Tag Archives: ChuckReynolds

Social Media Marketing Tips

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Would you like to improve your social media marketing?

Are you up to date with the best social media tips and tools?

#1: Mine Twitter to Grow Your Audience

While “if you build it they will come” is a great line from a movie, it’s a terrible marketing plan. To succeed on the Internet today, you have to create content that ignites and engages an audience. However, if you are a new blogger, you should probably spend more time developing an audience than creating your content.

Here are three easy but overlooked tactics you can use to build an audience on Twitter, which is arguably the best platform for this.

Once you’ve been on Twitter for a while, you’ll notice people will place you on public Twitter lists. Lists are generally categorized by a special interest or geographic location. For example, I might be on lists for “marketing experts,” “bloggers” or “business educators.” Find a relevant person to follow, and then dig into his or her lists. You’ll likely find a goldmine of interesting people to follow who will hopefully follow you back.

Use Twellow to find and follow targeted users in any category.

There are many apps to help you find new followers, but one of my favorite places to find targeted followers is Twellow. This useful and free site is like the yellow pages for Twitter, and you can find and follow targeted users for every category, industry, and interest imaginable.

Use specialized Twitter search prompts. Unlock the basic search functionality right on the Twitter screen by learning a few of the specialized prompts. This is one of the most powerful market research tools available. Follow this link if you want a complete tutorial on Twitter search.

With these tactics, you can expand your audience to reach people who are seeking your products and services.

#2: Analyze Past Content to Improve Posts

Most businesses analyze the effectiveness of their social media after they publish. Now, there are tools available to analyze data for content curation before you post. Here’s how to use Buzz Sumo to leverage the data of what has already been successful in terms of social sharing.

First, enter a keyword that is part of your social media content strategy. BuzzSumo will provide you with a list of the top-performing content in terms of social shares according to your keyword.

BuzzSumo shows you the top-performing content in terms of social shares.

Next, because some content performs better on some networks than others, you can curate content by social network. Armed with this data, you can increase the effectiveness of your content curation by publishing content that has a greater chance of success on a specific network.

You can also filter content by type (which is ideal if you’re looking for videos or infographics to curate) or filter by time period. The latter lets you find content that’s been most popular in the last 24 hours or evergreen content that’s been popular over the last year. The choice is yours!

#3: Optimize Visual Content with Links

Visual content can act as a “gateway” to more valuable content. When planning visual content to post on social platforms, think in terms of how it can drive traffic back to your website, products, and services.

For example, in this SlideShare deck, Constant Contact included a link back to a resource page listing multiple blog posts with related content.

When fans click through, they arrive at a page of value-added blog posts relevant to the SlideShare topic.

Link a short video back to your website from your YouTube Account or from your Instagram profile link and make sure you provide expanded content around the video. For example, Final Cut King drives his fans on Instagram back to longer content on his YouTube channel by asking them to click the link in the description of his Instagram account.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final Cut King uses a call to action asking people to click on the link in his descriptions.

#4: Maximize Twitter Real Estate With Images

“Every second, on average, around 6,000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter (visualize them here on Internet Stats live), which corresponds to over 350,000 tweets sent per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year.”

Creating the best possible tweet has never been more important. Adding visual appeal to your tweet is a very smart way to get your most important content noticed.

You can add up to four images per tweet or one fantastic image if you want. The choice is yours! To add multiple images, use regular Twitter. This isn’t available on any of the third-party sites. Here’s an example of a tweet with multiple images on Twitter.

#5: Switch Up Content Formats

Over the past two years, I’ve moved to adapted written content for multiple platforms, like YouTube, to increase my reach and visibility.

For example, by turning one of my List25 articles into video every week, I’ve grown the YouTube channel to 1.3 million subscribers and amassed over 200 million video views. A similar tactic with WPBeginner articles has grown subscribers to over 8,000, and the channel has increased sales for my WordPress plugins.xxxxx

We turned List25 articles into videos.

Changing content formats doesn’t have to involve just videos. You can also convert snippets from your existing articles into images—which tend to have better reach on Facebook. These images allow you to leverage the power of social networks such as Pinterest and Instagram.

Here’s how I shared a Tip of the Week image on the WPBeginner Facebook page.

 

Convert blog posts into images for your Facebook page.

Have you written a lot about one specific topic on your blog? Why not combine those articles into an ebook and use it to build your email list? If you’re not changing any content format to improve your overall reach, then you aren’t maximizing the full potential of your content.

#6: Create a Social Media Channel Plan

So many organizations feel overwhelmed by the need to create content for every social media channel on the planet. Or worse yet, many brands create one type of content and then blast that content onto every social platform. If that’s you, you need a social media channel plan.

Most likely, your goals are different on each social platform. Since that’s the case, the content you develop for that platform needs to be different as well. Here are the components for your channel plan.

  • The Channel (For example, Facebook.)
  • The Persona (Who are you specifically targeting? Please choose one.)
  • The Goal (Is it a sales goal, cost-savings goal or are you trying to create a better customer experience?)
  • Primary Content Type (Textual, video, infographics?)
  • Structure (What does a general post look like?)
  • Tone (Playful, sarcastic?)
  • Channel Integration (How will this channel work with your other channels for maximum impact?)
  • Desired Action (What user behavior do you want to achieve?)
  • Editorial Plan (Every channel needs its own editorial calendar.)

And this is exactly why content marketing isn’t easy. But if you leverage a social media channel plan correctly, you’ll be able to double down on the channels that work for you and be realistic with your resources on the other channels.

#7: Deliver Content Consistently

One of the best ways to grow your following and increase engagement on social media is to be there consistently. The first step is to put the right systems in place to keep your posts relevant, interesting and valuable for your audience.

Enter Edgar. I found out about Edgar a couple of months ago and love the platform.

Edgar allows you to create your own content categories so you can keep track of the specific types of posts you’re releasing; this ensures you don’t overwhelm your followers with the same types of posts over and over.

Manage content categories and avoid repeat posts with social media scheduling tool Edgar.

You can also schedule repeat posts indefinitely, so your content schedule never runs dry. Plus Edgar allows you to upload custom images for your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn posts.

As you build your content library, update your schedule with the categories you want to release and when. Then let Edgar take care of the rest.

 

Build a content library, update categories and schedule posts in Edgar.

Leveraging a social media scheduler like Edgar has saved me time, helped me grasp the big picture when it comes to my social media marketing strategy and allowed me to stay on top of my game when it comes to delivering valuable content to Fire Nation.

#8: Host Private Hangout On Air Events

Social media success is so often about having a conversation with the right people. If you already think in terms of building segmented lists, then you may appreciate knowing that you can effectively list-build on Google+ in many ways.

Use a private community alongside regular Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) events, so you can host a dedicated, private experience while having conversations with the right people.

In doing this for our Academy, we’ve noticed two trends:

  • Around a third of community members watch the event within a day.
  • About 8 to 10 community members also join the event as participants.

Unlike with public communities, when you initiate your event within a private one, the members receive an event invite/notification. This is a perfect way to break through the noise and reach the right audience.

Find the right audience by combining private Google+ communities with HOA events.

In both scenarios, the event will be listed under the Event tab, as well as on the right-hand side of the community.

Selling is increasingly personal, so face-to-face time with your community makes a huge difference. Also, the ability to quickly give them access to links/resources results in a great customer service experience.

#9: Use Hashtags Strategically

If you want to be successful with your social media plan, stop random acts of hashtagging and use a good hashtag to tie all of the pieces of your campaign together.

Use a hashtag that is easy to spell and easy to remember. To make sure your hashtag isn’t already being used for something else, check for it on all channels prior to using it for your campaign. Once you create your hashtag, follow and join the conversation!

To follow your hashtag, use sites like Social Mention and Sprout Social. Use TwiPho for searching images on a hashtag.

 

TwiPho allows you to search Twitter for photos and images on a hashtag.


#10: Test Pinterest for Your Brand

I’d always believed Pinterest is best for organizations that have something visual to show: fashion, food, sports. But a friend recently proved me wrong. An organization that provides software as a service to a very narrow audience tested pinning their blog posts to Pinterest. In some cases, the images from the blog posts were original—infographics, their product in use or PowerPoint decks—and in others, they used a paid Shutterstock account. They built boards based on their brand personas, representing five different segments, and got to work.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

How People Interact With Search Engines

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One of the most important elements to building an online marketing strategy around SEO is empathy for your audience. Once you grasp what your target market is looking for, you can more effectively reach and keep those users.

Robot Evolution

Build for users, not for search engines

We like to say, “Build for users, not for search engines.” There are three types of search queries people generally make:

  • “Do” Transactional Queries: I want to do something, such as buy a plane ticket or listen to a song.
  • “Know” Informational Queries: I need information, such as the name of a band or the best restaurant in New York City.
  • “Go” Navigation Queries: I want to go to a particular place on the Internet, such as Facebook or the homepage of the NFL.

When visitors type a query into a search box and land on your site, will they be satisfied with what they find? This is the primary question that search engines try to answer billions of times each day. The search engines’ primary responsibility is to serve relevant results to their users. So ask yourself what your target customers are looking for and make sure your site delivers it to them.

The True Power of Inbound Marketing with SEO

Why should you invest time, effort, and resources on SEO? When looking at the broad picture of search engine usage, fascinating data is available from several studies. We’ve extracted those that are recent, relevant, and valuable, not only for understanding how users search but to help present a compelling argument about the power of SEO.

A Broad PictureGoogle leads the way in an October 2011 study by comScore:
  • Google led the U.S. core search market in April with 65.4 percent of the searches conducted, followed by Yahoo! with 17.2 percent, and Microsoft with 13.4 percent. (Microsoft powers Yahoo Search. In the real world, most webmasters see a much higher percentage of their traffic from Google than these numbers suggest.)
  • Americans alone conducted a staggering 20.3 billion searches in one month. Google accounted for 13.4 billion searches, followed by Yahoo! (3.3 billion), Microsoft (2.7 billion), Ask Network (518 million), and AOL LLC (277 million).
  • Total search powered by Google properties equaled 67.7 percent of all search queries, followed by Bing which powered 26.7 percent of all search.

Billions spent on online marketing from an August 2011 Forrester report:

  • Online marketing costs will approach $77 billion in 2016.
  • This amount will represent 26% of all advertising budgets combined.

Search is the new Yellow Pages from a Burke 2011 report:

  • 76% of respondents used search engines to find local business information vs. 24% who turned to print yellow pages.
  • 67% had used search engines in the past 30 days to find local information, and 23% responded that they had used online social networks as a local media source.

An August 2011 Pew Internet study revealed:

  • The percentage of Internet users who use search engines on a typical day has been steadily rising from about one-third of all users in 2002, to a new high of 59% of all adult Internet users.
  • With this increase, the number of those using a search engine on a typical day is pulling ever closer to the 61 percent of Internet users who use e-mail, arguably the Internet’s all-time killer app, on a typical day.

StatCounter Global Stats reports the top 5 search engines sending traffic worldwide:

  • Google sends 90.62% of traffic.
  • Yahoo! sends 3.78% of traffic.
  • Bing sends 3.72% of traffic.
  • Ask Jeeves sends .36% of traffic.
  • Baidu sends .35% of traffic.

A 2011 study by Slingshot SEO reveals click-through rates for top rankings:

  • A #1 position in Google’s search results receives 18.2% of all click-through traffic.
  • The second position receives 10.1%, the third 7.2%, the fourth 4.8%, and all others under 2%.
  • A #1 position in Bing’s search results averages a 9.66% click-through rate.
  • The total average click-through rate for first ten results was 52.32% for Google and 26.32% for Bing.

That's Some Spicey Data You Got There

All of this impressive research data leads us to important conclusions about web search and marketing through search engines. In particular, we’re able to make the following statements:

  • Search is very, very popular. Growing strong at nearly 20% a year, it reaches nearly every online American, and billions of people around the world.
  • Search drives an incredible amount of both online and offline economic activity.
  • Higher rankings in the first few results are critical to visibility.
  • Being listed at the top of the results not only provides the greatest amount of traffic but also instills trust in consumers as to the worthiness and relative importance of the company or website.

Learning the foundations of SEO is a vital step in achieving these goals.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

How Search Engines Operate

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Search engines have two major functions: crawling and building an index, and providing search users with a ranked list of the websites they’ve determined are the most relevant.

Crawling and Indexing

Imagine the World Wide Web as a network of stops in a big city subway system.

Each stop is a unique document (usually a web page, but sometimes a PDF, JPG, or other files). The search engines need a way to “crawl” the entire city and find all the stops along the way, so they use the best path available—links.

Crawling and indexing the billions of documents, pages, files, news, videos, and media on the World Wide Web. Providing

Providing answers to user queries, most frequently through lists of relevant pages that they’ve retrieved and ranked for relevancy.

The link structure of the web serves to bind all of the pages together.

Links allow the search engines’ automated robots, called “crawlers” or “spiders,” to reach the many billions of interconnected documents on the web.

Once the engines find these pages, they decipher the code from them and store selected pieces in massive databases, to be recalled later when needed for a search query. To accomplish the monumental task of holding billions of pages that can be accessed in a fraction of a second, the search engine companies have constructed datacenters all over the world.

These monstrous storage facilities hold thousands of machines processing large quantities of information very quickly. When a person performs a search at any of the major engines, they demand results instantaneously; even a one- or two-second delay can cause dissatisfaction, so the engines work hard to provide answers as fast as possible.

Search engines are answer machines. When a person performs an online search, the search engine scours its corpus of billions of documents and does two things: first, it returns only those results that are relevant or useful to the searcher’s query; second, it ranks those results according to the popularity of the websites serving the information. It is both relevance and popularity that the process of SEO is meant to influence.

How do search engines determine relevance and popularity?

To a search engine, relevance means more than finding a page with the right words. In the early days of the web, search engines didn’t go much further than this simplistic step, and search results were of limited value. Over the years, smart engineers have devised better ways to match results to searchers’ queries. Today, hundreds of factors influence relevance, and we’ll discuss the most important of these in this guide.

Search engines typically assume that the more popular a site, page, or document, the more valuable the information it contains must be. This assumption has proven fairly successful in terms of user satisfaction with search results.

Popularity and relevance aren’t determined manually. Instead, the engines employ mathematical equations (algorithms) to sort the wheat from the chaff (relevance), and then to rank the wheat in order of quality (popularity).

These algorithms often comprise hundreds of variables. In the search marketing field, we refer to them as “ranking factors.” Moz crafted a resource specifically on this subject: Search Engine Ranking Factors.

 You can surmise that search engines believe that Ohio State is the most relevant and popular page for the query “Universities” while the page for Harvard is less relevant/popular.

How Do I Get Some Success Rolling In?

Or, “how search marketers succeed”

The complicated algorithms of search engines may seem impenetrable. Indeed, the engines themselves provide little insight into how to achieve better results or garner more traffic. They do provide us with Knowlege concerning optimization and best practices is described below:

SEO Information from Google Webmaster Guidelines

Google recommends the following to get better rankings in their search engine:

Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines. Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, a practice commonly referred to as “cloaking.”

  • Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link.
  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content. Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
  • Use keywords to create descriptive, human-friendly URLs. Provide one version of a URL to reach a document, using 301 redirects or the rel=”canonical” attribute to address duplicate content.

