Month: July 2013

7 Elements of Great Content for B2B Marketing

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In Laurie Beasley's previous post about content marketing, she mentioned that that sharing original content is important. The whole purpose of content marketing is predicated on having original content, because it is intended to demonstrate expertise, insight and knowledge in your particular field to customers and potential customers. “Curating” other people’s content does not accomplish this objective. Publishing someone else’s content occasionally is fine as long as it underscores your own messaging, but the bulk of your content should be original and unique.

Why Does My Content Have To Be Original?

“Author authority” is a concept Google developed to assign value to sites and social media streams that feature original content, content that is developed by you and is unique to your site, blog, etc. Author authority is more valued by Google and other search engines than content that you share from another source. So you get SEO brownie points for original content.

The more SEO brownie points you have (not a Google term; blame it on Beasley Direct Marketing), the greater your visibility on the Internet. Visibility combined with demonstration of your expertise leads to several very good things:

  • Increased traffic to your site from sites on which your content is posted
  • Increased reputation on the Web for your person-to-person communications (sales team, marcom team, etc.)
  • Increased visibility within search engines, resulting in higher ranking and more search traffic
  • Increased visibility and authority within social media
  • Increased trust
  • Increased revenue

Above all, your content must be targeted to your audience, relevant to their needs, and accessible. Here are 7 key elements of great content.

1. Provide quality, helpful information with unique insights

Can you tell your audience something that no one else is telling them? Good content is quality information with unique insights—which is not quite as easy as it sounds. It means you need to know what other people in the field are saying, and avoid merely repeating it. It means you need to know what your customers are thinking and feeling; what problems are they trying to solve? What issues have they faced trying to solve those problems—can you tell them how to avoid these issues? In particular, do you know what difficulties or issues people face when dealing with your competitors? Can you show them that you are different? Can you “make it stop hurting”?  RELATED CLASS: Developing Content for Each Stage in the Buying Process

2. Keep it timely

Timeliness is also important. Are there changes in your industry that customers need to know about? Keep abreast of industry news and news in general. Is there something going on in the world that directly affects your business and its customers? For example, let’s say you sell automotive parts used by long-haul trucking firms. A strike by Malaysian port workers will adversely affect deliveries of palm oil, which is used to make biodiesel. A shortage of palm oil will lead to decreased production of biodiesel, followed by an increase in the price of conventional diesel fuel. You are not affected by the palm oil shortage, but your customers certainly will be, and they will be grateful to you for calling their attention to the issue. If you happen to sell a fuel system that increases miles per gallon, so much the better!

3. Use language that resonates

Use language with which your intended audience will resonate. If you are selling cosmetics, language such as “fresh and flirty!” works. This would not be as well received by an audience seeking financial advisory services. Know when to use informal language and when to stick to more sedate prose.

4. Write smart, catchy headlines

The importance of good headlines cannot be over-emphasized. Headlines must serve two purposes: SEO and getting your audience to read the content. For SEO purposes, you must have at least one keyword in the title, and more is better. More is better, that is, unless it forces you to write a boring headline. If the headline is uninteresting, your audience will go on to the next thing, assuming that the content will be as stultifying as the headline. Let’s say you have written a blog piece on the cost of biodiesel in the U.S. You might have written a headline such as “An Analysis of the Cost of Biodiesel in the United States.” This has the right keywords, but it also could be used to aid someone coping with insomnia. How about “10 Reasons Biodiesel Costs Too Much”? It still has good keywords for SEO purposes, but sounds like a more interesting read.

5. Keep content short and sweet

For the purpose of content marketing, content should be short and sweet. Some experts advocate 300 words or fewer. Some topics (this one, for example) require more than 300 words, but it’s a rule of thumb. RELATED CLASS: How to Leverage Business Blogging for More Traffic, Leads, and Sales

6. Make it easy to share

Content must be easy to share. Make sure you have social media buttons on all your social media feeds that allow people to instantly post the location of your content to their own followers. If you are promoting a longer piece such as a white paper, use short-form urls to make it easy for people to click and share. Short-form urls can be generated at no cost at https://bitly.com/. Hootsuite users can use Hootsuite’s built-in url shrinker when posting.

7. Link all content to the author's name

Ensure that every piece you publish is identified with the author or the organization to establish author authority. Have the author’s name and bio with links to the website and other social media streams. Anything and everything that points back to the author/authority will add to your luster as an expert and authority in your field.

Do you want to nurture more leads to revenue with relevant content?

Watch Creating Content That Converts: Lean Content Marketing for Lead Generation, and in just 30 minutes, you'll learn how to create a high-impact content marketing plan and put it into action immediately. Plus, you'll learn lean content marketing techniques to save time and resources, and how to build your content program around themes and personas. This class is available with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.

Content That Converts

 


10 Ideas for Creating New Blog Content that Your Audience Loves

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Content Visitors LoveThe key to a successful blog is maintaining that blog with fresh, interesting content that drives traffic to your website and entices new visitors to stay—and keeps them coming back, again and again and again.

