Sometimes businesses and organizations know exactly which strategies, tools, and tactics will help move the needle, but more often, it’s not so clear. So how do marketers determine what’s right for their clients, business, or organization? That’s where a marketing audit comes in.

A marketing audit is a comprehensive review of an organization’s materials, messaging, audiences, and competitors using internal, external, and third-party research.

The result: a deep understanding of key buyer personas and recommendations for a strategic path toward achieving clear marketing and communications goals.

5 Signs it’s Time for a Marketing Audit

An audit is typically the first step in working with new clients. However, we strongly recommend clients regularly perform an audit, especially when these common red flags indicate it’s time.

  1. Expansion – Before you expand into a new market area, launch a new product or service, or target a new customer demographic, start with an audit. You may know why you moved to a new area or created a new product, but until you develop buyer personas, you won’t know what messages or channels will be most successful in marketing to your ideal customer.
  2. Your goals and objectives aren’t clear. The marketing team is often tasked with everything from generating awareness and website traffic to securing leads to help the sales team generate revenue. Without concrete goals and objectives in place, it’s impossible to move the needle for your organization. An audit will help clarify your customer buying journey and establish clear, measurable objectives to help achieve marketing and business goals.
  3. What’s working and what’s not? – You’ve invested in everything from paid ads to social media and blogging. You have a fancy CRM, sponsor community events, or attend industry trade shows. Sales are up, so something must be working, you’re just not sure what it is. An audit will assess performance across a variety of channels and investments to determine what’s effective. That way, instead of spreading your budget too thin, your team can focus more on what’s working and change what’s not.
  4. You’re not reaching your marketing/sales goals. Even the best laid plans don’t always come to fruition. You may have clear and concrete SMART marketing goals, but somehow your execution (strategies and tactics) is missing the mark. A marketing audit will help assess why you’re not reaching your goals – which could be anything from unclear messaging to the wrong marketing tactics. We’ve even uncovered some clients who were targeting the wrong audience altogether based on their specific products and services.
  5. Determining and reporting ROI – It’s budget season, and the CEO is asking what you spent the budget on and what the return is. Or maybe you just need a better reporting structure to justify budget increases. A marketing audit will help not only determine which tactics are working, but also help put systems in place to measure and report tangible returns.

You wouldn’t make a presentation to your boss without doing your homework first. Before you invest in a different approach, pursue a new target audience, or try to justify budget increases, rely on research by considering a marketing audit.

Laura Elizabeth Saunders is a PR and content marketing strategist at The Hodges Partnership. An original version of this article was recently published on the Gong Blog.

Webinars are a powerful and effective tool for content marketing. In a recent study from Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs, B2B marketers ranked webinars as the second-most effective content marketing tactic, following closely behind in-person events.

The very nature of webinars makes them an ideal tactic for content marketing.  Taking the seminar format to the web (thus the name webinar), webinars are conducive to presenting educational content to a targeted audience.  If your firm is not currently incorporating webinars in your content marketing program, you probably should be. Here are six reasons to contemplate.

1. Reach a broader audience

In-person events are incredibly effective; in fact, B2B marketers consistently rate them as their most effective content marketing tactic. However, in-person events and seminars are naturally limiting when it comes to audience reach. Webinars, however, have no geographic boundaries and can be promoted via social media, email and the Internet to reach an extremely broad audience. Leveraging webinars will allow your firm to reach an audience that would probably be unable to attend a local event. So if your firm desires to expand its geographic footprint, webinars can be a great way to get in front of a much broader audience.

2. Generate new leads and prospects

Webinars are extremely helpful for generating new leads when they are focused on a particular topic that interests your target audience. As part of the registration process, attendees are required to give basic personal information in exchange for the registration.  Obviously, this is useful for building lists that can be further nurtured with automated campaigns and future offers. Registering for and attending a webinar requires minimal effort, so webinars can be a solid source of new leads for firms that consistently host them.

3. Nurture existing relationships

Webinars aren’t just for generating new leads either; they’re also useful for nurturing existing relationships as well. It’s very likely that a topic that appeals to a new audience will also appeal to existing leads and even clients. Webinars can also be used for ongoing client development by selecting a topic that appeals to clients and extending the invitation to existing clients only. Whether prospects, leads or clients, webinars are useful for contributing to content marketing goals at all stages of the client lifecycle.

4. Demonstrate your firm’s subject-matter expertise

It’s one thing to say you’re an expert, it’s another thing to prove it. Just like speaking at conferences and seminars provides a platform for your firm’s subject-matter experts to showcase their knowledge and expertise—webinars do the same. As mentioned earlier, the very nature of webinars provides an environment that is conducive to presenting educational and informative content that attendees will find helpful and beneficial—all the while demonstrating the subject–matter expertise of your people and firm.

