Author Archive

Lead Generation: How to speak the language of your prospects

May 12th, 2014

Originally published on B2B LeadBlog

At Lead Gen Summit 2013, Keith Lincoln, Vice President, SmartBear Software, discussed the importance of speaking the language of your customers, and, more importantly, when to say nothing at all.

“If you’re ever tired of hearing from us,” the email read, “you can opt out.”

Curious eyes met the screen at those words.

This text was not in light gray, hidden in small font at the very bottom of the email. Instead, it was in plain sight, in the body of the email — against best practices. Although the team did test an email following best practices that resulted in a slightly lower opt-out rate (under 1%), they ultimately decided they wanted to ensure that the recipients actually wanted to hear from SmartBear by using the more up-front version, resulting in a 2.5% opt-out rate.

How did Keith make the decision to abandon best practices with his campaign?

“Having sat at that lunch table for so long,” Keith said, “[and] knowing how testers and developers thought, I just said ‘Hey, let’s try this.'”

He interacted with his ideal audience every day and learned how to speak the language of his customers. He took what he knew about his audience and tested it against best practices.

Ultimately, Keith knew that by offering a quality free trial product, users would become loyal customers and tell their friends about it — all of the emails and encouragement from the marketing department wasn’t necessary to convert free trial users to customers.

Keith explained that they already captured the lead, and the lead was using a free trial version of the software. The team could track and monitor the customer’s use there. They did not want to annoy free trial users and decided that good will outweighed a large list and that a strong product would convert more users to a paid version.

You can watch the entire presentation, “Lead Nurturing: How solving the marketing automation and autonomy paradox increased lead volume 200%,” in the MarketingSherpa video archive to learn more about Keith’s lead gen efforts.

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Event Marketing: 3 tips to set your speakers up for success

May 6th, 2014

I’ve discovered firsthand in my role as Event Content Specialist at MarketingSherpa that creating content for your events can be a daunting task given all the factors that weigh in on making them a success.

However, as the cliché goes, “the show must go on.”

As we prepare for Web Optimization Summit in New York City held May 21-23, I decided to put together a few quick tips that can help you on your event planning journey.


Tip #1. Make sure speakers are relevant to your audience

There’s a bit of a dilemma during the early stages of planning: How do you select the right speakers for your event?

Oftentimes, while skimming through applications from speakers, a tempting brand name or title seems to pop out and yell “CHOOSE ME!” but realistically, not every brand or C-suite exec is going to be a good fit into your overall agenda.

For example, if you book the CEO of Puppies Inc. for a keynote at Kitten World 2014, you may have a tough time ahead with your audience on the mismatch.

When vetting the speaking applications, it’s important to make sure that their content applies to the overall event. Speakers that are a good fit will not only keep your audience engaged, but they will also deliver comfortably on stage, instead of working hard to adapt their content on the fly to fit the audience.

For the case study sessions at our Summits, finding speakers that our audience can relate to is a cornerstone in our process. Relevance is even a part of our own value proposition, as we love to feature brand-side marketers as speakers for an audience of marketers who are also in the marketing trenches every day.


Tip #2. Create outlines and templates for external speakers

Each speaker has his or her own style of presenting.

Some people love to use a lot of slides and pictures, while others prefer a wall of text. I’ve seen beautiful PowerPoint decks with wonderful builds – however, I’ve also seen presentations that need a little improvement.

To help keep the content at your events to a fixed standard, try encouraging speakers to use a written outline before any slides are built. This can help provide them with a framework for building out their presentation and it can also help identify any gaps in the content.

Also, creating a PowerPoint (or whichever platform is your preference) template for speakers to use is a great way that event planners can also ensure brand standards are maintained.


Tip #3. Use moderators to help your speakers deliver with confidence

At Summits, with the exception of keynotes, our guest speakers are not professional speakers. They’re marketers who have discovered what works – and what has not worked – and they want to share their findings with their peers.

