Posts

marketing-automation-strategy

Streamlining a Marketing Strategy Through Marketing Automation

marketing-automation-strategy

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.

Read more

third-call

The Third Call: The Right Way to Deliver a Strategy Presentation

third-call

Having a website that consistently generate leads for you is critical.

So is having a deliberate sales process that ensures you don’t blow it with any of the qualified leads your inbound marketing campaign has generated for you.

As the host of a popular podcast, I have had the opportunity to interview hundreds of other CEOs, and, much to my surprise, not very many of them reported having a really well-defined sales process in place.

Perhaps this was because many of them run smaller (under $10M in rev) companies, or perhaps it’s because they just haven’t thought about it.

In today’s post, I’m going to share with you the third installment in our 3-step sales process: how to deliver a strategy presentation (and avoid writing proposals).

Read more

data driven marketing strategy

Pedal to the Metal: 5 Effective Ways to Boost Your Data-Driven Marketing Efforts

data driven marketing strategy

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Numbers don’t lie.” You could have great engagement with your social networks’ followers, but at the end of the day, small talk doesn’t usually do too much for your ROI.

In order to improve brand awareness, drive clicks, and increase conversions, businesses need to implement several steps into their data-driven marketing strategy, as well as strategically utilize data to maximize their revenue, and ultimately, their profit.

Set The Right Goals for Success

According to the 4th Annual Staples National Small Business survey, more than 80% of the 300 small business owners surveyed claimed that they do not keep a record of their business goals.

Every business owner, regardless of where they are in the business cycle of life, must have goals in place in order to continue moving forward, as well as maintain the success of that business. While goal setting itself can help a business look at the big picture, it’s also important to make sure that you’re setting the right goals to achieve that big-picture success.

You might want to set expectations lower and then over deliver rather than set them too high and underdeliver. Your sales team will be more likely to hit their goal since the pressure is lower. They may even exceed their goals if you incentivize them to do so, via commissions or bonuses.

It will also be a victory for your public relations team because exceeding your targets is good news, and customers love good news and it is a sign that your company is a strong performer.

Every department in your business should take part in determining what these goals are so that there is input from as many angles as possible, so include them in the meetings that involve the data and how you will use it in your marketing campaign(s).

data driven marketing graphs

Cut The Data Fat

data driven marketingInformation bombards us on a daily basis both at work and outside of work—it can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, especially at work when one has to be a very competent multitasker. Although you should collect all relevant data to the task at hand, you should really focus on key data that will drive your marketing and sales efforts—the data that will produce actual results.

Some data that will produce results include the number of units sold and revenue. In addition, one should also take the average of those numbers. If you expect to sell 1 million units a year at a revenue of $1 million, for example, it averages to 83,333.33 units a month at $83,333.33, so it also helps with the first step: to set short-term goals, as well as long-term ones.

What numbers you should focus on will depend on the nature of your business—a retailer should especially focus on averages since the numbers are skewed at certain times of the year. Certain holidays throughout different times of the year tend to have different numbers as things are often on sale during special occasions.

Understand Customer Engagement and Behavior

While it can be difficult to make your customers feel a connection between them and your business, it’s important to remember that customers really love it when businesses can relate to them and their needs, situations, and lifestyles. Understanding customers’ purchasing habits will not only endear you to those customers, but attract new ones as well through word of mouth and having a positive experience with your business. That is why you need to understand and engage your customers as much as possible when collecting your data.

Although you may have the numbers, and your business can understand them, not all customers will understand the data in the same way that your business does. Businesses need to share their results clearly, making it easy for customers to understand why your products and services are something they should buy. If you convey these ideas in a clear and concise manner to your customers, they will keep coming back for more.

Use Data Visualization To Facilitate Discovery

For many, a spreadsheet of collected data just looks like numbers, with no clear picture as to what these numbers mean. Most people want to visualize how these numbers work. Creating charts and graphs can help make your collected data easier to understand to those who aren’t crunching the numbers.

If you see that your marketing efforts are leading towards higher sales at a certain time of year and that it is consistent over time, look for a time in the chart or graph where sales are a bit lower and research ways on how to improve sales during those time periods so that you can have a more consistent stream of revenue throughout the year.

Explore the Unknown

Analyzing data is an extremely important aspect of the marketing process. Exploring the unknown is a very daunting task, but when your team comes together to analyze data, it can yield great results for your business and attract more customers to buy your products and services.

Are there other overlooked ways to boost your data-driven marketing? Feel free to leave your thoughts below!

Hilary SmithHilary Smith is an online business writer with experience in media marketing and business communications. In addition to discussing the importance of data analysis in marketing, her writing also also covers social media strategies, entrepreneurship, and business communications technology.

 

 

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

[xyz-ihs snippet=”BuildGroove”]

targeted-audience

How (and why) to Define a Targeted Audience for Your Marketing Campaign

targeted audience

The very first step in your content marketing plan should be to pick your target audience. You’d think this would be common sense; however, skipping this step is actually an extremely common mistake.

The reason it’s such a common mistake is that marketers fear that by really focusing their message on just one audience, they will “lose out” on the hundreds/thousands/millions of other potential customers that aren’t a part of that audience.

The truth is that the benefits of targeting one niche actually outweigh the negatives.

In today’s post, I’m going to walk you through the process that you should follow to select a niche, as well as give you some examples of success.

How Knowing Your Target Audience Affects Content Strategy

Why Should You Pick a Target Market?

The reason that picking a target audience is so important comes down to this: the benefits of doing so far outweigh any downside that you can ever think of.

Hedgehog-Strategy

The Hedgehog Strategy

In the book, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, Jim conducted an extensive study on what makes great companies – as opposed to just good ones – and in the book he talks about something he calls the Hedgehog Strategy.

The point of the strategy is this: you need to find a market that you can totally dominate.

Do you think you could be the #1 marketing agency/consultant/SEO firm for everybody in the entire world? Not likely! There is simply too much competition for you to have any hope of achieving that.

Instead, as Jim points out in his book, great companies are extremely selective about who they are targeting, thereby significantly increasing the odds that they can achieve the #1 position in the mind of their audience.

