Qualified leads are the heart and soul of your business, your bread and butter, the center of your universe. Yet for some reason, despite all of your hard work, none of your leads seem to be converting.
You tried inbound marketing because you heard you should, but that didn’t work. And so, after two months, you gave up.
Secretly, you know your database is out-of-date, inaccurate and completely unqualified, but you don’t have the time or money to scrub the list. In the end, you ignore the problem and try the “bombard your contacts with broadcast emails” approach instead. You hope you’ll get a nibble or two for your efforts – but that isn’t working either. Even a badly-trained hamster knows that you can’t run a business this way.
I once worked for a company that gave their sales team a giant list to cold call. The list was SO bad that the team didn’t make any sales and eventually they were blamed and fired. The problem? The owner didn’t understand the target audience or how to reach them. He thought that as long as the sales team kept making phone calls, they’d eventually get a hit. Not surprisingly, this approach was a disaster.
If you don’t understand your ideal customer, you’ll spend months of effort trying to sell umbrellas to a camel. In other words, you won’t sell anything and your inbound marketing efforts will lead you on a road to nowhere. Even if you DO capture a qualified lead here and there, your lack of understanding will likely result in their demise and they’ll be gone forever.
In order to give marketing teams and salespeople a fighting chance, companies need to clearly define their target market. They need to understand what prospects need at different stages of their buying journey and help drive them towards a decision.
Inbound marketing is a highly-strategic process, based on clearly defined buyer personas. It’s not about sending out random emails to prospects hoping to get a bite. And it’s not about promoting your blogs on Facebook when none of your leads actually use Facebook.
For inbound marketing to work, everything from email campaigns to social media need to be focused on your personas: who they are, how they live, what their budget looks like and what kind of media they consume. Otherwise, you’re just wasting a lot of effort without seeing any results.
In her blog, What Do You Mean Your Marketing Isn’t Working: Sales Edition, author Kristen Patel explains that, even if your leads seem to be going down the sales funnel, they might just be doing research. She says you need to understand their behavior, such as how many times they’ve converted, whether they’re a first-time visitor and whether or not they fit with your persona. If they don’t, chances are they’re just a “lookie-loo” and are stopping by for a visit but not really interested in your product or service.
Buyer personas are key to getting into the heart and mind of the buyer so you can answer all of their questions, solve their problems and become a resource for them through your inbound marketing. Equipped with a genuine understanding of their target market, sales and marketing teams can provide the right information for qualified prospects, initiate the right conversations at exactly the right time and nurture qualified leads so they become customers.
Why? Because community platforms that are branded as a separate content website are a sure fire way to drive user engagement in an unbiased manner.
For big-budget brands with tons of content, this makes sense. It’s a great place for them to publish their resources – skillfully marketing their brand without looking like they’re marketing.
However, most companies without a marketing budget the size of Texas already struggle to keep up with content demands. Adding another site or platform just adds a lot of unnecessary work to the mix. It’s a bad idea for this reason alone.
Yet there are even more reasons why you shouldn’t create a separate website just for content:
Reason #1 – Lack of Resources
Driving traffic, creating content and content distribution already add up to a full-time job. Deflect from your company website at all and suddenly you’ve created two very big jobs for yourself. And who really needs more work?
Reason #2 – Diversion of Traffic
Driving traffic to a whole new domain won’t do anything for your corporate website, except split your traffic. Spend online marketing dollars building your company website up, not diverting from it.
Plus, whenever you launch a new domain, you have to be aware of Google sandbox. Your new site will not be included in search results for several months. Keep SEO juices on your corporate website.
Reason #3 – Near-Zero ROI
Unless your brand is widely known, then branding a new website for just for community building will have – like zero – impact on your ROI. So, what’s the point? I’m sure you can find more effective ways to spend your marketing dollars.
There are some benefits to an additional content website. However, in most cases if your company lacks a strong, resource-heavy marketing mother ship, a content website is rarely a good idea.
If, for some reason, you can’t build on top of your existing corporate website, then look into creating a subdomain off of your root domain like this: blog.mydomain.com. At least this way your brand will stay intact.
For more information on how to optimize your existing website, schedule a free consultation with Smashdeck Marketing.
When I worked as a journalist, I wrote about the economy, politics and local events. And although I would like to consider myself a super smarty-pants in all of those fields, I wasn’t. I just did my research, made a lot of phone calls and conducted hard-hitting interviews (well, maybe not THAT hard hitting).
Good content writers are just like journalists. They can cover a lot of varied topics and write compelling content armed only with their strong research and interviewing skills. Companies waiting to find writers who are experts in their field may be limiting themselves. Writers are in the business to make money, and unless you have a full-time gig to offer them, they’ll most likely remain diversified.
