This Blog Is Written By The Content Authority

Navigation
CATEGORY: Internet Marketing

How to Develop an Email Marketing Strategy

Effective Email Marketing CampaignsYou probably send out hundreds of emails every day, but when you are doing it all at once and to market your business, some careful planning is required. How will you build the list of people you are emailing? What messaging will you present to them? How will you get them to take action? All of these questions can be answered when you create an email marketing strategy.

Building Your List

If you already have a list, feel free to skip to the next section. If not, this should be the first task in your overall marketing strategy. There are many creative ways to build lists. You can tap databases that you, your company or colleagues may already have, you can offer content, and if you are in a hurry or all else fails, you can buy a list.

Offer Valuable Content

A great way to build an email list is to offer content that your target market will want to download. For example, an eBook or how-to guide that people can gain access to if they provide an email is perfect. Keep in mind that the content should be targeted at people whose email would be valuable to have for your business purposes. Another possible source of content could be newsletters or blogs produced by you or your company.

Collect Emails from Other Sources

You may have contact forms on your website or on other web properties. Having a simple check box on these forms (assuming you get a decent amount of traffic) is a good way to get form submitters to opt into receiving other communications from you.

Buying Lists

If you can’t generate your own lists or don’t have the time, you can always buy lists from sources online. There are a variety of companies that sell leads for various markets. Typically, these can be purchased at a relatively low cost and (depending on the business you buy from) can be very credible leads.

goalDetermine Your Goals

Once you have your list squared away, figure out what your goals are for your campaign. You can fall flat on your face with any marketing campaign if you don’t set good goals up front. I am a fan of S.M.A.R.T. goals myself. These are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Here are some examples of common goals to get you started:

  • Buying a product
  • Buying a service
  • Using a coupon code to purchase something
  • Starting and completing a longer conversion funnel on a website
  • Interacting with a social media account
  • Watch a video

Your Target Market

Target MarketKnowing your target market is arguably one of the most important aspects of any marketing campaign. Marketing is messaging and communication. If form follows function, then the target market is the function and your message is the form that is shaped by it. As you plan your campaign, look for information that will help you with your specific market. Below is a list of broad markets that should be approached differently:

  • B2B vs B2C
  • Young adults vs older demographics
  • Women vs men
  • Consumers vs professionals

This list is meant to give you an idea of where to start and is by no means a comprehensive collection. If your audience is not receptive to your message because it doesn’t apply to them, you will never sell anything through email marketing. You should take your audience into account in virtually every step of the process from buying or building your email list to crafting your message to building your conversion funnel. For example, if you are selling Viagra, you don’t want to buy or construct an email list full of 20-somethings who won’t even give your email subject line a second look.

Scheduling

Scheduling

Timing is everything and email is no different. As part of your planning process, you should determine when you are going to send messaging to your target market. Perhaps you are planning a holiday promotion, or maybe you have a time-sensitive sale going on. Whatever the case may be, sending your email any old time won’t cut it. A report from Experian Marketing Services highlights the following data pertaining to when messages are sent:

  • People tend to respond more to marketer’s emails on the weekends when volume is low
  • The next highest response rate (response meaning clicks or other actions) was a Tuesday
  • Response rates are highest in the early morning and the late night

So when you go to send out your messaging, think about when your target market will be most likely to see your message amongst all the other emails they get as well. You might find that you get a better result when you send during a time when they aren’t getting a ton of messages.

Choose Your Tools

These days, the best way to perform email marketing campaigns is with third-party software. Many leading programs allow you to easily upload contacts, create HTML email templates, insert links, include social features and provide excellent tracking features. Some common email programs include:

 

What other tips do you have for making a good email marketing strategy?  Let us know by leaving a comment below.

One Marketer’s Take on Inbound Marketing

Much of the content we write here on the TCA blog falls under the category of inbound marketing. A quick search on the web yields dozens of definitions and guides to inbound marketing. This post will kick off a series of posts showcasing our own unique take on what inbound marketing is and why it has been so successful for businesses. We’ll explore the tools used by the experts, and these posts can serve as a guide to inbound marketing for anyone that wants to use them.

What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing and Why do You Need It?Like I said, there is no shortage of definitions for inbound marketing. I have yet another one for you. After studying and writing about online marketing, development and usability for a number of years, I’ve come to understand inbound like this: as it relates to marketing a business, it is the practice of developing quality content that a target market finds useful, and that positions a brand as a helpful authority in its field.

Components of Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing isn’t just one tool, but an amalgamation of strategies and tools that businesses can use to market themselves online. There is really no limit to which tools can be used or in what way, and many different ones can fall in the realm of inbound marketing. These may include but are not limited to:

  • other social networksSocial media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Reddit, Foursquare, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, and others
  • Blogs
  • Article marketing
  • Email marketing
  • Pay-per-click advertising
  • Video marketing/advertising
  • Search marketing/advertising
  • SEO or Search Engine Optimization
  • Forum Marketing
  • Article directories
  • Bookmarking websites
  • Crowd sourcing websites
  • A business’s own website

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Inbound marketing is a relatively new phenomenon and is constantly evolving. Marketers are finding new ways every day to reach out to their target audiences and delight them with content.

Developing Your Strategy

strategy for inbound marketingJust like traditional marketing strategies, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all with inbound. Businesses must assess their strengths and develop tactics that are complemented by those strengths. Below are some things to consider when developing an inbound marketing strategy.

  • S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound)
  • Buyer personas: characteristics of your target market
  • Content strategy and development: What will your content be and who will make it?
  • Having a well-developed website
  • Promotion: How will you spread the content that you generate?

Measuring Your Success

The M in S.M.A.R.T. goals is perhaps one of the most important. The proliferation of online marketing in the past 10 years has shown businesses that they can more closely track the results of the dollars they spend online.

Analytics

Google AnalyticsTracking code provided by third-party companies is the most common way to gather data on your website. Note that these types of businesses only collect data on your site and not other properties that you may have a presence on unless you own and administer them (and have installed tracking, of course).

Most analytics programs are paid software packages. Some provide free service, but it is highly limited until you sign up for their paid versions. By far one of the most popular free analytics programs is Google Analytics. It is a powerful out-of-the-box analytics solution and also highly customizable. In addition to that, there are loads of free documentation, training, tutorials and no shortage of other free resources to learn how to use it. I highly recommend it for the beginner.

