Act-On Marketing Action Blog https://www.act-on.com/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. Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://www.act-on.com/blog/feed/podcast/ From lead generation to inside sales; from SEO to marketing automation, and beyond: Smart speakers and lively conversations about today’s burning sales and marketing issues. Act-On Marketing Action Blog clean Act-On Marketing Action Blog sherry.lamoreaux@act-on.net sherry.lamoreaux@act-on.net (Act-On Marketing Action Blog) Copyright Act-On Software Inc. Hot Topics in Marketing & Sales Act-On Marketing Action Blog https://www.act-on.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/podcast-logo.jpg https://www.act-on.com/blog TV-G Beaverton, OR Weekly What You Need to Know About Email Feedback Loops https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/what-you-need-to-know-about-email-feedback-loops/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/what-you-need-to-know-about-email-feedback-loops/#respond Wed, 24 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=20088&preview_id=20088 Here’s a nice tip for an email marketer: Sign up to get a feedback loop (FBL) from ISPs. The feedback can help you maintain a clean and healthy email list.]]>

Working in the email marketing industry I have often heard the term “feedback loop” thrown around casually. I myself have used it quite loosely with my clients, disregarding the fact that many email marketers are unaware of what feedback loops (or, simply put, FBLs) actually are and how they can affect their email marketing efforts.

This post is intended to give you a brief overview of what FBLs are, how they are implemented, and which Internet service providers (ISPs) offer them.

Every discipline has its own definition of “feedback loop.” Within systems, the definition is traditionally: “A feedback loop is system structure that causes output from one node to eventually influence input to that same node.” The concept has been around since at least the 1920s.

Within our area of concern, the email sending ecosystem, a feedback loop is a service offered by certain ISPs (not all) that sends complaints back to senders. These complaints generally originate from recipients of your email who have marked your messages as spam/junk. If you have signed up for an FBL, the mailbox provider will forward the message complained about back to you, the sender, at an email address you’ve assigned and set up expressly for this purpose.

This service offering is a great tool to help maintain proper list hygiene. We highly recommend that email marketers and senders utilize FBLs to maintain their lists and remove recipients and subscribers whenever there are complaints. This data gathered and returned from the FBLs is extremely valuable.

As this graphic shows, the email feedback loop is a great way to keep your email lists clean and healthy by removing addresses that report your email as spam or junk.

What if the recipient opted in?

Even if a recipient has previously opted in and/or expressly subscribed to receive your messages, if the user complains, the first thing you should do, as a considerate and legally compliant sender, is remove them from your active sending list and make certain not to mail to the recipient in future sends.

About complaint rate thresholds

Proactively removing the recipients/subscribers from your lists is not only beneficial in keeping your list clean, but it also reduces the risk of facing other issues with ISPs.

Most ISPs have complaint rate thresholds. If you as a sender go above these thresholds, you run the very real risk of all your emails getting blocked or your emails getting filtered out into missing or quarantined folders by ISPs. Unfortunately, they don’t publish these thresholds, which can vary by ISP. Therefore, removing these particular recipients that have complained will reduce future complaints and also reduce the risk of a sender getting blocked or their messages getting filtered out by ISPs.

Better insight into your campaigns

Suppressing these recipients will not only help with your engagement, but also give you better insight into the success of your campaigns. For example, if a particular campaign receives a high amount of complaints then a sender can gather that the content isn’t relevant enough for the recipients to keep receiving your mailing. Did you do an A/B test on the headline?

Email marketers can take this analysis even further by breaking their lists up into segments. For example, a sender can segment their weekly newsletters by age demographics.

As an example, let’s look at an online pharmacy that does regular newsletters. Yesterday’s newsletter was all about baby care products. Today our online pharmacy’s email marketers notice in their feedback loops that there is a high complaint rate for a particular segment – the age group of 50 and above. This obviously is telling the pharmacy that their content is not meeting this particular segment’s expectation and that the sender needs to adjust their content or stop sending to this group of recipients. (Of course, the pharmacy won’t understand what’s happening unless they’ve been smart enough to understand that age is a persona criteria for them, and wise enough to segment by personas.)

How to get a FBL

A sender must complete an application process to enable a feedback loop with a Mailbox Provider. Most Mailbox Providers that offer feedback loops will have a postmaster site where senders can sign up for a FBL. Some of the basic requirements when applying for a FBL are contact information, having an IP and domain, as well as an email address set up to receive the complaint messages. Other Mailbox Providers/ISPs may have additional requirements like authentication with DKIM, which is one of Yahoo!’s requirements.

Here’s a list of the top feedback loops available to senders:

  • AOL
  • Comcast
  • Cox
  • Earthlink
  • Fastmail
  • Gmail (available only to ESPs, so check with your vendor)
  • Hotmail
  • OpenSRS/Tucows
  • Outblaze
  • Rackspace
  • RoadRunner/Time Warner Cable
  • Terra
  • NET
  • United Online/Juno/Netzero
  • Yahoo!
  • com

Word to the Wise offers a more encompassing list, and also has links to individual postmaster sites and FBL signup pages.

eBook: The Amazingly Effective Email Guide
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From Scratch: Three (More) List Building Strategies for Agencies (and Others) https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/from-scratch-three-more-list-building-strategies/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/from-scratch-three-more-list-building-strategies/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=20012&preview_id=20012 3 savvy paid strategies for email list building. The right stuff for agencies building lists for clients, or for the sophisticated in-house company marketer.]]>

In our last post, we explored four (free) list-building strategies for agency marketers who’ve got to build a house list for clients or themselves. In this post, we’ll look at list-building strategies that require budget, which modern marketers can leverage as they seek “lookalike” contacts, leverage paid media, prep and attend events and trade shows, purchase modern contact lists, and augment their existing forms.

First, nail the basics

A quick reminder that your paid list-building strategies require the same foundational elements we spoke of before, but they’re even more critical now. (Your client’s money must be spent wisely, or you’ll be looking for your next gig sooner than you’d expect.)

  1. Do you deeply understand your buyer personas?
  2. Your brand’s content strategy and tactics should be sound
  3. These tactics are truly reliant on your client’s existing contact data
  4. Mastery of the basic principles of digital marketing

Of these four foundational elements, Points 1, 2, and 3 are essential for paid list-building integrity and marketing success.

Three Paid List-Building Strategies

Here are three pay-to-play models for list building strategies:

  • Paid media (Google AdWords, LinkedIn sponsored content, banner ads, etc.)
  • Events and trade shows
  • List buying and list augmentation tools

1. Paid Media – Google AdWords, LinkedIn Sponsored Content, Mobile Ads, etc.

Paid media is the oldest form of list building in the marketer’s toolkit. There are risks:

On some ad platforms you can quickly flush a great deal of money down the proverbial toilet if:

  • You’re not managing your keywords and targets actively (Point 1, above)
  • You’re not offering excellent educational or entertaining content in exchange for contact information in your ads (Point 2, above)

Consider the following:

  • 82% of Americans ignore online ads, more than double the rate that ignore TV ads (37%), according to a study by Goo Technologies/Harris Interactive.
  • When asked what improvements would make them pay more attention to online ads, more than half of Americans (58%) – and fully 69% of Millennials (ages 18-34) – suggested the following:
    • Make the ad funny –40%
    • Make it entertaining –32%
    • Add stunning graphics –19%

Contrasting these stats (not the suggestions), with Facebook’s recent quarterly report results driven by mobile ad revenue. In coverage on CNBC, they noted:

“Facebook’s main money stream, ad revenue, hit $6.24 billion, versus the $5.8 billion expected… Mobile ad revenue took the lion’s share (84 percent) at $5.42 billion, versus the $4.84 billion expected.”

AdWords

Most people think of Google AdWords when they think of paid ads. The great thing about Google ads is that you’re capturing people searching for your product or service at a moment of heightened interest. And – with Ad Extensions – local businesses with decent Ad Rank scores can extend their ads with more information about their business – like phone numbers, hours, and addresses.

Make sure every ad click takes your prospect to a landing page that fulfills the promise of the ad, and offers something wonderful in return for that email address.

Google’s AdWords platform has changed significantly in the past few months, and there are fewer ads available on popular keywords – so the bar has gone up. Your ad prices will be higher, and your quality score requirements are more exacting in order for your ads to show up favorably.

It’s because of the noise and cost and management overhead of effective AdWords campaigns that I’ve turned to social media platforms for advertising today. My two favorites are LinkedIn (for B2B content) and Facebook (for B2C and some B2B) leads.

Advertising on LinkedIn

LinkedIn will allow you to get in front of a wide, targeted professional audience in a social, yet professional context. And Sponsored Posts are a great way to drive leads, using high quality content offers that (once again) educate and/or entertain your prospects, driving them to a rich exchange of contact for content.

LinkedIn has confirmed their sponsored content is most effective in terms of advertising on LinkedIn’s platform, as opposed to their right rail ads (see screen shot, below). And, according to LinkedIn, content posts get 15x more engagement than job posts.

One list building strategy paid ads, such as buying ads on LinkedIn as this picture illustrates, to help build your list from scratch. The article offers insight in paid media, events and list buying.

I recommend that clients start with a self-serve option at $1,000 a month minimum to test. LinkedIn averages $5-8 per click and $50 per lead across all of their early advertisers, so $1,000 a month is my recommended minimum if you’re able to spend $50 per lead.

For self-service ads, LinkedIn recommends you target an audience of 100,000-300,000 members. Try launching three or four campaigns and offers to test your offer relevance and help identify and establish the messages that most resonate with your targets.

LinkedIn has a frequency cap, which means they’ll show the same ad to the same group only a couple of times, which is why you should have several offers running at one time.

Job titles will likely be a more expensive Cost Per Click (CPC) than seniority/function, so if you can, test both options to see which performs better.

LinkedIn estimates the average CTR for content offers across LinkedIn is 0.34%, and the average engagement benchmark across LinkedIn is .37% – so you can compare your results and set expectations using those benchmarks.

Likes, comments, and shares are added value, so your clients won’t pay anything unless their prospects actually click through to the landing page where you can capture their contact information. Conversion tracking on LinkedIn became available in July 2016, but (as of this writing) you can’t buy ads on contacts or registrations yet (like you can do on Facebook). You can buy only on clicks or impressions.

Note that – like Facebook – 70% of LinkedIn traffic comes from tablets and mobile devices, and 30% from a desktop or laptop; so your landing pages must be mobile friendly. (Of course, if you use Act-On, you don’t have to worry one bit about that!)

Advertising on Facebook

The two main things I like about Facebook advertising – in terms of list building – are:

  1. That you can target very specific prospects using a wide range of platform tools, which Facebook makes incredibly easy to use. From geographic to demographic to behavioral and interest targeting, you’re able to finely tune your targeting on multiple attributes at one time. And you can target only those who don’t already know / like your Page.
  2. That you can pay for contacts on your site, using their Cost Per Registration methodology, paying only for registrations on your website as a result of your FB ad. That way, if you target properly, you’re going to pay only for those contacts who exchange their contact information for your content. And you’ll have a good idea of what they do, how they think, where they live – even with whom they’re connected.

Again, depending on your product or service, I recommend starting with a $1,000 a month minimum to test.

You can A/B test the same offers on LinkedIn as on Facebook if you like, and see which platform performs best for you. Of course, this platform A/B test isn’t apples to apples. So if you use Facebook’s advanced targeting, and its CPR pricing, you’ll want to watch contacts from both platforms go all the way through your client’s funnel (to purchase) before you determine which platform is most effective for your client.

2. Events and Trade Shows – Boosting Leads with More than Fishbowls   

Events and trade shows can be the most expensive lead sources you can have. But there are many reasons to bite the bullet and spend money and time on attending and having a booth at a few critical shows per year. Some important considerations are:

  • Will their competition be there? If so, will your client’s absence be notable?
  • Would sales reps have the opportunity to meet their clients, as well as prospects, at the event?
  • Is there an announcement (data / product / service / executive appointment) you might leverage at the event?

Any one of those considerations could make the case to spend the money. And once your client has committed, you as their agency can help boost leads at the event.

My favorite way to make a big impression at an event is to look big before, during, and after the event via social media and thoughtful content (Point 2, above).

Pre- Event Activities

If you’re targeting a number of accounts who’ll be at the event, and want to advertise your presence at the event so they’ll know before they go that you’ll be there, you can deploy ads targeting their attendees in LinkedIn.

If you follow the ideas I outlined above, you could target, for example, either job-level or skills-based employees – using the right rail and impression-based pricing. That way, your target might see your ad, announcing you’ll be at the upcoming show, never click on it, but know – and anticipate – that you’ll be there.

If you can arrange for a special announcement – news of your products, a release of data important to your market, even a Customer of the Year Award – that might coincide with the event, consider building momentum for your client through Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook posts encouraging followers (using the event hashtag) to watch for the announcement.

The more you share your news and anticipation of the event (sprinkled in with your educational content around your market), the bigger presence you’ll develop and deliver. The organizers will notice (and appreciate) too (‘cause of the hashtag).

During the Event:

During the event, be sure to have someone from your team who’s practiced in social media sharing live post key points and photos during key event speakers and sessions. Again, using the event hashtag and other relevant hashtags, your brand will be associated with thought leadership from inside the event itself, and will reach an additional audience of those who aren’t attending the event, but are interested in following news of – and from – the event.

Have them share like a roving reporter, and as a bonus for your brand and those who follow it, end-of-day wrap-ups where you post about the highlights – and your thoughts on them – will boost your readership, thought leadership, and leads.

Post-Event Follow-up:

Every sales rep will follow up on the event leads you’ve paid to collect. Where you can do your client a boost in service is to package a special post-event content summary (Scenes from the Event) with observations from their executives that would be another valuable piece of educational (and entertaining) content that they can use once they get back to the office. These could be blog posts and/or newsletter content.

Your thoughtful, post-event content delivered right to their email inbox will go a long way to ease a content into a sales call when the time is right.

3. List Buying, Rental and Augmentation Tools

If you happen to sell your products to marketers, or the IT crowd, or have a specific set of technology tools that you’re targeting with your products and services, there are some interesting options available to you.

The Bad and the Good of Data (List) Buying or Rental:

The bad: (Buyer beware!) Data and list buying and rental have evolved, as have the technology and methods to facilitate the distribution of the data. Now more than ever you have access to many organizations (both reputable and questionable) that can provide you purchased or rental data. Obtaining names that may have been scraped from websites (which are illegal to mail to under CAN-SPAM and NOT an industry best practice) and have not given consent will result in more spam complaints and a direct hit on your client’s sending reputation.

The good: Those of us who’ve seen the development and maturity of the digital channel know that as a result of our increasingly digital footprints and a human element of scrutiny and digital investigations, it’s actually possible to obtain finite data consisting of (but not limited to) marketing, engineering, and IT employees and executives in any company or demographic you can imagine.