I agree with Jim Collins and I think that a really killer inbound marketing strategy has to start with picking a very specific audience to create content for. If you have a different opinion, please share it down below in the comments.

How to Define a Targeted Audience

Defining your audience is not as hard as you might think. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to walk you through some ideas and strategies that you can use.

First, let’s use Apple as an example, and look at how they are using the Hedgehog strategy.

Do you think that the people who work at Apple are deeply passionate about creating amazing products?

Definitely.

So, with that in mind, do you think it would make sense that a suitable audience for Apple would be a group of people who believe what Apple believes? Again, I think the answer is yes.

For example, I’m a loyal Apple customer. I own an iMac, a Macbook Pro, an Apple TV, an iPhone, and an iPod mini.

Why?

Because I believe that ease of use and a killer design is more important than a bunch of technical details that I don’t care about – and I’m willing to pay more for it.

define a target market

Alienware Hardware Display Page, Notably Different Than The Clean Apple Look

If you go to Apple’s website, you will see that all their messaging is for people just like me. The technical details are there, but they aren’t front and center like they would be with a company like Alienware.

Unlike Apple, Alienware makes PCs for gamers, and these folks are deeply concerned with technical specs and performance. While I’m sure Alienware’s customers enjoy a pretty looking computer, I’m equally sure that aesthetics have very little to do with their buying decision. Theirs is all about performance.

Do you think Alienware cares one bit about regular PC users that don’t play video games? Nope.

Do you think Apple cares one bit about highly price conscious buyers? Nope.

Both of these companies are successful because they know exactly who their customer is and they direct their entire marketing effort to reaching more of them.

Now that we covered why having your target market clearly defined, let’s talk about how to learn more about them, as well as to establish two way communication.

Researching and Connecting With Your Target Market

When it comes to researching and connecting with your target audience, there are several strategies that I suggest you use. They include:

  • Talk to them

Conduct research on:

  • Twitter
  • Discussion Forums
  • LinkedIn Groups
  • Surveys
  • Magazines
  • Facebook

For Twitter, forums, and social networks, make sure that when you first start out that you spend the bulk of your time answering questions for other people. When you do this, the other people in the community are going to become interested in who you are, and when they do that, they will naturally think, “Hey, Dave is a cool guy. I wonder what else Dave has done?” Once you have established yourself as a knowledgeable person, the participants in these communities are going to come and check out your site.

So, with that said, lets have a look at some ways to use each resource.

Primary Research: Talk to Your Customers

If your organization already has a large customer base and you are looking to gain insights into how to attract more of your best customers, there is a very specific, unscripted process that will work well.

The goal here is to understand their psychographics (why they buy) more than their demographics (who they are).

This is a process that I first learned when I interviewed Adele Revella of Buyer Persona Institute. Adele has been doing this type of work for over 25 years and really knows her stuff.

During our interview, she gave me a high level overview of the process that she uses.

First, the person asking the questions cannot be involved in the company’s normal sales process. If they are, the customers aren’t likely to be as candid as they might otherwise be, and if that is the case, you aren’t going to gain the insights needed.

Step 1: Make a list of the customers & prospects who evaluated your firm, as well as your competition

You will want to interview people that chose your firm, as well as those that didn’t.

Step 2: Have a member of your team reach out to each one of them to have a conversation

The key, says Adele, is to not tell your customers that you are doing market research. Instead, you simply want to talk to them about the story of their decision to buy.

To do this, start off with the following question: Dave, take me back to the day when you first decided to look for a new [type of product] and tell me what happened?

According to Adele, it is absolutely critical that you start the ‘meat’ of the conversation with this question. You aren’t looking for random facts (like can be collected with a survey). Instead, you are looking for the story of their decision to make a purchase.

As you listen to them, you want to get them to expand on the story by asking all sorts of follow on questions.

For example, you might ask:

  • How did you come up with a list of potential suppliers?
  • Once you have this list, how did you narrow the list down?
  • Were there things on their websites that affected your decision?
  • If so, what types of things?
  • How else did you research and evaluate each company?
  • Did other people’s opinions factor in?
  • Who were these people?
  • What types of questions did you ask them?
  • Who else in your own company did you collaborate with?
  • What kind of input did they have?
  • Why was it helpful?

As you might guess, there are a LOT of questions that you are going to ask and this is only just a sample. They key is to always focus on the story…as well as asking why they made each mini-decision along the way to the major decision.

If you’d like to dive deeper into how to develop your buyer personas, check out Adele’s blog.

Primary Research: Talk to Your Prospects

If you don’t yet have a large customer base, without a doubt, talking to the people who are in your target market will give you the most insight, when compared to the other strategies below.

In my case, I regularly reach out to people with an invitation to talk to be about being a guest on my podcast. If you don’t have a podcast, tell them you want to talk to them about some research you are doing for an article or ebook that you are writing.

By being a reporter, as opposed to a salesperson, you will find that it is much easier to get your calls and emails returned.

When my prospect accepts my invitation to connect, I start off the conversation by asking them about their business and they results they have achieved. I do this because I am genuinely interested in finding out if they would be a good person to have as a guest on the podcast.

As you might expect, the longer we talk, they more rapport that is built, and when that happens, I can now very easily finished up my pre-interview by asking them some of the following questions:

  • Who would you really like to hear interviewed? (tells me who their influencers are)
  • What blog(s) do you regularly read?
  • Who do you follow on Twitter?
  • What social networks do you spend time on?
  • What magazines do you read?
  • What conferences do you attend?

These are just a few of the questions that I suggest you use. I’m sure you can think of many more.

In addition to these questions, you should also invite your contacts to invest 5 minutes to complete a more detailed survey. The goal of the survey should be to gain additional insights into:

  • Budget levels and/or spending patterns
  • Consumption trends
  • Preferred suppliers
  • Problems they are looking to solve
  • Which conferences/blogs/podcasts/magazines they rely on most

To host the survey, I suggest you use Survey Monkey.