A better approach to hiring writers is to find people who have a strong portfolio, have a genuine interest in your field and who are willing to learn what they don’t know. Perhaps even more important: you’ll get far more bang for your buck if you hire a writer who also understands marketing. As a business owner, you don’t just want to produce random content. Content marketers have an eye for how they can make the content work for you, how they can repurpose it into multiple pieces of content across different channels, and how they can align it with your company’s business goals.
When interviewing a content writer/marketer, here are the questions they should be asking you:
Who is your audience/target market?
Do you have branding guidelines? What is the tone and voice you want in your content?
Do you have buyer personas so they can address the fears, needs and wants of your target audience?
What are your goals for the content? For example: brand awareness, thought leadership or lead generation?
Who are your top 3 competitors, so they can research what other people are writing about in your industry – and differentiate?
Do you want to educate your customers about a particular problem in your industry or do you want to discuss your products and updates?
How do you plan to distribute the content?
Do you have analytics in place to monitor the content to make sure it’s working?
When you hire a writer, you should also be ready to allow them to interview key people in your company. A half an hour interview can provide the writer with quotes, ideas, inside information and the perspective of the people closest to your target audience. I find that 5 thought-provoking questions can yield an enormous amount of information for multiple pieces of content.
While we’d all love to be experts in everything and we’d all love to hire that person. Yet common sense tells us that that person doesn’t exist (except perhaps on Jeopardy). Writers with strong research and interviewing skills, combined with an eye for marketing, will generate top-quality content that your target audience actually wants to read – and leave them coming back to your site for more.
In all of the frenzy over #mobilegeddon, you’ve probably been scrambling to make sure your website is mobile friendly. But have you considered whether or not your content is?
61% of business is now conducted on mobile phones, which means people are reading your content on the go. Content that’s easy to digest on mobile phones is more likely to get read.
Here are 4 quick tips on how to make your content mobile friendly:
Use Short, Strong Headlines
When you write headlines, think tweets. Make your headlines strong, clear, relevant and shareworthy. You can use teasers, but make sure your headlines aren’t so clever that the reader doesn’t get what the content is about.
[Tweet “8 out of 10 people read headlines. Only 2 out of 10 read the rest. @Copyblogger”]
Forget the long, drawn-out narrative. You need to “hook” your audience with interesting content that will inspire them to read on – and you need to satisfy them every step of the way. Blogs with too much copy are tedious to read on mobile, so keep the language concise, informative and entertaining.
Use SubHeaders and Bullets
When you’re writing, think ‘easy to digest’. These days, busy people scan content for value. Bullet points and subheaders (like we’ve used in this blog) are a great way to make content easy to read by presenting the most important points in a clear way.
Make sure CTAs and Social Share Buttons Are Easy to Find
If you want your readers to take some sort of action from your content, make sure that action is clear and easy to execute. Calls to action shouldn’t be buried in the text where they’re are likely to be overlooked, and social buttons should be placed prominently on your site to make mobile sharing easy.
Mobile, combined with a day of floodly content – oops! Did you read that? Then we’ve made our point. If you need help with your content, visit us at Smashdeck Marketing for your free consultation.
Not long ago, I talked to a friend who worked for an SaaS company. He said that everyone in the company was required to write a blog once a week – but they HATED doing it. In fact, it became a bit of a joke around the office about whose turn it was that week to write their blog. LOSER!
As you can imagine, their blogs weren’t very good and they definitely didn’t generate new leads.
If this story sounds familiar, then you’re probably not giving content the time and effort it deserves. The shotgun approach to content production has been proven over and over again not to work.
Here are 5 reasons why your content is failing to generate leads:
Every piece of content should have a reason for being produced: to support higher-level objectives. Without a strategy, content becomes a confusing and random exercise that doesn’t produce any results and leaves management shaking their heads. Content needs to be analyzed and measured just like every other marketing effort, and new strategies need to be developed in place of strategies that aren’t producing any return. You should know when, where, how and why you’re producing every content offer and you should be making sure that your content is getting in the hands of your target audience. Content should always be working for you in a strategic way to generate new leads – but without a strategy, your efforts will fall flat.
YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
What’s the point of producing content for just anyone? You’re in business to make money and your content should support that goal. How are you going to drive new leads to your website if you’re not giving your prospects the kind of content they want? Understand what your audience consumes and where they consume it. Make sure you understand their needs and wants and produce the kind of informative content they’re searching for online. If you consistently produce content that solves their problems, you’ll eventually become a trusted resource.
