Today, I shared the stage with Tony Mikes (@secondwindbuzz) and Billy Mitchell (@billymitchell1) to give a talk titled, "The Inbound Mandate" at YA2: Your Agency Empowered.
Below is the deck, which was largely created by my right hand man @HubSpot, Patrick Shea (@mpatrickshea).
For those who weren't there, here's a blog post I published a few weeks ago that says some of what I said today: 9 More Reasons to Invest in Inbound Marketing. I plan to work with @shannopop to get a blog post on the HubSpot blog that covers more of what I said in the deck.
PS to @bhalligan. Although the slides might not look like it, you would blush if you were there. @BillyMitchell1 will tell you.
Feedback welcome. Engage on Twitter: @pc4media.
The future of marketing belongs to the hybrids.
The role of the CMO has expanded beyond brand, creative and advertising to include digital programs, analytics and marketing technology decisions, among other emerging disciplines.
As a result, marketing professionals are tasked with developing new skills—primarily in the areas of tech and data analysis—in order to successfully execute strategic, integrated campaigns that drive leads and loyalty.
But, next-gen, hybrid marketers are a rare breed with agencies, corporations and tech companies all after the same employees.
How can you prepare yourself for the future and stand out in the marketing talent crowd? Below are six key competencies of the tech-savvy marketing professional.
1. Data Analysis
Marketers have access to an insurmountable amount of data. Hidden within it lies consumer intelligence and market research, insight into the performance of campaigns, and actionable next steps. Yet, “on average, marketers depend on data for just 11% of all customer-related decisions.” Metrics-driven, analytical marketers are needed to bring order to the noise and meaningful data to the forefront.
2. Content Marketing
Content is the crux of inbound marketing, fueling email, social updates, PR outreach and search optimization. But as outlined in the 7 Key Elements of Great Business Content, “there are many talented writers and content services available, but few that possess the wide range of capabilities needed [for] … effective business copywriting.”
Excellent copywriters create content that is strategic, brand-centric, buyer-persona focused, optimized, technically sound, creative and results driven.
3. Social Media
Consumers discuss brands, seek recommendations, ask for advice and share experiences on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn everyday—providing powerful opportunities for organizations to interact.
Marketers who understand how to navigate social channels and create integrated strategies are key to an organization’s social business success.
4. Email Marketing
Marketing automation technologies, like HubSpot, have changed the game when it comes to email marketing. Messages can now be personalized based on consumers’ behaviors and preferences.
However, with technology changing so quickly, many marketers lack the technical prowess to execute advanced campaigns, leaving those with the skills in high demand.
The proliferation of smart phones and tablets has created an always-on society, that expects anytime, anywhere access. As usage increases, we’ll likely see the day when mobile users are more prevalent than desktop users. (That’s already the case for Facebook.)
Marketers who aren’t considering the implications of mobile on marketing and customer service are at a severe disadvantage to those that are.
6. Development and Programming
Basic coding and programming skills help marketers understand what is and isn’t possible when it comes to technology. This helps you guide strategy, ask the important questions and think outside the box.
As explained in Every Marketer Should be Technical: “To be successful nowadays, you need have both a breadth and depth of skills. You have to know what to ask for and how it's done. Without both of these capabilities, you're prone to be less efficient than a colleague or competitor who does.”
The Evolution of the Prototype Marketer
For a deeper look into required competencies for marketers, including what’s driving the transformation and resources to evolve, download PR 20/20's free ebook, Evolution of the Prototype Marketer: The Hybrids are Coming.
What skills do you think are critical for modern marketers? Share them in the comments.
About the Author: Tracy Lewis is an inbound marketing consultant with 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.
Watch out! Those pesky PR people are coming.
That’s so far from the truth—if you’re smart.
Blogger outreach is a vital component of a content or inbound marketing campaign. For many agencies, blogger outreach is the forgotten strategy because of its roots in PR—something traditionally outside the inbound marketing best practices umbrella.
But companies that integrate blogger outreach as part of their normal campaigns can tap an ocean of opportunities from backlinks, ranking, social, blogger coverage and traffic. PR can help with lead gen as well.
Here are 6 things to keep in mind when developing your blogger outreach campaign:
1) Identify Your Targets
You’ve got to know your target audience. Based on that target audience and what blogs they’d read, you can make a list of potential bloggers to reach out to. You want to cast a wide relevant net.
There’s no way to guarantee responses, so the broader the target list, the more responses you could receive. Make sure that the blogs/bloggers you have identified as targets would be interested in the “news” you are promoting. If it’s a new cooking app that you’re promoting, it obviously makes sense to send to tech blogs, food blogs and possibly mommy blogs. But if you have an education app food blogs aren’t going to be interested. By tailoring your list, you’re showing bloggers you know and care about what they cover. Find these blogs by doing a Google search using keywords like: Mommy Blogs or Tech Blogs, etc.
Check out the blogs yourself to see if they look legitimate. Look into what kind of authority they have, social media following, etc. Get the Blog names, URL, name of the blogger and contact info and input into Excel spread sheet. Now you have a “media list” to work with.
2) Develop a Plan of Attack
Outline your plan of attack before you begin outreach. A lot of blogs will want something in return for your post. Some will ask for money, some will ask for free product. Some will want product (or discounts) to give away to their readers. Be prepared with what you can actually offer up before beginning outreach. You want them to talk about the product so give them the incentive to do that. If it’s a really good blog I would consider payment as an option, but I wouldn’t pay every blog to write a post. I’d gauge based on how many readers and social media followers they have. If they are big enough to make an impact and get the word out to thousands of people (think 15,000 and up), it could be worth paying for a sponsored post.
