Content Marketing and Facebook Ads That Work Wonders We Are Your Brand's Storyteller Mon, 15 Jan 2018 15:28:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Email Marketing Strategies that Work to Drive Long Term ROI (Part2) Sat, 12 Aug 2017 01:23:03 +0000 Email Marketing Strategies That Work to Drive Long Term ROI

(Part 2)

After 4+ years we’ve made some discoveries as to what kind of email gets our customers more business, and higher ROI long term. Some of this is through the prism of what works for tech contracting business and other similar businesses. They are built on high transaction value, long term, repeat business that requires technical skills their customers either don’t have or would rather not use.

It’s somewhat different in other spaces. For example, some  pure e-commerce companies (depending on their market) or hospitality business we help may use strategies that fly directly in the face of these. Those organizations actually strive to achieve the “mistakes” noted in our recent Email Marketing Mistakes post. For them, they aren’t mistakes, but a proven email marketing strategy. Again, it’s all about market and audience; followed by measurement and testing.

 “…..there is a continued underinvestment in email marketing relative to the sales and value it is generating” – Ecoconsultancy – 2017 Email Industry Census

What Works For Email Marketing: Delivering Long Term Value

As with any other customer transaction, with email marketing, delivering consistent value is vital. That’s true in all spaces, across all industries. Every email sent must deliver value to your target audience. It’s why the better you know your audience, the more successful you’ll be. You’ll know better what they find value in and how to deliver it.

A key question for delivering long term value:

Do you know who your target audience is and why they’re your target audience? Think about it from their perspective. Does your latest message deliver value to them? Did the previous one? Together this creates what we call Value History.

Value History and How it Helps Your Email Marketing:

Compelling subject lines are vital for short term open rates, but if the value history is not there, open rates decline precipitously over time, and eventually, many will unsubscribe. If you have created solid value history, that precedent makes your audience open and read your email messages.
The audience for our clients’ tech contractor clients is primarily affluent home owners and contractors serving them, such as custom home builders and architects. Sending out emails that have value to them and developing a value history keeps long term open rates high. It’s worked very well.

What Works: Concept driven content, rather than product or service driven content.

For example, our client’s tech contractor customers strive to enhance their customers’ lifestyles.

What are the most popular concepts they use to do that?
What are the latest lifestyle enhancement trends?
What are some new and innovative ways their customers could use these concepts?

Communicating those in an entertaining fashion keeps readers coming back for more. It sparks ideas in customer’s minds and puts the business’ brand in front of them on a long term basis. You’re in their consciousness day in and day out, so whenever something  related to your business comes up, your brand is on their mind. That’s your goal.

What Works: Focus on building your own brand, not your vendors.

We ask our customers what the most important brand they sell is. The point is flat lost on many. They answer with names of their leading vendors, they have missed the point completely. The most important brand they sell is THEIRS!

The mistake here is trying to leverage a manufacturer’s brand recognition. The problem is that, for the general consumer, specialized manufacturers have virtually zero brand recognition. For A/V tech customers, if a brand’s not named Sony, Samsung, or Bose, most consumers haven’t heard of them. Quick, ask your mom, what’s RTI and what do they do? How about Atlona, Martin Logan, or Krell? Precisely.

If you’re in a space where brand equity is high among your audience, leveraging your vendor’s may work, but not so much in many markets. Don’t waste the audience’s attention on it, put your brand there instead.

YOURS is the most important brand you sell. Consistently putting your brand in front of customers and associating it with long term value is job one from a relationship marketing standpoint. Email marketing is tailor made for doing just that.

Rarely or never mention brands in your email messages unless your business sells something where your target audience comes to you specifically for that brand.

What Works: Using plain language your customers understand.

Excessive industry buzzwords are a common email marketing problem. Spoken to your attorney or accountant lately? Yeah, well, it’s the same in the many other spaces too. The problem for many businesses is that their customers aren’t in their industry. Some may have a basic understanding, but many folks just want you to solve their immediate problem. They want to know what cool ways their lifestyles can be enhanced, and if you can help them do it.

This is a concern in any industry. Remember your target audience.

FOR EXAMPLE: If yours is accountants, hard hitting info full of terms such as difference on consolidation, return on capital employed, and working capital cycle, would be on the right track. Those may be too over the top for Joe/sephene average who just want a better handle on where their money goes each month or how to get the most back on their taxes.

If your audience is dermatologists, dropping an Exocytosis, Lichenification , or Onychocryptosis is to be expected. If your email newsletter is aimed at people with acne, those terms might be a bridge too far.

We’ve scrubbed our customers’ messages clean of such complicated talk unless there is absolutely no other way to convey the information, or that is exactly the language they want to hear.

If there isn’t a simple way to discuss things, that begs the question; should you even be talking about it in the first place? The K.I.S.S. principle has worked, and helped keep our customers’ long term unsubscribe rates low and open rates high. Yours may of course, be different….. testing and tracking…

What Works: Using an eMail Marketing System

A system makes things repeatable, scalable, and easier to implement and maintain. Using an email marketing system, whether outsourced or done in-house, delivers the same benefits applied to your marketing. Most email marketing systems today offer a plethora of features, from marketing automation to “done for you” landing page templates you can customize for your audience and objectives.

How to Improve Your Email Marketing

Goal: Keeping Subscribers Long Term (Reducing Churn)

Keeping customers long term is essential. It’s the whole point, really. It gives us, as marketers, more opportunity to build customer relationship, grow trust, and facilitates sales. Heck, you may even make a friend or three! Some pretty good friends started out as customers.

We’ve kept our clients’ open rates high over the long term. From all the analysis we’ve done, the key factor to long term retention and high open rates is perceived value, with value history following closely behind.

Long Term Email Marketing TIP: When doing “done for you” newsletters for our clients, we focus on topics that benefit both our clients and their customers. However, we often include other content that has no direct benefit for our clients, only their customers.

Remember, if your existing customer is your target audience, benefit them, not so much yourself. That’ll come later, if you give it the chance. This is a long term play, and it’s essential to keep that in mind when planning your messages and voice.

Why Use This Email Marketing Strategy?

Why include content that doesn’t directly benefit our clients if we sending email to their customers? Because it benefits those customers, who are really the target audience. If we only sent content that was highly related to our customers’ business, we discovered their customers who weren’t all that interested in that sort of thing until they needed it would eventually unsubscribe. Not an epiphany, but pretty important for long-term retention nonetheless.

EXAMPLE: If you’re sending out B2C content for custom residential audio video tech contractors, sending content highlighting cool AV concepts that the audience may enjoy in their homes has a direct benefit to your clients. Including 3 delicious barbeque recipes in the middle of June doesn’t help the AV contractor one bit, but it’s timed and themed to give their customers a nice value shot. The more value they get, the longer they stay subscribed and the longer your brand stays in front of them.

For our residential tech clients, there are plenty of places online to get consumer pure electronics info. If that’s what their customers wanted, they’d be reading Engadget or Sound and Vision.


Delivering other varied content in addition to the central, recurring theme helps ensure email subscribers find enough value to continue opening your newsletter, if not downright enjoying it.

A couple of other interesting discoveries worth noting:
We’ve found that you can’t compare open rates between customers, even in the same specific industry. Our customers who enjoy the highest open rates do so fairly consistently. It has much to do with their specific customer demographic and the relationship they’ve built to this point.

For Example:
Our customer with the highest average open rate among their customers (we’ll call them “Customer A”) typically sees open rates of 39.5% from their customers, while our customer whose customers see the lowest historical open rates (“Customer X”) normally averages 20.7%. A dip in overall open rates among all our customers would not change their order. Customer A still enjoys the highest open rates, while Customer X still has the lowest.

A release-to-release variance usually indicates of the subject line we used or external factors, such as a holiday season. That means our “Customer A” might see only 29% for a release. In the same release, our “Customer X” would likely still trail them, maybe hitting 18%.

Email Marketing Metrics: Measuring Success

So, how do you know whether you’re succeeding at the email marketing game or not? At the risk of sounding brash, are you making more money? Has revenue, and more significantly, profit, risen? How do you know, and how can you prove it was due to your email marketing? There’s a simple way to know: TRACK and TEST EVERYTHING!

If your mailing list is large enough to deliver statistically significant results, split testing works well. In such testing the data base is split and half get one variable, half the other. This is used to test many variables from contact button colors to headlines. The catch is that the contact list must be large enough that a small percentage of it can be used for the split test before the test winner is sent to the remainder of the list. Most custom install firms don’t have a contact list that large.

There are a few simple metrics that tell the email success story (or not):

Open Rate

Precisely what it sounds like: the percentage of recipients who opened the email. It’s not to be confused with the number of times it was opened. Many recipients will open it several times, so calculations based on the number of times it was opened will be next to useless.

Click Through Rate

The percentage of recipients that clicked on links in the message. The higher the click through rate, the more recipients clicked on the link to your website or contact info.

Here’s how to raise your click through rate (CTR):

  1. Have a clear and compelling call to action
  2. Ensure the offer is well matched to the audience
  3. Craft the email message before the call to action to build interest and make clicking on the link an eminently desirable thing to do.

There’s also something else that makes a massive difference in click through rate, and it has nothing to do with your messaging, call to action, or any other traditional marketing metric. Do your customers like and trust you? Building trust is a kind of chicken and egg scenario. You must do it to maximize the success of your email marketing (or any other marketing, for that matter). However, you also build it through your email marketing efforts.

Share Rate

What percentage of your recipients spread the word? These days, your email marketing can be a valuable lead generator. Facilitate social sharing and email forwarding so that your audience can introduce you and your company to others. The share rate is the percentage of those who clicked on the social sharing icons or forwarded the email to others. It’s another reason to use software as part of your email marketing system. All email marketing platforms will give you measurement ability. If yours doesn’t, look at alternatives ASAP!

Long Term Conversion Rate

At the end of the year, LTCR is your most important metric. What percentage of your audience has contacted you within 1 year? It depends on your goals of course. For restaurants and nightclubs, you’re typically working with a much shorter time horizon. You’ll deliver long term value, but the aim is to generate immediate business, so promotions and teasers are effective. There even more effective when combined with other high value elements.

For high transaction value businesses, you will normally lean more towards “dripping” long term high value content that’s insightful and immediately actionable for your audience. Newsletters, online courses, report series, and the like are where your bread’s buttered. This kind of email marketing isn’t aimed at driving sales from the very first email, although that certainly has happened.

The goal is to stimulate contacts from people who are pre-tensioned to buy.

The emails have built trust and relationship. They’ve illuminated the prospect’s problem and possible solutions, and positioned your organization’s solution as a leader. It’s up to your sales team to turn the contact into a meeting and then a sale. Most of them are experienced at doing so.

Unsubscribe Rate

Here’s a metric that’s better off low. What percentage of the recipient list unsubscribes each month? In our experience, it’s natural for unsubscribe rates to be higher at the beginning. After a short initial period, it drops to virtually zero, likely because those who are still there like the content, and want to receive it. That’s partially affected by how your list is growing. We discovered that for our audience, fast growing lists have higher unsubscribe rates. We expect this is due to the relatively higher percentage of new subscribers.

strong>Interesting Email Marketing Discovery: Long term email marketing can be effective even among those who never or rarely open your emails. Our theory is that just regularly seeing your brand in their inbox has a somewhat significant effect. The operative word here is “regularly”. Carve another notch for consistency.

In the End: What We Discovered About Effective Email Marketing Systems

Key Takeaways:

Perceived Value’s King, all apologies to content: It’s all about the audience’s perceived value. If they’re getting something out of it, they will continue receiving and opening it, giving you an ongoing opportunity. Audience-centric rules the day. The more consistent the contact, the more your brand’s in front of them. It only works if the value’s there, however.

Have a Purpose Know why you’re sending. Have specific goals. When we are working with contractors, the goal is for the contractor to get better connected with their clients, which ultimately leads to a contact. Our emails pretension them to buy, but the goal is a contact which leads to a site meeting for the contractor.

The right email marketing system delivers a high value and effective way to keep existing customers engaged and make them long term customers. Those are arguably a business’s best asset and a steady stream of high profit, lower effort business. Although it can be easy to let engaging them fall down the priority list, that’s a costly and avoidable mistake that pulls profit away from your organization.

“For a medium that has been so readily and regularly written off over the years, and one that remains undervalued by companies in terms of budget, it is striking how healthily email marketing continues to perform as a channel for marketing communications, and how much room it retains for innovation and development.” Ecoconsultancy, 2017 Email Marketing Industry Census

Does your business have an email marketing system in place?

Contact us now for a free strategy call to discuss how to boost your profit with email.

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Email Marketing Strategies to Drive ROI Fri, 04 Aug 2017 13:53:23 +0000 Email Marketing Strategies to Drive ROI

What We’ve Discovered to Boost Client’s Email ROI  – Part 1

If you’re using email marketing or considering it, there are several key things you need to know that drive long term ROI. No matter what type of business you run, what vertical you’re in, or how your sales process works, email can help your ROI. There’s a reason it’s almost universally used by  the most successful brands, large and small.

We help many kinds of businesses with email marketing. One of our core businesses is helping building, tech, and IT contractors build their customer relationships and grow profitability. We’ve used an email marketing system, targeted at their existing customers as our primary tool. The journey has taught us plenty about what works, what doesn’t, and how to be more effective email marketers for our clients. Here’s what we’ve discovered about how to make email marketing more effective for businesses like yours.

Marketing Challenges the Right Email Marketing System Solves for Small Business Owners

Small Business Email Marketing Challenge 1: High intention, no time.

This is a biggie. Most of our customers are small to medium sized businesses, typically with 25 or fewer employees and $5 million or less in annual email marketing challenges : timerevenue, although some are much larger. As such, there are plenty of multiple hat-wearers involved. The marketing director is usually the owner, or someone else who counts a few other things as their primary responsibilities.

They have every intention of staying closely connected with their existing customers as part of their marketing function. Other day-to-day business operations intervene and keep them from any consistency, if they ever send anything at all. Maybe they send a holiday mailer a few times a year, but that’s about it.

To most small business execs, finding time is an old story; 70 emails, 23 customer/vendor phone calls, 3 meetings, and 107 text messages later, the day’s end is long gone, and they still haven’t gotten to half the stuff on their day’s “To Do” list.

