Archive for January, 2012

What Marketers Everywhere Can Learn From P&G’s 1,600-Person Layoff

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

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Yesterday, Business Insider reported that Procter & Gamble is set to lay off 1,600 employees as a result of its decision to cut back on the company’s annual advertising spend of $10 billion. CEO Robert McDonald said he can’t keep increasing his ad budget even if sales continue to increase because of the prevalence of “more efficient” expenditures like Facebook and Google.

This statement seems to imply that P&G has been seeing dramatically increased sales due to its immense ad spend, but the truth is really that the company’s marketing spending is up 24% over the past two years, despite only a 9% sales increase in its 2012 Q1 earnings and a 6% sales increase over those same two years.

Real-Life Companies Moving from Outbound to Inbound Marketing

It looks like P&G finally realized it doesn’t have a sustainable marketing strategy and are thus taking painful steps to fix it. And Mr. McDonald is right; organic search and social media marketing are more efficient than advertising. But the assumption that digital media is free is one that too many marketers fall into, and P&G should be cautious not to make that mistake. From one inbound marketer to another, I’m here to say that not all advertising is inherently bad, and not all digital marketing is inherently effective. The secret sauce for success in all marketing channels lies in the way you integrate them with one another.

So how exactly does a company like P&G, who is allocating more of its resources to social media and SEO, integrate those with the rest of its marketing and advertising efforts? The first thing to remember is that social media and SEO are more efficient, but they’re not free. Doing it right requires time, resources, and technology that costs money, even though it will be significantly cheaper than a $10 billion annual ad spend. But once you get over that idea and accept that social media and search are inextricable, you can start to effectively integrate it with your other marketing channels.

A year ago, one of HubSpot’s customers, Steve Sheinkopf of Yale Appliance, went through a similar P&G strategy shift from outbound advertising to inbound marketing when he realized that “investing in old media may get you 100,000 eyeballs, but they’re not qualified. Only a few of those people are in a position to buy your product.” So he went from spending $750,000 a year on advertising to a greatly reduced $100,000 budget in 2012. The point is, it can (and should!) be done by businesses of every size, yet it’s only efficient and effective when SEO and social media work with your other marketing channels.

Integrating Content Creation, SEO, and Social Media

Perhaps the most tightly intertwined marketing channels are blogging, SEO, and social media; if you leave one out, the others suffer. Last year’s Google Panda updates placed more importance on social sharing, and with Google+ gaining visibility in search results, the tie between your social presence and your search engine presence can no longer be sidelined.

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And hey, maybe Google will even start indexing the @ sign so tweets show up higher in search results, too. But we’ll let them duke that out (or you can in the comments section).

Google’s bots are also looking for websites to consistently update their content, for which blogging is a natural solution. Plus, bloggers can select the keywords for which they’d like their website and blog posts to be found in search engines, and craft content around those keywords every single time they sit down to write a post. And as you amass more keyword-rich blog posts, you amass more visibility in the search engines.

Many business owners have been seeing even more success with this method by targeting long-tail keywords. Yale Appliance’s Sheinkopf started targeting long tail keywords in his blog posts when he realized the important term ‘counter depth refrigerator,’ with a monthly search volume of 8,700, was more valuable to him than purchasing listing positions through PPC for terms like ‘refrigerator.’

On the effect long-tail content creation has had on his inbound marketing strategy, he says, “Long-tail keywords sound scary to some people, but it just means you’re targeting a niche audience who is a more qualified website visitor than someone who searches ‘refrigerator.’ Why would I spend my paid ad budget on a term that costs me $20 per click and drives unqualified traffic, when I can blog about a term that drives people who are ready to buy and get 120 inbound links along with it? That’s more valuable and efficient for my sales and search engine strategy than any ad campaign.”

Once you’re done blogging, complete the blogging-SEO-social media circle by socially sharing that content you’ve created with keyword-rich updates. As you continue to provide valuable content you’ve created on social media networks, you’ll see your reach on those networks grow, and consequently, the traffic to your blog and your ranking in search engines, too.

Is There Still a Place for Advertising?

Like P&G, Steve was seeing that the more he spent on advertising, the less he got back; the correlation between ad spend and customer acquisition was dwindling. But that doesn’t mean all advertising is a waste of resources. Steve still advertises to current customers and super-qualified leads in the bottom of his sales funnel. But because he’s targeting his ads to a niche audience, the ROI is through the roof. And the others who are seeing similar success with advertising are using inbound marketing to target their niche audiences and see worthy results. For example:

  • P&G did experience some success with advertising; remember its wildly popular Old Spice campaign, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like“? The one we at HubSpot — you know, people who are kinda into inbound marketing — spoofed in our 2011 holiday cards? Well, P&G wisely put that video up on YouTube, and it has received nearly 40,000,000 views. Then P&G used the star of the video (a social media star in his own right, a great move for digital marketing success) to create quick, custom videos in response to social media questions directed at him. Turns out, those real-time video responses were the fastest growing video campaigns ever. Now that’s how you integrate advertising and social media for inbound marketing success.

