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Must-Know Social Media Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Boosting Conversion Rates

By | Blog, Conversion, Social Media | No Comments

If you’ve stayed up to date with any news for the past few years, then you shouldn’t be surprised that social media is becoming a huge strategy for companies to engage their customer bases and build brand loyalty.

You probably interact with several brands yourself, whether it’s by “liking” their posts on Facebook or by tweeting them to try to coax a response on Twitter.

Keep in mind, though, that engagement is only half the battle. To run a successful marketing program, you need to develop a strong conversion optimization strategy.

the_conversion_funnel_600

Let’s start with a basic definition

Conversion optimization is the process of transforming new website visitors into customers – and the process of transforming first-time buyers into repeat customers.

Social media is critical to this process. People aren’t always ready to buy when they first visit your website – and even after a great first impression, they’re likely to forget about your brand. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest can help you maintain a connection with prospective customers.

Consider the following analogy

The conversion process is like making a new friend at a friend’s party. You both make a great first impression and decide that you need to hang out or spend time together again – but you run out of time.

After that, you keep running into one another at the grocery store and coffee shops. The exchange is always positive, and you’re always happy to see one another. Eventually, you both realize that you need to put something on the calendar sooner rather than later.

Now let’s get back to the business world. Social media platforms can help you replicate and amplify the dynamic of making a new friend or meeting a potential client.

At the end of the day, “conversion” is just a fancy way of saying “connection.” Here are some invaluable tips for developing a conversion-meets-social media strategy that will work for your company:

1. Get serious about Facebook

I mean, really serious. In a 2012 Edison Research/Arbitron study on social networking habits, 79 percent of consumers said they prefer to connect with brands or products on Facebook. So why wouldn’t you meet them where they’re already hanging out?

People follow the brands they love because they want to know what those brands are doing, when the company is having a sale, and what other new products they have on the way.

So the question is: if you’re a company looking to boost your conversions, how can you leverage Facebook? You see, it’s pretty simple. Facebook users are influenced by their friends. From their own newsfeed, they can see what their friends like and every move they make.

More importantly, because Facebook is visually appealing, there are countless ways to engage your fans through giveaways, photo contests, promotions and paid advertisements.

Find ways to engage your users and then encourage them to share what they’re doing by asking questions and telling them how to engage. From a psychological perspective, make sure that the connection to your brand (and products) are strong. Facebook sharing can turn online promotions into powerful drivers of conversion, which means sales.

2. Encourage Your Fans to Share Socially

To dovetail off of point #1, let’s talk about the power of sharing.

With just one click, users and brands can publicize important on-site events. When your customers buy (or are just about to buy) a brand new sweater, think about how they might be feeling – excited, happy, and ready to spread the word about their great find.

Why not include a “share this” on Facebook and Twitter after the checkout process? Or what about incorporating a “Pin it” button on your company’s product pages?

Most likely, your business already has a “thank you for shopping” page with an email confirmation. Build more excitement by adding share features there as well. You can even implement share buttons on your product page – chances are that your customers will enjoy sharing items they care about.

Here is an example from the product page at J Crew Factory – notice how the retailer incorporates sharing into the overall transaction process:

JCrew sharing

J Crew Sharing

Not convinced? Turn to the data for guidance:

In the Adobe 2013 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey,  Adobe found that social shar­ing increases con­ver­sion rates, with 2 in 5 com­pa­nies respond­ing that it is “very effective.”

Because customers are much more likely to try a new product or service based on a shared recommendation, help encourage your customers to do so. Include it in their confirmation screen after they have made a purchase, and include it in the confirmation email you send to them.

The bottom line is that you can leverage social sharing to increase conversions through the strategic placement of sharing icons. So, think about where you place these seemingly minimal icons – make sure they’re visible at key transaction moments.

3. Think Mobile. Think Responsive.

Did you know Nielsen found that 95% of tablet shoppers and 72% of smartphone shoppers who make a purchase with their device do it at home? This means that even if there is a computer around, there is a good chance that your customer will be browsing the Internet, Facebook and emails on a tablet or mobile device.

If this isn’t compelling enough, a recent Google study found that 61% of mobile users who have a bad browsing experience will move on from your site to a competitors site.

You need to pay attention to your mobile strategy immediately. Get started with the following checklist:

  • Optimize your mobile site’s load times. If it doesn’t load quickly, you’ll lose your customer, and they will move on to your competitor’s site.
  • Have large, mobile-friendly buttons that are easy for big fingers. Have you ever tried clicking a tiny button on a mobile site and you miss it? If you hate this, then your customers do too! Make it easy for them. They want to buy your stuff, so help them out!
  • Minimize the amount of scrolling a customer has to do. No one likes to scroll.
  • Make sure it is easy to access your business contact information. A lot of times users are simply going to your site to figure out where you are or how to get in touch. Keep it simple and accessible.
  • “Click to call” access to phone the business.
  • Include links to your company’s social media profiles.

So what do these tips have to do with social media?

The short answer: everything.

Of Facebook’s nearly one billion strong users, approximately 200 million are mobile only.

Social media should be heavily emphasized in your website’s mobile design.

If you’re investing the resources in revamping your product or homepages, make sure that Facebook is a part of your strategy. You can even make social media a requirement for logging into your website:

Hipmunk App Login Screen

4. Use Analytics

Plan, act, measure, repeat. This workflow underscores the golden rule of marketing – that data should guide your every decision.

Rely on tools like Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, and Mixpanel to track conversions and understand how social media influences your overall conversion strategy. Be relentlessly focused on results, but make sure you’re investigating performance thoroughly.

