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The Top Ten Marketing Automation Tools

In a previous post, we covered the basics about marketing automation and why you need it. Basically, marketing automation tools give you the chance to take greater control over your marketing plan by putting all of your data, contacts and other tools in one easy-to-manage place. Marketing automation exists mostly in the form of web-based software platforms that can be accessed from virtually any location where Internet access is available, and it has transformed the lives of marketers around the world.

We discussed a few of the most popular marketing automation solutions in the previous post, but we barely scratched the surface of the options that are currently available. In this post, we’ll go over the consensus picks for the top ten marketing automation tools. Some of these software platforms will be familiar from your research and exposure to the web, but others will not. Additionally, there may be some platforms that are left out of the list. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily any worse than the picks highlighted here; it just means that they do not combine functionality, usability, price and popularity in a way that would give them a space on this list. So, without further ado, here are the top ten marketing automation platforms on the web today:

Hubspot

Hubspot is well-known around the web thanks to the company’s excellent marketing of its own products. The platform’s software is comprehensive and incredibly easy to use, plus there are numerous training and educational modules available for registered users. The company was launched in 2006, making it one of the more recent entrants into the marketing automation landscape. However, Hubspot has grown quickly. Currently, the company boasts more than 6,000 active clients and more than 100 employees. For a reasonably priced, comprehensive solution for your marketing automation needs, it’s hard to argue against Hubspot.

Eloqua

When it comes to sheer popularity in the realm of marketing automation, there’s Eloqua, and then there’s everyone else. Eloqua was able to get a head start on other companies, though, which is why it can boast more than 50,000 users. It has existed since the earliest days of marketing automation as a concept, and it has continued to attract users with its friendly interface as well as its ability to make the job of marketing as simple or as complex as end users desire. As a completely comprehensive platform, it is able to help you with everything from lead capture to completing final deals. Although it can be used in businesses of any size, Eloqua is best suited for medium-sized organizations.

InfusionSoft

When looking at a matrix that includes factors such as the number of customers, number of users, total company revenue, Google searches, Twitter followers and other ranking data, InfusionSoft is thought to be the second most popular marketing automation platform after Eloqua. The company specializes in offering solutions for smaller companies, and its price is more affordable than some of the industry’s behemoths. However, InfusionSoft does not provide management or hosting of websites. If you are in charge of a smaller business, and you are looking for software to help you enter the realm of marketing automation, InfusionSoft might be an ideal choice.

Marketo

Fans of Marketo’s automation platform are very vocal about their love for the software. A favorite of technology companies, Marketo offers software that is straightforward and easy to use. The company offers a couple of different solutions for marketing automation. Its flagship platform is ideal for medium-sized to larger companies, while its Spark platform is perfect for businesses that are just starting out. Although Marketo offers tremendous functionality and it is a major player in the industry, some users feel that the company charges too much for its services. Regardless, Marketo’s software is a viable solution for any company that requires more streamlined management of its marketing.

Pardot

If your focus is on B2B sales, you should consider Pardot seriously. Its software is designed to help businesses over the long term with sophisticated capabilities that help marketers capture, nurture and convert leads. Interestingly, the company requires no contractual term for its users and customers. However, it retains 96% of its customers in spite of that fact. Pardot was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 2007, and it was ranked as one of the city’s fastest-growing companies in 2008. The software platform has a client retention rate of 90%, plus it scores points for its quick implementation time. If you are looking for a contract-free solution and you don’t have extensive time to learn a new software platform, Pardot could be the ideal choice for you.

Optify

Optify is often compared favorably with Hubspot, and one look at its friendly, easy-to-use interface helps you understand why this is so. One of the more appealing aspects of Optify is the fact that it has a highly manageable learning curve, unlike some of its competitors. Many marketers are reluctant to start using marketing automation software because they don’t want to let leads and other business slip away while they learn new software. Optify soothes these fears by allowing users to jump in immediately and start using the platform in a meaningful way.

Net-Results

Net-Results might not be one of the more notably popular names on this list, but the company has established itself as a major player in the industry by providing exceptional service and results. The platform often finds itself at the top of various customer satisfaction surveys and lists, and it has an excellent client retention rate of 95%. Net-Results, which was founded in 2003, is a comprehensive solution for any marketer’s needs, and it scores highly when it comes to the ease of implementation.

Genius

This company chose wisely when it decided to call itself Genius. The company’s software platform is perfect for small businesses, particularly if they are just starting. The Genius software is incredibly easy to learn, and its interface makes marketing look easy. The best part about this software is that the basic version is completely free. Unfortunately, the free version does not include email marketing or website hosting. However, users can always upgrade to a “Pro” account for greater functionality and a larger set of tools.

LoopFuse

Like Genius, LoopFuse offers its basic software package free of charge. LoopFuse is not the best-known marketing automation platform, but it is growing quickly as an increasing number of small businesses and entrepreneurs turn to it for solutions. Although LoopFuse does not offer website hosting, SEO or landing page creation, it gives users the opportunity to import 500 contacts. It also allows for 1,000 emails and 10,000 page views. Additionally, the software features excellent lead capture capabilities and fantastic marketing analytics. If more contacts are required, you can pay $450 per month for up to 10,000 contacts. If you do not deal with a high volume of clients, LoopFuse might be the ideal solution for you.

Act-On

Act-On provides a simple, cloud-based platform for its users, and the software is notable for its no-nonsense approach. While many people love the software for its simple, utilitarian aesthetic, others find that it is not as easy to use as some other platforms. That being said, if you prefer a simple, yet comprehensive solution for your marketing automation needs, Act-On could be the perfect platform for your needs and the requirements of your organization. Pricing plans are also quite simple, with the basic package starting at $500 per month. This package covers up to 1,000 active contacts. Prices rise with additional contacts, and there are no hidden costs.

 

These ten marketing automation solutions represent the best that the industry has to offer. If you perform a bit of research on your own to determine your specific needs, you should be able to find a winner from among these choices. Of course, you can always try a platform for a month free of charge to determine if it will work for you and your organization. As long as you are attuned to your needs and goals, you should be able to find the perfect match when it comes to the marketing automation platform that will help you streamline your work and make you more successful.

 

We’ve covered ten of the top marketing automation tools in this blog post. What are your favorites? Are there platforms that you feel should have been included in this list? Please let us know what you think by posting a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

What Is Marketing Automation and Why Do You Need It?

If you feel like you’ve been spending too much time on tedious marketing tasks while leads and potential conversions slip away, you should consider the ways in which marketing automation can help you. What is marketing automation? In a nutshell, marketing automation is defined as the use of specialized software as a means of automating repetitive tasks that would otherwise be done manually. When you use the right software, you decrease the amount of time that you spend on monotonous marketing chores while creating more time to spend on your marketing strategy.

 

Do You Really Need Marketing Automation?

 

Some marketers are reluctant to begin using marketing automation software because they feel like it will remove their ability to retain control over their operations. Although this is an understandable concern, the best marketing automation software allows marketers to retain complete command over all tasks while eliminating the busywork that often accompanies such jobs. With the right tools and software, you can simply eliminate the frustration that you have come to expect from your marketing tasks. Once you’ve chosen the ideal marketing automation platform, you will have to contend with a learning curve and a breaking-in period. However, the time you spend learning the software while implementing it correctly will pay off in the form of a more streamlined, efficient and profitable workflow.