3) Tailor Your Correspondence
You want to create a customized email “pitch” for your blogger outreach. Make sure you include their name or call out something specifically of interest to them, or something that resonated with you from their blog and why you think you’re product would be great for their audience. The more tailored, the better. You want the blogger to know that you are familiar with their site/writing and that you are talking directly to them. The more you show you know about their blog, the more likely they’ll be to read your email and cover your product.
4) Ask for Social Media Coverage
A lot of bloggers will have large following on Facebook and Twitter. In addition to pitching them to cover your product on their blog, make sure you ask about posting on their social media as well. Because they may have thousands of extra readers on social media, where you can extend your reach even further. Ask them to link to your social media pages, include your Twitter handle, etc.
5) Follow Up
Make sure you stay on top of all the bloggers you’ve reached out to or “pitched” and don't forget to keep track of who requested product or additional info. Follow up with the bloggers to confirm the product arrived (if you’ve sent to them), ask if they have all the info they need to write their post (they might ask for images and make sure they include your website) and ask them when they plan to post their write up about your product so you can share it with your community as soon as it goes live on their blog. Follow up to say "thank you" after the blog post goes up. Maintaining your relationship is important because you going to want to reach out to them again in the future to write about another campaign.
6) Keep Notes
Tracking all feedback and recording that feedback in your Excel spreadsheet, aka media list, is important. You’ll find out that certain things work for certain bloggers, note who is paid, who likes giveaways, who doesn’t like certain things. Those notes will be helpful in the future when you do another campaign.
The key to a solid program is knowing your audience, tailoring your outreach and building relationships you can use in the future for other campaigns.
About the Author: Ryan Malone is the founder and CEO of SmartBug Media, a strategic inbound marketing agency based on Southern California. Go Lakers.
Most companies that resell products suck at marketing. In the IT and industrial markets, resellers have existing relationships with clients that enable manufacturers to get their products to market. But, these resellers sell and market the old fashioned way: brochures and 1:1 sales conversations. They generally don't practice scale-able marketing methods, especially online marketing, very well. On the other hand, HubSpot resellers excel at generating demand via inbound marketing. As they should. They are inbound marketing agencies, after all.
We've been doing a lot of analysis in the last few months at HubSpot, in order to figure out the growth channels that will help HubSpot scale from 10s of thousands of customers to 100s of thousands of customers one day. The graph below shows what our different funnels look like.
As the graph shows, HubSpot goes to market in 3 different ways. We have an outbound sales team that calls perfect fit customers who haven't found us yet. We, of course, have an inbound sales team that calls the leads our marketing team generates. We have a channel sales team who works with our agency partners/resellers to acquire mutual clients/customers.
Before you read on, take a look at the graph and ask yourself, "What does the data tell us?". (I removed the absolute numbers and the 'conversion rate from lead worked to customers' from the graph. But, I set up the ratios so that you could accurately compare the channels.)
Outbound vs Inbound
As you can see from the graph, our inbound and outbound teams work the same amount of leads, x. Yet, the inbound marketing team produces 5x the number of customers from that same volume of leads. It's a testament to the sales efficiency that is enabled when prospects are attracted to a company, as opposed to being approached by the company.
On the flip side, marketing must generate 5x leads in order to create x workable leads. Unfortunately, not everyone who converts on our website is ready to do inbound marketing.
Inbound vs Channel
Our agency partners who resell our product usually use our product for their own inbound marketing. Therefore, we - unlike most channel sales programs - know how many leads they generate and how many permission-based contacts that they upload. On a monthly basis, our partners have collectively added 12/5ths of the contacts to their HubSpot powered marketing databases than our marketing team adds, or 12x the volume of leads our outbound team works. Despite this extremely large top of the funnel that our partners create in aggregate every month, they register less than half the volume of leads that our outbound team works. When compared to our inbound sales team, which works 20% of the leads that our marketing team generates, our partners only try to resell HubSpot to less than 5% of their contacts. Nonetheless, of the leads they register, they convert the same percentage to customers as our inbound sales team does. In conclusion, their sales conversion rates are equivalent to our inbound sales team. But, they do a comparatively poor job of turning leads into sales opportunities.
How Would You Capitalize on this Demand?
In aggregate, our partners have created massive unfulfilled demand for their services. Further, their bottom of the funnel sales conversion rates are equivalent (or better) than HubSpot's internal teams. While I didn't share this data in this article, client retention amongst our agency partners is also very strong. But, as discussed, the top of the funnel sales conversion rate is much lower than Hubspot's internal teams.
If you're a HubSpot partner, what do you plan to do differently after seeing this data? If you were HubSpot, what would you do to help your partners generate more revenue from the demand they've created?
Editor's note: This article was written by Melanie Collins (@MelanieCollins1), Business Development Manager for Media Company Partnerships @HubSpot. She's leading our effort to help media companies transform their advertising services into marketing and advertising services that people love.
When HubSpot was created 6 years ago, it was founded to help businesses do inbound marketing. Rather than spending most of their marketing budget on outbound marketing tactics - like telemarketing, direct mail, email, banner ads and traditional ads like TV, radio, newspaper and magazine ads - inbound marketers attract visitors, convert visitors to leads and sales, and analyze data to identify ways to increase traffic, leads and sales over time. Whereas outbound marketing reaches people who may or may not be interested in your product, inbound marketing helps your business get found by people who have an interest in exactly what your business has to offer. Businesses that have figured out how to use the internet to “get found” by potential customers and then convert them to customers, are shifting their marketing budgets to inbound away from traditional advertising. This shift is taking a big toll on traditional media companies.
