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The Best Inbound Marketing Guides

inbound-marketingWe’ve written a lot on inbound marketing, specifically and indirectly, on this blog. Over the past year, there have been tons of posts created on our own views of what our inbound marketing philosophy is and how it should be implemented. I wanted to look for some of the best inbound marketing guides on the web, not only to validate some of what we believe, but also to offer a different perspective to our readers.

I did a little research on this, and one of my first steps was to look for some guides already in existence online. With more than 4 million results in Google’s index, I had no idea the topic was so popular. Ok, I had some idea, but how do you sift through and find “the best” guides? You don’t. You can’t! There is too much information out there, so the three companies and their guides I’ve highlighted in this post are by no means the end-all, be-all best guides out there. Instead, they have information that I think is pretty well-rounded and serves as excellent resources for those looking to learn more or have more data at their disposal to reference.

marketoMarketo – The Inbound Marketer’s Guide to SEO and PPC

Marketo is a marketing automation software company, and they produce content on similar topics at their website. The guide they’ve created (mentioned above) leans heavily on the roles that SEO and PPC play with inbound marketing (even though PPC is technically not inbound, but more on that in a moment).

The Benefits of Marketo’s Guide

Overall, you will see a lot of the same underlying theories and concepts in this guide that you see in content from other leading producers, but there were a few things that caught my eye as being unique and very helpful for readers.

Strategy:  I liked that there was an emphasis on strategy in the guide. SEO, social media and other components of inbound marketing (as well as the concept itself) are very new. Just like with any new practice or profession, you don’t really need to be an expert to say you are an expert. Marketo points this out in its guide, and mentions that a strategy should be the first thing you do.

Without a sound strategy, you will flounder with inbound. You will start tasks and not follow through. You will not have as much (or any) success where you might have if you were more focused. You will also become frustrated and lose faith in the power of this strategy for promotion.

An image representing creativityCreativity:  They also talk about creativity with inbound, which I like. Marketing is one of those services that is hard to pre package and sell to everyone. Marketing strategies must necessarily be modeled after the type of business and industry for which it is purposed.

I see a lot of websites, email ads or posts on social media about inbound or inbound-related concepts. They say, “you need to have a blog” and “you need to be active on social” or “you must create ebooks.” While there may be consistent components to inbound that involve these tools, the same tools will not work for everyone. Businesses have to think about how they do business and who they do it with. They have to think about niche opportunities that are available to them only because of the industry they are in. They must then leverage those opportunities to their advantage while applying concepts of inbound at the same time.

For example, many businesses should blog but it’s HOW they blog that is important. A company may leverage social media, but they need to think about how to position themselves in social media in order to be truly effective. And they cannot be averse to ignoring some of these components altogether in an inbound strategy if they aren’t going to generate revenue.

Examples:  Along with their section on creativity, Marketo provides a lot of really great examples of companies who are being creative. This is another aspect of their guide that I like. That is because in most guides (even those from the thought leaders in the industry), companies ARE the experts and don’t offer outside examples or viewpoints. Two heads are better than one, and diverse opinions and examples offer users a clearer picture on how they can model their own strategies.

following-professionalsFollowing the experts:  The last thing I saw in this guide that made it stand out was that Marketo suggested a whole list of people and events that would be good to attend. Here again they are showing users a window into a world of other thoughts and opinions on inbound instead of cramming their own philosophy down the reader’s throat. One might think, “hey, they are sending their potential customers elsewhere.” I would argue they are strengthening their position as an authority in the space by being unafraid to let people explore other options.

Drawbacks

This guide has two bad things about it. First, it is heavily focused on SEO and PPC, and there didn’t seem to be a guide offered by Marketo (that I could find) that had a more holistic approach. Granted, the title does say its about SEO and PPC.

The other thing is that it includes PPC in an inbound marketing piece. Some people may disagree with me, but to my mind, PPC is not an element of inbound marketing. By nature, inbound is supposed to be marketing that draws people in because of content. Conversely, PPC is interruptive advertising and is typically presented when people aren’t looking for it or don’t want to see it at all.

Marketo doesn’t really offer a good explanation as to why PPC is included in their inbound guide either.

hubspotHubSpot — Inbound Marketing Kit

We have to mention HubSpot here because let’s face it, they are one of the driving forces behind inbound marketing online. They have also produced some pretty great content around the subject. When I looked for an inbound marketing guide from them, though, I had a mixed bag of disappointment, frustration and delight.

The Benefits of HubSpot’s Guide (err…approach)

So, HubSpot has the “Inbound Marketing Kit” as opposed to a “guide.” This has a glossary of terms, their State of Inbound Marketing Report as well as an interactive video on actually doing inbound marketing. It is also important to note that HubSpot has several inbound marketing guides that are tailored for specific organizations such as NPOs and large corporations. In this regard, they do a good job of avoiding the one-size-fits-all guide approach.

