How to Pick a New Lead Generation Channel

photo credit: 123rf.com

photo credit: 123rf.com

To make sure everyone is on the same page, here’s what we define a marketing channel as: A marketing channel is a way of speaking to your customers. It is a communication method you use to interact with someone in order to encourage them to make a purchase or remain a customer.

Some examples of marketing channels are:

  • SEO
  • Google AdWords
  • Facebook
  • TV and Magazine Advertising
  • Trade Shows
  • Social Media
  • Face-to-face business development
  • Cold calling

All of these are ways you can start a conversation with your customers and ways you can help them down the buyer’s journey towards a purchase or renewal. If you want to find more customers than you have already, maybe it’s time to try a new lead generation channel.

But I get all my customers through word of mouth…

Many successful companies have been built on one marketing channel. For a lot of startups, that first initial channel is referrals and word of mouth. They focus on maximising that channel and grow from it fairly steadily for a period of time, but all channels have a limit and will eventually fall prey to the law of diminishing returns. Also, sometimes speed of growth is important and a company has a successful channel that doesn’t bring revenue into the company fast enough (for example, advertising in a quarterly magazine).

Look at referrals, which is often a company’s best channel early on. Things spread virally when your product is good. People talk and word gets around that you’ve built something useful. But often these early stage referrals come in slowly with no real flow. Some weeks you get 2, some you get 10, and we don’t see companies controlling this or really finding a way to monitor and improve upon it. Because when you’re growing your business through the goodwill of friends or early stage customers, you don’t want to be trying to optimize them. They’re usually people you actually know rather than prospects on a list.

So, if you’re looking for more customers or to get some customers more quickly, then you’re probably interested in testing out a new channel on top of that. But before we get there, how many channels can you actually handle?

How many channels is too many channels?

The old story goes that you need to put yourself in front of a customer seven times before they’ll make a purchase. In today’s world you can spread yourself so thinly that you can have your product in front of millions of people in very little time, but it’s important to concentrate your marketing around a certain number of channels so you can get in front of the same person more than once.

It’s a juggling act. You can’t rely on only one channel to sell your product because you don’t know when it will stop working and you don’t want to stretch yourself too thinly with too many channels by not giving enough attention to them.

How many channels you can handle depends on two simple things:

  1. How fast you need to grow
  2. How many people you have on your team

If you need to grow quickly and have a large team, then try as many as you can. If you have a small team and can afford to grow more slowly, then take your time to really focus on one channel before moving on to the next one.

In general we would recommend that one person does not focus on more than three channels. This seems to be the optimum number. Enough to create a balanced marketing output and ‘hedge your bets’ while not being so many that you lose focus and can’t capitalise. Look at your marketers and try and match channels to their skills or interests, then set them loose.

How long should I test a channel?

Now that you’ve got an idea of your capacity and the number of channels you’re going to look at, you’re ready to work out which channels you’ll want to use.

First ask yourself a few simple questions:

  1. Are my customers on this channel? (Do your customers go there/ use it? Do they attend that event? Are they active on Facebook? etc)
  2. Do they want to hear from me on that channel? (Is it natural for you to speak to them there or are you trying to sell Hello Kitty Underwear on LinkedIn?)
  3. Do they spend money on that channel? (Is this somewhere they could purchase your product?).

Once you’ve answered these questions you can pick your channels and start the testing process. Some channels need less time to test than others. For example, you can quickly run tests through AdWords and shorten the feedback cycle, but doing the same in print advertising would take a lot more time.

Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 2.50.46 PMSteven Moody a HubSpot qualified Inbound marketer, with a passion for trying to keep things as simple and effective as possible. Starting his career in B2B sales, then moving into marketing, he’s worked all stages of the funnel. He enjoys writing and helping clients solve problems. He works for Beachhead.io, a performance-based marketing agency helping B2B SaaS startups grow faster.  One of its top channels is lead nurturing, and you can sign up for Steven’s free 7-day course on lead nurturing here.

The Difference Between Marketing and Growth

marketing and growth

I find that the word marketing is burdened with a tremendous volume of confusion.