One of the first things to go by the wayside is any kind of regular communication to their past customers. Yes, they know it should be done, but so should addressing all those other issues that can have a much more immediate impact on their business. If it’s in your face, it gets your attention, and rightly so. An email marketing system can be a significant marketing time saver, even if you elect to do it yourself. If you outsource it, you’ll spend only as much time as you need to check your analytics. (More on that later)

Small Business Email Marketing Challenge 2: Unsure what works best or how to go about it.

The other big challenge we’ve found is many small business owners have little marketing background. Sometimes they have little direct business experience. They started their firm after working at a similar one. One day they decided to strike out on their own. Most were sales reps, technicians, programmers, designers, or project managers. Some had a combination of those roles.

While some have prior sales experience, sales is not really the same as marketing. Some sales reps do marketing as part of their job, though.

Marketing generates qualified leads that want what your business sells and is able to buy. Sales turns those leads into paying customers. A sales rep needs a steady stream of qualified leads if they’re to maximize effectiveness.

Many business owners don’t know exactly what works best to bring business through the door with the highest return on their investment in time and financial resources. For example, cold calling can be effective for talented, experienced sales reps, but it takes significant time. Those same sales reps would bring in much more revenue if they had a stream of qualified leads to work with. Sales and marketing activities that deliver consistently positive results and require minimal time and financial input are obviously preferred. This is doubly true for bandwidth-limited small businesses.

Small Business Email Marketing Challenge 3: They’re not copywriters

Most small business owners and even marketing execs are not copywriters. Most do not have one on staff, either. They’re not versed in the subtleties of crafting content that keeps their customers engaged long term. They don’t know how to solve their problems, boost desire, and have prospects take action when called upon. That’s vital in our case, because a primary goal is for our clients to score new contacts from their old customers. The ultimate goal is to convert those contacts into contacts, and ultimately into sales. For those owners or managers who can write compelling copy, see challenge #1. They simply don’t have the time.

What Doesn’t Work in Email Marketing

If business owners had dabbled in email marketing before, we’ve found 2 big mistakes they typically made that kept them from seeing the kind of success they were hoping for. As to what doesn’t work in email marketing, we are going to ignore the basics, like poor layout, cheesy graphics, and spelling errors. You’re not making these. The audience expects more from you.

Email Marketing Mistake 1 – Sending emails that were primarily product, service, or company focused.

This is what email marketing means to many, especially to those used to retail marketing. It’s been the norm for many non-retail business too. Their emails were all about the new products from XYZ Company, all the arcane features, and why those products are so special. Images, yes, but just big product pictures, straight from the manufacturers’ stock, and product description (ditto). Some call this strategy “brochure marketing”.

The problem with that?

Others can sell those same products. Even if they can’t, a winning message is not about the product (yet), it’s about the problem and the solution. There is a place to talk about a product, but it’s very strategic, at the end of a sales funnel. Talking about a specific product and why it’s cool doesn’t deliver the small business’ audience any value, and value must always come first to build the relationship and maximize conversion rate.

“Product speak” only serves the business, except that it doesn’t, really. It’s a key reason behind email marketing failures. See closely related Mistake 2, below.

Email Marketing Mistake 2: Pounding their customers over the head with endless “Buy! Buy! Buy!” emails.

It’s all too common practice among email marketers. You’ve seen them too; probably the last time you checked your email. Your audience has too. They get that all day, every day from everybody else. Don’t fall prey to the temptation; your audience will just tune you out. Worse, unless you’re in Email Marketing Mistakes : buy buy buyrestaurants or some retail verticals, that email style significantly increases long term unsubscribe rates, and reduces open rates. At best, customers ignore those emails.
 “Buy! Buy! Buy! this New 4K TV From Us Now! It’s Sooo Cheap!” “Sump pumps 25% off – Today Only!!!”

It highlights the need to target email marketing campaigns for specific audiences and markets. The promo style emails work well in the hospitality industry, where subscribers subscribed specifically to get timely specials and promotions. Having 2 for 1 chicken nachos tomorrow during happy hour? Yum, I’m on the way!

On the other hand. that style doesn’t translate as well to the software or contracting spaces, where the goal is long term engagement, an eventual customer email or phone contact, and a consultative sales appointment. For example, when it comes to email marketing messages for custom AV or IT  contractors, very few clients are going to buy a $80,000 system tomorrow because you just sent them an email today.

Think about it this way: Email marketing is just that; marketing. It isn’t email sales. While selling directly from email messages can be highly effective in some spaces, we’ve found that it does not work well for technology, consulting, or building contractors. In fact, it can be a real killer.

Another reason blasting out specials doesn’t really work in the contractor market is simple. Customers aren’t buying components. In this case, our customers’ are contractors. They provide a solid value add, and sell complete, installed systems. In most cases their audience doesn’t know enough about exactly which components work with their system to know if that new network switch special the contractor just blasted out is even a good fit for their system.

It’s much the same story for business consultants. They work with businesses to strengthen their processes. Their prospects aren’t going to respond to “Buy Bombardment” either. They must demonstrate value first. Their consulting service is a large ticket purchase, not something bought on a whim because the price is 20% off. It’s about the value they provide, and using email to help demonstrate that is what drives sales.

Here’s another example: How well would it work for a general contractor to offer a special on Glu-Lam beams to home buyers? Not very well, probably. Who, but possibly other general contractors or framing contractors, would know if those specific beams would work for their project or what a good price would be? It’s all about knowing your target audience and ideal customer.

Email Marketing Mistake 3: Don’t make this one!

A common way many small business owners try to leverage content is simply using their vendor’s press releases as email newsletter content. Don’t fall prey to this one! Sure, it’s easy, but so is tripping over your feet. It can work for some highly anticipated products, but it’s a rarity. A big problem is those releases all lead back to the manufacturer. Those emails stimulate interest; that’s good. However, they make your audience go elsewhere, not to you, to get more info; bad!

The reader’s natural reaction to a product press release is going to the product manufacturer’s website for more info, even if you don’t link to it in your email.

If you do send out manufacturer press releases, add significant value to the basic release as part of your email. How does the release benefit your customer? How can you increase the value to them?

Ok, now that stuff is out of the way…..

What does work to drive long term ROI with email marketing?

SEE PART 2: Email Marketing Strategies That Work to Generate Long Term Business

CLICK HERE to Drive Long Term ROI With Email (Part 2)

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Using Content Marketing to Amplify Your Digital Footprint Fri, 12 Aug 2016 14:10:50 +0000 How to Use Content Marketing to Amplify Your Digital Footprint

6 Content Marketing Experts Reveal the Inside Track

Content marketing is used by nearly all brands now, large and small. Most have seen the light. It matters not what they’re selling; consulting services (Ok, you got me…), blue widgets, or political aspirations. Today, consumers make their decision only after doing their digital due diligence.

Your website’s the shiniest, newest thing? Fantastic! How do you get your target audience to notice it and exceed their expectations once they’ve arrived? It’s largely the content on both counts.

You’re a big fan of social media for engaging and recruiting new prospects?

Congrats, but social’s effectiveness for outreach is on the wane. “Pay to Play” has largely supplanted organic reach on many leading social platforms, even for the most social media adept. Even if it is still riding high for your brand, success or failure ultimately comes down to the content your audience finds on your digital footprint. That’s true for both organic and paid social.

If you're investing in paid social, your ROI depends on your content.
Click To Tweet

It’s only going to move further in that direction. Social media platforms are big money, and consolidation is ensuring that’s only getting bigger. Investors need to see a return, and sooner rather than later. That’s not to say brands can’t get traction with social media. They can, but again, it is largely the content that provides a return on their social media investment.

We’ve noticed it’s not only more difficult to get noticed with even stellar content, the reasons behind it are somewhat troubling. Much has been made recently of content saturation. Barriers to content production are relatively low, and most brands now see value in producing great stuff. The combination has lead to a nearly exponentially growing content pool competing for a linearly growing audience.

It’s a bad situation for brands, as their excellent (and expensive) content increasingly falls on deaf ears and blind eyes. With that in mind, I hit up several of the world’s best content marketers on how to amplify your brand’s digital footprint in this era of content saturation. They’ve built and sustained significant brands, using content as one of their key tools.


Andrew J Coate – Facebook’s Community & Content Manager, Global Marketing Solutions

content marketing expert - CoateAndrew’s on Twitter @andrewjcoate

Steve Faber: What are 3 ways brands can overcome increasingly excellent content competition and be heard?

Andrew J Coate:

1. Have a Better Plan.  Every time industry data comes out I’m amazed at how few companies have a documented content strategy. Ah hoc content creation = waste.

2. Have Better Data.  Not only is having a plan still a struggle for marketers, but [actually measuring the effectiveness of content](link: is lacking. The more you know about how well your various types of content perform against a variety of metrics in a variety of circumstances for a variety of people, the better you can be in creating it in the future.

3. Focus on Your Known Audience.  Many companies do a great job in creating content for “net new”, but forget to continue creating content that resonates through every stage in the buying cycle – including post-sale. Continue to educate and serve your customers.


Steve Faber: What are 2 underused content channels brands can use to effectively expand their digital footprint?

Andrew J Coate:

1. Customers  – We often focus simply on “transactional” conversations with our customers as opposed to continuing to develop them and help them thrive. Just because they’re your customer now, doesn’t mean they’re a pro. Continue to educate and share relevant content with them.

2. Paid Social – Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and others provide such robust targeting options. If you know your content resonates with a type of audience, but you’re not sure where to find them, investigate these options.


Steve Faber: Do you think email is still a highly useful avenue to distribute content and engage with audiences?

Andrew J Coate:

Absolutely. I’ve read articles declaring email dead for years now. To paraphrase Jason Miller of Linkedin, “The only thing that’s dead is declaring things are dead.


Ted Rubin – Leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist and Acting CMO of Brand Innovators.

Ted coined the term ROR: Return on Relationship™ Named by Forbes as a top social media influencer. Connect with content marketing expert : Ted RubinTed on Twitter @TedRubin


Steve: Ted, thanks for your input on this. What 3 ways can brands combat the increasingly difficult content environment, rise above the noise, and connect with their target audience?

Ted Rubin:

1. Share Good Content on Multiple Channels – If you’ve only been using one or two online channels to share your content, try expanding your reach by posting it on multiple platforms. While you obviously want to use the social media channels most relevant to your audience, don’t forget about SEO and search results.

For instance, even if your target demographic isn’t typically found on Pinterest, a properly optimized infographic posted there will still appear in search results and may attract traffic. Even the images from your post can be shared there by you and your followers. Be sure to make your blog images “pinable” right from the post with the click of a button that link back to your blog.

Another key to getting more mileage from your content is to repost only good content. How do you know what’s good? Well, audience response is one measurement, so avoid posting content that receives a lukewarm response—or none at all. Lack of response may be a factor of timing, but it may also be that your content didn’t spark interest. Content is more likely to be shared by social audiences if it’s evergreen, popular, valuable, funny, interesting or useable.

2. Repurpose Good Content. Another way to get mileage out of good content is to create multiple pieces of related content to piggyback on each other. For example, a slideshow featuring tax-time tips for small businesses can be further explained in a blog post. Individual slides can be posted to Facebook or Twitter, and an accompanying video can be posted to YouTube and then your blog. Repurposing content can help you laser target your prospects and address them with content that accurately connects with where they are in the sales cycle…and it helps you create usable content at scale.

3. Develop a Strategy for Sharing Content. Develop a definitive content sharing strategy that identifies what you will share and how it will be shared. Task your team with identifying the social updates that get the most response and setting up a schedule and tools for re-sharing on different channels and/or in different formats.

By sharing quality content multiple times on multiple channels, you expand the reach of your marketing efforts and make it that much more likely to build a loyal following. In addition, repurposing and syndicating good content will be a powerful new tool that builds on your most successful ideas.

Stay on track by developing a strategy and processes for sharing good content over and over, and you’ll establish better thought leadership and keep your brand top-of-mind.


Steve Faber: There are so many content distribution channels brands can use now. What are 2 underused content channels they can use to expand their digital footprint?


I am recently becoming enamored of Medium… such a great place to publish and syndicate content. Medium allows you to build an audience of readers , either starting with your existing Facebook and Twitter networks, or independently.

Medium starts with the basic building block of the web — beautiful, readable URLs — and adds prominent sharing options so that readers who like your stories can spread them further on social networks or via email. So much more than just the post is shareable… so it allows your content to spread, create conversation, and build community in so any ways.

LinkedIn is so often overlooked and such a great place to get visibility… especially in the B2B space.


Steve Faber: Do you think email is still a highly useful avenue to distribute content and engage with audiences?


Email has, and will continue to endure. Smartphones have so many uses, but reading and writing email is the third most popular activity after text messaging access the web, even more so than music and other uses you may imagine take up more time. Studies confirm that more than half of emails are opened on mobile devices.

Steve: I love email too. It’s not shiny and new, but we’ve found it very effective, especially given the relatively low cost. Why do you like it?


Email is easily measurable, directly captures users’ attention, and is a place that many look for information that they can easily control, save, and access.



Michael Brenner – CEO of Marketing Insider Group, Content Marketing Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Author of The Content Formula

Connect with Michael on Twitter: @BrennerMichael  Michael Brenner pic


Steve Faber: Content competition has become brutal. What are 3 ways brands can overcome increasingly excellent content competition and be heard?

Michael Brenner:

Brands know their potential customers better than anyone. So they need to use those insights to build an effective content marketing program that consistently publishes useful content.


The 3 things they need to do are:

1 – Commit to leaving promotional content to the advertising and sales teams.

2 – Understand the biggest challenges and questions their customers are facing.

3 – Harness all the knowledge and expertise that already sits inside their organization to publish the best answers to those customer questions, every single day!

Steve: So, you’re saying brands need to become publishers and producers, of content consumers want, need, and go looking for? We’ve found the ‘frequent question strategy’ as a content source is effective also. It’s kind of like the iceberg. For everyone who asks the question, there are probably 10 others who had similar questions but didn’t ask. You’re helping them, too, and creating a resource.

Michael Brenner:

Content Marketers must first focus on building a brand-owned content marketing destination, digital property, publisher platform, whatever you want to call it. Once they are regularly and consistently acting like a publisher and delivering customer-focused content, then they should look to see where their customers are consuming content.


Steve Faber: Okay, so what are the 2 underused content channels brands can best use to expand their digital footprint?