5. Value that extends beyond the live webinar

One of the bonus benefits of webinars is that they can be easily recorded and used for ongoing lead generation and nurturing. Other than the inability to ask questions during Q&A, on-demand webinars offer virtually the same value to viewers as the live webinar. Landing pages and offers for previously recorded “on-demand” webinars can be used on your website, blog, social media and lead nurturing campaigns to continuously engage your target audience.

To get even more mileage from your efforts, webinar slides can be uploaded to SlideShare or repurposed as an eBook, guide or series of blog posts. The point is—webinars offer a tremendous amount of ongoing value that extends well beyond the actual live webinar.

6. Relatively easy and affordable to produce

In-person events can be challenging to host, requiring a great deal of planning, time and perhaps most importantly—budget. So another appealing benefit of webinars is they involve relatively little upfront investment (headset microphones, cables, etc.), marginal ongoing cost (monthly fees for webinar software) and typically involve very few staff and resources (presenter(s) prep time, moderator, graphic designer, etc).

Webinar platforms such as GoToWebinar, WebEx and Adobe Connect are affordable and easy to use. Initially, it will take (and should take!) a fair amount of time planning for and setting up your webinar program, but once the first couple are behind you, producing webinars on an ongoing basis is manageable—regardless of the size of your marketing team.

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The purpose of webinars aligns seamlessly with the goals of content marketing, making them an ideal tactic for reaching your target audience and achieving your firm’s marketing goals. If you’re not currently leveraging webinars as part of your content marketing mix, these are some of the key reasons to considering incorporating them into your program.

Mobile research – specifically, research by way of smartphone technology – has become a widely used and accepted design option for conducting qualitative and survey research.  The advantages of the mobile mode are many, not the least of which are: the high incidence of smartphone ownership in the U.S. (more than 60% in 2015), the ubiquitous influence smartphones have on our lives, the dependence people have on their smartphones as their go-to channel for communicating and socializing, and the features of the smartphone that offer a variety of response formats (e.g., text, video, image) and location-specific (e.g., geo-targeting, geo-fencing) capabilities.

From a research design perspective, there are also several limitations to the mobile mode, including: the small screen of the smartphone (making the design of standard scale and matrix questionnaire items – as well as the user experience overall – problematic), the relatively short attention span of the respondent or participant precipitated by frequent interruptions, the potential for errors due to the touch screen technology, and connectivity issues.

Another important yet often overlooked concern with mobile research is the potential for bias associated with the smartphone response format and location features mentioned earlier.  Researchers have been quick to embrace the ability to capture video and photographs as well as location information yet they have not universally exercised caution when integrating these features into their research designs.  For example, a recent webinar in which a qualitative researcher presented the virtues of mobile qualitative research – esp., for documenting in-the-moment experiences – espoused the advantages of utilizing systems that allow the researcher to identify a participant’s location.  Among these advantages, according to the presenter, is the ability to gain the exact location of someone’s home address during an in-home use test (IHUT) which then, with the help of Google Earth, enables the researcher to actually see the property and surrounding neighborhood.  The presenter went on to state that these location images can and should be used with the intent of evaluating some aspect of this person’s life such as their socio-economic status.

The blatant bias this introduces into the research should be obvious.  Where someone chooses to livemay say something about their household income, educational achievement, and even their “social circles”; however, it is certainly not true in all cases and, indeed, such appearances can be grossly deceiving.  And, even if the researcher could ascertain some idea of the individual’s demographic or social group, what would be the point or use of this information?  Only to deepen the bias by creating a story of someone’s lived experience based on unsubstantiated claims built on preconceived stereotypical assumptions?

A similar bias creeps into mobile qualitative research when participants are asked to submit their responses in the form of videos and/or photographs without also being asked for accompanying commentary or follow-up questions by the researcher.  By simply submitting these images without explanation, the researcher comes to his/her own conclusions which then lead to bias and error in the data which ultimately downgrades the value of the final outcomes.  If the researcher conducting an IHUT study on eating habits, for example, learns from the participant that she and her family eat a “healthy” diet but sees from a submitted photograph a refrigerator containing fruits and vegetables but also donuts, Coke, and processed cheese – what is the researcher to make of that?  Are the participant’s eating habits really not that “healthy”?  Are there additional healthier foods hidden from view in the refrigerator’s compartments or drawers?  Does the participant’s definition of “healthy eating” include donuts, Coke, and processed cheese?   Without examining the whys and whereforeswith the participant, the researcher is left to form a subjective understanding of the fridge contents and may create a false yet seemingly plausible story about the participant from the image.

Mobile research gives the researcher new and convenient ways to learn about the lives of the people who matter most in our research designs.  And yet, researchers are cautioned to tread carefully or risk infecting their data with an insidious and potentially destructive bias that comes from conjecturing stories of people’s lives by relying on what researchers see rather than from what they know to be true.

