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A Basic Guide to Lead Nurturing

lead-nurturingSometimes it’s possible to complete the whole buying process online. A visitor sees an ad or a link and follows it, completes some action and then ends up buying from you. These sorts of transactions typically happen with smaller ticket items with short sales cycles and low education thresholds for buying.

More commonly, online marketing involves the generation of leads using some sort of conversion funnel. This could be as simple as an ad + landing page or it could involve an inbound marketing offer where users are trading information in exchange for some sort of content or access to services. In these cases, business owners are able to generate leads that need to be nurtured in order to convert to being buyers.

Lead nurturing is an important aspect to understand when it comes to inbound marketing. We often can’t get people to buy with just one touch online. They need to have multiple touches in order to be led into making a purchase decision. Of course, not all of them will buy, but if you can remain top-of-mind and steer them where you want them to go, you will be able to convert a larger proportion of the leads you gather.

principlesPrinciples of Lead Nurturing

At its most elemental level, lead nurturing is the process of delivering highly educational and relevant content over time to people who have already expressed an interest in your organization. You should maintain a certain framework while delivering content to your prospects:

  1. Relevance
    Deliver content that is relevant to areas of your organization, products, services or other content they’ve already expressed an interest in. For example, if they have downloaded an eBook about how to write a resume, sending emails with links to eBooks on how to build an effective LinkedIn profile would be appropriate.
  2. Timeliness
    Stay on top of your leads. If they give information to your company for some reason and you don’t follow up with them for weeks, they may have moved on. There may not be a hard rule here; however, if someone has downloaded content from you, follow up within a week with emails, social posts, or other communication representing first steps in the lead nurturing process.
  3. Progress
    Each touch you have with your prospect should nudge them further in a direction to making a purchase from your business. This is the entire reason you are communicating with them in the first place. The direction you push them in and what you ask them to do will vary based on what it is you are trying to get them to buy. In theory, all of the content on your site that they have access to download is in some way (or should be) related to your services or products. If your campaign is designed to increase sales of a specific service then nudge them in the direction of buying that. Send them information or offers related to those services.
  4. Tracking
    Google AnalyticsYes good old tracking should always be a part of what you are doing.  Measure each time you send out communication to see how your messaging is received.  Do people click on your links? Do they come to your website if that is the goal? Do they open your emails or, in general, do they perform the tasks you have outlined for them? By measuring your activities, you can see what worked and what didn’t. You can try new things that may push you in the direction of having success with your lead nurturing campaigns.

Forms of Lead Nurturing

You could accomplish pretty much any sales or business related goal with a lead nurturing campaign, but there are some common ones to get you going if you are just starting with this.

webinars raise brand awarenessBrand Awareness Campaigns

This type of lead nurturing gets prospects introduced to who your company is and what the mission is. This might be news related content or items from your blog. It could be a newsletter. People in these contact databases should not be leads who have expressed specific interest in a particular product or service. Instead, they may have entered your system under more general circumstances. Maybe you purchased a list somewhere or have a general signup form on your website.

Incoming or “Hot” Lead Campaigns

These are leads you may have gained through some sort of specialized conversion funnel or inbound marketing offer. For instance, you may have generated a list from offering an eBook on a specific topic, or maybe a prospect filled out an online quote request form.

These prospects should be sent messaging that helps push them down the line to purchasing relevant products and/or services. You would start by sending them communications on similar content they may find valuable and then a “soft-sell” email where you prompt them to make a purchase decision.

Naturally, if you have a goal in mind for what you want people to do, go for it. Lead nurturing is about having a conversation of sorts. Leads are people, and they have already taken the first step of initiating contact with a company. You can keep the conversation going by sending timely, relevant and interesting communications and content their way in an effort to push them closer to becoming a full-fledged customer.

 

What lead nurturing strategies do you use? Join the conversation by commenting below.

8 Quick Fire Tips for Selecting an Audience-Pulling Webinar Topic

Avoid boring webinar topicsAlthough it deceptively appears to be the easiest task, one of the hardest jobs you’ll have when planning a webinar is choosing a topic that resonates with your target audience and keeps viewers engaged. You’ll inevitably find that the subject matter has been covered numerous times or that your topic ideas make for a potential snoozefest.

Don’t fear; we have eight easy tips for identifying webinar topics that will draw in audiences and keep them awake.

#1 – Find out What the Experts Are Talking About

Are you tracking industry experts and influencers to find out what they have to say about certain issues? While you’ll never want to reproduce the information they’re providing to their online audiences word for word, you may find opportunities to delve deeper into a topic or present it from a completely different perspective.