SEO Information from Bing Webmaster Guidelines

Bing engineers at Microsoft recommend the following to get better rankings in their search engine:

Ensure a clean, keyword rich URL structure is in place.

  • Make sure content is not buried inside rich media (Adobe Flash Player, JavaScript, Ajax) and verify that rich media doesn’t hide links from crawlers.
  • Create keyword-rich content and match keywords to what users are searching for. Produce fresh content regularly.
  • Don’t put the text that you wanted indexed inside images. For example, if you want your company name or address to be indexed, make sure it is not displayed inside a company logo.

Have No Fear, Fellow Search Marketer!

 

In addition to this freely-given advice, over the 15+ years, that web search has existed, search marketers have found methods to extract information about how the search engines rank pages. SEOs and marketers use that data to help their sites and their clients achieve better positioning.

Surprisingly, the engines support many of these efforts, though the public visibility is frequently low. Conferences on search marketing, such as the Search Marketing Expo, Pubcon, Search Engine Strategies, Distilled, and Moz’s own MozCon attract engineers and representatives from all of the major engines. Search representatives also assist webmasters by occasionally participating online in blogs, forums, and groups.

 

 

There is perhaps no greater tool available to webmasters researching the activities of the engines than the freedom to use the search engines themselves to perform experiments, test hypotheses, and form opinions. It is through this iterative—sometimes painstaking—process that a considerable amount of knowledge about the functions of the engines has been gleaned. Some of the experiments we’ve tried go something like this:

  1. Register a new website with nonsense keywords (e.g., ishkabibbell.com).
  2. Create multiple pages on that website, all targeting a similarly ludicrous term (e.g., Yoo ew gally).
  3. Make the pages as close to identical as possible, then alter one variable at a time, experimenting with placement of text, formatting, use of keywords, link structures, etc.
  4. Point links at the domain from indexed, well-crawled pages on other domains.
  1. Record the rankings of the pages in search engines.
  2. Now make small alterations to the pages and assess their impact on search results to determine what factors might push a result up or down against its peers.
  3. Record any results that appear to be effective, and re-test them on other domains or with other terms. If several tests consistently return the same results, chances are you’ve discovered a pattern that is used by the search engines.

An Example Test We Performed

In our test, we started with the hypothesis that a link earlier (higher up) on a page carries more weight than a link lower down on the page. We tested this by creating a nonsense domain with a home page with links to three remote pages that all have the same nonsense word appearing exactly once on the page. After the search engines crawled the pages, we found that the page with the earliest link on the home page ranked first.

This process is useful but is not alone in helping to educate search marketers.

In addition to this kind of testing, search marketers can also glean competitive intelligence about how the search engines work through patent applications made by the major engines to the United States Patent Office. Perhaps the most famous among these is the system that gave rise to Google in the Stanford dormitories during the late 1990s, PageRank, documented as Patent #6285999: “Method for node ranking in a linked database.” The original paper on the subject – Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – has also been the subject of considerable study. But don’t worry; you don’t have to go back and take remedial calculus in order to practice SEO!

Through methods like patent analysis, experiments, and live testing, search marketers as a community has come to understand many of the basic operations of search engines and the critical components of creating websites and pages that earn high rankings and significant traffic.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

Marketing Tactics That Cost (Almost) Nothing

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As Leonard Bernstein wrote, “To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” But what about money? Most start-ups, especially these days, face significant funding challenges.  While it is true that the cost of building an online company has come down significantly in the past ten years, the costs of paid search, banner ads, and print advertising can still be unattainable for many small companies.

Most of the articles I have read about “freemarketing tactics focus on social media. They encourage business owners to start a blog, tweet or write a book or white paper. While these are nice ideas, they are time-consuming, and may or may not yield results. Here are five things you can do to bring in new customers with zero or little up front cost. Used strategically, these tactics can produce an excellent ROI for your company.

1.    Link exchanges.  In Evan and Bradley Bailyn’s book Out Smarting Google, the brothers write about the importance of backlinks in building natural search rank and traffic. While you NEVER want to buy links (a.k.a. use black hat methods of link building), creating a link network with other companies in your field can help all of your sites grow.  These links can take the form of blogrolls, promotional posts, or banner ad exchanges. Especially in this economy, when all budgets are tight, companies are more eager to swap space and links than ever.  If your target demographic matches that of another site, swapping sponsored emails is another great way to gain exposure.

2.    Pinterest.  Pinterest is a rapidly growing visual pin board/social network with over 10 million unique visitors that allows you to pin images to visual boards. With Pinterest, you can quickly establish yourself as an industry expert by creating boards built around the important keywords for your company. You can also post content on your website about how your clients or partners can use Pinterest and include links to your company’s Pinterest profile in your examples (e.g. How to Use Pinterest to Plan Your Wedding). In just four weeks using these techniques, Pinterest has become the fourth largest source of traffic to our site.

3.    Contests and giveaways. Everyone likes getting something for free, so contest and promotions are a great way to drive traffic and email sign-ups on your site. On the Green Bride Guide, we run a monthly contest on our homepage which drives more email sign up than anything else we do. Don’t forget to post your contests on social media sites too! Make a Pinterest contest board in your industry category for added punch (e.g. wedding contests).

4.    Refer-a-Friend programs. Let your customers help you spread the word about your company with a refer-a-friend program. Offer a special deal or discount they can pass along to their friends and colleagues for free and incentivise them to share the love. At Green Bride Guide we created a simple Google document encouraging brides to tell friends about our site. Brides who share the site with five friends get a gift card to use themselves.

5.    Affiliate marketing. Affiliate programs like Shareasale allow you to easily create and monitor a revenue sharing program for your e-commerce site. With affiliate programs, you upload banner ads or product feeds that bloggers and other sites can use to promote your brand. If the traffic they send results in a sale, you give them a commission. The setup fees for Shareasale are very affordable, and their network gives you access to thousands of publishers who will market your site for you. You only pay for results!

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

Inbound Marketing Isn’t Enough

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The 7 Business Goals of Content Marketing: Inbound Marketing Isn’t Enough

I’m tired… tired of a large amount of destructive posts about content marketing that are completely and utterly false.

Posts in particular, as penned by Hubspot, are clearly written by individuals (no offense here) who do not understand what content marketing really. I’m not sure why Hubspot is targeting the term content marketing and misleading its customers in such a way. Do they want to misinform marketing professionals? That is something I cannot live with.

What is inbound marketing?

When the term “inbound marketing” first started to get traction, I thought it was pretty much the same as content marketing. I was wrong.Inbound marketing is a critical component of the new rules of marketing. Creating compelling and valuable content and distributing that content through a variety of online channels, as well as getting active in online communities, are essential for all companies today.

That said, if you only focus on inbound marketing, you will fail as a marketing professional.

Why you need a content marketing mindset

Content marketing is the practice of creating relevant and compelling content in a consistent fashion to a targeted buyer, focusing on all stages of the buying process, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism. Content marketing, unlike inbound marketing, has been around for hundreds of years,

While inbound marketing (as opposed to outbound marketing) and getting found online by prospects are critical, what do you do with your story once they find you? If content marketing were a football field, inbound marketing would get you to the 35-yard line. Definitely critical, but hard to score from that distance.

After inbound marketing, you may need some lead nurturing. Once the lead is nurtured and becomes a customer at some point, you need customer service content. What if you want to upsell or cross-sell to the customer? Well, that’s a whole set of different content. What if your goal is customer retention and loyalty? Well, that’s another content strategy as well. Lots of valuable content spread out around the web will help you reach a few of your content marketing goals, but not all of them.

Content marketing must include strategic planning, content creation, distribution, and metrics for multiple stages of the buying cycle to multiple customer personas. In my view, that means a complete content marketing strategy would incorporate inbound marketing principles, but it would also take a more holistic approach to meeting a business’s overall marketing goals.

Uh, print?

Even more importantly, content marketing is channel-agnostic. That means that content marketers should be looking at ALL available channels to engage with customers… print, in-person, and online (including mobile). The outstanding Ritz-Carlton magazine, placed in hotel rooms, does not have anything to do with being found; neither does the amazing LEGO Club magazine, which has been produced in print for over 30 years.

The business goals of content marketing

With content marketing, there are a number of overall business goals you could have:

Brand awareness or reinforcement
This is almost always the first thing that is thought of when you look at content marketing. The goal may be that you are just trying to find a more effective way than advertising to create awareness for your product or service. This is the long-tail strategy. Content marketing is a great vehicle for that, as it’s organic, authentic, and a great way for you to start driving engagement with your brand. Content marketing and inbound marketing overlap in this area.

Lead conversion and nurturing 
The most basic part of inbound marketing is the conversion metric. How you define a lead will vary — but from a content marketing perspective, this is where you have (through the exchange of engaging content) encouraged someone to give up enough information about themselves that you now have permission to “market” to them. This can include signing up for a “demo”, registering for an event, subscribing to your e-newsletter, or gaining access to your Resource Center. Once you have the prospect’s permission, you can use content to help move them through the buying cycle.

Customer conversion 
In many cases, you already have a ton of content in this area. This is where, as marketers, we have traditionally focused — the “proof points” to the sale. Examples include case studies you send to your prospects that illustrate how you’ve solved the problem before — or the “testimonials” section on your client page. Ultimately, this is the content you’ve created as a marketer to illustrate to the hot prospect why your solution is better or will uniquely meet his or her needs.

Customer service
This is where content marketing can really earn its “subscribe” stripes. How well are you using content to create value or reinforce the customer’s decision AFTER the sale? This goes well beyond the user manual, the documented process for success, and the FAQ on your website. These are the best practices for how to use your product or service. How can customers get the MOST out of your product or service? What are the successful, innovative ways that you’ve seen your product or service get extended into other solutions?

Customer loyalty/retention
Just like you have a planned lead nurturing process to turn prospects into customers, you also need a planned customer retention strategy. If your ultimate goal is to turn customers into passionate subscribers who share your stories, this area needs major attention. Options may be a customer e-newsletter or printed newsletter, a print or tablet magazine, or possibly a user event or webinar series.

Customer upsell
Marketing doesn’t stop at the “checkout” button any longer. If you’re particularly good at using content to service the customer in a subscriber model, you also have the opportunity to be effective at creating ongoing engagement for the other products and services you offer. Why stop communicating with prospects once they become customers? Instead, communicate with them more frequently and engage them with additional value. Customer upseller and customer retention goals can work hand-in-hand.

Passionate subscribers
If you can successfully move customers to this stage, you have really accomplished something. Content — and especially content generated by satisfied customers — can be one of the most powerful ways for us to reach any business goal. This is when content marketing starts to work for you exponentially. Apple Computer is the quintessential example of this. Ask yourself what their content marketing strategy is. They have no social media presence. They have no blog. But they have successfully built their passionate subscriber base — and these people create fan sites, write, share, and evangelize the Apple brand. Your ultimate goal should be to create a community of evangelists who are prepared to fight for your brand.

So which of these goals makes sense for your content marketing? Maybe it’s only an inbound marketing initiative and you’re just trying to help drive more leads into the sales and marketing process. Maybe you’re trying to create a program that increases awareness, drives down the cost of organic traffic to your website, and increases your position with search engines. Maybe you are working to improve your customer retention rate. Take a moment now to get your mental juices flowing.

What do you want to accomplish with content marketing?

One last message from the soapbox

I’ve seen way too many presentations and read way too many articles from “gurus” touting that all marketing resources should switch to inbound marketing. Or even content marketing for that matter? For some small businesses, this could be the case. But for smart, growing businesses, we should be leveraging content marketing throughout all our marketing initiatives — even (gasp) traditional marketing and advertising.

Yes, traditional marketing doesn’t work the way it used to because the consumer is in complete control. If they don’t want to pay attention, they won’t. Telling interesting stories is a much better way to get attention. But in many circumstances, traditional marketing, and advertising can work The point is, there is no black and white in marketing; it’s all gray.  There are no silver bullets. Marketing objectives sometimes need to be solved with a combination of efforts, not by putting all your eggs in one basket.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

About Inbound Marketing

3 Myths About Inbound Marketing

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Inbound marketing is widely regarded as one of the most effective forms of marketing.

Inbound marketing is widely regarded as one of the most effective forms of marketing. The term first emerged as a buzzword in the midst of the online marketing frenzy, as marketers started to realize fully the value of the digital world in attracting leads, nurturing prospects, and even generating conversions without the hard-core sales methodologies of the past.

While some may believe that inbound marketing is just another one of those passing Internet fads, it’s anything but. The concepts, methods, and best practices that comprise the core of inbound marketing aren’t going anywhere as long as there’s a need for marketers to reach prospects and buyers at critical junctions and touch points throughout the buying journey to influence decision making.

Consider the fact that consumers are increasingly tuning out traditional advertisements and the importance of inbound marketing–in which marketers engage consumers with relevant, intriguing information that educates or entertains, earning their interest instead of buying it–and the importance of inbound marketing becomes pretty clear. In fact, 84% of 25- to 34-year-olds bounce from websites when they encounter an intrusive or irrelevant advertisement, and 86% of people skip over television ads, according to an infographic by Voltier Digital.

Despite the growing importance of inbound marketing, there continue to be myths permeating the industry about what inbound marketing is, its effectiveness, and how it works. Let’s examine three of the most prominent myths about inbound marketing.

1. Inbound marketing is free.

While it’s true that inbound marketing can be more affordable than outbound marketing, it’s not entirely free. You won’t be paying for advertisements, but you’ll still need to pay professionals to produce top-quality content, manage your social media presence, organize and host webinars, design compelling infographics, research white papers, and the like.

You’ll also need to invest in tools such as inbound marketing automation software, CRM systems, and other tools of the trade that increase marketing productivity. In fact, Raka points out that “companies that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451 percent increase in qualified leads,” and companies that automate lead management processes “see a 10 percent or greater increase in revenue in 6-9 months.”

“Yes, there’s an investment required to do inbound marketing. But if done well, brands will see a return on that investment that can last for a long time. Unlike outbound marketing, where a paid advertisement lives only for a short period of time, inbound marketing has a longer shelf life. It’s an investment that provides much higher returns over the long term,” said Navin Nagiah, President, and CEO of DNN Software. Inbound marketing is a complex function that encompasses multiple marketing channels and strategies, from SEO to content marketing, social media, and more; arming yourself with the talent and tools to get the job done is half the battle.

2. Quantity trumps quality.

In the early days of SEO, it was possible to produce an abundance of (let’s be honest–crappy) articles stuffed with target keywords and rank for your desired terms in the Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Those days are long gone, yet the notion that quantity is more critical to success than quality still permeates the inbound marketing industry.

Of course, inbound marketing is more than just content marketing, and it’s more than just SEO. But the belief that the best way to realize inbound marketing success is to do simply “more” of it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Today’s consumers are savvy. It doesn’t matter whether your business is B2B or B2C; your audience knows when you’re putting out a poor-quality content or posting updates on social media for the sake of creating “more.” Your audience wants quality; they want something valuable that engages, educates, and entertains–something that’s so good that it compels them to share or hand over their email address just to get the rest.

It’s like the, “If you build it, they will come,” mentality common in the early days of the web. You simply can’t skimp on quality in inbound marketing; you have to bring your audience to you and to do that you must stand out from the hundreds of other companies attempting to engage the same target market. Whether you’re designing graphics, creating slide decks, or writing industry reports, cutting corners is the surest way to alienate your audience.