 

What Marketing Automation Can do For You

 

We’ve established that marketing automation software can have a positive impact on your work, but you may be wondering exactly what these platforms do. In general, these software platforms reduce the amount of time and energy that must be spent working on mundane or repetitive tasks. They also allow you to improve your overall reach and influence with your customer base. In addition to these broad concepts, marketing automation offers benefits in some other important categories:

Lead Generation

Finding leads is easy. Locating good leads is another story. Few things are as frustrating as spending time generating and nurturing leads only to find that they are simply not going to impact your bottom line. Locating and tracking qualified leads (those that have a strong chance to show interest, buy products and convert) is one of the major benefits of using marketing automation software. With it, you will not only generate a larger number of leads, but you will also notice the quality level of your leads increase.

Greater Efficiency in Sales

When it comes to sales, it’s more important than ever to stay on the cutting edge of technology. Marketing automation gives sales teams the tools they need to work more intelligently, and many platforms offer training modules that can give your sales team a competitive edge. Efficiency is extremely important, and marketing automation helps to ensure that your sales personnel generate the greatest value from their efforts.

Alignment and Coordination Across the Board

One of the main reasons why some businesses remain stuck in ruts is that they are unable to align their various departments. This is particularly problematic when it comes to a lack of coordination between your sales team and your marketing department. Marketing automation platforms allow you to draw a straight line through all of your departments by offering consistency and a common guiding force. When all departments are using the same platform, it is much easier to stay focused on a common goal, and it is much easier to foster teamwork based around consistent visions of success.

Automation of Content Delivery

Sending well-crafted messages to the right people at the right time is almost impossible to do without the help of a marketing automation platform. The right software can help you ensure that your messages contain the key elements needed to make an impact, boost traffic and lead to increased conversions. The software also helps you track the performance of content that you’ve generated so you can fine-tune your messaging to meet your specific needs.

Improved Return on Investment

At the end of the day, your return on investment, or ROI, is the most important aspect of your business operations. Simply put, if you aren’t generating a healthy return from the money and effort you expend, your business is likely to fail. Many companies use scattered approaches wherein they throw countless ideas at the wall to see what sticks. Marketing automation platforms eliminate the guessing games so you can operate more efficiently. What’s more, these software platforms help you to focus on nurturing only the leads that have the greatest potential.

Quantifying the Value of Your Leads

You might use a system that assigns a value to certain types of leads. Maybe this works for you, but it is more likely that your system is really no more than a series of well-intentioned shots in the dark. Most makers of marketing automation software have spent fortunes developing sophisticated and amazingly accurate systems designed to assign scores to your leads. These scores help you understand your customer base better than they understand themselves, and they help you pinpoint specific strategies to gain the largest possible benefits from your activities.

In-Depth Analytics

Gathering data, sifting through it and taking action is only helpful when the data is accurate and actionable. With the proper marketing automation software, you can see tremendous amounts of useful data concerning web page visits, downloads, email communications and more. This data is presented in a way that makes it easy for you and your team to take action, and it helps you to understand your leads and their most common behaviors.

 

What Marketing Automation Platform Should You Use?

 

There are many different companies offering software for marketing automation. With so many choices and pricing plans, it can be difficult to choose one over another. Thankfully, most platforms allow you to experience the software on a trial basis before you make a full commitment. The top platforms are popular because they work well, and they deliver results.

Here is a brief rundown of a few of the most popular and successful marketing automation platforms:

 

Hubspot

What is marketing automation? -- Hubspot

Hubspot is one of the more comprehensive all-in-one marketing automation software platforms in existence. The company has a strong web presence, and it’s likely that you’ve read blog posts from the company or have had exposure to their educational resources. Hubspot is growing in popularity thanks to its unique, user-friendly interface as well as the company’s ubiquitous nature in the online world. Hubspot is fun to use, and its real-time tips for generating content are incredibly valuable. For many marketers, Hubspot represents the standard by which all other platforms are judged.

As far as pricing is concerned, three main packages are offered. The “Basic” package costs $200 a month, while the “Professional” and “Enterprise” packages cost $600 and $1,000 per month, respectively. Additionally, there are costs associated with the number of contacts that you want to use. For example, if you choose the “Professional” package and you import 4,000 contacts, your total monthly cost would be $1,000.

 

Eloqua

What is marketing automation? -- Eloqua

Eloqua is considered to be one of the true pioneers in the world of marketing automation software. The platform has existed for a decade, and it has helped many businesses focus their marketing efforts in a streamlined and efficient manner. Like Hubspot, Eloqua is an all-in-one platform designed to meet all aspects of a company’s marketing campaign. It also offers special integration with Twitter and Facebook so you can monitor the effectiveness of your social media campaigns.

There are three different pricing tiers available with Eloqua. The first tier is the “Marketer” level. This has a monthly cost of $2,000, and it accommodates 10 unique users. The “Team” tier allows access for up to 50 users, and it costs $4,000 a month. It also includes additional features like custom CRM and third-party application integration. Eloqua does not publicize the price for its “Enterprise” level, which allows you to have an unlimited number of users. This level also includes features like advanced data cleansing. Interested customers are encouraged to contact Eloqua’s sales department to learn more about pricing options. Prices quoted here are for accounts that include 10,000 contacts or fewer.

 

Optify

What is marketing automation? -- Optify

Optify is also one of the major players in the marketing automation industry. The company focuses on offering a full set of features for its users, and it stays relevant by providing a wide range of educational opportunities through webinars and a highly informative blog. Unlike Hubspot, Optify does not offer website hosting, but it offers much of the same functionality otherwise. However, it includes a number of other features that make it worth the price. Some users have complained about the software’s ease of use, but your mileage may vary.

Like most other marketing automation platforms, Optify offers three distinct pricing tiers. The “Express Edition” costs $300 per month. The “Team Edition” has a monthly cost of $600. Finally, the “Premium Edition” costs $1,200 per month. All tier levels offer an unlimited number of contacts. Features like link management and sales force integration are only available in the more expensive packages. The “Premium Edition” package is distinguished for allowing 250,000 emails per month (compared to 2,500 and 100,000 for the “Express” and “Team” editions, respectively), plus it also allows access to the Optify Cloud API.

Other Choices

There are many more excellent marketing automation software platforms available today. Some of the other notable platforms include Act-On, Genius, LoopFuse and Marketo Spark. Those who are interested in less comprehensive – and less expensive – solutions can check out the WordPress Lead Generating Machine for a surprisingly effective alternative to the major players in the industry.

The good thing about having so many options is that the industry benefits from competition. Moreover, these software platforms are available to try for free before you make any commitments. By doing this, you can choose the perfect platform for the specific needs of your organization.

What’s Your Experience?

Do you feel confident answering the question, “What is marketing automation?” Have you used marketing automation software? What are some of the benefits that you’ve noticed? Do you prefer one platform over others? Drop us a line or let us know what you think in the comments section.

Get Clicks and Hits by Using Video for Marketing

There has never been a better time to start using video for marketing than right now. High-speed Internet access is available in more places than ever before, and more people are consuming content on the web now than at any point in time since the Internet started becoming wildly popular in the mid 1990s. Some people are even ditching their televisions completely and turning to tablets, mobile phones, laptops and other connected devices to view video content. Even though the web seems like it’s flooded with video, the public seems to only grow hungrier for more content.

 

Are you Ready to Start Using Video?