Michael Brenner:

For B2B companies, Slideshare (owned by Linkedin) is one channel where I continually see an opportunity for brand-owned content. For the consumer space, while everyone talks about Facebook and Instagram, Pinterest is actually the 2nd largest driver of traffic for many consumer brands.


Steve Faber: Do you think email is still a highly useful avenue to distribute content and engage with audiences?

Michael Brenner:

Yes. Email is in the top 3 channels for content discovery, no matter what industry or topic we are talking about. As consumers, we use search, email and social to find 90% of the content we read and share. Email is roughly responsible for one-third of all the content we consume. So yes, every brand should activate an email newsletter to share their best content and then optimize their content marketing for subscribers.


Joe Pulizzi – Founder, Content Marketing Institute – Author

One of the world’s foremost content marketing experts, in 2007 Joe founded the Content Marketing Institute, the content marketing expert : Joe Pulizzileading CM education and training facility, who counts HP, AT&T, Petco, LinkedIn, SAP, the Gates Foundation and many others among their clientele. Joe has written 4 books, with his 2013 release Epic Content Marketing being named to Fortune Magazine’s “Five Must Read Business Books of 2013” Joe has some excellent CM insight on Twitter @JoePulizzi


Steve Faber: Joe, you’ve seen more than most when it comes to content marketing. It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for brands. What 3 ways can brands most effectively overcome growing content competition and be heard by their target audiences?

Joe Pulizzi:

1.  Tell a different story.  Most businesses create content just like everything else out there.  It’s very hard to cut through the clutter without a differentiated story.

2.  Focus on one content type and one main channel…and consistently deliver content (like a media company would).  So many businesses are creating so much content in so many different channels.  This usually doesn’t work.  Focus works better.

3.  Talk to one audience at a time.  If you are targeting more than one audience at the same time, your content will never be relevant enough.


Steve: You hit the nail on the head there. Those last 2 really seem to be a problem many brands face. We’ve seen too many brands take more of a “shotgun” approach, and consequently never get enough traction. Given there’s so much “content saturation” facing marketers today, what are 2 underused content channels brands can use to expand their digital footprint?


Podcasts (audio content) – the only media type where the audience can multi-task.

Print (yes, print) – So easy to cut through the clutter today with most media brands abandoning print altogether.

Steve: That’s excellent insight regarding podcasts. Since people are so busy today, most end up multi-tasking. . It’s a way brands can make content consumption easier. Anytime you can make achieving your brand’s objectives easier, it’s a good thing.


Steve: Do you think email is still a highly useful channel to distribute content and engage with audiences?


It’s THE most important.  Every other place we build an audience (Twitter, FB, YouTube) we don’t control the data.  Email is the only place we actually have control over the communications with our customers (as long as it’s valuable of course)

Steve: You bring up a vital point here. If your brand doesn’t control the data, you’re effectively putting your business asset on someone else’s property. Businesses have always done this with everything from software to real estate, but there are definitely risks there. You do not have the same kind of security and control, or the ability to test and change.

Steve Gibson – Director: Leading online form builder

Steve echoed Ted Rubin’s Medium attraction.


I work primarily with the Marketing team. We put a lot of effort into content marketing. Our founder, Aytekin Tank, has always pushed our team to build our Medium channel. Medium’s a blogging tool quickly growing in popularity. We have a broad range of articles from marketing, business, development, and design.

Faber: What kind of content have you found does best on Medium?


Far and away our most successful articles are development and design articles, typically sharing a story on how we solved a particular problem. Contributing to Medium has led to multiple articles with over 10,000 views. As is always the case, it’s important to write articles that compelling, relevant, and useful.”

Tim Ahlenius – Director of Experience Marketing at

American Eagle is a digital marketing agency serving a broad spectrum of clients, including the Green Bay Packers, Fast Signs, International Paper, and the Connecticut State Dental Association. Catch him on Twitter @tahlenius


Content marketing is no longer the cheap stepchild of “real” marketing. Brands make significant content marketing investments, but often don’t receive the return they’re looking for, or can’t measure their ROI.


Steve: What are 2 underused content channels brands can use to expand their digital footprint, and why do you like them?


The first underused content channel is email. A lot of brands use emails, but they don’t adjust their content or templates.


Steve: Why do you like email as a marketing channel so much, why is it effective, and what could brands do differently to increase its effectiveness?


I love email as it is one of the fastest ways to increase your digital footprint, with quick signup options, incentive based sign up options, and the ability to segment to all your audiences, not just blast out a single message. Too many brands blast the single message, when their content isn’t targeted enough to increase conversions the way that it could.


Steve: What’s the second channel you like to help brands expand their digital presence?


The second underused content channel is videos. Content marketing is not just written text. It is any consumable content that is provided on your digital presence as a brand. The videos are what drives a lot of interaction and people prefer to watch rather than read. The text is still needed for SEO, but the video is what can catch people’s eyes and also lead to increased conversions. It is also more easily liked and shared between people, so that is a great additional word of mouth marketing that your brand receives.


What The Experts Say About Brands’ Digital Footprint Expansion

What can we learn from this super 6 pack of content marketers? First, they’re unanimous in their opinion that email is still a “must have” in a brand’s marketing mix. Email marketing is simply another content delivery platform, but it’s the content brands deliver there or anywhere else that largely determines success or failure.


Another key point is using data. Use that data to better audience understanding. Use that understanding to ultimately discover and what they want, then continue serving them. One way brands can accomplish this is by leveraging content through multiple delivery channels and formats. They also pointed out that creating useful content for the entire customer lifecycle is vital to content marketing’s ultimate success.

Creating useful content requires identifying with the customer and their problem(s).


Medium was mentioned more than once as a platform worthy of brands’ attention. It may not pencil out for yours, but could be a high ROI avenue for content delivery.

In the end, brands have finite resources. How they maximize those resources’ effectiveness to create effective content marketing can spell the difference between hemorrhaging one’s marketing budget, and a steady stream of new brand evangelists lining up to buy.

Content marketing creates brand bonds. Does yours?



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3 Vital LinkedIn Profile Questions You Must Answer Mon, 31 Aug 2015 01:44:41 +0000 3 Vital LinkedIn Profile Questions You Must Answer

There are 3 LinkedIn profile questions you must answer when creating your profile, or LinkedIn will likely not deliver anywhere near the results it should for you. That would be a crying shame, because the suit and tie social network can deliver in spades, if you let it.

LinkedIn Profile Question 1

Who is your target audience?

Are you targeting HR at financial institutions for your next step up the corporate ladder? Maybe you’re selling medical software. Okay, great; who are the decision makers for those purchases? Your sports marketing company does a bang-up job building sports brands. I bet; who hires you, and who has their ear?

LinkedIn Target Audience

Have you nailed your target LinkedIn audience?

The key is knowing who you want to appeal to, and what they want. It’s the age-old marketing truism that’s lost none of its luster: “Know Your Audience” If you know them and what makes them tick, you’ve overcome the biggest obstacle to not only creating a compelling LinkedIn profile, but marketing you and your business.

LinkedIn Profile Question 2

What are you offering them?

Okay, so you know your audience better than they know themselves, and you’ve got detailed buyer personas up the Whazzoo! Great! That’s a damned good start, but what do they want?

More specifically, what problem are you solving for them? Sure, that may be a little basic if you’re a marketer, but most of the people on LinkedIn aren’t….. except that they are! Everybody’s marketing themselves and/or their organizations on LinkedIn, whether they’re professional marketers, automotive engineers, or landscape architects.

Who do you want to attract, and what unique value can you give them?

Craft your profile so that your value comes through. Let them know you’re solving THEIR problem.

LinkedIn Profile Question 3

Why should they care?

What’s unique about you as it relates to them and their needs? The last part of that question is VITAL. Sure, you may be solving their problem, but there are 350 million LinkedIn members. You can bet at least some of them are solving the very same problem. For example, if you’re a landscape architect, there are 33,866 on LinkedIn as I write this. What do you have for your target audience that the other 33,865 don’t? What makes you not only one they should consider, but THE one they should decide on?

Look at your profile carefully. Does it showcase your:

  • value
  • target audience appeal
  • uniqueness
LinkedIn Profile Questions - Why You?

Why should your audience care? If you’re a personal trainer, what’s special about how you peel off the inches or pack on the muscle that makes you special?

Okay, great, does it do all this with credibility? That’s the next step to attracting your next client or employer. They’ve got to not only be impressed by your profile, and feel some attraction, but believe it. Sound like a prospective date? You’re not far off. You’re trying to start a great relationship, and whether that’s business or personal, it requires many of the same attributes.

Get these wrong, and you may as well post last month’s Batman comic. Don’t leave your LinkedIn Profile to chance. You career or business may be at stake. Ask these 3 questions before you publish you profile. If you didn’t, go back through it and see if it answers them.

Can’t write? So what, there are hundreds of folks out there who do excellent LinkedIn profile work. We’d be happy to take a look at yours and help you tick the boxes.

LinkedIn is one area where doing it right sure beats the pants off doing it wrong; especially if only one other competitor IS doing it right. If their LinkedIn Profile ticks all the boxes, they’ll likely get the business opportunity, and you won’t. You know how business works. You may never get another chance.

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Create Credible Branded Content – 7 Keys From the Experts Sun, 01 Mar 2015 22:33:40 +0000 7 Keys to Create Credible Branded Content

Bridge Your Content Credibility Gap

Content is a powerful marketing tool, if organizations create credible branded content. After all, content is tasked with helping brands build credibility, among other things. If it can’t walk the walk the walk, it had better walk the plank. Do consumers trust branded content? If not, how can your organization change that?

Survey Says….. You Probably Have a Cred Gap

A post on the blog references a Kentico Software study that indicates, probably not so much. In fact, adding sales messages averages an ROI-killing 29% trust whack.

A key to content success is both help your audience and earn their trust. Here’s how to create credible branded content. There’ll be plenty of time for selling later. Once your credibility is firmly established, selling is much easier.

This is doubly important for early stage content. Since it’s meant to attract new audiences into your funnel, you’re battling to be both heard and trusted. Credibility speaks volumes here.

I wasn’t born into the content jungle yesterday, having penned branded content for over a decade. I’ve never being accused of knowing everything.


I spoke to a 6-pack of content marketing leaders on creating credibility, just to make sure I hit the high points.

creating credible content contributors

  • Joe Pulizzi – CEO: Content Marketing Institute
  • Scott Baker – Head of Marketing Communications: Porsche Cars of North America
  • Barry Feldman – Feldman Creative
  • Randy Frisch – Co-founder / COO: Uberflip
  • Brian Honigman – Honigman Media
  • Amy Higgins – Sr. Content Marketing Manager: Concur SMB

7 Keys to Make Sure Your Organization’s Branded Content Isn’t All Wet

1 – Know Your Target Audience and Resonate With Them

Audiences today smell rats a mile away. Know your target audience and what makes them tick. Know what they growing branded content credibility [infographic]
want, why they want it, and how they like to get it. Yes, that’s straight from the redundancy department, but it bears mentioning again. It’s tough for impostors to sound credible or really bond with their audience. That bond helps create lifetime fans.

“Know Your Audience” is marketing’s number 1 rule, and content marketing is no different.

Barry Feldman, president of Feldman Creative

Barry is a content marketing consultant, copywriter, creative director, speaker, and author, who hopped on the content marketing trail well before it was trendy. Follow him on Twitter @FeldmanCreative. He noted audience understanding is a key to credibility.

Credibility begins with demonstrating you understand exactly what challenges your prospects and customers face. So before you create content, do a deep dive into studying the customer and identify how you can be useful to them by delivering content.

2 – Stick to Your Brand’s Strengths

Your organization has core expertise, so let it shine through. That’s easier to pull off if your content focuses on what you’re best at. Play to your strengths; we called them “core competencies” back in the ’90s. If you’re a tire manufacturer, creating content on fishing won’t instill confidence, even if your new product line is a dynamite, new fishing rod grip that looks like a radial. There are strong ways of using content to help break into new markets, but that’s one for another post.

I also spoke with content marketer extraordinaire, Joe Pulizzi, on this.

Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynote speeches, articles, and marketing conferences. He’s a leading author on the subject, writing several books. Joe’s latest book is Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill). He also runs The Content Marketing Institute , a leading content marketing research and training organization. Follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi

Pulizzi highlighted the importance of focus driven domination:

Focus on an area that no-one else is covering to a small, niche audience where you can become the leading expert/voice in that area.

3 – Be Highly Useful, Right Now

Deliver what your audience really needs and can use to help solve their immediate problems. Do a great job and your credibility takes a big step forward. Guess where your audience turns next time they have similar problem? It’s the way to position your brand as a “go to” resource, and drive social sharing.

An added bonus? Greater reach. People with problems tend to know others in the same boat, and they share solutions. It’s true no matter the environment: B2B or B2C. B2X?

Actionable is usefulness’ better looking partner. Actionable, as the name implies, are specific steps your audience can take immediately.

Keys to actionability, include:

  • Where to start
  • Specific steps
  • How to take them

Deliver something your audience can really use, then go beyond that. Tell them precisely how to use what you’ve given them. “Content Actionability” brings more value, and grows credibility, because you’re showing your audience that not only can you walk the walk, you can show them how to as well.

Randy Frisch – co- founder and COO of Uberflip

Uberflip is a content aggregation platform that helps marketers leverage content to grow engagement and bring new leads. We talked on the importance of actionability as a way to build credibility. He’s on Twitter @randyfrisch

Brands should not simply report opinion, they need to also give actionable insights. Some of the best sites for content like, Fortune or FastCompany all ensure to go beyond editorial to add ideas that readers can execute from. As an example, say you were writing about content marketing: don’t just talk about why it will be the biggest trend in 2015, rather speak to 5 steps a marketer should take to stay ahead of the curve or ways to secure budget from your boss. If you can offer these actionable insights you’ll become a true expert associated with the best content.

Feldman commented on content usefulness and it’s credibility effects, too. I asked him straight up how to grow cred. His answer?

Be useful. Call upon the resources required to create the most informative, useful, and entertaining content in your niche

4 – Don’t Lie, Fudge, or Embellish

Yeah, this one should go without saying, especially in a credibility conversation….. but you know it doesn’t. It’s doubly important now. We live in the Google age, where fact checking is but a mouse click away. Puff up your balloon a few extra breaths and you’ll probably get smacked in the face for it Get caught but once… BAM! All your hard-earned cred is done for. You’ll spend forever earning it back, if you can.