The goal of my conversations is to gain an understanding of:

  • What are the top issues/problems they are looking to solve?
  • What language do they use to describe these problems?
  • Who influenced any decisions they made about choosing a solution provider(s)?

What to Do With This Data

Secondary Research

Once you have completed this primary research, I suggest you take some time to visit the websites that were commonly mentioned as being popular with your target market.

When looking at these sites, you are looking for data on:

  • What are the top posts?
  • What kinds of language is used?
  • What kinds of offers are made?
  • Who is commenting on their content?

Find the Most Popular Posts

To find the top posts, just look for the ones that are shared the most on social media. Posts with a lot of comments are also a strong indication of what is popular.

To help you analyze a site’s posts, I suggest you use Quicksprout’s free tool because it will save you heaps of time.

When you run the report, make sure to click the ‘social media analysis’ tab so you can see which pages were the most popular.

Hubspotanalysis1

Twitter

When I first learned of Twitter, I thought it was a huge waste of time. Now that I’m starting to figure out how to use it, I have actually become a pretty big fan.

When it comes to finding your target audience, as well as connecting with them, Twitter is pretty amazing.

define a target market

The Top Twitter Page For PC Gamers

For example, let’s suppose that you wanted to find and connect with hardcore gamers. How could you use Twitter to do that?

Well, you could first begin by looking for “best gaming PC” on Google. When I performed that search, that is how I found out about Alienware.

Next, I pulled up Alienware’s profile on Twitter and noticed that they had 62,672 followers while following only 130 people.

This tells me that Alienware is an influential brand in this space, and, because they don’t follow very many others, I also know that their 62,000 followers are legit. (whenever you see a Twitter profile that has a lot of followers, it can often be the result of their following a lot of others, just to get them to follow back)

The next thing I will want to know about Alienware is how much social authority they have.

Social Authority is ultimately a measure of influential activity. As such, it highlights content that is successful on Twitter. When you find users with high Social Authority, you’re finding great marketing strategies to analyze and mimic. And we think that this will help you be more successful with Twitter. – @peterbray

To discover how much social authority someone has, I’ve been using SEOmoz’s tool, FollowerWonk. This is a powerful tool that makes discovering influential Twitter accounts extremely easy.

As you can see below, Alienware is the most influential Twitter account for the phrase “pc gaming”. When I sorted by the Social Authority column, Alienware’s score of 61 put them on top.

Social Authority, in its simplest definition, is based upon re-tweets. If your tweets get lots of retweets, you have a high social authority. If you want more details on the science behind this, just read the entire post.

Follwerwonk

Followerwonk for PC gaming tweets

So now that we know Alienware has a high social authority and plenty of followers, the next move is to start connecting with the people that follow Alienware so that you can learn more about them.

To do that, I used FollowerWonk to find people that are interested in Alienware and then I sorted them by social authority. As you can see below, there are two users who actually have more social authority than Alienware. These are definitely people that you want to connect with because they can help you to really understand your audience (by speaking with them), as well as to help you to connect with your audience (by retweeting your tweets).

As you can see below, when I mouse over Anthony Wheeler, his total engagement is 56%. This is a good person to know if you want to learn more about hard core PC gamers, as well as to have the potential to get your content in front of many of them.

Followerwonk Alienware example

Another Example of Followerwonk Capabilities

Even if you don’t have FollowerWonk, Twitter is a total goldmine because it gives you the ability to search the Twitter stream. You can search by topic, by hash tag (#PCGamer) or by user. As soon as you do, you are going to find endless ways to better understand what your target audience is interested in.

Discussion Forums

For virtually every topic you can think of, there is at least one discussion forum. Finding them is easy. Just go to Google and do a search.

define a target market

Discussion Forums Give You An Idea of Customer Engagement

When you participate in a discussion forum, you are going to see first hand what your target audience is interested in, what keeps them awake at night, and what they believe.

LinkedIn Groups

If your company sells to other businesses, I would strongly encourage that you check out LinkedIn Groups as they are very popular among the B2B crowd.

As you can see below, for the phrase, “marketing automation” there are 209 groups; the first of which is called Marketing Automation Experts. This group has 4,218 members, 142 discussions this month, and is considered to be very active.

Do you think that if you were to join this group that you could learn more about people who are interested in this topic? Do you think you could connect with a few of them? Do you think you could position yourself as an expert (assuming you are) within this community? Do you think that if you did, some of them would want to know more about you?

define a target market

Surveys

Each time I’ve started a new blog, I’m quick to incorporate surveys into my auto-responder sequence. I do this because I want to quickly find out who is reading my blog and what they are interested in. The more I learn about my audience, the better chance I will have of creating content that they will enthusiastically share with their respective followers.

For example, because I ask every new subscriber to complete a welcome survey, I have know that 15.9% of my audience are marketing agency owners, 41% are small business owners and 34% are solo-preneurs.

define a target market

Surveys Give You An Analysis of Your Customers, It Might Be Different Than You Imagined

I also know that lead generation is the #1 challenge faced by my audience, hence why I do so many interviews to address that topic.

SurveyMonkey-challenges

Once you have access to this type of information about your audience, you are now in a position to either create more content for the audience you have, so you can expand that audience, or, if the majority of your readers aren’t the exact audience you intended to have, you can now publish more content that will be of interest to your intended audience, as well as to share that content on the social networks where your audience hangs out (which we discovered by using Twitter to ask them directly).

Side Note: Check out this post on How To Know What To Write About.

Magazines

If you don’t yet know that much about the demographics of your targeted audience, and you don’t yet have a following, don’t despair. There is another way to very easily get the demographic profile for virtually any marketing that you could possibly be interested in.

There isn’t a magazine around that isn’t staffed by a crack team of researchers, all of whom have invested countless hours in market research. You can bet they know exactly who their customer is and exactly what that customer wants to buy.

They know this because they need this information to pass along to their prospective advertisers.

Don’t have the funds for a research team that big? No problem. Just piggy back on the magazines.