As you would expect, being in front of a packed house to speak is not easy for everyone. To help our speakers feel a little more comfortable and confident in their public speaking skills, we use moderators.

Moderators take the stage with our speakers and tee them up for success by walking with them through the challenges, key points and discoveries. By assigning speakers a moderator, he or she acts as a liaison for the speaker through the entire process.

They work on the presentation together and build a relationship over the course of the project that really makes a big difference when it’s show time.

  Read more…

One Spark 2014: Marketing as an art

May 2nd, 2014

At MarketingSherpa’s headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., we’re lucky to have the One Spark festival right in our backyard.

If you’re not familiar with the event, One Spark is a large crowdfunding festival that draws entrepreneurs, artists, inventors and amazing food trucks together for five days of elevator pitching to the masses. The festival lasts for five days and is held in the heart of downtown Jacksonville.

According to the One Spark website, this year’s event drew more than 260,000 attendees and generated $3.25 million in capital investments for project creators.

Not too shabby for a festival only in its second year.

The event also had a great speaker series that I had the privilege to attend where thought leaders in the crowdfunding space shared their ideas on marketing and design.

In today’s post, I wanted to share a few snippets of those presentations to give you an idea of how some experts are approaching marketing concepts in an emerging industry.


Value propositions need consistency amid flexibility for growth and evolution

ross-unger-onesparkTechnology has changed the way that marketers engage with their customers, and as a result, how you deliver your value proposition has to adjust, too.

Ross Unger, Experience Design Director, GE Capital Americas, explained how ideas and their value evolves, using Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, as an example.

Ideas, according to Ross, are constantly changing and evolving. Henson’s idea for loveable creatures made of foam started from a high school project, and moved to commercials before eventually evolving further into movies, toys and attractions at Disney theme parks.

The Muppets had flexibility to grow as their audiences changed, but the idea of Kermit remained the consistent.


Staying creative means staying interested

If marketing is the “pen” in communications with customers, then design is the “paintbrush.” The trick, according to Jeff Barlow, Creative Manager, Starbucks Global Creative, to painting amazing pictures for your customers is to keep your work interesting.

“You don’t do anything really amazing unless some people love it and some people hate it,” Jeff said.

“If you have to make great ideas,” Jeff explained, “it’s a good idea to be continuously curious.”

Jeff used a project based on blues music as an example. He had his team create a design campaign based on the music genre.

To do it, Jeff had them dig deep.

Instead of just creating designs based on what came to mind when they envisioned the phrase “blues music,” they instead took time first to research the history of the blues.

The team covered the lifestyles of famous artists and popular venues, then putting it all together into one piece, pouring heart and soul into a single design they felt encompassed the full weight of the subject.

Jeff also touched on the importance of drawing inspiration from everywhere – not just for the clock.

“It was really, really hot one day,” he explained, “so I made a logo for the sun.”

Jeff admitted it was nothing that he could sell, but it was something he imagined and it kept the creative juices flowing.

He even had his team make a visual design around a fortune in a fortune cookie.

It was a challenge that broke up a work day for his team and exercised their creative minds. Having assignments outside of deadlines, and having the courage to “always explore” keeps things fresh and interesting.

  Read more…

Email Marketing Analytics: Fight for your right to not be bored

February 7th, 2014

200,000 clicks.

Is that good? Is that bad? Who knows?

At MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013, Matt Bailey, President and Founder, SiteLogic, compelled marketers to “fight for your right not to be bored” at marketing meetings.

Analytics by themselves, he said, don’t mean anything unless you can apply a meaning to the numbers.

In this excerpt, Matt explained that marketers should ask three questions about analytics:

  1. Where did your visitors come from?
  2. What did they see?
  3. How did they react?


Knowing who your customers are and establishing what prompted customers to make an action can help you better target your audience and further segment them into specialized categories.