When embarking on a blog content campaign, you need to set down a schedule, do your research, and know who your audience is, and incorporate that knowledge into your content development strategy. When your content is continually tailored for your audience, they won’t just read your blog, they’ll look forward to it!

Getting Started

1. Use Keywords As An Editorial Calendar

An absolutely crucial element of to the success of your blog will be how regularly you update it. Anytime someone visits your site, you want to make sure they have something new and interesting to read and engage with. In order to make sure you’re posting regularly, create an editorial calendar that you can keep you on schedule and posting regularly.

But how to generate topic ideas? One of the quickest and easiest ways that I’ve found is to develop an editorial calendar using long-tail keywords.

More than likely your website and blog will have been optimized with certain keywords designed to give you higher rankings. You’ll have utilized your primary keywords, but during your keyword research your keyword buckets may have been full of hundreds of long-tail keywords. These keywords can now be used to create blog post titles and optimize your individual blog posts all-in-one!

While these keywords might not be perfectly tailored to your audience, it can provide you with a solid structure and jumpstart your blog with content that is ultimately relevant to your brand. RELATED CLASS: How to Leverage Business Blogging for More Traffic, Leads, and Sales

2. Develop Your Demographics

The next step would be to create profiles or personas for the demographics of your target audience, which will definitely help you get a better understanding of what types of content you need to be developing. Take into account at what stage each persona lies on the purchase funnel and consider what information would be most valuable to the demographics of that persona.

It might be that you find people at the top of the funnel respond best to posts about general topics related to your product or service, while purchasers from the bottom comment most on posts about the latest company updates. Perhaps one demographic you target doesn’t respond to any content you bring forth; this could mean you need to alter your strategy, or maybe that you should focus your efforts elsewhere.

3. Address Customer’s Concerns

One easy way to create content that will catch your readers interest is to address them directly. If you see a trend in the type of customer service queries you receive, or come across an interesting or valid question, why not visit the topic on your blog?

This gives you the opportunity not only to further inform your readers about your brand, but it let’s them know you’re not just some content-spouting machine. You are listening to what they have to say and aware of their readership. Engagement is a two-way street, and content that speaks directly to your audiences lets them know that you’re engaged as much as they areRELATED CLASS: Developing Content for Each Stage in the Buying Process

4. Recycle Conversations

Another way to show your engagement is to be active in the comments of your blog. You should always include a call-to-comment at the end of your posts, encouraging readers to share their thoughts or opinions, and then offer some response to those comments.

This allows for the potential for comments to become discussion, which is excellent for retaining visitors. If one post generates a particularly interesting or lengthy discussion, you can then expand on that topic in it’s own post. Viola! New content from the old.

The best part about this method is that you’ll know for a fact that it will be something your audience is interested in. 

Trending Topics 

One of the best ways you can keep your blog content fresh is to be aware of what topics are most popular and are already being published or circulated in your niche. There are many ways you can track these trending topics.

5. Pinterest Pins

One of the best indicators of a popular topic is Pinterest, because Pinterest (more than any other social media site) is dedicated to sharing and resharing popular images, articles, videos, and infographics from around the web. Search for your niche on Pinterest and you’re bound to find certain themes or types of content get the most shares, and you know that the content you need to be emulating on your blog. When it comes to content marketing, Pinterest can be an extremely valuable resource.

6. Social Media Hashtags

The popularity of certain hashtags on social media sites can change on a daily basis, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t a major indicator of a popular topic.

You can also track certain hashtags relative to your brand and see what people who use those hashtags are talking about. This is another way to get insight into your audience; by learning what they like, you can put content on your blog that will be more relevant to their interests.

7. BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed is an entire platform based on finding and sharing “viral” content, and an extremely popular one at that. This is great website to visit to see what topics are hot and what it takes to go viral--the highest achievement of any one piece of content.

8. RSS Feeds

RSS Feeds are great for bringing a whole lot of content directly to you. Even with the downfall of Google’s Reader, RSS Feeds like Feedly are still going strong.

If you can set up feeds that correlate to your audience’s interest, you can establish a constant stream of information that brings in newsworthy and valuable content that you can then address on your own blog.

9. Google and Social Media Alerts

Similar to RSS Feeds, you can set up Google Alerts or use tools like Social Mention to find inspiration for blog posts. Most companies use these types of alerts to monitor activity surrounding on a brand, but by setting up alerts for topics within your niche, or topics that you know is trending with your audience, then you will be able to keep on top of the latest news that can be then be used for your blogs.

10. Real-Time Analytics

In any online marketing strategy you should be keeping up with real-time analytics for the performance of your campaigns, and the same should be true for your blog content development as well.

In order to get the best reaction from you audience, you need to be able to adapt and hone your blog content on a constant basis. When a new piece of blog content goes lives, share it on your social media sites and track the number of likes, shares, retweets, etc., that it gathers.