3. You can’t measure the ROI of inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing is one alternative to the traditional outbound advertising methods such as billboards or radio advertising. Interestingly, one of the common beliefs about inbound marketing is that it’s not measurable, yet it’s really radio, billboards, and similar traditional advertising methods that make proving ROI a challenge.

In the early days of digital marketing, we didn’t have the advantage of Big Data, but today practically any action you take online is measurable. Thanks to tools like Google Analytics, you can determine how many visitors arrived on your landing page and then converted to leads or paying customers. You can determine how many attendees participated in a webinar, how many users engaged with a Twitter chat, how many Facebook users watched a video, and even how many recipients clicked on a particular link in an email marketing message.

Everything is measurable, and that means ROI is easy to prove although the factors that one business uses to determine ROI may differ from the equation relied on by another. That’s why it’s critical to determine your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) before launching a campaign and identify the metrics used to evaluate performance.

Inbound marketing isn’t free, but it can be incredibly effective for both B2B and B2C companies. However, if you’re prioritizing quantity over quality or you’re not measuring ROI, you’re doing it wrong. Focusing on quality coupled with clearly defined goals and performance metrics, along with the tools to measure results, is the surest path to inbound marketing success.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

Sales vs Business Development

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What’s the Difference?

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Sales and business development. Just two different ways to refer to the same activity — getting your company’s product into customers’ hands. Right? Actually, sales and business development should not be considered the same job at all.

Instead, think of the two roles as complementary halves of a whole.

It’s true that both positions exist to help grow your business, but they achieve this end in different ways. Read on to understand the division between sales and business development, and learn what parts of the sales process each team owns.

The Difference Between Sales and Business Development

1) What is business development?

First things first. There are two types of activity commonly referred to as “business development,” but they bear little resemblance to each other in both job function and importance within an organization.

In the traditional sense, business development refers to activities designed to expand your organization’s reach into a new market — for example, forming partnerships with other businesses to sell Company X’s product to Company Y’s customers.

The type of business development we’re talking about here, however — also known as sales development — is a specialized sales role. Business or sales development reps (BDRs or SDRs, respectively) are tasked with researching, prospecting, and qualifying leads before passing them off to the sales team to further develop and close.

This means that SDRs do not carry quotas — although they are responsible for bringing in enough qualified leads that generate a certain amount of business, they are not directly responsible for closing deals.

2) What is sales?

Sales is all about closing. After receiving a qualified lead from an SDR, sales reps take the deals across the finish line. Sales reps might perform some additional qualification in certain circumstances, but their primary objective is to close deals. Sales reps are also responsible for demonstrating the product, handling prospect objections, and drafting contracts.

3) Why the split?

According to Bryan Gonzalez, a sales development analyst at research and advisory group TOPO, there are two primary reasons why the sales process has been split into sales development and sales — the increased difficulty of reaching buyers and the benefits of specialization.

Reaching a buyer “now requires a larger effort by smarter people,” Gonzalez said. “More research and more touches on a lead are required to connect, and it’s not as valuable to have someone with a quota on their head doing that.”

So taking a cue from Henry Ford, companies have split the sales cycle into specialized areas of responsibility to maximize efficiency and output.

Closing is no easy feat, and it doesn’t make sense to have your top sales reps spend time researching companies and hunting for leads if they’re best at selling. In the same vein, prospecting and qualifying is neither a fast nor simple process. Separating prospecting from selling allows each team to focus all their energy on one task, instead of dividing their time between two different and time-consuming objectives.

Another advantage of splitting the two roles is the ability to mold reps from an early stage in their careers and cut down on hiring costs, says HubSpot’s global director of business development Justin Hiatt.

“A sales development team takes some of the prospects and qualifying burdens off your quota-carrying reps’ shoulders,” Hiatt writes. “But its grander purpose is to become a training ground for your sales organization. It’s a place for your SDRs to prove they can become quota-carrying reps and should feed new reps into your organization every year. ”

4) Are there any overlaps in the sales development rep (SDR)/sales rep role?

Yes and no. SDR and sales rep positions don’t have too much crossover when it comes to day-to-day activities unless your reps are also responsible for some of their own prospecting. However, the teams should be hyper-aligned. Both SDRs and sales reps must understand your organization’s ideal buyer persona and be able to spot good fit opportunities.

5) When should an SDR pass a lead to sales?

The point at which an SDR passes a lead to a salesperson will vary from company to company. It rests on how your sales team defines what makes a lead “sales qualified.”There are several different frameworks for sales qualification: BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline), ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money), and GPCT, to name a few.

But no matter what framework you use to qualify leads, SDRs should become adept at uncovering the following:

  • Whether they’re talking to a decision maker. If the contact is a low-level employee with no purchasing power, it’s imperative to figure that out sooner rather than later.
  • Whether the company could use your product. If your product or service solves a problem that doesn’t exist in your lead’s industry, it’s not a good idea to pass that lead along to a sales rep.
  • Whether the lead’s problems can be solved by your product. Every company has different needs. Digging a little deeper to find out exactly where a lead needs help is critical to determining whether or not your product can solve the problem.

Many organizations have their SDRs go a step further than this basic qualification to get a better sense of whether a lead is ready to buy. They require SDRs to look for two additional pieces of information:

  • Whether the lead needs a solution in the near future. It’s possible that at the time your SDRs first make contact with a lead, their problems aren’t serious enough to warrant a purchase. This doesn’t mean the lead is dead, but passing it along too soon is a waste of sales reps’ time.
  • What kind of budget the lead is working with. This isn’t the time to get into specific pricing breakdowns or negotiations, but it’s important to know if your product is priced in the same ballpark as what a lead can afford.

Throughout the qualification process, SDRs should spend the majority of their time asking questions and listening to the prospect. However, it’s also important that they educate leads about what solutions your company offers and start demonstrating their value so any potential misalignment is rooted out early.

6) How should a sales development call differ from a sales call?

As outlined above, an SDR’s responsibility is to find out as much as possible about a lead’s company, pain points, and need for a solution. Early conversations should revolve around gathering this information.

A sales conversation should pick up where the SDR left off, with the endgame of getting a deal signed. Sales calls can cover a wide range of things — here are just a few examples:

  • Demonstrating how your value proposition applies to your prospect’s business pain
  • Comparing your product to your competitors’
  • Setting up a trial of your product, if applicable
  • Product demonstrations
  • Price breakdowns
  • Implementation plans
  • Contract terms

The degree of separation between business development and sales will vary from organization to organization. Especially in smaller companies, sales reps might be responsible for both prospecting and closing, and that’s okay. But as you grow, separating and clearly defining the roles of the two teams will allow each to focus on what they do best, and help your business reach new heights.

Chuck Reynolds

MarketHive

Business development Activities

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Business development activities extend across different departments, including sales, marketing, project management, product management and vendor management. Networking, negotiations, partnerships, and cost-savings efforts are also involved. All these different departments and activities are driven by and aligned to the business development goals.

Sales:

Sales personnel focus on a particular market or a particular (set of) client(s), often for a targeted revenue number. In this case, business development assesses the Brazilian markets and concludes that sales worth $1.5 billion can be achieved in three years. With such set goals, the sales department targets the customer base in the new market with their sales strategies.

Marketing:

Marketing involves promotion and advertising aimed towards the successful sale of products to the end-customers. Marketing plays a complementary role in achieving the sales targets. Business development initiatives may allocate an estimated marketing budget. Higher budgets allow aggressive marketing strategies like cold calling, personal visits, road shows, and free sample distribution. Lower budgets tend to result in passive marketing strategies, such as limited print and media ads, and billboards.

Strategic Initiatives or Partnerships:

To enter a new market, will it be worth going solo by clearing all required formalities, or will it be more pragmatic to strategically partner with local firms already operating in the region? Assisted by legal and finance teams, the business development team weighs all the pros and cons of the available options and selects which one best serves the business.

Project Management/Business Planning:

Does the business expansion requires a new facility in the new market, or will all the products be manufactured in the base country and then imported into the targeted market? Will the latter option require an additional facility in the base country? Such decisions are finalized by the business development team based on their cost-, time- and related assessments. Then project management/implementation team swings into action to work towards the desired goal.

Product Management:

Regulatory standards and market requirements vary across countries. A medicine of a certain composition may be allowed in India but not in the U.K., for example. Does the new market requires any customized version of the product? These requirements drive the work of product management and manufacturing departments, as decided by the business strategy. Cost consideration, legal approvals and regulatory adherence are all assessed as a part of a business development plan.

Vendor Management:

Will the new business need external vendors? For example, will shipping of product need a dedicated courier service? Or will the firm partner with any established retail chain for retail sales? What are the costs associated with these engagements? The business development team works through these questions.

Negotiations, Networking and Lobbying:

A few business initiatives may need expertise in soft skills. For example, lobbying is legal in some locales, and may become necessary for penetrating the market. Other soft skills like networking and negotiating may be needed with different third-parties such as vendors, agencies, government authorities, and regulators. All such initiatives are part of business development.

Cost Savings:

Business development is not just about increasing sales, products, and market reach. Strategic decisions are also needed to improve the bottom line, which includes cost-cutting measures. An internal assessment revealing high spending on travel, for instance, may lead to travel policy changes, such as hosting video conference calls instead of on-site meetings, or opting for less expensive transportation modes.

Chuck Reynolds

MarketHive

The Future of Advertising

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Twenty creative directors, planners, media strategists, and account executives from agencies across the country are down on all fours on the floor of a 100-year-old tenement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. They are each staring down at a blank poster-size sheet of paper, contemplating their most abject fears about their careers, their livelihoods, and their future. They have reason to worry. They are, after all, in the business of advertising.

This slight three-story brick building on the edge of Chinatown has been taken over by Hyper Island, a school based in Sweden renowned for producing the most coveted digital talent in the ad industry. That school is located in an old prison on the Baltic Sea, and students are taught that there are no boundaries when it comes to digital marketing.

Last summer, the Swedes at Hyper Island recognized that where there’s panic, there’s opportunity, and opened this New York branch. Like the many foreigners who settled in this downtown locale before, the school arrived with its own set of promises — to drag the denizens of Madison Avenue into the 21st century. While its students back in Sweden are “digital natives,” these elder New Yorkers are “digital immigrants,” who have gathered for three days of hard-core immersion in dealing with the chaos digital technology has wrought on their industry. “Something digital immigrants would do,” explains one instructor, “is make a phone call to make sure someone received an email.”

Most of the men and women here — average age: 38 — have worked at agencies for more than a decade. Such tenure used to be considered an asset, but these days it’s more of a liability. They’re all well aware that coding is now prized over copywriting and that a résumé that includes Xbox and Google is more desirable than one featuring stints at BBDO or Grey.

Step one of their therapy, of course, is admitting there is a problem. In this room where Swedish pastries litter a couple of Ikea tables, they have been told that their first assignment is to “put [their] digital stinky fish on the table.” So each supplicant finds some space on the floor and rolls out that big blank sheet of paper. Eventually, everyone writes something, and after a few minutes, the group gathers in a circle — a safe space — where one by one they voice their insecurities. The first person stands up. “I walk around in fear and loathing, dazed and confused,” he says. Another confesses, “I’m a person who’s petrified to fail.” One by one, they exhale the cold fears of an entire industry: “I feel like I’m standing here and there are a thousand baseballs dropping from the sky and I don’t know which ones to catch.” “I left my cushy job at a global agency. Actually, I didn’t leave; I was pushed out.” “I kind of feel like the digital world is a gated world. It’s wide open, but I don’t even know enough to walk in.” “This whole ‘collaboration, we’ll work together as a team’ breaking down of the creative director and art director team — I find it fucking difficult.”

Depending on how you look at it, the next 72 hours are either a communal hazing or a primer on today’s rules of marketing. Creative teams, the participants are told, now need to behave more like improv actors — “story building” instead of storytelling — so they can respond in real time to an unpredictable audience. Marketing actually needs to be useful — “use-vertising” instead of advertising — which means that you must think more like a product developer than an entertainer. While campaigns once promised glossy anthemic concepts, perfected before being shipped off to the waiting client, digital is incremental, experimental, continually optimized — “perpetual beta” — and never, ever finished. “Digital will fuck you up and the way your agencies are built to make money, staff things, price things,” says the instructor. “You guys have to change your DNA, and you’re going to have tough decisions.” Later, there’s an entire lesson on letting go of egos. Throughout the session, instructors remind the novitiates that these new rules are certain to change completely, and soon.

CHAOS

Like a beetle preserved in amber, the practice of advertising has sat virtually unchanged for the last half-century. Before 1960, ad making was a solitary practice. Copywriters toiled away on words to pitch a product, then handed them off to an art director who translated them into an illustration or photograph. Creative director Bill Bernbach (the B in DDB) changed all that when he recognized that pairing wordsmith and artist could spark genius. That simple move ignited the industry’s creative revolution, raising the practice of advertising from sleazy salesmanship to some permutation of art.

The ad business became an assembly line as predictable as Henry Ford’s. The client (whose goal was to get the word out about a product) paid an agency’s account executive (whose job was to lure the client and then keep him happy), who briefed the brand planner (whose research uncovered the big consumer insight), who briefed the media planner (who decided which channel — radio, print, outdoor, direct mail, or TV — to advertise in). Then the copywriter/art director team would pass on its work (a big idea typically represented by storyboards for a 30-second TV commercial) to the producer (who worked with a director and editors to film and edit the commercial). Thanks to the media buyer (whose job was to wine-and-dine media companies to lower the price of TV spots, print pages, or radio slots), the ad would get funneled, like relatively fresh sausage, into some combination of those five mass media, which were anything but equal. TV ruled the world. After all, it not only reached a mass audience but was also the most expensive medium — and the more the client spent, the more money the ad agency made.

That was then. Over the past few years, because of a combination of Internet disintermediation, recession, and corporate blindness, the assembly line has been obliterated — economically, organizationally, and culturally. In the ad business, the relatively good life of 2007 is as remote as the whiskey highs of 1962. “Here we go again,” moans Andy Nibley, the former CEO of ad agency Marsteller who, over the past decade, has also been the CEO of the digital arms of both Reuters and Universal Music. “First the news business, then the music business, then advertising. Is there any industry I get involved in that doesn’t get destroyed by digital technology?”

Thanks to the Internet and digital technology, agencies are finding that the realization of their clients’ ultimate fantasy — the ability to customize a specific message to a specific person at a specific moment — is within their grasp. It is also one very complex nightmare. After all, digital isn’t just one channel. It’s a medium that blooms thousands of other mediums. Brad Jakeman, who formerly led advertising at Citigroup and Macy’s, says the explosion of platforms like search, geotargeting, the iPad, and mobile apps mean fragmented media budgets and fragmented consumer attention. “The irony is that while there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it’s never been harder to connect with consumers,” explains Jakeman, now chief creative officer at Activision, the gaming company. The death of mass marketing means the end of lazy marketing. At agencies, the new norm is doing exponentially complex work. Think of the 200 Old Spice YouTube videos whipped up by Wieden+Kennedy in 48 hours. “Creating more work for less money is a big paradox,” says Matt Howell, president of the Boston agency Modernista.