A common mistake that marketers make is to treat social media as a direct sales channel. Do not fall into this trap. Audiences go through a series of steps before they ultimately convert into leads or buyers. Make sure you’re monitoring this full engagement spectrum before making a judgment call about whether something succeeded or failed.

Kiss Metric User Profile

Photo Credit: KISSmetrics

Your analytics package will answer the question “what.” Make sure that you also dive into the “why” behind the outcomes you’re observing.

A good example is the 2013 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey. UPS joined forces with comScore to find out what consumers really want during their online shopping experience by surveying over 3,000 online shoppers. Of the 88 percent who said they have abandoned a shopping cart, 44 percent said they did so because the delivery time took too long.

So, what does this mean? It means that by shortening your shipping time, there is a great likelihood that your customer will actually buy your products. But you wouldn’t have known this without doing some research. Similarly, your own analytics will tell you key details about your customers.

When you segment traffic sources by social media, don’t assume that a long pageview time means that visitors are engaged, for instance. Customers might actually be confused – unable to find the information that they want.

Summary

Conversion optimization and social media marketing go hand in hand. A retweet or a Facebook like is a good way to maintain a connection with your potential customers, but it only goes so far. It’s time to start taking social media seriously, measuring what you’re doing, and improving on what you find.

3 Marketing Tips You Haven’t Read on Every Other Blog

By | Blog | 12 Comments

Whether you are the sole marketer at your company, a business owner learning marketing or part of a big corporate team, I think you will find this post educational.

We all will face similar challenges this year: need to improve conversion rates, need to optimize marketing speed, need to increase website traffic, need designers and developers to move faster so we can launch our campaigns now…

Am I hitting the nail on the head?

The three tips I’m sharing today in this post should help you move the needle in each of these areas. They are just a few things I’ve learned along the way that I hope will help  you too.

 

1. You Should Write 25 Headlines for Each Blog Post

Have you heard of the the fastest growing media company of all time, UpWorthy?

UpWorthy reaches more than 50 million unique visitors per month.

One of the key things you know about UpWorthy if you’ve ever been to the site is that all of its posts have sensational, dramatic and sometimes ridiculous headlines.

These headlines are how the site draws in the masses.

Here are a few of the headlines you can find on UpWorthy:

  • Here Are Just 3 of the Smaller Lies SeaWorld Makes Its Employees Tell Its Guests

  • This is One Time-Lapse Big Oil Doesn’t Want You To See

  • A Video I Loved Within 10 Seconds From a Random Dude Explaining the Magic of Birth Control

What do your current headlines read like?

  • Top 10 Tips to _____________.

  • Why You Should _________________.

  • How I Learned to _______________.

These aren’t bad headlines but could they be made better?  Probably.

The way UpWorthy comes up with its click-worthy headlines is by writing 25 headlines for each post. Seriously.

Adam Mordecai, UpWorthy’s Editor says the reason they always write 25 headlines for every post “is that it forces you to think waaaay outside the box when writing. You get desperate around headline 21, and do something so out of left field that it’s not the typical headline.”

As you’re writing a batch of 25 headlines for your next post, remember this: click-bait headlines will get you visitors, but they aren’t worth anything to you if they bounce away in under 30 seconds.

Writing the headline is truly only half the battle. You must also produce content that lives up to the headline in order to engage your readers.

That being said, without the headline you might not have many readers at all.

So basically, a great headline + high quality content = the winning blog formula.

2. You Should Track Data in Something Other Than Google Analytics

Like most marketers, I’m a big fan of Google Analytics. I like knowing which traffic sources and keywords drive visitors to my site … especially visitors that convert.

Google Analytics is great at giving me the big picture overview of how my site is performing, but it doesn’t allow me to learn anything about the individual visitors to my site.

That’s where more advanced analytical software like KISSmetrics comes in.

KISSmetrics lets me see what individual actions visitors are taking on my site along the conversion path. It also allows me to correctly attribute a referral source to a conversion.

For example, someone might originally visit your site after clicking on a Facebook ad, but then leave and not come back and make a purchase for days or weeks.

When they do come back they might type the URL of your site directly into their browser (or Google it). If you’re only using Google Analytics to track conversions, you would attribute the sale to a direct visit or Google, when in reality a Facebook ad was the original referral source.

Knowing the correct, original referral source is important for optimizing your marketing spend. If you thought your Facebook ads were not producing ROI you would stop running them… which in this scenario would be a bad decision.

Software like KISSmetrics not only allows you to attribute conversions to the correct referral source, but it also allows you to track a particular customer’s behavior through the sales/marketing lifecycle.

For example you can see how James spent his day in the graphic below:

Perhaps lots of other customers are also starting their day by browsing your site but aren’t making a purchase until nighttime.

How would knowing this affect the day-parting of your ads? Would it cause you to change the time and theme for your social media posts?

Hopefully the answer is yes (that means you’re optimizing your time and media spend correctly).

Google Analytics isn’t able to tell you information like this, which is why it’s great for big picture stuff but should always be used in tandem with other software.

 

3. You Don’t Have to Work with a Graphic Designer All the Time

Okay, this tip is kind of two-fold. When it comes to your key branding pieces like a magazine ad, your logo, tradeshow display. website design or anything along those lines – you should work with a professional designer.

However, when it comes to social media and even some of your emails, you really don’t need to have every graphic professionally created.

Being able to take the design process into your own hands in these instances can really speed up the idea-to-implementation process.

There are free or low cost tools available that will allow you to play around with the look and feel of a graphic all of your own.

I recommend Pixlrand PicMonkey as my tools of choice.