Use analytics tools to discern what demographic is sharing your content the most, and what type of content you share. You can use this data to assess what types of content your audience likes best and update your strategy accordingly.

By understanding your audience and responding in real-time to their demands, you will be able to produce timely, unique, and targeted content that will continually hit the mark with your audience.

Do you want to nurture more leads to revenue with relevant content?

Watch Creating Content That Converts: Lean Content Marketing for Lead Generation, and in just 30 minutes, you'll learn how to create a high-impact content marketing plan and put it into action immediately. Plus, you'll learn lean content marketing techniques to save time and resources, and how to build your content program around themes and personas. This class is available with a FREE trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.

Content That Converts

 


3 Tips for Promoting Your New Product Online

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product launch rocketSo you have big news!  You’ve been hard at work over the past few weeks creating something pretty special. It’s a new product and it’s going to rock! But wait, no one knows about it. Have you been there? Ready to tell everyone about your new “thing,” but had no idea who to do it?

Follow these 3 steps to kickstart your product launch campaign:

Step 1: Let everyone on your email list know what you're up to.

Use these 6 key elements in your email.

  1. Write your ‘can’t pass up’ headline. Check out my proven formula for effective headlines.
  2. Write your attention grabbing opener.
  3. Share your story/reason for the message.
  4. Explain what you are offering.
  5. Describe what’s in it for them.
  6. Give clear concise directions on how to respond to the email with a call to action to buy your product. Craft your call to action to make it as specific as possible. Common ones are "Buy Now", "Enroll Here", "Get the Goods Here", "Try Now", "Subscribe Here" and "Click for Instant Access".

Step 2: Schedule advance praise.

You want your launch to be strong from the get go. Scheduling advance praise will generate excitement leading up to the launch, and will put you in front of other people’s subscribers/readers/followers/fans.

Make a list of people who have a similar target customer—complementary businesses and potential partners. They can even be in a completely different industry. This works best when their target customer is someone who would be interested in your product.

Craft an email like this.

Hi <blank>,

I’ve been hard at work over the past few weeks creating something pretty special. It’s a new product and it’s going to rock!

I am sending my special product to a micro-handful of amazing people, in the hopes of gathering advance reactions, reviews, praise, feedback & general applause.

I’m launching on <date>, which is <number of days> from today. So if there’s anything you’d like to share, please give it to fast.

THANK YOU for your support.

<your name>

Step 3: Generate more excitement with pre-feed praise and affiliates.

Big, successful launches generally have a lot of people supporting the launch. Pre-feed praise and an outstanding affiliate program will get other people to spread the word for you.  Get other people behind you, supporting your work and telling others how great it is. This will also spread your message to people that would otherwise be out of your reach. RELATED CLASS: Effective Affiliate Recruitment Strategies

Again, start by crafting an email to people that would be great people to promote your product—these can be the same people you contacted in step 2.  Design an email like this.

Hey <first name>,

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed your sneak-peek at my product. It was a joy to create, and I’m revving up for a big launch.

Want to help me spread the love? I’ve got a handful of ready-to-go tweetables that you can copy & paste, straight into your social media feed.

And better yet...become an affiliate for the product and include a shortened version of your affiliate link, whenever you tweet, post or toss your praise around.

You’ll earn <number of dollars> for every click-through sale, plus my unbelievable amounts of appreciation.

CLICK HERE to enroll, and email me at <email> if you need any help at all. Your support means to world to me.

Thank you so much, <fan’s name>.

<your signature>

Then, attach the details for your Affiliate Program.

That’s it.  3 steps and you are on your way to a bug successful launch!

Learn how to drive high email response rates.

Watch Email Marketing Best Practices now. From creative and offer to list building and timing, this class covers what you need to know to take your email marketing to the next level. Access it FREE with a 7-day trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Activate trial now.

 


10 B2B Content Marketing Best Practices

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Content marketing is a newish term for an oldish concept: surround your customers with information and education they need to feel motivated to do business with you. Today, we have more ways than ever to do this: blogs, websites, social media, video, email, e-newsletters, and so forth. These tools allow marketers to become publishers in their own right, and tend to be far more cost-effective and far-reaching than the more traditional communications channels of direct mail, advertising and public relations.

Content marketing does have its drawbacks. It cannot be relied upon to create a direct cause-and-effect; i.e. running a blog piece will usually not result in a direct sale. It is also very difficult to measure the results; content marketing is somewhat like public relations in this respect. However, it is not a “warm fuzzy,” either. Any marketing program should be using a variety of channels to reach customers so that its messages come from multiple different sources. Content marketing is one of the many tools with which a company can deliver messages to its customers and prospects to “condition” them to purchase. RELATED CLASS: The Fundamentals of Content Marketing Success

As in any marketing effort, be clear about who your customers are and what they need to know. As always, have clear messaging and clear objectives for everything you do.