“Content is King” is the mantra in marketing theses days. Firms today are creating content to improve website traffic and establish themselves as experts in a field. However, content is not a new tool for marketing. It’s been around for centuries.

An example is right here in Virginia. The first known reporter in the New World was Capt. John Smith. He wrote Newes from Virginia. He gathered information about the Jamestown Colony in Virginia and wrote about his observations. He published a newsletter, and it was used to promote resettling in the New World for British citizens.

A few years later, newspapers helped spark the American Revolution. Articles that are often attributed to Sam Adams appeared in the New York Journal from 1768 to 1769. They chronicled the British occupation of Boston. They were highly exaggerated and written with the goal of sparking interest for independence from Britain. Some have claimed that Adams was the country’s first blogger.

And of course, famed newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst used his influential media company to promote war with Cuba in 1898. He is famously quoted for, “You furnish the pictures, I’ll provide the war!” Hurst wanted to expand American influence, and his papers were used as a way to push that agenda. He wanted to create mass-market appeal for his brand of journalism and the term “yellow journalism” was born.

Here are a few of the early attempts at content marketing:

John Deere

In the late 19th century, John Deere was becoming a dominant name in the agriculture industry. The company wanted to reach the agriculture community and educate them about current research and trends in the industry. Deere died in 1886, but his son, Charles, took the company’s reigns. He settled upon the idea of starting a company magazine — the Furrow. The magazine was first published in 1895 and circulation peaked in 1912 at four million. The magazine is still published today and has a current circulation of 1.5 million. An online version is also published. It’s mainly distributed at John Deere dealerships around the country and across the world.

The magazine has kept with a similar philosophy throughout its history. It wanted to establish the John Deere brand as an expert in agriculture and farming. Many of the stories have a human element, allowing readers to connect to the magazine. Over time, the publication has succumbed to the realities of online readers, and the stories have become shorter and more visual. The goal, however, has always been to establish John Deere as a dominant voice in the agriculture community.

“People who know the Furrow, know that they can trust the information that we present,” Furrow Editor David Jones said at a recent conference. “They trust that it is presented without an agenda. One thing that sets us apart from perhaps other sponsor publications is a fiercely defended editorial independence.”

The magazine is a perfect example of the style and direction that any content writer aims toward. The articles are well researched and experts are interviewed. The writers aim to educate rather than give people the hard sell.

Michelin Guide

In the 1900s, Europe had very few cars on the road. It was the early days of the automobile. Michelin, the tire company, wanted to increase people’s interest in driving, especially for travel. The company decided upon a travel guide. They thought if they could increase the demand for traveling, then it would in turn increase the demand for tires.

And they knew their audience. It was wealthy people who could afford travel and could afford an automobile. So, the guide placed a rating system with stars, something that has become common vernacular in the travel industry. A four-star rating meant the place was luxurious and suitable for the wealthy travelers.

It also contained basic information, such as where to get gas and points of interest to visit. For the first guide, 35,000 copies were printed. Eventually, the company produced guides for Algeria, Tunisia, the mountainous regions of Europe around Northern Italy as well as Portugal and the U.K.

The guides rated places like hotels and restaurants and were an impartial look at travel in those regions. Over time, they became a relied upon resource when people traveled. Travelers could expect that a trusted person visited the establishment and gave an impartial review.

Originally, Michelin gave the guides away. Over time, they become so popular that the company charged a price. They are currently published in 24 countries and have become a mainstay in the travel and leisure industry.

Today, a Michelin star can make or break a restaurant. Chefs will break down crying if a restaurant is not rated well. However, if the Michelin guide gives a restaurant a positive rating, people will flock from miles around to eat at the establishment. Books and movies have been written about the grueling agony that a restaurant will undertake before the reviewers visit. They never identify themselves, so the restaurant staff is on edge at all times.

The guide is updated every year and has become a part of the corporate culture of Michelin. Some of the secretive rating inspectors have started to use Twitter, adding a little but more understanding to the process and increasing the guide’s exposure.

“We don’t do it to make a lot of money,” said Tony Fouladpour, director of corporate public relations. “We do it because it’s tradition and it helps the brand and its image. It’s a tool we use for the brand.”

River Pools and Spas

The last example is modern, because it shows the power that quality content writing can play in revitalizing a company. Marcus Sheridan owned a pool installation company. It had retail outlets in Virginia and Maryland. Business was good, and River Pools and Spas looked at expanding. Then, the 2008 financial crisis hit, and people who planned to have a pool installed cancelled their orders. Sheridan went from having a highly successful company into one that was fighting to survive. Within weeks, Sheridan was pulling money out of savings, so he could pay the company’s bills.