For example, when I googled “Field and Stream Media Kit” I was taken right to this page. Once there, all I did was click on the demographics link to learn more about this audience. With just a few clicks of the mouse, I now know the median age, percentage that are college grads, percentage that are employed, percentage that served in the military, etc…

define a target market

Even Magazines Have Online Options

Facebook

Let’s suppose that I wanted to know how many people in my local area and into hunting and fishing. How could I find that out? With Facebook, this is actually pretty easy to do. It won’t be 100% perfect, but it will be close enough to help you assess if your size of a certain targeted market is large enough.

To do this, just pretend as though you are going to create a paid ad on Facebook. You don’t have to actually publish the ad, but you do want access to the data that going through the ad creation process will give you.

As you can see below, when I did a search for people that lived in San Diego, aged 37 to 57 (I chose this because of the median age from the Field and Stream media kit), who are interested in hunting and fishing, I see that there are 11,120 people. If that number is too small, or too big, you can easily just make changes to your search criteria, and from those changes, you are likely to make some valuable distinctions.

For example, if I change the gender from men only to men and women, the 11,120 increases to 16,840. So, for this topic, I now know that the ratio of men to women is roughly 3:2. For this particular example, the answer was rather obvious beforehand, but that probably won’t be the case in many other niches you could be looking at.

define a target market

Facebook Analytics Usually Offers Interests and Engagement With Brands

I’m sure there are more tools than this, and if you have some good ones to suggest, please be sure and share your thoughts down in the comments below.

Common Mistakes

For companies with an established customer base, the most common mistake is assuming that you understand the psychographics of your best customers. Having a very strong understanding of your company and it’s products is by no means a guarantee that you really understand why your best customers bought.

If you are a younger company, by far the most common and most expensive mistake is trying to be everything to everyone. If you are going to get traction with your target market, you need that market, at least initially, to be as focused as possible so that the content you produce is highly relevant.

If you try to be everything to everyone, you will end up being nothing to no one.

Another common mistake is not taking the time to listen to your audience to really find out what they want (not the same as ‘why’ they buy). Surveys are a terrific way to do this, and if you do, be sure to ask questions that are both multiple choice as well as open-ended, because, while harder to analyze in aggregate, it’s those open-ended questions that can provide you with some really valuable insights.

No point in creating content that doesn’t draw your target audience’s attention. –Natalie Sisson

It’s also worth mentioning that one of the goals of your initial marketing campaign to your newly defined audience should be to further test and validate your chosen niche.

Let’s Recap

A marketing plan that doesn’t begin with a thorough understanding of the needs, wants, and desires of a very specifically designed target market isn’t really a marketing plan at all. Instead, it’s more of a hope and a prayer, and when it comes to business, hope is not a strategy.

Getting clear on who your target audience is has never been easier. Start by investing time in one-to-one conversations. After you have done that, use Twitter, discussion forums, LinkedIn Groups, Surveys, Magazine media kits, and Facebook to gain additional insights.

Not making use of these free resources will significantly reduce the effectiveness of anything that you try, and, even worse, could spell the end of your company before you ever have a chance to really get going.

Put the time into identifying your targeted audience and you will have taken a step that so many small business owners don’t put nearly enough focus on, and you will be in far better shape as a result.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

[xyz-ihs snippet=”BuildGroove”]

why content marketing is key in 2014

Why Content Marketing is Key in 2014

content marketing

THE FUTURE…

People attempt to predict it every day.

From football bets to market shares, we like to think that we can know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I don’t claim to be able to see the future, but I have been in the business for awhile, and I have some ideas on how the landscape is changing for Content Marketing.

I think anyone who is in the business of selling (which should be everyone) should have some idea of how content strategy can help grow their business.

Before I make my predictions, I want to touch on a few key points of conversation. For those of you unfamiliar with content marketing, I feel it is important to explain what is changing, and why. This will give context to my projections.

  • Why Traditional Marketing is Losing Out
  • What Makes People Like Content Marketing
  • Things to Avoid When Creating Content
  • Ways to Make Quality Content
  • Future Predictions
  • What That Means For Your Company’s Future

Why People Are Leaving Traditional Marketing Behind

Imagine the stereotypical salesman type. Smart clothes, overly excited smile, a firm handshake and an unrelenting devotion to his product. Sound familiar?

Fact: He Doesn't Own That Same Car

Fun Fact: He Doesn’t Own That Same Car

It’s a persisting image, and buyers are quick to point these people out when they see them. The fact of the matter is, people hate feeling sold to, and traditional marketing often has this feel to it.

While traditional marketing is still a powerful player in the advertising world, the general public is getting better at identifying these prompts and blocking them out.

Not only that, there are companies literally selling tools to block your messages – for example, through DVR, Ad Block, or caller ID. 

So how does this all come back to “content marketing”? Content marketing has become mandatory because consumers have shifted the buying process.

In a previous article on how to start a content marketing strategy, I explain how nearly 60% of the buying process is done before the customer even contacts a vendor. Even more telling, 64% of customers research a company and their product online before they make a first purchase, meaning your initial contact with a customer probably happened before you knew they even existed.

All in all, there is a shift in the possession of knowledge. There is less and less a need for a well informed sales staff, and more need for a way for self-informed customers to find your product.

So what if the information these customers want isn’t on your site? These people are looking for information from various sources to solve a problem, and if you don’t provide them with useful information they will look elsewhere.

If you don’t answer their questions someone else will. It’s that simple.

This is one reason that in an study from Allurent, they found a lack of information was the reason that 67% of customers did not buy.

This is why providing helpful information for your customers (content marketing) is one of the most important pieces of your inbound marketing strategy.

So Why Are People Drawn To Content Marketing?

B2B Content Marketing Spending

Provided by Refined Practice

Since customers are educating themselves on products and services, it’s critical to help them find the answers they are looking for.

Being helpful is the foundation of a proper content strategy. In the words of Jay Baer, author and content strategist, you should “help not hype”.

The idea is pretty simple.

Think about the last time you needed something and researched it online. What did you do?

You checked searched on Google for ratings, you looked at customer reviews (Amazon), you searched for competitors.

You used that content to make a decision and the site with the best content, the one that answered your questions best, probably won your vote. It’s the same when customers come looking for your product.

