lives, which have often been lived for years.

The fusion of work and privacy is also impressive at this point. In video calls, we suddenly look into the private living rooms of our colleagues. In exchanging information about the new daily home office routine, we get an insight into the working and living situation of people whom we had only known until then through their work function. These are just two examples that the strict separation of work and privacy in the home office no longer applies. 

There are sensible alternatives to many business trips.

Some companies will also notice during these weeks that the many physical meetings with business partners, customers or service providers can also occur virtually without any problems. After Corona, there will be real-life meetings again, but in one situation or another, a virtual meeting may be preferred. Long travel times, which also often involve high costs, are simply not worthwhile for a one-hour session. Especially since many companies will almost inevitably be looking for potential savings in the tense economic phase.

Companies that we’re able to fill vacancies during the corona crisis also developed digital onboarding processes. Wouldn’t it be negligent not to use them in the future? Especially since the option of remote work could soon become a necessity for companies to be a sufficiently attractive employer for the urgently needed digital talents. The attractiveness can be increased even further by using the experience from digital onboarding to set up a digital academy for further internal training. There is undoubtedly still some catching up to do here.

The temporary home office era is the next step toward smart work.

If there is no other way, because external conditions force you, you are content with things that you would not have accepted under ordinary circumstances. This is an excellent way to describe the current status of working in the home office.

The longer these external conditions, such as the COVID 19 pandemic, persist, the more individual aspects of the new work organization can prove advantageous. If the benefits exceed a perceptible threshold and are also valid for a sufficient period, this can result in new routines that individual employees regard as a comfort zone. Then, at some point, the end of the external constraint, and the established initially work routine is to be resumed, employers have to expect resistance.

Flexibility is the new norm.

Giving up something that was recognized as useful and beneficial during the crisis simply doesn’t seem right. Companies have to come up with convincing and understandable arguments if they do not want to jeopardize their employees’ motivation and commitment. New hires will also exist in the economically tricky post-crisis period, it can even be decisive how an employer positions itself here

Whatever the time after COVID-19 will look like; it will be noticeably different from the time before the pandemic. This applies to all areas of society and, therefore, also to the world of work. For this reason alone, it doesn’t seem to make sense to want to go back to the beginning.

Instead, it would be a progressive strategy to continue on the path we have taken consistently. This would mean that an employer does not ask himself how he can get back to the usual model as quickly as possible, but that he deliberately looks for new options for further changes. 

This would make the home office just the beginning of a new era called “smart work.” A key feature would be the place of work, which becomes more flexible. Instead of either working rigidly in the company or the home office, the site of work would not be permanently determined. For this “remote work” to become a “smart work,” further requirements and framework conditions have to be changed radically.

Requirements and framework conditions for smart work

Working hours: The era of the 40-hour week has had its day. It is based on a historical work model and should prevent excessive accidents caused by work accidents and illnesses.

It was primarily intended for physical work, for example, on the assembly line in the automotive industry. There are still assembly lines there today, but the bodywork is now supported by the use of machines, so that here too, the cognitive share has increased due to the necessary control of the devices.

In contrast, it has long been known in knowledge work that our brains are not able to do concentrated and productive work eight hours a day. And even if that were cognitively possible, various studies and statistics show that there are numerous other sources of distraction that noticeably reduce our networking time.

British office workers average 2:53 hours of productive hours a day. The rest of them spend on things like social media (47 percent), preparing hot drinks (31 percent), or looking for a new job (19 percent).

Statistics from Japan show how stressful daily work in the office can be. There, the suicide rate fell by 20 percent year-on-year in April. The Japanese Ministry of Health attributes the development to the fact that people in the home office feel less pressure from their jobs and have more time for their families because they don’t have to commute.

Place of work: In principle, contrary to the widespread fears of decision-makers in companies, productivity does not suffer when employees work in the home office. The time tracking experts at RescueTime compared the work situation in the office and the home office. Remote workers have year over year

  • Fifty-eight hours more for core work.
  • Spent 256 hours less on communication.

Also, they are more relaxed at work because they do not have to commute. For example, if you reduce an hour to work, you save 10 hours a week in your home office. The following graphic visualizes this:

Permanent work in the home office could also be used to reduce general working hours without reducing productivity.

Type of work: While the traditional times and places as set parameters of work have already been levered out by the COVID-19 pandemic, an essential component is almost wholly missing: This is about the question of which knowledge work we will still do ourselves in the future want, need or can.

Once started, the development of artificial intelligence (AI) continues unabated. But as a society, we can set up guidelines for a desirable development and maybe even have to develop ethical and moral principles that specify the framework in which AI should work. 

AI offers an excellent opportunity for us to say goodbye to many routine jobs that have to be done, but which nobody likes to do. Instead, we can concentrate on tasks that we consider useful and for which we are therefore intrinsically motivated. This can also go very well hand in hand with the tasks that we have given to algorithms and automatisms.

Ultimately, we are approaching a working model that follows the original guiding question of the new work movement: What do I want to do?

Work management: The abruptly changed work situation also means a tremendous challenge for work management, from company management down to managing teams in the individual departments.

Leaders suddenly have to endure losing their control, for which the present culture has so far been decisive. If the team works in the home office, the boss can no longer see who is already working and who is not. Of course, this could also be implemented with digital tools; only then it would be pronounced what it is used for.

Some companies had good experiences with trust work even before COVID-19. Instead of checking the working hours of the individual employees, you trust them and control your own hands.

The past few weeks’ experience could push this development further and bring it to a new level. If work management is understood in such a way that employees are primarily given the tasks that they consider useful, that they are good at and for which they have a high level of motivation, then there is no need to control working hours: Those who themselves recognize meaning in their work and knows what he does specific jobs for, is very likely to be very focused, motivated and productive.

This is especially true for remote workers because, on the one hand, they are less actively distracted (for example, by colleagues or the boss). On the other hand, they are very keen to deliver results because there is no presence in the company as a signal for “I work.”