Hands representing a holistic feelHolistic approach:  The thing I like about the video is that it provides a very holistic approach to inbound. HubSpot always gives a bunch of great stats, and they touch on all the different elements of inbound and how they can be leveraged and/or integrated with one another.

Informative:  The glossary was very informative and has tons of definitions. Granted, they are HubSpot’s definitions to relatively new concepts on the Internet in general, but if you are new to inbound, you can get a good reference guide on what the heck everyone is talking about.

Actionable data:  HubSpot’s State of Inbound Marketing Report is great for making decisions on where to focus your time with inbound. If you are a data hound, it’s the perfect document to show you exactly where you should be placing the most effort.

With inbound marketing, collecting and analyzing data are particularly important tasks. The mere fact that you can collect so much data from online marketing makes it much easier to understand what is working for you and what is a waste of time and money.

Drawbacks

I don’t really like to knock HubSpot because they do what they do very well, and they are very thorough with their data. There were, however, a few things that annoyed me with their approach to making this guide.

Flash logoVideo was in Flash:  Ahhhh!  I can’t comprehend why people are still using this technology. Adobe is huge and well-ingrained, so I get it. It’s hard to stop using what was once so ubiquitous. In some websites I’ve built, I’ve reluctantly had to use Flash for some elements. But when you are making a core piece of content for your viewers to see, it should not be displayed in a proprietary technology. When I went to see the video, I was unable to view it because my player was out of date. Had the video been on YouTube or Vimeo or any other way that didn’t include using Flash, things would have been fine.

Lack of actionable strategies:  Since I couldn’t see the video that was there as the guide, my only go-to docs were the glossary and the (lengthy) State of Inbound Marketing Report. Neither of these documents provide any kind of actionable strategy information.  They are mostly bare-bones definitions and data.

impact-logoImpact Branding and Design — A Beginners’ Guide to Inbound Marketing

I haven’t heard a lot about this company, but I saw that they had a beginners’ guide to inbound. In my experience, it’s good to give less well-known things a try once in a while, and this time I was pleasantly surprised.

The Benefits of Impact’s Guide

simpleSimple:  A lot of guides are good, but they can easily go off on a tangent and talk about theory and philosophy behind their concepts. That’s all great stuff, but sometimes (and especially if you are a beginner in a time crunch), you just want to know what to do.

Impact’s guide does that. They tell you exactly what you need, where to get it and what to do with it. Of course, they include some basic stats at the beginning of their guide, but for the most part, it dives right into what should be happening at your desk instead of theories on consumer buying habits.

Well-rounded:  Another thing I liked about this particular guide was that it adequately hit on key points of inbound marketing without being too detailed about any one concept or task. They start off with what business-related things someone would need to get started with inbound, what tangible tools they would need, how to implement those tools and then how to convert leads to sales.

At the end, they wrap up with how to measure your activities, which is always a crucial component. An added tidbit that you don’t always see in some guides is a section about the website, which is central to any inbound marketing campaign.We are trying to drive people to a website so they can perform some action or see our brand.

Drawbacks

Really the only thing I didn’t like about this guide was that it relied heavily on HubSpot’s data and general stature in the inbound industry. The company was mentioned a number of times, and there weren’t many other outside resources for people to follow up on.

I think it’s good to provide more perspectives than just one, and to definitely use more examples than just a single, leading company. HubSpot does what it does very well, but there are also a lot of other companies that are doing inbound well, too.

 

Are there any inbound marketing guides that you have found useful? Please share in the comments below!

Lead Generation through Social Media in 2014

A few months ago, we covered seven ways to use social media for lead generation. As marketers look to refine their inbound marketing tactics in 2014, we’re outlining four additional ideas to boost your lead generation efforts through social media next year.

Before we get stuck into it, here’s a recap of the first seven:

  1. Listen to relevant conversations for outreach opportunities.

  2. Add value and a personal touch to conversations by taking your virtual communications offline.

  3. Leverage social ads to reach a high quality, highly targeted audience.

  4. Promote compelling free offerings social media users can’t resist.

  5. Create contests, sweepstakes, giveaways, discounts, and other promotions to accumulate qualified leads.

  6. Actively participate in Google+ Hangouts, Twitter Chats, and LinkedIn Groups.

  7. Encourage social sharing.

Once you’ve mastered these, move onto our next four tips.

#1. Use Social Media Tools Specifically Designed For Lead Generation

As social advertising increases in popularity, providers are creating unique tools to help businesses boost their effectiveness. Twitter’s new lead generation card feature is a perfect case in point.