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  • Coca-Cola is preparing for this year’s Super Bowl by preparing for the 60% of people predicted to watch the game with a second screen, smartphone, or tablet nearby. Its ad spend is being complemented by a game in which viewers can watch the company’s signature polar bear mascots (both rooting for different teams) react to the game in real time.
  • Advertising has found its way into the online world with PPC, and when coupled with an organic search strategy, many companies see more success than when focusing on just organic search or just paid search alone. A Search Engine Land Honda case study cites the positive branding effects that appearing in both the top organic and top paid spots has on searchers; Honda experienced a 16% increase in brand affinity, a 42% increase in brand recall, and an 8% increase in purchase intent. Those automakers absent from both spots saw a 16% decrease in purchase intent.

Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Everything Else

For the best inbound marketers, the integration never stops. Your mobile marketing should be integrated with your SEO and your paid search. Your PPC should be integrated with your content strategy. Your content strategy should be integrated with your mobile marketing strategy. Because while each individual marketing tactic gets you good results, when you combine them, you see astronomical returns.

Other inbound marketers are shifting their methodology this way, too. 71% of business executives surveyed worldwide are promoting their social media presence in their email marketing messages. And 63% of them are enabling email recipients to share email content with their social networks (Source: StrongMail research). Marketers are even talking about how to integrate mobile marketing with SEO and paid search to take advantage of the 400% growth in mobile searches over just the last 12 months. P&G and other outbound marketers making the switch to inbound are on the right track, and they’ll see success if they’re dedicated to an integrated view of all of their marketing channels.

How integrated is your marketing? How do you use social media to power your other marketing channels?

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The Ultimate Guide to Mastering Pinterest for Marketing

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

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Over the past few months, you may have heard some chatter about a brand new social network called Pinterest. Not surprising. According to Compete, unique visitors to Pinterest.com increased by 429% from September to December 2011, and the social network already boasts a user base of 3.3 million. Pinterest is only growing in popularity as the hottest new social network, and in December 2011, it made Hitwise’s list of the top 10 social networks, currently sitting at #5 and beating out big names like LinkedIn and Google+. And as with any hot new social network that comes onto the scene, marketers are chiming in with, “Can I use it for marketing?” “…and, how?”

The short answer? Absolutely. The longer answer? Read on to find out how.

What is Pinterest, and How Does it Work?

Pinterest is a social network that allows users to visually share, curate, and discover new interests by posting (AKA ‘pinning’) images or videos to their own or others’ pinboards (i.e. a collection of ‘pins,’ usually with a common theme) and browsing what other users have pinned. Using a visual emphasis, the social network is very much focused on the concept of a person’s lifestyle, allowing you to share your tastes and interests with others and discover those of likeminded people. The social network’s goal is to “connect everyone in the world through the ‘things’ they find interesting.” Users can either upload images from their computer or pin things they find on the web using the Pinterest bookmarklet.

As with most other social networks, users can perform standard social networking functions such as following the boards of their friends, liking and commenting on other users’ pins, re-pinning content to their own boards, sharing others’ pins on Facebook and Twitter or via email, and even embedding individual pins on their website or blog.

Pinterest Etiquette

As with any site that is built around content curation, ‘pinners’ (Pinterest users) must be especially cognizant of citing the sources of their individual pins. And while Pinterest makes no direct statement that marketers cannot use the social network for promotional purposes, the site does discourage blatant self-promotion:

Avoid Self Promotion | Pinterest is designed to curate and share things you love. If there is a photo or project you’re proud of, pin away! However, try not to use Pinterest purely as a tool for self-promotion.”

Couple this with Pinterest’s lifestyle vision, and what its means is that marketers need to find creative ways to promote their brand on the network and truly jive with its vision and user base. In other words, businesses should use the social network to showcase the lifestyle their brand promotes. If you’re a shoe vendor, a pinboard of the shoes you sell won’t cut it. A pinboard of a few of your shoes interspersed with images of places those shoes could take you, however, is the direction you should be thinking.

AARP’s Pinterest account features a pinboard called ‘Quotes to Live By,’ which is a great example of a business using Pinterest to promote the lifestyle of its brand.

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How to Create a Pinterest Account

Surprisingly enough, user access to Pinterest still operates under an invitation-only basis. That being said, you can request an invitation, and Pinterest doesn’t exactly seem to be very stingy about granting requests. Visit www.pinterest.com, click ‘Request an Invite,’ and enter your email address to be notified when you have access to create your account. Or you can ask a friend who already has a Pinterest account to invite you — this seems to be the speediest of the two methods.

(Important Tip: Be sure to register your account with the same email address you use for your business’ Twitter account so you can easily share your new pins through your Twitter account, too. Once you receive an invitation to sign up for Pinterest, you’ll want to sign up through the Twitter option, not the Facebook option. This will enable you to tie your Pinterest account to your business’ Twitter account, not your personal Facebook profile. Currently, Pinterest doesn’t offer a connection to Facebook business pages.)

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Once your account is activated, optimize your Pinterest profile under ‘Settings.’ Choose your company name as your username and complete your profile information, including a company description, logo, and a link to your website. Be sure you keep ‘Hide your Pinterest profile from search engines’ checked to ‘Off’ so your profile can get indexed in search.

