Ever get frustrated 'explaining what you do for a living' to someone who has no clue? This is why I stopped talking about 'inbound marketing' with friends and family...
Big shout out to Nick Sal (@NickSalinbound), Nick's Nana (@notweeteraddress) and HubSpot marketing team (@HubSpot). Brilliant video.
RIDE Adventures is in a unique type of travel business with a dependency on keywords that have relatively low search volume. (For example: “Motorcycle Tours”) In an initiative to increase Top of the Funnel (TOFU) leads through their website, Eric Lange, the owner of RIDE Adventures recognized they would have to gain new visits and contacts through keywords and topics that are more widely searched for by their prospective customers. After thorough keyword research and analysis, he confirmed that not only were keywords like “Motorcycle Gear” and “Motorcycle Travel” pertinent to their customers’ interests, but they also had remarkably higher search volume than keywords directly focused on what RIDE Adventures was selling.
As RIDE Adventures had already been committed to creating resourceful content in blogging and videos, similar topics were also formed into downloadable whitepapers, free for visitors and researchers to enjoy. In some cases these whitepapers already existed, as they were being provided to customers upon bookings for motorcycle tours anyway. The difference in late 2012 was that instead of these whitepapers only being offered to existing customers, they were placed as calls to action (CTAs) throughout the website, as well as built into a specific page dedicated to “Free Motorcycle Travel Information.” More content, more keywords, and more offers have led not only to an increase in visits to their website, but an amazing spike in TOFU contacts is being enjoyed as well. (Screenshots taken January 10, 2013)
An important point to make note of (shown in the next screenshot below) is how the previous couple of years of blogging and creating content had definitely increased traffic to the web site, but TOFU leads were not increasing at the same rate. As we’re constantly reminded, “content is king,” and especially helpful if your company’s ideal keywords also have high search volume. However, in the event there isn’t high search volume for your ideal keywords, creating pertinent content on “secondary” topics related to what we’re selling is what’s needed in order see such a spike in TOFU leads.
In addition to creating the whitepaper download offers themselves, each click by a visitor was leading them to very specific landing pages made in accordance with Hubspot’s 10 Best Practices For Landing Page development. Whereas many of these best practices had previously been overlooked or ignored by RIDE Adventures, implementation of such key features into these new pages has seen conversion rates as high as 34% as compared to their more antiquated landing pages, which tend to average around 10% conversion rates. The combination of a great offer found through pertinent keywords and a well-designed landing page is proving quite fruitful to RIDE Adventures.
This strategy helps RIDE Adventures not only in gaining more contacts, but also in terms of credibility and content as well. TOFU leads that receive these whitepapers are benefitting from the vast information provided and often coming back for a 2nd, 3rd, or 4thdownload later. Stream Creative had been consulting with RIDE Adventures and reminding them of the importance of being seen as authority on the topics their customers are interested in. As a result, customers keep coming back for more, which sets up the groundwork for workflows to be created that drive more leads to become actual customers.
It goes without saying that all the content, all the keywords, meta tags, and inbound links that stem from these new offers are contributing to the RIDE Adventures search engine rankings as well. In fact, the content provided in each whitepaper has been offered in short segments on their blog as well and helps the search engines discover each page and therefore each call to action leading them to a landing page.
Well, you can see them! Not only have unique visits continued to increase for RIDE Adventures, but in the final 3 months of 2012, their contact database actually doubled over what they had accumulated the previous 24 months of being in business. In addition: a) unique visits are reaching all-time highs and at steeper rates than what were typically realized, b) customers are seeing RIDE Adventures as an authority on a subject they’re interested in, and c) inquiries about the actual services RIDE Adventures is in business to provide have risen dramatically as well! Their outlook for 2013 as the 3rd year in business is looking brighter than ever before, and customers are feeling it as well.
About the Author: Steve James is a partner and creative director of Stream Creative, a certified HubSpot partner and full service digital marketing and design firm specializing in inbound marketing, web design and development, and social media.