(Editor’s note: Act-On does not recommend buying lists. That said, we know professionals, the author of this post among them, who feel that with due diligence and great care, list-buying is a tactic to consider if your client is launching a new company and has no list yet. Caveat emptor.)

Data Augmentation Tools

As you’re capturing leads using Act-On or on your website, there are plenty of augmentation providers who can help your clients understand not only the demographic keys to their prospects, but – and this is great for people who sell products and services reliant on technology – you can see what kind of technology they use, and (this is cool!) their estimated adoption dates so you can also see when their contracts are about to be up.

Using Datanyze, for example, in the screen shot below, you can see a profile of how theonion.com has implemented their technology stack. If I sold a product that competes with DoubleClick, for example, I might find all the companies in my local area who are using DoubleClick, and then map out when each one was about to renegotiate their contract.

There’s no better way to build a smart list than to be able to tell – three months ahead – when a prospect is ripe for an alternative solution.

Datanyze Insider example:

Here is a screenshot of Datanyze.

Another data augmentation tool set is the kind that validates and appends your prospects’ contact and company information as they’re submitting information via your forms. An example of this is SmartForms by ReachForce. It’ll append up to 100 relevant data points in real time, as soon as the prospect clicks the submit button.

This functionality removes the need for progressive profiling, and can be helpful to companies who want to more instantly understand more about their leads at the very earliest contact.

These are just a few ideas to showcase the speed, depth and breadth with which you can serve your clients’ list building efforts. From ideas to technology to tactics, you can build high quality lists using new tools to boost effectiveness in existing channels.

eBook: 9 Essentials to Grow Your Agency and Help Your Clients Succeed
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Social Media Audiences Are Great, But Email Audiences Are Better https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/social-media-audiences-are-great-but-email-audiences-are-better/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/social-media-audiences-are-great-but-email-audiences-are-better/#respond Mon, 22 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19932&preview_id=19932 Compared to old-shoe email, social media is the shiny new game. But if you want conversions, go with the tried-and-true: email delivers.]]>

Which would you rather have: 3,000 email newsletter subscribers or 30,000 social media followers?

Choose carefully … it’s a trick question.

It’s a trick question because I bet you know the answer. You opted for the subscribers because you’ve been around the block. You know that while social media represents a vast potential audience, the engagement rates are awful.

Social media and email marketing compared: Four steps to conversion:

To compare email marketing and social media in the closest apples-to-apples way, let’s walk through all the steps it takes from getting someone to notice your message to getting them to convert.

Step one: Organic reach on social and deliverability for email

As you know, “Organic reach” on Facebook is in the low single digits. It’s not a whole lot better on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Compare that to email’s version of “organic reach”: deliverability rate. Email marketers would be committing hari-kari if deliverability rates were in the low single digits. Heck, we’re unhappy with 80% deliverability (a rough estimate – your mileage will vary).

Second step: Beyond reach and deliverability

Let’s take it a step further. Or a click further, if you will, to open rates for emails, and then to social media’s version of that measurement: “engagement rate.”

For email, we have a bit of murkiness on open rates. Some email clients (like Gmail and Outlook) automatically open emails, blurring the measurements for purists. But a good open rate – again, your mileage will vary – is roughly 10–15%.

That’s perhaps a bit low, but let’s lean conservative for a moment. Because given how bad the engagement rates are for social media, we can afford to be downright measly with email’s stats.

Average engagement rates on social? They’re a joke compared to email. The exact stats vary widely, but here’s what Forrester reported early last year. These may have declined even more since.

As this chart reflects, engagement with a brand’s followers is poor, which is why email newsletters should remain a cornerstone of your B2B marketing.

Step three: And on to click-through rates…

We’re not done yet. Social media engagement rates don’t accurately count the people you get to your site. Engagement rates do include click-through rates, but they also include shares, likes, and comments. All good stuff – absolutely. But not the sort of thing that directly drives business results like a click-through to your site does.

In fact, the closest thing I could find to a click-through rate average on social media was from advertising. According to Smart Insight’s recent post about Facebook marketing, Across all ad formats and placements, Ad CTR is 0.17%.” And that assumes all those ads are sending people off Facebook (which they’re not).

Email’s click-through rates may not sparkle, but generally, a click-through rate of 2% is considered about par. That’s more than ten times the Facebook ad CTR above.

Fourth and last step: Finishing up with conversions

Can you bear one more step? Because we’ve still got conversion rate to go. Once again, the statistics vary widely from industry to industry, and company to company. But here’s one hard data point about conversion rates across the different channels. It’s from Monetate’s 2013 Q4 Holiday Roundup, as recounted by Smart Insights (with interesting commentary) and Convince and Convert (with thoughtful analysis).

This graph illustrates how conversion rates are higher through email.

So what does it all mean?

If we were evaluating marketing strategies just based on those studies, it might look like social isn’t worth the hassle. But, of course, it is.

Social media may not have the engagement rates of email, but you start out with a huge group of people – everyone on social media. It isn’t really like email marketing. There, you’re working with just the subscribers on your list. So while we’d all love a proper apples-to-apples comparison of the two channels, we’re not ever going to get a true one. Social and email are different. Not even apples and oranges. (And social’s really good at things email is lesser at, such as brand awareness. Maybe it’s horses for courses.)

Those differences are important, too. So while I don’t want to bash social too hard, here are a few other reasons social is at an inherent disadvantage compared to email:

Disadvantage #1: Control

Email’s primary advantage over social media is control. You can control when you mail to people, how you mail to people, and what you mail to people.

Not so of social media. It’s easy to forget, but we don’t really own our followers on social media. They may like us once, then spend their time elsewhere. Or they may engage on the channels we use, then flit off to a new channel entirely.

Disadvantage #2: Social media increasingly requires advertising to reach your audience

It costs money to send emails, too, of course. But the cost to advertise is usually higher than the cost to send an email. Even if you’re enough of a social advertising whiz to get clicks for pennies, actual conversions typically cost more on social media than they do via email.

And even when we’re advertising on social, we still have to get those ads past the reviewers. Facebook, for example, often rejects ads, especially if you’re in a niche they’re not entirely comfortable with.

Part of the disadvantage here is a mindset issue. Which brings us to the next point.

Disadvantage #3: People just aren’t usually in shopping (or B2B research) mode when they’re on social.

People expect a different experience from social media than they do from their email inbox. Largely, they’re looking for light entertainment – a few cat photos – or some family news. Even on LinkedIn, where most B2B networking goes down, people just aren’t in the same mindset as they’re in when they’re working through their inbox.

There’s research to back this up. In early 2015, Marketing Sherpa asked 2,000 American adults, “In which of the following ways, if any, would you prefer companies to communicate with you? Please select all that apply.”

MarketingSherpa's 2015 survey asked "In which of the following ways, if any, would you prefer companies to communicate with your?" and email is shown as the clear winner.

As you can see, email won by a country mile. Social media came in at #6. So if we’re going to send a commercial message, people overwhelmingly say they want it via email.

You can also see this in B2C retail stats, too. For instance, according to Custora’s analysis of last year’s Black Friday,

“…email marketing was the primary channel, driving 25.1% of orders. Beyond email, 21.1% of sales originated through free search, and 16.3% through paid search. Social media (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest) drove only 1.7% of sales.” 

But not every study shows such a difference. For example, what about order size? Do social shoppers place smaller orders, or just place orders less often? According to Monetate’s 2016 Q1 Ecommerce Quarterly Report, the average order sizes for social and email are actually pretty close.

So while email may be driving most of the ecommerce sales, when people do buy via social, they buy just as much as if they ordered from emails. This might change in the future, too. All those “buy” buttons on social media sites are eventually going to start affecting this.

This image depicts the results of Monetate's 2016 Ecommerce Quarterly Report

Disadvantage #4: Person for person, email beats social media for promoting content.

We get so focused on getting more shares on social media that we sometimes forget how good email is at promoting content. It’s also great for sharing content, too, but we have a harder time tracking those actions.

Here are two very interesting examples of email’s mighty content promotion powers:

  • Neil Patel gets similar results for his promotion efforts. Here’s a table showing the results he got after trying several different tactics for content promotion. Hour for hour, email marketing – emailing his subscribers – got him more than three times the traffic of any other tactic.

In the table below, “email outreach” is sending personalized emails to individuals (usually influencers) to ask them to share your content. “Emailing subscribers” is the standard “announce the new post to your list”.

content promotion

“So, wait – why am I doing social media marketing?”

Okay, I’ve done quite the job on bashing social media here. But that’s really not my intent. I don’t recommend that any company, anywhere, should skip social media. It’s a fantastic way to get in front of new people, for one thing. And a great way to build your list. And a great way to test content. And – even with single digit organic reach – a good way to stay in touch with your audience.

Ascend2 has three good, recent studies that offer a bit more information about email marketing vis–à–vis social. Here’s what they report.

  • First, social media has about the same amount of people who say they’re “somewhat successful” with it as email marketing does.
Ascend2 Research Email Marketing Trends Survey: How do you rate the success of email marketing to achieve important objectives results.
This statistic from the Ascend2 Digital Marketing Survey shows that email is still one of the most effective and easiest tactics to execute for marketers.

However – 41% of marketers said social media is effective. That’s a much sunnier picture than what we were seeing just a few years ago. Even two or three years ago.

What does this say about inbound vs. outbound marketing?

Social media is still a ways off from catching up to email marketing in terms of conversion effectiveness. In some situations, the volume of sales from social is still pretty low, but as new technologies develop (like social media buy buttons or the 11,000 company bots chatting it up on Facebook Messenger), the gap might narrow a bit.

If we consider social media as the main pillar of inbound marketing, and email as the main pillar of outbound marketing, what are we to make of this? Should you scale social back?

No. Emphatically, no. Social is irreplaceable for brand building, and it can be a very good tool to build your email list. Both of those factors are required in order for your email marketing to be its most effective. The best bet? Get really smart… and combine forces.

Back to you

How does email marketing compare with social media marketing for your company? Are you tracking each channel? Are you one of the marketers who’s getting better results with social media? Leave a comment – we’d love to know what you think about all this.

eBook: The Amazingly Effective Email Guide
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Back to School – Let’s Keep Our Kids Safe Online https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/back-to-school-lets-keep-our-kids-safe-online/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/back-to-school-lets-keep-our-kids-safe-online/#respond Fri, 19 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=20068&preview_id=20068 92% of teens go online daily, and kids as young as 3 are online, exposed to all the wonders (& dangers) of the Internet. Learn how to teach online safety.]]>

I love this time of year. We’re into the fourth quarter of summer, and if you’re a sports fan we’ve got a bit more of the 2016 Summer Olympics to go. College football is a couple of weeks away, and the US Open is just knocking on the door for your attention (well, mine, anyway).

Time to upgrade your TV size?

For all those of us who are parents, we’re also anticipating the new school year commencing. You probably have school supplies purchased and the annual new backpack is ready to go. And, in what is now the new normal, our kids probably have a device that is connected to the Internet in their (back) pocket.

Did your school supply checklist come with a box to check for “online safety” or “safe online behavior”?

No? Well, it should have.

Now I know that many school districts have policies and procedures in place for appropriate online behavior. But what about our responsibilities – as parents – to help guide our kids when they use the technology we have provided them?

And let’s be honest: for our own convenience?

The lines of convenience and technology have completely blended together, but are we losing the opportunity to manage/control our kids’ technology use?

According to a Trustlook study quoted by eMarketer.com – Parents Want Some Control of Their Child’s Mobile Phone Usage:

Before you send your children off to another school year, have a conversation with them about online safety. This graphic of the popular social media apps helps explain what is and is not age appropriate.

As you can see from the data, managing the phone is a concern for many parents. However, I would suggest that the bigger issue is data sharing (Big Data) and social media.

Big Data and YOU

Let’s look at data sharing … and our kids. A 2013 survey by Netmums found that children spend twice as long online as their parents think they do and start using the Internet at the average age of three. Parents thought their kids were online less than an hour a day; the actual average was two hours. One of every seven under-14-year-olds was on four hours or more, daily. And one in 20 children admit they arranged to meet, in person, a stranger they met online.

Today’s teens and preteens have very limited awareness about the information that they share when using the Internet. Begin with helping them understand what “personal data” is. It’s anything that relates to them (or any specific person), such as a name, age, address, phone number, social security number, IP address, etc.

Here are a few things to discuss with your children, and ask them to think about when they post or are asked to share:

  • Every click, post, open, view, ping, purchase, visit, conversion, and search can be connected (by someone) to present a 360-degree view of you (and your kid’s) digital profile
  • Once data is digitized it NEVER goes away unless it’s deleted at every single location that holds it (difficult and unlikely)
  • What our children post today could be there FOREVER
    • Pictures, texts, messages, etc.
  • Data compiling is a prerequisite to profiling
    • What is posted on Facebook will be assessed when you apply to college, and perhaps when you apply for a job
  • Now more than EVER you (and your children) are tracked and targeted
    • Cross-device tracking / Internet of Things

Advertising finances the Internet. As parents we have to be diligent with our children’s online activity and what they share and with whom. What they share goes into a vast pool of PII (personally identifiable information) that advertisers buy, sell, swap, trade, and use.

The big data landscape has exploded in the past four years. Here’s a sampling of all the companies that operate in that ecosystem.

Infographic: Big Data Landscape 2016

So what’s that got to do with helping keeping our kids safe online?

Companies CANNOT market to kids under the COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) but time and time again we see that companies get into hot water with the FTC and other governing bodies when they get caught with data gathered from minors.

Remember: Your data is NOT safe online 

Our digital identity is worth $$ to the Internet underground. Many different subspecies of bad guys exist, including hackers, hacktivists, governments, terrorists, child traffickers and criminals of all stripes, and they all want a piece of the action. As an example, if they can figure out how to get your child’s social security number, they can sell his or her identity to someone who needs, for any number of reasons, to be in possession of a clean credit record.

Top tip:

Ensure that you counsel your kids on what they share about themselves (and you) online, and with whom. From the first share, the good (and bad) guys are building a profile that will be used for marketing (best case scenario) or crime (worst case scenario).

The Dangers of Social Media

Now let’s look at one of the biggest concerns for most parents today; social media!

No one can deny the popularity of social media applications, we all use (and misuse) them in all kinds of ways, for many different reasons. However, when our kids engage with these apps (especially the kids in grade school) all rules and barriers for normal behavior seem to be left aside.

These apps provide a digital forum that can and does lead to misbehavior. School can be difficult for many kids. When they get targeted via social media online, bullying can make that experience even worse, with potentially tragic outcomes.