Build Your Following on Pinterest

Once you get started, you’ll want to create a few pinboards before you start trying to build your Pinterest following (check out the list in the next section for some great ideas!). This way, new followers will have a reason to follow your pins; it’s the same reason why you would populate a brand new blog with a few posts before you start promoting it. Unfortunately, because the ‘Find Friends’ feature on Pinterest leverages a personal Facebook profile (not business page), this tool won’t be very useful for your business. Therefore, you’ll want to promote your presence through other means to jumpstart your Pinterest following:

  • Add the Pinterest follow button to your website.
  • Promote your presence on Pinterest through your other social networks by encouraging your followers/fans on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter to follow your pins!
  • Consider launching your presence with a Pinterest contest (see below), and write a blog post to promote it.
  • Start following users you think would want to follow you back.

Think Outside the Box: 13 Creative Ways to Use Pinterest for Marketing

To get your creative juices flowing, we’ve brainstormed a list of creative ideas (and found some real-life examples) for using Pinterest as part of your social media marketing mix.

1. Feature Your Visual Content: Let’s start with the basics. Pinterest is a visual social network, so if your business pumps out a lot of visual content like data visualizations or infographics, consider creating a pinboard that highlights some of your best visual content. Just as the shoe example above, be strategic about how you pin this content, and mix in other images to amplify the visual appeal of your pinboard.

modcloth2. Create a User-Generated Pinboard: Because you can allow other users to contribute their own pins to your hosted pinboards on a user by user basis, this opens up a great opportunity to involve fans and customers in your marketing. Pick out a few of your top fans or customers, and create a board dedicated to their pins. Ask the customer to pin images that showcase the lifestyle they enjoy because of your brand. Does your software save them time? Ask them to pin images of things that represent the time they save or the things they can do with that saved time. This is a great way to leverage customer testimonials in a unique and visual way. Clothing retailer ModCloth uses this tactic in its ‘Guest Pinner Gallery.’

3. Host a Contest: First, consult Pinterest’s terms of use to make sure the contest you’re holding doesn’t infringe upon its guidelines. And if you liked our previous example, you’re going to get giddy about this one. Hold a contest that asks users to create a pinboard on their own account to demonstrate what they love about your brand, products, or services. If you’re that shoe vendor we mentioned above, you might ask customers to create a pinboard that shows pins of them doing fun and awesome things while wearing your shoes. Ask them to send you a link to their pinboard so you can evaluate entrants, and the coolest board wins a prize! Even better — you can also re-pin the top boards to your own Pinterest page and ask followers to vote on the boards to select the winner. This is exactly what High Point Market did in its October Pinterest campaign to promote High Point Market Week, during which it recruited fashion home trendsetters to showcase their favorite products and trends.

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4. Add the Pin-It Button to Your Website: Make it super easy for website visitors to share your visual content or images on Pinterest by adding a Pin-It button to the visual content on your site. Just like other social media sharing buttons, this will help to expose your brand to a brand new audience. Where you showcase your other social media account presence, you can also add the Pinterest follow button, too! Click here to create your website buttons today.

5. Gather Insight Into Your Buyer Personas: Use Pinterest as a tool for understanding the interests and needs of your ideal customers. View pinboards of your customers to aid in your understanding of who your customers are and what they’re interested in. 

6. Re-Pin What Your Followers Are Interested In: Showcase the cool things your followers are pinning in a separate pinboard but re-pinning followers’ pins. This will add a non-promotional, interesting dynamic to your collection of pinboards while promoting engagement with your followers. Whole Foods is a great example of a brand on Pinterest who re-pins other users’ pins often.

7. Become an Curation Expert: Become the go-to Pinterest account for pins about a certain subject or topic relating to your industry. For example, because HubSpot is a marketing software company, we could create a pinboard that features awesome visual examples of great online marketing. Or if you’re a paper company, you could create a pinboard that features really awesome origami paper creations from around the web. Minted is a great, real-life example of a paper company that leverages this tactic by creating themed pinboards that show unique ways to use paper, mixed in with other related lifestyle photos, such as in its ‘Trick or Treat’ Halloween board:

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8. Create a Video Gallery: Pinners aren’t only limited to pinning images; they can pin videos, too! Create a pinboard of some of the interesting videos your business produces interspersed with relevant images. How about a blooper gallery while you’re at it? Do executives in your business do a lot of speaking at industry conferences and events? Create a pinboard that features videos of your speakers and images of them speaking or networking at events to promote your speaking program.

9. Feature Offline Events: Create a pinboard that features the best photos and video footage of the annual event you host to help you generate buzz and promote the next one.

10. Use Hashtags: Just like social networks like Twitter and Google+, Pinterest users can leverage hashtags to tag their pins and make their content more search-friendly. Promoting a new campaign of some sort? Create a pinboard around it, and tag it with a hashtag you’re also using on Twitter and Google+ to leverage an integrated, cross-channel campaign. Club Monaco leverages its Pinterest account for this very purpose, using the #cultureclub hashtag and pinboard to promote a section of its website called Culture Club.

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11. Showcase Your Business’ Personality: As we’ve mentioned, Pinterest has a heavy lifestyle focus, so what better opportunity is there to give people a peek into the personality of your brand? Create a pinboard that showcases your employees and life around the office — show them working together, show them making your products/services, and show some of the fun activities your business participates in, such as company outings, parties, award ceremonies, volunteer days, etc. Letting people in behind-the-scenes will make your brand relatable, interesting, and humanized. The Today Show, for example, uses one of its pinboards called ‘Anchor Antics‘ to let you into the personalities of the show’s stars.