Pixlr is a lot like a light (free) version of Photoshop. You use layers to add all kinds of effects to your images.

To use Pixlr you probably need a basic understanding of photo-editing software like Photoshop to get the most out of it. Although you can use it for simple things like adding text and resizing an image too.

PicMonkey is a great tool for anyone who hasn’t used Photoshop before. It’s incredibly user friendly. It has a host of pre-made filters (sort of like Instagram) that you can apply to images.

 

Original image:

With an added filter:

There are a ton of filters you can choose from to make a picture look just right.

You can also quickly add text to your images — and the software comes pre-loaded with a lot of great fonts to choose from.

You can even quickly add pre-made objects to the image – like banners, stars, fireworks etc.

And then add text over those objects:

These two tools are great for every marketer to have in their toolbox to speed up the design process for campaigns.

I love working with a graphic designer on big projects, but being able to create quick and shareable graphics on my own is also really handy for day-to-day social media and email marketing.

Other Essentials

Today I’ve shared my top three tips for 2014. I really hope these tips help improve your conversion rates and day-to-day marketing activities.

What is one tip YOU have for fellow marketers that will help us rock our campaigns this year?

Leave a comment below and let’s help each other get better!

 

Killer Marketing Tactics to Try in 2014

By | Blog | No Comments

With 2013 in the rear view mirror, now is the time to look to new beginnings – including new online marketing tactics!

Today we’re going to share three tried and true ideas that will get you off on the right foot. Run with these marketing ideas and you’ll outpace the competition.

Set up an Email Marketing Auto-Responder Campaign

Auto-responder email campaigns are something that should be in every company’s sales and marketing plan.

An auto-responder email is one that is automatically set out when a person takes a specific action.

For example, a restaurant might send an auto-responder email out to customers on their birthday offering a free appetizer or dessert or a store might offer a discount on the customer’s next purchase.

Auto-responders can be much more complex than that, though.

You can set-up an auto-responder emails to trigger as soon as someone fills out your lead gen form (to educate and convert them), or after a certain amount of days from when they last made a purchase (to encourage customer reviews or even repeat sales).

Auto-responder emails don’t need to just be one-off emails. In fact, many times they should include multiple emails over a particular period of time.

 Zales email

For example, in August of 2013 I signed up to receive some information about pet health insurance from the ASPCA. Over the course of the next four months I received a number of auto-responder emails providing me more information about pet health insurance, its benefits and its costs – all of which had the express purpose of turning me from a lead into a customer.

Here’s a monthly breakdown of the campaign:

  • August – I received five auto-responder emails

  • September – I received two auto-responder emails

  • October – I received four auto-responder emails

  • November – I received six auto-responder emails

  • December – I received two auto-responder emails

The August auto-responder emails were mostly focused on educating me on the benefits of pet health insurance. This makes sense since I had just become a lead and probably needed more convincing.

After August most of the emails focused on “time running out” for me to sign up, rather than educating me on the reasons why I should sign up.

Time running out email:

Setting up auto-responder email campaigns is easy as long as the email softawre you use has the auto-responder feature.

As long as it does, all you need to do is set up triggers.

Once someone enters their email address and becomes a lead, send email #1 one day later, then send email #2 three days later, then send email #3 seven days later, etc.

Most auto-responders should be set up similar to the ASPCA campaign. You want to begin with educational emails and then move your way into sales driven emails.

Use Instagram to Grow Sales & Put a Face to Your Name

Did you know that Instagram has over 150 million active users? The photo-driven social network receives about 55 million photo uploads per day and those photos receive about 1.2 billion Likes daily!

Is your brand ready for the spotlight?

If you aren’t yet using Instagram to promote your products/service and increase your brand awareness… what are you waiting for?

E-commerce companies like Diamond Candles have tens of thousands of followers and are promoting new products, contests and sales every single day on Instagram, and the sales are flowing in.

Beyond sales promos, e-commerce and retail stores can also promote new products:

And even share behind-the-scenes photos that give your biggest fans an insider look into how their favorite products are made (customers love these kind of VIP perks of being a social media follower).

If you’re a software or services company, Instagram can still be used to effectively market to your customers and humanize your brand.

Marketing software company HubSpot uses the photo social network to share pictures from conferences, to show off their company culture and to put a face with the names of the employees that customers interact with each day.

When customers feel like they know the people they work with, an emotional connection is started that makes it hard(er) for them to leave you.

Agencies can also jump into the photo fun by sharing a portfolio of their work, awards and team members!

No matter what industry you are in, if your customers love you and fit the demographic of Instagram users, then your company should be on the network!

Speaking of demographics, as of November 2013 over 90% of Instagram users are under the age of 35. That being said, the social network is still fairly new and early adopters tend to skew younger.

As the network continues to grow in popularity (and make no mistake, it is on the up and up), the age demographics should spread out more evenly.

If you already have an engaging social media presences on Facebook, Twitter and maybe even Pinterest, 2014 is the time to jump on Instagram!

Don’t worry, Instagram won’t take up too much of your time. The same photos that you share on Facebook (and other networks) can easily be repurposed to work on Instagram.

Once you know which hashtags work for your industry on Instagram, you won’t need to do much work. Just upload a photo, apply a filter, add a caption and hashtag and hit publish!

(You can find a list of the top hashtags here.)

If you’re wondering how you’ll grow your community on Instagram from 0 to thousands of followers, read this great guide from Neil Patel.

Host Giveaways on Social Media to Increase Engagement

If your social media engagement is lackluster, 2014 should be the year of the giveaway for you!

