What Do Buyers Want?

November 6, 2012

You have created all that content, invested in a marketing automation system, and still the leads are not converting. Who is to blame? First, take a closer look at your content and answer the following questions:

1. Does it have your product name sprinkled throughout?

2. Does it focus on what your product does and describe features?

3. Does it use technical terms and acronyms?

If you answered “yes” to at least one question, your content might be the one to blame. So it’s time to clean up the house.

Cleaning Up Your Content

The best way to start cleaning up your content is to review it with a buyer’s eyes. What do buyers want? Try this:

A. The CFO doesn’t want another financial management system, she wants month-end closings to happen faster and without errors.

B. The VP Sales doesn’t need a new CRM system, he needs a better way to keep in touch with current opportunities and gain better visibility into the pipeline.

C. The Marketing Manager is not looking to replace the email software, she wants a better way to generate qualified leads.

Sometimes marketers and especially product marketers suffer of what I am going to call industry-induced content myopia. Just because every other vendor in the industry uses certain terms and creates certain types of content, it doesn’t mean you should follow their lead. Instead, take a breather, spend some time in another department, and ask for your 8 year old to review the latest customer case study you just published.

Yes, is tough to create content that will rise above the noise, that will get picked up and shared, but creating content that talks about what the buyer really wants is a good first step. What are you waiting for?

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How to Maintain Great Content Curation

June 19, 2012

A guest post by Lior Levin.

Content CurationOn the surface, content curation sounds like a great way to generate content with little to no time or effort. After all, you don’t actually have to write much new content, just find interesting items on the Web and point others to them, becoming a hub for all that’s relevant to your field.

However, doing content curation well means a lot more than just plastering your site with a bunch of synopses and links. Doing content curation right takes a lot of time and requires almost as much investment as creating original content.

Doing content curation poorly, though easy and quick, is often seen as spam and is likely to raise copyright and plagiarism issues for you. On the other hand, proper content curation can be a powerful tool for both building your site and driving traffic to it. In fact, in the best possible cases, it can make you an indispensable part of your niche’s ecosystem.

So how do you curate content in a way that both attracts visitors and makes you a hero to your peers? Here are a few tips to help you get started.

1. Participate in Your Community

If you want respect from your community, you need to do more than simply share their links. You need to create at least some original content and, equally importantly, connect with and interact with those around you.

Instead of just linking to a post, take the time to comment on it as well. Interact with other webmasters on social media and encourage them to send you interesting links. The more you contribute and interact with the community, the more they will respect and embrace you. That embracing not only makes the environment less hostile, but it also opens up new opportunities for cooperation that can make your offerings truly unique.

2. Be Careful How You Aggregate

Be careful about what you use and how you use it. Remember that the works you’re referencing are copyrighted and other webmasters, if they feel they are being infringed, may come after you.

Use only what you need, short snippets of text (usually under 50 words), headlines and links should be more than enough. If you find yourself writing a 400-word summary of a 500-word article, you likely need to rethink your approach.

Also, always attribute everything you use. Not only is it the right thing to do ethically, but it keeps you from making enemies needlessly.

3. Don’t Automate

When you have a site or service that seems perfectly relevant to your topic, it might be tempting to grab everything that it posts by RSS or another automated tool.

Don’t do it.

The benefit a curator brings to a niche is human involvement. If you’re not selecting the best posts to share, you miss out on adding value to your readers or community. Anyone can subscribe to a site via RSS, and no site is going to be 100% relevant.

In short, automatically shooting out everything that a site or a group of sites puts out is not only very spammy, but it is of no benefit to the reader or the community.

4. Be Where the Audience Is

While this is great advice for any site, it is even more true for curated content as curation is about convenience. You don’t want to make your readers work for your content so it’s important to be where they are.

Have an audience that spends a lot of time on Reddit? Be on Reddit. Are they active on Facebook? Be on Facebook.

Don’t be afraid of multiple platforms as the time needed to add a Tumblr or a Twitter is fairly minor. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to ditch services that aren’t working out for you.

