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TJ Welsh

10 Rules for Growing Ecommerce Sales with Content Marketing

By | eCommerce | No Comments

Increasing sales is the No. 1 goal for all ecommerce sites. And while I agree that increasing sales is important, you can’t forget about your other company goals, like retaining loyal customers, engaging customers, growing brand awareness, becoming an authoritative voice and optimizing your buying process.

The beauty of content marketing is that it can help you do all of that. Content marketing enhances every part of your brand. It increases your bottom line; but it also creates a deep connection with customers than traditional marketing tactics, impacting them to continually come back to you for advice, tips, trends, news and of course, to make purchases.

Here are a few stats to back up why content marketing works:

But, content marketing is only going to grow your ecommerce sales and meet your other goals if you do it right. The following are 10 rules you need to follow to have content marketing success.

1. Research and address what customers actually care about (and actually solve their problems).

Without customers, you have no money. And in order to earn and retain customers, you have to give them what they want.

How do you know what they want?

First, you can ask them. Send out a survey of short questions to current customers or consumers who have abandoned a shopping cart to ask what they liked about your site, what you can do better to improve their experience, etc.

But, asking questions oftentimes ends up in a no answer or an I don’t know. So you’ve got to do your own research to find out what your customers want. Stand in your customer’s shoes. Follow customer experiences on your site and see where problems arise. Follow social media mentions to see if people are expressing issues there. Have an eye for the future and try to envision what your customers will want tomorrow.

Once you’ve researched what your customers really care about, address it with your content. If they want better product descriptions, more product images, a regularly updated blog that provides insightful and entertaining content that answers their questions, give it to them.

2. Create a plan.

Nothing good in business starts without building a plan. Your content marketing strategy is that plan, a plan that’s integral to business success.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, your content marketing strategy should include:

  • Your business case: reasons you need content marketing, risks involved, vision for success.
  • Your business plan: content goals, values you’ll be providing customers, any obstacles and opportunities you might run into.
  • Buyer personas: describing who your target audiences are and their needs.
  • Brand story: topics and messages you plan to deliver, how yours compare to your competitors.
  • Channel plan: what platforms you’ll be using to distribute your content, objectives of each.

I’d also suggest creating an editorial calendar that you map out a month or quarter in advance, as well as a workflow plan that maps out the entire content marketing process—from creation to measurement.

Be sure to check in with this strategy often to see how you’re doing. If you’re unsure how often to meet, 48% of B2C marketing teams meet daily or weekly to discuss their content marketing strategies.

3. Write for your audience, not the owners of your company.

Business owners are an important part of a company—but they’re not the ones buying products. They may have ideas on what you should create, and some of them may be good, but ultimately the content you create is for your customers.

Use customer data to create content topics and types based on what your customers are interested in and what they use. Talk in their language. Answer their questions. Be solutions to their problems. Educate and entertain them. People buy emotions, not things, so also craft content that isn’t just about your products, but that connects with the heads and hearts of your customers.

4. Don’t forget the SEO.

While your content strategy needs to focus on helping consumers and not search engines, your ecommerce SEO needs attention, too. SEO is a vital part of your content marketing efforts to help your content appear in organic search results and help the search engines identify you as a online store selling specific products.

Consistent, quality content that uses the right keywords and links will steadily move you up in the search results. Using keywords on site pages, as well as your titles and product descriptions, are also important to making your content efforts effective.

5. Understand the customer journey and meet buyers at the ideal time.

Most marketers divide the buyer journey into 3 basic stages: early, middle and late (also awareness, consideration and decision).

Content Along the B2C Journey graphThe first stage is where customers are unaware of their problems or looking for education. This is where you get your content out to new channels and share it on social media.

In the middle stage, customers know their problems and are on the hunt for a solution. Demonstrate yourself and product as the solution and your expertise through various content types to stand out from your competitors as customers do their research before buying.

The last stage is where the customer has an idea of what they want and now is just doing some last-minute comparisons to ensure they make the right decision. Customer reviews and product videos are your best bet here.

Too often, business spend a majority of their focus on creating content for the awareness stage. While this is great for bringing in leads, what about the rest of the buying stages? You have to provide content at all stages of the buyer journey if you want to increase customer and sales numbers.

Sometimes that means finding out where your content is lacking or where you’re losing customers. Take for example Envelopes.com. They were losing leads in the middle of their sales process, so they cut their card abandonment rate by 40%—a 65% increase in checkout conversions—by creating 3 different email campaigns instead of just 1 cart abandonment email like some ecommerce sites do.

6. Choose your content types wisely.

There are a ton of content types you can create. The following image shows what content types today’s B2Cers use.

B2C Content Marketing Tactic Usage graph[Screenshot from B2C Content Marketing Trends Report]

In order to know which types will work best for your business, you have to know your audience, know what content types they prefer engaging with and which convert better. Research your target audience, test various formats and then create the content types proven to work.

If you don’t have a big budget to spend on content marketing, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow your ecommerce sales with the right content and strategy. Diamond Candles didn’t have much money when they started out, so they turned to user-generated content. They used customer product photos to support their site and social media marketing, and doing so they saw a 13% conversion rate increase on their product pages and garnered more than 293,000 Facebook fans.

7. Don’t skimp. Build a great resource that’s 10x better than anything else out there.

Years ago it was all about metadata and keywords. Then, the search engines favored quality content and inbound links. But today, to compete with every size of ecommerce store out there, you need to create what experts are calling 10x content. This type of content is so unique and meaningful that to every consumer who sees it they think it’s 10 times better than anything they’ve ever seen before.

To produce this type of content, you need patience and time. If you rush through creating it, it won’t be a great resource. 10x content needs to come from an angle that hasn’t been done, showcase a lot of expertise, have a good style, be useful and interesting, create an emotional response, solve a problem and be shareable.

Different content types for 10x content include eBooks, guides, long-form blog posts and round-ups.

8. Sell, but do it gently.

When you go to a store, you don’t want a salesperson all up in your face pushing you to buy something. The same goes with content. You can’t create content that’s super “salesy.” We’ve already mentioned your content needs to be useful and interesting, and content that screams “BUY MY PRODUCT BECAUSE IT’S THE BEST!” isn’t going to get you any sales.

But soft selling works. You can do this by placing reviews on product pages, utilizing user-generated content on your site and social platforms and gently pitching small points about your product in a relatable piece of content.

Another thing to note is content promotion. Content creation is only half the battle. If you create a piece of content but never share it, it’s not going to get seen. Spend time promoting your content in the right places at the right times, and your products will starting selling themselves.

9. Link, link and link some more.

Internal linking is an SEO power move for your content marketing strategy. It’s simply connecting one page of your site to another page. This strategy will give you an SEO boost and help with navigation on your site.

But don’t just link to your homepage or contact us page. You have to go a little deeper and be natural with your internal linking. Good places to link to are other blog posts, related products and other relevant site pages that provide value to the readers.

10. Syndicate content where appropriate.

Content syndication is getting your content published on a third-party site. This can be an entire piece of content you let someone post on their site, or just a snippet of it. The main reason you want to syndicate is because it gives you exposure to another site’s or industry influencer’s audience.

In order to syndicate successfully, you have to find the right syndicate partners, and then the content you give them permission to post needs to be topically relevant to their audience.

When done right, content syndication is an effective way to grow brand awareness and develop your company’s reputation.

Your content is one of the best tools you have to sell your brand, so make sure you follow these 10 rules and invest the right amount of time and money to use the power of content to boost your sales.

