Marketing Automation is the topic du jour in the marketing world. Aweber has been the pioneer allowing marketers to segment "types of buyers" and then setup "drip email marketing campaigns" that educate buyers about how to solve xyz problem [usually] using the marketer's abc solution.
There's many more new solutions out there that are much more sophisticated now. More expensive too.
Marketing Automation is smart. Usually, I think it makes the job of salespeople easier if the prospect can communicate their problems, and are confident that your solution solves their problems - going into the sales process. Marketing automation gets your prospects up to speed.
At HubSpot, we have prospective clients with multiple employees that are subcribed to our newsletter, attended several webinars, downloaded our white papers, visited our product and pricing page, left 4 comments on our blog, visited our site a total of 10 times and filled out 6 forms over 3 months. When we call [or rather: they call us], as you could imagine, they're pretty much ready to buy.
And I think there is a rule in sales that says something like, "When the buyer says they're ready to buy, it's time to shut up". Right Rick? Dave? Al?
Regardless.. The topic of Marketing Automation is top of mind for many marketers.
I even had a local realty franchise owner tell me he wanted to do marketing automation. To which I asked:
- How big is your email list?
- How many people sign up for your email list every month?
His answers were low hundreds and a few every month. He's not a candidate for marketing automation. Marketing automation should be done by people who have many more leads than they can handle and can't find any other way to figure out who the sales people should call first.
I also asked the realtor:
- Are your sales cycles long - involving multiple types of decision makers each with different agendas, concerns and challenges?
- Do you sell different products to different types of buyers? Are you selling one thing to engineers and another to the CTO? Are you selling one product to people in the auto industry and another to people in the aerospace industry?
- Do you have to educate your buyers before they're ready to buy?
He answered "No". Again, he's not a candidate for marketing automation. Marketing automation is good if you need to educate your buyers with bite sized chunks of information over time. If your sales cycle is short and only 1 or 2 people are involved in the buying decision, you don't need marketing automation. Marketing automation isn't going to close more deals for you. (Better salespeople might.)
Just to drive the point home, I asked a few more questions:
- What types of things are you doing online that will get a prospect to come back to your website? Are you writing blog posts where they can leave their thoughts? Are you doing regular webinars that they can attend? Are you publishing white papers or articles they can sign up to download? Do you have new promotional offers they can sign up to receive? New Press Releases they can read?
- How often are you doing all of this stuff?
He said, "My website really needs some work. I even have trouble editing what I have now, let alone adding things to it. I know that I'm not getting all the leads I could be getting because I don't have anything to offer them to get them to come back to my site." Again, he's not a candidate for marketing automation.
I stopped there. I recommended he use Constant Contact as that would be a better solution for him for email marketing. Besides that, I recommended that he should just focus on getting more traffic to his website and converting more of his visitors to leads, so that his agents would have more people to call and he'd have more people to send his email newsletter to.
Their lead to deal conversion rate isn't the problem. It's that they don't have enough leads. So, marketing automation is not going to solve their most pressing issue. Improved PPC performance, SEO, blogging and more lead conversion events such as webinars, promotions and downloadable articles (eg "how to lease commercial real estate") are what's needed.
They don't need to do online marketing automation. They just need to start doing more online marketing. And start measuring what works. And what doesn't.
Are YOU ready for Marketing Automation?
Mike Langford, at our seminar the other day, was talking about networking for small business owners. He said, and I'm paraphrasing, "network with people who have already achieved what you want to achieve".
I couldn't agree more. I also like to network with people who are equally ambitious and dedicated as I am too. It keeps me sharp and positive.
At HubSpot, I've never been around as functional, dedicated and extremely intelligent group that is this large. I've worked with some of the smartest and dedicated people I know at other places. But, EVERYONE at HubSpot has a passion for making themselves, their team, the company and their clients successful. It's inspirational and motivational.
However, of all the people I hang around with, the smartest ones that I know are my friends from WPI. My buddy, Darryl Pollica, is leading the development of fuel cell systems at a one of the leading fuel cell companies in the world. My buddy Josh Brotherton leads implementation of biopharmaceutical process control systems for majorly important biopharmaceutical companies. (And beer companies too.) My buddy, Jeremy Olszewski, is VP in charge of about 60 people at Fidelity's Acturial Services group. He's an actuary with a personality, although we're still working on his dance moves.