1. Avoid the Sales Pitch

Content marketing is not about selling. If all you do is talk about how great your product/service is, customers will quickly turn off your message. You should be offering insights and information that customers need. Are you in the retail window treatments business? Create videos that teach customers how to successfully install curtain rods and mini-blinds. Are you a manufacturer of athletic equipment? Create a series of white papers about how to avoid sports injuries of various types and how to select shoes that will help people to stay healthy.

If you consistently offer solid information that solves customers’ problems—or better yet, helps them to avoid problems—you build a reservoir of trust and goodwill that cannot be achieved any other way.

2. Create Content that Solves Pain Points

Creating original content can be time-consuming and expensive. You may already have a treasure trove of content waiting to be exploited. Comb through your library of white papers, articles, presentations, and videos. Reach outside of your particular area to see if other areas of the organization have content that can be mined for the purpose. Chances are, you can repurpose existing content for use across several channels before you ever have to create new content.

In developing (or repurposing) content, keep in mind the problems customers need to solve, information they need to make a selection, and what issues might be preventing them from purchasing. For instance, if you are in the retail home improvement business, you may have many customers who enjoy DIY projects and understand how to approach them. You might have more customers still if you provide detailed information on how to build a brick barbecue, install drywall, or repair a broken window. The more customers rely on you for good information and answers to their questions, the more inclined they will be to do business with your company. RELATED CLASS: Developing Content for Each Stage in the Buying Process

3. Leverage Questions and Answers for Content Ideation

questions & answersStart with your website. This is where most customers will begin their quest for information. Make sure that your website content is thorough and useful. Monitor customers’ questions and assure that they can find and access the answers easily on your site. Some types of businesses may profit from an interactive “column” where they can pose questions and get prompt answers—all of which are published on the site. Customer questions—and even customer complaints—are an excellent way to gain insight into the type of content with which customers will resonate.

4. Add a Blog for SEO

Add Once your website is rich in useful content, start a blog. The blog should be hosted on your website for search engine optimization (SEO). If your blog is hosted on a blogging service, every hit and “like” will attribute to the blog service, not to your company. If the blog is on your site, you get the SEO benefit. Your blog should be refreshed with new content every seven to 10 days to keep people coming back. Don’t forget to announce every new blog post to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media sites that work well with your business. Most blogging software allows you to set this up automatically. RELATED CLASS: How to Leverage Business Blogging for More Traffic, Leads, and Sales

5. Repurpose Blog Content for White Paper Creation

White papers are longer pieces that go into greater detail than blog posts. They can be distributed in many ways:

  • Announce availability on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc., with links to the material on your site.
  • Create a blog with some of your top points, with a link to the whitepaper.
  • Provide your white papers to other, related sites and blogs (making sure there are links back to the material and to your site).
  • Some whitepapers can be submitted to print or online publications as articles.
  • Create a YouTube video (three minutes or so) that covers the main points and provides links to your material. This doesn’t have to be expensive, but you do have to have a punchy script and someone who is well spoken to narrate it. There is a lot of inexpensive software (and even apps) to help create videos on a slim budget.

6. Try Video

In addition to acting as teasers for white papers, videos are an excellent way to push content to your marketplace. Depending on the nature of your business, you can educate customers about your product or service category, show them how to use products, or just express a point of view. These can be posted on your site, on YouTube, Flickr or any number of other venues. Remember to keep videos as short and sweet as possible. RELATED CLASS: B2B Video: Expert Tactics and Tricks

7. Promote Content via Social Media

Social media is one of the best ways to distribute content, and can be used in a variety of ways:

  • Take short bits from your content and publish on Facebook, Twitter, etc. with links to the full content.
  • If you have interesting product photos, publish them.
  • You don’t necessarily have to create 100% original content yourself. Curate interesting content that corroborates or compliments your messaging with links to the original content. (Obviously, you want to avoid doing this with the competition’s content!)

8. Leverage Content for an E-Newsletter

If you have built a useful emailing list (and you should be doing this anyway), ask people to sign up for an e-newsletter. (Don’t just send out a newsletter without opt-in, as this could be viewed as a violation of the anti-spam laws.) The contents of the newsletter can be pilfered from existing content and/or curated content. Make it easy to skim, light on graphics and optimized for mobile viewing.  Remember—give your customers information they can use to solve problems or use in their lives or work.

9. Optimize Your Titles for SEO

In the rush to get content out there, don’t forget that you need to optimize it for SEO so that people can find it. Titles are critical because that’s nearly all that people see in a search engine listing, so they need to be gripping.

As blogger Chris Irby puts it, “The title of your blog post is basically pulling double duty. It needs to be relevant for the benefit of the search engines, yet compelling enough to grab the attention of your human readers. Make your title too clever or obtuse, and it’ll become one of Google’s best kept secrets. Make it too utilitarian, and your readers will be too busy yawning to click over to your blog and read.”

