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eBook Promotion: Advice from Stephanie Bond

Image of Big Sale for ebook promotionA lot of self-published and first-time authors quickly realize they are in for an uphill battle after finishing their book (or maybe even before they write it). It’s helpful to hear from someone who is an expert at eBook promotion. We have a special treat for you today. Stephanie Bond, best-selling self-published author of numerous mystery and romance novels, was kind enough to speak with little-old-me about promoting an eBook title. If you have written a book and are trying to get it some exposure, here is your chance to get some really great advice.

Q: I’ve written a book; what is the best way to get it converted into an eBook?

epub logo as it relates to ebook promotion

A: The best way is to learn how to do it yourself! Every retail platform accepts an .epub format now, so you don’t have to generate multiple file types like before. There are lots of formatting programs out there, most of them around $50. Don’t be intimidated about learning how to format your book…if you can format a Word document, you can learn how to format your manuscript into an .epub file.

IF, however, you have more money than time (!), or if you’ve decided to concentrate on writing new content and to farm out the production side of things, then find a writing community or email loop and ask for referrals of someone who can take your manuscript file and format it into an .epub file. Prices and turnaround time will vary widely, so seek out more than one source.

eBook Promotion through social mediaQ: I have limited funds for eBook promotion. What are my options for getting a lot of exposure for little money?

A: Social media is the best way to get the most exposure for your book for no money. BUT realize that social media doesn’t necessarily sell a lot of books—it’s simply another “impression” to get your name and book title out there. With enough impressions, you’ll turn readers into buyers.

Q: What are the most effective channels for eBook promotion?

A: Work, work, work the channels that you have full control of:  your website and your email list. And ASK your loyal readers to help you by leaving reviews, telling a friend, etc. Readers are wonderful people who are always happy to help their favorite authors with eBook promotion.

Doing a blog tour is another good way to promote your book. Line up a blog tour by contacting individual blogs and reserving a spot around the time of your book, with the idea of making a guest appearance on different blogs every few days in the two weeks leading up to your book release and two weeks after.

Q: Should I try and hook up with a traditional publisher to promote my eBook, or should I even bother?

A: Only if you are glutton for punishment [kidding].

Q: Will getting my book printed help me promote it at all?

A: Yes. Not only do many readers still prefer print, but some readers who fall in love with your eBook will want a paper copy for their shelf. Plus, the mere existence of a print/print-on-demand version of your book, which is probably at a higher price point, will push sales to your eBooks.

Q: How important is it that I have a social media presence for my eBook?

A: Yes, have a social media presence. But don’t let it rule your life or keep you from writing your next project!

Study eBook PromotionQ: What resources are there for me if I don’t know a lot about promoting an eBook online or through traditional channels?

A: The best advice is to do what I did:  Google “self-publishing” and then settle in for a LOT of reading. Disregard anything over a year old and be suspicious if the info is more than six months old—that’s how fast things are moving and changing. Look for a YahooGroup of writers you can join so you can bounce ideas off each other. Notice what the best-selling indie authors are doing (Follow them on Twitter, sign up for their newsletter, etc.). The problem is there’s no one place to find all the answers [for eBook promotion]—you’ll have to cobble together your own marketing plan that fits your schedule and your budget.

Q: Is metadata important for eBook promotion?

A: Yes…passively. Metadata is simply the information you include in your product description and in the keywords you choose to describe your book when loading it to retail platforms…and in the text of the book itself. I write romantic mysteries; I want at least one of my book titles to come up if a reader goes onto Amazon and types in “romantic mystery.” So I make sure that string is in my metadata. Visualize your metadata as a Venus Flytrap, just waiting to snag any reader that happens to get close!

Picture of Written Content for BusinessQ: What types of online marketing are effective for promoting an eBook? For instance, affiliate marketing, email marketing, social media, my own website or blog?

