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Posts Tagged ‘marketing insights’

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

July 5th, 2013
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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
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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

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Marketing Process: Managing your business leader’s testing expectations

June 25th, 2013
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Every Research Partner wants a lift, but we know sometimes, those lifts aren’t achievable without learning more about their customers first.

And often, our biggest lifts are associated with radical redesign tests that really shake things up on a landing page. That is because the changes are more drastic than a single-factor A/B test that allows for pinpointing discoveries.

So, how can you strike a balance between using these two approaches while still delivering results that satisfy expectations?

You can achieve this by managing your client’s or business leader’s expectations effectively.

It sounds easier said than done, but there are a few things you can do to satisfy a client’s or business leader’s needs for lifts and learnings. 

 

Step #1. Start with radical changes that challenge the paradigm

At MECLABS, we often recommend a strategic testing cycle with radical redesign testing (multiple clusters as opposed to a single-factor A/B split) to identify any untapped potential that may exist on a Research Partner’s landing page.

However, you must make sure you are not making random changes to a page to achieve a radically different control and treatment, but are truly focused on challenging the control’s paradigms and assumptions currently being made on the page by testing with a hypothesis.

For example, Sierra Tucson, an addiction and mental health rehabilitation facility, found with a radical redesign from a landing page focused on luxury to a landing page focused on trust resulted better with its target audience. The company also generated 220% more leads with the test to boot.

 

Step #2. Zoom in on general areas your radical redesign test has identified as having a high potential for impacting conversion

Next, we suggest refining with variable cluster testing, also known as select clusters.

If you identify a radical shift in messaging to be effective, as Sierra Tucson did, you might next want to try different copy, different designs or different offers, just to name a few options.

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

June 21st, 2013
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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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Testing: 3 common barriers to test planning

June 14th, 2013
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Sometimes while working with our Research Partners, I hear interesting explanations on why they can’t move forward with testing a particular strategy.

And as you would expect, there are a few common explanations I encounter more often than others:

  • We’ve always done it like this.
  • “Our customers are not complaining, so why change?

And my personal favorite…

  • We already tested that a few years ago and it didn’t work.

While there are some very legitimate barriers to testing that arise during planning (testing budgets, site traffic and ROI), the most common explanations of “We can’t do that” I hear  rarely outweigh the potential revenue being left on the table – at least not from this testing strategist’s point of view.

So in today’s MarketingSherpa blog post, we will share three of the most common barriers to testing and why your marketing team should avoid them.

 

The legacy barrier – “We’ve always done it like this.”

Legacy barriers to testing are decisions derived from comfort.

But what guarantee does anyone ever have that learning more about your customers is going to be a comfortable experience? So, when I receive a swift refusal to test based on “We’ve always done it like this,” I propose an important question – what created the legacy in your organization in the first place?

Generally, many companies understandably create business constraints and initiatives around what is acceptable for the market at a given point in time.

But what happens far too often is that these constraints and initiatives turn into habits. Habits that are passed on from marketer to marketer, until the chain of succession gives way to a forgotten lore of why a particular practice was put in place.

This ultimately results in a business climate in which the needs of yesteryear continue to take priority over the needs you have today.

So, if you find yourself facing a legacy barrier, below are a few resources from our sister company MarketingExperiments to help you achieve the buy-in you need to challenge the status quo:

What to test (and how) to increase your ROI today

Value Proposition: A free worksheet to help you win arguments in any meeting

 

The false confidence barrier  “Our customers are not complaining, so why change?”   

The false confidence barrier is built on the belief that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it – or at least it isn’t broken that you’re aware of.

This is especially important if your organization is determined to use customer experience in the digital age as the metric of success when evaluating a website’s performance – and this happens more than you would think.

So, considering for a moment a hypothetical customer is having an unpleasant experience on your website, ask yourself…

What obligation does a customer have to complain about their experience to you?

My recommendation in this case is to never assume customer silence is customer acceptance.

Instead, take a deeper look at your sales funnel for opportunities to mitigate elements of friction and anxiety that may steer customers away from your objectives, rather than towards them.

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Social Media Marketing: A quick look at Facebook EdgeRank

June 7th, 2013
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When I first graduated from high school, I took a job at a day care.

I was hired initially because I made it my personal goal to sign up as many kids as possible for our services. Of course, the responsibilities of more children under your supervision solves one set of problems while creating new ones.

One thing I quickly learned is that it’s pretty tough to convince a large group of kids to take a nap without using bribes of their preferred currency … chocolate.

So needless to say, my employment at the day care was brief because my true value as an employee was not just based on increasing volume, but also on how effective I was at engaging the volume that already existed.

 

Social media goal setting

A lot of marketers who have been conditioned by years of hard time spent in the midst of the media industrial complex hold the belief they should run their social media campaigns like I was running the day care – by taking a “more is always better” approach.

The idea behind this belief is simple.

