Month: October 2013

5 Characteristics of a Social Business and Why You Need to Be One


Soure: Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review report on Social Business

A Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review report indicates that 70% of organizations surveyed believe that becoming a social business has potential to improve the way the overall business runs. Allow me to point out the obvious. This statement does not limit the benefits of being a social business to improved marketing.

To give you a preview of my session on social business at LEARN, the virtual event for digital marketing (November 11-22, 2013), I broke down the five must-have characteristics for a social business. While I understand that becoming a social business is a journey, each of these five characteristics must be in place at some level to be considered a social business. Let’s look at each one.

1. C-Suite Commitment

In a social business the top level executives embrace the culture and technology of being social. The C suite understands that the people who make up the organization already engage with friends, family and business colleagues in social media. And, rather than trying to prevent or limit employee engagement in social media channels, the organization embraces it in a way that aligns with its business objectives. It recognizes and embraces the power of employees being a “brand” through social engagement. The executives in a social business are transparent. They participate at some level of digital engagement through content contribution or internal social collaboration exhibiting an accessible human demeanor. This leads to a natural use of digital social engagement across at least three functional groups of the organization: 1) human resources, 2) customer service, 3) marketing. Ideally, the Sales organization also embraces social, especially when an organization invests in social business technology empowering sales people to collaborate with all corners of the organization to achieve sales objectives. In fact social selling is one of the fastest growing aspects of social business.

2. Marketing is Not a Department

A social business understands that content is the currency which fuels marketing success. And, content is best originated from subject matter experts spread throughout the organization. I’ve often said that no marketing department is big enough to staff subject matter experts. In a social business the role of the CMO is threefold: 1) Diplomat, 2) Analyst, 3) Marketer. The CMO should be a vision-caster, evangelizing the vision of the organization across all employees in order to inspire subject matter experts to avail themselves to contribute to the organization’s content marketing efforts. The role of the marketing department is to “produce” content by interviewing SMEs. The marketing team is transformed into journalists, interviewing SMEs, converting knowledge in their heads into engaging content in various formats spanning video, short and long form narrative as well as infographics and podcasts.

3. Employee Branding

When an organization understands the concept that “marketing is not a department” it naturally embraces employee branding. The notion that employees who build their personal brand might leave their employer is largely a myth. The opposite is true. Provide employees an opportunity to build their brand around their subject matter expertise and you will gain a loyal employee. Additionally, the employee’s brand reflects well on the corporate brand. I call this the halo effect in personal branding. A social business intentionally aligns with select employees to achieve this benefit. When you consider the impact of engaging content on a brand, employee contribution to content marketing is very powerful. Organizations large and small can achieve great results through employee branding.

4. Investment in Social Technology

If being a social business improves the overall performance of an organization, it’s only logical that investment in social technology is a necessity. Social technology allows a business to facilitate internal and external social engagement, development of content, social sharing, analysis and measurement of outcomes. In recent years, there has been approximately $30 billion spent in acquisitions of social technology vendors by companies such as Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce and IBM, among others. These acquisitions are evidence that enterprise software companies want to participate in the growing demand for social technology used to enable their customer’s social business.

5. Data-driven Marketing

A social business eats data for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Data is used to understand the make-up of its employees, partners, competitors and customers. As referenced in the previous point, social technology can be used to gain valuable insights and intelligence for decision making purposes. Since we live in the age of relevance, data is a necessity to create content that is engaging to the intended audience. Whether we’re marketing to prospective customers or engaging with employees or partners, communicating in hyper relevant ways is absolutely necessary. Data analysis arms any business with decision enabling to create valuable customer experiences across all customer facing parts of an organization.

Data driven marketing also refers to analysis of customer sentiment and response to marketing programs. A social business understands the necessity of making this investment in order to make data driven decisions on all its marketing programs.

Relatively speaking, few organizations have made the paradigm shift or understand social business. Sure, many have invested in social business tools and technology. But, the culture change is a bigger paradigm shift than allocating budget for social business software. A social business is a journey. On average, it can take three years to reach maturity as a social business with strong executive support. The benefits are very worthwhile.

Learn how to make the transition from social media to social business 

Join me this November at LEARN, the virtual event for digital marketing. During my session, Going from Social Media to Social Business, I will explain how to make the leap from tactical use of social media to strategic social business outcomes.

Event Date: November 11-22, 2013 | Location: Virtual | Register now!


3 Ways to Rock Your SEO (As Told In Band Photos)


I'm thrilled to speak at the upcoming virtual event: LEARN. This event includes more than 40 sessions on social media and digital marketing, and I am presenting on SEO. Inspired by Awkward Band Photos on Facebook, I elected to educate the audience on the latest and greatest SEO tactics and techniques via band photos.

To give you a sneak peek of what you can expect from my session on November 22nd, here are 3 ways to rock your search engine optimization results.