Twitter lead generation card

Brands can now create an expanded Tweet with a cool description of their offer and a tempting CTA. Best of all, users can securely share their email address without having to leave the social media platform or fill out a tedious form. The tool pre-populates the card with a lead’s @username and email address so all the individual has to do is click the submit button to take advantage of your offer. Pretty convenient, right?

Keep your eye on developments within the networks you’re using because we’re sure to see more of this smart marketing in the future.

#2. Learn To Newsjack Intelligently

Newsjacking isn’t new, but many businesses need to get better at it. Buzz-worthy stories create high demand, so why not jump at the chance if you see an opportunity to tailor your offers accordingly? Just make sure you do it the right way. Exploiting natural disasters or tragic events can ruin your reputation rather than fuel your social media lead generation efforts, so be extremely sensitive when selecting the topical content you plan to newsjack. Be quick about it, too, because most stories have a very short lifespan.

#4. Get Back To the Basics

If you’ve been sweating for hours over the right message and call-to-action for a great lead generation post, dig into your old bag of tricks and get back to the basics of marketing. You know, where you wield psychological influence through things like scarcity to drum up interest and sense of urgency in your offers. This is a great way to generate leads through social media within a limited time frame so use this tactic when appropriate.

#4. Become a Pro at Creating Offers and CTAs for Each Buying Phase

Lead Generation Social Media CTAAs a marketer, you not only want to focus on the quantity of leads you generate through social media, you also want to focus on the quality. After all, what’s a lead worth if it’s unlikely to convert? Therefore, you should aim to create a variety of offers and marketing messages that speak to your target audience at various stages of the buying cycle. While one prospect might be interested in an eBook or similar informational piece, another might be ready for a free trial or demo.

Always remember that the first key element of a good lead generation campaign is a compelling offer, while the secret sauce is a powerful call-to-action. Back that up with a killer landing page and lead capture form and you’re good to go.

Are you preparing for lead generation via social media in 2014? Is there anything you’d add to our list? Add your voice to the conversation below.

Webinars: Selecting the Right Presenters and Planning Your Agenda

As with any event, certain moving parts need to align in order for a webinar to run smoothly. Today we’re focusing on just two of them: engaging presenters and your webinar agenda. While you may believe these are simple issues that need to be addressed, the reality is there are several aspects you need to consider when it comes to organizing your presentation and finalizing decisions around these elements.

Follow along as we provide useful tips for presenter selection and agenda planning.

Selecting the Right Speakers

You can have all the pretty pictures and fascinating data you like, but you’re wasting your time if your guest or host is a sleep-inducing talker. Not only will you likely fail to reach the goals you’ve set for your webinar, but your attendees will also drop out of the event like flies.

Webinar guest speakersTherefore, you need:

  • A recognized speaker who possesses a passion for the subject you’ll be talking about—someone who is a great teacher and will help your audience understand the key points you’re hoping to convey.
  • Someone who can attract and hold fast the interest and attention of your viewers for an extended period (40 minutes or more).
  • A credible presenter who not only has the necessary knowledge on the topic at hand, but also lends their marketability to your webinars. Ask yourself whether this is someone who has established online communities and strong social connections, as well as whether they’re able to attract your target crowd. Can you leverage the individual’s name to boost attendance? Is the person willing to help you promote your webinar through his or her own social channels?
  • Someone who is able to answer questions off-the-cuff.
  • A person who creates a valuable experience for your attendees by bringing their own opinions, viewpoints, and experiences to the table.
  • A speaker who can fit in with your webinar format whether you’re hosting a moderated panel, live debate, or interview-style presentation. If you’re already dealing with a niche topic in a somewhat dull field, consider forming a panel with two or more engaging presenters so you avoid monotony and give your webinar flavor.

Planning Your Agenda

webinar agenda meetingSuccessfully orchestrating a live webinar requires everyone involved to be well prepared, aware of their roles, and in the loop with respect to the timing of certain agenda items. As a result, you’ll want to assemble your team of speakers, facilitators or moderators, assistants, and other support staff a few weeks beforehand to discuss and plan your webinar agenda.

Factors you’ll need to plan and agree upon during the meeting:

  • Key questions or points that need to be discussed during the presentation;
  • A time to review questions and develop answers prior to the event;
  • The order and duration of each webinar element, including a welcome message, introductions, the topic presentation, audience Q&A’s, interactive content (polls, surveys, etc.), a CTA, and closing;
  • How and when you’ll create opportunities for dialogue;
  • Deadlines for the submission of a general script, bio photo and details, slide decks, videos, visual aids, references, and other presentation materials;
  • Social media and hashtag monitoring for audience input or feedback;
  • And a time to conduct a dry run.

Ultimately, you want to ensure you’re working with the right people and that they’re in agreement in terms of the best direction for your presentation. A concerted effort by all parties will ensure you have an engaging webinar with few timing problems.

