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Jul

26

2017

The New Type of Landing Page That Increased Our Contacts by 69%

Published by in category Content, Daily | Comments are closed

ungated-offers-part-ii-compressor.jpg

Welcome back. If you’re just tuning in, allow me to catch you up: This post is the second in a two-part series on our experiment to move gated offer content onto a site page, and test different conversion methods. If you missed Part I, check it out here.

Back in Part I, we saw significant increases in organic search traffic only on offers that already were performing well for search. Also, our Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) test failed. So in Part II, we turned our focus to running more CRO tests.

In order to avoid putting many more conversions at risk, we decided to test the offers we’d already experimented with to find a conversion method that worked well. We tested two of the three offers we experimented with in Part I, but this time, our approach was a bit different. New Call-to-action

Let’s walk through what we did for Part II of our CRO Test, followed by the results of both tests.

Does Un-gating Offers Improve Conversion Rate?

The Hypothesis and Objective

In Part I, we hypothesized that by partially gating the content on our newly-created HTML offer pages, we could provide a better user experience and still generate leads from it.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 10.11.26 AM.pngStanding landing page/form
Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 2.32.27 PM-1.pngPartially un-gated offer/form

But in reality, page visitors:

  1. Decided the content was not valuable enough for them to exchange contact information to see the rest of it.
  2. Expected to be able to read the entire offer, and were put off by the experience of running into a form upon scrolling.

So, we took each of these findings and used them build two tests within Part II of the experiment, each with its own sub-hypothesis, but a shared objective: to increase net submission and contact numbers, so that they’ll surpass those of the original landing pages pointing to gated PDFs.

CRO Test #1

Hypothesis: By hiding all of the written content behind a partial gate template — with the blur effect pictured below — readers arriving at the site through search will be intrigued enough by the topic to convert on the page.

CRO Test #2

Hypothesis: By setting the expectation of a gated offer early on — by using a form that looks and reads just like our normal landing pages, but opens into an HTML page upon form submission instead of an offer download — more people will fill out the form.

The Experiment

With conversion rates way down on our previous CRO tests, we thought to ourselves, “If we want to get our conversion rates back to their original levels, let’s make the landing page look like it usually does, but with the organic gains of having the offer content on the page itself.”

So, we pitched the idea of a brand new, gated template that looks and reads just like our regular landing pages, with one key difference: When the user clicks the form submission button, the page opens into an HTML page, instead of leading to a thank-you page with a PDF download button.

My colleague, Patrick Wilver, built this template for us. Here’s a GIF of the template in action:

editorial calendar

You might be wondering, “But what about SEO? Can Google crawl and index that hidden content?”

The answer is a resounding, “Yes.”

While that HTML content exists behind a CSS layer initially blocked by the template, it turns out that Google is still able to successfully crawl and index it. Our theory was that, because Google has much more high-quality and optimized content to crawl on the landing page, organic traffic will still flow to the page. Plus, if you can increase organic traffic significantly to the landing page, while also retaining the high conversion rates of the original landing page design — jackpot.

The only other difference between this template and our normal landing pages is that this one uses a shorter version of our typical landing page lead generation form, requiring less information and investment from the user.

new-gated-form.png

The Results

CRO Test #1

While the submission rates for this variation were still much lower than those of the original landing page, they were slightly higher than those of our CRO tests from Part I. So when push comes to shove, it seems, the partially-gated template is simply not effective for lead generation.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 1.56.53 PM (1).png

It was time to move onto Test #2.

CRO Test #2

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.

Using the new un-gated template, the two offers we tested both achieved significant increases in net organic submissions and contacts, compared with the original landing pages.

  • Organic submissions increased by 47.44% and 63.09%, respectively.
  • Organic contacts increased by 63.64% and 76.05%, respectively.

Screen Shot 2017-06-28 at 1.53.11 PM.pngScreen Shot 2017-06-28 at 1.53.30 PM.png

In other words: The landing-page-style gated template is an effective one for lead generation.

By lifting conversions to their original rates — or better — while simultaneously getting that boost in organic traffic from the crawlable offer content, both offers achieved significant increases in net organic submissions and contacts.

What We Learned, and What’s Next

So … Is It Okay to Hide Content Like This?

We know that the offer content lives behind a layer of CSS, which blocks it from being shown to the user, but still makes it crawlable by search engines like Google. That’s clever and all, but as with every decision we make here at HubSpot, we had to ask: “Is this the right thing to do?”

We’ve mulled over this question, and we think the answer is, “Yes — it’s okay.” Here’s why.

1) We’re not tricking the search engine or the user.

There’s a black-hat SEO tactic that comes to mind here called “cloaking” — which refers to methods of manipulating SERP ranking, like hiding content written in white text with a white background, or serving different content to search engines than you do to your users.

But the key difference between cloaking and what we’re doing is that, once users actually open the gate, they seeing the exact same content the search engines see.

When you have a business need, we don’t discourage gating content — but we strongly advise against hiding in the ways we described above. However, content can still be gated in a way that provides a better user experience, which was part of the impetus behind this experiment.

2) Mobile favors hidden content, so Google has been relaxing its policies.

As web usage has shifted toward mobile, expandable and hidden content has become more acceptable. With more people searching on mobile devices than they do on desktops, Google has had to adjust its algorithm to accommodate the fact that mobile design actually favors hidden content. Better web designers hide content on mobile pages because it makes them look cleaner, and avoids bombarding visitors with masses of text, so that it’s easier for them to find what they’re looking for.

transition-2.pngSource: Google

For that reason, if Google were to penalize hidden content, they’d effectively be penalizing mobile. But if, somewhere down the line, Google decides to stop indexing the content on these pages, that would call for a modified template design.

Next Steps and Recommendations

In Part I, we learned — much to our chagrin — that we could increase organic traffic by putting offer content onto an HTML site page only for offers that were already receiving strong search traffic. That reinforces to the idea of historical optimization: If a page already performs well in organic traffic each month, and you increase the depth of that content and optimize it even further for search, then odds are, you’re going to see outside returns.

For that reason, we recommend focusing on transferring only the offers from PDF > HTML that are already generating high organic traffic, and have pre-existing search authority. To begin prioritizing, try pulling a list of your most popular offers, and rank them by organic traffic.

In the meantime, we’ll continue putting our findings into practice, and will keep you posted on anything valuable that we discover along the way.

Have you ever conducted similar tests? Comment below with your best experiment — and hey, we might even feature it on our blog.

Learn how to engage with visitors to nurture them into a purchase.

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Nov

29

2016

Virtual Reality vs Traditional Video: 7 Differences You Need to Know

ThinkstockPhotos-545792146-517239-edited.jpgVirtual reality is the hot new video marketing tool disrupting business plans and budgets across the planet. Audiences are loving it and want more: a 2015 study found that 81% of consumers would tell their friends about their VR experience, and that 79% would seek out additional experiences. The demand is so huge Deloitte predicts that by 2020 the global market may be worth around $30 billion.

Because of this growing demand everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and offering VR production as part of their services. I get it – as an integrated marketing agency with an in-house video production department, becoming a virtual reality agency was a natural next step for us, so we sent the team on training, hired in specialists and acquired the kit we needed.  

We’ve learned loads on our long VR journey; it truly is a different beast to 2D and takes some serious skills to tame. We’ve outlined 7 important differences to help you prepare for your own VR adventure – consider them carefully, they could save you buckets in tears and pennies.

1) You need specialist equipment

VR production requires some specialist equipment that can seem incredibly intimidating, not to mention expensive. At the very least you will need a 360 camera rig and editing station (with an i5 processor or above), as well as a PC and headset to review the footage. 

In terms of camera gear, there is a range of options to suit different levels of budget and ambition. The Samsung Gear 360 is one great option at entry level that consists of two cameras with a 180-degree view. It’s priced at around US $460.

If only the best will do, consider the 8K, waterproof, six-camera GoPro Omni. It captures everything – and its resolution is almost faultless with minimal stretching. The price for this fancy rig is around US $4600.

If you want movement in your video, you need to budget for extra gear like drones and dollies. 

Now that you’ve got your camera gear sorted you need to think about your editing equipment. At TopLine Comms, we recently bought a beast of an editing machine to deal with the sheer amount of high-res footage that each camera rig produces. This machine can process footage with resolutions ranging from 720p to 8K and is completely customized for VR production.

2) Avoid the danger zone

VR film sets have their very own ‘danger zone’ – usually a radius of 1.5 meters from the camera rig. Anything filmed in this zone will come out weird and blurry so your production team will need to keep it clear of any people or objects that could distort the shot.

Stitch lines can have a monstrous effect on your VR content so make sure you’re working with a crew who pays attention to where they are and keeps focal points as far away from them as possible.

But remember, even if the danger zone is kept clear, the different angles of footage will still have to be stitched together using specific software like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga.

While some VR equipment – like the Samsung Gear 360 on the Galaxy s7 smartphone – have an automatic onboard stitching function, there are some drawbacks you have to bear in mind: the footage you get will have a lower resolution and the processing time will take longer.

If you want higher quality footage – Samsung Gear 360 can still do it, but then you have to use a computer and specialist stitching software. Ultimately, you need to decide what will work best for you and your budget.

3) Think about people on set

We know that when you commission your first VR project, you will probably want to be on-location. With normal video production, this is fine. With VR video production, it’s not fine. Remember, these cameras are filming 360-degree content which means everything will be in the shot. Even if you stand behind a tree and don’t breathe, you’ll get picked up.

This means that if you insist on being on set, the director will likely ask you to get in character, put on a costume and blend in. No joke. Crew on the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, had to do it.

So if dressing up is your thing, by all means attend the shoot. If not, you can’t be on set. Sorry.