Content Audit Header

The Content Audit Process

By | Content Marketing, How-To, Our Process | No Comments

Content is quickly becoming one of the most influential and impactful tools for digital marketers. Good content educates, appeals to, and ultimately influences your customers. The Content Marketing Institute reported that in 2015 an astounding 86% of B2Bs (business-to-business) used content marketing, and of this percentage only 38% believed their content was effective.

How is it that only 38% feel their content was effective? One major issue that we see on a constant basis is businesses don’t have a clear content strategy. In order to make content marketing work you need to have some kind of strategy in place so that you can measure what is or isn’t working and then adjust accordingly.

We help clients build a strategy utilizing a content audit process, which takes a detailed and holistic look into your business from the ground up. We create content based on our audit results to make sure we are effectively creating content that will impact your market. This process includes:

  • Developing Personas
  • Understanding Buying Stages
  • Content Audit
  • Content Inventory
  • Content Calendar

Going through the process above has been useful to setting up an effective content marketing strategy. Here is what we do for each step in the process.

Step 1: Develop the Personas

Step 1- Develop the Personas
What is a buyer persona? It’s a breakdown of the different types of buyers who are looking at your product. Developing and then marketing to your buyer personas will lead to stronger messages, maximization of successful advertising, and overcoming buyer objections. Each buying persona includes demographic information, problems they’ll encounter, and values they hold.

A buyer persona will reflect the types of customers you currently have or the types of customers you are hoping to gain. A buyer persona defines the audience your content will be created for.

For help creating a buyer persona, feel free to check out some of these resources:

  • Buyer Persona Profile from Epic Content Marketing
    • This quick one-page worksheet from Epic Content Marketing allows you to create a snapshot of a buyer persona, their job description, priorities, and challenges.
  • 5 Rings of Buying Insights Template from the Book Epic Content Marketing
    • When used in conjunction with the worksheet above, the 5 Rings of Buying Insights template will help you glean additional insights around the journey of each buyer persona.
  • How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business from Hubspot
    • Hubspot provides a great step-by-step post and downloadable template to support your buyer persona creation initiatives.

While the buyer persona is a great start, the true gold is found in the buying stage/cycle for each persona. It is vital to understand the questions being asked in each stage for the buyer’s journey so that you can effectively answer those questions on your website, through blog posts and videos or other forms of content.

This should be your top-priority focus once you have established your buyer personas.

Step Two: Understand Buying Stages

Step Two: Understand Buying Stages

There are three basic stages for buyers based on each persona. The early, middle, and late stages, or as some in the content marketing world refer to them: the awareness, consideration, and decision stages.

Early (Awareness) Stage

In the early stage, customers are unaware of problems they currently have and need education on what solutions you can offer. They are gaining awareness of their problems and their need for a solution.

Middle (Consideration) Stage

In the middle stage, customers need a demonstration of expertise or differentiators between you and your competitors. The middle stage is also known as the consideration stage, where customers understand their problem and want to find a solution through consideration of your product. They are spending their time researching various solutions to find the option that fits their needs.

Late (Decision) Stage

In the late stage, customers are looking to validate the product or the company; they are in the decision-making stage. They have a good idea of what they want, now they just need to compare their top choices, maybe review each company’s costs and look into any references they can find, to ensure they make the right decision.

Content is created specifically for each persona in these different stages to target what questions or answers they need the most. It is important to understand the types of content that can be used at each stage of your buyer’s journey as well. Understanding the buying journey for each persona along with the types of content they consume along their journey is key to effective content marketing.

For B2C, an example of mapping content to the buying journey is provided below:

Content Mapping - Customer Journey for B2C Customers

Step Three: Current Audit Process

Step Three: Current Audit Process

After developing buyer personas and understanding the journey buyers take, it is necessary to take an audit of your site’s current content. To do this we recommend using Screaming Frog.

Crawl Your Entire Website for Content

Screaming Frog is able to ‘crawl’ an entire website (crawling is a fancy term for ‘pulling all data e.g. – meta data, URLs, word count of a page, CSS and other data from a website). Once you’ve crawled your whole site, simply filter the data by HTML pages. Example below:

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 2.41.19 PM

This will remove all JavaScript, Images, CSS and other files that you don’t need for your content audit.

Then export the data. The exported CSV file will give you a TON of data for each URL. We suggest only worrying about the URL and Title tag , which will be used for further analysis.

Separate and Filter Your Data

Next, you can separate/filter these URLs into different groups. Some suggested groups could include:

  • Key landing pages (home page, services, about us, etc.)
  • Blogs, articles
  • eBooks, white papers, resources

By separating the URLs into various groups you can start to analyze each group.

Analyze Your Current Content

Once these groups are separated out you can start to understand the social media impacts of each URL. To do this, you can use a tools such as Social Tally, SharedCount or SocialTally that allows you to identify social shares on all types of media platforms and analyze each URL’s social activity.

After you’ve analyzed each URL’s social activity, you should map it to one of your buyer personas. Finally, map out how your content influences potential customers at each stage of the journey – e.g. – Top of the Funnel, Middle of the Funnel and Bottom of the Funnel. This will be extremely useful when taking an inventory of all of your content.

Useful information to include in your Content Audit is:

  • Type – what kind of content is this – e.g. – Blog Post, Landing Page, eBook, Category or Product Page etc.
  • URL
  • Title Tag
  • Social Shares – Tweets, FB Shares, Pins, etc.
  • Buyer Stage
  • Persona
  • Call to Action
  • Keywords

Once you have all of this data you should have a massive content audit spreadsheet that looks something like this –

content audit process

You might want to also add any relevant notes about pages, styles, social trends, page view patterns, etc., that come up during the audit process.

Step Four: Content Inventory Process

Step Four: Content Inventory Process

Once you’ve organized all the current content, you should do an inventory based on the buying personas and stages in relation to the number of resources that correlate. Filter your large content audit spreadsheet by persona first and then by each buyer stage to get an idea of how much content you have for each individual.

As you work your way through each persona you should build out an additional spreadsheet to connect the number of content pieces you have to the stages of the buyers journey. This will give you a quick snapshot of where you are. Here is an example of what that might look like:

content inventory process

You can quickly tell which parts of the buyer’s journey are not being addressed. By creating content for these holes we can create a more fluid journey and eventually give customers all the information they need to choose your product or service.

Step Five: Competition Content Audit

Step Five: Competition Content Audit

The competition audit is a key step in understanding your company or product’s place in the market. An audit of the competition’s content is twofold. First, it helps you understand how many other people are competing within your market. Second, it gives you ideas for content that have performed well in the past.

The competition audit is similar to the original content audit—you use Screaming Frog to crawl the competition’s sites, and then use Social Tally or Social Count to see their activity on social media.

After using Social Tally you should be able to identify the top 5-7 posts that are performing on social media platforms.

Finally, you should identify why these pages are performing well on social media platforms then analyze if the content was written well, hit a target persona, answered questions, etc. Mostly, you need to identify what need it is filling within the buying cycle. This is perhaps the most important step in the competition audit because it helps you understand how and why the competition is successful.

Step Six: Content Editorial Calendar

Step Six: Content Editorial Calendar

The last step is creating an editorial calendar based on all of the data you have collected. The editorial calendar allows you to plan content initiatives moving forward. You need to identify what content is needed based on holes in your buyer personas and buying stages. After identifying these holes you should generate content ideas and modify what has worked for the competition.

An editorial calendar is a way to focus on your content marketing efforts, and measure, monitor, and modify the content within one document to ensure you meet your content marketing goals. It provides detailed content plans, anywhere from 1-3 months in advance, keeping everyone up-to-date on past, present, and future content.

Here’s a sample of how weekly content can be planned and recorded:

Stryde content calendar

The content audit process is vital to your success. By taking the time to really research owned and competitive content, you can develop a holistic content strategy. Content marketing is one of the most useful tactics to leverage for a successful online presence. Your customers are looking for information online, usually via blogs and other content resources, to help them make an educated decision on what products or services to buy.