If you are ready to take advantage of the current landscape by engaging in video content marketing to help your website and your business grow, you might be tempted to simply use your computer’s web cam to create content that you hope will “go viral” and cause your site and your business to flourish. Although some people have been able to find success using this method, you should remember that even a broken clock is right twice a day. In other words, you might be able to create an effective video marketing strategy by taking a casual approach, but any success you generate will almost surely be by accident.

In order to experience the greatest return on your video investment, you need to set goals and develop comprehensive plans for marketing. Using video for marketing is a sure way to drive traffic to your site and grow your business, but there are some important principles that you should learn before you turn on your web cam to create the next YouTube sensation. These principles might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of people who fail to understand them.

 

Successful Video Content Should go Hand-in-Hand With Your Goals

The first, and perhaps most important principle to remember when you enter the world of web video marketing is that your video content should be driven by your goals. It can be fun to create videos, post them and hope for the best, but you shouldn’t expect this approach to generate a significant increase in hits, clicks and sales. Instead, you should outline your goals in as detailed a fashion as possible. Then, you can begin to craft your video content accordingly. When videos are aligned with your goals, you can assure yourself greater success, plus you can track the effectiveness of your content more efficiently through pre determined metrics.

 

Your Video Content Should be Consistent With Your Business and its Values

Have you ever become interested in a website or company after watching a video, only to find that the company’s values are completely mismatched with the video you just viewed? Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common on the Internet today. When a piece of video content fails to convey the spirit and values of a company or its web presence, the public paints a picture that is quite unflattering. The best video marketing video content fits seamlessly with a website’s existing marketing messages, and it should give viewers confidence that what they are watching is emblematic of what they can expect when they visit a site.

 

Creating the Perfect Video is One Thing – Distributing and Marketing it Is Another

It’s easy to create a video, post it to YouTube and call it a day. You might even generate some hits and website traction by doing so, but you need to think about distribution of your content if you want to train as many eyeballs as possible on your video. A video distribution service can help you spread your message to a number of different hosting services with the simplicity of a single click, but you should research the various services before you decide to sign up. Otherwise, you might be posting your content in places that are not appropriate for your message. You need to think about the best options for marketing your video, but this process is not easy unless you are a marketing and SEO expert. Therefore, you should consider using the services of a comprehensive marketing and SEO company.

By using the services of a professional SEO and marketing company, you can ensure that your video aligns with your company’s goals while remaining consistent with your existing content. You can also remove the stress you might be feeling when it comes to ensuring that your video is distributed effectively across the web. From creation to video content marketing, your partnership with a reputable SEO and marketing company can give you the edge you need to compete at a high level in our increasingly video-centric world.

These days, it seems like everyone has their eyes glued to some kind of screen, whether they are watching their favorite TV programs on their mobile phones or catching up with the latest funny cat videos on their tablets. There has never been a more potentially lucrative time to start using video to spread your message, but you need to move forward with a plan. Thankfully, help is available to assist you so that you can remain true to your principles as well as the principles that make using video for marketing such an effective tool.

What strategies have you found useful when it comes to using videos for marketing? Have you found any methods that seem to work better than others? Let us know in the comments section.




Learning How to Use HootSuite to Schedule Social Media Updates

If you ever feel overwhelmed by the demands of keeping up with social media for marketing purposes, you might be interested in learning how to use HootSuite to schedule your posts and updates. Basically, HootSuite is what is known as a social media management system. It brings all of your social media accounts together into a single, easy-to-use dashboard interface, and it allows you to streamline the process of managing social media considerably.

Although HootSuite boasts a wide range of capabilities, I have found that its most powerful feature is its ability to allow you to schedule dozens of social media posts and status updates in a single sitting. If you often find yourself exhausted by the process of logging in to various social media accounts several times a day to post simple updates, this formidable platform could change the way you work. The platform certainly has its share of quirks, but learning how to use HootSuite will shave hours off of your weekly workload, and it will put you back in control of your social media obligations.

A Brief History of HootSuite

Like many great inventions, HootSuite was developed out of a need for something that did not yet exist. In 2008, a software engineer named Ryan Holmes started searching for a tool that he could use to manage the ever-growing list of social media networks being used by his company. Once Holmes realized that no such tool existed, he and a few of his colleagues began to develop the platform that would eventually become HootSuite.

Today, HootSuite employs approximately 200 individuals, and it boasts more than 4.5 million users worldwide. The platform is available in numerous languages including English, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and German, and the company is planning on adding 50 additional languages. It is used by countless individuals around the globe, but it is also utilized by a wide range of notable companies and organizations including Zappos, Facebook, the New Jersey Devils of the NHL and even the Obama administration.

All of the Social Media Platforms You Will Ever Use

Although HootSuite was initially developed as a Twitter-management dashboard tool, it currently supports a long list of the most popular social media platforms. These include Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Foursquare and Mixi. By using the HootSuite App Directory, users can add support for a number of additional social media platforms including Tumblr, Flickr and YouTube.

Using HootSuite to Post Updates

I am responsible for posting literally hundreds of social media updates every month from several different accounts for multiple companies. Would this be possible without HootSuite? I suppose it would be, but I wouldn’t want that job, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who wants to retain his or her sanity. Thanks to HootSuite, I can take one day each week to craft updates and posts, then place them exactly where they need to go on the calendar.

HootSuite provides several different views to make the process of posting social media updates easier. Typically, I use the “Month” viewing pane, which allows me to see a general overview of the updates that are scheduled over the course of each month. This view is useful for getting a sense of the overall scheduling scheme, and it allows me to schedule updates more uniformly over time.

Learning How to Use Hootsuite Month View

The “Week” viewing pane allows you to see what any given week looks like in terms of the posts that you have scheduled. This view is useful for finding empty spots in the calendar that could be filled with new updates. It is also helpful if you want a fairly broad view of the timeline that also includes an hourly breakdown of your updates and posts.

Learning How to Use Hootsuite Week View

Finally, the “Day” viewing pane gives you the opportunity to place your posts exactly where you need them to go. This view allows you to select posting times broken down into quarter-hour segments, and it is what I use when I want to focus on a particular day. It is especially useful for days that are jam-packed with updates because it allows you to schedule them in a precise manner that prevents you and your followers from becoming overwhelmed.

Learning How to Use Hootsuite Day View

 

Following is a breakdown of how I use HootSuite to post updates. Since the platform can be used in many ways, you may want to utilize a different process, but this method works for me:

  • First, I compose my social media updates in a word processing program. This allows me to leave my brain in the creative mode for a while so I can create dozens of posts in one sitting. I use my word processor’s character count function to ensure that I’m not using too many characters for sensitive accounts like Twitter. Although Twitter allows 140 characters, I try to keep my Twitter updates below 120 so a link can be added to the post without causing my message to be cut off. HootSuite also keeps track of your character count, and I use the function as a fail-safe when it’s time to add my posts.
  • Once I’ve composed a batch of updates, I look at the “Month” view in HootSuite to determine the dates that are most appropriate for posting.
  • Using the “Day” view in HootSuite, I select the exact times for the posts to be scheduled.
  • To actually schedule a post, I select the field for a precise time. Then, a box appears in which I paste the update that I’ve copied from my word processor.
  • Once the content has been pasted in the box, I select the appropriate social media platform(s) from a drop-down box.
  • I paste a pertinent link in the space provided. HootSuite shrinks the link with the click of a button.
  • Finally, I click the “Schedule” button, which adds the update to the calendar.
  • If I’ve made a mistake, I can simply select the offending update from the calendar and make the necessary changes.
  • Since I schedule so many updates over the course of each month, I usually take some time each week to review the upcoming posts to ensure that they have been scheduled properly.