A: All of those, yes. Here’s the thing:  you can spend every hour of every day promoting your book…but you can’t forget that your first priority is to keep creating new content. Nothing will benefit your career as much as getting another project out there working for you. So do what you can to promote yourself and your book, try this and try that and see if it helps sales—if it doesn’t, toss it…or try again at another time/price/title. Keep records so you’ll remember what worked and what didn’t.

Q: How long should I be promoting my eBook for? Should I do it for a few months then stop? A year?

A: The most read page/section on author websites is the ‘upcoming releases’ page, so start promoting your book as soon as you have a cover. Once the book is out, promote it until you have another new book to release, which should be sooner rather than later. When you have a new book out, you will, of course, have links to all your previous releases in the back of the new book, which will recycle sales, and so on.

Q: How do I know if I’ve been successful at promoting my eBook?

A: When the monthly royalty checks begin to make you smile. Don’t compare your success to anyone else’s. Set your own goals…then work to exceed them.

Q: Should I ever consider special contests or giveaways for my eBook promotion?

A: Yes and yes! But try to make those freebies work for you. For example, offer a free copy of your eBook to the first 25 people who would like to read it and post a fair, honest review at an online bookstore.

image of dogsQ: Who are some people that I could look to for advice on eBook promotion?

A: It’s tempting to want to emulate big-name authors (and yes, you should observe them), but be aware that they might be operating on a larger budget than you have, or be riding on the momentum of a retailer-sponsored program. Watch and learn from the people who’ve gone before you, but know and plan what you can spend in time and in money when promoting your book, then stick to your budget…and to your writing schedule.

Stephanie Bond is the best-selling author of more than 60 mystery and romance novels, 16 of which she’s self-published. Her romantic mystery OUR HUSBAND was the best-selling self-published Kindle book of 2012. To date, she has sold over 1 million eBooks on her own. Her current self-published release is TWO GUYS DETECTIVE AGENCY, available exclusively through Amazon in eBook,  print, and audio. TWO GUYS DETECTIVE AGENCY has been optioned for TV series development. For more about Stephanie and her books, visit www.stephaniebond.com.

 

Do you have any experiences (positive or negative) to share about promoting a book? Was it easy? Was it tough? 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.

 

Create an eBook Cover Design Buyers Can’t Resist

They’re strewn across the Internet: horrid blends of low quality graphics and typographic train wrecks that scream, “Self-published!”

When your cover shapes a potential reader’s first impression, that’s not exactly the image you want to create. Follow along as we look at several critical aspects of eBook cover design, as well as what creating a memorable image entails.

What Makes a Good Cover?

Becoming a self-publisher generally means you need the mental agility to transition from the role of an author to the role of an entrepreneur. You’re no longer wearing the hat of someone concerned with the elements of effective writing, but rather the hat of someone concerned with the development of a marketable product. Before, you were able to leave the business decisions in the hands of a publisher. Now you are the publisher, so you need to start thinking like one.

What’s most important to understand in this role is that your book’s cover is your product’s packaging. It’s the tool that forms part of your market positioning and advertising strategies. It’s what you’ll use to differentiate, attract, promote, and facilitate the purchase decision.

With that said, it’s imperative to learn the core functions of a compelling cover so you can collaborate with a professional effectively, or design a powerful one yourself.

Consider this your eBook cover design checklist if you will:

  • A great cover stands out in search results
  • It alludes to the book’s genre
  • It persuades browsers to give it a chance
  • It sets the tone or mood for the content found within
  • It’s as memorable as the book itself
  • It helps build a brand for a business, author, or book series
  • It hints at the quality level of the writing

While this list is by no means comprehensive, it does provide a solid guideline for the type of cover you should create.

So, what should you think about while developing the concept for your design?

What the Thumbnail Display Will Look Like

When the thumbnail is all a potential buyer may see while searching for books like yours, you want to ensure the smaller image is clear, legible, and has the desired effect. Consider these two examples where the thumbnails meet the relevant criteria.

eBook Cover Design Thumbnails

Now assess these thumbnails:

eBook Cover Design Typography

Although the intricate font on the top cover may look beautiful on a larger scale, it’s almost indecipherable on a smaller scale. In addition, the thumbnail relies heavily on the graphic to tempt prospects to click through to the product page. There’s no denying the cover has to work harder here.