For some, marketing is branding, while others view marketing merely as sales or growth. Still others simply lump anything that has to do with getting and keeping customers into one big marketing bucket.

Adding to the confusion is the current emphasis on the word growth and its leaner cousin – growth hacking.

I don’t guess it really matters that everyone agree on the definition of marketing, but I do think it’s important that you understand the difference between marketing and growth and the important role each plays in building a business.

What is marketing?

One way to look at the term marketing is to say that it is everything a business does to get an ideal customer to know, like and trust them.

Still, that’s a pretty broad swath, but note that it’s not really about growth or even lead generation just yet.

To me marketing is how you define your ideal customer, how you position your business in a way that either makes competition irrelevant or changes the context in which your business is viewed by your market, and finally, the intentional aspects of how you guide your prospects and customers on the journey they want to take. (You might want to read more about the customer journey here.)

These foundational elements are essential if growth is to follow. Sure, you can sell some stuff to anyone that you can attract or growth hack your way to some new followers, but long term momentum only comes about when you build a strong marketing foundation and strategy first.

That’s not to say that this foundation won’t experience evolution and change as you grow and discover new opportunities, but without it you will be slave to the new idea or hack of the week, and that’s a recipe for spinning your wheels.

What is growth?

Growth, on the other hand, is the process by which you discover which channels allow you to attract and convert the largest amount of customers at the highest amount of profit.

From there you simply use the process to find, test and analyze more and better ways to profitably attract and retain additional clients. (You might want to read more about growth channels here.)

Of course, a great deal of what goes on in your growth system is dictated by the stage your business currently resides.

The stages of business growth

In my view, there are three stages – traction, expansion, and optimization.

In the traction stage, you’re still trying to find that perfect match of ideal customer and market message. Your product or service is likely evolving.

Traction growth is all about getting some customers and building your growth process by trying lots of new things in hopes of landing on a couple core channels that produce initial hold.

In this phase you can test some pretty crazy assumptions, because, while you don’t want to remain all over the map, you don’t want to rule out channels just because no one else in your industry is using them.

In the expansion stage, you’ve found some things that work. Your value proposition is getting easier to explain, and a few chosen channels are producing results.

Expansion is all about sustainability and increased growth rate. It’s about retaining customers and finding ways to leverage relationships to do more.

In this phase, you still keep testing channels but you focus on finding new channels that support successful channels. For example, if sales is a potent channel you might look to ways to use public speaking or content marketing to build the authority and reach of your sales people rather than simply testing new channels.

In the optimization stage, you are focused on doing more, of course, but also on doing so more profitably.

You’ve developed market leader status, and people expect to pay a premium to get what you have to offer. You are poised to profitably add new streams of revenue and new ways to serve existing customers.

In this stage, you are looking to test lots of small things. You A/B test everything with a constant eye on getting a one or two percent lift in your best channels and campaigns.

Marketing and growth go hand in hand but make no mistake you cannot effectively have one without the other.

The difference between marketing and growth and the relative importance of both is so great, many firms should have leadership positions designated for each role.

Build your marketing foundation on firm ground and then build your growth system on top of your ever-expanding business.

The #1 Key to Killer Promotions

SALE!

Promotions are everywhere. It seems like whatever you or your business needs, you can find a promotion to receive it. Free this, half-off that, limited-time offers are everywhere. They’re so prevalent that many business owners feel pressured to hold a promotion or event to be competitive.

But having a promotion just for the sake of it is pointless. You’ll end up being disappointed with the results.

The #1 key to having a successful promotion is simple – have a goal in mind. Much like the Duct Tape Marketing philosophy of strategy before tactics, you must have a strategy or a goal for every promotion you execute.

What Do You Hope To Achieve?

You must have a goal in mind for every promotion. This can be something as simple as generating more leads or getting more names on your email list. It can be more complex like trying to move inventory to make room for more shipments, or drawing more people into your store.

For example, try offering a free eBook in exchange for email addresses. Those addresses are valuable because you can use them to promote your other paid services and products, and these customers have already shown interest in your product and your expertise.