Let's face it—without strong copy, your calls to action and landing pages will not succeed. Within seconds of seeing your call to action (CTA), a visitor should be able to determine exactly why he or she should take action and what they will get in return for their information or money. If your CTA copy is ineffective or confusing, you have already lost the lead.
The most effective CTAs contain action verbs. Excluding these powerful words from your copy leaves the reader with little to no direction and often hurts your click rate—ultimately affecting your conversion rate.
Think of action verbs as a CTA's best friend—they convey emotion and appeal to the reader’s senses.
A call to action—whether on your website, email or print material—is meant to prompt a person to perform a specific action. There are several factors that contribute to an effective call to action, including copy, design, and placement. Today we will focus specifically on copy.
Here are a few examples of powerful action verbs:
Why Less is More
You've heard the statement less is more. In the case of most calls to action, this holds true. Fewer words with more robust meaning (that your audience can easily understand) should be the goal when creating your copy. Don't get too wordy that your message gets lost among the vocabulary. Adverbs and adjectives will weigh down your copy. On the other hand, a visitor should not have to dust off the thesaurus or search Google to understand the meaning of a word in your CTA. Additionally, avoid technical terms or internal acronyms that often bore or confuse your audience.
Use relevant statistics when possible to back up your statements. Most people are intrigued by statistics, and, in a world of vague claims, actual numbers help validate your offer. For example, HubSpot’s call to action for joining its email list is, “Get the world’s best marketing resources right in your inbox! Join more than 817,000 inbound marketers!”
What We Have Learned So Far
At Kuno Creative, we are constantly A/B testing our own CTAs. Our visitors tend to respond best to phrases such as Free Ebook or Free Cheat Sheet. On the flip side, the phrase Learn More, often coverts lower.
It is important to know your audience and be willing to test copy. Rarely will the first CTA you create generate the most conversions. While we can offer best practices in developing strong copy, it is really up to you to constantly test and readjust your CTA's based on the data you gather. Some action verbs will convert better than others depending on your industry, and it is your job to discover what works best.
Do you have great CTA copy tips you would like to share? What success have you experienced? Leave us a comment.
About the author: Shannon Fuldauer has a B2B and B2C eCommerce Marketing background including roles as Vice President of Marketing & Sales Support, and subsequently Vice President of Public Relations & SEO Services, for CareerBoard.com. She has expertise in digital marketing and advanced email communications and is a senior consultant with Kuno Creative.
In June 2012, PR 20/20 released the ebook, The B2B Marketer's Guide to Going Inbound, as a resource for marketers to generate and nurture high-quality leads through the use of technology, and inbound strategy and tactics.
The ebook was promoted within a blog post with calls to action to download by filling out a form on a separate landing page. To date, the ebook has been downloaded 262 times by marketers and agency professionals alike, driving significant leads to PR 20/20 and its sister site, Marketing Agency Insider.
Below we outline strategies employed and lessons learned during campaign execution.
Within the blog post, there were two calls to action prompting readers to download the ebook. The first was a text link that appeared above an image of the ebook cover. The second was a call-to-action button positioned at the end of the post.
We set up both links as separate events within HubSpot Enterprise so that we could better understand conversion rates and visitor behaviors.
Of the two, the text link was clicked 73.9% of the time, whereas the button was only clicked 26.2%. Our belief is that the text link was more popular because it appeared higher in the post, not necessarily because it was a text link. However, additional tests would need to be run to test that hypothesis.
A/B Test of Landing Page Copy
On the ebook landing page, we ran an a/b test that looked at the impact of copy length on conversion rates. In version one of the page, we included short bullets, outlining the ebook’s table of contents. In version two, we provided much more detail in those bullets. See the screenshots below to compare.
As you’ll see, in both pages, copy length was the only variable that changed. Other factors, such as headline, image and form remained consistent.
After running the test for several months, we found that there was not a statistically significant difference in the two variations. Version one converted at 65.8%, whereas version two converted at 70.9%.
