analytics

Does My Business Really Need A Blog?

Blogging-for-Business-The-Ultimate-Guide The marketing industry kicked off 2016 by announcing it is the year of content marketing. One of the most valuable content marketing tools that businesses have to engage and connect with customers and share relevant information is a blog.

A blog is a key aspect of your content marketing efforts, offering fodder for your business’ social media and online content in the form of Facebook and LinkedIn posts, tweets and email newsletters. Not only do blogs fuel SEO, as search engines love valuable content and will reward you for it. According to a HubSpot survey, 82% of marketers who blog daily acquired a customer using their blog, as opposed to 57% of marketers who blog monthly.

In addition to marketing reasons, there are compelling ROI reasons for having a business blog, yet so many business owners are still reluctant to start a blog because the time commitment and level of writing expertise required. There is no doubt that blogs require an investment of time for planning and of course writing, but the benefits of blogging (creating content and sharing it online) far outweigh these downsides which is why you need a blog.

Here are the top 5 reasons why every business needs a blog:

  1. A blog creates a two-way conversation with customers, prospects and industry peers, positioning yourself as a subject area expert and thought leader, and encourages interaction, comments and feedback
  2. A blog builds confidence, relationships and sales. Customers will look to you as a reliable resource for information on your industry, then come to you to buy.
  3. Helps you stay ahead of the curve. You have to stay on top of news, trends and competitors to be a successful blogger. It helps you be a leader, not a follower.
  4. You can tell your brand’s story. It gives your company a voice. A blog is a great place to offer more insight into your company, philosophy, employees, and ideas. Tell your customers why you’re in business and how you can help them.
  1. Blog analytics allow you to track readers, click-throughs, popular topics, shares and comments. You can even tell what day of the week your visitors prefer to stop by.

If your business doesn’t have a blog, and as the CMO or CEO you don’t feel you have the time or skill-set to write one, consider hiring a marketing agency with a solid content development team. In addition to helping you create a content strategy, they can create a blogging schedule for you, write the blogs, categorize them for you, and also post them with appropriate visuals that are all in line with your brand and business direction.

Have you made blogging part of your content strategy? What are you looking to get out of your blog?

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Kick Start Your Automated Marketing – Not With Technology

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 8.35.58 AMMarketing automation (MA) can seem quite a complicated, misunderstood, multi-faceted beast to some organizations because it is more than a centralized platform to handle all online communication – with its many moving parts and strategic decisions, it’s hard for many to get started.

The media would have us believe that MA is all about choosing the right technology and voila, you have MA! Well, sorry to break it to you, but buying the technology is a small part of the story; it’s really all about creating a framework and a strategy.

Knowing your MA strategy will require you to do all of the thinking upfront BEFORE you invest in the software, I have outlined a few key aspects you should consider to kick-start your MA program:

  • Conduct some research up front, including outlining what you want to get out of this program, and making sure to put your audience at the centre of your MA
  • Build an MA team comprised of key stakeholders from customer service, marketing, sales, and product development. You may want to include an agency representative or MA consultant at this point.
  • Conduct a situation analysis outlining where you are now, what systems are in place, what content, and what data do you have today and what is planned for the full rollout of the program
  • Set business objectives to be clear as to why you are doing this, including ROI, reducing overhead, KPIs, communicating better with a target audience, or improving the customer experience
  • Develop strategies for scoring, nurturing, website, and content marketing framework
  • Set tactics with a 12-month view but look at a 3-month window with tactics and clear goals
  • Set responsibilities to be clear who is going to do what when, and if a controller is needed (externally or internally) to help measure success, and create and measure the program to a project plan
  • Review the various MA platforms available to decide which is the right one for your business e.g. Hubspot, Infusionsoft, Pardoc, Marketto are a few leaders
  • Begin implementing by adding a tracking code on your website, landing pages, etc.
    • Assess your reach including how much traffic, social media engagement, email contacts
    • Document audience personas and then create segments to better understand who these personas are (company size, level of person in company, etc.)
      • Processing leads from initial engagement to opportunity enables you to build and nurture workflows in line with the objectives laid out in your tailored strategy.
    • Align segments with your CRM campaigns (e.g. SalesForce opportunities)
    • Building content framework is key to this type of program so keep building on it depending on your objectives. The content could be awareness content like whitepapers and webinars, or inbound-focused with downloads.
    • Leads will not be created by this software, but rather will be created by your ability to provide or repurpose amazing content which the software then serves up
      • You will target, segment and personalize on relevancy, which turns sales into customer service. Nurturing your customers from cold to warm enables you to give them what they are looking for.
    • Analytics will score each visitor interaction on the basis of profile and behaviour, resulting in a prioritized marketing database.

