Archive for January, 2010

How to Write an Effective Email Newsletter

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Note: This post was originally published on the WebMarketCentral blog.

A few years ago, I was tasked with reviving a declining company newsletter. In the previous six months, subscriptions had declined by 50%, and unsubscribes were significantly outpacing new subscriptions. Over the next six months, subscription increased by more than 400% and the rate of unsubscribes was reduced by 90%. How did that happen?

First, the newsletter was split into two separate publications. One went only to customers, and focused on topics customers cared about: new product releases, patches, usage tips, changes in support offerings or hours, customer events and the like. The other version – the prospect newsletter – was designed primarily to appeal to prospects, although existing customers were welcome to sign up. It was completely reoriented from an all-about-us format (“Our new product is the greatest thing since boneless chicken, yada yada…”) to more an industry newsletter that just happened to be sponsored by the company.

Next, the newsletters were promoted separately, with the customer version promoted only through communications to existing customers, and the prospect version promoted using a variety of other marketing methods. After testing several programs, the most successful turned out to be promoting a white paper in popular trade publication newsletters (such as IndustryWeek) and promoting newsletter opt-in on the white paper download registration page. It was also promoted on the company’s home page—which is long gone now, but you can see how the newsletter was promoted in the upper right of this page (click on the icon that looks like a newspaper, next to the pop cans) from the Wayback Machine.

The key to retaining readers, however, and getting them to encourage others to subscribe, was to revamp the content — to change it from dull to dynamic, from insipid to interesting, from stuffy to stimulating. For instructions on how to accomplish that task, check out the new How to Write Effective Email Newsletters page on WebMarketCentral.com.

Despite the increasing ubiquity of newsletters, they can still be an effective marketing tool—if written from the perspective of the reader rather than the sponsor.

Post to Twitter

Social Media Marketing Tips from the Experts: Rick Burnes

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Late last year, I sat in on a couple of social media marketing webinars from two of the best: Rick Burnes, Marketing Manager at HubSpot, and Chris Abraham of Abraham Harrison, along with Sally Falkow of Expansion Plus. Here are some of the key takeaways on using social media effectively. This post will review recommendations from Rick Burnes, while a follow-up post will present ideas from Chris and Sally.

Rick Burnes of HubSpotAccording to Rick, inbound marketing is a magnet, attracting new business to your enterprise. Outbound marketing is a sledgehammer, barraging prospects with advertising hoping they will form a positive association with your brand in exchange for interrupting what you are reading, watching or listening to. Outbound marketing can work, as it has in the past for big companies like McDonalds and P&G, but it’s very expensive (and intrusive). Contrast those brands with companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, which have achieved success with very little advertising but great products and a broad online presence.

Rick divided inbound marketing into two areas, “attract” and “convert.” His formulas for these are:

Helpful web content + blogging tools +SEO +social media = attraction.

Well-designed landing pages + email newsletters/marketing + calls to action = conversion.

The cost of inbound marketing (PPC, SEO, email, blogs, social media) is significantly less than the cost of traditional outbound marketing. Publications (online and offline) have traditionally sold advertising space. But sites like Facebook, Twitter and Digg are essentially “social search engines” that enable prospective customers to find content recommended by their friends and peers, which is both much more powerful than advertising and much lower cost (at least direct cost, though creating great content does require resources). Rick noted at that time that 15% of HubSpot’s website traffic was driven by social media.

For those new to social media, Rick recommended staring by signing up on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, then working these online venues like a “cocktail party.” Find interesting conversions and join in, socially—being helpful, but not with a hard sell approach. Meet people, build relationships, ask and answer questions, build trust, and build a reputation for being knowledgeable and helpful. To start, listen. Then listen some more. Build some relationships. Then share content; this is what drives people back to your site and/or blog and generates referral traffic.

Tools: search for your company name, competitors and industry terms on Twitter to discover who’s talking and what’s being said. Google Blog search and Technorati are helpful blog search tools, and Google Reader is great for listening. Use keyword search on TwitterGrader and tools like MrTweet to find interesting Twitterers to follow. Revver was recommended for video sharing.