#2 – Tap into the Latest Industry Trends

The great thing about social media platforms, Google Alerts, and similar listening tools is that they offer up a plethora of insights brands wouldn’t otherwise have. Be sure to keep up-to-date with your industry monitoring efforts and you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a buzz-worthy webinar topic that hits the right spot with your target audience.

#3 – Conduct a Little Target Market Research

If you want to know what your audience wants to hear about, why not just ask them? A simple survey or poll can be a great way to narrow down webinar topics your followers will actually enjoy.

#4 – Draw From Your Team’s Creative Brilliance

Sometimes there are few better resources for webinar topics than the people who put their blood, sweat, and tears into closing a sale for your business. Since they communicate with your client base on a regular basis, they’re likely to have information that you don’t. Connect with them, brainstorm creative ideas with them, and get them to share their customer stories and experiences. You never know when you’ll find a golden nugget of insight that just might be your best webinar topic yet.

#5 – Tackle a Pain Point

If you possess a deep enough understanding of your buyer personas, you know what perplexes them during their waking hours and haunts their fretful dreams. Fix it. Give them easy wins with a webinar topic that’s bound to create moments of revelation, comprehension, inspiration, or insight.

#6 – Become Laser Focused

While it’s great that you want to cast a wide net and appeal to as many people as possible, you’d be making one of the biggest webinar marketing mistakes you can make. Why do you want to be laser focused? It’s simple: a topic that appeals to a particular niche is going to generate far more qualified, sales-ready leads than a topic that’s a little more general in nature. Just when you think you’re as specific as you can get, try to refine your subject matter so that it helps segment your prospects according to your buyer personas.

#7 – Think About Search

The-wrong-webinar-topic-equals-low-registrationsIs your topic idea based on your targeted keywords? Can you craft a compelling headline that’ll rank as well as it convinces people to click through to your landing page and register? When you think about webinar topics, you have to keep search factors in mind because if you can’t effectively reach your target audience, you can’t expect to fill virtual seats.

#8 – Consider Future Content

As a marketer, you want to squeeze every idea for all it’s worth. It’s no different when you’re selecting a subject that’s right for your webinar presentation. Therefore, you should determine whether you can spread your topic over a series of webinars or repurpose it for a different audience.

Whatever you do, don’t be discouraged if your webinar topic doesn’t pull in the numbers you hope it will. Everything in marketing should be tested and improved upon, so while you may not have a hit the first time around, you can always try again.

 

Did you find these tips useful? If you’re a webinar marketing genius, consider adding your tricks to the mix. Drop us a line in the comment box below. 

How To Design CTAs That Convert

hot-to-design-ctas-that-convertIf done correctly, your call to action, or CTA, is the piece of your landing page that turns a visitor into someone that helps grow your business. Whether it’s a lead or a customer, your call to action acts as the trigger that tips them over the edge.

Good calls to action are a combination of design, placement and language. If any of these things are off, your conversion rates suffer. We’ve put together some tips on how to design CTAs that convert.

Placement

Make your call to action prominent on the page, email or ad. One of the simplest mistakes you can make is burying your CTA among images or other text. If your visitors can’t see the CTA, it won’t influence their decisions.

Apple does this really well in their emails. The CTA is right on the button you would use to buy the product in their emails. They follow a very simple theme of value proposition, call to action and product. No other distractions.

ipad-air

Design

What your call to action looks like is also very important in terms of how your audience will interact with it. Make the text larger, a different color or a different font than other text on the page. Put your call to action close to a button, link or other interactive features of your landing page.

Treehouse does great with their design. Like Apple, they don’t have a lot of distractions, and the call to action is front and center. There are only a couple of choices for you to get started learning. It is obvious what you are supposed to do, which is either get started learning or learn more about their offering.

tree-house

amazonLanguage

The words you use in your call to action are very important. This may seem straightforward, but you should consider the mindset of a visitor to your site. For example, Treehouse, in the screenshot above, is selling a teaching service; however, they don’t use the language, “buy now.” Instead, they use “Get Started,” which speaks more to an ongoing process of learning.

Start by using subjects and verbs. Your calls to action should be short sentences, and people should get the gist of what to do right away. Keep the entire thing short. There really isn’t a hard rule on this, but 90 to 150 characters is good.

A good example here is Amazon’s “Click to look inside” CTA. It’s apparent what you can do by clicking, and the CTA is very compelling. Who wouldn’t want to look inside a book they were thinking of buying online?

CTAs are the invisible salespeople online that push surfers into making a purchase decision. They should be short, placed in obvious spots and designed in a way that makes them appealing and easy to find. All other things being equal, a good call to action can help increase conversion rates, which translates to more leads and more sales.

 

Do you have any tips for writing CTAs that convert? Join the conversation by commenting below.