It may sound counter productive to give away a product or service in an attempt to get people to buy from you, but it actually is beneficial.

Why?

Because giveaway posts on social media tend to draw a lot of engagement and along with engagement comes word-of-mouth marketing through comments, Likes and social shares.

When your customers spread the word about the giveaway to their friends, you increase your brand and product awareness.

Additionally, when you feature products or services in a giveaway, you are promoting that particular thing to your audience.

In my experience, some customers will see the giveaway, get excited about the product/service and make a purchase without even entering the contest. Others will wait to see if they win, and if they don’t they will then be likely to purchase.

One tactic I really love is when a company announces the winner of a giveaway but then offers a small discount to everyone else who entered. What a great way to encourage sales from people who have already expressed interest in a product or service!

Let’s Get Started!

This should help you jump-start your marketing for 2014. Now you need to get out there and put these ideas into action.

If you need some hep, please let us know.

Otherwise, maybe leave us a comment and share one killer marketing tactic not on this list that you’re going to execute in 2014!

Inbound Marketing SLC Takes the City by Storm

By | Blog, Content Marketing, News | One Comment

Imagine that you find yourself in need of an emergency appendectomy. You can choose between a board-certified surgeon and a podiatrist.

Who would you choose to cut you open?

It makes sense to trust someone with real-world experience, whether you need emergency surgery or just want some help marketing your business. And that’s the approach Fit Marketing took in organizing yesterday’s free Inbound Marketing SLC event.

IMSLC logo

We found some of the best and brightest inbound marketing minds – people who have really made it work for them – and brought them together for a feast of knowledge.

We had a great turnout of about 200 people, from marketers to small business owners to people who just wanted some delicious free snacks.

Here are some of the highlights of the presentations.
Speaking to us first was Garrett Gee, one of the brightest young entrepreneurs around – receiving millions of dollars in investment capital and even appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank. Garrett talked about the process of taking an idea and making it so irresistible that it markets itself.

He mentioned the importance of building your brand to make sure you stand out in people’s minds, suggesting that we ask ourselves two questions in every marketing activity:

Does it create true value?
Is it newsworthy?

Garrett wanted to take something in the real world, like an item you see at the store, and easily turn it into something you can interact with in the digital world – like one-touch posting to Pinterest. His customer-centric approach has garnered more than 58 million downloads of their Scan app.

According to Garrett, if we focus on doing what will help people the most, and find creative ways to draw attention to our businesses, our marketing will be much more effective.

Ricky Ray Butler is one of the best in the world at making video pay off for companies. His unique approach of using YouTube celebrities has delivered millions of views – and visible sales boosts – for businesses ranging from local startups to gaming giants.

Ricky’s first piece of advice was this: Don’t set out to make a “viral” video (and he mentioned that the term “viral” is actually outdated). It’s much better to instead produce consistent, high-quality videos using channels that have a large audience.

He also gave us three tips to follow when working with YouTube celebrities:

1. Give them simple, clear directions on what you want (most of them are not marketing or business professionals).
2. Allow them to have creative control (there’s a reason they have a million followers).
3. Have one purpose for the video (just send them to your website, for example, rather than giving them too many options).

We then heard from Fit’s own Brooks Forester. Brooks shared with us some marketing lessons that we learned from his appearance on ABC’s The Bachelorette.

When Brooks went on the show, it was a great laboratory for Fit to do some marketing experimentation. What we came up with was a 70/20/10 formula for success.

That means that we spent 70% of our efforts on standard, traditional marketing techniques. We did some interaction on Facebook and Twitter, and built fan pages for Brooks. And it paid off, starting to drive a lot more traffic to the website.

Next, we spent 20% of our efforts on bolder tactics. This is where Fit started to do some more creative social media interactions, tweeting out funny “facts” about Brooks. In this case, it continued to drive more traffic to our site, but we wanted higher quality leads and conversions.

That meant it was time to try something radical.

We came up with the Fit Copes videos, showing how deeply different members of the team felt Brooks’ absence from the office. These comic videos were posted every Tuesday, and that consistency generated a lot of engagement. People interacted with Fit, outside blogs picked up on these activities, and in the end the radical tactic got the most interest – not just from the public, but also from potential customers.


youtube views/analytics page

The takeaway from Brooks’ presentation was that you never know where your opportunities are coming from, but if you’re creative you can take advantage of almost any situation.

Rounding out our experts was Chris Kilbourn, VP of strategy for Fit. Chris gave us a great Back to the Future-style presentation on dominating Google in 2014, talking about how the days of shady SEO practices like manipulating links are over.

Instead of trying to game the system, Chris gave us four key areas to work on to make inbound marketing work.

The first step is to create world-class content. Answering your customers’ questions is at the core of effective marketing. If you help them, they will come. Sites like Quora and Reddit can help illuminate what people really need. By giving them in-depth, comprehensive articles with high-quality graphics and expert interviews, you’ll soon be seen as an expert.

Second, Chris told us to build relationships with the 800-lb. gorillas in the industry. There are a huge number of websites out there that need content. When you provide it to them, you’re building up your own reputation as a leader. Tools like Buzzstream can help you identify the best places to get yourself seen.

Third, it’s time to repair past mistakes. We should clean up bad links to our site that can harm our ranking. Google Webmaster Tools can let you know if you’ve been hit with any penalties, and Link Detox helps get rid of bad links haunting your site.

Finally, Chris addressed how to move forward with technology changes. He called out mobile optimization as especially important, with so many shoppers using their phones and wanting to be able to make instant purchases. Social signals also help improve Google’s perception of websites, so your shares and social media profiles also play an important part in dominating Google in 2014.