MA allows us to imagine a world where machines and not your staff perform the majority of your marketing activities including reviewing analytics, creating performance reports and data visualizations, writing and scheduling social media updates, determining blog post topics, copywriting, curating content, building strategy, and allocating resources. The result of implementing a solid MA program is that the marketer’s primary role will be to collect and enhance algorithm-based recommendations and content, rather than to devise them.

Are you armed with the knowledge to launch your automated marketing strategy or do you need some help? What help would you need to get started? I look forward to an active discussion!

Marketing Trend Predictions for 2015

2015 TrendsNearing the end of 2014, we sat down to make a few marketing trend predictions as to what brands should be on the lookout for in 2015. Here are our predictions:

Shareable Social Content

Be informed about what your audiences like and where they spend time. In 2015 brands will have to delve into customization and personalization for social channels, because the most shareable content (thus the most beneficial for your business!) is content with social value.

Original Content Marketing

Using content to market is an old strategy that has always been around. However, the topic of content marketing seemed to attract an abundance of attention in 2014, with regards to efficacy and about how hard it can be to produce quality content in large qualities. Marketers have been challenged to create more original content for more channels (websites, social, blog, newsletters and more) that is also valuable and educational.

Inbound Marketing

Similar to content marketing, inbound marketing relies on earning people’s interest instead of buying it. Creating quality content will attract people to your company and/or product. By aligning your published content with your customers’ interests, you will naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert and close over time. Publish the right content in the right place at the right time, and your brand will become relevant and valuable to your customers.

It’s a Smartphone World

Simply put, more people are spending time on mobile. Millennials especially – their phones never leave their side (it’s rare). Information and images should be optimized for mobile viewing. It may even be a good idea to start with mobile and plan to scale up content for desktops and laptops!

Use Video to Cement Relationships

Yes, video production if done professionally is expensive and time-consuming, but it really is worth it. Good content is conversational and creates a “human” aspect to a brand. Not only will brands have to explore more creative ways to produce content, they will also have to understand how to be trustworthy and authentic. Their chosen content, matched with a human touch, will help build the trusting relationships that help consumers keep brands at the forefront of their minds.

Advanced Analytics

In 2015 we should expect to see companies adopting data-driven strategies that go beyond accessing “big data” to actually integrating that data into everyday marketing decisions, campaign strategy, and product development. Brands will dig deep to uncover those actionable insights they can leverage to generate growth, sales, and identify prospects.

Do our predictions make sense to your business? Which trends would you like to implement in 2015? What are your predictions for 2015? Share your predictions with us in the comment section.

Your Social Media – When is it a Waste of Time?

social_media_ROIWhether you’re a small or big business, being on social media is a good idea. The visibility and connectivity accessible through social media has convinced most business owners that it’s worth their while. But what isn’t so clear is how to measure what’s working and what’s not, and when to drop a platform that’s just waste of time and energy.

While its possible to track ROI and conversions, it can be tough to accurately measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign. You might find that some social media efforts that drive visitors to your content can be measured in other ways. For example, if your social strategy isn’t so content-heavy, and if you are promoting products or events, then your business would fit a more traditional measure for ROI and conversions. The only way to know if what you’re doing is enough is to have a gauge on your ROI.

In order to get there, you have to align your objectives to your measurement. For each network (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) you’ll need to have an objective before you can decide on how successful the network is. You’ll need to decide what measurement would be the most valuable to you. Maybe you’re a blogger and your goals are e-mail sign-ups and blog followers, or, maybe you are a retailer looking to increase sales and traffic to your website – either way you must consider your key metric. I can guarantee that if you have had no objectives for your social media, then you will be extremely disappointed with the results.

Capturing the data is the easy part – measuring interactions (likes, clicks, shares, followers) and analyzing traffic, reach, and leads, can help gauge what your business is getting out of its social media investment, but you’ll need to measure these outcomes against your objectives.