5. Create Expectations and Meet Them

Very quickly, answer these questions for your readers:

  1. What are you going to post?
  2. How much are you going to post?
  3. And When are you going to post it?

Readers need this information so they know what to expect from your curation and know if they want to subscribe. Create a plan and stick to it.

Whether you want to curate ten links weekly about whales or five articles a day about modern medicine, tell your readers what to expect and deliver reliably.

In the end, great curation is a lot of work, but it’s that work that adds value to the reader and the community. Bad curation is, at best, mere spam and at worst copyright infringing.

As a curator, you can’t afford to be a parasite as you need a healthy, welcoming community for your efforts to thrive.

So don’t look for shortcuts with your curation efforts and, instead, focus on providing the best value you can, especially over the long haul. Your community, your readers and even the people you link to will all thank you and reward you for it.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a neon sign store that offers a variety of custom neon signs for businesses and individuals, and who also consults for a company that specializes in a to do list app.


Getting Started Guide for Marketing Automation

June 1, 2012

With all the (deserved) hype surrounding marketing automation, is no wonder that many companies, startups especially, are adding the technology as a key component to their marketing activities. Problem is, sometimes the rush to get the software installed and running ends up trampling the creation of processes, content planning, and other key ingredients that are necessary for a successful marketing automation implementation.

But let’s say you got approval and have purchased the marketing automation software of your dreams. Now what? Before you jump into it head first and spend countless hours setting up all the landing pages, workflows, and start messing with scoring models it’s best to take a step back and make sure you and all your team are in sync. So here’s a quick “getting started” guide that looks at the marketing automation implementation process from a 10,000 foot view and gets you ready to used what will become your most important lead generation engine.

Getting Started with Marketing Automation

Step 1: Sales and Marketing Alignment and Documentation

If you did your marketing automation purchase following best practices, the sales team (or at least sales management) was involved to help make the selection. If not, stop what you are doing and meet with the sales leadership. Make sure that you have documented (yes, written somewhere so that everyone can see) a few important definitions such as:

  • What is a lead (and expand it to include MQL, SQL, SAL and any other relevant lead stages)?
  • What does the sales and marketing funnels look like?
  • How and in which stage will marketing hand leads off to sales?
  • Will leads be saved to the CRM or will they stay in the MA solution until they are qualified?
  • How will marketing get feedback from sales?

Step 2: Buyer Personas

If you don’t have your buyer personas documented yet, now is a good time to get started. Make sure to validate with sales and other relevant departments. The personas will help drive your content marketing efforts and your lead nurturing programs.

Step 3: Content Marketing Audit

Conduct a content marketing audit and have an inventory of your marketing assets. Content drives marketing automation, so the best starting point is to understand what you already have. You can then start leveraging those assets with your marketing automation solution while you and your team craft new content.

Step 4: The Content Marketing Plan

Plug the resulting content inventory into a matrix containing the buyer personas and the sales cycle (different lead stages). The resulting spreadsheet or matrix will show you gaps you have in your content plan and also which content will be used in which stage for which type of buyer. This is the framework you will need for your nurturing campaigns.

Step 5: Scoring Model

Lead scoring is a tool that requires constant refinement and that will become a key element in helping you track your leads through the funnel. Scoring will require involvement of sales, and of understanding what piece of content or which demographical information from your prospect is more relevant when qualifying a lead. You can automate the sending of emails all day long but unless you have a thought-out scoring model you won’t be using the MA system to its full potential. You can go back to that content marketing matrix you created earlier and start plugging scores for the different types of content, or use it to guide conversation with sales on how to score leads.

Step 6: CRM Integration

Sure, during the vendor presentation the integration between CRM and the marketing automation solution was shown as seamless and easy. If you have the standard flavor of Salesforce.com with no customizations or if you are a startup just beginning to make use of the CRM system, then integration won’t be a problem. For other companies where the CRM system has been extensively customized, or if you already had different ways (screens, triggers, etc.) of managing your leads then you need to make sure that the marketing automation software won’t mess things up especially with how your sales team operates (another great reason to involve sales early in the process). Basically, make sure you understand how the integration works and how leads will be synced to the CRM and what the feedback loop looks like.

