Inbound Marketing

Inbound Marketing Archives | Crackerjack Marketing Blog

Traditionally, many brands and businesses have focused their efforts on outbound marketing. We’re not saying that cold calling, mailers and advertising doesn’t work – it certainly does! We believe that Inbound Marketing can achieve similar results in a smart, efficient way and you should be giving your Inbound Marketing tactics as much attention as your outbound ones.

Content Marketing and Inbound Marketing go hand-in-hand, bringing people to your website where they can learn more about your products and services. You can continue to engage these potential customers through opt-in content such as email newsletters, webinars and more; each touch point bringing them closer to the point of sale.

If you’d like to find out more about how working with a social media agency can help your brand, please feel free to contact us through the chat window (down there, in the lower-right corner of your browser) or contact us by filling out this form.

The Difference Between a Blog and a Website in Your Marketing Strategy

“The Difference Between a Blog and a Website in Your Marketing Strategy” was co-authored by Stephanie Schwab and Christina Strickland.

A business with no blog or website is left open to the possibility of false representation. Of course, current or prospective clients can Google you, and chances are they will find something about you online. This information could include anything from a Yelp review of your business, your personal Facebook page, or maybe even a comment you left on a forum years ago.


Though none of this may hurt your business, it may not be the impression you’d like to project.

Give your audience a designated place to visit where they can find more information about you. A blog or website will be the reflection of your business that you choose to put on display. It will provide information and answer clients questions, but that’s only scratching the surface. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Read more

Tips for Creating Agile Teams

Tips for Creating Agile Teams

Tips for Creating Agile Teams

Creating an agile team is more or less considered as a must for today’s entrepreneur, assuming you have a small, bootstrapped business. As global trends show, more and more successful businesses follow lean startup model methodology; therefore, creating an agile company and adding additional layers of flexibility and responsiveness to your team structure can really boost your results. Luckily, it’s not all that difficult to create an effective organization. Following are a couple of neat tricks you can resort to in order to add agile in front of your team.

Read more

digital-sharecropping

Why You Should Avoid Digital Sharecropping

digital-sharecropping
 
Using social media is now a fact of life, but there’s one key mistake business owners have to avoid. If you have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or whatever social media is best for your business, that’s fantastic, but you must avoid the perils of digital sharecropping. What is it? It’s where you put your eggs in a social media basket and have no web presence of your own.

Read more

brand voice

Finding Your Brand Voice

brand voice

Oscar winner Colin Firth could be the perfect person to ask about finding his voice – his virtuoso portrayal of a stuttering King George in The King’s Speech so cogently highlighted the frustrations of not having a clear way to communicate with a community. Some brands are equally tongue-tied, unclear about what the brand should sound like, leaving them either silent in social media or sounding haphazard and unrehearsed.

Get over your brand speech impediments by considering the following concepts, all of which play an important role in a well-rounded social media brand voice.

Read more

negative comments

Negative Comments About Your Brand? Make Them Work for You

negative comments
It’s never pleasant to receive negative comments and reviews. You work hard to deliver your very best products and services, and bad feedback stings. However, every business receives negative feedback from time to time. It’s how you handle it that sets you apart and keeps your customers coming back to you despite one less-than-stellar experience. And it’s how you respond that influences new customers to give you a chance, despite any negative reviews. The most important thing to remember is that social media is a public forum. Your audience (current and potential customers) will be paying attention to how you handle criticism and complaints.

Read more

user-generated-content-brand-marketing

How User-Generated Content Can Tell Your Brand Story

User Generated Content for Brand Marketing

Your brand story is so much more than a collection of facts about your business. It’s even much more than how you feel about your company and what makes it tick. It’s a unique, complex combination of the facts about your brand blended with the emotions your brand stimulates in its customers. Essentially, it’s a human-to-human representation of your business. Fans are already posting to Instagram and Facebook, why not empower them and harness their user-generated content for brand marketing?

Read more

Exploring Mobile and Social Analytics

Exploring Mobile and Social Analytics

Exploring Mobile and Social Analytics

In my last post I explained some of the insights analytics offers to help you improve your marketing campaigns. This time round, I’d like to look at two aspects of analytics in more detail: social and mobile analytics. Over the last couple of years, Google has enhanced these features significantly, so it’s worth seeing what you can learn. The reason this is important is because the more you know about how your customers are using mobile and social, the better you can target your marketing.