This is just how people buy today.

In the old days, advertisers tried to interrupt people from what they were interested in. Today, marketers need to become what people are interested in, and providing genuinely helpful information (content) is the way to do this.

The Problems Companies Have With Creating Content

First and foremost, quantity does not equal quality.

It’s one thing to put out posts and share to social media, it’s another entirely to start seeing a positive ROI from that content creation.

The beauty of a quality content marketing campaign is it can generate revenue for your company. I have proof of that, but it took many months and strategy adjustments in order for me to show a return.

It’s easy to see why some companies can get discouraged.

Neil Patel has some great examples of ways companies have been creating bad content. He brings up some great points, and I’ll summarize a few below.

1. Writing in a Vacuum.

Neil calls out companies who rely solely on the marketing department for content creation. His point is companies expect the marketers to do all the writing and content creation, and then when they need to create things for topics they don’t understand, are left out to dry.

So with that in mind:

What good is the content you create without the ability to satisfy readers? What good is it if it doesn’t answer their questions fully?  Yes, quality content takes time and costs money, but if you’re providing low-quality content… well, what’s the point?

2. Winning the Audience Over

Russel Crowe Knows the Art of Crowd Pleasing

Russell Crowe Knows the Art of Crowd Pleasing

At the end of the day you need subscribers, conversions, whatever you created your blog for. In short:

  • Have A Goal
  • Make A Strategy
  • Stay Focused

You are putting time and energy (and probably money) into this program and expect it to provide results.

It will undoubtedly take time to see those results, so in the meantime you need to stay focused on your goal and use your content creation strategically to support you in that goal.

So what can you do to win over the audience?

Be helpful. Be authentic. Include comment sections and reply consistently to feedback. Create contests and give away free material to loyal subscribers. Ask your leads or customers about experiences they have had and to share them with you.

Coke does a great job of this without really pushing their product.

Look at the way  customer happiness is alluded to throughout the page. Notice the prompts and hashtag suggestions, none of which explicitly refer to Coca-Cola.

Coke has consumers generating content for them – and Coke gains brand awareness and trust in the process. You don’t have to do what Coke has done, but you do want to consider how your marketing efforts can be more customer-focused.

3. Lack of (Correct) Sharing

It should be clear to you that content promotion is every bit as important as content creation, if not more so. What you want to consider is whether you’re using the right social media.

What is the “right” social media exactly? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I know what has provided the biggest return for Bright Ideas so far, but that is constantly evolving.

I do know that promotion and content syndication on StumbleUpon has had almost no impact on my subscriber list, but Peep Laja had nearly 10,000 referral traffic from the site. So where does that leave us?

The right plan depends on your company. Again, Neil Patel has another great resource on social media sites for blogging.

As you get started, know that almost all sites benefit from using the following:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google +
  • LinkedIn

Otherwise, test and see what works and what doesn’t. It’s always a changing environment. Share what experiences have worked for you in the comments section below. I love to hear other people’s experience what’s working or not. Which brings me to my last point:

4. Not Measuring Your Results

All of these suggestions would be useless if you couldn’t tell whether or not they are working. A proper content strategy adjusts as you go. Find out where people are coming from and how they heard of your site.

For example:

  • Google Analytics provides some basic metrics for your to track where people are coming from and what media they used to find you.
  • Hootsuite is a social sharing tool we use to see what is being shared and where. It’s great way to gain insight on what people are saying about your blog or website after they visit.
  • Marketing Automation is a way for your company to track how your leads are behaving. You can then customize their experience by offering them relevant offers and products and by making points of what they do in your site. Infusionsoft is a powerful tool we use to monitor and automate our inbound marketing. If you need a way to manage your lead generation, please feel free to contact us.

The right analysis can provide ideas on how to grow your traffic and how to allocate your resources more effectively. Just throwing your content up and never stopping to see what sticks is not a sound strategy.

How You Can Create Quality Content

Creating great content starts with deciding who you are creating it for.

Next, you need to learn about their wants, needs, and desires. Once you understand your buyer persona, you are now ready to begin creating content for them.

Once you know what to write about, it’s time to get started.

When creating this content, be sure to reference other thought leaders. Mention them in your post. Link to them. Make them look good. In today’s world, this is one of the best ways to build a professional network – and when you help them, they will return the favor.

Future Projections

Ah, at last…

While I do not have much of a crystal ball,  I do have a couple of educated guesses on the changing landscape. In a nutshell: All signs are pointing up.

b2b content marketing

As you can see, the graph provided by KiSSmetrics shows 76% of Business to Business companies utilize blogging as part of their content marketing strategy and 87% use more than one content marketing technique.

Clearly there is a demand for these mediums and many companies are taking note.

As I mentioned earlier, a big reason for this is a shift in the buying process. People don’t like to be sold – but they do like to be informed.

I don’t see this trend reversing itself anytime soon. In fact, I see it accelerating.

As an example, consider Red Bull. The energy drink company has gone from promoting its product to becoming a full-fledged publisher. That’s crazy. Red Bull has been so good at creating content to drive interest in their brand that they have committed to massive undertakings in content creation.

They are creating amazing thrill-seeker videos and material which sometimes never even mentions the product they sell.

That's 36 Million People Who Could Potentially Know Your Brand

That’s 36 Million People Who Could Potentially Know Your Brand

Just take a look at the page Red Bull created for their space jump event. Red Bull could have plastered their log all over the video. Instead, they only put it in the places you’d expect. Judging from the 36 million views this video got, people didn’t mind the branding one bit.

Needless to say, it’s a promotional gold mine.

Some viral campaigns are informative, some are funny, some are thought provoking, but the point is they all do a great job of increasing awareness and promoting a product it for its benefits (tangible or otherwise).

I’m not suggesting you should buy a lucky rabbit’s foot and plan to make a viral video, I’m just noting the changes and the expectations customers have of companies.

Not everyone has the marketing budget to fund a space jump.

So what does the future look like for regular companies? Not everyone will have a huge viral success, but everyone can create content that the market will WANT to consume.

