The importance of a carefully crafted message cannot be underestimated in its power to deliver effective marketing.

When many people think about conversion optimization, the first thing that comes to mind are the functional elements like the call-to-action or placement and sizes of buttons, images and forms. However, no amount of a/b testing of the placement of these components will deliver the results if the overall message is not impactful and compelling.

How well you craft your message can be many times more important than anything else you put on the page.

Messaging in context – a powerful change agent
In early 2016, we were engaged by a client in the hospitality space to help them improve their marketing and grow their customer inquiries. We started the engagement with a thorough assessment and strategic planning project.

  • We interviewed key stakeholders
  • Combed through customer survey responses
  • Reviewed prior marketing materials
  • Analyzed website data; and
  • Monitored customer interactions

We were looking for the moment of truth of why some prospects said yes while others walked away. Our discovery led to a hypothesis that increasing the prospect trust in the company would enhance their engagement. We believed that if prospects trusted that the company was there to help them, they were more likely to move past their initial reluctance to engage.

With this hypothesis in hand, we worked with our copy team to craft a series of ads to test different variations of offer and trust messaging. Within each group, we tested further variations of these themes. In all other elements, the ads were similar.

The results of these focused messaging tests were telling with the trust oriented messages beating all other variations. Within a few months, we saw a 221 percent increase in website visits and a 321 percent increase in new prospect inquiries showing that the right message can have a significant impact.

Customizing the message based on audience
In another campaign, we were working with a global talent firm to reach key decision-makers in the North American, European, and Asia Pacific regions.

The campaign was based on a series of content offers utilizing some of the key learnings the client had gathered in their work helping companies find, train and manage great talent.

The campaign launched with good results across North American and Europe. However, downloads were trailing in the Asia Pacific region. After monitoring user behavior on the site, we discovered that the audience from the Asia Pacific region was spending a lot of time trying to learn more about the company.

Using this information, we circled with the copy team and crafted revised landing page messaging specifically for this region that demonstrated not only the value of the content offer but also provided more about the brand that was behind the offer. The results were almost immediate with conversion rates rising to those similar to what we were experiencing in North America and Europe.

While it’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of a marketing campaign, do not forget the importance and power of great messaging for delivering results.

The purpose of marketing strategy is to set a direction or blueprint that all tactics and executions can be aligned behind to drive toward an agreed goal. Traditionally, this has been the work that goes on at the beginning of a new initiative or campaign.

We have our list strategy and our content strategy, our digital strategy and our acquisition and retention strategies. But where is our strategy that connects to the entire buyer journey?

The problem with a tactics-first strategy is what do you do if the landscape changes?

Good strategy is not a set of tactics, but an approach to help surprise and delight your buyer.

A smarter strategy is about doing less but impacting more by getting to the essence of how your brand can help solve not the thing your buyer thinks they want to buy but the root of why they really need it.

One consumer in the market for a car doesn’t need a car — they need a reliable method of making it to work on time and, maybe more importantly, home on time to be with their family. Another consumer doesn’t need transportation but is instead looking for a touch of excitement or luxury that makes their otherwise unbearable commute just a little more endurable.

The outcome in both of these situations may be the same — a new car — but the why is totally different. A powerful marketing strategy is about solving very specific needs of very specific audiences.

A few things to keep in mind when crafting your strategy

Understand the needs of each of your buyer personas
Each persona is unique with different base needs and motivations. Understand how your brand can help them achieve their goals and you have a good start to achieving your goals.

Connected paths
Even if you understand your buyer’s needs and how your brand can help solve them, remember that it may not be obvious to your buyer. Help them learn how amazing your brand is through education and helpful content that guides them down a path of discovery.

The best strategies are written in pencil not pen
Trends change, technology changes and surface needs change, but base motivations are more permanent. Your approach for how you will connect to these needs to be agile and flexible. This is why strategy belongs throughout the entire product cycle, not just in the planning phase at the beginning.

Realize that you don’t know everything
No matter how many interviews you conduct or user observations you make, there is always more to learn. Be open to new insights throughout the process. There’s magic waiting that will make your brand just that much stronger.

