Tuesday, December 29, 2015

5 New Year's Marketing Resolutions

Say goodbye to 2015 and say hello to 2016! A new year brings new marketing opportunities, so this is the perfect time to make some New Year's resolutions aimed at sharpening your organization's marketing savvy. Here are 5 such resolutions you may want to put on your list.

1. "I will track my marketing success."

If you want an amazingly clear way of telling just how effective your marketing content is at specific points, you'll find that the magic is in the metrics. Resolve right now to track such important numbers as web page traffic, visitor duration, where people are viewing you site from (not just geographically, but on what type of device), first-timers versus repeat visitors, how often the repeat visitors repeat, and how many viewers respond to your call to action. The same obviously goes for the success of your per-per-click and other paid advertising tactics. If you don't track it, how will you know what works and what needs fixing?

2. "I will improve the quality of my inbound marketing content."

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Google cares about a lot more than just keywords these days; if you want high rankings on search results, you'd better bring relevant, high-quality content to the table. If you've been grinding out "okay" content mainly as a coat rack to hang keywords on (or even worse, just to fill a blank page), then pledge to make 2016 the year your content works actively to build authority and trust, not only with the search engines but with every potential customer who encounters it.

3. "I will blog regularly (and often)."

How was your 2105 from a  blogging standpoint? Did you produce a steady stream of entertaining, engaging, useful posts on topics that reinforce your own expertise, or did your company blog sort of sputter and lurch like Jack Benny's jalopy? Make a resolution to give your blog the care and attention it deserves so it can attract new visitors to your site and turn them into regulars. While there's no hard and fast rule for how frequently a particular type of organization should blog, companies that post at least 16 times a month get more than 3 times the web traffic of companies that post infrequently. Food for thought! 

4. "I will make better use of my social media channels."

How well written and logically organized are your LinkedIn and Facebook pages? How regularly do you add updates, links to blog posts and other fresh content? How much time do you spend contributing to conversations in relevant social media forums and groups? If your social media channels are just, well, there, resolve to focus your attention on the ones that do the best job of attracting your ideal audience. Then freshen the content on those channels and put your company over as a major thought leader and key influencer there.

5. "I will invest in my moneymaking machine."

Look at all the departments and initiatives in your budget, and I'll bet you see only one designed purely to make money for your organization -- and that's your marketing. So many companies make the mistake of tightening their belts in this department whenever things get tight, when in fact they should be beefing up their marketing efforts so they can get the word out, get the leads coming in and put themselves in a more profitable position. Whether you need to hire a copywriter, some new design talent, SEO specialists or an entire turnkey marketing agency, I urge you to take a big step forward to ensure a bigger 2016!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Numbers Game: How Metrics Can (and Should) Influence Your Business Marketing Content

Like so many other right-brained individuals, I was never any good at math. Even today, I feel much more comfortable working with words than navigating numbers. I’m sure many businesspeople feel the opposite way. But when you’re tasked with creating marketing content for your business (with or without the aid of a freelance marketing copywriter), you should know that there’s one area where words and numbers can enter into a powerful partnership -- and that’s in the relationship between your marketing content and your marketing metrics.

Metrics, or key performance indicators or whatever you want to call them, are the numbers that tell you how well your current efforts are working for you. The king of all marketing metrics, of course, is the revenue generated by your marketing. But that grand total won’t tell you which bits of your marketing content are actually helping to boost it and which one are doing no good at all. To obtain that level of detail, you need to examine the performance of each piece of marketing content -- every web page, every contact form, every blog post, every video, every step along the buyer’s journey. Here are a few ways your metrics can enlighten you:

Web traffic and referral sources - How many visitors does your website receive in a given period of time, an even more importantly, where are they coming from? If you’re getting the lion’s share of them from ads or blog posts, which of these items are scoring highest -- and which keywords seem to be at the center of this success? If, for example, the phrase “alligator shoes in Austin, Texas” is pushing thousands of new friends onto your custom shoe retail site, then you’ll know you need to pump out more ads and articles mentioning this hot property. On the other end of the success scale, if your B2B services company is getting surprisingly few click-throughs from your LinkedIn page, then maybe the LinkedIn page's content could use some polishing.

Drop-off points - Are there specific spots in your online marketing content that seem to be sabotaging your lead generation efforts? If so, the right metrics can point those places out.  For instance, if your red-hot lead suddenly grows cold when faced with a call to action or a request for personal data, then he will likely drop off of your site at that point -- possibly never to return. If lots of people seem to be exiting your site at that specific point, then maybe you’ve introduced the hard sell a little too early in the process. You might need to create additional content, or improve the content you have, on the pages leading up to this one so the viewer is better primed to sign up for that newsletter or click that “Order Now” button.