Traditionally, River Pools and Spas’ marketing efforts focused on radio, television and other forms of old media. With no money, Sheridan pulled back his advertising, but he still wanted to communicate with potential customers. Sheridan thought about the problem and decided he could still communicate with his customers on the web. He began posting blogs and videos on the company’s website. Rather than posting marketing content, Sheridan focused on educating customers about pools and the challenges that many pool owners face. Soon, his website became a must-read for anybody in the pool industry and anybody who was thinking about buying a pool.

“I just started thinking more about the way I use the Internet,” Sheridan said. “Most of the time when I type in a search, I’m looking for an answer to a specific question. The problem in my industry, and a lot of industries, is you don’t get a lot of great search results because most businesses don’t want to give answers; they want to talk about their company. So I realized that if I was willing to answer all these questions that people have about fiberglass pools, we might have a chance to pull this out.”

Soon, the company’s sales soured and it’s now one of the leading designers of fiberglass pools in the country. Sheridan said he could trace $1.7 million worth of sales directly to one particular blog post that focused on the overall cost of building and installing a concrete pool.

People didn’t search for his company’s name. They went to Google or Bing and wanted a question answered. Lots of people read the post, because it was informative and helped people move toward purchasing a fiberglass pool.

Sheridan continued: “So, our whole marketing campaign revolves around getting people to stick around and read our stuff, because the longer they stay on our site, the greater the chance they’re going to fall in love with our company.”

 

The world of search engines is always changing. Google constantly updates its search algorithms — much to the chagrin of many SEO professionals — and Bing is slowly becoming more popular with many searchers.  As a result, marketing experts must stay on top of the ever-changing world of search engines so they can maxim the advantages of organic searches.

Something that is gaining importance in the search engine world is voice search. Traditionally, marketers have used titles tags and other parts of the HTML as well as short keywords in landing pages and blog posts to maximize SEO. SEO experts searched keywords in Google or used a tool like SEMrush to identify keywords and incorporated that material into a website’s content. This was conducted with the written word in mind.

Siri on the iPhone, Google’s Voice Search for Android, Amazon’s new Echo personal assistant and voice recognition in newer vehicles are changing the nature of searches. People can conduct a search without touching a keyboard. The searcher simply speaks the inquiry into a device, and the search is conducted.

Google conducted a study in 2014 and found that 55 percent of teens and 41 percent of adults use one or more voice searches on a daily basis. A 2015 study by MindMeld showed that number had increased to as much as 60% when respondents are asked whether they had done a voice search within the last six months.

So marketers must ask themselves — how will this change the nature of search engines and search engine optimization? Below are a few tips to help marketers.

Focus on broader ideas

SEO, in general, and voice recognition software are moving search engine optimization away from specific keywords and toward more general topics and themes. With voice searches, people speak in broader phrases rather than with specific keywords. That needs to be reflected in the SEO effort.

Voice searches are usually answers to particular questions. People might search for “Best brewery in Richmond?” as a keyboard search. The keywords Best Brewery and Richmond are easy to incorporate into an SEO effort. However, a voice search might be “What’s the name of that new brewery in Scott’s Addition?” That is a much more complicated question and can be a challenge for marketers.

To improve voice search results, SEO efforts need to focus on general themes. This can be done by adding properly labeled photos and links as well as product reviews. The process is called schema and is incorporated right into the code. A 2014 study by Searchmetrics showed that 36.6% of Google search results incorporate schema markup but only 0.3% of websites incorporate schema markup into the code. There is a huge opportunity for marketers and web developers to better optimize their websites with schema.

Voice queries are often mobile and local

Most of the time voice searches are conducted from a mobile device and are aimed toward local inquiries. So, if marketers work for a restaurant or bar, they are more likely to need to think about voice searches. The general rule is that voice search optimization must answer the following questions — who, what, where, why, and how.

Focus on quality, not quantity

Even with the increased influence of voice searches, marketers must still focus on quality over quantity with content creation. One piece of original content that is grammatically correct and well researched holds more value within search engines than a dozen mediocre pieces. It’s worth a marketer’s time to properly research a topic and write something that adds value to the website.

FAQ content can be helpful

Voice searchers are often looking to have a trivia or factual question answered. To help with that, a marketer might consider an FAQ landing page. This is a page that answers basic questions about the business and can help the searcher answer a question. However, the marketer must be careful and make sure the FAQ page is not full of useless information. Organization is the key.

Focus on the long-tail search

The natural phrasing of a long-tail search is more relevant in a voice search. Marketers can still incorporate shorter phrases in keyword optimization, but it pays to spend the extra time to incorporate long-tail research into the keyword search process.

Only one answer given

A key difference between keyword searches and voice searches is the number of answers generated. A keyboard search can yield hundreds, if not thousands, of results. With a voice search, the voice recognition software will only respond with the best answer. Marketers have a much lower margin for error in this environment.