If your goal is simply to move inventory, a cost reduction may be in order, but with proper promotion this can also help draw new customers in. You see this all the time with car dealerships as they try to move last year’s cars to make room on the lot for newer models

Analyze The Cost

Every promotion has a cost. There are four types of promotional costs:

  1. Potential revenue – sales, cost reductions, etc.
  2. Time – promotional content such as eBooks or other valuable content that takes time to create
  3. Purchases – gifts or prizes, the cost of which comes out of your pocket
  4. Reciprocity – gifts or prizes provided by strategic partners that will need to be reciprocated. You’ll want to consider what you’re offering them in return.

Be sure to analyze all of the potential costs of a promotion before executing. You want to weigh the costs with the value of what you are getting in return. Price promotions work because they result directly into sales, so the loss of revenue is worth it. The car dealership above gets the added benefit of making room for new products.

Have a Way to Measure Results

The final consideration you must make before beginning a promotion is simple: you must install a way to measure results. Cost promotions are easier than most, just set a goal of how many products you want to sell. Others can be trickier, especially if you just want to get customers in the door.

I’d suggest having a plan for tracking your promotion, whether it be simply asking a customer “How did you hear about us?” at the point of sale or using special promo codes or coupons based on the outlet customers may find them. At the very least, be sure to track your sales or lead numbers prior to the promotion so you can compare to your numbers during the event.

You must be able to evaluate whether or not your promotion is worth it or not after the fact. 

Promotions are important for any business, but you must have a strategy before giving something away. This is the #1 factor to your promotion’s success.

Alex-Boyer-Photo-150x150-e1420769709443Alex Boyer is a Community Manager and Content Ninja for Duct Tape Marketing. You can connect with him on Twitter @AlexBoyerKC

The Secret Sauce for Optimizing Your FAQ Page

photo credit: photopin

photo credit: photopin

Having the human touch is a no brainer for companies that are starting out.  It’s undeniable that, cost aside, companies would much rather have sales people closing deals in addition to their support team personally answering every inquiry and problem that arises.

However, many times this model simply isn’t scalable, which is why it is important to have a strong FAQ page.  A powerful (and often underutilized) tool, FAQ pages can be leveraged for both sales and customer service, playing a pivotal role with both current and prospective customers.

There are many reasons why customers would benefit from using your FAQ.  They may be following up from a sales presentation, they may be investigating about how to troubleshoot an issue, or they may be responding to your outbound campaign and are looking for more information.

Thus, its importance on your site is undeniable. Let’s walk through some ideas for how you can better leverage and quickly optimize your FAQ page.

Create Enticing Answers

When customers come to a FAQ page, they’re looking for specific answers like, how to cancel a membership, exact shipping prices, or fees associated with your product.  A yes/no answer is good and all, but having enticing and informative answers allows you to implement selling into your page.

Mix your answers with a catchy CTA.  For example – the FAQ may read, “Is there a deadline to register?” While a yes or no answer will work great here, use this opportunity to implement  Answer: “Register 3 days before the event and save $500.  Register Here!”  Embed clickable links and/or buttons in your answer so that your customer can easily execute on your CTA.

As a side note, don’t worry if you know nothing about programming or design. There are plenty of tools like Button Optimizer, and the WordPress Calls to Action that allow you to create beautiful calls to action for your website.

Search Function = Growth

Adding in search functionality is a must for any FAQ page. This functionality allows them to find information faster and for you to track their search queries, which sheds light on what your customers are most interested in on your FAQ page.

Knowing this information will allow you to improve other sections of your site.  For example, if customers are frequently searching for your return policy on your FAQ page, this should indicate that it isn’t prominent enough on your site, your product needs to be improved, or this question should populate higher on your page.

Allow For Further Reach Out

I’ve been to plenty of websites that have adopted this FAQ model, solely relying on it for their customer support.  I agree with the “let the customer answer his or her own question” approach, but quite frankly, only when it is easy to use.  For example, some sites use a forum as their FAQ, and I often find myself running in circles trying to find the answer to my questions.  To make matters worse, I then discover that there is no “contact us” option.  Chances are, you have been frustrated by a similar FAQ in the past.  Not good.

