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Posts Tagged ‘content marketing’

What the Country Music Awards Can Teach Us About Social Engagement

November 22nd, 2013 1 comment

A few weeks ago, I was watching this year’s Country Music Awards (CMAs) with friend of mine and her mother. I was surprised by a few parallels I noticed between the awards show and some of our recommended best practices at MECLABS.

 

 

Set goals that encourage awareness

For the CMAs, its goal, according to the mission statement on the website, is to “heighten the awareness of country music and support its ongoing growth by recognizing excellence in the genre.”

Consequently, the CMAs serve as an outlet for recognizing excellence, while providing an entertaining awards show to heighten viewer awareness.

The goals of the CMAs are not explicitly stated at the beginning of the show. This falls in line with a best practice of not stating your goals on your website, but rather, your intended goals should be the conclusion customers reach on your landing page.

To help you accomplish this, you should answer the question: “What do I want the visitor to do on this page?”

 

Active engagement matters

Another aspect I found interesting about the CMAs was its drive to involve the audience. For example, during each artist’s performance, their Twitter handle was placed at the bottom of the screen.

This encouraged audience participation with their favorite artists.

 

Yes, it even had a phone app.

Throughout the night, the hosts encouraged viewers to download the Shazam app. Viewers who used the app would receive exclusive access to content and free music downloads.

So, how did this engagement strategy pay off?

Well, according to Country Music Rocks, an online music news source, the strategy was a huge success.

People went directly from Shazam’s CMA experience to iTunes and Amazon approximately 50,000 times during the broadcast to buy the tracks and albums of the nominees, winners and performers – this does not include the two free tracks available for download.

– Country Music Rocks

 

Here are a few ways you can encourage active engagement on your website.

Leverage social media: Actively post and manage related content on your social media feeds. In addition, encourage your visitors to share, retweet or email this information to their friends.

Try to offer exclusive content: What you can offer will depend on your industry, but providing exclusive content will encourage visitors to come back and interact with your site in the future.

Offer lots of related resources: This can be anything from previous blogs or articles to encourage the visitor to stay on your website for a longer duration.

 

Ease of use is always appealing

The CMAs did a variety of things to appeal to every element of its audience demographics and made it easy for viewers to participate.

For starters, there were performances from artists both young and old, comedy skits and emotional speeches from award winners.

My point here is that appeal never gets old for your customers, even when delivered in large doses. There’s nothing more appealing I can think of than a landing page that is easy to use.

I recommend taking some time for usability testing, as this can go a long way to make sure the focus of your site remains customer-centric.

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Search Marketing: Can your marketing team identify your buyer personas?

November 15th, 2013 2 comments

Developing a strategy to identify the personas of your customers can be daunting.

How specific do you get?

More importantly, how do you make these personas real to your marketing team?

In a recent webinar, Jacob Baldwin, Search Engine Marketing Manager, and Christina Brownlee, Director of Marketing Communications, both of One Call Now, discussed the important role of customer personas in an overall conversion strategy.

They identified four different personas applicable to a wide variety of verticals within their target audience: spontaneous, competitive, humanistic and methodical.

In order to make these characteristics identifiable for the team, each trait was assigned a “Star Trek” character: Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty, aptly called the “Spock Project.” 

 

The One Call Now team used an outside consultant to brainstorm different buyer personas.

During brainstorming, the team decided to map out all of their markets using these personas, and they discovered some markets shared personas. For example, McCoy, the humanistic customer, was found in both K-12 education and sports management markets.

 

Assigning customer characteristics to familiar television characters helped the marketing team design webpages and content tailored to each persona.

For example, competitive persona customers are likely more interested in information specific to the bottom line and which product or company offers more than the others.

On the other hand, a humanistic persona is more interested in testimonials and case studies – how the product affects a person after adoption. One Call Now packed each landing page with content that appealed to each of the personas.

In order to appeal to each persona, One Call Now created various types of content and calls-to-action. Although customers all come to the site for the same reason – to purchase a messaging system – the way that various customers decide to buy differs. 

 

For a spontaneous persona, a shiny green “BUY NOW” button beckons. But, for a customer that needs to do more research, testimonials, case studies and requests for a quote are readily available.