1. Don't let large egos—or a Yoko Ono—get in the way of marketing success. Create a strategic alignment between sales and marketing.

Don't let large egos—or a Yoko Ono—get in the way of success. Create a strategic alignment between sales and marketing.

While you might butt heads, we both know you're better when working together, not apart.

Since I optimized my first client website in 1996, I’ve learned that my success as a search marketer is largely out of my control. Beyond the continual changes to search engine ranking algorithms, my biggest challenge was getting what I needed from clients in order to do my job (think content, code updates, etc.). More importantly, I understood that I may not retain a client over time if my efforts to increase visibility and drive traffic did not directly translate into leads and sales. To address this issue, I start the conversation up front regarding internal sales and marketing structure with my clients, including key people, process and tools. If a prospective client is lacked a sales and/or marketing automation platform, I all but required them to implement some sort of lead capture, nurturing and qualification system before we could do our jobs effectively. If you are not taking your sales system seriously as a search marketer, you may be out of a job in the months to come.

2. Create high-quality content—low-quality content  gets penalized by Google.

Notice the dude in the picture above looks like his head was taped onto the album cover? That is the equivalent of creating low quality content in order to fool Google into improving your organic search rankings. With recent Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird algorithm updates, Google forced the hand of spammers, whether it is for generating poor quality content or links to drive or monetize website traffic. Marketers that have fallen into the “easy money” grey and black hat world of article spinning, outsourcing content creation to Third World companies (or middle school students) in the past are now safely knocked out of search results. I’ve always recommended and required my clients to do good marketing, including creating compelling, unique and timely content, which means they have not been penalized by Google. Follow that simple Golden Rule, and you too may be surrounded by a harem of Disco-era ladies.

If Google was around in the 70s, it would definitely penalize this album cover.

And this one, too.

3. Give users—and your Fans—what they want as quickly as possible. Ensure your website loads quickly; slow site speed kills.

Rihanna's been everywhere because she releases an album every year. This keeps her relevant and fresh. She delivers her content faster than most other artists today.

Rihanna's success lies in part because she releases a new album every single year. This keeps her relevant and gives her Fans what they want in the shortest amount of time possible. As you know, today's audiences have very short attention spans.

How does this relate to SEO? In short: Google rewards fast websites and penalizes slow sites. Google has spent the last 15 years trying to create the ultimate search engine ranking algorithm. One of the more recent advancements is to determine the quality of user experience, which can be measured, in part, by website download speed. Long before Google’s algorithm rewarded fast sites, the first step I took when coming on board to an ecommerce company in 2002, was to decrease website download speeds. Conversion rates shot up immediately, which was the sole objective at the time. Google is now rewarding you for providing customers with a better experience AND you’ll make more money in the process with improved conversion rates. That’s killing three birds with one stone.


Learn 14 secrets for rockin' search engine optimization results.

Join me November 22 at LEARN, the virtual event for digital marketing. During my session, 14 SEO Tips as Told in Band Photos, I will walk you through the latest search engine optimization (SEO) research and trends, and then reveal 14 best practices for SEO, as told via band photos.

Event Date: November 11-22, 2013 | Location: Virtual | Register now!


5 Content Marketing Strategies You Need to Implement Now


make the customer the heroContent marketing is nothing new, but with the growth of social media and web content, your brand needs to incorporate content marketing into your daily lives now, more than ever before. Here are five actionable, start-as-early-as-now content marketing strategies you must start implementing today.

1. Make the Customer the Hero

Tell a customer story in a way that makes the customer look like they saved the day, came up with the solution, and reaped the reward. It’s not about you. We love to hear stories that appear to be about us. If you can see yourself in the story, you are more likely to buy into the message.

2. Mobilize Your Entire Company

You are an expert in your industry, your department, and your organization. Use your expertise to teach others. You’re not the only expert, however. Your IT department, HR, C-Suite, engineers, etc. all have great advice to share as well. Ask them to provide content and suddenly, generating content can be a way of life at your company. RELATED CLASS: Business Blogging: How to Leverage Business Blogging for More Traffic, Leads, and Sales

3. Stick to Your Business Goals

Determine why you’re creating this content. It all goes toward your marketing goals. This means understanding the people that read your content and creating more of it for them. Have strong calls-to-action so your readers do what you want them to do and constantly optimize your content based on your metrics and results.

