Act-On Marketing Action Blog Act-On is a cost-effective marketing automation software platform with email marketing, lead nurturing, lead generation, lead scoring, webinar management, CRM integration, and social media prospecting and tracking tools. Thu, 27 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 103608867 The Perils & Pleasures of Rebranding: The Puppet Story Thu, 27 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 If your company or your market has changed and you’re thinking about rebranding, read why Puppet rebranded and what they did to make it a smashing success. ]]>

In this episode of the Rethink Podcast, Paige Musto, Act-On’s senior director of corporate marketing, interviews Suzame Tong, the director of marketing communications at Puppet. In April of 2016 Puppet Labs repositioned as Puppet, in a rebranding that went far beyond just a name and logo change. Listen in, as Paige gets the story.

This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast. 


Prior to joining Puppet, Suzame was the senior director of brand marketing at Jive Software. She writes on her Puppet bio that she thrives in the highly subjective and emotionally charged part of marketing, known as brand – near and dear to my heart. Suzame, can you tell us more about Puppet and what Puppet does?


Sure. Nowadays, in order to remain competitive, basically every company has to behave like a great software company. Puppet is driving the movement to change the way that software is delivered and operated.


What was the impetus behind you folks deciding to change from Puppet Labs to Puppet, and the new logo that came out as a result.



In my experience over the years at different companies, there are a few reasons that you look at undertaking a rebrand.

It might be a coming of age, so when you think about the company not having started out with a lot of investment in marketing like a lot of startups do, and at a certain point of maturity they realize that, ‘hey, we’re successful and we actually need to take this pretty seriously.’ There might be huge shifts in the business in terms of the strategy or the product.

It may be that the company’s no longer differentiated from its competitors or they want to stay relevant in a changing market.

And it may be to rationalize growth, so if a company’s growing a lot through acquisitions and diversifying its product line, it just may not – the brand may not reflect the new purpose or mission of the company.

From Puppet’s standpoint, it was definitely a coming of age. Luke (Kanies) started Puppet 11 years ago. I don’t think that there was any thought or idea at the time (with it being an open source product) of how do you create a brand.


At that point they’re thinking about technology; they’re not thinking about the brand and what it means longevity-wise.


Right. Puppet has grown in leaps and bounds over the years. Over time it evolved in an adaptive way. It started out as Reductive Labs as the name of the company, and Puppet was the name of the product. At some point there was a decision to name the company Puppet Labs because Puppet was gaining so much traction in the market. The logo we had was a mashup of Reductive Labs and some other aspects.

We hit a point where we had grown up as a company and we had a lot of opportunities ahead of us that didn’t quite fit the identity we had and the positioning that we had.


It’s very interesting. I look at the stages of a company in three ways. You have that hustling startup. And then you become the growth machine. And then you become a scalable business. I think at each of those points it’s great to do a health check on the business. Is the brand and the way that we position the company resonating with that audience?


Right. I think what was unique to Puppet was that coming into this we had – we already were a beloved brand, and we had a great reputation, amazing customers, a really passionate user base in the open source community. So there were so many plusses that you don’t always have when you’re doing this within the context of working in a tech company.


In your blog post about this (Puppet love: keep calm and change the logo), you mentioned that you had attended a conference when you were only a couple months into the role with Puppet. Customers were coming up to you and saying, I love Puppet, Puppet changed my life. And they’re using the word “Puppet.” Did that have anything to do with dropping the word “Labs,” because everybody referred to your company already as Puppet?


Yes, that was one of the factors that we considered. Even our own employees call the company Puppet. So why fight it?

Planning for a rebrand


How long was the process?


When I came into the company, this was something that our founder and CEO, Luke Kanies, already wanted to do.

As you can imagine if this is emanating from marketing only, and it doesn’t seem to resonate with the founder of the company, it could be a really hard uphill battle to try to make the business case for as drastic a shift as we had.

Fortunately, Luke’s head was already there, so it was a matter of picking up that baton and applying my experience to having done this before to lay the groundwork.


What role did the employees play in helping to develop the new look and feel of the company?


There’s definitely many different ways to run a rebrand project and what you just mentioned is one of them. In our case, this was definitely a project that was kept pretty tight with Luke and the agency that we hired early on.

As we got to a point where we felt confident enough to start sharing some of the concepts we had, a small group of internal stakeholders were looped in. They were people who were influencers inside of the company who could help socialize it, as well as people we felt really represented the culture strongly in terms of who they were.

We felt if they had a strong negative reaction to something we did, that would be a canary in the coal mine to signal something to us. Because it’s so easy to get your head lost in a project if you don’t keep your business objectives in mind, you could end up going down a rabbit hole.

Launch timing for a rebrand


What did your timeline look like? The day of your launch, did everything just roll out, the website, all your social profiles, all the email templates, all your eBooks or what have you? Or did you do a phased approach based on the most consumed or trafficked web pages, or downloaded content?


We looked at this from a strategic standpoint: beyond the actual look and feel of the company drastically changing, what kind of message did we want to send out, how did we want to reposition ourselves? And what would be the best environment or conditions to help us do that?

We started thinking about what could we capitalize on; we thought about our next product release. Were there any partnerships that were coming to fruition that we could also announce around the same time?

So looking at this holistically – so that we could amplify the results – it was much more than a brand switch, but more like a significant shift for the company. We wanted to make it clear that we were flipping the page into a new chapter and a new decade of Puppet. And that took a lot more than just the look and feel standpoint.

To answer your question though, in terms of how we got started, it was identifying all the priority public-facing materials that you just mentioned, and working through what we had the capacity to update and not update internally, as well as just laying the groundwork across all the departments in the company, and listing a point person for the brand in each department who could make budget decisions, resource decisions, and was enlisted into making sure we executed.

We did flip everything at the same time. We were here at 2:00 a.m. to start flipping all the switches so that we would be able to have the most coordinated effort as possible across every aspect. Because we were doing press releases as well, new company positioning was rolled out, and the product announcements, those types of things. So it all got pulled off smoothly.


And was this April 7th of this year [2016] that the new rebrand went public, all the campaigns and such?




Just going back, from that date, the timeline beforehand, are we talking months, are we talking years, of the planning that went into that before the day of launch?


It was months of planning. There were definitely scenarios in which I could imagine it taking a year or years if you’re a much bigger company than Puppet is.

Having the runway is incredibly important in terms of getting employees to wrap their hands around it and support what is a drastic change. Because a lot of our identity is in the jobs that we do in the company we work for. So changing Puppet’s brand went a lot deeper because we had a lot of people who had worked for Puppet for a long time and it was near and dear to their hearts – our “Puppet Labs” and the beaker logo.

One lesson from that, for me, is to cherish and respect what has come before, and don’t discard it. I made it clear that we will keep seeing the old logo, people will keep wearing their Puppet Labs tee shirts. That’s expected and that’s not a surprise. And it’s okay for people to still love their favorite hoodie and that type of thing. What we don’t want is in the public market to keep seeing the old logo.


What did you do internally to activate that, to get employees excited about the change?


The word had spread as we had expected it to from people socializing it. We ended up hosting a lunch and learn.

All of the meetings at Puppet are live streamed and recorded for our offices around the world. So that was a great way to ensure that our global employees were able to participate in that sense or to get the message even though they may not have been in the right time zone. We did a big unveil with Luke. We did that in November [2015], even though we launched in April [2016].

So you can imagine all the risks that could have happened when hundreds of employees knew what was happening. There wasn’t a single leak. I think that says a lot about Puppet employees being really jazzed up about it, and wanting to help pull this off successfully.

Leveraging employee passion through social media


Since we were so far ahead of the launch in having the look and feel, we started thinking about wouldn’t it be funny if we were just hiding in plain sight. So the central part of our brand pattern is based on the roles of a directed acyclic graph (DAG).

People nerded out on the fact that our logo contained a DAG. So I launched an employee contest called DAGs in the Wild. I asked people around the world to capture images of themselves or a DAG that they’ve made in some kind of public setting leading up to our launch. We would have these images ready to share once we launched and went live. Somebody created a 3D printed DAG pendant that she wore at one of our events.

Luke very obviously displayed the DAG sticker on the back of his iPad in a prominent spot on stage in a live video interview. We were having people putting DAGs on their dog collars. People loved it. There was a cross-stitch:


It gave everyone the opportunity to get involved even if they were remote employees. And so when it came time to launch, we had all these great images of our employees showing how invested they were. I think that made a huge difference in terms of any kind of negativity or cynicism that seems to always come across when you launch a new brand.


Are there lessons learned from your experiences that you could share with the audience here today?


Sure. One thing that I’ve learned is to think globally. I was mindful that Puppet was already a global brand and that we would be expanding our reach. I didn’t want to end up with a logo that had some negative implications in another country’s culture. We took the extra step of working with an international firm to help us get the logo screened across 35 countries. That gave us the confidence to move forward and know that we weren’t going to be putting our foot in our mouth, so to speak, after the launch and suddenly have someone tell us that our logo means something really horrible in another country. So that’s one of my key takeaways.


Suzame, this has been tremendously educational and eye opening. I thank you so much for sharing your insights into Puppet’s brand refresh and the experiences that you had beforehand. Thank you again for joining us on the Rethink Marketing Podcast.


Thanks for having me.

Have a topic you’d like us to Rethink about? Email us: or Tweet us using the #RethinkPodcast hashtag. We’d also appreciate if you subscribe, download and review our podcasts on iTunes, your feedback is important!

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5 Tips to Infuse More Personality into Your Content Wed, 26 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Up to 70% of content created by marketers goes unread. Learn how to avoid being part of that statistic by creating engaging content that’s full of personality.]]>

Marketers are churning out more content than ever, but statistics show that most of this content is not being consumed. That’s right! Up to 70 percent of content created by B2B marketers is collecting dust and not making an impact. But why? The answer is simple: lack of engagement.

Sixty-six percent of B2B marketers claim that keeping people engaged is one of their top challenges. The digital noise is loud. As a result, marketers are having a difficult time competing. So how can you turn things around?

The fastest and easiest way to boost engagement is to infuse each piece of content that you write with personality. But where should you start? Here are five tips to try today.

1. Create a story … real or fake.

Storytelling works because it has a direct impact on the brain. In fact, researchers found that being told a story actually changes the way the brain works. Language-processing parts of the brain light up when reading any content. But when reading a story, the parts of the brain that would activate if you were actually experiencing the event light up as well. You’re captivated, engaged, and feeling like you are part of the story.

Google used this strategy when it was creating a branded YouTube story. It evoked emotion through the memorable tale of an Indian man sharing details with his granddaughter about a special childhood friend. In the story, he explained that when Pakistan became two separate countries, the close friends were forced to part ways.

Moved by the story, the granddaughter turned to Google for help. She not only found the childhood friend but coordinated an emotional reunion for the two friends.

This is a screenshot of a video from Google, which uses storytelling to showcase their products. The article has more tips for creating engaging content.

After viewing the video, you’ll remember the story. But you’ll also remember Google’s role in making the reunion possible.

Not all brands have an amazing real-life story to tell. And that’s all right, because stories don’t need to be real to have impact. You can make one up.

For example, Zendesk is a provider of platforms that enable stronger customer relationships. The brand wanted to use the power of storytelling to communicate why its brand is different from others. They wanted to say, “Our brand is second to none. In fact, the company is so great that the only group that is good enough to be labeled an alternative to Zendesk is the fading rock band called “ZenDesk Alternative.”

This is a screenshot of a video from Zendesk, which uses fictitious storytelling to create an experience where they show their is no real alternative to ZenDesk.

The story is fictional, humorous, and created to communicate the company’s unique selling proposition, but also to infuse personality into its story.

Not ready to create a fictional story line? That’s all right, because there are other creative ways to infuse personality into your content. Tap into some of your most powerful storytellers: your customers.

For example, Airbnb features a page that is devoted to “stories from the Airbnb community.” The content is focused on the people who use Airbnb and their travel stories.

This is a video from Airbnb and is a perfect example of how they use storytelling to create engaging content where they showcase the travels of their customers.

For example, Michael is a busy New Yorker working as a marketing manager for Carnegie Hall. To pay tribute to his late father who died of cancer in 2003, Michael runs marathons. He also rents his spare bedroom in his Queens home to tourists, becoming their guide to seeing the city that he knows so well.

Key takeaway: Fictional or real – marketers capture attention instantly when they tell a good story. The audience feels a deeper and more authentic connection with your brand.

2. Use data to infuse emotion into your content.

Forging a connection with customers requires you to say, “Hey, we understand your pain points – and we’re here to fix them.” Customers must feel like they relate to your content. Accomplish this by fusing emotional content with compelling facts.

For example, a Dove study revealed something shocking about its target market’s pain point. Only 2 percent of women interviewed considered themselves beautiful. They also discovered that seven in 10 women believe they get more compliments about how they look than on their professional achievements.

The company wanted to leverage these statistics into something powerful to connect with its target audience. As a result, the “Beauty on your own terms” campaign was launched, which capitalizes on these facts to stand against judgments that overshadow women’s accomplishments.

Dove Beauty uses compelling statistics to create engaging content that their customers can relate to.

Key takeaway: Learn about your audience’s paint points. Then use that data to create content that builds a stronger connection in understanding these challenges.

3. Write like your customers talk.

Some content is painful to consume. And if you read this content carefully, you might discover something interesting. People simply don’t talk the way the piece of content was written. It’s dry; has no personality; and doesn’t feel relatable.

Write content that is delightful to read. Write like you speak. As a result, your audience will see themselves in your content and feel a stronger connection. But how can you accomplish this? Here are a few tips.

  • Use social listening to find out what words customers are using to describe their challenges.
  • Talk to your customer service people and ask how customers are describing their problems. What words do they use?
  • Find out what digital publications your audience is reading. Then read comments on popular posts to find out what customers are saying.

Once you have all this valuable information, start writing like you’re speaking with a trusted friend. If you were talking with a trusted friend who fit into your buyer’s persona, what words would you use? What would you say to help them understand the topic? If you approach your content this way, you won’t be able to help but infuse it with personality.

Key takeaway: Jay Baer recently said that “if it sounds like writing, then rewrite it.” Take his advice and make sure that your writing sounds more human –  matching the personality of your target audience.

4. Build suspense.

There is a reason that Steven King has sold over 250 million copies of his novels and these stories have been adopted into feature films, television shows and comic books. He knows how to keep readers on the edge of their seats. Check out these tips to create more personality through adding suspense to your content.

