Because You Can’t Beat Free Marketing Training

June 23, 2009

This is the second post finalizing the review of the Inbound Marketing University program from HubSpot. Here I talk about the final 5 classes. If you haven’t done already, check out the review of the first 5 presentations.

Class: Advanced SEO Tactics: On Beyond Keyword Research (GF401)
Professor: Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz

SEOmoz is one of the best places for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) information, and the presentation was full of nice tidbits about SEO. As I mentioned at my review of the basic SEO course presented, this is such a broad topic that 1 hour is not enough to cover everything, but Rand Fishkin did a great job presenting relevant information on how to get ranked higher on Google, including:

  • Link building
  • Keyword usage
  • Unique content creation
  • Domain diversity

As Fishkin explained each SEO concept, he made clear that they all need to work together. It doesn’t matter if you have great keywords if you lack the other elements.

SEO Tactics: He did a great job at distilling tactics into byte sized advice that we can all use for link building, content creation, and domain names. If you want to get some good insights on effective SEO, check out his presentation and the free articles they have on the SEOmoz website.

Veredict: This is a must watch class for those interested in SEO even if you’ve been doing it for a while. Rand’s presentation is engaging and full of great information.

Class: Calls to Action and Landing Page Best Practices (CV101)
Professor: Jeanne Hopkins, MECLABS, Marketing Experiments

If you are not familiar with MarketingExperiments, than you should immediately bookmark their website: http://www.marketingexperiments.com. They always have great content based on lots of testing they’ve done and publish their results frequently.

Since I’ve seen their reports and webinars in the past, the presentation about calls to action and landing pages was more of a refresher. Having said that, Jeanne’s presentation is a great starting point for those that have not seen their reports and want great actionable items for improving their landing pages.

The best take away from the presentation is their conversion formula: C = 4m+3v+2(i-f)-2a. Rather than being a formula that you need to solve, it is supposed to give you insights on how to create a landing page with higher probability of converting visitors. To get more insight into the formula and how it works, after watching the presentation, check out some of their website design case studies.

Veredict: Those new to Marketing Experiments are in for a treat. If you are familiar with them, not much new material.

Class: Inbound Lead Nurturing (CV201)
Professor: Brian Carroll, MECLABS, InTouch

The Lead Nurturing presentation followed the same format I had seen before from previous webinars presented by Brian Carroll, presenting the case for why would you want to “nurture” your leads. While the decision on whether to nurture or pass leads directly to sales will vary based on your own industry and experience, the concept is a powerful one.

Even if you decide not to engage in full lead nurturing as the presentation described, the concepts discussed during the webinar are worth bringing up to your sales managers to that everyone is on the same page. These include:

  • Definition of a lead
  • When should leads be passed to sales
  • When should leads be sent back to marketing
  • How should leads be followed up, and by whom
  • How should leads be qualified and what are the different qualification levels
  • What are the marketing messages that need to be developed for each type of lead
  • How should you track and manage your leads and what tools will you use

Veredict: Nothing new, but good solid concepts that marketers need to bring up to the sales management and come with an action plan.

Successful Email Marketing (CV301)
Professor: Eric Groves, Constant Contact

This presentation should have been titled Email Marketing 101. So if you need to get up to speed on why you should do email marketing, and the basics behind that, you will find out by watching this class, otherwise just skip it.

Veredict: Email marketing basics with a good intro for the novice, but lacking specific tips for the experienced email marketer. Other resources that will give you more insights into doing effective email marketing are MarketingSherpa and Marketing Experiments.

Class: Analyzing Inbound Marketing (AZ401)
Professor: Marshall Sponder, Monster.com, Web Analytics Association for Social Media

In this class Marshall takes you through a tour of web analytics and how to track and measure your efforts related to social media, web, and more. Besides giving you an overview of how web analytics work, he dives into some specific examples of how to understand the data you are getting from the analytics tool.

Veredict: Great introduction to web analytics and good tips on different types of analyzes makes this presentation worth watching with a notepad to take notes.

Conclusion

While I didn’t expect outstanding material from a free course, some of the classes were really great and worth watching again. The Inbound Marketing University calls itself a “marketing retraining program”  and I guess that if you really have not been involved with online marketing up until now, it could be a great eye opener. For those that have been around online marketing for a while is a good refresher but nothing spectacular. I still suggest checking it out because nothing can beat free training.

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Inbound Marketing Training for Free

June 21, 2009

Last week I attended the Inbound Marketing University, a free online program put together by HubSpot featuring talented well known professionals on blogging, SEO, social media, lead nurturing, email marketing, landing pages, and viral marketing.