Introducing the marketing team to familiar characters helped them think about “How would I sell to Spock, the competitive, as opposed to Kirk, the spontaneous buyer?”

Testimonials and fancy buttons wouldn’t cut it for a buyer labeled as a Scotty, the methodical buyer, as effectively as strong content, numbers and being able to compare features build a better case.

Content development rapidly took off within the organization in order to appeal to different characters.

By generalizing four basic characteristics across the sub-vertical customers, One Call Now developed a strategy to appeal to decision makers in the way that they make decisions. The team is able to expand and fine-tune the way they approach customers on the Web, in a way that speaks directly to them and addresses their concerns.

To learn more about how creating customer profiles can aid your marketing efforts, you can watch the free on-demand MarketingSherpa webinar replay of “Search Marketing: Insights on keyword research and customer personas.”

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Content Marketing: 7 copy editing tips to improve any content piece

October 22nd, 2013 5 comments

Creating intriguing and relevant content is key to successful content marketing.

Webinars, webpages and ebooks were all cited in the 2013 MarketingSherpa SEO Marketing Benchmark Survey as “the most effective places to create content for meeting marketing objectives.”

Creating content is one thing, improving it through copy editing, however, is another step in the process.

I say this because content becomes less effective with each glaring error. Depending on the circumstances, those mistakes are perhaps even costing your organization revenue as customers look elsewhere to shop.

 

Think about it …

Do you want to spend your time deciphering information riddled with grammar and spelling errors?

Well, your readers certainly don’t and why should they? Why should they take their time to untangle a web of errors and inconsistencies in a content piece in order to understand the message?

They will simply move on to something else that is polished, clear and professionally written. Luckily in the digital realm, minor mistakes can be caught after a blog post, article or social media post is published online and can be seamlessly fixed.

However, some diligent eyes can spot errors before critics take to social media and immortalize a glaring typo.

For example, the Mankato Free Press was not immune to criticism when a creative, but poorly designed page slipped past copy editors and startled readers while enjoying their breakfast.

As the copy editor at MECLABS, my job revolves around editing everything from blog posts, articles, landing page copy, marketing materials and many other essential pieces of content for MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments.

The insights in this post revolve strictly around copy editing to help you focus on improving the accuracy of your text, not editing, which is designed to help you improve the organization of your content.

Read on for seven copy editing tips you can use to improve the quality of your content.

 

Tip #1. Stick with a style

When copy editing, consistency is very important – so pick a style and stick with it.

Establishing style standards early on will help keep all the content you produce uniform across different formats.

At MECLABS, we devised a Stylebook that incorporates elements of AP style and stylistic preferences unique to our company.

For instance, some of the most common words and phrases utilized in our content appear in the Stylebook reflecting MECLABS’ usage.

Words like clickthrough, call-to-action, homepage, e-commerce, Web (always capitalized) and others have a specific way of being spelled or capitalized preferable to us that may not be used the same grammatically or contextually elsewhere.

Not everything can be covered in a company style guide, so having a secondary resource such as the AP Stylebook on hand is essential for finding those words and phrases you may not know how to utilize correctly in a piece.

For other aspects of writing, such as headlines, consistency is also extremely important.

Editors tend to decide what words are used in a headline, so your stylebook should include style preferences for headlines, to help editors keep those copy decisions consistent.

Also, try to make considerations in your Stylebook for any additional content you may have that will need formatting guidelines and make sure your content team understands and adheres to those standards.

 

Tip #2. Read aloud

The very first step of copy editing is reading through content to make changes.

Reading silently to yourself is a good way to start, but taking it to the next level and reading a piece aloud will help you catch more errors and hear how the words and sentences flow together.

It may also seem like common sense, but reading it aloud conversationally is not enough to catch mistakes. By reading slowly and articulating each word, you are more likely to spot grammar and spelling mistakes that your word processor might have missed.

 

Tip #3. Keep it concise

Attention spans are shorter than ever, so keeping length in mind while editing is also extremely important. By keeping sentences concise, you will captivate readers by making every word count.

When possible, delete extraneous words from sentences unless they impact the integrity of the overall meaning.