Companies that have already developed further in this area and, for example, rely on self-organization instead of strict leadership are more likely to have the problem that the employees work too much.

Conclusion: yesterday we will not find tomorrow’s working world

A crisis, as we are currently experiencing, is a disruptive event. The answer to that can hardly be: We do everything “after” as before! On the one hand, we do not even know when this “after” actually starts or what it looks like, and on the other hand, we would risk everything we have learned in the crisis.

Nevertheless, companies will rely on the tried and tested, and some will even go back a few steps. But there will also be progressive thinking and acting companies who want to use the experience of the crisis period for growth – not for economic growth, but cultural progress.

Anyone who thinks ahead consistently and builds on the painful experience has a real chance of realigning his company and better coping with future crises. On the other hand, those who voluntarily go back to the beginning can not hope to find the future in the past. It is more like staying seated because the progressive companies’ knowledge and development lead will continue to increase until it cannot be made up.

Why the advertising boycott Facebook does not change

Companies no longer want to advertise on Facebook because there is hardly any hate or agitation. And Mark Zuckerberg? Is not impressed. There are solutions.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about the criticism of his social network. It doesn’t matter; he made it clear again last week: More than 900 companies and self-employed people have announced as part of the Stop Hate For-Profit initiative that they no longer want to advertise on the social network. Mainly because Facebook is doing so little against the hate that is widespread there: because, for example, it has abandoned calls for violence against the Black Lives Matter movement. Because it classified the very right-wing Breitbart website as a trustworthy source despite its contacts with white nationalists.

Among the signatories are large US companies such as Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Verizon, and Dax companies such as Henkel, SAP, and Volkswagen. Even if there are substantial advertising budgets behind these companies, Zuckerberg seems to be taking it easy. He said internally, “My guess is that all of these advertisers will be back on the platform soon.” It is more of a reputation than a financial problem for his company—a verbal middle finger towards the boycott.

Facebook can afford this toughness. The advertising boycott should hit the social network at its most sensitive point: its source of income. This point of attack initially seemed to make investors nervous: when Unilever, one of the world’s largest companies, agreed to support the initiative on June 26, the share price fell dramatically. Facebook’s goodwill just declined by $ 56 billion. But the shock lasted only a few days. The share price has long since recovered and is back at the pre-boycott level.

The economic ban could have a similarly minor impact on sales. Because a boycott only works if many participate. Nine hundred companies may sound like many. But firstly, the list of boycotting advertising partners has long included not only large companies with correspondingly substantial advertising budgets but also a yoga studio from Bridgeport in Connecticut or a law firm from Houston, Texas. Second, 900 companies are negligible for Facebook, which claims to work with more than seven million advertising partners. If a few drop out, there will be plenty of other companies that will pay instead of advertising space.

So much cosmetics must be

Of course, Facebook reacted a bit anyway; it’s not just about the money, but also about the image. The social network has blocked the accounts, pages, and groups of an extreme right-wing system in the USA. If Facebook classifies a post as relevant for the message and sees a violation of its own hate rules, it wants to provide it with a warning in the future. And it wants sources, that is, the latest news on which other media base their reports are displayed earlier in the newsfeed. But that remains cosmetic interventions, like so many Facebook measures in recent years. Because they all deal with the outgrowth of problems instead of tackling them at the root. Disinformation? Facebook is currently fighting by working with fact-checkers worldwide and flagging problematic websites. Hate on the net? Although users can report, they often stop.

Facebook would have to intervene much earlier. And one wonders what has to happen so that it finally does it.

To count on it, however, one has to assume that Facebook can change at all. But what if that’s not possible? If Facebook is irreparable with its attention and advertising logic? Journalist Chris O’Brien poses these interesting questions in US tech magazine VentureBeat. Facebook’s problems are not merely the result of a reticent executive, even if it has made the situation worse, he writes. Facebook had 3.2 billion fake accounts between April and September 2019 alone deleted – that is more than the 2.4 billion monthly active users of the service. Still, it feels like nothing has happened. The problem lies in the “nature of the beast” itself, writes O’Brien. 

Facebook not only maps, Facebook weights

Facebook is not the cause of the problems, “Facebook holds a mirror up to society,” writes, however, Nicky Clegg, formerly UK Vice Premier and now Vice President of Communication on Facebook, in a blog post. Everything good, wrong, or ugly is expressed by users on Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp. There is, of course, a pure essence in this statement: All the anger and hatred, the quarrels and lies for which we are so happy to blame the first communication in the social network appear almost everywhere where people meet. At the regulars’ table, differentiating voices are always more complicated than screaming necks with a clear opinion, regardless of whether they are analog or digital. Family members can spread false information while drinking coffee as well as online. And women,

But what Clegg omits: The Internet is changing how many people reach individual voices. Through social networks like Facebook, hatred, disinformation, manipulation can multiply. How many likes something gets, how often we see a request to speak has an impact on how strongly we approve and how important we perceive it. A group that might be quickly identified as a few scattered spinners in analog life can give excessive sharing and posting on the Internet that it represents a relevant social camp. This fundamental phenomenon can be found on all major platforms. On Youtube. On twitter. On Twitch. And also on many small ones.

However, Facebook has an individual responsibility because the company has a strong influence on the reception of news by many people. Because the social network does not merely depict what is happening anyway. The network weighted. If a post gets a lot of likes and comments, there is a high probability that it will be prominently flushed in the news feed by other users. If a person interacts with the content of a news source, there is a higher chance that the content will be displayed prominently again and again – which can, at some point, affect the perception of reality. Facebook picks out very carefully what is shown to whom, what might be of interest to whom. It is not a mirror of society; it is a mirror of our attention. Or better: a mirror of the benefits that Facebook ascribes to us to keep us on its pages as long as possible. We get as many ads as possible and that as much money as possible can be earned with our attention.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported an internal Facebook survey that the company’s algorithms take advantage of because the human brain is attracted to polarizing content with the potential for social division. What did you change afterward? Little. A senior Facebook manager argued, according to the Wall Street Journal. The attempts to make exchanges in the network more civilized are paternalistic. Another internal Facebook presentation already showed in 2016 that the social network could undoubtedly play a problematic role in the radicalization of its users: According to the study by two out of three users who joined an extreme Facebook group in Germany had this Facebook algorithm recommended.