Read more

How to Improve the Success of Your Marketing Campaigns with Analytics

How to Improve the Success of Your Marketing Campaigns with Analytics

How to Improve the Success of Your Marketing Campaigns with Analytics

It’s only a small snippet of code, but it’s the difference between knowing whether your marketing is working or failing miserably. I’m talking about analytics software, which packs a powerful punch in terms of helping you to understand your website, social media profiles and customers and letting you know whether you’re succeeding in getting attention for your brand and making your business better known.

Read more

Will Your Customers Be Wearing Your Website?

Will Your Customers Be Wearing Your Website?

Will Your Customers Be Wearing Your Website?

The Mobile Market Shift – Are You Ready?

Will your customers be wearing your website soon? The chances are that they will be. If you pay attention to technology news, you know that wearable computing (it’s exactly what it sounds like: computing devices that you wear) is set to make the mobile market even more mobile.

The most common devices are smart watches. These started by allowing you to manage smartphone functions from a device worn on the wrist. But some of the latest ones fly solo, so you don’t need a smartphone to use them. (Check out the Samsung Gear S for an example.) That’s the revolutionary part, and it’s why if you’re not ready for mobile market changes, it’s time to think seriously about what that means for your website and marketing. Google Glass may be wearable, but something that’s just like the watch you wear already, but better, is likely to be more popular.

All the major tech developers are investing heavily in wearables. Google has even launched Android Wear, an operating system specifically for wearables. With application developers busily updating all their apps to work with Android Wear, it’s another reason to bet on mobile.

The mobile market is already huge, but there’s still room for growth. According to We Are Social, mobile penetration is already at 63% in North America and 50% worldwide. In many emerging markets, mobile devices are the primary devices used, so if your business targets those markets, a mobile marketing strategy is a must.

Here in the US, mobile devices are the devices of choice for millennials. According to eMarketer 77% of millennials watch video on tablet computers while a whopping 90% watch video on their smartphones. Social media is part of the mobile revolution too, with mobile device users twice as likely to share content from those devices as from desktops. (Source: ShareThis)

So what does all this mean for your web and marketing strategy? You already know the impact of a good user experience (UX) on marketing success. Some mobile users wait less than a second before leaving a website that’s not working for them. Good mobile UX, says Google, can help turn people who visit your site and read your marketing material into customers.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to fine tune your marketing strategy to take account of mobile device users. You need a website that loads quickly, with messaging that’s on point. You need to ensure that people don’t have to spend a lot of time swiping and can act quickly on your call-to-action. A screen the size of a watch face doesn’t leave much room for error.

One day, there may be even more devices providing information to help you target your marketing. At this year’s soccer World Cup, several players wore boots with chips that provided stats on running distance and more. That’s the tip of the iceberg. In the future, your customers will expect to have the same seamless experience on small computing devices as they do on smartphones, tablets and desktops. If you haven’t thought about how to adapt your web and marketing strategy, it’s time to start now.

 

Will Your Customers Be Wearing Your Website

google algorithm updates

Google Algorithm Updates: Should You Be Worried?

google algorithm

The Mopocalypse is here. What does that mean for your marketing strategy? Let’s take a look at Google’s mobile-friendly update and other algorithm changes and see what you need to do next.

Read more

blog editorial calendar

May the Force Be With You: Your Blog Editorial Calendar

blog editorial calendar

You are the social media Jedi, and your editorial calendar is The Force. Use The Force, my young Padawan. Use it well.

Making your blog or social media into an effective marketing tool is a challenge, and so many people get lost along the way. It’s harder than it sounds to not only post regularly but also post content that attracts the right type of traffic and keeps it coming back for more. Even harder is getting your audience to engage by commenting on your content and sharing it. When the going gets rough, though, you’re not at the mercy of fate. Here are three ways your blog or social media editorial calendar can make your job easier.

Mission #1

Post regular content. Regular content helps draw in traffic from the search engines and also gives your audience a reason to come back to your blog. They get used to reading your scintillating content on certain days and come back expecting more of the same. If your posting isn’t consistent, you will have a much harder time building a loyal audience.

 

 

The Force

Your blog editorial calendar will help you stay the course. You’ll have it right there in black and white—what you are supposed to post next and when. This makes it much harder to procrastinate and fall into the posting every now and then category.

Top Tip

When you create your blog editorial calendar, make columns to help you stay organized, including those for the month and the day you will publish; the topics, categories, and keywords you will cover; the images you will add; and any notes that may help you with your post.

Mission #2

Create content of value for your audience. You could blab all day about the way your sofa swallows your remote control and the deals you got at the grocery store, but that’s only going to interest some audiences. You need to plan the right content for your unique audience.

The Force

Create a blog editorial calendar with various topic categories of interest to your audience (after you’ve done your research, of course). Then fill in post topics for each category. Use the calendar to ensure that you don’t focus too much on one topic or category and ignore the world of others you could cover.