And Seth. There's Seth Popinchalk. Seth is the man. He's one of the most intelligent people I know. Not just at his job. But, he's a role model. He inspired me through some times in my early twenties when I was pretty lost. And he's always been a step ahead of me in terms of making big life decisions. He's the guy that goes first and reports back. He's an amazing husband, dad and he's super smart at all things physics and math. He's one of the most curious smart people I know, constantly tinkering with things. Well, he's been telling me he's been tinkering with his blog for the last six months. And he finally launched it. It's quite technical. So, I'm sure you might not get what he's writing. My physics and differential equations, etc are a bit rusty too. So, I don't think that I'll read it regularly.
Nonetheless... he seems to be showing promise among math bloggers and his first post has 34 comments already!
So, maybe I'll have him write a guest post about "what i takes to start a blog at a big and booming company" like Mathworks.
Yesterday, I gave a talk about how to generate leads using linkedin and other online networking activities.
This morning, it looks like LinkedIn has launched a nice redesign of their site. It took me a few minutes to get used to it. But, after clicking around, I think it really works. It's more intuitive, and organizes things a lot better. It seems that a lot more capabilities and information are easier to find now and are a few less clicks away. (Another fan of the new look.)
Yesterday, Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot Co-founder launched a group on LinkedIn called Internet Marketing Mavens. If you consider yourself an internet marketing maven or aspire to be one, you should request membership.
Why You Should Join LinkedIn.
Unless your company primarily services teenagers or college students, more of your prospective clients and current clients are on LinkedIn than any other network [In the US atleast]. I'm not saying they're using it well [or are any more likely to respond to your email or take your phone call]. But, they are there. [Where else are there that many of your prospects in one place?] Some of them might be on Facebook or Myspace and I'm sure you could attend conferences where more of them are.
But, no matter what you sell or who you sell to, LinkedIn is the domain of people with buying power inside the home and inside the company. And it's 24/7 and tells you who knows who. (Still not convinced? Here's another good argument.)
What I Wish LinkedIn Would Do Differently
Allow more unfettered comunication. Their business model is dependent on charging individuals for the privelege of communicating with their personal networks. Long term, this is not sustainable. It's the equivalent to a tax that discourages commerce.
LinkedIn (and us) would be better served if they enabled more communication and created other ways to add value.
The greatest thing that LinkedIn did for allowing people to meet new people, was start their question/answer functionality.
Their group functionality needs a little work, though. It merely allows you to join a group. It's kinda like joining the chamber of commerce just to be in the business directory. Yeah. It's cheaper than the phonebook, but the real value of joining a group is that the group provides opportunities for people to meet new people through committees, volunteer opportunities and events. LinkedIn should, at a minimum, launch a premium group service that allows organizers to launch a forum, publish some events and send bulletins to members. The groups' page should also show network updates, job posts, question/answers that anyone in the group has published.
Uber Online Marketing Genius
, Mike Volpe, Hubspot VP of Marketing, wrote a post about "Scientific Marketing
". He posed some really good questions:
- Why does sales think all the leads are so crappy?
- How come it is so hard to measure all my different marketing programs?
- How can I use a Blog to better market my company?
- How valuable is my web traffic?
- What do all these web stats actually mean for my business?
At WhizSpark, I attempted to apply engineering to event promotion. I did it pretty well. Promoting a successful networking event, I found, was just a matter of getting enough people with a vested interest to invite their contacts. If I had 20 people promoting it, it seemed to always work. When I had a 100 people promoting an event, we had several hundred people in attendance. Eventually, I built up a really good email mailing list and depending on the event, all I had to do was send an invitation. Of course, the bigger the mailing list, the better the results. HubSpot conducts online marketing webinars all the time with several hundred people in attendance.
Event Promotion is Predictable. Measurable. Engineerable.
In a similar fashion, sales has always been pretty scientific. If a salesperson contacts enough prospects, they'll make enough sales. Depending on the sales cycle, number of prospects touched, # qualified, and historical conversion percentages... sales should be predictable. Measurable. Engineerable.
Shouldn't advertising be the same way?
Obviously, the engineers at Google thought advertising should be. And they created Adsense. And made online advertising measurable and pretty damn scientific. Certainly Engineerable.
Shouldn't marketing be measurable too? It seems to me that measurable marketing is the next frontier.But, how do you measure SEO, blogging, webinars, activity on Digg or LinkedIn, leaving comments on other blogs?
Isn't this stuff more art than science? No. Not at all. I'm not saying that creativity isn't necessary. And these activities should be treated as opportunities to meet, interact with and educate potential prospects. Not as places to blast your positioning statements or litter with links. I'm just saying that a marketer should put their right brain on too.