The Benefits of Using HootSuite

As you can see, my method requires many steps, but it is still far superior to the manual method that would be necessary without a tool like HootSuite. I’ve found that learning how to use HootSuite is an ongoing process, and it’s likely that I’ll streamline my process even more as I become increasingly familiar with the platform. For example, HootSuite features a “Bulk Schedule Updates” tool, which allows you to upload a CSV file containing several updates to be scheduled at various times. I haven’t used this particular tool yet because of the learning curve involved, but I plan on testing it and integrating it within the next few months as my HootSuite familiarity level increases.

Ultimately, HootSuite has saved me a great deal of time, plus it has made the process of managing social media posts much less overwhelming. To put it into perspective, HootSuite has allowed me to see the process of scheduling social media posts in the same way that Neo is able to see the Matrix – data is broken down into manageable chunks that I can manipulate easier than I ever thought would be possible.

Negative Aspects of Using HootSuite

HootSuite is a great platform for managing social media, but it is not perfect. Sometimes, it can be difficult to keep track of postings on the calendar because each one is represented in a similar manner and by the same color. In other words, it can be hard to tell Company A’s Facebook post from Company B’s Twitter update unless you click on each individual post. Therefore, you have to remain extremely vigilant when it comes to ensuring that you’ve scheduled your posts properly. The last thing you want is to post an update for one company when it was meant to promote another.

Another issue I’ve run into involves the preview feature. In Facebook and Google+, updates will include images and text associated with the links you have provided. Since you can use HootSuite to schedule posts well in advance of links going “live,” no previews are generated. This can make your updates look less than professional. I have yet to find a workaround for this issue, but I’m eager to hear how you have dealt with it.

Using HootSuite can Simplify Your Work and Your Life

Social media has transformed the world in many ways, and it has emerged as a powerful force for marketing. If you want to stay on top of the social media game, you have to make sure that you are posting relevant updates on a regular basis, which can be difficult if you don’t have the appropriate tools. Thankfully, platforms like HootSuite have made the process much easier and considerably less time-consuming. HootSuite is not a flawless platform, but its features have made my work more manageable and my life less stressful. Learning how to use HootSuite to schedule your social media updates is one of the smartest things you can do if you are serious about Internet marketing.

 

What are your experiences with using HootSuite to post social media updates? Have you found any useful tips and tricks that you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments section, or drop us a line.

Start Putting Video Marketing Strategies to Work For You

If you are like most people who spend time online, you’ve probably viewed several pieces of video content within the last week, or even within the past 24 hours. Some people enjoy reading articles on the Internet, other individuals like to spend time looking at pictures, graphics and other images, and many people love the web for its endless gaming options. However, nearly everyone with an Internet connection enjoys watching video content, whether it’s for entertainment, education or even marketing. The medium of video has emerged as the leading form of communication on the web in recent years, and it has changed the digital landscape significantly. Through various video marketing strategies, companies and entrepreneurs have become wildly successful. An effective video marketing campaign is able to capture the attention of the public much more easily than any other type of strategy, and when it’s done properly, it can give any business the right amount of buzz to boost interest in its products and services.

Failing to Use Video has its Consequences

Unfortunately, some people have failed to make the connection between their personal enjoyment of video content and the medium’s ability to help their businesses succeed. They might enjoy watching videos, and they might even spend their money based on compelling video content. However, they fail to integrate the magic of video into their own marketing strategies. If you are afraid that you might be one of these people, it’s not too late to begin using a video marketing campaign to help you and your business take a major leap forward.

Some website owners are hesitant to integrate video content because they fear that it will create too much time-consuming work. We are all familiar with the fears that often accompany changes in routine, and it is sometimes easier to focus on the negative aspects of implementing new strategies, especially when the status quo is so comfortable. Certainly, adding video content to a site takes time and effort, but the process of creating a video marketing strategy is much simpler than you might think.

Creating Video Content is Easier and More Cost-Effective Than you Think

When you think about the most effective Internet videos in recent memory, very few of them were made with massive budgets and thousands of person-hours of work. In fact, some of the most successful video content has been created on a shoestring budget by just one or two people. What’s more, people have much different expectations when it comes to Internet video content versus visual content that is meant for the television or movie screen. In other words, you don’t have to have the budget, workforce and technology to produce a Michael Bay blockbuster to be successful with your Internet video content; you just need to have some basic equipment and a few good ideas.

If you have a digital video camera, a decent microphone and access to the Internet, you can make a compelling piece designed for effective video Internet marketing. One of the easiest ways to make this simple setup work for you is to study videos that you have found to be successful. Are there any videos that you have seen recently that have made you excited to spend time on a certain website or spend money on specific products or services? If so, you should watch those videos more closely to determine the aspects that you find so appealing. Then, you can implement those aspects into your own video. Obviously, you don’t want to plagiarize video content that has been effective for others – doing so is unethical and it is a major turn off for potential consumers and website visitors – but you can take good ideas and make them your own by injecting your personality, charisma and passion for your business into your messages.

Help is Available for Your Video Content Needs

Even though it doesn’t take a huge budget and professional skills to create video content, it’s possible that you simply lack the time and energy to devote to crafting effective video marketing strategies by yourself. If this is the case, you should consider enlisting the assistance of others to help you turn your vision into powerful video content that can help you reach your marketing goals. It’s been noted by many SEO experts that video content is most effective when it has been created with specific goals in mind. Some people create videos only to post them with unremarkable results. This is because they failed to take the marketing of their content into account.

By using a video marketing service, you can avoid this fate. The best services are able to help you craft effective videos based on your needs and marketing goals, plus they are able to help your video go to work for you once it’s been filmed, edited and posted. Video content has the potential for a remarkably high return on investment, or ROI, but only if it is marketed properly. Video content marketing services have the ability to work with you throughout each step of the process, from developing ideas to ensuring that as many eyeballs as possible have the opportunity to see your message.

It’s Not Too Late to Join the Video Content Revolution

Everyone uses the Internet to watch video content these days, and if you want to make sure that your message is reaching the masses, it’s important for you and your business to stay as close to the cutting edge as possible. The video medium represents the best way to communicate with the public in our hyper-connected world, and it is certainly the best way to increase the attention paid to your website and your business. If you aren’t using video already, you can bring yourself up to speed quickly by implementing some smart video marketing strategies. It takes very little time and effort, plus there is help available to assist in streamlining the process to ensure that your content is as powerful as it can be.

Are you ready for the success that an effective video marketing campaign can provide?




How to Build a Following and Promote Your Blog

Promoting anything means building a buzz, making sure you have a quality product and getting it front of as many eyes as possible. Gaining notoriety for a blog is no different, and building up a following takes a combination of tenacity, ingenuity and, obviously, good writing. We would like to share some tips on blog promotion that may not get you thousands of followers overnight, but they will definitely get you headed in that direction.

Make Quality Content!

I’ll get the most obvious one out of the way first. I know this isn’t directly a promotional activity, but in a way, producing great content means people will promote your content for you. Yes, it’s that mantra you keep hearing whenever the conversation turns to SEO, social media or any other kind of online marketing strategy — make good content. What in the heck does that really mean, though? If I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be as follows:  Make content that is interesting, useful, shareable, compelling, rare, well-written and thoughtful. There are probably hundreds of ways to do this that may or may not involve writing.