And the Internet has turned what used to be a controlled, one-way message into a real-time dialogue with millions. “Our power has been matched and, in some categories, rivaled by user influence,” says Nick Brien, CEO of Interpublic Group’s McCann Worldgroup, who notes that sites such as Engadget and Yelp can make or break a product. The opportunity for marketers is that instead of having to pay for their message to run somewhere, they can “earn” media for free, via consumers spreading YouTube clips, Groupons, and tweets as if they were trying to saturate their networks with photos of their newborn. Says Jon Bond, cofounder of Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners who left his agency last year to launch a startup: “Marketing in the future is like sex. Only the losers will have to pay for it.” But the dark side of a transparent marketplace is that marketers have never had more of an opportunity to rub consumers the wrong way and be publicly skewered. The days of lathering on a brand message that a product may not live up to are long gone.

All of this has made life much more confusing for the client. At a time of shrinking budgets, chief marketing officers don’t know where to turn. They have little confidence that old-world agencies know how to navigate the chaos, and they don’t know which newcomers to trust. “It’s the most treacherous job in corporate America, blamed for everything and credited for nothing,” concedes Jakeman, who notes that the average CMO tenure is down to 22 months.

With clients in a tailspin, the very role of agencies is in question. Many CMOs are shunning “agencies of record” relationships — the plum long-term, retainer-based deals that have been the bread and butter of full-service firms. After an agency review last year, Angelique Krembs, marketing director of PepsiCo’s SoBe brand, opted to work with only shops that specialized in digital, PR, or promotional work, excluding all generalist firms. “I didn’t see it as us ditching a creative agency. We were going beyond traditional,” says Krembs, in words that can hardly be reassuring to the old line. “We realized it was unlikely we’d find everything we wanted in one place.” That’s apt to become the norm as a generation of senior marketers emerges from the digital side, rather than from classic marketing educations at P&G or General Mills. For example, the recently appointed president of marketing at Sears, David Friedman, was recruited from the digital agency Razorfish.

Squeezed by clients, agencies are also beset by a host of new competitors attacking from every direction. Technology companies have commoditized much of the “art” of that old assembly line. Producing an ad doesn’t have to be an expensive multiperson affair these days, given that commercial-quality high-definition video can now be shot on cameras that cost less than $2,000. Consultancies like Accenture and Sapient are branding themselves as digital agencies. Tech titans like Microsoft, IBM, and Google are rolling out tools that replace agency analysis with digital measurements that can predict the best targets for a campaign and quantify its success. Google, arguably the industry’s most polarizing frenemy, is helping agencies use its planning and analytics tools, while at the same time automating their media-buying jobs. “With infinite ad inventory on the Internet, you just can’t have people do [media planning] anymore,” says Dan Salmon, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets who covers advertising and marketing services. “It’s now being done by a piece of software.”

Technology startups also digitize away agency roles. MediaMath, DataXu, and X + 1 are racing to deliver automated ad-buying platforms; Buildabrand.com has reduced the branding process to an algorithm that produces customized logos in five minutes; Lotame is doing audience data management, which tracks every dollar spent and how it performs. Web 2.0 stars like Facebook and Foursquare are starting to work directly with brands, sometimes cutting agencies out of the conversation entirely.

The attack on the industry is also coming from agency expats. Former Crispin Porter + Bogusky exec John Winsor recently opened Victors & Spoils in Boulder, Colorado. Victors & Spoils has virtually no staff and “operates on the principles of crowdsourcing” — currently the most vilified term in the agency world. Since its launch last year, Victors & Spoils has lured marketers at General Mills, Oakley, Virgin America, and Harley-Davidson, which just ditched its agency of record of 30 years. “Many agencies are hanging on to this idea that creativity is theirs to own and sell,” says Harley CMO Mark-Hans Richer. “[Victors & Spoils] offered a great place to start versus sitting across from a creative who spent weeks crafting the perfect idea and gets upset if you want to change a word.” Says Victors & Spoils chief creative officer Evan Fry, who’s also a Crispin alum: “I think the new model is scary because all of us in the ad industry want to feel, at least from a creative point of view, that we have something no one else has. So if you’re really good at it, you had to go to Creative Circus or Portfolio Center; you had to pay for it. Then you had to toil to get into a good shop. Then you had to get lucky to get on the good briefs. For someone to come out and say, ‘We think a lot of people can offer great ideas’ means, ‘What, I’m not special?’ ”

For the enterprising client that can see clearly through the chaos, this new world holds promise. Kraft, for instance, has assembled a growing Rolodex of 70 new specialist partners. This isn’t some fringe brand — it’s Kraft, the country’s largest food marketer, which spends some $1.6 billion on marketing every year. The company is so open to new thinking that it recently hired a startup called GeniusRocket to develop a new campaign for the relaunch of its Athenos Hummus.

GeniusRocket is what an ad agency looks like when it’s stripped of Madison Avenue skyscrapers, high-priced creatives on a payroll, sushi dinners at Nobu, and two-week shoots at the Viceroy in Santa Monica. The firm is nothing more than a bare-bones website that crowdsources broadcast-ready TV ads from a pool of loosely vetted talent from Poland to Guam. A CMO accustomed to handing over millions of dollars to an agency for a campaign designed around a single spot can now hand GeniusRocket $40,000 — and get seven spots, each of which will be syndicated on 20 web platforms for tracking, testing, sentiment analysis, and wide distribution. GeniusRocket gleans a 20% to 40% commission, and the rest goes to the creators. “It seemed like an interesting, cost-effective way to get some new creative ideas,” says Marshall Hyzdu, the Kraft brand manager who hired GeniusRocket. “We fell in love with one spot.

“For an agency to be on the cutting edge, it must have heavy overhead,” Hyzdu points out. “Versus GeniusRocket, which is a lean team focused on new ideas. I wonder if that becomes the new model.” That kind of thinking sends shivers through the business. “I’ve gone to see all the big cheeses at all these big agencies, and the reaction to us tends to be in one of three buckets,” says Mark Walsh, GeniusRocket’s co-founder and CEO and a proud bottom-feeder. “If the executive is over 57, he says, ‘Thank God I’m getting out of this business.’ If they’re in their forties, they say one of two things: ‘You’re Satan and you’re out to kill me,’ or ‘You’re Satan, but can you help me and not tell anybody?’ ”

“There’s never been a better time to be in advertising,” says Aaron Reitkopf, North American CEO of digital agency Profero, referring to the unbound possibilities of digital, “and there’s never been a worse time.” Reitkopf left his CEO post at Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners a year ago and spent some time visiting agency heads while figuring out a next step. “At the beginning of our conversations, they would put on a brave face, but once you began to quiz them about the future, the door would close in the office,” he says. “They’d look at you and say, ‘I can’t possibly know what the future looks like.’ ” There’s only one thing everyone agrees on, Reitkopf says, and that’s that there is too much excess: too many people, too many of the wrong kinds of people, too much bloat, too much inefficiency. And this in an industry that has laid off more than 160,000 people in the past two years. “Ohhhh,” nods Reitkopf, “the carnage is going to be awesome.”

 OPPORTUNITY

Surviving that carnage, of course, is the real reason people sign up for Hyper Island’s grueling three-day sessions. “You go in there not wanting to admit you’re an alcoholic and by day two, you’re like, ‘I am a little bit of an alcoholic,’ ” says Kevin Moehlenkamp, chief creative officer of Boston-based Hill Holiday. Moehlenkamp attended the inaugural U.S. class last fall, which was held for the industry’s top creative execs. “Before, I was a bit of a creative elitist. I thought digital was just another medium.” TBWAChiatDay chief creative officer Rob Schwartz attended that same course. He remembers that the group of top competitors arrived with cautious bravado. “Everyone was arms folded, it was very tense, and there was a lot of nervous laughter,” says Schwartz. “The room had a Twitter feed, but 70% of the room didn’t know what Twitter was.”

Moehlenkamp and Schwartz say Hyper Island pushed them from digital observers to participants. “Before, I felt open to the conversation, but I wasn’t in it,” says Schwartz, who admits he had even been afraid to blog. “What they teach you is that with digital and social media, either you’re on the shore or you jump in. The class gave me the confidence to jump in.” The 20-year industry vet started blogging and says he has discovered that data tools — which creatives have always shunned as an enemy of artistry — help him stay ahead. Above all, he does not want to be left behind. “My fear was missing out on what could be the next creative revolution,” he says. “I was too young for Bernbach. I didn’t want to miss out this time.”

Many in the business do realize that this moment of unsettling disruption is filled with possibilities. “The headline is, we’re on the verge of a creative revolution,” says Brian Martin, a consultant who has spent more than 25 years in the industry. Advertising’s first creative revolution happened soon after television went mainstream. Digital has reached a similar saturation point. “It’s an exciting time, not doom and gloom,” says McCann’s Brien, who is charged with turning around the atrophying behemoth. “It unleashes creativity.” You might even argue that the revolution is the agencies’ to lose. “In our business, whenever there’s a disruption, our clients need guidance,” says Brien’s boss, Interpublic Group chairman and CEO Michael Roth.

For three years now, Joe Grimaldi, the longtime chief of IPG-owned Mullen, has been trying to drive change at his agency. Mullen is a Boston-based 40-year-old traditional agency with 550 employees, clients such as Timberland and LendingTree, and a lukewarm reputation for its creative work. Grimaldi decided that his agency had to unlearn its bad habits and develop agile, flexible ones. “We want to be an interdisciplinary company with adaptability built in,” says Grimaldi, an Italian immigrant raised in Queens.

Nothing has come easy. “We brought people in from the outside to lead digitally,” says Edward Boches, who for years was Mullen’s chief creative officer, “but they always tried to change us into a pure digital play. Then the ad types who wanted to do brands and big ideas would say they’re jerks who dis us, who think we’re dinosaurs.” That was only the beginning of the misfires. “In the early days, digital was always an afterthought, so we didn’t acknowledge the true cost,” says Boches, with his thick-as-chowder Boston accent. “We sold wrong, we neglected to put digital-savvy people in our new business roles. Instead of building digital things that had utility, we approached it from a messaging mindset and put messaging into it’s space. It took us a while to realize that project management in the digital space is completely different.”

For years, the agency had been located in a palatial mansion outside the city. People were isolated in offices and by long hallways; different disciplines never crossed paths. Last summer, Grimaldi relocated the agency to an open office in downtown Boston. Now, social media people, creatives, media planners, technologists, and user-experience folks are sprinkled next to one another at modular desks. And Boches has ditched the CCO title for something more nebulous — chief social-media officer. “It’s really hard, to be honest,” says Grimaldi, who’s trying to get his staff to thrive by having more points of view.

There are signs that Grimaldi is succeeding. Earlier this year, Mullen launched Olympus’s new PEN E-PL1 camera following a new mantra: “Everything we launch, we launch for free first.” The campaign, which included the first augmented-reality 3-D camera demo, helped increase year-over-year sales by 55%. Mullen had to lay off 100 workers during the recession, but this year, it has hired about twice that after some impressive client wins. The agency recently caught the industry off guard after being awarded the business of two extremely progressive social media clients, Zappos and JetBlue. Says Marty St. George, JetBlue’s SVP of marketing and commercial strategy: “I don’t think any of us expected Mullen to win. But we all noticed through its pitch process that you couldn’t tell who the creative people were from the media people or the planning people. They all finished each other’s sentences, regardless of what we were talking about.”

 MONEY

St. George says the most surprising aspect of JetBlue’s agency search was how many firms still believed that the key to solving any business problem was the 30-second spot. But maybe he shouldn’t have been surprised. Agencies still yearn for the fat 15% commissions they used to score off of a client’s media spend, a spend ballooned mostly by television commercials. The industry isn’t even close to adjusting to the truism that digital dimes don’t replace analog dollars, the very problem that bedevils music labels, publishers, and television networks. Today, agencies really have no clue as to how they should get paid. “We still don’t know how to monetize what we do,” admits Peter McGuinness, CEO of Gotham, which, like Mullen, is owned by IPG. “We don’t monetize ourselves properly, so we don’t hit our margins.”

In many ways, the end of the rich old model is the agencies’ own fault. In the 1980s, agencies decided they could benefit from economies of scale, as well as manage client conflicts of interest, by merging. Not incidentally, this trend also gave the agency owners a way to cash out. The result was an industry centered on four major holding companies: WPP, Omnicom, IPG, and Publicis. But the move has backfired. “Agency leaders were making more money than the clients,” says Martin, the industry consultant. “That’s when the clients began to realize, ‘Gosh, we must be paying them too much.’ ”

Clients forced the agencies into a service-fee model instead, which is far less lucrative. “It’s like lawyers,” explains BMO Capital’s Salmon. “The fees are based on head count and time spent working,” Grimaldi explains why this is so much tougher than the old model. “If a creative team now takes six people instead of two, just think about the burn rate of that room,” he says. “Unfortunately, not everything generates as much money as it used to. There are only so many hours you can bill.” Now those hours are getting squeezed from every direction. The clients employ procurement officers and cost consultants to negotiate down the fee on everybody in an agency. And given today’s hypercomputation, agencies can sink up to $1 million and four months pitching for a new account they might never win. “When the smoke clears,” says McGuinness, “we make no money.”

Given this madness, the agencies still cling to those expensive TV buys. Bob Garfield,an  advertising-industry pundit and author of The Chaos Scenario, says, “Agencies have worked out very complex compensation formulas, which are nominally fee-based, but if you track compensation against media spend, you will see that the lines are parallel.” The less a client spends on media, Garfield continues, the less an agency makes. Some agencies are scrambling to address this by reinventing their compensation structures. “We are paying the price of belonging to an industry that does not know how to protect its own interests,” wrote TBWA Worldwide chairman Jean-Marie Dru in an Advertising Age manifesto entitled “Endless Pressure on Price Traps Agencies, Clients in Death Spiral.” “We are our worst enemies.”

Virtually every CEO in the business is now railing for one of two solutions to the problem of, well, not making enough money. First, they want to be financially rewarded for performance, and thanks to all those new data-analytics tools, for the first time ever, their effectiveness can be measured. Says IPG chairman Roth: “We should get higher [compensation] if it works and lower if it doesn’t. That’s how this industry can return to the profitability level.” It’s a nice thought, but those tools aren’t infallible: While Wieden’s innovative Web campaign for P&G’s Old Spice garnered tons of publicity, Ad Age speculated that the boost in sales may well have been due to a coupon.

Then there’s the industry’s biggest fantasy about compensation. “We have to figure out how to get paid for the big idea, and what that idea is worth,” says McGuiness. What’s a big idea? Something as ubiquitous as MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign that arguably could transform a business. “This is a holdover from 20th-century marketing,” says Brian Collins, a former Ogilvy exec who now runs an innovation consultancy. “People who think that way are supremely well equipped to work in a world that no longer exists.” Plus, as Garfield points out, “in the whole history of mass advertising, the number of transformative ideas that have created wealth via advertising you can count on one set of fingers and toes.” Garfield sees this big-idea payday as the last wish of an industry that’s drowning. “In a world where media spend is in inexorable decline, and where advertising per se is an endangered species, [agencies] don’t know where to turn,” he says. “The realization of the nightmare is under way. And that nightmare is the utter collapse of the business model.”