4) Give the voice over direction

Scripting voiceover for content that can literally go in any direction is tricky. Unlike 2D, your audience can look anywhere at any moment. So, if the VO is talking about something happening on the right, best the script directs them to look right. Rather than record the VO before filming, work with your production agency to do it afterwards.

You also have to keep in mind that most cameras focus on visuals at the expense of audio quality. To fix this you can hire special recorders for 360-degree sound, like Core Sound’s TetraMic and Brahma Tetrahedron, for example. This will, of course, be an additional expense.

5) Be patient with the edit

Post-production is where the true magic happens but be prepared for it to take time – much more time than editing 2D footage. Merging stitch lines will take at least a week, more if your production has used multiple cameras.

The edit begins by uploading the footage into specialist software, like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga. The content is sync’d and then the angles are stitched together.

Once the videos have been stitched together, your editing team will often have to fix the horizon. During the stitching process the software will automatically merge the different angles to reduce the appearance of seams. However, sometimes this results in an image that is off centre or off axis. This can only be corrected by manipulating the video.

What’s more, all objects directly above or below the camera (like tripods) will have to be ‘disappeared’ using skilful editing techniques such as superimposing a reference photo over it. Or, the editor can opt for the cruder method and stick a relevant graphic over it.

We once attached one of our 360 camera rigs to the front of a skateboard, but the clamp holding the camera up was visible in the footage. To edit this out we had to manually lay another image of a skateboard over the actual skateboard in the shot.

All of this makes VR editing a much lengthier process than traditional video editing.

6) Prepare to pay more

VR is relatively expensive to produce. It costs more than 2D but not as much as a Spielberg blockbuster (unless you’re referencing one of his epic films from the last century). Truth is, it doesn’t pay to cut corners – ultra-low-cost equipment and crews often result in ultra-low quality.

To put the costs in perspective it helps to look at the requirements in terms of time, people involved and post-production process. For a 2D filmed video you will usually need a producer or director, a camera operator and a sound recordist. Then the post-production process will involve and offline edit, motion graphics and colour grading. All of this will take about 5 weeks could cost between US$6 500 and US$10 000.

With a 360-degree video, however, you’ll need more crew members, including a producer or director, a camera operator, a digital imaging technician a sound recordist and a runner. As mentioned above the post-production process is also more extensive with VR. It will typically include stitching, offline editing, plating, motion graphics and colour grade. This pushes the project timescale to around 7 weeks with costs ranging from US$ 9 000 to US$13 000. 

But remember, VR projects don’t all cost the same – productions with bigger kit, multiple days of filming and some basic graphics could be around US$13 000 to US$20 000. A high end VR experience with lots of animation could be upward of US$130 000.

With VR it’s worth investing in an agency that won’t mess up the postproduction process, and that will be able to advise you on the best shots for your video. You might think that it’s a good idea to have a camera on the floor while people zip past on bikes. While this sounds dynamic in theory, the shot’s perspective will place your viewer on the floor too – which might not be the most comfortable experience. A good VR video agency will point these things out to you, so you can make better, more informed decisions.

That said, your VR project also should not eat your entire marketing budget – what good is cool new content if you can’t afford to take it to market?

7) Make it audience friendly

Almost everyone wants to watch VR content but not everyone has the required headsets. If you’re producing an experience to showcase at an event or in the office then no problem, you’ll have the relevant equipment on-hand.

If you’re assuming that your viewer has an Oculus Rift at home, your amazing VR experience will fall flat. The best you can do is make sure that your audiences can immerse themselves in your VR content through as many platforms as possible: from Google Cardboard to YouTube to Sulon Q.

When producing content that has to be viewed with a headset, give some thought to motion sickness and make sure your viewers won’t feel too nauseous (remember Nintendo’s first attempt at VR that had people literally throwing up?). Relatively static shots are best as they allow viewers to move their heads freely and enjoy their immersive experience without unpleasant side-effects.

If you’re still not sure if VR is right for you, consider what you want to use the video for. Will an engaging, immersive video experience get the job done better than a traditional video? If the answer is yes, then you should consider VR. However, you also have to keep your budget and project timeline into account. While VR videos create a great experience they do take longer and are more expensive to make.

If you analyze your prospective project according to the 7 characteristics of VR videos listed above, you should get a good idea of whether what you want to achieve can be done through VR and whether you have the budget to make it work. The great thing is, should you decide to attempt VR you don’t have to go at it alone. You don’t have to be a VR expert if you work with an agency that is able to advise you on everything from shooting location to sound effects.

If virtual insanity is getting you down and you need some expert guidance, download our Marketer’s Guide to Virtual Reality.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE MARKETER'S GUIDE TO VR

Nov

29

2016

Virtual Reality vs Traditional Video: 7 Differences You Need to Know

ThinkstockPhotos-545792146-517239-edited.jpgVirtual reality is the hot new video marketing tool disrupting business plans and budgets across the planet. Audiences are loving it and want more: a 2015 study found that 81% of consumers would tell their friends about their VR experience, and that 79% would seek out additional experiences. The demand is so huge Deloitte predicts that by 2020 the global market may be worth around $30 billion.

Because of this growing demand everyone is jumping on the bandwagon and offering VR production as part of their services. I get it – as an integrated marketing agency with an in-house video production department, becoming a virtual reality agency was a natural next step for us, so we sent the team on training, hired in specialists and acquired the kit we needed.  

We’ve learned loads on our long VR journey; it truly is a different beast to 2D and takes some serious skills to tame. We’ve outlined 7 important differences to help you prepare for your own VR adventure – consider them carefully, they could save you buckets in tears and pennies.

1) You need specialist equipment

VR production requires some specialist equipment that can seem incredibly intimidating, not to mention expensive. At the very least you will need a 360 camera rig and editing station (with an i5 processor or above), as well as a PC and headset to review the footage. 

In terms of camera gear, there is a range of options to suit different levels of budget and ambition. The Samsung Gear 360 is one great option at entry level that consists of two cameras with a 180-degree view. It’s priced at around US $460.

If only the best will do, consider the 8K, waterproof, six-camera GoPro Omni. It captures everything – and its resolution is almost faultless with minimal stretching. The price for this fancy rig is around US $4600.

If you want movement in your video, you need to budget for extra gear like drones and dollies. 

Now that you’ve got your camera gear sorted you need to think about your editing equipment. At TopLine Comms, we recently bought a beast of an editing machine to deal with the sheer amount of high-res footage that each camera rig produces. This machine can process footage with resolutions ranging from 720p to 8K and is completely customized for VR production.

2) Avoid the danger zone

VR film sets have their very own ‘danger zone’ – usually a radius of 1.5 meters from the camera rig. Anything filmed in this zone will come out weird and blurry so your production team will need to keep it clear of any people or objects that could distort the shot.

Stitch lines can have a monstrous effect on your VR content so make sure you’re working with a crew who pays attention to where they are and keeps focal points as far away from them as possible.

But remember, even if the danger zone is kept clear, the different angles of footage will still have to be stitched together using specific software like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga.

While some VR equipment – like the Samsung Gear 360 on the Galaxy s7 smartphone – have an automatic onboard stitching function, there are some drawbacks you have to bear in mind: the footage you get will have a lower resolution and the processing time will take longer.

If you want higher quality footage – Samsung Gear 360 can still do it, but then you have to use a computer and specialist stitching software. Ultimately, you need to decide what will work best for you and your budget.

3) Think about people on set

We know that when you commission your first VR project, you will probably want to be on-location. With normal video production, this is fine. With VR video production, it’s not fine. Remember, these cameras are filming 360-degree content which means everything will be in the shot. Even if you stand behind a tree and don’t breathe, you’ll get picked up.

This means that if you insist on being on set, the director will likely ask you to get in character, put on a costume and blend in. No joke. Crew on the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One, had to do it.

So if dressing up is your thing, by all means attend the shoot. If not, you can’t be on set. Sorry.

4) Give the voice over direction

Scripting voiceover for content that can literally go in any direction is tricky. Unlike 2D, your audience can look anywhere at any moment. So, if the VO is talking about something happening on the right, best the script directs them to look right. Rather than record the VO before filming, work with your production agency to do it afterwards.

You also have to keep in mind that most cameras focus on visuals at the expense of audio quality. To fix this you can hire special recorders for 360-degree sound, like Core Sound’s TetraMic and Brahma Tetrahedron, for example. This will, of course, be an additional expense.

5) Be patient with the edit

Post-production is where the true magic happens but be prepared for it to take time – much more time than editing 2D footage. Merging stitch lines will take at least a week, more if your production has used multiple cameras.

The edit begins by uploading the footage into specialist software, like Kolor Autopano Video Pro and Kolor Giga. The content is sync’d and then the angles are stitched together.

Once the videos have been stitched together, your editing team will often have to fix the horizon. During the stitching process the software will automatically merge the different angles to reduce the appearance of seams. However, sometimes this results in an image that is off centre or off axis. This can only be corrected by manipulating the video.

What’s more, all objects directly above or below the camera (like tripods) will have to be ‘disappeared’ using skilful editing techniques such as superimposing a reference photo over it. Or, the editor can opt for the cruder method and stick a relevant graphic over it.

We once attached one of our 360 camera rigs to the front of a skateboard, but the clamp holding the camera up was visible in the footage. To edit this out we had to manually lay another image of a skateboard over the actual skateboard in the shot.

All of this makes VR editing a much lengthier process than traditional video editing.

6) Prepare to pay more

VR is relatively expensive to produce. It costs more than 2D but not as much as a Spielberg blockbuster (unless you’re referencing one of his epic films from the last century). Truth is, it doesn’t pay to cut corners – ultra-low-cost equipment and crews often result in ultra-low quality.

To put the costs in perspective it helps to look at the requirements in terms of time, people involved and post-production process. For a 2D filmed video you will usually need a producer or director, a camera operator and a sound recordist. Then the post-production process will involve and offline edit, motion graphics and colour grading. All of this will take about 5 weeks could cost between US$6 500 and US$10 000.