Here are some other programs you can investigate:

  • Click Tale
  • Get Clicky
  • Crazy Egg
  • Piwik
  • Fire Stats
  • Woopra
  • AWStats

Some solutions will allow you to use enough of their interface for free so you can get a feel for how they operate, and to see if you like them. The short list above is not all-inclusive, and there are many other mainstream and startup analytics platforms out there.

This post just scratches the surface of inbound marketing. There are literally hundreds of ways to market a business online, build brand awareness and track success.

 

What’s your take on inbound marketing? Do you have your own unique definition? Let us know by dropping a line or leaving a comment below.

A Brief History Of Email Marketing

The @ symbolEmail is one of the first – and still one of the most popular – forms of communication on the web. Aside from social media, no form of computerized communication has had such an impact on businesses reaching their target audience. We see a lot of questions about what email marketing is, so this post is dedicated to explaining it.

We don’t just want to talk about what email marketing is today, though. We thought it would be fun to explore a little history of email marketing and how it came to be one of the most ubiquitous, well-known and abused forms of marketing of the information age.

Who Would Have Thought?

The first electronic messages that could be considered as emails were being sent among terminals back in the early 60s. It wouldn’t be until 1983 when email would become a practical form of written communication between people.

MCI provided one of the first consumer email services. Although this was groundbreaking technology, it remained a novelty of sorts. No one really wanted to use email. It was slow (remember dial up?), it was far more cumbersome to fire up that old PC to send an email instead of just picking up the  phone to make a call, and computers were shadows of what they are today.

As a result, email wasn’t immediately a target for businesses because not that many people were using it. All the really cool metrics that are available today were also nonexistent because there were no email marketing companies.

You’ve Got Mail

During the 90s is when email started to gain the most traction as a mainstream form of communication. During the early 90s is when spam email started to become prevalent. After the turn of the millennium, email slowly become the primary communications strategy of many large corporations and remains so today.

The late 90s also saw the rise of the first email marketing companies such as Constant Contact. After the turn of the millennium, many more companies would sprout, and email marketing would become a primary tool for promoting businesses online.

What is Email Marketing?

 

A definition of email marketing

 

Email became one of the first forms of direct text-based communication over the Internet. It was one of the first technologies to replace the written letter and allowed people over vast distances to communicate quickly through the written word.

For businesses, it opened up a new era of marketing. Before email, direct mail had been one of the primary ways to reach consumers at home and in a very personal way. Direct mail, however, was extremely expensive, time consuming and hard to track. After paying for design and printing of direct mail pieces, postage and time to disseminate them all, the returns were minimal.

The Cost Savings of Email Marketing

Cost savings of email marketingDirect mail is still a popular method of exposure, but email is so much cheaper and easier to measure. Reaching 3,000 people via an email campaign costs you no more than the 30 dollar monthly fee a marketing company will charge. In contrast, sending out 3,000 direct mail pieces today would cost you $1,200 in bulk postage alone.

Tracking for direct mail marketing is also much more expensive the traditional way. One method is to call up all of the people that you sent a marketing piece to and ask them if they received it. Calling 3,000 people takes a lot of time that you have to pay someone every hour for, not to mention your phone bill. Conversely, looking at metrics in any leading email marketing program will show you how many people opened your email, forwarded it, clicked on links to your web page or social accounts, etc. You can view all of this data and make decisions on what worked and what didn’t in about an hour.

When Ray Tomlinson sent the first email across a network back in 1971, he probably had little idea of what his work would evolve into. Not only has email become a primary means of communication over the web for both personal and business activities, it has also become a powerful direct marketing tool.

 

How do you use email for your business? Do you have any interesting history facts about email? Let us know by dropping a line or leaving a comment below.

‘Mad Men’ and the History of Marketing

The history of marketing is being written every day by people who work hard trying to connect people to products and services that will improve their lives. TV’s Mad Men shows the lives of these people, but during a much different era. What, if anything, can we learn about marketing from the show?Mad Men Logo

WARNING – the remainder of this blog post contains light spoilers for those who aren’t caught up with Mad Men. Proceed at your own risk!

Mad Men’s sixth season has just concluded, and fans of the show are just as engaged with the program’s fascinating characters, surprising plot lines, sumptuous set design and costuming choices as they were when they first laid eyes on Don Draper and company back in season one. At its core, the show is a character-driven drama that illuminates how people lived and loved during one of the most interesting and tumultuous eras in recent American history. However, Mad Men also provides an inside look at how advertising and marketing campaigns were pitched, structured and unleashed to the public during the 1960s. The program is known for its amazing attention to detail, and I believe viewers can learn quite a bit about the history of marketing by following the exploits of the people working at the firm of Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price.

Is Mad Men’s Take on Marketing Relevant Today?

Obviously, marketing has changed considerably since the Mad Men era. Audiences are not nearly as captive as they once were, and they are generally more cynical when they suspect that they are being advertised to. Thanks to the rise of the Internet, people simply have much more control over their exposure to content. Nevertheless, there are scenes and situations on Mad Men that ring just as true today as they would have in 1966.

The Timeless Importance of the Buyer Persona

Female BuyerThe character of Don Draper is a creative genius and a marketing wizard. He seems to understand timeless marketing concepts intuitively. One such concept is the idea of a buyer persona.

In case you aren’t familiar with the concept of a buyer persona, here is a brief rundown:

  • A buyer persona is an example of a real person who might have interest in purchasing a particular product or service
  • Buyer personas help marketers understand what drives customers to make decisions
  • Consumer goals and drives are taken into account
  • When creating a buyer persona, marketers must ask themselves detailed who, what, when, where and why questions

Even though the term “buyer persona” has never been uttered on Mad Men, there’s no doubt that the underlying concept propels the creation of advertising content produced by the show’s characters. For example, when Don Draper creates his pitch for Kodak’s new slide projector in the final episode of season one, he doesn’t try to sell the product based on its features and specifications (boring!); he sells his pitch to the Kodak executives based on how potential buyers will use the product to experience emotional connectedness with their loved ones. Draper isn’t proposing that people will buy the product because of its amazing features; instead, he’s proposing that people will be able to connect with their emotions through the use of the product. In other words, he’s identified the needs and drives of Kodak’s customer base, and he’s created a buyer persona. What’s more, he’s created a remarkable value proposition, seemingly without even knowing it.