We have plans to run additional tests on this page in the future. In fact, we’re currently experimenting with HubSpot’s smart fields within the landing page form. Smart fields pre-populate information previously gathered from a user, eliminating unnecessary form fields, to make repeat conversions easy.
Targeted, Automated Lead Nurturing
In addition to optimizing CTAs and landing pages for conversion, it’s also important to think about the process that will occur after a lead submits a form.
Since our ebook was a thought leadership piece, in which people may not necessarily constitute a sales-ready lead for PR 20/20, we connected the form with an automated lead nurturing campaign.
In the form, we asked if the person’s company provided marketing services to clients.
From here, we set up smart lists that automatically tag contacts as either a “company” or “agency” within our HubSpot portal. Audiences then receive tailored emails based on their status.
For example, companies get a set of three emails that offer additional resources, and then prompt the person to contact PR 20/20 for marketing support. Agencies, on the other hand, get one email that introduces them to Marketing Agency Insider, an educational site for agencies developed by PR 20/20.
By segmenting audiences in this way, and tailoring the message accordingly, we’ve seen strong email click through rates, and very few unsubscribes.
When working with calls to action and landing pages, the key is to have the systems in place that enable you to not only track performance, but also to make adjustments based on historical data. Keep in mind that in many cases, testing and optimization is an iterative strategy that can take time to execute properly. However, small updates collectively can drive a large impact.
Finally, we’ve found that the more targeted you can make the experience, the better. Technology, like smart lists, fields and CTAs, makes personalization easier than ever before.
Share your call to action and landing page experiences, best practices and lessons learned in the comments section below.
About the Author: Tracy Lewis is a consultant at PR 20/20, a certified Gold HubSpot partner and inbound marketing agency that combines content, public relations, social media and search marketing into integrated campaigns. She is also the community manager for Marketing Agency Insider.
In my last post, I talked about how to convince your salespeople to help you create content for inbound marketing by showing them that they are already creating engaging content every day. The deep connections between salespeople and prospects mean that salespeople are often the best people to understand what messages resonate with customers and what questions customers want answered. Once you've gotten great content out of salespeople, your next step is delivering that content in the best way possible.
Create Highly Focused Customer Centric Content
The content that salespeople create is highly customer-focused and has great potential to convert into prospects. However, when customer-focused content is paired with interesting calls to action and landing pages then you see those prospects become leads. Landing pages themselves may not interest salespeople that much but what comes from them certainly does. The formula is simple — the sales team helps create the right content for target prospects. Calls to action and landing pages bring in what the sales team needs — qualified leads.
The job of a landing page is, at its simplest, to connect content with visitors and convert them to leads. However, a landing page can do a lot more than deliver some well-crafted content to the right audience. If salespeople are helping shape and craft excellent content that is being released through a landing page created by someone in marketing, the landing page then serves as a point of connection between the sales team and the marketing team. Landing pages can also be leveraged to drive traffic from a site, or part of a site, that was generating little or no traffic before.
Increase Incoming Leads Quickly
For example, one of my clients had the fairly standard "Contact Us" form on a simple landing page. There isn't anything wrong with a Contact Us page, but in this client's case that form wasn't creating any leads for them. We came in and took some of the content already on their site, made it into downloadable content, attached the content to landing pages, and then added calls to action across their site. Adding landing pages as gate keepers to content that was already there resulted in a lot of leads very quickly. This client increased leads per month from the website from 0 to over 60 just by adding a few basic offers and landing pages to the site.
Not all landing pages are created equal, however. To get the most out of a landing page you should shape them around the same kinds of customer-centered thinking that drives good content. Great content is driven by a persona and is focused on their issues, needs, interests, and problems. The landing page that you build in front of that content should be just as shaped by that persona as the content itself was.
Qualify, Qualify, Qualify Those Leads
Having targeted landing pages in front of your customer-focused content is how you create leads that are more qualified. Qualified leads, in turn, allow salespeople to follow up at a much higher level. This is why it is so important to understand your target persona and to create the best, most focused content for them.