Setting Realistic Goals and Objectives for a Webinar

You’ve probably heard it before: every solid marketing strategy begins with goals and objectives.

While that’s certainly true, you may not know what those targets should look like if you’re dabbling in a content marketing tactic like webinars for the first time. In this post, we dig a little deeper into the process of setting realistic goals and objectives for a webinar, as well as provide insight into practical things you should look at when planning for success.

Evaluating Higher-Level Business Goals

Webinars for lead generation goals

Webinars can be highly effective for drawing in leads and nurturing them through your sales funnel.

You can’t possibly formulate an effective execution strategy for webinar marketing before identifying the high-level business goals this tactic can help you achieve. Therefore, you need to start this process by mapping out your overall goals for growth and then figuring out how webinars can potentially fit in to your plan. This includes pinpointing the stages of the sales funnel at which you’ll leverage a webinar to achieve a specific goal.

For example, if your business goal is to increase revenue by 20% for the year, you’ll need to improve sales conversion rates. To do that, you can use webinars in one of several ways:

  • generate awareness
  • draw in qualified leads
  • move prospects up the interest ladder

How many webinars you create and when you’ll use them depends on your product or service offering, how you structure your sales funnel, and what you hope to achieve through this communication tool.

Formulating Webinar Goals and Objectives with a Specific and Narrow Focus

It’s all too easy to say, “Our goal is to build a reputation as a thought leader in XYZ.” Yes, it’s a goal, but it’s not one that’s very focused, specific, or effective. If we give this a little more substance, the goal and objective might look something like this:

Goal: Build thought leadership by educating prospects and customers on XYZ using relevant, unique, and expert insights that are appropriate for their level of education.

Objective: Achieve a 35% response rate and 80% satisfaction rate as measured by an exit survey.

At this point, you might be wondering what other kinds of goals you can set for each webinar. While we won’t go into metrics or the intelligence you can potentially gather in this post, you should consider the following areas:set attendance goals for a webinar

  • Target registration goals
  • Target attendance goals
  • Real-time feedback goals
  • Audience retention goals
  • Thought leadership goals
  • Post-event goals
  • Sales-specific goals

When you break down each of these areas, you can start to create sub-goals and objectives. Let’s take target registration goals as an example. It all starts with a landing page, which means you’ll not only define your goal for the number of registrations you hope to receive, but you’ll also ask key questions like “What are my traffic goals?” and “What are my CTR goals?” These answers are crucial because when you compare them to your actual results, you’ll find they indicate the quality of your message and the effectiveness of your landing page. As you can see, you suddenly have a subset of goals you need to define as part of your webinar strategy.

Action Steps:

  1. List your overall business goals.

  2. Identify which goals you can work toward through your webinar marketing efforts.

  3. Outline how you’ll use webinars as part of your sales process.

  4. Formulate goals for each webinar.
  5. Formulate objectives for each of those goals.

Although you probably don’t need the reminder, you’re getting it anyway: goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based). If you can’t establish a specific metric that can be measured to determine your success, then you need to rethink your goal and its supporting objective because you cannot manage what you cannot measure.

 

Do you struggle to set goals and objectives for your webinars? Perhaps you find it a challenge with any strategy you develop. You might even be the polar opposite and this part of the process doesn’t really faze you. We’d love to hear from you either way, so let us know if you have any questions, comments, or advice for others by dropping us a line in the comment box below.

How to Create Amazing Landing Pages

landing-pageOf all the components in a conversion funnel, the landing page plays the most instrumental role. It is the piece that serves as the function by which people become customers or leads, and it also must give that additional push for someone in the sales or lead-generation process.

You can have really great ads, good marketing copy and even a great product or service, but if your landing page sucks, it can cause issues with your activities online. This post will show you how to make an amazing landing page by highlighting best practices.

Your landing page should have the following elements:

  • Your value proposition should be clear and concise
  • The action you want visitors to perform should be obvious and easy to do
  • There should be no distractions from the main event on the page
  • Your messaging (i.e. words, phrases, images, etc) should be consistent with what brought someone to the landing page in the first place
  • The page should load fast and work well with all major browsers
  • It should not use a lot of Flash or Javascript to accomplish its goals (none is better)
  • It should be painless to use and easy to navigate

Clarity on Your Landing Page

When we make web pages for products, services or to get some kind of information from someone, we often have a tendency to cram as much information on the page as we can. We also have a tendency to forget about why the person came to the page in the first place.

Our visitor has not forgotten. They have arrived instantaneously and are now looking for the thing that caused them to come to the page in the first place. Typically, that is something that they were promised or something that they can get.