4. Create a Content Engine

Start with the content you already have, such as a case study or ebook. From there, transition your existing content into other content mediums. For instance, take that customer case study and make an ebook out of it by telling the whole story and include takeaways, interviews, additional stories or insights. Then read the ebook aloud and record that for an audio book. Make at least five blog posts out of key insights from your ebook. Shoot a video with the customer and put that on your YouTube channel. Strip out the audio of the interview and turn that into a podcast. The list goes on! RELATED CLASS: Real-Time or Die: Feeding the Content Beast

5. Take Intelligent Risks

If you’re willing to be transparent with your stuff, you will be successful. We don’t have any secrets, especially with social media, so don’t be afraid. Intelligent risks include sharing pricing info, competitor comparisons, or your recipes. We tend to fear failure, but those that succeed keep on trying, no matter what. Try new things. Who cares if your blog post had zero retweets? The only person who saw that failure was you.

Join me November 18 at LEARN, the virtual event for digital marketing.

During my session, 10 Advanced Content Marketing Best Practices, I will share 10 actionable strategies to get fuel your sales pipeline in 2014. You will learn:

  • Content marketing strategies you can implement today
  • What has worked for big brands including
  • How to measure your content marketing efforts
  • Clear, straightforward approaches to content marketing

Event Date: November 11-22, 2013 | Location: Virtual | Register now!


7 Critical Steps for Successful Small Business Social Media Marketing


According to eMarketer, social media marketing is the 2nd most popular digital marketing tactic for SMBs. With so much time and resources going into social media, it's critical that SMB marketers have a smart strategy and plan in place. Here are 7 key steps that will ensure your small business social media marketing program is a success.

1. Set smart social media goals.

The very first thing you should do is to write down your goals. What do you hope to accomplish with social media: are you looking for awareness, loyalty, sales? Whatever you decide, this will drive your presence online.

2. Determine where your audience is.

Next you need to figure out where your audience is (as in, where do they hang out online).  Use that to decide in which channels you will maintain your presence. There are of course many sites to consider and all have unique advantages.

3. Define what success looks like.

Make sure you know what success will look like for you. Are you after Facebook Likes (bad strategy), or are you looking to spread awareness of articles that you or your company authors? Whatever it is, understand what you want to have happen. RELATED CLASS: What to Measure in Social & Why

4. Create an editorial calendar.

Once you’ve decided where you want to have a presence, you should develop an editorial calendar to keep topics you want to write about and post organized by site. This will also help ensure you are posting with sufficient frequency.  If you have nothing of interest to post, it’s best not to post anything that hour/day/week. Make sure that the content you are going to share is relevant to your audience. You want your customers to come back to visit you, but if your content is not interesting to them, they’ll have no reason to return.  Remember that content does not necessarily translate well to different social media sites, so make sure you are creating your pieces knowing where they will appear. If you have a visual product, perhaps your audience would react best to pictures. Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram may be good choices for you if that’s the case. Also decide who is responsible for writing the content and make sure everyone agrees to the time table.

5. Setup a social media policy.

It’s important to have a social media policy for your employees. This policy should be a part of your overall employee policy document and cover things like: code of conduct for your company, roles and responsibilities of employees who will be posting, who can post on behalf of the company, company policies such as the treatment of confidential information, external laws if appropriate, and best practices for online behavior. You’ll want a lawyer to review your policy to make sure all is good. Here’s an example of a well-written social media policy by Coca Cola.

6. Create a plan for handling negative feedback.

Be prepared to hear negative comments from customers. Have a plan for how you’ll handle these. Everyone hears negative comments. The key is to have a plan for dealing with them. RELATED CLASS: Crisis Management with Social Media

7. Have a plan for monitoring conversations.

Make sure to create a plan for monitoring conversations and activity. Are you going to do it yourself, or do you need a product like Hootsuite to help you monitor conversations across various networks? Social media is not a ‘set it and forget it’ tool.

Learn how to effectively use social media marketing to grow your small business.

Watch Social Media Best Practices for SMBs, and get expert advice for creating an effective and efficient social media program. Discover the best tools for social media management and monitoring, how to identify the right people to connect with, and how to get the most out of your social media efforts. Get instant access to this class now.


Why It Takes 7 to 13+ Touches to Deliver a Qualified Sales Lead (Part 2)


In our first post on this topic, we examined why marketing is generating too few sales-ready qualified leads and our solution to the problem; marketing must take on the responsibility of pre-qualifying leads to a higher level prior to passing them along to sales. Remember, sales resources are expensive and precious resources that we want to optimize. And studies prove that highly qualified “sales-ready” leads have a much higher lead acceptance rate and conversion rate into sales. However, developing leads to this level is no easy task. It can take 7 to 13+ touches to generate sales-ready, qualified leads.

In this post, we’re going to explore one of the primary reasons it takes so many touches to deliver qualified sales leads. Sales requires a lot of data to determine whether the lead is qualified or not. This data is hard to get in one or two—or even three—touches. We’re going to look more closely at the data that sales requires to consider a lead “sales-ready qualified,” and the importance of a multi-touch lead qualification process. 

What is BANT Data?

