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Bridging the Small Business Marketing Gap

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Dan Faggella – Enjoy! 

customer-relationship-management

photo credit: abdevlabs.com

Email marketing and marketing automation software often fails to achieve business goals of enhancing revenue and profitability, creating a “marketing gap” for businesses.

This is a particular challenge for startups and small businesses that have fewer internal resources and more immediate business demands.

The problem can be traced to concerns over lack of time, limited internal marketing resources, the complexity of managing the ongoing program, the absence of training and guidance from vendors, and frustration with disappointing results, but these organizations can bridge this gap by understanding some of the basic steps that will help them achieve more effective use of marketing automation and email marketing investments, and a better focus on the areas of focus for these technologies.

There are four distinct areas of focus for email marketing and marketing automation: Collecting, Connecting, Converting and Circulating

Collecting

Here businesses need to look at the ways they are presently acquiring leads, contacts and, in some cases, front-end sales. Some collecting strategies include landing page optimization/split-testing, opt-in form variations and drop-down segmentation, outbound lead generation campaign design.

Best Practice: Maintain a vigilant split-testing regimen on all major landing pages that involve email capture functionality. Any web page responsible for substantial lead-flow should be split-tested.

Connecting

Here organizations need to build the best possible initial relationship with their prospects through automated follow-up sequences and communication calibrated by prospect type and behavior. Some connecting strategies include customer avatars and customer profiles (purchase motives, etc.), analytics for email open and click-through rates, split-testing of email sequences and subject lines.

Best Practice: Segment email subscribers and leads (from white papers, etc…) early, not late. If you can segment prospects effectively, you can communicate to them in a more relevant way (by business size, by goals, by industry, etc…), your emails can drive much better results in terms of engagement, appointments / sales.

Converting

Business should be working to leverage email and automation strategies to assist customers in making their first significant step forward with the organization’s business. Some converting strategies include appointment form split-testing, landing or sales page split-testing, offer and campaign construction.

Best Practices: It’s important to be able to quantify what a “conversion” is in your business. If you sell online, you may want email marketing to directly drive sales (very measurable). If you sell in person, email should usually be responsible for settling up appointments (also quite measurable).

Circulating

Organizations should be looking to continue relationship-building with customers and/or prospects. Some circulating strategies include determination of broadcast regiments, long-term customer lifetime value mapping and optimization (“deep” campaigns as an alternative to neglecting past prospects and customers), “newsletter” segmentation, and testing methods engineered to refine communication for long-term engagement.

Best Practices: The “vanilla” newsletter is the same, bland message that goes out monthly to all your contacts. It is a thing of the best. If you do keep a newsletter, segment it into categories of relevance, such as “customer,” “past customer,” and “prospect,” and speak to those groups individually.

While these strategies may seem foreign to some, there are real-world many examples of smaller organizations that mastered marketing automation and email marketing and as a result, uncovered areas of improvement that deliver significant yields by more efficiently and productively managing projects of high priority to their business.

It all begins with understanding the steps necessary to bridge the “marketing gap” and if help is needed to navigate this journey, there are those who could guide – all businesses need to do is stop and ask for directions.

Dan Headshot100x100Dan Faggella is the founder and CEO of CLVboost, a marketing consultancy based in Cambridge, MA, that works with businesses to help them realize their growth potential by maximizing new and existing marketing technologies. Dan is a sought-after speaker on this topic at Internet marketing events, startup conferences and business workshops across the US, and he has been featured on media channels like MIXERGY and GrowthHacker.TV.  Dan is also founder of TechEmergence, an online community and strategic resource supporting the work of startups, researchers, investors and others focused on technology that has the potential to alter human potential.

 

Marketing Automation for Small Business

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Wendy Coombes– Enjoy!

photo credit: iStock Photo

photo credit: iStock Photo

If you are a small business marketer, you know that the number of channels across which to deliver your key messages has increased considerably. While it is great that we have so many opportunities to attract and engage our ideal client, managing multiple channels effectively can seem like a full time job.