In any event, you have to make an impact on your reader. Whatever your niche, if you want to have an easier time promoting your blog (and perhaps monetizing it), you must make the content a priority. Here are some ways that you can begin to develop that elusive “quality content.”

  • Make infographics.
  • Conduct interviews with successful people with whom your target audience can relate.
  • Do research (both secondary and/or primary).
    • For this one, it may mean setting up experiments to test hypotheses, reading other research reports on a topic, drawing your own conclusions from real life experiences, documenting a process or anything that involves uncovering information on your own.
  • Share interesting images and video (that you have made).
  • If you have work that occurs in the offline world that you blog about, share those processes (i.e. artists, mechanics, builders, engineers). Whatever it is that you do, document it and present it in an appealing way.
  • Let your personality show through in your writing (and if you can’t do that, find someone who can and be their friend).

The idea here is very basic. If you have a blog that you want visitors to come and see, you have to give them a reason to do so. In general, people are very busy in their everyday lives. They have a set amount of hours in each day for browsing the Internet and they aren’t going to waste those precious hours on content that was produced by someone who doesn’t really care about who is reading it. If you can provide something meaningful, you will be rewarded for it.

Syndicate your Content

Now that you are producing the very best content the web has to offer, you need to spread it around. I know what you are thinking: “But Matt, you said if I wrote good content, people would just share it.” Yes, that is true, but you still  have to put in some effort to ensure all the stellar content you make can be found by as many people as possible. Here are ways that you can syndicate your blog content in order to promote the blog as a whole:

Share posts on social media accounts

This concept may not be the traditional and true meaning of a web syndicate, but you are basically doing the same thing on a manual level. Set up profiles for your personal or corporate brand (or use accounts you already have), and share your posts each time they come out. You can use a tool like Hootsuite to automate this process for some of the major platforms. By doing this consistently, you can let people know about new posts that you have written and drive traffic to your blog. You can also start a conversation on these platforms and ask people what they think. Interaction on social media is great for your overall SEO strategy. Below are some specific things you can do on different social accounts to share your content.

  • Facebook:  Share posts on your business and/or personal accounts, and encourage followers and friends to share them, as well.
  • Twitter:  Schedule out the same post on Twitter using Hootsuite or another program of your choice for 1-2 postings per day during the interval until you have a new post.
  • Pinterest: Make a board on your Pinterest Business or personal page just for your posts and pin each post to it.
  • LinkedIn: Share a link to new posts in your status updates and also share in any groups to which you belong.
  • Google Plus:  Share your posts publicly on Google Plus (because public posts are crawled and show in SERPs)

Set up a feed

Really Simple Syndication, or RSS, feeds are a great way to allow people to connect with your content. They will automatically get updates when you have posted new content. You can also use these feeds to stream your blog posts automatically to other properties like a Facebook application or another website.

Bookmarking

Social bookmarking sites have many users, and they represent another online opportunity to get exposure for your posts. Create accounts on StumbleUpon, Digg, Reddit, Delicious and Technorati. Share links to your posts on these sites.

Promote your blog on other properties

If you have a website, other web profiles or business listings, you can promote your blog there, as well, via a link and icon. If you are setting up a blog for the first time and you have a website, it is best to host the blog in a sub directory or sub domain of your current domain. This way, you can rank for more keywords and drive traffic to your main website. Note that if you are setting up a blog and have a website, it is best to host the blog on the same domain.

Optimize your Blog for Search

For anyone looking to get better rankings in search, blogs have been a savior. They allow you to produce new content on a regular basis without making unnecessary changes to your website, and they also allow you to target more keywords on your domain.

Onsite optimization

If you have a standalone blog without a traditional website, you can do some more onsite optimization than blogs with a website.

  • Optimize the pages of your blog for keywords you want to rank for. Place keywords in title tags, meta descriptions, and copy of the pages. Be careful here. Don’t go targeting a keyword on your “About Us” or “Contact Us” pages. Make sure the entire page is about the keyword and can be written to reflect that. If you don’t have any pages that could fit that mold, move on.
  • Optimize each post for a target keyword and its variants. For example, if you are targeting the phrase, “leather coats Indiana,” you might also use “buy leather coats,” “leather coat,” “leather coats,” “leather coats in Indiana” and “leather coats for sale Indiana.”
  • Place your main target keyword (the one you want to rank for the most) in the title tag first and also toward the front of the meta description. Sprinkle the keyword phrase and its variants throughout your copy (2% density is usually good). Be careful that you don’t focus too much on this. You want to write for readers and not for search engines.

Offsite Optimization

There are a variety of offsite SEO tactics you can use to promote your blog. Backlinks is a primary one, and the more quality inbound links you have to your blog, the better.

  • Reach out to related blogs or websites and ask them to link to yours.
  • Approach other blog owners about guest-posting on their blogs and having a link back to your site.
  • Make embeddable content with a link to your blog in it that people can share.
  • Submit your blog to popular directories.
  • There are also some more innovative backlink building ideas here.

Don’t Forget Offline and Miscellaneous Promotions

With all the neat stuff you can do with social media and SEO, it’s easy to forget about promotional opportunities that may exist offline or elsewhere . Some of these tactics may work and some may not, depending on your situation.

  • Put a link to your blog in your company or personal email signature.
  • Place a link on invoices you send to customers.
  • Put a link in confirmation emails that customers may receive.
  • Links on business cards are always handy.
  • Put links on fliers, signs, promotions or coupons that you may hand out or display.
  • Put URLs on company vehicles, clothing or branded extras (like bags, mugs, pens, etc).
  • Think of any time where you have a chance to make contact with your customers, prospects and/or readers, and use that as an opportunity to promote your blog.

 

Promoting a blog is a lot of work, but there are tons of great tools and strategies to get you started. The important thing to keep in mind is that promoting your blog has two basic elements — making content that people will love, and keeping an eye open for opportunities to get that content in front of others. If you can do that consistently, you will build a strong following and high traffic numbers.

 

What strategies have you used to promote a blog? Which ones have you found to be the most effective?

How to SEO Your eBook

eBook creationOne thing that the Internet may never be able to replace is the tactile feeling we get when we walk into a book store and handle a physical book. In real life, you can see the cover of a title in all its brilliance. You can flip through the pages, read the author’s bio, examine some of the content, look at the price and see who published it. Online, all of that information would be taken away from you were it not for an unsung hero called metadata. It doesn’t matter whether you are selling online books or print books — metadata is how those titles are discovered. Having more complete metadata gives your title a greater likelihood of being discovered by people who might buy it. Accurate, complete and rich metadata is effectively SEO for your eBook.

What does Metadata have to do with SEO?

In February of 2012, more than 73% of Americans used a search engine to find something online. People invariably head to their computers to search for information on the products and services they are interested in buying. The same is true when it comes to books. Metadata used to have a much different purpose than that of online discoverability and marketing of eBooks. Now that so much commerce for eBooks and physical books is occurring online, this data serves as the fodder search engines look for. Keep in mind that this refers to product metadata and not the other kind, which is used in the eBook conversion process.

When people search for products and services online, they may not all use the same terminology to get the same result. As it pertains to books, some people remember books by their titles, whereas others may be partial to particular authors. They may even try to describe the book by what it’s about instead of its title.

For example, take this exact match search I conducted on the Google Keyword tool for “white whale book.” There are more than 210 global, monthly searches for the phrase on Google and many other related phrases showcasing other less conventional ways to search for Melville’s masterpiece, Moby Dick.