 

Have you ever attended a really bad webinar? What would you change about it? Share your stories with us below.

Personal Challenges in Writing an Inbound Marketing Guide

challengeMost of my writing has a strict goal or purpose. In the posts we push out on this blog, it is our intention to inform and educate readers on concepts of inbound marketing, social media, web development and similar topics. Rarely do we get the chance to reflect on the process of accomplishing that goal. Over the past several weeks, we have made a variety of posts related to inbound marketing and its different steps. This post is more of a reflection of what it was like to compose information like that.

philosophyPhilosophy

The term “inbound marketing” was coined by HubSpot’s Brian Halligan back in 2005. Despite its very specific definition, inbound is one of those concepts that is still in its infancy. The term and the practices it refers to are still so new in terms of marketing businesses that many agencies and individuals have come up with their own personal meanings for the phrase.

For the most part, there is agreement on what people mean when they talk about inbound, but in writing these posts, it’s easy to lose sight of the rigid framework. You have to be honest with yourself in the fact that this entire business is new, ambiguous and hasn’t really found its place yet. Therefore, it is hard to say there is a right and wrong way to do inbound marketing.

Marketing in general varies based on the industry you are in. The same is true for inbound. There really isn’t one right way to do things. What I’ve learned is that you have to be creative. You have to constantly look around you at what is working for others and what is working for yourself. The best strategy I have found so far is to learn about best practices and then formulate your own philosophy for inbound. If you adopt someone else’s philosophy, it may not work as well for you as it did for them.

crutchThe Google Crutch

As a blogger, you want to be original. Maybe you want to make a name for yourself or perhaps you are just trying to pay the bills. Whatever the case may be, the more sophisticated writers want to do something unique.

There is always that temptation, though, to hop on a search engine and read some other post that addresses exactly the same topic that you want to write about. I’m no better, and I often browse the web to see what other similar content is out there. I do this both for inspiration, as well as to see how I can make my posts better than the others that pop up near the top of search results.

You have to be careful, though. When you are in a pinch and the deadline is coming up, it’s all too tempting to emulate word for word (technically) what someone else has already written. What I’ve learned here is that you can’t be afraid to fail. I’ve done a fair amount of study on inbound marketing, worked with a number of different clients and have a pretty broad knowledge of inbound and online marketing in general.

Therefore, I like to rely on my own opinions and experiences, and then find data to support those experiences. This has helped me write more original posts and provide another diverse point of view for web searchers to find. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that it’s ok to use search engines for research and inspiration, but don’t rely on them as a crutch.

timeFinding the Time

This is a challenge that resonates with any person who is either writing or blogging for a living (or at all on a consistent basis). Finding the time to write is one thing, but finding the time to write well is something else entirely.

If you’ve ever tried to write well on a regular basis, you may have found that it takes time to get into a groove. It is not something you can just pick up and run with in two seconds. Sometimes it may take an hour or more before high-quality words start flowing onto the page.

Over the course of writing an inbound marketing guide, I’ve developed some strategies to help me get better work done in an (almost) timely manner.

  • Start early, even if you don’t feel like writing; get something down on paper and you can always change it later.
  • Make outlines. When you outline the information you want to write about, you can fill out a blog post or an article that much easier.
  • Write about things you have first-hand knowledge of.
  • Repurpose content where you can. Make sure you only repurpose content that won’t be competing with itself in search.

These challenges are by no means unique to me, and I’m sure there are others I’m missing. This post is more of a reflection on how I could become a more efficient writer and marketer than anything tangible for our readers.

 

What challenges do you face as a writer for large projects? Have you ever run into the challenges I’ve mentioned above?

TCA’s Social Media Awards – The Best and Worst of 2013

TCA Social Media AwardsAdvertising isn’t as simple as it once was.

With social media use on the rise, marketers have to find imaginative, unexpected ways to create relevant and interesting content that tantalizes target audiences and encourages participation. Although social media makes it possible to raise significant awareness with zero budget, it can also amplify the shame when campaigns go wrong.

With that said, we thought we’d have a bit of fun and highlight some of the best and worst applications of social media we’ve seen in 2013.

The Feel Good Award

As one of the most shared videos of 2013, Dove certainly has a reason to celebrate their Real Beauty Sketches campaign. The brand’s powerful message evoked strong emotions from a deeply engaged audience, prompting viewers to share the Youtube masterpiece with their own online communities, as well as contribute to the brand’s campaign with testimonials, stories, and other user-generated content.

The Unfortunate Wording Award

Social media award - Tesco

Poor Tesco. Their ill-worded (and ill-timed) Tweet appeared in the midst of their infamous horse meat scandal that had the stomachs of consumers turning violently. Based on the reaction by social media users, few appreciated their choice of words whether they were intentional or not. Although we love a good viral post, this one circulated for all the wrong reasons.