Connecting your marketing strategy to the entire buyer journey will not just help you understand your customer better but also show you how you can connect in a meaningful and impactful manner.

Deciding which types of marketing are best for your company is never an easy task. The number of digital marketing channels has exploded over the past few years. Display, social, content, blogging, email marketing, paid search, the list goes on and on.

But the question really isn’t about what is the best; it’s about what is the best for your target buyer. On top of this, what’s right in the beginning when you need to build awareness is totally different from what’s needed later in the buyers’ cycle when you are trying to close the sale.
So how do you decide where to start? Start by asking yourself a few simple questions about the different stages you need to influence your buyer.

Attract Stage:

What is it going to take to attract buyers to discover your company and see you as a viable option for the challenge they are trying to solve?
Q: Do you offer a product in a recognized category? Do you sell through an ecommerce site?
A: In this case attraction is all about getting in front of buyers who are already considering a purchase. SEO and Pay-Per-Click ads like Google’s Adwords program may be right for you.

Q: Do you typically sell to other businesses and have a relatively long sales cycle?
A: Many B2B buyers are very deliberate and will research well ahead of being willing to connect with a sales team. One of the most effective ways to attract these buyers is to draw them in is with an informative blogging effort that helps them understand there is a better way to solve their challenge.

Conversion Stage:

You have someone on your site but traffic alone won’t bring you sales. This is why focusing on conversion types of marketing tactics may just be the most important of all.

Q: Do you sell to consumers through retail channels or other avenues?
A: Digital display marketing coupled with a smart application of retargeting technology can keep you front and center with your buyer till they’re ready to make a purchase.

Q: Are you getting plenty of traffic to your website, but very few visitors fill out your contact us or request a demo forms?
A: Most of the visitors to your site are in research not purchasing mode when they visit. Trying to get them to commit to that sales call without offering any value first is doomed to failure. Instead look at ways to engage these early stage visitors by offering premium content like an eBook, checklist or how-to guide. Put these behind a landing page with a form and you will begin the conversion process.

Close Stage:

The last step of any deal is getting the final agreement. This may be getting your buyer to sign the agreement, or pull out their credit card.

Q: Is your customer base very socially engaged and your buyer very connected?
A: Look at how you can use social media and ratings to generate social proof and third party endorsement.

Q: Do you have a lot of leads, but following up with them is a slow and manual process?
A: Leveraging lead nurturing or drip marketing will help move your buyer through the funnel. You can also use the process to learn more about these buyers and help qualify them for connection and close.

Digital marketing has opened a wealth of channels for companies to reach their buyer. All of them are not right for every company, but some could be just right.

We all have our insider language and acronyms. Marketers will talk endlessly about things like SEO, UX, CTR, CPA, KPI and more. Sales counters with the need for BANTPPVVCGPCTABC and my personal favorite MMC. But what are we really getting at?

Time to move beyond the typical marketing language and get right to the questions your Sales VP really wishes you would ask about the sales pipeline.

For all our talk about awareness, visibility and engagement what we really need to focus on are the things that will help move the revenue needle. This starts with building a partnership between sales and marketing. To establish this partnership it’s critical to understand what sales teams are up against in trying to close more deals.

5 Questions you should be asking about the sales pipeline before you kick off your campaign.

Remember, your Sales VP doesn’t really care about traditional marketing measurements like impressions or site visits. They care about the things that will help them succeed and so should you. This starts with asking the right questions.

1. What is the revenue target we are trying to hit and when are we trying to hit it?

More than any other part of the organization, sales live and die by their number. As marketers we need to know what it is and how you can help them reach it.

2. Who is the ideal buyer?

Marketers understand personas, demographics, and many also get the importance of knowing the psychographics of the target audience. However are you paying close enough attention to the firmagraphics of the ideal B2B buyer?

Firmagraphics include things like industry, employee size, geography, revenue, ownership structure, organizational structure (who are the influencers, and who are the decision makers), etc.

3. What are the 5 questions prospects always ask?

Are there any critical questions buyers always ask? Are there any misconceptions that need to be overcome to make the sale? Marketing can help qualify prospects and educate potential buyers, but only if we know what needs to be overcome.