Beyond that, however, the form on your landing page represents an amazing tool for lead segmentation. You have a great piece of content that prospects want to get to, so make them answer a few basic questions first. By adding a few segmenting questions into your landing page form, you can get your leads to self-qualify and help drive them further into the sales funnel. Ask them what their job title is, what their biggest problem is, what their main goal is, budget, when they need a solution – be creative and see if you can actually interest the prospect because you're asking the same questions they are asking themselves. The more answers you get, the better the lead is qualified. Now sales can start the conversation at a much higher level.
One of our clients grew their business 86% in the first year of working with us. They generated this significant increase while doing fewer proposals than the previous year. This was a big deal because they are a small company and doing a proposal is a big time investment. By segmenting leads using landing pages they were able to sort the best leads from the top of the funnel inquiries and spend their time closing sales, not writing proposals.
I love this success story because it reminds me of something one of my first sales bosses said to me. He asked me how things were going and I responded with something like “I am doing great, I did 14 quotes and made 43 calls.” His response? “We don’t sell quotes here, son.”
Landing Pages For Testing Ideas
Finally, landing pages are a great way for sales people to test the interest in a given market for a new offering or to test new positioning for a product/service. If the idea behind the call to action and landing page converts, then sales can assume that the offer has some legs. A landing page is a very easy, inexpensive way to perform a litmus test that tells sales whether or not they should promote a new idea in their direct calls and selling.
One of the ways we have used this technique to test the waters for a client was to offer engineering documents (drawings, specifications, test results) on landing pages to see who would convert and download them. My client had purchased a series of product lines and did not know everyone who had previously purchased the products. These old customers found the landing pages and converted. Sales now had a reason to talk to these leads and an insight into their business. The leads that converted showed that there was interest and demand for after sale support and proved that these documents could be used to attract new contacts previously unknown to sales. The conversions on our test landing pages put sales into a position to deliver more value and make more sales.
Creating great content is always going to be the first step, but putting time and effort into landing pages is essential. What's more, the time and effort you put into landing pages pays serious dividends. Whether you need to do some quick market research for a new product, better qualify your leads, or leverage your website to bring in leads, landing pages can be serious work horses in your inbound marketing campaign.
About the Author: Todd Hockenberry is the founder of Top Line Results, an inbound marketing agency that specializes in leading top line revenue growth at small and medium-sized companies with a focus on manufacturing, technology and capital equipment.
The threat from outside and the opportunity within
The beauty of inbound marketing is that it's simple. Sure, there are fine points and best practices. But its power as a market equalizer is that any company can do it - and do it well. Not all do, of course, and conversely a few do it brilliantly.
Although simple, it's not easy. It takes a firm senior executive strategic commitment because it demands a lot of work and patience. And often companies are hesitant to undertake too many simultaneous strategic initiatives. That's sensible. But if the "Devil is in the details," then the risk/reward is in selecting the one or two concurrent foci.
Globalization of your business and of your inbound marketing specifically, should be on that short list.
Two parallel trends provide compelling justification for that strategic focus.
First is the threat from outside. China is awakening to the compelling opportunity offered by inbound marketing.
Second is the demographic reality of domestic US consumer evolution. One of every 2 babies born in the US now is Latino. Marketing to them requires nuanced approaches and content which will differ from your baseline.
The inbound threat
The Chinese are coming...will you be ready this time?
Having lost much of the low-cost manufacturing advantage upon which they built their amazing decade of export growth, Chinese companies are awakening to the need and opportunity to market effectively to US consumers.
Sure, like most innovation evolutions, the initial quality will be low and execution will be clumsy. But eventually they will learn to excel. And other developing markets will follow suit. Soon your prospects will be awash in content from global sources. Competition will intensify.
You've got the opportunity to solidify your "first mover" advantage, though, with the focused, immediate and ongoing application of inbound marketing best practices. The key is to stop dabbling and start executing! (Download PR Newswire's report in English or Chinese here.