How big of an impact? The traditional media outlook for 2013 is drab at best, with local radio, cable TV, local TV, newspaper and OOH only receiving between a 3% and 11% share of local media marketing dollars. Of all of these, local radio will see the biggest decline in revenue compared to 2012 with a loss of 5.9%. (Source: Borrell Associates 2013 Local Advertising Outlook)
Declines in share and losses in revenue are forcing leadership at traditional media companies to face their challenges head on. As I speak with more and more consultants, General Managers, General Sales Managers and Directors of Sales these are the biggest challenges in need of solutions:
1. Lack of Warm leads
Trends indicate that local media's projected ad growth will come from brand new business in 2013. The problem is sales reps are chasing existing dollars in their markets. Since most local media companies don't have a dedicated marketing or sales person helping to generate new, high quality leads, sales reps are left with one option to drum up new business -- cold calling. If you're in the business, you know that scribbling down that new advertiser you see in the newspaper or on a billboard and calling them up, is getting less and less effective these days.
2. Inconsistent Customer Revenue
Not only are sales teams constantly chasing existing advertisers, they're constantly chasing the same sales too. Inconsistent ratings, circulation numbers and viewership make insertion orders commonplace and annual buys few and far between. Forecasting revenue with a larger and growing portion of one-time-buys is nearly impossible. Worse still, media companies know marketing dollars are being spent elsewhere in the market... But, they haven't figured out how to capture a larger portion of their client's marketing budgets.
3. No differentiation From Other Media Companies
The good news is money is being placed in local media, in fact close to $96 billion will be spent on local media in the US in 2013. Online is forecasted to take a 25.4 % share, newspaper 18.6%, TV 12.3% and radio 11.4%. (Source: Borrell Associates 2013 Local Advertising Outlook) But in order for media companies to win their fair share of the dollars that are being placed in market, they must be able to provide a distinct value between what their ad programs deliver vs. that of their competitors. Here's why.
Let's say you're a sales manager at a radio station in Boston, MA and one of your reps is trying to win new business from the owner of XYZ Granite Company. The owner told your sales rep that he needs to reach contractors who buy in bulk and you're about to pitch why your station is the right choice. During your meeting he tells you that he's already met with two other radio stations, two newspapers and TV station. He asks you, "Can I reach contractors by working with you and what makes your station different from all the other options out there?"
What's your answer? That your demo is M25-54 and that you have the highest ratings in the market? Do you tell him that you created a spot for a local lumber company with a message that targeted contractors and that lumber company is now a longstanding client of the station? Do you tell him that the Red Sox tickets you can give him as a result of his spend is what makes you different from the other media companies?
A week later your rep follows up only to find out that your station didn't win the business and neither did the other radio stations, newspapers or TV station. It turns out that the owner, frustrated because none of the media companies he met with could help him reach his target audience, took his budget and bought a skyscraper ad on a regional trade pub website. His reason was that even though the website had a small audience of builders and contractors, it was the exact audience he needed to reach and he could tell how many people ultimately clicked on the ad. As the media company you lose out on the new revenue because you weren't able to differentiate exactly how you could help connect this business to its target audience. In reality, there are a lot of ways you can help him...you just may not know how.
4. Losing Money to Online Advertising & Marketing Services
The biggest growth area in local media this year will be in online marketing, growing 31% from 2012 representing a little more than $24 billion. Newspapers, radio stations, cable TV, local TV, direct mail and OOH continue to lose share because their clients are investing dollars that they used to spend in traditional. The money is being reallocated to SEO, email, PPC, banner advertising and other online ad services that generate website traffic -- which is ultimately where potential customers do their research before they buy. As a result, online seemingly becomes more measurable and successful for business owners. Sure traditional media companies sell online inventory that competes with alternative online channels, but traditional media companies find that revenue isn't predictable, it yields small margins, sales reps don't always understand how to sell it competitively and it ultimately can't be bundled to drive up the average cost per IO as media companies had once hoped.
It's been fight or flight for traditional media in recent years and the near defeat is causing traditional media companies to recognize the challenges they are facing. The Center for Sales Strategy’s Matt Sunshine consults with traditional media companies to help them overcome these challenges. “Lead generation at media companies is flat out broken which results in sales people meeting with unqualified prospects. There are more people selling than there are buying and that’s got to change,” says Sunshine.
The conversation reaches even further with Seth Godin addressing the fate of local media companies at an upcoming conference in March. His take is that if local media companies can find their clients connections within their communities -- and also nurture those connections -- then the challenges facing local media companies will turn into their greatest opportunity.
What do you think the fate of traditional media companies is? Which of these problems are you seeing? What other problems do you see? What are the solutions?
Once you've got your salespeople to come around to the idea of inbound marketing, what do you do with their content ideas? If your salespeople followed the "notepad method" of content creation, then after a couple of weeks they should have plenty of ideas just waiting to be turned into killer content. Check out this recent interview where I discuss this idea in detail.
But pages of questions, comments, and unconnected ideas aren't going to cut it in the content-centric world of inbound marketing. You've got to tie all of those great ideas into a cohesive whole.