So your title has to be both intriguing to the reader and contain keywords that people will use in searching for your topic (enabling search engines to find your content in the appropriate context).

Titles are often an afterthought, but they deserve as much care and attention as you put into the body of the content. Take your time and don’t rush it. Think through which keywords need to be in the title and then come up with something attention-grabbing as well. It won’t do any good if the search engine reliably delivers your content, but the reader thinks it’s going to be a boring read. The title should always pay off on the nature of the content; if you have a funny piece, create a funny title. If your piece deals with a serious subject such as cancer, the title should be somber but still compelling.

Also assure that the critical keywords are spread throughout the content. Some writers start by listing the desired keywords—not a bad practice.

10. Don’t Forget the Basics of Grammar and Punctuation

Stick to the basics of grammar, punctuation and other rules of good writing. We don’t have room to go over it here, but it is essential that your content is literate and carefully constructed and edited. Bad writing, typos and poor grammar will turn your readers off. One of the best references on good writing is “The Elements of Style” (4th Edition) by William Strunk, E. B. White and Roger Angell. It’s short, easy to use, and you’ll never mistake a dangling participle for a dangling preposition again.

Do you want to nurture more leads to revenue with relevant content?

Watch the OMI class, Creating Content That Converts: Lean Content Marketing for Lead Generation. In just 30 minutes, you'll learn how to create a high-impact content marketing plan and put it into action immediately. Plus, you'll learn lean content marketing techniques to save time and resources, and how to build your content program around themes and personas. This class is available with a FREE, 7-day trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Activate trial now.

Content That Converts

 


3 Ways to Find, Hire and Retain Top Digital Marketing Talent

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Digital Marketing TalentLast week, I was talking to a senior executive at one of the largest and most respected global agencies, and I asked him, "how do you find quality talent in digital and social?"

He shook his head and replied, "you tell me, Aaron. It's a problem we face every day."

As part of our soon-to-be-launched "Digital Talent & Education Gap Study", I interviewed many of the world's top leaders in marketing and advertising, and interview after interview, the same message rang true: "I just can't seem to find anyone really great at executing in social, mobile, and digital." I think almost everyone—whether client-side or agency-side—can relate. Talent is lacking, we all fight for the good ones, and universities aren’t giving us any hope for recent graduates to fill that gap.

It still surprises me that some of the world's most recognized agencies and top brands are in a constant struggle to find and retain top talent in digital—the ROI-minded marketers that know how to effectively plan, prioritize and execute digital strategies and campaigns.  Yet, if we want our organizations to grow and be as profitable as possible, we must solve this problem.

So what is the answer? Here are my 3 solutions—please feel free to add yours in the comments below, or contact me directly on LinkedIn. Let's get the conversation started!

1. Look for Joiners and Participators 

Yes, it’s nearly impossible to find good talent. And it’s usually not the senior talent I am talking about here—a good recruiter or a little bit of research on LinkedIn will do the trick there. It’s the execution talent. The marketers that will write great Tweets, build custom analytics dashboards, craft great blog posts, and manage client accounts—all in a smart and meaningful way. Where do these people live, breathe, and eat?

The best are in a constant search of knowledge and like-minded peers, so they tend to attend online (webinars, virtual summits) and in-person events (conferences, meetups). In addition, they also join LinkedIn Groups for networking with others in the industry. Most national events and local networking organizations have dedicated LinkedIn Groups for their members and the community. For example, SFIMA (the South Florida Interactive Marketing Association) has a dedicated LinkedIn group for their members. If you're looking for talent in South Florida, this is a great place to start.  The SES conference (Search Engine Strategies) also has a LinkedIn group, as do we here at OMI. Members of these groups are based both in the US and across the globe, so if you're looking for a local candidate, it will take longer to sift through the member list.

There are other groups focused around topical areas like social media, online marketing, email, B2B marketing, etc. Join these groups, see who is posting in them, and check out the list of members. (Want to see more examples of groups? Connect with me on LinkedIn, and I'll send you a list of my favorites.)

Once you find some possible candidates, check out how they are communicating on other platforms like Twitter. If they are saying something thoughtful or insightful, then you might just have a winner on your hands.

Ok, so that’s the fertile ground.  Now the hard part of weeding them out.

2. Uncover Initiative and Skills 

Now that you've found potential candidates, it's time to weed through the resumes, and most likely, there will be mounds of them. For example, if you're looking for an entry-level social media associate, you will get flooded with resumes if you post the job listing online. As part of the filtering process, ask them for examples of work they have done and the corresponding results, with links to any accounts or campaigns. You can also test their communication skills and social media/content marketing knowledge by asking them to complete a project at an hourly rate, like writing a sample blog post or crafting media updates. While this is not completely representative of how they will perform on the job, you'll at least see who takes initiative and follows directions, and you'll start to get a good idea of their current skill level, and if they have the potential to succeed in the role.