Here are some additional content marketing predictions from Jayson DeMers at Forbes, Shafqat Islam at Mashable, and Joe Pulizzi at Content Marketing Institute:

  • Content Will Be Its Own Department and Have a CO at Most Major Companies- This idea is pretty universal throughout all the prediction articles. Content is becoming such an integral part of inbound marketing campaigns that most companies – especially medium to large-sized – will employ full-time staff to keep up with demand. This should promote better content and push competitors in all industries to do the same.
  • Marketing ROI Will Be More Monitored Than Ever Before- With the more resources spent on content creation, companies will shift from having a “just get it done” attitude towards Social Media and Content Marketing, to a more conversion rate measured system. This shift will likely see the rise of more and more SaaS start-ups designed to monitor content marketing effectiveness.
  • Better Content Management Systems Will Arise- With the likely creation of content marketing effectiveness software, we will probably see a better system for the management of content creation (interestingly enough, my own SaaS falls into this category). Expect to see platforms which allow users to limit log-ins, monitor multiple forms of content simultaneously, and have a much cleaner way of distributing their information.
  • Mobile Content Strategies Will Determine Successful Campaigns- In May 2013, 56% of adults reported owning a smartphone. That number is only increasing. If companies plan on staying relevant to their consumer base, they will provide content which is mobile compatible at nearly all levels.
  • Google+ Will Grow With The Increase in B2B Companies Using It- Google has not quite seen the adoption rates people expected with the introduction of their new social media platform, but with the amount of businesses using the service and its importance to Google Site Rankings and Authorship, people expect to see growth in this new media.
  • RedBull Will Create A Netflix Original Series- Ok, maybe not. But it sounds good, doesn’t it?

By the way, Joe Pulizzi provided great insights in his Bright Ideas interview as well.

Lessons Learned

If you’ve come this far, you should walk away from this with a clear understanding of why Content Marketing is important and how it can help your company.

This is what you should take away from this:

  • Traditional Marketing is Intrusive, so Customers are Blocking it Out
  • People Like Content Marketing Because it Gives Them a Choice
  • Companies Write Bad Content Often – Don’t Be One Of Them
  • Writing Good Content Means Research
  • The Future Is Bright for Content Marketing

Be proactive, not reactive. Learn more from people who do content marketing well. I never stop looking for ideas and Influencers who can shift my perception.

Additional Resources

Don’t Be Shy

I want to hear about YOUR experiences. This is the whole reason I write this blog, to share with you and find out how you use or don’t use my advice. I’m a sucker for personal success stories. Nothing confirms my content is worth a damn quite like people telling me how it affected them.

From my own experience, and from talking with others who do a great job of it, I have collected tons of proven content marketing strategies. If you’re looking for a detailed analysis on how to nail down your content marketing in the year ahead, you’ll want to grab a copy of this handbook.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”CommentContest”]

[xyz-ihs snippet=”footer”]

How To Use Reddit To Grow Your Business: A Digital Marketing Strategy to Make This Popular Site Work for You

How-to-Use-Reddit-to-Grow-Your-Business

Amber Schultz started posting content to Reddit and saw an increase of nearly 1,500 new visitors to her blog in 10 hours. Chris Morrison added a media analysis of Game of Thrones to the site and saw that 62% of his new traffic was from Reddit alone. This is a powerful online community and could drastically change the number of new people who visit your website.

Here are my ideas on how using a social media site like Reddit can help facilitate growth in your business.

“A social media site?” you ask. “I already use social media sites for my business” you say. “How is this any different?” you might wonder. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.

I suppose the best way to begin is to explain what Reddit actually is.

Reddit For The Uninitiated

If you have a few minutes, check out this funny and informative video explaining what Reddit is.

The site itself is actually a conglomerate of many sites and ideas called “subreddits”. Essentially, a person gets interested in a particular topic and wants to find discussions on it, so they browse the site. Want to discuss the absence of Oscars on Leonardo DiCaprio’s nightstand? Head on over to “/r/movies” and throw in a post. Need to keep up-to-date on world events? Click “/r/worldnews” and learn about everything from the rising unemployment numbers in Spain to relief-funding efforts for typhoon affected countries.

I think you are starting to get the idea. You can find just about anything on Reddit… including a subreddit devoted entirely to pictures of Joesph-Gordon Levitt’s head on giraffes.

And you thought I was joking

and you thought I was joking

Here are some numbers on Reddit traffic:

*12,000 subreddits with at least 100 followers
*15M unique pageviews per month
*8,000 page subscriptions per day

This is a huge number of people with a wide array of ideas and needs, from all over the world.

So What’s So Good About It?

Perhaps the most important feature is the selectivity of the impressions you gain.

This site automatically segments your market and connects you with like-minded individuals. This isn’t the shock-and-awe blitzkrieg that you might see from billboard or TV ads, looking to get the attention of any onlooker. This is a targeted social media presence, a completely different offering than Facebook or Twitter.

This site is also insanely interactive. Users are always submitting ideas and engaging in detailed discussions about their topics of choice. This allows you to discuss ideas and strategies, get a general public opinion on your idea, and see other peoples efforts and what it took to get to where they are.

Click to Tweet:   How To Use Reddit To Grow Your Business

What You Should Check Out

Now to get started.

Sign-up is free, solicits no emails or spam, and is completely anonymous (if you choose to be). Just register and begin submitting links or reading material by other users.

But what should you check out?

There are already a great number subreddits to choose from. Try checking out /r/business to get macro-level analysis on current market trends and landscapes.

Head on over to /r/entrepreneur to see what over 66,000 new business owners are already excited about.

Want to get a more specific experience? See what other options the site offers. Starting a new brewery and need ideas on how to sell to taps in your market? Subscribe to /r/craftbeer and speak with other enthusiasts. Whatever you choose, you make your own experience.