Top Tip

So you get stuck for topic ideas? No worries. The rest of us are rowing along in the same boat with you. It’s always a good idea to spend time where your audience does and create content based on what they are discussing or asking. Don’t forget that you can, and probably should, turn those great questions and comments you receive via social media into blog posts as well.

Mission #3

Create content that marches in step with your other marketing efforts. Maybe you have a big promo coming up, an event, or a new product line coming out. Maybe you’re opening a new location or bringing some new, exciting talent on board. Shouldn’t your blog content reflect what you have going on in the present or coming up in the future? If it doesn’t, you’re missing out on an important chance to spread the word.

The Force

Use your editorial calendar to strategize around the release of blog content that works hand-in-hand with your other marketing efforts. Of course, many of your posts will be unrelated to your specific business activities, but when you have news, you want to share it. And when you aren’t posting specifically about your company’s going-ons, you may do well to share content that is somehow related. For example, if you are selling computers, posts about malware and anti-virus protection might fit the bill.

Top Tip

Guess what? If you’re cultivating an audience on social media, you need an editorial calendar for that as well. It’s a separate entity from your blog, and you’ll have different goals and rules of engagement. Here’s what you need to know about creating an editorial calendar for Facebook.

Become a social media Jedi, and tell us about how you’re using an editorial calendar to wrangle your content. We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

May the Force Be With You Your Blog Editorial Calendar

6 Ways to Help Your Marketing Agency Do a Better Job

6 Ways to Help Your Marketing Agency Do a Better Job

6 Ways to Help Your Marketing Agency Do a Better Job

 
Are you planning to hire a digital marketing agency this year? Here’s what I’ve learned from working on thousands of projects that can help set you up for success.

1. Talk Amongst Yourselves

One of the first things to do is to brainstorm internally about what you want from your marketing agency. You’ll be looking at areas like:

  • in-house capabilities
  • strategic goals – this is important!
  • whether you have buy-in from the right people (you don’t want your strategy to fail later because you didn’t get all the necessary approvals)

Think about who will take responsibility for managing your relationship with the agency. It helps to have a main point of contact and someone with the final say, in case of issues later.

If your business is multi-faceted, divvy up the areas of responsibility before you talk to the agency. That will avoid wasting time when the agency sends you content for approval.

The bottom line: sort out internal issues and minor turf wars in advance so you present a united and coherent front right from the start. That’s less confusing for everyone and will result in a smoother working relationship

2. Prepare a Brief

Share your thoughts on strategy with the agency, making it clear which points are hard-wired and which are available for their input. This will help the agency to come up with a digital marketing strategy tailored to your business. Expect some back and forth before you nail down the strategy.

3. Foster Collaboration

Marketing is a collaborative effort. You know your business and some of the ideas you want to communicate; the agency knows marketing and can help flesh out your thoughts. Help the agency by providing background information and context so they can do a better job when creating content for you.

Don’t make the agency beg for new info; keep them in the loop! Let internal content producers know it’s ok to share information which the agency can drip feed to your social media profiles and blog. Work together and you can create a great online profile for your business and enhance its authority.

4. Communicate Often

Especially at the start, spend some time working with the agency so you can identify any issues. Respond to emails promptly because in this time-pressured social environment, delays can make content less relevant and downright boring. It’s worth setting up regular phone or video meetings or face to face chats to keep the strategy on track.

5. Trust the Agency

I get it: your company is your baby and sometimes it’s hard to let go. But when the agency communicates issues, listen and act. The best digital marketers are experts at what they do, have worked with dozens or hundreds of businesses, and are always willing to put that expertise to work for you.

Think of your digital marketing agency as a trusted nanny who will look after your business as if it were their own. After all, a good recommendation from you means more business for them.

 

 

6. Be Realistic

Keep your expectations manageable. No agency in the world can guarantee a top three Google ranking in a couple of months, or thousands of followers for your social accounts overnight. What they can guarantee, especially if you use their expertise, is more attention for and awareness of your company. More attention means more leads – you’ll have to take it from there to convert those leads into sales.

Put these tips into action and you can have a beautiful working relationship with your digital marketing agency, executing a strategy to put your company on the map.

f9756b57-646c-475a-8bdc-1d355f00fa23

6 Ways to Help Your Marketing Agency Do a Better Job

What Is a Digital Footprint?

What Is a Digital Footprint?

What Is a Digital Footprint?

Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “digital footprint” and wondered just what it meant. Essentially, it’s a trail of data created by your presence in the digital world. It includes the presence you create with your website and blog, of course, but encompasses so much more than that. It’s the measure of all that you do online, which can include everything from updating your statuses and creating bookmarks to generating reviews and appearing in search results. As far as social media is concerned, your digital footprint is your online presence in relation to the interactions you have with others and the movement/sharing/engagement of those interactions across the Internet.


Here’s a list of some of the things that make up your digital footprint:

  • Search engine optimization
  • Search engine results
  • Paid search engine ads
  • Permission-based marketing
  • Social media
  • Links
  • Listings
  • Online maps
  • User-generated content, including comments and reviews
  • Internet advertisements
  • Brand-created content

Why Does It Matter?

Sometimes less is more, but that’s not the case here. You want your digital footprint as large as possible. Here’s why:

  • A large digital footprint makes your brand easier to see and discover.  Increased visibility can mean more traffic, more business, and more people spreading the word about how great your brand is.
  • The size of your footprint can influence your ability to expand your audience. Traditional methods and strategies can be limiting, but by broadening your digital horizons, you have a better chance of reaching a larger, more diverse audience.
  • Part of expanding your footprint is contributing content. That content, combined with an overall significant footprint, can help enhance your reputation in the eyes of those you want to influence.
  • Thanks to a range of analytics tools, you can use your digital footprint to assess what’s working for your brand, which strategies you should discard, and how much of the right kind of attention you are getting.

How Can I Expand My Digital Footprint?

There are many, many ways to expand your digital footprint, but here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Create more content: Produce high-quality, relevant content–a lot of it, and spread it around. Don’t stop with just your own websites, blogs, and social media. Look for opportunities to write articles for others, and link them to your website/blog. Be prolific.
  • Interact: The size of your digital footprint is affected by how much interacting you do. Comment on relevant blogs and posts, share, tweet, like, and follow. Then repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Get Visual: Photos and videos are a big deal when it comes to expanding your digital footprint. They capture attention and get people talking, liking, and most importantly, sharing. Be your own publisher. Take photos relevant to your business and publish them where your audience can see them. Where is that? Some top choices include Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. Tumblr is also worth a look. Do the same with videos, but don’t forget to post them on YouTube and Vimeo as well. Get into making vines. These short, looping videos are a great way to creatively capture attention for your brand.
  • Curate Content: You’re providing good content, but you can always do more to aid and interest your audience. Add content other experts produce, and use tools like Paper.li and Scoop.it to make the job easy.
  • Illustrate Your Content: Infographics take your relevant, helpful information and illustrate it, making it more focused, easy to digest, and fun to read. People love to share infographics. Create your own with tools like Visual.ly and Infogr.am.
  • Write a Book: That’s right–a book, an e-book. Give it away for free, sell it, or do a combination of both. Just remember, you get to decide what your e-book includes. It could be as simple as a collection of relevant articles and reports. When you’re finished? Write another.
  • Teach: Every brand has something valuable to teach and contribute.  Expand your digital footprint with webcasts and podcasts.

Though the list of ways to expand your online footprint is long, the task needn’t prove overwhelming. This is not a job to complete in one fell swoop. Instead, commit some time each day to building and expanding. And once you get started? Keep moving!

What Is a Digital Footprint_

7 Key Assets for Inbound Marketing

7 Key Assets for Inbound Marketing

7 Key Assets for Inbound Marketing

You likely already have several key inbound marketing assets at your disposal. These platforms help you interest, educate, and entertain your audience, moving your prospects through the inbound marketing continuum. Your goal is to take your audience members, who are essentially strangers at the beginning of your relationship, and convert them into customers and brand promoters. How many of these marketing assets do you already have working for you?

Your Website

This is not just a pretty homepage. It’s your marketing workhorse and your hub of activity. Every inbound marketing step leads back to this asset. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a great Facebook page can replace your website – click here to learn why.

Your Blog

Guess what’s at the start of your marketing efforts? If you guessed your blog, you’re absolutely right. Remember, the start of the inbound marketing continuum should be a wide net, and your blog is perfect for drawing the masses into it. It’s a top asset for drawing those strangers (soon to be customers and brand promoters) in from the search engines and social media. You’ll even attract people to your blog via word of mouth.

The content you post to your blog is critical. While it may seem smart to write specific details about your products, services, and deals, doing so can actually turn your audience off. Instead, create content (loosely) around your products and services. What does that mean? Essentially, you want to write about themes of interest to your audience. For example, if your business wants to attract customers who have products and services to sell to teens, your content may focus on such topics as marketing to teens, teen-friendly social media platforms, and marketing via social media.