  • Create an element of mystery. Hit on your audience’s pain points right away, and then develop mystery around the solution. You plan to reveal the answer to their largest problems, but what is it? Keep them hooked.
  • Create conflict. Every great suspense story has some element of conflict. For example, in the Dove example above, that conflict is that women are fighting against the fact that their accomplishments are too often overshadowed by physical appearance. Create more suspense by building up the conflict at the beginning of the piece.
  • Resist the urge to reveal the end right away. Don’t give up all your secrets in the very first paragraph. Lead your readers through the content and keep them on the edge of their seats until the very end.

Key takeaway: When you create suspense, readers can’t help but continue to stay engaged with your content. Try building some cliffhangers, twists and turns into your content, and then measure the results.

5. Use a “behind the curtains” approach.

Worried that customers aren’t relating to your brand? If so, try the behind-the-curtains approach. With this strategy, you reveal bits of information that customers don’t typically get to see about your brand.

Some brands are using social media apps such as Snapchat to achieve this. CISCO posts coverage of events such as the annual employee Crawfish Boil in Texas, office location tours and other behind-the-scenes footage. When customers feel like they’re getting an inside view of the company, they will naturally feel more engaged with your brand. And you just might attract new employees who are a great fit with your company culture.

Key takeaway: Build rapport with customers by providing them inside access to pieces of your company. When they view raw footage of employees having fun in their day-to-day routines, viewers can’t help but feel that the brand is more human and relatable.

Keeping readers engaged

Marketers are creating content to drive brand awareness, generate leads, and, ultimately, generate results. Achieving those successful results, however, starts by relating to customers in ways that make them feel like you’re a trusted friend. They must feel personality in everything you produce. Before publishing any new piece of content, ask yourself a few quick questions:

  • Does this content read like a specific person with a unique voice wrote it?
  • If your audience could read anything, would they choose this piece of content?
  • Would they sign up to receive more content from you based on this piece alone?
  • Does this piece of content relate to the audience and invoke some type of emotion?

Asking these questions before publishing any piece of content will ensure each item you produce has personality. As a result, it won’t end up in your customer’s slush pile, which is what happens to almost 70 percent of the content your competitors produce. Readers will truly be engaged.

How do you infuse personality into your content? Please share your best tips for creating stronger connections with your audience.

eBook_The Perfect Recipe for Creating Killer Marketing Content
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The Crash Course in Mobile Content Every Marketer Needs Now Tue, 25 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Only 11% of B2B marketers have a strategy exclusively for mobile content. Here’s your chance to get an important competitive advantage with mobile.]]>

You know how real estate people like to say, “location, location, location?” It’s time digital marketers started saying “mobile, mobile, mobile”.

Here’s why:

  • There’s more traffic on the internet from mobile devices than from desktops. And that’s been true since 2014
This is a screenshot of a graph showing more mobile users than desktop users on the internet. The time is now to have a mobile content strategy.

There’s a slew more stats to verify mobile’s rising dominance, but I think you get the idea. Here’s the problem, though: B2Bers aren’t keeping pace.

According to Regalix’s State of B2B Content Marketing 2016 report, only 11% of B2B marketers have a strategy exclusively for mobile content.

According to Regalix's State of B2B Content Marketing Report, 89% of marketers do now have an exclusive mobile content strategy.

This is actually down from last year, when 21% of respondents said they had a strategy.

Unfortunately, it shows. Content on mobile devices tends to get less engagement than content on a desktop, especially for B2B technology marketers, as this MarketingSherpa chart shows.

For B2B technology marketers, the engagement of content on mobile tends to be less than desktop.

A problem, but even more of an opportunity

Okay, so we’ve got a disconnect here. But this is more of an opportunity than a disaster. Sure, we’re not serving our mobile users as well as we could be. And there are more of them every day – they now actually outnumber the people who are viewing our content on desktops.

So it’s time to adapt. We’re close to the end of the year right now, and you’re probably sifting through your priorities and assigning budget accordingly. Here’s your reminder that mobile deserves a top priority, and what you need to do to move the needle.

Benchmark where you stand with mobile

A lot of us may feel like we’re behind on mobile content, but really what matters is how you compare to your competitors. Here’s a few of the key findings from another 2015 Regalix report, the “State of B2B Mobile Marketing” to show you where you stand:

  • Only 51% of B2B organizations are investing in mobile marketing

If you’re putting in even a dribble of budget to this, you’re in the top half of mobile adopters. And seriously – even a little counts. According to that same Regalix report, 73% of B2B marketers allocate less than 10% to mobile marketing.

This is downright weird given that almost half of them say mobile marketing will be “very important” to their organization’s growth in the next three years. (And again, this is an opportunity for you.)

  • 65% of marketers say they have a “mobile website”, which I suspect means they have a mobile-friendly website.

If your site passes muster with Google’s Mobile-Friendliness tool, you’ve passed the next big hurdle. And remember: being mobile-friendly helps your search engine rankings, too. A lot.

Mobile websites and mobile apps are among the most common tactics for mobile marketing.
  • Only 45% of B2Bers say their emails are mobile friendly.

We’ve written about how critical a good mobile experience is for email marketing before, so I won’t dig too deep into it here.

Just understand: More than half of the people who are seeing your emails are seeing them on mobile devices. They expect those emails to look good, be easy to click, and to load instantly.

Fall short on any of that and your results will suffer. But get it right … and you’ve got yourself an edge.

  • You’re using mobile-friendly landing pages.

Only half of your peers are. (Guys, really? How much are you spending to drive traffic to those pages?)

  • You’re personalizing the content you show mobile users.

This one is beyond the basics, so I can see how adoption could fall off. Adding personalization (more than simply dropping in first names) can be a challenge. But we’ve got software now that makes this easier and easier.

Designing mobile pages to load quickly is the most common activity organizations perform to improve the engagement of mobile content.

How context, simplicity and mobile content work together

Let’s shift from personalizing content to “contextualizing” it. This tactic is particularly important with mobile, but it’s a concept that can seem murky at times. This slide from the Content Marketing Institute’s webinar, “Making Mobile Moments Matter,” explains it well:

This illustration shows the difference between contextual and content marketing.

Context matters more in mobile marketing because of the nature of the device people are using. The screen space is small, so it’s easier for the user to feel lost in a sea of content and options. Also because of the screen size, tasks like clicking, filling out forms, or navigating are harder, too.

If you want the experience to be positive for your customer, mobile messaging needs to be trimmed down and streamlined. Same goes for navigation and even some functionality.

So how do you do this? Ask yourself questions like this:

  • Who is visiting your site? Define your buyer personas.
  • Why are they visiting your site? You must address these needs if visitors are to have a positive experience. You need to make it easy for them.
  • What do you want them to know? What key topics and points does your content need to cover?
  • What do you want them to do? What specific calls to action do you need to make, and how do those actions move people to the next step of their journey and your sales funnel?

Want to know more about this phase of developing a mobile content strategy? See our recorded webinar, “How to Create a Mobile-Friendly Customer Journey.“

How to format and present content for optimal mobile engagement

Once you’ve done the work outlined above, you’ll be a long way toward making your mobile users’ experience far better. But there’s still more you can do. Here are some formatting and content creation tips for mobile content.

  • Try to develop content that is “modular” and that has a well-defined content hierarchy.

Some marketers have had success with “collapsible content.” This is content that can expand and contract almost like an accordion based on what the user is interested in.

For example, imagine a list of bullet points. Each point is hyperlinked, so if a user clicks on it, it opens up with a few more sentences of description. But if a user doesn’t interact with it, the content stays compact, not “distracting” the user with details they aren’t interested in.

A very simple example of collapsible content.
A very simple example of collapsible content.

If you’re interested in this, check out this Whiteboard Friday presentation Moz did last year about writing for the web and “hypotext.” They’ve even got a plugin to help you set up your own collapsible content.

  • Tighten up your messaging. Or, as it’s been said before, “Omit needless words.” Shorter is better with mobile. Just be sure to preserve the meaning and the force of your words
  • Try to use shorter headlines than you might use for desktops
  • Use short paragraphs of no more than 3-5 lines
  • Use subheaders. They help people scan copy, improve SEO, and give readers’ eyes a rest
  • Use bullet points. For all the reasons you use subheaders
  • Use images. People are particularly drawn to images on mobile devices. To make images work even better, show them at full column width, “minify” them (reduce their file size so they load fast), and use keywords in the filenames
  • Spend extra time crafting the first few sentences of any piece of content. These often end up being the “teaser” copy for the piece… so those sentences are nearly as important as the headline
  • Use a body font that’s 12 points or larger
  • Write as if you were drafting a PowerPoint presentation or a billboard. Not a printed book. This is information, not literature
  • Simplify the navigation as much as possible
  • Make links and any buttons or calls to action BIG. Big enough to overcome the “fat fingers” effect
  • Simplify your forms and be sure they render properly on mobile devices. Forms are a hassle on almost any screen, but on tiny screens, they’re even worse. See our ebook, “Frictionless Forms” for more information
  • Make it fast. Really fast. Speed matters on mobile. Even a two-second load time is enough to cause people to bail
  • Use video. We’ve written about how important video marketing is for B2Bers, but that’s not the whole story. Video is also inherently mobile friendly. According to’s The Ultimate Guide To Mobile Content Marketing, “When it comes to creating mobile content marketing, video is the number one area for marketers to focus on in 2016.” Want to see a B2B company that has a great mobile video experience? Check out GE

Think outside the website

For those of us still in a desktop-first mindset, all those last pieces of advice probably applied to web pages. But that’s only one of the mobile formats available. Now that our audiences are using apps, messaging apps, SMS and so many other content “containers”, it’s time for us to use them, too.

Here are a few of the options:

Consider an app 

Apps are big and getting bigger. And they’re built into the DNA of the mobile experience. In fact, half of all time spent on smartphones is now spent on apps.

This graph shows the share of digital media time spent on smartphones.

Consider messaging apps, too

Is it possible there are apps that are used more than the big social media apps? Seems crazy, but it’s true. Messaging apps (like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Viber, Line, and Snapchat) have silently taken over a massive chunk of internet activity.


Google’s answer boxes (aka “Rich Answers”)

These are the blocks of content that have recently started appearing at the top of search results. They are inherently mobile-friendly, but desktop users can see them, too. Sometimes called “place zero,” they’re considered a better spot that being first in organic results.

Want to know more? See our blog post about answer boxes and how to get your content to appear in them.

Push notifications and SMS

Whether it’s a text message or a push notification, it’s an another way to communicate with your audience. I’ve even been seeing prompts to accept these push notifications on some marketing blogs lately.

Freelance writer Kristi Hines has added a prompt to sign up for push notifications on her blog.
Freelance writer Kristi Hines has added a prompt to sign up for push notifications on her blog.

Social media is a mobile content format, too.

Worried your content isn’t getting enough shares? Most of us are. Mobile to the rescue: People tend to share content more often on mobile devices. All the more reason to make those social sharing buttons, big and clickable. They might just get used.


Why no Instagram mentioned here? Because it’s nearly a pure-mobile platform. 98% of Instagram users are on mobile devices.


It’s pointless to say the internet is going mobile. It’s already gone mobile. So has much of business on the web, including content marketing. It’s time we all caught up.

What do you think?

How deeply does mobile fit into your content marketing strategy? Is it a top priority for your work next year? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Act-On eBook: How to Use Mobile Marketing to Generate Leads
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How, And Why, You Should Calculate Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) Mon, 24 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Customer lifetime value (CLV) is figuring out what you’re actually gaining from each customer. Use this metric to get the pulse of your business.]]>

The true value of a customer is not just the size of the deal. Instead, it should be calculated with other (more important) factors such as how long they are likely to remain your customer.

Researchers estimate that today it costs five times as much to acquire a new customer than it does to retain a current one. That’s significant not only because it demonstrates the importance of customer satisfaction and customer retention, but also because it shows us that we may need to reevaluate the way we calculate the value of our customers.

CLV is even more useful when you can compare it to your cost of customer acquisition cost (CAC) to get your compass quotient (CQ) – we’ll save these topics for another blog post, so don’t panic! For now, let’s dive into CLV.

This picture is of someone holding a compass. Finding your customer lifetime value metric will give you a truer understanding of your business health.

What is Customer Lifetime Value?

Customer lifetime value is the total amount of revenue that you will receive over the course of your relationship with a specific customer. It hinges on how long, on average, you are able to keep customers.

CLV is the key to figuring out what you’re actually gaining from each customer. If you’re great at getting deals to close and you’re making all of your monthly revenue goals, that’s fantastic. But if you’re having trouble retaining those customers that you worked so hard to get, you’re likely making much less revenue from each customer than you potentially could. The amount of money you’re truly getting out those deals is small, even if there are a lot of them. And depending on your business model, you might not see net profit on a customer until you’ve had them for a cycle or two.

How do you calculate CLV?

Start with three questions that every B2B marketing organization should be able to answer (or at least know where to find the answer):

  1. What is the average sales value of your first transaction with a customer?
  2. How much do you typically make per year from a customer after the first purchase – including cross-sell and upsell revenue (if relevant)?
  3. How long does a typical customer continue to do business with you? (The answer, ideally, will be in years – not months or weeks.)

For example, a typical first sale of $20,000, a typical ongoing annual value of $5,000 and a typical customer lifespan of five years (or 5 * $5,000), yields a CLV of $45,000.

Caveat: There are almost as many ways to figure CLV as there are stars in the sky. Depending on your business model, your finance department could factor in overhead costs, marketing and sales costs, cost of goods, and so on. And some people factor interest into the final number. The reason we are using such a simple number is that it’s relatively easy to get, and it’s one no-frills standard that everyone can use. (Even as the MBAs among you may dislike it.) This is the back-of-the-envelope number, not the precision calculation, but that makes it easy and fast.

How does this help me determine success?

CLV simply lets you see clearly what you’re getting out of a customer versus what you’ve put in. Having insight into your revenue streams can help you dictate your go-to-market strategy. Additionally, CLV helps you answer one of the most important questions anyone can ask about a business: Did it make more money from a customer than it spent to acquire that customer?

CLV can help you craft an accurate budget

According to Ruth Stevens, President of eMarketing Strategy, “The expected lifetime value of a customer represents the maximum allowable acquisition cost of that customer. Then using those numbers, you can craft a marketing budget that is related to firm profitability versus some fussier method of budgeting for marketing expenses.”