Here are suggestions on subreddits to get familiar with:

  • /r/business – An overall community perspective on the business landscape
  • /r/entrepreneur – A community of self-starters discussing ideas on their projectsreddit
  • /r/startups – Primarily focused on start-up companies and is full of suggestions and questions
  • /r/smallbusiness – Small business owners and enthusiasts
  • /r/growmybusiness – Small business focused, tools for developing leads

And a list of popular subreddits you can utilize (and are fun to read):

  • /r/todayilearned – Fact sharing subreddit, post trends or analyses here to generate buzz on your research
  • /r/iama – (Ask Me Anything) this is a great subreddit for information as well as a chance to talk with the community about what you are doing in your business.
  • /r/askreddit – Post a question and see how the community feels about it

The former list are not necessarily business focused, but you can utilize their hive-mind thinking to gather feedback and suggestions (after a few visits, you’ll know why I chose to use the term “hive-mind”).

Kick Starter Campaigns

Perhaps the most significant tangible  effect a crowd sourcing site like Reddit offers is the ability to generate funds.

You probably have heard of Kickstarter, an online market for a large number of users to submit funds to the development of a new business. It’s a great tool for up-and-coming businesses to generate missing funds to get their ideas on track.

Reddit can be a supplementary tool for businesses looking to get off the ground. Used with loans, local business grants, and other avenues, this can be a great way to finalize the financials on your project.

Jasco Games, a board game company looking to finalize their project, raised over $400,000 for their Kick Starter through a combination of social media buzz and investor activity. Much of that influence came from the Reddit community themselves.

The benefit of Reddit is that it can generate buzz for your idea and allow users to discuss the merits of your endeavor. It’s one thing to get a dollar from a random stranger, it’s another to get a dollar and a suggestion.

/r/kickstarter allows users to discuss their opinions on the submissions, to support the efforts towards their particular choice, and to offer feedback on the ideas themselves. Many people post their favorite campaigns as a way to generate more interest. If you’re already utilizing crowdfunding, having an extra forum to generate interest is invaluable.

Touch Point

Start-ups aren’t the only ones who can benefit from an enhanced social media presence. Reddit is another opportunity for people to connect with your company.

Social Media has taken on a sort of necessity for businesses. The absence of a social media presence draws a red flag for users. Connectivity is validation.

As I mentioned earlier, people have used Reddit to gather more interest in their blogs or podcasts, and in effect, more interest in their companies. Amy Schultz, blogger for MythBustingMommy, posts to parenting subreddits and has gotten the interest of thousands of new parents. If you have something to offer the community, they will give you their attention.

But let me be clear: Reddit is not a “golden ticket” to lead generation. The forums on Reddit can be difficult to make headway in, not everything is seen by the people who want to see it, and you may not get completely positive feedback. Matthew Schmoldt makes a good point of this in his blog on SocialMedia Today.

The main take-away is that this is another opportunity to create a touch point for potential clients from a site that has a number of people already congregating and interested in specific topics. Your job is to engage that audience.

Tips For Successful Posting

While Reddit can be a powerful tool to generate interest in your brand, it can be just as powerful at blocking you if you are not careful. Spamming is not permitted and redditpoststhe moderators are quite good at identifying spam and restricting your access if you do things they consider spammy. Here are some guidelines to follow to prevent that from happening:

  • Choose a catchy title-  This should go without saying, but you are limited to a small band of text to hook in readers. If you wouldn’t click it, they won’t click it.

  • Post to the proper subreddit- As discussed earlier, finding the right platform is as important as finding the right words. Choose from the suggestions above or go searching and find your own niche.
  • Post material other than your own- Posting from the same URL repeatedly draws red flags. This is an information sharing site, not necessarily an advertising site. Share posts from other blogs you find interesting, facts you would like to share, the works. The wider the variety, the more interest you gain for your future posts.
  • Do a little bit of everything- When you do want to share your stuff to the world, put some work into it. These are people you’re talking to, and if a person would think you are submitting boring information, Reddit will also. Make podcasts, do a funny blog, share infographics on interesting market trends, just make sure it is engaging. Really sell it. Make comments on similar threads, do an Ask Me Anything and answer questions from strangers.
  • LEARN- Don’t go in with a blind eye. See what has been done and what the community responds to. Chances are, you might pick up a thing or two in the process.

Matt Silverman makes some strong points in the success of your points as well, so don’t forget to read through his guidelines.

You can also advertise straight to the site. You can buy spots that are displayed throughout the whole site or direct them to specific subreddits. The sheer volume of  traffic makes Reddit an appealing opportunity if you just need clicks and are willing to pay for them.

Common Mistakes, and Tips to Make Reddit Work Better For You

Reddit is like any other interactive online medium: it requires work.

Just like Twitter feeds and Facebook updates, you have to keep working on engaging customers. If you want your content to be viewed and reviewed, you have to submit it.

Be careful to follow the rules and requirements. Each subreddit has its own set of rules, and all are against spamming. If you fail to adhere the site will bury you, and they are remarkably good at stopping what they deem spam.

Understand what this site offers most is education. Reddit is first and foremost an information sharing site, so use it as such.

The security of anonymity leads to detailed and open interactions. Discussions between users are one true benefit of the site.

The collective experience of like-minded individuals is an invaluable tool for entrepreneurs. Reddit is another way of getting to that information… as long as you can sort through the cat pictures.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”CommentContest”]

[xyz-ihs snippet=”footer”]

What-Results-Can-I-Expect-From-Content_0

What Results Can I Expect From Content Marketing?

What-Results-Can-I-Expect-From-Content_0

I have yet to meet an entrepreneur whose business doesn’t need any more customers, and with all the talk these days about content marketing, more companies than ever have begun to embrace this highly effective form of marketing as a means of customer attraction.

If you are considering embracing content marketing (plus some marketing automation) in your business and you are wondering what to expect in terms of results, this post is for you.

Managing Expectations

The very first thing you need to understand about content marketing is this: results do not happen over night. Identifying your target audience’s needs, wants, and desires takes time. Creating content takes time. Accumulating social proof and traffic take time.

In other words, success with content marketing takes time.

While overnight success isn’t something you should expect, one thing you can expect – once the momentum begins to kick in – is this: high quality content produces traffic and leads for a very long time!