With a 360-degree video, however, you’ll need more crew members, including a producer or director, a camera operator, a digital imaging technician a sound recordist and a runner. As mentioned above the post-production process is also more extensive with VR. It will typically include stitching, offline editing, plating, motion graphics and colour grade. This pushes the project timescale to around 7 weeks with costs ranging from US$ 9 000 to US$13 000. 

But remember, VR projects don’t all cost the same – productions with bigger kit, multiple days of filming and some basic graphics could be around US$13 000 to US$20 000. A high end VR experience with lots of animation could be upward of US$130 000.

With VR it’s worth investing in an agency that won’t mess up the postproduction process, and that will be able to advise you on the best shots for your video. You might think that it’s a good idea to have a camera on the floor while people zip past on bikes. While this sounds dynamic in theory, the shot’s perspective will place your viewer on the floor too – which might not be the most comfortable experience. A good VR video agency will point these things out to you, so you can make better, more informed decisions.

That said, your VR project also should not eat your entire marketing budget – what good is cool new content if you can’t afford to take it to market?

7) Make it audience friendly

Almost everyone wants to watch VR content but not everyone has the required headsets. If you’re producing an experience to showcase at an event or in the office then no problem, you’ll have the relevant equipment on-hand.

If you’re assuming that your viewer has an Oculus Rift at home, your amazing VR experience will fall flat. The best you can do is make sure that your audiences can immerse themselves in your VR content through as many platforms as possible: from Google Cardboard to YouTube to Sulon Q.

When producing content that has to be viewed with a headset, give some thought to motion sickness and make sure your viewers won’t feel too nauseous (remember Nintendo’s first attempt at VR that had people literally throwing up?). Relatively static shots are best as they allow viewers to move their heads freely and enjoy their immersive experience without unpleasant side-effects.

If you’re still not sure if VR is right for you, consider what you want to use the video for. Will an engaging, immersive video experience get the job done better than a traditional video? If the answer is yes, then you should consider VR. However, you also have to keep your budget and project timeline into account. While VR videos create a great experience they do take longer and are more expensive to make.

If you analyze your prospective project according to the 7 characteristics of VR videos listed above, you should get a good idea of whether what you want to achieve can be done through VR and whether you have the budget to make it work. The great thing is, should you decide to attempt VR you don’t have to go at it alone. You don’t have to be a VR expert if you work with an agency that is able to advise you on everything from shooting location to sound effects.

If virtual insanity is getting you down and you need some expert guidance, download our Marketer’s Guide to Virtual Reality.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE MARKETER'S GUIDE TO VR

Sep

13

2016

How to Market Your Ebook: Don’t Let Content Offers Collect Dust

ThinkstockPhotos-547437050-091453-edited.jpg

Inbound marketing preaches content creation, but you shouldn’t create content without first figuring out who you’re marketing to and how you will market to them. If you don’t take these initial steps to ensure your content reaches the right people, your content will not be successful.

So if your content is just sitting on your website not getting too many downloads or leads, your promotion might be the problem! That being said, here are eight ways to market your ebook, whitepaper, guide or any other content offer you already have:

1) Create a PPC campaign to advertise your content offer

While PPC is a great way to promote your company and services, you can also set up a campaign to promote your content offer. This benefits your content offer because it will boost visibility and downloads while providing useful information to searchers.

For example, if I search for home remodeling, I see four ads of local companies trying to promote their services. But if I have never heard of these companies, how do I know which home remodeling company is right for me?

That’s where a content offer based PPC ad comes into play! If you’re advertising an ebook titled “How to Find the Best Home Remodeling Company for Your Timeline & Budget”, it will stand out against the other ads and search results because it directly helps solve my problem. This means your PPC ad will probably get the click and the conversion.

Using display ads is another great way to get your content offer on relevant websites instead of Google search. With display ads you can actually choose the websites that you want your ad to appear on. This way, visitors who are browsing a popular website can find your related content offer.

2) Guest blog on popular websites with your ebook as CTA

Popular websites try to provide solutions to overarching problems that their readership is experiencing. Think of your services and your buyer persona! Where do they go to get information?

Once you nail down which websites your buyer persona is reading to get information, see if these websites offer the opportunity for industry leaders to guest blog. Some websites will require an application or an article proposal, but once you get accepted blogging for one website, it becomes much easier to get accepted on other websites.

When you write your articles, keep them educational and don’t self-promote. Remember, you’re trying to help the reader solve a problem with your expertise and industry knowledge. Then at the conclusion of the article, use your ebook as a next step call to action so if a reader finishes the article and wants more information, your content offer is there!

3) Use email marketing to promote the ebook

If you have prospects or clients who have already expressed interest in similar content offers, or who have identified certain problems they need help with, let them know about your new content offer!

For example, on your contact form, you could have visitors identify what they need help with. For an inbound marketing agency, you might say “What Does Your Business Want to Improve?” with options to select:

  • Generate more leads
  • Grow our web presence
  • Rank higher on Google

Then once you know a visitor wants to rank higher on Google, if you create an ebook around that topic, it’s highly probable that this visitor is interested! Unless you have a constantly updated blog that brings visitors back to your website often, chances are the majority of your interested contacts won’t revisit your website to discover a new offer.

Therefore, your best bet is to promote it via email. It can be as simple as sending out one email or as complex as adding the new content offer to a marketing automation workflow.

When sending emails, be educational and try to help a segmented list of your contacts. If you know that 20 contacts have chosen “generate more leads” on the form above, then those 20 contacts would probably benefit from an email about a lead generation ebook.

You don’t want to email a specific ebook to your entire contact database because it probably doesn’t relate to all your contact lists. When you don’t segment emails, your engagement will be lower and your success will be diminished.

4) Connect with niche readers on social media

Look on Twitter and LinkedIn for users that have been sharing similar content to what you have created! Just by searching on Twitter for #inboundmarketing, I can see who is sharing inbound marketing blogs, guides & resources, plus I can see who is getting the biggest reach in terms of likes and retweets.

Reach out to these individuals with a simple message that encapsulates “Hey! I saw you shared [this article] and I thought you might like [this related content offer]”. This way you know that the individual is probably interested in what you’re writing because they’ve been interested in similar content before.

5) Utilize industry influencers for their thought leadership & reach

Industry influencers have two main goals; to find relevant articles to share with their fan base and to increase their reach. Therefore, you can utilize these influencers by giving them great content to share with their following and by increasing their reach through a quote or link in your content offer.

When looking to utilize the reach of industry influencers, I always suggest giving them an incentive to share your content offer. For example, ask them for a quote that you can incorporate into your content offer or link to another article they wrote.

Then, send a complimentary copy of your content offer to this industry influencer that includes a link or quote of theirs. I’d suggest telling them how much you’ve appreciated their expertise and that you included them in your content offer. You can either directly ask them to share your content offer or hope that because you’re expanding their reach, they’ll share your offer on their own!

You could also try a similar tactic to Tip #4, but remember, these industry influencers are probably bombarded with messages asking them to share content. Make yours unique & worth their while!

6) Submit to a Content Community or Online Group

Going back to Tip #2, think about your buyer persona again! If they get their information from a content community (like inbound.org) or an online group (such as a Facebook group, Nextdoor Neighborhood, Reddit, etc.),  post your content offer in there.

For example, if you’re a roofer in St. Louis, join your community group on NextDoor.com and offer your content there! When your neighborhood gets hit by a hailstorm, your infographic on “How to Know When to Call a Roofer for Storm Damage” can come in handy to the community’s residents!

Content communities are also a great resource for getting feedback, starting discussion & sharing your passion for your services with others.

7) Find other linking opportunities

Using tools like AHREFs, you can see other websites who have linked to content like yours. Reach out to them with your content offer link and see if they want to include a link to your resource! I find that this is most helpful when you can find a broken link that your new link can replace. Webmasters generally appreciate when someone lets them know of a problem with their website links, and if you can provide a link to replace the broken one, it might get placed!

Alternatively, use a tool like BuzzSumo and Mention.net to find mentions of your company online! You’ll be able to see who has mentioned you or your content offer and determine whether they have linked back to you or not. If they haven’t included your link, reach out to that website and explain it might provide their readers a better experience if they could find the article that is being mentioned.

If you’re looking for more backlink opportunities, I highly recommend Backlinko’s “17 Powerful (Yet Untapped) Backlink Sources” to find other places you could get a link from!

8) Repurpose your content into different formats 

If you have a semi-popular ebook, try taking its main points and creating a slideshare, infographic or quiz on it! By having multiple formats of your content, you can reach a greater audience.

An infographic is great to share on social networks, especially Pinterest, because of its visual nature. You can even cut out statistics or diagrams from the infographic to share on social media as well!

Further, a slideshare is a great resource for an interested party to show to their decision maker. For example, if a facility manager wants to do an office redesign, but isn’t sure how to bring it up to the CEO, your slideshare “5 Reasons Your Office Is Desperately In Need of a Redesign” can help him out!

Next Steps

Content that just sits on your website can’t properly do its job and bring in leads. But worry not, by using these promotion tips you’ll see a little bit of extra effort can really take a content offer from zero to hero.

If you’re interested in learning about more ways you can tweak your website & content offers to bring more leads to your business, check out the FREE ebook “Turn Your Website Into A Lead Generation Machine“:

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Jun

30

2016

Why Content Marketing Volume is Increasing but Engagement Isn’t (and What You Can Do About It)

Content Marketing VolumeWhen content marketing first arrived on the marketing scene, it was novel, innovative and pushed the norms of traditional marketing. The idea of inbound marketing seemed outrageous. Letting the customers come to us? Marketers with years of practice in cold calls and direct mail questioned if generating content and letting their audiences find it would even work.