Account-based marketing (ABM) is one of the latest terms picking up steam in the B2B marketing community. While not an entirely new concept, ABM is both a complimentary and more targeted strategy than traditional demand generation.

ABM—when executed properly—is effective at helping firms create and sustain growth and profitability with both new and existing clients. Research from ITSMA found that over 80% of marketers who measure ROI say that ABM initiatives outperform other marketing investments.

Account-based marketing defined

Like most marketing concepts, the definition varies depending on who you ask. However, the underlying principals are consistent—ABM is a strategy focused on fewer, specific targets, as opposed to marketing to the masses.

Here’s a textbook definition of ABM provided by SiriusDecisions:

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a strategic approach marketers use to support a defined universe of accounts, including strategic accounts and named accounts. It also includes support for the post-sale customer lifecycle using marketing’s toolkit to contribute to the overall customer experience. ABM provides guidance on how to deliver the insights, goal setting, strategy and planning, integrated marketing execution, and sales alignment required to support growth, retention, and loyalty objectives. It also provides guidance on how to measure marketing’s impact beyond demand creation within defined groups of prospect and customer accounts. ABM helps to evolve the role of marketing to reflect a stronger alignment with sales objectives and customer needs to deliver better execution and revenue outcomes.

Engagio, an account-based marketing and sales software company offers up this succinct definition of ABM:

Account Based Marketing is a strategic approach that coordinates personalized marketing and sales efforts to open doors and deepen engagement at specific accounts.

While demand generation focuses on targeting specific personas or client types, ABM is hyper-focused on targeting specific personas at specific companies with which a firm wants to do business or is already engaged. It’s been described as fishing with a spear, as opposed to fishing with a net.

What B2B firms should consider ABM?

ABM is not a strategy that’s appropriate for all B2B firms. Those whose deals tend to be high-volume and lower-value in nature are better suited to a more traditional inbound approach. ABM, on the other hand, is ideally suited for B2B firms with long, complex sales cycles that often involve many stakeholders, and are typically high-value. These B2B firms are significantly less interested in appealing to the masses and tend to be much more laser-focused in their sales efforts.

Not just about marketing

At the heart of an ABM strategy is a close collaboration and alignment with a firm’s sales and business development efforts. Business development reps typically have their eye on landing specific clients and work to nurture relationships with those prospective companies through a number of activities. ABM works alongside of the sales team to assist in the nurturing of relationships. It’s a much more strategic and proactive response and creates a culture of alignment, breaking down traditional silos and ensuring that the marketing team is focused on the same priorities as the sales team.

Marketing to accounts, not leads

For the more complex B2B sale, it’s rarely ever one person making the ultimate decision. There are primary decision makers, of course, but there are also key influencers, end users, procurement departments and other stakeholders involved in the selection process as well. With that in mind, ABM focuses on the account or specific target client, instead of focusing solely on an individual lead.

“Salespeople talk about accounts, they talk about customers…they don’t talk about leads. Salespeople think about how they’re going to win accounts in the first place, then how they’re going to keep and grow those accounts.”
– Megan Heuer, SiriusDecisions

Aim small, miss small

ABM tends to be a more outbound exercise, as opposed to inbound. With ABM, you’re not waiting for target clients to land on your website, download an eBook and end up in your lead nurturing system. Instead, you put together a highly-personalized strategy (that leverages a myriad of demand generation tactics including content marketing, marketing automation, etc.) to reach out to your target clients directly. In a high-value, low-volume, complex sales environment, attracting masses of “top-of-funnel” contacts that may or may not be ideal prospects (or perhaps not a potential client at all) can often lead to wasted time and resources and low hit-rates.

Close more B2B deals with ABM

Because ABM focuses on specific target clients with high potential, marketing’s efforts are much more efficient and lead to better results. Research from Demandbase found that when firms leveraged ABM, it resulted in a 285% higher close rate for targeted enterprise accounts, and a 166% higher close rate for mid-market accounts.

Focusing on the entire client lifecycle

Retaining and growing existing client accounts is a top priority for most B2B firms, as repeat business is often the more desirable source of revenue. In fact, many B2B firms are increasingly taking a hard look at their Customer Lifetime Value and Customer Acquisition Cost metrics and are looking for effective ways to boost those numbers. ABM works to deploy marketing’s resources to assist. Instead of focusing solely on new clients as most traditional marketing efforts do, ABM focuses on leveraging marketing to grow existing clients as well.

It shouldn’t be either/or for B2B marketers

While some may see ABM as a replacement or alternative for demand generation marketing, ideally ABM is a complimentary marketing strategy that runs in conjunction with other broad-based marketing initiatives aimed at raising awareness and attracting unknown prospects. So there’s no need for firms to feel pressure to “pick a side;” rather your marketing strategy should be inclusive of divergent approaches. The truth is, demand generation and account-based marketing (or inbound and outbound to put it more simply) both have a place and serve different, yet important marketing needs.