Are you old enough to remember being bullied in school when it was in your face in real time? Can you imagine how you’d feel today if you were a kid again, this time being cyber bullied? For whatever reason, lots of kids and wouldn’t communicate their experience. That is a very lonely place.

Let’s look at some popular social media apps, what they do and the acceptable age to obtain an account:

This graph provides a description of popular social media apps and shows what they do and what the acceptable age limit is.

When it comes to social media and our kids, remember:

Kids (under 13) are covered by:

  • Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
  • Websites that collect data on kids are REQUIRED by law to follow COPPA
  • If your children have one of these social media accounts, they have either:
    • Signed up with false information
    • Had assistance to do so

Networking apps sounds great in principle

  • Communities of kids connecting with each other
  • Sharing information, ideas photos etc.
  • But what’s REALLY happening is:
    • We are providing an immense amount of power to our children
    • In a very dynamic, potentially dangerous online environment
    • Who can’t understand the “big picture” on the technology
    • Unless WE coach them
  • Allow for bad things to occur in what should be one of the safest places – school
    • Cyberbullying etc.

What’s the difference between bullying and cyberbullying?

This graph outlines the difference between bullying and cyberbullying.

As kids get older and more computer-savvy, it’s likely that they’ll learn how to get around any nanny technologies and filters. This makes it even more important that you educate them on online behavior, and coach them to do the right things.

Internet Safety Tips and Discussion Points for the Dinner Table:

  • Any child or teen can become the victim of an Internet predator. Predators do not discriminate based on gender, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic status, income, or religion. It is happening NOW.
  • Teach your child or teen to never share private or identifying information, such as his or her name, address, school, etc., with a person online that is not known or trusted in real life. A predator can use this information to groom and/or locate your child or teen. A 2009 study reported that 16 percent of kids and teens have been approached by strangers online; it’s unlikely that this number has gone down.
  • Strengthen the privacy settings on all social networking sites and ensure that these settings remain unchanged after updates. Social networking sites often publish posts as “public” based on the default settings.
  • Disable geotagging on all mobile devices, as it has the ability to automatically pinpoint and disclose your child’s or teen’s location. This option is usually found under “Settings” on most devices.
  • Discuss the dangers of “checking in.” Various applications allow your child or teen to share his or her exact current location on social media sites.
  • Remind your child or teen to choose an online handle, username, or screen name carefully. Much can be inferred from how your child or teen represents himself or herself online, which can prompt a predator’s initial contact.
  • Monitor your child’s or teen’s activity on the computer and on all mobile devices. This includes desktops, laptops, tablet computers, cell phones, and all handheld and video game devices with online connectivity.
  • Know the passwords on all devices used by your child or teen. Check them regularly.
  • If you suspect your child or teen is being cyberbullied: be supportive, get the facts, and if necessary, contact the school or law enforcement. Conversely, teach your child or teen that there are negative consequences for those who cyberbully.
  • Many children and teens engage in sexting. Sending and/or receiving nude pictures of minors is considered child pornography. As a result, there may be both emotional and legal consequences for both you and your child or teen.
  • Educate yourself on the mobile applications that your child or teen is using. Ask for an explanation and a demonstration.
  • Maintain loving, open, and respectful lines of communication with your child or teen while setting enforceable rules for online safety. Assure your child or teen that he or she can always come to you for help in an uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situation.

There are numerous resources available for keeping safe online here are a few for your consideration:

Check out the following:

NetSmartz is an initiative of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Among the resources they offer are learning tools for teens, including comics, videos, and games designed to help them understand the issues and self-manage their behavior.

Split Decisions

Summary

Parenting was hard enough before the Internet came into our lives! Giving young children access to technology that allows them access to essentially any kind of content is a lot of power for them to understand and manage, and risky.

Training and attention will help your kid become one that can harvest the right things from the Internet.

Let’s work hard to keep our kids safe online.

Cheers,

David

Act-On Demo_Take a Video Tour
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How To Make the Most of the YouTube Content Marketing Customer Journey https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/how-to-make-the-most-of-the-youtube-content-marketing-customer-journey/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/how-to-make-the-most-of-the-youtube-content-marketing-customer-journey/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=20024&preview_id=20024 If you use YouTube content marketing correctly, you can have great search results from low-cost evergreen content. ]]>

We use YouTube in fundamentally different ways when we’re using it for fun than when we’re using it for business.

When we watch YouTube videos for fun, we might have a personality we like to follow, or might see an intriguing video embedded in a news article, tweet or Facebook post. We snack on funny videos, curious or intriguing tidbits that get us through a busy day.

But when we’re in project mode, whether for business (B2B purchases) or personal (B2C purchases), we’re using YouTube in a fundamentally different way. Generally, we come to YouTube videos through search. But not YouTube search, at least not at first. Even though YouTube is the biggest search engine after Google, we usually begin our YouTube journey on Google.

Let’s consider a video topic you might not think anyone would want to watch on YouTube: The repair of the range hood fan for your kitchen stove. Nobody’s going to want to watch a video about that, right? Wrong – a lot of people want to watch that, as you will see below.

Most probably, you’ll begin your quest for answers on a topic like this with a Google search that says something like “How to fix fan on top of stove.” A number of blog posts and ecommerce sites come up, but you know what else comes up? A video from YouTube. Because YouTube and Google are part of the same company, YouTube searches are “baked” into the Google results.

Video can be a powerful tool in your content marketing, especially when you load the videos on YouTube, as this search engine results page shows. This article includes 8 actionable tips for making the most of your YouTube content marketing.
Google “bakes" in YouTube video searches into the results.

Since you need to figure out how to do this task, you click the video titled How to Change Over-the-Stove Fans : Fan Repair & Maintenance,” which is from a content channel called “ehowathomechannel.”

It’s important to note here that this video is from Feb. 2014, more than two years ago. This is a key way in which YouTube video is different than Facebook video. YouTube is an evergreen platform, where topics can earn and retain authority over time, where on Facebook you generally only see the video if it’s in an ad or shared by a friend sometime in the last day or so. Also, interestingly, this video happens to not have many views, just 3,000. This is because YouTube ranks videos by how long people watch, not how many views they have.

In this customer journey example, you’ve clicked on the initial video and watched for a while, but perhaps found it’s not answering the question you had in mind. You will likely do one of two things:

  1. Do a refined search, but on YouTube now, not on Google, or
  2. Click on one of the “suggested videos” in the right-hand column of the page.

Overall on YouTube, most people click on the suggested videos, probably because they assume the videos are very relevant and it’s easier to click than type in a search (although YouTube search is the second most likely thing you’ll do at this point).

Suggested videos are the best way of getting traffic.
Suggested videos are the best way of getting traffic. This means that the customer has already watched one video – maybe yours, maybe someone else's – and YouTube's algorithm has referred them to you, which confers a bit of credibility.

It may turn out that the second video in the customer’s YouTube session, which has the title, “Under cabinet Range Hood Installation – New version” from manufacturer XtremeAirUsa, is the video that solves their problem. This video is a straightforward how-to video that shows professionals (or do-it-yourselfers) how to install the product. And the way the video is made can help someone regardless of which brand they are installing. Furthermore, it’s a highly commented-on video, and XtremeAirUsa has responded to the comments, which are largely questions about which tools to use.

Note that the XtremeAirUsa video is also more than two years old, and YouTube still ranks it high in the search for this topic because many viewers watch it for a long duration. Its viewership has grown steadily and organically since it was uploaded, and now it’s been seen more than 350,000 times. Remember, this is a video about a stove fan – and it’s been watched 350,000 times! Why? Because using how-to videos on YouTube works.

YouTube content marketing how-to videos can be evergreen and keep getting views indefinitely.
YouTube content marketing how-to videos can be evergreen and keep getting views indefinitely. This is great long-tail marketing: you make the video once, but keep coming back to make sure it's optimized for new searches.

Unfortunately, the audio on the XtremeAirUsa how-to video is poor quality and it needs more good close-up shots. It’s clearly the opposite of an exciting commercial for the stove company. But it works extremely well because it is very helpful.

And this video cost almost nothing to produce, edit, upload and host. People keep coming to this video organically, and engaging in the comments section of the video, without any advertising from the manufacturer.

These comments show that people keep coming to this video organically.
Years after the video was uploaded, lots of people continue to comment. But why don't they have channel icons? Because these are not users that hang out on YouTube. Rather, they only come to YouTube when on a search-originating mission. They're not looking for social media friends, they're looking for answers.

This type of content marketing, where companies give away helpful information for free, is very common on company blogs. But sadly, only a small percentage of companies have unlocked the potential of content marketing on YouTube. There are great advantages for those who can dominate in their niche, any niche. This is particularly true for brands who can produce evergreen or long-tail content – videos that prove helpful to potential customers for months or even years.

Focus on your specialty

Now you’re convinced you should make videos for your company, but about what, exactly? You can decide by asking yourself these questions:

1) What does your business know how to do that many others do not?

There’s something you do in your business that you know better than most other people, or do better than most other companies. Content marketing is about giving away some (but not all) of those secrets to increase your authority, with a soft sell or no sell at all. When people think about your service, they’ll come to you because you have given them something and demonstrated your expertise.

2) What questions are people specifically asking about your products?

People are always asking you questions about your business. They may do this in person to your salespeople, or via email or social media. Why not answer these questions in a video?

3) What are people asking about your business sector?

If you can help people with general tips and tactics they can learn about in your field of business in general – that don’t necessarily have to do with your products – they will be very appreciative and see you as a trustworthy expert, in it to be helpful.

4) In what way can you best demonstrate this on video?

Content marketing videos don’t have to be exciting. They just have to be helpful.

5) Who on your team would best demonstrate this?

Sometimes the best person on the team to do videos is the CEO. Sometimes it’s the intern in the back room. Sometimes it’s both. Experiment with different approaches.

6) How can you shoot and edit these videos as quickly and cheaply as possible?

YouTube content marketing doesn’t have to have high production values. It just has to communicate how to do something helpful. If it takes a lot of time or money to shoot and edit, you probably should think about another approach.

7) Do you have the resources to launch one video every week, on the same day and time? I repeat – every week?

You should be able to release at least one video per week, ideally on the same day. Make it a habit. If it’s too hard or you don’t have enough time or it’s not a priority, this approach may not be for you. The YouTube algorithm rewards consistency.

8) Can you learn about video optimization and social sharing?

You’ve got to learn about video optimization, or get someone to manage your channel for you. The job is only half done when the video is uploaded. The rest is optimization and promotion in the other areas of your marketing funnel.

You can do it!

Do you have comments or questions about content marketing for YouTube? I will respond in the comments section below.

4 Steps to Content Plan
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Four Benefits to a Multi-Generational Workplace (Or, What I Learned from My 21-Year-Old Nephew) https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/four-benefits-to-a-multi-generational-workplace-or-what-i-learned-from-my-21-year-old-nephew/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/four-benefits-to-a-multi-generational-workplace-or-what-i-learned-from-my-21-year-old-nephew/#respond Wed, 17 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=20020&preview_id=20020 The key benefits of a multi-generational workplace, from sparking innovation to ensuring bench depth to understanding your customers and more.]]>

There are often many ways to solve a problem, but without a diversity of perspectives from a multi-generational workplace, those solutions may not be thought of, introduced, or considered.

My 21-year-old nephew is visiting me from college in South Carolina. He’s been in town here in Portland, Oregon, for four days, and in that time, I think I, my wife, or his grandmother have given him about four and a half days’ worth of advice about work, school, love, family and politics.

I don’t think it’s our intention to do so, it just sort of happened.

There has been more than one moment, however, during our discussions when I’ve realized his questions challenging my assumptions and those of American society were not because he wanted to be a pain in the butt (though that could have been a factor), but because he’s got a particular stake about this world we’re leaving him.

His youth and inexperience means he doesn’t know as much as me, especially when he laments about love, but his questions made me think, and explain why this or that may be the case. His questions made me appreciate the different perspective he holds, just from being 20+ years younger than me.

I recently wrote about what we could learn from the process of writing the Declaration of Independence. One lesson worth another look was the benefit from working with diverse groups, whether that diversity be gender, age, race, sexual preference, culture, nationality – and the list goes on. For example, the five-person committee working on the Declaration included the youngest and oldest members of the Continental Congress (Thomas Jefferson, 33, and Benjamin Franklin, 70, respectively).

Act-On’s Teyana Backey will be taking a look at the progress of getting more women and minorities into the tech industry in an upcoming post. Today, I’m exploring the benefits of having generational diversity in the workplace.

Why generational diversity in the workplace is important

The experiences of each generation – experiences made in a specific time and place in history – shape who we are, what we value, how we value it, how we prioritize those values, how we interact with others and in the world, and how we back up those values (through purchases, social shares, protest, and so forth).

Younger generations will get credit for bringing fresh insights and energy to a group, but older generations offer wisdom and insight that comes from rich experiences and perspective.

I’m the middle child of sorts on our content marketing team. And like many middle children, as a Gen Xer, I am often overshadowed by the issues and interests of Baby Boomers and Millennials (oh, Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!). But enough about me.

This past April, the Pew Research Center reported that Millennials had surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, according to population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to the report, Millennials, whom the Pew Research Center defines as those ages 18-34 in 2015, now number 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 51-69). (The cohort sometimes referred to as Gen Y roughly corresponds to the Millennial cohort.)

I regularly see articles and infographics from Think with Google, Adweek, and others offering marketing insight into either generation. And here are a couple great posts if you want some strategies on marketing to Boomers or Millennials, or you want some tips for managing them.

This screenshot explains the different generational groups. The workplace is better off when it has a multi-generational team working together.

Rather than read about what I could learn about Boomers and Millennials, I decided to interview them instead. Sherry Lamoreaux is a senior editor and McKenzie Ingram is a marketing journalist here at Act-On. Sherry is a Boomer, and McKenzie is a Millennial.

Don’t Cage Me In

One of the first things I learned was that while McKenzie or Sherry may be a member of their respective generational groups, being so doesn’t define them. “Millennials get a bad rap about entitlement. It’s probably true generally,” McKenzie said, laughing. “But that doesn’t apply to every one of us.”

Likewise, Sherry observed, “I imagine the throughline is recognizing when good is good. You don’t need to be old or young to perceive that, and it doesn’t need to be limited by a particular channel.”

That is a risk marketers face if they’re developing a persona to reach a particular group. When we rely on only one segment variable – in this case, age – we are assuming that everyone who is a Millennial is the same, and that they are also distinct from other groups, such as Boomers. But Sherry and McKenzie both are also women, writers, bloggers, editors, content marketers, marketers, and the list goes on.

This over-generalization mistake can also happen inside the workplace. The stereotypes are that Millennials become frustrated by their Boomer co-workers’ late adoption of tech and new platforms such as social, while Boomers complain that Millennials demand immediate status and success from day one, eschewing the need to “pay their dues.”