Have any doubts? Ask the plethora of athletes, business leaders, entertainers, and politicians who’ve been nailed by this one. Sure, the public loves forgiving the flawed, but why risk it?

If you’re spouting anything that really is true, but sounds incredible, be sure to back it up (see #1, above).

5 – Show the Facts… and Where they Came From

Connect to the research. This goes hand in hand with #3, above. Do your assertions hold water? Where’s the proof? If your blog post or white paper cites (and links to) peer-reviewed studies, or basic research, you gain credibility. As an added bonus, notify the study authors you used their research in your material. That drives relationships and can lead to more social activity, and opportunities down the road.

Citing research is doubly important if your assertions fly in the face of convention. Controversy is great for gaining exposure, but bucking headwinds slow down the plane. Solid facts give the power boost necessary to overcome the wind and get where you’re going on time.

Conduct your own basic research, if needed. Doing research is time and resource intensive, but can pay big dividends. Do well here, and you could get referenced and linked to by others. You know where that leads. You’ll not only get more links and traffic, but credibility too. It further cements your position as a go-to resource in your market, helping establish yours and your organization’s credibility on future content.

6 – Consistency is Golden

What’s a sure-fire credibility killer? Disappearing for extended periods or jumping from one thing to another. Your audience wants to know they can count on you as a reliable source. To make matters worse, vanishing kicks you right in the Jimmy when it comes to audience building, a goal of most content marketing campaigns. It’s a double whammy, your audience doesn’t grow, and your existing audience doesn’t trust you as much as they otherwise would.

Joe Pulizzi hit on consistency as a content credibility builder:

Be consistent. Content marketing programs fail, for the most part, because they (brands) are inconsistent or stop publishing.

Brian Honigman – marketing consultant, a freelance writer & a speaker.

Brian specializes in identifying problems & opportunities for big brands like Dell & hot startups like Sumall, to better align their goals with social media, content marketing and search engine optimization. You’ve read his work in Forbes and Wall Street Journal. He’s been named a “seasoned digital marketing expert” in Forbes and an “SEO expert to follow” by Search Engine Watch. Follow Brian on Twitter @BrianHonigman

Brian went so far as to name inconsistency the biggest credibility killer brands face:

The biggest credibility killer a business can make with branded content is not being consistent with your approach. By changing the focus of your topics too often, not supporting your arguments properly and not establishing a voice and style guide can quickly confuse your audience and leave them with more questions than answers after seeing your content.

7 – Collaborate

Quoting directly connected sources powerful credibility enhancer. Nothing works like the straight poop, right from the horse’s mouth.

Interview people directly connected with your information. Their expertise adds value and bolsters credibility. Include their direct quotes in your content. In so doing, you’re leveraging their expertise to create value for your audience, and also content credibility. It’s a great idea to expand on what they’ve said too, but including their direct quotes direct connects your audience with them, and you as well.

Even if you or someone in your organization is a subject matter expert, reach out to those on the outside. It adds perspective and builds value. They may say something similar, but in a way that resonates better with your audience. They may also have insight you’re unaware of that bolsters your position or fills in a piece of the puzzle.

I got a great take on this from Scott Baker, Head of the Marketing Communications group at Porsche Cars North America.

At PCNA, he champions the strategy and execution for all advertising, media, brand integrations, digital, social and relationship marketing for Porsche in the United States. His work has been covered by The New York Times, Automotive News, AdWeek and highlighted in the book Data-Driven Marketing, in addition to garnering multiple Effie awards, and recognition on AdvertisingAge’s annual Marketer A-List, whew!

Porsche has done some very interesting content marketing recently, which is how Scott attracted my attention. The brand produces a video interview series with entrepreneurs and business leaders on business and success principles. It’s brilliant on several counts.

  • The interviewees fit the mold of a perfect Porsche customer.
  • They are high value for the audience, with business insight they can use immediately.
  • The videos aren’t product focused.
  • The discussion topics fit perfectly with the Porsche product, brand, and business model attributes.


Developing authentic partnerships is critical to the success of branded content. The beliefs and values that are conveyed must both be in alignment with your brand and the subject or personality that is featured in the branded content. Because of this, branded content opportunities must be approached as a true partnership. The best branded content stories develop in an organic way, allowing the brand and other parties involved to create value in a mutually beneficial way.

Amy Higgins – Content Marketing Manager for Concur SMB NA.

In addition to her work at Concur, Amy has helped companies such as Google and the San Francisco Opera understand and engage their customers. Amy Tweets out here.

Amy echoed Baker’s sentiments, and brought up a vital point:

Build content with your customers and other thought leaders. Credibility is built externally, not internally. Don’t preach. Share. Preaching on your “soapbox” worked in colonial America, but those days are long gone. Today, the best brands share information, education and community.

This post on advertising blog Digiday highlights the importance of expert collaboration, finding it a healthy 88% more effective than straight branded content without expert collaboration. That’s nothing to ignore.

A Final Note / Pet Peeve….. More Content Cred Killers

Much branded content tends to be strongly product and/or brand focused. That erodes credibility. Audiences think: “Oh, they’re just selling something / They want me to give them money.” In early stage content, that’s a huge credibility killer. Shifting to a customer focus strengthens the bond builds the relationship that will ultimately result in a sale…. and another …. and…

There will be time for product focused content in later stages. Product oriented content works best when audiences progress farther into the decision making process, and need to differentiate solutions.

Frisch went so far as to say product focus is the biggest credibility destroyer brands make with early stage content.

It is so tough to separate your product from content, but so essential. If people want an infomercial they can watch late night TV. At the outset people seek content that provides insight on a topic, not how your product solves their problem. Try your best to remain non biased and keep your product out of your content.

He clarified this.

This does not mean your product is not part of the journey or experience. Your genuine insights will build trust among your audience who will begin to explore the brand behind the content more with time. This is where it is essential to have the right call to actions surrounding your content which can take someone to product related content or even better contact options when they are ready.

Baker weighed in on credibility killers, too:

Brands can go wrong by grabbing onto shiny objects (trendy concepts or personalities) that aren’t truly in alignment with their brand values. This might lead to a lift in initial exposure, but often makes the message feel phoney and not believable. Crafting great branded content takes thought, time and concerted collaboration. When brands try to shortcut this process and simply brand-wash the content, the results can often feel very contrived.

That sounds good. Don’t sell out your brand’s values; stay true, despite the inevitable temptation.

Higgins offered this gem on credibility killing:

Stop selling. Start partnering. Many brands miss the mark with their content by trying to sell their product. If customers wanted that approach, they would actually read spam emails. Creating content that will actually be used is all about creating valuable content and experiences for your customer. Be a partner with your customers. Be their friend. Be their trusted adviser. Only that way will your content work for them and your sales leaders.”

It’s difficult for many marketers to turn their backs on a life of product-focused content. After all, it’s all about the product, no?

No, these days, it’s all about the customer.

How does your content help them solve their problem? Audiences are cynical today. They’re marketed to 24/7. Make them notice your brand by helping them first. There is a place for product focused content, but it’s after the audience has decided your brand has made it to the top of the mountain.

Key Content Credibility Takeaways

1 – If your content doesn’t resonate, your revenue doesn’t generate, largely due to a credibility deficiency.

2 – Run with what you’re best at, and to a lesser extent, known for.

3 – Answer “What Can You Do For Me Right Now” as completely, actionable, and on point as possible.

4 – Speak the truth and only the truth.

5 – Show the hard facts and number, then link to the source.

6 – Consistency in both quality and frequency paves the way to credibility.

7 – Leverage others’ credibility by working together to create excellent content.

It’s easy for audiences to mistrust branded content. After all, it’s got an ulterior motive, no? You can turn that around and become not only a credible source, but THE credible source in your market. Nail the builders, avoid the killers, don’t look back.

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11 Steps to Grow Your Brand’s Marketing Sphere of Influence Mon, 10 Nov 2014 00:38:54 +0000 11 Key Steps to Grow Your Brand’s Marketing Sphere of Influence

Always Be Closing? Hardly! Put away the sales pitch, Bevis! Sure, eventually you want to sell, but the point of your initial contact is bringing people into your ”Marketing Sphere of Influence”. There, you’ll build long term personal/business relationships that will eventually lead to sales. That doesn’t mean never sell. That’s plain stupid.

Instead, don’t lead with sales. Put it on the back burner for a while. Concentrate on growing your marketing sphere first, then building solid relationships with key folks in it. Even better, those relationships will bring others into your sphere, without you lifting a finger. Once they’ve arrived, it’s up to you to engage, over deliver, and cement the bond.

The upside of building your brand’s “Marketing Sphere of Influence” and focusing on long term relationship marketing?
Higher revenue + Lower sales costs = Higher profits.
You’ll probably even make some real friends along the way, and how can you put a price on that?

How to Grow Your “Marketing Sphere of Influence”:

1 – Know (Really Know) Your Target Audience and What Drives Them

Marketing 101? Maybe, but it’s the foundation for all that follows. How else can your organization create solutions the market wants, and what it may not even know it wants? Henry Ford said if he’d listened to the market, he would have built a “faster horse”.

Fortunately, he knew people really wanted a reasonably priced, highly flexible, personal transportation solution that didn’t poop in the driveway. Once he created that, people talked about it. Think about how much social media play Ford would have created today with his poopless horse…..

2 – Exude Credibility

Does your brand look, sound, and feel the part? Marketing is a belief system. It’s all about trust. Your target market must believe you’ll deliver before they’ll invest their time and treasure even investigating your solution, much less issuing a PO or whipping out credit cards. Instill that belief, and your battle is largely won. Unfortunately size really doesn’t matter here. There are some large organizations who don’t project well.

For sphere of influence purposes, if they trust you, they’ll communicate about you. Marketing is largely a communication problem, and being credible is a key part of the solution. How can you create credibility?

It’s a fact. People make snap decisions based on appearance. Where do you think the “Don’t judge a book by its cover” adage came from? Because you look credible doesn’t mean you are, and vice versa. If you don’t look credible however, people will likely never stick around to discover the truth; good or bad.

Online, a good looking website, social proof, and  excellent overall user experience drive credibility. Does your website and blog deliver here? When (if) the time comes, projecting personal credibility is a key part of the process, too. You may never meet your customer, then again, many sales relationships are face to face. In B2B, it can make the difference between 10’s or 100’s of thousands in sales. In that case, you’ll have to win the credibility battle all over again, although it may be easier this time around, providing your interpersonal skills are up to par. Cara Anne Alter posted about how to boost credibility in face to face meetings on the Inspiyr blog

3 – Be Trustworthy.

After you exude cred, follow up. A 1999 Swan, Bowers and Richardson study at the University Of Alabama identified trust drivers in the salesGrowing Your Marketing Sphere of Influence process. They also found trust is the key component in the long-term sales relationship; what you’re trying to create.

4 – Create Emotion

Do people really buy on emotion and justify with logic? Yes, and more so than you might think.  Creating a bond is largely emotional as well.

Emotion  creates value, too. See below. For sphere enhancing purposes, it makes people want to share and connect.

The question is: How to create it?

Knowing your audience and what motivates them plays a role, but there are certain emotions that transcend that. In a recent post on TechCrunch, Kobie Fuller Twitter: @kobiefuller lays out how to create emotion and use it in your marketing. As he points out, due to the explosion of the Internet and social media, this is one place where size doesn’t matter. It’s all in how you use what you’ve got. “Creative, emotion-driven marketing enables any size company to drive product awareness with millions of consumers in real-time.”

5 – Deliver Value

Deliver value, both before and after the sale. Extend that beyond your brand’s offerings. Does your content deliver value, too? That value drives the relationship and helps grow your marketing sphere of influence.

Many value components come into play:

Immediate usefulness – Is your content packed with actionable information that solves an immediate need?

Easy, Always – Frustrations abound in daily life. Stood in line at the DMV lately? That kind of crap shouldn’t extend to your organization. Make every step in your content consumption, promotion, and buying process as easy for your audience as possible.

One more time: Facilitate your customers’ buying process. Make it easy to buy from you. I’m amazed how often organizations don’t. Why don’t they? It’s marketing 101 (again). Have a disinterested third party take a look at yours. What they discover can often drive conversions .

Make it easy to find, navigate, consume, share, and buy. Simplify any interaction your customer or prospect  may possibly engage in. A frustration-free user experience boosts value. People are more likely to help your sphere grow if they’re overwhelmed with satisfaction.

Emotional triggers – Emotion itself delivers value and contributes to sphere building. Does your content, product, or service drive strong emotions? People respond to emotion and build a connection because of them: satisfaction, humor, and even fear. See #4 above.

6 – Identify Key Influencers

You can work smart or work hard. Your boss probably expects both. Besides, you’ll get farther using both strategies combined. On the “work smart” front, one of the best things you can do to grow your circle is identify those who have large and engaged followings; predominately in your space. How?

Some you’re bound to know already. Who posts and publishes in your industry’s main blogs, websites, magazines, and books? Another powerful source is speakers at conferences, trade shows and seminars. Check leaders of companies and trade associations for your industry and related ones. Their reputation preceeds them, and they’re the influencers you’re looking for.

For circle growing purposes, you’re after those who are socially active. No, not the ones who hit operas, clubs, and the biggest parties, but those you’ll see frequently on social media, with large and engaged followings. Do they frequently share others’ content and talk about it? Them’s the ones you’re lookin’ for!

How to find them? What separates man from beast? Tools. Lee Odden at Top Rank posted an excellent list of 9 influencer discovery tools on his Top Rank blog.

7 – Build Key Relationships

Reach out. I hate the term; it sounds too much like being saved from drowning, but it applies here. You’d be surprised how many influential people are not only accessible, but happy to help. Don’t stalk them. Most are genuinely all right folks. If you’re looking for help, help them, too…. first, actually. Chances are you do have a thing or two to offer. Take stock of what your organization has and how it meshes with what the influencer’s doing.

Constructively engage them on social platforms. Add to their conversations. Demonstrate your insight.

Many influencers have projects they’re promoting, and if you’re offering them more exposure and another platform, so much the better. Maybe you’ve used their products and services. If there’s an existing customer relationship, it significantly lubes the process of them helping you grow your  marketing sphere.

