Marketers are always searching for new ways to achieve better campaign results and deliver better ROI for their efforts. The business evolves on a near daily basis, which can make it difficult for marketing teams to reach these goals. Luckily there is something that marketers can use to help their programs run a little smoother while at the same time collecting valuable customer intelligence.
Marketing automation is strategy and software that allows marketers to find and nurture contacts with personalized content streams. This customized content helps to convert visitors into leads and leads into paying customers.
A company can use marketing automation software for all parts of the marketing funnel, not just at the purchasing stage. Leads should be nurtured at every stage, including post-purchase as customer retention and loyalty is crucial in growing a business.
Without marketing automation the process of following up with individual customers and offering an exceptional experience can seem almost impossible, especially for large businesses with vast customer bases. Research from The Annuitas Group found that there is a 451% growth in qualified leads for companies that take advantage of marketing automation software.
With numbers like those, it can be very tempting to make the switch to automation. Here are a few ways to achieve a successful and efficient strategy through marketing automation.
Are you looking for inspiration and specific tactics and strategies to grow your business? Want to know how to raise money for your business?
Trent interviews Wade Foster, the CEO and one of the co-founders of a rapidly growing company called Zapier. Zapier integrates SaaS tools from different vendors using triggers and actions. It currently works with 300+ SaaS apps and is growing by about 10 apps per month.
Zapier has about 250,000 users and has raised $1.2 million. Among the investors are 2 of the most prominent venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley.
Listen now and you’ll hear Wade and I talk about:
- (03:00) Introductions
- (06:45) What did you do at the very start to test the idea?
- (14:10) What did you do after you signed up the first few users?
- (15:30) How long did it take to get to 1000 users?
- (13:00) What did you do after reaching 1000 users?
- (17:30) What was it like to be a part of Y-Combinator?
- (19:00) What had you accomplished by the end of the 3 months?
- (22:00) Tell us about the process of raising money.
- (26:00) What did you do with the money you raised?
- (27:00) What kinds of marketing activities worked for you?
- (29:00) What are some of the impacts of more integrations?
- (30:00) Tell me about the biggest mistake you’d made by this point.
- (32:00) How did you go about getting more integrations and users?
- (34:30) Why did you decide to be a virtual company instead of having an office?
- (38:00) What are the pros & cons of having a VC on board?
More About This Episode
The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.
It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.
About Wade Foster
Wade is co-founder and CEO of Zapier. His work has been featured on sites like WSJ, Forbes, Mixergy and TheNextWeb.
James Deer and his wife founded Gather Content, a new startup SaaS company doing just shy of $39K/mo in Revenue.
James started his career as a freelancer and built up a small client base. Eventually, he got so busy as a web designer that he had to hire a number of people. He quickly built up an agency to 13 people before he ended up selling it.
James will reveal the entire process he has taken with Gather Content – from concept to prototyping, getting customers, and getting funding, as well as long-term business goals.
Are you looking to grow a Saas business? Then this is an interview you do not want to miss!
Listen now and you’ll hear James and I talk about:
- (04:00) Introduction
- (07:30) How did you come up with the idea for Gather Content?
- (12:30) What did you do next after developing a prototype for the app?
- (14:48) What did you do after Smashing Magazine tweeted out your app’s landing page?
- (20:00) How did you get from $5k/mo to $15k/mo?
- (23:00) How did marketing automation play a role?
- (28:00) How did you discover who your ideal customer is?
- (30:00) How much monthly revenue are you doing now?
- (33:00) Tell me about how you raised some money.
- (35:00) How much did you raise and what are you using it for?
- (37:00) What does your exit strategy look like?
- (46:00) What does the future hold?
More About This Episode
The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.
It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.
About James Deer
James Deer is the founder of GatherContent– a service that helps agencies gather content from their clients painlessly. It helps replace the chaotic process of sending word documents, and emails back and forth for when you prepare web content. Previously James and his wife built up a small digital agency to 13 full-time staff which they later sold.
“I’m switching from Ontraport to Infusionsoft.”
This is what I heard from one of my subscribers a few weeks ago – three weeks in and he was so frustrated with the functionality constraints, he decided the lower startup costs weren’t worth the hassle, even after he had migrated most of his business into Ontraport (formally Office AutoPilot). The same day I heard from him, another one of our subscribers brought a very similar complaint to us via Facebook. The complaints were pouring in!
So, I decided to write this comparison.