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12. Drive Pinterest Users Back to Your Website (and Track Results!): Incorporating Pinterest into your social media marketing mix might seem like a great opportunity for your business, but you need to make sure it’s generating results to make it worth your time and effort. Whenever possible, include links back to your website and landing pages in your pins to drive traffic back to your website. Keep track of referral traffic and leads generated from Pinterest.

13. Follow Social Media Best Practices: Pinterest is a social network, so it’s a great idea to follow the best practices you operate under for most other social networks. Spend time to increase your following, be engaging with your followers, keep your Pinterest account regularly updated, and drive traffic back to your website when possible to increase conversions.

Have you started experimenting with Pinterest for marketing? In what creative ways have you used it to promote your business?

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How to Use Lead Intel to Accelerate Sales

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

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Marketers expend time and energy developing personas to explain their target customer, understand what motivates them, and paint a picture in the company’s mind that depicts to whom they are speaking and selling every day. These personas are a crucial component to a well-rounded inbound marketing strategy, but doesn’t it sometimes feel a little…general? I mean, we have an idea of our prospects’ wants and needs, but doesn’t it seem like in this day and age, we could back that up with something more concrete?

Marketers who incorporate lead intelligence into their marketing and sales processes have happily found that personas are just the beginning, and the online behaviors that marketing automation software can track and deliver to their sales organization takes a lead from a persona to a living, breathing person.

Gathering and making use of lead intelligence based on on- and off-site behaviors can help you increase conversions, enhance user experience, shorten your sales cycle, and gauge the effectiveness of your content and site design. So what exactly should you track, and once you have the information, how do you use it? This guide will help you understand the kinds of lead information that will help your sales organization be more effective, and how they can use it to make their sales cycle shorter and yield more revenue.

8 Online Behaviors to Track and How to Use Them

1.) Lead Nurturing and Email Marketing Campaign Details – Lead nurturing through personalized email marketing is a crucial step in reducing the length of a prospect’s sales cycle. In fact, Lonely Brand found out that 64% of companies that use email marketing to nurture leads close their business in 3 months or less, while only 43% of companies can boast a 3 month or less sales cycle that don’t use email marketing.

But it’s crucial to make sure your email marketing efforts don’t interfere with lead nurturing campaigns that your marketing automation software has already put in place. Take a look at what email campaigns your leads have clicked through, and see what the subject matter of those emails were. This will give you insight into what content they find helpful, and what offers are enticing to them. You should also check to see if they are currently a part of a lead nurturing campaign to ensure any emails you send don’t overlap with what they’re already receiving (or due to receive) from the automated campaign.

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2.) First and Subsequent Conversion Events – Consider what on your website interested a lead enough to fill out a form and what on your site keeps them converting. Monitoring the conversion events tells you the topics that interest that particular lead so you can tailor your conversation to their needs. Take a look at this lead, for instance:

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A salesperson who sees this lead history would notice that this person has downloaded multiple offers about social media for business and SEO and may be considering outsourcing their SEO services. A good topic of conversation during the salesperson’s first interaction with this lead would be around how they’re currently using LinkedIn and Twitter for their business, and learning more about what they’re doing for SEO and why they might consider outsourcing it. Knowing that these topics interest this lead, the salesperson could also conduct a brief audit of their organic presence, evaluate how well optimized their website is for search, and note how they’re performing on social media before their conversation takes place so they’re prepared with tips for improvement.

3.) Lead Source – How did the lead find your website? Are they coming from a paid ad? One of your social media accounts? A competitor’s site? An organic search query? If you know how your lead arrived at your site, you can evaluate how useful that lead is based on past purchase history from other leads that arrive at your site in the same manner. Not only does this give marketing insight into which sources are driving the most qualified leads, but it also lets your sales organization prioritize their time working with the leads with the highest close rate and shortest sales cycle.

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4.) Pages Visited On Your Site – The more pages a lead is viewing on your site, the more interested they are in your company. After all, if you had the choice between talking to someone who visited 4 pages on your site and someone who visited 50, who would you choose?

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But you should also consider which pages a lead visits on your site, as there are certain pieces of content and areas of your site that indicate a lead is closer to sales readiness. For example, a lead who visits your product and pricing pages may be more prepared to buy than someone visiting your ‘About Us’ page.

5.) Site Return Notifications – In sales, quick response time is crucial. In fact, Harvard Business Review released a study that shows companies that contact prospects in an hour or less are 7 times more likely to have a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker than those who wait longer. Give your sales organization the capability to know when leads are coming back to the site so they can prioritize their day and escalate leads in their queue. When you combine this information with knowledge of which pages they are visiting on your site — like pricing pages, for example — you know you should hop on the phone stat to help them, answer any questions, and close the deal.

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6.) Stage in the Buying Cycle – What can you learn about their stage in the buying cycle based on the offers they are downloading? Are they in the beginning stages during which they are simply researching possible solutions, somewhere in the middle during which they are downloading case studies and getting more information on your solution, or signing up for free trials, making them more likely to purchase? Knowing a lead’s stage in the buying cycle can help you prioritize your time better, nurturing leads that are in the middle of the buying cycle and closing those that are near the end.