This explains why the biggest group of marketing automation buyers are small and midsize businesses. So let’s take a look at this trend and marketing automation’s effectiveness for small business.

What is Marketing Automation?

As businesses realize they need get on board with web marketing strategies, they typically “bolt on” solutions. They open up a Twitter or Facebook account, dabble in LinkedIn groups or do an email shot using a free cloud-based email marketing solution.

Managing communication programs across multiple applications is a logistical nightmare; it lacks overview and the ability to measure its effectiveness.

Marketing automation enables businesses to execute campaigns, automate processes, and measure their impact.

How can you benefit from workflow-based lead management?

The most frequently requested feature of marketing automation solutions is lead management. Leads are the lifeblood of business, so it is easy to see why marketers consider lead generation their biggest challenge and most important goal. Marketing automation assists in a number of ways.

First, to attract on the web you need valuable and optimized content. The best marketing automation platforms let you create:

  • optimize site pages
  • calls to action and landing pages
  • (smart) forms

Other capabilities that play a role in lead management let you:

  • view which content your leads engage in and present leads with further content they will find relevant
  • score leads
  • do progressive profiling
  • set up event triggered email workflows

Besides these lead management capabilities, it should offer closed-loop analysis, search engine optimization tools, email marketing, and other tools to manage online multi-channel campaigns.

There’s no substitute for marketing planning

Whilst marketing automation can increase the effectiveness of lead generation and result in increased revenue, it is not a substitute for a customer-centric marketing strategy. Effective marketing plans start with a thorough understanding of your buyer personas and the buyer’s journey as they research and evaluate your products or services.

A look at the business case

Traditionally used by large e-commerce organizations, marketing automation has become more widely adopted and therefore more available, affordable, and practical for small business. Marketing automation combined with inbound strategies offers measureable benefits for small business:

  • lower cost per lead
  • improved customer lifetime value
  • increased revenue
  • improved sales effectiveness
  • better ROI on your marketing investment

What is important to recognize is that it is not a quick fix solution. If you start with a low-traffic base and want grow traffic organically, do not expect to see significant increases in traffic for 9 months (maybe somewhat shorter if you have ample resources to pump out good quality content).

On the other hand, if your site is already getting good traffic but you are not converting sufficient leads, you may see results much sooner by utilizing best practice conversion methods.

What to look for in a marketing automation platform

If you plan to research marketing automation solutions, look for things like:

  • What is included in the minimum license fee? Many providers will charge you based on the size of your contact database. Check how many contacts are included in the base rate. You really want a solution that is scalable but you might want to know whether charges are capped once you reach a certain number of contacts.
  • What is the minimum license period? Many require an initial12 months. Ask if the entire license fee is payable up front or whether they accept monthly installments.
  • Read real case studies of businesses like yours who have adopted marketing automation and see if you can get in touch directly with current users to hear their experiences first hand.
  • Is user training included? It is not unusual for training to be charged additionally. Check what training is included.

As mentioned before, there is no substitute for good marketing planning and strategy, but once you have your goals and roadmap set out, marketing automation can do some of the heavy lifting and provide you with the analytics to achieve sustainable lead campaign success.

Wendy Coombeswendy profile photo_150px copy is an inbound marketing consultant with a background in Technology and B2B marketing as well as e-Commerce.   Her inbound marketing agency, Brite Kite, is based in Sydney Australia. Wendy is passionate about helping traditional professional service providers such as lawyers and accountants, transition to online lead generation and realizing a better ROI on their marketing investment. Connect with Wendy on twitter via @wendycoombes.

 

5 Tips for Writing Survey Questions that Don’t Yield Statistical Garbage

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Josh Pigford – Enjoy!

Survey Question GarbageWhile the end result of a survey might make the conclusions look cut and dry, there are many ways that data can be manipulated or misrepresented to change the truth. However, the sloppiest (and probably most common) method of fumbling the truth is when data is simply misunderstood.

Even if your survey questions sound great, if they’re not credible they won’t produce valid results. In case you don’t know the difference between discriminant and regression analyses (really, who does?), this post will cover five tips to make sure that your sweet survey doesn’t turn into a statistical bummer.

