Month: August 2015

6 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting Conversions From Your Content

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Content marketing has been the flavor of the season for a handful of “seasons” now. And by the looks of it, we’re going to enjoy its company for a long time to come.

A sure sign of its popularity is seeing every business, no matter how big or small, jump headfirst into the choppy waters of content marketing. A recent study by Content.ly showed that about a quarter of all businesses allocate over 50% of their marketing budgets to content marketing. Nearly 60% of businesses have at least two people devoted to content marketing.

content marketing for conversions

However, not all of these content marketing efforts are actually paying off. If all content marketing was equal, every company engaged in content marketing today would be in the Fortune 500 list – but that doesn’t happen.

All too often the content created by businesses is well meaning but lacks the teeth required to cut through all the clutter on the web. Here are the top 6 ways content marketers go wrong, leading to content that never takes off.

1.  Content Not Relevant

Content marketing is all about creating valuable content that your target audience would not just appreciate, but seek out. When you create content that has little to do with your audience and all to do with your business and promoting it, you cease being relevant to them and drop off their radar like flies.

The answer – Research your audience thoroughly. Build psychographic profiles of your ideal customer and figure out what they would be interested in the most. Tools like Oktopost and SocialMention help you listen in on conversations between your users and determine the topics that truly interest them. Create content around those topics with your brand subtly inserted into the mix.

2.  Publishing on the Wrong Platforms

This one’s a real crime. After investing your time and money on creating good content, if you go and blow it all up by publishing the content on platforms your users don’t care about, you might as well give up on content marketing.

The answer – Refer to step 1. When you research your audience, also find out which platforms they prefer, what media they consume and create your content accordingly. Your users love original research, go create that for them. Is video their favorite type of content? Don’t waste time on tons of blog posts.

3.  Content Too Salesy

The whole idea of content marketing is to convince a potential user to try your product without making them feel like they are being sold to. Users have an inherent distrust of paid advertising. When you turn a stealth marketing tool like content marketing into a wall-to-wall billboard for your business, you lose credibility and turn off users.

content mistakes

The answer – Tone down the urge to sell, sell, sell. Try subtlety instead. Believe me, it works better than you’d think. If you can’t go without injecting a sales pitch into your messaging every now and then, keep your general vs. sales-y content ratio to an 80-20 mix.

4.  Content Not Good Enough

Why isn’t your content getting you results? It could be because it’s simply not good enough. By “good enough” I mean churning out any of the following types of content: plagiarized, poorly written, grammatically incorrect, uninteresting, factually incorrect – you get the drift. Google goes out of its way to punish “lifted” and duplicate content. Its Panda and recent Quality updates penalize sites with poor quality content and “thin content.”

The answer – Invest in good writers who can provide content that meets professional content standards in your industry. Strategize, strategize, strategize. And then monitor the execution closely. Too time consuming? Set up a collaboration tool like Wrike and get key members across departments to contribute pieces of content to your content marketing program based on their areas of expertise. Store all your in-house expert content in one place with the tool and co-ordinate with your expert contributors easily regarding content edits, deadlines and more.

5.  Ignoring On-Page SEO

Your content is only as strong as the environment in which it resides. A great piece of content that sits on a poorly optimized blog is doomed to a lifetime of invisibility. If your users can’t even find your content, how can you expect that content to get you conversions?

The answer – Don’t be in a hurry to publish your content. Take the time and first fix the SEO on your blog to make it visible to search engine spiders. With your content, spend time in crafting the perfect title – one that encapsulates your main keywords and conveys the gist of the content clearly. Title tags are probably the most important component of on-page SEO. Some of the easiest elements you can optimize on your content pages include

  • Meta description for the page
  • Alt tags, captions and descriptions for images
  • Header tags containing keywords
  • Including semantic variations of important keywords at the right places in the body of your content

6.  Not Enough Promotion

In the days of traditional marketing, all that marketers had to do was create ads, buy spots on media and blast their audiences with the ads across various platforms to get ahead of competition. On the other hand, content marketing is a more indirect method of promoting your business. For content marketing to do its job well, it needs to be spotted by consumers first.