The more predictable your revenue streams are, the better. If you know exactly how much money will be flowing through your company this year, next year, and beyond, you’re already off to a good start for budgeting and creating sustainable growth.

CLV helps you answer critical questions like…

  • Are you finding your most valuable customers?
  • Are you targeting them effectively?
  • Are you making the most of the relationship once you win their business?

After you’ve calculated the CLV, you can begin to look at how much you spent to acquire this customer. Was it worth it? If so, dive deeper into what made this such a great customer. Was it the industry they were in? The size of the company? Knowing this can help you figure out your ideal customer profile, and how you can get more customers like that one. You may find that you have multiple segments of customers, some more valuable than others. You could potentially justify spending more to acquire those customers.

Is everyone calculating CLV?  

CLV is just one small piece of the puzzle. While just 42% of companies could measure CLV in 2014, we’re seeing organizations move away from a strict focus on the sale, and shift toward a focus on the customer. Marketers are being asked to care for the welfare of customers long after the deal is signed. Organizations are beginning to realize that customer success is a key ingredient to any healthy business. Most B2B firms are now spending a lot of time and effort avoiding “one and done” customers — ensuring that the money they spend to acquire customers today also generates returns for years to come.

In fact, according to a seminal study published in Harvard Business Review, increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%.

Marketing Automation and Customer Lifetime Value

Marketing automation reports and dashboards make it quick and convenient to review and analyze tons of customer intelligence, including demographics, campaign engagement, website visits, and purchase history. This information – often available in real time – is helpful for identifying cross-selling and upselling opportunities – great ways to increase the value of your customers! Behavior history profiles can also uncover likely follow-up sale products based on each customer’s pre-purchase and post-purchase interactions.

Do you have what it takes to calculate CLV?  

The short answer is, yes!

One of the most useful aspects of CLV is its flexibility. Getting started requires nothing more than some fundamental marketing data, a common-sense approach to calculating cost and value metrics, and a commitment to applying these tools as consistently as possible. In fact, using the metrics consistently is more important than getting them 100% accurate.

With the inundation of success metrics that marketers are being asked to consider, why add one more? Well, customer lifetime value (CLV), when considered in relation to the cost of acquiring a customer (customer acquisition cost, aka CAC), yields the B2B marketer’s version of a pocket compass, providing a “true north” metric of success. We call that the Compass Quotient. You can read all about it – including how to use it to evaluate your marketing – in our new eBook, Finding “True North” on Your Marketing Compass.

Act-On eBook: A Guide to Using Customer Cost & Lifetime Value Metrics
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An SEO’s Guide to Bottom-of-Funnel Keywords Fri, 21 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Your buyers use different terms as they progress through their journey. That’s an opportunity. How to discover and use your best bottom-of-funnel keywords.]]>

If I had a penny for every time a client asked our agency to focus only on the most searched, highest volume keywords in their industry I’d be a very rich woman by now.

It’s a common myth that the most searched terms, those with the largest volume, are the best ones to rank for. No one would complain about being #1 for a term like “best company,” but will it help you sell specific products or services? Not likely.  We’ll discuss methods to research based on the funnel stage, specifically bottom-of-funnel keywords in today’s blog post.

Keyword research is an important part of search engine optimization (SEO). Understanding the words and phrases your prospective customers use when they type their searches into a search engine seems like the most basic step, but this very simple process shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. Choosing the most effective or most productive keywords involves strategy, critical thinking, and an understanding of core marketing principles.

Determining the right keywords often requires a thorough understanding of your buyer’s journey through the sales cycle. From attraction and awareness to evaluation and finally to conversion, the distinction between each phase is easy to understand but applying those stages to your research can seem tricky.

This is a picture of shopping carts with a question being asked whether you know what are your bottom-of-funnel keywords.

Marketing Funnels and Keyword Research

Top of Funnel: Awareness

Your buyers become aware of their needs during this phase. They might have a problem that’s getting in the way, or there may be a new opportunity they want to take advantage of. They are doing research and seeking information to find out what’s possible. Maybe they already know about you as an information source, but in this stage they are simply discovering data and sources, and making themselves aware of what’s available.

Middle of Funnel: Evaluation

A buyer moves from the awareness phase to considering potential solutions and evaluating their options. There may be many choices for the services or products they seek. In this stage, they are examining your website and your competitors’ websites; reading third party reviews, talking to peers, and perhaps visiting your booth at a trade show. At this point, they are not actually taking action to purchase or obtain anyone’s products or services.

Bottom of Funnel: Conversion

As your prospects move through the Evaluation phase they usually become ready to make a decision (although this is where the dreaded specter of “no decision” can show up). The goal at this stage is to take the relationship to a mutually satisfying closed sale.

Help the Sales Team Close

At each phase of the buyer’s journey, people use specific modifiers and common words when they search using Google, Bing, or other search engines. By focusing our research on bottom-of-funnel modifiers and terms, then the logic follows that we are likely to find words that our buyers are more likely to use when they are close to purchasing. Getting the buyer’s attention at this point is a way you can support your sales team (and so your company’s bottom line) quickly.

Word of advice: Conduct full-funnel keyword research and publish content aimed at buyers along the entire journey. A business’s bottom line is supported by continuously increasing the number of prospects in each stage of the funnel, moving closer and closer to conversion.

Long Tail & Bottom-of-Funnel Keywords

“Long tail” is a term, when applied to search engine optimization, refers to keywords and keyword phrases that are more niche, and fall farther out on a demand curve (you can also think of it as keywords with multiple words/phrases within them). Conversely, the term “short tail” is used for keywords that are used in more mainstream or general searches. For example, a search for “buy shoes” is a short-tail phrase and could include searches for Nike or Manolo Blahnik or Toms. A long-tail phrase example for shoes might be, “buy gold lace-up shoes by Pastry.”

Long-tail keywords can sometimes indicate the stage a prospect is in, in the buyer’s journey. The more specific a searcher becomes with their query regarding product, services, and certain information, usually the more they already know and the closer they are to making a final decision to purchase.

This isn’t always the case, but in general (and depending on your sales cycle) it can be a strong indicator. When possible, look for content strategies and optimization strategies to include both long tail and short tail phases in your bottom-of-funnel efforts.

Bottom-of-Funnel Keywords & Modifiers

The process of evaluating your bottom-of-funnel keywords starts first with understanding, based on your industry, what the niche terminology and core phrases are for your niche.

Then, we append bottom-of-funnel modifiers which showcase the action a user is looking to take. These can take on many forms such as;

  • Purchasing related keywords e.g., “RFP” or “proposal” or “quote”
  • Branded and competitor terms
  • Call, request, contact keywords
  • Comparisons, cost, and pricing terms
  • Specific location: city/state/neighborhood/zip code

Simply use the modifiers that make the most sense for your industry. Next, upload these keywords into Google’s Adword Keyword Tool, or test out a number of other tools on the market like Wordstream, SEMRush or

Start by examining the keyword volume for each term and the competitive nature of the word. Lastly, examine Cost-Per-Click (CPC) if you’re using a system that shares that information. A high CPC may indicate that the word itself is bid on a lot by advertisers and it might confirm that a keyword is truly bottom-of-funnel. Now, this isn’t always the case, but when you’re sifting through hundreds of keyword suggestions it can help as a metric to examine.

Next, start choosing bottom-of-funnel keywords (both those you examined and any additional suggestions by the tool) based on high search volume, low to moderate competition, and high CPC. This task can be incredibly subjective and may require you to take some chances and trust your gut. Keyword research is a fluid process that requires research, implementation, time, and testing.

As an example, let’s imagine you have a company that offers resume writing services and career coaching. As you can see in the examples below, there are several iterations of keywords available; all indicate that the user is close to conversion. Some aren’t as applicable to the specific services of resume writing or career coaching, but you get the point.

Consider building out a similar keyword modifier list for your own website and topics.


Resume & Career Coaching Keywords

Buy + Buy resumes online
Compare + Compare resume writing services
Call + Call career coach
Find + Find best resumes services
Shop for + Not applicable
Order + Order resume online
+ Neighborhood/City/State Career coaching services in Phoenix
Register for + Not applicable
Request + Request resume services
Contact + Contact resume services
+ Cost Career training cost
Purchase + Purchase career training

Now put those keywords to work in some combination of the right places: Your headlines, subheads, alt text, calls to action, meta description, URL, etc.

Publishing Bottom-of-Funnel Content

Once keyword research has commenced, the next step is to match that keyword research with the right type of content. Doing this well can help you further entice a bottom-of-funnel prospect to convert. A blog post might be a good bottom-of-funnel content piece, but for the most part they are better used in top- and middle-of- funnel activities. For bottom-of-funnel, what I recommend for my clients are demos/free trials, customer stories, comparison/spec sheets, webinars, events, and even mini-classes or workshops. Content like this can help entice a user to choose you and take the final step to conversion, especially if you’re asking them to purchase high dollar products or services. Consider how to map your keywords to:

  • Customer stories
  • Webinars, mini-classes
  • Live demonstrations
  • Evaluation and comparison sheets
  • Q&A web conference
  • Case studies

These strategies can be incredibly effective for both B2B or B2C. But it’s not just about finding the right keywords and matching it to content. Think carefully about what you actually want the user to do. Fill in that Contact Me Now form? Ask for a demo? Sign up for a trial? Ensuring you have the right call to action is imperative for making your content effective. How do you want them to convert? Ask yourself these questions before you hit the publish button.


Choosing the right keywords may seem time consuming and daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! With these tips and expert advice, you should be well on your way to taking the concept of bottom-of-funnel research and content marketing to the next level. Are you already implementing this strategy? Share with us, we’d love to see the examples you’re executing!

Act-On eBook: How to Make Any Content SEO Friendly
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Neuromarketing: Using Neuroscience to Supercharge Results Thu, 20 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Neuromarketing is the study of how people’s brains work, in the effort to truly understand what people really want.]]>

Advertising legends such as David Ogilvy, Claud C. Hopkins and Leo Burnett understood the power of neuromarketing. Back then, they just didn’t call it that. They vigorously tested strategies for appealing to their target audience, driving more sales and generating greater results. They knew down to a science what worked — and what didn’t.

Like these advertising giants, some marketers today are using neuroscience to supercharge results. And so can you.

But how?

The brain is at the core of every single decision that customers make about your products and services. When you crack the code, unprecedented visibility is granted into customer behavior. But what specific strategies are marketers using?

Neuromarketing: The Nuts and Bolts

Neuromarketing is the study of consumers’ sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli. It digs deep into customer behavior to provide insight into what customers think about your products and services. For example, if people aren’t purchasing your new product, could changing something simple, such as the packaging, color, or size of text make a sizable difference?

Marketers test responses with real people in real time using a variety of strategies, but here are a couple of popular methods.

MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the body uses a powerful magnetic field, radio waves and a computer to produce detailed pictures of the inside of your body. Marketing researchers us it to track the brain’s flow of blood as a person responds to a variety of visual and audio cues. With this method, researchers are usually examining the deep parts of the brain typically associated with pleasure.

EEG. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test that detects electrical activity in your brain. This method attaches electrodes to the scalp (sometimes the electrodes are placed in a cap that fits the head tightly) and is cheaper than the MRI. The EEG allows the participant to move more freely, which makes the process more comfortable than the confinement of the MRI. Electrodes measure electrical waves produced by the brain and allow researchers to track emotions, such as anger, excitement, and sadness.

You might well be thinking “That sounds great, but our B2B marketing team doesn’t have a budget for an MRI or an EEG.” There are a few powerful actions that you can still take (more on that in a minute). But first, here are a few examples of companies that use neuroscience that might inspire your efforts to add neuromarketing to your arsenal.

Brands That Use Neuromarketing

Because the brain is hardwired to respond to certain factors in a specific way, major brands have used neuromarketing to generate greater results for several years. For example, marketers who want to understand why customers are purchasing less of a product can gain greater understanding through neuromarketing. Here are a few examples:

Frito-Lay: Uncovering Unexpected Information

Frito-Lay hired a neuromarketing company to better understand the popular snack food Cheetos. It selected a group of customers and scanned each participant’s brain. The goal was to measure the responses to different attributes about the popular snack food.

The results were surprising. The researchers discovered that the sticky, yucky, orange dust that covers customers’ fingers when eating the snack was actually desirable. Yes, you read that right. They liked having their hands turn into a glowing, grimy mess. What’s more, the company leveraged this new information to overhaul its existing advertising campaign. In fact, NeuroFocus, the company that helped them, actually earned a Grand Ogilvy award (awarded by the Advertising Research Foundation) for its research.

Frito-Lay also uses neuroscience for other types of products. For example, they wanted to test women’s responses to Lay’s® Oven Baked Potato Crisps. Findings of their studies shaped an ad campaign that focused on new single-serving packaging.

Key takeaway. Customers may love attributes about your products that you weren’t expecting. Research can help you discover this information, so you can tap into it and drive great results.

Coca-Cola: Measuring Emotions

The soft drink giant uses neuromarketing to gauge customer emotions about its products. Unlike the MRI or EEG approach, the company uses a technique called “facial coding” that records facial expressions. The process is as follows:

“The technology is seamlessly integrated, and with the participant’s permission, it simply records their face while they watch ads within a normal survey environment, automatically interpreting the viewer’s emotional and cognitive states, moment by moment.”

Basically, facial coding slows down video of subjects to find those fleeting, true emotions that register for only a fraction of a second yet are caught on video.

In this specific instance, customers are exposed to a piece of product packaging and their responses are recorded and categorized as positive, negative or neutral. This strategy is used in conjunction with an interview to identify impact points to change. For example, the company found that color, imagery, and even text size made a serious impact.

Key Takeaway: Expensive equipment isn’t always required to uncover the feelings and emotions that customers have about your products. Partner with an agency that decodes customers’ facial responses to your products and services using less complex, yet accurate methods.

PayPal: Uncovering Unexpected Messaging Opportunities

For many years, PayPal’s messaging focused on safety and security. Since it sold financial services, it was natural to assume that people were primarily concerned with these benefits. Yet once the company started using neuromarketing, they uncovered an even more powerful message.

Customers did want safe and secure services, but they also wanted something more – speed and convenience. Customers wanted to send and receive money quickly and easily. Once this was discovered, the company took a new approach to marketing and leveraged these appeals.