So, how do you go about measuring it? What are the important criteria?If I take a very web centric view, here's the questions I'd want to answer:
- How much qualified traffic can I possibly get to visit my website?
- How much qualified traffic am I getting now? How much traffic are my competitor's getting?
- How much of my traffic is converting? Notice I didn't say lead. I think some conversions don't warrant a sales call. For example, someone might sign up for an email newsletter or leave a comment on a blog.
- How much traffic is converting into a lead? I'd qualify a lead as someone who registers for a seminar/webinar, downloads a white paper, or more explicitly requests someone to contact them.
- What marketing activities cause conversion events? If someone signs up for an email list, then attends a webinar one month later, I'd say that the webinar is a marketing event that should be done again. If webinar x causes 24% of your site visitors or email list members to convert, and white paper y causes only 2%, then do more webinars.
If blog post z garners 15 comments from 25O RSS reads with 4 resulting in a repeat site visit and other conversion event after viewing your product description page... than blog post z.1 is something that should write. Similarly, activity by marketing or anyone else in a company, that happens on external blogs, social media and social networking sites, should be measured too.
Many marketers might stop there
. However, measurable marketing creates an amazing opportunity for "Marketing to be accountable to sales" and "Sales to be accountable to Marketing".
Remember. Marketing is a Science now. So, we need to know what marketing activities results in leads and sales. Along these lines, here's the questions I'd ask next:
- What marketing activities are generating highly qualified leads?
- What sources of leads are converting at the highest rate in the shortest amount of time?
Many really good marketers with strong ties to sales results would stop there. However, if a marketer puts the CFO's hat on for a brief stint, they'd probably ask a few more questions:
- What sources of leads are buying our most profitable products?
- What sources of leads are repeat buyers/ bring in clients that are retained the longest?
- If I spent x amount of time + y amount of dollars on marketing to z lead source and z lead source converted into client buying revenue r and profit p producing product and client stayed for n years, what is my true customer acquisition cost?
- What's my most profitable marketing activity? Which marketing activities are not as profitable?
And of course, if the marketing person wants to put their CEO, Board Member or Shareholder hat on (and you should probably issue stock to any marketing person that can pull this off for your business), here's the question that measurable marketing can answer:
- What marketing activities are best for the bottom and top lines of the business?
- How much can I grow the business if I invest x dollars into marketing activity z?
Is your business doing measurable marketing yet
? What exactly are you waiting for?
I have about 600 subscribers that I've accumulated over the years. Many I know personally. Many I don't. But, most are either people in the tech biz or small to mid sized business owners. I started small and I've stuck with it. Like anything, it's not easy and it takes committment.
Small & Mid Sized Business Owners and Marketing Professionals who are considering starting a blog are usually hesitant for a lot of reasons. Most of them very valid.
- They're afraid of how much work it's going to be. And they're already strapped for time.
- They don't know if they'll be able to write interesting stuff.
- They don't quite understand how it will help their business grow.
- They don't know how to grow their readership.
- They don't know how to get one set up on their website or are afraid it's going to cost a lot of money to do it.
- They're afraid that there will be more people that criticize them in their comments than will complement them.
- It's not really something that people in my line of business do. (I hear this a lot from financial and legal people.)
- If you have any other reasons, please share them in the comments.
However, I think the biggest reason not to start a blog, is because they don't know how to get started. I usually tell them to find interesting blogs, start subscribing and reading them via a feedreader. Then, start leaving comments on those blogs. Eventually, you'll write a really long comment and you'll realize that you should post your thoughts to your own blog instead of in someone else's comments.
But, some people still hesitate. So, I have an offer for any business owner, sales manager, web manager or marketing manager that wants to take me up on it.
If you have some insight and can write a genuinely educational article (on any topic) about your product, service, business or whatever, you're invited to write a guest post on my blog. You can even link to your website.
There's no charge. There's no catch. Your post will have to pass a little bit of editorial review and you must lean more towards educational than promotional. But, all you have to do is apply by filling out this form.
I said I'd be sharing how I am doing keyword research and search engine optimization for my site. I'm still planning to do that. In the meanwhile, if you want to know how to get started with Search Engine Optimization the right way, here's the first step:
- Start by asking people (ie customers, employees, partners, suppliers) what they might type into a search engine in order to find what you sell. Think as big and as broad as possible. Even include words that are less relevant than others as you may find out later that they are much easier to rank high for, yet still attract the right prospect to your site.