Modern Marketers can Learn a Lot from Mad Men

Modern Marketer ManMad Men teaches us a number of other lessons about the history of marketing, but what the show really tells us is that things haven’t changed all that much since the 1960s. Sure, technology has advanced considerably, and peoples’ attentions are stretched as thin as ever (and people aren’t really chain-smoking and drinking old-fashioneds on the job). However, many of the best marketing practices and techniques are the same as they were 50 years ago.

Marketers can’t be lazy about understanding potential customers, and they certainly can’t afford to ignore the drives of the people who, ultimately, pay their salaries. I believe that Mad Men’s Don Draper would be just as successful in the marketing reality of today as he is depicted in the fictional 1960s because the character has an intuitive, almost preternatural sense of what drives consumers. The character also understands how people connect to the products that fill their lives. That’s why he would have tremendous success in today’s world, in spite of the numerous changes that have taken place since the so-called golden age of advertising.

Have you watched ‘Mad Men’? What are your thoughts about how the show depicts advertising and marketing? Do you feel like the program is true to the history of marketing? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below or dropping us a line.

Mobile Marketing Trends: SEO and Advertising

Mobile Marketing ButtonMobile is the new landscape that consumers are navigating to interact with content on the web. The explosion of mobile computing advancements has made the experience far better than it was even seven or eight years ago. Now when you promote a website, you can’t just think about those using desktop or laptop machines, but also those looking at your content through a hand-held device. How is mobile marketing different, and how does it affect web marketing and SEO?

Mobile Marketing and Search

Business Relevance

Now that almost 40% of internet time is spent on a mobile device, businesses should be taking notice with their web presence. In just the past two years, search on mobile browsers has increased significantly. According to Comscore, nearly 86 million Americans are using mobile phones to search for local businesses.

If you run a local business and you haven’t done anything for your web presence, you will probably still show up in search; however, the questions are, “how often?” and “what will the information look like?” Those who have never made an attempt to put out relevant and accurate data may be displaying something outdated, while those who have may rank higher.

Mobile Marketing and Advertising

Sale on Mobile Marketing DeviceTrends are showing that mobile use increases during the evenings and weekends. No surprise there, right? The part mobile marketers should be paying attention to is how to leverage that to get the best possible return on your mobile advertising spend. If you are using popular platforms like AdWords or AdCenter, scheduling ads so that they show to users at peak times is a plus.

Website owners and advertisers need to think more about reaching consumers in these channels. They can’t use the same methods, though. People are in a different mindset when using a mobile device. They often consume information differently and have less space and time to do it in. The number of smartphone users is also growing. It is estimated that right now, there are about a billion active smart phones on the planet. That number is projected to double by 2015, which is ten times the rate of growth it took to get to 1 billion in the first place.

Mobile Marketing Strategy

There are not a huge amount of companies that have a mobile marketing strategy. As the number of smart phone users grows and the hunger of advertisers to reach those users also grows, the need for a plan will emerge. In 2011, it was important to at least be thinking about a mobile strategy, if not developing one. The pressure to do so is magnified today and will only continue to get stronger. Device manufacturers are showing no signs of slowing, and the public’s lust for the latest mobile gadget seems boundless.

Just when many small businesses (and even large companies) are starting to find their way in online marketing, they will have to revisit their strategies to make sure they are thinking about mobile, as well. Because mobile is a different animal, many of the same tactics that worked for desktop marketing cannot be repurposed.

Mobile Encourages Conversation

Conversational SearchOne other elephant in the room is voice-activated features on mobile devices. It is much easier, much more convenient and much more likely that someone will use voice to search for something on a mobile web browser. Google’s Matt Cutts recently released a video talking about how query syntax will change based on users having the option to speak their queries rather than type them. He points out that we speak differently than we type, and that Google is striving to become better at conversational search. That is, they are trying to get better at understanding the overall meaning of what a person is looking for instead of linking together a string of words to find in a document.

If more and more people are searching for things using a smartphone, that means that a lot of the traditional tactics for ranking web pages may not be as effective any more. While there isn’t a clear answer as to how this will affect everything, it’s probably safe to say that eventually it will become more important to focus on creating things that people will click on and share a lot rather than something a machine will find relevant based on its structure, keywords and how many documents are linked to it.

 

How are you handing the increasing impact of mobile technology? Do you have any additional insight into this important subject? Be sure to let us know what you think by dropping us a line or leaving a comment below.

AdWords Optimization: Best Practices for Your Campaign

Google Adwords LogoSEO is great for driving organic traffic to a website, but sometimes you just need things to happen faster. Pay-per-click advertising is a prime way to do that, and one of the best platforms is Google AdWords. It’s a sure-fire way to get targeted traffic fast. Hold on a minute, though. Just because you pay for ads does not mean you will have instant success. A little AdWords optimization is necessary in order to get the most out of your advertising dollars. Since there are so many different PPC platforms to advertise on, optimization is not a one-size-fits-all deal. So without writing an encyclopedia on the topic, I’ll attempt to provide some proven tips to optimize a variety of different PPC campaigns.

AdWords Optimization

Google has greater than 60% market share, and its platform is thought by many to be second to none. If you are looking for highly targeted traffic that is ready to buy, this is the place to go.

Highly targeted keywords, adgroups and landing pages:  This concept is fairly simple, yet many people miss the target when starting out with AdWords. If you think about how Google’s advertising works, you will understand why having keywords that are relevant to ads and landing pages makes all the sense in the world. When you enter keywords into the AdWords interface and associate those keywords with ads, you are telling Google, “These are the ads I want you to show when these words are typed into your search engine.”

Case in point:  I like to buy car parts online, and I rely on Google a lot to find what I’m looking for. So I hop online and look for a very specific phrase “Jeep window motors.”