Step 7: Short-Term and Long-Term Marketing Automation

You can’t wait to get started, and that’s fine, but think ahead and create a short-term versus long-term plan. There are many things you can start doing right now, such as working on the registration pages and ensuring all web-based content is being captured by the MA system, leveraging existing marketing assets and start creating simple nurturing campaigns, and take advantage of events and other marketing programs that are around the corner and get your marketing automation system to support them.

As you get started using marketing automation, don’t forget to go back to the content marketing grid or matrix you created and plan for the future. What types of content do you need to create? What messages make sense based on different buyer stages and personas? Map out more complex nurturing flows based on different types of customers, products, and behaviors. Rinse and repeat.

Where to Go From Here

If implementing Marketing Automation seems like a daunting task, then I hope that this short “getting started” guide has helped to break things into smaller, manageable pieces. There are also a few very good free resources on the internet that you can read as you get started, such as:

Happy automation!


Deconstructing an Email Marketing Campaign

April 10, 2012

What does it take to put together a successful email campaign? It all sounds pretty simple when you think of it. Segment your list, create the email, send it out, evaluate results, repeat. Right? Well, not so fast.

I’ve now spoken to small business owners and startup founders and they have the same initial feeling that it should just work. But, when it comes time to actually execute, something is missing. Although “email marketing” is the name of the game, there are actually many pieces you have to put into play and organize in order to make the most of it. There are landing pages, thank you pages, linking all to a CRM system and ensuring you are capturing leads and nurturing them.

So in order to help those thinking about how to start their own email marketing programs, and also for those interested in looking at the whole process in more detail to see what else can be done to improve results, let’s take a moment to deconstruct a typical email marketing campaign. The following is like the anatomy of an email marketing process with the pieces each dissected and analyzed.

Anatomy of an Email Marketing Campaign

In general, most email marketing campaigns will look something like the image shown below. You have an Email that is created, which will have a link to a specific Landing page, which in turn will link (not always, but usually if you have a form) to a Thank You page, which typically triggers a final Thank You email.

Anatomy of Email Marketing Campaign

Click to Enlarge

The Email

The email is the message you are sending out to a segment of your list. It contains the following key elements:

  • Subject line
  • Headline
  • Content / Offer
  • Call to Action
  • Unsubscribe link

Things to consider when crafting your email are:

  • Time of day
  • Day of week
  • HTML vs. Text
  • Send yourself vs via third party
  • Design the email with the message in mind
  • Dynamic content based on job title, role, industry, etc.
  • Personalization (i.e. “Dear John…”)

All of these combined will influence well your email will perform.

The Landing Page

The landing page is the web page that holds the offer you talked about in your email. It doesn’t need to be an “offer” like in sales promotion, it could simply be a piece of content that you download or watch online.

The landing page contains usually the following elements:

  • Headline
  • Offer / Content
  • Registration Form
  • Call to Action

Things to consider when crafting the landing page:

  • Taking out website navigation
  • Don’t just restate the email text, add more compelling reasons for the person to proceed with what you want them to do (i.e. what is the call to action)
  • Short registration form instead of lengthy form
  • Having no registration form at all (give away the content/offer)

Having people click on an enticing offer in an email is only half the battle. Will they actually go through with their intent and do what you want them to do, whether it is downloading the whitepaper, watching the video, or filling out a form? The design and content of your landing page is critical.

The Thank You Page

If your landing page has a registration form, you will need one of these. What happens after the person fills out your form? They should get access to the content they registered for. Your thank you page typically has:

  • Thank you text, acknowledging the user’s time and interest
  • The offer itself or a link to download it

Things to consider in your thank you page:

  • Make it simple, people want to see their content right away
  • Show them another offer after the links to their content (people who downloaded this are usually also interested in this other thing…)
  • Tell them what to do if they have a problem downloading or accessing the material. Usually just an email address should do.