BANT stands for Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe (within which the lead needs/wants to purchase). (See Figure 1.) Note that BANT represents the categories of information that each company must customize for its unique sales scenarios. You must specify your company’s version of what BANT means at your company. And yes, it’s okay to rename your sales-ready criteria—just be sure to customize it.

The reason for all this is simple economics. A salesperson needs all or most of this information to determine if the prospect is a sufficiently qualified opportunity to stage a sales campaign with his/her limited resources. It sounds simple, but obtaining this information is a multi-step process. RELATED CLASS: Best Practices for Building a High-Impact Demand Generation Strategy

Figure 1: A Prospect without BANT Data Is Just a Name to the Sales Team. Low-Value Leads Will Not Be Pursued.

BANT criteria will vary from one company to the next. Not all BANT data may be available and some will be more important than others. For example, knowing need, timeframe and next steps may lead to a greater sense of urgency. When you’re on the phone with a prospect you may also find out more valuable information to prime the lead for sales, such as: What is the prospect’s desired outcome; Who is on buying team; When the prospect needs to buy; what stage in the buying process they’re in; what information they need that we can deliver for each stage in buying process.

Warning: as you evolve into more advanced levels of information exchanges, you must “earn the right” to ask these questions. This is NOT a salesperson discussion yet and prospects will rarely give this detail on line or on a web form landing page. You’ll need a peer-to-peer level pre-sales lead development conversation to insert your company’s value and create a credible relationship. Once the sales-ready information is gathered and the score moves into the “qualified” zone, then you’ll want the tele-qualification rep to close on the first meeting appointment with the sales team. The value to your sales team is that a sales-ready lead is delivered along with a positive relationship.

Setting Up the Sales Qualification Data

The sales department defines what criteria are required for a sales-ready prospect, not the marketing team. So when you are designing a pre-qualification data gathering process, you must work very closely with sales. As we mentioned in our last post, sales and marketing aren’t always in synch, and there may be a considerable credibility gap. The first step is to develop a good working relationship with sales. RELATED CLASS: How to Setup a Lead Management Process

In some successful cases, marketing and sales have actually created a “contract” of mutual support where the responsibilities of each department in supporting the other are spelled out. This document includes what sales considers sales-ready criteria. It also states that if marketing delivers on this higher caliber criteria, the sales team will engage in the sales process within a stipulated timeframe—no exceptions.

Create a “Perfect Prospect Profile” that sales and marketing can both agree upon. Review the historical sales data (you’ll need that good partnership with Sales to get this). Segment by customer types and review the profitability data for each segment. Understand the buying process in your industry, where customers go for information and how they typically purchase. (There are often several members of a buying team, and each may have his/her own agenda for the purchase.) Then build a buyer persona with the relevant messaging tracks for each segment.

People Buy from People

Marketing automation is great, and can be of tremendous assistance in automating some of the grunt work of the marketer. We endorse marketing automation tools, but in the B2B sales world, the fact is that 90% of inbound leads never turn into qualified sales opportunities because people buy from people, not from software. In addition, people are very reluctant to fill out response forms because they don’t want to have salespeople interrupting their day with phone calls and emails. In any case, most people will provide only limited information online, if any.

Once a response form has been filled out, now is the time to engage in peer-to-peer discussions with the prospect. Start by building a relationship. Launching immediately into the BANT questions (Are you the purchaser? Do you have approved budget?) is a turnoff. First leverage the digitally collected information as a bridge to determine where the prospect is personally. Open-ended questions (rather than buttons on a web form) will accelerate this qualification process. What problem is the prospect trying to solve? Where does it hurt? What is going on in their world that triggered the need? What would be their perfect solution if they could describe it? Are they collecting information for a team? What’s their timeline they are working with? What information would you need from us to be considered as your solution? Great phone/social skills are a huge plus here. And for most Sales teams, the earlier your prospect is in the buying process, the better—it gives your team a chance to be consultative and influence the specs, thereby gaining the inside track. Once you have enough data to determine BANT, try to move the prospect toward meeting with a sales rep. As a result of this process, most real prospects will see the meeting as a mutual best next step, and that’s where most Sales teams want to be.

Marketing automation systems score the digital data collected from response forms, etc., but we believe that by itself, digital scoring is inadequate. Some claim this can be resolved by doing progressive profiling within marketing automation, but we have observed it is very difficult (if not impossible) to get the critically important BANT criteria established using progressive profiling and as we’ve said, prospects typically are not willing to divulge this information on lead forms. Devise a way of scoring non-digital data obtained via professional peer-to-peer phone conversations and other research. Figure 2 shows how digital and non-digital data can be combined to determine whether a prospect is sales-ready, and to add significant competitive advantage for the sales team, which will also boost lead acceptance rates and in turn, sales closure rates. This is the new “best practices” model for B2B selling firms. If you can get to this point, your firm will be at the top of its industry.