The bottom image is a little more confusing than the top example. The typeface is hard to read on both the small and large scale, which means the publisher probably relies on the accompanying links and product description to communicate the title and author information. The other thing you’ll notice here is that the white background of the cover dissolves into the white background of the Amazon.com site. This is a design no-no since it takes away from the impact of the cover. Consider using a textured or color background to make your book more noticeable.

Whether Your Print and Digital Designs Will Differ

You may be under the impression that one design needs to fit all. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to book covers. Have a look at these examples:

Print v.s. eBook Cover Design

The top two covers were designed for print while the bottom two covers were designed for digital platforms. Now have a look at the differences and similarities between the covers. Assess the style, typography, use of space, and images, and then evaluate them against the criteria for a great cover.

While the print covers are the same in terms of the typefaces and font sizes chosen, the images are very different. The eBooks, however, appear to follow a format or brand style guideline set out for the author’s digital covers.

Whether You’ll Use a 2D or 3D Design

Look at these two 3D renderings and then compare them to the John Grisham covers.

3D eBook Cover Design

You’ll notice there are some stark differences between the look and the feel of the images. While the 3D covers offer a unique presentation, the 2D designs display the graphics and typography well. The flat covers are also easy to read, which is crucial for prospects taking in the eBook’s key information at a glance.

Many marketers and authors choose 3D designs for their non-fiction and info product eBooks, but you’ll only know which cover is most effective if you test your market. Think about polling your blog readers and social media followers to help you narrow down your options. Keep in mind that some distributors do not accept 3D cover art submissions.

Whether You Want a Ready-Made or Customized Cover

There’s something to be said for readily available eBook cover designs. They’re cheap, they demand little effort other than some minor copy changes, and they can save you from a DIY nightmare. They’re also a great alternative if you need to publish in a hurry.

On the other hand, professional illustrators and graphic designers know what they’re doing. They have the talent, experience, and tools necessary to translate your text into a visual masterpiece. They’ve perfected their craft, they’re familiar with the tricks of the trade, and they know what questions to ask in order to deliver the best results. Essentially, a professional can take a cover that shouts, “Self-published!” and covert it into a cover that persuasively whispers, “Read me.”

There’s a lot to weigh up here—and much of it will come down to your budget—but you need to decide whether you’re prepared to foot the bill for a trained eye or take a risk on an off-the-shelf design. When purchasing a ready-made cover, be sure to evaluate it based on relevancy, mood, and visual appeal. It should attract your target audience and enhance your author brand.

How You’ll Leverage Your Color Palette

If you’re familiar with color psychology, you know that colors can influence an individual’s purchasing decision. It’s a good idea to learn the basic positive and negative emotions each color can trigger and then use that information to guide your color choice. Most of the time, you’ll find the right palette through experimentation. Therefore, you should create several mock-ups and then test them out on people you trust to provide honest feedback.

Tips:

  • Limit your palette to 3 colors or less
  • Use colors that complement each other
  • Experiment with different shades
  • If you’re creating eBooks for your business, consider applying your brand colors

Whatever you do, make certain there’s a good balance. Colors will change according to the device being used to view the book, so take that into account when making your decision.

What Dimensions You’ll Use

The distributor or online retailer you select will determine the size requirements for your cover art. Each provides design guidelines and file-size specifications, so make certain you adapt your cover accordingly. Since the dimensions aren’t necessarily set in stone, you may need to play around with your image until you achieve the right look.

Also, take into consideration that your cover doesn’t necessarily need to be the ever-popular rectangle.

Square eBook Cover Design

When done correctly, a square cover can work just as well.