Should you decide to embrace content marketing, here’s just a few of the things that you should be aware of:

  1. Content marketing requires resources (your time and/or someone else’s)
  2. Content marketing requires expertise and new habits
  3. Meaningful results are unlikely in the first 3-5 months
  4. Sustained activity will produce steady long-term growth

Want proof that it works? Check out these 50 brands using content marketing.

Additional Resources:

Still not convinced? Here are some more statistics:

  • 93% of B2B Marketers are using content marketing
  • 42% of B2B marketers rate their content marketing efforts as effective
  • Only 44% of B2B Marketers have a documented content strategy
  • 73% of B2B Marketers have someone in charge of content marketing strategy

(Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs Study)

 We Walk Our Talk

Over the last 18 months, Bright Ideas has become a very successful business as a result of the steady increase in traffic to our website. As you can see below, traffic has, more or less, steadily increased since day one. As you might also expect, the volume of leads, customers, and revenue has also steadily increased.

bi-traffic-growth

Did it happen over night? No, it didn’t. Our success was the result of a sustained investment in content creation, and so long as we continue to produce content that is of value to our audience, it’s quite reasonable to expect that our traffic & revenue will also continue to increase.

Do we spend any money on advertising? Not really. We do spend a bit here and there to drive traffic to landing pages we want to test, but that is about it.

Do we engage in direct mail and employ a sales force? No, we don’t.

Instead, we invest heavily in content creation, and so should you.

Click to Tweet: What Results Can I Expect From Content Marketing?

How to Get Started With Content Marketing

Hopefully by now, you have realized that success with content marketing takes time and it requires a plan that is built on proven strategies.

If you are looking for just such a plan, we can help.

Step One: The Marketing Assessment

The first step in working with us is to have us produce a marketing assessment for you. The purpose of the marketing assessment is to do a deep dive on your company’s current marketing assets & strategies so that we can produce a report that you can use as a 12 month game plan to help you achieve your business goals.

Here’s a summary of some of the items that we typically review during an assessment:

  1. Your website
  2. Your social media presence
  3. Your lead capture system(s)
  4. Your CRM system
  5. A basic competitive analysis
  6. Your buyer persona(s)
  7. Your typical customer’s Purchase Lifeycle
  8. Your marketing funnel
  9. Your customer’s change drivers
  10. Your customer’s change inhibitors

Step Two: Develop a Game Plan

A Solid Game Plan Leads to a Solid Execution

A Solid Game Plan Leads to a Solid Execution

Once the assessment is completed, the next step is to create a game plan to get you started with content marketing.

Here’s a summary of some of the recommendations that we typically address in a marketing game plan:

  1. Analysis of top 25 keywords
  2. Marketing tools to use
  3. Website improvements
  4. Social media improvements
  5. A 90 day blogging strategy
  6. A blogging checklist
  7. Marketing funnel development
  8. Video marketing strategy
  9. Premium content development
  10. Premium content checklist

Marketing assessments, once completed, will allow us to give you a solid game plan for your first 12 months. Marketing assessments (including the game plan) start at $1,500 and up, depending on the level of complexity and research required.

Should you wish to retain us for execution of the game plan, we are available to do so for a monthly retainer. However, should you wish to execute the game plan on your own, it will be sufficiently detailed to allow you to do just that.

Get Started Today!

Ready to get started? Schedule a complimentary 15 minute consultation now, or visit our consulting division’s website and download one of our free reports.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”CommentContest”]

[xyz-ihs snippet=”footer”]

 

Digital Marketing Strategy: Robert Rose on How the Content Marketing Institute Uses Email Marketing to Land Consulting Clients

This podcast is a real treat. Robert Rose is the second guest I’ve had from the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), which is virtually an institution of knowledge on content marketing. Robert is CMI’s Chief Strategist there, and I definitely learned some new strategies taht I’m looking forward to sharing with you!

CMI’s stated goal is to advance the practice of content marketing, and one of the ways they do this is by training their consulting clients.

Robert walks us through the process they use to turn a brand new lead into a paying client, including details of their funnel and what they do if a prospect doesn’t buy.

He also shares some strategies that can significantly inflate the reach of your content as he walks us through how and when to use press releases for posts, and how to cross post influencers’ content.

That’s not all. When you listen to this interview, you’ll hear Robert and I talk about:

  • (2:45) Introductions
  • (4:45) An overview of how they are attracting consulting clients
  • (10:00) An overview of how they track where their leads come from
  • (11:55) What happens if their consulting leads don’t buy
  • (17:45) An overview of how to structure an agency funnel
  • (20:30) The different types of registration forms and how to use them
  • (22:45) An overview of the BrightIdeas funnel, and how it could be improved
  • (29:45) How a secondary call to action mid-funnel can improve the buyer journey
  • (31:45) Traffic or conversion, which is easier to increase?
  • (35:15) How to attract other writers
  • (38:45) How to engage a new contributing writer
  • (40:45) How & why to do a press release for a new post

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.

Listen Now

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:

About Robert Rose

Robert-headshot-2011-color-medium-300x240Robert is the Chief Strategist for the Content Marketing Institute, and Senior Contributing Analyst for Digital Clarity Group.

Robert is the author of the book Managing Content Marketing, which spent two weeks as a top ten marketing book on Amazon.com.  As a recognized expert in content marketing strategy, digital media and the social Web, Robert innovates creative and technical strategies for a wide variety of clientele.  He’s helped large companies such as 3M, ADP, AT&T, KPMG, Staples, PTC and Petco tell their story more effectively through the Web. He’s worked to help develop digital marketing efforts for entertainment and media brands such as Dwight Yoakam, Nickelodeon and NBC. And, he’s helped marketers at smaller organizations such as East Harlem Tutorial Program, Coburn Ventures and Hippo to amplify their story through Content Marketing and Social Web Strategies.

He is a featured writer for the online magazines iMedia Connection, Fierce Content Management and CMSWire and also a featured author in the book “Enterprise 2.0 How Technology, E-Commerce and Web 2.0 Are Transforming Business Virtually.

An early Internet pioneer, Robert has more than 15 years of experience, and a track record of helping brands and businesses develop successful Web and content marketing strategies.