3 Powerful Tools for Working On Your Business

photo credit: tool box via photopin (license)

photo credit: tool box via photopin (license)

As a business owner, it is really easy to be tempted to wear all the hats, to micromanage, to have a fear of letting go.  That fear then turns into nights and weekends away from the family, never feeling like you can come up for air, and living in a constant state of being stretched too thin.

Doesn’t sound like a very fun situation to be in does it?  Working ON your business instead of simply IN your business is a necessary focus that every business owner needs to fit into their monthly routine.

The first step in the process is hiring the right people.  People that fit in with your culture, your vision, your direction and people that you can trust.  We are a fairly small team at Duct Tape Marketing but rely on a number of virtual designers, assistants, and bookkeepers who are absolutely key pieces to our puzzle.

Equally important as having the right team, is having a plan in place and actually sticking to it.  Without the direction, you are simply climbing peaks with no end in sight, not purpose.

A few weeks ago, Mark Winters co-author of the book Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business, was on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.  John and Mark discussed the one thing every entrepreneur must have.  Today, I want to introduce a different section in the book and one that I found to be very powerful, the “Icing on the Cake” section.

As Mark and co-author Gino Wickman state in the book, “These five simple tools have the highest impact and require the least amount of time, so we encourage you to learn and master them.”  I won’t go over all the tools, as that is what the book is for, however, here are a few that are already helping our productivity level and focus increase each week.

Core Questions

Tool #2 in the book is called Core Questions.  Out of these questions, the four that really stood out to me include: What is your 10-year focus, what is your three-year picture, and what is your one-year plan?  Very simple questions but actually sitting down and taking the time to make your big 10-year goal and then break it down into smaller manageable chunks provides a clear direction for the company.

The 90-Day World

Tool #3 in the book is called The 90-Day World.  You now get to make your plan even more manageable. Here is how we put the 90-day world into place:  We set our 90 days goals while at the same time keeping our 10-year plan in mind of course. Next we assigned each goal to a staff member.  Taking it one step further, we broke the 90 days into weekly steps towards each goal and created a scorecard to track the progress and hold people accountable for their tasks.

Weekly Level 10 Meetings

Finally, Tool #4 in the book is Weekly Level 10 Meetings.  I am guessing you have sat through meetings before where you walked away thinking “was that really the best use of my time?”  The Weekly 10 Meeting outline helps keep the entire leadership team focused on the goals that were set in the planning meeting.  It is an opportunity to review the scorecard, the 90 day priorities, share customer and employee headlines, talk about the weekly t0-do list, and discuss any important issues, all while following a set process and agenda.  It is a systematic way to reach your goals.

Nothing here is earth shattering, it is however extremely powerful if actually put into place.  It is easy to fill your days with client work, chasing leads, and creating content.  If you don’t first take a step back and figure out the “why” and “how” for your plan, you will simply be doing just that.  Filling up your days versus working towards a bigger goal.

Sara JantschSara Jantsch is the Vice President of Operations at Duct Tape Marketing.  She oversees day-to-day operations to support the growth of Duct Tape Marketing and the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.  She focuses on strategic planning, goal setting and directing the operations of the company in support of its goals.  Sara is also a Duct Tape Marketing Consultant and has a very strong passion for working with small business owners that started back at the dinner table as a child. Connect with Sara on twitter.

5 Ways to Produce Eye-Catching Content Without a Designer

photo credit: kaboompics

photo credit: kaboompics

There’s nothing like great content. I create it for work. I create it for fun. Crazy? Perhaps. Especially since creating good, visually appealing content is a huge challenge faced by many.

There is no rule that says you have to hire a pricey graphic designer in order to generate beautiful, design-rich content.  Of course, design specialists are a great resource to have on a team – but, for many earlier-stage businesses, increased costs and headcount may not be ideal.