8 – Engage In Your Space

Engage people in your space. One of the best ways to drive engagement are groups, forums, and communities. Google+, LinkedIn, Entrepreneur’s Inspiration Station, and Biznik are the bee’s knees here. You’ll have a pipeline straight to the “right people”. Share ideas, tips, and strategies; even laughs. There are more groups than you’ll ever be able to constructively participate in. Separate the wheat from the chaff. It’ll take a while, but it’s worth it.

There are a bazillion groups on LinkedIn and Google+.

How to make the choice?

Which groups:

  • Are a great fit for your market or an aspect of your business?
  • Are your influencers actively involved in?
  • Have active and engaged members? – Both are important. Some groups have a litany of quality, daily posts, yet virtually zero member engagement. You’ll reach few there. Find those with both valuable posts and engaged members.
  • Are growing? Membership numbers exploding like a supernova? There’s likely a reason. It doesn’t  mean relatively stagnant groups meeting the above requirements aren’t worth a look, though.

Go out on a limb.

Start a group or community of your own. This can be a foray into the land of the lost, but also an intensely rewarding experience, to say nothing of the networking opportunities it brings. As marketing sphere of influence builder, it’s virtually unparalleled, if you pull it off.

For more perspective on this, I reached out to Martin Shervington. Martin runs the Plus Your Business community on Google Plus that helps people use Google Plus to their business’ best advantage. It’s thriving, with nearly 15,000 hyper-engaged members and growing. See him in his element, here. Follow him on Twitter @PlusYourBiz

His take:
Running Google+ communities is a continuous learning curve! There are so many subtle options (as an aside, have you noticed how the word ‘subtle’ is so subtle that it stealthed a ‘b’ in there? I digress) to making them work well for the members.
The main thing I’ve learned is not to stand still, they evolve and we can shape the experience of members through every post we make, what we ‘remove’, what we engage upon. They live and they breathe, and every day gives a new opportunity to bring people together around the subjects that they love

9 – Be Ready

If you can’t handle the truth, or the traffic, it makes no sense to push the boulder over the edge. You’ll get things rolling, but why? It’ll just flatten your neighbor’s new gazeebo on the way down. Make sure your user experience is up to par, before you start growing your marketing sphere.

How’s your website and/or blog look, feel, and act? What about your customer service process and phone reps? Are you using social media for customer service, and if so, do you actively monitor it? Many customers now expect you are, and get pretty pissy if you aren’t responding to their Tweet complaints yesterday!

10 – Get Your Stuff Out There

Promotion. It’s what separates compelling content you’ve seen, from that you haven’t. You can’t just post and run. Strategic promotion makes the difference. When it comes to sphere growing, promotion boosts opportunity. More opportunity to be seen leads to more sharing, and the greater chance the right people see it. If you’re not promoting, it’s likely no one else is, either.

Numero Uno? Make your stuff highly promotable. For every piece, ask yourself: “Why would anyone want to?” If you can’t answer that zinger, you’ve lost.

Details that Count

Here’s a little checklist to hit before jumping off:
1) Compelling headline? Do they make people want to read, engage, and share? If they don’t read, you don’t grow. Shoot for getting 2 out of the three every time. Don’t laugh, you know you’ve shared without reading and read without sharing. Your headline is the key to the castle here.

2) Optimize for your keywords on social and search. Growing your marketing sphere of influence means grabbing those looking that don’t know you yet. Even if your brand’s a household name, are you known by those in your market that matter? Now’s your chance.

3) Building your list? If you’ve no list or way to join it, create that before you release any more content. If you’ve got a list of people that love your stuff, whether they’re your brand’s customers or not (segmentation’s a subject for another time), sending them content when you release it gets them to your site, promotes sharing, and grows your sphere. Some will share with those currently outside your sphere, and that’s a chance to grow it. Yeah, it’s more involved than creating a compelling headline, but worth it.

4) Get your line-up ready. Having people primed and ready to share your content, even before it goes live, is a highly effective strategy to growing your sphere. Include those in your organization on your “ready to go?” list, in addition to your close social network contacts, and

Promotion that matters? Its a big, ole’ circle. Those infuencers you engaged with and whose stuff you promoted? Make sure they’re on board for a bit-o-promo, too. If you’re engaged in social groups and being the nice neighbor you are, your content will get shared if it addresses key group needs.

It’s why being engaged and sharing other stuff you find is so vital. Ensure your employees do likewise. Come on, you’re already regretting that new BYOD policy, and trying to pry mobile devices from their sweaty fingers. Embrace it, and use it to your organization’s advantage. Leverage your employees social activity to grow your marketing sphere of influence. Depending on your space and employees’ social media activities, it can be an extremely effective strategy.

11 – Over Deliver

No big revelation here. Over delivering is the classic way to bring in more followers, customers, and even friends.
Keys to over delivering? There really aren’t many. Yeah, it sound like the same, old line, but…..
Know your audience. How can you over deliver for them if you’re oblivious to their real needs and wants? Exactly!
Put yourself and organization in their shoes. Walk through their mud puddle for a change. What would really blow YOUR skirt up? Nothing gets people talking like blowing skirts. Whether you’re pushing porn, peddling puppy dogs, or purveying plastics, it’s all the same. Do that one thing better.
Be the rock. No, not THE ROCK, Dwayne’s got that one covered. Be consistent; the one your audience and customers count on.

Over delivering is just exceeding expectations. Harkening back to the beginning, do you really know your customers, what motivates them, and where they’re coming from? If so, you’re in a great position to make it happen.

Parting Shot – Test and track everything you can. Find whatever’s working. Do more of it, while cutting back on what’s not. No rocket science here….

Your brand’s marketing sphere of influence is one of your key success drivers. Growing it significantly boosts your chances to blow your numbers out of the water next quarter, and the one after that. Come on, your bonus is waiting!

What have you found most effective to grow your marketing sphere?


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How to Increase Social Media Traffic – Yours Sucks, Even if You Think It Doesn’t Mon, 25 Aug 2014 13:33:00 +0000 How to Increase Social Media Traffic

Yours Sucks, Even If You Think it Doesn’t

Social media traffic sucks? But, yours is great….. isn’t it??? Okay, so you think I’m full of crap! Lest you keep that opinion, let’s look at how I got there. Whether yours is dismal or not, discovering how to increase social media traffic is a boon to your organization. Chances are, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

After all, social media is all the rage these days, with what borders on good reason. Social does expand reach, build your audience, and grow traffic. Here’s the thing, though; it most excels at relationship building, something that can have nearly infinite value for you and your organization. It’s not so hot at driving traffic, but you can make it better.

That Being Said……

For all its goodness, there are so many ways where social media plain falls on its face from a traffic perspective. Worse, it trails the way we used to get most visitors; search engines and to a lesser extent, website / blog referrals, in a couple of key areas. Even so , how can I get off saying it sucks, when it’s a traffic driver, albeit somewhat disappointing?

Easy; experience and analytics. It doesn’t drive nearly the number of visitors you’d think, given the number of shares and other social activity. Basically, shares don’t correlate with eyeballs on your site.


I got on this tangent after noticing a recent blog post got virtually zero traffic from social referrals, despite getting 30+ LinkedIn Shares, 20 Tweets, and over 50 Google Plus shares. Yeah, that’s not like a Social Media Examiner post with 5,000 shares, but still. It was compelling enough to risk one’s credibility sharing, but not enough for anyone to actually read? Interesting…..

I’m apparently not alone here; uber popular blogger Steve Pavlina, recently revealed social media drove far less than 1% of his blog’s traffic. That helps explain why he just deleted his social media accounts …. all of them. I’m not advocating that radical step, but you get the idea. It’s not just me talkin’ here.

Now, as share totals go, my post was barely a drop in the social media bucket; especially compared to many other sites. It’s not nothing, however. I was damn happy to get the love I did. One would think that 100+ people sharing something to their networks, some of which are vast (I checked) and presumably engaged, would generate some traffic. Laser focused, highly targeted traffic would be even better.

Instead, that pimply-faced booger eater got more people to his high school party. Surely it’s an anomaly? It merited some digging.


Social media IS driving traffic to the web as a whole, and more of it than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest referrals combined for over 30% of all website traffic. Facebook alone sent nearly 22%. It stands to reason that search is declining as a traffic driver. This is backed up by the latest Shareaholic Social Media Traffic Report. Search king Google has seen its share slip from 36% in December 13, to barely 31% in May 14. That’s a C-suite-heart-palpitation-inducing decline of 17.2 percent. Suits hate that stuff.

It’s not only the Mountain View Mafia who’ve seen their share crater. Bing and Yahoo have been slip slidin’ away, too. They’re down over 31% in the same time period, hitting an inconsequential 0.78 and 0.90% of total referrals, respectively. A drop in the bucket would be a welcome change for the better.

Social Media Traffic Problems

Yes, social drives traffic, but for all their relationship building excellence, traffic driving potential, and marketer buzz, from a traffic perspective social media platforms aren’t the be all, end all. Here’s why:

It starts with social media vs search engine traffic and why we love it.

Social Media Traffic Problem 1: Lack of Immediate IntentHow to Increase Social Media Traffic [infographic]

Search engine traffic shows immediate intent. People came to your site because they were looking for something specific at that moment. Between it’s SERP results placement and the content in the search engine listing itself, your search result convinced them your website would be a great place to find it. If their interest is commerce related, either immediately or in the near future…Yeah, Baby!!

That’s why top search engine listings are so coveted, JC Penney cheated Google to get them. It’s also why you should pay attention to your listing and how it looks on the SERPs. It’s not only how to make it rise to the top, but what people see there that’s important. It must attract clicks.

Social media traffic may attract visitors because they were looking for something. It happens, but it’s just as likely they came because their crazy cousin Jeff shared your post on their Facebook or Tweeted out a link to it.

If you’re really livin’ right, an influencer shared your post on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus. That may give you somewhat more targeted traffic, and an implied recommendation. Even those visitors still won’t have the focused intent of search engine traffic, though. They weren’t actively looking for something specific at that time, they just thought it would be interesting.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Immediate commercial intent doesn’t have to be a problem. You’re so right. It can be an opportunity, if you position yourself to take advantage of it with some relationship nurturing.

Social Media Traffic Problem 2: Transitory Evaporation–

Even the most sticky social media traffic is transitory. It’s here today, and gone tomorrow, whereas search engine traffic can persist for months or even years. Yes, LinkedIn or Google Plus posts linger for a while, but Twitter’s a real poofer, and even the most sticky social post isn’t likely to be sending much your way after 30 days or so.

That’s why re-sharing social media content in the future is so important. A Tweet gets lost in the stream, and reTweeting it a few days, weeks or even months later can sometimes deliver much greater engagement, should the right person see it. With search engine traffic, it’s often just getting started after a month or two. I know that social media posts do show up on search engines, but in many cases you have to be logged in to Google, and the posting has to be from someone in your circle.  If not, no search result listing .

Here’s a Little Story ‘Bout a Man Named Jed

There is a twisted interdependence between search and social traffic, like your cousin Jenny marrying your cousin Jed… but I digress. Better search rankings mean more traffic and more shares, but more social activity also impacts search rankings, and traffic. To discover what degree it does so, you’ll have to ask hard-core SEO experts. Rand’s probably around here somewhere….. Be thorough; ask 10 SEOs. Go ahead, you’ll likely get 10 different answers, maybe 9.

I asked one, Cyrus Shepard (Twitter @CyrusShepard), Senior Manager of the Content Team and SEO expert at Moz, and one of the most respected SEO software firms anywhere. You might say he knows a thing or two about SEO.

We’ve always seen a high correlation between social activity and higher rankings. In fact, social activity is often more highly correlated with higher rankings than almost any other signal we study.

Google has been vocal about saying they don’t use most raw social activity in their algorithm, with the justification that they don’t have reliable access to data from Twitter and Facebook. That said, we have seen Google make more statements in the past couple of years they are very interested in “identity” on the web, which has implications behind “who” shares socially, as opposed to raw social counts. We saw evidence of this when Google started using authorship as one of the signals when promoting In-depth articles in its search results.

The biggest benefit from increased social sharing remains broader distribution of your content. The more your content is naturally shared, the more influential eyeballs it gets in front of, the more links it can earn and the better you’ll do in search results.”

Social isn’t just bang out a post and forget it, either. Social traffic is dependent on many variables. Who are you engaging with on your social platforms? When did you share? That alone can make a massive difference. This post on Buffer ( details the best times to share on various social media platforms.

If Not Traffic, What?

I’m not saying social isn’t worth traffic, but….. Social media is more a long-term branding and engagement play for relationship building. Think maximizing lifetime customer value. Immediate traffic from social is a just a tasty bonus. Please pass the Cinnabon……

Yes, it drives traffic, too; sometimes tidal waves of it. That traffic’s a great thing, but only if you’re prepared to nurture it and turn social visitors into brand evangelists and subscribers. The intent is different than search engine traffic, so use that to your advantage. Engage them, that’s why they came. Recognize the difference. It’s vital.

It’s Like This:

A social visitor is probably NOT going to make a purchase on their first (or even 10th) visit. On the other hand, a searcher may well buy your new Fizzbinder 2000 because they were searching for it, and your site came up in the SERPs. If they don’t hit the plastic on their initial visit, they’ll perhaps relatively soon.

In addition, most successful brands are fairly adept at hanging on to and marketing to past purchasers, so that visitor may buy more down the road. Who will those buyers tell about your brand and products? That’s anyone’s guess, and open to many variables. If you’re engaging them on social media and delivering value, your chances go way up, though.

Are those visitors transformed into committed brand evangelists after their purchase? That too, is anyone’s guess. It’s another multi-variable dependent event.

However, if they are committed brand evangelists BEFORE making their first purchase, they’re yours for life to screw up. Don’t, and they will you help bring more customers into the fold, too. A 2012 study conducted at  Concordia University, and published in the Journal of Information Management found that:
“Brand communities operating on social media can enhance brand trust and loyalty
by improving customer relationship with the brand, other consumers, the company, and the products.”

So, How Can You Grow Social Media Referral Traffic?

It Takes Two, Then Two More, Then……..

That’s the $24,000 question: How to maximize website traffic from your social media activity?