 ADAPTATION

In its fight for survival, the advertising industry is at war with itself. Generalists are competing with specialists. Interactive shops are vying to become full-service agencies, while traditional shops are yearning to become digitally integrated. “The Great Race,” as Forrester Research dubbed it in March, drives a more intense competition over an already shrinking pie, and there won’t be room for everyone. En route to the center, agencies are chasing one another to the bottom. “I spoke to a high-level CMO the other day,” says Profero’s Reitkopf. “She said, ‘I work with a holding company’s promotions company, its social-marketing company, its response marketing company. Every time we’re in the room together, it’s fine, but the minute I walk out to get a cup of coffee, someone will follow me and tell me they can do what the other agencies do for cheaper.” Adds Harley CMO Richer: “Agency networks supposedly combine all these experts together on your behalf, but it only really happens when the business is at risk of walking out the door. Before then, these creative entities are locked off in separate P&Ls. They’re not built to solve clients’ problems, they’re built to satisfy individual P&Ls.”

Publicis Groupe chairman and CEO Maurice Lévy admits this. “Historically,” the Frenchman says, “one way to manage a holding company — which still is the case for other holding companies — is to stimulate each agency to compete with each other. The stimulation was about rivalry and competition within the same group. They felt that this was the best way to drive growth.”

These divisions were exacerbated in the 1990s, when holding companies spun their media departments out of creative agencies into stand-alone companies, creating new entities such as Omnicom’s OMD and WPP’s Mindshare. The goal was to hold onto a client’s media spend even if the client took its creative business elsewhere. But marketers like Johnson & Johnson’s Brian Perkins are now begging media and creative shops to bundle back up. “When media and communications planning have become more important than ever,” Perkins wrote in Ad Age this year, “why are our media agencies further (physically and philosophically) from the people who create advertising?”

Lévy is aggressively trying to bridge that gap. He recently created Vivaki, which is largely an internal effort to get its media agencies, Starcom MediaVest and Zenith Optimedia, to collaborate with its digital agencies, Digitas and Razorfish. The carrot he’s employing is deeply traditional: a change in fiscal incentive structure. While each agency has its own P&L, the pay of top execs also depends on Vivaki’s P&L of the combined companies. “In the beginning, it was a really hard pill for me to swallow,” says Bob Lord, CEO of Razorfish, which was acquired last year by Publicis. “I built my career at Razorfish being the most aggressive, saying we can do everything for the client. Now it’s supposed to be okay to say, ‘Well, we are weaker in CRM, and we can learn from Digitas.’ That’s a hard thing for people to accept.”

Of course, the willingness of Lévy and other holding-company CEOs to experiment is based on their continued belief that one-stop shops will outlive and even outpace any disrupter. “We have to be ahead of the curve in all areas,” says IPG’s Roth (who earned $6.3 million in 2009, down 40% from the year before). “We’ll do it by investing in or partnering with these new types of companies and making them part of our offering.” In other words, holding companies will ultimately do what they believe they do best: They will chase the next shiny object, hedge their bets with acquisitions, and perhaps make their already monolithic structures even more colossal.

Rosemarie Ryan and Ty Montague have a smaller vision of the future. Until June, the two were the North American copresidents of JWT, the WPP-owned behemoth, armed with a combined 40 years in the business. Then they quit. Montague and Ryan decided to build a new kind of marketing business with no old-world waste and inefficiency. Co, which Montague describes as “a brand studio built for 21st-century CEOs and CMOs,” is a tiny group of consultants from the agency, technology, and business strategy worlds that can “deploy the right team for the right action at the right time for the right outcome.”

Its ability to scale up and tackle a wide range of client problems will come from the eclectic network of 44 specialist companies they’ve lured to play nice with them, from digital agencies like Big Spaceship to crowdsourcing firms like Victors & Spoils to bigger companies like McCann Worldgroup and Horizon Media, the largest U.S. independent media-services company. “We want to be as small as possible and as big as necessary,” Montague says. “It’s not about scale; it’s about scalability. Even though we have only five employees, right now we have 1,500 people we can put against an opportunity.” Says Bill Koenigsberg, CEO of Horizon: “Getting a piece of business doesn’t mean they have to hire an army. There’s a nice elasticity there.”

Co’s financial model is to be paid a retainer, a flat project fee, or equity, depending on its client; it does not get a cut of what its specialists bill. “We are, by its nature, helping to build businesses that we do not own,” says Montague. Since it doesn’t own any of those specialists, Co has no vested interest in treating a client’s business problem with any particular solution. Its goal is to move from the ghetto of marketing into the world of pure problem solving, so Co plans to work with only clients who promise C-level access beyond the CMO. “The answer can come from marketing, but it can also come from R&D or product innovation or design,” Montague says.

Earlier this year, technology observer Clay Shirky argued that “complex societies collapse because, when some stress comes, those societies have become too inflexible to respond.” Societies like the Romans and the lowland Mayans fell because further reductions became too uncomfortable for those in power. “Collapse is simply the last remaining method of simplification,” writes Shirky. After disintegration, he explains further, the members of a society disperse, experimenting with new ways of doing things. “When the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity,” he writes, “it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.”

Co may be an example of how the members of this collapsing industry could make it simpler and more logical. “I think all of it [the industry] needs to get smaller to get better again, on some level,” says Ryan. Co may or may not succeed, but what makes its model so intriguing is that the company doesn’t have to make a big bet on a single possible future. “I don’t think anybody can look you in the eye and say, ‘This is what the business will look like in 20 years”, says Ryan. “If they do, they’re lying.” Co’s only plan for growth is that its founders will hire other tiny teams of four or five people. In other words, Co’s only growth plan is another pod.

That may be a vision for the industry as a whole. With all the defections of top agency talent over the past year — Alex Bogusky from Crispin, Gerry Graf from Saatchi, Kevin Roddy from BBH — it’s easy to imagine a new advertising ecosystem of pods built around industry stars who have left their lumbering institutions behind. The holding companies will still exist, but around them could emerge a chaotic pattern of startups, independent talent, and connectors who thrive with minimum overhead. That kind of industry would be a fraction of the size of the current one. It would create opportunities for the most talented and hurt everyone else. It would be harder work, with fewer assistants and fewer million-dollar paydays. But this smaller business would be aloft on its new creative potential rather than being crushed under the weight of its past.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

Things You Need to Know from Social Media Marketing

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golden nuggets

#1  Advocacy is the New Black

When we love something and we are given a platform on  which to share it (social media), then we tell a brand story and share a brand message better than the brand ever can.

One example is Fit Bit.  Why?

Because people all over the world are loving their fitness gains using this tech device that measures all manner of things from your daily steps to your sleep patterns. And what do we do when we get our results?

We share them Because the device asks you to.  Right there on your smart phone. It offers a Facebook share button Or a Tweet button. And because we love to, we share! Because who can resist clicking on a button, right?

I referenced this statistic from Curalate (an analytics company for Pinterest and Instagram) in my session on creating visual content. Curalate reported that up to 85% of content on Pinterest is shared by users and not brands.

What does this mean? Users are sharing content from your website to sites like Pinterest whether you are actively involved or not.

And in some cases, your fans and brand advocates are not only sharing content for you but they are often creating and sharing content about your brand.  If you want to learn more about how to inspire your fans to create and share content for you, there are some great case examples in this article that I wrote for Social Media Examiner.

Social Media is awesome.  Especially when you build platforms on which you can encourage your community to create and share content.  Which brings me to #2:

#2  Create Quality Content

An over-riding message from the conference was that content is still important – but not any content”¦.

Quality content.

Consumers are so overwhelmed with information on any newsfeed that they are filtering out the noise. And unless you catch their attention in authentic and engaging ways”¦ and with quality content, your message will get filtered out too.  Here is what the speakers had to say:

Remember this:  Reach will get eyeballs on any  content – (whether that content is good or bad), but unless your content catches the attention of those eyeballs, your message will be lost and you will miss out on engagement and results.

We should stop publishing bad stuff and that we should all stop focusing on reach and focus on the conversation and comments that our blogs are generating – and stop publishing “bad stuff”. Reach may put eyeballs on your content but if your content is “bad stuff”, People will just let it pass on by the newsfeed.

Refer to two important ways to create quality content:

1              They Ask, You Answer

2              Insource your content

“They ask, you answer” is simple.  Answer the problems of your ideal audience. Insourcing requires tapping into the wonderful knowledge of the people in your business when creating content.

Involve your team. Everyone is a content creator. You just have to find out what type of content they are best suited to.Is there someone who knows video? An employee who is truly engaging on Facebook?  A staff member who can provide tips by audio?  Someone who loves writing? Find their strengths and INVOLVE them. You don’t have to outsource your content when you “insource”.  Quality content might be sitting right under your nose!

#3  Visuals are Big

Infographics, when done right, can bring quality traffic and engagement for a business.  Obviously, I am a huge fan of infographics as we create them for bloggers and businesses, but even simple checklists, mini-infographics and snackable, shareable graphics can all serve a similar purpose.

The key to a great infographic or snackable graphic? Embed them into blog posts.  Have them “shareable” from your home base or website, with social sharing buttons so that your community can share the graphics to the platforms they like to hang out on – be it Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+.

I was also completely honored to present on visual content at the conference – in a session titled “How to Create Visual Content that People Love to Share”.

Canva’s “summary” of my session at Social Media Marketing World sums up the essential qualities of great visual content.Catching attention, and enticing action or sharing with your visual content is one thing, but inspiring advocacy from your fans is the ultimate form of marketing.

Having your community do your marketing for you because they believe in what you believe (or at least they believe in what your products and services can do for them) is the real kicker. When they use visuals, it can really take off. And how can you create visuals in a productive way?  Batch them!

Start making your images snackable.

Why? Because users are overwhelmed with information – they are filtering out all the noise.  Snackable, easily processed images work well as we need to provide bite-sized (pun intended) pieces of content that people can consume.

HOT TIP:  Think about the time of day you are posting – mornings and evenings we tend to be on mobile devices so punchy images that stand alone will do well.

But during the day (when we are often on desktops or laptops) try embedding images into longer pieces of content.  Think about how visuals will be consumed and serve it up in the way that your community likes to consume it. And who can go past Anne McColl’s wonderful session “sketch notes”. Here are her hugely creative takeaways from my session:

#4  Be Human

This one is simple. We need to stop thinking about B2B and B2C and take our content and our message back to what it is really about.  Connections. People.

Kim gave some great advice about managing time on Twitter and other platforms – automating is ok for things like evergreen content, but always respond in real time, in real person.

People connect with People. Be human – even if you are a brand.

Jay Baer - Social Media is about People

Are you remembering to be human?

pssst:  if you want to know how I created this image, then be sure to check out #7.

#5  Real Estate Owns the Castle Where Content Resides.

Remember this often quoted phrase:  Content is King? Well, content needs a house in which to reside. And you should own that house. Your primary platform (blog, podcast, web show) should be your primary focus.

Another important type of “real estate” is email.  Andrea Vahl reminded us, that no matter what, we don’t own our social media presence, but we do own our email list. She reminded us to stop whining about Facebook reach and use contests to grow our list:

#6  Podcasting is exploding

It is said that the power of podcasting based on experience with the Social Media Marketing Podcast and the Social Media Marketing Industry. Here is one of the big reasons why we should get excited.  Podcasting is coming to cars. Apple Car Play is going to be one of the biggest shifts we will see to how we consume content.  Many of the big car brands have deals with Apple to instal this new system into cars – giving us instant access to everything from Google Maps to Podcasts  to Pandora…perhaps providing a real threat to traditional radio and placing a huge opportunity into the hands of everyday businesses.

BMW, Ford, Mazda and Chevrolet are all on board. Will you be with your own podcast?  Because here’s the thing:

You do the math!

#7 Everyone is a Mobile Publisher with a Smart Phone in their Pocket

This is perhaps the biggest “wow” for me because I literally watched it unfold….. A tool that created quite a bit of buzz I’ve talked about a number of tools, including WordSwag (along with Canva and Picmonkey for desktop, Over App and Instagram on mobile, and Snagit (for creating screenshots). Here is WordSwag on Instagram:

Wordswag InstagramWordSwag allows you to publish great images on your smartphone – making everyone a publisher of gorgeous content

What’s so great about WordSwag?  It allows users to become mobile content creators.   Here’s the thing – your audience, your community are armed with smartphones and they are creating content on-the-go.  And so can you!  Think of the potential. You may have spotted a few Word Swag images throughout this post.
Here is one that was created in just 2 minutes after watching Jadah Sellner from Simple Green Smoothies present on the Instagram Panel. Created in real time and then easily posted to Facebook and Twitter during the session.

To see so many marketers, speakers, influencers, bloggers using a tool to create real-time content during conference sessions made me think about the shifts we have seen in the last 2 years – before tools like Canva and WordSwag, we could not have created such professional looking content so easily.

The potential for businesses and brands to create content is massive. And it doesn’t just stop with brands. As per #1 in this post – everyone can be a content creator – even your fans or followers.  Empower them – encourage them to create content about your brand. Involve them in your story.

Build platforms that can contribute to, and invite them in. Because never before have we seen such potential for creating quality visual content (refer to #3 in this post if you need a little reminder about why this is important).

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive
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Things most people don’t understand about SEO

New to the world of search engine optimization (SEO)? Columnist John Lincoln explains some things you might not know about this online marketing discipline.

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SEO is a complicated discipline. There are many components to it, and best practices change from time to time. Add to that the fact that Google updates its algorithm frequently, causing ranking shifts that are known to make digital marketers lose sleep.

Additionally, Google often releases new technologies that offer alternative ways to rank. That makes the lives of SEOs even more complicated, as they have to overcome a learning curve to properly serve their clients.

One day, it might be easier to become a doctor than an SEO — kidding! (But not really… )

Even now, though, there’s a lot of misinformation (and missing information) about what it takes to rank a page in organic search results. Here are nine things most people don’t understand about SEO.

1. Bigger really is better, in most cases, for big terms

In some niches, Google favors larger sites.

If you’re launching an e-commerce site that sells men’s jeans, it’s not likely that you’re going to rank at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) for the search phrase, “men’s jeans.”

Why? Google “men’s jeans” right now and see who’s at the top.

Disregard the sponsored ads, and you’ll notice names like Macy’s, Nordstrom, American Eagle, Levi, and Kohl’s. Do you really think you have the SEO power to knock any of those brands out of their position?

Spoiler: You don’t.

Google will generally favor brands that are household names over new startups when it comes to ranking. That’s because the search giant wants to provide the best possible experience for its users.

So does that mean all hope is lost if you’re running a new company that wants to sell men’s jeans online? Not at all.

First of all, you can optimize for your own brand name. That way, once you’ve got some reputation in your space, people can still find your site by searching for your name.

Also, you can run paid ads. They can put you at the top of the SERPs, but keep in mind that advertising can be costly. As of this writing, the suggested bid for “men’s jeans” is $2.09 per click, according to Keyword Planner, so your margins had better be spectacular.

You should also look for alternative keywords that you can use to promote your brand. You might come across some golden opportunities that even your biggest competitors haven’t noticed.

For example, you might be offering a specific style/color combination of men’s jeans. Optimize your site for a search term that includes that style and color.

2. Websites are broken up into segments

The reality is that you’re not trying to rank a site. You’re trying to rank pages within a site.

Unless you have a site that’s a just a single landing page, then ranking a page and a site aren’t the same thing. It’s more likely that you have various segments on your website, including a home page, a contact form, a blog, a categories page, a price table, a FAQ and possibly other parts. For example, if you take a look at Levi’s website, they have a structure that breaks the site up into sections for Men, Women, Kids and so on.