The Creativity Award

Social media award - The Weather Channel

 

To promote #TornadoWeek earlier this year, The Weather Channel created a tweet-powered tornado simulation controlled by the volume of #TornadoWeek mentions. Putting Twitter users in the driving seat of Mother Nature really paid off with the dedicated hashtag still showing up in many feeds months down the line.

The All-Rounder Award

Social Media Award - Oreo

Oreo not only has the knack for baking delicious cookies, but the brand also has a talent for creating fun, timely, and visually appealing campaigns across all their social properties. Whether they’re showing off the versatility of their product through mouth-watering recipes or capitalizing on current events like the birth of the royal baby, you’re sure to find an Oreo-related post to make you want to grab a cookie and a glass of milk.

The Cool Contest Award

Social media award - Heineken

Heineken brought a fun factor to Instagram with a scavenger hunt contest that generated numerous impressions and raked in a boatload of new followers. While this type of contest isn’t new, contestants were able to find the clues and hunt for the prize within the confines of the dedicated Instagram competition page.

The Innovative Campaign Award

Social Media Award - Fruit of the LoomPhoto: Fruit of the Loom

Fruit of the Loom believes that “great-fitting underwear can help you start your workday in a great mood,” which is why it’s no surprise that this famous underwear company sent LinkedIn users who had recently acquired or changed jobs a message stating they could claim a free pair of underwear for their new adventure. Since LinkedIn is usually left out in the cold when it comes to this sort of campaign, we’re giving Fruit of the Loom two thumbs up for targeting this networking site.

The Worst Reaction Award

Social media award - Amy's Baking Co.

Amy’s Baking Co. fiasco really takes the cake for 2013. There have been some pretty bad reactions by brand’s to criticism, but this business has created a PR nightmare of note. Besides vulgar language and erratic posts, the company owners completely trashed their target audience via Facebook. What about those 118k likes you see in the image above? They’re mostly there because people can’t take their eyes off this social media train wreck. The brand has stated they were hacked, but the mudslinging continues months later. BuzzFeed is calling it an “epic brand meltdown,” we’re calling it something every company should avoid at all costs.

Which have been your favorite social media campaigns in 2013? Which ones made you cringe? Share your suggestions along with a name for your award in the comment section below.

How to Develop Engaging PowerPoint Decks for Webinars

PowerPoint decks are a great teaching tool. They’re super easy to create, and almost anyone can use the software to develop their own.

Perhaps that’s the problem.

With the wrong designer behind the keyboard, a PowerPoint presentation can be an absolute disaster. In many cases, they’re boring beyond belief. Big chunks of text, swooping bullet points, random clipart, and dissolving screens—it’s truly the stuff of nightmares.

To ensure you don’t give your audience a headache or put them to sleep, consider the following tips for developing an engaging PowerPoint Deck that gets your message across.

1. Plan Your Presentation

Plan Your PresentationA little forethought about the way in which you want to present your content can go a long way to ensuring your webinar success. Map out the various elements of your presentation and then decide how you want to bring them to life.

If you’re unskilled in the area of design, consider hiring a professional freelancer or searching for great slideshow examples online. You may find a creative trick or two that would work well for the topic you’re presenting.

2. Create Enough Slides

Don’t limit yourself; this isn’t a situation where less is more. Jam-packed slides simply aren’t pleasant to look at, so don’t be afraid to create lots of slides. Just make sure you keep each one focused on a single concept or talking point. You’ll have a much easier time capturing and maintaining the attention of your audience members.

3. Add an Interesting Welcome Slide

Attendees generally arrive at different times. While some may connect a few minutes early, others will join at the scheduled time. You’ll even have a few viewers who drift in a minute or two late. Whatever the case, every one of these people should see a warm welcoming message on a branded slide that sets the tone for what they can expect during the webinar. A great presenter headshot, sleek design, title text, welcoming message, and embedded background music will ensure viewers don’t drop out before the presentation even starts.

4. Choose Your Design or Theme Wisely

A clean, simple design is definitely the way to go with PowerPoint webinar presentations. Just make sure you subtly include your brand elements on each page so you’re not only consistent in your marketing efforts, but also reminding your audience that the content, thoughts, and ideas offered are linked to your business. If you’re changing the design or theme on a particular slide for any specific reason, make certain it complements the other slides in your deck.

5. Use Relevant, Engaging Visuals

Relevant, engaging visualsThere’s almost no excuse for having lifeless PowerPoint presentations these days. From basic clipart, animations, and slide transitions to screen grabs, graphs, and other catchy visual material, you can keep your audience entertained and engaged throughout the length of your talk. As a bonus, many webinar tools and software solutions allow you to add interactive content, such as polls and surveys, at just the right moment.