Dominate Google in 2014 and Beyond (Back to the Future Style) from FitMarketing

If you missed the event, don’t feel too bad. Inbound Marketing SLC was such a great success that we’re going to do it again! Our next event will be on February 27. Look for more details soon!

If you’d like more information on how to make inbound marketing work for you, feel free to give us a call.

Movember and Marketing Success

By | Blog | One Comment

old long Mustache

All around the globe, men are growing out their facial hair to support the cause of Movember. This manly campaign, which started in Australia to raise awareness for men’s health issues, has stated that its goal is to “change the face of men’s health.” And it has done just that. Just last year, the organization raised $147 million worldwide with 1.1 million registered fundraisers. That kind of participation is nothing short of staggering.

What has made Movember so successful, and what marketing lessons can we take away from it?

1. It unifies. We all like to feel that we’re helping somebody even if we are not doing anything earth shattering. I have a close friend who has been fighting against prostate cancer, and growing a beard has helped me show solidarity with his situation.

Marketing lesson: A good marketing campaign helps people feel like they are a part of something. It not only turns them into paying customers, but brand advocates who will share their feelings with others.

2. It embraces humor. There’s something about facial hair that makes us laugh, because facial hair affects us all in different ways. Whether you have a friend whose wife refuses to kiss his hairy face or a coworker who can only grow patches of hair (or one who looks like he is from the Planet of the Apes), Movember is sure to bring a smile regardless of whether it can be seen under that stache.

Marketing lesson: Some of the most memorable marketing campaigns are the ones that make us laugh. When it’s done right, humor can make your company more memorable, and people will spread your messages virally.

3. It rebrands itself. From the Moscars to the International Man of Movember, the organization finds ways to keep its message fresh. The object of Movember, mustache, allows you to find creative ways to change your personal facial brand every year. In effect, it lets us all become marketers.

Marketing lesson: Keep it fresh. Don’t stick to the same messaging and channels. Changing up your approach can prolong the life of a campaign and increase leads and conversions.

4. Men love competition. At our office, we will have winners in three categories: length, manliness, and creativity. I look forward to the Triple Crown by winning all three, and every day I check out the competition.

Marketing lesson: If you really want to make a splash in the market, you have to know who you’re competing against. Look into who your competitors are, including what they are doing well and what they aren’t.

5. Facial hair is awesome. It’s a nice break from the dull routines of life to rediscover  a new side of yourself. I find myself constantly stroking my facial hair, and my confidence is restored knowing I’m doing something manly.

Marketing lesson: Launching one successful campaign can create the awareness and momentum that can carry over into others. Learn from your experience and don’t rest on your laurels when you succeed – use it as a springboard into your next campaign.

How does your facial hair make you feel? Share in the comments below!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

4 F’s to Improve Your Blog—and Your Business

By | Blog | No Comments
All photos via freedigitalphotos.net

All photos via freedigitalphotos.net

When it comes to running a successful business, your first thought might be about keeping your books, or engineering your products and services for your customers. And while that is the heart of your company, the fact remains that you have two critical needs to fill before you can experience success.

First, before you see any sales at all, your customers need to know you and your products exist. While word of mouth is a great way to accomplish that, it’s largely beyond your control. Second, to see growth beyond a few initial sales your customers—and potential customers—need to see you as a leader in your industry.

One of the best ways to accomplish both of these goals is through your company’s blog. And while the word “blog” causes many people to conjure up images of their little sister’s rants about her middle school classmates, for businesses a blog is increasingly becoming indispensable. But for a blog to become more than just a placeholder on your website, here are four F’s to keep in mind.

Frequency

Frequency

Just as your little sister may have stopped blogging as she matured, many businesses begin their blog with the best of intentions, only to see it fall by the wayside. Because the results are harder to measure than making phone calls, you might not see the value it delivers. But content is king for internet marketing, especially for a company that wants a strong online presence.

According to the inbound marketing professionals at Hubspot, companies that blog see 55% more website traffic than businesses that don’t. And more traffic means more leads—70% more than non-blogging businesses. Overall, two-thirds of businesses that blog at least weekly have acquired a customer through their blog.

Fit

Fit

There’s more to the process than simply creating blog posts, however. If you sell wrenches, for example, will your blog generate a lot of interest if you post articles about women’s health? It might—if the readers are the people most likely to buy what you’re selling. Research into your buyer personas is an essential part of your blog development.

Your blog should also be about more than just your products. Armed with knowledge of your customers, you should post about other topics that interest them. Your ultimate aim is for them to see you as a leader among the companies in your industry. And there may be other content out there that will help them in their work and personal lives—share it with them. Remember the lesson from A Miracle on 34th Street: even if you can’t meet all their needs, direct them to whoever can.

Focus

Focus-cropped

Your blog posts may have a tendency to meander from one topic to another, especially at first where there is a lot you can write about. That makes a post much less useful to your customer, who came looking for a specific piece of knowledge. Keep your focus narrow for an individual post. Your posts should also be geared toward solving a specific problem your customer faces. Remember, your aim is to become a repository of knowledge for them, so they keep coming back—and refer their friends.

Followthrough

Followthrough

Actually writing the blog is really only half the battle. Much like creating the product in the first place, it doesn’t do any good unless someone can find it. You need to take the time to promote your post. In this day and age, that means using your social media accounts to spread the word that you just created a piece of knowledge that delivers value. Depending on your market, you might post it on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest—or all of the above.