With the great CRM system, the loads of 3rd party support, and the amazing Campaign Builder, Infusionsoft was an easy choice for us, but not everyone has the same needs. Here we’ll take a look at the different features each software provides. Specifically, we’ll analyze the following components:
- Pricing & Setup
- Training & Initiation
- Marketing & Automation
Pricing & Setup
Each program has its own unique approach to software set-up. Infusionsoft is consultant-based and detailed, while Ontraport is more self-servicing and intuitive. Here are the prices and expectations for each:
$199-379/month, ~$2000 Kickstart fee
While the initial startup costs can seem daunting to small business owners, Infusionsoft feels that due to the customizable nature of the software, the startup Kickstart training is necessary. The packages follow a structure which includes:
- One-on-one consulting and implementation help in the first 30 days
- A custom implementation guide to follow for the next 60 days
- Analysis of your business’ needs and challenges
- Help implementing the features that will make the biggest impact
- Data import and dashboard configuration assistance
There are two packages you can choose from once you begin your Kickstart program:
- Marketing Blueprint- Ideal for newer businesses looking to create and implement a marketing strategy for their lead generation and nurturing. This program will help create a framework to utilize in the future.
- Automate and Scale- Focused more on businesses looking to scale their efforts and make the business processes self-sustaining and automated. This program is designed to help businesses create internal processes to help sustain growth and scale their operations with the business.
The benefits of the Kickstart program go beyond the training and support for the actual software. With the right strategy and self-reflection, business owners can use this support to write personalized goals and campaign strategies, which is a powerful step in lead generation.
As opposed to Infusionsoft, you can order Ontraport online and move through the setup process fairly quickly. There is a much shorter lead-to-customer cycle, which is a nice touch and can be less intimidating.
As you can see, the monthly fees are higher but there is no startup fee. There is a free 2 hour implementation session which connects you with a dedicated “Hero” who is in charge of your account. The session includes:
- Immediate Ontraport training with a dedicated Implementation Specialist
- Get started building automated processes tailored to your business
- Gain a deep understanding of Ontraport’s features and functionality
- Get your sales and marketing automated right away
- A unique head start in mastering Ontraport that’s tailored to your business
While the stated deliverables are a little overlapping repetitive, the main point is a service professional will contact you and help set up the program while tailoring the session to your business model.
The difference between Ontraport’s Pro and Team options is pretty negligible as far as I can tell, the main difference being the number of program users and email contacts. The number of emails does not change, which is odd considering the extra $300 a month fees.
Training & Initiation
Approx. Set-up Time: 4-8 Weeks
The length of set-up time is partly due to the Kickstart training regimen provided by the company (which takes place over 30 days), and partly because the software is so dynamic. While it the time period may seem long, remember that you will be building and implementing your software throughout the actual process. You will be in contact with a dedicated consultant and can utilize the program while it is being created.
After the Kickstart, you should be well prepared to operate the software, as well as automate many of the processes to run your business. That being said, this is not a quick fix solution. This is a long term strategy which takes time to develop and understand. For this to work you need to allocate some time for reorganizing your business.
The other training advantage I believe Infusionsoft has is their large user community. There are large forums with people actively searching and posting ideas on how to use the software effectively and other strategies they have seen succeed and fail. This is something Ontraport, being a relatively newer and self-learning software, does not yet possess.
Along with an active community, Infusionsoft also hosts events and seminars for their users to learn more about the program and upcoming changes. These include:
- Infusionsoft University– Based at locations across the country, these classes offer hands-on training, Q&A sessions, mastermind groups, and other events.
- Virtual Academy– Online training course
- Mastermind Webinars– Weekly webinars focused on marketing strategies and automation
- ICON– Annual seminar for users to learn from business experts and thought leaders
Along with live phone support, Infusionsoft also features 24/7 chat support, which is vital because if you’re a small business owner like myself, you know your business is always a 24/7 effort.
Approx. Set-up Time: 1-4 weeks
This is one of the nice features about Ontraport. There set-up is much simpler. Most of the functions are relatively easy to understand after an initial training. As with Infusionsoft, you have one point of contact during the transition to help you customize your set-up.
The actual time frame depends on your level of experience with marketing software and willingness to learn, but is undoubtedly shorter than the time Infusionsoft takes to master because it is a less involved system.
This process can take longer if you are migrating from other platforms to a centralized system, but if you are unsure or time-restrained, you can hire a concierge to migrate the systems and help with other learning hurdles.
Ontraport offers live chat and service calls for customers, but support hours are limited to 6AM-9PM PST on weekdays and 9AM-9PM PST weekends.
The personalization the “Heroes” offer is nice, but it is also a weakness, as only 12 support staff members are available. This is restraining for businesses located outside of the West Coast or in other parts of the world.
I like the friendly feel of the entire interface. If you watch the videos and visit the page it is clean and non-intimidating. If you’re a small business owner looking to make a big money decision, you’ll value that level of approachability.
Let’s break down the different perks and features included in each software.