Your value proposition should be front and center. It should not be buried in paragraphs of content. Make headers prominent and bold. Tell the person landing on the page exactly what they want to hear, and do it clearly.

Make Actions Easy and Obvious

Make Actions Easy and ObviousAnother thing marketers forget is that people browsing online are impatient and used to instant gratification. It is true that most people will muddle through a process even if it’s hard and confusing. You will lose prospects, though, if you make your action too complicated or confusing.

Keep forms short — don’t ask for more information than you need. Make prompts and descriptions intuitive and easy to understand. For instance, don’t get creative at the last second by putting the word “find” next to a search box.

Take steps to ensure your checkout process is streamlined and easy to understand. Eliminate unnecessary steps in the process. Make sure you afford your users every modern convenience of online form data entry.

The actions to start your conversion process should also be obvious. Make buttons large and easy to spot. Don’t distract visitors with other elements or detract from an area on the page where the action is. Don’t put the action below the fold of the page. In a nutshell, don’t make people work to find out what they have to do. It should be clear as day what they are supposed to do on the page.

Consistent Messaging

Make sure the messaging on your landing page is consistent with ads, emails, links or other methods by which a visitor arrived at your page. You can think of the process by which people follow conversion funnels as a series of directions.

People get instruction on their next step from the previous step in the process. For example, they see language or images in an ad that entice them. They will then be looking for that information during the next phase of the process. If they don’t see it, they become confused, and if they still don’t see it, they get irritated and leave.

This is another area where your visitors will put up with a lot before they give up, especially if they are interested in your value proposition. Visitors will only put up with so much, though. If you used keywords in your ad or link that lead to your landing page, use those on the page as well. If you used certain images to entice them to click, make sure those are also on the page.

Your value proposition, which may have been promised in an ad, or whatever drove the person to the page should also be present. The basic idea here is that people need to know that they have made it to the right place. The Internet is a virtual world where it’s easy to get lost and think you’ve taken a wrong turn.

Technical Details

Technical DetailsMuch of landing page success has to do with messaging and layout; however, the technical details can also trip you up. Slow-loading pages are some of the most common contributors to low conversion rates. Think about the last time you sat at a red light. A person in front of you may take 3 seconds to notice that the light has turned green. Just saying that doesn’t seem like a lot of time but if you are the driver behind the person who doesn’t noticed the light has changed, it seems like 3 minutes.

The same is true for web pages, and consumers are unforgiving. Like other elements of poor landing page construction, people will put up with a little headache, but not a lot. If the relationship between your prospect and your value proposition is fragile to begin with (i.e. they don’t care THAT much about it), you could lose them with a slow page.

Use Google’s Page Speed Analyzer to see how fast your page loads. Anything slower than a few seconds and you should use their recommendations to make it better.

Another technical aspect is the way pages are rendered in browsers. You should take steps to ensure your landing page works with all major browsers. If there is important data not showing up because the browser cannot interpret it, you might be missing out on opportunities.

A good rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of Flash and Javascript you use in your landing page. Sometimes users will disable JavaScript or their Flash player will be outdated. If you have to use these technologies, it’s ok as long as you try not to use them for information that is more critical to your landing page success.

Your Landing Page Should Be Pain-Free

Many of the previous sections have covered this concept, so this is more of a wrap-up. Many of the best practices above all contribute to making your visitors’ time on your landing page pain-free and productive.

When you are online trying to accomplish something, there are few things worse than a web page that will not work or that is confusing. For tasks that cannot be done anywhere else, we just get furious at the creators and try to find some other method. For companies whose products or services we could potentially do without (or find elsewhere), we move on to the next website.

 

Do you have any additional tips to share when it comes to creating awesome landing pages? Let us know in the comments section below.

10 Awesome Tools for Creating Presentations and Hosting Webinars

When you’ve decided webinars make sense for your business, and the benefits are worth the effort, your next step involves searching for tools and applications that ensure your efficiency in both creating presentations and hosting webinars. With so many options available, where do you begin without feeling overwhelmed?

To help you out, we’ve pulled a list together of popular options you’ll find on almost any best-in-class list for tools and apps in these two categories.

Tools To Create Webinar Presentations That Engage Viewers

 Engaging webinar presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint: The go-to presentation tool for many businesses, PowerPoint lets you create compelling and unique slideshows using a variety of layouts and design tools. For those of you who like to keep track of your talking points with as little distraction as possible, the Presenter View feature enables you to view your notes on the same screen while your audience only sees your slide. If you don’t own the Microsoft Office tool suite, you can purchase PowerPoint as a single app.

Google Drive: Although this tool isn’t as sophisticated as other options, Google Drive still offers a collection of themes, templates, and basic features to develop presentations that are worthy of your webinar. It’s a great tool if you’re looking for software that’s free and easy to use.