- Plug those words into a keyword suggestion tool that helps you identify keywords and keyword phrases that you might not have considered. Consider them. Consider them all. Don't discount anything yet. This is like brainstorming. Ever been in a room for the purpose of brainstorming with that jerk who wants to shoot down everyone's ideas? In Keyword Research, in the beginning, no idea is bad. Don't be that jerk.
- On an ongoing basis, track which keywords (and keyword phrases) people are entering into search engines in order to arrive at your site. You'll need an analytics tool for this. You'll find that people enter in very strange and long phrases and arrive at your site. For example, I got two visitors this past month who searched for "how to generate leads from your website". That's good traffic even though it's only a trickle. A good analytics package helps you identify keyword phrases that are obscure but very relevant. Unless you spend 10 days brainstorming, you're not going to figure these out. But, once you do identify them from your analytics package, you can create some content around them. Imagine if I could find 100 phrases like "how to generate leads from your website" that generates two visitors/month for me.
- Use a tool that helps identify keywords that have adequate search volume, that tracks where you rank now for your keywords, and gives you an estimation of how hard it will be to rank on the first page of search engines for them. Use these three critera, plus relevance to determine your favorite keywords. Yes, now you can start crossing some off of the list. Or atleast giving them a low relevance rating.
- Make the right changes to your site in order to rank for these keywords.
- Come up with a strategy to put more content on your site. You'll most likely need to add more pages to your site. Starting a blog is a great way to do this: a blog creates a new page every time you write an article. Every time you create a new page, you can target a few new keywords.
- Create inbound links to your site using a variety of link building strategies including creating your own links on social media, social networking sites and directories; interacting with bloggers; optimized press release distribution, etc.
- Track rankings as they climb (or sink) for each individual keyword by tracking which pages of your site ranks in what place in the search engines. This helps you to determine which page on your site to modify in order to move from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc page of google to the 1st for a given keyword. If you're suddenly on the second page for a keyword, you can basically go back through steps 1 through 7, find more keywords that are related, create some more content, build some more links. Then, you'll get to be on the first page and you'll get more and more traffic.
- Track and evaluate the value of your incoming links in order to assess which ones are helping which pages rank for a given keyword. This helps you determine how to intelligently build more links to your site in order to move from 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc page of google to the 1st for a given keyword. For example, I know that I rank high for a search for "how to generate leads using linkedin". That link (even though it's from my own blog) will help me cement that position. If someone else links to that (hint. hint) it'll help even more.
- Track your competitors keyword rankings and inbound links in order to evaluate how to duplicate your competitor's success. It's possible to do all of what I listed above on your competitor's sites. Remember the days of asking your clients for information (catalogs, brochures, pricing, how they sell, how they position products, etc) about your competitor's. All that and much more is at your fingertips. You can now figure out exactly how your competitor's get prospects to visit their websites, how much traffic they're getting because of what they're doing and whether or not they're converting a lot of their traffic into business. There's no reason not to do competitive intelligence. And now you can do more than ever was posssible before. Most importantly, you can benefit almost immediately from this knowledge by duplicating what they're doing successfully.
- Track which keywords deliver relevant visitors that convert into leads and sales.
- Repeat this process until you have more leads than you can handle. I'd argue that you shouldn't stop then, either. But, you should set your goals. Not me.
In order to pull this off, you can go find about 10 free tools, spend about 20 hours either integrating them or slicing and dicing data that they spit out, then read about 20 SEO blogs over 3 months to figure out how to actually implement. Or we can just have a conversation. I have one affordable tool, all the knowledge you need in an easily digestable form, and all the tools you need to implement it. And you'll be making progress within one month.
Peter is already doing keyword research, blogging and writing web scalable applications on top of hadoop.
You should see how fast he types after a few of these.
I talk to a lot of people every day about their business and how and whether online marketing will help them solve their business growth, website and online marketing challenges.
Usually, I can determine whether I can help them or not before they can determine whether I can help them or not. (Read that sentence again.)
Sometimes, I get a little too excited about it. And that's a bad thing because really my job is to help people to buy, not sell them on what I think they can do. To help them buy, it's critical that they determine how I can help them. Not for me to just blurt it out. There certainly is the appropriate time in my conversations with a prospective client to demonstrate how I can help them solve their problems and achieve their goals. But, it's not in the beginning. And it's not until I am convinced I actually can help them and that they say they want the help.