Can you even talk to 50% of your market?
The statistics are clear. Half of the babies born in the US today are Latino. And while the future population distribution will reflect that trend, even today Latinos represent a substantial body of consumption clout. (We love for you to take our quick survey on your experience/thoughts regarding Latino content marketing.
Now the concept of Latino Marketing isn't novel. A few thought leaders (mostly consumer packaged goods) companies have developed marketing for Hispanic communities. But it is still quite early, and the efforts are lacking the nuance required for success.
The reality is, there is no monolithic "Latino" community. Consumers with different dialects (not to mention different languages - Spanish vs. Portuguese), vastly different cultures and traditions, biases and prejudices and consumption habits are often lumped into a single group.
But understanding how to market to the statistically important and distinct groups requires an intimacy and breadth of cultural knowledge that is absent in most American companies. And if the recent article in Portada is correct, "Hispanic Content Marketing (may be) set to explode.
" will the explosion damage or propel your efforts?
I would contend that the best, and perhaps only way you can develop the expertise imperative for successful domestic growth in the coming decades is actually to begin to market and sell throughout Latin America. At Consilium we believe that one of the most underappreciated benefits of exporting is the opportunity to learn lessons to be applied to your domestic market
. And this is a perfect example.
The global opportunity is even bigger
If you have any substantive inbound marketing today you are accustomed to receiving a large number of international leads. Experience tells me that while you covet domestic leads, scoring them, nurturing them and hopefully converting them, you probably simply ignore the international leads.
What a shame! In an environment of very slow domestic growth
, opportunities in developing markets are particularly compelling. Even with your existing program you'll start to identify pockets of compelling opportunity. Don't waste those leads! Find someone with real international sales
and global business development expertise that can help you manage global growth while mitigating risks and maximizing the potential.
But while you're at it, maybe you should step up into full fledged international inbound marketing
- elevate your domestic game to embrace global opportunities!
And inbound marketing agencies have an opportunity. Work dilligently with your clients to position their inbound marketing and help them understand the competitive advantage, and defense bulwark that simultaneously creates. And then work with them to develop the nuanced and localized multilingual & cultural content required to cement their success domestically - not just with some of their prospects, but with all.
About the Author: Ed Marsh is co-founder of Consilium Global Business Advisors, an international marketing consulting agency focused on developing strategic global business development and channel programs.
For those that don't know him yet, Dan Tyre (@dantyre) was HubSpot's first salesperson, first sales manager and first sales director. He's both a HubSpot treasure and a HubSpot legend. If it wasn't for Dan, we wouldn't have an agency partner program. He mentored me through the process of petitioning the executive team to start the program and he literally stood at the front of the room shouting - at top speed - all of the reasons why we should start a program. He is the one, as the Inc article explains, who convinced Brian Halligan (@bhalligan) to reluctantly let us start the program. He has a lot of amazing traits and skills, but one of his more famous ones is his provocative way of convincing people to do things. When he says it, it's compelling.
At the beginning of 2012, DTyre got back involved in the agency partner program and currently manages a handful of channel account managers. In doing so, he's fully internalized what makes a successful inbound marketing agency.
Over the years, we've taught a lot of agencies how to increase their recurring retainer revenue in order to create strong positive cash flow; how to move away from project based work and the cash-flow roller coaster it causes. There's a special way we help them do it. When they follow the advice and training step-by-step, it doesn't fail. In the New Year, I'm going to be bold and call this the New Marketing Agency Retainer. Based on our success helping agencies do this and the resulting success this delivers to clients, I'm going to be really bold and say that this should be the standard way that every agency works.