Excluding the highly relevant Google shopping results for my search, the ads on the right column of the page are as follows:

jeepads

Note the ad in the first position (after Google shopping results). Nowhere in the ad text can I find what I’m looking for. Yes, the word “Jeep,” which is the first part of my query, is present, but the meat of what I’m looking for is absent. Needless to say, I’m not clicking on that. The second ad follows the same theme; there’s nothing relevant to my query. The third and fourth ads, however, are starting to get the picture. I like 1aauto.com’s reviews, and they have most of the words I’m looking for in their ad, so I click and I am brought to this page:

1aauto

For AdWords optimization or tweaking of any PPC campaign, the landing page is key. This is not the best landing page I have ever seen, but they have done some key things very well. Notice that the same text that compelled me to click on the ad (i.e. window motor) is also front and center on the page. This lets me know I’ve come to the right place. I was looking for Jeep window motors and this site is about to show me what they have in the way of window motors. Simple, right? It looks like I’m in store for some cumbersome vehicle identification steps, but to their credit, my query did not specify a model, just a brand name.

Well, maybe I want to check out another site before I commit to this one. So I back out to my search results and I click on the last ad pictured above for advancedautoparts.com. The ad doesn’t have my exact keyword phrase, but it does have one key term, “window,” and the word “parts” suffices for my purposes. After all, I am looking for car parts. This is the page I am brought to.

advancedauto

Oh, wait a minute — did I click the wrong ad? I back out and click again. Nope, this was the right page. Not a keyword in sight that has to do with windows, Jeeps or motors. I see they have free battery testing and that they are running a promotion, but I don’t see any window motors or even a hint of where I might go to find what I’m looking for. It is an auto parts website, but now what I’m thinking as a user is, “great, now I’m gonna have to dig around in here to find what I’m looking for.”

The whole point of this exercise is to shed light on the fact that if a business is trying to get its prospects to do something specific (whether it be filling out a contact form, signing up for a newsletter or buying a window motor for a Jeep), they need to make that process as simple and unambiguous as possible. People will muddle through if they really have to, but if they are not that invested, they can just as easily back out and start the process over on another website. The more obstacles you put in place (or fail to remove) throughout your conversion funnel, the less likely people are to finish it.

AdWords Optimization: Searcher Intent

In order to avoid low click-through and conversion rates, you must optimize your campaigns and landing pages for your specific goals. Starting with your ad campaign, you will want to place keywords that are similar in the same group with their associated ads. With AdWords, it’s easy to feel like you may be missing out on something if you don’t add every keyword under the sun that could relate to what you are selling. In fact, the more keywords you add, the less targeted your campaign becomes and the less likely it will be successful. Focus on a narrow set of related keywords. For instance, the following phrases could be combined into the same group:

Jeep window motors

Buy Jeep window motors

Jeep window motor

Cheap Jeep window motors

Your ad copy might look something like this:

Ad Example

 

 

 

It would be tempting to include phrases like “install Jeep window motor,” “Jeep window motor manufacturers” or “diagram of Jeep window motor” in the list above; however, this would work against you. These phrases talk about the same object (i.e. window motors), but they are different in terms of intent of the searcher. Those using the phrase “install Jeep window motor” may be looking for a tutorial on how to put one in their Jeep and not to buy the product. Those using the same phrase with the word “manufacturers” in it could be looking for a variety of things like information about a specific company, warranty info or even a job.

AdWords Optimization: Ad Copy

Your ad copy must contain the keywords that you have associated with your account. Not doing so can affect your quality score and can also increase your ad spend. Aside from these elements, the way text is written in your ad can also affect its success. Notice in the example above how the first line (the header) has the exact keyword phrase that is dominant in the keyword group. This is a good place to put your keywords because headers are emboldened when shown on SERPs (search engine results pages). The second line of your ad should have your value proposition. In my example above, this isn’t the most enticing proposition, but you get the idea. Explain in a few words why clicking this ad will deliver what the searcher is looking for. Notice also the line at the end that reads “contact us today!” This is known as a call to action, and every ad should have one. It doesn’t matter what it is, but you should write some short line that tells the reader to act.

These small tips can do wonders for a campaign that is struggling, and can set you off on the right foot from the beginning. There are also numerous sources for AdWords optimization information out on the web. Google’s AdWords help center is a good place to start. You can even study for their certification exam there.

Optimizing Facebook Ads

Much of the information already stated applies to various forms of PPC, but there are some little differences between networks. Unlike AdWords optimization, you won’t be using keywords to target your market on Facebook. Instead, you will have access to the vast amounts of demographic information that Facebook  has gleaned from its users in order to target ads to them.

It should be noted that advertising on Facebook (if you are accustomed to search advertising) is quite a different experience. Click-through rates tend to be much lower because people’s intentions on social media sites are different than on search engines. For instance, people go to search engines in order to research purchases or actually find things to buy. The same cannot be said for social media and for Facebook.

Some tips for getting the most out of your ads

Images are important:  Unlike search, you have the opportunity to leverage images much more on Facebook. If you are a company advertising, try to find an image that relates to your message, but that is also compelling. It has been found that images of happy, attractive women can increase click through rates. Colorful logos are often more enticing than images of machinery or logos that follow the same color scheme as Facebook’s platform .

AT&T follows this strategy effectively in their ad for Internet services:

attad

Notice that they don’t use images of modems or broadband lines or anything that has to do with Internet. They use an image of a happy little girl with the headline “Share precious moments.” This makes the ad much more compelling than it would be if there were a picture of a computer accompanied by text reading, “buy our Internet service today.” The ad tugs at the notion that people like to share the fun moments in their lives online with their friends and doing so easily requires good Internet.

Compelling ad copy:  In search, ad copy is really a no-brainer. People are generally looking for the text that they put into a search engine in the first place. On Facebook, more traditional marketing savvy is called upon. Advertisers have the benefit of only showing their ad to people that will most likely relate with it, but the message is also appearing during a time when people are busy “lurking,” coming up with clever comments or, in general, are focused on something else. Even though you are showing them something that Facebook has determined they will like, you have to make it appealing with your words.

As an Internet marketer, I thought Hubspot did a good job of using some effective ad language,

hubspot

Those who practice web marketing are also heavily engrossed in data on how they and their campaigns perform. Having a statistic in their ad copy resonates well with prospects and is enticing enough to want to learn a little more. They also touch on a hot value proposition, which is driving leads with a social media platform. Driving leads is one of the main tasks of any Internet marketer.