The more people receive news on social media, the more important it is how Facebook is weighted. The company has been repeatedly accused of preferring individual opinions to others. Conservatives, in particular, like to complain that their voices are hidden – which they see as a form of censorship. Technically, that would be possible, but there is no evidence of this.

This discussion raises the fundamental question of what we expect from internet platforms in general and social networks in particular. The boundaries of what is still considered free speech and what is not are different in every country worldwide. Could you find universal rules that go beyond Facebook guidelines? And even if: Should private companies watch over free speech? About what is sayable and what is not?

Facebook likes to say that you don’t want to get involved in the content. There are “disagreements about what is called hate and should not be allowed,” said Zuckerberg in a speech at Georgetown University in 2019. A technology company shouldn’t decide the truth. However, Facebook’s role as a mere bearer of messages has long been refuted because the network is actively involved in shaping what may and may not remain on its platform. Not just about algorithms. A Washington Post report indicates that Facebook has repeatedly changed its internal rules since 2015 in such a way that disinformation and agitation, expressed by the then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, did indeed allow them.

Twitter – Trump shares video with racist slogans a video shared by the US President on Twitter, one of his followers shouts “White Power” several times. After sharp criticism, Trump deleted the video.

Facebook told the Wall Street Journal that it was no longer the same company as it was in 2016, citing evidence to suggest policies to prevent infringing content or research into how the platform impacted society. Only that seems to have changed little in the result. The New York Times columnist Kevin Roose recently evaluated which ten US Facebook pages generated an unusually large number of interactions, i.e., comments, shares, and likes, on a specific day. For Thursday, eight pages fell from people and organizations known for hatred and agitation – including right-wing preacher Franklin Graham, radical conservative Ben Shapiro, U.S. President Donald Trump, and media like Breitbart. The fact that this list looks quite similar on the previous days not only refutes Trump’s recurring claim that the platform suppresses conservative voices. It also illustrates that hatred and agitation are still triumphant on the platform. 

Time for something to revolve around user engagement

Facebook has proven in the past that it can contain unwanted effects and developments. With ever new changes to the newsfeed algorithm, it has almost eliminated business models based on exaggerated headings. In the same way, one would like the company to act against hatred and agitation. However, to do this, it would have to tweak its perhaps most crucial key figure: user engagement. This measure measures how many comments, likes, or views a post has. After almost a decade and a half of social media testing, we found that people like Pavlovian dogs interact particularly strongly, the strident the opinion. The more polarizing, the more hateful.

But the higher the user engagement, the higher the likelihood that the post will also be shown to many other users, the higher the possibility that others will also like, comment on or share it, and in turn, more even users will be flushed into the news feed. As long as the algorithm works in this way, it will also be used by extreme groups.

Are we realistic: The protest by advertisers will not change anything. Even if the 900 companies now want to fight against hatred and agitation: Facebook interactions have become an excellent metric for everything in online marketing, which companies will hardly want to do without. The time to time is flaring Delete Facebook -actions, users, and users to ask them to delete their Facebook account to help any more. Not even the petition from users, which has now started the Stop Hate For-Profit initiative. And just leaving it up to Facebook to recognize and act on the problem would be more than naive.

The call for stricter regulation sounds just as naive. Because there will only be solutions for individual countries, individual regions, and until politics comes to Potte, there can be completely different problems. But it remains the only plausible solution. And the General Data Protection Regulation can give you a little hope. It came late and was only intended as a European solution. At the beginning of the year, however, California passed a law that at least grants Californians similar rights. If you find a proper regulation for hate online, it would undoubtedly be in demand elsewhere.

Successful permission marketing using the example of push notifications

With permission marketing, the users addressed decide that they want to receive company messages. The channel plays an important role here, and push notifications are a new option here.

Smartphone chat notifications concept

Introduction

Messenger WhatsApp or services such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have fundamentally changed communication: Smaller “communication snacks” are in demand, but with a higher frequency. Everyone is also struggling for attention on this virtual stage.

This also increases the demands on marketing communication: it should appeal, inspire, inspire, involve, and establish an emotional connection. Above all, it’sits about increasing customer loyalty. In my view, permission marketing is an excellent tool for this.

What is permission marketing?

In principle, permission marketing is an old hat, which marketing guru Seth Godin already shaped in 1999. He was already guaranteed that traditional forms of marketing, such as TV advertising, i.e., invasive or disruptive marketing, would lose effectiveness because consumers want more control over the information they consume.

Consumers want to decide for themselves from whom and via which channels they receive content. According to Godin, the company must “earn” accordingly to get in touch with the customer. And: there must be the possibility to be able to “unlatch” again at any time. In this way, consumers received valuable news for them, making them feel connected to the company. 

“Permission-based marketing is the privilege (not the right) to send expected, personal, and relevant advertising to people who want to receive it.” ” –  Seth Godin

Permission marketing recognizes the new power of consumers to ignore marketing. At the same time, it includes the idea that respectful treatment is the best way to attract attention. Because “real” permission differs fundamentally from the implicit or behavioral agreement, as is typical but illegal practice with cookie consent. 

This is not the only reason why permission marketing is back in fashion. The most significant advantage that permission marketing has over traditional forms of marketing is the higher engagement rate. After all, a permission marketing campaign is about maintaining a long-term relationship based on trust. It is not aimed at achieving immediate results, but rather at winning regular customers and strengthening brand loyalty.

Permission marketing is not aimed at achieving immediate results, but rather at winning regular customers and strengthening brand loyalty.

The newer permission marketing channels, therefore, combine the style of private exchange with professional marketing communication. This opens up the chance of a more intense bond between customers and prospects through more conventional and modern approaches. Every marketing professional knows that interested people can be more easily moved to specific actions. Because the engagement is high, the conversion rates in permission marketing are higher than in other forms of marketing.