Prezi: This virtual whiteboard allows users to create visually appealing and dynamic presentations that include images, video, sound bites, and more. While the tool lets you offer your audience a multi-dimensional story experience rather than a slideshow, it’s important to use Prezi’s software correctly so that you don’t make viewers nauseous. Licenses range from free to $13.25 per month.

ClearSlide: Besides letting you tell your story through a combination of images, charts, shapes, layouts, video, Flash, and more, this provider lets you pull real-time data into your slides, share your creations easily, and measure the effectiveness of your presentations with powerful analytics. Although a free trial is available, you may find this tool pricier than others.

Keynote: Apple’s answer to presentation software, Keynote is ideal for constructing beautiful presentations with 3D charts, animations, special effects, and other design elements. The tool currently offers 44 different themes, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding one to suit the tone of your webinar topic.

Tools for Hosting Webinars Effortlessly

Tools for hosting webinars

When looking for a good webinar hosting tool, you’re looking for things like flexibility, functionality, audience capacity, consistent quality, and reasonable pricing. With these factors in mind, here are five service providers you might want to try if you’re new to the webinar game.

GoToWebinar: This feature-rich software offers full-service registration, customized branding, screen sharing, recording options, interactive features like polls and Q&As, phone and VoIP support, post-session surveys, follow-up emails, video hosting of recorded webinars, and more. Packages range from $99 – $499 per month with a 20% discount for annual plans. A 30-day free trial period ensures you can evaluate this webinar hosting tool without any risk.

AnyMeeting: Ideal for small businesses, AnyMeeting’s features include the ability to customize the meeting with your own branding, record your sessions, share your screen, present PowerPoint presentations, and play Youtube videos. It’s also mobile-friendly, offers Twitter and Facebook integration, and provides you with a personal URL. While the upside is you have access to a free version that allows up to 200 attendees, the downside is that an advertiser-based model supports it. Alternatively, you can opt for the ad-free Pro25 or Pro200 plan, which run for $18/month and $78/month respectively.

Instant Presenter: This excellent tool is jam packed with features that allow you to promote your webinar, engage your audience, and evaluate your message’s effectiveness. Besides automated meeting and registration tools, custom branding, PayPal integration, and presentation sharing, you’ll have access to live video and audio, a whiteboard, polling, survey and testing tools, on-demand recording, and other useful features. Although pricing starts at $35 per month for a maximum of 25 attendees, Instant Presenter offers a 20% discount if you purchase an annual plan.

WebEx: Whether you’re hosting a small webinar with a few people or large-scale event with up to 3,000 participants, WebEx offers a powerful hosting solution for businesses of any size. As part of their packages, you’ll find customizable invitations, registration tools, application and multimedia sharing, polling, Q&As, chat, high quality voice and video conferencing, record and play back options, lead tracking, campaign management, and attention-monitoring functionality. While the free plan is limited, WebEx offers competitive rates when you compare their features to similar providers in the market.

Adobe Connect: Adobe’s web conferencing platform provides you with an all-in-one solution that includes tools and templates for developing engaging landing pages and emails, a brandable console, polling and surveys, an interactive whiteboard, chat, recording and playback, attendee reporting, lead tracking, and marketing analytics tools to help you optimize campaigns. You can expect to pay around $45/month for the annual plan, $55/month for the monthly plan, and $0.32 per minute per user for the pay-per-use option. Adobe Connect is definitely an option to explore if you’re looking for a robust webinar hosting platform at an affordable rate.

Bonus Options:

Before you put an unknown tool between you and your audience members, make sure you test these options out and select the best one to suit your business needs. The last thing you want is to lose a prospect or client because of crappy audio or other technology-related issues.

Are there any presentation tools or webinar hosting services you’d recommend? Drop us a line in the comment section below and tell us why you love them so much.

Creating Inbound Marketing Offers That Really Work

inbound-marketingAt its core, inbound marketing is about paying it forward with your prospects and customers. You have to give a little before you receive, and that giving can have more benefits than just generating leads. In the beginning, it’s tough to know where to start with creating, using and measuring offers. What should an offer look like? How can you use it to benefit your target market and your company, and how do you measure your success?

Creating Inbound Marketing Offers

Keep in mind a few key goals that your content needs to accomplish for your business. It needs to generate leads, it needs to be appealing to your target market and it should also make your business an authority on a topic.

sales-funnelGenerating leads

Your inbound marketing offer needs to be able to convert prospects into customers. Naturally, not all people consuming your content are going to be in a phase primed for converting into buyers, but you should still set up the opportunity.