Smart marketing is always en vogue

The fundamentals of modern marketing center around smarter marketing. This means relentlessly pursuing the right audience, with the right message and at the right time, all while adding value and seeking to influence the selection decision. ABM represents a potentially game-changing opportunity for B2B firms with high-value, lower volume and complex sales cycles to make a bigger impact in this pursuit by better aligning marketing and business development efforts and being more laser focused in their approach.

Working from a prospect list your boss hands you or, worse, a purchased list of leads will get you lots of hang-ups, a few tepid maybes and very few real prospects that turn into even fewer closed deals. And why should they talk to you? They have no idea who you are, they have no idea why they might need to talk to you and, frankly, they’re busy and you interrupted what they were doing when you called.

Attract them rather than chase them Windows 10 Home Key kaufen

With a carefully thought-out plan to share information on blogs, special offerings like ebooks, whitepapers and checklists – information that is useful and attractive to your best customers and prospects that look like them – inbound marketing is a great way to attract the kind of prospect who is already interested in what you offer.

Inbound marketing is a process, starting with research, through content creation and moving through the stages of attracting and nurturing leads, and finally to converting leads to customers.

inbound marketing path

Research will give you information – or additional information – about your target market. Even if you are simply looking to expand within a silo you’re already working, research can reveal specific words and phrases, questions and concepts that are the daily language of your target and which you can use to capture their attention.

Research will also help you craft your web and blog text to improve your organic SEO. It should be a constant throughout the process and at every step.

SEO (search engine optimization) comes from your content, which is the knowledge you share via blog posts, videos, case studies, tip sheets, and other special offerings we mentioned above. Your web copy will contain some of the words and phrases you discovered in your research. Elements of your website, such as new content, tags, metadata, links and other details, also improve your organic SEO.

Blogging attracts people who are searching for your expertise. If your content is robust and, most importantly, provides useful information that speaks to their concerns, people will subscribe to your blog. Answer the questions and concerns using the language your research discovered. Do not sell. Do not talk about what you do. Talk about what you know.

Once they sign up – boom! – they’ve just identified themselves as a prospect.

Social Media invites prospects to your website. Social media is a conversation and, like any good conversation, it isn’t all about you. Engage with other thought leaders, clients and prospects to share information. An invitation to follow, like or connect encourages an interested person to become a qualified prospect.

Social media is also the broadcast channel to let people know about all the good stuff you have on your website and in your blogs and how to find it. Talking about others’ ideas is only good social media manners.

Landing pages are the locked gates to your in-depth info, and a key to your inbound success. The info you are giving away has a small price: the recipient’s name and email address. Different kinds of content will appeal to prospects and customers at different points of their purchasing journey.

When they are simply researching their options, a guide, a comparison chart or something similar would be useful to them. A case study is likely to be read when they are in the deciding stage of their journey.

Email, when it is permission based, is the tool for staying in touch with useful information and links to more in-depth info, special offers, links to blogs, invitations, news and more. When the message is properly targeted, it will have a 62 percent better chance of being clicked on than a non-targeted email. It’s the research you started with that will help you target your message.

Don’t bother with purchasing an email list. At best, a large percentage of the list will be out of date or your carefully crafted message will end up in their spam folder. At worst, you’ll be shut down for sending spam and your email account will be suspended or cancelled.

Don’t you hate getting junk emails from someone you don’t know for a product you don’t want or need? Of course you do. So, why send it?

Getting to know you

What’s the point of all this activity if none of it results in a direct sale? You’re cultivating a relationship and sharing knowledge. You’re demonstrating your expertise. You’re building a relationship. You’re building trust.

You’re making it easy for your sales team to close the deal. According to a survey conducted by Hubspot, in six months, inbound marketing resulted in almost twice as many web visitors and 2.69 times more leads. The conversion rate for lead to sales was a whopping 73 percent higher compared to all respondents, and 69 percent of survey respondents saw increased sales revenues. Isn’t that a worthwhile goal?

Let’s Talk About: Facebook’s new “Reactions” functionality.

Facebook recently released new “Reactions” to use when interacting with posts. Beyond just “liking” a post, you can now select “love,” “haha,” “wow,” “sad,” and “angry.”

Mark Zuckerberg described the new feature like this:
“Today is our worldwide launch of Reactions — the new Like button with more ways to express yourself. Not every moment you want to share is happy. Sometimes you want to share something sad or frustrating. Our community has been asking for a dislike button for years, but not because people want to tell friends they don’t Like their posts. People wanted to express empathy and make it comfortable to share a wider range of emotions.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the right way to do this with our team. One of my goals was to make it as simple as pressing and holding the Like button. The result is Reactions, which allow you to express love, laughter, surprise, sadness or anger.