Luckily, a universe of tools exist that enable quick content creation for even the non-designers among us – whether it’s as simple as a quick meme or as elaborate as an ebook. Slim, bootstrapping teams could wear a designer hat and produce the rich content quickly and inexpensively by enlisting some of these fantastic content-producing tools:

Capture the moment with Skitch

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.32.16 PMSkitch is a great app that helps brands tell a visual story – and it’s free! Grab a quick screenshot on your device and mark it up with arrows, boxes, text and more. Skitch lets you mark up images, digital assets, PDFs, and other files with arrows, callout boxes, text, and more.

I find that at least once a day I use Skitch’s “Screen Snap” function to grab all or part of my screen for use in content. I don’t need to plug my captured image into another program for further cropping and other editing since the all-in-one features of Skitch enable me to do so right in their app. A great time saver and useful tool for supporting your talking points with a rich visual design.

Skitch is owned by Evernote but does not require an Evernote account to start using. Try it out and screengrab to your heart’s content.

Don’t use any old font, use Dafont

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.32.42 PMSick of using Times and Ariel in your creative. Aren’t we all? Luckily, resources like Google Fonts, Font Squirrel and more offer a wealth of wonderfully designed, open-source fonts to add a little character to your characters.

I like Dafont for its abundance of options that range from general purpose to highly specialized. Each font is well-tagged so the site’s great search function could pull up just what you’re looking for. Simply download, install and use a desired font in graphics, presentations, ebooks and more – just make sure to check for any attribution requirements.

Pound out a quick infographic with Piktochart

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.33.07 PMThere’s nothing like a good infographic to capture an audience and teach them something new. When it’s simple to create in just minutes and free, it’s all the more reason to inject them into a content strategy.

Piktochart is quick and simple for anyone to create professional-looking infographics, reports, banners, and presentations. An intuitive interface and simple drag-and-drop features help a designer-less team fake it until they make it.

Get instant access and “start creating in 30 seconds,” as the site’s homepage describes. Start yours from scratch, choose from customizable free templates or step up to Pro for some more options.

Along with the vast library of templates, you can find over four thousand graphics to really spruce things up, or get more custom and create your very own images. When generating visual creations to represent your brand, avoid a clunky MS Paint design and make them look professionally mastered at low commitment.

Become an author with Guides.co

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.33.14 PMHave what it takes to write an informative eBook but lack the design skill to bring into fruition? Guide.co offers the perfect solution.

We’ve all experienced the power of eBooks, in educating an audience, adding credibility and thought leadership status to a brand and capturing more qualified leads. But the more comprehensive the piece of content the more time and budget it consumes.

Guides.co provides a useful, plug-and-lay model to take on the burden creating an attractive body for your killer copy. Like Piktochart, Guides.co offers multiple templates to kick off your design – and easy-to-use customizing features help to guide your guide to fit your brand.

Guides.co even goes the extra mile and hosts your content on their site for the world to discover!

Get interactive and think ThingLink

ThingLink adds a totally new form to social media that brings life to your content. The tool makes interactive visual graphics easy to make and void of the premium price tag.

The site integrates with others like YouTube, SoundCloud, and Vimeo to pull in sounds and videos to add to your graphic.

Register for free or get a few other advantages with a membership – but you might not need to spend the extra cash. The tools basic features enable users to design quite rich, interactive videos and images to incorporate into a content marketing strategy.

Even better, once completed, ThingLink lets you tag your piece and share with your social network along with their own community. Interact with other creative ThingLink users for ideas, inspiration and feedback.

Go forth and design

Designing is not easy. Supplementing the talent of an experienced designer will save costs but could indeed reduce the effectiveness of a content strategy. However, since more basic content is better than no content at all, getting your engine running with intuitive and affordable tools is key.  Helpful apps that enable the everyday entrepreneur or busy marketing generalist to design without breaking the bank or eating up your time is lifesaving.

Have any questions about improving your content strategy? Contact me! 