What makes a well-optimized FAQ forum is having the option to ask the network, but also the ability to call the company directly for more in-depth support.

New Hires are Your Best Friend

As your company grows, leverage the new employees that join your team. During their first week, make sure to set time aside to have them read over the FAQ. The content is new to them and they aren’t indoctrinated in the phrases and acronyms of your company culture. A fresh eye increases your ability to spot confusion and stagnation. Make it an onboarding task to review the FAQs and point out anything that looks a little iffy.

Build in SEO Friendly Words

Many times FAQ pages are like overcooked Yukon Gold potatoes – bland and dry.  By making it SEO friendly you will not only make it easier to read, but you’ll simultaneously boost your SEO rankings.

To do this, make sure each question has words and phrases that relate to your business.  For example, instead of “how does it work?” change it to something like “how does the grocery delivery service work?” This small change makes your content more relatable and relevant to outsiders who might stumble upon your content.

As you can see, having these small additions to your FAQ page will boost your customers happiness, improve the UX of your site, and at the end of the day boost sales.

IMGP2199As a marketing manager at HourlyNerd, Todd Stewart leads the charge in promoting, facilitating, and curating business content for the leading on-demand business consulting platform.  In October 2014, he wrote an eBook for HourlyNerd, LinkedIn, and Hubspot on personal online branding, and in January 2015, he wrote a sales eBook on how to use your 2014 sales data to plan for a strong 2015. Outside of marketing, Todd is an adjunct Public Speaking Professor at Bryant University in Rhode Island specializing in introductory, persuasive, informative, and motivational speaking.  Todd currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts and is a competitive marathon runner. 

The Single Most Potent Marketing Tactic of All

marketing tactic

I get asked a simple, pointed question just about everywhere I go. What’s the number one thing I can do to grow my business right now.

Yep, everyone wants one tactic they can employ to massively grow their business.

I do have an answer, of course, but it may not be what you’re expecting.

No the number one tactic for growing a business is more of a process than some way to get more Facebook engagement or some other new, trendy growth hack.

The most potent thing any marketer can do is to create and operate a growth system.

See, no two businesses are ever alike so no prescriptive set of tactics or one size fits all approach will work for everyone.

But that’s the beauty of a system. If constructed correctly it consistently produces the tactics made for the unique fingerprint that is your business.

The system I’ve been evangelizing for some time now consists of four major components. Once in place you only operate and update.

The four system components are as follows:

  • Map your marketing foundation
  • Explore potential marketing channels
  • Create a project catalog
  • Execute focused project bets

If you put in the work to build and operate your growth system, you’ll be on your way to consistent, predictable and potentially scalable bliss.

Map your marketing foundation

In my world, a marketing foundation consists of three key elements: Strategy, Journey, and Content.

The strategy element is where you map out the personas of your ideal clients and construct the messaging and positioning for your products and services that will match what these ideal clients care about. You can read more about our approach to strategy here

The journey element consists of understanding how someone is going to move through every aspect of your business. It’s not necessarily about how you want them to move as much as how you guide them based on what they want.

This takes a deep understanding of what they are looking for well before they are looking for you and what they expect in terms of the experience with a company like yours. I’ve used a framework I call The Marketing Hourglass for about a decade to describe how to think about moving your prospects and customers logically through the stages I call know, like, trust, try, but, repeat and refer. You can read more on the Marketing Hourglass here.

Finally, you need to understand how to use content as the voice of your marketing strategy. For many businesses content in the form of blog posts, educational webinars and how to eBooks is the primary way that prospects and customers move through a business on the way to becoming raving fans.

Understanding the forms of content you need for awareness, trust, education, engagement, conversion and even referrals is crucial to success. You can read more about something I call the Total Content System and our approach to editorial content planning here.

Explore potential marketing channels

Once you’ve firmly mapped out and committed to your marketing foundation you can start to explore the various tactics for generating leads and growth.