Love is the most popular reaction so far, which feels about right to me!”

When it comes to measuring engagement, the Facebook Newsroom announced that each of these new reactions will be counted as a Like. (Although it appears that Facebook plans on letting brands view engagements broken out by reactions on the Insights tab in the future.)

Our POV:

This is one of the biggest game-changers that Facebook has introduced to its UX since it started in 2004. We say “big” because it greatly influences how users engage with the platform. Even though it’s a relatively minor function, it still has greater implications.

For users, it means we can mark the stories that matter most to us, and our Newsfeed could potentially react to that data. By telling Facebook not just what you like to see (or don’t like to see) – but how you’re FEELING about it – they can start serving you with content that takes your shared mood into account, or perhaps content that just feels more personalized.

For brands, the changes could impact their content and their ad targeting. Although Facebook’s current plan is to count everything as a Like, brands would benefit from more granular insights into the type of emotions associated with specific content. Users can tell us if our content is relevant to them, or not. Obviously if users “love” a post, it’s content that they want to see more of, which is something the content strategist can chalk up as a home run. But now, if your users only Like a post, we have to wonder: was it really worth posting at all?

We also begin to wonder how this will influence the Facebook sphere overall. Will people begin to judge their friends’ reactions to their posts? Will this start to turn people away from the platform? Or, will we start to see the number of engagements increase now that users can assign a specific emotion when a generic Like wouldn’t have worked in the past? Only time will tell, but we suspect that it won’t have huge negative implications. Hopefully, the new reactions will lead to deeper insights into the true sentiment behind a Like, which should mean improved content for all.

Reactions from Creators:

Kat, Copywriter & Strategist: I can’t wait to start seeing reactions to our client content! I’m excited about the prospect of getting more insight into how users are feeling about social content we create, particularly when it comes to copy. I’m wondering if we can “test” content (or make recommendations) based on reactions.

Christen, Strategist: I’m hoping reactions will help us better understand what a brand’s users are feeling or thinking. Some may be concerned about having too many choices, but in this case, I think it’s a welcome change. Users have been practically begging Facebook for more than a Like, and they finally delivered!

Sarah, Art Director: From a UX perspective, I know this was a huge undertaking. I’m excited by the simplicity of their solution and look forward to seeing how their initial decisions evolve over time. It looks like the ‘yay’ emoji didn’t make the cut, so I will be rallying for it’s future inclusion.

 

Business cards are sometimes the only connection to a prospect. When reviewing business cards, many prospects will only reach out to a few contacts. A well-made and thoughtful business card can make a significant impression. If your business card doesn’t stand out, then you may well be overlooked.

Many businesses look for the cheapest and quickest option for business cards, not realizing that a business card may be one of their most important marketing tools. An eye-catching and easy-to-read design, paired with a high-quality stock and interesting texture, could make all the difference in the world between a brand new client and radio silence.

Here are some creative ways to make your business cards stand out in a crowd.

1. Use a unique material

There are a million different types of paper out there, and yet most business cards use your standard white card stock. Try looking at heavier weights of paper that will make your card feel more stable (these are also easier to slide into a wallet and less likely to bend). Look at different colors – white isn’t the only option! Papers come in a variety of colors, textures and subtle patterns that can make or break a design. And who said you even needed to use paper? Business cards have come a long way in recent years, and many can be found made of lightweight plastic, cotton, wood and even metal!

2. Create texture through technique

Humans are tactile creatures, so adding texture to your business card with unique papers (#1) or through printing techniques can really elevate the design. Embossing your company logo on the back of the card or using letterpress engraving are all ways to make your card feel different in the hands of a prospect. This will almost guarantee getting a second look and standing out.

3. Try a different shape or dimension

All business cards don’t have to be the standard 3.5” x 2” rectangle. Do something different by adding rounded corners or making them a unique size. You could even create a completely custom shape. If you can incorporate the shape of the company’s logo or an element of the brand, you could really differentiate your company from your competitors.

And if you are willing to spend a little more, then making your business card three-dimensional is a great way to have it stand out.

4. Clear, concise information

Ultimately, your business card needs to serve the purpose of clearly providing contact information. Legible typography with a clear hierarchy of content should be a given. And if you want to urge prospects to contact you in a certain manner, then let that detail standout (i.e. bold your main phone number).

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While you may not be able to get 5,000 cards for $5, spending a little extra money on a unique business card could mean beating out your competition by getting the first call from a prospect. Having an interesting business card shows a potential client that you pay attention to detail, have a creative eye and put out high-quality work – all the way down to your business cards.