With refinement and thoughtful strategy, inbound marketing generated more leads, conversions and increased brand reach. This, of course, was aided by the advancement of technology and the increase in the number of platforms for communicating with customers. With the huge increase in content marketing volume, it was much easier for customers to find new companies on their own terms.

This explosion of success drove all types of businesses to start creating content to inform customers, engage prospects and contribute to the overall industry conversation. The growth in popularity caused a huge surge in the amount of content flooding the Web. Brands started believing that the medium of delivering content was smart because now customers could consume it at such fast rates, allowing them to take in even more information than previously possible.

Why More Channels Doesn’t Equal More Engagement

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. As content marketing volume continued to rise, engagement rates stagnated. More options did not mean people would consume more. A recent TrackMaven study found that the amount of content produced last year rose 34%, but engagement decreased 17%. In their words, this engagement crisis is similar to the television offering phenomenon.

The number of channels the average viewer chooses from has dramatically increased over the years, but the amount they actually watch remains the same. This trend proves that people are only willing to consume as much content as they can handle and nothing more, even with more options available.

The amount of content marketing is not going to decrease any time soon, so brands hoping to become one of their customers’ chosen outlets for information need to have a strong strategy for their content, messaging and customer journey.

The better companies understand their customers’ needs, the better they can target content appropriately. There are a few ways to reach customers most effectively, but using the tactic of personalization is particularly successful.

Using Personalization for Good

Personalization is nearly ubiquitous within marketing, with 94% agreeing it is important and 85% of brands using at least the most basic form. The challenge is using it in a way that customers feel comfortable with and aggregating real-time results for instant application.

A survey of marketers using personalization found that 40% can’t gain insight quickly enough, 39% don’t have enough data and 38% worry about inaccurate data. Despite these challenges, marketers overcome the obstacles to implement real acumen into their content. The ones who do find they have on average a 19% lift in sales.

When customers feel the content they are consuming is both relevant and informative, they return for more. One sure-fire way to create relevant and informative content to your specific customers is to learn what else they consume, what they respond to and what they look for in their content.

It also helps to identify each touchpoint of the buyer’s journey that can be tailored with specific information you’ve collected. For example, if your customers enjoy commenting on LinkedIn posts and sharing articles on Facebook, you can retarget them in these places based on what they are already interested in.

Start with consistent trends among your audience to avoid the challenge of keeping up with changing preferences. Once you have a handle on foundational personalization, you can adapt to the most current reality of your customers’ habits.

Control for Change

Personalization is knowing more than where your customers spend time and what topics they are likely to click on. It’s also being aware of what is related to their interests, so you can recommend additional content and lead them down the funnel. The most important aspect at any point of the content journey and the use of personalization is giving customers some amount of control.

While 60% of customers are aware personalization plays a role in the online content they consume, 29% prefer to have little control and 41% prefer to have a great deal of control over how brands use this tactic. The levels of control you can offer include privacy controls, voluntary information forms with options of what a customer can give you and choosing their own content journey. This requires you to tailor your content to different demographics if you are trying to reach a broad audience.

Control doesn’t sacrifice personalization for your purposes, but simply puts the power in your customers’ hands, which can be beneficial to you. Trustworthiness and an established relationship emerge from giving customers control, leading you to have a transparent personalization process for more effective results.

Content Types for Success

Before gracing the industry with your content or producing more ineffective blogs and social, you should determine the types of content worth generating and what is likely to promote engagement.

You want to avoid the dry, lifeless content that so many companies are guilty of throwing online. The following content formats should help stop the decreasing engagement rate right in its tracks:

  • Short and sweet. Bounce rates are the kiss of death in online marketing. Most people only read about 50% of an online article before leaving the page. But if you limit your blog posts to half the length of a typical blog, you’ll see an increase in lingering visitors and potential conversions.
  • Questions and answers. On social media, if you are asking questions that are probably going through your customers’ minds, make sure to give them an answer. Lead them to your site to discover an in-depth answer to any question, no matter how small.
  • Community forums. People love to share their own opinions more than anything. It’s why companies with community forums see so much success in engagement. Cultivating and monitoring the community is also a great place for content inspiration.
  • Anything with visuals or interactive elements is instantly going to grab your prospects. Use them thoughtfully and creatively to make a splash with your innovative content.

Infusing these formats with the insights gained from personalization creates a real connection between your brand and customers.

To escape the engagement crisis that is resulting from the surge in content marketing volume,  you can collect information from your customers with their control and apply it to content better suited for interaction. This tactic is no task larger than adjusting your sails in the winds of change.

Then you will be prepared to navigate the marketing space with intelligence, wisdom and ingenuity.

Inbound Marketing Case Study

May

31

2016

4 Mistakes to Avoid When Scaling Your Content Marketing [Infographic]

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It’s all too common for marketers to equate scaling content with simply producing more content, regardless of quality. But that approach is flawed, as it becomes increasingly difficult to achieve more visibility when your content isn’t all that great.

How can you scale your content marketing while keeping up with the evolving standards for quality? Well, we’d be doing you a disservice if we told you it was going to be easy. The truth is, you’ll likely run into a handful of challenges. 

To learn more about some of the common mistakes marketers make when scaling their content, check out the infographic below from the folks at CopyPress. You’ll learn everything from when outsourcing can be beneficial for your team, to why more traffic doesn’t necessarily mean more leads.

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  learn how to build an inbound marketing team

Apr

4

2016

10 Things Every B2B Tech Marketer Needs to Know

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For B2B tech marketers, it’s crucial to understand the real value of the technology you’re promoting – whether it’s a simple consumer product or a complicated enterprise service.

The real trick of technology marketing is learning a subject (one which may be completely foreign to you) quickly and efficiently. When that subject is a complex technology tool or service, you might feel lost trying to comprehend everything there is to know.

While I can’t give you a crash course in your client’s work—only they can do that successfully—I can offer 10 tips for every B2B tech marketer to help them optimize their approach.

1. Timing is Everything

As quickly as the technology industry evolves and grows, timing is everything. When researching any topic related to technology, or when sourcing a statistic or fact, it’s crucial to ensure you’re looking at the most current information available.

Always check the dates of studies and surveys. Even something published a year ago might not reflect the current reality of the industry. If a stat is pertinent to your whitepaper, blog, etc., and you can’t find the same stat for the most recent year, a good rule of thumb is to not go back more than two years or to qualify the data with a disclaimer.

2. Curate Content

Keeping tabs on the industry will help you curate the best content from thought leaders, customers and other important figures. Taking in a great deal of information from all of these sources can inspire your marketing efforts in other areas. Curating content will also provide a fuller picture of the technology industry and how it’s talked about in different channels.

First, you need to learn how to listen on social channels (primarily Twitter and LinkedIn), which content to pay attention to (influencers, competitors), and how to use it.

For example, once you’ve been promoting curated content for several months on social media, you can see which posts received the most clicks, and then develop blog posts on similar topics.

3. Create Buyer Personas

Personalization is seen as the key to unlocking prospects and creating conversions. Creating a buyer persona is the first step in targeting inbound marketing content for personalization purposes. Creating a persona involves getting to the root of who your customers are, how they behave, where they look for information and how they make purchasing decisions.

Technology might be a challenging area to create specific buyer personas for, but if you look at the types of customers who need your product or service, you’ll discover the little things that separate one persona from another.

4. Follow Big-Name Sources

As with any industry, it’s crucial to follow the news about what’s happening in technology. This provides fodder for content ideas, raises awareness of trends and informs you on competitor activity.

Just like journalists and news junkies follow The New York Times and the Associated Press for the beat of what’s happening in the world, technology marketers should follow certain publications for similar business reasons.

Beyond the online experts, such as TechCrunch, PC Magazine and CNET, you can also keep up with technology-focused sections of major publications like The Wall Street Journal, Wired and CIO. These outlets, among others, cover all aspects of technology from cloud solutions to cybersecurity to consumer goods.

5. Know the Influencers

As you invest time and energy promoting your clients across social channels, you’ll find thought leaders and influencers. Listen to what they have to say, participate in conversations they start and develop a mutual awareness. This builds trust and credibility with your customers. If all goes well, you can even invite these influencers to write a guest post, co-host a webinar, or become an advocate for your client.

6. Learn the Terms

There is nothing worse in technology marketing than not using the appropriate terminology. No one expects you to know these terms when you’re starting, but they will expect you to learn them, and how to use them as you become aware of the space and target audience.

The more exposure you have to the industry, the more naturally this terminology should come. It also helps to do your research and study the terms and so you can wrap your head around their meaning.

There might terminology specific to your client’s company, or just general terms used widely in the industry. Also, look out for acronyms or terms that may mean different things – and can be differentiated based on the industry context.

For example, a CMO in the business world (as you well know) is a Chief Marketing Officer, but in the healthcare industry it stands for Chief Medical Officer. Those involve very different qualifications and responsibilities; let’s face it – it would be embarrassing to get them mixed up. The same goes for tech terminology. Be vigilant of what you and your client are talking about.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

The best way to catch up to speed on any topic is to ask questions. Ask as many as come to mind – and more. As topics get more complicated, the questions you ask your client may help them realize how a “layman” is viewing and comprehending their products and services.

Even if a question seems obvious, simple or stupid – you should still ask it. No one should fault you for trying to grasp concepts in your own way. No matter how confused you are or how well you think you get something, keep asking questions. It only leads to more insightful content down the line.

8. Understand the Competition

This is key to any marketing strategy, but in the tech sector, understanding the competition helps differentiate your client in your mind and to your customers. Seeing what other companies offer can make your client’s features and benefits more obvious. Creating and monitoring a Twitter List that includes your competitors, or even signing up for their newsletters, are two easy ways to start. 