A blog is also an excellent opportunity to convert someone from an anonymous website visitor to an actual sales lead. For a blog to be effective, it should include a call to action—something the reader should do. It might be a direction to a product page, or an invitation to have a free consultation, or a free ebook that will give them more information about a topic related to the post. The purpose of your call to action is to gather information about a website visitor that you can use to nurture them toward becoming a customer.

While your content should be focused on the people who will be reading your website, it’s also helpful to pay some attention to the technology serving your information to the reader. SEO is still important, and adding the right words to your blog title and in the post can give your content a boost that will make it more visible.

Just as your business model will require constant fine-tuning as you find your place in the market, your blogging practices should be dynamic in response to your success. Regularly check on the content you have created, noting the posts that gain the most views and the calls to action that see the most clicks. Adjust your content and promotion to reflect what is the most effective use of your resources.

Creating a blog is relatively simple, but it’s an important part of your inbound marketing strategy, which can support the growth of your business and help you find success in the market.

 

5 Must-Have Skills to Launch a Successful Blog

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You’ve probably heard how important it is for your business to run a blog, but just how important is it? Companies that blog have 55% more website visitors than those that don’t. Blogs allow companies and individuals to reach a huge segment of the population in a way that generates long-term discussion. Currently, there are over 31 million bloggers in the United States. People use a blog for everything from sharing events to analyzing a sports team to advertising a product. However, very few people know how to generate significant revenue from their blog. In fact, over 81% of bloggers never even make $100 from blogging.

One reason many people fail to capitalize on their blog is simply lack of consistency.  Only about 35% of bloggers write a post at least once a month. If you want your blog to be seen, you need to write at least a few posts every week. Obviously, not everyone uses their blog for professional purposes, but the fact that only 19% of bloggers only receive $100 for their blogging efforts means that most bloggers are not using their blog effectively. The potential for making money with a blog is staggering. In fact, blogs receive about 528,000,000 views every month.

Here are 5 skills you need to have if you want your blog to work for you:

1. Copywriting

This is the foundation for a successful blog. If your writing is not interesting, inspiring, and useful, you will not get the readership you need for your blog to take off. Your writing needs to be based around fulfilling a need for someone whether its explaining how to perform an oil change on a car or how to make decisions for retirement. If you can say something helpful and say it well, the sky is the limit.

2. Design Essentials

Even if the quality of your content is incredible, your blog will likely tank if it looks like a seventh grader designed it. Having a custom logo or offering a PDF ebook can go a long way to making your website look professional. Consider subscribing for Adobe Creative Cloud to start on the path to designing an appealing website.

3. WordPress

WordPress is the most popular platform for bloggers, and for good reason. It’s user- friendly, easy to analyze, and includes important features like a sales funnel and membership content. Did I mention you can perform the most important functions without a background in coding?

4. Basic HTML

While knowing the intricacies of WordPress is most important, understanding how to use HTML can give you a huge advantage. If you combine HTML with CSS, you can become a highly skilled web developer. There are fantastic resources online to learn the basics, including Code Academy.

5. Search Engine Optimization

This is the skill that is the cherry on top of blogging. Your first focus needs to be on getting your website running smoothly, but after that you need to know how to get your blog found on search engines. There are many tricks to the trade, and it can take a lot of training, but it’s well worth your time to educate yourself about how to use keywords and drive web traffic.

7 Ways to Use Content Marketing for Lead Nurturing

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When people think of Content Marketing, they often immediately think of blogs, social media, viral videos, and other content that gains awareness.

But that’s only one part of the equation.

If you want shares, likes, Stumbles, Pins, Reddit views, etc., your content strategy is going to be very different than if you want to keep leads engaged and interested in your brand. Each stage of that sales-funnel journey needs a specific type of content.

 

For this purpose, I’ll break it up into 3 areas:

Awareness:

      Content that drives people to your site, and lets them know you exist.

Evaluation: Leads that have subscribed to your blog or email list. They might be aware your product or service could fulfill their need, they might be determining whether you are a good fit. Or, they just like your content and are not interested in your product, yet.

Purchase: Leads that have become customers, and have the potential to become customers again

Most content created, and most that is talked about on social media blogs, is focused on the awareness portion, those at the top of the sales funnel. To make your content work, you need to put just as much focus into developing content for those deeper in the funnel. First step:

Find holes by mapping customer journey

There could be many different ways your leads become customers. As you map it out, however, you’ll find similar patterns and the ideal ways a visitor moves along that path. Here’s a hypothetical situation from a visitor who first comes to your site through your blog:

    Visitor lands on a company blog post and downloads a free eBook >>> Clicks through to site from eBook campaign offer and navigates to Product/Service pages >>> Clicks on a case study, loves it >>> Clicks on a call to action for a free trial of your service >>> After the free trial, receives another nurture email with a coupon, and then becomes a customer.

As you map out these conversion pathways, you’ll notice holes where you should have particular pieces of content, touch points or calls-to-action. Once you know where those holes are, you can start planning content for mid-funnel leads. Here are a few ideas:

7 Content marketing ideas for mid-funnel Leads

The first thing to remember is to continue to give these leads value — content that’s as closely related to what caused them to give you their email in the first place. At the same time, offer something that conveys your expertise, instills trust in you, that helps them in their specific problem.

Leads that are still in the nurturing stage typically need more information before they’re ready to convert. The best lead nurturing will come from two things: your thought leadership, which will build trust in you and what you’re selling, and free resources.

1. Free-Tips Email Content

The first type of content you should have? An email or newsletter that is aimed at truly solving customers problems with free education, tips and resources. This could include a newsletter that includes your blog posts, other relevant third-party content, and perhaps a case study, or a feature of your product.