By utilizing a content audit process you can develop content ideas that will add to your current visibility and truly make an impact on your potential customers.

Setting Goals for Digital Marketing in Universities

Digital Marketing for Universities: Goal Setting & Strategy

By | Digital Marketing for Universities | No Comments

In this installment of our Digital Marketing for Universities series, we’re going to tackle goal setting.

Setting goals seems like a simple enough task, right? For some it is, but for most of us, being able to set challenging yet attainable organizational goals over and over again doesn’t come naturally; it’s an acquired skill. It takes practice, persistence, focus, creativity and lots of fine-tuning.

So how do you set challenging, attainable goals? How many should you set? It is hard enough to stay focused on them month to month while dealing with the day-to-day operations, let a lone find time to execute the plan you have in place.

First step — don’t panic. We’re going to answer all your questions by showing you how your higher education institution should set goals and set standards across your institutional departments to actually achieve them. Here’s what we’ll cover in this post, feel free to click on any link to be taken to that section:

  1. Defining Goals
  2. Number of Goals to Set
  3. Resources Needed to Attain Goals
  4. Establish a Cohesive Front Across Departments

1. Defining Goals

How To Define Your Goals

Most of us know the five traits your goals should possess:

  1. Clear— Goals must be well defined so everyone understands them.
  2. Authentic— Goals need to be unique to your brand, relating to your institution and what you stand for.
  3. Actionable— Clear action needs to be taken to accomplish your goals.
  4. Achievable— Goals need to be realistic and attainable for those required to attain them.
  5. Time-bound— Goals need specific starting and ending times.

But how do you effectively analyze what you did the previous year? What you are going to focus on this year? And how much you can impact traffic and leads to the Universities site?

Understanding Your Data First

It is important to first begin analyzing the past performance and results of digital marketing efforts and website traffic. Here, you’ll need to head to your analytics tool. First off, you’ll want to ensure that there are filters in place to not include traffic from certain IP addresses. In addition, there needs to be annotations marked to track major events like website changes, search engine algorithm updates, media buys, and anything else that may have impacted traffic both negatively or positively.

In Google Analytics, setting up notations is easy:

  1. Head to the Admin section of Google AnalyticsGoogle Annotations Step 1
  2. Under the far right column ‘VIEW’ – All Website Data – select ‘ANNOTATIONS’Google Annotations Step 2
  3. You’ll be taken to the create annotations page, where you’ll select ‘+ NEW ANNOTATION’Google Annotations Step 3
  4. Create your annotation and select ‘Save Annotation’Google Annotations Step 4
  5. Your annotation now appears in your reports!Google Annotations Step 5

Building a Case for Projections

Google Keyword Trends

Once you have an understanding of the past data trends, you can begin to formulate goals for the upcoming year. When analyzing potential traffic growth, you should take into consideration projected search volumes for SEO and PPC. A useful tool for understanding whether a keyword or sets of keywords are being searched on more is Google Trends. For example, using Google trends you can see how the Universities brand is doing:

Google Trends

Additionally, you can compare search terms, website types, and interest as recorded by Google since 2004. You’ll also see state-by-state breakdowns and related search terms.

googlekeywordtrends

Analyzing Current Keyword Performance

Once you have an understanding of keyword trends in your space, you should analyze where you currently rank for the keywords you are targeting. One tool that allows you to quickly gather data is SEMRush. SEMRush can give you a quick snapshot of where you currently stand along with the potential traffic you are missing out on.

To do this, add your website into the tool and start the analysis. Once it has finished you will get a dashboard that looks something like this:

semrush getting started

The organic search section allows you to quickly see your organic position distribution:

sem rush organic keywords

This is an extremely valuable chart for quickly understanding future growth. In the example for walden.edu they have a huge potential, see details below:

organic distribution from semrush

keyword distribution table

The amount of keywords ranking in position 4 – 30 totals is 24,230 terms.

Now comes the fun part. By selecting the position distribution in the SEMRush graph you can quickly see a list of terms that fall into that bucket. For example, when I select the 4-10 bar chart the following report populates:

semrush organic search positions report

You might notice that branded keywords are pulled into the report. You can filter the results more by excluding branded keywords to clean things up a bit. The result will give you better data to analyze.

semrush organic search positions branded excluded

By filtering out branded terms you are able to export the new list and run some basic numbers. Exporting the list above you are left with 6,104 keywords ranking in position 4-10 of Google. When you add up the total search volume for all 6K+ keywords you have a potential of 937,160 monthly searches. Yes, you heard correctly, nearly 1 million searches monthly.

Monthly search volume

If Walden were to drive even 1% of the total traffic volume to their site they would drive 9,371 additional visits each month. Further, if they could convert 1% of the total traffic that would result in 93 more leads a month. This is only keywords ranking in position 4-10 of the search results. By following the same process for each group of keywords e.g.- keywords in positions 11-20, 21-30 etc. you could start to get an idea of how much potential traffic you could drive to the site month over month. Comparing that with analytics data you would start to get a picture of how much growth you could see YOY and now you have a data driven growth plan.

Online Growth and The Competitive Landscape

When projecting online growth, it helps to look into what the competition is doing . SEMrush is a fantastic online tool to identify and assess the competitive landscape:

SEMrush

SEMrush provides a plethora of competitor data around organic and paid keywords. It also gives you a more comprehensive viewpoint of where your university stands compared to top competitors.

Once you analyze past results and future potential, you can start to figure out projections for future growth.

2. Number of Goals to Set

We can’t tell you an exact number your institution should set. That depends on your specific objectives and overall digital marketing strategy.

But, we can tell you that you should never have too many goals you’re working on at once. Too many goals is chaotic, confusing and increases your chances of not reaching any of your goals because you don’t know where to focus your efforts.

The book, “The 4 Disciplines of Execution” communicates the need in every business to focus on the Widely Important Goals (WIGs). Businesses tend to focus on too many goals, because of the desire to impact everything at once.

However, the key is to focus on less and work from lead measures of success. It helps to start by selecting 1 to 2 goals that matter most to the university as a whole and focus solely on fulfilling those.

3. What You Need to Attain Your Goals

Once you have narrowed your focus to your Widely Important Goals, you need to figure out the plan to achieve them! Here’s a process we use at Stryde:

Step 1: Develop an Action Plan

Determine objectives for each of your goals, and then develop an action plan to achieve each goal. While your team develops a plan of action, ask yourselves the following questions:

  • What is our start date and deadline?
  • What does this goal entail?
  • How are we going to accomplish it?
  • What resources, i.e. people, money and materials, do we need in achieving this goal?
  • Who is responsible for completing each task?
  • How do we measure the results? What key performance indicators (KPIs) will we use to track our progress?
  • What is the competition doing to impact market share?

Here, it can be particularly useful to build a quick chart to inventory the team’s capabilities and resources you have at your disposal. For example, for our team at Stryde, a snapshot of teams and a handful of the tools we have access might include:

stryde tools

Step 2: Analyze Industry-Specific Digital Landscape

It is important to analyze the digital landscape to know what is happening and how it could change over time. Things to look (and tools to look at them with) at include:

  • Keyword Rankings
  • Social Following per Channel
  • Links to Site
  • Content Frequency & Types
    • Tool to use: Google site:www.website.com
  • Content Promotion & Distribution
  • Local Citations/Business Listings
  • Email Strategy
    • Just sign up for their emails!
  • Paid Search Strategy

After you’ve analyzed the elements of the digital landscape listed above, you can construct your growth plan. Use the projections set during the goal creation process and map out a path to impacting and achieving the Widely Important Goals. A visual example of a growth plan can be found below:

path to growth

Step 3: Establish a Scorecard or Dashboard

How are you going to measure your success month to month to make sure you hit your goals? Setting up and maintaining a digital marketing dashboard is the perfect way to visualize your progress and ensure achievement of your goals. With dashboards (like the template we provide for free here) you’re able to track how revenue is performing month over month and which channels are performing the best. In addition, you’re given comprehensive performance breakdowns by device detailing sessions, transactions, and revenue.

