Posts Tagged ‘blogging’

How Social Media, Content Transform Marketing from Expense to Investment

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Sales leads generated through inbound marketing–the combination of content marketing, blogging, social media, website chat and SEM–cost 61% less than those produced through traditional demand generation techniques (e.g., online or print advertising, trade shows, telemarketing, direct mail) according to research from HubSpot.

Social Networking and Content Marketing are Investments

Photo credit: DIY Marketers

But as compelling as those cost savings are, the arguably larger financial impact is that social and content strategies change much of what marketing does from an expense (an expenditure tied to immediate consumption) to an investment (an allocation with a long-term payback). Buying a bag of apples at the grocery store is an expense; planting an apple tree is an investment.

While some aspects of inbound marketing (SEM, email marketing, webinars) clearly remain in the expense column, three of its key components clearly should be classified as investments, as long-term appreciating assets.

Blogging: for any new business blog, traffic typically starts out modest but grows over time. One reason is that reader subscriptions (when via email or RSS feed) tend to grow over time as the blog establishes its voice and readership. But the larger factor is SEO: the longer a blog is actively contributed to, the more content there will be for search engines to index, the more links it will attract, and hence the more search-driven traffic it will enjoy.

The major search engines also seem to give blogs more respect over time. Newly-launched blogs typically generate a very small share of total traffic from organic search, but the proportion builds over time. It’s not unusual to see clear upward inflection points in search traffic after the first six and 12 months a blog is active.

Social Networking: whether on an individual or corporate account basis, a social network grows over time as credibility is established. It’s difficult to build a large social following on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+ or any other such site right out of the gate. But if the user is consistent, helpful, and engaging, it’s virtually inevitable that the following will grow over time. Like a blog, each social media account is an appreciating asset.

Content Marketing: while some content is designed for short-term needs, much of it has long-term value. Blog posts, videos posted to YouTube or Vimeo, presentations on SlideShare–all can continue to attract new viewers years after they are first created. Well-written white papers can also serve as effective long-term lead-generation assets.

Inbound marketing therefore not only makes marketing more efficient, but also more strategically valuable to the organization. It’s no longer just about spending money to generate leads this month or this quarter, but about developing content and connections that increase in value and continue to pay off over the long term.

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Trust Me: Why Trust is Crucial for Business Success, and How to Build It

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

According to a recent presentation from HubSpot, “selling is 10X easier once you have established trust.” Other than having something of value to offer, trust is the most essential element for business success. It removes psychological barriers and objections to buying, and makes people want to do business with you because they are comfortable.

I was talking to a client not long ago about some travel she has coming up that will take her away from the office for several weeks. Half-jokingly, I told her not to worry, I can build her business without her. She laughed, then said, “You know what’s amazing? Even though we’ve only been working together for a few months, I completely trust you to do it.”

That is amazing, and it is treasured. Particularly for consultants like me who work mostly out of sight of our clients,  but really for any business, trust is absolutely essential to maintaining long-term client relationships and generating referral business.Trust is Like a Ming Vase

Trust is precious yet delicate, like a work of fine art, such as a Ming vase:

  • • It’s extremely valuable.
  • • It’s difficult to obtain.
  • • It’s fragile and easily broken.
  • • Once broken, it’s extraordinarily difficult to repair.

But trust is unlike that vase in one critical aspect. Once you’ve obtained a Ming vase (or any other physical thing of value), assuming you take reasonable steps to safeguard it, it’s yours. Trust, on the other hand, can never be taken for granted and must be constantly and vigilantly re-earned. It cannot be, like civilization in the words of Kipling, something “laboriously achieved” but only “precariously defended.”

Most high-value purchases now begin online. Your first opportunity to build trust comes from what you say online and what others say about you. That’s why blogging is important (as a way to educate, inform and even entertain, without blatant selling) as is social media (for answering questions and building online relationships that lead to positive third-party coverage and comments).

But the process of building trust is even more fundamental than that. Blogs and social networks are just tools. They can be used productively, or clumsily. What matters most is your approach to business.

Before the Sale

  • • Explain (without hype or a sales pitch) what you do, so people understand if you are offering what they are looking for.
  • • Demonstrate knowledge (through blogging, guest posts,  comments, interaction on social networks, presentations, etc.).
  • • Differentiate yourself, with disparaging your competition. Walmart (“Always the Low Price”) and Lexus (“The Pursuit of Perfection”) are effective examples in the consumer world. The agency I work with, KC Associates, is a full service marketing and PR agency (of which there are zillions) but focused exclusively on b2b technology clients; the focus sets the agency apart.
  • • Be transparent. Buyers can smell BS from a great distance. Better to give an answer that is less than ideal but honest than one that is just what you think the prospect wants to hear but is an exaggeration (or worse).