A Word on Animated eBook Covers

Although this may make purists weep for the future of publishing, the reality is that animated eBook covers are slowly making their way into the marketplace. While most platforms don’t support animated covers just yet, you can fully expect the next generation of eBooks to capitalize on this technology.

As this trend gains momentum, you should think about the possibility of incorporating this strong media element into your design. Once again, you want to test the market to ensure it truly enhances your cover and contributes to higher sales. Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between tasteful and tacky, so don’t overdo it if you choose to go in this direction.

 

Since your eBook’s cover design is essentially art, it’s appeal is mainly subjective. Although you may think it looks great, it might look like a confusing mess to buyers. Take the time to study the covers of books in your genre and learn the conventions of great design. Stay away from overused stock photos and enlist the help of a professional designer if you have the budget. Keep it simple, make it relevant, and position it within the marketplace properly.

Do you consider these factors when working on eBook cover design concepts? Perhaps you have a pressing design question you need answered. Drop us a line below.

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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.

8 eBook Marketing Mistakes That Kill Potential Sales

Write it and they will come, right? There probably isn’t an author on this planet who doesn’t wish that was true. Thankfully, the digital age does offer one reprieve from the grueling trade of bookselling: bookshelves won’t groan under the weight of stock you can’t sell.

I could paint a picture in which you waste weeks creating a book only your mother will buy, but I really want to cut to the chase and help you avoid that all-too-common scenario. Without further delay, let’s dive into the ebook marketing mistakes that will crush your dreams of endless lead generation and steady sales.

Mistake 1: You Create an Offering for a Market That Doesn’t Exist

Are you writing a book no one will purchase? It’s great that you’re uber-excited about your book idea, but are people eager to buy content based on your chosen topic? Make certain there’s enough interest and potential to earn before you invest time and financial resources in the creation and publication of something that is unlikely to sell.

Mistake 2: You Create an Undesirable Offering

Have you used a boring title?

Is your book’s cover design dull?

Are you using the wrong distribution channels?

Is your price point too high?

Are your payment methods limited?

Is your landing page uninspired?

Have you failed to optimize your book and sales copy for search engines?

Is your book a part of a package with unappealing bonuses?

Is your content the best it can be?

These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself before launch day. If you think you have your marketing mix right and things still flop, assess your offering again. You may need to test the market several times before you get the combination just right.

Mistake 3: You Don’t Develop a Solid eBook Marketing Strategy

As much as you’d like it to be the case, your ebook isn’t going to sell itself. You also need to keep in mind that your book will contribute to your brand, credibility, and reputation as an authority in your industry. As a result, you need a strategy to manage every aspect of your marketing campaign so that it is rewarding both financially and professionally.

Mistake 4: You Fail to Define or Understand the Book’s Unique Selling Point (USP)

What distinguishes your ebook from the rest in its category? If “nothing” is your answer, then you should ask yourself why you even bothered. It may sound harsh, but in today’s competitive environment, you have to make a unique proposition to consumers if you want your literary offering to grace their virtual bookshelves. You need to be able to identify the specific benefit a buyer will receive that none of your competitors can offer.

With indie publishers flooding the ebook market in every niche imaginable, many authors find it difficult to pinpoint the single thing that will convince and convert. Many times, it’s because we’re trapped in a mindset that says, “I’ve produced great content too,” rather than a mindset that says, “This is what I’ve done differently.” Once you can make that crucial switch, you should have no problem identifying your USP whether it’s a different perspective on the topic at hand, research results from your own experiments, or new information and advice no one else can offer.

Mistake 5: You Believe You Don’t Need a Pre-Launch Campaign

Believe it or not, eBook marketing starts long before you’ve inserted your final piece of punctuation into your masterpiece. As with any product launch, you should spend time generating publicity and lots of curiosity before your book’s release. Let people know you’ll be publishing a book soon and start to build anticipation for its launch date. Spread the word early and you’ll reap the benefits.