Think about what your audience values. Are you in an industry where your product or service is a commodity or highly competitive? If so, your audience may be in a comparison phase when looking for information online. Offer content that helps them make that decision on why your brand can help them.

You should also develop opportunities for prospects consuming your content to enter a conversion funnel. This could be a call-to-action at the end of a blog post with a link to a landing page, similar overlays in video content or links embedded in text content.

Catering to Your Market

In order to generate leads, people have to like your content. Building buyer personas or at least doing some basic research on your target market helps reveal the content they might be interested in. If you are trading ebooks or white papers for email addresses, you have to ensure the pieces you are producing are attracting the right people.

In general, you should be producing content that is genuinely helpful. Consumers can see right through content that was obviously produced with little to no effort. If they sense that you don’t really care about them, they will move on.

ValueIncreasing the Value of a Brand

The content you produce should also build up the value of your brand and position it as an authority. People go online to look for content, and there is no shortage of junk out there. Savvy web surfers can tell in short order if a website just has a bunch of fluff and no real value.

If you plan to produce content like ebooks, blog posts, video, imagery or whatever, don’t do a half-baked job. You should set out with the goal of adding value to the world.

Using Inbound Marketing Offers

Once you’ve gotten past the hurdle of producing content, you have to put it into action. The best place to do this is on your website. By doing this, you can drive traffic to your domain, measure the success of your campaigns and control your messaging.

Placing Offers on Your Website

Your landing page is crucial for getting people to interact with your offer. If your process or layout is hard to use or ambiguous, people may not fill out a form to download your offer.

Relevance

The content on your landing page should be highly relevant to your offer. This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how marketers place irrelevant text all over their landing page. If you used an ad to drive people to your page, make sure the text in the ad is the same as the text on your page. Elements like your value proposition should also be consistent from where users discovered your offer to the landing page.

easyEase-of-Use

The landing page needs to be easy to use. Again, this may seem obvious, but in practice, marketers tend to forget about users’ time and threshold for nonsense. Only ask for essential information on an opt-in form, make your call-to-action clear and concise, have the action you want your visitors to perform above the fold of the page (the point at which you have to start scrolling to see more information), and take any other steps necessary to reduce distraction and anxiety.

Your Opt-in Form

This element deserves special attention. The point of an inbound marketing offer is primarily to get leads for a company. You are asking for a visitor’s information in exchange for some free piece of content. Be careful what information you ask for as well as how much information you ask for. Don’t ask for more information than your offer is worth. That means if your offer is not that compelling, you shouldn’t be asking for too much or people won’t feel their time  is worth it.

Only ask for information you absolutely need. For example, name, email, role in a company, size of company, and goal-oriented questions may all be relevant to qualify a lead. Don’t add things just because you are curious, and avoid anything that doesn’t produce an added business value.

Repurposing Content

Inbound marketing involves the constant production of new content. That is really tedious and time-consuming work. Companies should repurpose their content whenever they have the chance. For instance, they might take old videos and transcribe them for use as blog posts or ebooks.

Ebooks not indexed in search engines might be repurposed as blog posts. Software previously used for free offers could become flagship services,

Funnel VisualizationMeasuring Inbound Marketing Offers

Measurement is a key part of any marketing initiative. There are marketing efforts that are time-tested, and then there are those that are seldom successful. It’s important to realize that not all initiatives are good for all businesses. While the basic concept of inbound can be applied virtually everywhere, the methods may not always be good for all companies. You  will never know if something worked well or not if you don’t measure your activities.

Analytics

You should use some sort of web analytics platform to measure your success (or failure) with an inbound marketing offer. The most popular one is Google Analytics, which is also free; however, there are several other platforms you can investigate as well.

You can customize tracking code to show you exactly how many visitors are completing your conversion funnel, how many abandon it and other important information.

CRM

Not all data for sales can be tracked online. With platforms like Google’s, you can enter arbitrary amounts for sales, but you won’t get an accurate number unless you are closely following people through the process of when they became a lead until they buy from you.

A customer record management program is a tool that you can use to do this. Once you have leads generated from your inbound marketing offer, you can put the data in a CRM of your choice and record things like how long it took them to buy, the products/services they ended up buying from you, and how much they spent.

With this data and data from your website, as well as recorded costs of making your inbound marketing offer, you can determine things like cost-per-lead and your return on investment for your efforts. Some good CRM programs you can check out include Zoho, Salesforce and OnContact.

Developing, implementing and measuring inbound marketing is an interactive process. Few people hit it out of the park the very first time. In fact, you may have to work for some time before you find content that really resonates with your target market and develop a process for changing leads into dollars.