9. Take Advantage of Existing Content

Unless a company is starting from scratch, repurposing existing content is an excellent tactic to first understanding the topics and voice of your technology client, and then replicating that with success.

Technology companies love webinars and presentations. Request access to these, get inspired and use them as a springboard to create more content. Moreover, these can often provide a more human side to the technology your client is selling, which only helps you when translating technical information to the average customer.

10. Know the Difference Value vs. Specifications

Technology depends on technical specifications in a customer’s purchasing decision. The smallest detail can be the deciding factor, so it’s vital to never underestimate the importance of this information. However, a great marketer practices the balance between using these specs and a company’s value proposition. Knowing your audience helps tailor your message with these approaches.

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Now that you have some tips and tricks for marketing technology, you can enter the game.

As a B2B tech marketer, promoting products and services isn’t much different than marketing other industries, but it’s essential to be vigilant of what technology customers, whether consumers or big enterprises, look for in their content and messaging.

                                Quick and Dirty Guide to Curated Content

Jan

12

2016

How to Crowdsource Your Blog Content: Tips for Finding and Collaborating with Your Crowd

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B2B marketing survives and thrives on the steam engine of content. But it can be hard to fuel that engine with constant inspiration day after day, and week after week.

Nonetheless, you’ll still need to produce high-quality blog posts and articles on a regular basis to build credibility and visibility, with 91% of B2B marketers using content marketing and 84% using it to spread brand awareness.

How do you keep up? One good answer is crowdsourcing.

As a B2B marketer, you can leverage your online relationships to have content produced for you, whether it’s user-generated content (UGC) produced by customers, or commentary from industry thought leaders. In one study, 70% of U.S. consumers noted that they trust brand recommendations from friends, above and beyond a company’s own content marketing, which means, at least some of your content should come from people similar to your readers.

By crowdsourcing, you’ll get content that’s relevant, targeted, and full of new insights. What’s more, you’ll gain fodder for your own creativity, as well as more free time to put inspiration to work in your marketing endeavors. Here, we’ll share some best practices for crowdsourcing your next blog post.

Step 1: Determine Who Your “Crowd” Is, and Why You’re Crowdsourcing

The very first step in crowdsourcing is determining the makeup of the crowd itself. It might consist of your customers, employees, thought leaders, industry professionals you’re connected with on social media, or any number of other groups. The purpose of the eventual blog post will help guide the composition of the crowd.

Is the goal to increase customer engagement? If so, you might look through your CRM to get a sense of customers’ expressed opinions, and ask the enthusiastic ones to expound on the benefits of your products and services.

Are you looking to increase your company’s thought leadership gravitas? In that case, you might reach out to a few top bloggers and/or academics in your field to offer their informed opinions on a meaty topic.

Step 2: Develop a Plan for Reaching Out to Your Crowd

Once you’ve defined your crowd and the goals you want to achieve through your content marketing, it’s time to make contact.

Here’s three of the main things you need to do when creating an outreach plan:

  • Think about the length of the eventual post, and number of content pieces you’ll need. Perhaps you’ll need one long customer testimonial about a certain aspect of your product, or maybe you can gather 3 quick quips from industry insiders to construct an informative and impactful blog post. Or, if you gather a series of 5 or 10 tips from respected bloggers, you can put together an article that will help you connect with big audiences online.

  • Determine the best ways to reach out. You might find that your influencers engage a lot with commenters on their LinkedIn blog posts, or that your customers are highly interactive on social media with brands similar to yours. Depending on your crowd’s preferred means of interaction, send a private social message, shoot off an email, or make a phone call offering the prospective content creator an opportunity to gain more exposure through contributed thoughts or ideas. (With the most popular influencers online, you’ll get the best results by building up a relationship first.)

  • To engage customers, consider surveys and contests in exchange for content. Either method is a good way to show customers you care about their opinions and will reward their loyalty.

Step 3: Collect, Edit, and Promote Your Crowdsourced Content for Maximum Impact

Once you’ve sent out your requests for content, it’s time to sit back—of course, while you’re hard at work on other aspects of your campaigns—and let the material come to you. As it comes in, make sure to do the following:

  • Put the content in context. Whether you have two short essays from influential bloggers presenting dissenting opinions or 10 short sentences from your customers emphasizing what they loved about recent projects, it’s up to you to contextualize everything. You’ll want to weave the content pieces into a purposeful whole, with a beginning, middle, and end. The end result: a thoughtful, engaging piece that will stand out in your digital ecosystem.
  • Edit without changing the essence. Honesty is paramount in crowdsourcing content. Keep all the material true-to-life, even as you place your own spin on it. Once the piece is finished, not only will you maintain your integrity by presenting content creators’ views as they were originally expressed, you’ll keep your crowd happy and willing to work with you again.
  • Promote your crowdsourced content everywhere. Whether it’s on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter, post on your social profiles with links to your crowdsourced blog post. If you have your customers on an email newsletter list—and you should be—invite them via the next issue to check out the post, especially if it’s relevant to their needs and interests.
  • Finally, keep the content creators in the loop. Send out a friendly Tweet, email, or other type of message to let your crowd know that the blog is published. Encourage those who contributed to the blog post to respond to the eventual blog comments as well. The more engaged your crowd is with the finished product, the more exposure they’ll get—and your chances of repeat business with them increases.

And there you have our roadmap for crowdsourcing a blog post, a method which will add greater efficiency, variety, and engagement to your content marketing campaigns. Take this method out for a spin and reap the benefits of involving multiple, highly-interested content creators in your marketing efforts.

Interested in learning more from Penguin Strategies? Check out their whitepaper, The Quick and Dirty Guide to Curated Content.

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Curated Content

Nov

20

2015

10 Time Wasters That Limit Your Blogging Productivity (And How to Avoid Them)

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When it comes to blogging, there are tons of excuses we give ourselves (or sometimes our bosses) explaining why we just can’t get to writing them right now. While many of these excuses (not enough time, too busy with client work, no writers on staff to create content or edit it, etc.) may in fact be valid and perfectly understandable, it doesn’t change the fact that in order to have successful content marketing, you must also have frequent, relevant content to actually post, too.

So instead of continuously finding reasons to put blogging on the back burner, why not define what the time wasters at work are that are preventing you from getting it done, and change them? Here are a few common ones to start off with that may help at your place of business:

1) Ineffective Multi-tasking

For many of us, our day-to-day routine at work requires wearing a lot of hats and being an effective multi-tasker. But the truth is, we’re not as great at it as we think. In a recent study, Earl Miller—a Picower professor of neuroscience at MIT—claimed that it is actually very difficult for people to fully focus on more than one thing at a time, but are much better at switching focus between tasks very quickly, giving the illusion of effective multi-tasking.

An example might be someone thinking that they are effectively writing an email and talking on the phone at the same time. Because both involve communicating (whether verbal or written) and thus are competing to use the same part of the brain to complete them, we are not really multi-tasking—we’re simply switching our focus very rapidly back and forth between tasks.

Tips for better blogging productivity:

The goal is to be as effective as possible when it comes to productivity so you actually can have time for things like blogging. Try to stay focused on one task at a time. If your schedule allows for it, you can also try to prioritize your tasks into groups (i.e. lumping together tasks that are more communication-based, analytical-based, and so on and so forth.).

2) Sitting in on Every Meeting

When it comes to meetings, there are often many that are unnecessary for everyone to attend, or at least not for the whole duration of them. In some cases, meetings are planned with a clear topic and objective in mind, but often spiral off in tangents once the meetings have begun. Maybe that type of discussion is necessary for some roles, but it’s likely that the bulk of the staff are not needed in those.

Tips for better blogging productivity

For those roles in a company that are designed to see things from a broader view (more managerial and directorial positions), these meetings might be necessary to attend. But other more task-oriented positions may benefit from just getting the highlights from one person who attended, as these individuals often have pressing deadlines that can get interrupted with too many meetings.

Each meeting should also be directed with a clear topic of discussion that leads to each person’s/department’s specific action items, a realistic timeline and a follow-up meeting to go over the progress.

3) Getting Sucked into the Black Hole that is Social Media

Almost every one of us who have social media accounts are guilty of over-frequenting our news feeds at some point or another. Even if interacting on multiple social media platforms is a big part of your job, it’s important to set aside time for personal use, rather than during work hours. Overusing or stopping sporadically to check your accounts (even if for business purposes) can make it much more challenging to get back into a strong workflow.

Tips for better blogging productivity

Instead of reading up on current statuses, try scheduling out a short 30 minutes to read up on some of the top blogging best practices from the pros. There are a ton of great online resources for beginners and regular bloggers alike that discuss best practices for different types of blogs, too, including corporate/professional, personal, hobby/interest, community, etc. 

4) Having a Disorganized Workspace

This is something that frequently gets overlooked, but can nonetheless be a big time waster. And many aren’t afraid to admit it. In fact, in an OfficeMax survey, it was found that out of 1,000 workers, 90 percent of them believe that clutter does, in fact, create a negative work environment. And 77 percent of them claimed that clutter also negatively affects their productivity. This accounts not only for tangible documents on your desk, but files on your desktop, unopened/unsorted emails and other similar digital materials that require sorting.

Tips for better blogging productivity

Try making it a habit to file a document away every time you create or acquire one. It will keep you from spending hours trying to search for something and prevent you from dedicating entire days to giving your workspace a thorough cleaning. Similar to the advice given by popular chefs and cooks today, forming the good habit of “cleaning as you go” will clear up a lot of time for you to do other things—in this case, getting crackin’ on that blog.

5) Procrastinating

Procrastination almost never works out for the better in any situation, but especially when it comes to the workplace. Waiting until the last minute to get things done can force you to push back other time-sensitive tasks, looping you into an endless cycle of overdue items.