Digital Marketing Dashboard ScreenShot

Step 4: Cadence of Accountability

Along with monitoring your results, you want to monitor who is working on what week to week and how are they performing compared to the rest of the team. This will ensure that any internal issues that need to be addressed will be tended to in a timely manner.

4. Establish a Cohesive Front Across Departments

Higher education institutions are complex organizations, consisting of several departments and teams within each department. The structural makeup of higher education institutions has a silo mentality. Each department tends to only focus on its own needs, goals and challenges.

If your institution is going to be effective at setting and achieving goals, you can’t have a silo mentality, especially when it comes to the content aspect of your digital marketing efforts. You’ll run into numerous problems if department aren’t unified.

Effective, cohesive department collaboration is key. It’s a critical component for any higher education digital marketing strategy. A combined effort of every department working together cultivates visibility across all departments and helps you more efficiently reach your goals.

There are brilliant minds in each department — use them!

Setting goals isn’t the easiest task on your plate, but when you work together with the other departments, don’t give up, focus on the process and enjoy the overall experience, it will start getting easier and you’ll be a skilled goal setter in no time.

Remember, we’re dedicating a series of blog posts to digital marketing for universities! Check out each installment here:

Here’s what on the horizon in this series:

  • Digital Marketing for Universities: Platform Identification
  • Digital Marketing for Universities: Tapping Your Content Sources
STRYDE | 25 Things the “Digital” CMO Must Know

25 Things the “Digital” CMO Must Know

By | Digital Marketing | No Comments

Throughout the years, the role of Chief Marketing Officer has evolved tremendously. From concerns limited to traditional, one-way, broadcast media to new challenges involving entirely new, uncharted channels.

These uncharted channels require a new captain. Enter the “digital” CMO.

The “digital” CMO must not only be able to craft a compelling marketing message, but also spark and foster meaningful conversations. Don’t let the term “digital” fool you. This CMO has serious interpersonal chops that exist alongside a bevy of technical skills.

So, what makes the CMO “digital”? We’ve outlined 25 key terms and tactics that the “digital” CMO must know to be successful.

The “Digital” CMO’s Must-Knows

1. Social Media

We wanted to ease you into this list with an easy one: social media. By now, you should at least be waist-deep in the social media world, and if you aren’t, you’re behind. Even though as a CMO, you probably won’t be on the frontlines of the various social media platforms. However, you’ll need to keep up on the latest industry changes.

In addition, you should be participating on behalf of yourself! Your participation on Twitter and LinkedIn adds a valuable human element to your brand. In addition, building up your own profile will only bolster your corporation’s reputation.

2. Split Testing

Split testing (a.k.a. Bucket Testing or A/B Testing) is the marketer’s way to utilize statistics in proving efficacy of campaigns. It’s simple enough to understand and execute: two identical versions of a test subject are compared, except that one subject has a variation aimed to impact consumer behavior.

These tests are commonly used in email campaigns and social promotions; however, they are useful across the board. Split testing also becomes especially useful as concrete evidence in selecting one campaign over another. It removes the human judgment element and allows you, as a CMO, to make the best decision possible.

3. HTML

A knowledge of HTML is critical for CMOs. You most likely have a base understanding of HTML, but the more robust that understanding is the better. You need to understand how a website is created, and how much effort it takes to consistently maintain and protect it. Without firsthand knowledge of this, you’re doing yourself and your corporation a disservice.

4. PHP

While very simple, PHP has advanced nuances for the professional programmer. But, it’s overall ease of use makes it an essential tool in the “digital” CMOs repertoire. PHP has hundreds of functions and it even powers sites like Facebook. Learning PHP allows you to create dynamic websites and web applications. As a CMO, knowing the parameters of PHP helps you better understand the process, capabilities, and workflow of your team.

5. WordPress

As with others on this list, you’re probably familiar with WordPress. What began as an open source project in 2003 has grown into one of the largest content management systems (CMS) in the world. It’s based on PHP, and incredibly intuitive to use and navigate.

WordPress has evolved into a full blown CMS with thousands upon thousands of plugins, widgets, and themes to create a completely customized site. As with HTML and PHP, it’s critical for the “digital” CMO to understand the capabilities and limitations of WordPress.

6. Automation

Marketing Automation has become increasingly popular, with firms like Amazon executing it so perfectly that everyone seems to want to jump ship. What is it? Marketing Automation is similar to any other form of automation, in that it’s a collection of technologies designed to effectively market on multiple channels online and automate repetitive tasks.

While marketing automation can be wildly successful, it also is a cost-heavy investment. That being said, if you’re sure you can make the transition successfully, the ROI will be well worth the investment.

7. Video Advertisements

Advertising via video messages is not new, but it has been giving new life with the advent of pre-roll videos on websites and social media. The “digital” CMO must understand how to best leverage these and capture consumer’s attention.

Creating video advertisements may seem like an incredibly expensive undertaking. While it can be costly, there are other budget-friendly options as well. Utilizing technology like the GoPro and online editing software, a video can be created at a fraction of the cost you might expect.

8. SEO

As with others on this list, SEO is not a new concept that the “digital” CMO must know. However, with every quarter bringing declarations of the “death of SEO,” it’s worth mentioning here.

As long as consumers use search engines to find information, SEO will be very, very relevant. Therefore, it’s best for CMOs to acquire a basic understanding of SEO and the tactics used to increase visibility for their firm.

9. Content Marketing

Content marketing often holds hands with SEO, but is without a doubt worthy of its own spot on this list. For those unfamiliar, the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as the “technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.”

In the online space, brands have the capability of becoming their own publishers. Enter content marketing. Not only does this technique drive profitable customer action, but it also builds trust in your brand and portrays it as a knowledgeable and helpful source of information.

10. Mobile Optimization

The world is going mobile, my friends, and has been for some time. This means that every internet marketing tactic you’re carrying out must also be optimized for mobile. Every website, every social push, every blog post, and every email sent needs to be seamlessly viewed on mobile devices.

Ensuring that your website is optimized for mobile is paramount. Having an optimized website boosts engagement and sales, and ultimately, creates the best possible experience for the customer.

11. “Real-Time” Marketing

Oreo Cookie thrust real-time marketing into the spotlight with its now-famous Super Bowl Tweet. However, you don’t need to be a globally recognized brand to excel at real-time marketing. That’s the true beauty of this tactic — it just requires awareness and quick action.

It also requires common sense and tact. A poorly-timed tweet that could be construed as poor taste will do much more harm to your brand than good.

12. Wearable Tech

Somewhat a novelty now, wearable technology will soon be as commonplace as smartphones in our daily lives. Smartwatches are already gaining traction, and with Apple’s upcoming entrance to the space, it’s only a matter of time before it’s the new darling of the marketing world.

As with mobile, when wearable tech becomes more popular, having an optimized experience for each device will be necessary. Wearable tech also opens up a new playing field for medical and health corporations, as many of the devices are equipped with fitness tracking technology. The “digital” CMO will need to decide whether it’s worth being a first-mover in this space, or to tread lightly.

13. Crowdsourcing

Even though the term “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2005, 10 years later it’s still a vital concept for “digital” CMOs to know. The popularization of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter has only added fuel to the fire of crowdsourcing popularity.

