Corporate Social Media Campaigns [Infographic]

The following infographic showcases some recent and interesting findings on how corporations are tackling social media. Initially skeptical of its use for business purposes, it appears many have adopted the two-way communication mindset during this modern age of information and relationship building.

Below are some of the more interesting highlights from the infographic:

  • 94% of corporates use social media in some capacity.
  • 75% saw an increase in website traffic.
  • 58% use it for lead generation.
  • Favorite social sites are Facebook (92%), Twitter (82%), LinkedIn (73%) and blogs (61%).
  • 58% of Fortune 500 companies had Facebook pages in 2011, 62% had Twitter accounts.
  • Companies with blogs dropped from 50% to 37%. Speculated due to content requirements. [I’m not sure about this statistic. My experience shows that more companies are seeing value in Inbound Marketing and blogging their thought leadership]
  • Blog best practices: schedule posts on a regular basis, plan ahead, use a casual tone, interact with customers, and enable social sharing.

Social media is going corporate
Courtesy of: MBA Programs

Blogging Leads to Sales

Business owners sometimes treat their online marketing like flossing. They know they should do it, but it nevertheless gets buried under the tasks of running the day-to-day business. Included in this bucket of online marketing is the concept of blogging. “What? How’s that going to grow my business?”

What is a blog?

First off, let’s explore what a blog actually is and how it’s part of the bigger picture. A blog, abbreviated for web+log, is typically an informational section of your website that allows for short content for frequent distribution. Meaning, it’s less words than heavy-duty whitepaper and it’s more informative than a Tweet. Blogs are also formatted fairly consistently with ability to filter through them with categories or tags that essential build a library of reference for the website visitors. They are also written in a unique way as people tend to read, or should I say scan, online differently than print. Bullet points, numerical ordering, and short paragraphs are more effective than long prose.

Why do website visitors value blogs?

Depending on the objective of the blog, visitors can get a lot out of it. Some companies use blogs less as a sales tool and more as a personality disseminator. In other words, it’s a way for employees to showcase their quirky attitudes or display their friendly faces. This is sometimes a much-needed human touch, instead of the flat lines, drop shadows, and icons that overtake the online experience. A blog can also be a great continuous stream of education.

The most successful blogs strive to add value, meaning educate or solve a problem, with every blog post that gets published. It’s also beneficial because the post can be released in a timely matter. Getting a press release out into the media can be a much more daunting task then publishing a quick post announcing the release of a new product or the hiring of a new sales person.

Why do search engines value blogs?

Search engines value blogs because they hold content at the center of everything. The search engine ranking algorithms will always select content that adds value to the person doing the search over a stale site that has none. After all, if Google and Big return bad results and irrelevant content, then people will stop using them. Additionally, blogs are a great way to encourage links back to the website. If the blog post is valuable to the visitor, they will in many cases share that link with their social networks. This concept of creating content to be shared by users is called “Link Baiting” and helps dramatically increase a website’s search engine ranking. After all, every link pointing to your website counts as a vote, and like politics the more votes more popular you’ll be perceived.

How does blogging increase sales?

Higher ranking in the search engines directly correlates to more traffic flowing to a website. If that traffic is targeted correctly, then more traffic typically means more leads and more customers. It’s human nature that if you solve a problem for somebody, they will remember you and reciprocate. This applies directly to blogging as the more visitors that get helped; the more they will value helping company’s brand.

In a recent study, the 2012 State of Inbound Marketing by HubSpot, it was discovered that 92% of companies that responded acquired a customer through their blog if they posted multiple times per day. The numbers are still impressive for those that post daily at 78%, 2-3 times per week at 70%, and weekly at 66%. This data along with some other metrics in their report shows a direct correlation between blogging and customer acquisition. Blogging was recorded as the most effective lead generation category as being “Below Average Cost Per Lead.”