Social traffic to your website is a function of two metrics:

  •  Reach
  • Clickthrough rate

Grow either and your traffic will increase. Of course, with social media there are really TWO clickthrough rates that matter: The clickthrough rate of the social listing, and the internal clickthrough rate of the post itself.

I call these primary and secondary clickthroughs, respectively. If they click on your post in LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter, they must then also click on the link in the post itself that leads to your site. If either are missing, so is your traffic!

Here are a few ways to drive both metrics higher, growing your social media traffic in the process:

1 – Always Deliver Value

If your audience knows you consistently deliver value, they’ll keep coming back and share more often. Even more important, because they know you deliver, they’ll click more, too. People hate being disappointed, so don’t. They’ll love you and your stuff, and expect you to always deliver more great content.

No more letting your Google+ posts or Tweets just slide on by in their feed. They’ll actually watch for you, and click to get the “rest of the story” when your social post shows up.

That consistent value also boosts the likliehood an influencer will re-share your social post. Their reach combined with their implied endorsement can kick your traffic right in the Jimmy, sending it sky high.

Growing value in your social activity means:

  • Know your audience, what their motivations are, and what they really want
  • Giving it to them’ on social platforms aligned with your target audience
  • Sharing at the optimum times

2 – Use Tools

You can’t do it all by yourself; nor should you try, especially with something as important and potentially overwhelming as your organization’s social media efforts. You have enough to do already, whether you’re a single blogger, community manager, or social media marketing staffer at a major brand.
Use tools to give yourself a hand. Lilach Bullock at Maximize Social Business gives us a list of 10  Tools that will help get more social media traffic. If that’s not enough, see Albert Costill’s list of social Media Management Tools over at

3 – Make Your Headlines Compelling

Social media is content, after all. Like a blog post, newspaper article, or e-book, the title or headline drives primary clickthroughs. They grab the visitor and make them want to click on your post, out of the dozens sliding by in their Google+, Facebook, or Twitter stream. If you’re following more than 3 people on any social network, you know that means time’s at a premium. You have about 1 second to grab someone’s attention.

These primary clickthroughs are necessary for the secondary ones that take visitors to your site. If they miss the post, they’ll miss the link to your site. Ensuring your content is aligned with the headline and delivers on the headline’s promise makes visitors warm and fuzzy when they do click on through. That’s a good thing. Really.

4 – Include Images

There’s a reason graphics sites like Canva are doing a booming business of late. Businesses have an overwhelming appetite for social media graphics. Why the thirst? Partly due to stats like this: Including images increases clickthrough rates an average of 18% according to the folks at Buffer, who’ve analyzed literally millions of posts.  Images make your post stand out, and boost appeal to visual learners.

5 – Collaborate With Influencers and Authorities

Every industry and market has those who say “Jump” and others ask “How High?” People hang on their every word. If their words happen to include reference to your content or social post, hang on. The key is building collaborative relationships with them. They may contribute to your little masterpiece.

Their contribution helps your credibility, boosts value for your audience, and there’s a decent chance they’ll give it a mention or two in their social accounts, on their blog, or in an industry rag. Of course, you’re also helping them, because the more they are quoted, referenced, and shared, the more it cements their influencer status. Sure, it’s a catch-22, but one you can both use to your advantage.

How to Boost Secondary Clickthrough Rates

Once your visitors are on your social post, you’ve won half the battle. Here’s how you win the other half.

A – Just ask.

Really, asking your visitors to click can significantly increase your click through rates. Of course, that’s somewhat social network dependent. You may not want to waste some of your Tweet’s 140  precious characters on click begging. In any case, include a call to action where appropriate.

B- Analyze and Copy.

Well, not copy, but look at your most successful past posts from a click through rate perspective. What were they about, and how were they structured? Use that as guide for future posts. Something about those posts made visitors click.  Using those elements on future posts will drive click through rates high on them too.

C – Be Real, or Get That Way Fast

You’re trying to build a relationship with your visitor. Better relationship = higher click throughs.
Danny Wong highlights the effect of being real and authentic as a big influence on social media click through rates in a post on the shareaholic blog Yeah, you’re right; it’s not gong to happen overnight, but happen it will.
More on boosting social clickthrough rates:
Social Media Examiner had an excellent article on Ways to Boost Social Click Through Rates that gives more info.

What We Discovered About Social Traffic, How to Grow It, and How to Benefit From It

1 – Social traffic is different from search traffic. They both have strengths and weaknesses. Recognize them. Use social to start, build, and strengthen relationships that will help your organization in ways a single search visit usually can’t. Social media traffic is a long term relationship play, not a one nigh stand.

2 – Social traffic to your website is a function of 2 key metrics: reach and click through rate (both primary and secondary) Track these and focus on maximizing them with your target audience. Maximizing clickthrough takes a golden combination of timing, relevancy, headline, CTA, and value history.

3 – Don’t work in a vacuum. Really, growing social traffic means, well, being social. Getting the most from that traffic means reaching out to others and making the most of your contacts. That includes your employees, who can be a huge social asset. The relationships you foster with influencers and industry insiders are some of your most valuable social assets too, but don’t overlook people just because they haven’t reached that pinnacle.

The Upshot on Social Media Traffic

  • You can increase social media traffic to your site.
  • Just because your last post got shared doesn’t mean those shares will translate into site visits.
  • Growing social media traffic to your site = increasing social media reach and clickthrough rate

What’s been your biggest social media traffic challenge? Did you solve it? How?

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Content Fails 7 Key Ways – Does Yours? Tue, 15 Jul 2014 14:26:51 +0000 Content Fails 7 Ways  – Does Yours?

Brands spend a mint on planning, producing, distributing, and promoting marketing content. More than a few are wasting a big chunk of their money, because their content fails. How many marketing scheckles went into your content in 2013? 2014? What kind of ROI did it deliver? Did it leave a good taste in your mouth?

There is no way to know for sure exactly how much organizations spend on marketing content, but it’s growing every year, according to several recent studies. One point revealed in the 2014 Content Marketing Benchmark Survey; organizations considering themselves content marketing successes spent an average of 243% more on CM than firms considering themselves CM failures.

It’s not all about resource allocation, though. Sure, pumping money in can solve the problem, but not if you’re going in the wrong direction. If

7 Ways Content Fails

Content fails, does yours? Relax, it’s easy to fix.

your content failed, it was likely for one or more of the following reasons:

Content Fail 1 – Over Complicated

Keep it simple (stupid!). KISS is a proven principle. It’s never been more powerful than when applied to content. Buzzword laced content may be great for scientists or attorneys, but in reality, it’s going to alienate a big audience chunk; likely the ones you’re looking to engage!

There is an exception; the aforementioned scientists. A 2008 Durham University study found scientists and academics actually cite content with buzzwords more often. If eggheads are your market, buzz away; otherwise, KISS it.

Content Fail 2 – Mis-targeted

Created for the wrong (or no specific) audience, in the wrong voice. Know your audience! It’s the number one rule of marketing in general, and applies to content more than nearly anything else in business.

There’s a reason organizations spend (or should) so much time on buyer personas; relevance. If you spend time nailing down your personas, creating effective content is so much easier. If not, you’re almost guessing.
Tweet This Quote: If your content doesn’t resonate, your revenue doesn’t generate.

That means your content must:

A – Deliver value
B – Speak to your audience in a voice they not only understand, but appreciate and trust.

Doing email? Once again, segmenting rears it’s ugly head. Break up your lists so yo can maximize content relevance for each. It equals more value for your recipients and better response for you.

How can you make sure what audiences like? Test your content. Hell, spy on your competitors. What’s working for them? One way to know; look at their popular content and see what’s generated the most social chatter. This Kissmetrics blog post has a few excellent tools for spying on competitors’ content.

Content Fail 3 – Not Delivered on Time

Timing is everything, and it’s rarely more true than with content. The world’s a fast moving place these days, and your audience is moving with it. Moreover, a nice slice of content is aimed to coordinate with time sensitive events: holidays, product launches, elections, legislation, sporting events, organizational changes, and so on.

That’s only the half of it.

Distribution effectiveness is also impacted by time, too. It can come down to the minute, especially for social media outlets like Twitter.

Content Fail 4 – No Visuals

Content Fail 4

Content Doesn’t Resonate With Your Audience? FAIL!!

Images and video are proven engagement increasers, and powerful ways to get your message across, when plain old text falls flat. It’s that whole picture / 1,000 words thing. In fact, in some verticals or platforms, visual content can be the majority.

Examples of Video Content That Dominates:

1 – An auto parts retailer (online or physical location) creating how-to videos that show how to diagnose and repair specific vehicles. Creating content showing how to use your products greatly facilitates customer engagement and sales.
2 – A travel company creating videos of different destinations and the best attractions to visit there. Some things are better off being shown, rather than just talked about.
3 – A hairstylist or beauty products company creating how-to videos and before/after images.
4 – Social media posts with a compelling image. Image and video content really drive engagement on social media. In their latest research, Social Bakers discovered 93% of the most engaging Facebook posts were images. Similarly, Buffer found that image Tweets get double the engagement of Tweets without images. Instagram is effective for businesses with a strong visual component. Think restaurants, architects, building contractors, sporting organizations, travel companies, and florists.

You get the idea. Sometimes visual content engages your audience better and conveys the message more effectively.

Content Fail 5 – Too Little

according to the latest CMI/Marketing Profs Benchmark Survey, most brands say they can’t create enough content… if they only knew! It’s the new SEO, after all! That’s far from the only reason to create more content. How can I justify my existence if you’re not creating more and more content, and calling me to help you do it? Did I just say that?

Actually, yes, but there are hard numbers to back it up. You’ve probably been beat over the head by the stats already, but B2B companies that blog more than once per week get 80-some percent more leads than those that only post once per month. If you can’t find the time to post more than once per week (You can’t, “lack of time” was listed as the numero uno content marketing challenge brands face), there’s a great reason to find a way.

Better Than Website Traffic?

The new leads aren’t strictly from greater website traffic. Great content is a credibility builder. It shows prospective customers you know your stuff, and are worthy of consideration for what they’re doing. It helps them do something that over 70% of B2B purchasers now do; use content to get them down the purchase path, before they ever contact your sales team. Think about it. Before they ever contact you, you’re already on their short list – if your content puts you there!

It boils down to having sufficient content to for two objectives:

– Attracting Prospects
– Informing Them

Do you have it?

Content Fail 6 – It Doesn’t Physically Fit

How will your audience consume it? If it’s a good bet they’ll view it on mobile, make sure they can see it there; without squinting, scrolling, or swiping. People hate that; your audience among them.

If you have recent platform data from your blog, website, or past projects, check it. If not, run some small scale tests first. Better to discover how your content’s consumed before investing major resources on it, then finding it failed because a significant percentage of your audience threw up their hands. Safer to go with recent trends and just make sure there’s a version of your stuff optimized for all screen sizes.

Content Fail 7 – Doesn’t Address The Key Audience Issue

People came to your content for a reason. What is it? Do they want to learn more about your industry, team, organization, or products? Perhaps it’s more basic; process or procedure oriented questions they want answers to. Did you answer them or point them to where they could be found? Whatever the reason they are there, if your content doesn’t address their key issue, or point them to other resources that do, it’s a flop!

How can you keep from getting called into the CMO’s office for all the wrong reasons?

First, go through the “Magnificent 7” failure points above. How does your content stack up? Next, check those below:

1 – Start with a documented content marketing strategy.

Like writing down your weight loss goals, it works wonders. According to the latest Content Marketing Institute / Marketing Profs benchmark report, it delivers a 600% improvement! Yeah, your mileage may vary, but unless your strategy has more holes that the Cougar defense in 2011, a real plan brings you nowhere but up. The survey discovered:
66% of the most effective marketers used a documented content strategy
11% of the least effective marketers used a documented content strategy
Kind of a no brainer….

Map out where you’re going and how you propose getting there; exactly. Use quantifiable goals. Without defining success, you can’t tell when you’ve achieved it, or by how much. When the CMO asks “How did Campaign X work?” in your next quarterly, you can deliver an actual answer, with numbers to prove it. No more mumbling.

2 – Testing and refinement holds the key to content success.

Marketers should test everything, because that’s where improvement lies. Incremental improvement leads to maximum performance.

Split test headlines, e-mail subject lines, web pages, social media release timing, your boss’s tires, or the pizzas you’re considering for the game Saturday. In short, use real data to make your decisions, not what feels good. Often, what feels good is plain wrong. Do you want to gamble your organization’s budget and your rep on a gut feeling, when you don’t have to?

3 – Know Your Audience and Create for Them

Did I mention that above? I should put it in all caps, online etiquette be damned. If you don’t know them, their issues, and how your organization solves their problems, how can you create content that resonates with them? What are their values, what makes them tick, and what direction are they coming at things from?

4 – Platform Optimize

Know how your audience will consume it, then ensure there’s a version optimized for each platform. Nowadays, that means a myriad of devices and screen sizes.

Responsive websites are easier than ever, and that’s a big step in the right direction, if not the entire answer. If you’re running a WordPress Site, it’s as simple as starting with a responsive template, checking all the right boxes, and doing a little image optimization. If your site isn’t responsive, send your web team (or guy/gal) shopping for a new one. It’s usually well worth the investment.

If your organization includes local outlets customers will be out looking to visit, don’t stop at a responsive website. Experience dictates your audience is looking for specific info (location, contact info, specials, etc.) and want it yesterday. Creating a different, mobile optimized site for them is a great solution. If you’re a B2C firm with local outlets, keep the meaty content on your main site, but put your meaty specials, address, map, and phone number on a mobile site with no fluff.

Mobile viewing while driving; it’s against the law in many areas, but so are many other things people do. Better to do your part and help them find what they need fast, and get their eyes back on the road where they belong.

Content Fails for Specific Reasons….. Find Them, Fix Them, Succeed

If your content’s failing, it’s not an indictment of content marketing. Too many achieve runaway success with it. It’s more likely due to a few key problems. Correct them, and your content will be out there, working to bring in new customers, and helping turn existing ones into repeat buyers.

What were your biggest content  fails, and how did you fix them?

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7 Critical Steps to Create Marketing Content That Works – You Missing One? Wed, 25 Jun 2014 15:30:27 +0000 7 Critical Steps to Create Marketing Content That Works

Are YOU Missing One?