The Hartford, the insurance and financial services group, released the Benefits for Tomorrow Study in 2013 and 2014, looking at some of the generational perceptions within the workplace. In it, they found that 96 percent of Millennials believe Boomers in the workplace are a great source of mentorship. And 90 percent of Boomers agreed that Millennials bring new skills and ideas to the workplace.

And that launches us into the four benefits I have observed for a multi-generational workplace:

Fuller Understanding

Each generation brings different skills and talents to the table. It’s not just that Millennials have a better grasp on technology, it’s that they have never known a world without Internet, cellphones/smartphones and so forth. As McKenzie said, “I never have to wait to get an answer to a question. Every answer is on the web.”

Similarly, Sherry brings to the table diverse marketing experiences working in newspapers, radio, and direct mail catalogs; as well as working with established companies and fast startups. She has perspective of being an employee, the manager, and her own boss.

That depth of experience, including those of us complaining Gen Xers, means the workplace has more context to what’s going on in the world and with our customers, who also range across generations. This is particularly important when you begin talking about account-based marketing and trying to develop relationships with individuals throughout an account, from the young marketing specialist to the CMO. Having the collective experiences of those personas gives you a head start.

Mentoring

“I’ve learned so much from Sherry and Karrie,” McKenzie said, adding in Karrie Sundbom, Act-On’s Senior Content Marketing Manager and also a Gen Xer. “I’m a better writer. I’ve learned about leadership, communication skills, and navigating in a larger company. All the things you’re not going to learn in school or on the Internet.”

As The Hartford study reflected, the different generations in your workplace offer great mentorship opportunities – in both directions. Millennials can learn from Boomers or Xers, and Boomers can learn from the Millennials. (Speaking on behalf of Xers, we already know everything).

“Everyone’s experience is different,” Sherry said. “The Millennials have had experiences I’ve not had. And each person adds to the conversation, and gives you more exponential opportunities.”

Deeper Bench

A workplace shines when it has a steady pipeline of talents and leaders that are ready to step up when their names are called. Back to the Declaration of Independence example, Thomas Jefferson was a substitute to the Continental Congress, filling in for an older statesman from Virginia. The opposite of this is a workplace too heavily composed of one age group. For those who follow sports, the San Antonio Spurs basketball team has been particularly adept at adding young quality players to its pipeline, who are ready to step up when older players retire from the sport. And this year’s New York Yankees baseball team is an example of a roster too heavy on older, past-their prime players (who they’re now in the process of trading or coercing into retirement).

Likewise, you’re going to better able to recruit and retain future talent (of any generation) when they see you are committed to everyone’s success. Feeling included and appreciated increases loyalty and feeling of belonging.

Innovation

In a Forbes Insight study of more than 300 large global companies, 85 percent of the executives agreed or strongly agreed that diversity is crucial to fostering innovation in their workforce.

By having a mix of generations in your workplace, you are gaining from all those experiences. They – the Boomers, the Xers, the Millennials – then work collaboratively together, learning from each other. They then are able to quickly step in when the opportunity arises, leaving the organization better off from having that continuity.

And when you develop what Sherry describes as the “habit of always be learning” something else magical happens. You get this wonderful mashup of ideas and experiences that produce greater creativity, innovation, and more spontaneous breakthroughs.

We experienced this creativity during a recent brainstorming session. Everyone was introducing great ideas, based on their unique experiences. Everyone was laughing. And we could barely keep up listing all the cool, innovative projects you will be seeing Act-On roll out over the next year.

You know that moment when the coworker sitting next to you complains how old she is, and then references music that was released 20 years after you graduated college? That you also, somehow, know and love? Well, appreciate the moment and think about both your commonalities and what you can learn from each other.

eBook: The High-Performance Marketing Department
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The Busy Marketer’s Guide to Promoting Your Content in 30 Minutes or Less https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/the-busy-marketers-guide-to-promoting-your-content-in-30-minutes-or-less/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/the-busy-marketers-guide-to-promoting-your-content-in-30-minutes-or-less/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19860&preview_id=19860 It can take four hours (or much longer!) to create and optimize a great post. Why not take 30 minutes for promoting your content to ensure it gets seen?]]>

We content marketers just aren’t very good at promoting our content.

Here’s how bad it is: Half of all articles get eight shares or less. That’s according to a study by Moz and BuzzSumo.

Here’s how that BuzzSumo/Moz study describes the situation:

… the majority of content published on the internet is simply ignored when it comes to shares and links. The data suggests most content is simply not worthy of sharing or linking, and also that people are very poor at amplifying content. It may sound harsh but it seems most people are wasting their time either producing poor content or failing to amplify it.

Despite the condemnation, there is an upside to this. It’s significant, too. Because so many content marketers are terrible at promoting their content, if you and I can be even adequate at it, we’ll end up looking like rock stars.

To help you break out of the eight shares slough-of-despond, here’s a pre-planned, no-brainer plan for how to use 30 slim minutes of your time to crush that eight -share average.

So get yourself a cup of coffee. Close your office door. We’re gonna get this done in 30 minutes.

Ready? Steady? Go:

1. Share your posts on social media – more than once!

Time required: 2 minutes.

You’ll need some kind of social media scheduling tool to do this. Hootsuite works. So do dozens of other tools. Personally, I use Buffer to queue up social media posts. Usually I’ll publish once on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Those posts get published immediately – they go to the head of the queue of curated posts I share.

Give yourself an extra couple of seconds to go into Buffer (or whatever you’re using) and brush up the LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ posts so they are suited to those platforms. For example, don’t use hashtags on LinkedIn. Use Google+ formatting to mention people (“+username”), etc.

For Twitter, I’ll tweet about the post immediately (including about two hashtags). Then I’ll queue up 5-7 tweets, posting them about every other day for the first week or so, then about every 3-4 days after that.

Marketers are terrible at promoting their content. The upside is that is an opportunity for you if you do, like using a scheduling tool to promote your content several times, as this screenshot reflects.

Buffer just added the ability to post to Instagram, so I am now going to finally use Instagram in a business capacity. More on that in a moment.

Extra credit: Every week or two, go into your chosen social media tool and find out which posts performed best. Find the top 10%. Then repost them.

2. Use CoPromote.

1 minute. $49 a month for the account.

This isn’t free, but it can generate good exposure. And it’s nearly free if you’ve got a large Twitter following and you’re willing to share other people’s tweets.

CoPromote is $49 and up a month. (I nabbed it early at $20 per month for 100,000 shares.) For that you get to “boost” posts to their audience of 350,000 users. To promote your content, you tweet what you want shared then select that tweet, add a category and 3-5 tags, and then let it loose on CoPromote. Anyone who’s got a CoPromote account can reshare it to their audience.

You use up your reach credits based on how many retweets you get, and how large the followings are of the people who retweeted you. For example, if someone who had 1,000 followers and another person who had 2,500 followers shared your tweet, you’d have used up 3,500 in reach.

It gets expensive unless you share other people’s content. Honestly, a lot of what’s on the site isn’t for me, but there are a few accounts that publish very good stuff. CoPromote’s own feed is a good start. They have an app, too, so I check in now and then when I’ve got a down moment. Usually I can turn up something worth sharing.

The best I’ve done with this tool is getting a tweet to reach an additional 407,000 people. Usually it reaches at least 60,000 people, and often clears 100,000.

CoPromote also works for Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, and Vine. I really wish it worked for Facebook. There aren’t a lot of co-sharing tools for Facebook.

This image is a screenshot example of using CoPromote

3. Submit posts to Quuu.

2 minutes. $5 – $25.

Quuu is primarily a curation tool, but they’ll let you add your content to what they select for curation if it’s a) good enough and b) you pay them. Depending on your niche, you might owe them anywhere from $5 to $25 to get a piece of content (usually a blog post) into their queue. Most B2B topics will fall into the $25 category.

Despite the cost, this is a nice, fast way to give an extra boost to any piece of content. I don’t use it on every post, but once a month I’ll check BuzzSumo to see which posts have done best on the blogs I write for. Then I’ll pick my own top-performing post, and submit that to Quuu.

Typically, posts submitted to Quuu will get anywhere from double to quadruple the shares they would have otherwise gotten.

A service like this would be particularly good if you were starting a new blog with almost no audience. It’s a fairly affordable way to get in front of a lot of people.

4. Submit your new posts to StumbleUpon.

1 minute.

This takes a minute to do. Okay – a minute and three seconds. I timed it. And while I don’t think this is going to blow the doors off your promotion work, it helps a little, and it absolutely doesn’t hurt. It’s free, too.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Create a StumbleUpon account.
  2. Go to this page.
  3. Paste in the address of your new content.
  4. Check the box that it’s safe for work.
  5. Add 2-3 search interests. I tend to pick “business,” “entrepreneurship,” or “marketing”, as those are what I write about.
  6. Click “save.”

And you’re done.

This image illustrates how easy it is to promote your content using StumbleUpon

By the way… I’ve heard from several sources that StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery content promotion works well and is quite affordable. It’s on my short list of promotion tactics to try ASAP.

5. Add a few links from your old content on your site to this new page.

4 minutes.

We tend to overlook things that are right under our noses … both in marketing and in life. This is a prime example. The vast majority of people publishing content do not do this, but they should.

So do a quick search on your site to find 3-5 pages that are related to the piece of content you just published. Zip in and edit those pages, adding a quick link to your new page.

Why do this? Because (if your pages are well-optimized for SEO) the bulk of your traffic is going to your older pages. Adding links to new content from those pages delivers good page authority to your newly published work. It also guides all the people who view those old pages to come and see your new page. This particularly applies about a week after the new content has been published – when all the shiny newness and most of the promotion has fallen off.

Bonus: Do you use any of those “related content” tools or plugins that recommend related content at the bottom of a blog post? Make sure your new post gets placed on the right pages for that, too.

10 minutes of content promotion completed

If you wanted to stop here, you could. You have already done more promotion work than most of your peers will ever do. And you’ve spent a grand total of 10 minutes promoting this new piece of content. Even if you paused to chat with an office buddy in between tasks, you’ve barely burned 15 minutes.

But just for the sake of thoroughness, let’s find a few more things to do. We’ll start counting at the 15-minute mark.

6. Submit your post to at least two LinkedIn Groups, industry forums/article-sharing sites, subReddits or Facebook Groups.

7.5 minutes.

Lots to choose from for this one, but it’s best to pick a friendly audience that will actually be interested in your content. Maybe that’s a particular LinkedIn Group, a subReddit, or a Facebook Group. It depends on your industry, your niche, and what you’re sharing.

Just find at least two that are a really good fit. The closer the fit, the better your results will be. Then submit your link according to the formatting best practices and the etiquette rules of those groups.

If you publish a lot of content (like every day) it’s a good idea to have several sites like this, so you can rotate where you promote and give each group content that’s laser-targeted for them. Being able to rotate also means you won’t wear out your welcome – too much posting in one place can irritate people.

Try to spend a little time contributing, too (not just posting your content).

One last thought: Instead of just plopping a link in, try to write a good summary. If you’re promoting a list post, a fast way to do that is to just include the items on the list. This gives people a nice, scannable post that doesn’t require much time to read.

This image depicts including a summary with your links when promoting content in LinkedIn Groups.

7. Republish the post on Medium, LinkedIn, or Business to Community or any other republishing site.

7.5 minutes.

Again, lots to choose from. Pick at least one re-publishing site that’s well suited to your content and your audience. B2Bers will do well with LinkedIn or Business to Community. Creatives and big thinkers may do better on Medium.

Do this about a day or so after you’ve published the content on your site. Also use a “rel=canonical” tag where possible to make sure Google (and Bing) understand where the original content was published. You want your site to get credit for this content, not the site you re-publish it to.

This is an example of Act-On republishing their blogs on Business2Community.com.
Republishing your content can result in double and sometimes triple the shares.

Conclusion

There you are: 30 minutes of content promotion, complete with four extra minutes of downtime for chatting or a quick coffee refill.

I realize that the first time you do this, it’s going to take longer than 30 minutes. Finding a short-list of ideal sites for items six and seven on this list could easily fill an hour, plus you’ve got to master posting on any sites you’re new to. But by the third or fourth time you’ve done this promotion routine, you’ll be zooming through the work.

Maybe you’ll even be able to listen to a podcast while you do it, you crazy-productive marketer, you.

Over to you:

Got a content promotion tactic that takes five minutes or less that I haven’t mentioned here? Please share it in the comments! And if you liked this post, please share it, too.

10 Tips for Creating Engaging Social Content

You just posted your latest piece of content and shared across your social networks. You even got a few “likes” and “tweets.” But you want more. Download Act-On’s free eBook, 10 Tips for Creating Engaging Social Content, and learn how to create content that people engage with in a meaningful way.

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Should Social Marketing Still Get Your Vote? https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/should-social-marketing-still-get-your-vote/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/should-social-marketing-still-get-your-vote/#respond Mon, 15 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19996&preview_id=19996 If you can’t link your social marketing to your business goals then No, you shouldn’t focus your resources on social.]]>

My point of view to this important question is an emphatic “NO*.” But please, indulge me for a couple of minutes as I explain that little asterisk I put next to my answer.

First, let me start by saying that I get social. I was in a variety of product and marketing leadership roles from 2007-2016 for a leading company in the “social business” space, Jive Software. I was helping marketers adapt when the fundamental shift in consumer habits occurred – i.e., when the percentage of Americans who turned to social to get their news (vs. traditional news outlets) doubled between 2010 and 2012 (Pew Research Center). I read analyst reports, such as Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey 2015–16, which showed that 65% of CMOs rank social marketing as a top-five area of technology investment. Also, I understand and am very familiar the many GREAT social listening, publishing and engagement tools on the market today.

At this point, you might be scratching your head a bit; my “No” point of view coupled with my “Yes” context seems rather opposing.

However, these two views are in fact not oppositional.

Here’s why: As simply as I can state it, I believe the majority of CMOs are wasting time, money, and effort focusing on ROI metrics like retweets, shares, followers, and likes for their social marketing efforts.

Marketing’s top concern should be creating sustainable growth. There’s no doubt a critical aspect of driving sustainable growth is building brand awareness, and social engagement and marketing efforts can indeed help here.

This is a picture of someone holding a smartphone with the Twitter homepage. Marketers should invest in social marketing only if they’re able to tie those efforts to growth metrics. This article has three tips to do so.

However, generating real demand (qualified leads and opportunities for sales), along with expanding customer lifetime value is ultimately the bottom line that marketing and CMOs get graded on. This intersection – or lack thereof – between social campaigns and metrics with key marketing goals around growth is, in my mind, where the crux of the problem lies and is why social marketing doesn’t get my blind faith and vote in today’s world.