VinceVince is a passionate digital marketing specialist with a track record of evangelizing technology to modernize business development and brand building in the startup through enterprise levels. Skilled in strategic data-driven campaign management, Vince focuses on demand generation programs that influence growth, including marketing automation, social media, digital advertising, search engine optimization, blogging, public relations, video and event marketing.? Vince is a well-established Twitter influencer under @vince_tech and Founder of Boom Digital, a boutique digital marketing agency specializing in supporting the growth of early-stage startup companies through social media, content marketing, and design.

 

Building Relationships Through the Customer Loop

Today’s Guest Post is by Sam Balter – Enjoy!

The customer journey is a simplified expression of the complex thought process of a customer looking to purchase something. A quick Google search for ‘customer journey’ brings up a myriad of complex diagrams full of hundreds of metrics. The truth is that every company has a unique customer journey; each marketing channel has a unique customer journey, and every product has a unique customer journey. All customers go through a different journey and engage with a brand in a unique way.

The customer journey model relies on seeing a buying decision as linear and a one-off interaction. Brands that will succeed in cross-channel marketing are building a relationship with their customer in every stage of the journey. When thinking about mobile, specifically mobile messaging, it’s all about creating a frictionless and compelling experience for the customer.

Let’s take the basic model of the customer journey: Awareness -> Consideration -> Purchase -> Retention -> Advocacy. The most successful businesses will foster a relationship each step of the customer journey, and along the way, delight their customer.

waterfall, the customer journeyAwareness:
Using physical signage or online advertising is a great way to create awareness of your brand. Visual advertisements capture customers’ attention and use the present moment to start building a relationship via mobile. Here’s an example of a simple text Call-To-Action (CTA) on a billboard:

Get 20% off your next purchase
Text KRUSTY to 55155

Using a text call-to-action on outdoor signage helps get more from marketing dollars because the billboard creates an impression, and the mobile messaging gives you a way to speak directly to your customer. Mobile messaging adds a CRM component to an awareness campaign.

To take this a step further, a brand might want to ask their customer for their zip code so that location-specific offers can be delivered. If you want to see some great CTAs, check out our site where we’ve compiled examples of successful CTAs, Art of the CTA.

Consideration:
To optimize the efficacy of mobile as a channel, it’s imperative to send the right message at the right time. If Krusty Burger wants to increase lunch traffic, it makes no sense to send a message at 4:15pm. Instead, achieve optimal results by sending a message one to two hours before a customer is encouraged to take action. That way, when their stomach starts to growl, they know they’ve got a Krusty Burger coupon in their pocket.

To take it to another level, consider using a share-with-friend function that will allow more people to get in on the savings while capturing more phone numbers in the process.

Purchase:
This is an incredibly powerful step of the customer journey. I am very cheap, so sometimes purchasing things can make me feel a little guilty. It is important to offset these feelings of guilt with heart warming offers. For example, offer customers the ability to receive a receipt via Multimedia Message, thereby saving paper, or the chance to enter a sweepstakes, to win a prize. If you have connected unique coupon codes with your point of sale system, you can even deliver the customer a coupon just moments after their purchase.

Retention:
An excellent part of mobile messaging campaigns is that in the awareness stage, a customer can opt-in to a loyalty program, and from there, consistently receive coupons and deals. For mobile messaging loyalty programs, we suggest the offers vary; mix SMS and MMS, and collect different pieces of information every few messages. Ask questions like: What is your favorite meal? When is your birthday? What is your email address, etc.? Encourage customers to provide information with incentives, and only ask for information if you will use it to delight your customers.

Advocacy:
It seems like only a few years ago, the only way for people to advocate for a brand or product they believed in was through word of mouth. Now, every customer has access to a digital bullhorn. Capitalize on customers’ social media connects with mobile messaging by embedding ‘click to tweet or post’ within your message copy. At Waterfall, we are big fans of viral sharing campaigns. Dropbox built an enormous user base through a viral sharing campaign in which every referral you signed up added additional storage to your account. This is a great way to provide value to your most helpful customers by leveraging the power of social amplification.