Crowdsourcing has endless applications, to everything from funding a potato salad to searching for missing planes. Leveraging this tactic can be highly useful, even groundbreaking, for your firm.

14. Big Data

Big data is simply the term for sets of data that have become so large, they are difficult to process using typical processing techniques. In other words, data that causes “analysis paralysis.” The most common buzzwords you’ll hear in the same breath as “big data” are “velocity, variety, and volume.”

The “digital” CMO will understand the prevalence of big data, and the importance in analyzing the right data the right way. Easier said than done though.

15. Social CRM

Social CRM, also called Social Media Monitoring, is the term used to describe a brand’s engagement with their customers via social media platforms. Paul Greenberg sums it up quite eloquently in his definition: “It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

The value in Social CRM is derived from the trustworthiness and transparency your business displays when engaging. However, as with any activity on social media, it must be highly controlled and thoroughly thought-out before undertaking.

16. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Conversion Rate Optimization sounds a bit daunting, but the folks at Qualaroo did a fantastic job of breaking it down for us: “Conversion Rate Optimization is finding why visitors aren’t converting and fixing it.”

Any firm that has a website (so, ALL firms) should be concerned with CRO. The “digital” CMO must understand the importance of analytics, user feedback, and KPIs in the optimization process.

17. Mircotargeting

Microtargeting was originally reserved for political parties to track individual voters and identify supporters. But with social media, all marketers have the opportunity to participate in this wildly reliable tactic.

Microtargeting is the process of putting your content/firm in front of the right audience, albeit a smaller one. However, this tactic ensures that you’re going to get the highest engagement and click-through rates possible. Social media’s targeted ads facilitate this process wonderfully, and are worth a look if you’re still in the shotgun-style mentality.

18. “YouTility”

Jay Baer published “Youtility” in 2013, and it still serves as an amazing entrance into understanding the importance of helping, not selling, in the digital age. If you haven’t read the book yet, you need to put it on your to-read list. “Youtility” teaches a style of marketing that’s so useful, “people would pay for it.” In this information-overloaded society, it’s the route all brands should take going forward.

19. Influencer Outreach

Since social media continues to be a powerful channel, it comes as no surprise that influencer outreach made this list. Influencer outreach is the process of identifying existing users on various social media platforms that function as “influencers” in their space, and then building a relationship with these influencers in hopes that they will become evangelists for your brand.

As of now, influencer outreach is a very “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” process, which makes it alluring for those with small budgets. However, it’s really only a matter of time before these “influencers” start demanding a bit of monetary reimbursement.

20. Email Marketing

Some less-than-stellar marketers might have you thinking that email marketing is an antiquated technique. That school of thought couldn’t be further from the truth! Copyblogger provides an excellent viewpoint of email marketing: “It’s what you use when you want to move from ‘conversation to commerce.’”

The key difference between successful and futile email marketing campaigns comes down to the relationship with your audience. The “digital” CMO should understand and allow his team to understand the importance of crafting subject lines, brand voice, and quality content.

21. Paid Amplification

Paid amplification is simply the process of promoting your company’s content via Facebook promoted posts, LinkedIn sponsored updates, promoted Tweets, and YouTube’s Trueview ads. In the growing world of algorithm feed changes and dwindling organic reach, paying for expanded content distribution is nearly necessary.

Microtargeting, another member of this list, and paid amplification go hand-in-hand. It’s through paid amplification that you can microtarget, thereby building an engaged audience and passionate community of users that actually care.

22. Native Advertising

Native advertising is not a new marketing tactic, but its explosion in popularity in recent years merits its place on this list. As you know, native ads match the format and blend seamlessly into the existing user experience. However, this is the cause of native ad’s success AND its problems.

A portion of internet users feel as though native ads are misleading at best. So, when looking at this as a potential strategy, transparency is of utmost importance. Successful native ads have a thorough understanding of the target audience and what makes them tick, which mitigates any negative responses.

23. Storytelling

Storytelling might be the oldest marketing skill in the book. But, technology and the new spotlight placed on content marketing re-emphasize the importance of perfecting this skill.

The “digital” CMO should take his or her dictionary, scribble out “selling,” and put “storytelling” in its place. When each company communication is rooted in a good story, it’s difficult for consumers not to be enthralled.

24. Employee Empowerment

As we round out the list, we wanted to end with “bigger picture” views on marketing that are critical to the “digital” CMO. The first of which is employee empowerment. Again, this is not a new concept but is worthy of revisiting in the digital age.

In the pre-internet era, employee empowerment was generally thought of as the company culture that allows employees to have input and control over their work. While it still stands for this, its definition has now broadened to include employee activities online. Companies have gone so far as to have employees sign “social media contracts” that dictate what they can and cannot do online. This may not prove to be the most beneficial route to travel, however.

Instead of restricting employee activities in the online world, turn each employee into a brand evangelist. When the “digital” CMO empowers employees to act proactively and in support of their brand, the brand’s online presence grows exponentially.

25. Customer Empowerment

The final element of this list, customer empowerment, is a true culmination of every aforementioned tactic. The digital landscape empowers customers in a way that could never be accomplished before. Consumers are no longer content with being herded through a traditional funnel, therefore empowerment becomes critical.

You must arm your potential and current customers with the knowledge and power necessary to make informed purchasing decisions. True customer empowerment requires an understanding of big data and social CRM, among other things. It also requires systems of automation, paid amplification, and the like to effectively empower customers.

Transforming into the “Digital” CMO

Unfortunately, we cannot wave a magic wand and instantly transform you into an all-knowing “digital” CMO. The rest is truly up to you. But the good news is that the digital world is full of helping hands and valuable insights from individuals that have been where you are now. All you need to do is look for them.

Now you know where to start. So, get out there and become a “digital” CMO!

STRYDE | Driving Quality Leads From Your Blog Content

Driving Quality Leads From Your Blog Content

By | Blogging | No Comments

As a content marketer, one of your main focuses when creating content needs to be on lead generation. When deciding what the goals of your content marketing strategy are, lead generation should be toward the top of your list. Your blog content should be generating quality leads into your marketing funnel, as well as building trust with your customers, increasing brand awareness and driving engagement to your site.

Content should be the foundation of your lead generation efforts. Content is what fuels all your marketing campaigns, from email to social and everything in between. But according to a recent IDG study, 61% of marketers claimed generating leads was a problem for their company. A big reason behind this is that companies generate leads, but they’re generating leads that aren’t ready to purchase and they end up losing those leads. To prevent your leads from being lost, you must invest in lead nurturing and other middle of the funnel methods to help build strong relationships and trust.

But first, you must grab and keep the attention of potential leads at the top of the marketing funnel with your blog content. Companies that blog produce about 67% more leads per month than companies that don’t. Capturing a reader’s attention during the awareness stage provides you with a great opportunity to turn this reader into a quality lead who you can better engage with later on.

Below are ways you can effectively drive quality leads from your blog content.

Select Your Content Topics

Confused about what blog topics you should write about? Don’t make it so hard. Write about topics your customers are interested in! It’s as simple as that. To better know what topics to cover:

  • Ask you customers what they want to know.
  • Check your web analytics to see what past topics have been successful.
  • Keep up to date with your industry’s news so you know what and when things are happening.
  • Follow other industry experts on social media to learn what they’re writing about.

When it boils down to it, write useful, informative and unique content. This type of content allows you to build credibility and trust with your customers over time.

To stay organized and on track with your blog’s mission, have a handful of categories you write about so your blog content stays structured within your blog and so your reads know what topics you typically cover. When your readers know what content they can expect from you, it helps you get more interaction between them and your content, which also means they learn more about your business.