Mistake 6: You Don’t Understand Your Target Audience

If you haven’t thoroughly researched your target readers and written your book with them in mind, there’s no way you’ll get your marketing message right. Understanding what people want and why they’d search for a book like yours is crucial for developing an ebook that’s not only marketable, but that people will actually buy. Make certain you clearly define your typical customer when developing your ebook marketing strategy and then use the knowledge you have to refine your sales copy.

Mistake 7: You Reach Out Through the Wrong Marketing Channels

If you’re a novice marketer feeling your way around the plethora of online marketing channels, don’t kick yourself if you’ve been making this mistake on your journey to greater sales. Even seasoned pros, who know that part of understanding your target audience includes identifying where they interact online, get this one wrong sometimes.

It’s natural to want to reach out through every avenue possible, but this can be an expensive exercise if you’re not careful. After all, you wouldn’t want to waste precious advertising dollars marketing your new “Delicious Meat Dishes” recipe book on community forums for vegetarians. Therefore, it’s essential to locate the right people online and start to build a fan base where they are. Find out their preferred way to interact with you and then leverage those communication channels efficiently.

Mistake 8: You Fail To Deliver What You Promise

All those lovely, persuading words have done it. They’ve convinced a potential reader and helped close the deal. The problem is your marketing message promises something your book doesn’t deliver. Perhaps your intentions were lost in translation, perhaps your sales copy was pure puffery. Either way, your customer isn’t satisfied and slaps a few cringe-worthy reviews online.

Does this make you a bad writer? It all depends on your ability to write, as well as the perspective of your reader. What it does make you, though, is a marketer who not only needs to do some damage control, but also needs to ensure your promotional materials don’t declare something that’s not contained in your ebook’s content.

Ultimately, you have to think about more than the planning and writing phase of creating your ebook. While your initial focus may be on getting it out there, the reality is that your marketing efforts need to be in effect long before you type your first word. The mistakes listed above are just the tip of the iceberg, but by ensuring you don’t fall into their traps, there’s no reason you can’t release and sell your book successfully.

Have you already made one of these common blunders? Did you make another ebook marketing mistake that has cost you dearly? Drop us a line and share your experience.  

3 Examples of Successful Marketing Campaigns on the Web

The road map to a successful web marketing campaign is often ambiguous and difficult to visualize. After all, marketing is more of an art than a science, and there are seldom pre defined steps that lead you to an end goal. As marketers, we have to be visionaries and do a lot of testing to come up with successful marketing campaigns. Thankfully, there are a lot of pros out there who have paved the way and offer their own stories of what building a brand online looks like.

Shinola

A Shinola Logo used in a successful web marketing campaignIf you are old enough to remember, Shinola was a manufacturer prominent in the middle of the 20th century. You might also be old enough to remember one of the contributors to the brand’s demise when it became fashionable to tell those not-so-bright that they, “didn’t know shit from Shinola,” which was a reference to the company’s flagship shoe polish product.

Today, the brand is owned by a different company, and has been completely reinvented. They have worked hard to build a new image for Shinola focusing on American manufacturing and the distribution of American products. They buy from American suppliers throughout the country and have set up a watch-manufacturing shop right in Detroit, MI, a town known for its manufacturing heritage.

Shinola’s web marketing approach has been phenomenal, and they have used a combination of social media, blogging and high quality video to tell the story of the American manufacturers that make their products. A notable feature of their campaign is that Shinola puts their suppliers out in front and shows their customers how quality products are hand-made by their neighbors, family and friends.

The company’s mission has an air of mystique about it. Today’s economic climate has a lot of businesses shipping jobs offshore, not choosing to manufacture goods here; especially products as complicated to make as watches. Even though many products are still made in the U.S. and many more once were, what Shinola is doing is still a little outside the box. When people arrive at Shinola’s home page, a popup encourages them to “join the movement” by entering an email address. Normally, I’m not a fan of popups. When overused or implemented in the wrong context, they are the most annoying things in the world. In Shinola’s case, though, I think the popup is a brilliant idea. It’s short (only requiring an email), and because the new brand is in its infancy, works well to get people involved early on. And it is one good way of building an email list.