Now that you’re ready to create marketing content, what steps do you take to ensure your content grabs the perfect potential customers and leads them straight to the open arms of your sales team? If your content’s done its job, they’ll follow the bouncing ball straight to sales, primed and ready to buy. It may take a while, though.

Consumers today, in either B2B or B2C environments, don’t wait for sales reps to reach them before starting down the buying decision path. They research and use content to decide or narrow down the field on their own first. Thank the Internet for the opportunity to hold so much sway over potential customers.

If you’re here, chances are you’ve bought in to the whole content marketing thing as a way to be part of their decision. It makes sense. When potential buyers investigate as part of their pre-buying decision making, they look for content with info that helps them. They will find someone’s. It may as well be yours.

When they do consume your content, does it lead them down the right path? How do you make sure?

First, remember this:

Content marketing is about more than simply the content and how much good information it contains. It’s also about:

  • How well it fits the intended audience
  • What you do with it before and after you publish to maximize distribution and get (the correct) eyeballs/ears on it.
  • Producing it in a form that maximizes value for your intended audience.

You may have discovered this already, but content marketing isn’t free. Content costs, there’s no way around it. It may be cost effective marketing, but like any organizational activity, it uses resources. Good content can be expensive.

Of course, creating content that doesn’t work costs even more. It’s not an isolated issue. Nearly half the 91% of B2B marketers claiming to use content marketing feel they are ineffective at it. Wow. How much was wasted on creating that content?

Ensure you’re not just letting precious resources fly out the window like so much aroma on a hot day. Create content that works, get your quarterly bonus, and grab a well-deserved vacation. Relax, it’s not that difficult, just follow some key steps.

If you’re just starting, here are the steps we’ve found to create effective marketing content and how to use them in your organization.

Maybe you’ve been creating content, but not getting the results you’d hoped for. Heads rolling yet? Let’s sew them back on. There are some key reasons your content may not be working, but you can fix them. If you’ve missed any of the steps below, including them will help set things right.

Content Marketing Step 1 – Define Measureable Goals and Objectives

What’s the mission? Where does your organization need the content to take it? Before firing up the content gun and spewing stuff everywhere,

Content Marketing Step 1

What Are Your Specific Content Marketing Goals? You do know, don’t you??

know where it’s taking you, and what happens when you plant your flag on the beach.

Here in the Dark

The measureable aspect can’t be glossed over. I’ve tried. Not measuring doesn’t mean that your content isn’t good or effective. It means you don’t really know. Worse, even if you hit a home run, you won’t know how far the ball flew, where it landed, or how to make it fly farther next time.

So, What’s Important?

New subscribers? New subscribers per visitor? What about visitors to a specific web page? Maybe it’s social interaction: Tweets, favorites, plus ones, likes, blog comments, etc. (Ultimately, there’s a metric that’s the final arbiter. We’ll get there in a second. )

It depends. Doesn’t it always?

You’ll be measuring as your audience travels through the sales funnel. The content metric stages:

  1. Audience Acquisition – Did the content bring in visitors? You’re casting a net, did it catch anything? Who?
  2. Social sharing – Did they tell others and help distribution? Again, who?
  3. Lead Generation – Your content may have traveled far and wide, but did you get more leads directly attributable to the content? Indirectly?
  4. Sales – Did the leads from the content translate into real revenue? At the end of the quarter, it’s the most important. Does your content convert on whatever your goals are? Yes, it is sales’ responsibility to get contacts to write checks, but it’s content that brings in leads ready to grab their pen.

We’ve discovered the key is correlating metrics with a desired result. How does a good result help you reach your planed goals? Some metrics are important but they’re really just “feel good” stats. Pump up your statistics all you want, but great stats are no guarantee of future results.

Stats and results are quite different and many far brighter than me have confused the two. What’s the difference? Check out this post on for more on how the difference between statistics and goals can help you grow.

In the end, it comes down two things leads generated and conversion rate. How many leads did the content generate and what percentage of those leads turned into paying customers? Eyeballs (and ears) don’t pay the bills.

The $64,000 Question?

Who’s writing the checks and are they doing that in all or part because of the content? Use the right metrics to find out. Eventually it all comes down to one thing: ROI. Can you calculate it? Without the right measuring stick, it’ll be tough.

Using content specific metrics is as important as stage specific ones. For example, an email marketing campaign, will need a different set of numbers than you’d use for blog posts or white papers on slideshare.

Here’s a post at on email newsletter metrics:

2 – Create Buyer Personas

Content marketing is about 2 things: attracting and influencing. Who are you looking to attract and influence with your content? Paint a picture

Content Marketing Step 2 - Buyer Personas

Who Are You Targeting – Exactly? Use buyer personas to ensure you create laser targeted content for your desired audience.

of them as individuals; we’re talking real people, not just their business roles.

That’s a buyer persona, and it defines your audience, so you know who the heck you’re creating for, and which of their needs it’s meeting.

Maybe you’re selling network security software to small and mid-sized organizations. Who the heck buys that stuff?? Who are the different decision makers and influencers that contribute to the buying decision?

In most cases it’s the IT manager, and possibly some others on the IT staff. The COO and facilities manager may have some input too, with the CFO likely wanting the numbers to pan out. Were do they influence the buying process? That’s important, yes, but here is the question that really sets the oil burning:

Who are those PEOPLE? Not just their positions in the organization, but what are their values and backgrounds? How do they think? What motivates them to buy?

Creating buyer personas to reflect that defines what you’ll need for content that brings in likely buyers.

Buyer Persona Questions

We use a few questions to help create buyer personas.

Ask the basics first:

Age, Sex, Education, Geographic Location, Family Situation (Married/Single/how many kids)

Next, what makes them tick?

Values, Fears, Political Affiliation, Goals, Dreams, Activities, Interests

Finally, why do they buy, and for whom?

Business Role (for B2B), Buying Process Stage, User Stage, Key Problem(s) Solving With Purchase

You could do a whole post on the ins and outs of creating buyer personas. Hey, there’s a ton of info here already. Thankfully, Erin Everhart did a killer post on creating buyer personas over on Search Engine Watch.

3 – Build Your Content Plan

Planning rears its ugly head again. Joe Pulizzi at Content Marketing Institute publishes a study every year. It’s almost required reading for effective content marketers. One of their key findings for 2014 is that marketers who have a documented strategic plan are 6 times more likely to taste success as those who don’t.

Don’t yet have a CM plan? Here’s how to create one:

First, what buyer stage is the content for? We’ve (and many others) discovered different content is most effective at various stages of the decision making process. Where your audience is in the process gives you clues about what content types and subject matter will be most effective.

For example, in the IT example above, decision makers will first determine if what they need, then move on to nail down their exact product requirements. From there, it’s a short hop to determining which products are in the market and of those, which meet their needs.


If you’ve made it that far, you’re on their short list. It’s whittle down time, when one solution rises to he top. At that stage, it’s time to get all decision makers on the same page. For example, the CFO, CEO, and COO may all have to sign off on a major capital investment at some point, in addition to gaining IT manager and/or CTO approval.

Content plays a major role in gaining the other decision makers’ approval. For yours to be effective here, it must answer the following:

  • What’s the content doing and why is it needed? If it’s for attracting the right audience to your funnel, what are they looking for at this stage of the buying process?
  • How is it influencing the influencers?

Buying Process Content Stages

Early Stage Content

Early stage content is used to bring in prospects, build trust, and position your organization and solutions. Audiences here are after content that supports availability, need assessment, solution efficacy determination, and technology validation. Basically – What’s new, what’s out there now, do/will we need any of it, does it work like it’s supposed to, is there something better coming soon?

In our IT security software example, what content to meets early buying stage needs?

Decision makers in the early stage will likely look at:

  • Technology Feature Articles
  • Technology News
  • Industry Leader Interviews
  • Reviews
  • Case Studies
  • White Papers

Middle Stage Content

Next, audiences move to the what/who stage of the decision making process. The know they need a solution and what kind of solution they’re looking for. They’re still in the dark on exactly who will provide it and which product is the best fit. Your content helps them nail it down.

  • Reviews
  • Case Studies
  • White Papers
  • Design drawings and diagrams
  • Company Executive, Product Manager, and Engineering Team Leader Interviews
  • Product Info Sheets and Brochures

Final Stage Content – It’s Go Time!

Thanks to middle stage content, the product is decided. The final stage requires buy in and sign off from all company decision makers. Imagine you’re on the IT team that’s looking to purchase the new security software. How can you support your decision with those within you organization?

What do you need to help make your case to them?

Example: You may have to sell the CFO on the ROI, so having content to support your case in the form of research and white papers that detail how your proposed solution will deliver a real return are vital.

If you’re a vendor who’s using content marketing, have this kind of content ready to go. If you’re selling within your organization, look to the vendor for help developing it, if need be.

See No Evil, But Watch Engagement Climb

It’s been proven ad infinitum that visual elements boost content engagement and effectiveness. Photos, graphics, and video work wonders. People love them, but it goes deeper. Visuals communicate some ideas faster and better than the printed word ever could. Moreover, some folks are visual learners. They absorb visual content more easily than other mediums. Help them learn yours.

It’s as easy as A,B,C….

A – Engagement is a goal for nearly all organizations.

B – Visuals kick about everything else to the curb for engaging visitors.

C – Include images and video to boost engagement.

See how easy that is? This infographic from training firm Boot Camp Digital ( has some compelling stats on visuals and social media that should convince you fence sitters.

An easy way to get the kind of snappy visuals people love to share and engage with is a new start up; Canva. I recently discovered it, thanks to social sharing (See, it works). Guy Kawasaki is a key player, so I’m a fan from the get go.

For those without a high end graphics department or can’t wait for them, it’s the ticket. We use it… a lot. You’ll quickly and easily create all kinds of graphics. They have optimized templates for myriad social graphics, the different social headers and backgrounds, blog images, and more. The price ranges from free to damn cheap.

4 – Develop an Editorial Calendar

When you determine what content you need at all buying process stages, it’s time to create an editorial calendar. We’ve found them

Content Marketing Step 2

Editorial Calendars – Schedule for Success…..

indispensable for making sure the proper content is available when needed. A calendar also acts as an overview to help spot holes in your schedule. You’ll be able to more effectively allocate resources, plan production, assign vendors, internal creators or production teams content responsibility. It saves those “Crap, I need this by Friday” emails to your team…. on Wednesday.

They’re easy to create. Simply map out the content titles you’ll need and when in your plan they fit. Put each on the editorial calendar for publication the day it fits best with your plan’s objectives.

Powerful, Free and Flexible…


A simple spreadsheet works well for editorial calendars, especially if you’re running solo. If your team is larger than you and that PBnJ you had for lunch, leveraging the cloud is a big plus. Google Docs is an Ed calendar creation favorite. A Google Docs spreadsheet ensures many team members can collaborate, and view it when necessary. It’s powerful, free and flexible; 3 words near and dear to my heart!

If you’re so inclined, there are specialized tools for editorial calendar use.

Kapost is one of the most popular. It’s a really good fit for larger orgs that pump out high content volumes. If you’re starting smaller, Kapost is still an excellent choice, but maybe jumping onto Hubspot’s bandwagon is more your speed, not to say the orange team can’t work great for larger business as well. They do have a popular, free EC template though. Be advised – it’s based on an Excel spreadsheet, so it’s not the best for collaboration with other team members.

Should you use one for social media content? Sure, it’s a great idea that ensures your social media activity is aligned with your larger content marketing goals. Social media is a little more fluid, due to it’s temporal nature. You’ll end up augmenting your calendar with timely events that interest your audience.

5 – Publish and Distribute

TIP: POC – Platform Optimize Content.

There are more mobile visitors than ever, so ensure it looks good, and works properly on any likely screens with eyeballs attached. That could be

Content Marketing Step 5 - Content Distribution

Great content just isn’t without appropriate distribution and promotion. Enough of the right people won’t see it.

anything from a 24” Mac to a Kindle or iPhone 3. These days, it may also be the new 84in flat screen in the conference room or the VP of Sales’ home theater. Thank smart TVs, Chromecast, and Apple TV for that last one. Analytics will help you refine this as your content gets visitors, and you see what they’re consuming with. You’ll likely have historical data from similar projects and posts to help here, too.

What channels to distribute your content? Where you publish and distribute is likely a function of :

  • The content’s role in your content marketing plan
  • The content modality
  • Your market
  • Your target audience

Typically, distribution extends to one or more of the following:

  • Your company blog
  • Key team members’ personal blogs, if applicable
  • Social media channels – GooglePlus, LinkedIn (especially the new publisher platform), Twitter, Facebook, etc
  • Document sharing sites – Slideshare, Scribd, DocStoc,etc…
  • Trade journals / magazines
  • Video sharing sites – YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Daily Motion, Instagram, etc…
  • Email – Not dead, maybe more powerful than ever!
  • Your staff – They can be some of your biggest evangelists; and should be.

Use Leverage to Move The Big Rock

Most organizations report that their biggest content marketing is creating enough good content, never mind the great stuff. Leverage is a powerful ally that can help. It’s a key success principle and can be a big key to content marketing success, too.

A powerful way to use leverage is re-purposing existing content. Here are some re-purposing routes we’ve found effective:

  • Turn a blog post into a pod cast or video script, or go the reverse.
  • Use a case study as the basis for a blog post.
  • Syndicate a blog post as an article to a popular trade journal or e-zine serving your audience.
  • Turn a blog post into the basis for an infographic.
  • However you do it, stretch your resources to the limit, but get more for your money.

6 – Promote

*Most Important Promotional Tip in This Post: Get Influencers On Board Early.

In some ways, this should be step 5. Why? To maximize effectiveness, a little upfront legwork is required. This is where relationship building is key. You can’t just reach out to someone out of the blue and ask them to participate. They may still agree, but your chances zoom to the stars if you’ve:

  • Helped them before
  • Posted content on their blog (or they on yours)
  • Consistently interacted with them on social networks
  • Worked with them in some way

If the content is a collaborative effort with you and an influencer, you’re already rounding second. They’ll likely be on board with helping the social media push, reaching out to their contacts, and linking to your content from their media platforms. After all, it’s theirs, too.