The CRM is the real backbone of both of these software packages. Here are the rates provided by Infusionsoft:
I normally suggest ignoring the Essentials package and moving straight to the Deluxe(s) and Complete packages. The usefulness of the sales component is reason enough to pick up the larger packages. If you don’t have an inventory or product, you will have less need for Infusionsoft in the first place.
Tagging and Lead Scoring
This is an incredibly easy and powerful tool within Infusionsoft, and with the rising importance of tag management in online marketing, I believe it’s a must for any good CRM software.
You can utilize tags for any number of actions users take on your site and automate what procedures to take when these actions happen.
As you can see, data can be sorted by tagged details applied to each contact. This is information you can gather based on opt-in forms, random surveys, user actions, or during the check out portion of your sales process. This allows you to search for relevant information depending on the needs of your campaign.
Notice the tag section below. We utilize hundreds of tags. No joke. We tag everything from clicking a certain link, to attending a webinar, to watching a certain percentage of a video, and so much more.
These tags allow you to monitor your customer’s behavior throughout their experience with your site and give you the opportunity to make informed decisions on how to respond to their actions.
Infusionsoft also offers a quality lead scoring system which you can automate to update when a contact has completed certain actions or purchased certain items. This can be incredibly useful for sales teams looking to optimize their time as it helps to quickly identify quality leads without doing manual searching and decision-making.
This is the key to automation – a powerful CRM system which integrates with a reliable automation system. The tagging and organizational aspects allows you to make more precise and meaningful automation decisions.
Clean Data and Company Identification
While this may seem trite, the value of these features on Infusionsoft should not be understated. With the amount of data coming in, it is important to capture unique contacts.
Infusionsoft allows you to delete repeat information and keep a concise and accurate customer base. With Ontraport, this can be time-consuming.
Infusionsoft also allows you to categorize companies independently from customer contacts. If you are running a B2B service or even just have elements of B2B work, this feature is critical. This is also missing in Ontraport’s CRM system.
The Deluxe Sales and Complete versions of Infusionsoft allow you to make complex and powerful sales pipeline adjustments. Use this tool to structure task assignment for sales teams, assign leads to users, update product lists for possible customers, and more. This is a feature especially important for companies with devoted sales teams and a list of products the sales team is working with.
This feature is just plain not available in Ontraport.
Ontraport offers a decent quality CRM system that is useful and intuitive. There is the normal functionality and sorting, but it is much more limited in scope than Infusionsoft.
But this does not mean Ontraport is a bad system.
It contains all the necessary components, is clean and efficient, and can handle most CRM needs. There is also a tagging and lead scoring system which can be automated and utilized to act on high involvement actions. The tagging and lead scoring isn’t as advanced as Infusionsoft’s, and doesn’t easily tie into the automation feature (read on for more details about the Marketing Automation differences between the two systems).
These are great features, but they fail to keep up with the sales heavy focus of Infusionsoft. This includes the 150 Custom Fields that Ontraport provides compared to the 100 custom fields per record type that Infusionsoft has. That being said, there are aspects of Ontraport that go above and beyond what Infusionsoft does.
If you have a Facebook site or advertising and move a prospect through this channel, Ontraport has a great integration system to capture those leads. This comes standard and creates the lead profile upon user entry. Infusionsoft has a great plug-in called GroSocial which is very similar, but there is an additional fee per month.
Ontraport offers a free and easy membership site plugin for WordPress users. This is especially useful for information marketing because it allows paying subscribers access to certain content depending on membership level. Infusionsoft offers CustomerHub, but it is also an additional plug-in with an additional fee.
Ontraport offers pretty seamless plugins for WordPress users including order forms, landing page creation, and membership sites. Infusionsoft offers the same.
The difference here is the ability to add-on as your business grows.
Ontraport is limited in its capabilities and does not have a strong plug-in marketplace. Infusionsoft allows you to add nearly any business function you need as you grow your business. This allows for a vastly more personal software system throughout the life of your business.
Marketing & Automation
In the Campaign Builder function of Infusionsoft there is a drag-and-drop feature for creating things such as landing pages. There are templates available that can cater to most customers. With a little bit of training, the process is relatively simple and intuitive.
The function does lack in terms of creativity and manipulation. You can completely customize your pages, but it does take a little more time and understanding of the software.
Email templates are one of the nicer aspects of Infusionsoft’s marketing system. The formatting is very simple and extremely clean, but there are additional functions and personalization available.
For instance, you can insert personalized information in an email, include a download link to an online product, or tag a contact based on a specific link they click in your email.
You can easily direct your emails to specific users, and the integrated anti-spam system helps your emails avoid your contact’s spam folder.
Despite this, there is no real split-testing function in Infusionsoft. You can manipulate the emails to send to specific users (as in cloning the email and selecting A-M and N-Z for example) but it is cumbersome.
THE Campaign Builder
Ok, here it is. The best feature of any small company marketing software – the marketing automation component.