I believe Michelle Moorehead, Forrester’s Research VP serving CMOs, had it right in her blog post at the end of 2015 when she highlighted that “2016 marks the year that the CMO will take control of the customer experience — or risk facing significant coordination challenges (and potential headaches) with some other fledgling executive who sees the opportunity to own it.” She also discussed how customer expectations around personalization will continue to grow.

There’s no doubt both of these points are spot on and they also both go perfectly together. While marketers need to take control of the customer experience with engagement that is laser-focused on areas that customers are most interested in, in order to increase conversion rates and ultimately customers, the marketer must fulfill the customers’ expectation of more personalized communications. Here’s the failure point though – all of that investment in social is not driving more personalized engagement, it’s not providing the nurturing that buyers want and that would increase conversion rates.

In 2009–2013 throwing money into social with a soft (or no) ROI was acceptable. Those were the rose-colored-glasses days where almost any money spent on social just felt right and wasn’t questioned much. Marketing budgets got bigger and the average CMO tenure was getting longer every year. However, by the end of 2013, CEOs started asking the hard questions around the ROI of social marketing. It didn’t surprise me, then, to see that the average tenure for CMOs dropped in 2015 for the first time in a decade (as reported in the Wall Street Journal back in March 2016). I believe part of these CMO changes had to do with too many marketers continuing to invest in social marketing without connecting those efforts to marketing’s key goals.

So there seems like a big, yet very solvable, challenge here for marketers. And the answer to this dilemma is how my asterisk would get removed and my answer changed from an emphatic “NO” to an emphatic “YES.”

3 steps to connect social marketing to growth metrics

To restate the challenge: marketers need to better connect their social campaigns and customer activities to core growth metrics. I’ll offer a three-step approach to solving this challenge:

1. Connect social efforts to further personalized outreach and nurturing

First and foremost, no matter what social media tool you’re using today – if it’s disconnected from your marketing automation system, you are blocked from leveraging social interactions as part of your scoring, segmentation and, ultimately, your nurturing tactics.

I understand not everyone has a marketing automation system today, but I use that as an example of whatever system is in use to further nurture prospective and existing customers. Social marketing efforts mean so much more if they are truly connected and driving follow up engagement and nurture efforts further on in the buying cycle.

2. Focus on attribution analytics that tell the whole story

Once you’ve got the social side connected to the marketing automation engine that’s driving your nurturing efforts and keeping score, you can now focus on reports coming from one place that properly attribute leads and opportunities to not only a webcast or email campaign, but also click-throughs from a tweet or a post on LinkedIn. Then you can measure social marketing efforts on par with all of your other campaigns.

3. Make it simple for your brand ambassadors to help you share

CMOs need to be of the mindset that ambassadors are everywhere – whether inside the organization, such as sales team members; or outside the organization, such as your best customers and your channel or technology partners. Tapping into these ambassadors while keeping everything connected will only help further amplify brand awareness efforts, as well as drive more leads and opportunities (that will finally get attributed correctly, per #2 above).

Getting to Yes

If a marketer can do all of the above, then social marketing most definitely should get the “YES” vote. I know I would change my vote to “YES,” as it would mean social marketing is leading to more of what customers want – more personalized engagement from companies around the products and services that they have an interest in further exploring.

eBook: 5 Ways to Integrate Social Media Across Marketing Channels
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How to Hire the Perfect Person to Run Your SEO https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/how-to-hire-the-perfect-person-to-run-your-seo/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/how-to-hire-the-perfect-person-to-run-your-seo/#respond Fri, 12 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19977&preview_id=19977 If you want to rank well (who doesn’t?), you need search engine optimization. It’s a specialized skill set – read the guidelines to hiring for SEO talent. ]]>

Having good content goes a long way to being found on the web, but you can sweeten the odds with well-executed search engine optimization (SEO). And to make that happen, you need to find and hire the right SEO talent.

Over the last decade, marketing departments across the world have had to adapt to the changing landscape of online marketing. As the importance of online marketing channels continues to grow, so does the pressure to have the most optimal online presence. When a searcher asks a question, and your content is the best answer, you dearly want search engines to recognize your content as the best fit.

The hiring tips and resources in this post are a great start to discovering the right SEO expert for your company. Remember: “Great vision without great people is irrelevant” – Jim Collins, Good to Great.

Crafting Your Ad & Attracting SEO Talent

The first step to any great hire is figuring out what your goal is, and the talent it will take to achieve the goal. Will this person be expected to take you to the top spot on page 1? How competitive is your market?

Now write out the best job description you can for the role.

  • Determine the right job title. There are many options, from Director of SEO to SEO Specialist. Depending on the level of experience you’re looking for, determine the best job title. It should reflect the nature of the duties, be pretty much self-explanatory, rank correctly with other jobs, and not exaggerate the importance of the role.
  • List the duties of the role. Make this detailed enough to illustrate the role, but as concise as possible. If you’re a smaller company it’s likely your list of duties will be quite long; that’s fine! A good rule of thumb is to stick to 15 or fewer.
  • List skills and competencies required. The right candidate should be able to illustrate their ability to meet your requirements in skills and competencies.

Job Description

Not a wordsmith? Gather expert advice to help you craft the right job description. This will help refine the skills, duties and competencies you’re looking for, too. Here’s help in writing a job description specifically for SEO:

What kind of salary do we pay an SEO?

Figure out the range of salaries you’re willing to pay and it will help you to understand the level of experience you can expect as well. The titles generally go in this order:

  • SEO specialist
  • SEPO analyst/strategist
  • SEO coordinator/associate
  • SEO account manager
  • SEO marketing manager
  • Director of marketing

The national average salary for a search engine specialist ranges from $40,000 to as high as $67,000, depending on how much experience the person has and which city you’re in. Many resources are available to help you understand the right salary ranges. Salary.com, Payscale.com and Glassdoor.com are the top resources many hiring professionals use today. An infographic from Conductor shares that the average salary can range from $52,613 to as high as six figures for more advanced roles in this field.

Salary Rand for a Search Engine Specialist

Job Postings & Networking

Post open positions on your website and promote them via social media so you can draw in traffic from users searching online. Use job posting sites to help get the word out as well. Each has their pros and cons, largely of which is centered around cost and reach.

LinkedIn ads have served me well for several years. I often find great candidates and, best of all, I am able to quickly and easily see if we have contacts in common and if they are recommended by others.

Facebook Groups and LinkedIn Groups in your local area for marketing professionals are ripe with job postings. Here in Phoenix, I’m part of a group called B.A.M. (Branding, Advertising & Marketing). Over 1,400 members are active within the group and they are happy to help. From hiring to resource planning, groups like these are great to source help from. Do some research and find one near you. Some of the best candidates may come from an employee referral or other source, so it’s important to look beyond just job posting sites, too.

Last, but certainly not least, is getting out there and hitting the pavement. Attend a local marketing event and ask your table if they know any SEOs looking for a job. Head out to a chapter meeting for your local non-profit marketing association and ask for referrals that way. Send your staff reminders of the open position and ask them to share on social media, or mention at networking events, too. This approach will leave no stone unturned.

Narrowing Down Candidates: Resume & Cover Letter Review

If you’re lucky, you’ll receive a flood of resumes and cover letters to your inbox. Where does one even start?

It starts with looking at each resume and pinpointing, quickly, those that just aren’t a good fit. They may not have the experience you’re looking for, or the right education, or they may have a resume ripe with grammatical errors and other indications of lacking attention to detail. Weed these out first. Don’t waste valuable time feeling bad or trying to convince yourself a candidate might fit anyway.

Next, email candidates a series of questions (5-6 works best for me). Ask them to write responses and send them back to you before continuing on in the interview process. That way you’ll see their writing skills, their ability to follow directions, and how quickly they respond with their information. These are all ways to filter out the good candidates, the ones worthy of a phone or in-person interview.

Some additional things to consider as you sift through resumes and cover letters:

Experience

SEO hasn’t been around for decades, therefore you’re not likely to find candidates with a long tenure in the field (although they do exist!). Candidates with less than 2 or 3 years of experience can be worthwhile candidates, depending on what you’re looking for.

Many SEOs who have been in the industry for 3-5 years or longer have seen the worst of the worst when it comes to penalties, spam, and the surge of content marketing. Having been in the industry during this time, I can tell you that it allowed SEOs to get good hands-on experience pulling clients out of penalty, future-proofing strategies, and mitigating risks. Can someone with less experience do these things? Certainly! It’s simply something to consider when vetting experience in resumes in relation to your needs.

Ask for a portfolio. Get examples of their work or prior PowerPoint decks they have developed to get insight into their experience. Don’t be shy about asking someone for these things or setting up tests to test them on their knowledge yourself first-hand.

Education

SEO hasn’t been around long enough for major universities to offer degrees in it. Having a marketing-focused or other college degree is not a prerequisite for a great SEO expert, but might be useful. In particular, look for candidates who have degrees with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) influence. These degrees focus on skills an SEO will need.

That said, there are many successful SEOs who have had amazing careers without a college degree. I highly recommend looking at candidates with and without degrees, because you may uncover talent that exceeds what a resume can show. True hands-on experience and excellent on-the-ground results are hard to beat.

Keywords

Words sprinkled throughout resumes can be a great indicator of a person’s keyword sensibility and fit for your SEO needs. Someone who understands the depth and breadth of online marketing can be an added benefit. Look for experience with content marketing, web development, social media, pay-per-click, email marketing, marketing automation or information technology and related roles within their resume – in addition to experience with SEO, of course.

References

Candid, unbiased feedback is useful to determine if someone is the right fit or worth the time to interview. References on a resume or LinkedIn recommendations are a good place to look. The best feedback, however, comes from a personal contact you have at the company they used to work at, or work at currently. Many states regulate what an employer can and can’t say about a former employee; make sure you’re aware of the laws in your state to understand what employers can and can’t share.

Social Media & Google Search

Social media and a Google search for an individual can provide an unfiltered view of a prospective employee. Should those pictures from Spring Break 2007 affect your decision to hire someone in 2016? Or how about that negative review they wrote about their old company? Depends on your company, your culture and your gut. Other things to look at may include indications of how much attention they pay to details, their professionalism, or even their ability to handle stress. Caveat: do read what Monster has to say about using social to research a potential employee. While you can learn that a potential hire loves all things marketing, you might also learn about that person’s “protected characteristics.” It’s not difficult; just be aware of what’s legal (just as you need to be aware of what you can and cannot ask in an interview).

Red Flags

Even the savviest hiring managers may miss common red flags to avoid when hiring. These red flags include:

  • Someone promising they can get you to #1 in the search engine results, guaranteed. There are no guarantees in SEO. Avoid these candidates.
  • They practice only search engine directory submission services. These are outdated tactics. SEO morphs constantly, your good candidates will be current.
  • Their secrets are proprietary and they cannot share details of what they do as an SEO. This lack of transparency isn’t likely to be what you want in a candidate.
  • They claim a special relationship with Google. Sure, many in the industry have networked with the likes of Matt Cutts, but an in-line to Google? Not very likely.
  • They suggest buying links or link three-way trades as a strategy to improve rankings. This is an outdated that can result in penalization if Google notices.
  • They suggest putting a directory on your website for reciprocal linking opportunities. This is a spam practice and should be avoided at all costs. (As should be anyone who suggests this tactic.)
To get your business found on the web, you’ll need a well-executed SEO strategy. And to make that happen, you need to find and hire the right SEO talent.

Formal Interview: Phone, In Person & Video Conferencing

Once you’ve narrowed down your candidates and are starting the interview process it’s time to think about the types of questions you’ll ask prospective candidates. These questions should include an examination of the candidate’s skillsets, experiences and indications of culture fit. We’ve compiled a few resources to help.

Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills of SEO

Hard skills usually take analytical intelligence, or IQ/left-brain activities. Often, hard skills don’t change company to company or based on circumstance. Soft skills usually require emotional intelligence, or EQ/right-brain activities, and the rules can sometimes change depending on the company or the culture.

A mixture of both is ideal for many positions, and this is especially true in SEO. Try developing your questions around the types of hard and soft skills you require for the role.

Ask questions around these skill sets:

  • Offsite SEO – executing link building campaigns, blogger and influencer outreach, social media, backlink analysis, create disavow files, inbound link strategy development and Penguin penalty analysis.
  • Onsite SEO – conduct keyword research and mapping, collaborating with PPC regarding keyword strategies, examine website architecture, search accessibility, meta data strategies, keyword mapping, canonicalization strategies, duplicate content checks, algorithm changes and ranking analysis.
  • Local SEO – citation claiming and building, structured and unstructured citations, name/address/phone clean up, submitting to local directories and review generation strategies.
  • Technical SEO – redirect management for URLs, rich snippets and Schema, page load speed, server optimizations, mobility, and website crawl and analysis.
  • Internet Marketing Generalist – analytics and reporting, content marketing, social media marketing, and methods for driving traffic.

Complementary, nice to have skills

  • Web Development – someone with experience in web development environments could help implement SEO recommendations and lessen the barrier between recommending and implementing.
  • Pay-Per-Click – running a PPC campaign aids in an SEO’s understanding of how to perform keyword research, observe search patterns, understand search user intent extensively and focus on ROI activities.
  • Marketing Automation Certification – knowledgeable about implementing code and set up onsite for a proper marketing automation campaign.
  • Excel mastery – so much of SEO involves downloading reports, looking at lines of code and sorting, resorting and sorting some more. Excel experts who understand advanced pivot tables, concatenation, VBA, macros and statistical analysis could be beneficial in an SEO role.
  • User experience and user interface affect how long a user stays on your site, how engaged they are, and which links they click. All these factors are important for SEO today. A UX/UI expert could provide additional skills to help improve your audience’s onsite performance.
  • Experience with servers and server analysis – understanding what server code errors are, how to fix them, how to improve server speed and troubleshooting caching issues are an incredibly technical skillset and very valuable in this field.
  • Conversion Rate Optimization – CRO strategy and experience implementing tests can come in handy. Having one person handle the optimization of your site, including CRO, might mean you could consolidate two positions.
  • Google Analytics Certified – forensic SEO often requires a baseline level knowledge of Google Analytics, but a deeper understanding can help uncover more opportunities for SEO improvement.

Interview Questions

Need some help coming up with actual questions to ask? Here are 15 to help you get started, and links to a few sites with more. Note that if you decide to hire an agency rather than add an employee, all these questions will serve your goals for those interviews also.