The Thank You Email

Not doing this one is a missed opportunity. After someone registers for your content, make sure they are able to download the offer by emailing them a quick “thank you” email containing a link to the material they were promised.

Your thank you email will typically consist of:

  • Subject line
  • Header
  • Content / Offer
  • Link to download

Other things to consider when crafting the thank you email are:

  • Be brief. You are not trying to sell them on something they have already expressed an interest in
  • Make the links to download/access the material very obvious
  • At the end, you could tell them about another piece of content they might be interested in, with the appropriate link
  • HTML vs. Text

Leveraging Email Analytics

You can also leverage your email marketing analytics to further enhance your campaign. After that first email goes out, you may want to craft a follow up email to people who didn’t take any action. For example:

  • People who didn’t open the email
  • People who didn’t click in any links in the email
  • People who clicked but didn’t complete the registration form

The follow up email is a good opportunity to re-think the message and craft a different email that might entice those who didn’t take any action after the first one went out.

The image below shows the process taking into account the new email you may want to add to your email marketing process flow.

Email Marketing With Follow Up Email

Click to Enlarge

What Happens Behind the Scenes

As people click through your email, register on your landing page, and download your offer, you will want to make sure it is all being captured in a database somewhere. There isn’t a single email marketing software vendor out there that won’t have at least the simplest of analytics. From the moment you schedule your campaign to go out the email software is tracking everything. It will tell you who it was delivered to, who opened and didn’t open, which ones bounced, etc.

The next step, the landing/registration page should also have a way to communicate back to you the registrations. The least you want done is to have a way to get that information back to your CRM system so that you can track which prospects or customers interacted with the campaign and registered or downloaded your offer.

As you get to a point where Email Marketing becomes  a key ingredient in your marketing toolbox you will want to start investing in a Marketing Automation solutions, because most of the MA solutions out there will give you some way to make this whole process a bit easier. The Marketing Automation software can not only track the email responses, but also the registrations from your landing page (if you used a form) and the downloads. In addition, the Marketing Automation software will help get people who responded to your email campaign into a lead nurturing process. In fact, many of your email marketing campaigns, once you have a Marketing Automation solution in place, will start looking very much like part of a bigger nurturing process themselves!

The image below shows the process flow with the Marketing Automation solution component.

Email Marketing with Marketing Automation

Click to Enlarge

And how about scoring? As you start playing with Marketing Automation, that’s the next step in thinking through your email campaign process. How will you score different interactions between all components? What score will people receive for opening but not downloading your offer? What score will you attribute to different offers on your landing page? And what score will you attribute to different fields in your registration form (if you have one)?

Where To Go From Here

Don’t worry if this sounds like too much to digest. Start small and go slowly. Don’t have a Marketing Automation solution yet? No worries.. use your Email Marketing system and just make sure that you have a way to get the results back to your CRM or whatever contact database you are using. Then, as you get more comfortable and grow your list and the frequency of campaigns, you can start looking at Marketing Automation.

The important thing is to use this anatomy of email marketing to think through all the steps and components and make sure that you are crafting compelling, consistent messages and that each step of the process is being optimized. I hope this brief exercise helped you get a better understanding of what goes on in creating an email marketing campaign.

Email Marketing Process Flow

Click to Enlarge


When Inbound Marketing Goes Wrong

February 9, 2012

The fact that Inbound Marketing is taking over traditional marketing methods is not news. It seems that every eBook, blog post, and webinar is now touting content marketing and inbound marketing as the go-to strategies for the new marketers. Marketing is evolving, there is no denying that.

But for those out there in the trenches, trying to follow all the advice and get their marketing engines running it is not that simple. Sometimes, despite your best efforts you can’t seem to move the marketing needle enough.

Why Your Inbound Program Isn’t Working

Marketo‘s new whitepaper, “Amplify Your Impact: How to Multiply the Effects of Your Inbound Marketing Program“, takes a different route from others out there. I was pleasantly surprised when they decided to attack the core of the problem by saying “It can be common for organizations that implement an inbound marketing strategy to see an early lift. However, while early results are strong, the leads can dwindle to a trickle“. That’s not your typical Inbound Marketing whitepaper!