Additional advantages:

  • Increase in success: With permission marketing, companies reach those who expressly request it. This automatically increases engagement and conversion rates.
  • Strong customer loyalty: With permission marketing, companies can advance their content distribution and bring users back to their website. 
  • Legal certainty: With consent, many data protection problems no longer play a role. 

Permission marketing through push notifications

Permission marketing is often equated with newsletter marketing. Email and SMS marketing is still thriving but complex to implement and not always the best choice. In my view, push notifications as a contemporary form of in-app messaging have great potential.

There are four types:

  • Web push: On a website, visitors can agree to receive messages. If this is the case, you will then receive news directly on your (lock) screen. Clicking on the word takes you to the target page.
  • App push: For many notifications from apps, a connection via API to back-end systems makes sense. For example, information about travel bookings and the like can be sent. Also, any actions in the apps or more extended inactivity can trigger such notifications.
  • Messenger push: WhatsApp uses 58 million Germans every day. Unfortunately, the messenger can hardly be used for advertising marketing communication. Therefore WhatsApp Notifications are only interesting for 1: 1 interaction and targeted messages such as reservation confirmations or appointment reminders. The same applies in principle to Facebook Messenger. 
  • Wallet Push: With Wallet Push, the website invites iOS visitors to add a “News Card.” After adding the card, recipients can receive messages. At the same time, the wallet card can be updated with offers, codes, and much more. It is also possible to add QR codes, loyalty functions, or geo-fencing. It is reasonable and sensible to use wallet push and web push simultaneously on one website.

Special case wallet push

Wallet push is of particular importance for another reason: after all, iOS users cannot be reached via web push, but this group makes up around 20 percent of the mobile market. Depending on the website, the proportion of users can be significantly higher, for example, 30 to 40 percent.

Wallet Push also proves to be a valuable marketing tool in stationary retail. After all, retailers are finding it increasingly challenging to bring physical bonus cards to men or women. If this is done digitally, there are new advantages. For example, it is possible to have the messages appear automatically on the lock screen at a specific time or a specified location, change their appearance and content, and send push notifications. The wallet provider can trigger the update of the card and the associated messages.

These notifications are an ideal tool to keep customers up to date and provide them with targeted offers. They can also be used to remind you of appointments or to send personal messages.

Examples of a push notification on a laptop and a smartphone

Push communication: advantages for consumers and marketers

In general, more than 10% of all consumers now agree to push notifications – and the trend is rising. This is not the only reason why technology offers many advantages for marketers:

  • One-click is enough: In contrast to newsletters, customers do not have to enter personal data such as email addresses. A simple confirmation is enough. For this reason, the opt-in rate is particularly high. 
  • Immediate communication: Push messages are transmitted immediately and directly on the screen. This reduces the risk of going under and not paying attention. This results in high opening rates of 90 percent. In comparison, emails only reach 25 percent.
  • Traffic boost: Relevant push messages have the potential to increase the traffic of websites significantly. 
  • Budget-friendly: In contrast to ads, SMS, or messenger services, there are no costs for sending or clicking.
  • High conversion rate: Push messages to achieve click and response rates, just like the best times for email newsletters.
  • GDPR-compliant: Since no personal data flows, marketers do not have to worry about the General Data Protection Regulation. 

Best practices for setting up web push campaigns

Web push notifications can be created and sent quickly. However, they require a well-thought-out plan for maximum success, i.e., the highest possible recipient base and consent rate. The design and continuity of the appropriate shipping frequency are just as important as the relevance and attractiveness of the individual notifications. 

Planning should begin by considering which exact goals are being pursued with push notifications and how to push marketing should be integrated into the overall communication and content strategy. This includes an audit of existing and planned content from all other marketing channels such as newsletters and blogs. Do you already have a content production and marketing action plan? Then this should serve as the basis for promoting the content and actions contained therein with push notifications even more.

Whether B2B or B2C – numerous notification occasions and hangers can be found for every industry. Here are some ideas to take advantage of the full range of options for push notifications:

  • Notices of new content such as blog articles, white papers, videos, etc.
  • Invitations to participate in events such as online seminars or store openings
  • Product and assortment news: For software and cloud services information about new releases, eCommerce notifications about new, re-available, currently trendy articles or top sellers.
  • Promotion of special offers and discounts

Some event occasions for which notifications are available are apparent because they are directly related to the sender’s core business: the upcoming Mother’s Day for flowers or the impending onset of winter for tire dealers. However, with a little imagination and ingenuity, many other occasions are conceivable as hangers for notifications: from the birthday to the time change to the lunar eclipse. It is important to note that the event and information must always match the product or offer and its users.

The keys to successful push notifications

Subscribers can expect useful, relevant notifications such as educational tips, exciting news, or attractive deals. At the same time, the recipients want to be addressed emotionally. Different announcements that arouse curiosity are easy to grasp, refreshing to read or helpful, and scored particularly well. Also, Humor often comes good.

Here are more tips. 