The answer – Promote your promotion tools. Put your content in places where they’ll be easily found and consumed by your audience. Spend money on promoting your content so your users can “discover it themselves” across the various sites that they browse. Paid content promotion networks like Outbrain and Taboola are a great way to ensure visibility for your content. Tap into your email database and share your content with them. Publish it on the right social media platforms and promote it via paid advertising on social media. Reach out to influencers in your industry and get them to endorse your content.

solving content marketing mistakes

In Closing

Content marketing is an organic promotion strategy that builds relationships with your users instead of treating them purely like revenue sources. Steer clear of the content marketing misfires listed above and rest assured, your target audience will not just buy from you, but also grow to love your brand.

 


Starting a Startup: 5 Steps to Take You From Idea to Business

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The first few weeks of starting your first startup can be one of the most thrilling times of your life. Buzzing with eagerness and anticipation, you can’t wait to start imagining new and exciting ways to grow your startup into a booming business. However, before you can get on with the fun aspects of owning your own business, you have a few essential tasks to complete first, even if they are a bit boring. Below is a list of crucial first steps you must take before your startup starts rolling.

startup planning

1. Do Your Research

Before you can think about forming your startup — before you even think of a name — you have to make sure your idea is viable in the real world. You need to do extensive research into your prospective market. There’s a lot of information you need to glean before you can start running your business; like:

  • Are there customers for your startup’s product?
  • Who are those customers? How old are they? What is their average income level?
  • Can you maximize your customers by altering your product or distribution area?
  • Who are your competitors? What products do they sell? How profitable are they?
  • Can you limit your competitors by altering your product or distribution area?

The more extensive you make your initial market research, the more certainty you’ll have in your startup’s success.

2. Find Your Funding

For most entrepreneurs, this is the absolute hardest task in starting a business. You need money to make money, but finding money can be both boring and arduous — and sometimes, it feels quite a lot like begging. Today, there are dozens of ways entrepreneurs can find viable funding, both traditional and non-traditional. Some of the likeliest options include:

  • Loans. From banks or credit cards, this capital is usually easy to secure with good planning, but it can be a nuisance to pay off.
  • Investors. There are many people looking to invest their money for a stake of your profits, but you will have to prove your worth.
  • Grants. The government awards money to entrepreneurs for creating jobs and improving the economy.
  • Crowdfunding. The internet loves to give money to good ideas, but with a saturated online market, it might be difficult to be heard.

To mitigate any feelings of supplication you may develop, you should prepare ahead of time by documenting what capital you have and researching what capital you’ll need.

3. Hire Your Team

You might already have a shortlist of old friends and coworkers whom you want to bring on board, but there are probably important positions you haven’t thought about. Startups aren’t all brainstorming and creativity; you need regular professionals like accountants and attorneys to keep your company up and running. Of course, you need to find people you can trust to stick around while the business gets going, which might be tough to do with strangers. You can use your alumni network or LinkedIn connections for recommendations.

startup team building

4. File Your Paperwork

Another slightly dull step of starting a business is ensuring everything you do is entirely legal. You must file for your small business license (as well as any other licenses your idea requires, like food handling or contracting). Local laws vary on required certifications and licenses for various businesses, so it is wise to talk to an attorney before opening your doors.

You should also ensure that any products you produce are not already patent protected; in software, this can be a particularly daunting task, considering the large numbers of litigious patent trolls waiting to capitalize on your company. While you are deep in intellectual property law, you might also want to consider registering for a trademark to safeguard your brand from possible copycats.

5. Get Your Website

Last, but certainly not least, you absolutely must construct your online presence. In the digital age, having your business visible on the web is critical to success; most consumers don’t know where else to find their desired products or services. Purchase the domain you want right away. Your website should be detailed and informative — not to mention trendy and eye-catching — and your social media accounts should be active and engaging.

entrepreneur planning startup

At the outset, you probably don’t need to hire an expensive web designer to organize your site; most website builders are easy to use and customize to your needs. However, as your small business grows, you may consider adding more complex, fully customizable features to suit your customers’ needs.