For example, one of my clients, Darcy Cook, (cpr training genius) is probably the least literate computer person under 40 that I know. She's a people person. Put her in a room full of prospects and she'll walk out with 10 contracts. But, on the web, this stuff is intimidating for her. So, when she signed up, I simply established that I knew what her goals were and told her how much time and money she'd need to invest to get there. And that she'd need to be willing to spend the time. By the time I got there in the sales process, I had demonstrated my internet marketing expertise to Darcy and she trusted me to do the right thing for her business. So, Darcy said "let's get started". She's a month in now and about to launch her fully search engine optimized/lead-capture-ready website onto the web. Based on her specific situation, I expect her to generate more leads in her first month with her new site than she did all of last year from the web.
But, if I had blurted out how I could help her in the beginning of the conversation, I would have just overwhelmed her and she would have probably done nothing other than go to more networking events - in order to grow her business.
Now, she'll be out on the web and moving towards her goals of expanding her business beyond New England within the next few months. Something she couldn't have done if she just kept going to local networking events to generate leads.
So, if you're reading this and I sent this post to you, you should know that I think it's worth it for both of us to continue talking... because I can probably help you. Don't be discouraged that I haven't said it yet. Be patient if I haven't told you how yet. (I'm still trying to figure out how to best help you.) And if I'm overwhelming you with too much information, just tell me to go slower.
I'll be speaking next Wednesday at the Next Level Executives.
Next Level Executives is going through some enhancements. I've been helping Mike Langford for the last year to incubate a new networking concept where 1) members hold private member only non-competitive meetings to help each other overcome challenges and 2) members create educational seminars that position themselves as experts to guests and other members in attendance. Here's an example of a public seminar the group held.
The concept solves two big problems that the average networking group has:
- Most groups don't require business owners to take their game up a notch. Nor do they provide a path for businesses to do that. The private member only meetings require business owners to discuss their challenges. Members take turns presenting their business, what their "next level" is and what they think is "Stopping them from getting there". There hasn't been a challenge raised that atleast one member has experience overcoming.
- Most networking groups are good at helping members get to know each other, establish trust and expertise within the group. This group has done that. But, it also has helped members establish their expertise to visitors. Generally, each public meeting has about 5-10 guests in attendance that show up to hear the speakers present. The goal of this group is to help small business owners start to market themselves through seminars.
With about 20 members, Mike has decided to take it up a notch. Kate Hyland Mercer, business coach extraordinaire has been recruited to help run the private portion of the meetings.
Mike also decided to construct an online site that would showcase members outside of the meeting and give them a chance to demonstrate their expertise online. He was originally looking at KickApps. I suggested Ning and a week later, Mike put together a first draft of the Next level Executives site on Ning.
Mike also has a few tricks up his sleeve for expanding this concept. I think it has a lot of potential.
At HubSpot, we help people set up blogs for their business. But more importantly, we guide them in using blogs as a strategic marketing tool to attract prospective clients to their websites and engage prospective clients in a conversation on their websites.
Done right, I honestly don't think there is a better marketing tool - that is applicable to almost any small or mid sized business - than a blog.
Before starting a blog, the first step should be to do search engine optimization keyword research. Blogging allows a business to create as many pages on their website as they want in an organized and navigable way - since every post becomes a page. And since every page on a business's website is an opportunity to rank in the search engine result pages for a given set of 1-3 keywords, blogging creates the potential to rank for a whole lotta keywords relevant to the business.
However, blogging is not just about publishing content to the web. (Great writing is critical though.)
Blogging is about participating in a transparent and public conversation where anyone and everyone in the world is invited to participate. I like to call them blogversations. But, think about going into a networking event filled with prospects and suppose you could talk to them all at once, say as the featured speaker. That's what a blog is. It's actually better. Imagine if you could pause time and have 1 on 1 conversations with people w/out the rest of the audience knowing. Then, resume your speech until the next person wants to talk to you. Then, imagine that this went on forever 24/7. How could you not get business out of that.
So, businesses should treat it like a conversation.
The hardest part that most businesses have when starting a blog is not coming up with the content. It's finding the first few people to have a conversation with.
Which is why you should immediately find a business blog buddy. Your business blog buddy should be:
- Someone who has similar interests or has a similar kind of business. An example of a blog buddy for a realtor would be a mortgage broker or a home inspector. If you do facial plastic surgery in Manhattan, find someone who doesn't do facial plastic surgery who does aesthetic surgery in MA. If you blog about online marketing, find a blog buddy that covers sales management or sales training.