Moreover, look for mentions of classes or courses they are taking. Are they participating in any university classes, or are they members of any educational groups? Have they completed any online certifications programs? Here at OMI, we offer a free Digital Marketing Essentials certification to any new hires or interns. Those that reply with “Awesome! where do I start?” make the first cut for us.  Most say thanks but do nothing, however.

A colleague who runs one of the largest digital agencies in the world once said to me, “Those willing to invest time in teaching themselves tare the real winners—those looking for a job to pay for rent are dime a dozen. We hire winners here.” We do the same.

3. Create a Culture of Education

And of course, I leave the hardest yet most critical part the end—creating a culture of education with your organization.  This is a known frustration for any HR professional. But for those of us running a digital company or managing a team of digital strategists, marketers, or account management, it’s a bit more perplexing. A representative budget or line item for education in our planning is not enough—we must institute it and make sure it happens, effectively.

Best of all, it's easier than ever. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other publications frequently have headlines about the eLearning, so your senior management should be very aware of why online training/learning is a competitive advantage.

Think about how this can impact your career and business. If you have a great program the educates your company on the constantly-changing digital landscape, they will:

  • Execute at a higher level and drive better results
  • Make better decisions about how to allocate time—our most precious asset in digital
  • Be motivated by getting new ideas, putting them into action, and turning those actions into great campaign results and better career opportunities
  • Be savvier when communicating about digital, and instill confidence in both themselves, their peers, and their clients—which will translate into better retention and new business with that account (for those on the agency side).

This goes back to a conversation I just had with a marketing leader at a Fortune 500 technology company, and I will paraphrase what she said:  "Once we had our upper management convinced that a social media certification program and continuing education program would not only improve our digital strategy and education, but also the overall happiness of our employees, our budgets opened up.  And the effect on our team was astounding. Employees were more enthusiastic about their role, and even a bit more competitive (the good kind of competition). We still do team building events once a quarter, but the short lived 'high' of those seems so minuscule in comparison to instituting a culture of learning growth."

The best part? Employee education is no longer cost prohibitive, thanks to eLearning. Unlike the days where you paid $20,000 for a trainer to come in and teach for a day (and that teaching was lost by the next day), online learning solutions enable you to institute continual, robust programs that keep the learning process ongoing.

So no more excuses. Start finding and hiring great talent, and retain that great talent by furthering their education.

Want a copy of the "Digital Talent Gap & Education Study", slated for release in August? Connect with me on LinkedIn, and I'll add you to our preview list. I'd also love to hear about your experience finding, hiring, and retaining digital marketing talent, so please reach out if you'd like to chat about that as well.

 


How to Create an Effective Facebook Cover Photo: 9 Examples and Tips

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For many of your visitors, the first experience they have with your brand is seeing your Facebook Cover Image, so make sure to take advantage of this valuable real estate.

At a minimum, your Facebook Cover Image should be properly formatted to 851 x 315 pixels. There is room for your profile picture to overlap, but beyond that, here are 9 tips for creating an effective Facebook Cover Image.

1. Utilize Prime Real Estate

You only get a few seconds from the time someone lands on your page to the time they leave or the time they realize they are in the right place and want to stay. Using your cover to clearly state what your company does and provide links to find out more, register for your email newsletter or connect in other places is a great way to get your information in front of these prospects quickly. See Splash Resume's Facebook Cover Photo below.

2. Highlight Your Service Benefit

Products are extremely easy to highlight, but the service industry tends to overlook this opportunity. One brand that gets this right is Apartment Jeanie.  They’ve featured the customer’s benefit and the consumer knows exactly what results to expect.

Facebook Cover Photo Example

3. Tell Your Story

Storytelling is possibly the most effective strategy for growing a brand.  Use your cover as a way to share your story like Surf Dog does.

Facebook Cover Photo Example

4. Showcase Happy Customers

Nothing sells better than existing customers sharing their enthusiasm for you product or service.  You may be collecting text based testimonials but look how appealing photos of happy customers are on the Parties By Dylan Page!

Facebook Cover Photo Example

 

5. Photos of Your Tribe

People are more likely to get involved when they see people like themselves getting involved. Be Good to People has a tribe of people spreading their message worldwide and they use a cover image to show this.

Facebook Cover Photo Example

6. Make it Current and Relevant

Whether you have new products for the season or upcoming events, the cover image is a perfect place to showcase timely and relevant happenings for your company.  Savor the Success highlights a recent conference.

Facebook Cover Photo Example

7. Position Your Image to Go Viral

We love to be a part of something big, something that is changing lives and changing the world.  More Than Me ran a campaign called “I Am Abigail” that invited and encourage their tribe to get involved by posting a picture of themselves and tagging their friends in the photo.

Facebook Cover Photo Example

8. Include a Strong Call to Action

Someone lands on your page, do they know that next step?  What do you want them to do?  Where do you want them to go?  Orglamix tells them exactly what to do by adding a call to action to their cover image.