Blogging is a cornerstone of content marketing and can be highly effective at attracting prospects and building relationships with them. But not every company is seeing success from their blogging efforts and there are some common issues that are likely to blame.

Many companies have a blog but are not seeing the results they had hoped for or expected. And while there are many reasons why business blogs fail, there are a handful that seem to be the most prominent. Here’s a list of 6 common reasons your business blog could be failing and some steps you can take to remedy the issues.

1. It’s not focused on prospects and customers.

One of the most common reasons for a failing blog is that it doesn’t focus on the very people companies are trying to reach. A blog should be a platform for educating, informing and engaging prospects and customers with content that is focused on their wants, needs and interests.  Many blogs feature little more than repurposed press releases, company news or posts that discuss topics that are irrelevant to prospects and customers. A business blog is not the place to talk about your company or accolades, nor should it be a platform for glorified advertising copy. The purpose of your blog should be to educate and inform buyers through every stage of the customer lifecycle, not to sell your services or products.

Remedy this issue by:

• Developing buyer personas to better understand your audience
• Focusing on the issues, questions, concerns and pain points of prospects
• Demonstrating your company’s expertise and building thought leadership

2. It lacks strategy and goals.

Many companies make the mistake of launching a blog without the proper strategic considerations. Without a roadmap that dictates who you’re writing for, what messages you’re trying to convey and what you’re trying to accomplish, your blog is much less likely to achieve success. Understanding how your blog fits into a larger content marketing strategy is crucial and will greatly impact everything you do on your blog.  Additionally, without setting goals, objective and metrics, you’ll never know how well you’re doing and what you can do to improve.

Remedy this issue by:

• Tying your blog to a documented content marketing strategy
• Setting specific goals and objectives for your blog
• Identifying key performance indicators (KPIs)

3.  It lacks substance and quality.

One of the aspirations of content marketing is to create remarkable content that people find valuable and helpful and are willing to spend time reading and sharing. However, many business blogs simply lack substance. While the topics and titles might drive interest, the actual blog posts fall short of delivering tangible knowledge and benefit to the readers. And lackluster writing, spelling errors and keyword abuse also plague many blogs, and therefore erode the credibility of the blog (and your company) and keep visitors from returning.

Remedy this issue by:

• Focusing on writing quality, share-worthy blog posts
• Not just teasing a topic, but giving substantial insight
• Having your blog articles edited and proofread by a solid writer

4. It’s not updated regularly.

We’ve all seen blogs that haven’t been updated in weeks, months or even years. But one of the keys to successful blogging (and content marketing, SEO and online marketing) is consistent and regular content creation. When a blog is rarely updated, or goes through phases of frequency and infrequency, it’s simply not going to attract and build an audience, nor help you achieve any of the goals you’ve outlined for your content marketing program. In fact, an outdated blog will prevent you from gaining loyal readers and turn away any new visitors as well.

Remedy this issue by:

• Prioritizing the creation of fresh, regular content on your blog
• Aiming to post at least once per week; ideally 2-3 times per week
• Maintaining consistency in publishing even during the holidays, vacation season, etc.

5. It’s doesn’t drive website traffic or generate leads.

If any of the other issues we’ve previously discussed are present, it’s highly unlikely that your blog is going to drive substantial website traffic or generate leads. With the evolution of SEO and search algorithms, it’s not about stuffing your posts with keywords, but rather posting regular, high-quality content that answers questions and provides the information your target audience is looking for. But in addition to getting the content right, many companies do not adequately promote their blogs on social media channels or make it easy for readers to share posts on their social networks. Lastly, while generating leads is the end goal of content marketing, many blogs fail to include calls-to-action or provide readers a way to subscribe to the blog to receive ongoing updates and communication.

Remedy this issue by:

• Focusing less on keywords and more on overall content and context
• Adding share buttons to each blog post and promote on social media
• Including calls-to-action and linking to other pages of your website
• Offering a subscription sign-up for readers to opt-in

6. It lacks corporate buy-in.

At the end of the day, blogging (and content marketing in general) absolutely requires top-down support in order to be successful. While the concept of blogging for business is quite simple, the execution isn’t. Blogging at a high level takes a lot of time, resources and energy, in addition to subject-matter expertise, good writing and strong visuals. So everyone from the CEO down to the marketing department needs to buy into not just the benefits of blogging, but the understanding that it’s going to demand persistence and patience to do it successfully.

Remedy this issue by:

• Viewing your blog as an ongoing program, not a short-term campaign
• Devoting the necessary resources (internal and external)
• Helping everyone in the company understand the goals and objectives

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When executed properly, blogging can be a powerful tool for companies to use as a cornerstone of their content marketing program. By avoiding these common issues and being both persistent and patient, you’ll have a solid foundation on which to grow your audience and start building relationships online.