Moby Dick Search term Screenshot

So what does this tell us? People use all kinds of terms to search for the things they want, and they may not always be close to the best description for that item. Having very descriptive metadata will help your title show up in search for a broader range of key terms.

Making Your Data Stand Out

When a title is born, there may not be a lot of data available to associate with it. Once a book goes through the process of publishing, printing, eBook conversions, distribution and other steps, more data becomes available. New things like awards, reviews, interviews and images may come to light and need to be associated with the book. This data is a part of the title’s identity. Each piece increases the chance that the book will be found in search, and it also increases the likelihood that someone will buy it. For instance, someone may not be interested in a title at first, but if they find dozens of stellar reviews on it, they may end up making a purchase. By contrast, if the same title only had a picture of the cover, an author name and a brief bio, the prospect may pass it up for a something else with more information associated with it.

The Metadata Handbook

If you are looking to market an eBook and need more information about metadata, you should really check out the Metadata Handbook written by Renée Register & Thad McIlroy. This book is arguably one of the most comprehensive texts on metadata for publishing print and eBooks on the market. It contains a lot of information on what data you need to have in your eBook, book data aggregators, distributors, wholesalers and how you can use SEO to your advantage in the eBook market. It also gives readers a detailed breakdown of metadata standards such as those laid out by ONIX (ONline Information eXchange).

When you shop for a book online, you can’t touch it or leaf through the pages to find information that will help you make a purchase. Metadata helps fill the void left by a virtual world and allows people to get as much information as they can about the titles that interest them. For authors and publishers of eBooks (and print books), metadata helps increase the chances that a book will be discovered in search.
If you are publishing an eBook, check out these other resources:

Best Practices for Data Senders – Book Industry Study Groups (BISG)
Mobipocket eBook creator
KDP Select from Amazon

What strategies have you used to market an eBook online? Have you found search engine optimization techniques to be useful?

Developing an Online Presence for Your eBook

The surge in self-publishing over the past decade along with emerging forms of digital media has created an abundance of new titles from budding authors. These freshly minted professional writers are faced with a daunting task — they must provide the marketing support that they would normally get from an established publisher. Marketing an eBook is tough, but by using the Internet, authors can get just as much (if not more) exposure for their title(s) by developing a strong web presence.

Develop a Micro Site with Social Support

Letting out small bits of content from your title in online channels in advance of release not only builds buzz for your book, but it can also give you an idea of how well it will be received. You can easily set up a micro site for your title and post content for your target audience.

  • Set up a self-hosted WordPress blog. Buy a custom domain name (ideally the exact same as your title) and 12 months of hosting. This task is a bit technical; however, it requires little to no programming knowledge, and there are tons of tutorials around the web on how to do it.
  • Set up social profiles for your title. Make a Facebook business page, Google Plus Page, Pinterest Page, Twitter account and/or a profile on any other platform on which you think your audience is active.
  • Depending on your genre, you can experiment with how much content to release and in what format. For example, if you had a title that teaches readers how to do things, you could release select excerpts for people to try. Be creative and choose small parts of the best sections of your title to share in advance of actually releasing it for sale.
  • Build a following as much as you can before release. If you can create interest for your content and build a following on social media, when you actually do release your title, there will already be a segment of people interested in buying it. You can also share links to your book for whatever platform it is available for download on.

Strengthen your Overall Web Presence

It may not be a law at this point, but it is pretty safe to say that most people use the Internet when looking for information about something. Whether it’s about an author, a book or how to find that new Chinese restaurant in their neighborhood, people take to the Internet for the knowledge they need. As an author selling your work, you are a business owner. As a business owner, you need exposure to the audience you hope to sell to if you want to be successful. Unless you have 50 thousand dollars burning a hole in your pocket for marketing and promotions, building a web presence online is the next best thing.

  • Fill out your professional profiles completely. Include as much information about yourself and your work as possible. Use keywords that would be relevant to yourself as a brand or the books you write. Include links to your website if you have one (and you should), your books for sale, if allowed, and other profiles on the web.
  • Include as many images as possible. Get professional photos taken or have someone you know take professional looking images of you for your profiles.
  • Make your presence consistent. If an author is what you are, stick with that. Don’t have one profile say you are an author while another says that you are an aspiring photographer. It’s ok to have more than one interest, but for the purposes of online promotion, your audience needs to see consistent messages.
  • Keep your personal and professional profiles separate. It’s fine to have a personal web presence that you don’t use for promoting your work. Just ensure that it isn’t connected to your professional profiles through links. You should also lock down any profile that you use for personal purposes. For example, if you have a personal Facebook account, change your privacy settings so that no one outside your friends list can see your profile.
  • Build a blog and contribute to it on a weekly basis. A blog will serve two purposes for your online presence. It can establish you as an authority on the topics you know a lot about, and it can also help with your website’s visibility in searches. You should also create an RSS feed so that people can subscribe to your blog.

Make an Active Web Presence

When you build a presence online, you are essentially marketing yourself and your skills. Marketing is not something that is done once and then left alone. It is constantly evolving, and  this is especially true for an online presence.

  • Be active on social media no matter which networks you sign up for. If you only have a Twitter account, great! Make sure you are active on it and posting content regularly. Your blog provides great content to share on social networks. You should also share content that is attractive to your audience and that is consistent with your personal brand.
  • Interact with people on your networks. If people comment on your posts (positive or negative), respond quickly. Interact with others’ posts by liking, favoriting, plus one-ing, or commenting as much as you can. Remember to be thoughtful when you do because quality is better than quantity.

Get your Book Reviewed

A really great thing you can do for a new title to get it more exposure on the web is to have a noteable blogger review it for you. Try to find someone who has a large and devout following and who is also writing about things related to your title. Reach out to them and ask if they will do a review of your book either after it is on the market or in advance of its release. Try to also get them to add a link to your title and/or your website in the post.

Getting a review on a decent blog can be far more powerful than exposure in mainstream media. This is because the quality of the audience is far better than in other media markets. You also have the opportunity to get direct traffic to your website or your listing on Amazon from a blog post.

Have Good Metadata

It doesn’t matter if you are selling eBooks or print books online, accurate and complete meta data will ensure better discoverability of your titles online. You might be thinking , “Hey, wait a minute, Matt — what does meta data have to do with an online presence?” In reality, they are not directly related, but when people use a search engine to look for your content, chances are far greater that you will show up as a relevant result to queries if you have good meta data. This data is the only information available about your title in a digital world. What’s more important is that it acts as a substitute for actually holding a book and looking through the pages to find out if you want to read it. A very comprehensive resource for meta data information is the Meta Data Handbook.

Developing a comprehensive and consistent online presence for your eBook is crucial to helping it sell. Even if you are working with a publisher, you must take an active role in promoting your title(s). Popular content management systems like WordPress make it super easy to set up a website or blog and look like a programming superstar. The addition of social media lets authors potentially reach thousands of people with a very small budget.

How do you promote titles online? Have you found success in using social media or other online channels to sell books?

Link Building in a Post-Penguin World

In the early days of search, it was incredibly easy to game search engines — including Google. However, users quickly got sick of seeing low-quality content and pornography served for unrelated queries. It is estimated that Google has put more than 1,000 person hours into perfecting its core algorithm. Webmasters building links these days have to think of innovative ways to get those precious votes for their websites. Check out these link building strategies for today’s search environment.