Some of those segments are more valuable than others. For example, you’re probably not interested in ranking your contact form. However, you certainly want to rank the content on your blog. Focus on ranking pages that will reel in potential customers from the SERPs. Then, use your favorite method to capture their contact information and add them to your email list.

3. You might just need to rank for a few terms

You might think that to be successful in SEO, you have to rank for dozens of search terms in the top three positions. That’s not necessarily the case.

If you’re in a micro-niche or your target market is very narrow, it’s likely that you can get away with just ranking for one or two terms. For example, if you’re selling “disc profiles,” you are going to make most of your revenue from a few core terms.

The main point here is that for some sites, ranking for lots of terms makes sense. For others, you can make great money just targeting a few core terms.

4. Content marketing is very competitive

You’ve probably heard “content is king.” Unfortunately, so has everybody else in your niche.

That’s why you need to be at the top of your game when it comes to inbound marketing. Invest the right amount of time and money into keyword research, hire the best writers, update your blog consistently, and pull out all the stops to create attention-grabbing headlines with amazing content.

I recommend using BuzzSumo and Moz Content. Both allow you to analyze a site’s content, uncover their strategies, track the new content they create and search the most popular content. Both create some pretty nice reports, too.

Take a look at your competition — then make a better page for your site.

5. Early adoption pays off

As we’ve seen, Google is known to release new technologies from time to time. Some of those technologies can help you rank in the SERPs.

That’s why you should be an early adopter.

For starters, take a look at accelerated mobile pages (AMP). That’s an open-source project backed by Google that enables webpages to load lightning-fast on a mobile platform. AMP pages can appear at the very top of mobile search results in carousel format. You can see a visual of this in the video below:

 

Speaking of mobile, make sure that your site is fully mobile-friendly. Google uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor for mobile search results, so if you expect your site to rank there, it had better behave well for a mobile audience.

Finally, be an early adopter when it comes to using HTTPS on your website instead of HTTP. Even though Google announced back in 2014 that it was giving secure sites a ranking boost, a lot of sites have still stubbornly refused to make the switch. If you want to potentially have an edge on your competition, use HTTPS.

When it comes to SEO, you need to be the first to market with new technology. These are just a few examples. It takes a little time to plan, develop and execute, so it is always a good idea to start when the news of new tech breaks.

6. SEO can be used to target different global markets

Did you know that you can rank your site in different countries? If your product or service is something that can be appreciated by people outside the United States, you should optimize your site for an international audience.

One way to do that is by offering a country-specific domain — for example, if you’re targeting people in France, you can use the country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) of .fr. You can also host separate content for each different country on a directory or a subdomain.

When targeting other markets, don’t forget to translate your content into the appropriate foreign languages. After all, you can’t expect your content marketing efforts to be successful if people in foreign countries can’t read your articles in their native language.

You should also register your business in foreign countries, list your business in web directories specific to those countries, and even have your site hosted in those regions.

Here is a client we recently pushed into 27 different countries and languages. Check out this growth in Italy alone.

7. There are lots of ways to be visible in Google results

You might be under the impression that the only way to rank in Google is by building backlinks and using on-site SEO so that a page ends up as high in the SERPs as possible. However, there are other ways to gain visibility and visitors from the SERPs.

For example, if you can get into Google’s Knowledge Graph, your brand can potentially earn a prominent spot at the top of the SERP, to the right of organic listings. It’s quite an effort to get a Knowledge Graph entry, but once you do, you could give your brand a big boost.

You can also stand out from the crowd by using structured data markup to display rich snippets, which are visual enhancements to a SERP listing. Structured data markup is added to your website code to provide Google with more information about the content on your site.

If you Google “best pancake recipe” right now, you’ll see results that include aggregate ratings in the form of stars. You’ll also see calorie counts. Those are rich snippets, and they make the listing in the SERPs stand out.

By the way, you’ll also see that there’s a direct answer at the very top of many search engine results pages. That’s another way that you can achieve search visibility: by establishing your site as an authority in your space and producing content that Google determines to be a quick answer to a user’s query.

If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you can also rank within the local 3-pack. If you Google the name of your city plus the word “plumber,” you’ll see a map below the paid ads at the top. Just below that map, you’ll see three listings in your area. (To get started with local SEO, check out Marcus Miller’s “The big picture guide to local SEO: ranking in 2016 & beyond.”)

As discussed above, publishers can rank by appearing at the top of the mobile SERPs when they implement accelerated mobile pages (AMP).

Here is a list of common result types that appear in Google’s blended search results pages:

  • Organic listings
  • Knowledge Graph cards
  • The local 3-pack
  • Instant answers (also known as “featured snippets”)
  • AMP carousel
  • Google Images
  • Google Videos
  • Google News

 

SEM Rush ReportSEMrush and many of the other SEO ranking tools actually report on these varying result types now, which is great.

The main point is, there’s more than one way to win.

8. There are many different specialties in SEO

Search engine optimization is a broad online marketing channel that includes a handful of niche disciplines. There are SEO practitioners who specialize in technical SEO, link building, content marketing, local SEO, international SEO and more.

And guess what? Each requires a different skill set.

Bottom line: You need to determine first how you want to rank a site and then select the appropriate campaign strategy.

9. There are other search engines besides Google

Sure, Google is the undisputed leader in web searches. That doesn’t mean that other search engines don’t exist and that people in your target market don’t use them.

The most obvious competitor to Google is Bing. That’s Microsoft’s search engine, and as of this writing, its share of search traffic is growing faster than Google’s.

And don’t forget about YouTube. Believe it or not, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world behind Google.

Of course, there’s also Amazon. You might think of Amazon as more of an e-commerce giant than a search engine. However, it’s the starting point for 44 percent of consumers searching for products.

When you’re optimizing your content assets, make sure that you take into account the broad spectrum of search engines that exist online. Where you choose to focus your optimization efforts will depend on your goals online.

There is a lot to know

What you don’t know can hurt you when it comes to SEO. Going forward, it’s important that you also keep up with the latest changes in SEO best practices — otherwise, your future optimization efforts might fall flat.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

MarketHive

Search Engine Optimization Basics

Search Engine Optimization Basics

Learning the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t difficult

Learning the basics of search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t difficult, it’s time-consuming. SEO consultants can offer a variety of services but in the end, website owners will appreciate the optimization services they’re getting much more if they educated themselves on the fundamentals.

The nature of marketing websites has continually evolved from a focus on optimizing text to include an array of digital asset optimization such as images, audio, video and content delivery formats like RSS and mobile. Regardless, there continues to be a significant value in basic SEO.

In many cases, small businesses or small websites especially, there’s a lot the site owner or webmaster/developer can do to improve the search engine friendliness of the site, i.e. fundamental content optimization, before pursuing outside help. However, those that do end up outsourcing on-page optimization and link building often do so because of a lack of resources or the desire to leverage expert experience to avoid big mistakes that can end up costing more to fix than an SEO consultant in the first place.

For those individuals and organizations considering their own basic SEO, here are a few items for review:

  • Define clear and measurable goals for the site and take benchmark measurements
  • Keyword research – generate a glossary of keyword phrases that addresses both prospect needs and the content you’re publishing. Here is a list of the best keyword research tools as voted on by our readers
  • Content creation plan – Think of it as an editorial calendar for your website. You must PLAN on creating keyword sensitive content on an ongoing basis that adds to the user experience
  • Keyword mapping – Using a spreadsheet, map keywords to the page or category. Focus is important, 1-2 phrases per page
  • Keyword phrase order – Does the keyword order in the page match order in the query? Anticipate queries and match the word order: “luxury hotels Chicago” vs “Chicago luxury hotels”
  • Keywords and the buying cycle. Consider the content and where it fits within the buying cycle: Research, Consideration, Evaluation, Purchase
  • Keyword prominence (how early in the page content or title/meta description tag) – Guide: most important phrases high and to left
  • Write to inform and convert as your priority, not to rank. Title tags and meta description tags should be written with keywords in mind, but the focus must be on motivating the reader to click through or to perform some other desired action
  • Keyword in an alt text of images, particularly of images that link to another web page. Keywords should be relevant to the page being linked to
  • Filenames containing keywords are useful but do not change your entire site URL structure if you’ve already published another URL syntax
  • Use hyphens in file names, not underscores
  • HTML sitemaps listing links to all pages or top level categories on the site are still a good idea
  • Google Webmaster Central and Yahoo Site Explorer accounts can provide useful crawling and link information/resources
  • For bloated pages, try to place JavaScript and CSS data in an external file to speed page load and to move content up in the document
  • Implement and review web stats for trends, visitor behavior, content performance, referring traffic and optimization enhancement opportunities: Google Analytics, WebTrends, ClickTracks, Index Tools, HitsLink Enterprise

About Links:

  • Anchor text of interlinking site pages should include relevant keywords, not “click here”
  • Are all internal and external links valid? – Validate all links to all pages on the site
  • Employ a tree-like/organization chart linking structure with a minimal number of clicks to any particular page
  • Intra-site linking – Use appropriate links between lower-level pages. cluster links between subcategories
  • Linking out to external sites – Only link out to relevant, information-rich sites. Do not link to sites that do not add value to the visitor experience
  • Avoid exchanging links for the sake of improving rankings
  • Ensure link stability over time – Avoid “Link Churn”, i.e. changing outgoing links often

Linking tactics:

  • Employ a linking program to acquire incoming links from relevant websites by researching backlinks to high ranking competitor websites
  • Contribute articles using keywords in titles to industry publications – not article directories
  • Engage in blogger PR and online media relations with relevant industry websites
  • Submit keyword optimized press releases to search engine friendly wire services such as prweb.com, prnewswire.com, marketwire.com or pr.com
  • Submit the site to major directories – Yahoo directory, BOTW.org, DMOZ, Business.com
  • Leverage social networks and micro-blogging to promote linkable content
  • Diversify your link building tactics

A few things to avoid:

  • Don’t block your entire site from search engine spiders with a robots.txt during development and then forget to allow after publishing (believe me, it happens more often than you think)
  • Avoid all Flash, all Ajax, iFrames or anything that makes it difficult for a search engine to find and understand site content
  • Avoid more than 100 total links going out on any given page. Sitemaps can be broken up
  • Avoid JavaScript for navigation links. Use CSS for rollover or foldout menus instead
  • Avoid temporary (302) URL redirects. Use permanent redirects (301)
  • Avoid dynamic URLs with session ids, or URLs with more than three parameters and approximately 10 or so characters per variable
  • Avoid buying links from networks of blogs or sites of unrelated content. While we don’t have any particular issue with the idea of buying links as advertising, at TopRank, we prefer to “earn” links for the most long-term value and lowest cost per acquisition

This list is about a third of the checklist I’ve recently revised for our internal use on text-based SEO projects, but should offer small website owners ample insight into the variety of considerations with fundamental site optimization and link building. Interestingly enough, while things are constantly changing in the world of SEO, some things stay the same as you’ll see in this 2002 post from Brett Tabke, “Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone“.

A deep historical knowledge base combined with active engagement, testing, learning and analysis is what keeps web marketers savvy in the ways of SEO and depending on internal resources, it’s also why some companies are better off outsourcing SEO than handling it 100% their own.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

What Social Media Marketing World Taught Us About Event Marketing

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Each year Social Media Marketing World hosts thousands of people passionate about marketing. Attendees also have the opportunity to network with one another, and to learn (since many in attendance are experts in their own right). They left the event with 10 awesome insights relevant to event marketers or organizers hoping to create amazing events.

1. Networking Is Everything

One of the things I loved most about SMMW, is the crazy number of opportunities created prior, during and after the event to network and communicate with other marketers. The event organizers created a “networking resources” page that served as the go-to guide for everything networking.

Starting with more than 80 Slack groups that were open for attendees to join and connect based on their very specific interests, to Table Talks that allowed attendees to eat their lunch while talking about marketing topics that interested them, to the networking sessions on Blab in which attendees learned the best networking hacks prior to the conference.

2. Live Video Is Here To Stay

If I had to mention only one thing that was discussed most in SMMW, it would surely be live video. The biggest insight presented by the founder of Social Media Examiner, Michael  Stelzner during his talk about SME’s Annual survey was that “social media marketers are embracing video” with 73% of marketers saying that they’ve increased their use of videos in 2016 and 23% of those claiming that video is their most important form of content marketing.

Stelzner, along with the majority of speakers defined Facebook’s new live video broadcasting as groundbreaking with the ability to make a huge impact on the digital marketing industry.

So what are the implications for event marketers? It starts with sharing video content with your prospects prior to the event that shows the value they will get from attending. If it’s preview of the sessions that will occur or the networking opportunities that will be available, either can work!

During the event, it’s about encouraging your attendees to share their experience online. Once the event ends, event marketers should produce an awesome video with the greatest moments and a call to action for viewers to sign up to register for next year’s event via some form of event registration software.

3. Social Media Complaints Are Increasing Exponentially

During his session about “How to achieve social media customer service success”, Here are a few incredibly statistics:

  • 800% increase in social media complaints about business in one year in the U.K
  • 55% of customer complaints are on review websites.
  • 25% increase in customer advocacy when a complaint is answered by a business

Events might not be a physical product with technical issues to complain about, but we all know that with everything that needs to work properly during the event, something will inevitably go wrong, and attendees will complain.

Reacting to a complaint can not only result in solving the issue but in can encourage that person to become your greatest ambassador.

One of the keys to do it right is to be fast and smart.

  • 40% of customers who complain about social media expect a response within an hour.

Most businesses take 5 hours to respond…

4. Find A Niche To Become A “Thought Leader”

Everyone wants to become a thought leader. With all the noise that’s out there, the biggest question is how to break through and be noticed. This is a great challenge for many event organizers trying to find a competitive advantage over other events vying for the same audience. Dorie declares it’s all about finding your specific niche and delivering on it in anyway possible.

If you’re a “women in tech” conference, being able to establish yourself as a true thought leader in the field before the actual event, can take you a long way. How can you do that? By proving the best content in the field.

Here are 2 ideas:

  • Create a designated LinkedIn or Facebook Group encouraging your past and future speakers to post their own articles. Share quick tip, videos and more
  • Conduct an industry survey and then present the findings during the event. The organizers of SMMW were wise enough to do just that. It resulted in 1,000+ social media shares during the event!

5. Know Your Audience By Heart

This might be my biggest takeaway from SMMW16. Why? Because at the end of the day, a successful event marketing strategy is tied to providing the right content at the right time.

An audience of social marketers has it’s own very unique needs: they care about being connected to social media networks at all times, they want to be able to share their experience while they’re at the event, they want to be able to miss out on sessions and attend them after.

SMMW organizers knew all that and found the perfect solutions to increase the satisfaction of their attendees and increase their engagement before, during and after the event, in the offline and online world.

The connectivity issue was resolved by putting a special emphasis on complimentary internet access that worked perfectly for all 3000 attendees, and by placing more than a couple hundred power sockets throughout the venue.

The organizers provided awesome backdrops for attendees to take pictures of themselves at the event (perfect for those who wanted to post to Instagram, or SnapChat).

For people who missed sessions, everything was recorded by professional videographers.

6. Keep Your Content Relevant And Segmented

As mentioned above, knowing your audience is everything.  Once you know your audience, though, you must also take the next step of crafting your content and brand experience around that.  Even when your customer or potential customer isn’t dealing directly with your product or isn’t at your event, you will always have the opportunity to influence their opinion of your brand.