Free Marketing Training from IMU

Free Marketing Training from IMU

After watching the classes, my take on the University is:

Positives:

  • Online archives from each class including slides available on-demand helps a lot when you have busy schedules like mine, and also allows watching at your own pace (i.e. fast forward the boring parts)
  • Quality instructors that have proven experience and really know the subject helped validate the quality of the program
  • Quick and to the point presentations (60 mins each) allowed you to get instant factual and actionable information

Negatives:

  • In general the content was focused on the basics, which is ok for a newbie but I was expecting some more “meat” and a combination of basics with advanced tips and techniques for those that want to take their marketing to the next level (the SEO classes were the exception, having a basic and an advanced class)
  • Too broad topics delivered with too narrow a focus. While corporate blogging, for instance, is a broad topic, the presentation focused on only certain aspects of corporate blogging, leaving a lot of stuff untold.

During the next couple days I’ll post specific review about each class so you can decide which ones to take and which ones to skip based on your experience level.

Review of the first 5 classes:

Class: How to Blog Effectively for Business (GF101)
Professors: Ann Handley & Mack Collier, MarketingProfs

This was a basic introduction to blogging, so for those already familiar with what blogging is, there wasn’t much new content. From a corporate blogging perspective, I like that they brought up what I consider the two main issues in corporate blogging:

  • Do you have the time?
  • Do you have the people?

Often times we get directives from the top echelon asking us to setup a corporate blog for the CEO, a blog for every manager, and to churn content every day. Unless you have the staff available to create new content quickly, you will be stuck.

What was missing from the presentation was:

  • Rules and policies for company blog writers on disclosing company trade secrets, talking about products that are yet to be released, copyright laws, and abiding to the company’s employee handbook
  • How to blog with shareholders in mind (current and prospective)
  • Blogging about the competition (dos and don’ts)
  • Blog copywriting tips

Veredict: Unless you are new to blogging, skip the class and check out the resources below, plus do a quick Google search and you’ll find tons of more information.

For those interested in corporate blogging, tips for corporate blogs and some rules and policies, check out the following links:

Class: SEO Crash Course to Get Found (GF102)
Professor: Lee Odden, TopRank Online Marketing

Not only Lee Odden provided a quick basic overview of what SEO is and why it is important but he also went into some details on how to make the most out of Search Engine Optimization. What I liked best was the tips on tools you can use and where to find additional resources. SEO is such a complex subject that you can barely scratch the surface in one hour so knowing where to go for more information is invaluable. The links he suggested are:

Keyword Tools:

Additional SEO Resources Mr. Odden recommends:

Veredict: If you have never done any SEO in your life, his presentation is excellent. Otherwise, skip it and go straight for the Advanced SEO class (to be reviewed in my next post).

Class: Social Media and Building Community (GF201)
Professor: Chris Brogan, New Marketing Labs

Chris Brogan’s presentation was more of a theoretical overview of community building than tools for doing that. This presentation was a great disappointment for me, since I have read so much great stuff from his blog and was expecting a bit more depth in his presentation.

Veredict: If you are new to social networks, community building, etc. the presentation will probably give you some good pointers so you avoid common blunders when building your own community.

For more information about getting your company to successfully build an online community, I recommend the following for further reading:

Class: Successful Business Uses for Facebook and LinkedIn (GF202)

Professor: Elyse Tager, Silicon Valley American Marketing Association

Elyse makes some great points about using social media for your business, such as:

  • It’s free, but… : although you may not have a line item in your budget on how much you need to spend on Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and other social media sites (they are all free), you do have to spend time (sometimes a LOT of time) working the social media space, which does translate into costs.
  • Commitment: you will have to commit to spending time developing your social media strategy; it doesn’t work overnight and require backing from your company willing to let you spend time doing it.
  • Set goals: this is important for any social media platform that your company is trying to use. Setup what your goals are for each platform (create connections, increase brand awareness, etc.) and measure it religiously.

Veredict: If you are new to using LinkedIn and Facebook for your business, Elyse’s presentation is a great starting point. For those that already use social media sites personally and just want to take it to the next level and include their business in the social media space, the presentation is a starting point, but it only tells you some of the basics.

Class: Viral Marketing and World Wide Raves (GF301)
Professor: David Meerman Scott, author of New Rules of Marketing & PR and World Wide Rave

David is a great speaker and has engaging stories, making his presentation one of the best of the series. He is also able to bring ideas implemented by Fortune 500 companies down to the level of small businesses, which is the best way to get actionable items that you can implement in your own business.