YOUR CONTENT ISN’T VERY GOOD
Not just anything will do. We’re in a state of content overload on the internet which means you’ve got A LOT of competition. Your content needs substance and it needs to provide new information for your readers. Lack of time is one of the top reasons cited for producing poor-quality content. Fortunately, there are scores of quality freelance writers available to alleviate your burden. Writing isn’t something that just anyone can do – it’s a skill, like any other skill, that takes time to perfect. If you want results, sometimes it’s better to leave it to the professionals.
YOUR DISTRIBUTION IS TOO LIMITED
Many people fail at generating leads from their content because the right people aren’t seeing it. Distribution is KEY to getting people to read your contact. One tweet or post with a link to your blog isn’t going to drive any significant amount of new traffic. You need to get creative with distribution. Here are some ideas:
1. Create a monthly newsletter with links to your blogs that you can email to your prospects
2. Look into guest blogging opportunities within your industry
3. Following industry influencers on all of your social sites, engage with them, comment on their blogs and see what kinds of blogs they’re sharing
Sites like Buzz Sumo are a great way to see what kinds of blogs are performing well in your industry, who the influencers are, and what kinds of blogs influencers are sharing so you can try and get your content in front of them.
YOU DON’T HAVE GOOD CALLS TO ACTION
Once again, this goes back to the bigger picture of WHY you’ve created content in the first place. You’ve done it to drive new leads to your business. It’s great if your target audience is reading your content, but do you know what you want them to do after they read it? It’s essential to have a call to action in every piece of content you produce – and that call to action should be strong enough to entice your readers to go a step further with you and click on your CTA.
Inbound Marketing is proven to work when done properly. If you don’t have the time to give your inbound marketing the effort it deserves, agencies like Smashdeck Marketing can help. We’d be happy to set up a free consultation to see why your current content marketing isn’t working and how we can help make it better.
Don’t believe inbound marketing works? Download our free white paper to see the facts: Inbound Marketing: Let’s Talk Numbers. Why Content Makes Good Business Sense.
From the story on your cereal box giving you the history of a company, to the case study that persuades you to make a major B2B purchase, you are consuming vast quantities of content every day.
Consumers and brands rely heavily on content to make purchasing decisions. Every day, potential customers study websites, reviews, blogs and competitors to decide where they want to spend their money.
Well-researched content provides a reliable source of information that allows consumers to educate themselves and make decisions at their own pace, rejecting the outbound tactics that some brands still use to try and grab their attention. Consumers no longer want to be disrupted. They want information and advice they can trust and they want it on their terms.
[Tweet “”Don’t interrupt what your buyers want to consume-BE what they want to consume” – HubSpot”]
Considering that 80% of business decision makers prefer to get information in a series of articles versus an advertisement and that content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing but costs 62% less, businesses who aren’t leveraging content are missing out on a key opportunity to connect with their customers, build trust and generate leads.
There’s no doubt about it – content marketing makes good business sense, but many brands fall victim to myths about the time and money content creation requires.
Creating content doesn’t have to cost a small fortune. Here are 3 ways brands can create content intelligently:
1. Produce larger assets that can be re-purposed over and over again
2. Focus on highly-targeted, customer-centric content that clearly addresses the wants and needs of customers
3. Make distribution a high priority by distributing your content on the channels where your ideal customers are likely to frequent
Content marketing is one of the most cost-effective ways to educate customers about your brand and build the kind of trust that generates leads – and it’s growing more powerful every day. If you want customers to think of you whenever they make a buying decision, produce the kind of memorable content that your customers want and you’re sure to be the first brand that pops into their minds.
Who knows your customers and prospects better than you? Many businesses are sitting on a treasure trove of information and knowledge that customers are already searching for online.
You see, your customers want YOU. They want your expertise, they want your advice and they want you to tell them why your product or service is better than anyone else.
But first they need to trust you, and the best way to build trust in this digital world is through content.
Customers no longer buy into pure marketing hype. They research and study before ever making a purchase. They expect information to be thoughtful, well-researched and credible – and if it’s not, they’ll disappear in the blink of an eye.
And that’s where you come in. The experts in the industry. Who better to tell your story than, well, you.
This year, content marketers are no longer working in silos, spending hours researching information to create the content they think will drive marketing efforts. Instead, they’re maximizing the resources already at hand. Content writers and marketers are turning to the people in the company who work day in and day out with customers – the sales teams, customer-service reps and executives. They interview and dig into that treasure trove of knowledge to produce high-quality content that can be distributed in different formats across multiple channels. It not only saves time, but it results in highly-targeted, customer-centric information.
By setting up one interview every quarter with a team who understands the ins and outs of the ideal customer, content marketers can gather enough information to produce white papers, blogs, social media postings, case studies and infographics for months. Yet, as we say at Smashdeck marketing, there shall be no random acts of content. Every piece of content should be relevant, designed to drive new leads and created with re-purposing in mind, so that the content works hard to help you accomplish your goals.