This means segmenting the content in your newsletter with where readers are in your sales funnel or by industry, excluding customers from your retargeting ads, and making sure that the same prospects aren’t inundated with the same ads, offers, and content.

You can use tools like Google Analytics, Adwords, and Facebook Ads to make “Custom Audiences” in which you can segment your website visitors by when they last visited, what pages they visited, or even target them by uploading emails of your most engaged prospects.

With this much control over where and who you market your content to, there’s no excuse for pounding your audience’s with the same content irrespective of their needs and wants.  You’re fighting for their attention: make it worth their while!

7. If You’re Not Looking At The Data, You’re Not Doing It Right

As an event for social media marketers, I wouldn’t say that this was a gathering of numbers people.  Analytical, for sure, but as social media marketers, we are much more in tune with understanding the human experience and the creative side of marketing, rather than cold hard stats about what worked and what didn’t.

Despite this, with the help of some amazing and very accessible tools, you are clearly losing out if you aren’t taking the time to look at the data.  With the availability of free software such as Google Analytics, it’s absolutely necessary that you track the journey of your customers.

  • What channels do they find you through?
  • Has paid search proven to be more impactful than social media?
  • Do you have low visits from organic search, or perhaps they’ve been steadily increasing by your push in SEO efforts?

Ideally, your company has a marketing/sales/email automation platform in place to help you easily track and organize this data, but even if you don’t there are plenty of places to start. If you have conversion tracking setup you can see the different channels your customers are coming through and what’s really making an impact.  Time to get data-driven, folks.

8. Learn By Doing: Don’t Be Afraid Of New Marketing Initiatives

No doubt your marketing team or company has a laundry list of interesting marketing initiatives they want to take on at some point.  With all sorts of trends in media happening, with an emphasis on live video, it can be overwhelming to tackle new initiatives while also doing them well.

You may feel like you need to do a great amount of research, see what others have done and are doing, and only then start to dip your toe into the water.  While much can be gained from learning what others are doing, even more can be gained by just doing it yourself.

Think Snapchat could help connect your business to its audience?  Go for it. Want to see how video Facebook ads work compared to image ads?  Just jump right in.

When it comes to these new initiatives, not everything will work.  There’s a good chance you won’t succeed at first but you might gain some traction or interesting new insight into what your audience wants to engage with and how they want to interact.

If you choose to sit back and watch, you may find that by the time you’re actually ready to dive in, the pool is already saturated with so many others that you’ve lost the slight advantage in timing that could’ve been yours.

9. Credibility Is King

Back in Mad Men era, selling took thoughtfully crafted copy, perhaps a few striking, stylish images that could make an impact.  Today, people are surrounded by so many images, ads, videos, and everything in between that traditional advertising strategies are increasingly less effective.

Today, people have become jaded, they’ve seen it all.  They know the sales tricks, the slick talk, the thinly veiled pitch, and they’re not buying it.

So what do to overcome a skeptical audience?  You have to build credibility.  Show that you and your company are genuine in your intentions and truly believe in your product and service. This can be achieved by positioning yourself and your company as thought leaders in your industry by publishing insightful blog posts and sharing information that’s valuable for your intended audience.

It can also be helpful to share pictures and videos of the behind-the-scenes in your company, to publish videos with members of your team providing industry tips. It’s much easier to connect with a brand when the audience sees the real people behind it.

10. Be Present

You don’t have to be particularly analytical to see where this is all going.  We are moving towards the world where audiences demand transparency, real-time reactions, and live, behind the scenes looks at your business.

You don’t need to necessarily be ahead of the trends or even following each trend, but you should be available to your audience and work on cultivating an image that is genuine.

Yes, you still have revenue goals you need to hit, but you must help your business to craft an identity that balances revenue goals with customer-centric ones. Ironically, the more we head towards a tech-saturated society, the more we want to embrace humanity.  So give the people what they want!

Conclusion

Social Media Marketing World is a one-of-a-kind event, it featured world-class speakers, amazing networking opportunities, and loads of actionable insights that left us impressed and inspired. When it comes to putting these ideas into action, it is all about prioritization. Focus on the initiatives that you think will make the biggest impact, and will make other projects easier to complete.

Most of all, remember that potential event attendees are searching for events that demonstrate thought leadership, and feel genuine. There are many tactics to choose from when trying to accomplish these goals, the best place to start is to truly understand your audience.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

MarketHive

Trends from Social Media Marketing World

Trends from Social Media Marketing World

As you may have noticed from our Facebook and Instagram profiles, our team recently attended Social Media Marketing World (SMMW). This was our fourth year in attendance, and we love connecting and collaborating with social media marketers from around the world. It’s exciting to see where the field is heading, so we’re imparting some knowledge we’ve gleaned from the sessions and talks.

One of our favorite acronyms we picked up at SMMW was “ILT”: Invest, Learn, Teach.For marketers, this means to invest in skills and tools, learn as much as you can, and then pass along that knowledge to your customers and peers. In the spirit of ILT, here are five of the biggest trends discussed at Social Media Marketing World.

 

 

Landing pages are king

A landing page is a standalone web page intended to collect leads. The art and science of an effective landing page dominated many social media marketing talks this year. Landing pages are usually focused specifically on a product, event or feature, so they can be a component to your primary website, but function independently. Luckily, ShortStack makes it super easy to create landing pages, and we have a bunch of templates to choose from depending on what you want your landing page to highlight.

Since visual and audio media was such a hot topic this year, we saw many marketers create landing pages for their podcasts or videos. Podcasting expert Paul Colligan emphasized the value of landing pages in the context of creating podcast show notes, transcripts and CTAs (call to actions). This is a way to promote your multimedia while still interacting with and collecting information from your users, which creates active consumption of your media instead of passive.

Live video broadcasts connect brands with users

Services like Facebook Live, Periscope and Blab.im provide individuals and brands the ability to live stream video broadcasts to their users and followers. This was huge this year, and the conference hall was filled with marketers live streaming in between sessions. A live video keynote (which feature notable live streamers such as Mari Smith, who is an avid Facebook Live broadcaster) discussed why live video is so effective. The takeaway? Live video shows users that their favorite brands and companies are comprised of real people. And people like connecting with other people, not just words, and images. Video allows realness to come through. Marketers can use live video to their advantage by creating a landing page to capture leads.

Creative targeted ad use can funnel content to the right people

Marketers are learning the power of creative targeted ads, particularly on Facebook. Ads are a great way to cut through Facebook’s algorithms to make sure your content is seen by the right people. Yes, it requires payin’ up, but the results are so worth it. Our friend Jon Loomer, with whom we hosted a stellar taco and margarita party during SMMW, is the master at using Facebook ads in creative ways. Try participating in one of his experiments, and you’ll be amazed at how he’s able to automate his process to share very specific content with you on your feed, controlling it all through ads.

For instance, he recently ran an ad that gave the viewer three options to choose from, based on their skill level with Facebook ads: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced. After selecting “Intermediate” (some of us around here are more savvy with ads than others), videos Jon had made for Intermediate users began appearing in our feed, with messages and information just for us. We also received an email follow-up, all by simply clicking on the Intermediate option via Facebook. We’d think it’s magic if we didn’t have some insight into how powerful ads can be in the right environment.

Which leads us to our next point…

Automation can aid in customer rapport

Automation helps marketers in numerous ways, such as streamlining workflow or connecting with customers. Facebook recently announced the ability to create “bots” for Facebook Messenger, which, like ads, can help you manage the way you respond to and collect information from your users. For instance, when a user submits a question to your company Facebook Page about an order that they want to track, the bot can respond to the user with the tracking information. This allows users to get immediate responses with your signature flair, but it doesn’t require you to answer every single request.

Marketers are also employing features like action-gating into their landing pages and websites. An action-gate requires users to interact with you somehow — such as entering an email address or other contact information — and in return, you share something with them (a downloadable guide, a contest or coupon, etc.). This follows the “if this happens, then that happens” function format. You can try this out by using our Action Widget on your ShortStack Campaign.

Omnichannel marketing is the way of the future

Omnichannel marketing means running marketing campaigns on more than one platform at once. We’ve been evangelising omnichannel marketing for a while, and we’re quite pleased that other marketers are seeing value in it, too. We’ve written about this before since our users have seen major success with running omnichannel Campaigns (in fact, here’s a whole white paper about it, with our original findings from more than 27,000 Campaigns).

So although Facebook was still discussed frequently, thanks to their Messenger and Facebook Live developments, these features were part of a bigger picture. Ultimately, our takeaway is that marketers are using a mix of platforms and tools at their disposal to connect and collect from users. But rather than getting overwhelmed with new platforms and strategies, they’re using automation to streamline this process. Smart, targeted marketing campaigns were the name of the game this year.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

The Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist

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Marketing is rapidly becoming one of the most technology-dependent functions in business. In 2012 the research and consulting firm Gartner predicted that by 2017, a company’s chief marketing officer would be spending more on technology than its chief information officer was. That oft-quoted claim seems more credible every day.

A new type of executive is emerging at the center of the transformation: the chief marketing technologist. CMTs are part strategist, part creative director, part technology leader, and part teacher. Although they have an array of titles—Kimberly-Clark has a “global head of marketing technology,” while SAP has a “business information officer for global marketing,” for example—they have a common job: aligning marketing technology with business goals, serving as a liaison to IT, and evaluating and choosing technology providers. About half are charged with helping craft new digital business models as well.

Regardless of what they’re called, the best CMTs set a technology vision for marketing. They champion greater experimentation and more agile management of that function’s capabilities. And they are change agents, working within the function and across the company to create competitive advantage.

Before we describe the role in detail,
Let’s consider the forces that gave rise to it.

In a digital world, software is the chief means of engaging prospects and customers. A marketing team’s choice of software and how to configure and operate it, along with how creatively the team applies it, materially affects how the firm perceives and influences its audience and how the audience sees the firm.

As digital marketing and e-commerce increasingly augment or replace traditional touchpoints, the importance of mastering those capabilities grows. Digital marketing budgets are expanding annually at double-digit rates, and CEOs say that digital marketing is now the most important technology-powered investment their firms can make.

This rise in digital budgets is not merely a migration of spending from traditional to digital media. A growing portion of marketing’s budget is now allocated to technology itself. A recent Gartner study found that 67% of marketing departments plan to increase their spending on technology-related activities over the next two years. In addition, 61% are increasing capital expenditures on technology, and 65% are increasing budgets for service providers that have technology-related offerings.

The challenge of effectively managing all this technology is daunting. There are now well over 1,000 marketing software providers worldwide, with offerings ranging from major platforms for CRM, content management, and marketing automation to specialized solutions for social media management, content marketing, and customer-facing apps. Relationships with agencies and service providers now include technical interfaces for the exchange and integration of code and data. And bespoke software projects to develop unique customer experiences and new sources of advantage are proliferating under marketing’s umbrella.

Bridging Marketing and IT

In this new environment, the CMO and the CIO must collaborate closely. But executive-level cooperation isn’t enough; a supporting organizational structure is also needed. A company can’t simply split marketing technology down the middle, King Solomon style, and declare that the CMO gets the marketing half and the CIO gets the technology half. Such a neat division might look good on paper, but it leaves yawning knowledge gaps in practice. Marketing might not understand how to fully leverage what IT can offer, and IT might not understand how to accurately translate marketing requirements into technical capabilities.

Instead, marketing technology must be managed holistically. In a virtuous cycle, what’s possible with technology should inspire what’s desirable for marketing, and vice versa. The right structure will help marketing become proficient with the array of software it must use to attract, acquire, and retain customers. It will help marketing leadership recognize how new technologies can open up new opportunities. And it will allow marketing to deftly handle the technical facets of agency and service provider relationships in both contract negotiations and day-to-day operations.

The CMT’s job, broadly, is to enable this holistic approach. He or she is the equivalent of a business unit–level CIO or CTO. People in this role need technical depth—many have backgrounds in IT management or software development—but they must also be passionate about marketing. A common profile is an executive with an undergraduate degree in computer science and a graduate degree in business. Many CMTs have experience in digital agencies or with building customer-facing web products.

Most CMTs report primarily to marketing, either to the CMO or to another senior marketing executive, such as the VP of marketing operations or the VP of digital marketing. Many also have dotted-line reporting relationships with IT.

Acting as the connective tissue between different constituencies, these executives engage with four key stakeholders: the CMO and other senior marketing executives, the CIO and the IT organization, the broader marketing team, and outside software and service providers (see the exhibit “At the Nexus”). We will describe their interactions with these stakeholders in turn.

The CMO and other senior marketing executives.

The chief marketing technologist supports these executives’ strategy by ensuring technical capabilities and advocating for approaches enabled by new technologies. For example, Joseph Kurian, Aetna’s head of marketing technology and innovation for enterprise marketing, championed the use of “voice of the customer” software to collect user feedback across the company’s mobile and web interfaces. The software has improved customers’ digital interactions with Aetna—a key strategic priority.

The CIO and the IT organization.

CMTs facilitate and prioritize technology requests from marketing, translating between technical and marketing requirements and making sure that marketing’s systems adhere to IT policies. Andreas Starke, the business information officer for global marketing at SAP, is the principal point of contact between the two functions and streamlines the planning and execution of marketing technology projects. For example, he led the rollout of a shared automation platform to replace the disjointed systems used by previously siloed marketing groups.

Profile of a CMT

The broader marketing team.

The CMT ensures that the marketing staff has the right software and training. Brian Makas, the director of marketing technology and business intelligence at ThomasNet, saw that field sales reps and support staff were inefficiently coordinating their activities through weekly Excel spreadsheets. He jettisoned that time-­consuming process in favor of real-time views obtained through the company’s CRM system—and implemented the new protocol in just a week.

Outside software and service providers.

Here, the CMT assesses how well providers’ technical capabilities meet marketing’s needs, helps integrate the systems, and monitors their performance. Shawn Goodin, the director of marketing tech­nology at the Clorox Company, led the evaluation of six vendors for a platform that would optimize customers’ experiences across channels and devices and integrate consumer data across marketing, sales, and R&D.

The work of these CMTs shows just how open-ended this new role is—and why an executive fully at home in both marketing and IT is essential for the job.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

MarketHive

What Is Guerrilla Marketing?

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The first Guerrilla Marketing book was published by Houghton Mifflin in l984. Today there are 58 volumes in 62 languages, and more than 21 million copies have been sold worldwide. The book is required reading in many MBA programs throughout the world. The author taught the topic at the University of California, Berkeley Extension Division. He lectures on it worldwide.

This describes guerrilla marketing:

“I’m referring to the soul and essence of guerrilla marketing which remains as always — achieving conventional goals, such as profits and joy, with unconventional methods, such as investing energy instead of money.

“Guerrilla Marketing started out a single volume and has since acted biblically by being fruitful and multiplying into a library of 35 books and counting, an Association, a lush website, an abundance of video and audio versions, an email newsletter, a consulting organization, an internationally-syndicated column for newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, and presentations in enough countries for us to consider forming our own Guerrilla United Nations.