- They have to be willing to link to you. You might not start out asking them to link to you. That's like meeting someone for the first time at a networking event and asking them to endorse you. You should start by reading their blog regularly, commenting on their blog and eventually linking to them. If they get it, and you're writing compelling stuff on your blog, they'll eventually start reading you, leaving comments and linking back. (If they don't ever link back, I recommend that you send them this post and tell them you're going to have to break it off if the blogversation doesn't go both ways.)
- Build your own network of blog buddies. When I started blogging, just like most new bloggers, I had no readers. I worked my way up to a few hundred readers - starting at one reader at a time. Once I made a blog buddy, I usually introduced my new blog buddy to other blog buddies. It's how Andrew and Noah met. It's how Greg got a job. As you start to build your network, most people will get it too. They'll start introducing you to others. Before you know it, you'll write a great article and 10 of your blog buddies will leave a comment or link to you from their blog. All of the sudden, their readers start to read your blog. Eventually, it takes off and your readership will grow a lot faster than one at a time.
- Don't stop reaching out to new people. Just don't stop making blog buddies like I did for awhile. They'll stay subscribed, but they won't be as active if you don't exercise your relationships.
- If you really want to grow your readership, fill out this form and start a business like PC4Media. All of my clients become my blog buddies. I'll happily show you how to do it. If you want to be my blog buddy, here's where you should apply OR just start linking to me.
I spent some time this past week helping out Dave Kurlan with his search engine optimization. Dave runs two successful companies. One was named to the Inc 5000 this year: Objective Management Group. The other (Dave Kurlan & Associates) was where I learned what I know about sales.
Dave is a guru on the subject of sales force development even among the sales development experts in the world. He's an expert among experts.
Using HubSpot, I helped Dave identify some new keywords he should target in his search engine optimization efforts, as well as improve the prominence of his calls to action, with the goal of improving his already strong traffic and visitor to lead conversion rates. Since he's a world reknowned expert and has a strong following in the blogosphere among sales develoment experts, his website is prominent in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) for a lot of relevant phrases related to sales force management.
At WhizSpark, I helped Dave market a handful of webinars for OMG and Rick Roberge and I teamed up on a local seminar for DKA. So, I've known Dave for a few years now. Dave was a successful HubSpot internet marketing client well before I joined HubSpot.
However, for a bunch of reasons, I figured it made sense for Dave to be a PC4Media member. The most important one was that I know my other clients would benefit from reading what he writes and from the services he provides. Dave is also a successful blogger and many of my clients who are just starting with blogging could benefit from seeing how he does it. So, as a start, I've launched a page under the PC4Media business directory that talks about OMG's sales assessments, as well as syndicates Dave's last few blog posts. I'm happy Dave has agreed.
Before I hired DKA to improve (err establish) my sales skills, I took the OMG sales assessment test to determine what my sales competencies and sales weaknesses were. It informed me and Rick what challenges I needed to overcome.
If you run a sales force and you don't use OMG's sales assessment tools, you're most likely making a lot of mistakes in your sales person recruiting and hiring process. If you run a sales force, and you never had your people evaluated, you should hire Dave to do a sales force evaluation to determine how to increase sales.
I'm spending most of my time calling people who have expressed interest in HubSpot's strategic internet marketing platform. Sometimes, I don't have the opportunity to dig into issues a business might be having when I call them.
That's ok. Just in case it was a bad time, their boss just asked them to do something unreasonable, or their cat just died, this post might help them figure out whether I might be able to help them... when they have a moment.
Here's a list of things I help businesses with:
- Can you edit and add content to your website without paying your webmaster or waiting for the tech team to do it? Does your website go for months without anything new for visitors to read or for search engines to index?
- Is your online marketing strategy delivering results? Do you have one? Or does your website still look like the brochure you designed in 1999?
- Is Search Engine Optimization (SEO) something "you think your web
designer did" and not something you do everyday? Can you predict and
measure the amount of traffic and leads you get as a result of your
internal or outsourced SEO efforts? When you did keyword research, did you do anything more than brainstorm what your clients "might type" at google?
- Is your site visitor to lead conversion rate lower than 2%? Do you even measure that? Is your call to action a "Contact Us" button or buried at the bottom of the site?
- Do you have a blogging strategy that generates increased visitors and leads for your business?
- Do you know how to build links to your website that drive qualified visitors? How about links that increase your rankings in the search engines for the right search terms?
- Are you spending a lot of money on pay per click ads that send visitors to your home page instead of landing pages optimized to get the visitor to convert into a lead? Are you spending a lot on PPC ads without even investigating whether SEO could help you rank in the organic rankings?