A/B Test Results - This method of testing your marketing content’s effectiveness works equally well for both online and print content. Say you want to entice a specific target market into trying your products by offering a free gift, but you’re not quite sure what kind of offer will make the biggest impact. With A/B testing, you might simply create two different marketing postcards, each one offering a different freebie, and mail them out to a sliver of your audience. The gift that gets the biggest response is clearly the more effective choice, so now you can switch all your efforts toward distributing that postcard. You can do the same thing with a landing page by subtly varying the page layout, offer, call to action, or some other aspect and then showing one of two versions to each half of your incoming traffic. Whichever one scores the highest number of responses is the one with the Right Stuff. 

Don’t keep using the same old marketing content just because it sounds good and looks good. Measure the effects of that content on your audience, and then refine it accordingly until the results it gets are good, too. Let your numbers help shape your content, and you’ll find that your content starts to pull in some nicer numbers!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Outsourcing Your Marketing Content Creation? Watch Out for These 3 Issues

Have you been thinking about outsourcing your marketing content creation? Whether you're a small business owner or a turnkey provider of marketing solutions, strategic outsourcing can make your life a lot easier. But it's not as simple as posting an ad on an online job board and scooping up the lowest bidder. Here are three potential headaches you want to watch out for.

1. Language Barriers

The modern age of cloud collaboration and digital outsourcing has created a wealth of options for getting stuff done quickly and cheaply -- as any devotee of Timothy Ferriss's 4-Hour Work Week will tell you. But when it comes to creative, informative, well-written content, you still get what you pay for. Outsourcing's ability to turn the whole world into your marketplace can create problems in this regard. Many freelancers are willing to work for an astonishingly low price because they live in parts of the globe where a little money goes a long way -- and English is not necessarily the native lingo in these areas. No matter how fluent these writers may be in the language, their writing may contain some quaint surprises based on local usage habits.

Even where English is the dominant tongue, you need to watch out for national or cultural differences. The English language has taken on a wide range of fascinating colorations over the centuries, not only within its mother country but also in the course of its travels from one culture to another. The subtle but clear differences between American English and British English are an obvious example. Make sure your freelancer is both functionally fluent and colloquially fluent in the style of English you need for your target market. If you're catering to a UK audience, for instance, make sure your American freelancer is making proper use of British English ("jumper" for "sweater," "colour" for "color," single quotation marks instead of doubles, et cetera).

2. "Writers" Who Aren't Writers

Your outsourced writers may not be writers at all, especially if they're part of some larger online marketing package you've signed on for. Case in point: I recently had a client present me with a pile of blog articles that were almost unreadably bad -- randomly structured, repetitive, and in some cases not even relevant to the business's target audience. The client explained that he'd been getting this level of quality (?) on a regular basis, fixing the articles himself as best he could before publication. He could no longer spare all the extra hours required for editing them, so could I repair them or replace them with all-new pieces. I asked him why he hadn't simply assigned the job to me in the first place. He answered, "Well, these guys offer free blogging along with the website hosting and SEO I'm already buying from them." I pointed out that the blogging wasn't exactly "free" if he had to waste his valuable time fixing them (or hire a professional writer to make them work).

When an inbound marketing company includes content creation among its various other services, always ask about the credentials of the person doing the writing. The firm might think it just makes sense to hand the job over to the SEO guy or the web designer or whoever. But if you want articles that are not only well optimized and nicely laid out but also compelling and engaging, then you need to confirm that the company has a freelance writer -- or go find one of your own.

3. Lack of Communication

If you do bring a separate freelance copywriter into your outsourced marketing mix, then you're also dropping one more cook into the proverbial kitchen. An additional member of the marketing team means additional opportunities for communication failures and disagreements. This is particularly true if your writer has no direct access to the people managing your account. If your writer communicates only with you, and you communicate only with your marketing provider, then you're stuck in the middle as liaison, interpreter and peacekeeper. Outsourcing is supposed to free up your time, not swallow more of it.

The smart strategy here is to get your writer and your marketing company talking to each other directly. This allows these two parties to do their thing, talk to each other efficiently using marketing-industry-speak, and genuinely collaborate on a powerfully effective final result.

Outsourcing your marketing content can do fabulous things for your productivity, not to mention the quality of the content itself. Just take care to hire the right professional for the job, and then make it easy for that professional to contribute as a real part of the team.