This is a screenshot of PayPal’s website. PayPal learned, via neuromarketing, that customers preferred speed as much as security.

Key takeaway. Use neuromarketing to look past obvious features and benefits. Hidden appeals are very powerful, but you have to dig to uncover them.

A Few More Examples


Google partnered with Mediavest to conduct a biometrics study to determine the effectiveness of YouTube overlays versus pre-rolls.

The results were interesting. They discovered that the overlays were more effective, so the company began leveraging this option to drive greater results.

The Weather Channel

The Weather Channel used EEG, skin response tests, and eye-tracking to measure different viewer reactions to three various promotional pitches for a popular series.


The car manufacturer gave participants EEG caps and asked them to examine a prototype car for an hour. Hyundai carefully studied their responses and used the data to make changes to the car’s design.

4 Easy Tips for Success

Do you want to use neuroscience to start generating results now? If so, here are some basic tips you can deploy for success.

1. Keep fonts simple.

A study conducted by Hyunjin Song and Norber Schwarz at University of Michigan discovered the impact of fonts on the brain. If you need a customer to complete a task, use large font. A good example of this is the startup instructions you receive with a new computer or printer. Notice the font is very large. This isn’t a mistake. Large fonts help customers remember and simplify tasks.

2. Use scarcity to generate greater response.

The brain is hardwired to react when it feels scarcity. For example, let’s say a website has a limited-time offer, featuring a great price. Customers who think they can’t come back later must make a decision. It speeds up the sales cycle.

3. Leverage congruent attitudes.

Nick Kolenda, author of “Methods of Persuasion,” coined the term “congruent attitude” to explain a powerful psychology principle. He explains the principle below:

“It’s an attitude that you develop after performing actions consistent with that attitude.”

Sound confusing? Let’s look at an example. When somebody makes a small request and you comply, you are more likely to fulfill the next request. Why? Because not complying would counter your initial attitude.

For example, Upworthy has a clever email opt-in. They ask if you agree with the following statement, “It’s nice to be reminded of the good in the world.” You can respond either “I agree” or “I disagree.”

Naturally, most people will say, “I agree.” Now you’ve complied with the first request. Then the company goes on to say, “We think so too,” then asks that you sign up for their blog. Brilliant, right? If you think so, try setting up something similar on one of your calls to action (for your newsletter, perhaps?) and measure results.

4. Wake up the brain with unexpected words.

The brain is wired to predict what comes next. For example, if somebody says, “The cow jumps over the BLANK,” you say moon. If they say, “It’s like a needle in a BLANK,” you say haystack.

Somebody once said that Americans will always buy the biggest version of something that they can afford. And we’ve always thought that bigger is better, especially for ambition: “Think big” has been a mantra for decades.

In the late fifties and early sixties, this was exemplified by the cars we drove.

Our brains tend to associate bigger being better, and the most prominent example are cars from the early fifties and sixties.

No Smart cars need apply! Until the ad agency DDB confounded those knee-jerk expectations with the world-changing ad campaign it did for Volkswagen.

As this Volkswagen campaign illustrates, you can use neuromarketing to wake up the brain by using unexpected word choices with common sayings.

Your takeaway? Wake up the brain by plugging unexpected word choices into tired old sayings.

Maximizing Awareness, Generating Results

In the end, the brain is seeking solutions that will solve its pain points. But awareness is key. Take the time to understand customers’ thought processes on an entirely new level and understand their needs. Apply a few (or many) neuroscience marketing techniques to gain that understanding or optimize your findings, then communicate in a way that serves customers better to drive unprecedented results.

Act-On eBook: Do You Really Know Your Customers?
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Ready to Migrate ESPs? Here’s Your Email Deliverability Checklist Wed, 19 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Are you migrating to a new email service provider (ESP)? Follow our email deliverability checklist to ensure success. ]]>

Marketers switch email service providers (ESPs) for various reasons. Your current sender may have a poor sending reputation, lack scalability, cost too much for what you get, and/or be missing features you’d like to have. If you’re ready to make a change, we’re offering an email deliverability checklist to help you succeed on your fresh start.

As a deliverability analyst, the number one reason I see customers switching, or wanting to switch, to marketing automation is they have experienced poor deliverability with their previous stand-alone ESP. My job is to ensure that with their move to marketing automation, they will get the most messages delivered to inboxes through a secure infrastructure and best practices.

But it’s not quite as simple as it may seem. You can’t just switch ESPs at a moment’s notice. ESP migration involves a great amount of thoughtful planning and preparation. There are many moving parts in deliverability that need to be taken into account, and any false moves or missing steps could spell disaster for your email marketing success.

This picture is of quote from the blog post about migrating to a new ESP correctly. Read the post to get your email deliverability checklist.

This article focuses exclusively on the deliverability components you should be aware of in order to be successful in your migration to a new ESP.

Suppression Lists

At Act-On, we classify suppression lists into:

  • opt outs
  • spam complaints
  • hard bounces
  • inactive soft bounces (soft bounces that exceed a certain threshold and are considered undeliverable)

Understanding the differences between hard and soft bounces can be confusing if you’re not in the trenches with your email deliverability team. Traditionally, a “hard bounce” indicates a permanent reason an email cannot be delivered. The usual reasons are an invalid email or an invalid domain.

“Soft bounces” have been defined as temporary failures due to an unavailable server, a full mailbox, or an oversize message. While those causes still hold true in theory, they no longer represent the top reasons behind today’s soft bounces, which are mostly caused by internet service provider (ISP) blocks. In most cases the blocks are temporary and can often be resolved by identifying the root causes, then following email best practices and ISP guidelines. Read our post Understanding and Reducing Soft Bounces to better understand how to identify and fix soft bounces.

Your email service provider might classify them differently, or might not classify them at all. Whatever the case, these are contacts that must be uploaded into your new account and suppressed, as they either don’t want to receive email from you or are simply undeliverable addresses. Not properly suppressing these contacts will start you off on the wrong foot and cause your reputation with the new ESP (and your customers and prospects) to quickly suffer.

Engagement Data

If you decide to use a dedicated IP with your new ESP, being able to identify and migrate over your engaged recipients will help establish a good IP reputation. By sending to your most engaged contacts from the new IP during the initial warm-up period, you can show ISPs that you are sending to people who want your email, and thus may have less of a chance of being blocked or labeled as a poor sender.

“From” Domains

When you bring your old sending domains with you, be aware you are carrying over the good – or bad – sender reputation you’ve established over the years. Despite the fact that changing domains is a spammer’s practice and highly discouraged, a new “From” domain does allow you to start fresh with a clean slate and gives you a second chance to be a good sender moving forward.

Data Hygiene

Though not a prerequisite for an ESP migration, practicing good data hygiene can go a long way toward ensuring your onboarding is as smooth as possible. A list cleanse is recommended every six months or so to help keep your list as clean as possible. Most ESPs have their own database of bad and risky contacts to suppress against globally, so just because you weren’t running into issues with the previous ESP doesn’t mean the issues weren’t there.

Embracing list maintenance best practices ensures you get optimal deliverability and performance on your campaigns. Here are some tips for measuring how clean your email list is.


Email authentication is an integral part of your infrastructure for mass mailing. Make sure Domain Name System validation (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF) are properly set up at the corresponding domains with the new ESP, as your old setups will not migrate over.


To ensure successful delivery of test and live messages from the new platform to your internal servers, you may need to whitelist your new sending IP(s) and domain(s) to prevent potential hiccups.

Whitelisting is the opposite of blacklisting. It lets your email service provider know that you are a willing recipient of the emails sent from that IP address.

Check out our post on common terms for the email marketer, parts one and two.


Last but not least, while we understand you expect a lot more from the new partnership, transient deliverability problems can occur during the warm-up process. You may experience temporary blocks by ISPs and dips in your engagement rates. This is normal for any new IPs and/or domains you are trying to build up.

To help speed up the process and minimize the time needed for the transition, we recommend fully migrating to the new ESP from the get-go and refraining from using both the old and new ESPs simultaneously, a behavior that exhibits similarity to snowshoe spamming (a spammer’s strategy for pushing spam over multiple domains and IP addresses – spreading out the weight – to avoid filters).


And remember, a new ESP shouldn’t replace email marketing best practices such as A/B testing your subject lines and other components of your email, segmenting your lists, and being thoughtful about your sending schedules. More tips on improving your deliverability and open rates can be found on our post The Blame Game : Open Rates vs Deliverability.

eBook: Best Practices in Email Deliverability
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Do you mind the clock? Or does time mind you? Tue, 18 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 You’ve routinely got six active projects and two fires to deal with. Discover 10 time management tips to help you multi-task and (still) get everything done. ]]>

Working from home has its definite perks, like being able to throw in a load of laundry or do a quick yoga class via YouTube. But when I tell people I WFH, I think they imagine those activities are what I do most of the day. A lady of leisure.

Truth is, I actually get way more done at my home office than I ever do in the traditional office. It’s because I manage my time well.

As marketers, we are responsible for a lot. Sometimes it seems impossible to look at the list of to-dos and figure out how you’re gonna get it all done. Whether you work from a traditional office, a café, on the road, or from home, time management is critical. Here are some tips and strategies I’ve gleaned over the years:

1. Make a to do list

First, you need to know what you’re up against. Make a list of all the things you need to do for a project or during the a week. Get out whatever is in your brain. It doesn’t matter whether it’s on paper, your computer, or your phone. Just pull all the details out of your brain. I like to do this at the start of the day – or better yet, at the end of the previous day, so I know what I’m coming in to.

2. Set your priorities

Next, it’s time to assess what needs to get done when. The quadrant model, from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, recommends you plot your tasks into four boxes to assess what to do first – the super important things that must be done ASAP, the not-so-timely but still important (e.g., planning), the timely but not important, and the not-timely/not-important. This is just one of many models of how to plot your tasks. Whatever model you use, it’s important to sort your tasks into what is hair-on-fire critical, what is necessary but not high priority, and what’s a “nice to do” task. My own list usually sorts into “Big,” “little,” and “nice.” Simple.

This is a graphic representation of Stephen Covey’s quadrant model for prioritizing your day. Read the article for more time management tips.

3. Break your work into chunks

At this point I find it really helpful to plot my day. I take those prioritized items from above and start plotting them onto a calendar in chunks. For me those buckets are really simple: “before lunch,” and “afternoon work.” I may add another “first order of business” category if there’s something really pressing.

4. Assign deadlines

Once I have figured out what needs to happen in general terms, I get more granular and assign mini-deadlines to my day. I’m a planner, yes. But like many of us, I also work better under pressure, even if it’s self-imposed. An endless workday free of deadlines is a recipe for stalling for me. These mini deadlines help me focus.

For example, this week I had several big projects due. It was a lot, and seemed insurmountable. But I spent some time mapping out the projects and assigning times to each item due. My calendar looked a little something like this:

  • 9-10 a.m. Project 1 deliverable 1
  • 10-10:15 Coffee break (more on this later)
  • 10:15-12 Project 2 deliverable 1
  • 12-2 Break
  • 2-4 Meetings/conference calls
  • 4-4:10 Quick break to check on neighbor’s cat
  • 4:10-5 Finish up the day and make to-do list for tomorrow

I know, it’s intense. But I got all my work done and even ended up with a bit of bonus time at the end of Friday.

5. Are you a morning person or afternoon person?

When do you get your best work done? For me, I do my most efficient work first thing in the morning or right before quitting time. You may hit your stride midday. Factor that in when you’re planning your schedule.

6. Find your rhythm

I don’t always time-slot every task. Some days are less busy or I just need a break from my own neurotic scheduling. Still, I don’t let myself endlessly slog through a task or day, unfocused. I snap to my own meter.

I recently discovered that my brain starts to tire after 90 minutes. That’s when I get fuzzy and unfocused and need a break or to switch gears. While researching for this post, I found that I’m not alone. Turns out 90 minutes is a natural rhythm for the brain.

Try this for yourself: Start your work and keep an eye on the clock. When do you dwindle? Maybe you yawn, or feel the urge to stretch your legs or get a coffee. These are all good indicators of when your attention span is drooping and you need a break. Once you’ve found your rhythm, use that align your projects to your own meter.

7. Block your shared calendar

I’m a huge fan of time-blocking my work onto a digital calendar (Outlook or Google) as “meetings.” It helps me see all that I’m up against for a day – and if it’s feasible to accomplish everything or if I have too many overlapping deadlines. It also helps me stay on-task, as reminder alerts pop up throughout the day.

Some people find color-coding helpful at this stage, too – especially if working on a variety of different projects or assignments for different clients. A color highlight can help you scan your calendar and visually see what’s taking place on which day. (It’s a bit too busy for me – I like a cleaner calendar. But, I see the benefit.)

There’s an added bonus of digitally calendaring for those of you who work in a meeting-heavy company culture. If your shared calendar is blocked, you might be able to escape from a few of those meetings and stay focused at your desk. “I’m booked at that time,” you can tell them. Not that I’ve ever done this…

8. A note on right-brain/left-brain work

My experience with marketers is that they’re often a bit split in the brain, part-creative, part-analytical. We’re also responsible for a mix of tasks that require both our “math brain” and our “creative brain.” Acknowledging that you need different mindsets to achieve different tasks is a good starting point. Planning your day around these differences is even better.

Sometimes, I can get on a roll and want to work with words all day. “I can do this all day,” I think. But I can’t. I’m much more effective when I focus on right-brain creative work, then switch gears for left-brain analytics. I used to pull together a monthly recap report for a client, itemizing all the things we did in the month and attaching metrics and KPIs to it. I’d intentionally block a half-day for the “numbers work.” When it came time, I’d turn on some music (which I can listen to only when I’m not composing words), open the analytics report, and start crunching numbers. When finished, I’d shut off the music, go back into silence, and start writing up the storyline.

9. Don’t forget breaks

Breaks are healthy. There’s a lot of research and different tactics – how long the break should be, for example. But it’s clear that we can’t go-go-go all the time. Just as we need sleep for our bodies, we need rest for our brains. “The brain is a muscle that, like every muscle, tires from repeated stress,” says The Atlantic. “’The highest-performing 10 percent (of workers) tended to work for 52 consecutive minutes followed by a 17-minute break. Those 17 minutes were often spent away from the computer,’ said Julia Gifford at The Muse, by talking a walk, doing exercises, or talking to coworkers.”