Social Media

More and more people of all ages are using social media not only to learn about companies, brands, products and services but also to spread the word about those they like and to make actual buying decisions. This start-of-the-continuum asset serves a dual purpose: discovery, for the strangers who will become your customers, and delight, for delighting people who have already purchased from you.

Other Content

Beyond the blog, you’ll want to have some other types of content on your website, ideally meatier, jucier content that people can sink their teeth into. Whitepapers, eBooks and downloadable worksheets are all great content which can help move prospective customers through the inbound marketing continuum. And asking people to download this content is part of the next asset, which are….

Calls to Action

call to action landing page resized 600

What do you want your audience to do? What is the next step? The answer may seem obvious to you, but if you want to move your audience members through the inbound marketing continuum, you’ll need to tell them, and tell them, and tell them again what you want them to do next. This means using calls to action – a request you make of your visitor – on your website, blog, and in your emails. You’ll even want to use them from time to time in social media. Where will they lead? Your calls to action should take your prospects to a dedicated landing page that you use to capture leads before you give them what they’re looking for: advice, worksheets, event invitations and more.

Email Marketing and Lead Nurturing

Your leads are only valuable if you choose to do the right thing with them. You have to nurture them to move them through the marketing funnel. After you’ve captured leads through your dedicated landing pages, use email to nurture them. Use the following in your emails:

  • Free offers
  • Content
  • Event invitations
  • Webinar invites
  • Newsletters
How many emails are enough? When should you send emails? That all depends on your goals. This eBook from HubSpot is an excellent introduction to lead nurturing, covering email as well as social media, other content and events.

Other Digital Platforms

You also have many other digital platforms at your disposal. Any platform that reliably moves your prospects through the marketing funnel is a good choice. While there are many to consider, SlideShare is a good choice, especially for business to business. Podcasts are great for boosting engagement and delighting your current customers, and don’t forget events. Events, both online and offline, are useful throughout the funnel for attracting, engaging, converting, and delighting your customers and prospects.

Putting It All Together

As you begin to craft your inbound marketing plans, remember three things:

  1. You’ll need to use several approaches to bring your audience to you
  2. You already have effective assets at your disposal
  3. You’ll get the best results with content tailored to your ideal customer, crafted to travel further and inspire sharing

What other inbound marketing assets are you currently using? What’s worked well for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

This post is third in a series on how to use inbound marketing in your company marketing efforts. You may also be interested in the first post, What Is Inbound Marketing, the second post, Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing, and the fourth post 4 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Engine.

7 Key Assets for Inbound Marketing

Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing

Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing

Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing

Some things just aren’t one-size fits all, and content is one of them. To effectively engage your audience, you’ll need content that caters to the specific types of consumers you are trying to reach. And how can you get that? Start by creating customer personas that fit your audience members, and then tailor content to fit each persona. Essentially, you’ll use these personas to drive your inbound marketing strategies.

What Are Personas?

Your company has ideal customers that are unique to it. A persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. Fictional doesn’t mean fairy tale, however. You’ll use real demographics and behavioral data to make each persona a realistic representation of your ideal customer. Of course, your customers are more than just a collection of facts and figures. To make them more human, you add in educated speculation about such things as motivations, backgrounds, preferences and concerns.

Here are the main categories companies often cover when creating personas for marketing purposes:

  • Demographics: This includes basic demographic data, such as age, gender, education level, career or business, etc.
  • Profile: This reveals what the persona does, where she lives, and what she cares about. You might include how much time the persona spends on the Internet and what she does online, what her hobbies are, how much she earns, where she works, what kind of car she drives and whether she is a homeowner. You’ll also want to include what she reads and which kinds of memberships she has.
  • Motivators: What are this persona’s reasons for choosing your brand? For example, does your brand help this persona save time or money? Does this persona choose your brand because of perceived value?
  • Goals: What does this persona hope to achieve?
  • Pain Points: What are the concerns your brand solves for this persona?
  • Behaviors: What are this persona’s behavioral traits?
  • Story: What is your persona’s backstory? Who is she? What does she want? What does she do? What are her needs and concerns? This is a brief fictional account of the customer’s overall traits.

How to Get Information for Personas

You can get the information you need to craft realistic personas via the following:

  • Customer data
  • Surveys
  • Interviews with a sampling of customers
  • Interpretation of data

Creating Your Customer Personas

Once you have the data, plus behavioral data and story, you’ll want to codify each of the different personas into documents you and your team can refer to frequently. This could be a Word document, a Powerpoint, or an online doc which you can update easily. You might even blow up your customer personas poster-sized and hang them on the wall, so you’re constantly surrounded by the people you’re creating content for.

