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Why Marketers Should Care About The Context-Driven Sale

Enjoy this guest post form Mike Volpe, CMO of HubSpot

During our HubSpot’s annual marketing conference INBOUND 2013, we unveiled Signals, a freemium sales product that gives sales reps the tools they need to make their conversations with prospects and leads more relevant and contextual. In short, we’ve taken the benefits of inbound (more personalized and lovable interactions with a consumer) and extended it to sales. Not surprisingly, our sales team is over the moon about this news, but why should marketers like me care about it?

Hubspot SignalsPart of the reason why inbound marketing works so well is a broader shift in how consumers research and shop. Roughly 70% of their research is done prior to talking to a sales rep, so the content, offers, tactics, and system you leverage to attract them to your product is imperative to your business. And yet although inbound marketing converts strangers to visitors, and visitors to leads, your sales and services team play a critical role in converting and delighting customers on an ongoing basis. Simply put, an inbound approach is a team sport, and while we’ve always advocated smarketing as an organization, we’ve never given sales people the tools they need to truly contextualize each of their interactions with leads.

To use a sports analogy, imagine that you’re a quarterback and you’ve just led an extensive effort to get your team down the field. You march your team all the way down the field with throwing plays, then once you’re in striking distance of a touchdown, your coach calls a running play, requiring that you hand the ball off to a trusted running back. In that situation, you want someone who understands the work you’ve put in to date, the plays you’ve run to get there, and cares as much about your team’s success as you do. Simply put, context beyond marketing is the next generation of smarketing, bringing together the customer experience under one umbrella of integrated, efficient, and effective interactions.

Consider the following: inbound marketing provides incredibly valuable insight into what a prospect is interested in learning more about or solving at their business. For example, we know that a marketer who downloads an ebook on SEO and Pinterest is likely seeking help “getting found” using social media. The last thing we want the prospect to then have to do is answer the same questions that they just completed on a form: there’s nothing more annoying and less lovable. Moreover, when I’m evaluating a sales decision, it’s typically not top of mind for me all day, every day. I run a large marketing organization and have a family I care a lot about at home, so getting sales calls from people when I’m in meetings, at home, or on the road is extremely frustrating. Getting calls from reps when I’m on their website or actually reading their email is much more relevant to my day and my schedule.

In the digital age, customers have more choices than ever on how, when, where, and with whom they buy. Anyone who has ever crafted a successful blog entry, written and designed a great ebook, or spent hours building their social media efforts into a lead generation machine knows that transforming your marketing to inbound is incredibly powerful, but it also takes a lot of work. As a result, those of us who work in marketing should care significantly about what happens once a customer is in our email database, on the phone with sales, or day to day as a customer. Anyone who has been on hold for hours with a cable company or hounded incessantly by a sales rep knows how unlovable the experience of being a prospect or a customer can be. Customers want and deserve better. As a customer, I should be able to tweet at a company and receive an email response that helps address the challenge if more than 140 characters are required. As a prospect, I should expect and anticipate that the sales rep will have in his or her hands the information I’ve already provided to a company via a form. As a human, I want people to listen to and understand what I need instead of loud, interruptive blast messages and impersonal interactions.

Those of us who spend our days carefully optimizing email sends, developing content for social media and blogging, and leveraging data to improve how we earn prospects’ attention have always cared deeply about more lovable interactions at the top and middle of the marketing funnel. Now that more tools are available to sales and service reps to make the process of closing a sale and delighting a customer more contextual, it’s time for those of us in marketing to take notice. The same tools and tactics that have helped us transform how people are marketed to can and will transform sales, and that’s why I’m ecstatic about the context-driven sales. Whether you’re in marketing, sales, support, or just a customer who will benefit from this technology, you should be, too.

Want to try Signals? The free version of Signals for Chrome Browser only is available at: getsignals.com

Mike Volpe is the CMO of HubSpot, the world’s #1 inbound marketing platform. Follow him on Twitter (@mvolpe) or learn more at hubspot.com

Free Handbook: 7 Apps That Will Change The Way You Do Marketing

The Productivity Handbook by John JantschThere’s always more to do than time to do it these days. That’s why I love discovering new tools and apps that help me get it all done.