Tips for better blogging productivity

Setting daily or hourly goals for getting things done can help you stay on track and avoid procrastinating. Treat it the way you would a bank account: you have X amount of dollars (in this case, hours) to get something done and once that’s gone you will have to get a loan with interest (hours from the next work day) to pay for your expenses.

Sticking to this “budget” can help you visualize that procrastinating can actually accumulate a lot of work for you in the future, and hopefully help you find the time to squeeze in some writing time for your blog.

6) Losing Focus Due to Noise

Many workplaces are now adapting to more collaborative spaces, ditching the individual offices and setting up cubicles/desks within an open, spacious area. The problem that often comes with this type of setup, however, is distraction due to high levels of noise in any one space.

While some may argue that listening to music helps keep them focused, it really depends on the individual—how they work best and what type of work they’re trying to complete. In an inbound marketing agency, for example, someone in more of a designer or producer role might function more efficiently with some background music.

A marketing strategist or content writer, on the other hand, may function better in silence. Either way, if the noise (music, internal conversations, conference calls on speaker phone, etc.) is not being controlled by the individual, it’s likely to distract them.

Tips for better blogging productivity

If you’re wanting to make time for writing blog articles, you probably fall into the category that does better without noise. So if your office is typically on the noisy side, instead of staring at your computer screen for 10 minutes trying to finish writing the same dang sentence, try using some ear plugs or noise-canceling headphones at the first sign of distraction. You can then get in your own zone and tune your rambunctious coworkers out while you type.

7) Socializing for Too Long

Let’s face it: many of us like to socialize. Not necessarily because we’re all a bunch of gossips, but because we spend the majority of our days (and our weeks) with the people we work with, so we develop a desire to connect with them on a personal level.

The problem comes in when a morning catch-up session or an afternoon instant-message conversation lasts for a couple of hours or half the day—it can certainly impede on productivity.

Tips for better blogging productivity

One way to avoid this is by redirecting these chats to happen first thing in the morning, during a group lunch, at an after-work happy hour, or on a break. Set up a meeting in your calendar (even if it’s just with yourself) to block out some time just for blogging. If someone wants to chat during that time, simply ask to continue the conversation after your time block is over or at another time.

8) Being a Literary Perfectionist

Perhaps one of the biggest time wasters in the office has to do with the actual process we have for writing blogs. There’s a fair chance you may just be overdoing it. Similar to how a designer can sometimes forget the value of white space, many of us wordsmiths sometimes forget the value of conciseness. Just because you’re creating a piece of content doesn’t mean your viewers are going to spend time like they would reading their favorite novel to absorb it all.

In fact, in an article by the research company Nielsen Norman Group that discusses how little online materials are actually read by users, results showed that the average viewer only has time to read about 28 percent of the words on any given Web page. That’s why it’s important to stay focused and get to the point.

Tips for better blogging productivity

Start your process by creating an outline. It should consist of:

  • The blog topic or headline you’d like to write about
  • A list of the direct points you want to make
  • A clear CTA, or direct action you’d like the viewer to take

Outlining these basic components (and actually writing them out) can help serve as a reminder of what’s really important in this piece.

9) Not Asking Questions

Sometimes the reason we procrastinate is because we’re unsure of how to get something done or we’re not entirely sure what the objective of the task is. Not asking questions for clarification right off the bat, or even along the way, can become a huge waste of time.

Whether it’s not knowing where to research something, who to contact, what message you’re trying to convey in an email, or something similar, being confused about a task and not asking for clarification can lead to procrastination or double the work later on.

Tips for better blogging productivity

Ask a bunch of questions right off the bat if you’re unsure of how to complete the task at hand, and be sure you have (or can quickly get) the answers before blindly attempting to do it. With all the right tools and information, you’re bound to increase productivity. And increased productivity means more time for blogging.

10) Visiting Non-Work Related Websites Throughout the Day

Another big distraction and time waster at work is the Internet. Of course, many of us depend on it to get work done for our employers, but according to a Salary.com survey, approximately 64 percent of employees visit non-work related websites every day during work hours. The survey also concluded that these websites also kept most employees off-task and unproductive.

Tips for better blogging productivity

If you find yourself needing a quick break from your day-to-day tasks and find yourself wanting to browse the Web a bit, try visiting a few popular blogs from leaders in your industry to get some inspiration for content to use in your own blog. This way, taking a break from the grind of work can be still be productive, as it’s helping you research for your next article.

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Jun

22

2015

How Marketers Can Get Their Content Listed in the Upcoming Apple News App

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After several attempts at getting it right Apple has recently announced their newest foray into News, with their new native app coming this fall. The News app will feature aggregated content that can be customized specifically for the iPhone and iPad experience.

Publishers will have access to a set of tools to shape their content in a way that will provide the optimal viewing experience for readers viewing their content on iOS devices. The reader experience will be enhanced by the fact that it is automatically loaded and readied in the app itself, rather than the user having to wait for content to load.

Gaining access to information on how to participate in this program has been previously hush-hush from what I could tell, So I set out to find some answers.

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After some Google–fu, I was able to dig up some documents in the IOS developer library. Buried deep within this is a new section around news publishing. This page will tell you a lot about what News is, how it will be available and announces a new feature called News Publisher. The most important feature to content marketers will be the News Publisher and how to submit your own content.

We all want our content to be distributed in the most simple ways possible for our readers, so Apple is providing this tool for us to use. But the full set of tools that will comprise News Publisher will not be available until the fall. What they have given us in the meantime is an interface to submit our RSS feeds and ensure that our content will show up upon launch in the News app.

In this article I’ll explain how the submission process works and how we submitted our agency’s blog and podcast network to be included so that we can make sure we’re ready when the app comes out.

There’s a hierarchy of publishing that includes publishers, channels and sections. You can add multiple channels to a publisher and each channel can have multiple sections. In the example of our agency, we will have one section for the podcast network and one section for the company blog. (I will probably get more complex than this and break out each series into its own section of a “Podcast” channel, but for the purposes of this demo, it’ll work fine.)

Here’s a step by step walkthrough of how to set this up: 

1) Setup iCloud

The submission process actually begins in the online interface of iCloud. Here is a direct link for how to sign into the interface: https://www.icloud.com/newspublisher Sign in with your Apple ID:

https___www_icloud_com_newspublisher_

2) Enter Publisher Information

Enter Your Publisher Information. This will also act as the name of your default “Channel”.

iCloud_-_News_Publisher-1

Note: You can add multiple channels within a give publisher. You’ll be given access to do that when you have your first RSS feed submitted.

iCloud_-_News_Publisher

3) Add RSS Reeds

You’ll now be prompted to add RSS feeds. Do that here. You can rename the name “Main” after you add it.

iCloud_-_News_Publisher-2

When you are done adding your feeds rename each section to how you want it to be presented on a Mobile Device. I am thinking you will want to keep each one short and sweet. Time will tell when the app actually comes out.

iCloud_-_News_Publisher-3

4) Add Your Logo

Now head over to Channel Info, and add a logo. You will want to create a PNG version of your logo that is 256px x 2560px with no padding. The app will add its own padding so your logo should touch the edges on each side.

iCloud_-_News_Publisher-4

You can now customize your “Publisher” information if it is different from the name of the channel.

iCloud_-_News_Publisher-5

5) Check Confirmation

That’s it! I got the following email the same day after submitting my information.

Welcome_to_Apple_News__-_chris_thinkhandy_com_-_Thinkhandy_Marketing_Mail

Because users who subscribe to your content in Apple News will be delivered your content effortlessly, I think this is something we content marketers should not turn a blind eye to. I hope this helps you prepare your content for this exciting new form of distribution!

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Apr

16

2015

Why Your Marketing Content is an Asset, Not a Cost

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Basic accounting rules require marketing costs to be listed as expenses on a company’s P&L. However, today’s marketers and smart executives consider marketing an investment in driving revenue rather than a cost. This is where an overall mind shift is needed. Marketing needs to be considered an investment, and your content an asset.

We invest in technology, equipment and people to grow our businesses without hesitation. So, why wouldn’t we do the same with our content? It’s time to finally categorize content as an asset and treat it like you would any other company asset. After all, your brand, unlike a building or inventory, never depreciates. Your brand is your greatest asset, and your content tells the story of your brand.

Marketing vs. Sales: Working Together but Often Against

When your company lands a sale, who takes credit? Likely the salesperson. That person may even claim marketing does nothing to drive leads. But what tools are being used by that salesperson to close the deal? He used the company’s website content, blog posts, ebooks, social media channels, videos, email newsletters, events, collateral material and lead generation campaigns, all of which is produced by the marketing team.

Without those content marketing assets, the lead would probably not have been converted to a sale. But while all of the credit goes to the sales team, the full responsibility of those content marketing assets lies in the marketing budget line item.

Treating Marketing as a Cost… Could be Costly

If you consider marketing as an expense in your budget that needs to be kept under control, you are likely treating it just as any other cost, and striving to keep it down. Being concerned about cost reduction adds pressure to your marketing efforts to perform quickly, which is certainly not a quality of an inbound marketing strategy.

Worrying about costs would also mean you would be less likely to test and optimize your marketing efforts, which could directly relate to stagnant online results, and ultimately a decline in revenue.

Proving Return on Investment

The Return on Investment or “ROI” of marketing has been buzzed about and debated for decades. Since the heyday of Madison Avenue in the 1950s, even up to the early 2000s, there were few tools that marketers used to measure their impact on the company’s bottom line. Magazines used “pass-along rates” to inflate impressions.

Direct mail introduced coupons and tracking codes as a way to measure effectiveness. But the lack of precise measurement actually helped promote the perception that marketing was a cost center. The hope was that all of that money being invested in marketing would eventually result in positive brand awareness.

Luckily, things have changed.