Last month, DTyre was talking to an agency about 'The New Marketing Agency Retainer'. One of his account managers wrote it down in order to share with the agency afterward:
As we've discussed, we've spoken with many different types and sizes of agencies over the last year about "how and what they sell". We quickly realized that what we mean by a retainer is different than what they usually mean. What we teach agencies is very different than a standard “marketing services” retainer. Inbound marketing retainers are key to scaling a profitable agency and achieving the personal & professional goals that elude many agency owners. Here's the differences:
- An inbound marketing retainer is an annual (or multi-year) contract for a set scope of activities - performed at specific frequencies - that is designed to help the client achieve their business growth goals. It is not a month-to-month product-based catch-all for line item marketing services that change based on the whim of the client or some new creative idea that an agency conceives and pitches along the way.
- An inbound marketing retainer drives lead generation and customer acquisition which is important for any company serious about growing. Other marketing services are an easy to marginalize, easy to cut expense that is much more peripheral to a company’s success and can be implemented anytime (or not).
- An inbound marketing retainer creates tangible content assets as valuable as any other asset on the client’s balance sheet. Investments in blog posts, offers, landing pages and email marketing creative produce traffic, leads and sales month over month even if you take a month's hiatus. It has has paid huge dividends for early adopters as their results are not just cumulative, but compounding.
- An inbound marketing retainer provides value not just to the client's marketing efforts, but to their sales' efforts too. It shows a very direct ROI in lead quantity, quality, sales opportunity velocity and sales rep productivity. Some marketing services can be “squishy” and therefore difficult to justify even if the CMO believes that it is a worthwhile investment.
- Regardless of the payment terms, it involves agreeing on very specific short and long term goals and then driving hard to accomplish them as quickly as possible within the budget agreed upon. As a result, it's highly profitable for both the agency and the client alike.
Regardless of the industry segment, generating leads & customers in 2012 was not easy. To produce results, inbound marketing retainers require excellent content generation, world class marketing software and the ability to quickly identify the right conclusions from analytics data, then act on it with precision and speed.
In Q1 2013, there are two types of agency-to-prospect conversations taking place. One is agency owners justifying their “marketing services” for next year against $250 social media “experts”, free tools available to everyone, and justified by arbitrary improvements in some obtuse marketing metric. The other conversation is a strategic brainstorming session about the goals, plans, challenges and time line with senior level management on how to improve top line revenue results, reduce selling and marketing costs and improve sales rep productivity.
If you are not having those conversations today, you may want to ask yourself, "Why?"
See what I mean? Compelling?
Shannon Johnson (@shannopop) put together a great eBook, "Ultimate Guide to Agency Tools". It gives an overview of lots of software that is commonly used by agencies for collaboration, project management, time tracking, file sharing and more.
Here's the software that is covered:
- File Sharing and Collaboration: Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive/Google Apps for Business, Google Hangouts, MS Office365 with Sharepoint and Lync
- Internal Social Networks: Salesforce Chatter, Yammer
- Project Management, Time tracking and Administration: Basecamp, ActiveCollab, Intervals, Workamig, Trello
- Content Sourcing, Creation & Management: Kapost, Zerys, Contently
- Other: Passpack, Rapportive, Skitch from Evernote, Pixlr
Does your agency use any of these? How do you like them? What's missing from Shannon's list?
There is a great discussion going on in the HubSpot Inbound Marketing Agency forum about whether companies are turning their blogging traffic into new business. Todd Giannattasio (@tresnicmedia) from Tresnic Media started the conversation by sharing the results of his '50 blog posts in 25 days' article. Just like I shared the other day in my 'blogging frequency increases traffic' post, his experiment resulted in increased traffic too. Very few agencies will argue with this fact; there's lots of data that shows the correlation between blogging frequency and traffic growth.
In Todd's article, he talks about the 'harder to measure' benefits of increased blogging frequency including:
- Getting referrals from people he meets through his blogging activity.
- Sharing content during his sales process to help educate a prospect and move them further down the funnel towards buying.
- Using blog posts to answer customer service questions.
All great stuff. However, many companies - who step on the blogging gas pedal - expect a more measurable and predictable way to scale sales from their increased blogging efforts. In my post, "Why You are Failing at Inbound Marketing", I detailed what many companies have done in order to turn inbound leads into sales.
What have you done to turn your traffic into sales?