In Infusionsoft, it’s called the Campaign Builder.
It’s just so damn beautiful.
This feature allows you to conceptually create a system of actions to take place throughout different campaigns. It can trigger automated responses depending on where your contact came from and what they are searching for.
It’s also very simple to use and makes the process of visualizing the customer buying process on your site much easier.
I really can’t get enough of this piece of software. This is the kind of thing that would normally be reserved for large company software programs worth thousands. This is far and away the best automation tool I’ve seen – not just in comparison to Ontraport, but to any small-to-mid-sized software on the market.
Here are some videos on how the system works and how easy it is to create campaigns.
Webpage Builder and PURLs
Ontraport’s webpage builder is more customizable and looks cleaner. This also applies to Ontraport’s web order forms, post cards, and landing pages. They emphasize the personal touch in their product. These Ontraport-created pages can also be hosted on your own site, which makes it easier to have full control over the sales process.
Ontraport also has a great PURL system. If you are unfamiliar, PURLs are sites that customers land on which has personalized features that can say things like “Hey Brian” or “It’s been 3 days since your last visit, here’s what you missed”. You see this on larger sites like Amazon and it really adds a great marketing angle. These are only available through a 3rd party with Infusionsoft.
Ontraport offers a campaign system which is intuitive and in a language that most users can understand. Select a user action, then a condition (like if the customer is a subscriber), and then a follow up action to be taken.
You can really get down to the specifics with this system and it is a breeze to set-up and utilize. This is a very useful tool in the steps towards profitable automation.
While the system works well and is in the same vein as the Campaign Builder, it can’t even hold a torch to the amount of customization you can achieve with Infusionsoft’s system.
This is possibly the most useful integration feature of the marketing automation tool-set. The Split-Testing option allows you to create up to 4 different emails (A/B/C/D) and send them out based on certain parameters or on random assortment.
This can be integral to your marketing efforts as you measure and report the different response rates you are getting from your campaigns, and is a powerful testing function which isn’t as easy in Infusionsoft.
These emails are also sent from your own IP address and have a time zone identifier for your international customers (Infusionsoft was adjusting that last time I checked).
To be fair, Infusionsoft is really the only one of the two with any real E-Commerce functionality. There is seamless and powerful integration between E-Commerce, CRM, and the Campaign Builder.
If you have a sales team or a product listing, Infusionsoft has a clear advantage because Ontraport just doesn’t have a E-Commerce system in place other than 3rd party plugins.
As you can see, Infusionsoft has a multiple-item shopping cart, and action buttons for the different stages of the buying process. You can tag people who have purchased items and redirect sales efforts based on those new conditions. This can also be used in collaboration with your Campaign Builder, making a seamless buyer process to monitor.
Infusionsoft offers a hosted affiliate center which is much easier to initiate than Ontraport’s self-hosted option. The system is set up and ready for you, so all you have to do is configure it. Ontraport has this feature but you must create your own site through the WordPress plugin, much more time consuming.
3rd Party Plug-Ins
This is one of the defining features of Infusionsoft. There are a fantastic list of developers catering to niches in your business efforts. If you need a new function in your system, you can often simply find someone who provides it.
Despite the additional costs, I’m going to say this is a big plus for Infusionsoft. Ontraport just does not possess the sheer number and functionality of 3rd party developers as Infusionsoft does. You can add so much personalization and utility to your process, whereas Ontraport users are essentially stuck with the options provided.
Postcards and Email
Ontraport allows you to create and send personalized post-cards to customers with at no extra cost (there is a limit on amount sent). This may not be overly important to your business but it is a nice touch which can really add to your customer’s trust in you.
Ontraport also allows a much larger email lists and amounts of emails to send. You can add additional email contacts to your contract with Infusionsoft, but it is an additional fee.
Analtyics and Tracking
Tracking is made pretty simple with Ontraport’s system. It allows you to see with data and charts what things your customers are doing on your site – which pages they visit, which links they click, and more.
This is especially useful with Ontraport’s email split testing and PURL functions, which can give you fast and easy reporting on your campaign reactions.
While Infusionsoft does offer data analysis tools, you will likely want to create your own analytic reports. They do offer some standard functions but for more detailed reporting you have to create your own formulas. This allows for more customization, but to be honest, it can be difficult to know what you want the data to do and, probably more so, what data is worth looking into.
The analytics reporting feature included in Ontraport is a little more easy to read and conceptualize, especially with the graphs and other tools.
I use a 3rd party data analysis tool on Infusionsoft, and regardless, I do recommend you have multiple measuring systems in place, but it is nice to have one already established.
Ontraport vs. Infusionsoft. I know it seems lopsided, but the fact is Infusionsoft is a larger company with more capabilities. Ontraport has some great features as well but for many users the functionality may not be enough.