It is important to remember that with Facebook (and other platforms), advertising is an iterative process. Think carefully about what would appeal to your target market, design, implement and then analyze. You may find that some images or ad copy work better than others, and advertisers rarely get it right the first time around.

Third-Party Websites

Aside from the major networks like AdWords, Bing’s AdCenter, Facebook and others, there are many third-party websites out there offering ad space. Many of the principles outlined above still apply. Banner or other image-based ads must have compelling copy that is relevant to the landing pages they are attached to. Something worth noting here is not so much optimization, but data related to exposure from those sites. A webmaster offering ad space may have compelling packages, but be sure and do your homework before you buy. Ask for data on the number of unique page views or visitors the site or page you are advertising on receives on a monthly basis. Get demographic data to ensure that what you are selling actually appeals to those visitors. You should also not be afraid to ask for historical ad data or success stories from other advertisers that have used those services. Things like click-through rates, conversion rates, ad rotation and the like.

Paid advertising is one of the primary models for monetization of websites these days. No matter which network or website you go with, a huge user base is only part of the equation. You must configure your campaigns in a way that promotes a good user experience. This means not only configuring accounts correctly, choosing the right keywords and images, but also making sure your website is easy to navigate and relevant to the value proposition you have promised your prospects.

 

What tips do you have for optimizing PPC campaigns? Have you found that certain tactics bring in more conversions than others? Join in the conversation by commenting below.




Generating Effective Email Marketing Campaigns

Effective Email Marketing CampaignsIf you were to ask any given company what its corporate communications strategy is, you would mostly likely hear email as the answer. Despite its age in the online world and the onslaught of other emerging communications technologies, email remains one of the most widely used forms of correspondence online. It is still a viable marketing tool for most industries. With all the junk email people receive on a daily basis, crafting good content is essential for email marketing success. Check out these email marketing best practices for use in your next campaign.

Effective Email Marketing with Your Subject Line

The subject line is perhaps the most important aspect of an effective email marketing campaign. It is the one string of text that will decide whether your email gets opened or not. People (especially professionals) receive hundreds of emails every day. That is a whole lot of clutter to sift through, and if your subject line is not compelling, the rest of your message won’t get face time. Here are some tips to making a non spammy and actionable subject line in your email:

  1. Bad Email marketing Subject LinesAvoid certain words:  Chances are that even if you are an email marketer, you receive a lot of emails yourself. You know the good ones from the bad. Ignoring for a moment the messages from people you know, the sales-oriented ones are easy to spot. The really bad ones use words like “free” or aggressive calls to action such as “Limited time only!” “Act now!” “Contact us today!” or something similar. You can bet that if your subject line contains any of those, your open rate is also low. Using all capital letters in the subject line is also a no-no. Effective email marketing campaigns use language to convey a value proposition and give the recipient a hint at what they can expect to do once the message has been opened. What is it that you can offer your recipients? Speak to the results that they are looking to generate. For instance, if you are sending out an email to Internet marketers, a subject line like “Increase your conversion rates by 40% with our eBook Download” sounds more enticing then “Free eBook Download!”

  2. Actionable subject lines:  Following the call to action theme, you want your readers to understand what they will be able to do once they open the email just by reading the subject line. The use of verbs is important as it conveys the message that the recipients will actually be able to use your email to add some value to their lives. Words like “achieve,” “become,” “apply,” “connect,” “publish,” “improve,” “measure” or “understand” all act as one-word action messages that tell the reader what to expect. Let them know that they will be able to learn something, apply something or, in general, take the next step to enriching their lives with whatever it is you have to offer. Be as specific as possible. For example, the subject line “Learn the ABCs” is very specific, as opposed to “The ABCs.” In the first line, the reader knows he or she will be learning the ABCs, whereas in the second one, the email could be about the history of the alphabet, a band called the ABCs or who knows what.

  3. Graphical Representation of segmenting an email marketing campaignSegment your marketing list:  Not all messages appeal to all people, and the more you can find out about the recipients on your email list, the better you will be able to market to them. Once you have more detailed information, tailor your subject lines (and messages) to those who will find them most appealing. For instance, if you were selling property management software to landlords, you may segment your list to differentiate between those who own apartment buildings and those who manage residential properties. It’s also important to know the time of day you should send out emails for your campaign. There are times when your target market may be at their computers and times they aren’t. This may vary based on the industry you are marketing to, but knowing when to send will help increase your open and conversion rates.

  4. Above all else, be consistent:  Remember that your recipient opened your email because they liked what they saw in the subject line. If you don’t deliver the same (and a more comprehensive) message in the body of the email, you won’t accomplish the ultimate goal of getting them to perform the action in the email. Make sure the message in the body of your email is consistent with what the reader thinks they will be doing when they read the subject line.

Email Marketing Techniques for The Body of Your Email

Once someone has opened your email, you have your foot in the door, so to speak. Now you have to get them to do whatever it is you want them to do. Here are some email marketing techniques for how to make that happen with the body of your email:

  1. Lift Analysis Chart can be applied in email marketingKeep it short and to the point:  Whether people are reading a web page or an email, huge blocks of text cause anxiety. No one wants to read through tons of text, and they are even less inclined to do so if they are busy (which they probably are). In the first paragraph of the email, you should deliver on your value proposition and instruct your reader on how to go about obtaining it. If this is a free download, tell them how to do it. If it is a special offer, tell them how to take advantage of it. All of this should appear right at the top so they don’t have to scroll to find it. In landing page design, LIFT analysis is often performed to identify areas of improvement. The same concepts can be applied to emails.

  2. Keep images to a minimum:  If you can avoid using images altogether, this is ideal. Virtually every email (web-based or desktop-based) has default filters for images. Keep in mind that any images you have in an email will not show up at first and also create extra steps for your reader to perform in order to view your message. You definitely want to avoid putting crucial parts of your message in image form because if a reader decides not to download images or just doesn’t have the time, you have already lost your opportunity to communicate with them.