  • Timing: The opt-in invitation should not appear immediately upon entry, but only after a short period (a few seconds later). An additional call via exit-intent shortly before leaving the website can be a successful strategy to keep in touch with users. Last but not least, the opt-in can also be linked to order, registration, or the like. In general, it makes sense to play out the opt-in dialog on as many pages as possible and to only do so on individual pages, such as the career section of your website.
  • Time: When addressing private individuals, Saturday and Sunday noon have proven to be particularly successful periods for sending messages. In the business environment, however, Tuesday to Thursday, early in the morning or in the evening, are more promising. It is recommended to test different days and times to find the ideal times for push messages.
  • Dialogue type: By default, the opt-in invitation is placed on the actual website. So the user can only continue surfing when he interacts with the element. Other overlay options for opt-ins are message bars that appear above or below the website and therefore do not cover the actual site and sliders that enter from one side. Opt-in triggers can also be integrated into the pages themselves as an element.
  • Optical design: Ideally, dialogues should be adapted to the look & feel of the website or your corporate design.
  • Textual design: There are two basic strategies for texting, which also affect the graphic options: either a more factual text that is very much based on standards of browser dialogs, or a deliberately more creative approach that comes across as high advertising. In general, however, the following applies: short and concise sentences with a clear call-to-action are preferable. It is also essential to highlight the advantages for users.
  • Incentivizing opt-ins: It is common in e-commerce for newsletters: visitors to the shops are offered a discount voucher when they register for the newsletter. Such an additional incentive for opt-in is also possible for web push notifications. 
  • Freedom of choice: It is also helpful to let the user “subscribe” to decide on which topics or occasions he would like to receive information and not only to accept this based on the tracked behavior. This is particularly important when there is a very complex bouquet of offers. 
  • Personalization: With permission marketing, companies address people who are interested in their products or services. It can, therefore, be assumed that the news is highly relevant. Personalized content that fits the current position within the customer journey or the person’s interests and preferences is particularly attractive. Personalization is particularly capable of increasing the utility value by sending offers and tips to match the items you are currently viewing or buying.
  • Variety: experimentation is required both in the design of opt-in invitations and in the news. The range is also needed for events and content. It’sIt’s not just about bargains, it’also sits about entertainment, a look behind the scenes and much more. 

Conclusion

Push notification marketing is the channel that creates a direct path to users. Used correctly, this form of permission marketing promises rapid integration, high conversion rates, and increased customer loyalty. It is essential to understand that segmenting subscribers and customers into different areas is vital nowadays due to different interests.

Those who know their target group, understand them, and send proper notifications to combine valuable content for the target group with their marketing messages—a win-win situation for companies and customers alike.

SEO for Online Shops – The Monster FAQ!

You have an online shop, and you have questions about SEO? Then you are right here! Welcome to the Monster FAQ on SEO for Online Shops.

Basic questions

If you already know your way around, feel free to skip these questions. But I tried to shed some light on aspects that not everyone knows. Maybe there is something for advanced users too!

How does search engine optimization work for online shops?

Phew, there is usually a lot to do. But to put it roughly, you try to achieve several things:

  1. Your shop should be accessible and legible for Google. Google (or any other search engine) needs to recognize that it’s a shop and what products it sells.
  2. The shop should deliver the best result for the user on this topic, i.e. also give the user exactly what he was looking for.
  3. The shop should have a good reputation online. This works mostly through links from other useful websites. Google also evaluates other signals such as social media and the like.

What SEOs do now is to improve the online shop on these three points. Everyone does it differently. And everyone sets different priorities. While some swear by link building, other shops optimize technically such as page loading speed down to the last detail. Still, others focus on the content of the website and offer the user the best experience. Since it is an algorithm, there are several ways to get there. In the last few years, the first final points felt to have become more critical, the first point lost relative to the others. You should always keep an eye on all three to get the best results.

Is search engine optimization prohibited?

No. Neither Google nor the legislator has anything against search engine optimization – on the contrary! Google even wants you to make your website more readable – this will make your work more comfortable, and the search engine will find good results faster – which will help users and ultimately make them more satisfied with Google.

However, some techniques violate the so-called webmaster guidelines. For example, if you artificially procure links (for example, by bribing other webmasters with money instead of getting real recommendations to link to your website, you can book advantage for yourself in the short term. However, there is one at Google own team that takes care of exposing these techniques. If you get caught, you may be deliberately downgraded a few places or even flipped entirely out of the Google index so that you may be accurate accomplishes the opposite of what you want.

Apart from this, techniques such as the purchase of links and the setting of links in forums for advertising violate the Unfair Competition Act (UWG). Since you don’t want to show Google that you are buying links, bought links are rarely awarded. Unfortunately, many search engine optimizers – especially agencies – still buy links today. This works mainly because of the principle “Where there is no plaintiff, there is no judge”. If you do something big here – as is currently the case with Instagram influencers with unmarked advertising – then the link buying industry is in bad shape.

How long does it take for my online shop to have good rankings?

To make it short: It depends a lot on the market environment, the desired keywords and your website. Generally speaking, SEO is a matter of months to years, not a matter of weeks. There are some techniques – such as optimizing titles and descriptions – that can affect very quickly (i.e. in a few days or weeks). But if you want to gain trust with Google with a brand new domain, you should plan for a long time. However, initial successes can be visible very soon – especially for niche keywords that do not have a high level of competition.

Why does SEO seem so crucial for my shop?

For most websites, SEO is one of the most cost-effective channels for high-quality visitors – despite the work that you have to do yourself or for which you have to pay an agency or a freelancer. You get targeted visitors with SEO who googled for “Buy blue hiking pants XL”. Anyone who offers such hiking pants (and has matching pants and a beautiful online shop) will have a good chance of buying them. Many high-quality visitors can only be obtained via Google Ads. Google Ads is excellent too, but usually costs more per order (compared to SEO). That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t book Google Ads – most shop owners run SEO and Google Ads at the same time.

But you don’t have to do SEO. Some shop operators rely 100% on Google Ads. Others go full offline marketing with flyers and Co. That also works, and SEO is just one channel out of many.

If you want to sell a product, also consider whether you don’t want to just do it on eBay, Etsy or Amazon? The fees there are high – but you save the costs of an online shop, marketing (mostly) and many other things. Likewise, SEO doesn’t make sense if you have a completely new product that no one knows about yet. In that case, nobody is looking for your product because nobody knows that it exists. Here, however, it makes sense to optimize for relevant terms and keywords in the environment of your product, for example, the “problem” that your product helps with, rather than the product itself. A company magazine and content marketing are ideal for this.

How much does SEO cost?

The question “What does a website cost?” Or “What does a car cost?” Is similarly simple. It all depends on what you want to achieve and where you start. Do you sell puzzles online?