Like all marketing tools, each social media network provides some general trends and demographic information to help guide your decision as to which platform your unique business should focus on, but ultimately, you need to understand your brand and your audience before you can choose the right platform, set objectives and measure if it is successful.

If you leverage the right tools and tactics necessary to better understand your audience, then you are more likely to put out messaging and content that is most likely to increase loyalty, drive sales, and help you reach company goals.

Measuring social media ROI can be extremely frustrating and difficult. I’d love to know how you measure your social media ROI, and what metrics you measure. Share your comments and thoughts with me in the comment section!

A Strategy for a Blog? Really?

BloggingBusiness owners ask me all the time whether they should have a business blog. My answer is always the same, let’s explore why.

Starting a blog is serious business that requires a huge time commitment, particularly if you are writing it yourself, so unless it is spelled out in your marketing strategy, you’ll need to create a separate blog strategy to determine its purpose and destiny before you start writing. In some industries you are only as good as your last blog entry, so make sure you can “commit” to this long term marketing tool.

I understand that many may feel a strategy for a blog is a bit “over the top”, but in fact by writing down your plan, you are more likely to commit to it, but also to see its value in the growth of your brand.

With over five years of experience writing various blog strategies for my clients, I have outlined a few key tips to consider when creating a strategy for your blog:

  1. Create a goal for your blog.

In other words, why do you want to have a blog? Is it to position you or your brand within an industry? Is it to provide guidance to your audience, or insights into industry trends? Or is it simply to provide tips to show your knowledge. Make sure you are very clear about the “why”, as it will help you determine the outcomes and direction of your blog strategy.

  1. Decide who your audience is going to be.

Who do you want to engage with and speak to with your blog? Are you trying to target C-level individuals, front line staff, or middle management? The more narrowly you define your target audience, the easier it will be to identify those people, cater to their needs with your content, and reach them with your messages. This audience should tie in to your key audience for your brand, so look to your marketing or branding strategy to help you determine audience.

  1. Content is still king.

Your primary and ongoing goal should be to continuously develop innovative content and put a truly unique spin on whatever topic you’re blogging about. Make sure your blog highlights your unique knowledge, voice and personality. Having a unique voice is one of the easiest ways to set it apart from your competition. Try to incorporate proprietary information, facts or research. The more unique and innovative your content and the better you target your audience, the easier it will be to build a following.

  1. Create an editorial schedule, and stick to it.

To build and maintain a steady audience, you’ll need to commit to a regular schedule for your blog. It has to be frequent enough that your audience expects it yet is not overwhelmed by it, so knowing your audiences tolerance is key here. Make sure you don’t over promise and under deliver as your audience could simply move on.

  1. Track and measure your success.

Most blog sites have great analytics, so make sure that you are tracking which blogs are giving you the best engagement and maybe consider creating a few blogs on a similar topic, or a series on the same topic. Always try to give your audience what they want and one way of ensuring this is tracking your analytics.

Do you have a business blog? What is your blog doing or NOT doing for you that you wish it would? Have you ever considered writing a blog strategy? I look forward to your comments and discussion.

#4 Piece of Advice for SMBs is Tracking Marketing Tactics

measurementContinuing in our series on the results from our online poll a few weeks ago, we asked what the best piece of advice a SMB owner needs to help them grow their business and the fourth highest response was “”track your marketing results”.

Even though it ranked fourth in our poll, I want to highlight just how important this point really is. As a marketer, tracking marketing results is key, and it helps us determine the success of a campaign and also can indicate what decisions we should make in terms of further investment, making tweaks to a campaign and setting the expected return on investment (ROI).

Many SMB owners have produced brochures, one page ads, sell sheets, flyers, and even websites, but when asked for the ROI on each of these marketing tactics they are hard pressed to produce the results.  With analytics available on everything these days from emails and websites to webkeys and radio ads, SMB owners need to know that they can ask for and expect results. I have outlined below what I feel are the top marketing tactics that SMB’s need to be measuring.

  1. Do you have Google Analytics on your site? If not, why not? Google Analytics is free and lets you measure your advertising ROI as well as track your Flash, video, and social networking sites and applications.  At a minimum, you should receive a regular report about your site from your marketing agency or internal resource. If you have extra time, ask you marketing agency not just for a report, but also to give you access to your Google Analytics account.  You need to be looking at this report and make sure you understand what it means. If it doesn’t make sense to you… then work with them until you can clearly see the value.
  2. If you are using print in your marketing, make sure the print pieces can be tracked.  One way to do this is to add a code to each piece and have the recipient quote that code when they contact you. Another way is to add a QR code to your print materials and then you can measure the success of the “visits” on the site you have entered into the code.
  3. Online marketing should all be measurable via its own application, a landing page or links to your site.
  4. E-blast vendors all offer analytics – open rates, click through rates, etc.  Make sure you get a report once you send out the email so you can assess the results to determine if it met your campaign objectives.