Here’s an example of a persona I’ve developed for a client.

creating customer personas resized 600

Aligning Content to Personas

Once you’ve compiled convincing personas of your ideal customer, it’s time to create content that fits each persona and speaks directly to her. Your goal is to create the right kind of content, but this doesn’t mean the right content for all of your customers. Instead, you want to match each persona with content that will move her through the inbound marketing continuum toward becoming a customer and even a brand promoter.

For example, consider example personas A and B. Persona A is less tech-savvy and needs help understanding the hows and whys of your product while persona B is extremely tech-savvy but more budget conscious. To engage and move persona A through the inbound marketing continuum, you’ll want content that primarily teaches, while persona B may better respond to content that helps him compare choices.

Here’s an example of how you might align content to personas.

persona content alignment resized 600

Ongoing Persona Management

Once you’ve created your main customer personas, you won’t need to do this entire exercise from scratch again. You should, however, look at your personas critically every six months to a year, to determine if you need to adjust them, add or drop personas, or update them with new data.

Although persona creation may seem like a lot of work, it’s work which will ultimately shorten the time it takes you do to many other marketing tasks, as you won’t be guessing (and second-guessing) about who will be on the receiving end of your content and communications.


Have you used customer personas in your marketing? Do you have ideas or strategies to share? Please leave a comment below!

This post is part of a series on how to use inbound marketing in your company marketing efforts. You may also be interested What Is Inbound Marketing, 7 Key Assets for Inbound Marketing, and 4 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Engine.

Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing

What Is Inbound Marketing?

What Is Inbound Marketing?

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing, while not an entirely new concept, has become quite popular, particularly with B2B marketers and with consumer marketers too. The reason for its growth is due in large part to some of the new ways that people communicate: via the social web and blogs.

Inbound marketing is actually a powerful combination of digital marketing methods, including content marketing, social media, SEO, lead nurturing and email marketing. And it’s considered today’s “new” way of marketing. In the old world of marketing, you could buy people’s attention – throw enough money at TV ads and you’d get a huge audience. But in today’s increasingly fragmented media market, and with those new communications methods, that’s very hard to do, so there has to be a better way.

Source: Mashable

With inbound marketing, your purpose is clear. You want to convert strangers into customers and fans. Essentially, you use inbound marketing strategies to help the right people find you and not only buy from you but also send new prospects your way. This means not only generating leads but also building awareness, gaining trust, developing relationships, and building reputation.

The Inbound Marketing Continuum

Think of inbound marketing as a continuum. At the start of the continuum, you’ll want to attract as many strangers to your company as possible, to introduce them to you in the hopes that your content and concepts will resonate. The far end of the continuum is where you work to keep current customers engaged and energized.

HubSpot’s marketing methodology for the inbound continuum looks like this:

hubspot inbound marketing methodology resized 600

Source: HubSpot

And here’s how it works:

  1. Attract: Draw strangers to your brand via social media, targeted keywords, blog posts and web pages. This is the start of the continuum and where you’ll cast a wide net.
  2. Convert: Convert your visitors into leads with well-crafted forms, landing pages and calls to action.
  3. Close: Use email, workflows, lead scoring, and CRM integrations to transform the strangers still in the continuum from leads to customers.
  4. Delight: This is where your happy customers become your brand promoters. Email, workflows, social media content and calls to action help get them there. This is the end of the continuum, but really only the beginning of your relationship with your customers – hopefully they’ll stay in this stage for a long time!

Content for Inbound Marketing

Providing your audience with valuable educational and/or entertaining content means understanding each phase of the continuum and providing the right content at the right time. To do this, you’ll have to first understand where your prospects are in the continuum and then provide content that matches that phase, answers their unasked questions and shares the information they need to trust, take further interest, and eventually, buy.

Inbound marketing versus outbound marketing is the difference between earning and buying. With inbound marketing, you’re earning your audience’s interest and getting prospects to opt-in to you while outbound marketing requires you to buy their interest, an approach that often fails. Inbound marketing does take work, but it can produce cost-effective results. According to HubSpot, over 80 percent of marketers say inbound market brings positive ROI. And let’s face it, it’s as hard to buy interest and loyalty as it is to purchase respect.

This is the first in a series of posts on inbound marketing. For others in the series, see Creating Customer Personas for Inbound Marketing7 Key Assets for Inbound Marketing and 4 Steps to Creating a Content Marketing Engine.

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

Content is at the core of what inbound marketing is – it’s what attracts people to your brand, product or service, versus you needing to go out and find them. Think of content as the honey which attracts the flies!