1. Think First, Ask Second

Think broadly about why you’re creating a survey. What are you really trying to figure out? When you have a clear idea, make a list detailing the kind of information that you’re setting out to look for. Now you can begin to write your questions, always keeping in mind that they must match your original informational targets.

If you realize after collecting all your responses that your questions are actually asking something rather different from what you originally intended, then your data will also be telling something rather different from what you intended. You’ll have to settle for either “different,” or a big lie.

2. Ratings vs. Rankings

Depending on the kind of information you’re looking for, you can either ask your respondents to rate or rank several items in a list. However, it’s important to realize the difference between these two types of questions.

A ranking will only tell you which items are more or less preferred relative to each other, but you won’t actually know from a ranking if a respondent likes or dislikes any items. For this latter purpose, you must use a rating question.

3. The Multiple Choice Golden Rule

Most surveys depend heavily on multiple choice questions since prepping for standardized tests have wiped out this country’s ability to formulate an original answer. Or we’re too lazy. Either way, the possible responses to any multiple choice question must be mutually exclusive. This means that no two answers could equally serve as appropriate responses.

Not only do non-exclusive answers annoy people (you’ve made them think too hard!), but they’ll make accurately analyzing your data nearly impossible. If someone could choose one of two answers and feel good about either response, you won’t be able to determine the respondent’s actual preference.

4. Surveys Are Not Like Airplane Exit Rows

More “legroom” in your question doesn’t make it better. You wrote your survey with a specific purpose, so make sure your questions are direct without giving your respondents too much leeway in answering.

If you want to know how to make your company’s logo look more cutting edge, make sure you specify your desire for responses regarding the logo’s impact, not simply ask about the company in general.

5. Don’t Get Too Excited in One Question

Surveys are awesome, we know, but that’s no excuse for asking more than one question at a time. Each question you ask needs to be aimed at collecting one unique point of information, or else you’ll end up skewing your data by mixing results that should be separated.

It’s even possible to get so excited that in a fit of survey-exuberance you accidentally put two contradictory questions together. That’s not only pretty weird, but it will also void the results for that part of the survey.

Statistics and the wild field of data analysis include another laundry list of Dos and Don’ts, but hopefully these five tips can get you started on creating surveys that also produce credible results.

If you’re ever in doubt about how a question comes off, ask some friends to test it out. If you don’t have any friends, well then you’ve got bigger problems than that tricky survey question.

Josh PigfordJosh Pigford is co-founder + CEO of  PopSurvey, where they’re building online survey software to try and make the survey industry a little less coma-inducing. They’ve got a huge collection of survey templates to help you get started with the click of a button!

Stumped for content?

Yahoo AnswersContent is the commerce of social media. But, relevant content, the stuff your customers and prospects actually want to know is the gold. Constantly cranking out this gold can sometimes present creative challenges.

So how do you know what to write about, how do you keep the ideas flowing, how do you keep the content relevant and popular.

There a number of ways to address these important questions, not the least of which is simply paying attention to what your prospects and customers ask on the daily basis. There’s another tool that not many small business know much about, but is a wealth of great content ideas.

The service is called Yahoo Answers. Millions of people go to Yahoo Answers to get answers to questions on just about every topic known to man. Yahoo members are free to answer these questions and then even earn points for participation and developing a reputation for good answers. I’m not sure working your tail off answering all kinds of questions is the best use of your time (although you may actually come across opportunities to interact with people looking to buy what you sell) but, I have found that the questions posed on your particular subject of expertise can provide some tremendous research for blog topics. If a number of people are asking the same questions, and they are, then maybe the market is ripe for your blog post addressing the question.

The questions are broken down into many searchable categories. In addition, if you find the occasional question that you have already thoroughly addressed on your blog you can step up and provide an answer on the Yahoo Answer page and cite your blog post as the resource for your answer. If your answer is considered particularly helpful, this can send some additional traffic (no link juice though) your way.

What’s the key strategic behavior of your ideal customer?