Sometimes it feels crazy to walk away from my desk when there’s a list a mile long and I’m on a roll. I fight it and push through occasionally – especially if I’m in a flurry of inspiration. But most days, I need those breaks to clear my mind. When I come back, I feel like I have a new set of eyes on a project. (As well, when I don’t take breaks throughout the day, I pay for it later with crankiness and exhaustion.)

Tactically, what this looks like for me are a couple short breaks during the late morning and a longer break in the afternoon. The first breaks may just mean a cup of coffee or a walk outside to say hi to the neighbor and get fresh air. Then it’s right back to work. Around 2pm, I go to the gym for a workout. After that, I feel refreshed and ready to dive back into it.

Don’t be dismayed if you don’t have time for a two-hour trip to the gym. It’s perfectly good to take lunch or chat over coffee with a colleague. One tip, though: try not to talk or think about work during that time. There’s a reason “water cooler chatter” is a thing. It helps your mind rest.

I also block out time on my calendar for these little breaks. It may seem silly, but it’s a visual cue to take care of myself.

10. Get an accountability partner

My last tip: Don’t do this alone! I used to have impromptu instant messenger chats with another work-from-homer at the start of the day. We’d tell each other what our top two goals were for the day, and then check in mid-day to see how we were each coming along.

Find someone who can be your time-management accountability partner. Maybe it’s your cubicle mate, or someone on your team in a remote office. It just needs to be someone who you can check in with.

Bonus: Helpful tools

Here are a few tactical tools that may come in helpful when planning your week

  • Set a timer – This audibly reminds you to switch gears. It can be a simple 60-minute alarm or a calendar reminder that says “switch gears – work on x.” Just something to jar you into action.
  • Try working in 25-minute bursts (aka the Pomodoro Technique) – I can see this especially useful for dropping a bunch of those lower-priority tasks of the list.
  • Track how much time you spend on non-work activities like CNN and Facebook – apps like TimeRabbit or QualityTime monitor your behavior, much like a radar gun tells you how fast you’re going on the freeway.
  • In addition to the standard Outlook or Google calendars, try a digital work-management tool like Asana.
  • Take a coffee-nap (it’s a real thing!).
  • Put away your cell phone to prevent yourself from texting or surfing Instagram during working hours.
  • Change scenery – work for a few hours from a coffee shop or even a company conference room.

That’s it for me. True to form, it’s been about 90 minutes and I need a break. If you want to read more about this topic, check out this blog post about getting Time Management on your side.

And tell me, what are your favorite time-management tactics or tools?

eBook: The High-Performance Marketing Department
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Why (and How) Your Team Should Personalize the Customer Experience Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Best practices for personalizing your customer's experience with your company for spectacular results - like 3X ROI.]]>

We all have good intentions when it comes to customer experience and treating our customers well, but sometimes there are disconnects.

The classic example of this is when you get put on hold by a company. They tell you at the beginning of your wait, “Your call is important to us.” They tell you that again five minutes later. Then ten minutes later. And you begin to wonder how important your call really is to them.

Hopefully, this isn’t a common practice at your company. But some recent research suggests some companies, and their customers, are having exactly that kind of experience.

A study from Econsultancy, found that “81% of consumer brands say they have a working holistic view of their customers.”

Customers disagree. Only 37% of them “say their favorite retailer understands them.” Consumers also say brands often send irrelevant messages.

This is a screenshot from an eConsultancy report showing how companies are falling short of understanding the customer experience.

Is it possible your company could be having a disconnect like this with customers and prospects? Perhaps by treating them all the same?

Many B2B companies tell prospects and customers they understand their unique needs. But then the company turns around and sends everyone the same email. Or maybe they show everyone the same website. Or lump everybody into the same sales funnel.

CMOs are keenly aware of this problem. They shared how far along they are toward solving it in the CMO Council’s Context, Commerce + Customer report.

As seen in this chart from CMO Council’s Context, Commerce + Customer report, CMOs are keenly aware that most customers are being served the same customer experience.

There’s some good progress shown there, but clearly we’ve got a ways to go. That’s why personalization, and optimizing the customer experience have become one of the top goals for marketing teams and their executives. As Ascend2 notes in this survey summary report:

According to Ascend2's 2016 Data-Driven Marketing Survey, Personalizing the customer experience is one of the most important goals for marketing professionals.

Personalization is part of the customer experience

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how to personalize the customer experience, let’s establish something: Personalization and the customer experience aren’t two different things. They’re two different aspects of the same thing. Personalization is simply another way to enhance the customer experience.

We know that improving the customer experience is worthwhile. If you doubt it, consider this chart from a study by Watermark Consulting. Companies that are customer experience “leaders” generate nearly four times the returns of customer experience “laggards.”


In fact, many marketing thought leaders name customer experience as the next new market differentiator. We’ve written about it ourselves on this customer experience blog post.

But some people take the importance of customer experience even further. Research from Walker asserts that customer experience is already more important to business strategy than products or price. They predict it will be even more critical by 2020.

The importance of customer experience will only continue to grow.

Customer experience is such a huge topic – a discipline, even – that it rolls customer service, interface design, and content marketing all together. It’s literally a new way to view how companies function.

Customer experience investments pay off, too. According to research from Sitecore and Avanade, the ROI on customer experience investments is 300%.

Respondents report that for every US $1 their organization spends on improving the customer experience, their organization sees a return of US $3.

You’re good with an ROI of 300%, right?

But what about personalization? Is it worth the investment?

I bet you already know the answer. It’s “Yes.”

Here’s proof: According to the Harvard Business Review article, How Marketers Can Personalize at Scale, “We know that personalization can deliver five to eight times the ROI on marketing spend, and can lift sales by 10% or more.”

How to personalize the customer experience

So you know you want to do this. Customer experience and personalization clearly deliver excellent returns.

Great. Now what?

There are nearly endless ways to personalize customers’ experiences. That doesn’t mean you should try all of them. In fact, the smartest advice around seems to be to start with the data you already have. Begin by testing simple things using your existing data. See what works and what doesn’t. “Fail fast” as the startups say.

Do this before you invest in a massive, complex personalization stack. Why? Because too many businesses seem to go whole hog into personalization, only to find they simply don’t have the bandwidth to do everything that’s possible. Let’s face it – we’re not all Fortune 500 companies with whole floors of marketing staff. Often, there’s just a few of us around to make all this work.

That doesn’t have to be a problem. In fact, with the right strategy and the right software, small teams can get Fortune 500 results without getting lost in seas of data, or taking months to see any returns.

One thing you do need, even before you buy software and even before you start testing, is a map of your customer journey, aka the sales funnel. You can use this free tool to make one.

I’ll bet you’ve heard this advice before. Hopefully, a bunch of you just thought “Got it!” and are ready to rock. If you’re not, please: Step back and map out those customer journeys. Define your personas, too. Then find somebody to play devil’s advocate and try to poke holes in your plans. Because all that work is the foundation of your personalization and customer experience program. It’s gotta be solid.

After you’ve got that map, start thinking about every customer touchpoint along the way. And I mean every channel:

  • Email marketing
  • Your website
  • Social media
  • In-person or in-store events
  • Webinars
  • Advertising on third-party sites

Why figure this out? Because most of those things can be personalized, but to be effective, that personalization needs to be planned and coordinated. Random acts of just inserting someone’s first name into a piece of content or an email won’t cut it. And it’s time to think beyond simply personalizing emails (though that’s still one of our favorite things).

Global Giving
This personalized email from the nonprofit GlobalGiving generated a “10x increase in the number of donations and engagement from the email.” To get these results, both the salutation and the recommended projects were personalized.

For instance, maybe you’re already personalizing your emails and getting good results. The next step might be to add personalized messages and content to your website, and perhaps run a few small experiments with personalized retargeting ads or personalized social media messages.

To give you some context for how to think about what and where you’re going to personalize, here’s what your colleagues are personalizing:

eMarketer released a study showing the top channels for personalization in 2016.

And here’s what your peers recommend for delivering an optimal customer experience:

It’s interesting how two out of these three top attributes include human beings. Sometimes, improving the customer experience may mean hiring more people as much as it means buying more software.
It’s interesting how two out of these three top attributes include human beings. Sometimes, improving the customer experience may mean hiring more people as much as it means buying more software.


Marketing software has raised the bar on what’s possible with personalization and the customer experience. But it’s also raised expectations. Consumers (and B2B buyers, too) now expect a personalized experience. If they don’t get it, they often express dissatisfaction with the company and begin to look to other options.

An Agilone survey of US and UK consumers found that 79% of US and 70% of UK consumers expect at least some kind of personalization in their digital experience. If you looked deeper into the data, you’d see that younger buyers tend to expect even more personalization. In other words, these expectations aren’t going away – the bar is only going to go higher.


What do you think?

How well is your company doing at personalizing the customer experience? Or if you’re holding back, what’s causing that? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Act-On eBook: Do You Really Know Your Customers?
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Hiring the Perfect Person to Run Your Social Media Fri, 14 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Are you thinking about hiring a social media expert to help with (or run) your social marketing? Pro tips for knowing when, why, who - and how - to hire.]]>

Planning to increase your social media budget this year? If so, you’re not alone. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Benchmark report, 93% of marketers use social media, on an average of six platforms. Writing for Forbes, Christine Moorman says social media spending is expected to climb to a 20.9% share of marketing budgets in the next five years.

If you’re planning to expand your social budget, there are probably three major investments you’re considering:

  • Social media advertising
  • Social media marketing
  • Social media engagement

Top 3 Areas for Increased Spending

To make all that happen, you’re going to need the right people. Or at least the right person. If you get the social media staffing part of this down, the rest of your social media program should fall in line.

Let’s take a look at the issues around the decision to hire someone to run your social media. Here they are, in approximately the order you’ll need to address them:

  • How to tell when you really need a social media specialist
  • Deciding whether you need someone full-time or part-time, as an employee or a consultant, or an agency
  • Defining what kind of returns you’ll need to see to make this hire a success
  • Outlining what your social media hire’s job description will be
  • Assessing your budget, and what to expect to spend
  • Finding sources for candidates
  • What criteria to use to sort candidates’ eligibility
  • How to interview and vet the most likely candidates
  • How to finalize job terms and bring the new hire on board
  • How to track and assess their performance

And now let’s dig in. I’m going to assume you’re up to speed on general hiring practices, so we can just focus on the issues specific to hiring a social media person .

How do you tell when you really, truly need social media help

Sisyphus would have felt at home in social media. There is an almost endless list of potential tasks for social media marketers. Even if you’re doing well on the big networks (perhaps especially if you’re doing well there), it’s always tempting to expand out into smaller social platforms.

Because of all the potential work, it’s actually not the amount of work that could be done that justifies hiring someone. Even a micro-company running out of a second bedroom could justify hiring social media help if the only criterion was “we’ve got a ton of work to do.” The time to hire for social media is when you’re missing out on potential business. Hire when you know you’re leaving money on the table.

Get clear about what you expect from social media

There’s something you have to clarify before you hire someone to do any social media work. You have to define how your business sees social media.

Are you approaching this like a direct marketer, who wants to track everything and know their ROI for each platform? Or are you approaching this more as a brand marketer, who simply wants a presence on social media?

If you are willing to take a brand marketer’s approach, can your business financially support doing social media purely as a brand-building exercise? And if you would be happy simply with a larger presence on social media, will your finance department be happy with that? If finance is not happy with that, what could the consequences be?

Two examples of when it’s time to hire for social media

Example 1: You’ve built a decent following on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You are tracking results. Your social media work is generating a small but steady trickle of sales. You are certain you could increase this trickle, but either you can’t get to it personally, or your existing social media staff is already maxed out.

Example 2: You’ve already got an intern part-time and a social media person who works full time. They have built a decent presence on the big social sites, with footprints on the smaller social sites. Results are a little sketchy, but you’re approaching this more as a branding exercise, so you’re okay with the fuzzy results. Where you’re really lacking is in tracking. You also feel like the whole social media program needs a thorough audit. You have neither the skills nor the time to do such an audit. Neither does your existing staff.

Define success and set expectations

Suppose you’ve got enough success with social media to justify a new hire. The next thing is to spell out what success for this new hire would look like.

Whether you’re hiring a 10-hour a week intern, a full-time social media manager, or an ad agency, you need to define what success is going to look like. What kind of business results do you need to see to justify that 10-hour a week intern? Even if the intern is free, there’s still a cost to your company. The intern needs supervision and a computer. Those are costs.

The results required get more demanding if you want to hire a 10-hour a week consultant, for, say $50 an hour. That’s $2,000 a month, which means there’s got to be a quantifiable business return based on that kind of spend.

Even if you see social media as brand marketing and not direct marketing, there still must be some defined results. Otherwise, three months from now you could be sitting across the table from this consultant or new hire, looking at a report with some very disappointing results, and realizing you’ve spent $6,000 to $24,000 for nothing (or the wrong thing).

Setting goals for your new hire

I find it helps to have three levels of goals for marketing initiatives.

  • The rock-bottom minimum results required to keep the project going (say, 1,000 new Facebook likes per month).
  • Plenty good enough: Results that are good enough to at least consider expanding the program, and to keep it safely off the chopping block.
  • Wild success: Very positive results that justify expanding the program by 20% or more.

Social media is an inexact science. You can start out with a focus on one thing and have that initial goal fail, only to discover that some other part of your work is actually creating great results. For example, after you finally get some tracking set up, you could learn that your Facebook work is a bust, but Tumblr is actually generating a positive ROI.

How much does a full-time social media person cost?

Social media help is expensive, and it’s not something you want to go cheap on. According to the Creative Group’s 2015 Salary Guide Moolah Palooza, these are common salaries for different social media positions in the US:


Advertising and Marketing Salaries

To help you get 100% clear on what a salary like that buys, here’s the job description for a Social Media Specialist. This is again from the Creative Group. You can get other social media job descriptions from the Creative Group’s Social Media Job Descriptions Guide.

Social Media Specialist

Responsible for defining and executing a specific social media strategy. Duties may include cultivating new communities and managing branded online communities on the company’s behalf using Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and other social media.

The specialist will provide relevant content daily while tracking metrics and monitoring relevant conversations. The right candidate will have a bachelor’s degree in marketing, advertising, communications, anthropology or business administration, and 3+ years of experience in marketing, public relations, advertising or a related field. Additionally, the candidate must possess a solid understanding of the social media universe, including YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Delicious, Digg, reddit, forums, wikis and blogs.