As a final note, be sure to add slides that briefly introduce the presenter or guest speaker, provide a quick overview of the agenda, offer additional resources, and end off the presentation with contact info and a call-to-action. You’ll also need to proofread your content so that you don’t stumble upon embarrassing mistakes when you’re in the middle of your webinar. Line up your powerful PowerPoint deck with a great vocal presentation and you’re sure to have a winning webinar on your hands.

 

Are you using PowerPoint to create your presentations? Are there any other webinar presentation tools you’d recommend? We’d love to hear from you, so share your thoughts, tips, and advice with us in the comment section below. 

Can You Benefit from Inbound Marketing Software?

Inbound Marketing SoftwareThe amount of activities you could be involved with in online marketing for your business is dizzying. There are so many to think about, and it’s easy to get lost. When you are promoting a business in a digital space, things get a lot easier when you have software to manage the task.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, there are a handful of very useful inbound marketing software programs available. Businessbee.com offers a great synopsis of the costs, benefits and feature highlights of the different inbound programs out there, so we won’t go through that here.

What we would like to discuss is why software can be of benefit, its myths and how you might go about the process of deciding whether you need it or not.

definition of benefitThe Benefits of Inbound Marketing Software

Inbound encompasses a lot of things. It’s SEO, social, blogging, video, images and other forms of content or content platforms. Most of these things require ongoing management. Another common thread is that there are more than a dozen methods to accomplish each of them.

The basic goal of any software should be — and often is — to make some kind of computerized task easier to do. Software should save time, money, headaches and misery. Many of the leading inbound marketing software programs do just that.

I haven’t had first-hand experience with all available software, but I have had the opportunity to check out a couple of them and actually use them in my work. If you can successfully tie together your social media work, SEO work, blogging and other activities along with tracking and analysis into one central location, you can save yourself a lot of digging. This is especially true if you do a lot of volume.

myth-v-factThe Myths

Myths aren’t exclusive to inbound marketing software. They go along with any software program. What I’m referring to is the fact that software companies, and sometimes the programs themselves, can lure us into believing that we can just flip a switch and the work is done for us.

In reality, software packages can help save time, but you still have to put in the effort. No program is going to magically market your business. With any platform that you choose to utilize, do the following:

  • Learn the features of the program very well
  • Look for opportunities where you can leverage the software’s strengths in your work
  • Be resourceful; use other programs with your new tool to maximize its performance
  • Don’t rely on it to make you a better marketer; only you can do that
  • Read any best-practice guides or reviews on the software

Jon Henshaw gives a very candid appraisal of Hubspot marketing software in this blog post from back in May of 2013. While you should probably take any opinions with a grain of salt, both the post and the comments offer some valuable insights.

inbound-marketingDo you Need Inbound Marketing Software?

The fast answer to this question (as with many others) is “it depends.” I don’t have a hard rule for you on this one, but the following conditions would suggest that you should start looking into some kind of program to help you with your job:

 

  • You are relying heavily on SEO, Social media, blogging and other inbound tactics to grow your business
  • You manage multiple presences for multiple companies online
  • You are using more than 5 different programs to manage the same campaign for the same company (or your own)
  • It is apparent that you need to increase your marketing efficiency as evidenced by your inability to get past a plateau or to maintain your sanity

Inbound marketing software can be expensive, so you have to enter into an agreement with a company for the right reasons. For those who need it, software can help speed up your processes, make managing campaigns much easier, provide useful tracking and sale information and allow you to manage your activities from a single location.

 

What are your thoughts on using inbound marketing software? Do you have any additional insight on the topic? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

6 Ways to Make Your Social Media Content Management Easier

If you’ve been operating within the online marketing world for a while now, you’re likely tired of having the phrase “content is king” rammed down your throat. It’s a simple concept, yes. However, the actual management of your content assets can be a pain when you’re implementing a multifaceted plan that’s integrated with a comprehensive social media strategy. There’s just so much content—both original and user-generated—that many people have trouble staying on top of things.

To help you make the process of social media content management a little easier and less frustrating, consider the following six tips.

1. Establish an Effective System

Social Media Content ManagementIf your social media editorial process is a mess, the chances are your social media content management is a mess, too. When you’re running a complex marketing campaign, it’s crucial to set up a system and organize your team in a way that allows for maximum effectiveness. Establish clear roles, identify the right individuals to perform the right tasks, and ensure your content workflow, optimization, and distribution processes make sense for your business. You’re dealing with far more than a simple social media editorial calendar here, so make certain you spend quality time refining your system.