Consumers who use Facebook have eyeballs. Therefore, the more eyeballs I can put onto our brand’s social media page the more “awareness” we can create which should eventually result in more business.

Because more is always better, right?

 

Fun with algorithms

The biggest problem with taking a “more is always better” approach to your social media marketing is a rooted assumption that all of your Facebook followers will see all of your content every time you post something.

Unfortunately, that’s simply not true.

Take our MarketingSherpa Facebook page, for example. On average, our posts reach somewhere around 15.26% of our followers on a given day, depending on the type of content.

So how can that be?

In three words … Facebook curates content.

According to Hubspot, the average Facebook fan spends about 40% of their time on the newsfeed as opposed to just 12% spent on profiles or brand pages. That margin makes the newsfeed the center of the Facebook universe.

So, to ensure that people have the most enriched newsfeed experience possible, Facebook curates content based upon on their homegrown algorithm known as “EdgeRank.”

 

There are three components to EdgeRank, wherein:

  • U = Affinity: which takes into account the past relationship between a Facebook user and your brand

If a user has interacted heavily with your social media content on Facebook previously, then it’s very likely they will see your next content offering in their newsfeed.

  • W = Weight: which relates to the types of content you have created. Some users prefer images while others may prefer text or video

The more a user interacts with a particular type of content through likes, comments and tags, then the more likely their preferred content types will appear in their newsfeed. If a user likes all of your pictures, then they will likely see the next picture your brand posts.

  • D= Decay: which is typically never a good thing

The older a post is, the less likely it is to appear on the newsfeed of a Facebook follower.

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Social Media Marketing: 4 questions to ask yourself about social media buttons

June 4th, 2013
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A common question we often hear about social media is “I put some social media elements onto my page and have not seen much of a difference …”

I’m sure you can relate, because social media icons are everywhere. On landing pages. In emails. Heck, I even saw some on a billboard while I was driving the other day.

Now, on behalf of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and their investors, I’d first like to thank you marketers of the world for all of that free co-op advertising.

All kidding aside, let me throw the questions back at you to help you get the most value from your sharing icons. In today’s MarketingSherpa blog post, we’ll focus on three questions you should ask yourself about your company’s use of social media icons.

 

Question #1. Should we be using social media icons?

All jokes about free advertising aside, most marketers likely will find some value in using social media icons. And, here’s the key. While the value might not be great, it is likely higher than the cost.

Because, frankly, as marketing tactics go, simply slapping a few social media icons or sharing buttons on a landing page is fairly easy to do.  Almost any value you get creates an ROI since it is higher than the minimal cost involved.

For example, AT&T added Facebook and Twitter icons into an email newsletter.

 

This was one small part of a program that helped the AT&T Developer Program increase its Twitter audience 136% and Facebook audience 113%.

Of course, as you’ll see in the case study above, the team at AT&T did much more than just add a few icons to an email to get that lift. But since the cost, in both IT execution to add the buttons and real estate on the email, was likely so low, and it certainly couldn’t have hurt their efforts, why not add social media icons?

Well, here’s why not. For most brands, the answer is simple: not every brand needs or should be using social media icons and sharing buttons. For example, I interviewed Steve Parker, Vice President, Direct Marketing, firstSTREET, in the MarketingSherpa webinar “Optimization: A discussion about an e-commerce company’s 500% sales increase.”

“In our case given our target market, you’re looking at an age 75+ customer, they’re not big social users. And, the ones who are on social media, they really just want to see pictures of their grandkids and their kids. So they’re not going to be as interactive in the social world. So from our standpoint, it’s pretty low on the priority list. There are no social buttons on this website,” Steve said.

He went on to share, “We’ve tested a little bit of that on some of our other properties. As baby boomers, the younger part that grew up with some social media lives grow older, yes, that will get more important. For my particular target market at this point in time, it doesn’t help.”

 

Question #2. Which social media icons should we use?

Ask your audience in direct conversations, in surveys, through customer service interactions and other customer-facing employees: what social networks do they use?

Then, be present on those platforms. See how they’re using social media.

And, look at your analytics.

Here on the MarketingSherpa blog, you’ll notice the prime social sharing button we use is from Twitter.

 

That’s because when we looked at our analytics, more inbound traffic came from Twitter than from any other social network.

You might also notice, at the bottom of our blog posts, we have social media sharing icons as well. 

 

That’s because the rest of our inbound social network traffic came from LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Delicious and Digg.

Your analytics won’t be foolproof. Over time, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy (we receive more Twitter traffic because we encourage the audience to share on Twitter), but combining your analytics with active listening to your audience through many means will at least get you in the ballpark of how they want to interact with your brand using social media.

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Value Proposition: 4 questions every marketer should ask about value prop

May 21st, 2013
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You’ve determined if there is any true value in your marketing and you’ve taken the steps to craft your value proposition, when the one looming question hits you – what should I do next?