The reasons, according to Marketo, are many:

  1. Your aim is too wide
  2. Some prospects may find you, but many don’t know you exist
  3. Others may know your exist, but don’t understand what you do
  4. You aren’t reaching the decision makers
  5. Sometimes you can’t break through the noise
  6. Sometimes there isn’t any noise
  7. Inbound marketing has a diminishing return

Content developed for inbound marketing should be more focused on your prospects’ problems and concerns than on your product or solution – Marketo

For each problem listed above, you can find good examples that might reflect exactly what you are facing at your company. In some cases, a few tweaks may get you back on track but in other cases you should re-evaluate your strategy. They also list a few things other companies are doing that you should think about, such as:

  • Have a staff dedicated to inbound programs
  • Combine inbound AND outbound programs
  • Ensure you have nurturing programs too

The Right Marketing Program Mix

“Increased output is not directly linked to a greater number of leads or customers or higher profit. You need to strategically determine where to spend your time – especially if you have a limited amount of resources”

The quote above, from Marketo, is the key for your inbound marketing troubles. The combination of the right programs based on their effectiveness for your particular situation is what will generate the best results. And, according to Marketo, outbound programs have their place in your marketing arsenal. They explain that while inbound marketing supports your newly created content by sharing it on social channels, making it faster and easier for your content to be found, outbound marketing (paid sponsorships, banner ads, etc.)can help you further spread the word about the content and multiply the number of new views you generate (and thus the number of shares, likes, etc.).

The mixing of both Inbound and Outbound Marketing programs helps with:

  • Brand recognition
  • Making prospects speak your language
  • Capture your target

The last part of the paper touts the benefits of marketing automation (expected, since Marketo is one of the players in this space) to help with your nurturing campaigns. As Marketo puts it:

“The leads you’ve generated via inbound marketing are often still conducting research and evaluating their solution options. That’s where lead nurturing comes in — you need to invest in the process of building relationships with qualified prospects, with the goal of earning their business when they are ready to buy. Marketing automation helps you deliver relevant information over time to keep leads interested, engaged, and educated until they’ve made that decision”

Besides, marketing automation also helps to:

  • Raise open and click rates
  • Enables A/B testing beyond landing pages
  • Creates new landing pages easily
  • Shorten sales cycle
  • Lets sale show when their prospects are engaging online
  • Automates repetitive tasks
  • Delivers sophisticated reporting and analytics

The free whitepaper is worth a read. The part where they talk about inbound marketing campaigns gone wrong can give you some interesting food for thought and help you rethink how your own campaigns are being setup.

 


6 Ways to Spice Up Boring Email Marketing Campaigns

February 7, 2012

Spice Up Your Email CampaignNote: This is a guest post by Lior Levin. See Lior’s bio at the end of the article.

For a marketer, email is possibly the most powerful medium ever created. In addition to be instantaneous and simple, it’s a personal medium that can be tailored to every person, it’s opt-in, meaning that you’re reaching an already-engaged audience and, best of all, the cost of sending each email is effectively zero.

However, the problem with email marketing is that it’s very much like a relationship, difficult to keep the excitement and enthusiasm up for a long period of time. This is true for both the marketer and the recipient.

So how can you help keep that spark alive when sending email after email? A lot of it comes down to simple creativity. However, there are several things you can do to revitalize a dull campaign and re-engage both yourself and your audience with your email marketing.

Here are just a few that you can consider:

1. Take a Survey

If an email campaign is a relationship, then every great relationship starts with communication. You need to take a moment and listen to your subscribers.

Take time out from your regular email campaign to have your readers fill out a short survey and learn what they want out of your emails. You might learn that there are whole directions you haven’t explored or that there are topics of interest you haven’t talked about yet.

Aside from that, getting your readers engaged and making them feel as they have a voice in the newsletter makes them more likely to stay and more likely to pay attention to what you send out.