One of the best ways to put all of your content ideas into use is by turning them into blog posts. Blog posts are awesome because they:
- don't have to be terribly long
- tend to be written informally
- allow you to offer up concentrating chunks of information
- and the comments section gives you an avenue for interacting with prospects.
As great as blog posts are, writing a post can be challenging. There is no single "right" way to take an idea for a blog post and turn it into a finished product, but there are a couple of suggestions I can offer if you're having trouble.
1. Stay focused
You might have a hundred great ideas for blog posts, but I guarantee they aren't going to work if you try to shove them all into one post. Stick to one central idea and follow it through to conclusion. There's nothing wrong with a personal anecdote or digression here and there as long as they bolster your main idea, but try and keep it to a minimum. If your post is a series of unconnected personal stories, then your readers are going to lose sight of your point. One way to make sure all of your paragraphs and ideas work together is to outline your post. For example:
Introduction and Main idea: Pens are better than pencils.
Supporting detail 1: Pencil lead smears, but ink doesn't smear after you let it dry.
Supporting detail 2: You don't need to sharpen pens.
Personal Story: Short paragraph about that time I couldn't write down a number because I had a broken pencil.
You don't have to write out an outline, but keeping a format in mind while writing can help keep you focused and on topic.
2. Let SEO Be Your Guide
If you find yourself casting around for something to write about, or you're drowning in too many ideas and don't know which to focus on, choosing one or two high ranking keywords to use as a guide is a great way to gain focus. Do the leg work and research the keywords that have clout in your industry, the keywords you rank for, and the keywords that you want to rank for. Once you know the keywords that you want to go after, dig into your pile of ideas and create posts around those keywords. Creating blog posts around keywords is a great way to work on your SEO and get content out there.
3. Stay Calm
You aren't writing an academic paper, you're writing a blog post; you don't need to overawe your readers with four syllable words and a formal tone. Write in the same tone that you would speak in as if you were talking to a prospect. If you're having trouble getting into the right frame of mind imagine that you're having a conversation with a prospect. What questions would lead into the point you want to make? What would the normal progression of ideas be if you were having a conversation? If it makes sense, you can set up your post in a question and answer format. If the best way to explain your point is with a numbered list, then format your post so that your points are in a numbered list. Write your post in whatever way is the most natural and clear.
The best suggestion I can give is simply to write. You don't have to have a perfect post the first time through, but you do need to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). If you find yourself putting off writing your next blog post, then I recommend scheduling yourself time to write. Block off a half an hour or an hour just like you would for a meeting, and don't let yourself do anything else until you have your first draft down on paper. You can always edit later, but the most important thing is to get your ideas out.
Salespeople are excellent sources of content for blog posts and they can then use them to build credibility with prospects as they progress through the buying process. Salespeople that are also blog authors build a reputation as thought leaders and establish themselves as helpful resources and not just order takers.
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 Inbound Marketing Panacea
"Content marketing is so freakin' awesome it will actually take your company over for you and run it better than you can!"
About tired of that sort of inane promotion? I am.
Most folks reading this have bought into the value of inbound marketing. It really is a remarkable evolution in the practice of marketing. It has transformative functional and financial benefits. And the evolution it is forcing has created substantial changes and opportunities in organizations - not only within the marketing orb. While sales isn't going away, it has to adapt
. And while companies would be crazy to forgo their hard won domestic business, they now have amazing global opportunities created through their inbound marketing
But it doesn't fundamentally change your business model and it doesn't solve half the problems some claim. But what if.......
What if Inbound Marketing could support product marketing and R&D?
Sound nuts? Well that's precisely what Beth Comstock, GE's CMO says they are intent on doing. In a recent interview with Think with Google
she spoke of the marketer's role in "connecting the dots" and said "When you're in this business, you see a lot of things, marketers are in a great position to notice if something's happening in an industry."
Comstock added "Marketing is now about creating and developing new markets; not just identifying opportunities but also making them happen."
So you don't have the staff of 5,000 marketers that she has at her disposal - but you do have an incredible equalizing tool. The power of your content.
Pinpoints of light
I guarantee there are applications that you've never considered. That's one of the benefits of global sales that we often discuss. Put your product in a different environment and it's amazing to observe the new uses which people will naturally discover.
And that's with your product in its standard form. But beyond that, somewhere out there are 5, 25 maybe hundreds of enterprising, entrepreneurial folks who are discouraged — they're slaving over products they have invented and are refining but they can't get them quite right. They're missing the secret sauce of your enabling technology.
And even with an army of 5,000 you're not going to find them. So you have a choice — go about your business every day ignorant of the opportunities which you're foregoing, or figure out how to leverage the tools that content and inbound marketing provide.
Will this approach double your company with a deluge of license or resale revenue? Probably not. But wouldn't some be awesome? Revenue without the operational hassles? And are there caveats? Sure. There is your IP to protect — you're not going to lay it all out in your content.
But if you start to incorporate pieces into your editorial calendar (posts about related technologies, participation in different LinkedIn groups, webinars about how your technology has enabled others, etc.) all optimized for an appropriate category of search terms, you'll find an interesting crop of developmental leads to harvest.
The key is to see content, your content promotion and inbound marketing efforts in the larger context. It should be simply being more efficient at finding more of the same — it's about being easy to be found by the folks who should find you, whether you know them or not.
And be open to discussing new applications, uses and opportunities. Don't just reflexively reply "that's not what we do."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.