Develop a reputation by participating in Q&A though Facebook discussions, Yahoo Answers and LinkedIn Q&A and group discussions.

Social media sharing is not like advertising—it spreads across your social network and their followers. You probably already share great content, but when was the last time you “shared” an advertisement with anyone? Content that is not frequently shared includes product information, free trials and software documentation. Content that is shared includes new data and reports, amusing videos and useful blog posts.

For social media marketing, your blog is “ground zero.” This should be the focal point of social media efforts, but additional avenues for sharing great content include podcasts, videos, photos, presentations, eBooks and even social news releases. This is “marketing by publishing” rather than advertising. The type of content you develop and share should be what’s important to your audience, not just information about your products or services.

Conversion is the process of turning visitors into opportunities, opportunities into leads, and leads into customers. It’s accomplished by including calls to action everywhere (on your blog, at the end of videos, in news releases, etc.) with links to landing pages. An effective landing page has limited navigation; an incentive for response (e.g. a white paper, report or webinar registration); and a contact form, kept “above the fold” and as short as possible. In order to generate quality leads, it’s imperative to know your audience and write for them.

Success can be measured using tools like TwitterGrader, Facebook Grader and tracking referral sources through web analytics software such as Google Analytics. Succeeding in business with social media requires a constant stream of new content, which is why blogging and other forms of content creation are critical. Content can come from anywhere; for example, when answering a complex question from a colleague or customer, consider turning that answer into a blog post. Marketers need to look for opportunities to create content everywhere, developing a “content mindset.”

Advertising is high cost but requires a relatively low time commitment. Social media marketing is the opposite; there are few direct costs, but the time requirement is substantial.

Finally, social media marketing can be applied to virtually any industry; it’s a matter of searching to find out where your customers, prospects and industry influencers are congregating, then joining the conversation.

FTC Disclosure Notice: I have absolutely no financial relationship with HubSpot whatsoever, and have not been compensated for this post in any way—other than hopefully a few retweets.

Post to Twitter

Content Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2010

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

What does 2010 hold for content marketing? ClickPredictions: Key Content Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2010, an intriguing ebook just released by Marketo and ClickDocuments, attempts to provide some answers. To compile the ebook, the sponsors asked 38 of the world’s top b2b marketers (and me) to offer insights on key marketing trends and predictions for the coming year.

2010 content marketing ebookContent marketing is, in many ways, the new advertising. Prospects, particularly for complex b2b products, don’t care about marketing copy, they care about solving their problems. A carefully crafted content marketing strategy begins with positioning your company as the helpful and knowledgeable experts in your industry, and flows through content that illustrates why your product or service is uniquely the best choice to fix a critical issue for a particular type of company.

The ClickPredictions ebook includes prescient commentary from an impressive array of experts, including Mike Stelzner, Rebel Brown, Ian Lurie, Patsi Krakoff, Michele Linn, Steve Woods, Galen De Young, Jon Miller, Stephanie Tilton and more. Each author also provides a list of their favorite resources for further reading.

If your company is using content to attract prospects and help guide them through the buying process to ultimately select your offering, check out what these very smart b2b marketing pros view as the Key Content Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2010.

Post to Twitter

Best of 2009: SEO Tips and Tactics, Part 2

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Is it really impossible to optimize a Flash website? How can social media profiles help with SEO? Is your website optimized for the way search engines work now, or are your SEO efforts still focused on yesterday’s ranking factors? Which best practices and advanced SEO techniques should you be taking advantage of? What characteristics and skills are most important for SEO? How much should SEO really cost, and how can you avoid hiring an SEO consultant who is incompetent (or worse)? Which helpful tools may be missing from, or underutilized in your SEO toolkit?

best seo posts of 2009Find the answers to these questions and many others here in more of the best SEO articles and blog posts from 2009.