4. What are the compelling reasons that move buyers to actively seek a solution?

This is all about getting to the real reason buyers are researching. This is a perfect place to work through a “Pain Chain” with the team. What is the real challenge and how is it impacting the organization.

5. When we win, why? When we lose, why?

Are there other indicators that will help identify and qualify what leads are good fits, and which ones are bad fits. How can we better identify the pain points of buyers and who are the influencers and decision makers we need to influence? How can we more effectively demonstrate the vision and value of our solution as the answer to solving our prospects problems?

Bonus Question:

What is happening with leads that are not actively being worked in the sales pipeline?

The sales team only has so many hours in a week. The good ones will ruthlessly prioritize which leads they will work and which they will not. Needs matter, budget matters, and above all, timing matters. This means there will always be some qualified leads that just aren’t ready to move forward because of timing. Maybe their budgets aren’t approved yet, maybe they’re in a contract with another provider for another 6 months. Sales people don’t always have time to follow up individually on these longer-term prospects. Ask if marketing can help nurture these longer term prospects till they are ready for a sales conversation.

Bottom line, to build a stronger partnership between sales and marketing, ask how you can help the team be more successful and rely less on the oldest of sale strategies: MMC “Make More Calls”.

The temptation for anyone working on a promotional strategy for a new product or sales campaign is to shortcut the important planning and strategy steps and jump to tactics.

It usually starts with the boss asking something like, “We need more leads FAST. Can we do a [Fill In Trendy Viral Tactic Here]?”

Yes, it’s important for marketers to be agile and quickly pivot when new needs or opportunities arise, but if we only focus on short-term tactics we risk negatively impacting the program’s long-term success.

If you want your promotional strategy to hit a target you need to know where to aim.

Step 1: Start with your buyer, their needs and challenges

It’s important to think about the buyer both as an individual, and how they are impacted by other challenges within their organization. When you understand WHY they are looking for a solution, it’s a lot easier to work on HOW you can attract them.
If you haven’t put together a buyer persona for your target buyer, this is the first place you should start.

Step 2: Don’t skip the creative brief

Yes, it’s easy to assume that everyone understands the project, but too many times this isn’t the case. Be sure everyone working on the project understands a few important facts.

  • What is the quantifiable goal you are trying to achieve?
  • Who is the target audience and what are their motivations?
  • What does your buyer think about the product or service now?
  • What do you want them to think?
  • Why should they, what are the proof points that will back up the message being developed?
  • What is the personality that your campaign needs to bring across

Working with an extended team is always easier when you have a plan.

Step 3: Think across channels and tactics

Sometimes senior leadership will ask for specific marketing tactics. These can be the right ones, but it’s also possible that others are a better fit. Your promotional strategy needs to be channel neutral. Maybe a social media contest really is the right fit, but it’s also possible that other promotions like content marketing or even pay-per-click could be better.

Step 4: Have a plan for engagement and nurturing

Many marketers have trouble thinking beyond awareness and website traffic building. While these are critical, it’s more important to think about what happens next. Be sure your plan includes how visitors can be engaged to become leads and nurtured to become sales-ready conversations. Your management team will be much happier talking about sales pipelines rather than just looking at site traffic stats (as awesome as those may be).

Step 5: Know how you will measure success

This last step may be the most important of all. Understand how you will measure success before you get started with any campaign. This includes taking baseline measurements before the campaign, monitoring throughout the campaign and reporting the results afterwards. Having quantifiable results will do wonders for getting management behind you for your next campaign.

Building out a solid promotional strategy takes a lot of thinking and work, but if you follow a few best practice steps at the beginning, the outcome will provide better results at the end of the campaign.

I’m sure by now you have heard about Google’s update and how many have suffered the wrath of the Panda. The aim of their Panda and Penguin updates have been to remove poor quality sites from the top of Google’s search page.