  • Explain your methodology for increasing rankings for a website.
  • What clients have you worked with in the past?
  • Have you worked on a site that has been penalized?
  • What is your process for remedying a penalization?
  • Explain the value of SEO like you would to someone unfamiliar with what SEO is.
  • Do you handle development and code implementation?
  • What is your specialty in SEO?
  • How strictly do you adhere to search engines’ Webmaster guidelines?
  • What are the differences between strategies for Local SEO and a national SEO strategy?
  • How do you measure the success of your SEO work?
  • What tools do you use and how do you stay on top of new tools?
  • List the ways in which you set client expectations about SEO efforts.
  • What common SEO spam tactics are you familiar with, and when is the last time you implemented a spam tactic, if ever?
  • Tell us what you know about LSI.
  • How do you conduct competitive analysis for SEO?
  • Tell us about the biggest SEO project you’ve ever worked on and what your contributions were to the project.
  • How do you scale SEO activities?

Interview Question Resources

Summary

Hiring the right person to handle search engine optimization or oversee your SEO team is an important decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. If you are ready to hire an SEO take these tips into consideration to hire the best fit for the role. Good luck in finding your next hire!

Have an expert hiring tip or favorite interview question? Share with us in the comments below.

eBook: The High-Performance Marketing Department
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8 Genius Ways to Repurpose Content https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/8-genius-ways-to-repurpose-conten/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/8-genius-ways-to-repurpose-conten/#respond Thu, 11 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19853&preview_id=19853 It takes so much time and effort to create great content that you can’t afford to use it just once. Discover 8 ways to leverage, scale, and repurpose content.]]>

B2B marketers are ramping up their content production, reporting a 51 percent budget increase for this year alone in a Content Marketing Institute study. But even with this increased spending, only 30 percent say their efforts are effective. They must reach their audience with greater efficiency (and results), but where should they start?

Michael Brenner, CEO of the Marketing Insider Group, said, “Content marketing represents the gap between what brands produce and what consumers actually want.”

Everybody responds differently to content formats. Some people are visual learners and respond positively to infographics, while auditory learners may prefer a podcast. By repurposing content, you meet audiences in the formats they prefer while extending your overall reach.

Need help getting started?

8 different ways to repurpose content right now

1. Turn Webinars into Video Tutorials

Creating successful webinars is time-consuming. You must choose the right topic, create the content, and promote the webinar to capture maximum interest and attention. After an event is over, many brands move on to parking it as an on-demand webinar, and (maybe, maybe not) promoting it. But you don’t have to stop there. With some webinars, especially new feature introductions and how-tos, you can continue getting a return on your investment by repurposing webinar content into video tutorials. Here are a few tips for getting started.

  • Keep video tutorials short. Research shows that the optimal length is about 45 to 90 seconds. Keep your content short and straight to the point.
  • Create a series. You may have enough content for multiple video clips. If so, create a series and entice viewers to subscribe to build ongoing engagement. For example, Derek Halpern of Social Triggers created “Free Video Series: How to Sell Anything (Without Being Salesy),” where he nurtured and engaged the audience over an extended period of time.
This picture is a screen capture from a video that was inspired by a webinar. As it suggests, each piece of content can be repurposed once or several times over. Here are 8 different ways to repurpose your content today.
  • Promote your tutorials like crazy. If you have an email subscriber list, send out an email blast promoting the videos to the appropriate target market, maybe even your customers. Also, take advantage of the capabilities of online social networking sites — Twitter, Facebook, and others. Write a blog post about the upcoming series and publish it on your website.
  • Turn your webinar into a SlideShare. You’ve already got the deck; why not? You may need to cut some slides and add text so the deck can stand alone. Speaking of SlideShare:

2. Transform SlideShares to Infographics

SlideShare is a powerful tool for marketers, capturing the attention of 70 million unique visitors each month. In fact, it’s one of the 100 most-visited websites in the world. So it’s no surprise that marketers are using this tool to expand their reach. But once you’ve created a really amazing SlideShare, you can extract key points and stats to generate an infographic. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep it simple. Your SlideShare may be packed with really amazing data, but stay focused on a single theme. For example, PC Magazine published “The Current State of Backup” where it focused solely on the best and worst practices of Mac users.
This is a screenshot of PC Magazine's infographic "The Current State of Backup"
  • Embed your infographic in a blog post. This gives you double the power and reach. You can promote the blog post and infographic separately to increase visibility.
  • Extend further than data. Most people think infographics only contain data points. But, in fact, 53 percent of the most-shared infographics do not actually contain data visualization. Check out this “How to Guide” of men’s dress codes, which is built on tips, rather than on data:
This infographic is an example of how you can repurpose your content further than data.
  • You can also reverse this type of repurposing. For example, start with an infographic and build it into a SlideShare. The important thing is that you’re getting the most mileage out of your content.

3. Turn Podcasts into Blog Posts

Podcasts are a great resource for content repurposing. They’re packed with information you can leverage into a variety of formats, such as blog posts. For example, Convince and Convert does this frequently. Recently they wrote, “How to Get Ahead of This Year’s Social Media Trends.” At the top of the podcast, they say, “Listen to this blog post as a podcast,” with a link to play the audio.

Convince and Convert frequently repurposes podcasts into blog posts.

This is great, because only 30 percent of the population are auditory learners. Those with other learning styles prefer to read or visually see information to process it. Here are a few tips for transforming your podcasts to blog posts:

  • Get transcripts. Get your podcasts transcribed, then quickly edit the transcript into blog post format. You’ll save a ton of time (not re-listening to the audio) and have a quick, ready-made blog post.
  • Select pullout quotes. Did the person you interviewed say something really great? If so, call that out in the blog post and add the “Click to Tweet” link to promote social sharing.
  • Maximize reach. Once you publish the blog post, share it with everyone who was interviewed or included in the podcast episode. If they have a large audience, this will greatly expand your reach.

4. Convert Blog Posts to eBooks

B2B marketers that use blogs receive 67 percent more leads than those that don’t blog. But once you create, share and maximize your efforts from each post, you want that content to keep on producing. Joel Fridlander details how he turned his blog archive into an ebook in this CopyBlogger post.

He sorted through his website archive, selected popular posts, wrote an introduction and conclusion, updated the content and published “A Self-Publisher’s Companion.” Here are a few tips for getting started:

  • Find the hidden gems. Which blog posts performed best? Look for themes or similar topics that you can string together into different chapters.
  • Update the content. Once you pull together the content, does any of it need to be updated? Maybe stats need updating or certain sections need more content. Polish any areas that need additional attention.
  • Request quotes from influencers. Quotes bring the eBook to life and keep readers engaged. Plus, they’re a great tool for promotion. For example, let’s say your eBook is about a specific pain point of your target audience. Reach out to influencers and ask for their insights on the topic. Sometimes you can get a quote in a quick conversation, or someone will answer a question through email. After you publish the book, share it with everybody who provided quotes (they will likely promote it).

4 More Types of Content to Repurpose

Keep in mind that you want to maximize each hour you spend on content marketing efforts. Here are a few more useful ways to repurpose for greater reach.

  • Convert Q&As to blog posts. Do your customers commonly ask the same questions or express the same pain points? If so, you’ve likely written a Q&A for your website. Transform this information into a series of blog posts taking a deeper dive into each challenge.
  • Connect white papers to blog posts. After creating a white paper, pull the content into a blog series and create a call to action promoting the white paper. If the white paper is gated (prospects must provide their email to access), you can use it for lead generation.
  • Follow up events with eBooks. Does your company have an important event coming up? If so, capture the insights of attendees and then turn it into an eBook.
  • Transfer case studies to videos. Are you planning on creating case studies this year? If so, expand your reach by creating short videos based on the content, and including interviews with your customer, to bring the story to life and make it a livelier testimonial.

Moving Forward with Greater Impact

With each piece of content that you create, it’s important to ask, “How else can we use this?” You might also consider how to tweak each piece for different personas. As a result, you’ll stop thinking about content as a one-time investment, and instead like an annuity that continues to pay off over time.

Massive amounts of time are saved during the planning stage as you begin to reach different audiences in many different formats, without “redoing” the work you did upfront. But best of all, you’ll learn what types of content your audience prefers through testing different formats to create more meaningful and authentic engagement.

Do you currently repurpose content? What works best for your audience? Please share your experiences.

4 Steps to Content Plan
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The Devil’s in the Details: Best Practices For Email From Names and Addresses https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/the-devils-in-the-details-best-practices-for-email-from-names-and-addresses/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/the-devils-in-the-details-best-practices-for-email-from-names-and-addresses/#respond Wed, 10 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19959&preview_id=19959 Email success is dependent on many small-but-meaningful decisions. Your email From names and addresses are two that count for more than you might think.]]>

When you send bulk marketing email, your email From name (the display name, also known as the email Sender name) tells your recipients who sent them the message. It is just as important as your subject line and can be the determining factor as to whether your email is opened, or ignored.

Here’s how an email from Content Marketing Institute displays in an Outlook client.

CMI_email from address

The From address, on the other hand, is usually not displayed in most email clients before a message is opened.

Some careful people, however, after opening an email, will take an extra step to verify the legitimacy of the From address. In Outlook, you’d click on the sender’s name to open a dialog box that shows the email sending address:

CMI contact record

Organizations seeking to make email a safer communication tool have created and implemented popular authentication systems such as DKIM and DMARC, which make it much harder nowadays to spoof email or forge sender addresses.

Your goal is to build trust as a branded email sender, which will encourage the recipients to open your email and engage with the content. However, building trust takes time and, most importantly, relevancy and consistency.

Every single message you send is a touchpoint that leaves an impression on your customers and marks how they perceive your brand.

Dos and Don’ts of Sender Names

In most situations, you want to use a brand name your recipients can instantly recognize as yours. It’s normally a bad idea to use a person’s name, unless that person is your brand, or there is a direct relationship between the person and recipients. If your recipient gets an email from a name they don’t recognize, they have absolutely no reason to open that email, unless the subject line is extremely compelling.

If you absolutely think using a person’s name will be your best bet, consider following it with a comma and the company the person is from, or use some other convention to get the company name in there. Here’s how Contently does it:

contently

You may also want to weigh your From name options based on the types of content you send. For example, if a personalized From name is always paired with generic, non-personalized or even transactional content, that one-to-one relationship with your contacts could slowly fade over time.

Always be cautious when you tamper with the From name. If your goal is to make your email feel more personal, start with content – this strategy can never go wrong.

Here are a few more things to consider when choosing a From name:

  • Keep the name as short as possible while making sure it correctly reflects your brand.
  • Use slightly different names to differentiate among subscription categories or types of communication. Here’s how the New York Times differentiates breaking news:
This is an example of how NY Times differentiates their breaking news from regular email communications.

The “Southwest Click’n’Save” sender name is how Southwest Airlines makes an offer:

This image shows how Southwest includes Click'n'save in their from name to differentiate from emails regarding flight information.

And it’s always a good idea to have a separate sending name for Support or Account Services.

This image is an example of using a separate sending name for support or account services.
  • Split test From names if you’re unsure which name will give you the best results.
  • Stick to the names you’ve chosen to establish and maintain brand consistency.
  • Don’t use an email address as your name; that’s a sign of poor branding, and can look like spam.

With most people getting a deluge of email on a daily basis, email attention spans are shrinking and it is said that the average attention span of humans is down to 8 seconds. This has made the From name more important than ever.

The next time you are about to check your inbox for new messages, think about and pay attention to what might be the more important factor in whether you decide to open or delete a message – is it the subject line or the From name?

Dos and Don’ts of From Addresses

Now that your recipients have opened your message, you should reassure them with a credible From address so they know who the From name actually represents.

A common mistake marketers make is using a no-reply address, which is known to decrease response rates and overall deliverability as it suggests the relationship only goes one way. Or it looks like spam, as this one does:

Using a no-reply email address is a common mistake marketers make.

“No reply” also deters recipients from wanting to add your address to their safe sender list or address book for the reason that it seems to be an invalid or unmonitored mailbox. Worse, if the mailbox is indeed invalid, you are losing out on all the valuable information you can find in out-of-office replies to help you clean up your lists.

Another bad mistake some marketers make when sending from an email service provider (ESP) is using a free B2C webmail address such as @gmail.com or @yahoo.com.

Most of the major Internet service providers these days have DMARC policies in place, which enable them to tell all DMARC-compliant receiving servers to quarantine or reject a message that’s sent as their email address through a third party server (e.g. an ESP). As a result, using a free B2C From address will most likely result in irregularly high bounces.

To further perfect your From address for your marketing email:

  • Make sure your From address matches your From name.
  • Use your main website domain or its subdomain (preferred). If it must be a separate domain, make sure the choice of wording matches the brand to maintain continuity.
  • Create different, descriptive From addresses that identify who you are and what you are sending (e.g. newsletter@companyname.com, coupons@companyname.com).

As unimportant as the From name and From address may seem, they are small, but critical, building blocks for successful marketing and branding. Choosing them wisely, then staying relevant and consistent will pay off by getting more of your emails opened by the right people, and helping to protect your deliverability rates.

eBook: Best Practices in Email Deliverability
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A 20-Point Checklist for the Perfect Email Newsletter https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/a-20-point-checklist-for-the-perfect-email-newsletter/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/a-20-point-checklist-for-the-perfect-email-newsletter/#respond Tue, 09 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19673&preview_id=19673 Following a checklist helps bullet-proof any project. Here’s a 20-point checklist to help you ensure your newsletter meets your own standards.]]>

Airplane pilots use checklists to make sure nothing goes wrong during takeoff. You can use a preflight checklist of your own, too – an email marketer’s version. That way you’ll have no reason to stress during that spooky preflight moment we all dread. You know the one: when your finger lingers over the send button, just before you deploy your email newsletter to the thousands of prospects on your list, and you wonder if you’re about to make a gigantic mistake … or send out a terrific email.

1. You’ve shown the email to someone else.

Sometimes we can’t see our own mistakes. Especially after we’ve been poring over an email message for hours. So get a pair of fresh eyes on the job. It only takes a few minutes to send an email over to a coworker to have them look at the content, structure, and copy. And it’ll reduce your chances for major embarrassment – by a lot.

2. You sent a test message to yourself (and perhaps a small test group on different devices), and you’ve viewed the message both on your computer and on your phone.

Anybody – even the pros at Return Path – can make a mistake with an email message. The best way to avoid embarrassments (or at least to minimize them) is to send yourself and a few other people a test email before you deploy to your entire list.

This picture is of a corrected email that was sent to subscribers. It shows the importance of using a checklist for your email newsletter before sending.

The test email is pretty important. There’s a couple of things it will tell you, among them:

3. You’ll know your email will look all right if people have their images turned off.

A lot of people have their email clients set to not show images; other clients (such as Outlook) turn images off by default. So be ready for them – when you send that test email to yourself, turn the images off in your email client, then scrutinize what’s left of your email.

Is the call to action still visible and clickable? Does the email still work without that big header image you loved so much? Does the ALT text of the image look good? Does it convey useful information? (The ALT text is part of the code that creates images.) If you want to get fancy, it’s possible to format the alt-image text in emails.