Marketing behaviorLast week at this time I sat down to write a post about targeting and it turned into quite a research project all by itself. It started innocently enough by me asking if what your ordered at Starbucks or the local pub said something about you that a marketer could use. (The comments are way better than my post)

The simple answer is, of course it does. And if you could look inside a prospect’s car (of course just knowing the make and model would reveal something) and see that clutter you would know even more, if you could visit your prospect’s house and have them tell you about their favorite outfit or shoes, you would know even more, if you could spend a few minutes reading what’s on your prospect’s refrigerator, you would know even more.

The point is that your prospects and customers do things, act in certain ways, that can help you identify them as ideal prospects and customers. The trick is to pay attention closely enough to see the behavior that I call their key strategic behavior. Discover it and it’s like getting them to raise their hand to be called on.

Now, in all likelyhood, if were able to do the kind of research mentioned above you might actually learn more than you want to know, but it’s also completely impractical to think that you could ever gain that kind access to your customer’s behavior.

But, the good news is that there are very public things that your prospect’s and customers might do that can be great indicators if you start to analyze them.

    For instance:

  • I discovered long ago that business owners who participated at an officer level in local and national organizations related to their industry are more likely to have an interested in long term solutions rather than quick fixes.
  • I discovered that business owners who actively participated in groups like Rotary are more likely to embrace the idea of referrals and networking.
  • I discovered that business owners who sought out professional, but perhaps a bit more entrepreneurial, service providers such as CPAs, attorneys and bankers, were more willing to explore innovative approaches.

I know these are pretty broad generalizations, but they are fairly accurate markers of behavior. They helped me identify a prospect I knew I could work successfully with in a matter of minutes. So, take a look at your current ideal customers with an eye on identifying your key strategic behavior, something you can know about them, that is also a pretty good indicator of what type of customer they might be. If you can get this step right it can change who your target and what you say in all of your communications.

Dig deep in this exercise and get a bit creative, think club membership, community participation, hobbies, reading likes, Starbucks drink, even pet ownership. I once had a customer that came to the conclusion that all of her ideal customers owned big dogs – it’s not really that far fetched of an idea! (puns are always intended here.)

So, what behavior have identified as telling from a marketing perspective?

What would you Google if?

Finding the right mix between marketing focused messages and customer focused messages is a real art and, in my opinion, at the heart of creating a powerful marketing strategy.

Interviewing your existing customers is one of the best ways to uncover this mix and find out what your customers really value, really want, and in the case of online search – what they really look for when trying to find someone that does what you do.

Google Local MapsThe customer interview process, interviewing our customers’ customers, is a system used by the Duct Tape Marketing coaches as part of the strategy planning process and Australian coach Joe Bowers and Canadian coach Elizabeth Walker took this a step further by actually inserting the interview question – “What would you Google if you were looking for this kind of services/products?”

Try it sometime with your customers and I think you will discover some potentially powerful keyword phrases that you may not be optimizing your web pages for.

What does your drink say about you part 2

Tullamore DewI wrote a post a few days ago that sparked an uncanny number of replies. Essentially, I made a brief point about whether or not your coffee drink order from a Starbucks would give a marketer clues about who you are.

Well, more than one reader pointed out the fact that they had another kind of drink in mind altogether when they read this post and wondered what might your choice of adult beverage say about you. I think the question is a valid one and so I pondered it over an Irish Whiskey myself just last night. By the way I am writing part 3 as we speak, no it’s not what kind of gravy are you, it’s my original point about determining behavior that allows you to identify your ideal customer – stay tuned on that.

But for now, I must confess I’m a Tullamore Dew and water (a nod to my Irish ancestors I guess.)

So, what drink are you?

What does your drink say about you?


StarbucksMarketers spend a lot of time dissecting the various demographics and psychographics of target markets and I’m wondering if you could do a study of what all your customers order at a Starbucks, or if they even frequent such a place, and come up with appropriate marketing messages.

For the record, I’m a grande coffee with 2 shots of espresso added – the fact that people call this drink names like a depth charge or red eye ought to tell you something. (More on this when I’m back at the office)

So, what are you?