Facebook Cover Photo Examples

9. Use Creative Graphics

Sharing your brand essence through one graphic is powerful.  You know all you need to know just from looking at one image. The Forest Feast does a great job of telling their story through one creative graphic.

Facebook Cover Photo Example

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How to Manage Your Reputation with SEO and Social Media

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Social media and interactivity are a major focus of many companies’ outbound communications efforts—but what if some of that interactivity is hostile? What if people leave nasty comments on your blog or spread rumors about your company? What if your company name is ABC Corp. and someone sets up a nasty website called “abccorpsuckspondwater.com”?

How Walmart Manages Reputation

For years, Walmart has faced a barrage of online criticism from a broad spectrum of critics, including customers and employees. More than one site has been set up for the purpose, including walmartsucks.com, which publishes tales of horror from just about anyone who wants to voice their hatred of the firm. Another site, forrespect.org, was set up by Walmart employees to express their dissatisfaction with Walmart’s human resources practices. A film called “The High Price of Low Price,” which accuses Walmart of driving small operations out of business, is widely available on the Web.

Yet when you Google “Walmart,” the first negative hit doesn’t appear until the bottom of the third search page with a Wikipedia entry titled “Criticism of Walmart.” Forrespect.org doesn’t show up until page 4. As of page 7, walmartsucks.com hasn’t yet made an appearance. The rest is primarily various websites, portals and pages set up by Walmart itself.

How did Walmart make that happen? With the widespread negative chatter about the corporation, it seems nothing short of a miracle—especially when you consider that Walmart launched an online counter-offensive designed to improve its image only this year (therealwalmart.com, accompanied by some TV and digital ads).

The answer: search engine optimization (SEO). Walmart made sure that its own presence on the Web thoroughly smothered the voice of opposition.

Use Search Engine Optimization to Manage Your Reputation

It is not effective to directly confront critics and tell them that they’re wrong. This just draws more attention to the negative. Instead, reach out to your audience with positive messages and experiences—lots of them. Much that happens in Internetland is not under your control, but there’s a lot that is, so take advantage of it where you can. Populate the Web with positive news, placing it everywhere possible, from local directories to creating specialized portals. Walmart sets up portals for job seekers, Walmart credit card holders, Black Friday shoppers and more. Build out a complete profile on every social media site, and keep that pipeline full of positive news and information. Set up a blog (or blogs, depending on the nature of your business) and build a following by posting information that is useful and interesting to your audience. Reach out to other blog sites and offer to do guest blogs. Make sure you are featured in industry-specific wikis.

How To Monitor and Manage Your Reputation

It is important to monitor what’s being said about your firm in social media feeds and the blogosphere. Services such as Trackur will help to monitor your online presence. Services such as Cision help to monitor your presence in the media. If a complaint is valid, address it directly and attempt to set things right. Apologize if your organization was in the wrong. This usually will cause the complainer to at least stop complaining. Ask the individual to please set the record straight once you’ve made good. Many will be happy to do so, because they will feel they have been heard and acknowledged.

When someone makes false accusations or is just out to make trouble, nothing will be successful. Engaging with drama queens only draws attention to the negativity and encourages the person who is creating it.

Keep your outbound communications house in order. While traditional public relations is less controllable as it depends on the press to act as gatekeeper, remember that getting a positive story in a publication such as the New York Times or The Wall Street Journal may pull higher ranking in a Google search than your company site because of the author authority established by prominent media outlets. Be consistent in your messaging, and make sure your online presence is in line with the messaging. Your site should be attractive, easy to navigate for users and easy for search engines to crawl. Build author authority for the site and for your blog(s), which will improve your Google PageRank.

Look for sites that are positive about your company and ask for links to your site. The more legitimate links to your site, the higher the PageRank Google assigns to it. For more detail about link-building, please download our free whitepaper, “Link Building: Staying Current in a Shifting Landscape.”

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25 Elements to Test on Your Landing Pages

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Need landing page testing inspiration? You've come to the right place. Below, you'll find 25 elements to test within any landing experience — homepage, product page, landing page or mobile-optimized experience. Whether you are launching your first A/B test or your 100th, you can use this 25-point framework to inspire new testing ideas, hypotheses and actionable next steps for optimization. Best of all, you can keep it handy with this downloadable R.E.A.D.Y. framework. So print it, pin it, and use it to stay focused on what’s most important in driving conversions.

landing page testing ideas

1. Message match.

Test your headline to improve message match and engagement. Check out: 5 Types of Headlines to Test on Your Landing Page for more headline testing ideas.

2. Targeting

Test a conversion path to help identify and provide targeted copy to your visitors. A conversion path is a conversion-focused, linear landing experience, specifically designed to catch and convert incoming traffic from your online marketing campaigns. In the example below, visitors self-segment and receive highly-targeted messaging.

subscription landing page

The simplicity of this kind of landing experience makes visitors want to click, and makes it easy for visitors to self-identify.  The headline is catchy, benefit-driven and leads the visitor into segmenting with a strong offer statement. This type of test is especially useful for high funnel keyword searches.