I believe that there are 16 marketing channels available to us today. (About ½ of which are additions from the last decade or so.)

Now you could argue that there are more or less, or that something should be combined or expanded or that something like SEO isn’t a channel per se at all, but I can make a case for the rational of each on this list and besides that you’ve got to start somewhere.

The real job for any business, depending upon where they are in terms of their growth goals, is to get very, very good at getting clients in just a few of these channels. Trying to master them all is the fastest way to get stuck in the idea of the week rut.

A business just getting going may need to root around in marketing channel test mode to figure out which channels can produce sustainable growth while a more entrenched business may be better served finding ways to cut back and optimize the channels that are already working.

Here are your channels to choose from.

  1. Referral Marketing – This includes intentional word of mouth activities, viral tactics as well as intentional referral generation
  2. Public Relations – This includes activities aimed at receiving coverage in traditional media outlets
  3. Online Advertising – This includes the use of pay-per-click platforms, social networks, display ads and retargeting
  4. Offline Advertising – This includes advertising in offline print and broadcast outlets such as magazine, TV and radio
  5. Content Marketing – This includes publishing, optimizing and sharing educational content that draws search traffic, links and subscribers
  6. Sales Playbooks – This includes the creation of specific actions aimed at mining, generating, nurturing and converting leads
  7. Email Marketing – This includes the use of targeted and automated email campaigns based on conversion actions
  8. Utility Marketing – This includes the creation of useful tools that stimulate traffic, sharing and brand awareness
  9. Influencer Marketing – This includes the practice of building relationships with individuals and outlets that can influence pre-established communities
  10. Search Engine Optimization – This includes on page and off page optimization activities aimed at generating organic search engine traffic
  11. Partner Marketing – This includes co-marketing activities run in collaboration with strategic marketing partners
  12. Social Media Marketing – This includes the act of building engagement on established platforms and networks such Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as well as targeted industry platforms
  13. Online Events – This includes events such as webinars, demonstrations and workshops conducted using online tools
  14. Offline Events – This includes events such as workshops, demonstrations, seminars, trade shows, showcases and customer appreciation events
  15. Speaking Engagements – This includes the appearance of company representatives in sponsored speaking engagements at events such as industry conferences
  16. Community Building – This includes the intentional act of building and facilitating a community around a shared interest or topic related to the organization’s industry

Create a project catalog

Once you analyze your current business channels and start the process of considering new ways to grow, you can begin to create a list of potential projects you plan to test in your channels of choice.

A project is any tactic you want to employ to see if it show potential for profitable growth.

So, for example, in the public relations category you might decide to target small niche publications with stories in an effort to get some press that might lead to coverage in bigger publication or social sites. Or you might consider a publicity stunt or two that could trigger some viral coverage.

Here’s the trick when brainstorming potential channel tactics to try on. First map out the 3-4 biggest objectives for the quarter ahead. Then tie some trackable goals to each objective. From here you should be able to get some focus on tactics that might actually help you achieve some of your stated goals.

So let’s say one of your objectives is to build an online community and one of your goals for doing this is to grow your current subscriber list. Armed with these two ideas you should be able to create a list of potential tactics you might want to bet on to achieve this goal.

Brainstorm an entire catalog of ideas and you may produce a few months worth of hunches focused on your objectives.

From this brainstorming you can probably identify some candidates that would make likely projects to test.

There are many variables that go into determining what projects to test. Look around and see what’s working for others, ask your entire team to weigh in, network your ideas with strategic partners, and even look to competitors for ideas.

If you can tie a new channel to something that’s already working in another channel, you’ll increase the likelihood of success. For example, if sales – even cold calling – is an effective channel right now, imagine how much more effective it might be if you armed the sales team with content marketing, social selling or referral tactics.

Execute focused project bets

Once you identify your high priority project bets it’s time to start testing.