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7.) Social Media Profile Information – Populate pictures of your leads for a more personalized sales experience, and get their Twitter handles and LinkedIn profile information so you can find out more about your lead. For example, by doing a little social media snooping, you could figure out their company and industry, investigate common connections, learn about their role in their company, determine their level of education on what you’re selling, and even find out some of their hobbies and interests to make your conversation more personal.

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8.) Social Mentions - Select important keywords — like your brand name, competitors, or product specific words — and track when your leads (or future leads!) mention them on social media networks. Remember, response time is key, and if you can catch someone asking for, say, an opinion on your product, you can get in touch with them and offer them some testimonials and case studies. Alternately, if you find someone ranting about a competitor of yours, you can jump in and turn them into a new customer!

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Are you collecting any or all of this information about your leads? If so, what pieces of lead intelligence are helping you improve your sales process?

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The Rockstar You Need to Hire to Manage Your Blog

Monday, January 30th, 2012

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At this stage in the game, you know blogging is a crucial element to the success of your inbound marketing. But that doesn’t mean you’re doing it consistently like you know you should.

Why don’t marketers and business owners find time to blog even when they know how important it is to meeting their marketing goals? Because blogging takes time you don’t have; you don’t fancy yourself a great writer; you can’t think of good topics on a regular basis; or any of the other myriad reasons people don’t blog when they know they should.

That’s why more and more marketers are turning to hiring an employee dedicated solely to blogging in order to keep their blog fed with top-notch content on a consistent basis. The problem is, the job title “Blogger” is relatively new, and as such, it’s hard to know what exactly you should be looking for when hiring someone to blog for you. Luckily, we’ve hired more than one blogger in our day. So we thought it would be helpful to share the qualities to look for when hiring a blogger for your company — whether freelance, part time, contract, or full time.

Writing Ability

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way. A blogger should obviously be a great writer, but blogging is very different than writing a book, a grant, or even marketing copy. Your blogger must excel at explaining complex concepts through short form content, and be clear and concise so your audience finds the content helpful. While applicants who excel in other forms of content creation may also be fantastic bloggers, those qualifications don’t necessarily mean they can also blog.

Subject Matter and Industry Expertise

In order to provide relevant content for your audience, your blogger must be an expert on the subject matter about which he or she is writing; therefore, it’s crucial to hire a blogger who is knowledgeable about your industry. Does your blogging candidate stay up to date on what your competitors are working on, what thought leaders are publishing, and what developments are happening in the news that they should be commenting on? During the interview process, ask them about what blogs, publications, and authors they read regularly. Then follow up with more detailed questions about which types of content they find most helpful from each source and why. This will give you insight into whether they are truly an active member in your industry’s community and passionate about the subjects that matter to your company.

Company Knowledge

A blogger should make active efforts to understand your company’s mission and integrate themselves with members of every department — sales, customer service, development, everyone. Working with other departments not only acts as helpful content fodder, but it also provides insight that’s crucial to bloggers’ ability to understand their audience and write content that addresses the issues they deal with on a daily basis. Couple that with really “getting” your company’s mission, and you’ll have content that consistently aligns with your thought leadership position, even on the most controversial issues. While this quality can only truly be sharpened once the candidate is hired, you can get a sense of whether your blogger understands its importance by the company knowledge he or she brings to the interview. Have they done their homework about your business? Do they bring up the importance of company knowledge as a blogging best practice?

Detail-Oriented

Now that’s a resume buzz word if I’ve ever heard one! But if you hire a blogger who pays close attention to detail, he or she will be able to take your blog from good to remarkable. So ask them — do they notice if text isn’t wrapping around an image correctly? Do they preview posts before publishing them to make sure there are no layout problems? Do they check links to ensure they aren’t broken or directing to the wrong page? This kind of due diligence should be second nature to them, and a great blogger will already have a process they use to ensure posts are buttoned up before they’re published.

Socially Active

Online, at least. Blogging and social media are two peas in a pod; as your social reach grows, so does your blog readership, and vice versa. Your blogger should take an active interest in growing blog readership through social media. Even if you have a social media manager dedicated to your growth on social networks, your blogger must understand the importance of social media and actively work to promote blog content on their own networks.

SEO Knowledge

Likely, one of the reasons you’re blogging is because of its SEO value. And whether you have a dedicated SEO manager or not, your blogger will be dealing with SEO concepts every day. The best bloggers not only understand SEO concepts and the part blogging plays in organic search success, but can also execute SEO initiatives in their blog content. That means they effectively internal link, write great anchor text, craft effective meta data, know which keywords to target in each blog post, and can create keyword-rich content without keyword stuffing.

Editor Extraordinaire

A great blogger is good at self-editing and editing others. Being a great editor means much more than just proofreading, too. They should be able to identify the difference between a good and bad topic, give critical and useful feedback to other blog contributors, and help make people better writers so the quality of the content on your blog is upheld.

Understands Effective Blog Layout

There’s more than one way to lay out a blog post and structure your business blog, but there are some best practices every professional blogger should know. Ask your blogging candidate to draw out what a good blog post looks like. Did they draw social sharing and follow buttons? What about a subscribe module? Does their post include an image and a call-to-action? How many lines of text do they allow at once? Have they used headers, bullets, and other formatting tools to visually break up text and make information digestible? If these concepts are second nature, you have a good blogger on your hands.