The need for guerrilla marketing can be seen in the light of three facts:

Because of big business downsizing, decentralization, relaxation of government regulations, affordable technology, and a revolution in consciousness, people around the world are gravitating to small business in record numbers.
Small business failures are also establishing record numbers and one of the main reasons for the failures is a failure to understand marketing.
Guerrilla marketing has been proven in action to work for small businesses around the world. It works because it’s simple to understand, easy to implement and outrageously inexpensive.
Guerrilla marketing is needed because it gives small businesses a delightfully unfair advantage: certainty in an uncertain world, an economy in a high-priced world, simplicity in a complicated world, marketing awareness in a clueless world.”

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

MarketHive

Valentus Specialty Chemicals Completes Second Acquisition

Huron Capital’s Valentus Specialty Chemicals Completes Second Acquisition

DETROIT, April 14, 2016, /PRNewswire/ — Huron Capital Partners LLC (“Huron Capital”) today announced its specialty coatings ExecFactor® platform, Valentus Specialty Chemicals, Inc. (“Valentus”), has acquired the floor finishes a business of Memphis, TN-based Precision Technology LLC. (“Precision”).  Huron Capital formed Valentus in partnership with coatings industry veterans Ray Chlodney, John Ragazzini and Bob Taylor to pursue a buy-and-build initiative in the industrial coatings sector.  Valentus closed its first investment in December 2015 with the acquisition of coatings manufacturer National Paint Industries (“NPI”).

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Precision’s floor coating business has a proven acid cure floor coating system which includes the Swedish Finish & Swedish Crown product lines and the Precision Polyurethane oil-based finish.  Lanny Trottman, founder, and owner of Precision will retain ownership of Precision’s wood filler and wood patch products, maintenance products, and roller and brush products, which are not part of the transaction.  The floor coating business will move to NPI’s facility in North Brunswick, New Jersey.

Valentus CEO Chlodney said, “The NPI team has known Precision for a long time and has always thought highly of the business.  We are excited to add these products to the Valentus lineup as we look to expand our presence in the floor coatings market.  In partnership with Huron Capital, we are actively looking for additional complementary coatings companies as we continue to grow the Valentus platform.”

Mike Beauregard, Senior Partner at Huron Capital, added, “This is the type of strategic add-on acquisition we envisioned when we created the Valentus ExecFactor® initiative, and we are pleased that it came less than four months after the first Valentus investment.  We are excited about partnering with Ray, John, and Bob, and will be looking to expand Valentus into additional geographies and new product lines.”

About Huron Capital Partners LLC

Based in Detroit, Huron Capital is an operationally-focused private equity firm with a long history of growing lower middle-market companies through our proprietary ExecFactor® buy-and-build investment model. We prefer complex situations where we can help companies reach their full potential by combining our operational approach, substantial capital base, and transaction experience with seasoned operating executives. Founded in 1999, Huron Capital has raised over $1.1 billion in capital through four committed private equity funds and invested in over 100 companies, and our portfolio companies have employed over 11,000 people throughout North America. The Huron Capital buy-and-build investment model includes equity recapitalizations, family succession transactions, market-entry strategies, corporate carve-outs, and management buyouts of companies having revenues up to $200 million. Huron Capital targets both majority and less-than-majority equity stakes in fundamentally-sound companies that can benefit from the firm’s operational approach to creating value. Huron Capital’s sector focus includes business services, consumer products & services, specialty manufacturing and healthcare.

SOURCE Huron Capital Partners LLC

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

Personalization & Search Engine Rankings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Years ago, everyone saw exactly the same search results. Today, no one sees exactly the same search results, not on Google, not on Bing. Everyone gets a personalized experience to some degree, even in private browsing windows.

Of course, there’s still a lot commonality. It’s not that everyone sees completely different results. Instead, everyone sees many of the same “generic” listings. But there will also be some listings appearing because of where someone is, whom they know or how they surf the web.

Pc: Country

One of the easiest personalization ranking factors to understand is that people are shown results relevant to the country they’re in.

Someone in the US searching for “football” will get results about American football; someone in the UK will get results about the type of football that Americans would call soccer.

If your site isn’t deemed relevant to a particular country, then you’ve got less chance of showing up when country personalization happens. If you feel you should be relevant, then you’ll probably have to work on your international SEO.

Pl: Locality

Search engines don’t stop personalizing at the country level. They’ll tailor results to match the city or metropolitan area based on the user’s location.

As with country personalization, if you want to appear when someone gets city-specific results, you need to ensure your site is relevant to that city.

Ph: Personal History

What has someone been searching for and clicking on from their search results? What sites do they regularly visit? Have they “Liked” a site using Facebook, shared it via Twitter or perhaps +1’d it?

This type of personal history is used to varying degrees and ways by both Google and Bing to influence search results. Unlike country or city personalization, there’s no easy way to try and make yourself more relevant.

Instead, it places more importance on first impressions and brand loyalty. When a user clicks on a “regular” search result, you want to ensure you’re presenting a great experience so they’ll come again. Over time, they may seek out your brand in search results, clicking on it despite it being below other listings.

This behavior reinforces your site as one that they should be shown more frequently to that user. Even better if they initiate a social gesture, such as a Like, +1 or Tweet that indicates a greater affinity for your site or brand.

History is even more important in new search interfaces such as Google Now, which will proactively present “cards” to users based on explicit preferences (i.e. – which sports teams or stocks do you track) and search history.

Ps: Social Connections

What do someone’s friends think about a website? This is one of the newer ranking factors to impact search results. Someone’s social connections can influence what they see on Google and Bing.

Those connections are what truly matter because search engines view those connections as a user’s personal set of advisors. Offline, you might trust and ask your friends to give you advice on a restaurant or gardening.

Increasingly, when you search today search engines are trying to emulate that offline scenario. So if a user is connected to a friend and that friend has reviewed a restaurant or shared an article on growing tomatoes then that restaurant and article may rank higher for that user.

If someone can follow you, or easily share your content, that helps get your site into their circle of trust and increases the odds that others they know will find you. Nowhere is this more transformative than Google+, where circling a site’s Google+ Page will change the personalized search results for that user.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

MarketHive
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HTML Code & Search Engine Success Factors

HTML Code & Search Engine Success Factors

 

 

 

 

 

HTML is the underlying code used to create web pages. Search engines can pick up ranking signals from specific HTML elements. Below are some of the most important HTML elements to achieve SEO success.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ht: HTML Title Tag

Imagine that you wrote 100 different books but gave them all the same exact title. How would anyone understand that they are all about different topics?

Imagine that you wrote 100 different books, and while they did have different titles, the titles weren’t very descriptive — maybe just a single word or two. Again, how would anyone know, at a glance, what the books were about?

HTML titles have always been and remain the most important HTML signal that search engines use to understand what a page is about. Bad titles on your pages are like having bad book titles in the examples above. In fact, if your HTML titles are deemed bad or not descriptive, Google changes them.

So think about what you hope each page will be found for, relying on the keyword research you’ve already performed. Then craft unique, descriptive titles for each of your pages. For more help about this, see our posts in the category below:

Hd: The Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag, one of the oldest supported HTML elements, allows you to suggest how you’d like your pages to be described in search listings. If the HTML title is equivalent to a book title, the meta description is like the blurb on the back describing the book.

SEO purists will argue that the meta description tag isn’t a “ranking factor” and that it doesn’t actually help your pages rank higher. Rather, it’s a “display factor,” something that helps how you look if you appear in the top results due to other factors.

Technically, that’s correct. And it’s one of the reasons we decided to call these “success” factors instead of ranking factors.

A meta description that contains the keywords searched for (in bold) may catch the user’s eye. A well-crafted meta description may help ‘sell’ that result to the user. Both can result in additional clicks to your site. As such, it makes sense for the meta description tag to be counted as a success factor.

Be forewarned, having a meta description tag doesn’t guarantee that your description will actually get used. Search engines may create different descriptions based on what they believe is most relevant for a particular query. But having one increases the odds that what you prefer will appear. And it’s easy to do. So do it.

Hs: Structured Data

What if you could tell search engines what your content was about in their own “language”? Behind the scenes, sites can use specific markup (code) that make it easy for search engines to understand the details of the page content and structure.

The result of structured data often translates into what is called a ‘rich snippet‘, a search listing that has extra bells and whistles that make it more attractive and useful to users. The most common rich snippet you’re likely to encounter  reviews/ratings which usually includes eye-catching stars.

While the use of structured data may not be a direct ranking factor, it is clearly a success factor. All things being equal, a listing with a rich snippet will get more clicks than one without. And search engines are eager for site owners to embrace structured data, providing new and easier ways for less tech-savvy webmasters to participate.

Structured data has been around for quite some time in various forms. But recently search engines have begun to rely on it more with the advent of Google’s Knowledge Graph and Bing’s Snapshot.

This element debuted in the previous edition of the periodic table, and in this edition, we’ve increased the weight, as we see it becoming more important in the future.

Hh: Header Tags

See the headline up at the top of this page? Behind the scenes, HTML code is used to make that a header tag. In this case, an H1 tag.

See the sub-headlines on the page? Those also use header tags. Each of them is the next “level” down, using H2 tags.

Header tags are a formal way to identify key sections of a web page. Search engines have long used them as clues to what a page is about. If the words you want to be found for are in header tags, you have a slightly increased chance of appearing in searches for those words.

Naturally, this knowledge has caused some people to go overboard. They’ll put entire paragraphs in header tags. That doesn’t help. Header tags are as much for making content easy to read for users as it is for search engines.

Header tags are useful when they reflect the logical structure (or outline) of a page. If you have a main headline, use an H1 tag. Relevant subheads should use an H2 tag. Use headers as they make sense and they may reinforce other ranking factors.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive

Is learning useless stuff good for you?

 

 

 

 

 

 


We often require all students to learn things they may never need like latin, calculus, advanced trigonometry and classical literature. The implicit assumption is that learning difficult things is intrinsically good. It trains your brain. It makes you smarter.

True? Or false?

I worked on this assumption for the longest time. As an undergraduate, I took 6 courses per term instead of the required 5. I also took an extra year to graduate, doing the equivalent two majors. I probably took more college courses than 99.9% of the college graduates.

Why did I take all these courses? Because I was convinced that learning about all sorts of things would make me smarter. Many people think it works this way. That’s why we taught people Latin for a long time. In education, that is called transfer: learning something will help you learn something else, even if it is barely related. Does it work? We have reasons to doubt it:

Transfer has been studied since the turn of the XXth century. Still, there is very little empirical evidence showing meaningful transfer to occur and much less evidence showing it under experimental control. (…) significant transfer is probably rare and accounts for very little human behavior. (Detterman)

Caplan is even more categorical:

Teachers like to think that no matter how useless their lessons appear, they are teaching their students how to think. Under the heading of Transfer of Learning, educational psychologists have spent over a century looking for evidence that this sort of learning actually occurs. The results are decidedly negative.

These authors are not saying that learning French won’t help you learn Spanish. They are not saying that learning C++ won’t help you learn Java. Transfering does work, trivially, when there are similarities. Rather, they are saying that learning projective geometry won’t make you a better Java programmer. They are saying that learning fractal theory won’t help you be a better manager.

This has troubling consequences because, for many people, whatever they learned in college or in high school, has very little to do with what they do for a living. Does a degree in journalism makes you a better program manager today? You can legitimately ask the question. Yet employers are happy to assume that a degree, any degree, will help people do a better job, irrespective of the similarities between the job and the degree. For example, Tom Chi explains how his training in astrophysics made him a better business manager. From astrophysics to management? Really?

Can we at least hope that college students improve their critical thinking with all these literature, mathematics and philosophy classes? Roksaa and Arumb looked at the score of students on critical thinking tests as they progress through their studies:

A high proportion of students are progressing through higher education today without measurable gains in critical thinking.

The students have learned skills. It is difficult to go through years of studies without learning something. But this knowledge and these skills do not necessarily transfer to something as basic as critical thinking.

My point is that students might be onto something when they refuse to learn for the sake of learning. We look down at people who refuse to learn mathematics because it appears useless to them. We think that learning some mathematics would be good for them the same way we used to think that learning latin was good for the minds of little boys. We might be wrong.

But this has also a practical consequence for all of us: don’t bother learning skills “just in case” unless you do it for fun. If you want to be a better software programmer, just practice programming. This also means that if you want to acquire practical skills, a school might not be the best place to go: a degree in English might not turn you into a better novelist.

Another consequence is that you should not assume a transfer of expertise: if someone succeeded at one thing, you should not assume they will succeed at something else. If a famous baseball player starts a software company, wait before investing.

How to learn efficiently

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am convinced that much of the gap between the best college students and the worst is explained by study habits. Frankly, most students study poorly. To make matters worse, most teachers are incapable of teaching good study habits.

Learning is proportional with effort

Sitting in a classroom listening to a professor feels like learning… Reading a book on a new topic feels like learning… but because they are overwhelming passive activities, they are inefficient. It is even worse than inefficient, it is counterproductive because it gives you the false impression that you know the material. You can sit through lecture after lecture on quantum mechanics. At some point, you will become familiar with the topics and the terminology. Alas, you are fooling yourself which is worse than not learning anything.

Instead, you should always seek to challenge yourself. If some learning activity feels easy, it means that it is too easy. You should be constantly reminded of how little you know. Great lectures make it feels like the material is easy: it probably is not. Test yourself constantly: you will find that you know less than you think.

Some students blame the instructors when they feel confused. They are insistent that a course should be structured in such a way that it is always easy so that they rarely make mistakes. The opposite is true: a good course is one where you always feel that you will barely make it. It might not be a pleasant course, but it is one where you are learning. It is by struggling that we learn.

On this note, Learning Style theory is junk: while it is true that some students have an easier time doing things a certain way, having it easier is not the goal.

There are many ways to challenge yourself and learn more efficiently:

  • Seek the most difficult problems, the most difficult questions and try to address them. It is useless to read pages after pages of textbook material, but it becomes meaningful if you are doing it to solve a hard problem. This is not news to Physics students who have always learned by solving problems. Always work on the toughest problems you can address.
  • Reflect on what you have supposedly learned. As an undergraduate student, I found that writing a summary of everything I had learned in a class was one of the best ways to study for an exam. I would just sit down with a blank piece of paper and try to summarize everything as precisely as possible. Ultimately, writing your own textbook would be a very effective way to learn the material. Teaching is a great way to learn because it challenges you.
  • Avoid learning from a single source. Studying from a single textbook is counterproductive. Instead, seek multiple sources. Yes, it is confusing to pick up a different textbook where the terminology might be different, but this confusion is good for you.

If sitting docilely in a classroom is inefficient and even counterproductive, then why is it so common a practice? Why indeed!

Interleaved study trumps mass study

When studying, many people do not want to mix topics “so as not to get confused”. So if they need to learn to apply one particular idea, they study to the exclusion of everything else. That is called mass (or block) practice.

Course material and textbooks do not help: they are often neatly organized into distinct chapters, distinct sections… each one covering one specific topic.

What researchers have found is that interleaved practice is far superior. In interleaved practice, you intentionally mix up topics. Want to become a better mathematician? Do not spend one-month studying combinatorics, one-month studying calculus and so on. Instead, work on various mathematical topics, mixing them randomly.

Interleaved practice feels much harder (e.g., “you feel confused”), and it feels discouraging because progress appears to be slow. However, this confusion you feel… that is your brain learning.

Interleaved practice is exactly what a real project forces you to do. This means that real-world experience where you get to solve hard problems is probably a much more efficient learning strategy than college. Given a choice between doing challenging real work, and taking classes, you should always take the challenging work instead.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

MarketHive