Like all things these days you want to test and fail fast so you can move on and succeed even faster. Don’t wait until you have every Facebook ad variation designed and every call to action match to a targeting goal. If you’ve never run any Facebook ads, just get in there and run one based on what you are trying to do. You’ll know very quickly whether or not it shows any promise and then you can more into full execution.

Here’s the key – and it’s always been the key to successful marketing – spend time before you test to design the project so that you know what you are trying to do and how you are going to measure its success.

So often marketers get a good idea and they run off and try it without any way to know if it worked or not. Like a science project you’ve go to be precise is what you think will happen, how it will happen and how you know if it happened.

You’ve also got to test variables – things like headlines, images, messaging, should all be part of the equation. Running A/B tests of this nature are a snap these days thanks to so many great online tools.

The entire point of the exercise is to identify a couple bets that pay off big so you can double and triple down of those and shelve the others.

When you do this repeatedly you start to find the most potent channels for profit and you can start to play in those few channels like a champ. Ultimately your goal is to simply create and refine projects optimized for your best channels.

The last component of the system is to take the winners and find the best way to document and delegate. If you can operationalize your winning bets you can free up more time to strategize on ways to make new, informed bets.

Keeping a running log of all of your tests, bets, successes and failures is not only a great way to stay focused on what works, it’s a great way to learn how to get better at creating new bets. Sometimes you learn as much from what didn’t work as what did work.

Once you get the system down you simply continue to operate and evolve. I suggest you set aside a day once a quarter to reshape goals and objectives and brainstorm a new list of projects to constantly stay on the move and many, many steps ahead of your competitors.

So you see the single most potent marketing tactic isn’t really a single tactic after all.

How To Get More SEO Value Out of Your Existing Content

Most bloggers would agree that high-quality content creation requires a significant investment in time and energy. Because of this sunk cost associated with any existing content on your website, it’s crazy that bloggers don’t invest additional resources improving, optimizing and ranking underperforming pages. This is especially true when certain posts are just shy of reaching the first page of Google’s search results, where they could be earning you a return on your investment.

With a few of the tactics below, digital marketers can make sure that every piece of content they publish is generating traffic, leads, and ultimately revenue.

Use Google’s Webmaster Tools To Optimize Headlines and Keywords

Are you ever surprised at some of the keywords a post ends up ranking for? Even when you complete keyword research, decide to target a specific phrase, and optimize the post to rank for that term, you sometimes end up getting traffic from unexpected terms. If you find a post that isn’t ranking for your targeted keyword due to higher than anticipated competition, then maybe it’s better to repurpose the post and optimize it for another term.

To find these types of posts, you will need to access Google’s Webmaster Tools. Click on the “Search Analytics” tab on your Dashboard, or go under “Search Analytics” at the left and choose “Search Analytics” there.

GWT - Search Analytics

I prefer the old “Search Queries” report, so I click on the link towards the top of the page. Now you need to click on the “Top Pages” tab, sort by “Impressions”, and expand the tabs you are interested in analyzing. If you have a large blog, instead of working within your browser, you may want to click on “Download This Table”.

GWT - Top Pages

Ultimately what you are looking for are pages that have high impression counts but low clickthroughs (CTRs). These pages constitute your highest potential content because they are getting exposure in Google’s rankings but aren’t high enough to get more clicks. Optimizing these pages could easily earn you significantly more traffic.

Here are a few ways to optimize your titles and on-page SEO:

  • Use a hyphen or colon. When writing a title, I create for both Google and humans. The first half of the title is usually an exact match keyword phrase and the second half is a killer description to get the reader’s attention. For example, if I wrote an article about affiliate marketing, I would title it “CPA Marketing – How To Increase Your Affiliate Marketing Revenue By 137%”.
  • Add more content. When targeting additional keywords, it may be helpful to add more content that directly addresses the related topic, thereby increasing your post’s relevance. In doing so, you may rank for even more long-tail terms.
  • Target lower competition terms. If you’re a small business owner learning how to build a blog, you should not be targeting high-volume, high-competition keywords. This strategy will quickly exhaust your resources with little results. Always start with easy terms to build traffic and recognition, and as your blog’s backlink profile strengthens, target more valuable keywords. If a page is underperforming, this might be the underlying issue.