2. Hold a Contest

People love contests and they get excited about the prospect of winning something. Whether it’s a contest for a large prize, a coupon to a certain percentage of subscribers or something else altogether, contests are a great way to generate buzz and interest in your email campaign.

Contests work especially well if you couple them with promotion elsewhere, offline and on, and can be even more effective if you reward your readers for attracting new subscribers.

But even if you can’t do anything grandiose, a simple contest is a great way to renew subscriber interest and improve your metrics. Just be careful to follow all relevant laws.

3. Reward Your Subscribers

Sometimes reviving a dull relationship is as simple as saying “Thank you”.

Offer a special deal to your readers just for being on your list. Give them something that makes them feel important and like they are your most valuable customers just because they are on the list.

This reward doesn’t have to be something large, just something unique that is only available to subscribers. Whether it’s a small percentage off, early access to new merchandise or a free download, anything that makes your subscribers feel as if you’re catering to just them will help keep their interest and their loyalty.

4. Segment Your Audience

Ideally, the more information you have about your audience the better. In addition to their name, email and other contact info, you ideally should know at least some about their interests, especially if you’re in a business that has a variety of products catering to many different types of customers.

However, even if you don’t have that information, you can still target your subscribers by publishing themed emails aimed at one or two specific segments. The idea is to talk directly to a part of your audience and engage them deeply. Though your other subscribers will likely ignore the email, you will come back and reach out to them another day.

All in all, segmenting your audience and reaching out to them is a great way to make your emails more relevant, interesting and useful.

5. Revamp Your Template

Revamping your site’s template is a long, difficult process that involves changing out multiple parts and, possibly, confusing a much larger audience. With your mailing list, you can make changes a great deal easier and, with the smaller audience and lack of search engine visibility, the risks are less.

So, if your campaign seems stale, it may be time to revamp your email template. Not only is this a chance to add new visual appeal, but you can also add new features such as a fast fact, a relevant quote or a promotion.

In short, if you’ve been using your old email template for a while and would like the chance to bring in some new content, a new template might be just what you need.

6. Test, Test and Re-Test

Of course, if you’re going to do any of the above changes, you want to test them as thoroughly as possible.

Most email service providers offer an easy way to split A/B testing where you send out slightly different emails to various groups and see which are the most effective. This allows you test one variable at a time, such as a new subject line or a tweak in the template.

However, even if you can’t do A/B testing, you can achieve the same result by changing the emails you send out between mailings. Basically, by making small changes every mailing and closely tracking results, you can hone in on things that improve your response.

In the end, the only thing that is required to keep the interest and spark in your email campaigns is a willingness to try new things and to engage with your audience. If you can do those two things, there likely won’t be a single boring week for your newsletter.

It does mean, however, that you have to be vigilant with your campaign and, even if things seem to be going well, you have to be willing to take a risk.

With email, if your campaign isn’t moving forward, it’s stagnating and a stagnating campaign is a dying one.

About the Author:

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing consultant for a company that offers a to do list application for businesses and individuals, and who also consults for a company that convert psd to html format.


Demand Generation and Lead Management Explained

December 20, 2011

Last week Carlos Hidalgo, CEO of the Annuitas Group, shared on the Software Advice bloga nice video explaining two basic concepts that are often used interchangeably by vendors and even analysts in the Marketing Automation space but should in fact be treated as separate concepts: Demand Generation and Lead Management.

Demand Generation vs. Lead Management

According to Carlos, Demand Generation has two goals:

  1. Filling the funnel
  2. Engaging with prospect throughout the funnel

And Lead management is the process used to ensure there is a link between marketing and sales to prevent leads leaking out, falling out of the funnel.

How About Marketing Automation?

On a second video, Carlos then explains that Marketing Automation will not be the only solution for your demand genreation and lead management, but it can support both processes. It is the technology behind your demand / lead processes.

Marketing Automation basically enables your content to reach your buyer at the right time in the buying cycle.

Nice job, Carlos!


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