- Do you have a strategy for Digg, Delicious, Myspace, Facebook and LinkedIn that again generates qualified traffic and leads? Have you even visited these sites to see how many of your prospects are interacting with your competitors?
- Are you still doing Public Relations primarily with a telephone instead of online SEO friendly wire services? How's that going?
- Are you tired of guessing what to do to market your busines online? Or worse, paying high-priced, do-little consultants to tell you what to do? Or even worse, paying very high priced firms to do things that you don't quite understand and they can't quite explain?
- Does your marketing department generate qualified timely leads for your sales people using the web? Do your sales people know how to support your online marketing efforts? Do your salespeople know how to generate their own leads from online networking?
- Do you have an email, web and webinar strategy that nurtures and educates your site visitors and prospects? Do people tell you, "I've been watching your company for a few months now. I'm ready to get started working with you."?
If they have one of these problems and they'd like to discuss how I can help them, I'm happy to make 15-30 minutes available for them free of charge to discuss their unique challenges and needs. If there's a fit after that, I'll also help them identify the business growth opportunities available to their specific business through online marketing. If we agree that I can help them solve their problems and there's sufficient opportunity to warrant an investment from them, I'll make an appropriate recommendation.
They should contact me through this form.
Most small and mid sized businesses are just dipping their toes into blogging. With keyword research and a good analytics package, it's not hard to plan and measure how blogging will impact the bottom and top lines for a business. If it's an ecommerce site, blogging is a no brainer. If you're a b2b company trying to generate leads... again... a no brainer. If you're b2c and people are passionate about your types of products (ie you sell wine not hammers), also a no brainer. If you're a realtor, you should be talking to Real Estate Tomato about how to start a real estate blog... umm... yesterday. (Of course, you shouldn't underestimate what's required to be successful with a blog - no matter who you are or what you sell.)
All that said, social media is still the wild west. There's no best practices. There are very few services that assist business owners in a meaningful way. The only businesses that are taking advantage of social media are big brand name F1000 companies. They have the budgets to deal directly with the big social networks and the budgets to tap the big ad agencies who deal with the big social networks.
Everyone else is sorta left figuring this out themselves. I've been able to successfully generate leads from social media activity. So has the internet marketing company I work for. We teach our clients best practices for the sites that actually drive traffic directly, and support our clients' SEO strategy. We also give them the tools to analyze effectiveness in terms of traffic, leads and soon: sales across their SEO, PPC, blogging, and blogosphere/social media activity. This informs what works and what they should do more of. For example, if Digg reaches your audience, you should learn how to use Digg. If you're trying to reach a younger crowd, join facebook. If you're trying to reach CEOs, start answering questions and endorsing people on LinkedIN.
But, this list could go on and on. How does someone know where to focus their efforts and how do they measure what's working before the leads come in? As this map indicates, you could literally spend all of 2008 registering and learning social media services. There certainly isn't a comprehensive tool within the reach of the average mid sized business to track all the leading indicators of social media success or failure. However, is it really necessary to track the leading indicators? If you have a website that converts visitors into leads and you can successfully generate traffic from social media sources and measure which social media sites send visitors with a high likelihod of converting to a lead... then... I'm left with the conclusion that you should just find yourself a social media advisor. I'm sure that 1 out of 50,000 people are like me (or the guys at Read/Write Web) who spend too much time tracking the social media landscape, who can interpret it and translate it for the average business owner so they know what to do first.
And if in doubt and you don't want to find an advisor, start with LinkedIn. If you're in business, chances are that your best prospects are on there.
Bruce Mendehlson and I have been chatting by email about this. I also spoke to Debra Simpson on the West Coast about this. I plan to speak with Rita Coco and Allison Chisholm about this too.
But, Bruce is the first one that has demonstrated some knowledge about what I think is required to make blogging work for businesses. Here's his thoughts:
There are A LOT of blogs out there, and many (in fact, most) are poorly written, rambling, off subject and add little (if any) value that relates back to the product, service, or business someone is trying to promote.
After all, it's challenging to compose relevant, compelling content on a regular basis--after a few dismal attempts most business owners move on to something else. It's not that they don't have the desire; they don't have the time or the discipline to devote to a labor-intensive product like a blog.
The key is to help your clients understand how a blog (or a podcast, RSS feed, widget, etc.) should and must be integrated within a broader marketing and communications plan. For example, if they have a product in R&D or coming to market, they'll want to use the blog to build interest in and excitement about the product or service. They'll want to create a dialogue with consumers in which consumers can share their thoughts about the product or service.