Because it’s easier to start something new when you have a process, I offer you this method of creating content.

Step 1: Brainstorm themes for your content

You don’t want to write only about your product or service – would you want to read three blog posts a week about your product? So your content will cover both your product/service and adjacent or related themes – in some distance outside of your core. How far out you go depends on your product and industry; in a highly specialized area you may want to keep things fairly tight, but in a broader marketplace you can go pretty wide and still maintain relevancy to your company.

Themes are not titles or specific posts, they’re the overarching ideas that all of your content will address.

For example – some themes for my business, a digital marketing agency, are:

  • Marketing to teens, tweens & parents
  • How to create content/inbound marketing & social media strategy
  • How to use specific social media platforms
  • How inbound and digital marketing intersect with other marketing
  • Examples of companies doing content & social media well

Step 2: Brainstorm topics for your themes

Now you’re going to drill down – you’re going to develop some draft titles and specific ideas for your content. Choose one of your themes and come up with as many different topics as you can for that theme.

Some of the types of content you might create include:

  • Make a list
  • Answer a question
  • Talk about the competition
  • Use the “vs.” format
  • Write about “the best”
  • Outline a process
  • Provide examples
  • Curate other people’s examples or content
For my theme of “How to create content/inbound marketing & social media strategy,” topics could include:
  • 4 ways to use inbound marketing to solve customer problems
  • How to involve your whole team in your content creation
  • Why content creation saves time & money vs. traditional advertising
  • How to use influencers in your content creation strategy
  • Why you shouldn’t use bloggers as your social media agency

Step 3: Determine content types

This part will probably be pretty easy – make a list of all of the content types you currently create/offer and those you know you want to create. Content types could include:
  • Blog post
  • Video (short-form, like Instagram and Vine, and long-form, like YouTube videos)
  • Images
  • Podcast topic
  • Email
  • eBook
  • Whitepaper
  • Facebook update
  • Tweet
  • Slideshare
  • Webinar

Step 4: Align topics to content types

For each topic that you create, assign it to a specific content type.

Now comes the really hard part: you have to create the content! Once you have a list of topics you like, and know what kind of content you want to create for that topic, add that topic + content type to your editorial calendar.

Get the Content Creation Worksheet

I’ve created a brand-new worksheet which can help you with the brainstorming and content alignment process. Download it here, and please let me know how it works for you!

Creating Content for Inbound Marketing

How To Survey Your Customers Like A Pro

How To Survey Your Customers Like A Pro

How To Survey Your Customers Like A Pro

Knowing your customers, understanding their wants and their needs, and getting feedback quickly on new products and services, is critical to your business success. One of the best tools available for getting that information is offered by a company called Survey Monkey. It’s free for a basic service that allows up to 100 responses per survey. For a relatively small annual charge, you can get thousands of responses and a wide array of survey types and analysis through simple or complex customer surveys.

 

 

surveymonkey

If you need guidance on creating a survey including what types of questions to ask, what to avoid, how to best to design a survey and how to improve response rates, Survey Monkey has examples for many types of businesses and different kinds of surveys.  They also have a helpful blog with tips and tricks to guide your use. When you create a survey, you’ll be able to look at the results as they come in and, if you’re a paid user, you’ll get charts and graphs to help analyze the results even further.

A survey conducted by your company is not always as reliable or objective as one performed by professional survey company and conducted independently. But the ability to check in with your customers regularly at a nominal cost means you’ll get to know your customers and can make changes to your business quickly in order to meet their needs. A huge bonus is the surprise and delight your customers will feel when they’re asked their opinion and then responded to them.  After all, everyone really wants to be heard – customers too!

Note: Social Media School has no relationship with Survey Monkey except as a satisfied customer.

 

Don't Forget to Monitor Forums

Don’t Forget to Monitor Forums

Don't Forget to Monitor Forums

When I speak with clients about the need to listen to social media to know what people are saying about brands, products and services, most of them understand the need to monitor the most prevalent social outlets: what people are discussing on blogs, on Twitter, and on Facebook.  I usually suggest that it’s also possible to monitor YouTube and Flickr (are people tagging or describing videos with brand terms?) as well as LinkedIn.  Yelp and Foursquare are two other important venues, particularly for local businesses.  But what about monitoring web forums?

Read more

Dads Are the New Moms

Are dads the new moms? All signs in social media point to yes.