Want to learn more about the startup process? Check out OMI's channel specifically for Small Business and Startup Classes.

 

 


Auto Pilot Your Email Marketing with Automated Workflows

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Email marketing is one of the most effective avenues out there to reach customers. As the organic reach of B2C social channels (looking at you, Facebook) decreases, and SEO becomes ever more dependent on content marketing, the importance of leveraging every inch of email increases. Smart businesses are integrating their email efforts more and more closely with their blogging and social output already, but in many cases there’s a missing link.

email automated workflow

I think of this as the “Now what?” effect. We need short term, actionable goals, but we can get too focused, too stuck on them. You use social and blogging to drive website traffic, and collateral content to encourage signups. Now you have an email list. Now what?

All too often, businesses know they need personalized, timed emails, but don’t actually jump in and do it. Why? One major factor is time. Creating and sending emails is time-consuming, if it’s done manually. Another reason can be the “Now what?” effect: a business stays in that “Gotta build my list” mindset, instead of moving on with the prospect and working to leverage the list they already have.

Finally, handling all the details you have about your customers can be an overwhelming task. Personalizing emails to a long, varied list of customers, all at different stages of the customer life cycle, is something no one has time for. So email marketing becomes a matter of a one-size-fits-all newsletter, the occasional blast, and perhaps some promos. And a killer marketing strategy fails at the last corner.

That’s where automated workflows come in.

What Are Automated Workflows?

Automated email is pretty self-explanatory, but a half-and-half system that doesn’t include automated workflows can still leave you directing the process in a way that’s too hands-on, time consuming and ineffective. Automated workflows allow you to set up a system, and then, once it’s in the air, hand over the controls to autopilot.

A workflow is a system that uses a series of “if this, then that” logic decisions to match each customer with the email campaign(s) that’s right for them, based on their behavior. Whenever a customer or prospect makes contact with your online presence, they’re effectively choosing how they want you to contact them. Way back in 2014 Silverpop, then just bought up by IBM, showed that automated emails had a 15% higher open rate than manual ones – and a staggering 79% higher click-through rate.

automated workflow email path

A well set-up automated workflow system will constantly stay on top of information like click-through rates, open rates, sales, engagement metrics on social media and more, so that you can adjust how each customer experiences your brand and inform future strategic decisions about how the whole workflow is set up.

An example of an automated workflow would look something like this:

A customer might visit your blog, inspired by one of your Facebook posts, and download the collateral content on offer there when they finish reading the blog post. Great – you’ve got their email address, and data on their interests too. The two together go through to the app you’re using to coordinate your workflows and your brand begins to communicate with that customer automatically. The trigger was their download of the collateral content from your website – that was the “if this.” The automated welcome series your email auto-responder sent them was the “then that.” Welcome series are a popular part of an automated workflow system because they have such high open and click-through rates, and they improve retention and conversion.

automated workflow within content channels

Setting It in Motion

Popular triggering actions include email engagements like opens and click-throughs, website or landing page visits, and social media engagements like retweets, likes, follows and shares. But you can also use segmentation criteria like industry vertical, job title, or whether your contact is with a personal or business domain name to further focus your efforts. Future “if this” events might be derived from click-throughs or opens of your emails. Each time a customer does something, that action triggers them to be moved on to a different part of the workflow, depending on the nature of the action. Recent buyers get emails aimed at upselling or cross selling, for instance.

At its simplest, workflow automations take over the task of guiding prospects through the sales funnel to a purchase decision. Because they’re always accompanied by content that keeps your brand front of mind and offers products or services that prospects have demonstrated some interest in, they’re more likely to make that purchase decision.

email marketing workflow

Integration and Implementation

But fully integrated workflow automation can do way more than that. In the early days of autopilots, they would just keep pace flying level at the same speed. Modern planes fly wigrth computer assistance at every step of the way: autopilot never off and always doing way more than just keeping things level. In the same way, getting the best from automated workflows means creating complex, highly responsive content architecture so that customers are never out of sight of your brand and always feeding you signals about how they want to interact with you.