Before you launch any marketing tactic, make sure it’s tied to your marketing strategy, has clear objectives with clearly defined goals and ensure you have a measurement system in place that will help you meet your objectives and achieve your results.

Have you ever launched a tactic without using measurement?  How did you decide if it was successful or not?  How important is the measurement of your tactics? I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions on tracking your marketing results.

Google AdWords Made Simple

Today’s economy is challenging for many businesses, but it’s an even bigger challenge for the SMB owner, who is forced to use increasingly smaller marketing budgets to increase brand recognition and drive sales through lead generation tactics.  One such lead gen tactic is Google AdWords. You’ve seen those ads that appear on the side of the page every time you search for something on Google. Businesses bid for this online advertising through Google AdWords. All you have to do is create an ad, and choose specific search keywords which you would like to target, and, voila! Your ads might appear on Google, next to the search results. The idea is that people interested in your product/service can simply click on your ad to either make a purchase or learn more about your company.

Sounds simple, right? Well, from a conceptual standpoint, it is. In practice, however, we have found that for many of our small business clients, using Google AdWords is more of a science.  Finding the “right” balance of key words, with the words used in the ad, together with the right bid amount takes many, many hours of ad monitoring, key word adjustment, ads revisions, as well as working to increase ad click-through rates and daily budgets.

Google AdWords is generally thought of as an ideal advertising “add-on” for small businesses with limited budgets, but even if you know what you’re doing, depending on your industry and keywords, it can be an expensive venture, and therefore needs to be closely monitored (in fact, hourly monitoring is best!).

Here are a few lessons that we’ve learned about Google Adwords for small business that I’d recommend to any small business considering investing in this advertising program.

  1. Before you create your ad, spend some time reviewing your web analytics to see what terms people are using to find you online at this point. Google Analytics offers this type of information.
  2. In combination with the keyword tool Google Ad Words provides, create a list of targeted keywords (narrow these down to focus on a specific service/product and your targeted audience).
  3. Create two very targeted ads. Always create two ads, so you can see which one is doing better, and simply replace it as the campaign evolves.
  4. Decide on your maximum monthly budget (I suggest being able to spend at least $100 a month).
  5. Direct the ad to link to a specific page on your site. Or, if you have the budget, create a landing page on your site specifically for this ad. For services, this page needs to have the ability to capture lead gen via a form or download. For products, this page needs to have a special offer.
  6. Launch the campaign, and monitor it hourly. Keep a close eye not just on your cost-per-click (CPC), and the Average CPC (how much you are paying on average per click), but also the first page bid estimate (which tells you how much you need to spend to be on the first page).  These three areas will help you to decide which terms you may want to pause, and which ones you might want to increase your bid rate on.
  7. You’ll need to make sure that you have metrics on your website to track the number of people that are actually coming to the linked page via Google.
  8. Run the ad campaign for a month (if funds permit), and generate a report at the end of each week to capture the CPC, which key terms did well, increase in traffic to your site via the ad, how many leads were generated (or products sold), and note if there is a pattern emerging. For example, you might notice that there are lots of clicks on Thursday and Friday mornings, and it tapers off over the weekend, and early in the week.  You can then decide to put more money towards your CPC on Thursday and Fridays.

I have tried to capture the basics to help create and launch your Google AdWord campaign, but it’s worth noting that this tool has a huge number of functions. There are other options to consider, including impression vs. clicks; how to increase your quality score; what is the advantage of display networks vs. search; what are filters and ad extensions; and how should you determine your campaign settings and so much more.

With such a deep online advertising tool with a multitude of variables you can see why, if used correctly, Google AdWords has the potential to increase your ROI. It does, however, require considerable thought, time and effort to make it work for your business.

Have you used Google AdWords in your small business?  If so, have you found it helpful?  Has it increased your ROI? Do you have any questions about how to set up a Google AdWords campaign? Please share your questions and comments below.