These are other common social media job titles:

  • Social Media Product Manager
  • Social Media Account Manager/Channel Manager
  • Social Media Planner
  • Social Media Coordinator
  • Director of Social Media
  • Online Community Manager

The cost for a part-time social media consultant, or an ad agency

If you decide to hire someone only part-time, how much will that cost? It varies widely, from $50 to $200 per hour. If you go the agency route, things can get even more expensive. The website estimates that it’s common for agencies to charge $1,000-$2,500 per month to manage just a Twitter account. That doesn’t include setup either – that would be even more expensive. To have a PR agency manage your Facebook page, expect to spend $2,500 to $5,000 per month. Some agencies will charge as much as $9,000 per month.

If you want a comprehensive social media strategy planned out and then executed, you’ll pay anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 per month for just two channels (like Facebook and Twitter). An average cost would be $4–7,000 per month.

With prices like that, you may be better off just hiring someone to help you full-time. If you used the mid-range of the Creative Group’s estimate of a social media manager salary ($80,000 a year) and added a conservative (15%) burden, that would work out to $7,666 per month. On the other hand, the agency should be able to provide rock-solid skills in 360 degrees, more than a single person can be expected to bring to the table. If you have a slate of highly diverse tasks each calling for a high level of competence, you might be better off with an agency, at least to set things up.

Where to Find Social Media Experts

Now that you have a job description and a salary allocated, where can you start looking for your new hire? Place a job listing on all the usual places, like craigslist, and LinkedIn’s job boards. But also look through Hootsuite’s Certified Social Media Consultants Directory. Try putting a job listing up on, too.

How to Screen Social Media Applicants

As the responses to your job listing start trickling in, you’ll realize you need to know if these people who say they know social media … actually do know social media.

They should offer links to examples that demonstrate their social prowess. (If they don’t, toss that resume right now.) The first place to check would be on their social media profiles. Notice follower counts, plus what they’ve been sharing and liking. If people have interacted with their shares, or asked them questions, have they responded? Can you tell if they’re using any of the major social media tools, like Buffer, Hootsuite, Oktopost or SproutSocial? If they’ve included past social media clients or jobs on their application, how do those social media accounts look?

Be mindful of job discrimination as you scrutinize your hire online: There are pending laws about using social media to discriminate against job applicants. This applies to race and religion, but it applies to an applicant’s age, too. Just someone is over 50 doesn’t mean they can’t be a rock star social marketer. The most conservative action is to check only the links they provide.

How to use social scoring numbers to assess a social media hire

After you’ve checked someone’s social media accounts and gone back at least a month through their activity, it’s time to check their numbers. Do a quick sweep to make sure they haven’t bought followers or likes. Start with tools like Social Baker’s fake followers check.


For Facebook likes, there’s no one tool to use to snuff out fakers, but Social Media Examiner wrote a nice article recently about how to spot a spammy Facebook page.

If you really want a way to quantify someone’s social media skills, you’ll probably have to look to social scoring sites like Klout, Kred and PeerIndex.

As with all tools, take what they tell you with a grain of salt. There’s a very funny post titled “Two Weeks And $40 Got Me A Klout Score Of 60” that can give you some healthy skepticism.

Dirk Fiverr

Take everything a social scoring tool tells you with a grain of salt.


How to use Klout and Kred

Klout is probably the best-known social scoring tool. It gives a score from zero to 100. A score of 100 is nearly impossible to achieve. Even Justin Bieber only got a 92 when I checked his Klout score. Barack Obama was doing nicely with a 99.

A Klout score of 40 is about average. Anything over a 60 typically means you’re looking at a social media power user, or one of those “influencers” that drive influencer marketing. Some ad agencies require their social media people to maintain a Klout score of at least 50.

Here’s what a Klout score page looks like.Klout Score Page

Kred is the next place to check. It’s a bit more refined than Klout because it shows a person’s level of influence in different topic areas. Once again, though, take what it tells you with a grain of salt.

Kred scores people on a scale from zero to 1,000. Here’s how those scores break out:

  • Above 500 is above average
  • Above 600 is in the top 21.5%
  • Above 700 is in the top 5%
  • Above 750 is in the top 1%
  • Above 800 is in the top 0.1%

All this assessment of someone’s social media stature raises another issue: Will you expect your new hire to use his or her personal influence and personal social media accounts to promote your brand?

Now it’s your turn

That’s enough information to get you well on your way to finding the perfect social media hire. Hopefully, about a year from now, when you sit down to do their annual review, you’ll have nothing to discuss but success.

Are you planning on hiring someone to head up your social media this year? What are your criteria for the ideal social hire? Tell us about them in the comments.

eBook: The High-Performance Marketing Department
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The Rethink Podcast Episode #4: What it means to be a modern marketer Thu, 13 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 The modern marketer faces many challenges, from technology to rising customer expectations. We cover those topics in an interview with Scott Brinker.]]>
This is a thumbnail image for the Rethink Podcast featuring an interview with Scott Brinker discussing today’s modern marketer.

In this Episode #4 of the Rethink Podcast, Act-On CMO Michelle Huff interviews Scott Brinker, the cofounder and Chief Technology Officer of ion interactive. They discuss the evolution of inbound marketing, the marketing technology landscape, interactive marketing, and what it means to be a modern marketer.

Scott is also known in the MarTech industry for his ChiefMarTec blog, being program chair for the MarTech Conference, and for his super infographic that attempts to capture every marketing technology tool out there.

As Scott says in his intro, he has been at the intersection of marketing and software development for his entire career. That is a perspective invaluable to marketers.

Enjoy the conversation, and we hope you can get one or two takeaways that you can bring to your business.

Links & Resources

This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.

Michelle Huff:

Scott, maybe if you could take a few minutes to introduce yourself, your background, and then we can dive into some of your thoughts around what’s going on in the market.

Scott Brinker:

Thank you, Michelle. Wonderful to be here. I’ve been at the intersection of marketing and software development essentially my entire career.

The hat I wear most frequently is the cofounder and CTO of ion interactive. But what’s been fun over the past few years is in addition to my own company, I run a blog called, which now has an audience of around 80,000 readers who are other marketers and marketing-oriented software developers who are pulling these pieces together. I’m the program chair of the MarTech Conference, and, most recently, I’m the author of a book about this wonderful entanglement between those two worlds called, Hacking Marketing.

Inbound Marketing Evolution


For inbound marketing, and I guess given your background also being a CTO, how have you seen technology impact the world of inbound marketing?


It’s really been a phenomenon, right? At the highest level, the technology has empowered customers, prospects, and consumers to take control of the buyer’s process, whether it’s individual consumer purchases or in a large organization that’s making a B2B buying decision.

It’s no longer as nicely controlled by our own marketing teams as we, at least once, thought it was.


Exactly. You could always kind of control that conversation when they first talked to sales. But now they’re doing so much of that beforehand. I think the technology has also allowed us to better track and gain a lot of the data around who’s coming in, who’s touching the information, and through what channels. I guess from your perspective with marketing becoming more data driven, how do you see this focus changing inbound marketing?


Ideally, it is a virtuous cycle. As the buyers takes control of the process themselves, the one thing we have going for us is because now most of those touch points are happening in digital channels we do get some visibility into it happening. We’re getting metrics, we’re getting these insights. The software we’re able to leverage as marketers is making it easier and easier for us to aggregate that information, associate it with these individuals, and be able to really use that to tailor how we work with buyers on the terms they’re both explicitly and implicitly telling us they want.


Along those lines, what have you been seeing that’s working well?


I’m a big fan of quality over quantity. One of the challenges we’re wrestling with is just the sheer volume of content and messaging that is out there in pretty much every field at this point. There’s a lot of competition for that attention. To the greatest possible degree, we can be using our creative talents as marketers, combined with the targeted insights from the data dimension of this, to say Ok, it’s not about cranking out five blog posts a day, it’s about putting together the right materials targeted for those specific segments we’re going after.

It’s going find its way up into their field of view, when they look at it and they get it, they’re like, Wow, this is great, these people know what they’re talking about.


I guess, in some ways, my philosophy is that one of the best business partners we have as marketers is our head of sales. A lot of what we do is amplify what they do. They can only do it at a one to one, and we get to do things at scale.

On the flip side, one thing we’re good at as marketers is learning from trial and error. We throw things out there, we experiment, sometimes we fail, and we learn from it and move on. It’s always nice when we can learn from other people’s failures so we don’t have to try them on our own.

From your point of view, what have you seen not work well?


You said one of the magic words for me around experimentation. Just a few minutes ago, I was espousing to you that I’m a strong believer in quality over quantity. But the truth is nobody should take my word for that. Every business has its own dynamics of how it resonates with its particular target audience. And if there’s one thing the technology has really provided as a gift to us, as marketers, is we now have the ability to very easily test, to do A/B testing, to say let’s run this as an experiment.

And it really becomes what you said at the beginning, it’s the sort of data driven approach. In some ways it takes a little bit of the pressure off of us of having to always be right about our gut. It’s an experiment.

The MarTech Landscape


You have the infamous super infographic. It really captures every marketing technology tool available. What’s your philosophy of who is included? Are you just trying to capture everyone? Or what was the inspiration for this?


It’s turned into quite a project. When I started it about five years ago, I found 150 companies. I remember at the time thinking, Wow, 150, that’s a lot. This most recent one has somewhere on the order of 3,500 marketing technology companies. And the crazy thing is, it’s not even complete. There are literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of other companies that I’ve heard of now that aren’t on there. There needs to be a caveat here that for the most part I’m including almost any marketing technology company that seems to be in some way legitimate, they’ve got customers, they’ve got some sort of funding.

But you still have a tremendous variance in the size and the maturity. They’re definitely not all created equal. But if you sort of step back at the highest level and just look at it as an indicator of how much innovation is happening around the marketing function today. I kind of feel like that’s, maybe more than anything else, what it really signals.


Do you think marketers are taking a look at the landscape and just trying to find a silver bullet? Or do you think they’re trying to cast a wider net?


I really should have a very large disclaimer on that graphic that says, Please, do not use this to select marketing technology vendors. Because the reality is, that sort of technology first way of, Oh, wow, look at all the technologies out here, who’s doing what here, who’s doing this. It’s the wrong way to go about developing most of the capabilities that we as marketers should really be focused on. It’s really important to flip that process to be: We have a certain strategy of what our company is looking to deliver, who the audience is for that, what are the channels and touch points that are most relevant and important to them. Start with that plan, and then identify what technologies are we going to need to be able to enable that. You definitely want to evaluate technology through a lens of which are going to be the foundational elements of our company’s marketing tech capabilities.

As I said earlier, not all of those tech companies are created equal. Some of them are very innovative and experimental themselves. But innovative and experimental isn’t always what you want when you want to be able to rely on a piece of software you know is going to be there for you for the next five years. It’s important to select your core technologies through a very rigorous process of a partnership or relationship that you want to have with a company you trust.

I think once you’ve gone through all of that, and you’ve got things working and adopted in your organization, to then start to branch out and consider with which new tech options can you experiment. That’s a decent time to peek around the landscape in a more exploratory fashion. But I definitely wouldn’t start that way.

The Modern Marketer


Not only do you run a company, write blogs, and keep this 3,500 vendor infographic maintained, but you also write books. In your book, Hacking Marketing, there’s a term you frequently use, modern marketer. What do you mean when you use the term, modern marketer? And what sets a modern marketer apart from others from your point of view?


I think there’s two key things. One of them is external facing. It’s like what the responsibility is, what the scope of marketing is. And then the other is a little bit more inward facing of, OK, how do we actually accomplish those goals.

The big outward facing one is marketing had largely been in the business of communications. The company did something innovative, and it was our responsibility to communicate that innovation to the world. That’s still a big part of what marketing is today. But in this digital environment where marketing is now very often responsible for a set of touch points like our websites, possibly a mobile app, social media channels, a marketing automation program, these are things that aren’t just communications. They have actual real utility and functionality, like the services they’re able to offer our prospects and customers. That puts marketing in this position where the scope of our responsibility is larger than just communications. It really is this notion of experiences. I think the first thing about being a modern marketer is you really embrace the customer experience as the domain in which you’re optimizing things, not just how did a particular communication piece go.

And then the inward side of that is really the skillset. It all lines up. Traditionally, we have a great set of skills around developing those communications, optimizing how we get the communications to the right people at the right time. And that’s great, wonderful; we still have to do that. But as we get more and more into that responsibility for delivering experiences, we now have to start to incorporate more talent around leveraging the software that drives those experiences, thinking about things like UX (user experience); in some cases, even a little bit of programmatic logic. OK, how are we going to structure that marketing automation campaign? What are going to be its triggers and its conditions, and for whom? That’s a new skillset for the modern marketer.


I couldn’t agree more. A lot of times we want to be the modern marketers. We want to be innovative. We at least don’t want to be totally left behind while everyone’s running and we look around and realize we have a lot to catch up on.


When I advise companies, if I could prepare for one thing, what would it be? Without sounding flippant about it, it would be change. This is why I really advocate for things like developing those muscles around agile marketing. Predicting the future is hard, but we can be pretty certain there are going to be new channels and new touch points coming at us over the next few years. And those of us who get more comfortable with adapting to them as they come out, we’re going to have greater success.

Interactive Marketing


60 percent of B2B marketers say producing engaging content is challenging. You guys create interactive content at ion interactive. Can you tell us why you decided to tackle the interactive content problem?


At the beginning of this conversation we were chatting a bit around the challenges with content. Although buyers want to consume content in a way that lets them control their journey, the truth is the marketing profession as a whole is now generating far, far, far more content than the audience can ever sort its way through. It really becomes this competitive situation to find the ways to break through that noise.

We’re definitely excited that while the vast majority of content is passive in nature, that the audience is just being asked to read or watch or listen to it, that this new emerging group of interactive content, things like quizzes, and assessments, and calculators, and things like that, really is a way to turn that from a passive to a participatory experience.

When we were saying how as marketers we can learn from the sales team for how you want one-to-one engagements to go, certainly in like B2B marketing, I would say interactive content is almost like a way of bottling a sales engineer into a marketing format.


Yes, and make it a better, more tailored, continued conversation with them, right?


Absolutely. I think it’s a fun way to also look at the opportunity for marketing and sales to deepen their collaboration. Because those become insights now that become very relevant to the individual salesperson who ends up connecting with that prospect.


That’s true. What’s your vision for where you believe interactive content will go in the future? Where’s it headed?