Explosion of Data

Instead of trying to prove success from inflated numbers, marketers can now track everything on the digital landscape. No longer lacking for metrics, we are dealing with a constant explosion of data. But now that every click a user makes on your website is trackable, what is being done with that information?

Today’s marketers have access to more data than ever before, but may fall short in understanding that data, or become overwhelmed and fall victim to “Analysis Paralysis.” Even worse, many businesses still don’t track or measure effectively.

In order to be able to gauge the success of your content marketing efforts, you should have tools in place to track:

  • Visitors from every source
  • Activity on each page and blog post
  • Keyword rankings
  • Submissions from all forms
  • Ratio of leads to sales
  • Sales

Using a program like HubSpot’s inbound marketing platform offers access to integrated metrics across the board from contacts to content and analytics, housing all of your marketing data in one central place.

Content as a Business Asset 

Having the metrics to show results is essential to prove your content is a business asset. Your content is a tangible, living thing that is the voice of your business. It’s the best thinking of the entire organization. Companies who believe this foster an environment where all departments work together, instead of against each other, to ensure a consistent and cohesive message is being communicated with the world.

In order to look at content as an investment line item, it has to tie into your business goals. That means you need to think long and hard about why you are creating content in the first place. If you don’t have a clearly mapped out strategy for your content, you are just throwing it out there in hopes that the right people find it. You wouldn’t treat your other financial investments like this, so don’t do it with your content.

For more on proving the value of your content investment, download SPROUT Content’s free ebook: What Gets Measured, Gets Improved.

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Mar

24

2015

How to Produce an Internet Radio Show

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There are lots of ways to generate and publish content for your inbound marketing efforts. From the tried and true written word that powers your corporate blog to infographics, webinars, video and ebooks, the number of channels available to you seem almost endless.

It can be frustrating at times to try to cut through the noise with this much content being published. While publishing relevant information can help you create a loyal community of constituents, do you ever wonder if you could reach more people by adapting your content to a different style?

If you’re struggling to figure out “what’s next,” you might want to explore the idea of hosting your own live internet radio show.

Talk radio is big business. The top shows have audiences in the millions and generate a great deal of revenue from advertising and sponsorships, not to mention the ability generate more revenue through promoting their own products and services.

Talk radio is a very accessible and convenient way to get information because it’s a passive way of digesting information (listening versus reading) and it can be consumed while doing other tasks, like driving or working out. Additionally, it creates a bond between the host(s) and the listeners and can be a more personal way to connect with someone teaching a concept.

So how can this apply to your company? While you may not achieve the same status as Dave Ramsey or Terry Gross, you do have the potential to connect with your own smaller community made up of your customers, prospects, and partners.

Back in the day, getting on the radio was an old-school game of gatekeepers and auditions and the barrier to entry was very high. Now, the technology exists for anyone to create their own online “radio station” and broadcast to anyone in the world.

So how can this be used as a marketing tool for your organization? Think of all the things you have to teach your customers and prospects that can help them make better decisions. Think of all the conversations you have over and over with potential clients that help them trust your company resulting in a sale. Extending all that content to a radio show can really accelerate your ability to connect with more people and ultimately generate more leads.

Imagine a hospital that interviews physicians live on the air and takes questions from members of the community with health concerns. Imagine a manufacturing company that hosts a weekly show with continuing education for distributors who want to up their game on product knowledge. Imagine a non-profit that shares inspirational stories of the good they do in the world. The possibilities are endless.

If you think it sounds daunting, don’t worry… the basics are not too difficult. It does, however, take some planning and setup.

At SpinWeb, we launched a radio show at the beginning of 2015 called SpinRadio. We did lots of research, testing, and setup before launching the show and while there is probably still some tweaking to do, we’ve got momentum and have found a groove that is working well for us. We’ve even started generating leads from it! This guide draws on our knowledge from going through this process.

To help you plan, set up, and start producing your own live internet radio show I’ve broken the process down into three sections. Let’s get started.

Concept

The first thing you’ll need to do is create a concept for your show. What is your theme? Who is your audience (hint: probably your buyer personas)? What do you want to teach them? This is your starting point.

For SpinWeb, we knew that we wanted to talk to our buyer personas which consist mainly of marketing directors and CEOs. We deliver corporate websites and inbound marketing solutions and we typically work with the marketing director or the CEO. We know from experience that a lot of our time is spend answering questions for them like “how do I get my website to rank better with search engines?” and “how do I use social media to drive more traffic to my website?”

Like most organizations, we have a rich supply of content in the form of answers to questions we get during the sales process and also during projects. The same is true for your organization. Think about who you serve and how you can help them.

Next, you’ll need to decide who within your organization is going to host the show. I recommend having two hosts. While it’s possible to host a successful show with only one host, we’ve found that having two hosts really keeps the energy up and the momentum strong. The conversation will be livelier, the show will be more upbeat, and it will be more fun.

SpinRadio is hosted by me (SpinWeb’s CEO) and Abby Stearns (our Director of Business Development). This brings me to my next point: the hosts have to be outgoing and fun. I’ve seen too many podcasts, shows, and interviews fall flat simply because the wrong people were chosen to do it. Not everyone is comfortable “on the air” and that’s okay. But be sure that whoever is hosting your radio show has the right personality for it.

A good host will be comfortable speaking their mind, have confidence, and not take the whole thing too seriously. Nothing will kill your radio show faster than a host who delivers content in dry robotic tones as if they are reading the side effects off a medication bottle.

Your co-hosts should also be thought leaders from your organization. Some good examples of co-host teams that can work well include:

  • CEO and Marketing Director
  • CEO and VP of Sales
  • Marketing Director and Product Manager
  • Marketing Director and Lead Engineer
  • CEO and Customer Service Manager
  • VP of Sales and Customer Service Manager

You get the idea. Pick two people who get along well, can talk easily, and feel comfortable with each other (and potentially banter a little). At SpinWeb, that’s easy for us because we’re a close-knit team that gets along well and enjoys working together. In a larger company, it may be more difficult to find that cultural match so you may need to explore a few different combinations.

Abby and I work well together because we each take a different angle. I cover inbound marketing topics while she covers sales topics. Both are extremely relevant to our audience and we show how they work together as part of a system.

Now, on to the format. I absolutely do not recommend scripting out the show but I do recommend defining a general format. This is not a speech or a presentation. This is a conversation. With that in mind, come up with a format that is easy to understand, introduces some variety, and moves along at a good pace.

As an example, the format of SpinRadio is this:

  • Intro and Welcome
  • Weekly Roundup (inbound marketing news and trends from the week)
  • Deep Dive (Abby and I each teach a marketing/sales concept)
  • Tactical Top 5 (5 quick, actionable marketing and sales takeaways)
  • Random (a few minutes of goofing off)
  • Questions from Listeners (we answer any questions that we’ve received)
  • Weekly Inspiration (inspirational thoughts, highlight a client with a shout-out)
  • Closing and Sign off

The whole show lasts around 45 minutes on average. Each week we compile general notes for each of these sections and then we simply teach in a conversational format as we go through each section. Notice that the show is all about helping our listeners. It’s not a commercial for SpinWeb. It’s a show that is devoted to helping our busy CEOs and Marketing Directors stay on top of trends in inbound marketing and sales and get the information they need to help their companies grow.

You might decide you want to bring guests on the show as well. You can have them either Skype in or you can get a third mic and have them sit in your studio with you.

Your show can be shorter or longer (though I wouldn’t go longer than an hour) and your format will be different but the point is to give the hosts a framework to use every time that still allows spontaneity and flexibility.

Finally, let’s talk about timing. We broadcast SpinRadio once a week and I think this makes a lot of sense for most organizations. If you broadcast less than once a week I don’t really feel like you have momentum and it doesn’t really feel like a show. More than once a week is good if you have the time to maintain it but I feel that once a week is ideal for most organizations. We broadcast every Friday morning at 10am Eastern.

Whew! Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of the concept of the show, let’s talk about actually getting the show on the air.

Broadcasting

Now that we have a format, the next step is to actually broadcast. First, you’ll need to find a quiet room in your office to run the show. This will become your “studio.” It doesn’t need to be fancy… just a basic room with decent acoustics (not a lot of echo). You may also want to put some sound padding on the walls to help the acoustics. This is where we will set up the equipment.

While it’s certainly possible to produce your show with minimal equipment, I believe in doing it right so I recommend investing in some decent audio equipment to make sure it sounds really good. I’ll cover the hardware first and then we’ll talk software and production.

Here is the list of the hardware we use at SpinRadio:

Aside from a computer (which we’ll get to in a minute), this will give you a complete shopping list and is everything you need to broadcast your show with two hosts. If this seems complicated, don’t worry. It all fits together and makes sense once you set things up. Here’s the gist of it:

  1. Clamp the suspension booms to the desk or table and attach the mics to the ends
  2. Attach the pop filters to the mics
  3. Plug the mics into the mixer
  4. Plug the headphones into the mixer via the splitter cable
  5. Plug the mixer into the audio interface
  6. Plug the audio interface into your computer via USB

That’s the general setup. You might get a little stuck when it comes to “what cable goes where” so if you need some help, post a comment and I’ll try to offer feedback.

Now you need a computer and broadcast app. I strongly recommend Spreaker, which is what we use for SpinRadio. Spreaker is a fantastic service that enables live broadcasting and a slew of other features that we’ll get into shortly. The audio for your show will go through the mics and into your computer where Spreaker will then take it and broadcast it over the Internet.

You’ll need to sign up for a Spreaker account (I recommend the “Anchorman” plan) and configure your show settings. You will want to create a nice show avatar image, enter a description, broadcast schedule, and show title. You’ll also want to set up your music before your first show.