 

How to SEO Flash by Hochman Consultants

Jonathan Hochman writes that “Flash gets a bad rap” for optimization, and explains in detail how to SEO a Flash website. Another great post on this topic is The Ultimate Fast Guide to SEO + Flash by MediaPost Online Media Daily, in which Rachel Moran prescribes mixing HTML and Flash, using optimization tools and other techniques for enhacing search results for Flash sites.

 

10 Ways to Be a Great SEO by Search Engine Journal

Matt Leonard advises that to be a great SEO, the key is to simply “get things done,” including using a variety of keyword tools, being a team player, and valuing goals beyond rankings. Another fantastic post from Matt is The ABCs of a Great SEO Leader in which he walks through the alphabet of attributes critical to SEO leadership, from A (analytical) to Z (zero mistakes).

 

How Social Media Profiles Help with Search Engine Optimization by Social Media Today

Jim Tobin shows how individuals can use tools like blogging, social media profiles and podcasts to rank highly for their own name.

 

10 Things You Can Do To Optimize for Image Search by Search Engine Journal

Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury demonstrates how to use image files names, alt tags, surrounding text and other atrributes to show up well in image searches. In another key post for SEOs, 9 Reasons Your Website Can Have a High Bounce Rate by Search Engine Journal, Saptarishi explains how a high bounce rate can diminish the effect of SEO efforts, and how to make websites not only more attractive to visitors but also more sticky.

 

4 ways to make long-tail search deliver by iMedia Connection

Craig Greenfield makes the case that “long-tail strategies…can create healthy, long-term growth for search marketers” and provides a four-step plan for long-tail search.

 

The Search Taxonomy: Getting Inside the Mind of the Searcher by SEO Book

In this long and detailed post, Peter Da Vanzo covers a tremendous amount of ground, from eye-tracking studies and understanding search demographics to recognizing commercial intent in searches and analytics.

 

Is Everything You Know About SEO Wrong? by aimClear Blog

Maybe not everything, but Matt Peterson here reviews the results of a panel discussion on SEO Ranking Factors in 2009 from the SMX Advanced 2009 event, with commentary on what works now for SEO-as opposed to what used to work-from experts like Rand Fishkin, Marty Weintraub and Danny Sullivan.

 

SEO Ranking Factors for 2009 by WebProNews

Mike McDonald provides his own take on SMX Advanced 2009 here, outlining the most important current ranking factors with title tags and anchor text at the top of the list. You may be surprised by what’s no longer as important as it used to be for SEO.

 

30+ Advanced SEO Tactics, Techniques and Resources (55+ Links) by SEOptimise

Tad Chef offers up an outstanding list of SEO tactics and techniques for website design, anlaytics, content creation, link acquisition, social media outreach and more.

 

SEO Best Practices: SEOmoz’s New Policies Based on Updated Correlation Data by SEOmoz

Using hard data, Danny Dover analyzes key factors for ranking and provides best practices for each along with the reasoning behind each recommendation.

 

Small Business SEO: Costs, Expectations & Realities by Small Business Search Marketing

Matt McGee details five key points to help small business owners understand more about SEO, pricing, and services.

 

The 12 Skills That Have Served Me Best in My SEO Career by SEOmoz

Rand Fishkin shares the skills that have made him a recognized leader in the field of search engine optimization, from having an analytical mindset and some technical knowledge of how the Internet works to writing proficiency and (possibly most important), “a thick skin.”

 

SEO Predators: Willing to Decieve For Business by aimClear Blog

Reminiscent of my post on SEOmoz, Just Say No to Bad SEO, Marty Weintraub here warns prospective SEO buyers about the danger of shady, johnny-come-lately SEO wannabes, writing “the latest generation of predatory SEO creeps proffer blatantly false information camouflaged by pretty reports. Deceptively branded reports aside, buyer beware when the snakes come to call. Here’s some hard facts to dispel this week’s crap-ass haze of myths and misinformation.”