Internal Linking – Connecting Old and New Content

Internal linking is easily overlooked and underappreciated. Not only does internal linking old pages to new and new pages to old help decrease bounce rate, increase time on site, multiply your email subscribers and promote conversions, it can provide a slight boost in your on-page SEO and rankings.

In an algorithm that takes into account over 200 ranking signals, each given a different weight, a small boost in one category that pushes you up a position can get you double the traffic from a single keyword.

While internal linking is mostly self-explanatory, here are a few guidelines:

  • Find older, authoritative posts that rank high and add internal links to newer, high-value posts.
  • Don’t use the same exact match anchor text to link to a page dozens of times. Diversify your internal links and incorporate long-tail keywords.
  • Internal linking offers subtle results. Even if the tactic doesn’t increase your rankings, it can provide a better user experience, keep readers on your site longer, and most likely improve conversions.

Other Tactics To Leverage Old Content

While the suggestions above constitute the easiest adjustments you can make overnight, there are other ways to grow your blog using your existing content. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Outreach marketing. On-page SEO is important, but a campaign to increase your blog’s exposure and earn natural links will boost not only the page you are marketing but improve your entire site’s authority.
  • Share your content more than once. Perhaps you’ve developed a great resource that you’ve recently updated. Be sure to re-share old work that stands the test of time, but know the best times to post on social media so your content isn’t buried or unseen.
  • Create different forms of multimedia. Bloggers and internet users absolutely love images, graphics and different types of media. Creating a quality infographic using your existing content may be the solution to grabbing people’s attention, increasing shares, and earning links.

Gary DekGary Dek is a professional blogger, SEO expert, and freelance writer. He is the founder of StartABlog123.com as well as a dozen other niche websites and specializes in content marketing and link building strategies. Previously, Gary was an investment banking and private equity analyst.

Tell Me How to Get What I Want

start here page

So often we design our marketing to lead prospects or visitors on the journey we want them to take. We create our websites with home pages that tell our story and hopefully achieve one or more of the conversion goals we’ve set for our business.

The problem is we aren’t completely in charge of the journey a prospect might take when they find our company or start their search for answers to questions they may not yet fully understand.

For example, a friend might share a blog post you’ve written on Twitter, and a random passerby decides to click on that one post – and so begins their journey. That’s not exactly the linear route you designed in your strategy session is it?

Of late I’ve started to see websites adding what I think is a very powerful way to help orient and then guide visitors that happen to stumble on their site.

The About Us page is a standard feature on most every website, but it’s still really about you. What if you added a Start Here page that oriented the visitor and allowed them to choose what they wanted to do next based on their goals.

For example, if you serve several distinct markets you could show them the various paths they might want to trod based on their interests. We serve small business owners and marketing consultants so a Start Here page for us might ask you to identify which camp you fall into, so we can personalize the journey for you.

A useful Start Here page allows your new visitors to understand better what to do to get what they want, which is how you get what you want.

A Start Here page doesn’t even have to be a page. Copyblogger greets home page visitors with a choice right off the bat.

Amazon and Netflix personalize a visitor’s journey with dynamic content drawn from past visitor history or even search terms that led to the visit. Let’s say a visitor shows up and they aren’t on any of your lists. You might choose to show them some educational content rather than a more sales-oriented call to action. Marketing automation tools like Hubspot make this level of personalization possible.

Michael Hyatt has a great start here page

Ian Altman changed his About Us page to Problems We Solve and found that it quickly became one of his most visited pages.

The key to making this work is to think in terms of the goals likely visitors have when they visit a site like yours. Make it easy for them to get what they and they may indeed end up taking the journey you need them to take

10 Steps to Building a Repeatable Marketing System

marketing system

Marketing is a system, plain and simple. Now, some people take that to mean that you simply create a one size fits all, turn-key set of tactics and call it a day.

The truth, however, lies not in the repeatable tactics, but in the repeatable process based on the right strategy.