Guest Blogging

Yes, I know this is an old one and perhaps a little overdone, but it remains an effective way to get high-quality, contextual backlinks to your site. The reason you can get such good backlinks from guest blogging (assuming you can get other webmasters to agree to your methods) is that you have the ability to place links in the body of content where they are most effective. You can also use anchor text of your choice in many cases.

  • Use Google Blog Search to find websites and blogs that are similar or complimentary to yours. Once you have identified a site where your content may be well-received, use their contact form or listed phone numbers to reach a decision maker. Offer to submit writing samples or suggest collaborating on a post.
  • Check your own tracking data. Specifically, look at blogs or websites already referring traffic to you. Go to those websites and reach out to the site owners in the same way. If they are already sending you traffic, chances are their visitors will be receptive to your message.
  • Tap your customer base for guest-blogging opportunities. Someone with whom you do business undoubtedly has a blog that may be related to your business objectives. Customers may be much easier to contact because there is already an existing relationship. They also have the potential to become brand evangelists, sharing your content on their own blogs and social networks.

The process of building links through guest blogging requires some sales skills. You have to reach out to people whom you may not know and get them to buy in to what you want to do. Be friendly and collaborative. You may not always be successful, but if you continue to try on a regular basis, you will get some takers.

A Badge Campaign

People love to win awards and display them on their websites. It really doesn’t matter what the award is as long as it’s at least somewhat legitimate. A badge campaign is a great way to build backlinks because you can make up an embeddable award or badge that recipients can install on their websites. The badge can contain a link back to a page of your choosing. Examples might be an award for best web design, customer service recognition, best social media presence or whatever.

  • Make the award legitimate. Don’t just send out embeddable code with an image to thousands of emails. It has to be somewhat coveted. Try to actually come up with a process for determining a winner of the award, and send out embeddable badges to websites that really deserve it.
  • Make it related to the industries of businesses you are sending them to. Don’t send out arbitrary awards that don’t make any sense. Do a little research and find out what a business might want to be recognized for.

Here are some examples from Angie’s List and Zillow:

angie_badge

zillow_badge

 

The intentions of these sites with their badges isn’t entirely clear; however, there are links to their pages included in the code to embed the badge. Even if the motivation is to allow parties related to their site to display their affiliation, a nice backlink also comes out of the deal.

Infographics

One of the basic ideas behind why backlinks are used as a ranking factor is that people naturally share links to good content. An easy way to make good, shareable content is to research and design an infographic and present it as an embeddable piece (with a link) on your website for people to share. People love sharing infographics because (if done well) they are interesting, and they also make the sharer look smart.

  • Do your homework to come up with something meaningful. Don’t just put out a short piece of common knowledge. Do some research and work with a designer to make an infographic that people will want to look at and share.
  • Share your infographic yourself on social sites that lend themselves well to images. Pinterest business pages and Facebook are both sites that are good for sharing images.

Building an infographic is no easy task, and it can be a time-consuming and expensive process. If you can create something that will resonate well, though, it will be worth the effort. This is especially true if you can get the piece to go viral. If you want to see some really great examples of infographics, check them out here.

Scholarship Campaigns

This one is a bit more involved, and it would require a larger budget, but it can have some large returns in the form of increased traffic. While there is no difference in terms of link authority between .edu’s and other TLDs,  links from .edu’s are more reliably authoritative. The problem is that for most webmasters looking to build links, institutions that use these domains couldn’t care less that you want them to link to you. Try starting a scholarship that you can give out to one lucky recipient and then using that program to reach out to educational institutions to aid you with promoting it. This doesn’t have to be anything outrageous, but it does have to be well thought out.

  • The scholarship has to be real. Allocate 500 or 1,000 dollars to be awarded to someone who can use it to go to school. Have a real process for applying for the scholarship as well as rules and other procedures.
  • Reach out to .edu sites to help you promote the scholarship. Ideally, you want to get your write-up with a contextual link back to your site on their website; however, any link would be good as long as it is on an authoritative domain.
  • Reach out to as many institutions as you can. Unlike a badge campaign, you don’t have to limit the amount of colleges or other educational entities that you contact.

In a post-Penguin world, building backlinks needs to be taken seriously. Many of the methods mentioned in this post require modest to significant investments of time and money. That’s because if you plan on doing this professionally and successfully, you can’t afford to not spend the time or money to launch a quality campaign to promote your website. Building links on web 2.0’s, wikis and similar properties is fast, but it won’t get you the rankings you want.

 

Recommended Resources: (not affiliate links)

Here are some services you can use to help you build better backlinks:

Post Runner – A simple and easy way to find and submit guest posts.

My Guest Blog – A high quality guest posting options for both publishers and site owners.

Designer Infographics – Goeff and his team at Designer Infographic create stunning pieces of work!

 

How do you build backlinks? Is there an innovative strategy with which you have had success?

11 Smart Strategies for Email Marketing

We’ve mentioned before in previous posts that despite its age in terms of the Internet, email is still one of the most widely used forms of online communication. Email marketing also remains an effective means of putting your message out to prospects. It’s also really easy to do it wrong, so check out these tips for developing a solid email marketing strategy.

Email List Building

Crafting an email marketing campaign is very time-consuming, and you don’t want that time wasted on people who don’t care about your message, or who didn’t even want to receive it in the first place. Does anyone like email solicitations? Most of the time, no. You can, however, ensure that those receiving emails from you or your company are at peace with the fact that they are receiving correspondence from you. When you collect emails to build a list, do it in an honest way. No matter how you go about collecting information, make sure people know that they could potentially receive other unrelated emails from you in the future. There is nothing more aggravating than receiving an email from a company, knowing that they acquired your address an unethical manner. It won’t matter how well-constructed the message is if someone doesn’t want it in the first place.

Email Tracking Systems

Most online and offline marketing tasks are iterative by nature. You build, implement, analyze and tweak until you get a satisfactory result. The bonus with online marketing is that metrics are much more measurable. If you are going it alone without third party email software, make sure you use tracking software to measure your effectiveness. Google Analytics is a great alternative. You can use the URL builder to place custom URLs into your messages and see which recipients clicked on a link in your email. If you have a specific landing page, you can create goals in analytics to measure how many people clicked through to your page and did what you wanted them to do. Even if you don’t have access to sophisticated tracking, make sure you have at least something in place to measure your activities.

Email Scheduling

Email marketing isn’t a one-shot deal. To be successful at selling things through email, you have to keep tapping your contact list over a long period of time. There are a few keys to making this work, one of which is consistency. You should study your target market and decide on a time that is most effective to send email messages. Then, create an editorial calendar of when you will send your messages over the next month, the next couple of months or even throughout the year. It’s best to have your messages constructed beforehand. At the very least, you should construct the themes of each message. Scrambling at the last minute to get things out the door is stressful, and it creates a greater chance for error.

Create a Compelling Subject Line

Assuming your message makes it past the mine field of spam filters and the barbed-wire fence of a prospect’s personal account filters, you only have so many characters to entice them to open your message. This is the subject line of your email, and a few factors affect its success.