As I sat in the Dads and Social Media session at the Evo Conference last weekend I was struck by how unusual it was to be applauding four men on a panel (below, from left – Adam Cohen from DadaRocks.com, Greg from TellingDad.com, Drew Bennett from BenSpark.com and Troy Pattee from Dadventurous.com) – four of the hundreds of dad bloggers who have begun emerging as a new category in blog content.  It wasn’t unusual to see men on a conference panel – we women have been struggling with equal representation in tech/social speaking roles forever – but it was unusual that they were talking about fitting in blogging alongside their full-time jobs, how their spouses feel alienated by their new blogging “hobby,” and how people berate about them blogging publicly about their kids.  Funny, it all sounds familiar – if you’re a mom blogger.  These are all recurring topics in the mom blogosphere and have been part of every women’s blogging conference since time immemorial (well, at least since the first BlogHer in 2005).

Read more

brands working with bloggers

Brands Working With Bloggers – It’s Confusing

brands working with bloggers

While I was busy last week getting my new site up and running, a major conversation was happening in the blogosphere about compensation for mommybloggers. This is a topic that I’m pretty passionate about, having recently moderated a panel about how PR and bloggers can work together, and as a long-time liaison between brands and bloggers.

From the brand side, there is certainly a great deal of confusion (and, dare I say, ignorance) about how to work with bloggers (of any type, not just moms). Here are the issues from my perspective.

Public Relations and Bloggers

If you’re coming from the PR side, you’re used to working with editorial content, and calling up or emailing journalists to place stories about products and services you represent. You would never think to compensate those journalists, and even if you did send product samples you often get them back. And your budget does not extend into payments for anything editorially related; you may have budget for events or stunts, but not for paying people to evangelize your brand.

Why this works in “old media”: Journalists are paid by their publications (whether they’re paper or online), and the publications monetize based on subscriptions and ad revenue. The two are, in theory, held (more or less) strictly separate (more on that below).

Why this doesn’t work for bloggers: Bloggers don’t have “publications” paying them, they are the publications. Some are monetizing their site via advertising, others are not. Those that have worked hard to build up their readerships to a level where they’re valuable to a brand have probably done most of it uncompensated. They therefore often (but not always) want to find ways to generate revenue from their blogs/sites.

Advertising/Media and Bloggers

If you’re an advertising or media buying person, you’ve got a budget. You’re used to finding places to put your ads and paying those places to take them. So now you want to attract niche demographics, like moms, to your brand, and so you assume you can just pay bloggers with those readerships to get the exposure you’re looking for. While you don’t necessarily expect editorial coverage to accompany your ads, in practice there is absolutely an unwritten code that makes it more likely that a publication (particularly magazines) will cover your product if you’re advertising frequently.

Why this works in “old media”: It’s a pretty simple equation. Advertisers want to put their product in front of people who will care about it, and publishers have space to sell, online or off. And hey, if it does encourage editorial coverage here and there, all the better.

Why this doesn’t work for bloggers: Marketers and advertisers are now more than willing to compensate bloggers for product reviews, as if they were just another ad buy – whether that compensation is in cash or product. This is complex territory all around, clouding the notion of what a product review is (or at least should be). Bloggers who remain editorially neutral and/or provide full disclosures may not be as attractive to advertisers who want their reviews to look as organic as possible.

Additionally, although many bloggers do take paid advertising, as a persistent online publication it’s more difficult to straddle the line between advertising and editorial. What if you really love a product and write about it one week, then the brand offers you advertising dollars the next? That post lives forever and may be featured alongside that advertising, murking up the waters of integrity.

So What’s a Brand To Do?

No doubt this debate will continue, as marketers need to break out of their “old media’ models and bloggers further assert themselves as hardworking assets to brands. Others have written eloquently about great ways to compensate bloggers without paying for posts and how agencies should evolve.

Here’s my advice: Start with the assumption that you’re going to need to compensate bloggers in some way. If you’re PR, make sure your bosses or clients are aware that there will be costs involved in blogger outreach – to compensate bloggers as paid brand ambassadors, to create customized content for your site, or to test your product or service and write a properly disclosed review. Then be pleasantly surprised if your product or service is cool enough that your pitch gets met with a warm editorial reception, without compensation.

If you’re advertising/media, don’t expect more than what you pay for. If you’re buying advertising, that’s what you’ll get. If you want bloggers to do other things for you, plan to compensate them accordingly.

And, brand marketers, put yourself in the bloggers’ shoes. Take the time to communicate with the blogger and understand their motivations. Are they blogging for their community, and just trying to pay the hosting bills? Are they building readership to attract more (and more valuable) paid advertising? Do they have other skills they can bring to the table for you – are they trained marketers themselves who can add a new perspective to your marketing team? Once bloggers become your true marketing partners, everyone will win.

 

 
Brands Working With Bloggers - It_s Confusing