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of spam, stated it in a blog post announcing Panda:
“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

In order to have a strategic marketing plan for your website and avoid being stalked by the Panda, check out these 5 marketing strategies to help you develop a great website:

1. Evaluate the content on your site and make changes to improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Make a list of your different types of pages including quality articles, low quality articles, products, blog post, etc. Put the list in a column and start creating a table within a spreadsheet. Add columns for relevant factors like ads, little content and percentage drop in Google US organic visits. Fill in the values for each type of page and look at how much of your site it taken up by your lowest quality pages.

2. Don’t copy from another site’s content but replace it with quality original content. You can test this by removing some of the pages and adding 301’s from them to relevant pages up your site’s hierarchy.

3. Offer users more when they first enter a page. Use images, videos, attractive text and pages linking to your best, related editorial content.

4. Promote your content on social media including Twitter and Facebook-create a media presence with quality content. Promotion is sharing what your content has to offer and making sure that it gets distributed to the people that want to see it. By using the various social media channels, you can circulate content and put your brand in front of potential clients or new audiences.

5. Build your brand awareness of your company. Building a connected brand requires creative and strategic thinking. Start with blogging and add free content like ebooks, templates or infographics. Your brand tells the story of who you are and your personality should shine through.
Make as many of these changes as quickly as you can. With your content improving, you should be able to improve your strategic marketing plan to overcome the Panda.

The promise of content marketing is that it is a non-spammy way to attract visitors to a website. Done well, demonstrating knowledge and expertise in a way that your prospect will find helpful, you will leave them asking for more.

However, if it stops with your website, you may have drawn more visitors, but you’re unlikely to convert them to sales ready conversations. To take a good content marketing program to a great content marketing program takes a few well-placed email marketing tips.

1. Buyer Focused: “I care because…?”

It’s critical to be clear in your communication how your buyer will benefit. If they can easily answer “What’s in it for me”, then you have a chance. If they can’t see how they will benefit by opening your email or reading your content, then they won’t.

Before you start working on your program, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I want my buyer to think?
  • Why should they, what tangible information supports this?
  • What is the ONE thing my buyer should take away?

2. On Demand: Work on their timing, not yours

Let’s say a prospective buyer downloads a guide about new technology trends in your industry.  In the old days you’d add them to your quarterly newsletter list and have the sales team try to connect to schedule a demo.

A better approach is to setup an automatic follow up email series based on their demonstrated interest while it’s still fresh in their minds. Show them how they can learn more about the advantages of technology with an offer to download a more detailed eBook about leveraging new technology to improve profitability.

Since the buyer is still in early stage research, showing them how they do something better will pull them closer, while going for a premature close could just drive them away.

3.  Contextual Messaging: Start on topic and in context

Your buyer has connected with your company because of something that interested them. Whether it was an article on your blog, an eBook, or even something in social. It wasn’t the channel, but the content they found in that channel.

What was the topic that piqued their interest? Use that as the entry for your email to connect and continue the conversation.

An Example of Putting These Email Marketing Tips in Action.

After downloading one of the available whitepapers the follow up connected first about the content the buyer had downloaded, then introduced a case study offer. Even better, the case study was perfectly matched with the questions the buyer had answered about their primary challenges.

4.  Responsive Design: Be prepared for no matter the device

People are talking about the importance of mobile friendly websites. However mobile friendly email may be even more important.

In a study released by Knotice and reported on MarketingProfs, depending on industry, as much as 55% of all marketing email is now being opened on a mobile devise. We now have access to recipients at a wide variety of times. The problem is mobile click through rates are significantly lower than desktop. According to the Knotice report, the drop was as much as 50% lower click through for mobile opens. A big part of the problem is emails being sent that aren’t mobile friendly.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind About Email for Mobile

  • Simplicity: Smaller screen means you have less space for long messages. Keep your emails short to make them easier to read on the small screen.
  • Clear calls to action: Take out the guess work by making it easy for the reader to know what to do next
  • Go easy on font sizes: Not everyone has telescopic vision. Small screens make it that more difficult.

5.  Smart Personalization: Make it an actual conversation

Virtually every email program allows personalization on more than just a Hello <Name Here> level. However most marketers aren’t using personalization anywhere near it’s potential.