Ontraport is newer and is continually learning from their progress. It’s great. I love what they’re doing and they have a good program, but they are competing with a better, more established, even cheaper alternative. It just doesn’t stack up right now.
Infusionsoft has more features that focus on more solidified business practices, which is why they’ve been growing so rapidly for years. In fact, they received $54 million in venture capital funding in 2013, and they’re only expected to continue to flourish.
Their focus on CRM, Sales, and Campaign Planning are the reasons Infusionsoft holds such a solid presence in the marketing software marketplace.
I would continue to recommend Infusionsoft for most business structures, especially ones that possess a strong sales angle and a physical product. For information marketing, solo-ventures, and consulting, I can see where Ontraport can provide some great tools. The problem is scalability, where Ontraport is limited to its basic functions, while Infusionsoft grows with the user as their business grows and changes.
But my opinion isn’t the only one worth listening to – what are some of your experiences with these two pieces of software? What are some key selling points? What do you like or dislike? We love to hear your ideas on the analyses we do here.
I’m often asked by people that are unfamiliar with Infusionsoft if they should pick it, or a simpler software like MailChimp for their email marketing. What these people fail to understand is the magnitude of the differences between these two applications.
Are you struggling to attract clients? Have you heard about Content Marketing, but aren’t yet sure what it is, or how to implement it? Would you like to be able to stop spending money chasing prospects and asking them to do business with you?
At a recent business networking event that I attended, I had the opportunity to be a firsthand witness to a “power networker” named Dave. Dave was a networking machine and he worked the room like no one I’ve ever seen, passing out business cards left and right.
Dave was amazing. In fact, he was the talk of the room.
Problem was that none of the “talk” was flattering. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. In just under an hour, Dave had managed to become the most annoying person in the room.
Don’t forget to check out our post on the outlook of content marketing in 2014.
Are You Annoying Your Prospects?
Do you think that anyone who received one of Dave’s cards would ever call him? Do you think that in the short conversations that Dave had with each person that he devoted any time to attempting to understand the problems or challenges faced by the person he was talking to?
Hardly. Dave was only interested in one thing: passing out as many cards as possible. After all, sales is just a numbers game, right?
Today, the way to successfully attract clients is not to interrupt them with your sales messages. The way to attract clients today is to create content that is actually useful.
In his book Youtility, Jay Baer completely hit the nail on the head. Smart marketing is about HELP not HYPE.
Your Best Prospects Are Invisible
According to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB), almost 60% of the buyer journey is complete before prospects contact potential vendors.
In the “old days” we would begin our buyer’s journey by reaching out and talking to a real person. We did this because we wanted to learn more about the company and create a bond of some kind.
When was the last time you reached out and talked to a live person at the very beginning of your research process? In my case, it’s been a very long time! The days of one-to-one communications early in the buyer’s journey are OVER.
Nowadays, the buyer’s journey starts off with online research and by the time you or I talk to a prospect, 60% of their homework is done. Customers are smart and they are stealthy. They are rigorously evaluating us without our even knowing they exist. IF we pass their sniff test, ONLY THEN do we stand a chance of actually speaking with them.
Content is Mission Critical
Content Marketing is the process of creating content that our prospects actually want or need. If you aren’t publishing high quality, helpful content, your competitors are probably eating your lunch.
To be successful with content, you must think carefully about the customer buying cycle and then create content to meet the needs of people in each phase.
- The first phase has the largest number of potential buyers so you should begin with content that drives interest and awareness. We’ll call this top of the funnel content.
- The next phase is the middle of the funnel. Here you want to focus on increasing engagement as well as answering questions about what you sell and how much it is.
- The final phase is the bottom of the funnel. This is the place where you want to getting into the nitty gritty of all the frequently asked questions that are aligned with the buying process.
Attracting Buyers with Content
Content marketing has one purpose: attracting buyers.
Unlike paid advertising, where you are attempting to interrupt buyers from whatever they are doing (so they will pay attention to you), the goal of content marketing is to attract buyers who are already searching for solutions to the problems they have.
Does’t that seem like a much smarter idea?
To succeed with content marketing, you have to shift your mindset from “how can we sell them” to “how can we help them”. People are tired of being sold and if that is your approach (like Dave), they will avoid you. However, if you focus on providing help, not only will people trust you more, but they will also help you to spread the word on their social networks.
Here at Bright Ideas, we walk our talk and provide a steady stream of the most helpful content that we possibly can. On this site there are hundreds of blog posts and interviews that are jam packed with content that is genuinely helpful.
How do I know it’s helpful? Because I get at least one email or tweet a day (from people I’ve never heard of) thanking me for creating content that is so helpful. My audience also regularly buys our products and services, so I can assure that being “helpful” definitely pays the bills.