Shinola’s videos are perhaps one of the most well-done parts of its campaign. Instead of placing their videos on YouTube, which is pretty much the norm these days, they opted for a Vimeo Pro account. There is one big advantage here: you get all the same features of a YouTube account like comments, the ability to write a description and embed your video (and have others embed it), but when someone is looking at your Vimeo Pro account, they aren’t lured away by other videos that were not made by you.

Old Spice

This one has been covered a lot and for good reason. The concept of this campaign (nonsensical while intelligent humor) was very smart on its own, but the company also utilized social media in a very good way. Old Spice also used online video to reach its target market, but the company also leveraged social media in a way that all businesses using it should follow. Old Spice used the campaign’s front man (the young man who was the star of the company’s commercials) to respond to questions on Twitter from real people.

The company has also done a great job of engaging consumers on its Facebook page. Old Spice provides a perfect example of how social media should be used in marketing. The whole reason it is so popular is that it gives businesses a channel to interact with their customers and prospects. It is another form of communication, and it is also a place where consumers are going to communicate with one another. Therefore, the goal should be to develop a conversation with consumers as the brand and be active in that conversation. Businesses that just open an account and post status updates without ever communicating with people are not leveraging Facebook (or other platforms that they use in the same way) to their maximum potential.

Old spice marketing campaign on Facebook

 

The Old Spice viral nature was helped in part by the target demographic of 18-25 year olds who are thought to be some of the most inclined to share content on the web.

Blendtec

Blendtec is a company that makes blenders and mixers. Normally not a very exciting company, right? Not until they came up with an innovative idea to entertain people while showcasing their products at the same time. People spend most of their time online watching video. When you think about the videos that go viral, it’s never a company’s video that they spend thousands of dollars making or some really well-done documentary. It’s always some 60-second clip of something funny, or riveting or, in other words, a complete waste of time to watch, but totally entertaining.

Blendtec takes complete advantage of this natural phenomenon. Like a bad car accident on the side of the freeway, we can’t help but watch. Their quirky videos have a 1970s game-show feel and a recurring host who always introduces the video with the phrase, “Will it blend? That is the question.” From pool cues to Xbox games and my personal favorite — a skeleton — the host safely jams foreign objects into Blendtec blenders while company branding is strategically placed everywhere in the frame. Millions of views and over half a million subscribers later, Blendtec has successfully achieved a high level of exposure for their online marketing efforts.

When it comes to something abstract like marketing, it helps to have leaders you can follow. The companies named in this post represent just a fraction of the kick-butt marketing campaigns you can find online. They show us that video, social media and web marketing, in general, is a powerful tool to reach a lot of people, but they also show us that you don’t have to spend a ton of money to be effective. Whether it’s a clever use of your supply chain combined with talented videographers, a shrewd campaign aimed at a demographic known for their web savvy or an innovative way to entertain people with your products, there is almost always a way to think outside the box.

What are some of your favorite marketing campaigns of recent years? Are there any in particular that made you want to go out and buy a product or sign up for a service? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Promoting your Website: An Introduction to Marketing

The amount of information online in terms of marketing and advertising is dizzying to say the least. Social media and SEO and PPC and all the different catchphrases and acronyms are enough to make any business owner throw up his or her hands and succumb to the sheer volume of information. While any given marketing campaign should be tailored to a specific niche and goals, there are still some fundamentals to developing an effective web marketing campaign that can be applied to almost any industry.

An Introduction to Marketing your Business Online

In order to develop a consistent and powerful online presence, a business owner needs to understand why people go to the Internet in the first place. While each person is different, in general, people are online looking for information. Not only are they looking for information, but they are looking for something helpful. At the core of any online marketing campaign should be useful content that will delight your niche market. This can be in the form of text, images, video or pretty much anything else as long as it benefits your prospects and customers. In essence, you must find a way to provide value to your customers without making them pay for it. The following are all components that, when used in combination, form a strong web marketing campaign.