  • Promote on channels where it makes sense. Slideshare for white papers and presentations.
  • Promotion Trough Social Sharing – Super Effective, Duh!!
  • A great thing about social; it’s user generated promotion.
  • Share B2B focused content on LinkedIn, and post in relevant LI groups. Find key influencers in your market and where they hang out on LI. That’ where you want to be, too. Join the same groups. If nothing else, you can learn a lot. Contribute value and get noticed. That way, when you share to groups you can get more traction, and maybe even ask for help (and get it).

CAUTION: LinkedIn has been getting pissy lately with multiple group postings. Whether or not that’s from LI itself, or group mods doesn’t matter. It’s the little blue prohibition box that pops up on your profile, informing you you’ve been banned that’s important.

Problem – their social sharing button makes it super easy to share content to multiple groups simultaneously. If it’s highly targeted to those groups and adds value it makes sense to share that way…. except that someone, somewhere decided that’s spamming and they don’t like it.

According to those who’ve been caught in the trap, posting to multiple groups simultaneously increases the likelihood you’ll end up in “SWAM” never-never land and be unable to post anywhere. Be selective, and post in one group at a time, choosing the most targeted and engaged first.

If you’ve developed a good relationship with bloggers in your market, find a very recent, relevant post on their blog that your content adds value to and link to it in a comment.

Comment Strategy Caveats:

  • Have a good relationship with the blog owner or editor first
  • When commenting on social platforms or blogs, both your comment and linked content must add significant value to the post
  • Blogs must allow linking in their comments. Many no longer do. It’s not all bad though.  You’re not commenting for SEO, but for traffic. Blogs have largely migrated to social logins, so you’ll gain interaction and exposure there.
  • Syndicate your content to highly relevant outlets.

7 – Follow Up

Okay, you’ve made it through the first 6 steps with the resilience of Ed Hillary heading to 29,000 feet. Do you just sit back and wait for your masterpiece(s) to do their work? Hardly! There’s still more to be done. You want to wring every last drop of productivity form your content?

Follow up; this step is neglected by many content marketers, but can separate you from the pack if you’re not one of them. Come to think of it, follow up is where many otherwise excellent business people miss the boat in other areas, too. Use that to your advantage.

Here are several ways to supercharge your content with follow up after it’s flown the coop. Your content’s timeliness affects how you follow up. Time sensitive content’s usefulness decreases with time after the publish date; so do your opportunities for maximizing distribution.


This is easy and powerful, two hallmarks of an excellent action. Use with care to avoid backlash, though. As with so many things in life, timing is everything. Twitter is your first target. Think about it. Sharing just once on Twitter just about guarantees you’ll miss most of your followers. Unless they’re searching for you or one of your Tweet subjects, nearly anyone follows far too many people on Twitter to see everything… or anything, for that matter. If you’re following even 5,000 people, your time line makes a stock ticker look like a slow boat to China. There’s no way you’ll see everything in there.

Use to check for influencers on Google+ Find who (or whose audience) could benefit from your content. Check if they’ll use it as a guest post or share it to their social circles. Again, it’s part of a process. Don’t just ask them. Build a relationship first, then you’ll be ready.

Engage Quickly

Reply to commenters and social media sharers as soon as possible after they interact with your content. That builds the relationship, keeps them engaged, and stimulates conversation. Depending on your subject matter, it’s not all that may be stimulated. When it makes sense, encourage them to connect with your content on their platforms. Doing so requires a velvet touch, however.


Look for syndication opportunities on e-zines and blogs. For business oriented material, Business2Community can offer greater reach and social activity. I’ve had excellent results syndicating material there. As an added bonus, it’s from your RSS feed, so it’s automatic.

Email the appropriate list segments and let them know your content is waiting. As always, use a compelling subject line to ensure your email has a fair shot at getting opened. Many don’t. Relevance is key to success here. Of course, this applies only if you’ve actually built a targeted email list. All the more reason for jumping on that ASAP if you haven’t already.

The Same Old 7 (Content Marketing Steps to Success)

Despite all the recent hype, new buzzwords, and focus, content marketing is not new. Far from it. It’s been around for well over 100 years. That doesn’t mean it’s stayed the same, though. Few things have. That being said, many of these same 7 steps have been just as important the entire time. If your content marketing efforts never got off the ground, or stalled before they really took flight, a renewed focus on the 7 steps can turn things around.

Have you been using content marketing in your organization? Has it been effective? Has it worked as well as you’d like? If not, what do you think you’re missing?

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Increase Website Conversion Rate – What Major Brands Know That You Don’t Wed, 26 Jun 2013 22:59:36 +0000 Increase Website Conversion Rate

Ultimately you’ll see revenue increases by boosting conversion rates. It’s often much easier to increase conversion rates than to increase targeted traffic, but the two are hopelessly intertwined…..

There are only two things you can do to boost revenue from your online presence: increase website conversion rate, and grow  traffic. Doing both can net you big gains, but increasing conversion rates can grow revenues, even with declining traffic numbers.

There are some strategies that major brands and their megabuck marketing research departments have discovered that you can apply to your business. It doesn’t matter if you work for a Fortune 1000 company or Joe’s Corner Joe coffee shop. These insights are highly effective, and you should be stealing them for your own use.

Increase Website Conversion Rate With Market Segmentation

What’s a great way to boost conversions? More precise targeting. Appeal exactly to your target consumer, and your conversions will rise, whether conversion means growing your prospect mailing list, or driving sales into your funnel.

Using segmentation to optimize content and landing pages for specific buyers is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to increasing website conversion rates. Multiple landing pages, social media campaigns, and content, each optimized for the target segment, typically demonstrate improved conversion rates, sometimes radically so.

Market Segmentation Bases Create Pinpoint Buyer Personas

Segmentation bases can be simple, such as male or female, to so esoteric and complex, it takes a PhD in statistics to comprehend. That’s because those are precisely type of eggheads who built the segmentation models. The models reveal different buyer personas with uncanny accuracy.

The more complex models take all sorts of factors into effect when creating these personas, from

  • Psychographic – attitudes (personal and specific product/service oriented) lifestyle interests
  • Behavioral brand loyalty product benefits sought purchase readiness product/service use frequency
  • Geographical – region country population density urban or rural location climate
  • Demographic gender age social attributes (such as ethnicity and religion) income level family situation (single, married, divorced, children, no children)

Note that this info is just used to make segmentation decisions, and not every piece of data is used each time. Relevance is the key to success here. What are you selling, who’s buying, what are your goals, and how does each base correlate with them?

Granularity And Accuracy Drive Sales, But At What Cost?

Big brands discovered that the more granular and accurate their segmentation, the better targeted they can make their content and landing pages, leading to increased conversion rates. For example, GM is not going to do as well introducing their new 2014 Corvette if they produce content about big rig trucks and heavy equipment, then refer traffic land on their corporate home page.

On the other hand, building buyer personas of consumers likely and able to plunk down their hard earned credit for one of the 450hp Plastic

Segmentation for conversion rate increases

Targeting is Numero Uno, and segmentation enables more accurate targeting.

Fantastics is far more effective. The company can then target content and landing pages for these folks. It’s much more likely to result in test drives and Corvette purchases for their dealers.

GM is fortunate. They have a long history to look at when determining which data to use and what’s meaningful for the new ‘Vette. You may not be so lucky, especially if you’re introducing a new product or service with little comparable in the marketplace. That being said, you can start in by looking at the marketing plan for insight. The research for it should provide at least a good starting point for what to use creating your segments.

Well funded organizations use sophisticated software to create precise segments for accurate targeting. Yours may not be so well funded, however. That’s where careful analysis comes into play. How far can you afford to take things, given the likely ROI increase you’ll get, and the extra time it takes to set things up.

We’ve found that spending just a bit of extra time segmenting is often well worth the extra Starbucks it took to get there. Conversion rates and ROI increase thanks to better targeting, and everyone in marketing gets a nice bonus!

Check this article for more on segmentation.

Test of Wills

Another conversion improvement technique large organizations had the luxury of discovering is in-depth testing processes. Thanks to improved and cost effective software, that sort of testing capability is accessible to just about any sized business today.

Split testing is the practice of changing one variable on a page or piece of content and tracking the conversion differences. Marketers and advertisers have been testing for centuries. It’s nothing new. What’s new is the ability to get results in a finger snap. Modern technology has revolutionized the process.

Multivariate testing looks at several variables simultaneously, speeding up the process significantly. Until fairly recently multivariate testing was accessible only to those with deep pockets, but as with many other technologies, the price of effective multi-variate testing has dropped faster than a falling safe. Now it’s in reach of virtually all businesses.

It’s often shocking and counter-intuitive what improves results, so jumping into the tedious testing process with both feet is a must. While only real data heads can possibly enjoy it, everyone in your business can benefit from the revenue growth and improved ROI testing delivers.

Sometimes it’s simple things. We’ve seen 1 – 5% conversion improvements from myriad different factors. I’m talking about the little things, such as:

  • color changes
  • changing one word in the headline
  • different button designs
  • link locations
  • changing the blog sidebar from right to left
  • bolding keywords
  • and more

You get the picture. Larger changes, such as completely different headlines or web copy can lead to even more dramatic results. .

The More the Merrier

Data loves company, especially if it’s to be statistically significant. We like to see at least a few hundred targeted visitors before drawing any conclusions, and that’s often not nearly enough to get an accurate picture of change effects. If your landing pages are only getting 30 or 40 visitors daily, it could be weeks before you get a clear picture of what the heck is going on.

The point is this;

Testing is the only way to really get a handle on what’s going on with your conversion rate and why. While each change may only give you a few points, they can really add up.

The recipe for success is test, track, test, track, test, track…..

Make it Oh, So Easy… Conversion Rate Will Improve

Look at your organization’s website order and/or sign up flow. If you didn’t work there, would it be easy to figure out? Could your Grand Ma Ma do it? Sure… Give it to her your iPAD and let her try. One of the biggest and most serious mistakes we see when doing conversion analysis is companies just making things too damn hard.

It’s amazing how many companies don’t go overboard to facilitate sales. Make the entire process as easy as humanly possible. Check every step of the process. Are things easy to find and intuitive? Unless they’re essential to the site form and function, drop all the industry buzzwords, and use plain English. At the very least, use buzzwords and plain English.

Clearly label buttons that navigate to the each step in the process. Make them jump off the page, so even the most web challenged won’t hesitate to find them. Use the Grand Ma Ma test for everything. Leave plenty of white space. Use numbered and bulleted lists. They help readers quickly see what’s what.

Keep your paragraphs short, your pages are easier to read that way.

Make Your Website Fast

It’s often overlooked as focus groups and marketing teams grow sweat beads over this change and that, but here’s another that can have a huge impact on your conversion rate; speed. If the web and marketing teams used the site on a development server, check on the real thing, too. If

website page load speed

Getting fast page load speeds helps your conversions. It’s simple, visitors hate to wait, and they won’t, they’ll go elsewhere to spend their money or learn about things.

parts of your site make molasses in January look like Usain Bolt, you’ve got a problem. Unless you’re giving away winning lotto tickets, visitors won’t stick around.

They’ll leave, and in a few seconds, be on your competitors site buying what you’re selling or forming a warm and fuzzy relationship with them. That stinks, so don’t let them go. No, don’t use those infernal systems that keep reopening a thousand new windows with your site in them. That’ll just piss them off, and pissed off consumers don’t buy, at least from you.

Just speed up your site. Here are a few ways to do that so your visitors stick around for a while:

  • Optimize Your Images. Make sure they’re no larger than they have to be. Even if the browser re-sizes them to ft on your page in your defined image area, that slows things down. Save them at the lowest resolution and quality settings possible without adversely affecting visible image quality. That’s important, because your site is your organization’s online face. You don’t want it to look like crap. If you’ve taken your images to the point they are no longer sharp and crystal clear, you’ve gone to far in your speed quest.


  • Install a Caching Plugin. That speeds page loads by only having the browser load what’s absolutely necessary. What happens is that the first time you visit a web page, it’s stored locally on your device. Only the changes are downloaded until the cache has expired. That speeds page loads considerably and saves valuable server resources, since many parts (or even all) of the page don’t need downloading. Your IT guys appreciate that too. Don’t let them say you never did anything for them.


  • Minimize Scripts and CSS Lightening the load goes a long way to chopping page load speeds. The less going on, and the smaller the files coming off the web server, the better. This is especially true in areas where the average Internet connection isn’t very robust.

Remember, just because you all have 50M/s Internet doesn’t mean your visitors do. Design for slow connections.

Look the Part

Look like a real company. Have all the obligatory pages i.e. About Us, Contact Us, Staff / Team, Investor Relations, etc. Make sure you have your address and phone number visible and your design looks professional. These days, what with the proliferation of easily customizable themes and content management systems such as WordPress, there’s really no excuse for anything else.

Return to Sender

If you’re selling hard goods, have a generous return policy and clearly state it before your visitors get to the shopping cart or order form. Reversing risk leads to greater sales. This is especially true online, where people can’t get all touchy-feely with their products before they buy.

On the Move

If you have a local business, strongly consider a mobile site. Just using a responsive version of your existing site doesn’t really do the trick on many occasions. Local businesses need to present different information, in a different format, over a crappy connection, for customers browsing on their phone or small tablet . Those visitors are probably out and about already. If you want them to stop by, make it easy (see above). That’s what a specialized mobile site does for you. Even better, they’re dirt cheap, all things considered.

In The End

They’ll be more on how to increase website conversion rates later. After all, if your site doesn’t covert, no one gets paid.

For now, think about this:

Segment – Optimize content, social media, and landing pages for each segment. The more accurate targeting will boost conversion rates.

Test / Track / Refine – Incremental improvements can add up big time, and are often counter-intuitive. You’ll only discover the truth through testing.

Facilitate It – Make the entire sales or sign up process as easy as possible, an oft-neglected conversion aspect, but one that’s vital.

Speed Kills – In the best possible way, of course. Faster page loads make for happier visitors, much more inclined to buy. As an added bonus, faster load times have an SEO benefit too.

Pretty is As Pretty Does – Make your site look professional and trustworthy. Think of the alternative…

Reverse Consumer Risk – Not only give them a return policy, but clearly and prominently state it before they get to the order form.

Take it On The Road –  Mobile optimized sites, not simply responsive copies of their “big” websites, are great conversion boosters for local businesses

These conversion rate increasers should give you something to chew on. Take a look at your site. Chances are you can see some changes that will improve conversions you can jump on right away.

Please share, it’s a noble thing!

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