Don’t just take my word for it though. According to BtoB Magazine, “Content Marketing” is one of the top priorities for marketing in 2014.
Check out the total number of searches for “content marketing”. From January of 2001 through to today, the trend has been steadily increasing.
Still not convinced? Here’s a bunch more statistics:
• 93% of B2B Marketers are using content marketing (Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)
• 42% of B2B marketers rate their content marketing efforts as effective (Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)
• Only 44% of B2B Marketers have a documented content strategy (Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)
• 73% of B2B Marketers have someone in charge of content marketing strategy. (Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)
Here are some relevant interviews you may also want to check out:
- How to Increase Lead Conversion, Work Less, and Automate More: An Interview with Jay Baer
- Lead Generation Secrets from an Agency That Generated 5,500 Leads in 12 Months
- How to Develop a Content Marketing Strategy with Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute
Here are some additional articles I’ve written on this topic:
- How Content Marketing and Marketing Automation Led to a $5,000 Retainer Client
- The Bright Ideas Traffic Report: Amazing Results From Effective Content Promotion
- How Content Marketing Has Forever Changed How to Attract Clients and How You Can Take Advantage of This Shift
How to Get Started With Content Marketing
Getting started with content marketing is actually very easy to do.
Step 1: Find out what your customers are interested in learning more about.
To do this, I strongly suggest that you invest some time to actually call your customers and ask them. There is no substitute for first hand research like this.
If you are too lazy to call people, then I’d suggest sending out a survey and using plenty of open ended questions. Multiple choice is OK, but what you really want is to hear the answers in your customer’s own words so that you can use these phrases for keyword research.
Now that you have some idea of key phrases that your customers are using, make a list of them and start to use tools like Google trends and the Google keyword tool to gain insight into the trends and search volume for these key phrases. The data you uncover from doing this will help you to determine which topics you should write about.
If you are just starting out and don’t yet have any customers, use Google to find some discussion forums for the topic you are researching and take note of the questions people are asking. For questions that you see showing up over and over, go write a blog post that answers that question. Now you have a page you can tell people in the forums about and that will drive traffic to your site.
Step 2: Create content to provide helpful advice and answers to the questions your prospects are asking
Now that you have a list of questions, write a blog post that answers each question. It doesn’t have to be a long post and you don’t need to be a world-class writer. You need only be HELPFUL.
If you are brand new to writing, I’d suggest you look at other blogs in your niche and see which posts of theirs have received the most comments and social shares. Use these posts as a guide to helping you to create an effective post.
Generally speaking a good post will go something like this:
- Overview of the problem (this is why you should read this)
- Overview of the solution
- Proof that the solution works (your proof or proof supplied by others)
- Call to action (what your reader should do next)
Want to Learn More?
As you might guess, there are plenty of addition details, tips, tricks, and hacks to becoming a successful content marketer and to help you discover them, I have written a book that will take you from zero to a steady stream of new customers-all from content marketing. Plus, so that you can get an even bigger bang for your content marketing buck, I have devoted two chapters to how you can add something called marketing automation in with your content marketing.
You can learn more about the book and download a free chapter here.
Have questions? Please use the comment form below.
Earlier this morning, I was on the phone with a friend (and former podcast guest) of mine by the name of Casey Graham. Casey and I had scheduled a call to talk about how we might help each other to promote some of our products, and while we did make a plan to do that, the most surprising part of the call was some of the advice that Casey gave me after he asked me how things were going.
The Value of Being Transparent
Rather than give Casey a fluffy answer and tell him that everything was going smashingly well, I decided to be fully transparent and share with Casey some of the frustrations that I have been dealing with in my business. Being the helpful guy that he is, when he heard me express that I was frustrated he immediately asked me to explain to him what some of the challenges were, and why I was so frustrated.
I told Casey that I’ve spent the last year publishing interviews with dozens of successful entrepreneurs as well as creating the very best content that I could. I thought that by doing so I would attract an audience made up of entrepreneurs who were already in business and looking for advice on how to get to the next level.
My plan was to use my automated marketing funnel to nurture these prospects, build trust, and ultimately convert them into customers for my information products and my mastermind group. To me, this seemed like a much better business than consulting, because my revenue wasn’t tied to how many hours I worked.
While I have definitely sold quite a number of my information products and my mastermind group has 10 very happy members, the volume of revenue generated from the sales has fallen well short of my expectations.
Casey asked me if I have reached out and had a conversation with each and every one of the people who bought my information products.
I told him that I had not.
I went on to add that one-on-one conversations didn’t scale very well and weren’t really a part of my business model. That is why I put so much effort into content marketing combined with marketing automation.