I also love to share what I find and so I teamed up with Hubspot to write The Productivity Handbook: 7 Apps That Will Change The Way You Do Marketing.

(Yes, Hubspot asks for some information from you, but trust me, the how to use and why to use info included in this eBook will be worth it to you. If you’ve read anything I write you know I give away practical advice only.)

You’ll learn how these exciting, new tools can help you:

  • Brainstorm ideas for fast content creation using Evernote
  • Easily share large files across multiple devices using Dropbox
  • Generate more traffic to your website using StumbleUpon
  • Tell your story and share photos using Instagram and Pinterest

Download your eBook here

Does Your Marketing Make the Grade

Marketing podcast with Laura Fitton (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

A number of years ago Hubspot created something called the Website Grader, a tool that graded a number of important aspects about a website and concocted a score or grade based on those factors.

Hubspot Marketing Grader

Although no tool can really accurately measure the effectiveness of a website, the tool had a nice marketing bent to it and was a pretty simple way to help someone understand the most important elements of their site.

About a month ago Hubspot upped the game and came out with what they are calling Marketing Grader. The tool still focuses on your website, but it also considers a number of offsite considerations that have a great deal to do with success on the web these days.

Things like Facebook, Klout and Twitter use are considered and the overall integration of social in general. Again, no tool will ever be perfect, but I highly recommend running your site through this tool.

The report it produces breaks your grade into three topics – top of the funnel – what you’re to attract visitors, middle – what you’re doing to convert that traffic, and analytics – what you’re doing to measure the effectiveness of your marketing.

In addition to simply grading your site, you’ll be offered action items for things that need attention and every element measured comes with a handy tip that talks about best practices for the item. Simply going through and reading those tips would be beneficial for many people.

For this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I visit with Hubspot’s Inbound Markeitng Evangelist Laura Fitton. Fitton, who some may know as @Pistachio, does a great job in this interview explaining the ins and out of the Marketing Grader.

The Right Way to Buy an Email List

If you think you can forgo email marketing in favor of Twitter of Facebook you are sadly mistaken. Email marketing is still the most responsive form on online bar none.

So, building up lists of emails is a task you must put some effort behind in order to kick your email marketing efforts into gear. The problem is nobody really wants more email, particularly spam from unknown sources. When I talk about buying email lists, I’m am not talking about buying or renting so called opt-in lists from list brokers. I’m talking about offering something of value as a way to motivate someone to willingly exchange their email address with you in order to receive your offers and additional contact.

That’s right, the price of getting emails has gone up over the last few years and you’ve got to get creative in order to build your lists. You’ve got to earn those email subscribers!

Here are a few offers that work every time

1) Great how to information. Create checklists, forms, and detailed instructions for things that your prospects might want to know or use. This is something you should be doing no matter what, but using this information to attract email addresses is a proven winner. Hubspot is a great example of a company that produces tons of useful info.

2) Free tools. Create templates, rank checkers, calculators and widgets and let people use them to their heart’s content and even enable them to pass them around. Aaron Wall of SEO Book is a master of this one.

3) Coupons. Give people something of value towards a purchase or free trial and watch them line to get on your list. You can use tools like CellFire to automate and deliver your coupons to mobile devices.

4) Access. Create a membership level for information and community that starts with registering. This can be done with membership software like WishListMember or even through a WordPress plugin that reveals additional content to registered users.

Once you collect those email addresses keep pounding away with value, don’t abuse them with offer after offer. When you continue to add value through great content and education they will turn themselves into buyers and referral sources over time.

The Inbound Marketing Guidebook

Inbound MarketingHubspot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah have synthesized, condensed and packaged what I believe is one heck of a book on the new reality of lead generation. Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs is written in a style that makes it extremely accessible to the smallest of businesses and gets my highest recommendation as a must read.

Brian was a guest on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast not long ago – click to have a listen.