The following models exist – the more SEO, the higher the costs, of course:

  1. You can completely implement SEO yourself.
  2. You can do most of the SEO yourself, with a programmer and SEO consultant at your side.
  3. You can give SEO completely to an agency and programmer.
  4. You can hire an in-house team for SEO, i.e. one or more permanent SEOs who do nothing but SEO.
  5. You can hire an in-house team for SEO and have it supported by an agency. This works with them and is available as a sparring partner for essential questions.

The whole thing is, of course, not static. Successful online shop operators often go all the way from 1-5 (over many years). 

How do I find a reputable SEO agency for my shop?

I find this question incredible because it is so often on agency websites. The answer is then as neutral as possible, whereby towards the end of the solution, it becomes clear that your agency is the only one that uses the Rankingbooster3000. But seriously: It is incredibly difficult to see from the outside how good an SEO agency is. Most of the time, you can only see from the outside how professional the sales department is. Even I often do not know how well or poorly other agencies work until I am brought up with one or the other. And also then you should be careful because opinions are often very subjective. Just because the work at one agency’s client was catastrophic does not have to apply to all of the agency’s other clients and vice versa.

I have been doing SEO for 12 years, and two methods can reliably help you find the right agency:

  1. Inform yourself beforehand in detail about the topic of SEO and know your way so far that you can assess the statements of your counterpart. The more knowledge you have, the less you can fall for dubious offers and the more you can identify which agency suits you best. Ask the agency of your choice if you have holes in your stomach – the more, the better! The principle also applies to craftspeople, car workshops, doctors and any other service provider.
  2. Ask acquaintances, friends and colleagues if they can recommend someone to you. Unfortunately, this is not the panacea, because sometimes spam techniques work well for your friends and they recommend you to someone who is not dangerous. Therefore tip 1 is much more effective. Another good advice is to take your friend/acquaintance into the conversation with the agency. So you learn what your acquaintance values. Incidentally, this also works great when buying a car with a friend of my car mechanic. 

How is SEO success measured? How important is visibility?

There are a lot of tools that give SEO points, show visibility and with which many SEOs work. The best known are SistrixSearchmetrics and Xovi . These three tools regularly monitor millions of keywords, assess their value and use them to calculate an index that then reads like a stock chart. This can be important for an initial assessment of a domain – or when comparing different areas in the same industry. However, the values ​​are an approximation and sometimes do not say much about the actual SEO traffic.

The visibility of various SEO tools shows the actual SEO traffic only to a limited extent

You can ultimately make the most reliable statement about SEO success if you use your web tracking tool (e.g. Google Analytics) to check how many visitors come to your shop via SEO – and how many of them buy. What you need are more acquiring customers about SEO – no SEO visibility. The Google Search Console is an indispensable tool for determining which terms visitors use to come to your website and where you appear on Google.

Can I do SEO for my online shop myself?

Of course! Why not? Especially when you are at the beginning of your business, you often have no money for an agency. The alternative is to read yourself in and then take action yourself. So if you have the time, there is nothing to be said against trying it yourself. By the way, this is how I came to SEO myself. My t-shirt shop did not have enough visitors and a forum member in a shop operator forum advised me “Try it with search engine optimization”.

Of course, it will be the case that you don’t use the levers that a professional would use from the start. This means that you make wrong adjustments or invest a lot of time in things that are not worth the time. So in my first days as SEO (in 2007) I wasted days on an XML sitemap. At some point, I realized that firstly there are sitemap generators and secondly that sitemaps are not so important. Only one thing: If you don’t have time for SEO and no money to pay someone else to do it, it looks terrible.

Questions about online shop technology

Which shop system is best for SEO?

I hear the question quite often. It is like this: you should choose your shop system according to what other functions you need. Basic SEO can do most just fine. SEO is often more about the template (i.e. the design) than the system itself. My advice is: get a system that is as widely used as possible. There are usually right SEO extensions for this, and you also ensure that updates continue to come. Also: good web agencies only work with sound shop systems. ShopwareShopifyMagentoGambioWooCommerce– these are widely used systems. You should do detailed research, only then choose a suitable method. At least shop systems work “off the shelf”, most require adjustments to your individual needs.

Small “quick-and-easy” solutions may help you get started quickly, but changing a shop system later is usually very expensive. Therefore, I would always rely on one from the start that is easily expandable.

When do I start with SEO in my shop?

You should get an SEO specialist on board as early as possible. The best time is when it comes to the basic design, and you have already considered the categories for your shop. A basic plan should already be outlined (as a sketch), but the SEO can change that again for usability reasons. He can also question the categories after performing a keyword analysis. Another possibility is that you create the shop and then have an SEO overlooked before going live. Here, however, there is a high risk that you will have to knock down a lot. I would do it after choosing the shop system, create a dummy without a design and also a sketch of the shop – and then wait what the SEO says about it.

What should my URLs look like?

One thing that is often screwed up at the beginning is the shop URLs. Google wants thematically arranged directories, so you have achieved that well. Of course, you should only introduce subcategories if they make thematic sense so that you can structure them well. Think of your categories a little like a guide in the department store – how would you design one? And what would you put in which aisle and then on which shelf?

What is a good headline structure for online shops?

First of all, headings are not as relevant as you might think. The reason? Many web designers misuse layout headings so Google can’t rely on them. Depending on the page type, the product name or the name of the corresponding category should be defined as an H1 heading in your shop. Further small lines such as the article description, unique features and the like can then be in H2 entries. Under no circumstances should design elements in the sidebar or the footer be marked as headings – here the template designer should work with CSS and not with lines. 

How do I get to number 1 for my keyword?

There are very few industries where a single keyword is essential. For most of the shops that I optimized, even the most critical keywords were often responsible for less than 5% of sales. Conversely, niche keywords were relevant for 95% of sales. It is also felt that the more search volume behind a keyword, the more difficult it will be with the ranking. If you want to start wisely with SEO, then book Google Ads and see which keyword groups you use to generate good sales – and later try to achieve granular success there.

How important is page load speed for SEO?