The Best Advice I Received in 2013
When he told the next was the very best advice I’ve received in 2013 – and the hilarious part is that just two days ago I had recorded a half hour long video to give this exact advice to my own tribe. Apparently the teacher needs to drink his own Kool-Aid!
Casey told me that when a business is young (like his and mine), by far the best way to grow fast is to reach out and talk to every single customer. He told me that this is exactly what he had been doing over the last couple of months to launch his new business, Business Rocket.
Back in August of last year, he decided to launch this new business and set a goal to do $100,000 in revenue in the first 6 months. At the time of our conversation today, he was 80% the way there.
To kick the business off, he told me that he sold a relatively low-priced product to 54 people via a webinar and then he reached out to every single one of those people got them on the phone and asked him how he could provide additional help.
These conversations, he said, have helped him to really understand the challenges that his customers face – and, on quite a number of occasions these conversations, which he did not charge for, resulted in his customers asking for paid consulting. As a result, in less than six months, he has generated over $80,000 in revenue for his new business.
Had Casey not taken the time to reach out to each of the customers who bought his $297 product, there is no way that the $80,000 in consulting revenue would have happened. Moreover, he would not have been able to gain such a thorough understanding of exactly the problems and challenges that were keeping these people awake at night.
My Big Mistake
When I sold my last company I received quite a lot of money and as a result my sense of urgency to generate new cash flow was quite low.
Ironically, this is a very dangerous place to be.
In my case, because I have this high level of comfort, I did not engage in the one on one conversations that I used to build my last business into a $2 million company. Instead, I simply created content and use marketing automation to sell my products.
By taking this automated approach too early in the life of my business, I have cost myself dearly.
Because I have not been reaching out and having one-on-one conversations with my customers, I have not given them the opportunity to get additional help from me by hiring me to consult with them. If I had, I’m pretty sure that the revenue from this consulting work would have easily produced tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue – plus, as I spent my time talking one-on-one with all of my customers I would have also learned a great deal more about the problems and challenges that they face – and this is valuable information that I could then use to improve my existing products and/or launch new ones.
Don’t Automate Too Soon
The mistake that I have made is to automate too much, too soon.
Thanks to my conversation with Casey, I intend to immediately correct this problem and starting today, I plan to personally reach out to every single one of my new customers (as well as many of my existing customers) to ask them to hop on the phone with me (for free) so that I can help them to make the most of the product, answer questions, and offer advice.
When I do these calls, I have no doubt that some of the people I talked to will end up wanting to hire me for additional consulting/coaching or to become a part of my mastermind group.
Even if I don’t generate any immediate revenue, I’m confident that the goodwill I create by offering this free advice to my customers will also result in a fair number of positive mentions on social networks, which in turn will very likely drive more traffic to my site, more leads, and more sales.
Can I Help You?
If you have already bought a product of mine and would like to get on the phone with me, please get in touch. If you haven’t yet bought a product and have questions about marketing, blogging, marketing automation, lead generation, etc…, please leave your question in the comments below and you will get an answer directly from yours truly.
To your success!
As I have written about many times before, one of the really terrific things about having a podcast is that it is an extremely powerful tool for networking. Thanks to my podcast, my professional network has never been better – and the best part is that I don’t have to fly to conferences to expand it.
Just a few minutes ago I got off the phone with Michael Gass – a past guest on my show – and we talked about the promotional part of his digital marketing strategy. Since interviewing Michael some months ago, he and I have started to get to know each other a bit and I have quite enjoyed my interactions with him. Had it not been for my podcast, it’s unlikely that Michael and I would ever have crossed paths; much less become the business-friends that we now are.
Michael runs a blog called Fuel Line that is very popular with ad agencies. After reading one of my most recent blog posts, Michael emailed me to offer to help me with some ideas on how I could further increase traffic to my blog.
As I am always looking for ways to increase my traffic, I was very happy to take Michael up on his offer.
Michael Gets 35,000 Monthly Visitors
Michael has been blogging for quite a number of years now and his site receives between 30,000 and 35,000 visitors a month. Currently my site is getting around 10,000 visitors a month, so I was very sure that the advice that Michael was going to give me would be worth listening to.
Rather than keep Michael’s advice to myself, I thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and write this quick blog post to share his ideas with my audience as well. I hope you enjoy them!
If you have questions or comments about the ideas that Michael shared with me, please make sure and use the comments down below so that we can start a mini-mastermind on how to promote our blogs and generate more traffic.
Below is a list of all the tools that Michael told me about, along with his advice on how to use each one of them
SocialOomph is a tool that he uses to promote his content across a variety of social networks including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Michael told me that he has around 800 posts on his blog and he uses social to regularly promote about 250 to 300 of his best posts. To do this, he creates a spreadsheet with the blog post titles and URLs and then uploads that spreadsheet to SocialOomph.