If you’re not already producing content and you’d like some help, feel free to contact Smashdeck marketing. We’ll be happy to set up a consultation to help you start producing the kind of relevant content that your customers want.
As a designer, I like to help companies begin with the right approach to building a website. Often a designer will create a wireframe or a mockup of a website to show to a client before they have even mapped out their concept or idea. This is where a Sitemap comes in handy. A Sitemap for a website is an outline or flow chart of your website – which is where I recommend everyone start.
Clarify your sites purpose and goal
A website and a brand should serve one or multiple customer groups and should fill a need. When I was first starting out, I would start a website first, maybe buy some business cards (yes, awful waste of money) and then work on branding and concept. What ended up happening was a collision of ideas and concepts, which was very confusing. I then started to develop a small narrow concept first and then build a sitemap to support this one narrow concept. Design and development always take a back seat, because with design you can get lost in minutia and with development, it’s an afterthought of the concept, not a forethought.
Set-up a conversion funnel
I assume sales are important. If you want a visitor to land on your website and buy a product, complete an interest form or submit a service request, a conversion funnel is key. Use a Sitemap aka flow chart to map out the ideal path you want a visitor to take. Land on the home page > go to a product page > add to cart > checkout. This will help tremendously when deciding what pages and content to place on primary and secondary navigations menus.
Get input and get everyone on the same page
I have yet to see a website or business concept built without user input. If it’s not from your customers or potential prospects, it’s going to be from co-workers, colleagues or co-founders. Whoever is project lead (yes there always is one) should keep the Sitemap in a central location or on a server where its easily accessible by all. A Sitemap just like a website is dynamic. As you make changes and additions its helpful for everyone to see what is happening so they can provide input in real-time.
To recap, a Sitemap will help to eliminate pages and content early on, to save time and money. Design will stem organically from how to organize your website, how to develop your idea. Get the nitty gritty of a Sitemap out of the way and then you are free to explore Design.
There is so much effort that goes into a digital marketing campaign that when it comes time to ‘pull the trigger,’ if your website or landing page is not optimized, all of the effort could be wasted. This is why you need a website for marketing.
I have run paid advertising campaigns that cost anywhere from $2 a click to $15 a click. PPC can be an effective marketing tool – but not in its own right. This is just the first step in directing customers to your website. If your landing page and website aren’t designed properly, you’re going to lose those hard-earned leads.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Create a conversion funnel A conversion funnel is just as the name implies: it’s the path a user takes to a “conversion” ie: a checkout, a completed inquiry form or a referral. Put yourself in the users’ virtual shoes and walk through the path you want him/her to take. If you want them to buy a product, start from the home page or on the landing page and continue (with clicks) to see what looks and seems logical. Sometimes an outside perspective is required. If you created the copy or design, you might not be objective when seeing through the eyes of the customer.
2. Use Landing Pages Landing pages operate independently from a company’s website. They inadvertently drive traffic to your website and have an exit point that clicks through. The importance of landing pages is often understated. They are a channel for directing a customer down a strategic path and fulfilling a single goal. This keeps your customer from getting lost in the maze of your website and leaving out of frustration.
Sometimes the expected outcome is overestimated but more often it’s underestimated. It’s best to prepare for the worst, which in our case would be an abundance of traffic (yes this sounds good, bad is actually bad if you’re not prepared for it). Say a company spends $300 to get 6000 unique visits to their site, each with the goal of buying a product. If your website’s not ready for this volume of traffic, you’ll create an incredible bad first impression and potentially lose scores of new customers.
No marketing campaign, website or landing page is perfect. The key is to learn from what you’ve done wrong, take the right steps in the future, and sit back and enjoy the new leads that come pouring in as a result of your efforts.
A content marketing program begins with a content strategy. Easy enough, right?
According to the Content Marketing Institute a content strategy manages content as a strategic asset across the entire organization. This happens to be my experience as well. If content is the fuel that drives customer engagement, then having an understanding of the “how” and “why” that plays into the overall goals of the business is priority #1.
Most content marketing programs start with an idea and loose planning, but then quickly get derailed by lack of additional ideas and planning. At the end of the day, content marketers can lose sight of why the program was started in the first place.
To create an effective strategy, your content marketing plan should include the following key elements:
– Goals and Analytics
– SEO Strategy
– Target Persona Development
– Team Responsibilities
– Brainstorm Content
– Blog Promotion
– Landing Pages
– Lead Nurturing
A content marketing program cannot be scaled without a content strategy. Although the strategy may adjust for new data – as it should – the best results will be produced by answering the “how” and “why” first.