The overriding premise of the book is to persuade readers to come to grips with the fact that the old ways of lead generation, shouting and broadcasting, have given way to being found – by producing something that will be found online and is worthy of people talking about. No surprise here that they too think every small business should be producing content on a blog. One of my favorite ideas in this vein is the notion that we as marketers must start looking at our jobs as half publishing, half marketing.

The website or blog is the hub of an inbound marketing strategy while social media activity creates the outposts and plays a role in the creation of inbound links. The book certainly supports everything the two have been building over at Hubspot, and that’s no surprise, but I was pleasantly surprised with some ideas in the book’s final chapter. Particularly one that addresses hiring Digital Citizens as employees. The grading scale for this is pretty fascinating.

Inbound Marketing with Brian Halligan

hubspotFor a recent episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast I got to talk about Inbound Marketing with Brian Halligan. Brian is co-founder and CEO of HubSpot, an Internet marketing company dedicated to helping small businesses leverage the Internet to get found by qualified prospects and convert more of them into leads and customers.

Inbound marketing is such a powerful way to look at lead generation because changes the dynamic to be more about being found than going out and hunting. I write often about the power of content, search and social media coming together to dramatically impact the way successful small businesses are building know, like and trust.

Brian and Hubspot have long been proponents of this marketing strategy.

Check out some of the cool free tools from Hubspot as well.

You can catch Brian and a virtual who’s who in the new media marketing world at the Inbound Marketing Summit 2009 in San Francisco April 28-29.

iLinc Web and Video ConferencingThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by iLinc – Web and Video Conferencing that’s easy to use, affordable and powerful enough to make your online meetings really come alive.

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The Simple Math of SEO

math of searchRanking well in the search engines when prospects are out there searching for the kinds of solutions you provide has become an essential component of the marketing mix. For some prospects, this is the primary, if not only, way they shop for information, making it darn important if you intend to reach them.

When it comes to simple SEO for your small business remember this math formula – Content+Competition+Customer = Conversion

Ranking well for your most important keyword phrases is tough, particularly for competitive phrases, but by focusing on a handful of things in your control, you can substantially improve your search results, traffic and ultimately conversion.

Content

Focus on creating content that you plan to update frequently and that addresses the exact types of questions and concerns your market is telling you they want to know about. Creating content on a blog and newsletter has become pretty easy with today’s publishing technologies and finding out exactly what to say has become rather scientific as well.

Content research is like market research to figure out what people really want by their search intentions, or perhaps how they are stating what they want as it relates to your products and services. ie – if you’re a floral shop and the prospect wants a flower shop, you better give it them in your content. Creating an list of phrases that you know your market searches for, including local phrases, and then adding those phrases to the content you write is a simple, but very effective way to start getting some search results for those phrases. It may not happen overnight, but I assure you it will never happen if you don’t start somewhere. If you’ve decided to write a blog anyway, why not get the roadmap for what to write.

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The Press Release Triple Threat

PR is great, it’s not free, it’s earned, but when it is, it packs some very nice ROI.

One strategy that small business owners should employ is to take their PR message online and directly to the prospect by consistent use of the age old tool, the press release.

Creating and distributing press releases was primarily a PR firm function in an attempt to generate interest from journalists. The web has certainly changed that, putting the press release in the hands of all marketers and making it available as a direct to customer and prospect marketing tool.

Use the 3 step process and free tools below and commit to creating one press release a month announcing new hires, new certifications, new products, new customers, new locations and other tidbits and you will start to see traffic to your website, links to your website and direct inquiries start to climb. (You may even get lucky and attract the interest of a journalist or two as well.)

This Triple Threat approach is not meant to replace the PR outreach you need to be doing for the true big news and feature stories you need, this is just a great way to consistently start getting small mentions and links and developing a PR habit.

  1. Instant Press Release – use this tool as a guided template for creating and formatting your press release properly
  2. Press Release Grader – Take your written press release here and run it through a process that can help tell you how to make it even better.
  3. PRLog – with a strong release written, you can come here and to get your release distributed to thousands of news sites and feeds.