Diligent Researcher

No matter how much subject matter expertise your blogger has, he or she will have to write on subjects about which they need more education. It’s only natural; with new developments and natural inclinations toward certain topics over others, continual learning is just a part of life. But a good blogger won’t be intimidated by the prospect of learning new ideas and will know how to go about finding more information to help inform their content. Make sure the blogger you hire incorporates research and personal education in their day-to-day routine, and make a practice of hiring lifelong learners.

Metrics-Driven

Does your potential blogger know how to report on how many leads your blog drives? The inbound links you’re getting because of blog content? How much traffic your blog gets? Your business blogger should understand how to measure the effectiveness of a blog and consistently analyze the metrics that will let you improve your blog’s performance and meet your monthly marketing goals.

Totally Gets Blogging

Finally, ask yourself one question: do they *get* blogging? Sure, sure, blogging is really important and marketers should be doing it. But do they really believe that, or are they just touting what inbound marketers are saying? An exceptional blogging hire truly believes in the critical importance of blogging to reach your marketing goals and can explain that to any dissenters — whether internal or external. Candidates who are drunk off the blogging Kool-Aid will be the best gatekeepers for your blog, and they’ll be the ones who work tirelessly to make your blog even more amazing than it already is.

Have you hired a business blogger for your marketing team, or do you plan on hiring one this year? What qualities do you look for in a blogger?

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An Insider’s Secret to Avoiding Marketing Content Shortages

Monday, January 30th, 2012

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These days, inbound marketers have to crank out content like never before. Between blog posts, ebooks, webinars, videos, podcasts, and more, it’s hard to keep fresh topics on the horizon. So how can you make it easier to produce remarkable content at such a fast pace? Let me introduce you to your new sidekick, the editorial calendar.

So, you have a pretty good sense of the audience you’re targeting and what kind of content you will most likely need to create to drive sales and happy customers. (Wait — you don’t? Read this first.) The next step is to create an editorial calendar that lays out when and where to share that content. An editorial calendar is like a roadmap for content creation, showing you what kind of content to create, what topics to cover, which personas to target, and how often to publish to best support your inbound marketing strategy.

Here are 7 simple steps to set up your own editorial calendar:

1. Choose a template. Create a Google calendar or a spreadsheet to record your editorial plans. You should plan at least three months in advance, but it’s even better if you can develop a plan for the next six months — or even an entire year.

2. Decide on your goals. Work backwards from your marketing goals to guide your plan. Look at how much traffic, how many leads, and how many customers you are aiming to generate each month. Analyze you previous marketing efforts to determine how many pieces of content you will typically need to reach those goals. For example, say in the past you produced 1 ebook and wrote 15 blog articles in a month, which generated X visits and X leads. If you’d like to double the amount of traffic and leads you generate in a given month, it might be safe to assume you’ll need to produce 2 ebooks and 30 blog articles next month. The trick is to experiment, and over time, you’ll be able to notice patterns that will help you determine how much content you need to create (and how much promotional muscle you’ll need to put in) to meet your goals.

3. Schedule your content. Fill in the dates on your calendar with specific publishing tasks, such as updating your blog or social networks daily, posting new videos or podcasts each week, publishing an ebook or hosting a webinar each month, and so on. For each date, list the topic, the title of the piece, and the targeted persona. The goal is to create a good mix of content types, topics, and personas to make sure you’re covering all your segments.

4. Write down the focal points. Note the SEO keywords, the stage of the buying cycle, the call-to-action, or other inbound marketing goals that each piece of content must address.

5. Mark other significant events. Make note of important dates or external events that are good hooks for specific topics or types of content. For example, retailers could highlight major holidays such as Christmas, Halloween, or Mother’s Day and plan content that fits with the seasonal theme. B2B marketers could note important industry trade shows they plan to attend, and schedule blog updates, recaps, or videos generated at the event.

6. Find opportunities to repurpose content. For example, the publication of a new whitepaper/ebook or research report could generate several weeks’ worth of blog posts that each share details or small nuggets of data from the complete report. (Like this blog post does!) Or the transcript from that webinar you produced could get translated into an ebook.

7. Organize by content type. Create separate tabs in your editorial calendar document for each kind of content you publish, such as blog posts, webinars, ebooks, videos, etc. That way, you can make sure you’re publishing enough of each kind of content, and spreading that content appropriately among your targeted personas and stages of the buying cycle.

By the end of this process, you’ll find that you’ve filled up most of your calendar with detailed plans for content. No more coming to work in the morning wondering what you’re going to publish to maintain your inbound marketing goals!

And don’t worry — if there are a few holes, that’s okay. You want the flexibility to capitalize on news or hot topics as they arise over the course of the year. For those weeks when you can’t find the inspiration for, say, another blog post, calling up your calendar will give you a great visual reminder of what you’ve covered already and what you’re planning to cover next week or next month, so you can at least narrow down your options.

So what are you waiting for?  Start filling up that calendar with great content, and get publishing!

This post is an adapted excerpt from our free ebook, A Practical Guide to Killer Marketing Content. To learn more about keeping those great content ideas flowing, download the free ebook here!

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Google Begins Crackdown On Misuse Of Rich Snippets

Monday, January 30th, 2012


There seems to be a lot of confusion recently about what is spam and what isn’t spam when it comes to rich snippets and that the confusion appears to be led by Google (go figure). PPC Rich Snippets Rich snippets for me are user reviews. Take the hotel industry for example: You can see I [...]