  3. obvious actions in email marketingMake your action as easy as possible to perform, and let your reader know about it:  Most emails sent for marketing have some type of link in them that require readers to click through to a web page. This is fine; however, you want to make this as easy and unambiguous as possible. Just like on a landing page, people have little patience when it comes to performing actions online. The more obstacles there are, the less likely they will be to do what you want them to do. For instance, say you want your reader to take advantage of a special offer. They open your email, read about the offer, then there is a link they are instructed to click in order to take advantage of the offer. Explaining in the first paragraph that they can get what they want in “x amount of steps” is a good way to assure them that it won’t take long to get gratification. Avoid long forms asking for excessive amounts of unnecessary information or poorly designed landing pages.

Make quality content:  Your email should do a few things when it  comes to the actual content:

  1. It should build trust and add value.
  2. It should be shareable (even if that is not your goal).
  3. It should entice the reader to take the next step.

Your message should add some type of value such as useful statistics, thoughtful advice or some other tidbit that makes it worth someone’s time to read. I receive tons of emails all the time and the writer just wants to talk about “me.” In other words, don’t talk about yourself, your company and your products/services. Talk about how you can add value to your recipient and their personal life or business.

Your content should be shareable. This is not a primary goal, and what I mean by this is that you should write content that others would find valuable enough to want to share with others in their profession. The most powerful messages are those that others find so valuable that they market them for you. Lastly, your content should have a call to action. Include language that entices your reader to act on your value proposition. Remember, don’t be too pushy, but be clear and concise on what it is you want them to do.

Email remains one of the most widely used forms of communication on the web. Crafting compelling content for email marketing can be very simple if you keep some simple conventions in mind. Avoid spammy language, deliver value to your readers and make things as simple as possible for them to achieve.

Are there any email marketing tips that you have found useful? Is email still a viable marketing tool for you or your organization? Join the conversation by commenting below.

 

Google AdWords Remarketing

Google Adwords RemarketingSome sources indicate that a major goal of Internet marketers for 2013 will be to prove the ROI of their marketing activities. If tracking which visitors to a site from one of the dozens of amazing channels available to web marketers weren’t difficult enough, throw in the complexity of tracking conversions from visitors who came to a website once, left, then came back later and made a purchase. AAAHHHHH! How do we do that, you ask? Remarketing, of course. Google AdWords remarketing enables advertisers to still capture that elusive conversion data from visitors who just couldn’t make a decision the first time around.

What is Google AdWords Remarketing?

 

Disclosure:  If you’ve already heard about remarketing, feel free to skip ahead

In general, remarketing is a web-based marketing term that refers to following up with people who have visited a website, but failed to perform some action. In this blog post, we are referring to remarketing as it pertains to the feature in AdWords. This allows users to reach out to people who have visited their website by showing them relevant ads on other websites that they visit.

How Google AdWords Remarketing can Help

 

Google RemarketSo, how can this help your campaigns? When you spend money on any kind of advertising, people visit your site, perform some action and are recorded using whatever methods you have in place. By doing this, you can measure how the money you are spending on getting people to your site is either making you more money or not. Naturally, there are very important reasons for measuring this. After all, you want to be able to see if your efforts are succeeding, and if they are, you can do more of them. Conversely, if your efforts are failing, you need to know that so you can tweak your campaigns or stop them altogether.

Not all visitors to your conversion funnel will perform the actions you have laid out for them. In reality, things happen that cause otherwise good buyers to get distracted. They may see something else on a web page that leads them elsewhere, they may not be prepared to buy for other reasons or they simply get busy doing other things offline. These visitors are still a part of your ROI equation, but they are often not included if remarketing is not enabled. Leaving them out of calculations gives you a less accurate view of how effective your ads and campaigns really are. Remarketing helps bring those pieces back into the whole puzzle so you aren’t missing any information.

How Remarketing works

How Google AdWords Remarketing Works

By adding a code snippet to your website, Google is able to track visitors using cookies. You can then create remarketing lists of visitors based on the pages they have visited. When these visitors click on another ad somewhere else and come to your site to make a purchase or perform some other action, they are remembered and attributed to that first visit. Just like with other forms of tracking, no personally identifiable information is recorded when they are tracked.

 

Enabling Google AdWords Remarketing Tags

 

Enabling Google AdWords remarketing is fairly simple. To use it, you have to add the remarketing tag to your website. This is a code snippet you get from Google that must be copied and pasted into the source code of your website. Google recommends pasting the code snippet into a common section of your site that appears on every page such as the footer. If you have a website that uses a template, you can paste the code there and be good to go. If you have a website that was not built using a CMS or template, you will have to paste the code onto every page of the site. Note that even if you have used a CMS and have built pages outside of it, you should add the code to those pages, as well.

Google’s video below shows you how to set up remarketing for your website.

A Note on Privacy

 

Privacy is a hot topic in the online world. Even though you may not be tracking personal information, people can get upset when they have the perception that you have been spying on them after they’ve left your website. Although this isn’t really how remarketing with AdWords works, if that is how people perceive it, then it’s true (at least for them). It’s always a good idea to review your privacy policy to ensure it’s in line with the tracking methods you are using. Of course, this is a matter of personal preference, but I like to be transparent. Will people read your privacy policy? Maybe. But even if they don’t, at least it is there in case they want to know how they are being tracked.

Set an Appropriate Membership Duration

 

The time frame during which a cookie remains active on a person’s browser is referred to as the membership duration in AdWords. By default, cookies expire 30 days after a visitor comes to your site. This means that if that same visitor completes a transaction more than 30 days later, he or she will not be attributed to that initial contact. Think about your business model, your campaign goals and how long your ad will be relevant for users when setting this duration period. For example, if you are selling a product that is time-sensitive, you may want to configure membership to be 30 days or less. If, however, you have a longer sales cycle or a product/service whose transaction details are not time sensitive, a longer membership duration may be appropriate.

To change the default membership duration (cookie expiration):

  1. Click “Shared Library” under “All Online Campaigns” in AdWords.
    Remarketing with Google AdWords
  2. Click the “Audiences” header.AdWords Remarketing
  3. Enter your desired membership duration in the “Membership Duration” column.Google Remarketing

Don’t Count Your Customers Twice

 

Sometimes it’s important to note when a prospect sees a remarketing ad, clicks through to your website, performs your action and is then converted; cookies are not turned off for this user. Instead, they can still potentially be shown your remarketing ads when browsing. In fact, since they revisited the page where their cookies were originally set, the membership duration will be reset. While that might not be a huge deal, if it is important that this not happen for you, there is a little hack you can try.