  • Length:  Obviously, this needs to be short; however, there is debate as to how short it should be. It has long been thought that a subject line of 50 characters or less (about five words) is optimal. Other studies have shown that shorter subject lines have higher open rates, but longer ones (70 to 100 characters) have better conversion rates. So what do you do? Continue to keep your subject short, and if the text you want to use in the subject is essential for getting recipients to open the message, you can feel comfortable about using more. If you are sending emails to a highly targeted audience, longer subject lines lend themselves well here. Otherwise, stick to the 50-characters-or-less rule.
  • Message:  Your  message must be tailored to your audience, and it must give a hint as to the value proposition contained within. Avoid using spammy words and phrases like “free,” “apply now,” “save,” “mortgage rates,” “dear friend” or “word from home.” Some of these words are also known as “red flag” words that are commonly used by spammers. Undoubtedly, there are many reputable people out there selling similar products and services that are really trying to connect with their prospects. Here is a pretty comprehensive list of phrases that will send your message straight to the spam folder.
  • Be Clear:  The subject line is sort of like an ad for the main content of your email. It must reflect the content contained within the email and be sort of a summary or teaser to the body of the email. The subject is also only the first step in getting someone’s attention, and if you do not deliver on what was hinted at in the subject, you will lose the person. Make sure these two elements (subject and body) are consistent.

The Body of your Email

Now we are on to the meat of the whole thing. You sent 3,000 emails. 90% of your recipients actually received the message in their inboxes. Another 20% actually opened it. This is the moment you have been waiting for, but several things can kill your dream of getting your message across to the recipient.

  • Long emails:  Unless you are a publisher and your strategy is to send samples of new titles to prospects, don’t make a long email. It’s painfully clear these days that people are busy. They have a gazillion things going on, and the fact that they actually opened your email means two things — they are interested in what you have to say, and they have a couple seconds to spare. Whether your email has one paragraph or blocks and blocks of text, they are only reading the first sentence to decide if this is something they really want to commit to. A shorter email increases the chance that they will read the whole thing, and might actually do what you want them to do. Even if they are only marginally interested after the first one or two sentences, if they see that the whole thing isn’t that long, they will continue. By contrast, if the whole email is a page long, they quickly realize that they only had a second of spare time to begin with, and you have lost them.
  • Actions:  Most emails sent by marketers these days have some sort of link that they want you to follow. Many of the same principles that apply to landing pages also apply to email messages. The action that you want recipients to perform should be the most obvious thing in the email. It should also be easy, and you should let them know it’s easy. Don’t bury your action under mounds of text or put it at the end of an email. Don’t make it too small or drown it out with tons of graphics and design work. Make the layout simple, and offer your recipients one choice, which is the action you want them to perform.
  • Bad copy:  People lose faith in a web page that has poorly written content, and the same is true for emails. If your copy is filled with grammar and spelling errors, people subconsciously start thinking, “what else does this person screw up?” Poorly written copy screams carelessness and/or incompetence; two things you do not want a prospect to think of you. Yes, everyone makes mistakes (I am guilty of this, as well), but there are tactics you can use to prevent it from happening. Have a colleague, friend, employee or some other set of eyes read your message before it goes out to the masses. It’s very easy for the best writers to miss mistakes that are right in front of them simply because they have been looking at the copy for too long.
  • Call to action:  Every email should have a call to action. Like the action you want recipients to perform, this text should be highly visible. Use a command verb that relates to what you are offering as a start. This could be “download,” “sign up,” “buy,” “order,” “start,” “compare,” or “subscribe.” You should also provide a reason why your recipient should take the call to action. Tell them what’s in it for them. Adding a sense of urgency is also effective; however, you shouldn’t be too overbearing. If your call to action is weak or nonexistent, readers may not feel enticed to take the next step.

Here are some examples of companies that are constructing their emails effectively:

Jetsetter does a nice job of simply using images to entice recipients to click on their offers. The action is very obvious, and it is contrasted against other elements of the message (the big, orange button under each image).

 

jetsetter-email-marketing

While I can’t speak highly of the frequency practices of Groupon, they do have a very appealing layout to their emails. There isn’t a lot of clutter, and it’s very clear about how to take advantage of the offers contained within.

groupon email

Use Images Sparingly

This is one of the most challenging parts of email marketing. One of the best ways to make your message visually appealing is with images. Most web- and desktop-based email clients, however, do not support automatic download of images for security reasons. Even trusted senders identified by some of the most widely used email applications still have images blocked by default. If you use a third-party email provider, take advantage of templates that utilize HTML and CSS for construction and styling of your emails. If you are designing your own emails, use programming languages as opposed to images. Ultimately, the use of images is unavoidable, but you should try to use programming for style wherever possible. Just realize that there is a greater chance that fewer people will see your message as it was meant to be seen if you have crucial elements as images instead of text or programming. You should never make the content (i.e. body of your  email) an image. Also, if you have an image made into a link in your email, be sure to place alternate text that is descriptive enough for someone to follow should the image not appear.

What’s in it for Recipients?

Whatever the reason for your email  to prospects, make sure it is worth the while to open and read. Provide value in some way, whether it’s a free download or an offer of some kind like a discount. Don’t just send emails promoting yourself and your business — no one will care.  Unless they are sitting at their computer thinking, “wow I really wish someone would send me an email about how they are the best office-supplies retailer in the Midwest,” your message will not be well-received. There needs to be something in it for the recipient. Examples include a free download, important or compelling news, special offers and other things of that nature.

Use Real Senders

Along with your subject line, you also have the opportunity to customize the sender that appears for the recipient. Whether you are a large corporation or a small business, the temptation to look professional is the same. People often want to input some arbitrary email handle like “[email protected]” or the company name. This may seem like a good idea, but in reality, people automatically avoid messages from senders that are not a person, but an entity. Who wants to talk to a business? People want to hear from real people, and personalizing your sender with a real name is much more enticing to people. When you see a personal name in your inbox, you might think it’s from someone you know. Once you realize it’s not someone you know, you may still be intrigued as to why this person you don’t know is emailing you. When we see company names, we automatically equate that with selling.

Don’t Overwhelm your List

It’s tempting to blast a list of contacts with emails all throughout the week. Some marketers even do it a couple times a day. Unless you have clear data that your target audience wants to hear from you this much, this is a sure-fire way to receive a ton of opt-outs and maybe even angry phone calls. The frequency for communication is different for every niche and once you have a good idea of what that is, stick to it. People don’t mind receiving email correspondence from companies that have permission to do so as long as the correspondence is not annoying. Sending messages that are poorly written and offer nothing to the recipient are irritating enough. Sending even the most well-designed emails too frequently will destroy your email list.

Optimize your Conversion Funnel

This strategy has less to do with your email and more to do with what happens once someone takes the next step past your email correspondence. Having a well-constructed and written email message is only the first step in the process to convert someone to a customer or sell more things to current customers. You have to make sure your conversion funnel (whether that be a video, an opt-in form, a product page or some other landing page) also needs to be well-built. It needs to be clear and easy to complete. There must be as few steps as possible, and messaging must be consistent with your email.

Use Third-Party Software

If you are serious about email marketing, the use of third-party vendors who do it well is recommended highly. Companies like iContact, Constanct Contact or Mail Chimp offer easy-to-use interfaces and great tracking features. Marketers are able to see open rates, click through rates, and other metrics. Most mainstream programs allow you to easily manage opt-outs and other elements of contact lists. They also have tons of templates that make inserting and organizing images, links and text a snap. In general, they make the entire process of managing email campaigns and the caveats associated with them all that much easier. Of course, many of these programs are paid, but the prices are reasonable compared with the lost opportunity costs of designing your own email templates, managing contact lists in clunky spreadsheets and, in general, making a poor impression on prospects if your process is not professional.

 

Hopefully, these tips can point you in the direction of having a successful email marketing campaign. What strategies have you used for marketing through email?  Do you like using third-party services or doing things on your own?