2. Choose the Right Listening and Monitoring Tools

While most social platforms offer sufficient capabilities to track conversations, there are tools specifically designed to dig deep and key in on relevant discussions and topics that will feed your content development strategy. In addition, they consolidate conversations from your social media assets into one stream, so you don’t have to waste precious time checking each feed obsessively. The important thing is that you select a tool based on your business needs. Although some options are free, others don’t come cheap, which means you need to ensure you research several available social media listening and monitoring tools before you make a buying decision.

3. Pick a Good Social Media Management Tool

Whether you opt for a free social media management tool or a paid solution, you’ll find that good software with extensive functionality can make content management a breeze. Manage multiple accounts, schedule posts, collaborate with your editorial team, discover optimal times to post content for maximum engagement, manage user-generated content, reply to inquiries, participate in conversations, and more. The best part is you can do all this on a single dashboard. There are thousands of tools out there, so test a handful and then select the one you or your team find the most efficient.

4. Become an Expert Performance Tracker

You can create and publish every type of content you like, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be effective. With social media measurement tools, you can determine whether your content produces results, figure out which pieces generate the most bang for your buck, and track the overall market value of your content. Monitoring your performance lets you establish and focus on key areas that deliver results while eliminating ineffective tactics and dud content.

5. Avoid a One-Man Juggling Act

Juggling Social Media ContentWhether you’re a solopreneur or part of a small team, social media content management can quickly go haywire if you plan to do everything on your own. The process usually requires more than anyone in a full-time job can handle, so you should consider delegating or outsourcing certain tasks where possible.

Think about it. Larger businesses have content marketing directors, content creators, editors, community managers, analytics specialists, and others within the organization working together to make their content marketing and social media programs work. Hiring someone to write your social media snippets or manage your content schedule can eliminate unnecessary pressure and give you an opportunity to focus on tasks that are more important.

6. Use Time Trackers

Social platforms can be addictive. Before you know it, you’re sucked in and spending hours at a time following a trail of content that leads to Nowhereville. A simple time tracking tool will help you manage social media content projects and identify areas of inefficiency.

Ultimately, your aim should be to create plenty of useful, relevant content you can feed your hungry social communities regularly. Ensuring your streams are full helps keep your brand top-of-mind.

 

Do you struggle with social media content management? Maybe you’re a pro with favorite tips or tools to share. Drop us a line in the comment section below and share your thoughts on this topic.

4 Tips for Creating an Awesome Webinar Invitation That Drives Registrations

Webinar InvitationWithout a qualified target audience, your webinar is practically meaningless. After all, you can’t reach the business goal your presentation is designed to achieve when there’s no one to take action or convert. Therefore, you want to kick off the registration process on a high note with a winning webinar invitation that builds your list of attendees.

To ensure you get your messaging spot-on right from the start, follow these four easy tips:

Tip 1: Write a Killer Subject Line

One of the toughest jobs you’ll have as a webinar marketer is persuading your target audience to open your email invite in the first place. The sheer volume of incoming mail overwhelms most people, which is why many will often choose to open a message based on its subject line alone. A great subject line should be attention-grabbing (that doesn’t mean ALL CAPS), concise, compelling (but not hype happy), and focused on the core benefit of the webinar. Also, steer clear of language that could be caught up in SPAM filters.

Tip 2: Pick an Attractive Design

You may be limited for choice by the email marketing software or application you’re using, but many providers offer great templates for email blasts. Consider stepping up your game with a design that’s not only in line with your branding, but that also supports the overall look and feel you’re hoping to create for your webinar presentation.

Tip 3: Make It Highly Targeted and Personal

Hopefully, you’ve already segmented your subscriber or lead list and you’ve gathered enough personal information to address potential audience members by name. Not only do you want to be very specific about the people you’re sending this email to, but you also want to ensure you add a personal touch that wins them over whenever you can. A “Hey Joe” can sound a lot more inviting than a “Hey there,” so think about your list targeting and personalization options when constructing your invite.

Tip 4: Get the Structure and Messaging Right

Before you start writing your promotional copy, you want to ensure you have:

  • An outline of your agenda;
  • Details on the webinar title, guest speakers, date, time, and length;
  • Links to your registration page;
  • And the list of key features and benefits of your webinar.

Once you have this information at hand, you’ll want to focus on creating your email body. The important thing to keep in mind here is that you’re writing to your ideal audience members—people who are actually interested in hearing about the topic you’ll be covering in your webinar, and people who can help you reach the business goal you’re longing to achieve. A deep understanding of these individuals will help you identify and use language that’s going to appeal to their senses and convince them to take action and register.

As part of the email body, you’ll need to address the pain point this webinar will solve, introduce the title of the webinar, explain what viewers can expect, highlight the best features and benefits, and provide basic event details. Most importantly, you’ll need to link to the dedicated landing page you’re using for registrations and include a strong call-to-action that encourages people to signup.