Most brands use an app like MailChimp that offers workflows and ideally integrates with their CRM to allow seamless construction of workflows straight from contacts, using CRM data to get things off the ground. You can send emails to your customers whenever their information is updated in your CRM database. You can also create different forms related to varied aspects of your business and send them to different customers.

When constructing individual workflows, it’s important to keep your goal in mind. Ideally this will be within the context of an overarching strategy that treats your customers the way well-designed websites treat their users. You’ll be adding an extension to a design that’s focused on user experience and in which all roads lead, eventually, to a purchase decision, even if indirectly. Within this broader structure, each workflow behaves like a miniature sales funnel. It’s not necessarily designed to deliver users to a sale; it might be designed to deliver them into another workflow that itself leads to a sale, or to greater engagement or more trust or positive brand perception.

email marketing through automated workflows

Once you have a clear perception of what a workflow is meant to accomplish, decide where it should start – which trigger should put a customer into this workflow? After you have a start and a finish determined, write your emails and determine their timing. For some purposes, email timing is well understood. The best direct sales emails, for instance, have been well researched, but the details might differ in your specific space and workflows intended for non-sales purposes like engagement might have little evidence to guide you, in which case A/B testing timing should form part of your process.

Over to You

As you implement your workflows, you should manage them to ensure that they perform according to your goals and strategies. No matter how well they’re designed, you’ll always find yourself correcting them “in flight” as customers respond differently than you expected.

Want to learn more about managing your lead gen cycle with automation? Check out this class: Building a Lead Generation Management Process.

 

 


The Rise of Social Commerce in 2015: The Year of Shopping Socially

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We’ve long heard that social media is not the best way to drive sales; in terms of ROI, social is just email marketing’s less successful cousin. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t growing in leaps and bounds, earning larger portions of referral traffic, new leads and total sales figures. Referrals alone from social media sites increased almost 200% from 2014 to 2015. The rise of social commerce over the last few years has brought us to a time when social media platforms are finally fully embracing the Buy button.

social commerce

Polyvore

Last week, Yahoo announced an agreement to acquire Polyvore, which bills itself as ‘the world’s largest style community.’ What does that really mean? Polyvore is a social commerce site driven by user-generated content – collages of products curated into ‘sets.’ Think Pinterest but with a lot more buying (and selling), and a more specific market (personal style and home décor mainly).

While Polyvore is much smaller than Pinterest, it boasts a community of very qualified leads if you’re in the right business. The average shopping basket of Polyvore users comes in at about $200 according to the site – they’re there to browse and shop, which is more than we can say for other popular social networks. Polyvore claims that their typical users are “twice as likely to have shopped online in the last 30 days than the average online consumer.” Brands can also push sales on the social commerce site by paying to promote items or trends in a pay-per-click model.

social commerce Polyvore

Beyond the sales boost, smart businesses can get a lot more out of Polyvore when it comes to branding. It’s easy for retailers to interact with users on Polyvore, driving engagement through likes, follows and comments. Top followers for a retailer can even serve as readymade brand advocates and social influencers. Some brands even use the site as a way to test out new trends and see what’s popular in different target markets, essentially crowdsourcing for their next campaign (check out this Digiday article on Neiman Marcus for an example).

Facebook

We’ve all seen ads and promoted posts for retailers in our Facebook feeds for quite a while, but the social media powerhouse is ramping up for even more social selling. In June, Facebook released its first shoppable ads with Buy buttons, allowing users to complete the order process without leaving the site.

In the second half of July, Facebook doubled down by launching mini ecommerce shops within a brand’s Facebook page, accessible through a ‘shop’ tab next to the ‘about’ section. It’s still beta testing with help from ecommerce platform Shopify.

social commerce on Facebook

While it really remains to be seen what sales effect these additions will have for retailers who buy into social commerce, Facebook is already the most significant driver of ecommerce traffic amongst social sites. 53% of shoppers ages 18-34 say that they use Facebook to stay informed about online shopping opportunities. And with 50% of total social referrals coming from Facebook (and 64% of social revenue), ecommerce retailers can’t afford to ignore the social network, even if it will never drive the sales of email marketing or retargeting.