Figure 2: Sample of BANT+ Sales-Ready Lead Data.

Source: Direct Marketing Partners

To further support these advanced levels of B2B lead development process Sirius Decisions added the tele-prospecting touch process into their highly respected lead-to-sales waterfall process. (See Figure 3.) 

Figure 3: Tele-Qualification Increases the Quality of Sales Leads. Source: SiriusDecisions

This model shows the best practices lead-to-sales funnel multi-touch process flow in detail, illustrating the multiple touch points required in B2B complex sales lead generation. In 2012 Sirius Decisions added the tele-qualification/tele-prospecting component. Adding the tele-prospecting touch points helped to increase lead quality and reduce over-reliance on marketing automation*; such software lacks the peer-to-peer-level critical thinking skills needed to uncover buyer needs, determine the solution’s fit to the buyer’s issues, and whether or not there is sufficient urgency to qualify as a sales-ready lead.

In our next installment on this topic, we will cover ways to shorten the lead-generation process, including ways to align sales, marketing and management with your lead-qualification program.

This is a post by Laurie B. Beasley, Co-Founder and President, Beasley Direct Marketing, and Tom Judge, Vice President Strategy, Direct Marketing Partners

Learn how to nurture more leads to qualified with an effective marketing automation program.

Watch Marketing Automation Best Practices for Success, and get expert advice to build your case for marketing automation, select the right solution, develop the right people with the right skills, and define your implementation strategy. Get instant access to this class now.


10 Tips for Responsive Landing Page Design


Landing pages. Maybe you've designed one...or maybe you've designed hundreds. And whether you are a newbie or well-versed in mobile, you know that over the years user needs have changed dramatically. Gone are the days when mobile devices were the exception within digital marketing campaigns. Now they’re the norm — their usage impacts results and marketers need to satisfy those users.The spectrum of screen sizes and resolutions is broadening every day.

Did you know that 71% of media-using population is multi-screen? Seems pretty "normal" as I write this post in front of my laptop, 27-inch Thunderbolt display and (of course) my cell phone within arm's reach.  Advertising and marketing success is dependent on delivering usable and satisfying experiences on all devices—smartphones, tablets and computers.

The need for responsive landing pages is becoming more and more obvious as we are bombarded with mobile growth stats:

"Smartphone sales reached 1 billion in 2012..."

"...expected to double by 2015!"

"Tablet ownership up 282% from Q1 2011 to Q1 2013!"

"Phablets now selling more than tablets, research says!"

Mashable declared 2013 "The Year of Responsive Web Design."

And then there's Google Enhanced Campaigns, which was mandated across all AdWords campaigns back in July. If you weren't ready for mobile, well, it didn't matter, because it happened.

So what does it all mean? Now is the time for all marketers and advertisers to accept that succeeding in digital means making your campaigns responsive. Not tomorrow. Today.  RELATED CLASS: The Mobile Web & Responsive Design

The good news?

The promise of responsive design is that one page can satisfy everyone, on every device—large and small. Responsive templates can decrease the time it takes to build and publish your landing pages. There are platforms that allow marketers to create app-like responsive experiences that look and behave like they were custom-crafted by a team of expert designers and developers. (Shameless plug: ion's own platform has responsive templates.)

Below are 10 of my favorite best practices for responsive landing page design. Use these to ensure you are building landing pages that not only respond, but convert!

1. Design in your landscape smartphone viewport

Start small & wide. Landscape smartphone viewport can have the widest possible image use cases. Start designing and previewing in this viewport.

responsive landing page - landscape

2. Spin often

Continuously check your smartphone landscape viewport against your portrait viewport. Portrait is the most narrow and will require the most thoughtful & concise headline lengths.

3. Scroll frequently

Preview, preview, preview. Scrolling all the way down to the bottom of your pages will help you maintain the integrity of the entire page, across all viewports.

4. Create finger-friendly forms

Focus on how your forms scale, fit, scroll, their field types, how buttons behave & how hints and errors are surfaced.

responsive landing page form

5. Leverage interactive content

Mimic the mobile app. More content in less space with more elegance. Minimize long-page scrolling with tabbed content accordions and other app-like interactive elements.

responsive landing page - tabbed

6. Use highly communicative images

As your images change positions or size, notice how they are perceived at various viewports.

7. Make smart navigation choices

Decide how many navigation tabs responsive design can support. This depends, based on length of words.

8. Respond well to touch

Avoid on-states that create two-touch requirements for actuation.

table landing page design

9. Require everyone be responsive

Ensure video and other third-party media is responsive as well.

10. Design "mobile first"

Lastly, to expand upon designing in the mobile viewports, I recommend designing "mobile first." Mobile-first design is an approach that lends itself to a responsive world. It simply means that you create first and foremost for mobile — making the desktop your secondary focus. Mobile first forces the tough decisions — more concise content, more communicative imagery, and more thoughtful choices around conversion. When you make those tough choices for the small screen, the bigger screen benefits.