 

Do you have any additional advice pertaining to creating inbound marketing offers? Tell us about it and join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Free Email Marketing Tools

free-email-marketing-toolsWe have covered a lot of paid email marketing programs in other posts, but aren’t there any free tools out there? I look for free software all the time, and most of what’s out there gives the illusion of being free. By that I mean it is promoted as free and looks pretty darn close to being free until you try and use it only to find out that nope, it isn’t free. That’s not an absolute truth, though, and we’ve found some email marketing tools that you can use completely free of charge.

As a side note, I think there is a mentality on the web that everything (in terms of software) should be free. I tend to disagree with this because we often don’t see all the person-hours and investment that goes into creating some of these free programs. If something has genuine value and can help make me money, I have no problem paying for it. Okay, on to the free stuff!

email-spam-checkerEmail Spam Test

There are always lots of blog posts and articles on what not to say in an email body or subject line, but not so many tools that actually scan what you are sending out. Emailspamtest.com does this, and it’s super easy. You just type in your subject line as it will be displayed in your email, copy and paste your plain text or HTML/CSS markup and click “Scan.”

The email spam test does its thing and pops out a score (with explanation) on the other end. It lets you know if your message will be considered spam or not. The tool is completely free to use (there aren’t even any ads on the site), and you can do it as many times as you want.

In case you were wondering, the site uses rules derived from the popular Spam Assassin Project, an open-source Apache project aimed at combating email spam.

Build Free Templates

Campaign Monitor gives users the ability to build an email template for free. At the time of this writing, you are able to go to their website, choose from among a handful of popular templates (i.e. newsletter, sales template, etc), customize it with their WYSIWYG editor and then download it into a zip file.

Of course you are going to have to install it on whatever software you are using to do email marketing, but all the coding is done. If you have ever tried to code an HTML email template before, you know it’s tough work. It can be incredibly difficult to ensure that dimensions are correct and to make sure all of your styling and HTML shows up.

email-template-builder

Test Your Email in Different Clients

So this is one of those programs that offers a slightly free teaser, and you have to sign up if you want more. If you are just sending out messages occasionally, or your email marketing isn’t a large part of your overall initiative, the free review you get on this site is probably sufficient. If you do a ton of email marketing, you might want to look into signing up.

Litmus is one of my favorite tools for email marketing. As marketers, messaging is extremely important. If our messaging doesn’t come across properly, we risk losing our audience. Just like different browsers display web pages differently, email clients display emails differently. Some may block all formatting and images, whereas others may let some through. Still others may kick your message to the spam folder where others don’t care.

With Litmus, you can at least see what your messaging would look like to people using major email providers. You also get the added benefit of seeing how your emails look on mobile devices.

email-client-tester

Track Your Success

Tracking your success is a part of the email marketing game, so you need something in place to do that. Even if you use paid marketing software, those programs will only give you metrics related to your messages and not what people do on your website after they’ve clicked through.

Google Analytics is one of the most popular web-based tracking platforms, and it’s also free. They have pretty good tutorials to help you install it on your site, and you can track links using Google’s URL builder. Insert specialized links in the emails you send out and you can track people that come to the domain where you have tracking installed.

You’ll be able to see how many visits came from an email blast you sent out, what those people did on your site, how long they stayed and loads of other information.

Free Trials

You are going to be hard-pressed to find an email marketing provider who will operate for free. Companies like iContact used to offer a free version of their software; however, those that still offer it typically don’t let you store a lot of contacts in their database.

iContact, however, will let you sign up for a free trial before you buy. That is at least good enough to see if you like the program before you commit. You’ll also get to send out some messaging for free for a little while. For the most part, though, if you want a decent email marketing provider, you are going to have to pay the nominal expense for an account.

This list is probably not complete, and new programs pop up all the time. You have to do a little digging, but there are usually lots of free or nearly free tools floating around out there. Be careful not to give out sensitive information to companies that look shady, and if something seems too good to be true, it is.

 

What free tools to you know about for email marketing? If you know of some not mentioned here, please share in the comments below!

9 Ways Webinars Benefit Your Business

Using webinars to market a businessIf you’re still on the fence about webinar marketing, and whether it’s right for your business (even after answering “yes” to every question in our quiz), you might want to evaluate the ways in which webinars benefit a business. Their advantages may just be enough to persuade your positive adoption of this tactic.

#Benefit 1: They’re Cost-Effective

When a tight budget or miracle-demanding bosses expect you to accomplish more with less, webinars can be an affordable solution to your dilemma. While you’ll still have to set aside costs for webinar development and web conferencing technology, you won’t need to budget for the travel, venue, accommodation, and catering expenses usually dedicated to hosting in-person seminars. That means you can free up finances for other areas of your business without sacrificing the opportunities this marketing tactic offers.