Google has repeatedly stressed that page load speed can be critical. It is also confirmed that a fast-loading online shop leads to more conversions. You should have a quick loading page. But it is certainly not the most important factor, just one of many. Only because you load the fastest in your industry, you will not be in the first place.

Shop content

Do I have to enter a product description for each product and a category description for each category?

As smart as Google is, it is unfortunately, still a text-based search engine. As a rule, it makes sense that you create unique product and category descriptions. Do not use the one that the manufacturer provides for free. And conversely, please do not make them available for free price search engines. But yes: you need individual texts for your shop.

Can I use automated/standard texts for these SEO texts?

Of course, you can buy cheap texts. However, it is not advisable. If you have a large number of products and cannot afford the texts for so many products, you may ask yourself from the other direction: Do you need so many products? Prefer to prioritize your range: What are your most important products? Start with these and create good product descriptions for them that inspire the user to buy and that are optimized for search engines.

Many people will advise you about additional content. Why? Well, if Google has a choice of 50 different online stores that sell the same thing and have similar prices, they’ll put those in the forefront who go the extra mile and advise, inform, or maintain the customer. Your customers will also be happy if you don’t just provide an item description, but a tutorial on how to use the product.

What one understands by good content, the opinions of experts differ widely.

  • Videos
  • Good descriptions that answer my customers’ questions.
  • Instructions for your products
  • Examples of use
  • Excellent and large photos – the more visual the product, the more important
  • FAQs on shipping, ordering, delivery costs and returns.
  • A shop magazine that provides news about the products or shows insights into your company.
  • Helpful tips on your products.
  • Reviews from other customers about the product

I recently ordered a hedge. A glossy loquat “Dicker Toni” to be precise.

I ordered them from Pflanzmich.de. Plantmich.de is not a customer of ours, by the way, just for information. If you look at the product page, you may notice why I ordered there. There is a lot of detailed information about the product that I urgently needed. The excellent content here was about the growth rate or the height, and much more. The product text is very informative. Probably someone wrote it who had detailed information about the product. There are also so-called “master questions” at the bottom “- this is an APP that answers all sorts of questions about plants and gardens free of charge. In the meantime, that’s 31992 responded to questions – that’s quite a lot.

As a customer, I ordered there because other shops, particularly in the garden area, often only had scant information about the individual plants. What I like as a professional: Pflanzmich.de thinks up from the user. There you think about what the user needs and wants about hedges. I want to know how fast the fence grows and how high it gets. Unfortunately, 90% of the hedgerow shops do not answer that. So much for my hedge example. Incidentally, it has already been delivered and looks great!

User experience (UX) and shop SEO

Do you already know Google’s GrowmyStore? There you can have your shop tested for user-friendliness. From Google – for free. It is not unusual that the tool exists, but how it works. Automatically. The device not only recognizes how well your product details are described (see picture below), but also whether your pickup offers in the store or a flexible order execution in terms of express delivery. According to the FAQs, this works by searching for specific keywords. I am not sure whether Google also incorporates such results into the ranking, but it would be possible – too resource-saving and straightforward. And the engineers at Google like that. 

Google automatically recognizes whether your product details can be found quickly and described adequately.

How important is UX for the SEO success of my online shop?

Very important. If your users despair during the ordering process, your categorization is not user-friendly, and your shop is otherwise difficult to use, you can no longer win a flowerpot today. Take this sentence to heart, unfortunately, I have seen some otherwise good shops slowly dying. From a Google perspective, a website gets a good ranking if it serves its purpose well. The use of an online shop is to inform you about products, to present them well and to make them easy to buy. This works out!

How do I improve the user experience in my shop?

Three approaches are best made one by one, starting with the 1:

  1. There are specific basic rules that you should use in your online shop. Your logo is at the top left, the shopping cart and “Checkout” link are at the top right. You should check and apply these rules. You gain a lot with that. 
  2. You can put users in front of a monitor and watch how they operate your shop. You will learn a lot. This can be done quickly and inexpensively, for example with rapiduser tests.
  3. You can do AB testing. Here you present different versions of your website to different users. You can even do this for free with Google Optimize. 

The Sales Funnel: Really everything you need to know about it

“Know, like, and trust.”

This is how John Jantsch describes marketing.

So it’s always about your potential customers getting to know and like you first. Only then will they build trust.

That’s why inbound marketing is about your customers finding you.

It’s a good start, but it’s only the first step. But what happens afterward?

This is where the sales funnel comes into play. This is based on the right, old AIDA formula. So let’s start with that.

What is the AIDA formula?

In 1898, a marketer by the name of Elias St. Elmo Lewis came up with a tried and tested method of turning prospective customers into customers:

  • Attention (attention) – Win the attention of your potential customers for your solution.
  • Interest (interest) – Keep your potential customers interested so that they can deal more closely with your answer.
  • Desire (wish) – Awaken the wishes of your potential customers by communicating the benefits.
  • Action (action) – Make a clear call to work so that your potential customer will buy your solution.

It is the classic buying process that everyone goes through. Everything in marketing is based on this simple formula. For example, your homepage, your email campaigns, landing pages, and your sales funnel are inbound marketing process.

But what exactly is the latter?

What are a sales funnel?

As a rule, every company uses a sales funnel. Consciously or unconsciously. Complete or incomplete.

You can think of a sales funnel as a funnel. Put a lot of water in at the top, and a fine jet comes out at the bottom. Accordingly, you pack visitors in at the top, and perfect customers come out at the bottom.

But with a household funnel, the same amount of water comes out at the bottom. However, this is not the case with a sales funnel. So the metaphor of a holey sales funnel is much better.

So you lose visitors, leads, and customers along the way.

The sales funnel is often also called “conversion funnel”, “marketing funnel”, ” email funnel “, “content funnel” or simply “funnel”. In principle, everyone thinks the same thing, always has a slightly different perspective. Sometimes with subtle differences.

According to the inbound style, the sales funnel lacks an important part, namely, what comes after the deal.

Therefore, the new customer journey is much better as a starting point.

What role does the customer journey play in the sales funnel?