Customer Loop – The future of the customer journey
The customer journey has long reigned as a keystone of modern marketing. As we move into a cross-channel world, where brands are advertising to, providing content for, and engaging in conversations with customers, the journey will be replaced by a loop in which each interaction strengthens the bond between brand and brand advocate.

Sam Balter WaterfallSam Balter is a Marketing Manager at Waterfall, a mobile messaging and CRM provider that helps companies engage their customers on their phones. Sam writes about mobile strategy, industry trends, and how to create successful cross-channel marketing campaigns.

How to Build a Blog with 100,000+ Monthly Page Views

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing, and today’s guest post is from Vinay Patankar – Enjoy!

how to build a blog

You’ve probably heard that blogging is a great way to generate leads and sales for your business. John has talked about blogging many times on this very blog. And the truth is, it does work, many companies have seen stellar results from creating compelling blogs and building large audiences around them.

But why is it so hard?

While this may be true, building a successful blog is much harder than it sounds. I’ve been blogging for a long time. I ran a personal blog and a number of different niche blogs during my time as an Affiliate Marketer. I wrote hundreds of posts and did various “link building” tactics to try and rank my blogs to get traffic. This did produce some results, I got a bit of traffic and a few sales, but it never turned into the lead-generating-cash-machine I dreamt about every night before bed.

It was only when I started blogging for my startup Process Street did I start to see some real numbers and results from my efforts. We are still in early days (the blog is about 6 months old) but we recently hit the 1,000 subscriber mark and are now receiving over 100,000 page views every month!

traffic stats

What changed?

So what did I do different this time than all the other times I blogged?

The answer is content promotion. In my early days of blogging, I would spend 90% of my time writing content, once it was done I’d share it on my social media properties then move on to the next post. I now spend just 30% of my time on creating content and 70% promoting it.

content creation vs content promotion

This does not mean I write lower quality content by any means, in fact, my content is much higher quality now, I just write fewer posts. Like much fewer. I was writing up to 10 articles a day across my various blogs, now I am lucky if I manage to get 1 per week out. But when I write, I write longer, more detailed, more personal, more actionable and more impactful posts than I ever did before. This is not by chance, this is part of the carefully curated content strategy that I came up with from watching some of the greatest SaaS content marketers in the world like Buffer and Moz.

Creating high quality content is absolutely necessary to build a blog that people read, share and link to, but creating high quality content is only half the battle (or 30%!). High quality content is not useful if nobody sees it. Today, I have a team of 3 Virtual Assistants that focus on promoting my content, and not just content on my blog, I have them promote guest posts I write on other peoples blogs (like this one) plus any post that links to one of my products or posts.

So what is content promotion and how do I do it?

Well I’m glad you asked. It just so happens that I created a very detailed and in-depth checklist that you can follow to promote your content. This checklist is responsible for driving at least 1,000 visitors to every post I have written, it in itself is a huge piece of content that took me 3 days to create! Now it’s all yours. Use it yourself or hand it off to a VA and watch the visitors roll in.

Grab my content promotion checklist below and supercharge your blog today.

vinay headshot process street 100x100Vinay Patankar is an ex digital nomad and startup growth specialist. He is the CEO of Process Street, a platform that manages recurring processes for teams and turns businesses into automated, self growing machines. Find him on Twitter, Google+ or his Blog. Sign up for a free trial of Process Street here: http://process.st

The Future of Mobile Search Marketing

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

emarketer-mobile-growthJust a few short years ago, smartphones were reserved for those bleeding edge consumers willing to spend half of their paycheck on a device double the size of their existing ‘feature’ phone that allowed you to replicate an experience historically reserved for desktops or laptops. The adoption quickly exploded and in 2012, global smartphone adoption reached 1 billion users. Emarketer predicts that in 2014, that number will balloon to 4.55 billion. 1 in 4 worldwide mobile phone users will have a smartphone this year, and each of them are using this device to find products and services, many of them locally.