Start a Blog:  If you don’t have one already, start a blog. Develop an editorial calendar that you can follow and post at least once per week, although more is better. Generate content that your target market will like or that they will find useful. The purpose of the blog is two-fold: First, you can drive more traffic to your site if you host a blog on your domain and provide engaging or otherwise useful content. Second, you can effectively target more keywords when you have a blog post because each post can serve as a new page were you can target a new keyword. You can also link text in your blog posts to inner pages of your website, which gets more traffic for parts of your site that may not be seen as much.

Social Media:  You knew I was going to say it, and these days, it’s pretty much a necessity to be on some sort of social network. I’m not saying that you should rush out and join every new or popular network. In fact, many businesses do themselves a disservice by rushing out and joining a social network before “listening” to see if their target market is even present on a platform. This is the worst thing you can do because if you are spending a lot of time on a network where your core market is not represented, you are wasting time and resources. Odds are, unless you are a defense contractor, your target market is probably active on some social network out there. Find out which one it is and create a profile there. Promote a link to that profile on any other property you can from your website to your Google Place page.

Its also not enough that you are just present on a network, you also have to interact with people there, or at least post on a regular basis. Businesses that are not engaged with people on a social network experience little or no benefit from having an account there. Post things that encourage a response from people. Respond to others posts, follow others and otherwise participate like you would if you were on the platform as an individual. Post content from your blog or links to your website pages on occasion. Use the platform to promote deals or special events. Encourage people to share your content.

SEO: Optimizing your site for search is a great way to market it online. If you do all the work yourself, it’s also a great free way to market your site online. There are tons of great resources out there to help you learn about SEO. Building up organic exposure for your website can be a great supplement to your other web marketing efforts. It is definitely not the fastest or most precise way to get more traffic to a website, but its effects can be long-lasting.

Video:  This is a good one and by far my most favorite tactic for marketing a business online. Aside from social media websites, people spend the most time watching video online. Coming up with a catchy, viral marketing video is a great way to get exposure for your website. There are also a lot of cool things going on with video like the ability to annotate and embed links. People love sharing short, punchy videos that tell a good story or are entertaining and informative.

Infographics:  These are a great way to spread awareness of a brand online and also to build backlinks. If you can create a quality infographic, people will share it and embed it on their own websites. That is very powerful for branding and if you have links in your infographic, it’s also very powerful for SEO. Infographics are also a very helpful form of content. People love seeing useful information displayed in an attractive way.

Email:  Email marketing is one of the older forms of online marketing, but it’s still effective. Email is great for supporting a content-based web marketing approach. For instance, you can set up RSS feeds for people to subscribe to a blog via email. You can create white papers or other content that people can exchange an email for in order to download. You can then reach out to those same people and let them know about more content that may be of interest to them. You can also use that relationship to promote special offers. There are lots of good strategies for leveraging email in your online marketing.

Any one of these tactics used on its own can be effective, but using them all together and to help support or complement each other will make your online marketing efforts that much more powerful. There are two main themes to being successful with an online marketing campaign. One of those is making quality content and the other is developing a consistent presence throughout the web. If someone is just typing in your brand name, you should be the only company that appears on the first page of Google. An effective campaign reaches out through many channels online to maximize the amount of exposure a brand can get.

What are your favorite methods for online marketing? Do you have any tips or tricks that you have found to boost traffic significantly? Drop us a line or let us know in the comments section below.

Setting Marketing Goals and Objectives

I’ve seen it in large companies, and I’ve seen it in one-person operations: A marketing plan with no clear direction affects all levels of business in many different industries. There are few things in this world that can be accomplished successfully without planning. Falling in love and chasing your dreams would be a couple that fall into that category. For most other things, though, having goals and objectives laid out beforehand will save you a lot of wasted time and money. The following suggestions may help you get your personal or organizational marketing goals and objectives in line.