Summary and Next Steps

Blogging, or publishing web content on a regular basis, can be an effective tool for adding additional value to prospects and customers. It provides for a strong online foundation that encourages other websites to link to the posts and for visitors to share them on social networks. It’s been found that blogging can increase traffic significantly and be another avenue to generate leads. If you’re looking to get started, then carve out an area of your site today and start writing. Good luck!

Marketing Automation Explained

Whether you’re a B2B or B2C company, it’s advantageous to manage your customers and prospects in one of the many customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This obviously allows you to match your customers with sales transactions, but more importantly for marketers it allows you the option of layering on a marketing automation system that can deliver targeted messages at the right time without continuous management by additional personnel.

If you’re like many companies, you employ a marketing individual or team to collect your contacts information and execute campaigns in somewhat of a batch and blast situation. You may even be sophisticated enough to break down your list by sales group, product, region, or industry. What you probably don’t do is automatically trigger your selective content to send out when a customer is on your website, when a prospect has downloaded your sales whitepaper, or when the system has identified a customer within their annual buying period.

Marketing automation, what is it?

Marketing automation combines technology, typically hosted, with business processes that score leads based on fixed criteria like title and size of company, as well as dynamic criteria, such as which web pages the person viewed, whether the individual attended a webinar or clicked through to an offer. Ultimately this information allows the marketer to better target messages and promotions to individuals based on their stated and implied interests. That process is generally called “lead nurturing,” which is a popular buzzword in the industry. – Joe Chernov, Eloqua (in an interview with Venturebeat.com)

3 reasons you need marketing automation:

  1. You can “set it and forget it”. Once you do the work up front to create your content and your set of rules, your program will run with little oversight. Your programs will also be able to run outside of your companies work hours. With the expansion of mobile devices and tablets many people continue to work after they get home or into late hours. Turn your marketing into a 24/7 sales generating machine.
  2. You can scale your processes. It’s very demanding to send a personalized “Thank you” note to every one of your customers on the same day they make a sale. This business requirement would require monitoring, notification, editing, proofing, and executing for every item. Automate processes like these and scale the number of touch points, leads generated, and sales routed.
  3. You can eliminate human errors. How many of you have seen those “sorry, our mistake” emails from well-intended marketing teams who mixed up their data or their content? Probably everyone. This type of thing happens all the time because human touches are heavily involved. Errors and mistakes can be eliminated, or at least mitigated, by creating a rigid step-by-step program or process. Do the work up front to build, test, and approve then let the computer do the thinking.

10 best practices that utilize marketing automation:

  1. Contact Registration – Capture your customer or prospect’s information at every chance you get. Offer them something of value in exchange. Can you solve a quick problem of theirs with a whitepaper demonstrating your expertise?
  2. Welcome Email – Trigger and email that expresses gratitude that your customer or prospect has taken the time to interact with your brand. This is a great opportunity to provide additional resources or guide them to your call-to-action. Also, this eliminates the confusion when they get an email from you later and ask “Why am I receiving this?”
  3. Identify Customer Intent – Some marketing automation solutions can integrate with analytics tools so you can see exactly what content they care about. It sounds a bit Big Brother, but your sales team would love to know if one of their top customers just browsed the new product page and downloaded the demo video. Great way to identify a potential easy cross-sell.
  4. Lead Scoring – Not all prospects or customers are the same so they certainly shouldn’t be treated the same. Identify your triggers for contacts with the highest propensity to buy and jump on them first. You only have a limited number of resources in a day so prioritize accordingly. Segment customers by title, location, sales history, advertising referral source, website content browsed, or any other data point that is important to you.
  5. Assign to Sales Representative – Automatically notify one of your sales reps to take action and update your CRM reflecting it. Build rules that remind them via email or text message after a certain number of days of no activity. Create a backup rule in case a sales rep is on vacation or out of the office. A list of 1,000 leads in Excel handed over to a sales team seems like a “job well done” from a marketing perspective, but is overwhelming if you’re the one making the calls. Instead, trickle the leads automatically as they come in. Much more manageable.
  6. Nurture Email – You’re spending all this time and money to get valuable information into your system. Make sure you don’t forget to continuously communicate with them on a regular basis. Send a newsletter, product updates, and thought leadership material on a schedule that your customers feel is appropriate. Measure how effective you are with engagement metrics such as open rate, click thru rate, and additional actions on your website.
  7. Engaged / Unengaged Survey – Segment your audience by how engaged they are with your website, content, and emails. Similar to lead scoring except you’re looking at their actions, not their demographics or company information. Take the time to craft a short survey and get a feel for how you’re doing. Ask them “How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague?” and begin measuring your Net Promoter Score.
  8. Upcoming Renewal Date Email – If you’re a B2B company, you’ll sometimes have annual renewals or a period of time when your customer is evaluating their options. Use this date field as a trigger to get out and front of their questions and concerns. Emphasis your additional value and why they went with you in the first place. This is also a great trigger to ping sales reps or customer relationships managers. You have a mass communication solution, might as well use it for internal messages as well.
  9. SMS Communication – There has been a boom of success stories relating to SMS marketing campaigns. It’s a very personal medium that consumers tend to guard unless they initiate the opt-in. Once you get that opt-in permission however,  you’ll get their full attention as 98% of all SMS are read. This is a great way to get timely and promotional messages directly into your customers hands. Use your marketing automation system to trigger alerts when they’ve reached a certain threshold or when their eligible for a special deal.
  10. Social Media – Not really in the same bucket of a usual marketing automation solutions, but I still put it in the same category because some of it can be automated. Utilize tools such as TwitterFeed.com or Ifttt.comto automatically tweet or share your latest blog post. Although I like to screen who I follow, you can automate following someone that follows you or unfollowing someone that unfollows you on Twitter. Again, I like to make my responses personal but if you don’t have time for it you can automatically thank a person that mentions you.

Have you looked into how marketing automation can help you?

Content Marketing is an Investment

Your customers are looking to buy your product or service, but why should they choose you? As a responsible consumer, they do research online, read industry magazines, and ask their colleagues and friends about it. They have narrowed their search down to you and your number one competitor.

Imagine they visit your competitor’s website and your competitor gives them the basic manufacturer specs or product details. The site contains stock photography and a few generic sentences about performance as well as links to a few customer reviews.

You could offer the same. Or you could contrast your competitor’s site with a content-rich website. What do I mean by this? Your site includes a full write-up of the benefits of your products and how they perform. Your site includes professional photographs taken from various angles as well as user submitted photos of customers using your product or benefiting from your server. You’ve written several articles about the capabilities and created a call-to-action through an “act now” discount.

Which website will likely gain the consumer’s business?

Creating custom content for a website is crucial to a successful marketing campaign or product launch. It helps to define your site as a leading authority in the industry. Anyone can slap manufacturer’s specs on a generic template. Today’s technology can have you up in literally minutes. Only an industry leader would take the time to ensure their customers know exactly what they get for their hard-earned dollar.

It is important to understand that content is not automatically defined as the written word. Content in marketing encompasses a wide variety of mediums including pictures, videos, graphs, infographics, white papers, podcasts, newsletters and magazines. Content in marketing is defined as persuading the decision-maker or adding value by solving a customer or a prospect’s problem.

Content can be used to generate brand awareness and sales leads. However, in order for a content campaign to succeed, it is important that it be original. As with the case above, specifics trump generalization every time. Your content must be fresh, inventive and ever-changing.

Content should provide relevant information to the consumer in a way that is easy to digest. The idea of quality over quantity applies. A thousand word review regurgitated from the parent site is nowhere near as powerful as a concise, high-quality infographic demonstrating important features without overwhelming the reader. Content should demonstrate the total value of the product or service as defined by the seller and establish the business as the best.