Connect Your Prime Content With Your Blog Content

Your blog posts are uploaded as a method of engagement for those at the top of the marketing funnel, as well as a way to reengage your current audience. For the most part, these readers are in the awareness stage, which means your content needs to secure them as a business lead so you then can start building a richer, more meaningful relationship with them through your other various channels.

The way to do that is adding a call-to-action (CTA) somewhere in your post that encourages readers to view a more prime piece of content you’ve created, i.e. whitepaper, infographic, video, etc. But before a reader can view this content, have them provide their name and email address — which you collect and save — so you are able to reach out to them in the near future.

Construct An Email List Using Forms And Pop-Ups

Prime content is a great way to produce email subscribers, as well as one of the lead generation forms of your business. To continue to grow and get more people on your email subscriber list, include an email form on your site that’s easy for visitors to find and quick and easy for them to fill out. There are two simple things this form can ask visitors to do:

  • Fill out their basic information, i.e. name and email address.
  • Ask them to subscribe by RSS.

When determining where to place this form on your site, you not only want to make it easy to find, but you also want to make sure it doesn’t seem out of place or disrupt the flow of content on your site.

You may think we’re crazy for saying to use pop-ups since most readers, probably including yourself, find pop-ups quite annoying. But when pop-ups are used correctly, they can work very much in your favor and lead to sign ups.

The first thing to remember is not being aggressive with your pop-ups. Program them so they appear in a noninvasive way when a visitor is about to leave your site or a certain page on your site, depending on how long they’ve been active. You must also remember that the point of a pop-up isn’t to disrupt what a site visitor is doing just to attain their attention. Think about it. When you’re browsing a site or reading a blog post and out of nowhere a giant, flashing pop-up appears, basically yelling in your face, you have zero desire to read it. You immediately close the pop-up and/or leave the site.

So when you use pop-ups on your site, provide a compelling offer to obtain a visitor’s email address, encourage them to view or download another helpful resource of yours or simply remind them just how valuable and informative your blog always is. And don’t be annoying about it.

Nurture Your Leads Through Strategic Email Drip Campaigns

Email is a quick and direct way to reach customers. There were 3.9 billion email accounts worldwide in 2013, a number expected to rise to 4.9 billion by 2017, and approximately 182.9 billion emails were sent and receive each day throughout the world during that same year. But emails aren’t just a way for you to talk to leads. They’re your way to nurture them and give them a reason and opportunity to respond. And nurtured leads are the kind of leads you want. When compared to non-nurtured leads, nurtured leads make roughly 47% larger purchases and produce about a 20% increase in sales opportunities.

Ever heard of the “batch and blast” campaigns? Well, don’t use those if you have! No one wants to be blasted. Today’s consumers want to receive personalized and relevant communications from businesses.

In order for you to provide that kind of communication through your email drip campaigns, you need to know:

  • How to talk to your customers as individuals, not as a group.
  • How to tailor each email to the customers you’re sending them to.
  • How to make your emails conversational, not sales pitchy.
  • How to make each email engaging, relevant and informational.
  • What’s going to make readers trust you through these emails.
  • How to coordinate them with your other channels.

Emails in this campaign should be geared toward answering your leads’ questions and fulfilling their needs through informative content that educates and entices them and moves them closer to spending their money with your business. Don’t forget to include CTAs and links in your emails that send your leads to your blog, pages on your site, etc., to get them interacting more with your brand.

Drive Quality Leads From Previous Posts

As you’re writing a blog post, include links to other relevant posts that have been published on your company’s blog. Readers know to click on links within a post they’re reading to receive more information about a certain topic, additional resources, industry news relating to the topic, etc. Adding additional links also makes readers see you as more of an expert who’s really done his or her research with this topic.

Relevant links to other posts on your site get visitors reading and interacting more with your blog and other site pages, which means they spend more time on your site. When you encourage more interaction within your site, your amount of leads from your blog increases, or at least it will if you have amazing, useful content.

Include A Free Sample Or Trial Of Your Product

If you can, incorporate a CTA that offers your readers a sample of your product or even a free trial of it. One, people love free stuff, and two, being able to review your product for free instead of having to review more and more content gets a reader moving more swiftly through the sales funnel.

Be sure to choose whichever option works bests with your business and what you’re selling or offering. These options can sometimes get a tad expensive for businesses, but if you can afford it, do it. It’s a good way to drive leads straight from your blog content.

Implement Social Media

Last but certainly not least, use social media. Several, if not all, consumers research various channels online, including most often social media, to find educational resources that help them make purchasing decisions.

What does this mean for you? It means you need to share your blog content on social media platforms to generate more leads. You want and need to be where you customers and prospects are, creating trust, informing them and providing useful content, all of which can be done when you’re on and continuously involved with social media.

A great social media site for B2B companies is LinkedIn. LinkedIn generates more leads for companies than Facebook and Twitter, but only about 47% of B2B marketers actively use this platform. So to stay on top of the game and drive the amount of leads you want, get and stay actively involved with the major social media sites.

In closing, follow these do’s of effective lead generation to drive the quality leads you desire:

  • DO develop content for the different stages of the buying process.
  • DO use a blog and create great, unique content that provides the information your leads are looking for.
  • DO take advantage of direct marketing, i.e. email drip campaigns.
STRYDE | What Social Commerce Trends Can We Expect To See In 2015? 1

What Social Commerce Trends Can We Expect To See In 2015?

By | Business | No Comments

It’s rare to see a consumer purchase a product or service directly from a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., post, today. It’s also hard to track the impact social channels have on the path to purchase due to the fact that social media is seen as the marketing channel that builds awareness, consideration, and intent early in the customer journey.  Social media is rarely a channel that helps consumers during the final purchase.

But that could drastically change in the near future. In 2015, social commerce in the U.S. is expected to garner $14 billion in sales and represent 5% of all online retail revenue for the year. Social networking sites understand this trend and are making changes to make it even easier to purchase directly from within their platform.

Social Commerce Today

Social commerce is when a commercial transaction happens due to social interaction, i.e. a friend of yours posts how much they like these new running shoes they recently bought. They provide a link on Facebook, which you then click on and proceed to buy the same pair of shoes. Look familiar?

social commerce

Other examples of social commerce include:

Social Sharing of Content:

An individual likes a product or service so they share it with their friends on social networking sites. This content leads traffic back to the site that results in sales or transactions.

Advocate Marketing:

Also called incentive social sharing, this is where consumers are rewarded (typically with an affiliate commission) for sharing a link to a product or service. Obviously, this can come across as less authentic than sharing things because they are excited about their recent purchase. However, this still has an impact similar to the running shoes example above.

Customer Reviews:

Consumers trust their friends’ opinions and recommendations more than a brand’s recommendation, so brands that encourage and get customers to share reviews of their products or services socially have the potential to generate sales.

Social Commerce Possibilities For 2015

In 2015 social media will become a bigger marketing channel for a lot of industries since customers will have the option to do more than simply share content or recommend products to their friends.

While social commerce is not news for some social platforms, 2015 will be the year social commerce sees a big impact in direct sales from social channels. Part of the reason for this growth is the increasing use of mobile devices.

Twitter Commerce

Twitter is one platform that’s been rolling out its social commerce plans. In the early part of 2014, Twitter partnered with Stripe, a company providing all the back-end payment processing for Twitter. Twitter, and other social networks, haven’t wanted to store users’ credit card details, so Stripe is taking on the challenge. You can view and buy a product directly within your Twitter feed by simply clicking a “Buy” button that will appear alongside an image of the item that’s for sale. Twitter’s head of commerce Nathan Hubbard told The Verge in an interview, “Anything with a perishable component, temporal nature, or limited supply, is going to thrive on Twitter. Given the speed at which word can spread across our network, it feels like an opportunity to create a new kind of sales.”