Be Specific in Setting your Marketing Goals

There are two negative consequences of not setting specific objectives when it comes to marketing. The first is that when things get confusing, hard or just tiring, it’s easier to quit because there was no clear goal in the first place. The second is that if you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up someplace else. That second negative consequence may not turn out negatively, but when you are spending your company’s money on marketing plans that don’t pan out, management tends to get pretty upset when they learn there was no real objective in the first place, or any plan to recoup an investment. So, when you set your goals, make sure you are as specific as possible. Here are a few tips:

  • Use hard data whenever you can:  This could be from your website, from market research, from information in company databases or whatever. Set your goals based on hard numbers wherever possible, and not on gut feelings (although there is something to be said for intuition in some cases).
  • Write down your objectives:  When you do this, it forces you to be specific. It’s much easier to think in your head, “Ahhh, I want to create awareness of our brand,” but when you write it down you start thinking, “Well, if I’m gonna check that off, I need it to be more specific.” You could go one step further by getting input for your objectives, typing them up and posting them where you and your team can see them all the time.
  • Utilize S.M.A.R.T. goals:  this is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-driven and Time-bound. Ideally, all your goals should be modeled in this way, but that isn’t always possible. For instance, you may really have a broad goal to build awareness of your brand; however, that isn’t always completely measurable. At any rate, you should strive to meet these criteria in all of your objectives for your marketing plans.

Get Organized with Project Management

One of the largest enemies to success is a lack of organization for broad goals and large tasks. If you have any experience working in a large organization, maybe you have been in a meeting where there are a lot of high-minded ideas. Perhaps even in the weeks after the meeting, some things get done, but eventually sight of overall goals gets lost. A clear strategy for managing a project not only moves an overall task along, but it holds members of the project accountable for their individual responsibilities. Here are some basic themes that you can follow:

  • Identify your broad marketing goals:  Examples might be launching a campaign, determining ROI, defining a value proposition or all of these things combined. What are the large tasks that you want to accomplish?
  • Break large tasks up into smaller, manageable tasks:  If someone told you to build a house in a day, you probably wouldn’t even try. You might feel the same way about some of the goals you thought about above. It’s ok — it’s natural to feel that way. When broken up into many small tasks, however, building a house can be completed rather quickly over a span of time. Approach your broad goals in the same way. Break up large tasks into small tasks and identify which ones you should be working on first based on importance or another task’s dependence on their completion.
  • Assign tasks to people:  Undoubtedly, you have at least one or two or maybe more people working in your marketing department. Assign tasks to them based on the skills they have and those required of the tasks. Have team members and project managers estimate how much time each task might take, and assign enough tasks to an individual or group to fill a work week or period of time during the week they will have available to work on tasks.
  • Get visual:  Create a visual representation of all the things outlined above. Write down tasks on note cards and create a calendar with all team members’ allotted work week time on it. Place the notecards on specific days when they are estimated to be finished. This way, everyone can see what everyone else is working on, and it also gives people a sense of their progress and what they have to do.
  • Meet regularly:  Another obstacle in the way of completing broader goals is lack of feedback and support. Team leaders and managers cannot give adequate support if they don’t know what is going on, and not all employees feel comfortable tracking down superiors when they are needed for whatever reason. Have weekly or bi monthly meetings to allow everyone to show what they have been working on in the previous time period. This gives people a chance to speak about any road blocks they have encountered, and it allows project managers to broadcast overall progress of broader goals. Another function of regular meetings is that problems can be brought to light in a timely manner instead of when it is inconvenient.

In case you haven’t noticed, these are all themes related to agile project management. There are tons of literature on the topic, and I have seen it work wonders for businesses tackling large projects or trying to implement broad goals with long timelines. If you are interested in more information on management practices like these, this page has tons of great resources on it.

How do you go about setting and meeting marketing goals and objectives in your organization? Do you have any additional tips that others might find helpful? Let us know what you think by sending us a message or commenting 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?