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Secretly, you know your database is out-of-date, inaccurate and completely unqualified, but you don’t have the time or money to scrub the list.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.
Let’s face it not many companies have a big budget for website design projects that don’t lead to new revenue. Yet so many companies spend boat loads of money on website redesign projects every 2 – 5 years that net them nothing. Certainly stranger things have happened I know, but I am here to tell you there is a better way!
Traditional website design does not:
Convert buyers at all stages of the sales cycle.
Highlight your content.
Have an easy navigation menu.
Now think of the many ways a prospect can interact with your company: they can inquire about a product or service, they can call you, they can send you a general inquiry, or they can subscribe to your newsletter or download a content offer.
Is your current website converting your unknown website visitors to leads in all the ways a user can interact with your brand? It’s likely your website is not working this hard because many website design projects don’t focus on lead generation.
Keep in mind that most first-time website visitors are not ready to buy. Actually 96% aren’t ready to buy. Therefore, its important to focus your online lead generation efforts for buyers at all stages of the sales cycle.
Follow these 3 simple steps to turn your traditional website design into a lead generating machine.
Step #1 Map Out Your Buyers Personas
A deep understanding of who your buyers are is not only important for the foundation of the business but also for effective marketing. Selling a product or service to an unknown buyer is challenging. It’s even more challenging in online marketing if you do not know who your ideal customer is.
Luckily mapping out buyer personas is as easy as determining your most likely to buy customers, use historical data if you have it, and then understand their motivations, goals and challenges. If you are not sure exactly what drives your buyers you can select a handful of past clients to interview to uncover their specific persona.
Step #2 Build Your Marketing Assets
Owned media is the most important marketing asset a company can have. In addition to owning it, meaning it’s not leased or rented, you have something that never loses value over time. Hence the reason why it’s a valuable asset!
Just like building an art collection, building marketing assets takes time. It’s unlikely you will create your entire brand collateral and then stop. Every campaign you run online and offline will need its own set of assets.
I had thought about making #3 about improving the user experience. But that’s so played out don’t you think? Every website designer will talk up and down about the user experience of your site. However, I rarely (if never actually) heard a website design pitch that involved a reiterative process to improve the actual user experience. I mean after all the user experience is about the user, and designing for the user is not a project but a process.
Unfortunately many companies don’t have in-house resources to iterate, which is almost always why they can’t make adjustments until the next redesign. If this is you, instead of employing a website design company that thinks about your website as a project, on-board a company or a marketer with the ability to iterate until your website has achieved your growth goals.
Have you ever gone on Google Analytics and gotten excited when you saw a sudden spike in traffic? It’s nice to see, I’ll give you that. Well, enjoy the moment, because those visitors won’t be around long if you don’t actually do something with them.
In a HubSpot meeting today, one participant called this renting the audience. This resonated with me because we’ve had clients tell us that one of their top goals is to increase website traffic. The problem is, they haven’t really thought beyond the traffic. This means those visitors will probably just stop by, have a quick look, then bounce. Website visitors need a reason to stick around.
Inbound marketing is all about the journey of your prospect, from the very first introduction to your brand on a blog or social media site, all the way through conversion and beyond. At every step of the way, you should be providing your prospects and customers with content, educational materials and resources that will make them want to stay.
Here are a few ways you can keep your website visitors from doing the dreaded bounce:
1. Make sure your website is optimized for conversion. Your website isn’t just for show – it’s one of your greatest assets. Every page should have a purpose, whether to educate the consumer, provide them with a content offer or answer their questions. Your website should be clutter free and easy to navigate with a clear call to action on every page.
2. Talk about them – not you. Focus on using customer-centric language on your website and in all of your content. About Money says that the word “you” is the most powerful word in advertising because it’s personal. Want to connect with your customers? Then stop talking about yourself and tell them what you can do for them. It may feel strange at first because you’re going to want to tell them all about your product or service, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll see how effective this can be.
3. Offer them well-crafted, easy to digest resources. You need to create well-researched, credible content that directly addresses the needs, wants and concerns of your ideal prospect. Online tools, data sheets, training videos, case studies, white papers and webinars are effective ways to nurture your prospect (without looking like you’re marketing to them), gain their trust and keep them coming back for more. Create powerful landing pages that are simple and don’t ask for too much information. I know I get bored and a bit suspicious when a a brand asks for my life story in exchange for downloading a content offer.