A good nurturing email will have significantly better open rates than typical email blasts:

 

  • 50% of leads are qualified but not ready to buy
  • Lead nurturing emails get 4-10 times the response rate of standalone email blasts
  • 25-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first.

 

 

Sources: Gleanster Research, SilverPop/DemandGen Report & InsideSales.com

2. Some Promotional Email Content

If someone gives you their email, they expect to be sold to.

Resist the temptation to do it often.

First, delight them by giving them even more valuable and resourceful free content. If you’re going to go promotional, try to keep it as educational or as helpful as possible. A couple weeks ago, I received the best marketing email I’ve ever had. I started following his Facebook page and ended up signing up for his newsletter to get more fitness tips. The email was just one simple sentence:

Hi Dan, are you interested in building 10-20 lb’s of muscle?

Alex

I responded, “Yes.” In a couple minutes I received an email with a pitch to an exercise program.

One email solved a couple problems: He was able to answer whether I was a qualified lead, and I knew whether or not he was there to solve my problem. At the same time, I felt like he connected with me. This went from a social follower to having him talk to me personally on email. It’s the kind of connection you want with your customers.

3. Automated emails

Although it can be argued “Automated Email” isn’t a piece of content. I think it is. Acting quickly ensures the lead gets a response quickly and says something about your organization. Content is more than just words written on a page. Plus, 25-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first. Automated emails help to pre-qualify people in early stage and keeps you top of mind. Nurtured leads also have a 23% shorter sales cycle.

4. Product-based Webinars/Blogs/Videos/Articles/Podcasts/Social Media Updates

Yep, it’s basically the same thing as content for awareness, with just a slight twist.

Let’s pretend for a minute you sell garden tools. To create awareness, you might have written a blog post like “How to Dig the Perfect Hole for Your Garden Plants.” Now that you have an email list, you might send an email with, “7 Ways to Use Our Awesome Square-Headed Shovel to Dig Perfect Holes For Plants.”

The difference is in helping people solve their problems by using your product or service. This not only helps convert mid-funnel leads, but can also help former customers return. As the saying goes, it’s much less expensive to retain customers than to get new ones.

5. How-to case studies and testimonials

Trust and confidence in your abilities is perhaps the biggest trait that will move mid-level leads to become customers. This is not new. Case studies with testimonials have long been powerful tools. But to make them better, tweak them a bit so they can also be a resource with solid tips. Back to the gardening example, it could be something like, “How Zach Used The Awesome Square-Headed Shovel to Dig Terrific Holes.” Then tell Zach’s story.

6. Data Sheets

Few things convince people these days more than hard numbers and facts. Customers are getting smarter an don’t respond as well to generic ad copy. They want numbers to back up your claims. Mine data within your industry and your business, then share that info with your customers where it’s relevant. Avoid data dump for data sake by finding how those numbers tell a story or solve problems. Look for patterns in that data, and think of how those numbers can be a resource. This can also give you a lot of ammo for infographics and pitching media.

7. FAQs

I’m not talking about the typical FAQ pages you see on people’s websites. I’m talking about real questions your customers are asking everyday about your business and your industry. Turn each one of those into blog posts. People are typing those same questions into search engines every day to find the answer. Even tackle the tough questions you don’t want to face — like the problems with your products or services. This is all about being transparent, and you may think it’s counter-productive, but it’s a big, big deal. Go here to see how one guy did this with his swimming pool company and made more than $500,000 just from the leads it produced.

Your turn

What other content have you used that has helped you nurture leads?

Redneck Content Marketing Lessons from Duck Dynasty

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Duck Dynasty is the hottest show on cable TV right now. A record number of viewers tuned in to the season premiere of A&E’s smash hit reality show last week. I’m a huge fan of the show and my wife and kids love it, too. One thing that makes the show resonate with a lot of people is the variety and depth of the various characters. Even though they’re all rednecks, they each have their own style. It’s obvious that most of the scenes are staged, but their real personalities come through and you can’t help but chuckle. It’s a different kind of feel than you get with typical reality TV shows. With Duck Dynasty, A&E has created a new genre of reality TV: family-friendly reality comedy. I can’t get enough of this stuff.

The magical thing about Duck Dynasty is that each character has a unique personality and the interaction between the characters is hilarious. Their lifestyle and the way they talk is interesting to yuppies all around the country. There’s a valuable lesson for content marketers in all of this. Your company’s content shouldn’t seem as if it’s coming from a mysterious, corporate entity. Your company has a personality that should come across in your content marketing.

Which Duck Dynasty character most resembles your company’s content marketing personality?

Willie – all business

Willie is the boss at Duck Commander. He is the CEO of the company and as such, he’s the guy who is always steering the rest of the crew to be more productive and focus on their work. It’s hard for the rest of the crew to take Willie seriously as the CEO because at his core, he’s a redneck goof off like the rest of them. He has managed to take the business to a whole new level and even though he’s rarely the star of the show, it’s likely that there would be no show without Willie’s laser focus on the business over the past decade. He may be losing some of his redneckedness, but he’s doing it for a greater good: to grow the business and make millions of dollars. Does your company’s messaging rarely venture from its business focus? If your company’s content always toes the corporate line, you might be a Willie-style marketer.

Jase – the jokester

Willie’s brother, Jase is serious about one thing: hunting. Everything else in his life is just to pass the time until the next hunting season. Even though he’s the older brother, he was glad to let Willie take the reigns as CEO of Duck Commander, since Jase is more interested in hunting and messing around. He loves a good practical joke and will do whatever he can to avoid work. He always teases his brother Willie for being too stuffy and corporate. He tells Willie he should “shave his beard and turn in his man card” when he shows up for the duck hunt with his RV. Of course, he won’t restrain himself from teasing Si, Jep, Godwin or anyone else on the show, either. If your corporate message is about cracking jokes or you’re always ripping on someone else, you’re following the style of Jase.