It’s one of those skills that as marketers develop it, I think kind of the sky’s the limit. We have gotten so good at leveraging the creative aspects of passive content. I mean we produce just incredibly beautiful and compelling passive content. This interactive dimension is pretty new to us as marketers.

But to me, that’s what makes it so exciting, the opportunity for us to learn and get better at that creatively. I kind of look forward to what marketers are going to be producing with that over the next five years. I’m quite certain it will exceed my imagination.


I am always inspired by a lot of the different marketers and creative minds out there.

Scott, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your thoughts and ideas with all of our listeners on this podcast series.

Have a topic you’d like us to Rethink about? Email us: or Tweet us using the #RethinkPodcast hashtag. We’d also appreciate if you subscribe, download and review our podcasts on iTunes, your feedback is important!

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5 Powerful Tips to Create an Amazing Call to Action Wed, 12 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 It’s hard to motivate someone to engage with you, but a brilliant call to action can make it much, much easier and more effective. Learn 5 tips to help you win.]]>

No matter how wonderful your campaign is, nothing will happen until your prospect actually does something.

Marketers know they need a powerful call to action to make this happen. But many are missing small details that have the ability to transform results from mediocre to amazing. And in most cases, these changes aren’t the big stuff; they mean swapping out a few words, changing the color or simply rearranging placement.

For example, scaling back to a single, unified call to action (from a landing page with two) boosted email click rates for one company by 371 percent and sales by 1,617 percent. So here’s the question: What single change could you make that would generate serious results? Here are a few powerful strategies to start using now.

1. Select Proven Words

An effective call to action must generate excitement and compel the reader to act right away. But how can you make this happen more often, more effectively? One answer is simple: Use words that are proven to generate results. Here are five words to use in your next call to action.

  • You. Using the word “You” feels more personal and engages the reader with greater impact. It’s warmer, and you get away from having to choose between “him,” “her,” and “their.”

When possible, take engagement one step further by using the reader’s name. In a 2015 Experian study, personalizing the subject line with the recipient’s name increased open rates by as much as 42 percent.

This is a screenshot showing increase in open rates when personalization was used. Consider adding personalization to your call to action.
  • Free. In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely set out to test the power of the word “free” in relation to value. His first study asked people to select between a 15-cent Lindt truffle and a 1-cent Hershey’s Kiss. Only 27 percent selected the 1-cent Hershey’s Kiss, even though it was priced much lower than the Lindt truffle. In the next study, Ariely did something interesting. He made the Hershey’s Kiss free and dropped the price on the Lindt truffle to 14 cents. When using the word “free,” 69 percent selected the Hershey’s Kiss. Test using the word “free” in your call to action to generate more conversions.
  • Because. This word helps you answer the customer’s critical (if unvoiced) question of “What’s in it for me?” It makes your CTA compelling because you are giving the customer specific reasons your product is the solution to their pain point.
  • Instantly. Customers today demand instant gratification. For example, Kissmetrics found that 47 percent of consumers expect a website to load in two seconds or less. MRI studies have also shown that our brains get fired up when we envision instant rewards. So when you use the word “instant” in your call to action, you are generating excitement and delivering precisely what the customer demands.
  • New. Along with instant gratification, customers also get excited about brand-new offerings and innovation from their favorite brands. They love new solutions to old problems and new features added to their favorite products.

2. Strategically Place Your Call to Action

Along with using powerful words strategically, it’s important to also consider the placement of your CTA. Where is that sweet spot? Top of the page, bottom of the page or somewhere in between?” Previously marketers usually opted for the top of the page. They wanted to capture attention before the reader got lost in the content. But marketers today are finding that at the top of the page, the reader simply isn’t engaged enough yet. It’s like giving someone a marriage proposal prior to a first date.

For example, landing page builder Unbounce found that placing less content at the top of the page keeps readers scrolling down farther.

Check out this heat map. It shows how attention shifts when you put less at the top and more at the bottom (including that critical call to action). Readers move much more easily through your entire page of content.

This image shows a heat map for to show where you should consider placing CTA's based on where your audience is clicking.

3. Provide Urgency or a Special Offer

Popular conversion optimization blog ConversionXL set out to understand conversion rates between CTAs that provided a sense of urgency.

They tested two different CTAs. One communicates urgency and how many packages have been bought, where the other does not.

This image illustrates an A/B test to see which call to action performed better.

Blog author Marcus Taylor noted: “This is one of the most impactful A/B test I’ve ever run. The conversion rate of variation B was almost 3x that of variation A.”

Another powerful tool marketers can use to create a sense of urgency is color. For example, red and orange are both proven choices. The Content Marketing Institute uses orange text in their “Handpicked Related Content” to drive readers to more of its blog posts.


And finally, you can use powerful phrases that create a sense of urgency. For example, Expedia states there are “only two seats left,” which compels the shopper to act quickly. Airlines commonly advertise limited-time offers, which are only good for a set period of time.

A couple of examples of powerful phrases include:

  1. Only X days left.
  2. Available today only.
  3. Offer ends on X date.
  4. Act now while supplies last.

All of these phrases create a sense of urgency. Customers are afraid that there is a limited quantity available, and the scarcity mindset comes into play. They are driven to take action now. And the funny thing is, on some level readers know why these words are there – but they still respond.

4. Make Your Offer Feel Exclusive

Have you ever read an offer and felt like it was of higher quality, and only few could take advantage of it? If so, you’ve likely viewed a call to action that deployed the “exclusive” tactic. People want what they can’t have, so they are more likely to act quickly if they view an offer that is available for a limited time and where membership is exclusive.

For example, MarketingProfs offers a “Content Marketing Crash Course.” If they wanted to deploy this tactic and ramp up results, they could add a sense of exclusiveness to the offer: “We’re accepting only 10 students to this intensive course.”


Another tactic that could work under certain circumstances: Make your contest (or whatever) by application only. After receiving all applications, review and hand-select only a few. It’s like creating a red carpet and only a few are beckoned to walk it. Caveat: This would be risky for most organizations; you can alienate the people you don’t choose.

You can amp up the urgency by integrating a few key phases into your call to action, such as “Limited spots available” or “Seating is limited –preregistration required.” By doing so, you elevate the perceived value and the perceived attractiveness level of the product or service.

5. Show the Benefit in the Call to Action

As Kayla Matthews notes on Convince & Convert, 70 percent of people are shopping for something in order to solve a problem. If you can show that your product or service is the solution to their specific problem, you can generate much higher conversion rates.

For example, QuickSprout helps companies drive more traffic. So they already know that readers desire more traffic, higher conversion rates, and greater revenue.


The company puts a clear benefits statement that targets the reader’s pain points in the call to action box on the right. They offer a free course with signup that will “Double Your Traffic in 30 Days.” Plus, they offer a secret bonus, which creates mystery, and is valued at $300. You’ll also notice that they use one of those power words listed above when they say, “Fill out the form below to start your FREE Course.”

And finally, pay careful attention to their signup button. It doesn’t say, “Sign Up.” Again, it’s focused on value by saying, “Yes, Let’s Start the Free Course.”

Quick Guide — Dos and Don’ts

Creating stronger calls to action is important for marketers, opening the door to greater results and revenue. Yet many aren’t sure where to start. In addition to the above tips, here are a few quick dos and don’ts to guide you along the way.


  • A/B test your CTA. This is the only way that you’ll truly understand what works for your audience. And you may be surprised that a tiny change can make a serious impact. Change a power word to all caps. Change the button color. Change the text color.
  • Use multiple CTAs on a really long page to break up the content and engage readers along the way. A good example of this is The Content Market Institute, which includes a few different calls to action for each of its lengthy blog posts. For example, after reading a few paragraphs they place a “Handpicked Related Content” box which drives you to related content on their website. For most marketing, it’s wise to use only one call to action. But for blog posts, integrating several throughout the page can help readers stay at your site longer and drive deeper engagement. You can also run the same CTA in several places, so your readers don’t have to scroll back up (or down) to find the CTA. 
  • Integrate classic design principles. Use white space to make your CTAs stand out and capture attention.


  • Focus too heavily on your company. For example, the CTA should focus on the benefit to the reader, instead of on the features of your product.
  • Use the word “submit” on a call to action button. Instead, use benefit-focused phrases, such as “Claim your XXX to start driving more traffic today.” 
  • Create a call to action that is too strong in some way. For example, a pop-up box that won’t go away fast enough actually detracts from the user’s experience and negatively affects your conversion rate.

Moving Forward with Success

The call to action is too often a “set it and forget it” task. The unexamined approach can produce lackluster and unimpressive results. Review some of your most popular content marketing pieces. What would happen if you experimented with the calls to action? You already know the piece is popular — would changing the CTA generate more results, drive more leads and create more revenue? Implementing a few changes could generate surprising results. Don’t forget to test, and test, and test again.

Act-On eBook: Turn Your Website into a Lead Generation Machine
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7 Classic Email Marketing Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them Tue, 11 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 When email marketers are under the gun, mistakes can (and do) happen. Here are the 7 most common email marketing mistakes to watch out for. ]]>

Everybody makes mistakes. Some are big. Some are little. Many are avoidable. In email, there are so many mistakes you can make that to list them all would turn this blog post into a short book.

To help you avoid the worst of the worst email marketing mistakes, we’ve decided to call them out. We’re just listing the worst offenders – and what to do to prevent them… and how to recover if you make them. If you don’t see your favorite error noted here, please add it in the comments section.

1. The broken link email.

I see so many of these that sometimes I wonder if they aren’t deliberate. Like the marketer is resending to non-openers with a different subject line, simply as a trick to get more of us to open. Tip: If you’re sending out a broken link to that landing page you hoped would be a conversion magnet, your campaign will fail and all your time and effort will be for nada. Do check those links.

2. A botched subject line.

After the broken link issue, this has to be the next most common mistake. Here are just a few of the most choice subject line faux pas I have seen:

This is a screenshot of some email marketing mistakes. Read the post to learn 7 classic email marketing mistakes, and how to avoid them.
That last subject line is for an email about meditation, not mediation.

These mistakes tend to fall into two categories: Either a draft of an email gets mistakenly sent, or somehow a typo sneaks in.

Fortunately, these are not the sort of things that tend to get people fired, though they are embarrassing. But unless you really botch it and send out a draft email on a volatile subject, or the typo is just really, really bad, all is not lost. These mistakes happen a lot – even by some of the very best companies. We’re all human.

It’s ironic, too, that for all the spellchecker tools there are, they all focus on the body copy of the email. The subject line doesn’t get spellchecked unless a human does it.

The solution here? Have multiple people checking your emails before they go out. We tend to be blind to our own typos.

By the way… there’s another way to botch a subject line. It’s to not put any thought into it.

Spend at least 10 minutes crafting your subject line, possibly by writing 10-15 different versions of it. Then consider reviewing those with your team, or using a subject line testing tool like Touchstone.

3. Not optimizing your emails for mobile devices.

You’ve heard the news, right? More than half of all email messages are opened on mobile devices.

Not optimizing your emails for mobile devices is one of the most common email marketing mistakes but as you can see in this graph, mobile accounts for more than half of email opens.

That means your emails need to look good on mobile devices. They also need to be user-friendly for your subscribers.

Here’s a short punch list for how to do that. For more details, see our blog post, “10 Best Practices for Mobile-Friendly Emails.”

  • The text needs to be big enough to read.
  • Buttons, links and the call to action need to be big enough to click easily – and far enough away from other links that someone won’t accidentally hit the wrong link.
  • The layout needs to be either “mobile friendly”, aka with a “fluid design” (so that it adjusts to whatever device it’s viewed on) or “responsive” (so that the code of the email is smart enough to show a version of code that’s specifically suited to the device it’s being displayed on).

4. Buying a list.

“But I have to jumpstart my email marketing program!”

Maybe you do, but not with a purchased list. First of all, no reputable email marketing service provider will even let you mail to a purchased list. They don’t want their system dinged by the spam complaints and other issues created by mailing to a purchased list.

But the real reason to not buy a list is the results. They’ll be terrible. So terrible, you’ll probably want your money back.

So take a deep breath. Great email programs were not built in a day. It’s time to start building your list.

Want to know more about the hazards of buying a list? See our blog post, “The Perils of Email List Buying – Rookie Mistakes 101.”

5. Mailing to people who have not given you permission.

This is a mistake that can actually break the law – and Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is tougher than the United States’ CAN-SPAM law. It’s also a mistake that in some cases is not necessarily black and white.

Here are the clear-cut situations where you don’t have permission to mail to people:

  • You added their names to your list, even though you’ve never communicated with them and they’ve never communicated with you. You just thought they might like your emails.
  • You “scraped” their names from websites, either by hand or with a software program.

Here are the less clear-cut situations:

  • You’re connected with them on LinkedIn. So you can send them your email newsletters, right? Nope. LinkedIn is a separate system. And LinkedIn will be very unhappy with you if they find out you’re doing this.
  • You got their business card at a conference. It’s great they’ve offered this information, but it’s not permission to add them to your list.
  • They placed an order. Surprise! Many consumers actually get annoyed when they are automatically added to weekly newsletter lists after they place an order. A better practice is to add a checkbox that asks if you can send them emails. Make it opt-in, not opt-out.
  • They signed up for a webinar. Same principle here: Lots of marketers just put everyone who signed up for a webinar on to their general email list. But you can do better. Add that checkbox to get permission to mail to people after the event. It’s polite, and will get you a higher-quality list.

6. You’ve never cleaned up your list.

By “cleaned up,” I mean you’ve got subscribers on your list who have never, ever opened or clicked an email. Or you’ve got people on your list who haven’t done that in the last year or so.

The time frame for when to “purge” inactive subscribers can vary – anywhere from six months to 18 months seems to be about the norm. But you do need to clean up your list every so often. Otherwise, your deliverability rates will get hurt, and you’ll just get poor results. It’s better to have a smaller, more engaged list than a huge list of people who don’t care.

To learn more about how to keep your list clean and your deliverability rates high, see our blog post, “How to Protect Your Email List Health and Deliverability.”

7. Not sending emails at all.

There are two levels of this.

  • Having a list and gathering email addresses, but not mailing to them.
  • Not having a list and not gathering email addresses.

The first one is obviously easier to correct. But be aware: When you mail to those people for the first time, you’re going to get a wave of unsubscribes, and possibly even a couple of spam complaints.