In a test conducted by HubSpot, personalizing an email based on name saw an increase in click through by around 20% (from 5.8% to 7%). Even more impressive, personalizing with the recipient’s company name improved click through by nearly double. (7.5% to 15%)

So where else can you leverage personalization. Think about:

  • Subject line – on name or company when relevant
  • Email from line (make the it appear to be from their account manager)
  • In a headline, or directly within the “ask” because of your support in <year here> we were able to…

Where shouldn’t you use personalization? Anywhere it feels unnatural, or with any data that doesn’t add to the conversation and enhance the connection.

So are you ready to make your content marketing shine? Be sure to build in a few of these email marketing tips into your communication follow-ups.

Turn back the clock a few years; choices were pretty lean for content management systems or CMS that would help the marketing team develop great creative websites they could manage themselves without needing a developer for simple updates.

Today, WordPress with over 60% of the CMS market stands out as the primary choice for many companies. It’s an open source platform giving developers a lot of flexibility to build great sites. There are also hundreds of great plugins to add more functionality into the site.


Source: W3 Techs – Web Technology Surveys

For the past three years we’ve used HubSpot for our marketing automation. However, our agency’s website was on WordPress and we were very happy with the CMS. But times and technology changes and we recently moved off of WordPress and built a new website on HubSpot’s content management system also sometimes called a content optimization system.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still a number of great features on WordPress that depending on your business could make it the right choice. For others it might be time to look beyond WordPress.

Comparing WordPress vs. HubSpot for building creative websites


1. Creative Templates

Not everyone can afford the cost to develop a fully custom website. Sometimes what’s needed is a great creative template that can then inexpensively be updated with images, fonts, colors, etc. for the company’s needs.

With sites like Theme Forest, WordPress has the competition beat with hundreds of inexpensive creative templates available to start building a great site. HubSpot does have a template market place that is growing, but currently has nowhere near the choices you’ll find for a WordPress website. WordPress will also typically have a low initial cost but maybe all of the long-term potential value you can get from a HubSpot CMS site.

Advantage: WordPress
More available templates – lower initial costs

2. Apps & Plugins

Adding functionality into a site with plugins and apps can really help build out the features of a site. WordPress has a wide variety of both free and paid plugins that cover a range of functionality. Meanwhile HubSpot being a closed system has many features already build in so purchasing additional apps isn’t as big an issue.

At first you’d assume that WordPress’ larger market would make this an easy choice. However the open nature of the WordPress plugins means that sometimes they’re not compatible and can bring your site down if they don’t play well together.

Advantage: Tied
Broad availability of plugins for WordPress, more built-in stability for HubSpot

3. Dynamic Personalization

Being able to customize a site based on the behavior of a visitor is a huge advance in personalization. The functionally use to come with a huge price tag through applications like Omniture’s Test and Target M Boxes. However, recently HubSpot introduced “Smart Content” as a standard feature in their COS Site Pages. Nothing like it exists in WordPress.

The Smart Content sections let marketers serve up different messages, content, visuals totally based on who the visitors is and what might be interesting to them. We’ve understood the power of personalization in email and direct mail for years. Now you can do the same thing in your site.

Advantage: HubSpot
Greater personalization capabilities based on visitor interactions

4. Post Development Changes / Edits

Sometimes creativity isn’t all about look and feel. Some of the most creative websites are those that are agile and able to change as markets change and customers look for new things. If you are stuck with a static design template, you may not be able to make the adjustments you need to take advantage of the opportunity.

HubSpot’s site pages templates make it easy for non-developers to make changes to layouts, and content sections without needing to know a ton about coding. It can be an easy drag and drop exercise to make the changes you want in HubSpot

Advantage: HubSpot
Easier post live adjustments and changes to page layout and setup

So while beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, for me having the ability to dynamically personalize the user experience and easily make other site changes can make for the most creative websites – the ones you can control.

Too many campaigns are launched without setting clear marketing objectives upfront. In 6 months when you look back, how will you know you were successful if you don’t have clarity on what you were looking to accomplish from the beginning?