Uncle Si – story teller

Hey! To say that Uncle Si is quirky is a bit of an understatement. The guy carries around the same blue, plastic iced tea cup that he’s had since who knows when. Even though he’s a skinny as a twig, he can throw down 32 donuts at one sitting. He once accidentally ate a raccoon turd, thinking it was a berry. He has a poodle for a hunting dog for crying out loud! Si has a million stories, most of which are made up on the spot. He’s also clueless most of the time, but you can’t help but laugh because he has such a hilarious personality. Si is hands down my favorite character. He’s got a handful of funny sayings that he repeats over and over, but you never quite know what will pop out of Si’s mouth next. His funny stories and quirky persona make him a winner. If your company’s personality is like Si’s, you’ll have a ton of fans, but you could run into legal trouble if you’re making up 98% of your stories like he does.

Phil – legendary

Phil, the original Duck Commander, exudes studliness. He doesn’t have to talk big like Willie and he’s way too cool for Si’s and Jase’s antics. He knows how to get stuff done–the stuff in the woods that he cares about. And when it comes to hunting, Phil is the real deal. He knows who he is and what he stands for. He has a certain quiet confidence that is refreshing to see in reality TV. It’s clear that all his family and friends respect him. His one-liners and words of wisdom are priceless. If you’re an innovator in your field and the entire industry listens to what you say, you are getting close to Phil’s legendary status with your business. You can’t fake legendary–you either have it or you don’t.

Miss Kay – the specialist

Phil’s wife, Miss Kay, has the entire family wrapped around her little finger. The secret is her home cooking. Whatever the Robertson boys kill and drag home, Miss Kay will cook it up into a delicious meal–even the family favorite, squirrel brains. She spends a lot of time in the kitchen cooking for her family. She also spends a bunch of time trying to teach her yuppie daughters-in-law and granddaughters how to cook. If your company is focused on one niche that you do really well and most of your content is about this area of expertise, you’ve got your Miss Kay going on.

Jep – the quiet one

The youngest of the Robertson brothers, Jep, keeps a pretty low profile. He’s Miss Kay’s favorite since he’s the youngest, but that’s also the reason the brothers feel like he’s just their little brother who can’t do anything on his own. Jep does a lot of behind the scenes work and doesn’t offer up the constant stream of one-liners you get from some characters on the show. If you rarely publish content as a company, and when you do, your mom’s the only one who sees it, you’re Jep.

Which type are you?

So what’s the best type of redneck marketer? There’s no right answer to that question. Duck Dynasty is a hit because they are genuine and each cast member is interesting in his or her own way. You need to be true to your company’s personality and let your most interesting bits shine through. Once you find the way to show your true personality to the world, your content strategy will start to fall into place. A whole new world awaits, so get out there and be yourself!

Using Service Review Interviews to Grow Your Law Practice

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By: Owen Fuller
Many law firms solicit feedback from clients on a regular basis. The concept isn’t new or revolutionary. However, unless you’re doing it right, you could be missing a potent opportunity to grow your firm and individual practice. Service review interviews (SRIs) give you powerful insight into what your clients like about doing business with you, where you can improve, and they also open the door to more work.

An SRI is a simple way to find out what your clients think by sitting down with them and asking good questions. The key is to talk to the right contact person and to come to the interview prepared. You will often find that you get more candid responses by using a third party to conduct the SRIs, or at least someone other than the client’s main contact at your firm.

Once you create the list of clients you want to contact, send each one an email, letting them know what SRIs are and who will be conducting the interview. The interviewer can then schedule a meeting time, ideally at your client’s office, or over the phone when an in-person meeting is not practical.  You should plan on meetings that are no more than 20 minutes long. This will give you enough time to get answers to your questions without taking too much of your client’s time. If you respect your clients’ time with the first interview, it will not be a problem to schedule future SRIs.

Before the interview begins, review all the notes you have about the client so that you can reference them appropriately. When you show clients that you have done your homework they appreciate it and reward you by opening up.

During the meeting you should listen 80% of the time and speak only 20% of the time. Use probing questions to get deeper, more useful feedback. Here are some examples of good questions to ask:

a. Do we understand your overall business goals? Do we provide additional value to you beyond the project-specific work we were hired for?

b. Do we work with you to manage your expectations about the cost of our services? Is there any part of our bills that you do not understand?

c. Is your attorney responsive? Promptly returning phone calls and emails?

d. Is your attorney efficient? Meeting established deadlines?

e. Besides the items we’ve discussed, when else do you need the professional services of an attorney? What are your most important legal needs?

f. What is the biggest obstacle to you working with our firm on a more regular basis (or to us becoming your first call when a legal issue arises?)?

g. On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to refer our firm to a friend or colleague? Why or why not?

h. Wrap up: what is the question that we should have asked, but did not?

SRIs will allow you to see the world through the eyes of your client. You will gain an appreciation for what they are trying to accomplish and how well your firm is helping them reach their goals. SRIs also give you an opportunity to educate clients about all the ways that you can serve them, such as informing them about your membership in Primerus. Finally, SRIs open the door to new business opportunities through additional legal matters, entirely new practice areas and referrals.

That’s the beauty of SRIs – in one 20-minute interview you let your clients know you care enough to listen to them. This exercise builds trust, loyalty, and often leads to mountains of new business.