For example, the word “that” is often used as a crutch word and can be eliminated in most cases.

 

Tip #4. Do a final proofread after publishing 

Hitting the “publish” button is not the end of a copy editor’s work day. Even after a vigorous round of editing, mistakes can still fall through the cracks.

This is why taking one more look at your content after it’s published is a great idea.

As I mentioned earlier, digital publishing in most instances is a lot more forgiving than print. Once you publish content in a print medium, the words and any mistakes you may have missed are stamped onto the pages of your publication and into history.

One example I can think of recently was the misspelling of the word “Marketing” as “Makreting” on the spine of a printed publication. Luckily, the error was caught before a large pressing of the misprints was ordered.

Consequently, although something may already be published, some minor changes can still likely be made if needed before the majority of your audience engages the content.

 

Tip #5. Avoid proofing your own work whenever possible

(Most) copy editors love to write, but reviewing your own content can be problematic, and should be avoided unless there is absolutely no other option.

Therefore, having another set of eyes on your piece can catch errors you would probably miss as the writer.

If others proofing your work is not an option, putting the finished product aside for a few days can help you get out of “writer” mode and into “proofing” mode.

Also, the content isn’t nearly as fresh in your mind, so you’re more likely to catch mistakes.

 

Tip #6. Read through backwards

This may seem a little strange, but the best tips usually are.

From my experience, going through content one sentence at a time backwards is a surprisingly great way to catch problems in the copy.

Incorrect punctuation, extra or double words and other issues that might have been skimmed over normally, can be singled out quickly by reading it backwards.

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Content Marketing: How to manage a change in content on your blog

October 11th, 2013 4 comments

You’ll get no arguments from me that starting a new blog can be difficult.

There are plenty of great content marketing resources from MarketingSherpa and elsewhere to help you do that.

But, what happens when your company decides to undergo a change in content?

Navigating the waters of a new format on a well-established blog is a different kind of monster than starting from scratch.

 

Make sure everyone understands the big picture

If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of new faces on the MarketingSherpa blog.

Also, if you read the blogs of our sister brands MarketingExperiments and B2B Lead Roundtable, you will also find a lot of new contributors there as well.

When I asked Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Content Operations, MECLABS, about some of the elements driving the change in content, Brandon explained the new approach was a unique opportunity to return blogging to its roots.

“For us, it felt like it was time for our blogging voice to come full circle,” Brandon explained. “Blogging originated as the ultimate personal journal. It was a platform for practitioners who were passionate about their message being heard, but over time, that approach has evolved into a more sophisticated medium that has as much in common with a trade journal as it does with a personal journal.“

Another reason Brandon mentioned for the change was based on the idea that members of the MECLABS research team have a wide range of insights and practical advice to offer our audience.

“We realized that we are in a place to leverage the strengths of both approaches. Real world practitioner discoveries and observations supported by a consistent editorial standard,” Brandon said.

Instead of letting all of that content simply vanish, the era of the MECLABS practitioner blogger had arrived.

Consequently, this also meant the MECLABS research team would be taking on a new writing initiative, so the first real challenge was one of communication throughout the organization.

So, the first tip here is simple – communicate, communicate and communicate.

Make sure everyone in the organization understands the reasons for change and what their role in those changes will be, as your team can’t help build something they don’t fully understand.

 

Anticipate problems and start looking for solutions

This is my faith in Murphy’s Law – if anything can go wrong, it will – so the trick is to anticipate problems and find solutions to avoid headaches later.

For instance, while having a sizeable pool of new content creators was a great asset, there was one catch …

Most of our practitioners’ writing skills were based on formal training in academic writing.

Few had prior blogging experience, while only one to my knowledge had any experience in journalism or exposure to the editorial process.

Based on our assessment, here were some of the problems we anticipated:

  • Limited blogging experience – How do we help analysts to start writing blog posts?
  • Formal training in academic writing – How can the content team help practitioners develop blog writing skills?
  • Few have exposure to editorial process – How do we build a new editorial process that allows for more revision and editing time? How can we educate our internal thought leaders on the editorial process?