3. Design match.

est a more visually cohesive experience from your email or banner to your landing page. Don't worry, redundancy is appreciated, rather than excessive in this instance.

4. Visuals

Test people imagery versus product imagery. Test directional cues — both implicit (direction of gaze, color, etc.) and explicit (arrows, curves, etc) to help guide visitors towards the desired action. Test icons against photography. Test, test, test.

5. Language

It is important to play to audience identity. Test tailoring your pages to the characteristics of the people who visit. The University of Texas Arlington uses authentic nurse imagery, job-specific terminology and “you” language to provide a highly relevant experience to their target audience.

education landing page example

6. Value proposition

Probably the single most valuable element to test. Your value proposition answers the questions "why should I buy from you instead of them?" Creating a list of features is easy, but great landing page copy sells visitors on benefits, not features. One of the first techniques you can explore is transforming your major features into benefits. Write down your top five features and ask yourself, “what problem does this feature solve for our customer?” Then, test each as your headline.

7. Real & tangible benefits

 See above! In this A/B test, a benefit-focused headline (version B) drove 28% more email signups than the page with the product-focused headline (version A).

landing page AB test example

8. Emotional appeal

Incorporate a story, an insight, a mood into your messaging.

9. Persuasive content

Focus specifically on why users need your product or service.

10. Design

Radically re-imagine the user experience, focusing on intuitive, user-centered design that communicates value. Marian University lifts conversion rates over 264% with radical landing experience redesigns.

11. Trust assurances

Test the impact of adding a telephone number to your page (if it isn't there already) or test placement and visual emphasis of customer-centric policies (100% satisfaction guarantee) and trust marks (BBB, Truste, Verisign, etc.)

12. Credibility

Test using specific numbers and verifiable facts instead of fluffy claims

13. Context of use

Provide evidence of how a product or service solves a real problem. Test showing your product in the hands of a user. Test a product video or a virtual tour.

14. Social proof

Social proof comes in many shapes and sizes — expert, celebrity, user, and wisdom of crowds and wisdom of friends. Expert proof relies on the expertise, education or approval from a credible source. Celebrity endorsements can obviously yield high impact social proof, especially if unpaid. The only way to know what resonates with visitors and drives engagement is to test.

15. Brand consistency

Definitely a best practice, but something that can be tested as well (especially if you are creating campaign landing pages). Test a standard brand look and feel against a campaign-specific look and feel. Check out some of my favorite campaign-themed conversion paths from Overland Storage.

B2B landing page examples

16. Call-to-Action

CTAs are definitely low-hanging fruit. Minor tweaks to button design and copy can result in conversion lifts. If you are offering content (white papers, webinar, guides) in exchange for lead information, you should test different offers to see what content drives the most (and the most qualified leads).

17. Choices

Executed properly, post-click segmentation reveals people’s preferences, intentions, and audience segments. Test providing a small number of choices that are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. A good example of a proper MECE segmentation would be this landing page for Citrix, for people responding to HIPPA-compliant IT advertisements in the health care industry.

18. Removing distractions

Test simplified segmentation (see above). Test without navigation! Remove distractions, remove navigation.

19. Additional motivation or incentives

Test offering supplemental content as adding incentive.

20. Progressive conversion

Test breaking up your lead form into multiple steps. This works especially well for long or tedious forms. Don't forget to pay off each step with relevant and useful information.

21. Post-conversion engagement

Test micro-conversions on your thank you page. Provide relevant content, links to additional information, social sharing or an upsell to see if you can further engage and build rapport post-conversion.

22. Data-driven hypotheses

Use data to uncover potential testing opportunities and establish concrete hypotheses. Every test plan should include data that supports your testing hypothesis.

23. A/B & MVT testing

If you are still practicing sequential testing, please stop now. You need a testing platform for split testing. There are too many variables that can affect the results of sequential tests. The only way to test is to do it in real-time. Check out our Buyer's Guide to help find the right testing platform for you.

24. Putting testing requirements in place

Make sure to put testing requirements in place. Whether it be a minimum level of statistical confidence, or a test timeframe, make sure you are setting yourself up for testing success: concrete hypothesis + testing requirements + a/b testing tool = analysis-driven next steps.

25. Analysis-driven next steps

Piggybacking off of data-driven hypothesis testing, analysis-driven testing is based on behavioral data and analysis of "click behavior." You can test your gut, but data-driven next steps are often the most successful.

Learn how to drive more conversions with better landing pages.

Watch the tutorial—B2B Landing Page Best Practices for Success—and discover proven techniques for creating and optimizing high-converting B2B landing pages. Access it FREE with a 7-day trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Activate trial now.