#Benefit 2: They’re Scalable

Nobody likes turning away a prospect or client, but live events at physical venues can really limit space. Thankfully, webinars are scalable. With no seating restrictions, you shouldn’t have any problems accommodating people who want to attend at the last minute.

#Benefit 3: They’re Convenient

Since there’s less organization involved with online events, webinars are a time-efficient tactic. They’re also designed to last around 45-90 minutes so you can easily schedule other activities into your day.

#Benefit 4: They Help Build Awareness

 webinars raise brand awareness

By creating a sense of occasion around the information or ideas you have to share, you effectively create hype and attract attention from your target audience. As awareness grows, traffic numbers to both your registration page and site will likely increase, and people registering for the webinar will potentially influence its virality by spreading the word to their online communities.

#Benefit 5: They’re Engaging

A huge focus for any marketer developing content is engagement. Thanks to the inclusion of video, slides, audio, and other interactive elements, webinars offer a highly engaging form of communication.

#Benefit 6: They Offer Long Term Value

If you record the session, your content can be accessed at any time long after the webinar has ended. Participants who may have missed something or want to reference your material at a later stage will gain additional value if they can view the webinar on demand. You can also generate residual ROI as you repurpose the presentation to create additional content.

#Benefit 7: They Increase Your Market Reach

Webinars increase market reachYou aren’t limited by location, which means you have an opportunity to grow your business faster by extending your reach across international borders. Audience members who wouldn’t have been able to attend an in-person event will also feel included and privy to the same experience as everyone else.

#Benefit 8: They Help Grow Your List, Leads, and Sales

Webinars are excellent for establishing yourself as a thought leader, educating and training attendees on your products and services, highlighting your experience and expertise, building relationships with audience members, increasing your brand’s credibility, and more. Therefore, if you create compelling content and use webinars the right way, you can motivate participants to join your email list, move them through your marketing and sales funnel, and convert them into paying customers and brand advocates. Ultimately, webinars offer a highly effective way of growing your list at a lower cost per lead.

#Benefit 9: They’re User-Friendly

You don’t need to be an IT guru to master web conferencing technology, nor do your audience members require technical abilities to register for and join a webinar. In fact, software has only become faster, more reliable, and less clunky over the last few years, so it really is a win-win situation all around.

 

Have we convinced you that webinars are worth a try? Are there any benefits you’d add if you’re already leveraging webinars in your business? Join the conversation in the comment section below.

An Inbound Marketing Guide for Email: Start the Conversation

inbound-for-email-marketingInbound marketing is about building a non interruptive funnel to draw people into your brand. So when you throw in things like emails (which are traditionally interruptive forms of advertising), it’s hard to still call it inbound marketing. You’ll find that there are differing viewpoints on the role of email when it comes to inbound. Some marketers will say it’s outbound, whereas others will say it’s inbound. I’m in the camp that says it’s a little bit of both depending on how it’s being done.

Inbound is A Conversation

A theme of inbound marketing is that it’s about developing a conversation with your audience and engaging them with good content. Marketers who are forcing the conversation by purchasing lists or sending unsolicited messages are not sticking to this theme.

Email can be totally in the inbound marketing arena if consumers have opted to receive communication from a business, and if that business delivers on its promise. For example, if a prospect signs up to receive an ebook or newsletter subscription, a company should only send emails related to or containing those forms of content. In that way, the relationship becomes a give and take, or a mutually beneficial one.

social-sharingSocial Sharing

In the video below, Joel Book (Marketing and Research at Exact Target) mentions a statistic posited by Tim Schigel (Founder & Chairman at Share This). Tim said that 50% of all content shared on the Internet is done via email. That is a pretty huge chunk if that stat is at all accurate.

Regardless of whether the 50% figure is true or not, sharing functions in emails play a crucial role in email’s position as an inbound marketing function. When emails are sent to recipients from companies, they have to fit a certain criteria in order to be a part of inbound marketing.

When ANY email is forwarded to, or its contents shared with others online — regardless of how the original recipient received the email — that is totally inbound marketing. It’s because those brand advocates are selling your products or services for you without compensation, and because they feel the content is useful to the people they know.

Check out the other responses from industry professionals on whether or not they feel email is an element of inbound marketing or not.

Email can also be used in a nurturing function for inbound marketing. When prospects sign up to receive content via your company in the form of ebooks or newsletters, they may find other things interesting as well.

In this regard, you can keep the conversation going by mentioning other content that people may find useful. You can further your relationship with a prospect, nurture them down the path to making a purchase and maintain the essential character of inbound marketing in the process.

 

Do you think email is an outbound or inbound marketing tactic? Do you think it’s both? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.