It is important to create content relative to the industry while still targeting the specific product. This lends credence to your claim of “leading authority” while demonstrating the foresight necessary to ensure your customers are aware of their options.

Content marketing is a vital component to any successful marketing campaign. Persuading consumers that you are the best in the business provides a basis for trust and future patronage.

Do you have this type of content supporting your brand’s website?

  • List of benefits
  • Infographics
  • Competitive reviews
  • Top 10 reasons you need ______ today
  • Customer reviews
  • Video customer testimonials
  • Video demonstrations
  • Regular related blog posts
  • Customer service via social media
  • FAQ page
  • Guarantees or trials

Inbound Marketing Guide [Infographic]

I wanted to share this fantastic and easy to understand infographic I came across outlining the Inbound Marketing Process. It was created by an agency in Wallingford, CT called Impact Branding & Design. According to their website, Impact Branding & Design is a “Creative team of inbound marketing professionals which develops and executes highly effective online marketing campaigns.”

The Inbound Marketing Process infographic can be found on their original blog post here.
I’ve outlined their 6 step process in the infographic below.

Step 1: Develop a successful marketing strategy

Determine the purpose of your marketing by establishing clear goals, objectives, and challenges. Without a marketing strategy you won’t be able to optimize and measure your inbound marketing efforts.

Marketing is an investment in the growth of your business, not an expense – Impact Branding & Design

Step 2: Create & maintain a powerful website

A website is a tool for your customers and prospects to interact with your brand and content. This tool should add value to the experience of doing business with you. Basic website principles go a long way: Easy to navigate, professional appearance, search engine friendly, mobile ready, easy to update.

An effective website is the hub of all your online marketing and lead generation – Impact Branding & Design

Step 3: Generate more traffic

Promote your thought leadership through a blog, social media, SEO, and PPC.

  • “A blog gets you 55% more traffic!”
  • “400% more indexed pages are produced by blogging”
  • “Nearly 2/3 of U.S. internet users regularly use a social network”
  • “20% of monthly Google searches are for local businesses”

Step 4: Convert traffic to leads

Leverage your website in order to get the visitor’s information and start your sales process. You can’t do business with an anonymous web browser. Also, visitors providing their information should get a fair exchange. Give them something of value in order to collect their email and information. Solve a problem for them and start the relationship right off.

Step 5: Convert leads to sales

Leverage marketing automation tools to identify your high value leads and route them to your sales force. If your budget can support it, set up a system such as Eloqua.com, Hubspot, or Marketo (to name only a few) and connect to your customer relationship database (CRM). Score them, segment them, and send targeted and thoughtful communications.

Step 6: Measure everything

You can’t optimize if you don’t track the right numbers. Figure out how well you’re doing by measuring every step of the process. Utilize your website analytics, your media purchasing data, your social media metrics, and your sales conversion rates. Close the loop by determining your return on investment (ROI) and focus on spending your dollars in the right places.


Now, below is the infographic:

Replace Marketing Best Practices with Testing

As marketers, we sometimes get pulled into the black hole of thinking that best practices are the answer. We dive into case studies, we research articles, and we have discussions with peers about how other companies have achieved their success. The problem with relying on building our marketing on case studies is we don’t really learn anything for ourselves. Every business is different and just as importantly every product inside of the same company is different. Each can target a different audience with a different buying cycle.

If a campaign or advertisement works for one product or company, labeling it a “best practice” does not ensure it will work for another. Even more dangerous, the marketing campaign could be led down a path in the wrong direction from the very beginning.

So what do we do about it?

We need the answers to these questions!

When do I send out my message? How long should my email subject line be? What color will grab the attention on this direct mail postcard? At how long into the commercial do I ask them to ‘like’ us on Facebook? What dimensions do I create that banner for?

We should be figuring these answers out for ourselves.