Search on Mobile Devices

Armed with connectivity, consumers quickly realized that they could find the information they needed with just a few clicks and keystrokes. Since Google is obviously in the search business, they tried to make mobile search easier through their cross device native apps and streamlined browser experiences.

In just a few short years, mobile search is quickly on its way to becoming the primary search vehicle; dethroning the once almost untouchable desktop search experience. Even Google’s famed SPAM fighter, Matt Cutts, commented he wouldn’t be surprised if mobile search surpassed desktop this year! With such volatile adoption, marketers and small business owners need to be aware of what this paradigm shift will mean for their business.

The Future of Mobile Search

One of the biggest challenges with mobile search is the fact many consumers start a search on mobile and finish on another device. Tracking consumers throughout the shopping experience will provide a stronger idea of what drove the purchase and how to market to them more effectively. The other big challenge is the scarcity of consumer attention. With mobile search consumers extremely unlikely to venture past the first search results page, showcasing the correct information, as fast as possible, is paramount for winning the mobile search click.

Smartphone manufacturers, Google, Microsoft and Facebook are scrambling to find out ways to predict what you will search for, before you search for it. This data will help streamline the process, speed up your mobile search experience and ultimately win the lion share of your attention. Amazon has already figured out a way to predict what you are going to purchase before you purchase it, so it is just a matter of time before this weaves its way into search.

Many people continue to scratch their head about Amazon releasing the Fire smartphone, with such dominant forces like Samsung and Apple occupying a stranglehold over the industry. While it appears to be ‘just another phone,’ Amazon introduces some features that could potentially change the mobile search experience forever.

Firefly Technology

Firefly TechnologyWith Firefly, your phone is able to view printed text, recognize things around you, and most of all, listen to what is happening around you. Imagine having a conversation about making French Toast and being unable to remember what spice to use, and in a matter of seconds, a French Toast recipe appears on your phone, without any direct user interaction.

The Future of Mobile Search Marketing

There is no doubt that mobile search will surpass desktop search this year and be the primary vertical marketers and small business owners must focus their time. The major question is what will mobile search look like.

Google Now has the fundamentals necessary to be that predictive search engine. They have our cross device personalized history, manually curated search cards, and real time information. Add in a component of ‘selective’ listening to what is happening around us, and predictive search could be born. Apple is already ramping up their Siri efforts to compete with Google Now and so is Microsoft, with Cortana.

As if online marketing wasn’t hard enough for business owners and marketers to reach their target audience, the instantaneous needs of mobile search add yet another avenue they need to focus their efforts. However, moving quickly and optimizing your site for the mobile consumer could mean the difference between winning the mobile search battle and being relinquished to the catacombs of page 2.

Justin-Bio-shot-150x150Justin Emig is the Search Marketing Manager for Web Talent Marketing, the #1 Digital Marketing Agency in the United States, according to TopSEOs.com. Here, Justin uses SEO, Paid Search, Content Marketing, and Social Media to increase conversions and leads. Justin has spent his career building brands of all sizes and effectively mixes the traditional advertising world with online marketing to effectively tell a brand’s story. You can connect with Justin on Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, or see more of his content on the Web Talent Blog.

Using Forums to Market New Products and Services to Existing Customers

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

proboardsBusinesses of all stripes are always looking for new customers to buy their products or services. However, sometimes businesses ignore the best place to look for new sales:  through customers who have already purchased products and services in the past.  Tapping into your existing customers to boost your sales is smart because you’ve already done the hardest part of the sales cycle with them:  you made that first sale.

The easiest path to new sales is often found through those who have already made a decision to buy from you.  The key is getting a sense of how the products are perceived by customers, how the services are used, and what add-on or upsell products and services are a good fit to market new offerings to an existing customer base.