 

The Ultimate List of Basic SEO Resources for a Kick-Ass Start by Search Engine Journal

The brilliant Ann Smarty shares her list of high-quality resources for those new (and even not so new) to SEO, ranging from the SEObook Glossary and the SEO Cheat Sheet by SEOmoz to Matt McGee’s SEO Checklist.

 

Demystifying Google Webmaster Tools Reports, Part 2 by ClickZ

Erik Dafforn provides an excellent walk-through of the functions and capabilities of Google’s Webmaster tools.

Post to Twitter

Book Review: The Perfection of Marketing

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Despite it’s ambitious title, The Perfection of Marketing is a surprisingly accessible and fast-paced read. The book is written in case study fashion, taking the reader through a realistic scenario of a midsized company struggling to build on its past success and take sales to the next level. The style is engaging, drawing the reader into the story. Author James Connor keeps the story moving forward at a brisk, but not hurried pace. In addition, each chapter ends with a quick summary of the key points presented, a nice touch that helps reinforce and retain the most important information.

The Perfection of Marketing book cover

The book walks through three major steps in the author’s perfection of marketing process: positioning the brand through the sales moment; rolling out the brand consistently; and return on investment marketing. In the author’s parlance, the “sales moment” is that key value proposition that makes a prospect say “yes.” They’ve done their homework. They’ve identified several alternative products or services that will solve their problem. What is the key point that makes them choose to buy from your company above all others? That’s Connors’ key sales moment, and the value proposition around which to build the brand.

The first section walks through the four main elements of branding: a company’s name, logo, tagline, and campaignable image. Nike is used an example. The name Nike comes from the Greek goddess of victory (not a bad association for a company that produces sports apparel for competitive athletes at all levels). The swoosh logo invokes motion and speed. The tagline (which former spokesperson Tiger Woods clearly took a bit too literally), “Just do it,” is both immediately relevant and highly memorable. And the image—an athlete running—reflects the aspirations of the company’s target market. Few companies tie all the elements of branding together that ideally, but its a goal every company can pursue.

The second section, rolling out the brand, properly focuses on building the brand internally first, before taking it to the market. Before a brand image will be believable and accepted by prospects, it must be internalized by employees and partners. Messages must be consistent imbued into the company’s culture. Branding is next extended to the organization’s website and communicated to the media and other key influencers through PR and social media marketing, then to prospects through advertising and promotional activities.

The final section, one sure to be dear to CEOs and CFOs (and the marketers who need to communicate with them in the language of business), explains return on investment marketing. The first key is understanding the lifetime value of a customer; from this, ROI calculations can be performed on any marketing activity to help set budget levels appropriately. Two different strategies are presented: a slow growth strategy focused on conservative and modest marketing investments, and a more aggressive fast growth strategy, “spending ahead of sales” to gain a competitive foothold in the market or launch a disruptive new product.

The book is aimed at a wide audience; C-level executives will gain a greater understanding of the role of marketing and the business justification for various levels of investment. Corporate marketers will come away with clear guidelines for an over-arching strategy, and how and when an outside agency can be most helpful. And marketing agency people will get key insights into how to speak with clients at all levels of management, and position their services within a coherent and unified strategy for marketing success. (Incidentally, The Perfection of Marketing is actually highly aligned with the business practices of the agency I’m part of, KC Associates, though with some helpful enhancements.)

So does the book live up to it’s title? For the most part, yes. My only criticism of the book, albeit a minor one, is that in its brevity, the book does a much better job with the “what” of marketing than with the “how.” This relatively slim volume would have benefited from a bit more detail on specific steps or actions to accomplish some of the objectives presented. Readers will have look elsewhere, or fill in some of the blanks using their own creativity, in order to incorporate the overall strategy presented here.

Still, The Perfection of Marketing is a highly approachable and valuable book for corporate and marketing agency executives alike.

Other reviews of this book:

The Perfection of Marketing, by James Connor – A Book Review
Brad Shorr

My Marketing Book of the Year
Douglas Karr

Post to Twitter