Image Source: The Verge

Image Source: The Verge

Snapchat Commerce

Another platform making strides with social commerce is Snapchat. Snapchat partnered with Square to deliver a transfer system it’s calling SquareCash. With this system, users can register their debit cards and then transfer and receive money — which is being called Snapchash — to and from their friends on Snapchat. While it’s currently a free service, Snapchat plans are to allow its users to buy products from its platform.

Facebook Commerce

This summer, Facebook shared a mobile screen of what its “Buy” button is going to look like. A suggested post will show up in your newsfeed with a product or service and an image of that product or service, which you can buy right then and there by simply clicking the “Buy” button in the post. I imagine Facebook will be rolling this out in 2015 after they figure out the payment and privacy details.

Image Source: Facebook

Image Source: Facebook

Ubokia Commerce

A lesser known site, Ubokia, currently works with Pinterest. This site provides a “Want It” button, which you can add as a bookmark in your web browser bar. It keeps track of all the items you really “want” that you see on Pinterest. Maybe in 2015 this will change to a “Buy It Now” button?

Fancy Commerce

This site has already beat Pinterest and Ubokia to the punch. Fancy, which you can get on your computer, phone, or tablet, lets you find, collect, and buy all the things you “fancy” that have been curated by its global community. It makes it easier for users because they can do everything they need to in one place.

Image source: Fancy Blog

Image source: Fancy Blog

Image source: Fancy Blog

Image source: Fancy Blog

Social media may not be the biggest marketing channel when it comes to getting consumers to purchase a product or service right from the site — for now. But you can guarantee that starting this year, social commerce is going to be bigger and more profitable than ever before.

Visual Sitemaps Can Impact Your Bottom Line

By | Conversion | No Comments

The difference between good marketing and great marketing is not in the abundance of winning ideas — it’s in the execution. Paying attention to the details is a big deal when there are many companies competing for the same customer.

So how can your business come out on top? One way is to create benchmarks that measure execution. A benchmark is a measurable outcome that can help you compare the effectiveness of your current efforts with past results. Every marketer should be able to quickly communicate the impact of the work they do.

One common marketing task is evaluating a website’s effectiveness and testing changes that might help engage more customers. But don’t rush into it—website changes require planning and careful measurement. Beyond gathering important metrics like the number of visitors and sales conversion, it’s helpful to be able to visualize your existing site.

Let’s examine the site layout of lucidchart.com, our own website. We follow a fairly conventional approach for a SaaS website, including top-level links for pricing, login, and product tour. By using Lucidchart’s visual sitemap creator and asking key questions, we can determine whether this site layout is successful.

Here it is:

Lucidchart1

Does the organization of my site make sense?

With most websites, content creation and development happens over long periods of time. If there isn’t anyone actively managing the property, organic growth of a website can occur in unexpected ways. A disorganized site can confuse new visitors and discourage search engines from frequently indexing new content on your site.

The good news is, Lucidchart’s site hasn’t become too unwieldy. It has a simple structure that is easily navigable, with child pages that are attached to the appropriate parent. Making a visual sitemap lets you quickly view your site structure; no need to slog through XML files whenever you have a question. You can also enhance ease of access by embedding links to individual pages and exporting the chart as an iframe, as we’ve done here.

Am I effectively promoting the most important pages?

Web analytic tools can help you figure out what people do when they reach your website. You’ll want to understand which pages are most effective at driving the desired action. Once you know that, you can make intentional changes that will help more people find that page. A visual sitemap can be a good way to mark and remember the pages that do well.

For example, here at Lucidchart we use the Demo page to invite potential customers to try the tool. On pages throughout the site, we’ve strategically placed buttons that link to the Demo environment, which gives visitors a fast, easy way to try the product. When you treat your website like a funnel that moves visitors from potential to paying, your marketing becomes more sophisticated and effective.

How can I get more traffic from Google?

Every business owner, even one who doesn’t know much about online marketing, understands the importance of ranking well on search engines. There are many factors that let Google know your site is important. Having well-organized site information is a big plus, and as we showed earlier, diagramming out your sitemap can help evaluate that.

As part of figuring out what your site is about, Google also wants to know what you think is most important about your site. One way to determine that is to look at how many times a page on the site is referenced by other pages. Are you making sure Google knows what your most important pages are? With visual sitemaps, you can use lines to map out how many pages link to any other page on your site. Once you’ve created this map of internal linking structure, you can determine whether the site is properly signalling your most important content.

What am I missing?

The real question here isn’t, What mistakes have I made with my site? The question is, Are the mistakes I’m making costly enough to fix? Because there are always improvements to be made, you need to tackle the low-hanging fruit first. One worthwhile task is identifying holes in your content strategy. This is a lot easier with a visual sitemap.

In the case of Lucidchart, we could benefit from a refined tour page experience that allows visitors to explore features related to their field of interest. We could also add a page explaining how to use our program on mobile devices. I created a sitemap of what the Lucidchart website might look like with these proposed changes.

Lucidchart2

In fact, some of these changes are already in the works. By the time this post is published, we’ll be testing most of the proposed changes. To learn how to do the same for your website, check out this guide on how to make a site map. Improving your website takes considerable time, but it’s worth it. When you see how far you’ve come—and how much easier it will be to move forward—you’ll be glad you made the effort.


bradhanks

 

Brad Hanks directs marketing efforts at Lucid Software and loves writing blog posts that his mom will probably never read.

It Doesn’t Take Miss Manners to Figure Out Email Etiquette

By | Email Marketing | No Comments

At the core of email marketing etiquette is a rule you probably had engraved on your brain by your mother: “treat people with respect.”

In other words, don’t assume things about your email recipients. If you’re not taking the time to understand them, you are wasting their time… and yours for that matter.

Now before you decide you understand this concept well enough, take a step back and ask yourself an important question: Is there room for improvement in my email click-through rate? The answer to this is almost always a resounding yes.

Today I’m going to share with you two DON’Ts and two DOs that make up the basis for proper email marketing etiquette.

Follow these tips and watch your CTR grow.

Don’t Underestimate the Intelligence of the Recipient

When you send an email, the goal is to get someone to read it. Pointing out the obvious here.

One great way to botch your chances of reaching that goal is by assuming the recipient is, well… stupid.

That’s bad even for spam.

This one is an obvious no-no. Most marketers would never do something so blatantly sketchy (notice the word “spam” in the link). There are, however, plenty of other ways to disregard your recipients’ intelligence.

For instance, are you A/B testing your subject lines?

If the answer is no, you are assuming to know better than the recipients themselves what subject lines they will be more likely to open. In other words, you are assuming to know them better than they know themselves.

According to WordStream, the subject line of your email is more important than the body itself. So you’ll want to base your choice of subject line on facts rather than assumptions.

Most email marketing software comes with A/B testing features built in. If you’re new to the concept of A/B testing and want more info, check out this post from MailChimp.

Don’t Forget to Personalize Your Message

Getting someone to open your email is only half the battle. After the recipient opens it, your email copy must be interesting enough to get them to keep reading… easier said than done.

When it comes to B2C emails, particularly those sent from retail and ecommerce companies, it may be perfectly fine to send a mass email without personalization … as long as the email provides value, such as a promo code or new product preview.

However, when it comes to B2B emails and blogger/media pitches, personalization is a must.

Without personalization, you may be falling within the “obnoxiously untrustworthy” category more often than you’d expect.

Talk about generic. My first reaction was to send this junk mail to the trash.