When it comes to blogging in our Web 2.0 world, it's all about the 5 C's: Collaboration, Content, Converged services, Community, and Conversation. Your job is not only to help business owners understand the important of blogging, but also to invest the necessary resources (time and money) to creating a well-written, interactive online dialogue through their blog.
This is extremely well said. Blogging is just a tool. It's how you use it that's critical.
I've signed on about 15 companies since the beginning of the year who all are in the process of starting their blog, at my suggestion. But, it's not something to enter into lightly. And it's not something I'd recommend someone do until they develop a strategy.
Blogging should fit into a strategy that supports the business. The ultimate goal of most marketing activities should be to generate interest from qualified prospects. So blogging should fit into their traffic and online lead generation strategy. In order to get the most out of it, the following should be done first:
Search Engine Optimization Keyword research to inform topics that should be written about.
Launching a blog on a blogging platform that is optimized for SEO and community development - on your own domain name.
Reading and commenting on other blogs in order to start entering the conversation.
A system in place that tracks new links, traffic and leads generated from the blogging activities.
If you don't do all of this, you run the risk of writing a blog that noone reads and adds no value to your business.
But, as Bruce points out it's equally important to go into blogging knowing that this is an investment of time and money, like any other marketing expenditure. So, it requires the right resources to pull it off.
In order to help my clients, I'm seeking a stable of professional writers who I can recommend. If you know anyone, please send them to this post and ask them to contact me here. I'm going to need to be comfortable that they can do what Bruce talks about, but also do what I bulleted above.
They are going to need to be able to coach clients towards their business goals using blogs as a tool.
Right now, "How to Generate Leads Using the Web" is the title of my blog. I'll probably change it at some point.
But, "generating leads via the web" is what I am helping my clients do. That won't change. I'm planning on doing a series of step-by-step videos to demonstrate how to do generate leads via Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click, Blogging and Engaging in the Blogosphere and on Social Media sites... for the benefit of my clients as well as readers. The knowledge to do this should be in everyone's hands. Right now, the knowledge I'm going to share is not known by many people. I'm about to piss off a lot of search engine optimization and social media marketing consultants.
To do this stuff right, you don't "NEED" them. However, to do it right, you NEED the tools. Since I'm providing my clients with the tools, I have a lot of reasons to share the knowledge of "how to generate leads" openly. I'd rather educate a few hundred people at a time, than one on one.
The place to start is always with Keyword Research. Using the HubSpot tools, I've been able to help almost all of my clients identify keywords that:
- have a large amount of search volume,
- aren't too difficult to rank for in the organic search rankings,
- and where they are already ranking in the first 100 results in google's search engine result pages (SERPs)
These are the gems because with a little bit of work, it's easy to start ranking high on the first page and start enjoying that free traffic. But, since there are a lot of internet marketers publishing to the web, it's difficult to identify keywords for myself. (Luckily for me, Mike Volpe and the marketing team at HubSpot has done the work to rank for "internet marketing" and a bunch of other phrases, and they supply with as many leads as I can call.)
What I'm struggling with is how to show examples of doing it without giving away competitive advantage. For example, we discovered a few keywords that one of my clients should focus on, he changed his title tags and voila ... he went from result 79 to 9 in the SERPs. I would never share what those keywords are because it would make it too easy for his competitors to duplicate. The actual work he did to rank is obvious if his competitors simply look at his site, assuming they have enough knowledge of SEO. (0ne of his competitors already knew about this keyword and is optimized and ranks for it.) However, I'm not going to advertise how he did it in a video.
The struggle is over.
So, I'm happy to report that I discovered a solid keyword phrase, where pc4media ranks "19" in the SERPs and there's approximately 140 searchers per month. I would not have discovered if it wasn't for the integration of HubSpot's keyword research tools and web marketing analytics. A few people came to the site as a result of the search. Then, with one click I determined where I was ranking, how many people searched for that phrase in a month and whether or not it'd be difficult to get to the first page. HubSpot's keyword tool tells me that it's not that difficult to get higher than I already am and I've already made a change to my site to get higher.
So, I've found a good one. Were you hoping I'd share it? Not until I do my videos. I don't want another internet marketing expert to wreck my progress while I'm making the video. I expect others to compete with me for the keyword after I do the video and lots of people see it. But, that's why search engine optimization is an ongoing process. Also, by then, I'll have done a bunch of blogging, link building and social media marketing in order to rank. It'll be harder to duplicate my efforts. And I'm sure I'll find more terms to go after by then too. But, this'll serve as a good way to demonstrate "how to generate leads" via SEO.