Inbound marketing requires effort, but it’s the most effective way to keep your website visitors from bouncing. Think of your website visitors as house guests and make their stay as pleasant as possible. They say good marketing shouldn’t feel like marketing – and that’s the kind of marketing your prospects want.
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.
When hiring a marketing agency, it often feels like bigger should be better, so you commit tens of thousands of dollars to a large marketing agency, convincing yourself that you should Go Big or Go Home. Problem is, you didn’t really NEED a big agency and every time you pay your monthly retainer, you regret your decision.
You’re not alone. That’s what many companies do.
They’re seduced by an agency’s high-profile client list and so they put their trust (and their money) into the large agency. Problem is, after all of the impressive strategies, guidelines and marketing plans are delivered, companies find themselves lacking the tactical support they need. They’re no better off than when they started – only now they have even less money in their budget.
For many small businesses, it’s more important to generate leads and learn fast than it is to spend months planning to plan. Small businesses don’t have the same big budget as big brands. They need agile development and quick turnarounds.
If you’re trying to decide whether to go with a large, well-known agency or a smaller boutique agency, ask yourself these 5 questions before you make a decision you’ll regret:
1 – How much am I willing to spend each month?
Larger agencies can charge anywhere from $8000-$15,000 per month, whereas smaller agencies charge around $5000 per month.
2 – Do I need a long-term strategy or do I need tactical support?
You need both. However, some brands have shorter run rates than others. A startup, for example, is always operating on a 3 to 6 month run rate. Time is not on their side. While all companies need a strategy, not all need to plan 5 years out.
[Tweet “”Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. ” Vincent Van Gogh”]
3 – Do I just need support for my in-house marketing team?
Some companies confuse marketing teams with a team of marketers. Not everyone who works in marketing is a marketer. By definition, a marketer defines goods and services to be marketed. An inbound agency can help you identify what products or services should be marketed and to whom, also known as your buyer personas. A small boutique agency can work alongside in-house teams or as an outsourced marketing solution.
4 – Do I need an agency that’s flexible?
Smaller agencies aren’t stifled by a rigid corporate structure. They have the freedom to get creative and the enthusiasm to find the most compelling way to tell your story.
5 – Does the personal touch matter to me?
Without a doubt, one of the greatest benefits of going with a boutique agency is the level of intimacy and support they can offer. Instead of being one small cog in a big machine, a smaller agency gives you the opportunity to get to know the entire team, and for the team to get personally involved in developing your brand. That kind of deeper relationship fosters a personal investment in your brand from each and every member of the team.
At Smashdeck Marketing, we always use the word “we” when we’re talking about your brand. We do this because we want you to know that we’re invested in you, your reputation and success.
If you’d like to learn more about how a boutique inbound marketing agency can help you generate leads, contact us for a 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.
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.
About a year ago I started to wonder, what the heck am I doing in this freelance space? I love the idea of being a freelancer – work when I want, on the projects that I want. But then as my mind often does, it started to question my motives and the reason why I am still spending so much of my time building other people’s companies, instead of my own.
The rat race of the freelance world is the same as it is in the corporate world, just with less consistency in a paycheck, no health benefits, and instead of having one boss you have many. This rat race (at least for me) was one that seemingly had some upsides but lots of downsides. Worth noting: I deeply respect freelancing as a profession. An individual that can become a rockstar in their chosen field and charge lots of money for his/her service is hands down a very good place to be.
For me, I decided long ago that I just wanted to be a kick-ass marketer and screw specializing in email marketing, PPC or SEO. I know these fields well enough, mind you, but I don’t claim to be an expert. What I do know very well is lead generation. This is what I thrive in. If I am doing client work, I can’t spend my time on lead generation and vice versa. There was no “real” win and honestly I got burned-out.
Although my freelance consulting work has always been centered on lead generation marketing using inbound tactics, I decided to re-brand and create a compelling value proposition and also work in a team. Yes in a team! I need the collaboration that comes with working in teams. I work with teams as a consultant, but there is something to be said about working in a team. No company has ever scaled without building a team. I repeat, no company has ever scaled without building a team!
Smashdeck was hatched. Theresa Mills has been an integral part of this transition. She is Smashdeck’s Content Marketing Manager, and will head up content marketing efforts for the company and for clients. I will still focus on client work, but I will also be able to spend more time on business development and marketing for the company, with the addition of Jessica (our new marketing assistant) and Theresa.
[Tweet “Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together. – James Cash Penney “]
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.