He creates a schedule that shares one of his posts every other hour from 3 AM to midnight every single day from Monday to Friday. He told me that this schedule matches the work schedule of his target audience around the world.
To create a spreadsheet he pastes the post title and the URL on one line with just a space between the two of them.
The main thing to understand about how Michael is using social is that he does not use it to promote his latest posts; instead he uses it to continuously promote his best posts. To promote his latest posts he uses HootSuite Pro.
HootSuite is another tool that allows you to promote your content across a wide variety of social networks and is one that I currently use. Unlike Michael I have been using only HootSuite Pro to promote both my new posts and my past posts on an ongoing basis.
In Michael’s case, whenever he publishes a new post he uses HootSuite Pro to promote his new post three times per day for a week. After the week is complete, he then stops using HootSuite to promote that post and adds it to his spreadsheet that gets uploaded to SocialOomph.
Michael told me that he has had very good success using StumbleUpon to promote his new posts. He didn’t say that there was anything particular about how he used it, other than to say that it was a part of his promotion strategy. I am already using StumbleUpon, and in terms of social networks that are sending traffic to my site, StumbleUpon ranks fifth behind Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and mobile Facebook.
Michael is a very big advocate of Twitter and tells me that he gets a lot of traffic from it. In checking his account I see that he has 64,633 followers. He tells me that he used to use a tool called TweetAdder her to build this following however; over time, that tool has lost a great deal of its effectiveness.
He is now using a tool called ManageFlitter. ManagerFlitter has a free version and a paid version. Michael is using the paid version. He recommends following no more than 100 people per day and then he sets the program to wait for about three days and then unfollows anyone that doesn’t follow him back.
He tells me that you can build a very targeted following (which leads to traffic!) by following people who are influential in your niche, and then by following those that follow that person.
I’m sure that some folks think that using automation to build your Twitter following is something of a gray hat tactic, however, as it is a strategy that is working very well well for Michael, I did not want to excluded from this post. Plus, it’s a strategy that I intend to test for myself.
I should also add that as of right now, I have only 2,470 followers and Twitter is my #1 source of social referral traffic, so I can only imagine how much more traffic I’d receive it I had 60,000 followers like Michael does.
Another past guest of mine, Casey Graham, founder of The Rocket Company, told me that Twitter has, by far, been the biggest source of his traffic as well.
Blog Post Syndication
As I have been having very good luck by syndicating my content other blogs, I suggested to Michael that we each pick a post from each other’s blog to publish our own blogs. Seeing the results that I had achieved with syndicating content like this, Michael was very open to the idea and so we are going to trade posts here in the very near future.
Michael has some concerns about potential duplicate content penalties so that he said he’s going to keep a close eye on this, and if there is no noticeable drop in SEO traffic (his largest source), were going to begin syndicating content to each other’s blogs on a more regular basis.
I strongly encourage that you build relationships with other bloggers and begin to do the same.
To do this, you can either get to know someone like I have done and then send each other the raw HTML for publication on each other’s blog, or you can use a service like Repost or Triberr. Both Repost and Triberr make it very easy for other people to publish your content to their blog with only the click of a mouse.
Both services are free and quite easy to use. In fact, if you like this article will notice that there is a repost button up at the top so you can easily repost it to your blog.
- Use SocialOomph to manage promotion for your best posts on an ongoing basis
- Use HootSuite to promote your new posts for the first week after they have been published
- Used StumbleUpon to attract a new audience to your blog
- Use ManageFlitter to rapidly grow your Twitter following
- Syndicate your content to other people’s blogs to expand your audience
Aggressive content promotion is something that I have really only started to do myself in the last 30 days or so, and as I wrote about in a recent traffic report, the results that I have been able to achieve in a very short period of time have been nothing short of amazing.
At the time that I published my traffic report, I reported a 68.57% month-over-month increase in traffic. Since then, my traffic has continued to climb and is now about three times the amount that it was prior to my implementing the strategies that I outlined in my post.
If content marketing is a strategy that you want to make use of in your business and your looking to achieve significant results in the shortest period of time that I would encourage you to get on the VIP list for my new book. When you do, you’re going to receive a free chapter, which (conveniently enough) is the chapter on content promotion. Plus, as a VIP, you will be eligible for a 25% discount on the book on the day that the book is released.
Who is Trent Dyrsmid?
Trent Dyrsmid is a serial entrepreneur, husband, and father. Thanks to his obsession with Standard Operating Procedures and his love of delegation, his 3 private companies generate millions a year in revenue. Prior to launching these 3 companies, Profit Magazine named Trent’s first company as one of Canada’s PROFIT 100 fastest growing companies for two years in a row before he sold it for 7 figures in 2008. In 2007, Business in Vancouver magazine named Trent a Top 40 Under 40 Entrepreneur.