This requires that you have a confirmation page and create a custom remarketing list.

For example, create three lists:

List #1 = People who did not complete the checkout process

List #2 = People who did complete the checkout process and went on to the confirmation page.

List #3 = People who are on List #1 but not on List #2

Naturally, you can create as many lists as is required for your purposes, but you have to have some way to differentiate among people who have not completed the conversion and those who have.

Next, add your List #3 to negative audiences in AdWords. To do that, select the “Audience” tab in your remarketing campaign, click on the “Negative Audiences” link, click the “+Add” button (do this at the campaign level) then select your newly created list.

Conclusion

 

The beauty of marketing online is that you can gather data about the visitors who bought your products or services. With traditional advertising, you can’t always accurately track who made a purchase after seeing a television ad or driving by a billboard. You definitely can’t track when those same indivudals decided to purchase later after looking at those same things. That doesn’t mean those forms of advertising are useless, but it does mean we can get far better data online. Google AdWords remarketing allows advertisers to capture data that would otherwise be lost. With the growing importance of proving ROI in online marketing activities, every bit of data is important.

Have you ever used Google AdWords remarketing? If not, how do you track visitors who made a purchase later on after seeing one of your ads? Join in the conversation by commenting below.



What Is Inbound Marketing and Why Do You Need It?

These days, it’s clear that the focus of the business world is on the Internet. The web is where people go to interact with others, and it’s also the place where people perform an increasing number of financial transactions. It’s also a platform that provides an excellent means of conveying and obtaining various pieces of information. If you are transitioning to a web-based business model for your organization, or if you are simply interested in engaging in web marketing to earn some extra money for yourself as an individual, you need to understand a few basic concepts. Most importantly, you have to learn about inbound marketing. If you’re asking yourself, “what is inbound marketing?” you might be frustrated by the lack of resources available for newcomers and novices. We’ve covered Internet marketing at length in our blog, but this post is designed for those of you who might be new to some of the concepts that are vital to understand in this exciting industry. What is inbound marketing and why do you need it? Read on for a no-nonsense explanation that will help you take your first marketing steps successfully.

What is Inbound Marketing? – A Definition

Basically, the end goal of any inbound marketing campaign is to get your business or organization found online. The point of a successful inbound marketing effort is to attract visitors to websites and landing pages so that they can enter marketing funnels, which will eventually result in consumers making purchases. There are many ways in which you can advertise through inbound marketing, but the most common forms tend to be:

  • Blogs
  • Whitepapers
  • Newsletters
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • eBooks
  • Social media marketing

If you’re like me and countless others in modern society, you probably spend quite a bit of your time online looking at blog articles, watching videos, paying attention to social media and researching products and services. Even if you aren’t aware of it, you are being nudged in the direction of an inbound marketing funnel every time you engage with one of these online entities. In fact, you’ve probably purchased products as a result of successful inbound marketing efforts. Unless you’re made of stone, there is little doubt that you’ve made a purchase at one time or another as a result of reading a compelling blog post or watching an effective video.

The Inbound Marketing Funnel

I’ve mentioned the concept of an inbound marketing “funnel” a couple of times already, but you might not understand what this particular concept refers to. Essentially, inbound marketing is a process that entails multiple steps before a consumer makes a purchase. These steps, when put together, comprise what is known as the funnel. It’s called a funnel because an inbound marketing campaign is designed to attract a large number of people from a variety of locations so that they can be led to a narrow, focused action such as purchasing a product like an eBook or a subscription to a specific service. As consumers complete each step, the funnel gets narrower and narrower until it has directed the consumers to the point of purchase.

In order to convince consumers to travel further down the funnel, companies do several things to attract potential buyers. In many cases, organizations will offer free resources like eBooks or instructional videos in exchange for personal information like names and email addresses. As consumers supply this information, companies can use it to focus their efforts on moving potential buyers further down the funnel. Not all consumers will make it to the end of the funnel, which is why so much time, energy and effort is spent by companies to enhance their inbound marketing campaigns.

Inbound Marketing Versus Outbound Marketing

If you’re still feeling a bit fuzzy about the concept of inbound marketing, it might be helpful to contrast it with outbound marketing. When you think of marketing, it’s likely that the concepts you envision are related to outbound marketing techniques. Some of the more familiar and traditional techniques include:

  • Establishing a presence at trade shows
  • Conducting seminars and other types of “outreach”
  • Blasting emails to recipients from purchased lists
  • Cold calling and other forms of telemarketing
  • Traditional advertising (billboards, radio spots, TV ads, etc.)

These marketing methods are focused on actively engaging the attention of potential customers, whereas inbound marketing methods are focused on letting consumers “find” a particular brand or product. Since people are becoming increasingly inundated with emails, messages and other forms of outbound marketing, it is becoming much less effective when it comes to driving results and encouraging people to enter the marketing funnel.

Inbound marketing works better in today’s world because it is much more subtle, and it allows the consumer to make his or her own decisions without the pressures associated with traditional marketing techniques. What’s more, people are savvier today than ever before when it comes to tuning out obvious marketing messages, plus there are multiple tools and applications available that block such advertisements before they even have a chance to reach any eyes or ears.

The Right Kind of Marketing for Today’s Business World

Now that you know the answer to the question, “what is inbound marketing?” you should have a better understanding of how you should move forward with your modern business. Inbound marketing is actually quite simple to understand, but it can certainly be confusing, especially if you’re accustomed to traditional, outbound marketing techniques. Thankfully, you can simply think of inbound marketing as a way to let potential customers find you, and you will be able to imbue your efforts with the energy and techniques that make the best marketing campaigns of the modern age so successful.

 

Are you new to inbound marketing? What are some of the differences that you have found between inbound marketing and outbound marketing? Let us know by dropping us a line or leaving a comment below.

Highlights from the State of Inbound Marketing Report

Hubspot is well-known for its annual State of Inbound Marketing Report. This year’s report contains information from statistics gleaned from over 3,000 business owners and marketers all over the world. If you want to read the entire 170 page report, you can find it here. I’ve gone through it and would like to share some of the highlights, my own opinions on what to do with the information as well as some thoughts on implementing the report’s recommended strategies.