After a few rounds of discussion, our team decided a blog post template provided a simple solution to solve the problem of helping analysts get started writing blog posts.

 

The feedback we received from our in-house writers so far is the blog post template has been helpful in providing some rudimentary direction and structure to get started.

In short, the more problems like these that you can anticipate and find solutions for beforehand, the less painful your transition will hopefully be.

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Content Marketing How-to: Social media tips and tactics from B2B Summit panel

August 20th, 2013 1 comment

According to the MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing Handbook, companies that create content “produce higher-quality leads that are more likely to convert than organizations that do not.” Although effective, content creation is difficult.

At B2B Summit 2012, Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS, sat down with a panel of marketing experts: Eddie Smith, Chief Revenue Officer, Topsy Labs; Nichole Kelly, President, SME Digital; and Chris Baggott, Chairman, Compendium. They exchanged insights on content creation, the importance of genuine content and how marketers can kill their career with inauthentic content they create or repurpose.

Watch as the panel discussed the value of harnessing a company’s internal email power, verifying sources and using a human tone with customers. Discover why Nichole said, “Email is the biggest wasted content resource,” and what marketers can do to utilize it.

 

Creating inauthentic content was one of the five career killers the panel discussed. Watch the full free presentation to see the rest of this discussion as well as the other four social media career killers, including:

  • Thinking your CFO is your nemesis
  • Single-use content
  • Treating social media as “special”
  • Not soliciting outside content

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Content Marketing: How McGladrey built a strategy around content development [Video]

July 19th, 2013 3 comments

When asked about different types of content, more than half of marketers considered 12 of 18 types of content to be difficult to create.

At Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco, we will have sessions discussing how to use content marketing to capture and nurture leads.

To help prepare you for Summit, today on the MarketingSherpa Blog, we’re sharing a video excerpt from B2B Summit 2012 about content production …

 

In this video excerpt, Eric Webb, Senior Director of Corporate Communication, McGladrey, shared the steps the accounting and consulting firm took to improve its content marketing efforts and, ultimately, execute a 300% increase in content production.

To see the rest of Eric’s presentation and learn more about how you can use content marketing to better serve your customers, watch the free full presentation in the MarketingSherpa Video Archive.

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What is Data? A discussion about getting value from your marketing analytics

July 12th, 2013 1 comment

What is marketing data really? When used right, it’s not just numbers that tell you what happened.

That is what I like to call the “newsman approach” to marketing analytics – information that simply sums up previous customer behavior.

You don’t want to be the newsman. You don’t want to be Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw or Brian Williams. You, dear marketer, must look to the likes of Al Roker and Willard Scott. After all, it is the intrepid weatherman that discusses not only what already happened, but what is going to happen.

I discussed with Scott Hutcheson, Content Director, Paramore, how to effectively use marketing data to look beyond a simple gut reaction to numbers to find out what they can tell you about future customer behavior in this, the most recent episode of MarketingSherpa Marketing Research in Action …

 

In this episode, Scott and I discussed research from the MarketingSherpa 2013 Marketing Analytics Benchmark Report, which is sponsored by Paramore…

00:42 – Up is good, down is bad? Not so simple. Don’t settle for gut reactions to your marketing analytics. Scott and I discussed non-analytical decision-making strategies. 

 

4:44 – What can you learn from page views? Scott and I discussed content marketing metrics tracking.

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Marketing Concept: If you build it, they will come … if you sell, they will leave

July 5th, 2013 No comments

My wife would prefer it if I avoided Vegas forever.

I like gambling a lot and I’ve got a history of big bets. It scares the heck out of her when I plop down $1,000 in chips on a hand of blackjack. And yet, I hardly ever lose money.

Let me explain …

I spend hours playing the safe, boring hands. I make logical decisions. I slowly build up a big stack of chips. Then, I double down on a big bet and have more fun and excitement in one hand than most people have the whole weekend.

But, the point to my strategy to remember is that I never make those big bets until I’ve “saved up” enough chips for it not to matter whether I lose or not.

And, good content marketing is a lot like blackjack. Here’s why.

 

What are you talking about this time?