Right content, in the right place, for every user.

Done right, responsive pages put the right content in the right place on the page for every user. It significantly increases the probability that your campaign will convert visitors into leads, calls & sales. If that isn't reason enough to embrace responsive — staggering growth statistics and Google's Enhanced Campaigns certainly should be!

Learn how to adapt to mobile and tablet users with responsive design.

Watch The Mobile Web and Responsive Design, and get expert advice for developing your responsive design strategy. Learn the 6 reasons why mobile websites should lead your digital approach, the key steps and tools necessary for following Google's guidance on using responsive design, and when you should create special mobile sites, or use your core site for mobile traffic. Get instant access to this class now.


Do you have an online marketing strategy?


digital marketing strategyDoes your business have an online marketing strategy?

It's a simple question I ask regularly when giving training courses. Although I know what to expect, the answer still shocks me. I think it's useful to review the 3 ways companies are currently embracing the transformation to digital marketing:

1. No-specific online marketing plan.

2. Separate online plan defining transformation needed and making case for investment.

3. Integrated online plan which is part of marketing plan – digital becomes part of business as usual.

We asked readers of the Smart Insights blog to choose one of these 3 options and this is what we saw:

Does it surprise you that the majority of businesses we polled don't have a plan for incorporating digital marketing? I don't think it is surprising when many marketers seem to be obsessed with the tactics - it's just another symptom of bad marketing.

First, let's applaud the many that do. I split these into two in the poll since I find the creation of digital plans often occurs in two stages. First, a distinct digital marketing plan is created. This is useful to get agreement and buy-in across the company since it should show the opportunities and problems of digital and map out a path through setting goals and specific strategies for digital including how you integrated digital marketing into other business activities.

Those who responded that they have digital integrated into their marketing strategy are likely more advanced - this is where every company should be headed I think. Here online marketing is a core activity—it's “business-as- usual”, but doesn’t warrant separate planning, except for the tactics.

What about those who don't have a strategy, but are still using online marketing? We can't dismiss these guys since they are the majority. There may be different reasons - these are all very valid reasons I hear.

1. Not another ****ing plan!

If you work for a large company, it's likely you already have more than enough strategies and plans in place. In a smaller company, there is no time to create one. But in both places there will generally be an overall marketing plan or strategy, even if its in someone's head, although that sounds dangerous.

2. A separate digital plan can give problems of integration and ownership.

As I mentioned above, the ideal approach is to create a digital plan to help set goals online goals, make the business case for investment, and create a long-term roadmap. But once you’re are on this journey the long-term ambition should be to integrate digital marketing seamlessly into your marketing or business plan.

3. Digital technologies and marketing strategies change fast.

They certainly do. At this time last year, we didn't have Vine, Instagram Video, Google's Hummingbird or Twitter's IPO (and the list goes on). There are certainly great opportunities for the savvy companies that test new tech and get an edge before others adopt it. But at the same time you can get distracted from the fundamentals like search, content and email marketing which will probably drive more business than the latest "shiny objects".

But that said, there are many other reasons why a digital strategy makes a lot of sense such as, intake of breath... a lack of clear goals and tracking, poor differentiating brand proposition compared to competitors, untargeted ads, limited integration, emails or sites that don't deliver relevance... I could go on... here are 10 reasons you could need an online strategy.

So, there are plenty of logical reasons why a planned approach to online marketing will help you focus on growing your online business.

Learn the 10 essential features of an online marketing strategy.

Join me Wednesday, October 23rd for a free OMI webinar where I will reveal the 10 critical components of a smart digital strategy. Plus, you'll learn how to select and prioritize different activities, how to put the right resources and processes in place, essential communication strategies, and more. Hurry and reserve your space now.


10 Amazing Lead Nurturing Statistics


lead nurturing statisticsOne of the most critical components of an effective demand generation strategy is lead nurturing, and most of the buzz surrounding lead nurturing today focuses on the marketing automation tools (Marketo, Eloqua, Genoo etc.) that help us make it happen.

However, you can't automate strategy or smart tactics, and tools can only take you so far. In her new Demand Generation Certification Program, B2B marketing expert Kim Albee dives deep into the "how" of lead nurturing, including how to implement a nurturing sequence with small, digestible steps that easily pass leads on to the next step in the process.

If you still need more convincing on the "why", here are 10 compelling lead nurturing statistics that will help you prioritize it within your organization—ASAP.