Internet Forums

One of the best tools for learning more about customers who already use your products and services is social media, with Internet forums being one of the more dependable tools for gathering information.

According to a 2012 study by Awareness, a marketing firm based in Burlington, Mass., one-third of marketers are looking to social media and Internet forums as the platform of choice to reach customers.  Nativo, a content marketing firm in Long Beach, Calif., says 20 percent of Americans use forums to discuss and recommend products.  Nearly two-thirds of women in online forums make product recommendations on these boards.

Marketing to customers via an Internet forum delivers this proven path and helps ensure success by enabling a series of regular and intimate communications between the company and the customer. Spending time on Internet forums where your customers can be found often reveals relevant marketing information about products in demand, services used, strengths of competitive offerings, and weaknesses in products or services offered by a competitor.  This sort of intelligence is ideal for putting together a sales pitch on new or related products and services, or to make a compelling offer to customers of your chief competition in order to acquire new customers who were unhappy with their offering.

Internet forums also help to build customer loyalty. The seeds you plant today, through the intimate two-way communication forums provide, help make products better and allow the company to fix potential problems, while ensuring product launches are more successful — just by leveraging the loyalty built through the regular interactive engagement with your customers.

Spend some time finding out which forums your customers read regularly and do some “lurking” where you read each post and response without actively participating.  Take careful notes.  Identify current customers on the forum.  From their posts and comments, what other products or services would improve their experience with your company based on the first purchase they made?  Do they offer advice to others buying similar products or do they warn prospects about the purchase they made from you?

Stay in Touch

If you detect something is wrong, you can proactively contact them and fix the problem.  If it’s a competitive offering, how does your product or service address the shortcomings of the competitive solution?  Can you put together a program to encourage these customers to try your company?

Internet forums provide a great way to stay in touch with your customer base.  But there are some “rules of the road” for participating in a forum and using it for marketing purposes.  Follow them or you could risk being banned by the forum staff:

  • Develop a good profile so forum participants know who you are.  Make yourself approachable.  Make sure there is contact information so it makes you accessible to your customers and prospects.
  • Introduce yourself to the forum members in the appropriate section.
  • Be smart about commenting; never insult a poster.
  • If you are alerted to a problem, play a role in getting it resolved; encourage other posters to ask you questions.
  • Make valuable contributions to the forum; provide good information.  Don’t spread rumors or make bold claims.  Be helpful and humble.  Be objective.
  • Don’t hard sell new products and services when you make a new post, and always expose any biases you have.  It’s great to help people who have questions, it’s bad to spam.

Patrick Clinger Headshot - 300dpi-jpg 05-16-13Patrick Clinger is founder and CEO of ProBoards, the world’s largest host of free forums on the Internet (www.proboards.com).  The company has been hosting forums for more than 14 years with over 3.7 million forums created on its platforms.  The company’s forums record billions of page views every year with tens of millions of registered users.  ProBoards’ Forums.net white label forum service allows small business to quickly and easily create their own branded Internet forum that is fully managed by ProBoards.

 

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.

 

Gambling with Facebook Ads: How to Win Against a Stacked Deck

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

ducttape-oCPM-screenshot“Facebook Ads is just like gambling! I got this rush every time I looked and saw that my numbers had gone up again!”

Not everyone has this reaction to Facebook ads, especially their first time out of the gate. Running paid campaigns can also bring about that crushing disappointment of gambling: your money runs out and you’ve got nothing to show for it.

But you have a lot more control over the results of Facebook ads than at the Blackjack table, so this investment could be the very risk your business should be taking.

Put List Building on Autopilot

List building is one of the easiest (and cheapest) pieces of marketing to turn over to Facebook Ads. It isn’t hard to entice people to click on an ad that offers something of value to them, especially if it’s free. A collection of 50 green smoothie recipes? Yes, please.  A free guide to getting bumped up to business class on every flight? Hook me up. Even if I’m on Facebook just to procrastinate or see what friends are up to, I’ll click on your ad if it offers me something useful.