Email is highest profit-per-dollar activity

During his consultations, Matt’s team discovered that regardless of industry, “email is their highest profit-per-dollar activity.”

However, he added, companies aren’t leveraging email as effectively as it could or should be used.


When you send the same message to everybody, it doesn’t work

Companies need to determine whether or not customers are opening emails and if they are continuing on to the website through that email send.

Matt found that “when you send the same message to everybody, it doesn’t work.”

Companies should use analytics to analyze customer behavior in emails, and look at specific metrics including:

  • Which headlines prompted customers to open an email
  • From there, whether or not they were brought to the website, or other content within that email
  • How much time they spent engaged with the content

He also added that email is best treated as a conversation.

But when you write a single-send email, “you’re not having a valued conversation; you’re having a one-way announcement,” Matt explained.

The best way to see email numbers improve is by communicating value and relevance to the customer, which enables the customer to continue or initiate a conversation with you.

As Matt said, when it comes to the customer, “it’s all about value.”

Integrating analytics with email marketing provides the marketer with insights into customer behavior and how email marketing strategies can be improved. As a result, the marketer can better serve the customer with that insight, rather than just seeing those metrics as numbers on a page.

You can watch the full video replay of Matt’s Email Summit 2013 session in the MarketingSherpa video archives.

Email Marketing: Writing powerful email copy boosts CTR 400%

January 20th, 2014

Originally published on B2B LeadBlog

According to the MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report (free excerpt at that link), nearly one out of three (32%) respondents perceive that email marketing will yield ROI “eventually,” while 60% reported email is producing ROI.

No matter where you stack up here, one thing is certain – creating email copy that engages your customers is vital to aiding your efforts to produce ROI.

To help you do that, Donna Krizik, Director, Client Communications, Crestwood Associates, explained how the craft behind creating a powerful email copy is serving the customer rather than pushing the sale.

In this video clip from Email Summit 2013, Donna Krizik sat down with Justin Bridegan, Senior Marketing Manager, MECLABS, and discussed the three fundamentals in creating powerful email copy.

As Krizik reflected on giving the customer relevant content, she asked fellow marketers, “If [the message] is not really of value, do you need to email them?”

First, understanding your audience and communicating with them in a meaningful way that relates directly to their needs is likely to deliver a far more compelling message.

“If I can’t relate to you, if I can’t engage with you,” Justin argued, “why am I going to continue the conversation?”

Donna and Justin also discussed how an email is the beginning of a conversation with the customer rather than a sales pitch. They also touched on the goal of an email, which is to get the customer to the website, not to purchase from the email.

Finally, they wrapped up with your call-to-action. The idea here is having a clear, concise link or button in your email that allows the reader to make only one decision.

In summary, writers of powerful emails should do three things:

  • Understand who they are writing to
  • Communicate why they are writing to the recipient
  • Wrap up what they want the recipient to do

Watch the full free presentation to see Donna’s transferrable case studies.

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MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2014 — Join us live in Las Vegas

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013 Wrap Up: Top 5 takeaways for email marketers

Email Marketing: Why don?t you want to hear from your customers?

Email Marketing How-to: What to do once they?ve subscribed

Email Deliverability: Can you spot a scrub?

January 10th, 2014

“You don’t want no scrubs,

A scrub is a subscriber who ain’t getting no mail from me.”


Inspired by hip-hop group TLC’s 1999 hit, “No Scrubs,” Matt Byrd, Email Marketing Manager, WeddingWire, explained list hygiene with a beat and a rhyme to get his point across to attendees at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013.

In this video excerpt, see how he explained a “scrub,” or disengaged email subscriber, not only affects the quality of your list, but also your email deliverability.

Matt’s wake-up call happened on the morning the soft bounce rate of his list went over 23%. After testing, educating and testing again, Matt discovered users that were inactive for four months or longer should be scrubbed from the list.

Although all of the users “opted-in,” these inactive users were far more likely to hit the delete button than open the email, let alone hit the unsubscribe button.