After the Sale

  • • Do what you say you are going to do.
  • • Be as responsive as possible.
  • • Set realistic expectations (then work hard to exceed them).
  • • Be forthright. Your customers don’t expect you to be perfect, but they do you expect you to be straight with them. If something doesn’t work as well as planned, tell your customer, as precisely as possible, why. Then make recommendations for what to do differently next time.

Particularly with the explosion of social media and online content, buyers are more informed than ever before. The shady, fly-by-night operators will be exposed more quickly—while vendors who deliver value and engender trust will thrive.

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What Does B2B Social Media Success Look Like?

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Until recently, most social media case studies have focused on consumer brands. It’s not that B2B companies aren’t finding success in social media marketing, but more (in my experience at least) that they are less willing to publicly reveal their strategies for competitive reasons. Recently, that’s begun to change a bit as blogs like TopRank and Marketo have highlighted b2b social media success stories.

B2B Social Media SuccessDigging into the results publicized in these case studies, what does B2B success look like? How are B2B companies evaluating the results of social media marketing efforts? Based on analysis of a number of published B2B social media case studies (in addition to my own client experience), here are some of the criteria used to judge success.

Objectives

Common objectives for B2B social media marketing efforts include:

  • • Increased brand awareness (e.g., measured by increases in direct web traffic and branded search visits)
  • • Increased overall website traffic (particularly from branded search or visits referred directly from social media and social networking sites)
  • • Enhanced brand image and credibility as an industry thought leader or category expert
  • • Expanded social media following (e.g., number of blog subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook fans)
  • • Increased engagement (number, depth and quality of interactions with customers and prospects)
  • • Leads and new business

Those last two are of the course the ultimate purpose of any marketing activity, though they can be challenging to measure in social media for a couple of reasons. First, social media activities more often influence a sale (by helping with awareness and branding objectives, for example) than lead directly to one in the B2B world. Second, it’s crucial to consider that a B2B firm’s social network isn’t made up only of customers and prospects, but includes industry journalists, partners and often analysts as well. While these other connections will never buy from you directly, they can certainly influence the marketing and direct business your way.

Tactics (Primary)

  • • Blogging (a corporate blog is the center of most successful B2B social media programs)
  • • LinkedIn (much more important in the B2B world than in B2C, particularly in light of recent marketing enhancements to the platform)
  • • Twitter (used by more than 40% of B2B marketers, and that figure continues to grow)

Tactics (Secondary)

  • • Video / YouTube
  • • Facebook (more popular among B2C marketers than in B2B firms, although a few success stories have popped up)
  • • CRM integration (this will a key to success for B2B social media efforts, though few firms have reached this level of sophistication to date)

Results

Common success metrics reported from B2B social media efforts include increases in:

  • • Website traffic
  • • Blog visits and subscribers
  • • Twitter followers
  • • Organic search traffic
  • • Views of company videos
  • • White paper downloads
  • • Landing page conversion rates
  • • External blog posts written about the company
  • • Leads
  • • New customers

Again, the last two items are the most important but often the most elusive. While social media typically doesn’t produce a high volume of leads, website visitors referred from social networks frequently convert at a higher rate than those from other traffic sources, and the leads are frequently highly qualified. As understanding of what to realistically expect from B2B social media marketing programs—and how to measure those results—increases, B2B social media use will continue to expand. Published success stories may well remain rare, at least for now, however, as companies remain reluctant to tip off competitors about what’s working.

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Avoiding Stupid SEO Tricks

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

I’ve written before about how to spot and avoid SEO sleazebags—the type who give an honorable and critically important profession a bad name—in Just Say No to Bad SEO and The Wrong Way to Build External Links for SEO (which seems somewhat quaint and naive now only due to the recent rapid growth of link spamming).

The hucksters and snake oil salesmen continue to expand their bag of “tricks” designed to dupe business owners into buying magic SEO pixie dust instead of investing in real and time-tested but somewhat less sexy SEO tactics. If you want your website to perform well in search over the long term, steer clear of these gimmicks:

“Submit Your Site to 350 Search Engines!”

Good grief, why? First, Google and Yahoo+Bing account for more than 98% of all search traffic in the western world. Quick—name the fourth-largest search engine. Can’t do it without looking it up (probably on Google)? If you can’t name #4, why would anyone care about #200, or #250, or #350?

Second, direct submission of a site to search engines hasn’t been a crucial SEO tactic since the last century. Today, as long as a website is linked from pretty much anywhere on the web, the search engines will find it. Linking a site from social bookmarking sites like Digg and StumbleUpon is now among the fastest ways to get it crawled.

“Get 1,000 Backlinks for $140!”