And when you combine a compelling ad with a great landing page that converts – You just hit list building pay dirt. You can use ads to drive traffic to your landing page around the clock! But make sure you pay attention to the right numbers before you even launch your campaign.

The “Fine Print” of Running Facebook Ads

It’s important to remember that Facebook is the dealer here. He knows how to wrangle your chips away from you, even if it still seems like you’re winning. Let me give you an example:

One of the best ads to run is the Promoted Page Post ad. These ads can show up in your Newsfeed with the little word “Sponsored” at the top and bottom. If you don’t spot that “Sponsored” word, you can easily confuse these ads for posts from pages you forgot you liked in the past.  You can comment on this ad, like it, share, and click on the photo if it has one.

So let’s say you’re showing me a hilarious photo of a hipster cat with glasses. Chances are I’m going to click on that photo to see it full-size. Then maybe I notice your image caption talking about funny cat videos, and a link.  The hope is that I click on the link and head over to your site.

Here’s the catch, though: Facebook just charged you for 2 clicks. It doesn’t matter whether I sign up for your cat-laden newsletter, or if I ever return to your site again. You get billed for both of those clicks.

This may seem like nothing when you’ve got a super high CTR (click-through-rate) and these clicks are costing you $0.33 each.  But imagine that for every click through to your landing page, you’re paying for 2 clicks ($0.66). And you have an opt-in conversion rate of 25%, meaning 1 out of every 4 people who visit actually sign up for your newsletter.

So you spend 2 x 4 x 0.33 for one email sign-up: $2.64.

This is not necessarily a bad cost-per-conversion. It is, however, far from the $0.33 cost-per-click that Facebook had you focusing on.

“How can I keep my cost-per-conversion down?”

There are a few ways, but the easiest is to use Facebook’s Optimized CPM (oCPM) bidding option. This means that Facebook will show your ad to people who are more likely to take a specific action based on their previous behavior on Facebook. So if you want to get people to like your page, you choose that option and Facebook will supposedly make it happen. If you want people to click through to your website and check it out, maybe read a blog post, you can choose to have the ad optimized for link clicks. If you want someone to go from seeing your ad to signing up for your list, you choose the “website conversion” option.

“But Optimized CPM gives me a crazy expensive Cost Per Mille!”

It looks that way. Compared to those ultra-cheap cost-per-click numbers you’re used to seeing, a $12 CPM (or cost per 1,000 impressions) looks like it’s Facebook’s way of hitting you where it hurts, and hard.

But before you go back to CPC bidding, you have to do the math.

Let’s go back to the earlier example where your cost-per-click was $0.33, and you needed four people clicking on your ad twice to nail one email sign-up. You’re paying $2.64 per conversion.

If Optimized CPM shows your ad to people who are more likely to opt in to your newsletter, the conversion rate on your landing page should get a bump. If that bump can bring your cost-per-conversion down to less than $2.64, who cares how much your Cost Per Mille is?

So give Optimized CPM a try for your next lead generation campaign. In order to choose this option you’re going to need to have conversion tracking set-up and use the Power Editor to choose all the correct options.

Enjoy the rush of watching your list grow and even the sweet agony brought about by a painfully-low CTR. Don’t go all in on your first campaign – there are so many different ways you can “win” by testing out different versions of your ads.

And stay away from using photos of cats in your ads – there really is such thing as ad images that are too good.

cp-bio-photoClaire Pelletreau is a Facebook ads consultant and confessed conversion junkie. She’s been playing with Facebook ads since 2011 and sharpened her skills running paid campaigns for Laura Roeder’s five and six-figure launches. Now she applies everything she learned to helping other small businesses bring in more subscribers and sales than they ever imagined.

Get more bang for your advertising buck – click here to grab Claire’s free step-by-step guide to list building with Facebook ads!