Developing buyer personas can be time consuming and challenging. While there are expensive options, such as focus groups, sometimes all you need to do is talk to your customers. Recent customers know what your target audience is looking for and the pain points they are experiencing. So start interviewing!
After you have interviewed several recent customers, you are ready to get started creating your buyer persona. Here's a Kuno Creative example:
4 Questions for Understanding Your Customers and Your Product
Who is your ideal buyer? Yes, the first step is that easy. Talk about who your buyer is — as you would describe a friend, and take notes. This does not mean write down demographics and move on. It means understanding what your buyer cares about, what a day in his life is like, how he likes to communicate, what his hobbies are and what drives him to make decisions. Sit down with your team and talk about the details that affect your consumers’ lives.
At Kuno Creative, we have a client called Kendal at Oberlin, a retirement community located in Oberlin, Ohio, for independent adults. After interviewing several current residents, here’s how I would define a likely candidate: John and his wife, Theresa, are retired but are not slowing down. They enjoy traveling, social engagements and physical activities that help them remain fit, and they don’t want to stop learning—ever. Their fear is feeling old, lonely and useless. John and Theresa are not ignorant of technology—their grandkids got them an iPad for Christmas last year—but they prefer to communicate via phone or in person. Finally, John and Theresa do not want to deal with owning a home anymore: landscaping, paying utilities, cooking and cleaning are just not priorities these days. However, they do not want to give up their independence or living in Ohio where their family also resides.
There are a lot of factors in that one conversation, a lot of which help you understand what drives your buyers’ decision-making process. Your next step should include boiling down your buyers’ problem.
What is their need? John and Theresa want to sell their home and find a retirement community that is filled with life, instead of a nursing home for “old people.” They are not sure this option even exists.
When you get to the root of your persona’s problem, you can really target your marketing in an effective way. Do not skip this step.
How do we solve that problem? This is the step where you figure out why consumers should care about your product or service and what would intrigue them to check you out.
For example, our client provides a vibrant living community located in a college town for active older adults who are seeking independent living and also planning for future health care needs. Now Kendal at Oberlin needs to convince John and Theresa they are a perfect fit.
What is your unique value proposition? In this case, we are a retirement and long-term care community that encourages independence, lifelong learning and a social life without the hassle of owning a home.
What makes your business stand out? What makes your product or service different from your competitors? How does it solve your potential customers’ problems? Once you figure this out, you know how to start marketing.
Write out your persona using complete details. Give the persona a name (such as John or Theresa) and include a picture to really help your team picture this persona as a real person.
Remember, each persona is different and will have a different buying cycle. In our current example, John and Theresa do not want to leave Ohio because that is where their family is located. Their buying experience will be different from Jacki’s, a single retired college professor who wants to move to a retirement community but does not want to give up that college-town vibe, so she is willing to move farther to obtain those goals.
What are your tips for developing buyer personas?
With a degree in journalism, Brianne has more than six years of professional writing and content marketing experience. Through web and editorial writing, she reaches target audiences for Fortune 1000 companies, as well as small businesses. She uses her content marketing powers to help Kuno and its clients build their brands. You can connect with her on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.
Does your business need a mobile app? Before investing a lot of resources into developing a mobile app, be sure that it's the right thing for your company and your audience.
Below are 5 steps to perform a mobile A.U.D.I.T.
A = Audience
Is your audience ready for a mobile app? Even the best mobile apps will be rendered useless if your audience and customers aren't tech savvy individuals. The number of people with smartphones increases dramatically every day, but that doesn't mean that all smartphone owners are power users of mobile apps.
"While usage continues to increase for native apps as a category, the typical user is working with only a handful of apps," said Christian Gurney, President & CEO of Torsion Mobile. He added "The abandonment rate for installed apps is very significant. So the value proposition for continued app use must be very strong."
So, how do you know if your audience consumes your content via their mobile device?
You can start by reviewing your website analytics. If you have Google Analytics installed on your website, you can view the number of visitors accessing your website via mobile. This may give you a rough indication of mobile popularity amongst your audience. Combine this data with industry reports on mobile usage for your audience demographics and consider asking a large sampling of your existing customers about their mobile usage.
"With 800,000 Apple AppStore and 600,000 Google Play apps, random discovery and installation of a native app is a low percentage proposition. So any native app you produce will require marketing efforts to get to your customers and prospects," said Gurney.
U = Understanding Mobile
Understand the difference between a mobile app and a mobile-optimized website. Your company may not need a full mobile app. Rather, a website that is optimized for mobile viewing may be all you need.
There are great mobile website builders such as Mojaba, a tool created by Gurney's team at Torsion Mobile, that allow companies to quickly create a mobile website. Mojaba can help you create a mobile presence that leverages smartphone functionality, such as geolocation services and click-to-call buttons, while presenting information following best-practices for mobile viewing.
At Stream Creative, we use Mojaba and appreciate the ease-of-use and robust functionality that it offers. Our clients appreciate having a tool that allows them to make updates to their mobile website without having to write a line of code.
D = Determine Goals and Budget
What are the goals of your mobile experience? Is it simply to showcase your product/service or are you creating a custom tool that requires functionality such as using your phone's camera? Outlining the specific goals and functionality of your mobile experience will help determine whether you need a full mobile app or if a mobile-optimized website will do the trick.
Here's a list to help you determine when a full mobile app might be your best option:
- Frequent use and personalization - will users need to login frequently to see highly personalized information (ie: robust dashboard info)?
- Complex interactive games - will your game require your phone's processing power?