Recently, I was asked to be one of the judges for the American Marketing Association-Houston Chapter’s 28th Annual Crystal Awards. The Crystal Awards are Houston’s premier marketing event that honors the vision and strategic direction of the city’s best marketing work. The awards are about results and marketing objectives as much as they are about creativity.

I was impressed with many of the entries and their smart approaches to solving real problems for their organizations. Unfortunately, I was also left scratching my head by others that didn’t have clear marketing objectives or solid analytics to measure whether the campaign had actually delivered on it’s stated goals.

“Build greater visibility in the market” is nice, but it isn’t a measurable goal that is tied to an outcome that will drive bottom line results for the company.

4 questions to ask when building your marketing objectives that will put the campaign on the path to success.

1. What is the problem we are trying to solve?

This one seems obvious but it is the first place many people go wrong. Be very clear about exactly what you are trying to accomplish. For example:

  • Generate 20% more new sales in the 3rd quarter
  • Increase average revenue per sale by 30% over prior year
  • Deliver a 40% increase in repeat sales within the healthcare sector clients

A measurable and quantifiable target in the very beginning will make all the difference in the success of your program, as it will keep you focused on what matters most.

2. How have we tried to solve this challenge in the past?

Everyone wants the breakthrough revolutionary idea that will make all the difference. Truth is most of what we do is more about evolution rather than revolution. In your planning, think about what can you learn from prior mistakes or improve on earlier successes.

3. How will we measure if it was a success?

If you want to build ongoing success you need to have clarity on how you will measure that success. The tools you need are dependent on your activities and objectives.

  • Web analytics like Google Analytics will help measure overall traffic
  • Tracking URL’s can compare effectiveness of different activities
  • Webmaster tools will provide insight into keyword impact and SEO
  • Landing page metrics provides the ability to convert traffic to leads
  • Marketing automation measures conversion of leads to sales conversations

Just be sure you work out the reporting requirements you will need before you start your campaign so everything is in place and ready when you launch.

4. Can it be turned into a repeatable, sustainable program?

It’s awesome if you can deliver a successful results oriented campaign once. But the real trick is to do it again and again. Part of your marketing objectives should include how you scale the program into the future.

Answering these simple questions for your campaign will help ensure it is developed in a way that gives you the best opportunity for success.

Google Plus is becoming a more important part of growing your business and making connections….even though you don’t feel like it is the trendy place to be. The question is this the year it becomes a real part of your company’s social media package instead of just an after thought?

Similar to Facebook and Twitter, Google Plus offers you the opportunity to create a business page to promote your business, organization or a specific product. The Google Plus community is growing in numbers and you can take advantage of a Google Plus page to get your business to a wider audience.

Why it should be a part of your company’s social media package

When you create a post on Google Plus, it creates a new web page just for your post. And, with that, a good chance the page will show up in Google search results, which could be enough reasons alone to take Google Plus posts seriously.

And more…

Google Plus is a social layer of Google that the company is merging into all its services. It is a way for people to share their thoughts, feelings and content across all Google products.

In 2013, Google search hosted roughly 79 percent to 81 percent of Internet searches in the U.S., according to StatCounter, in an article published in the Raleigh News Observer.

Launched in 2011, Google Plus has more than 300 million active monthly users, compared to 540 million active monthly users of Google services, according to statistics released last fall. Over the years, Google Plus users have evolved from tech geeks and social media marketers, to brands building their own Google Plus empires.

Two great Google Plus apps that will bring people in

1. Communities – allows groups around the world to share interests. Groups could be families, businesses, book clubs etc. Groups allow people to share new, ideas, and make new connections.

2. Hangouts – enables group meetings, discussion, or demonstrations. This feature is unique to Google Plus; Facebook and Twitter don’t offer this. Hangouts encourage sharing photos and messages anytime. Any Hangout can turn into a live video call with up to 10 friends or you can search for a contact to start a voice call from your computer. We’ve actually started using hangouts recently for internal meetings instead of conference calls.

If you link your Google Plus profile to your website, it has potential to display your recently published blog posts and news stories within the search results. Share your content and re-share quality content in your community.

So for us, Google Plus is likely to become a larger part of our overall social media package, the question is how quickly will others join.