Sure, you can buy cheap links. You can buy cheap health insurance too, but do you really want to? The same warnings apply; any offer that seems “too good to be true” almost always is. Quality links take time, effort, and therefore yes, money, to obtain. Super-cheap links are at best from a bunch of PR 0 or 1 sites that provide marginal if any SEO value, and at worst are from link farms which risk getting your site banned from the search engines.

“Get a Free SEO Evaluation!” (spam emails)

Few if any reputable SEO firms promote their services through email offers of a “free site evaluation.” This type of offer is usually questionable. Often, it’s little more than a repackaged WebsiteGrader report, which anyone can run for free in less than five minutes.

Quality SEO firms tend to generate business through tactics like blogging, social media, referrals, and speaking at business events, not through unsolicited emails. As evidence of how unsophisticated some of these SEO spammers are, I’ve heard of instances where such emails have been sent to real SEO firms—which is like trying to sell a Whopper to the manager of a McDonalds, or a Chevy to Scott Monty. Trust these spammers with website optimization? As Forrest Gump noted, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Effective SEO is a blend of art and science. A reputable SEO firm will be able to explain their tactics, provide a realistic timeframe for results, and have a track record of success. They won’t offer guarantees or “secret” formulas for success. And they won’t be found using the tactics above.

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5 Reasons I’m Thankful for Social Media

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

With the annual celebration of Thanksgiving upon us here in the U.S., many people pause to think about what they’re thankful for: family, friends, TiVo, the Yankees not winning the World Series…

I’m thankful for all of those things too of course, but also for the development and growth of social media. Here are a few reasons why:

Social media makes it easy to reconnect with old friends and co-workers. How did we do this before? There were ways: reunions, phone calls…but most often, we just didn’t. Now, social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn make it easy and (usually) non-awkward. I was recently friended on Facebook by a guy I went to high school with. Back then, I thought he was kind of a jerk quite frankly. I discovered he’s now a cancer survivor and a completely different person. It happens.

I’ve written recommendations for folks I worked with in the past and had some nice ones provided for me as well. Old connections also often lead to new ones: I’ve introduced people who should know each other and been introduced to others who have become mentors, clients, or friends.

Social media makes it easy to connect with new people who share your interests…anywhere on earth. Before social networks (and even more so before email became widespread), it was difficult to make and maintain acquaintances with professional peers or people with similar interests in other parts of the country, much less the world.

And second-level connections (getting to know the people whom the people you know know) were even more difficult to make. Now I routinely trade updates and information with smart marketers and other interesting people across North America as well as in the UK, Belgium, France, Germany, South Africa, India, Thailand, Malaysia, The Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and elsewhere.

Just a few of the cool people I likely never would have gotten to know without social media include Jill Konrath, J-P De Clerck, Jennifer Kane, Judy Grundstrom, Alice Elliott, Paul Dunay, Ambal Balakrishnan, Tony Karrer (my partner in the B2B Marketing Zone and Social Media Informer), the B2BTOTY steering committee or the LeBron team.

Social media is a meritocracy (mostly). Early in my career I worked for a company that produced digital prepress equipment for printing companies, and we had a huge poster in the office that read:

“Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.”

If you were wealthy, fortunate, obnoxious (or in a few cases, talented) enough to be involved in publishing, you had a voice. Others, for the most part, didn’t. The Internet opened things up a bit, but creating websites (a dozen years ago) was hard unless you were a programmer. Blogging opened things up considerably more. Social media has blown the gates wide open. Anyone with an interesting point of view and knowledge to share gets to be an influential star, at least in his or her corner of the social mediasphere. Blowhards (usually) tend to get called out and ignored.

Social media is fantastic for research and learning. Want to know what your customers and prospects are thinking? Sure, surveys and focus groups still have their place, but you can learn a lot from what they’re saying in social media circles. At the very least, you’ll be able to craft more intelligent, informed questions for your survey.

Your competitor recently released a new product? Cool. Their press release, and perhaps a puff piece in an industry trade pub where they advertise, are no longer the only sources of information about it. You can now, easily, find out what other people are saying. Real people. Customers, prospects, thought leaders, people who have some expertise on the product but aren’t part of, or paid by, the company.

Want to know how to perform a certain task or process? Social media can not only lead you to the answer, but let you know which alternative answer is probably best based on the level of social influence of the writer.

Social media makes marketing more fun. A dialog is more enjoyable and interesting than a monologue. Sure, social media makes marketing a bit messier (because marketing and PR people no longer control the messaging) and more challenging (thought leadership content is more difficult to write than sales copy), but engaging in conversations gives marketers a direct line to prospects—enabling them to craft messaging that really resonates with their audience. Social media also provides a variety of near real-time methods for measuring audience response, so marketers know more quickly what works and what doesn’t. You can’t get that from a print ad.

Got your own reasons to be thankful? Leave a comment to share.

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