  1. Have a clear marketing goal. Go back to the very simple reason of what the marketing department is tasked with. Is it driving sales? Leads? Registrations? Clicks? Visits? Understanding what the goal is will affect how it’s measured and therefore the results. It will quickly be apparent that the discovered “best practice” on our desk is for a company with a different variable.
  2. Build a foundation of testing. Set up a campaign to measure the end goal as an experiment. Continuously benchmark against the progress of the campaign and adjust as necessary. Build testing into the DNA of every campaign. If the campaign can’t be measured then take a good look at the reason it’s being run.
  3. Look at the results of the experiment. People are busy. We all are. But without the results there is no measure of success. We need to take the time to present them in a reasonably easy to understand way. If our CMO or executive board spends more time on the format than the data, it’s been done wrong.

Marketing can be a fine-tuned and running machine in every company. No matter what the product or company, each has their own needs. Relying on best practices will not only take a marketing team down the wrong path but it will set them up for future failure.

Undoubtedly, we’ll run into a situation (especially with the way technology evolves) where there is no best practice to choose from. Would we rather have a system in place to figure it out ourselves or wait until someone else does, so we can read their “best practice”.

Inbound Lead Generation Campaigns

If you’re executing a digital marketing campaign, there is a good chance you’re ROI (return on investment) is based on how many emails, prospects, or customers you can get inside of your database. If you’re using a CRM (customer relationship management system) such as SalesForce.com or Oracle, those contacts have some real measurable value. Even more so when you can match them up with your sales data and discover little nuggets like customer lifetime value or simple conversions.

One strategy for getting more of them into the system is to offer something of value in exchange for the low cost of getting their email address. It’s not completely free, but it’s close enough. By giving them value up front, you are establishing yourself can begin to start the relationship.

Many companies try to double-dip their lead generation tactics by putting up a pay wall or going straight for the sale in exchange for their content. In today’s new economy, customers expect you to try and build a relationship before they open their wallets. This is true for B2B companies where there are sometimes hours of research or complex models involved. It’s also true for small companies or individuals wanting to brand themselves. If a potential employer visits your online resume and learns something, you’ve just jumped ahead of the bland one-pagers on their desk.

Customers want, or even demand, that you showcase your value by providing services or information on your website. It shouldn’t be a lone sales pitch with a form saying “give us your phone and email so we can call you 20 times during dinner”. Your website should be a tool driving conversation.

At some point in the conversation you can ask them to take the next step. That’s the point during inbound marketing where you ask for their contact information. That’s the point where you begin to target and nurture them via email, social media, and customer relationship managers. That point is only after you’ve given them something for free.

5 offers that add value and drive lead generation:

  1. Live or video demonstrations. Walk the prospect or customer through some of the best features of your product or put a face on your unique services. Leverage video testimonials and executives to add the personal touch to your website. Answer questions, talk about interesting facts, or reveal data that your company has access to.
  2. Informational whitepapers. PDF whitepapers make a great resource for your customers, especially when they solve a unique problem. What partners or resources do you have that could help your customers understand or act on a particular issue they’re having? If you can document a guide on how to accomplish something or educate them in an interesting area, you’ll be able to get their information quickly.
  3. Digital tools or calculators. Small and large companies usually have access to data and processes that customers don’t. If you can provide a lite version of your product or demonstrate some value with a free online tool then you’ll be able to generate some buzz and inbound traffic. Even if your product/brand is something tangible, you could create an online component to interact with it.
  4. Webinars and podcasts. Digital media is a popular tool for sharing information. They’re a quick and easy way to disseminate important information to large audiences. It becomes even more valuable when you make them interactive with surveys and live questions. The results of the webinar can be spun off into even more educational content.
  5. Community forum. Bring people together with a common background or interest. If you establish a secure place where like-minded people can come together and discuss their issues, you’ll get their information and generate content at the same time. Leverage your customer’s knowledge into shareable information. Keep everyone involved and don’t miss the opportunity for your company to jump in and be heard.

How do you attract customers to provide their contact information?