There is, in my view, a very systematic way to come up with a predictable path for growing any business, but every business is different – so, their system is unique, while the process for getting there does not need to be.

So you see, you don’t need a marketing plan so much as you need a marketing process.

Below are the ten steps I’ve used over and over again to help grow every business I’ve worked with over the last two decades.

Strategy for where you are going

The fist step is to determine where you want to go. I know everyone says this, but few do it. Or, if they do, it’s based on some over the top world domination dream that nobody can buy in to.

In my experience, three years out is a long view for most and merely a target to get a sense of the vision for growth. You can surround this vision with things like revenue and hiring projections, but the main thing it to create something that can guide your decisions today based on even a murky map of the future.

Now, what’s this year need to look like to propel you towards the three-year picture?

Strategy for where you are

I like to work in 90-day chunks because few people can focus much beyond that and most of the time things are so fluid you need to remain nimble enough to change course throughout the year.

The key thing here is to identify the 2-3 highest priority initiatives and focus all of your efforts on meeting the goals you set for each.

So, for example if the highest priorities for the quarter are to grow a new revenue stream and to increase client retention then all of your efforts need to be focused on those priorities, even if some pet projects need to be put on hold.

Build community first

The secret to sustained growth lies in creating a loyal community, monetizing this community and leveraging this community for additional growth.

Many businesses focus only on trying to find people to sell to. Today’s most wildly successful companies build a following and then figure out what they want to buy. It’s a model that few get, but it is the most profitable way to grow a business.

Now, if you’re starting a business or in a business that you want to grow, you may have to make community building a priority while you do the things that generate cash flow for today.

You can, however, make the community building frame of mind, something that you use to evolve your content marketing efforts, customer service, and even product development.

Put a free version of your product out, create premium content and invite community members rather than subscribers, surprise the heck out of every customer by doing something they never imagined you would do.

Set your near-term goals

Set measurable goals for every aspect of your short-term priorities and use the scorecard for those objectives as a way to hold everyone accountable for the tasks and projects associated with the goals.

The discussions you have around why goals are met or not is how you course correct and keep everyone focused on the priorities you’ve already established rather than things that don’t matter beyond the day to day grind.

Decide on some bets

Here’s the fun part in my mind. It’s hard to know what will work and won’t work for sure when it comes to marketing, that’s the reality. The best marketers make informed bets, but they test and measure everything.

Now, what these bets or optimizations are for your business will vary largely depending where you are. If you’re in startup mode, you can try big things. If you’re locked down and just trying to acquire more market share you test little things.

These bets or tests should be based on your near term goals and some amount of educated brainstorming, but as a team you must commit to what they are going to be and see it through.

A bet might be a total repositioning of your value proposition. It might just be using a video on the homepage or trying lookalike audiences on Facebook.

Again, the key is that the bets are based on your priorities and will be fully developed rather than seen as the idea of the week.

Implement with tests

Once you have decided on your bets, you must figure out the proper plan to execute and perhaps more importantly test, retest and measure every element as though the life of the business depended upon it.

This is the difference between building a marketing system and simply throwing stuff at the wall.

This is how you prune that bets that fail and go all in on the bets that work.

Experiment and analyze

Now that you are starting to measure results you can begin to test a winning email subject line against another, a winning landing page against one with some element changed or even one sales page against another.

Once you have some things working, you always try to better through experimentation.

Document and delegate

Now, here’s the part that even successful marketers tend to gloss over.

Once your bets start to pay off and are headed towards long-term implementation, document the process or system or campaign in a way that allows you to delegate it to a marketing assistant type or even a VA so you can move on and make some more bets.

This is how marketing gain momentum and this is the essence of an effective marketing system.

Review and plan

Every 90 days review your priorities, your scorecard, and every bet you’ve made.

The goal of this review is to create a new set of priorities for the upcoming quarter and to start to learn what’s been working and what hasn’t been. This is how you start to develop patterns that make you better at making hunches for future bets

Repeat

You probably knew this was going to end this way, but marketing isn’t ever done – the process never really ends – what you optimize will certainly evolve but working the system is your real job.