As a recently married bride, I must confess, I was one of those users.

When I first got engaged, I was so excited to register for newsletters on WeddingWire and other sites. Research and planning were at the top of my list and I could not read enough reviews, insights and planning tips.

But as the weeks and months went by, my plans turned into contracts and I didn’t need the help anymore.

Soon, the emails from Matt went from the top of my inbox to the trash. I didn’t need him anymore. I was likely one of the 23% of his list that was bringing him down (sorry, Matt).

Whenever I had the chance to watch this case study presentation, I was intrigued by how Matt overcame people like me – the busy, fickle customer, quick to hit the delete button.

Although Matt’s journey with list hygiene was initially met with skepticism, the reward has been great. Deliverability rate, Matt explained, open and clicks have increased since WeddingWire started implementing this routine, and spam complaint rates have plummeted 76%.

Here is Matt’s approach boiled down to three steps:

  1. Constantly monitor bounce rate and spam complaint rate
  2. Figure out who your scrubs are
  3. Create an ongoing filter to remove scrubs from your list


To learn more about how scrubs are impacting your deliverability, you can watch the free on-demand replay of Matt’s presentation, “Proactive List Hygiene.”

Read more…

Email Marketing: How CNET re-engaged inactive subscribers

November 19th, 2013

Every email marketer has the goal of building a good quality list. In fact, 74% of marketers report year-to-year growth of their email list, according to the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Handbook, Second Edition. However, having a large amount of people on an email list does not mean it’s a quality list. Keeping email subscribers engaged and active is vital to any email marketing campaign.

In this video excerpt from Email Summit 2013, Diana Primeau, Director, Member Services, CNET, discusses the importance of cutting out disengaged users from your email list and the necessity of sending out a warning email beforehand.


“It’s a lot easier to keep your customers happy and engaged if you’re reaching out to them in a meaningful way, providing them with content throughout the year,” she suggested as a preemptive measure.

But, even if you pack amazing content into every single email send, some users still will go inactive. For the health of your email list and the reputation of your company’s email sends, the inactive users should be removed.

Before you start removing people from your list though, an email should be sent out as a last chance, and with that, “it’s really important that you give your customers a reason to stay with you,” Diana said.

In the last-chance email sent by CNET, the copy contains links to other newsletters that may be more specific to members’ interests, sweepstakes opportunities and a plea to not miss out on its news.

With this campaign, CNET re-engaged almost 9% of its inactive users – users that have not opened an email for more than 180 days – that would have otherwise been cut from the list.

Watch the full presentation to see Diana’s specific examples, case studies and her overarching recommendations for her fellow email marketers.

Read more…

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

November 15th, 2013

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.”

  Read more…

Lead Nurturing: How a social business strategy can help you move from selling to helping your prospects

November 4th, 2013

Originally published on B2B LeadBlog

At MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013, I had the privilege of sitting in on a session with Todd Wilms, Head of Social Strategy, and Adriel Sanchez, VP, Demand Generation, both of SAP, as they discussed how they use a business model called “social business” to help their teams across the globe engage local audiences.

So, what is social business exactly?

While it would seem intuitive that social business is a social media best practice, that assumption could not be further from the truth.

Or as Todd declared, “The difference between social media and social business is the difference between throwing a bullet and shooting it.”

According to Todd, social media, social media marketing and social business are three very distinct concepts.

Todd said SAP uses social business as a strategy that employs social media, social software and social networks to drive a mutually useful connection between people, information and assets.

“Social business is really how do you take all of those concepts of social media, all of the things you’ve been doing around social media marketing, and define them against business outcomes for your organization,” Todd explained.

Sales leads as you know them are changing

Todd made the case for transforming to a social business model by describing how the very idea of the “lead” is changing at a faster pace than Marketing can keep up with.