Webinar registration and attendanceWhatever you do, make certain:

  • You’ve built interest and a genuine desire to learn more;
  • Your instructions are clear;
  • And you’ve established a sense of urgency in your CTA.

Do that and you’ll be selling virtual seats to your webinar like hotcakes.

As a final note, it’s important to be prepared for no-shows. While you may have written super hot promotional copy even the greats would admire, there will likely be a number of registrants whose interest was only lukewarm. You may need to examine why people dropped out if there’s a massive discrepancy, but at least you’ll know it’s not because your invitation stinks.

 

Did you find these tips for creating a webinar invitation useful? Perhaps you’re an invitation writing ninja with a few tips of your own to share. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic so drop us a line in the comment section.

Measuring Inbound Marketing Results

measuring-inbound-marketing-resultsSometimes what we do in marketing is based on intuition or common knowledge. Most of the time it is based on data. Having logical and accurate data helps us make the right decisions on where to focus our resources and our efforts. For inbound marketing online, collecting data helps us gauge how effective an initiative was. What metrics do you focus on, though? Is it visitors to your website? Downloads of content? Leads? Sales, followers, likes and interactions?

Define What your Inbound Marketing Results Should Be

As a business professional, I often have a lot of things running through my mind every day that I have to complete. Sometimes there are so many things that it’s easy to work myself into a frantic state that I have a lot to do. It helps to lay out clear goals for the day so that I know exactly what needs to be completed right away and what can wait.

For your inbound marketing activities, it’s hard to measure what you’ve accomplished without first defining a goal. You have to define what you want your results to be, or you will have a really hard time measuring your progress, or even knowing if you’ve accomplished anything.

For companies marketing their businesses online, there are a lot of common goals such as generating leads, making more sales and delivering good customer service. You don’t have to use a common goal or anyone else’s objectives, but you should have something you are aiming for. It may be brand awareness, engaging your target market, maintaining an active presence online or to grow a network.

Measuring Inbound Marketing Results

Once you have an objective or goal, then you can start thinking about how you can measure it. If you have an uncommon goal or something where part of your conversion takes place offline, you may have to get creative. For the sake of this blog post, we will focus on measuring a common goal related to inbound marketing: generating leads.

Measuring Lead Generation

For almost any company, the basic formula for measuring the success of a lead generation campaign is figuring out he cost per lead and eventually the ROI (return on investment) for the campaign as a whole. Running campaigns online makes the much easier to do than in the physical world.

Cost per Lead

In order to track this, you have to note your costs in building, launching and running the campaign. For example, AllState Insurance recently ran a campaign where they provided 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi on Delta planes in exchange for users’ name and address information.

In order to successfully come up with a cost-per-lead for that campaign, marketers would have had to keep track of what it cost to develop that idea, implement it and run it for a specific time period. The cost per lead is then simply the cost of the campaign divided by the number of viable leads they were able to generate. Notice it’s not all leads, just the good ones.

return-on-investmentMeasuring ROI

On the other side of that campaign, marketers would have to reconcile the leads they did generate and follow up with sales in order to come up with ROI. The basic ROI formula is ROI = (Gains – Cost)/Cost. Naturally, AllState would have gotten a lot of people (perhaps some not even of legal age to purchase insurance) taking advantage of the offer. By wading through their collected data and pulling out only those leads viable enough to produce sales, they can calculate their cost per lead.

In the end, follow up with sales (if marketers aren’t following up on their own) is an important part of the process. Only by getting the final amount of customers who actually signed up for a product that AllState offered can marketers measure the success of the campaign.

To illustrate, if it cost $22,000 to design, launch and run the campaign, and it produced 2,300 viable leads, the cost per lead is simply $22,000/2,300 = $9.57 per lead (roughly). Sales follows up on those leads and is able to convert 50 prospects. Let’s say the average policy they sold nets the company 600 dollars annually per customer for a grand total of $30,000 or a return on investment of roughly 36%.

Measuring the Offer

AllState may also want to measure the effectiveness of their process of getting people to sign up for their offer of free Wi-Fi. For this task, there are a multitude of tracking platforms available such as Google Analytics, Get Clicky and others. Google’s product is by far the most flexible and comprehensive for the money (free).

Testing is incredibly important before a campaign is launched. Marketers should design multiple versions of campaign landing pages and use methods such as A/b/n or multivariate tests to determine which version converts better. Tracking platforms like Google’s have these features built in. You can alternate traffic to be sent to different ads and collect data on which one was most effective.

There could be a lot of potential goals for your inbound marketing campaign but in general (if you are looking to make money), you should be focusing on metrics that will help you measure results that can potentially generate revenue.

 

How do you measure your inbound marketing results? Let us know by leaving a comment below.