This is an example of turning the images off in your email so you can view the ALT text
This is a screenshot of a Content Marketing Institute newsletter with images turned off. Note that the headline and subheads are perfectly clear, and the calls to action are still obvious.

4. You’ve proofed and edited the copy in your newsletter.

Email newsletters tend to have more copy than other types of email messages, but that’s no reason to make them any longer than they have to be. So if you’ve got the time, try to trim down the copy you use in your newsletter.  You don’t have to butcher it down to meaninglessness, but do condense it where you can.

If you have an in-house editor, great. If not, it’s really important to run your copy through an editing tool like Grammarly. It’ll catch many (but not all) typos or usage errors you might have otherwise missed. This is a good tool to use even if you do have an editor, just as an extra measure of caution. Particularly, if you’re marketing to highly literate people, you can’t overdo this step.

5. You’ve clicked every link in your newsletter.

What’s the #1 mistake for email newsletters? Aside from high-level strategy missteps, it’s got to be broken links. I see “Oops – sorry for the broken link” emails at least once a week. Sometimes, I think they’re actually a marketing ploy to get us to read an email twice.

The solution is simple. Take that test email you sent yourself, and click all the major links in the email. Have your last-minute email reviewers (or someone else) do it, too. Emails with broken links are annoying, but they’re also sad – all that work trying to get people to click, lost. To have the link be broken at that oh-so-critical moment just stings.

This image depicts an email that was sent out because of a previously broken link.

6. The total size of your message is less than 50kb.

Small enough that you won’t have any deliverability problems due to size, but big enough that the images in the email can be of good quality.

There’s a corollary to this:

7. You’ve compressed any images you’re using.

Most of the time, oversized emails are caused by oversized images. So if you’ve got any big images, make sure they’re optimized for the web. You can do this in any image editing program, or with free online tools like CompressNow.

8. You’re sending your email newsletter to people who have asked for it.

We know you’d never overtly spam people, but there is some etiquette to mailing people that goes way beyond just blasting emails to strangers. Really, it comes down to permission – express permission to send your newsletters.

Here are a few examples of situations where you have a connection to someone, but it’s still not quite okay to send them your newsletter:

  • You met them at a conference and got their business card.
  • You’re connected to them on LinkedIn.
  • They signed up for a webinar you gave (but you didn’t expressly ask them if they wanted to get your newsletters, or let them know they would be added to that list).
  • They downloaded a whitepaper from your site (but you didn’t expressly tell them or ask them if they wanted to get your newsletters).

9. You’ve included your company’s name and address in the footer area, so you’ve got that part of CANSPAM requirements covered.

This is an example of a company's name and email address included in the footer of an email.
By law, your company’s physical address needs to be on every email message.

10. There’s an easy way to unsubscribe from the email.

You aren’t requiring people to log in anywhere to unsubscribe. You haven’t hidden the link in any way. And you aren’t going to make them wait a few days for the unsubscribe request to be processed. They can opt-out of your emails with just a click or two.

11. You’ve included information that’s genuinely useful for your readers.

Sure, you can send out company announcements now and then. But the more you talk about yourself, the less interested your subscribers will be. It’s tough to hear, but true.

People want to get emails that will help them. Help them be better, live better, do better. And we’ve all got very limited time, plus a thousand distractions. Your newsletter has some serious competition. So make it good. Strive to create a truly must-read newsletter for your audience.

12. The type size you’re using for the email is large enough.

Generally, that means it’s at least 14-point type, and many sources recommend at least 16-point type.

This image shows examples of correct and incorrect of font copy sizes in email.
The email on the left has some painfully small body copy. Compare it to the body copy of the email on the right.

13. Your newsletter uses a simple, “mobile-friendly” layout.

Mobile friendly” means the email newsletter can adjust itself automatically to different screen sizes. If you want to kick things up a notch and use a fully “responsive” design, your email will have embedded layout instructions for any device – you’ll be able to specify cool tricks like including navigation only for desktop readers, and even being able to strip your email down to a text version for Apple Watch owners.

14. You’ve spent at least 20 minutes choosing the subject line.

You wrote out 10-15 variations on it, then ran them through one of the email subject line tools, like Touchstone or SubjectLine.com. Here are a few other tips for testing your subject line.

This is an example of the Choose Your Subject Line tool from Touchstone

15. You’ve included pre-header text.

Think of this as the subheader for your email newsletter. Depending on which email client your newsletter is viewed on, a reader will see more or less of the pre-header, or may not see it at all. You’ve carefully written it with the most important part in front, then added on a short sentence or a phrase at the end.

The screenshots below show the same two emails as they displayed in Gmail (top) and in Outlook.

This image shows how preheader is visible in gmail.
This image shows how preheader text appears in outlook.

16. You’ve included a call to action.

Email newsletters are meant to educate and entertain readers – not to do the hard sell. But that doesn’t mean they can’t ask people to take an additional step. Maybe all you want people to do is to click through and read the rest of an article. That’s fine – but do create a nice button for people to click through and do that.

Of course, you’ll also need to follow call-to-action best practices:

  • That button needs to be CSS-based, not an image. If people have images turned off in their email client, you don’t want a broken button.
  • The button needs to be large enough for mobile users to click easily. The minimum recommended size for buttons is usually 44 x 44 pixels. But be nice to your readers – make yours at least 50 x 50.
  • Show the button in a color that contrasts with the rest of the email. You want the button to stand out.
  • Start your call to action copy with a verb. You want the reader to do something, right? So tell them want to do. Start it with a verb, like “Get my coupon”.

17. You’ve added social media follow buttons and sharing buttons.

These serve two different purposes.

  • The first kind of social media buttons let people follow you on your social media accounts. Someone just clicks the follow button in your email, and they’re brought to your account on that social platform.
This is an example of social follow icons used in email.
  • The other kind of button lets people share your newsletter. This happens more than you’d think – especially if people really like your newsletters.
This image is an example of how icons can be used to share your content through social in emails.

Place your follow buttons at the top and bottom of your newsletters, then add the sharing button near the content you want people to share.

18. You’ve included a forward button.

These are just like social sharing buttons, but the “platform” you’re sharing to is email. Quite a few emails get shared this way, so don’t discount this. Many companies even include a line of copy and a link so people who have received forwarded emails can easily sign up.

19. Send from a reputable email service provider.

Don’t send newsletters from your personal (or even business) email account. There’s two reasons for this. First, you’ll get awful delivery rates. Second, it looks unprofessional.

There’s a third reason, actually: Getting an account with an email service provider really isn’t that expensive. Even if you’ve got zero budget, there are several paid providers who can give you all the basics … though you will have to overlook their little branding message and link in the footer of your emails.

20. You’re using a consistent sender name.

This is the “From” field on your email message. On Apple mobile devices, the sender name will be more prominent than the subject line.

Whether you use your name or your company’s name is up to you; just make sure it’s consistent. Otherwise your email newsletter subscribers will have a harder time recognizing you.

Do you have a favorite newsletter? What about it makes it your favorite?

12 tips for amazingly effective email subject lines.png

Subject lines can be one of the most important elements of your email program. It’s your first (and maybe your last) impression on your recipients. It’s what determines your email response and engagement. That’s why it’s so important to know how to create amazingly effective subject lines that will get your email opened. Download Act-On’s free eBook, 12 Tips for Amazingly Effective Email Subject Lines, to find out how. 

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10 Things You Need to Know About Account-Based Marketing https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-account-based-marketing/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/10-things-you-need-to-know-about-account-based-marketing/#respond Mon, 08 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19887&preview_id=19887 If you read marketing news daily, you may be overwhelmed by “account-based marketing.” Cut to the chase with these 10 things you need to know about ABM.]]>

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a big deal. It seems as though it’s being mentioned on every webinar, at every marketing conference, and in all major marketing strategy discussions. But despite all of the hype surrounding account-based marketing, only 43% of people polled have a clear definition of what ABM is!

Account-based marketing, at its most basic, makes an account (rather than an individual lead) the focus of marketing and sales efforts. ABM relies on data analysis to pinpoint the correct accounts to target; leverages research to find the correct cadre of contacts inside an account; and uses targeted, personalized, timed communications to engage those contacts.

While the buzz is great, and we personally think that ABM is a fantastic strategy for scalable growth, there seems to be an overabundance of information about ABM floating around. So much information, in fact, that marketers aren’t able to fully digest the principles and benefits of an account-based marketing strategy. To help cut through the ABM noise, we’ve compiled a list of 10 of the most important things to know about account-based marketing:

This picture is a list of 10 Things You Need to Know About Account-Based Marketing.

1. ABM Helps to Loop in All Decision Makers

On average, every purchase now requires 5.4 people to formally sign off on. This means that involving all parties from the very beginning is crucial. Every time an additional person is added to the decision making team, your sales cycle lengthens. (Imagine everyone is ready to sign, and then a VP joins the buying team and you have to begin at the beginning with that person.) When you target an account, rather than an individual, you’re able to close deals more quickly by addressing all decision makers from the beginning of the buyer’s journey.

2. ABM = Increased ROI

It’s no secret that marketers are seeing incredible return from account-based marketing. In fact, 80% of marketers who measure ROI say that ABM initiatives outperform other marketing investment. And what’s more, 60% of those who have used ABM for at least a year report a revenue increase of at least 10%,and 19% report a revenue impact of 30% or greater.

At the end of the day, marketers not only want to see organizational growth, but they want to be able to demonstrate real value from their efforts. ABM not only helps companies generate more revenue, it ties marketing directly to closed deals and revenue. In fact, companies using ABM generate 200% more revenue for their marketing efforts.

3. ABM = Increased Contract Value

Getting customers in the door is great, but it’s not the be-all, end-all. A customer who signs a one-year, $10,000 contract, and cost $1,000 to acquire gives you a $9,000 gross return. But spending $1,000 for a customer who signs an $8,000/year, 5-year contract will yield much higher returns.

ABM has proven to significantly increase deal sizes by focusing on customers who are most likely to be successful with your product or service, which in turn means they’re more likely to remain your customer. In fact, contract value for ABM-targeted accounts increases an average of 40% for mid-market accounts and 35% for enterprise. Those numbers can easily result in immense growth for your organization, without spending more money on acquisition.

4. ABM is Gaining Steam, Quickly

ABM is much more than just a buzzword, it’s being implemented by some of the largest and fastest growing organizations in the world. Over 52% of companies say they currently have ABM pilot programs in place, and 83% of ABM testers have plans to increase their usage over the next year.

5. ABM is Not Just For Enterprise Anymore

In the past, account-based marketing was a tedious, time consuming, manual process. It was really a solution only for organizations that had abundant resources and the stability to test new marketing strategies. Today, the basic process remains much the same, but technology has changed the labor equation, making ABM practical for any company that already uses marketing technology well. If you’re regularly using marketing automation and a CRM, you already have the tools and technology you need to get started with an ABM strategy. While large companies are currently the heaviest users of ABM, small companies are the most aggressive testers.

6. ABM = Increased Engagement

A whopping 83% of those using ABM report that increased engagement with target accounts is the top reported benefit – and that’s a big deal.

While lead generation is imperative to a business, the next step in getting your leads to convert into paying customers is encouraging leads to engage with your brand. Solid lead engagement requires knowledge about your buyer, an understanding of their needs and wants, and a marketing strategy that plays to that knowledge. The personalization aspect of an ABM strategy allows you to speak directly to your prospects with a tailored message, increasing the likelihood of a positive response.

7. ABM = Strengthened Retention + Expansion

Customer retention is another incredibly important metric for success. We’ve all heard the saying, “it’s much easier to retain an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one” – and it’s true. According to Invesp, acquiring a new customer is five times as expensive as retaining an existing customer.

Research shows that 84% of companies believe that ABM provides significant benefits for retaining and expanding current client relationships. New customer acquisition is expensive, and if not done right, can lead to high churn rates (“sloppy growth”). Instead, investing in keeping your customers will deliver a steady stream of reliable revenue.

8. ABM Improves Consistency

On average, a B2B customer will use 6 interaction channels (e.g. ads, email, phone, etc.), and 65% are frustrated by the inconsistency of the experience. ABM can help by providing a consistent experience across all channels of communication to each person in a targeted account. As Jake Sorfoman of Gartner notes in this blog post, In Customer Experience, Consistency is the New Delight: “Consistency is often compromised when good intentions work at cross purposes.” Account-based marketing helps you keep everyone’s purposes lined up and moving forward.

9. ABM Helps with Departmental Alignment

Most organizations struggle with sales and marketing alignment. However, according to one study, organizations with tightly aligned sales and marketing functions experience 36% higher customer retention rates and 38% higher sales win rates. In a recent survey, 91% of those with an ABM program in place said that they were “tightly” or “somewhat or moderately” aligned with sales. This is no coincidence. Account-based marketing helps organizations improve communications between departments by focusing on common goals, values, and metrics, such as defining the ideal customer profile.

A successful account-based marketing strategy delivers high-quality leads to sales by targeting accounts have already been prequalified and deemed to be a good fit. ABM focuses on quality, rather than quantity, allowing sales to spend less time qualifying leads and more time selling – to companies who are likelier to buy, and likelier to become excellent customers.

10. Marketing Automation is A Key Tool for ABM

Along with capturing data and putting it to work, automation lets you create a process and then set it to repeat at scale, without additional labor. The top benefits that marketers see from combining marketing automation with an account-based marketing strategy are:

  • Effectively linking buyer behaviors and data across contacts for a unified account view
  • Automatically scoring accounts and triggering campaigns and workflows inside and outside of the inbox
  • Precisely targeting all decision makers within an account and delivering a unified experience across the organization

With the right strategy and the right technology to carry it out, ABM will support you in all aspects as you balance your strategy among brand awareness, demand generation, and customer retention and expansion. To learn more about account-based marketing, download your free eBook here.

eBook: How to Profit from Account-Based Marketing
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What Happens to the Yahoo! Mail Inbox Now That Verizon Bought Them? https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/what-happens-to-the-yahoo-mail-inbox-now-that-verizon-bought-them/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/what-happens-to-the-yahoo-mail-inbox-now-that-verizon-bought-them/#respond Fri, 05 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19906&preview_id=19906 Yahoo, we hardly knew ya. Now that Verizon has swallowed another Internet service provider in addition to AOL…what will happen to the Yahoo! mail inbox?]]>

The more things change….

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first significant overhaul of United States telecommunications law in more than sixty years, amending the Communications Act of 1934. Among the changes were:

  • The Internet was included in broadcasting and spectrum allotment
  • Title 3 (“Cable Services”) was controversial, as it allowed for media cross-ownership. The goal of the law was to “let anyone enter any communications business—to let any communications business compete in any market against any other.” The legislation’s primary goal was deregulation of the converging broadcasting and telecommunications markets.