“This idea of moving from ‘sell’ to ‘helping your customers buy’ is at the heart of social business. It’s a model that the customer is going to make the decisions already, they’re going come to you when they are ready,” Todd said.

From strategy to practice

Adriel also mentioned as evolving buying habits exert more pressure on lead nurturing, today’s common lead nurture tactics — teleprospecting, webinars, trade shows, email, etc. — will need help from social media to remain effective.

“These tactics need help because they’re not giving you access to the full universe of people that are interested in buying your solutions,” Adriel said.

Here are three tips Adriel shared with the audience to help you use social media to aid your lead nurturing efforts.

Tip #1. Listen for what people aren’t telling you directly

Adriel explained SAP uses social listening tools to follow social media conversations by:

  • Filtering for keywords that indicate lead-relevant activity
  • Following key accounts directly
  • Understanding the needs of your customers’ customer

This allows the team to sift through the massive amount of conversations to find those that may be potential leads with an added bonus ?

“Listening to those conversations on social media can give you incredible insights into the types of content that you can use to nurture those leads,” Adriel explained.

Tip #2. Seed the conversation with what you want to talk about

Adriel advised if you want to steer the conversation toward your solutions in the marketplace, your approach should be consistent, but also smart.

Here are some of the key strategies he revealed SAP uses to guide social conversation:

  • Implement a pragmatic approach
  • Reward top contributors
  • Enterprise-wide advocacy management tool

Tip #3. Engage judiciously and in the right context

Adriel explained once you’ve identified lead-relevant conversations, the next challenge is engagement. Adriel also explained the context of how you engage in the social media channel is vital to success.

“You could be talking to the right people, have a great offer and terrific creative, and while that may work in email, it can fail in social media because the context is different.”

Here were some of his suggestions to help your company engage in the right context:

  • Educate your sales force on how to engage in social selling
  • Leverage your call center for inbound lead engagement
  • Bring customers and prospects together in social channels

Adriel warned in regard to the contextual differences between engagement in social media and different channels, prospects in those different channels will likely have different thresholds for how they absorb marketing messages.

“The accepted norms in that channel are different and peoples’ tolerance for marketing-related materials is different.”

Related Resources:

B2B Social Media: SAP Latin America boosts followers 900% [Part I]

B2B Social Media: SAP Latin America boosts followers 900% [Part II]

Social Media: How SAP operationalized social for replicated worldwide success

Why Social Media is the New Customer Service Hotline

Marketing Careers: Why gut instincts are only artificial marketing brilliance

Marketing Strategy: How you can use emails to test your value proposition

September 20th, 2013

“We should always strive to better understand our customer, and in particular, to understand the essence of our value proposition,” Austin McCraw, Senior Editorial Analyst, MECLABS, explained at Email Summit 2013.

In this video excerpt, learn how email marketing is one of the most effective ways to quickly test your value proposition with your customers rather than relying on company logic to determine the best way to sell to them. Email marketing, he argued, cultivates testing.



Ease of change

Email marketing is easy to change. Unlike traditional marketing channels, with a couple of clicks, an entire message can be changed. A headline, copy, a postscript, everything in an email is easily adaptable, easily changed, easily tested. If you want to find out what motivates a customer, just see which email they open.


Large sample size

Additionally, email marketing can produce a large sample size if your list is big enough. This allows a marketer to test different value propositions across different segments to see what resonates and what flops. Austin reiterated numerous times, “the goal of a test is not simply to get a lift, but to get a learning,” which indicates some tests will be more successful than others, but it’s all in an effort to put a face on your customers.


Do you stand out in the inbox?

Email also cultivates a highly competitive environment, where every company a customer is subscribed to is also attempting to get the customer to open its email. However, if a typical customer is anything like you or me, getting 20 or more emails a day from different companies, they’re selective about which emails they open, let alone click through. Discovering what value motivates your customer to open the email, or respond to its call-to-action, is a breakthrough.

  Read more…