Google Begins Crackdown On Misuse Of Rich Snippets is a post from: Dave Naylor’s SEO Blog.


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LinkedIn 277% More Effective for Lead Generation Than Facebook & Twitter [New Data]

Monday, January 30th, 2012

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Social media can be a huge contributor to a company’s lead generation efforts in both B2B and B2C. But how efficient are the various different social channels in directly driving leads? In a recent study of over 5,000 businesses, HubSpot found that traffic from LinkedIn generated the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74%, almost 3 times higher (277%) than both Twitter (.69%) and Facebook (.77%).

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Is Google Mad at Joomla ?

Monday, January 30th, 2012


This came up at the London Affiliate Conference and I  thought I would share it : Do a quick search of  Joomla in www.google.co.uk  or maybe Google.co.nz The question I asked was what did Joomla do wrong : US results : Can you answer the question? Really what did Joomla do? Dave Is Google Mad at Joomla ? [...]

Is Google Mad at Joomla ? is a post from: Dave Naylor’s SEO Blog.


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Google+ Optimization vs. Community Building: Pros & Cons of Google SPYW

Monday, January 30th, 2012
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Google+ Optimization or Community Building?

Initially I looked at Google+ the same as other Google social projects like Wave and Orkut. But the more I use Google+ the more I like it. Maybe it’s the network effect because others are using it more too. I often find content and insights shared on G+ that I don’t find elsewhere.

While the addition of Google Search Plus Your World (SPYW) has made a big splash in the digital community, I actually think G+ is far more useful (from a personal perspective) as a social network than it is as an augmentation of search on Google.com. When I put my Marketer’s hat on, of course it doesn’t matter what I think of G+ – the task is to figure out how to optimize opportunities to gain an advantage.

There’s been no shortage of commentary about G+ and SPYW but I think there are a few pros and cons that are worth exploring.

Google+ Pros:

As a social network, there are inherent social engagement benefits of Google+.  The Google+ shares, pluses, comments and overall interaction behaviors necessary to improve Google+ inspired search visibility also benefit social network development and community engagement. Starting with SEO and Google+ seems a little backwards to me compared to leveraging it first as a social network.

Along the lines of optimizing for customers before keywords, what about starting on Google+ with engagement and building a network for the sake of growing a community first? As you grow content and community, then bring in the SEO component – or at least simultaneously.

Google+ can definitely serve as another spoke in a hub and spoke content distribution and social engagement model. While Google+ has been reported to have 90 million users, it’s a far cry from the 800 million on Facebook. That said, Google is doing everything it can to “encourage” mass adoption. As that happens, it can become a very productive channel in an overall content and social media marketing mix.

As for SEO and G+, there’s no reason Google+ optimization best practices and social networking efforts cannot happen simultaneously. G+ has rich social networking opportunities that have value on their own vs. viewing G+ solely for it’s SEO value. Together, they represent true social media optimization opportunity.

Google+ Cons:

Is Google+ participation mandatory? The clear advantages of Google+ presence and activity in search make it impossible for companies that value online visibility not to join in. But that incentive is not the same thing as joining a social network because you know that’s where customers and influentials are. As companies mature in their social media participation, those choices are increasingly based on customers vs. chasing shiny objects, the competition or because everyone is doing it. Joining Google+ for the wrong reasons is a bit of a con to me.

A boost in Google+ is a boost for “Unknown” keywords. The more people that are logged in to Google+ and other Google services, the more that search keywords will be reported as “Unknown” to website owners. I think this is the biggest potential con for Google+ success. Search encryption enables privacy with organic search results but not for PPC search clicks. Is that double standard?

The “unknown” segment of referring keywords for our most popular site is now over 25%. That’s a lot of traffic that we know comes from Google but we don’t know which specific keyword phrase it was. As a result, optimization refinement for better search visibility is a much bigger challenge for those phrases. Additionally, optimizing content for better user experience also suffers.

Of course, we’re an adaptable bunch and we’ll simply find another way to make connections between how customers discover our content and what inspires engagement and conversions.

Can Google create their own weather by incentivizing participation? Will it be enough to create momentum and the network effect that will create “true” value for membership? Yes or no, the incentive is too strong not to join. Now it’s a matter of what can brands do to actually make it meaningful vs. mechanical.

When I posted this question on my Google+ account, here are a few of the replies:

Mike Grinberg  -  Google is using a push strategy with G+. They are pretty much “forcing” people to join by integrating as much as possible with all their other services. As more people join, this will become more than just a “power user’s/geeks/nerds paradise” It is slowly happening already.

Benjamin Wright  -  I like G+ because I can post comments like this, including comments with links, immediately, without CAPTCHAs and without waiting for the blog/post owner’s approval. G+ is able to allow this, I believe, because it bans spammers.

Rohn Jay Miller – Lee, I’ve joined and I check and participate–at least some times. But I’m still using blogs and Twitter far more to keep in touch with communities I’m a part of. What’s the incentive to pay the switching costs? This seems like Google-think again: it’s a technology driven idea that’s cool in the overview, even compelling.

But down here at my user level Google+ is just a “mini-net” that I look at once a day. And that’s me, a full-time social media / content professional. What about my brother in law? This has a long way to go before it’s more compelling than compelled

Ian Lurie  - Google is taking this 1-2 steps further by creating a strong marketing incentive FIRST, and using that to drag us all to their property. But that kinda makes sense given that they already have the audience. Facebook didn’t, so they went about it a different way.