Getting Sales Involved

A major theme in this year’s report revolves around integration of marketing initiatives throughout an organization. Hubspot reports dozens of statistics relating to how integrated the companies they surveyed report to be. Businesses that have clear agreements for shared responsibility between sales and marketing enjoy better lead generation results as well as lower cost-per-lead levels than organizations that have not taken these steps. The report claims that adopting a marketing-sales agreement saves companies with more than 200 employees an average of $195.84 in acquisition costs per customer.

One of the best parts about the success of inbound marketing is that it can be far more powerful if everyone gets involved. Having employees become brand evangelists and contributors to the conversation allows for that much more exposure for a business. The expertise of these groups in their respective fields is also very important for generating quality content. Conversely, marketers need to understand how sales people work and how marketing can help support their activities. These tips can help you get started setting up a sales-marketing integrated approach to inbound marketing.

  • Set up a meeting with sales teams and learn about what is needed to make a qualified lead. What kind of information do they need? How does the lead want to be contacted? How much time do they require to follow up on leads?
  • Create an agreement. The Hubspot report mentions a Service Level Agreement, or SLA. This is traditionally an IT term; however, no matter what you call it, you should talk with your sales department about what it is you could do to help them do their jobs better and what they can do to make sure marketing’s efforts are not going to waste. These two departments should not operate in a vacuum, but should complement each other and work together as a sales engine.
  • Develop a communication plan. Set up weekly, bi weekly or monthly meetings to discuss your progress. Don’t just meet once and then never again, because chances are nothing will get done. Routinely meet and report on your progress in terms of any agreement that was laid out or initiatives you have started.
  • Walk in each other’s shoes. Try to uncover ways that sales can participate in marketing activities and vice/versa. This could be as simple as having sales reps share links to company blog posts on their own social networks, or encouraging the marketing department to tailor value propositions for sales landing pages.

Delighting your Customers

One of my favorite parts of this report is the focus on content-rich strategies for inbound marketing. We are currently in a state where search and social and most things online have reached a boiling point of sorts. For a long time, we have put up with mediocrity on the Internet, and we are seeing a shift in consumer demand for high-quality, well-written, well-produced, educational, knock-your-socks-off content. Some of us are so attuned to what makes good content that we can smell poorly made content almost as soon as we visit a web page.

Hubspot’s report revisits this concept again and again, often referring to it as “delighting your customers.” As marketers, we must educate our buyers. We must also provide value without asking for anything in return (at least not directly). We have to be the authority that they are looking for online, and well-made content is the way to do that. This could be video, writing, infographics, data, case studies, tutorials or anything that educates, enlightens, empowers or brings value to our target market. When a company does this and does it well, all sorts of opportunities and benefits open up. Not only do people see a business as an authority in its niche, they buy from it, they share its content, they link their websites to its website, they look to it for advice and they send their friends there for advice. Here are just a few ways that you can start doing that:

  • Start a blog and contribute content that your target market will find valuable
  • Make videos that your market will find valuable, entertaining or useful in some way
  • Share information through social media that your market will find useful
  • Do research that your market will find useful and publish it online
  • Do almost anything that you can to provide a small amount of value without asking for anything in return

Tracking Return on Investment

ROI, which stands for Return on Investment, may be the acronym of the year, and Hubspot’s report mentions that many marketers have goals of improving the return on their activities this year. Many companies are already doing this successfully; however, it can be a very big challenge. This is especially true for products and services with long sales cycles, complicated conversion funnels or where customers do not transact online.

Many respondents to Hubspot surveys report a lack of metrics for reporting on ROI. Many sites report improving ROI as a primary concern in 2013 as they try to justify spending for various inbound activities. Hubspot reports that 25% of marketers surveyed are concerned with proving ROI of inbound marketing for 2013. An underlying prediction in the report is that inbound will no longer enjoy the rapid increases in budget and growth that it has seen up until this year. The only way companies are going to spend more money is if they can see that inbound activities are making them money.

Some of these numbers are not surprising as more and more businesses are starting to pay increasing amounts of attention to Internet marketing strategies in an effort to get more bang for their marketing bucks. Inbound marketers should not be too sanguine because the 25% reported by Hubspot is probably much larger in reality. Online marketing and the presence of business in social media has been growing at an exponential rate, and the meteoric rise of this activity is eerily reminiscent of the .com boom in the 90s. Everyone was rushing to stake out their claim of Internet gold, but they didn’t stop to think about sustainability.

One difference between then and now is that many marketers will most likely be able to set up functions for tracking the return of their online advertising spends. You can follow some of these tips to guide you in tracking your own online activities.

  • Set up tracking:  If you don’t have tracking such as Google Analytics or some other platform already installed, do it ASAP. These platforms are the foundation for how you will track ROI on your website. In some cases, you may not be able to track an entire conversion funnel on your website, but you can combine this data with other data later on to make a case for your efforts.
  • Track everything:  It doesn’t matter if you are using banner ads, post cards, PPC, search advertising, email marketing, or promotions on social media. Implement some way to track people who have interacted with these marketing pieces. Place QR codes with trackable URLs on post cards, build special links for your emails, banner ads, and off-site promotional offers. Even if you can only collect some data, do it.
  • Communicate with sales/production/customer service etc.:  You need to maintain an open line of communication in your organization with the people who are processing your leads down the line. For many companies, this will be sales, but it could also be customer service, production, order fulfillment or any other department in your company that can give you data on money that was made. Communication with other departments may end up being the crucial piece of information you need to complete your ROI puzzle.
  • You aren’t alone:  This isn’t really a tip for tracking ROI, but more of an encouraging statement. With all of the buzz surrounding the Internet and online marketing, it may feel like you are the only person who can’t show that your or your department’s activities are having an impact on the bottom line. Realize that many marketers in even very large organizations are challenged with figuring out how their online initiatives are making money. The important part is that you do not give up.

I highly recommend reading the 2013 “State of Inbound Marketing Report” from Hubspot. It has a ton of very detailed information on inbound marketing in general, as well as benchmarks for where other companies are located in the grand scheme of things. The main themes in this post seem to be consistent throughout Hubspot’s report. They underscore the challenges and opportunities that marketers have this year in building brands in the Internet space.

Have you read Hubspot’s report? Are you facing any of the challenges outlined there or in this post? How are you meeting those challenges head on?