I’d like for you to think of your clout with the readers on your content marketing platform as a stack of chips. Every day, you’re producing useful, engaging content. You’re packing utility and value into every post and picture and video. You’re painting the proverbial fence, and growing your stack of chips.

Why? Because you eventually want to promote a product and doing so will require you to cash in a huge stack of those chips.

 

If you build it, they will come. If you sell, they will leave.

When done well, content marketing is remarkably product agnostic when you really think about it.  There is no selling involved because selling runs contrary to the primary purpose of content marketing, which is to become a trusted resource.

By building credibility with an audience as a trustworthy source, brands have been able to later leverage that trust, which can be viewed as a subconscious chip stack.  They’ve accumulated with readers at a strategic time to say “We’ve never tried to push any of our products on you, but we’ve got something you really need to see.”

And, that one sales pitch will cost the whole stack of chips. You can’t market your products directly to readers, despite the term “content marketing.” At least not with any real frequency.

Otherwise, they’ll stop believing your voice and trusting your brand.

John Deere understood this when they launched The Furrow, arguably the first recorded attempt at content marketing, back in 1895. They didn’t send out a catalogue of farm equipment. In fact, they didn’t mention their products at all.  Instead, they set out to make themselves useful to farmers by producing a guide to teach business principles and new farming technologies.

As it turns out, when a company becomes a trusted source of information in your industry, it makes sense to trust them to provide your equipment as well. But, John Deere never said that outright. Content marketing is more subtle than that. They simply produced valuable content and trusted farmers to make that connection on their own over time.

Or, for a more modern example, look at Red Bull.

If you visit RedBull.com, you’ll see extreme sports, surfing videos, skateboarding tricks, music reviews and a veritable who’s who of 20-something countercultural superstars.

In fact, Red Bull has become such a resource for this core demographic that their website is actually a destination for seekers of fresh, updated content on extreme lifestyles. What you won’t see are articles touting the benefits of Red Bull, the great taste or the wide margin by which the brand outsells its competition.

Red Bull is perfectly happy simply slapping its logo on the skateboards of some of the greatest tricksters on Earth and let kids make the connection on their own. There might be the odd banner ad for Red Bull products, but the content is carved out in a separate silo which is product agnostic.

Just for fun, I reviewed a bunch of top content marketing initiatives – everything from Red Bull to Procter & Gamble’s Petside and Being Girl initiatives. In all, I read more than 100 content marketing articles at random.

Do you know what most of them had in common?

More than 89% of the articles never mentioned a single product related to the company producing the content. They were virtually all product agnostic to the core. General Mills’ Tablespoon platform might offer great recipes which could conceivably contain its products. They might even show a picture of a product in the “ingredients” photo, but they stop short of shoving the General Mills brand down your throat. You’re left alone to eventually connect the dots on your own. If General Mills cares enough to give me all of these recipes, they probably care enough to make superior products as well.

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Inbound Marketing: 15 tactics to help you earn attention organically

June 28th, 2013 No comments

Often, the best ideas for our content come from the MarketingSherpa audience,  such as  this note I received from Steve, “There was a very good graphic in a recent post from Rand Fishkin. I think it would be interesting for you to add some ‘quantitative metrics’ to this.”

Let’s take a look at that graphic …

 

I reached out to Rand, who is the CEO of Moz, to get a little background on the chart, which looked almost like a yin and yang of modern marketing to me.

“The items in red aren’t necessarily all terrible things you shouldn’t do,” Rand said.

“Interruption marketing can be well done, but as the graphic notes, there’s no flywheel effect generating momentum, and these channels/tactics, on average, lead to higher costs of customer acquisition. In some markets and for some companies, that may be a fine tradeoff, but it should always be a conscious one,” he explained.

Today on the MarketingSherpa blog, we’re providing a mixture of quantitative metrics, case studies, how-to articles and other resources to help you improve your own inbound marketing efforts by learning more about how your peers are effectively using these tactics …

 

SEO & PPC

Local search has had the biggest positive impact on marketing objectives, with 54% of marketers indicating so, according to the MarketingSherpa SEO Marketing Benchmark Survey.