I DO think Google can create their own weather. Their huge advantage is their audience. It’s easy to forget, but they own the two most-used search engines on the planet. If they don’t get plowed under for anti-competitive practices they’ll likely win through brute force.

How have you approached Google+ personally or for your business?

Are you optimizing or building community? Are you doing both at the same time? How are you incorporating Google+ with the rest of your online marketing mix?

Be sure to check out TopRank’s Google+ account here.


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Google+ Optimization vs. Community Building: Pros & Cons of Google SPYW | http://www.toprankblog.com


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When Lead Scoring Is a Waste of Marketers’ Time

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

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There are times in a marketer’s life when lead scoring can seem like the Holy Grail. According to the MarketingSherpa B2B Banchmarking Report, only 21% of B2B marketers have established lead scoring, but many more are thinking about adding it. Lead scoring can not only help your sales team prioritize leads so they focus on the best ones first, but it can also show how high in quality the leads you deliver to them are. Yes, lead scoring can be a great tool for a lot of businesses, but there are also times when implementing a lead scoring process can be a big waste of marketers’ time. 

If you’re trying to decide whether lead scoring should be a part of your business’ lead management strategy, first consider the following signs that indicate you might want to hold off a bit.

Your Sales Team Doesn’t Have Enough Leads

Unless your sales team is overwhelmed by the number of leads you’re throwing at them, you don’t need to worry about lead scoring. If they have time to reach out to all the provided leads, or if they are supplementing your marketing efforts by cold calling poor, unsuspecting souls, you don’t need lead scoring because you aren’t providing enough leads for it to matter! Your sales team doesn’t need to know which leads are the best if they don’t have enough leads to begin with. Lead scoring should be used to prioritize leads when you have too many and can’t reach out to them all. 

If you aren’t generating enough leads to CRUSH your sales force, you should instead focus on generating more leads! Spend some time analyzing your traffic numbers and your visitor-to-lead conversion rates. You’ll find that you either need to work on generating more traffic (by creating more content, optimizing it for search engines, and promoting it in social media) or doing a better job of converting the traffic you do have into leads (by improving your calls-to-action and landing pages). 

Your Sales Team Doesn’t Call the Leads You Send Them

If your sales team isn’t calling the leads you generate, or if they spend their time complaining about how bad the leads are, it’s easy to think lead scoring can help. If you had lead scores, your sales team wouldn’t call the wrong leads because the lead score would point them to the best leads. Right? Not necessarily. If your sales team isn’t calling any of the leads you generate, your problems probably go much deeper than what a lead score could solve. 

If Sales doesn’t like any of the leads you send them, you have internal alignment issues that need to be resolved. Instead of adding lead scoring, you need to get your sales and marketing teams on the same page. If Marketing and Sales aren’t in alignment, no amount of lead scoring is going to convince sales to believe in the leads you’re generating. They won’t trust the score you provide any more than they like the leads you provide. It’s time to sit down with the folks running Sales, have a heart to heart, and get to solving the real problems. 

Try setting up marketing and sales service level agreements (SLAs). The marketing SLA should set expectations regarding the quantity and quality of the leads they are providing to Sales, and the sales SLA should set expectations about how deeply and frequently sales people will pursue leads Marketing provides. SLAs help encourage alignment between the two teams, which is something you’ll need before you head down the path of adding lead scoring to the mix. (Learn more about how to set up SLAs in your organization here.) 

You Don’t Have Enough Data

lead history prodThere is no doubt that lead scoring can be super sexy. But it can only be successfully implemented if you can back up those lead scores with super sexy data. Lead scoring is generally based on two different types of data: demographic data and lead intelligence. Demographic data is information about the company or individual you are selling to. You can generally collect this via the lead-capture forms you ask site visitors to complete in order to convert them into leads. Lead intelligence is the information you gather from a lead based on their behavior on your website. How often they visit, which pages they view, and which offers they convert on are all great examples of lead intelligence to include in your lead score. 

If you aren’t collecting the right information from your lead generation forms or aren’t tracking how leads interact with your site, then you don’t have the right data to start lead scoring. Figure out what are the right questions to ask on your conversion forms by working with Sales to determine which kinds of data would be most helpful to identify the best leads. In addition, test different form fields and form lengths to see how these changes impact your conversion rates. Next, make sure you are collecting detailed information about how leads interact with your site (you’ll need a marketing analytics and lead management platform for this). It’s not enough to know that someone was there; you also need to know which web pages and content they’re interested in and what their level of engagement is. Once you have this data on a lead by lead basis, you can start thinking about adding lead scoring to your strategy. 

Lead Scoring Might Not Suit Your Business’ Needs…Yet

There are lots of reasons why you would want to score your leads. But getting reliable, valuable lead scores in place take time. First, make sure you aren’t focusing on lead scoring when you should be focusing on something else. Before you start implementing lead scoring, you want to make sure you are generating enough leads, that your relationship between Sales and Marketing is a healthy one, and that you have enough data to make your lead scores relevant. 

Have you incorporated lead scoring into your business’ lead management strategy? What other tips can you share for those who are considering it, too?

Image Credit: Michael Pick

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