 

Turning theory into action was the key focus of Tony Doty, Senior Manager of Optimization, MECLABS, and Lauren Maki, Manager of Optimization, MECLABS, during the Industry Deep Dive session, “Value Proposition: How to turn that shiny, new value prop into a high-performing page,” here at MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments Optimization Summit 2013.

“We have a lot of great tools for developing value proposition, but often we find a lot of marketers asking us what to do next and that’s what this is all about,” Tony said.

Today’s MarketingSherpa blog post will feature four questions every marketer should ask themselves about what the next step should be for implementing value proposition development into marketing efforts.

 

 

Question #1: Who is my target audience?

Tony and Lauren explained before you think about where you will express your value prop statements, you need to first determine who your audience for that value proposition is and what their needs are.

“We should always craft a value proposition with a customer’s needs in mind,” Tony said.

 

 

Question #2: Do I know where my customers are coming from?

Tony also explained once you’ve identified the target audience for your value proposition, you need to understand the channels where your traffic comes from, and adapt your message as needed per channel.

Lauren brought up a good point that customers from different channels have different needs and motivations, so your value proposition placement should be strategic within each channel.

To do this, she explained you first need to identify not just who your target prospect group is, but also where that prospect group is coming from.

“There’s a lot more places than just your homepage for your value proposition,” Lauren explained. “Look at your data to determine if what you’re doing is effective once you’ve started putting your value propositions into place [in those different channels].”

Some of the channels Lauren highlighted in her example are:

  • Targeted email campaigns
  • PPC campaigns
  • Display ads
  • Referral sites
  • Landing pages
  • Product pages
  • Informational pages
  • Cart checkout
  • Social media

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Marketing Strategy: How to find answers to the most common marketing questions

March 19th, 2013
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At MarketingSherpa, we are often asked:

  • Are my open rates low?
  • What is the ideal conversion rate?
  • Why do I have a high unsubscribe rate and how can I improve it?

Unfortunately, these are the marketing equivalents of “What’s the meaning of life?” While some blogs might have a pithy response with the perfect solution usually involving the product they sell, much like the meaning of life question, the answer likely varies based on your unique situation.

But … I can help you answer these types of questions for yourself, by answering this question we received from Jim on a recent email marketing webinar

  • What is the biggest mistake people are making in today’s environment?

To me, every marketing campaign (and really, everything we do in life) can be improved by taking these three steps …

  1. Learn
  2. Test
  3. Iterate

In today’s MarketingSherpa blog post, I’m going to focus on the “learn” step, because I sometimes feel marketers don’t cast a wide enough net during this crucial step. And, that’s what we do here at MarketingSherpa – we help you learn.

Of course, once you have new ideas about what might work for your company, test them. In this way, you can try some really radical ideas to drastically improve results while mitigating risk. Our sister site, MarketingExperiments, can teach you more about testing.

And, of course, iterate. Or as the shampoo marketers like to say – repeat. What works now will not necessarily work in the future. The marketplace is not static. You must constantly learn new ideas, and try them out.

 

Learn

Here’s where MarketingSherpa can help. We can give you examples of what other marketers have learned through case studies and how-to articles, webinars, Benchmark Reports and blog posts such as this one.

When we look for case studies to write, we cast our net far and wide. This is where some marketers struggle. Unless the case study subject is from the same exact niche they serve, sometimes they struggle in finding the transferable principles.

On the flip side, when the case study is about a subject from the same exact niche, sometimes marketers overemphasize whether these lessons will work for them. Even if they are in the same niche, after all, they may have a very different value proposition.

So, as you try to address these challenges, ask yourself:

  • How are you learning from other marketers?
  • What biases are holding you back from learning from other marketers?
  • Are you overvaluing marketing tactics your competitors are doing simply because you’re in the same space?
  • On the flip side, do you undervalue tactics your competitor is doing because they “play for a different team?”
  • Do you look outside of your particular industry to bring new marketing ideas to your space?
  • What biases do you hold against tactics other marketers use outside your industry (B2B vs. B2C, for-profit vs. nonprofit vs. political)?
  • What biases do you hold against tactics other marketers use based on your personal opinion of their product, service or cause?

So, let me give you some examples …

In Thursday’s MarketingSherpa Inbound Marketing Newsletter, we distributed a case study called “Search Engine Marketing: E-commerce site turns an 82% bounce rate around for a 400% conversion increase.” I really like this case study because it covers one of those common, all-encompassing questions we often receive:

  • Why does my landing page have a high bounce rate?

 

Learn from marketers in any industry

This case study is about how Tops Products answered that question, and the resulting improvement in conversion rate. If a marketer saw the case study was about an office supply company, and they were perhaps a B2B service provider or a brick-and-mortar store, they might overlook the key transferable principles.

Tops Products was getting a huge bounce rate because the great inbound link it was sending people to the wrong page. After using a 301 redirect, Tops Products reduced bounce rate 39% and increased conversion 400%. That lesson is helpful to marketers in any industry.

Read more…