How to Switch to SEO, PPC Strategies to Increase Leads: 10 Steps to Triple-Digit Lifts

Local SEO: How geotargeting keywords brought 333% more revenue

PPC Marketing: Two accidents reduce cost-per-lead 20%

 

Opt-in Email Lists

Only 39% of marketers maintain an opt-in only subscriber list.

Email Deliverability: How a marketing vendor with 99 percent delivery rates treats single opt-in lists vs. double opt-in lists

Read more…

Content Marketing: Your questions on B2B online lead gen, metrics, content from SMEs and more

June 21st, 2013 No comments

In a recent MarketingSherpa webinar, I interviewed Eric Webb, Senior Marketing Director, Corporate Marketing & Brand, McGladrey, about his impressive work with the accounting firm’s content marketing.

You can now watch the video replay of that webinar – “Content Marketing: A discussion about McGladrey’s 300% increase in content production.

But most of the questions I asked him weren’t my own, they were from you. In fact, we got tons of your questions about content marketing, and Eric has been kind enough to answer some of them here today on the MarketingSherpa blog.

Even better, Eric also provided you a tool his team used to help with its 300% increase in content production. Click below to download the template …

Submission form – with example

 

And now, your questions…

B2B online lead gen as a topic. Mor, online marketing manager

Eric Webb: We use content to generate leads 70% of the time. Via Demand Generation, and social media, we promote specific content that resides behind a form. We may ask qualifying questions as well to help discern where they are in the buy cycle.

To do this, you need to repackage the topic to leave a breadcrumb of content that helps you accelerate the sales process. You may have a white paper which shows they are in discovery of the issue, then a podcast with a client and a case study. If they download these, they are likely more interested and are considering or feel they can benefit in some way from the solution.

Finally, a self assessment or an offer for a free 30-minute talk with the expert tells you they are truly interested and deserve a call.

 

Creating content for niche industries and clientsMaddie, marketing analyst

EW: I recommend looking to industry publication editorial calendars for ideas, clients and outside speakers.

 

Specific metrics and related incentives for the content creation team, please.Marshall, CEO

EW: For content, the metrics we most watch are clicks and downloads, or form conversions if behind a form. We don’t necessarily offer an incentive except recognition for the SMEs (subject matter experts) on how the content they create is performing. But, you clearly could offer an incentive based on form-conversion leading to an opportunity.

 

How much content is necessary?Christian, director of marketing

EW: Depends on your objectives – if you are just trying to build awareness, then you may measure retweets, likes or +. You could also look at a benchmark of current visits to a section and just say 10% above that. But ultimately, you have to determine what your objective is.

 

How do you re-purpose other’s content?Christian, director of marketing

EW: We do curate content to help fill out a section and drive more time on site or to attract more people. But only the first paragraph and then we link out to their site. Otherwise, we look to vendors or partners to provide some of their content in totality.

 

Besides social, blogs and email – any other outlets?Christian, director of marketing

EW: Networking sites like LinkedIn updates and groups. Partner sites, publications and association sites; some of our most clicks come on the heels of someone commenting in a news article and providing a link to our content. Slideshare. Reddit. Digg.

 

I love the idea of creating energy around content for SMEs and am looking forward to learning more about this.Dee, founder

EW: Basically it comes down to being able to provide a breakdown of specific metrics by each content piece (clicks, downloads, form fills and opportunities). Develop a monthly report to show the value that the content is creating and highlight the author. Also, if you have a PR group, get them to promote the author as an expert, showcasing their content to reporters.

 

How quickly do you plan from idea generation for content to getting it up and available?Nick, manager

EW: It depends on the topic. A blog post is usually a few days, depending on approvals required, but a white paper can be weeks and months, especially if it’s a regulated industry. We try to get teams to use content calendars and think at least three to six months out by assigning topics to SMEs.

 

How to develop a thought leadership culture in the workplace?Kim, senior email marketing manager

EW: I noticed a change when you could report the metrics. And, with our marketing automation system, we now are close to showing a measure of influence of total revenue and direct attribution of particular campaigns and content offered to opportunities.

Explaining how your audience buys – their buy cycle – and then being able to show how they read through content to ultimately filling a form and wanting to engage helps as well. Consistency is key.

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