Some key insights from his presentation are:

  • Create buyer personas: what types of people are you trying to reach and what are their needs?
  • Earn attention: create something great and distribute it online to generate buzz
  • Nobody cares about your products: they care about solving their problems
  • Lose control: trying to control all your content will work against your attempts to get your ideas heard. Free content will get you farther.
  • New measurements: how you measure your success is now related to how your ideas are being spread (blogs, twitter, etc.)
  • Put down roots: and participate in the communities where your target audience is involved
  • Point the world to your virtual doorstep:  make sure you have an online presence that integrates with your other efforts in generating buzz

Veredict: this is a great class for those that want to learn more about viral marketing or that are trying to convince their companies to do it. For more great stuff on viral marketing, David Meerman Scott’s blog (www.webinknow) is a great starting point.

Next: Review of the final 5 classes:

Advanced SEO Tactics: On Beyond Keyword Research (GF401)

  • Calls to Action and Landing Page Best Practices (CV101)
  • Inbound Lead Nurturing (CV201)
  • Successful Email Marketing (CV301)
  • Analyzing Inbound Marketing (AZ401)

You can check out the presentation slides at: http://www.slideshare.net/HubSpot/presentations

The online recordings for the classes are at: http://www.inboundmarketing.com


Free Stuff That Sells. Maybe.

June 13, 2009
Free Marketing Stuff Can Sell

Free Marketing Stuff Can Sell

As marketers our job is to generate brand awareness, educate our prospective customers on the benefits of our products and get them to purchase. Effective marketing is about generating sales. Sure, leads and nurturing and all of that are all good but the reality is that unless a sale is made, all that money was spent without any return. Part of the challenge is reaching enough people with your message so that at least a significant number of them decide to buy. And how do you reach even greater number of prospects? Give away free stuff.

Can free stuff sell?

There is a natural resistance among marketers to give whitepapers, webinars, even product spec sheets out for free, especially without requiring any kind of registration. We want names, titles, email addresses, phone numbers, company revenues, number of employees, and while we’re at it give us your annual budget too. What do we do with it? We send it along to the sales reps so tat they can chase these “leads” like eagles diving for their prey. Eagles rarely come back empty handed, though. But that’s another story.

Back to the free marketing stuff. I am enrolled in a free course called Inbound Marketing University, created by HubSpot. It is a free week long online training program featuring some great speakers on topic such as blogging, SEO, viral marketing, email marketing, lead nurturing… all the tools online marketers need to know.

So, why is it free? Because if they charged for it not as many people would register.  Also, the classes (delivered via online webinars, with the archives available afterwards) feature speakers from other respected companies that would love to be able to sell their products to the attendees. I’m not saying that it will be sales pitch university, but I am skeptical. Will it really have all the great insight you get from quality paid courses? Will I get sales calls from each company that is presenting a class? I sure hope yes for the first and no for the second.

As an attendee the question is whether the content will be good. As a marketer (HubSpot in this case) the question is whether sales will follow.

Free marketing that sells

Free marketing stuff can definitely help a company improve its brand and get new customers. People love free stuff, and if it is quality free stuff that you don’t have to regiser for they will tell more people to check it out and those people will tell even more people (viral marketing anyone?). Odds are that someone may eventually buy the product or service. David Meerman Scott is a master at this. His eBook “The New Rules of PR” was offered for free without requiring any registration from his website and was downloaded 250,000 times. When he came out with his hardcover book “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”, it reached number 1 in sales quickly. When people download his eBook and like it, they are more likely to purchase his new book. On top of that, by recognizing David as an expert on the subject and someone that is not emailing you every week with stuff you never asked for, he and his company (Pragmatic Marketing) may get some customers that otherwise would not have even thought about them.

And if you do a simple Google search, you’ll find tons of other free stuff that does not require registration. From free PPC tips, free guide on Facebook for business, free eBook on Twitter for Business, free email marketing guide, and other miscellaneous free stuff (some of which you wish you had never found).

Does it mean we should all offer free stuff without registration on our websites? And how about going a step further and forgo registration for everything else we have on the site, just let people take it? Of course not, but putting some thought into getting quality content available without too many hurdles for the users couldn’t hurt either. Going back to the Inbound Marketing University, what I liked about their registration process is that it was painless, they ask minimum information and so far only relevant emails about the course have been sent.

Whether Inbound Marketing University ends up delivering a great program or just more sales presentations, I will let you know throughout the week as I take their classes (probably more archive classes than live ones, for my free time during the day is fairly limited). The free offer has at least picked my interest so you could say that the strategy is working… for now.

Does free stuff appeal to you? Or you try to stay away from it? Do you offer free marketing materials without registration on your website? Please share your experiences! 🙂


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