The customer journey is the journey that your potential customer goes through until he becomes a customer:

Let’s go through the individual phases briefly:

  • Awareness – Your potential customer recognizes their problem or need, has become aware of, and is interested in your solution.
  • Consideration – Your potential customer is considering buying your solution. He is thinking about how well she can solve the problem or satisfy the need.
  • Conversion – your potential customer buys your solution and uses it.
  • Retention – Your customer is satisfied or even enthusiastic about your answer. If possible, he will repurchase your answer.
  • Advocacy – Your customer is so excited that he tells his friends, family, and colleagues about your answer.

If you e.g., B. wants to buy a new car, don’t go straight to the first best dealer, do you? Most people first think about buying a new car. Go peddling a bit with the thought. They then search and research online. You get several offers and compare them. Finally, they do one or more test drives. If everything is correct, only then will they buy the new vehicle.

This process is anything but linear. That’s why it’s a trip. A wild trip. It can take a long time. In between, there can be short or long breaks. There are many points of contact with the company. Usually, there are about seven until it is bought.

If we now take the customer journey and compare the AIDA formula, it looks like this:

It’s two sides of the same coin. Nearly. Because, as already mentioned, an important part is missing, namely what comes after the sale.

Therefore there is a lot of criticism. The question that arises: Is this sales process still up to date today?

How important are the sales funnel today?

There are many posts ( herehere and here ) that describe that the sales funnel no longer so important. That it’s too linear. Today the customer journey has gotten a lot of wilder with lots of different touchpoints.

In response, McKinsey has created an exciting model that is circular:

They call it the “Customer Decision Journey”. But here, too, some voices say that the model is out of round. Because it’s not just about the decision, it’s about the relationship.

Brian Clark from Copyblogger has developed another exciting model that does not look at the funnel from the side, but from above and focuses on inbound marketing:

Of course, I agree with all of this. For me, the models often mean the same thing. Sometimes a little something is missing, but I would like to add it! 🙂

The thing is, everything is based on the right old AIDA formula. Because that’s the buying process that we all go through, that was the case 100 years ago and will remain so for the next 100 years.

However, as a company, we still have the responsibility to not stop after the sale and to keep delighting our customers.

What are the advantages of a sales funnel?

If you keep in mind the metaphor of a funnel, there are several advantages:

  • Clarity – it becomes clear to you that it is quite reasonable for not all of your prospects to become customers. You also have a solid overview of your sales process.
  • Measurability – You know the individual phases and can measure your success precisely. You know which screws you should turn to increase your sales.
  • Forecasts – You know your key figures and make better and easier predictions for future sales growth. This gives you a better basis for planning.

The focus on your sales funnel brings you more efficiency and a higher customer lifetime value. Simply put, you sell more.

How do you create a sales funnel?

A simple sales funnel can be divided into three levels and looks like this:

If you like, you can still pack “opportunities” (qualified lead) between leads and customers. Or split your points into MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) or SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads). There is no right or wrong here. It always depends on your company and your sales funnel.

  • Visitor – The visitor is attracted by high-quality content and lands on our website.
  • Lead – The visitor becomes a lead by downloading our free e-book or signing up for our free updates.
  • Signup – The point sees the calls-to-action on our website and receives emails to test Chimpify.
  • Customer – The user checks our platform, possibly gives us feedback, and buys our solution. Mission accomplished.

Since I am a big fan of keeping things as simple as possible, I recommend that you start with the three simple steps and add some if necessary.

What else should you be aware of in your sales funnel?

Another vital part that is somewhat invisible is the value ladder.

But because you are now looking at your offer in stages, you notice gaps to be able to accompany your customer even better.

It also increases your customer lifetime value because a customer who has already bought something from you is more willing to buy something from you again.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re a coach. Accordingly, a simple value ladder would look like this: e-book (lead magnet)> book (frontend offer)> conference (middle offer)> seminar (backend offer). At first glance, this doesn’t seem particularly exciting, but it is powerful.

Mainly because of backend sales. So you can afford not to be profitable in the frontend or only to cover costs (e.g., if you publish your book for free or very cheaply) because you know that you can expect a long-term customer relationship later. Provided, of course, that you know your key figures.

If you are a software company, you usually automatically have a value ladder in it. Because here, the packages are limited by defined factors. With us, these are e.g., B. Email contacts. And when your customers grow, you grow with them.

With your funnel, think about which products that build on one another and could offer (preferably with costs, but also free of charge), so that you can accompany your customers perfectly and get the most out of your company.

What do a sales funnel looks like in inbound marketing?

After taking a simple sales funnel, let’s take a quick look at what it looks like in inbound marketing.

Since inbound marketing is very content-heavy, it is about which content you should deliver at which phase of the customer journey or sales funnel. Here you should make sure that you always use the entire content.

Which key figures should you consider in the sales funnel?

Fortunately, with a simple sales funnel, there are not many indicators that you should look at. In essence, it’s always about the number of conversions and the associated conversion rate.

Above all, you should always keep an eye on the conversion rate. It is the lever for more efficiency.

Here are a few benchmarks that you can use for a fixed rate:

  • CVR visitors to lead: 1-3%
  • CVR leads to customers: 0.5-5%

As always, with benchmarks, that’s one thing. They should only give you a rough direction. The main thing is that you focus on regularly increasing your key figures.

We track our funnel daily to keep our finger on the pulse. We also look at it together every week and think about where we can still optimize.

Conclusion

Inbound marketing is always about being found by your potential customers. But just being seen is not enough.

Therefore, you should focus on your sales funnel.

Your goal should be to set up your funnel as quickly as possible, track it regularly, and optimize it. In this way, you gently guide your prospects from one phase to the next and accompany them on their customer journey.

Even if some voices think that the sales funnel no longer relevant, it is nevertheless. It’s just the classic buying process that we humans go through. You can’t shake it.

You mustn’t forget your customer after the sale.

A sales funnel often ends up with sales. But that is also automatic (as the Atlassian story shows, for example ).