- Camera access - will your app need the ability to take and upload photos?
- No Internet connection needed - will your app need to run natively on the phone, with or without Internet connectivity?
If your goals are more marketing and communication driven, then a mobile website is probably the right fit for your company. If your goal is to create a complex data processing tool, then a mobile app might be your best option.
The other obvious thing to consider is your budget.
Creating a mobile website is much more cost-effective then developing a mobile app. Native apps, obviously depending on features and supported platforms, can be significantly more expensive to produce. And each time the operating system is updated, it may be necessary to update the app (e.g., iPhone 5 and iOS 6 - different screen height). Native app developers are scarcer, which can drive up the cost of development. It's easier to teach a web developer mobile site principles than it is to make them into app developers.
I = Information
What content are you going to present to your audience? Think through what your users will be interested in if they are viewing your website via their mobile device. Be sure to look at your website analytics to see which content is the most popular amongst your audience.
The goal is to make your mobile website a more streamlined experience. Users are less likely to browse your site on their mobile device. They are more task-driven, looking for specific information quickly. Some things your users might be looking for are:
- Store hours
- Driving directions
- Phone number (click-to-call button)
- Menu (in the case of a restaurant)
- Job openings
Make your action-oriented content very easy to find on your mobile website. You can give users the option to "View your full website" if they so choose. This will allow them to browse your full desktop website in the event that they want to read your blog and learn more about your company.
"Native apps and mobile websites are not mutually exclusive. Giving smartphone visitors a mobile website experience today helps you gather information on what those users are trying to accomplish. This data is valuable in narrowing down the feature sets for native app development," said Gurney.
T = Timing
Gurney added, "The great thing about the mobile web is that you can do something very quickly and update as you learn more - all the while actually engaging and listening to customers."
Having the ability to publish something quickly, in smaller iterations and analyze how people are using your mobile website can save you thousands of dollars in development. Again, why create a robust app if no one is going to use it!
Is your company considering developing a mobile app? What problems will your app solve? What tools have you considered? What other steps would you add to this audit? Please share you comments below.
About the Author: Jeff Coon 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.
I'll be speaking at Second Wind's 'YA2 - Your Agency Empowered' Event on 2/27/2013. My topic is "The Inbound Mandate". (Tony Mikes came up with the title. Not me. But, I like it very much.) There will be 100 agency principals in attendance, who have built very successful businesses by providing all kinds of advertising and marketing services to their clients over the last few decades.
Per Tony's request, I will be speaking about why every agency should be offering inbound marketing services and doing inbound marketing for themselves. Patrick Shea (@mpatrickshea), the team at Second Wind (@secondwindbuzz) and I have been working together on the contents of the presentation. Tony will be giving an introduction to what inbound marketing is. I'll be talking about why and how it's different than other ways of advertising and marketing, as well as why agencies should invest in inbound marketing.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing (wikipedia) is a term that can mean different things to different people. At HubSpot, we've created the inbound marketing methodology, which is what inbound marketing means to us. For the last year or two, I've explained it in 5 steps.
- Attract traffic
- Convert visitors into leads
- Convert leads into sales
- Retain, upsell and cross-sell to existing customers.
- Analyze each activity for continuous improvement.
And here's the current official explanation of the inbound marketing methodology:
(Source: HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Methodology)
We will be launching an expanded version of the methodology that is a bit more inline with my 5 steps above.
9 Reasons to Invest in Inbound Marketing...
Typically, when we talk about inbound marketing, we contrast it's permission based nature with traditional advertising's interruptive nature. (See the table below.) We talk about how consumers skip over TV ads, avoid radio in favor of their iPod playlists and read their rss feed over a cup of coffee in lieu of the daily newspaper - as examples of how consumers are tuning out traditional advertising. We talk about how corporate buyers recycle direct mail before they read it, screen cold calls, click the spam button on unsolicited email messages and 'google it' before they consult an archive of trade publications - as examples of how corporate buyers aren't easily reached by traditional sales and marketing approaches anymore.
(Source: Inbound Marketing as the Next Phase of Web Marketing)
All of these trends have far reaching implications for media companies, marketers, salespeople and of course, agencies. But, if we only cite changing 'consumer buying processes' as the reason to adopt inbound marketing, we would be overlooking much of it's power and potential impact. In the 5+ years I've been working at HubSpot, we've come up with 9 additional reasons why inbound provides a superior foundation for marketing any business or product.
1. Inbound Marketing is Predictable.
Inbound marketers don't have a crystal ball, but some might consider it witchcraft. Not only are there loads of data that show the correlation between inbound marketing effort and inbound marketing results, a skilled inbound marketer can also assess a company's marketing assets and predict how fast they can grow traffic, leads and sales with those assets. For example, if a company has lots of great blog content but it's not optimized for search; has great white papers that available for download without a form completion required; has no social sharing buttons on their site; has a large social media following but isn't sharing content with them - an inbound marketer can use competitor data, analytics data, keyword research data and harness this inventory of under-utilized assets to predict results. They can predict lifts in traffic from search and social sources; improvements in lead yield through proper use of calls to action, landing pages and offers; and improvements in customer acquisition rates by properly training their sales and marketing team to use marketing automation, personalization, lead intelligence and inbound sales approaches.
2. Inbound Marketing is Trackable.
Want to know how many visitors, leads and sales that tweet generated? Want to know which keywords generate the most qualified leads? Want to know whether that blog post influenced a sale? Want to know which blog post topics received the least amount of inbound links, comments, views or call-to-action clicks? (See table below as an example.)