Why You Need a Lead Nurturing Strategy

1. On average, organizations that nurture their leads experience a 45% lift in lead generation ROI over those organizations that do not. (Source: MarketingSherpa)

2. 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales. Lack of lead nurturing is the common cause of this poor performance. (Source: MarketingSherpa)

3. Nurtured leads produce, on average, a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads. (Source: DemandGen Report)

4. Companies with mature lead generation and management practices have a 9.3% higher sales quota achievement rate. (Source: CSO Insights)

5. Lead nurturing emails get 4-10x the response rate compared to standalone email blasts. (Source: SilverPop/DemandGen Report)

6. Nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. (Source: The Annuitas Group)

7. Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales ready leads at 33% lower cost. (Source: Forrester Research)

8. 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to sales; however, only 27% of those leads will be qualified. (Source: MarketingSherpa)

Why Marketing Automation Should Be Part of Your Lead Nurturing Strategy

9. Businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads. (Source: The Annuitas Group)

10. About 56 percent of marketing automation users rated their demand generation performance as in line, above or far above expectations. This compares with just 41 percent of non-marketing automation users. (Source: Software Advice 2012 B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey)


The Omnipresent Online Presence: Extend Your Brand Across Multiple Channels for Maximum Impact


multichannel marketingReach is often wrongfully relegated to search marketing efforts, but the reality is that ravenous readers are present across the rest of the Internet as well. The ability to amplify your online voice depends on a holistic marketing presence encompassing everything from industry blogs to actual one-on-one social network interaction with potential customers. Below, I recommend why and how you should extend your brand across multiple channels for maximum impact. 

Consider the Internet a Community, not a Medium

At the heart of a holistic online presence is a belief that a brand builds itself organically. The origins of the inbound marketing discipline depend entirely on the organic nature of the Internet, but an omnipresent online presence requires a reworking of traditional inbound marketing techniques.

Often inbound marketing relies on the relevance of search engine queries to drive traffic, but this reaches only one segment of Internet traffic: those searching for information. The real test of a customer is not how much information he or she consumes but how much information about your brand he or she relays to other interested parties. For this reason, social media influencers, often known as brand advocates, are highly sought after by brands.

In many cases, your brand advocates will be active on community sites and forums in which you don’t have the time or inclination to develop a presence. RELATED CLASS: Brand Advocate Playbook

Be The Go-To Resource For New Users

Every industry has its combination of old codgers and fresh-out-of-university interns. One of the ultimate goals of a brand interested in building a holistic presence is capturing the young market. One of the reasons the Lexus brand continues to be a success is because, each and every day, 10,000 people in America turn 50. Likewise, there are always tens of thousands of young, innovative thinkers joining your industry, and unlike the old codgers, they haven’t the slightest idea who the most trusted thought leader in your industry is. So while many inbound marketing gurus hype the importance of being a thought leader, creating content that furthers the industry in creative and exciting new ways, this type of content appeals more to experienced practitioners than to new students. RELATED CLASS: Targeting Millennials Through Social

The alternative to thought leadership is comprehensive coverage. By developing a large knowledge base of resources from the very simple to the complex, you become the go-to resource as our young and eager knowledge-seekers enter the industry. This provides a platform that promises a permanent place in the peripatetic minds of future generations.

Open Your Mind To New Opportunities

While every industry has its leading communities, there are hundreds of micro-niche communities that exist in different mediums and for different reasons. These communities might not be focused on your particular industry at all. It’s obvious to you and every other marketer out there that building an inbound marketing funnel from the largest communities, particularly through the use of paid advertising, is a net-profit enterprise, but higher ROIs can be achieved through paid advertising on smaller communities. By thinking outside the box, you can play the long-tail traffic game with hundreds of small investments in affiliated communities rather than one large community.

Learn how to create an integrated online marketing strategy.

Watch How to Create a Winning Digital Marketing Strategy, and develop your roadmap for digital marketing success. Learn how to effectively integrate your efforts across all channels, the key components of an effective strategy, how to structure your plan with the RACE and SOSTAC frameworks, and more. Put your strategy on the fast track to success—watch this class now. Get instant access now.


5 Ways Small Businesses Can Use Content Marketing to Increase Sales


small business content marketingContent marketing is picking up momentum with small business owners. According to eMarketer, 74% of small business marketers increased their content marketing efforts in 2013.

Every small business serves a long-tail niche audience that can be targeted with content that resonates with them.

You simply cannot post a 5-page website, leave it alone for months (or even years), and expect to see any results in the form of online leads and customers. Content marketing takes time and effort, along with the willingness to learn, and yes, even fail.

So what can small business owners and marketers do with their content marketing to increase sales? Here are 5 five great ways you can leverage content for driving more online leads and sales.

1. Case Studies

Put yourself in the shoes of one of your target customers. One of the main things they require before providing you with payment is trust.

Trustworthiness is what prospective customers require to know that your product/service is going to provide them with some sort of gain: financial, time, organization, or all of the above. You must earn your prospects’ trust before they buy-in completely.