Not only do I seriously doubt the sender has ever been on my agency’s website,  I also wonder what should make his software interesting to me or my team. His company creates marketing automation software … great.

When crafting the body of your emails, consider the following: What value are you trying to offer the end user? Get down to the specifics.

Let’s dig a little deeper into the above email…

First, most agencies already have a preferred marketing automation software vendor (or two), so from a personalization standpoint instead of reaffirming how busy I am running my agency, the sender should tell me how their software can help my clients better than what I’m already using.

Second, he should show me that he knows which firm I work for and that he’s done his homework. This could have been accomplished as easily as just including the name of my agency within the email.

For example:

I hope your morning at Agency Name is going well. I am the founder of X Company and we’ve created marketing automation software that can do A, B, C.

I saw on your website that you work with customers such as D, E, F. Our software could really help customer D lift sales through the use of our 123 feature. Other customers in the same industry such as Acme Corp have seen _____ results.

If you’re interested in learning more I would love to schedule time to give you a demo.

.
Personalization certainly requires more of a time commitment than blasting the same draft to a mass list, but believe me… the growth in your click-through rate will be well worth the time. Your CMO would agree.

Simply put, if you want to build sales, you need to build relationships. And it all begins with the first touch point – it’s up to you whether that first impression is a personal one, or a spammy one.

Do Provide Value

Whether you are sending emails to customers or businesses, you should not only provide value… but obvious value.

In the above email, the added value would be that the marketing software could help my agency increase the effectiveness of the campaigns we manage. Unfortunately that value wasn’t communicated very well.

Recipients of your emails won’t take the time to dig through your message and discover the offered value. You have to hand it over on a silver platter with a big arrow pointing to it.

When it comes to B2C emails, providing obvious value can be as simple as offering a promotional code, sharing a sale, or featuring a new product.

screenshot of an email

The best part is, providing value for your email recipients means providing value for the company as well. If your email encourages a click-through, you’ve just won yourself a new lead and possibly even a new sale.

Just think of it this way: providing value creates a win-win situation.

Do Market to Customers Different Than Leads

When a user submits a form on your company website, they should then be entered into a lead nurturing email campaign. The purpose of this series of emails is to subtly remind them of what interested them in your business to begin with, and why they should commit to purchase.

Many businesses forget one important aspect of lead nurturing email campaigns: once a user converts and actually makes a purchase, he or she should be immediately removed from the lead nurturing campaign.

A logical expectation, but many companies miss the mark here.

For example, last year I signed up to receive information about the Portland Marathon.

I received my first nurture email on December 9th, and by December 19th I had signed up for the race.

Even though I had done what the Portland Marathon team of marketers wanted me to do, I continued to receive lead nurturing emails. For someone who likes to keep a clean inbox, this was incredibly annoying. I received five additional emails encouraging me to register for the race even though I had already converted.

screenshot of gmail inbox

The marathon’s emails are cute and clever, but completely useless to me now that I’ve already registered. In fact, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

By continuing to send me (and other converted leads) these emails, the Portland Marathon’s conversion rates are being unnessesarily dragged down.

The take-away? Once someone converts, add them to a separate, customer-only list.

For instance, the Portland Marathon could have added me to a separate list that pointed me to the store where I could buy “In Training” gear, or they could have started sending me helpful training tips.

Regardless of your industry — from marathons to financial services firms — you will want to distinguish the messaging you give your leads vs. your customers.

The Worst Email Ever…

We’ve all been on the receiving end of bad emails.

What is the worst type of email you’ve ever received?

On Instagram-How Freshly Picked is Slaying Social Media Marketing Sleeping Giant

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Susan Petersen, founder and CEO of Freshly Picked, loves Instagram. In fact, she might even love it more than her husband.

She spoke about her astounding Instagram success at Inbound Marketing SLC on Oct. 2. She said that at one point, she was spending so much time on Instagram that her husband jokingly said that he wished she loved him as much as she loved Instagram.

“I do too,” she responded.

It’s not hard to see why she loves the image-sharing network so much. She’s closing in on 275,000 followers on the social network (as of this writing) and says the average value of each follower is $0.31. She delights her followers by posting beautiful images of children wearing Freshly Picked moccasins, and she also uses the platform to announce new products, promote user generated content, stage giveaway promotions, or to let people see what she’s up to.

She realized that her “community” was on Instagram a few years after starting her company. She had 600 followers at the time and immediately set a goal to get to 10,000 by the end of 2012; she hit that mark on December 28.

Winning with Instagram requires more than just posting cool images. Her company is very active in the comments, and she ensures that each question gets an answer. And whenever someone posts a picture and uses a Freshly Picked hashtag, they will like and/or comment on it to let their customers know that they see them, love them, and are going to reward them.

Susan raised the money she needed to to start her business by hammering windows out of old window frames and recycling the aluminum. She was paid $200 and used it to by the leather she needed to make moccasins. She told this story when she appeared on Shark Tank earlier in the year, and Mark Cuban said it was “the best story to start a company” that he’s ever heard.

She said that she has begrudgingly accepted the fact that her story is a key selling point of her business. And so she lets people get to know her a little bit on Instagram by posting to the account as herself and not as a business entity. So, for example, she uses “I” and “me” and will occasionally post pictures of herself to give followers glimpses of her life.

According to Global Web Index data, Instagram experienced the biggest rise among social networking sites in active user numbers between quarters 2 and 4 of 2013. People will always be leery of brands using the network as a money-making platform, but Susan has proved that a compelling story and beautiful images can delight customers and turn them into raving fans.

Vanity Social Metrics Are Pointless Without Context

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tom brady patriots

During the 2010 NFL regular season, Tom Brady threw the ball 492 times.

In the 2012 election, 822,544 Iowans cast their votes for Barack Obama.

And last night, my daughter drank 6.5 ounces of milk before bed.

How pointless are these numbers without context? Sure, now you know how many times Brady threw the ball in 2010, but how many of those pass attempts ended in completions or touchdowns? Were those 822,544 votes in Iowa enough for Obama to carry the state, and if so, how many electoral votes did he gain? And unless you know how old my daughter is or what her eating habits are like, what does that 6.5 ounces of milk even mean?

Numbers without context end up leaving people with more questions than answers. Yet all too often, we have to listen to people brag about how many Facebook likes their page has or how they were able to grow their social media following by 17%.

Alison Herzog, Social Media Director for FamilySearch, spoke about this concept at Inbound Marketing SLC last week. She explained that if you can’t tie your social media metrics to your business initiatives, there’s really no point to reporting them. She advised those who were in attendance to use data to understand expectations and to evaluate what content is successful to your business strategy.

Chasing vanity metrics, such as Twitter followers or Facebook comments, can be a waste of time and resources. It can also lead you to a false sense of confidence that you’re getting the job done if you’re able to grow these numbers. Keep in mind that numbers can lie, and they might not tell you the whole story about customer engagement.

Jesse Stay, our Senior Advisor over Social Strategy, provided some more insights into how you can build your following without succumbing to an ill-advised chase for vanity metrics. He explained how you can do research to create heavily targeted Facebook ads that will attract the right type of visitors for your brand.

One method he suggested was Facebook’s graph search. It allows you to research the connections between different groups of people based on their interests. For instance, here is a screenshot that shows the favorite interests of people who like Fit Marketing:

If you wanted to target the types of people who might like a Utah marketing agency, a graph search like this will give you some insight into what kind of interests these people have. Then, you can incorporate what you learn into a targeted ad that is more likely to resonate with them.

Both Jesse and Alison have made their slides available. You can view them here:

Alison Herzog: Stop the Vanity Metric Madness

Jesse Stay: Creating, Converting, and Killing it With Mad Facebook Ads