(Source: Screen grab from HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Blog's Blog Analytics)
Want to know which landing page has the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate? Want to know which source of traffic converted at the highest rate on a given landing page? Want to know which lead nurturing sequence received the highest click through rate? Want to know which email campaign caused the most unsubscribes? Want to know which pages on your site are viewed most often - right before people buy your product?
SEO, social media, PPC, lead generation, marketing automation, email marketing, paid online marketing... Do you want to track the results driven by each of these activities? Done. Some other marketing or advertising method you want to track online? Done. If you use the right marketing software, it's all trackable.
3. Inbound Marketing Efforts Can Be Directly Attributed to Revenue.
Because everything is trackable, inbound marketing activities can be attributed to dollars. In fact, inbound marketers' keystrokes are measured in dollars. (Okay. Not really. But, it's darn close.) We call this closed-loop analytics and closed-loop analytics empower marketers to tie their inbound marketing activities directly to the revenue it produces.
As you might imagine, you can track the journey of your individual contacts as they interact with you or each of your marketing assets. (See image of lead intelligence below.) It sounds creepy to some, but as soon as a visitor shares their email address, you can start tying their activity back to their individual record. From there, you can see what emails they open, what pages they view, what web elements they click, how they interact with any other [mobile or web] app you control, what keywords they mention on social media, what blog posts they comment on, what forms they complete, etc.
(Source: HubSpot's Lead Tracking & Intelligence.)
As they move through their buying process, from research to purchase, you can sync your marketing messages and sales calls to their interests and readiness for contact. You'll not only know when and how much they spend with you, but also how and why it happened. With inbound marketing, marketing is no longer fuzzy; it drives revenue in a predictable and trackable manner.
4. Inbound Marketing Only Requires Small Bets that Can Each Generate Big Returns.
Most advertising expenditures require that companies make big bets. At the far extreme, Super Bowl ads cost Millions of dollars to produce and then millions of dollars to air. (Can you imagine what you could do if you could spend $4M on inbound marketing?) But, even smaller advertising expenditures are still expensive compared to the small bets inbound marketers make every day at very low effort and with virtually no marginal cost. For example, you can't place your ad in the yellow pages for just one week. Even if you want to produce a TV spot for a local cable channel, you still have to hire a producer, writer and videographer and then pay the station a minimum amount of money to air it. Newspaper ads, magazine ads and even trade shows and direct mail are expensive and require a relatively large committment of time and money.
Inbound marketing does not even require you to invest thousands - let alone millions - in order to generate returns on your investment in time and money. Once you've set yourself up with the proper foundation - the right messaging and branding; social media profiles; a website optimized for search, social and lead generation; the right inbound marketing software for personalization and analytics - you can make really small bets that produce big returns. Some of these small bets - like blog posts, tweets and landing pages - will not work out. Some will hit it big. But your odds are much better than they are at the high-priced-big-buy-in tables of traditional advertising.
For example, you could spend 2 hours writing a blog post that goes viral on social media, gets shared by hundreds of people and attracts dozens of inbound links from thought leaders in your space. You could create an offer and a landing page that converts visitors at a really high rate. You could create an email campaign that receives a really high click-through rate. You could create a nurturing sequence that turns lots of weak leads into qualified leads for your sales team. You could create such a personalized experience on your website that your prospects are compelled to visit your website more frequently, moving further down the funnel with each visit.
Many inbound marketing agencies run thematic inbound marketing campaigns. It's not just about randomly writing blog posts and randomly creating ebooks on random topics. Inbound marketing campaigns are used to launch new products, build demand for refreshed products, enter new verticals, enter new geographies, influence different buyer personas and demographics and recruit employees, just like traditional ad campaigns are used. They're just significantly less costly to create and launch and can have significant upside when they're done right.
5. Inbound Marketing Creates the Foundation for Generating a Measurable ROI from Advertising.
Because individual inbound marketing activities and campaigns - like writing a blog post or launching a new landing page - require very low investments in time and money to produce and launch, they represent a perfect testing ground for concepts, ideas and messaging. These efficient little inbound marketing experiments - if you will - obviate the need for hours of creative brainstorming, pitch deck creation, free spec work, focus groups, concept revisioning and approval rounds that agencies must go through before launching a campaign. Even for companies that will continue investing heavily in traditional advertising, inbound marketing should be the proving grounds. Inbound marketing creates the opportunity for small experiments to test creative before big risky investments are made in traditional advertising.
Further, inbound marketing assets, like blog posts and landing pages, become the object that those campaigns promote. In other words, your call to action - whether it's a QR code on a billboard, a super blow ad, or the the text copy on a pay-per-click ad - should include a call-to-action that leads prospects online.
(Source: Outdoord advertising Requires Distinct Calls to Action)
While I've never been able to effectively scan a QR code on a billboard, I'd be willing to wager that advertising's purpose in the future will shift from creating 'awareness' to promoting offers and content that are accessible online. Companies like Outbrain and Sharethrough and publishers like Buzzfeed and Forbes are creating 'native advertising methods' that make the content the ad and the ad the content. The potential of native advertising to produce predictable, measurable and improvable returns when paired with inbound marketing will make traditional forms of advertising less and less attractive. Even less attractive than they are today...
(Source: Newspaper Association of America via Business Insider.)