Case studies are one of the best ways to build trust with your target audience. Write a blog post detailing one of your most delighted customers. Be sure to include who they are, what they do, and the exact details on how they used your product or service to fulfill their desired needs. How exactly did you help resolve common pain points that others in their situation face all the time? The more quantifiable data points you can use, the stronger your case will be.

If members of your audience are the same or similar predicament as your featured customer, you’ll be able to create that trust factor and have a higher likelihood that they’ll reach out and express a need for your products/services. RELATED CLASS: Content Marketing for SMBs

2. Testimonials

Another powerful way to build trust with your content marketing is with testimonials.

Use a tool like SurveyMonkey to survey your power-customers (those who use your products/services the most) and brand evangelists/advocates to see who would be willing to provide you with a short testimonial. If you’ve done a great job for them, they should be willing to do this for you.

The bigger, more reputable customers and evangelists are really the ones you want to go after because the likelihood that your audience will recognize their name/company is higher. More recognition means more trust. Again, getting hard data in your testimonials is a very powerful motivational factor for conversions. For example, which of these testimonials is better in your opinion?

a) “Brand X is great!” – Joe Schmoe


b) “By using Brand X, I was able to increase my ROI by 300% over the past month!” – Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley Author, Investor, Business Advisor.

Include solid calls-to-action wherever you feature these strong testimonials on your website so your visitors know exactly what to do to achieve the same results as your testimonial. For example, “Download this whitepaper to see how you can achieve the same ROI results as Guy!”

3. How-To Articles

I’m sure most of you have heard this one before. It’s one of the safest content marketing techniques, because it just works.

Your target market is all over the search engines every day, searching for ways to make their lives easier. That means a lot of queries that begin with the words “how to…”. Each query that doesn’t find you is potentially lost business. Each article represents another opportunity to cast another line out behind your hypothetical boat (your website) to catch, and reel these potential customers in.

The easiest way to figure out what your next how-to article will be about is by listening to your customers. What do they ask about in their support requests? If there’s a common question that you can answer with a how-to, then that’s what you’ll write about.

You can also listen to (see read) the blogosphere, social media, and Google trends. They’re all great places to find what people in your industry are talking about aka what’s hot. You can curate content from those articles and questions into a great how-to and then reply to folks with a link to your article. Be sure to offer your unique point of view on the subject. Add value, don’t just repurpose.

In your article, point out that your readers need your product/service to properly complete the how-to process and you’ll have more visitors convert into leads and customers. How-to articles that don’t sell your brand don’t do much good for you, so go ahead and brag a little bit.

4. Guest Blog Posts

A great way to tap into larger audiences who could benefit by using your product/service is by having reputable industry mavens post on your blog. Don’t forget to return the favor by providing your own guest post(s) on their blogs as well. RELATED CLASS: Business Blogging: How to Leverage Business Blogging for More Traffic, Leads, and Sales

You can start small by asking other local business owners who are in your industry for a cross-promotional guest post exchange. Make the pitch about them and how it will benefit their business. Agree to write a post that meets their content guidelines and determine a topic that their audience will love.

I say “in your industry” because you’re going to have a link back to your site, and Google rewards links that are from similar sites. For example, if you write a how-to article for a local cheese maker when you’re in the children’s clothing industry, you’re not doing either party a favor.  However, if you’re a boutique wine shop offering the same cheese maker an article on “How to pair French wines with cheeses”, then you’re more likely to see some traction in the form of visits and SEO because of relevancy.

Guest blog posts put your name, as well as your brand name, out in front of new, relevant audiences. These links last forever so they create a constant stream of visitors who can be leveraged into leads and customers (as long as the content is evergreen, aka timeless).

5. eNewsletters

This final content marketing piece is really used to retain customers by keeping them informed on what your business has been up to lately.

They want to hear what’s going on in your industry and how it’s affecting them. If your customers only hear from you when you want something from them, you’re going to slowly push them away. Having an informal monthly eNewsletter can help keep the two-way dialogue open.

Send a short, well-formatted newsletter that includes links to some recent articles you’ve written, details new products/services you offer, lists improvements to existing products/services, and other relevant company or industry news that would be of interest to your audience. This way your customers know how you’re going to help them, and potentially others they know, now or down the road.

You can also send promotional and sale-related emails this way if you’re announcing a buy-one-get-one free or some other deal. We use MailChimp for this and it’s been great.

There are obviously many other content marketing techniques that you can use, but the five I’ve listed here are, in my opinion, what small business marketers should focus on to boost online sales.

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Watch Content Marketing for SMBs, and get into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to create content that attracts, engages, and converts your target audience . You'll learn the necessary elements of a successful content marketing strategy, and the best ways to distribute your content. Give your business the rocket fuel it needs to grow with content marketing—watch this class now. Get instant access now.