Why? Because they’ve forgotten who you are. Many of them will have forgotten they ever even signed up.

You can overcome this by offering them something extra-great in your first email. Or by just saying something like this

“You signed up for our mailing list a long time ago, but we weren’t quite ready to send great emails back then. We’ve finally got some great stuff for you – information to help you do your job better and to make your work much easier. So here’s your first email. Expect to hear from us about once a week from now on.”

What about the second situation, where you have no list and aren’t collecting email addresses? Well, it’s time to start trying. Add opt-in boxes to:

  • The top of the navigation column on your website (and blog).
  • To the footer area of your website.
  • To a “pop-up” or overlay that appears after people have been on your site for two minutes or more. Set it to show only once a week.
  • Your Facebook page.
  • At the close of blog posts.
  • Possibly to a “feature box” – a full-width opt-in box that fills the first screen when someone comes to the home page of your website.

There are plenty of other places, but that will cover the bulk of it. See our white paper, Best Practices for Building a Subscriber List for more information.

And when you (inevitably) make that mistake:

I’ll never know if this is true or not, but it does appear that about half of marketers are sending apology emails at least once a year. Many send them more often.

As this illustration shows, nearly half of email marketers do not send out correction emails if they've made a mistake.

Here’s an email I just got from a major manufacturer; it’s less an apology than an acknowledgement, but it’s mildly funny and very human, leaving me with a good feeling about the company.

This image is an example apology email from a major manufacturer.

So depending on the mistake, consider at least admitting it, or apologizing if that’s called for.


Mistakes happen. Unfortunately, making a mistake with your email marketing is not an “if,” but a “when.” So prepare for it. Do you have a plan (that your boss has approved) in case you botch a subject line or send out a draft email? What if an email meant for just a portion of your list gets sent to everyone?

There’s no need to brood over this for months, fearing when it will happen. Write down a plan of how to deal with it if it happens, AND create a reasonable checklist of things you can do to prevent it from happening. Then stick with that checklist. Pin it to your wall if you have to – even tape it to the edge of your computer screen.

One thing that does seem to prevent mistakes is having a system – a planned-out workflow that doesn’t change. So if you don’t have one of those, consider making one. Fast. Here are a few things to go on it, to get you started:

  • Double-check the list segment
  • Suppress whatever is needed
  • Email send address
  • Subject line
  • Personalization
  • Check all links
  • Check copy for typos
  • A/B test the CTA
  • Check any tracking code
  • Physical address
  • Unsubscribe link

And then, check your emails before you send. By “check”, I mean

  • Read them carefully (preferably out loud)
  • Click all the links
  • See how they look on a smartphone
  • Have at least two other people check the email before you send it

What do you think?

Have you ever made a significant mistake with your email marketing? What did you do to fix it? Did you change your workflow after that? Tell us about it in the comments.

eBook: The Amazingly Effective Email Guide
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Successful Sales and Marketing Alignment, Part 1: Get Started Mon, 10 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 Get the basic who/what/why of sales and marketing alignment, plus learn about the cross-department agreements you’ll need to ensure success.]]>

This post is part of a series to help B2B organizations improve sales and marketing cooperation. In part one, you’ll get the basics of beginning the process along with the information and agreements you’ll need to put in place in order to ensure success.

Sales and marketing alignment is key to business success. You know it, and the research proves it. According to a survey from Demand Metric, 66% of organizations reporting complete alignment achieved their revenue goals, compared to 41% who reported no alignment. Meanwhile, 80% of respondents who said their sales and marketing systems are highly integrated achieved their revenue goals, while only 36% of those who report no integration made theirs.

Clearly, if your sales and marketing teams aren’t going to collaborate, you’ll pay the price as your revenue suffers. What can you do to foster cooperation? First, you have to agree on goals and expectations, and then you build a collaborative sales and marketing process. It sounds simple, but it can be a complex process with a lot of moving parts. Let’s take a look at the basics of gaining alignment between these teams and find out how to build a fully synched-up process that can help these two groups work together more efficiently.

Before You Begin

Let’s start with the basics. Many times, sales and marketing cooperation is hindered by a lack of communication and the inability to find a common language that can help the parties reach an agreement. The first step to fostering cooperation is for sales and marketing to sit down and speak with each other. During these conversations, both parties should focus on a few specific areas.

Start with the end in mind

What are the organization’s business goals? These could include increased market share, net new acquisitions, more recurring revenue, reduced churn, a boost in customer lifetime value, or a host of other objectives. Whatever they are, they must first be defined and mutually understood, and agreed on.

Agree on the target buyer

A failure to reach a decision on who the target buyer actually is one of the biggest breakdowns between sales and marketing. In such a case, marketing tries to attract one type of buyer while sales wants to sell to a different type of buyer. This problem can be avoided by defining the target buyer before executing any marketing or sales process.

Define what a qualified lead actually is

The lack of qualified lead definitions is another common breakdown between sales and marketing. A “qualified lead definition” is an agreement about what the stages of qualification are, how you know which one a lead is in, and when a lead is ready to be passed to sales. The definitions should include demographic information (such as company size) and behavioral information (such as a request for a demo of your product). Once the definitions are created, both sides can agree on a lead hand-off process, which will define when and how marketing will pass a lead to the sales team.

Create accountability

Effective cooperation is cemented by accountability between sales and marketing. You’ve already created your common lexicon, with shared definitions for leads and stages; now track metrics to see whether both teams are meeting their commitments. For example, marketing will hold itself accountable to sales by signing up to deliver a minimum number of qualified leads, while sales will be accountable to marketing by guaranteeing they will follow up on those leads in a well-defined, timely manner. (See Get It In Writing.)

Once you’ve covered these basics, you’re ready to move on the developing your process. Here are the 10 steps to ensuring sales and marketing cooperation.

  1. Agree that you will work together, and determine the collaborative process. Before you can do anything, both sides need to sit down, meet, agree on the core issues, and then continue to meet and communicate regularly.
  2. Define your goals. Next, you need to come to a shared understanding and agree on the business goals you will pursue.
  3. Agree on the target buyer. The target buyer profile should be created using data such as current customer information and anecdotal feedback from sales. (See Buyer Persona Basics)
  4. Design the lead process. The lead process tracks the steps from the point at which a lead is generated to when the lead is handed off to sales. It also includes sales feedback on lead quality. This process may evolve as you try different campaigns and tactics, and get feedback.
  5. Develop a qualified lead definition. The qualified lead definition is an agreement between sales and marketing on when a lead is ready to be passed to sales. It should cover both demographic information such as company size and behavioral information such as whether the lead requested a demo.
  6. Design the lead hand-off process. Once the qualified lead definition is created, both sides should agree on the process by which leads will be handed to sales and how sales will subsequently follow up on these leads.
  7. Develop service-level agreements (SLAs). Marketing and sales must agree on performance metrics that they will deliver as part of this relationship. For example, marketing will agree to deliver a number of qualified leads or sales will agree to follow up on qualified leads in a timely manner. These are written documents, signed and countersigned. ( Download an SLA worksheet.)
  8. Agree on metrics. Sales and marketing must be on the same page on the metrics that will be used to track the success of the program. The metrics should follow the overall lead process. For example, marketing metrics to track could include qualified leads generated and number of leads accepted by sales.
  9. Leverage technology. Technology plays a critical role in sales and marketing cooperation. Together, the teams define the sales process. Strategies and steps are identified, and buying signals are agreed on and can be scored. The process is then automated. Using automation, marketing can attract, qualify, and manage a volume of leads through the buyer’s journey, and then pass qualified leads to sales at agreed-on points. Existing customers can be sorted and segmented according to factors such as location or product used, and then cultivated for recurring revenue. Marketing automation also makes it much easier to track and report on metrics.
  10. Hold regular feedback and optimization meetings. Sales and marketing should meet on a frequent, regular schedule to review and optimize the lead program. Review results, metrics, and compliance with SLAs. This is also a time for sales to provide qualitative feedback on lead quality. In separate content-focused meetings, sales and marketing should discuss how to create and optimize the content that the sales team requires to sell more effectively. In these meetings, marketing will receive feedback from sales on current content and discuss new content requests.
Act-On eBook: Alignment, Technology & Revenue Impact
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How (and Why) Customer Success is Different from Customer Support Fri, 07 Oct 2016 10:00:00 +0000 “Customer success” is not a fancy name for “service department;” it’s a belief system dedicated to the customer. Learn how it adds value to your bottom line.]]>

Do you remember the switch five or so years ago? When all of a sudden your customer support team was now called your customer, or client, success team? When service account managers were now called client success managers (CSM)? Lots of people jumped on the bandwagon to rename their customer support teams, but what they didn’t do was change the fundamentals of how each customer is cared for – the core of what it really means to be part of “customer success.”

Last week I sat down with Luke Smith, Act-On’s Regional Director of Mid Market Sales. We chatted about what client success truly means, how that is materialized in the sales cycle and beyond, and what it means for the different departments within an organization. What follows is an edited version of our conversation, with key takeaways that capture what Luke believes to be the crucial elements of building customer success.


What does “customer success” mean to you as a sales person?


Customer success is really what we’re all looking for. It’s our income, career advancement, daily attitude, credibility, and more. It’s what makes the time we spend – being the best we can be – worthwhile. Ultimately, it’s enabling the people that buy our products to be as successful as possible so we can retain them for a lifetime, and increase the total lifetime value of that customer. When we sell a new business deal, we want to make sure we’re capturing as much revenue as we can for as long as we can.

We all have the same goal in mind: to make sure the customer is as successful as possible. And in this environment, more companies must provide additional focus on the success of the customer.

This picture is a quote from Act-On’s Luke Smith speaking about the importance of customer success for sales teams.


When you say “this environment,” what do you mean?


I mean the nature of the business world. It’s more competitive than ever. Why don’t companies have a hyper focus on the success of their customers? A lot of organizations have a hyper focus on selling new business and making sure that they’re fixing and updating their product – which is really important. But, at the end of the day, what’s the most important is the success of the customer.

I recently participated on a panel about this topic; we discussed customer service vs. customer success.

What “customer service” means is that we’re going to wait until a customer has a problem and then we’re going to accept a call from that customer and we’re going to help fix the problem. That’s fine, but risky in terms of potentially losing the customer. What about the success measurement of that customer? Success should not be measured in how well we help the customer as soon as there’s a problem. Success should be measured based on the level of success a customer is experiencing right now versus their potential success.

This is the gap that a lot of companies are looking to fix – the companies that are aware of the gap and are proficient in customer success are the frontrunners, the top performers, the thought leaders. These companies are implementing ways to go from a reactive “customer service” model to a proactive “customer success” model. They are asking, how can we get people utilizing our solution the way that it’s intended to be used, proactively, in ways they don’t know how to use it yet?


If onboarding your customers is getting them from Point A to Point B, what would customer success be?


Let’s add some additional layers to the success journey, A to D. A to B is the implementation and training of the product, making sure that we’re satisfying the basic objectives of our customers.

B to C is saying, okay now that we’ve done that, what is the potential for this company? Let’s make sure that, proactively, we’re really making advances on the potential of how can you use the product.

Then the final layer, C to D, we’re asking, what about the people that are affected by the solution? How are we going to train them and enable them, based on of how other companies are performing utilizing the solution? This is about enabling our customers to utilize our solution in a manner to where they now become better at whatever they do.

We actually want to make the people better around the solution as well. That’s what customer success should be.


Is this whole idea of customer success changing the way you’re selling then, too? Does that start from the sales point and go all the way through to the customer success?


That’s a good question. And that’s the question we’re really trying to figure out.

My perspective on that is that sales people need to be involved all the way through, to a certain degree. Sales people originally are the ones that are establishing the relationship and rapport with the individuals that we’re selling to. We understand the goals and objectives set forth, have a vested interest (through commission) to maximize the value of that customer over time, and, ultimately, retaining that customer. So it’s worth considering setting up a compensation model that rewards your sales team for all of those things – not just bringing in customers, but making them successful and retaining them.

But it’s hard to know where (or whether) the sales person’s responsibility ends and the customer success person begins. In that sense, it’s important for the sales person to quarterback the entire relationship and the success of the customer. I feel that it’s a cumulative approach – the sales rep stays involved but you gain a customer success manager.


Are a lot of companies approaching sales and customer success in this way?


Some, but not as many as should be. Too many companies boast about selling a one-year or multi-year deal. These companies feel like they need to call these clients only during the renewal period or whenever an upsell is imminent. That’s the wrong approach.

In order to get more from that customer and to be able to retain that customer, we need to be sure they’re maximizing value from the solution, and their people are also becoming better because of it. You’re then creating a lifelong client, rather than a short-term client.


What’s the benefit of taking this kind of customer success approach? What does it bring back to you?


It brings back quite a lot. Every company wants more dollars, more revenue. A lot of companies have growth ambitions. A lot of companies work very hard to be able to sign a customer only to have those customers leave after an initial term. What’s the point of that? How can we retain that revenue and make sure that when we sign a new customer we’re keeping that revenue for the long term? The more you give, the more you get. I’m a firm believer in that.

How the brand plays


Your brand is another huge piece of this. What are people saying about you? Are people saying, yeah, they provided top-tier technology, but they didn’t call me until my renewal? Or are people saying, you know what, they provided me a top-tier technology product that I initially thought was good and it solved my issues, but then they started proactively engaging with me, and taught me all these things that I may have not known, and I wouldn’t have been as successful using it if not. And not only that, but they trained my sales team. They trained my marketing team. They were proactive with engaging with my executive leadership team so that now they support what I’m doing moving forward.

When these customers talk about you in their networks, your brand increases, then customer referrals start coming in. Ultimately, you don’t have to work as hard to be able to get leads and opportunities in the system because you literally have your customer base working on your behalf.


Luke, thanks for your time, and thanks for the enlightenment.


It was a pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity.


Customer success is a new attitude and approach; its key goal is to proactively help your customers get the most out of your partnership, in progressive stages.

But don’t scrap your customer support team just yet. Customer support is still a vital ingredient in the overall success of your customers. Instead, consider having a tiered system when your customers have access to a support team if they have issues, but they are also continuously connected with a customer success team for proactive training and progression.

To learn more about the changing dynamic of sales, marketing, and customer success, check out our eBook – Beyond Sales & Marketing Alignment: Add Customer Success for a Winning Team Trifecta.

: Team Trifecta_Beyond Sales & Marketing Alignment
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