6. Inbound Marketing Creates Content That Will Have a Positive Impact on Your Business Long into the Future.
Once a blog post, tweet or landing page is published to the web, it's there forever (unless you take it down for some stupid reason). (In the screenshot below, you can see that an article I published in 2008 has been viewed more 83,291 times.) Once an article you've published ranks well for an important keyword phrase, it [usually] doesn't take much effort to maintain that keyword ranking and the traffic that it generates.
(Source: Screen shot of HubSpot's blog analytics for articles mentioning "link building".)
Once you've created an effective lead generation campaign using pay-per-click-advertising, it usually only requires minor tweaking to continue generating qualified leads. Once you figure out calls to actions and conversion paths throughout your site, they'll generally keep working for a long time. Once a lead nurturing sequence is created, it can be used well into the future to nurture current and future contacts.
Inbound marketing creates assets that work long into the future to help your business generate traffic, leads, sales and loyal customers.
7. Inbound Marketing Attracts a Global Audience.
This past week, I hosted an informal call with Co-Grow member agencies where Dave Kaupp (@dkaupp) from Consilium Global Business Advisors gave a talk about the default global awareness that inbound marketing creates. During the call, we asked the members to look up how many of their site visitors come from outside of the United States. Tracy Dimarino Lewis (@Tracy_J_Lewis) from PR 20/20 said that 51% of their traffic comes from outside of the United States. I've seen similar numbers from other companies. At HubSpot, our Massachussetts based sales and marketing team generated 10% of our sales last year outside of the US. We opened our first overseas office in Dublin, Ireland this past month. About 40% of our leads comes from outside of the US and we plan to scale our International sales to 30% of our new customers by the end of the year.
A global audience is a byproduct of inbound marketing. What would the cost of targeting an international audience be before inbound marketing?
8. Inbound Marketing Analytics Enable Improvement Over Time.
Peter Drucker once said, "If you can measure it, you can manage it." I think he would have an excellent inbound marketer. Since indvidual sales can be attributed back to individual inbound marketing campaigns, results can therefore be improved over time.
There are key metrics that are important in sales and marketing. When a buyer begines interacting with an inbound-marketing-powered company, they start out as site visitors and turn into contacts. Contacts continue on to become marketing qualified leads and then sales qualified leads. Sales qualified leads move through various opportunity stages such as "qualified," "committed" or "closed won". Customers become long term customers and hopefully, evangelists. Each of these stages has two important numbers: conversion rate and volume. For example, a company can turn 3% of their 10,000 visitors into 300 contacts every single month. They then can turn 30% of their 300 new contacts into 100 marketing qualified leads every month.
Once these numbers are established for each stage of the funnel, a marketing and sales team can then go through and systematically improve each of these numbers. Using the example above, that company's marketing team could improve their visitor to contact conversion rate to 4% and generate 400 contacts each month instead of 300 contacts each month by simply launching more offers, landing pages and calls to action. (See screenshot below.)
(Source: Screen shot of landing page dashboard showing multiple landing pages and their conversion rates.)
There are multiple ways to improve conversion rates through every stage of the funnel. Some are sales driven. Some are marketing driven. Some require collaboration between the two. Either way, inbound marketing provides a system that smart sales and marketing professionals can use to grow their revenue over time. Like a strong sales team has done alone historically, inbound marketing coupled with inbound sales can create a predictable revenue growth engine.
9. Inbound Marketing Results are Cumulative & Compounding.
As we've established above, every inbound marketing asset you create provides returns long into the future. Therefore, every time you create a new asset, you create more potential for future returns... not unlike how adding money to a savings account generates more interest. With each asset you add to your inbound marketing portfolio, you attract new visitors, new leads and ultimately, new customers who bring new streams of revenue.
But, let's say you managed to save $100,000k in your savings account. You wouldn't leave it in there, would you? No. You'd find better ways to put that capital to use. Smart inbound marketers do the same thing. They leverage their previous returns to make their next investment generate better returns, just like a smart investor would put some of their capital in investment vehicles that generate better, long term returns.
For the most part, this happens automatically with inbound marketing, though, which obviously makes it even easier. There are lots of examples of how inbound marketing is like a cumulative compounding investment vehicle. For example, once you write blog posts, those blog posts get people to subscribe to the blog. Then, when you publish your next blog post, it will be read by those subscribers who, in turn, might share new blog posts with more people, generating even more traffic and subscribers. (See chart below.) Another example is Google's pagerank: once a website has a high pagerank authority, anything else published to that website is more likely to rank well in search results.
(Source: Screenshot of HubSpot's Inbound Marketing Blog Growth showing compounding growth rates as a result of consistent publishing, subscriber growth, search rankings and social shares.)
Every blog post is an opportunity to rank for a new keyword phrase. Every great article you publish can attract a new link. Every new keyword will bring new search traffic. Every new link will bring more referral traffic. Every social media follower is someone who might share your content with their followers (who in turn, might follow you and share your future content with their followers). Every new landing page creates another opportunity to convert visitors into leads, and creates an offer that your email subscriber might share with their peers. Every new sales qualified lead will most likely introduce their co-workers to your content and company. Every new customer can become an evangelist. Long story short: the more assets you have, the more value each asset can generate.
Not only do inbound companies create predictable revenue growth, they create ones that produce cumulative, compounding revenue growth. Some call that hockey stick. Do you want hockey-stick growth?
(Source: HubSpot's growth curve as of October 2010.)
(Thanks to Matt Wainwright (@mdwainwright) and Patrick Shea (@mpatrickshea) for their help thinking through and proofing this post.)