This opened up a host of opportunities to enter the field of Telecom. Many providers and companies entered the marketplace, providing products and services that essentially broke up the “old school” of Telecom with the “new cool” entrants. And of course, the emerging new Internet models were a Wild West.

I myself worked for a CLEC (Competitive Local Service Provider) and cut my product development and management chops on the new services we were offering to Internet service providers (ISPs) to essentially allow their users “local access numbers” for their dial-up (remember all those CDs you received in the mail?) services.

So with the recent announcement that Verizon – who had purchased AOL last year – had acquired Yahoo! I started to think about the ISP market and how the inbox has evolved and changed in the last 10 years. (Forbes described the Verizon/Yahoo deal as the “Saddest $5 Billion Deal In Tech History.”)

This post discusses any potential changes there may be to Yahoo! email services after it has been purchased by Verizon.

It’s funny how the breakup of old Ma Bell (the Bell System had a monopoly providing local telephone service in the United States and Canada; it was split into entirely separate companies in 1982) led to the Telecom Act revisions which then led to innovation and thousands of miles of fiber being laid across the country to support what was to become the development of the commercial Internet.

Fast forward to 2016 and now we see some of the bastions of Web (and we’re not talking about Pets.com) properties essentially vanishing back into the very organizations that were broken up 40 years ago.

AOL – gone. Yahoo! – gone. Swallowed by Verizon. As David Gelles noted in the New York Times: “If Verizon has its way, it will cast off its reputation as a big, boring telephone company battling a unionized work force and emerge as a digital media player mentioned in the same breath as Snapchat and Pokémon…It’s quite the pivot. At first glance, the acquisitions have almost nothing to do with Verizon’s main moneymaking activity — selling data plans to its roughly 110 million cellphone customers.”

So what happens next in the evolution of Yahoo!/ Verizon inboxes? With the combination of Yahoo! and AOL, Verizon will be a major inbox provider globally and one could reasonably expect that major changes will be coming to their inboxes.

What Verizon did with AOL email accounts

Well, the good news is that their acquisition of AOL didn’t have a dramatic effect on deliverability and it’s probably safe to assume that the Yahoo! acquisition may have the same effect – for the near term.

It probably won’t affect your list much, either. People with AOL addresses didn’t have to change their email address; Verizon actually upgraded AOL email accounts with unlimited storage and more room for email attachments.

This is an image of mailboxes with a pull quote from the post about what will happen to the Yahoo! Mail inbox following Verizon’s acquisition of the once prestigious tech company

What Verizon might do with Yahoo! email accounts

The analyst are of one mind on this one: No one expects any real changes now, as ABC News reports:

  • In the U.S., Yahoo is the second most-popular email service behind Google’s Gmail. It’s even more popular in Europe and Latin America. Because of that, it makes sense for Verizon to keep that brand affinity intact, eMarketer analyst Paul Verna said.
  • With 225 million users worldwide, “they would be really foolish to do anything to mess that up at least in next six to 12 months,” said Randy Giusto, lead analyst at Outsell.
  • “I think Yahoo becomes a sub-brand just like AOL has,” Giusto said.

Looking ahead, however, once the integrations of those properties are consummated, and with the search power and advertising capabilities that Verizon will now have access to, getting into a Verizon inbox will be based on increased factors, including relevancy, targeting, and user-engaged behavior.

As we can see, the industry continues to evolve and the “New Internet” companies and organizations that are now being built in a college dorm room or someone’s coffee table will no doubt have an effect on the future of the marketing channel.

You can look to the past but embrace the future, which is exactly what Google did … and look where they are.

Side note: In 2015 AOL still had approximately 2.1M dial-up accounts. (Remember dial-up?) It’s good to see that they are still using my old “Remote Net Connect” product.

Email on!

Image credit: rvlsoft / Shutterstock.com

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Why Making the Sale is Like a Wedding – But You Need to Think About the Marriage https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/why-making-the-sale-is-like-a-wedding-but-you-need-to-think-about-the-marriage/ https://www.act-on.com/blog/2016/08/why-making-the-sale-is-like-a-wedding-but-you-need-to-think-about-the-marriage/#respond Thu, 04 Aug 2016 10:00:00 +0000 https://www.act-on.com/blog?p=19843&preview_id=19843 Throwing a wedding is like closing a big deal: Courtship, then a contract. But should you be focusing not on the big day, but the marriage? Not on the sale, but the customer lifetime value?]]>
Editor’s note: four or five years ago, it was trendy to talk about how attracting qualified leads was like wooing a potential date. (We talked a lot about not asking for a phone number before you’d been introduced.) In 2016, there’s more attention on the entire customer lifecycle, with emphasis on deepening your customer relationships for retention, loyalty, and advocacy. Amy Duchene revisits the original analogy with this in mind.

 

It’s wedding season. You may have received invitations to friend or family weddings. Me, too. And all of this has got me thinking: There’s a lot of similarity between business and marriage.

Hear me out.

A lot of brides (and grooms) focus on The Big Day. All the planning, all the coordination, all the logistics, all the time (and all that money) go into a one-time event that is seen as a singular achievement.

Sales people have a similar pattern: Nurturing the account, doing the demo, negotiating the terms, all lead up to a singular achievement: signing the deal. And in many offices, there’s a celebration (Act-On reps bang a gong).

But what each party may be forgetting is that The Big Day (or The Big Deal) does not end as soon as the “I Dos” are said and the covenant is signed. That’s actually just the beginning.

The Sales Cycle vs. Looking for a Mate

Think about your sales cycle. It probably looks a little something like this, depending on your muse:

  • Scouting for and attracting new customers (prospecting, social media, referrals)
  • Capturing your prospect’s information so you can tailor a personalized connection
  • Nurturing those relationships
  • Analyzing customer needs, coming up with a solution and sealing the deal
  • Fulfillment (your service or product)
  • Continued customer communication and relationship-building

Most of these factors focus on the pre-buying process, which is where salespeople spend most of their time.

Look the list over again – this time through a romantic lens. This looks an awful lot like love relationships, doesn’t it?

  • Scouting for new customers (prospecting, leads, referrals) – i.e. finding someone (or several) to date
  • Capturing your prospect’s information – e.g., getting their information (phone number, etc.) so you can connect
  • Nurturing those relationships – courting, wooing, going out for meals, hanging out, texting … whatever you do, this is all about getting to know the person and beginning to make it personal
  • Analyzing the need and coming up with a solution – Maybe he or she often eats dinner alone, and wants some company to try a new Thai restaurant. If you like that type of food, you might be a match – at least for that night. Maybe he or she needs a date for a distant cousin’s wedding, or wants to learn to kayak, or wants to go to Seattle for the weekend. Maybe you can fill those shoes, too. Eventually, if you are lucky, this moves beyond being someone to hang out with on a Saturday night, to being THE ONE you want to spend your time with – and they feel the same. When you formally agree on this, you’re sealing the deal.
  • Fulfillment – In sales speak, this is the delivery of the product or service that you sold. In relationships, you’re fulfilling the promise to commit. And you are there. That’s fulfillment.

The truth is, we can learn a lot from our personal relationships and apply those findings to business. After all, sales is a people business … and it’s all about the quality of those relationships.

First Come Loves, Then Comes Marriage…

So, let’s say you have a heart match – or, in the sales world, a prospect you want to sign because you believe it will be good for both parties. Now it’s time to make it official. You start to plan the wedding or you set the contracting machinery in motion. At the culmination, a contract is presented and signatures sought. If all goes well, both parties sign, and a relationship has taken a permanent step.

Is that it, though? What happens on the next Monday morning?

In business, like in marriage, the obvious answer is, of course that’s not the final step. There are many, many more steps – and days – to come. A key (and too often overlooked) part of the sales cycle comes after you’ve put a ring on it. I’m referring to the focus needed on the long-term relationship – the marriage, as it were. If you don’t nurture that relationship, it could fail.

In It for the Long Haul – What is Customer Lifetime Value?

Marriage partners will go through a lot together: fun trips, buying cars, having children, moving to a new town, pesky in-laws, illnesses and accidents, triumphs and losses. Business relationships often have a similar path. Your customer goes through changes: they flourish with your product, and then the business falters, and then it recovers. Or they get purchased by a larger company. Or they bring out a new product line, or expand to sell in another country. You go through changes: You might launch a new feature that does not work for your biggest customer in California. The economic environment changes: a government regulation that affects half your customers is revised and you and your customers both have to adapt. In both marriage and in business, it helps to be flexible.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Now we get to the place where our analogy falters. We can’t quantify most of the benefits we get from a marriage. But you can quantify the value your customers bring to your company year over year.

“Customer lifetime value” is a quantifiable metric to help you assess how much value your company can realize over the entire duration of your relationship with your customer. This number, in turn, helps you understand how much you can spend to acquire and maintain a customer, and still make a profit. 

Think about how much a customer spends, and how frequently. Not just what you’ll earn with the initial sale, or even this year – but a projection of the grand total. We’re talking repeat and add-on business here.

If you sign up a customer today, you’re guaranteed that initial purchase value. That might be fabulous, but by itself, that’s a short-term measure. Why settle for that?

Here’s the kicker: if you retain and resell that customer for the next year, two years, even 20, years, you’ll see revenue year over year. Usually at greater net profit each year. Add up that total profit and you’ve got predictive CLV, and a great, meaningful goal to shoot for.

What is lifetime value of your customers? This picture of a married couple looking down the long road ahead. It is a metaphor for the relationship you have with your customers.

The Cost to Get a New Customer vs. Keeping an Existing One

Let’s get granular for a moment.

When dating, you’ve first got to find your mate, decide you want them, woo them with excellent dates – get to know them – and predispose them to care about you (perhaps through the content of your conversations) before you pop the question. Dating can get expensive. (All those dinners, all those concert tickets. That new hot tub. Your sharp new clothes.) And that’s before you even get to the wedding.

Start to mention the “W” word to vendors around town and you’ll soon find that dresses, cakes, photos, food and party favors cost a whole lot more than you ever anticipated. The average cost of a wedding in 2015, according to The Knot, was over $32,000. Not cheap. So between courtship and marriage, you’ve made a sizeable investment.

Now think about your business. One of the key components of a sales cycle is the cost to get the new customer in the first place. You need to find and attract prospects. Then you court them. If you’ve got a long sales cycle, that probably means lead nurturing and a whole lot of content marketing. All this comes before you get to the negotiation stage and then sign them up.

So, how much does it cost you to acquire a new customer? Consider your promotion and marketing efforts. Prorate your advertising costs, pencil out your teams’ time. Figure out how you account for events and tradeshows. Count up all the expenditures during the courting and sales process (flights, dinners, meetings, demos and presentations, phone calls, movies, tickets to the ball game, etc.). Talk to your finance team to make sure you’re on the same page with them.

This stuff adds up, and quickly, when you scale it across your sales quotas for the month.

This is just one reason why retaining existing customers is so much more profitable than acquiring new ones, making the case all the stronger for paying attention to CLV. A few interesting statistics from SailThru:

  • Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products, and spend 31% more than new customers
  • Increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits 25-95%
  • It can cost a brand up to 5x as much to get new customers vs. keeping old ones

After the Big Deal, Now What? Nurture Relationships for Pay-Off

So you’ve forked over the cash to throw the Party of a Lifetime and get married, have a partnership celebration, or sign a new customer. Once the party is over and the cake and bubbly consumed, now what?

You move into the next phase – the marriage.

Many of the strategies you use to keep the marriage healthy are the same ones you use to keep the business relationships rolling. You need to nurture them, build satisfaction, and keep them coming back. You need to listen.

Think about it this way: if you don’t spend the time or effort to nurture the relationship – it all goes badly, right? Or, at minimum, you drift apart. Whatever your tried-and-true method to keep your existing customers happy, just do it, and they’re likely to stick around. It may cost you money and time to retain a customer, but it’s less than starting from scratch, and the rewards are much greater.

It also helps prevent what tech investors call “sloppy growth,” which is what happens when you over-emphasize converting leads and under-emphasize assessing how much value the customer brings to the business long term. “In other words,” writes Act-On’s Kevin Bobowski on IDG Connect, “quantity over quality.” Smart growth is what you get when you attract and convert – and retain – the high value customers.

When It’s OK to Let Your Eye Wander

One last bit of consideration – and that is knowing when you are in a bad or stagnating relationship. (I’m talking about customers only. I don’t want to be on the hook for giving you bad marriage advice!)

Maybe the relationship has cooled off. Your customer got bought by another company, and the new relationship isn’t so good. Or your customer’s had a lot of turnover, and the new team you’re working with wants a different product or service. It may be time to dump them – or to let them dump you.

In the meantime, you’re still working every day on your lead and demand generation, so you’ve got a steady stream of new customers incoming. Have the Big Day of signing them up, and then move into marriage mode, where the real value lies. After all, lifetime value applies to each and every customer in your proverbial Rolodex. They all need love.

Here’s a Honey-Do List, for Spouses or Marketers:

  • Calculate customer metrics for your own business. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
    • How much does it cost to find a new customer and get them into your funnel? Include marketing, promotion, advertising, events, sales expenditures, etc.
    • How much revenue does a new customer bring in each year?
    • What is the average duration a customer is with your company (or, how long you’d like them to be)?
    • How much does it cost to keep your customer? Consider company events, training, surveys, marketing communications, and so on.
    • Can you upsell your customer? What might it cost to do that?
  • Revisit your pricing strategy. If you have a subscription business model, do you sign them up for little to no money up front, knowing they’ll pay repeatedly once they’re in? Do they pay a high premium to join – so they give you a lot of money up front – but then their annual subscription or renewal fee is low? What would happen if you changed your model?
  • What’s your retention rate? Is your customer list growing at a higher percentage rate than your churn rate? What does it cost you to lose a customer? What would your net profit look like if you could cut your churn rate?

It’s not all science and hard numbers, of course.

Think about those intangibles – the “feel good” things you can do for your customers, like:

    • Treat your customers with kindness and courtesy – be nice
    • Don’t cut customers off when they are expressing concerns. You can learn a lot from negative feedback
    • Ask for their feedback, and then listen. What direction would they like to see your product develop?
    • Close the loop promptly when they have a concern
    • Promote them. Retweet their Twitter posts, comment on their Facebook posts
    • Remember them. Check in with periodic calls, meetings, or “just because” cards
    • Fork over for the occasional random upgrades (such as honoring their tenure with upgrade to the next level of your business, or VIP status at an event)
    • Evolve with them as time passes. Learn how their business is changing – and, if it makes sense, make adaptations to your own model along the way

A Lifetime Together

The endgame of any successful partnership – business or spousal – is to make that partnership so happy that you want to stick by each other’s side to the end.

I wish you a lifetime of happiness!

eBook: Beyond Sales and Marketing Alignment

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