Pinterest and Instagram

Business Insider’s new social commerce report says that Pinterest drives 16% of social revenue despite having a comparably small audience (6.5 times smaller than Twitter). And that’s before the rollout of Buyable Pins, announced in June, which allows pinners to buy the products they like directly within the Pinterest API, desktop or mobile.

social commerce

Instagram doesn’t currently hold much sway in the social commerce world, most likely because photos posted don’t allow for links out. It’s not an ideal platform for driving social referrals; I follow brands like H&M on Instagram, but when I see a product I like, my only option is to open a browser and search for it, and more than once I’ve come up empty-handed. What a missed opportunity! Most businesses that use Instagram are counting on it as a branding platform and not a sales driver. This might change now that new Instagram Ads are making it possible to add buttons like “Shop Now” and “Learn More.

Want to learn more about using social commerce to boost your bottom line? Check out this class: Transitioning from Social Media to Social Business.

 


How to Use the Summer Dip to Boost your Lead Generation

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If you’re like most B2B marketers, you’re probably thinking of dialing down your lead generation efforts for the summer. But here’s the undeniable truth: no matter the time of the year, your pipeline, big or small, is what fuels your business. So while you may find yourself scaling back, you can’t put all marketing on pause.  And since slow times are always followed by busier ones, why not use this time to sharpen your focus and stay ahead of the game? summer growthHere’s how, in 3 steps:

1.  Review Your SEO Strategy

If the thought of doing a competitive analysis makes you shudder, don’t worry. You don’t have to completely overhaul your SEO to make a greater impact. Two main tasks can significantly boost your page rankings over time: - Research your keywords to ensure their validity and find untapped opportunities to introduce new key phrases. - Optimize your page titles and Meta descriptions to do at least one of the following:

  • Align with the copy on the page, whether through current or new keywords and phrases
  • Leverage your USP and/or differentiators
  • Make benefit-rich statements that connect with prospects
  • Make a strong call-to-action

lead generation through SEO 2.  Revise Your Website CopyWith a refreshed SEO strategy, move on to your website:

  • Update your blog and social media.  They’re great traffic boosters, but blogs tend to fall quickly through the cracks in busier times. The summer slump gives you the time to update your editorial calendar and brainstorm new ideas. When you have a calendar ready, compile relevant free images to dress up your blog and social media posts.
  • Refresh your website photos, home page sliders and About Us staff photos. (Summer interns count too!)
  • Give your complete contact information and share all your social media handles. Incomplete contact information is a major deterrent to buyers, so make sure yours figures prominently on your Contact Us page and throughout your website, whether in headers or footers.
  • Check in on the competition. They may or may not be snoozing off the summer. Either way, it’s the perfect time to scope their website and identify what you can do better.

3.  Audit Your Content for Gaps

Slow periods are perfect for auditing your content and finding opportunities to bridge any gaps. First, ask these questions:

  • Does your content address each phase of your buying cycle, or lean heavily on one or two phases?
  • Does it answer questions and address objections, or rest on fluffy, generic company accolades?
  • Does your content engage, educate and entertain readers, or fall flat without a discernable voice?
  • Is your lead generation bait enduring, or out of touch with today’s current market realities?
  • Does your USP or value proposition figure prominently throughout your content, or sit inconspicuously on your About Us page?

Even this part needn’t be exhaustive. By enlisting other stakeholders to help, you’ll get a fresh perspective, with deeper insight into what’s not working well and how to make selling easier.

audit lead generation content

Summer is the ideal time to evaluate your marketing efforts and start shifting them accordingly. Follow these steps and start turning up the head on your lead generation. Before you know it, you’ll be armed and dangerous when fall kicks in.

Want to learn more about best practices for consistent growth through lead generation? Check out this OMI class: Increase Lead Generation Quality, Conversion & Velocity.