Spreaker has some good built-in music tracks you can use for intro/outtro music but I’m picky so I grabbed some custom tracks from Tunefruit. I then uploaded the tracks into my library to use during broadcast. We have three tracks we currently use for SpinRadio: a show intro, an intro for the Tactical Top 5 section, and an outro track for closing out the show.

Once you’ve set up your show in Spreaker, you’re ready to broadcast. When you set up a new broadcast you’ll be dropped into the Spreaker console which will allow you to go on the air. You can queue up your music tracks, raise and lower volume levels, and start and stop your broadcast. After a broadcast ends Spreaker will store the show as a recording which you can then distribute (more on this later).

Naturally, you’ll want to run a few test broadcasts and listen to the recordings to make sure everything sounds good. The Blue Yeti mics sound amazing but you’ll probably need to run a few experiments to get the best audio.

Here are some general broadcasting tips that may help you:

  • Wear your headphones during the show so you can get clear audio for reference
  • Position your mouth a few inches from the pop filter for the best sound
  • Bring water or tea in with you to keep your voice clear
  • Designate one person as the “board operator” to control the Spreaker console
  • Relax and have fun with it!

If you’ve made it this far, you’re on the home stretch. Now let’s talk about actually getting people to listen to your show.

Promotion

Now that you’re broadcasting your radio show, you need a way for people to listen to it. The good news is that Spreaker makes this very easy. Some people will want to listen to your show live, while others will listen to the recording. Don’t feel bad when you notice that live listeners are in the minority. This is just human nature. Most people are too busy to commit to listening at a specific time but they will happily listen to the recording later. You’ll find that you will develop a loyal following of live listeners but most of your reach will come from those listening after the fact via podcast.

For the live listeners, you’ll want to use Spreaker’s live broadcast widget. You can embed this widget on your website and allow listeners to tune in live when you broadcast. If you’re not currently broadcasting, it will allow you to listen to the latest recording until the next live episode is broadcast. For an example, see our SpinRadio landing page.

Below is the widget embedded directly on this page. It will always show the latest recording or will display a live feed during broadcast:

You’ll notice on our landing page that we have a fancy timer that counts down the days, hours, and minutes until the next show. Additionally, if you’re viewing the page as it becomes 10am Eastern (broadcast time) the page will auto-refresh so you can immediately see the live feed.

So how do you get people there? We use our Friday blog post slot to share show notes for that day’s episode of the show. Every Friday at 9:45am a blog post goes out with a preview of the content for that day’s show with the player already embedded. We also promote the show via social media to remind our audience that they can listen live.

During the show, our social media marketer live tweets show notes and links to articles we reference during the show. We use the hashtag #SpinRadio to group them together on Twitter. This also allows us to take questions from listeners by encouraging them to tweet their questions using the hashtag #SpinRadio.

In order to ensure that the recording is available after the show, we configure Spreaker to distribute episodes via iTunes, Stitcher, and to custom apps for both iPhone and Android. The smart phone apps also allow your audience to listen live right from their phones. Once you’ve gotten at least five episodes out the door and have proven that you keep a consistent broadcast schedule, you can even apply for iHeartRadio.

To promote recorded episodes after the fact, we also run social ads on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that use custom audiences and other targeting tactics to make sure each episode gets in front of the right people.

Conclusion

While we still have plenty to learn and we will most likely tweak and optimize our show over time, we’ve gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback so far on our show. We’ve even started generating leads from it. Abby receives calls from prospects who have listened to our show, liked what they heard, and decided to call us to open a conversation.

Is an Internet radio show right for you? If you and your team are passionate about teaching your customers and prospects and you are ready to take your inbound marketing program to the next level, it might be worth exploring.

After all, in a world filled with automation and detached marketing, a radio show might be just what you need to create a stronger bond with your audience.

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Mar

11

2015

4 Quick Tips for Creating Content for Nonprofit Personas

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A lot of nonprofits have call-to-actions to “Donate Now,” “Volunteer Now,” and “Contact Us,” which they need. Do you also have downloadable content you can offer? Potential donors need to be educated about the cause, your organization, and how they can help make a difference. Likewise, volunteers need to be educated about the cause, and will likely need more content and materials around preparing to be a volunteer, such as a guide to how they can be mentally and physically prepared. Here are four quick tips to help you create content for your nonprofit. 

What Are Your Personas Passionate About?

People who are donating to or volunteering for a nonprofit are presumably passionate about the cause. Use infographics and statistics to show the impact on the cause you’re helping, and appeal to their emotions. Nonprofits I have worked with have had successful infographics that show how many people are affected by the issue and how their organization has made an impact over time. If you’re a nonprofit helping communities with children in poverty, provide statistics of how prevalent children in poverty are in those communities. What experiences are they having? For example, National Fatherhood Initiative uses an infographic to show the impact on father absence in America.

Nurture your contacts to spark their interest level over time. Don’t ask for the hand in marriage on the first date! You want to “woo” the person you are pursuing. How do you do that? You work at it over time. Provide relevant content for your different personas and show the impact, then ask for their donation.  

Use Storytelling to Show the Impact of Your Nonprofit  

What is the impact if someone makes a donation or volunteers for your nonprofit? Don’t just asked for a donation, where is the donation going? What is the money I’m donating being used for? For example, if you are raising money from donors, where are the donations going? Is there a community you will be helping? How will you be helping them? What is the impact? Tell the story to show the ultimate impact of a donation. Nonprofits who do great jobs storytelling will also provide updates throughout the process. Are you building homes? Show the before, during, and after of the build. This is going to connect your donors and volunteers with those who are being directly impacted by the missions. Charity: water does a wonderful job of storytelling, particularly through video, to show the impact of wells being funded by donors. Check out this video from their September campaign to see how they tell their story. 

Tell a story through various channels – videos, blog posts, captivating images, your website, social media, etc. Storytelling connects the achievements of your organization and your constituents, and creates evangelists, repeat donors, and long-term loyalty. It will tie back to what your leads are passionate about and the cause they want to help.

What Do Your Personas Need to Know to Achieve Their Goals?

If you are a nonprofit asking for volunteers, and I am a prospective volunteer, what do I need to know or have in order to be prepared? For example, if I will be volunteering for a mission, you could provide me with a downloadable checklist. Or, if I am starting my own fundraising campaign, you can offer a guide to launching an effective campaign. For example, National Fatherhood Initiative has a great ebook on how to start your own Fatherhood Program.

If you are asking for my help, whether that it a donation, spreading the word for your nonprofit, or volunteering, provide me with content that will help me achieve that goal! 

Where You Can Actually Find Stories

Okay, we have run through several ideas on how to create content for our personas. Now where do we actually get the content from?! Look at who you are working with on a daily basis. You have volunteers, staff, those who are impacted directly by your mission, an executive team and board members, donors, fundraisers, event participants, members, corporate partners, and sponsors, etc. You can ask for them to contribute to your blog. You can ask a group of volunteers to create a checklist that future volunteers will need. And, you can interview donors or those you have helped. There are various resources for you to lean on while creating relevant content for your personas.

Ultimately, when creating content for your nonprofit personas, consider what causes they are passionate about, what stories we can tell, what content they need to help them achieve their goals, and what resources we can pull from to create that content. With these four things in mind, you’ll be more than ready to create content that will delight your personas. 

Download the guide - an introduction to blogging for nonprofits

Feb

17

2015

5 Ways to Squeeze the Most Use out of Your Content Offers

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You’ve heard the expression “don’t reinvent the wheel.” The same is true for content – don’t reinvent it, repurpose it.

Start with a white paper, guide or ebook that you’ve written to support a product or service that you sell. With this one piece of content, you can easily repurpose content five times through different channels. Here’s how!

1) Break it out Into Multiple Blog Posts

Take sections of content from the white paper and set them up as individual blog posts. You’ll build a library of valuable content assets and work toward SEO ranking for your keywords. We know that blogging helps drive traffic to your website, converts traffic to leads and establishes authority.

2) Share Facts via Social Channels

Take a few key statistics from the piece and write social posts using that content. If you have the time, create graphics of the statistical information. Use visual content, which can generate up to 94% more views. Write compelling content to complement the visual and provide a link to a landing page with an offer to download the white paper.

3) Distribute Content in an Email

Build an email campaign using content from the white paper. Ensure that you keep the email short and simple and that you have a strong call-to-action. Make sure the content is repurposed to resonate with your target audience. If you are making an offer, know that relevant emails generate 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails.

4) Integrate the Content Into Your Website

While the white paper likely delved into great detail surrounding your product or service, take just a few key points and add that content and visuals to the product page(s) on your website.

5) Communicate via a Video

Pull a few key points from each section of your white paper to develop your storyboard for a video. Whether you have a narrator talking through the key points or include the text within the video, share the features and benefits of your product or service. Provide a strong call-to-action to help build your lead funnel.

Repurpose doesn’t mean that additional work isn’t involved. However, that work is streamlined as you start to define your key messaging and find creative ways to use what you have. It builds a cohesive message that is reiterated through your distribution channels, helping to make your name become synonymous with the key message.

The Bottom Line

If you want this piece of content to extend even further into your marketing efforts, download Five Tips to Promote Your Content. You’ll be sure to find some additional ideas on how to get the most use out of your content!

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Feb

16

2015

How to Make the Most of Your Content: An Integrated Promotion Strategy for the Modern Marketer

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The content marketing struggle is real; every marketer knows the difficulty of serving up the right content to the right audience at the right time. Unfortunately, it won’t be getting easier any time soon. The Content Marketing Institute’s 2015 Reports show that 69% of B2C and 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content this year than last year.

Consumers are already inundated with content everywhere they go, and in an age of increasing adoption and production, brands are reeling in the wake of wasted content investments.

It’s no secret any more than content and promotion go hand-in-hand. Most content marketers have learned (probably the hard way) that they can’t just create content and expect consumers to find it, engage with it, and share it. In the Content Promotion Manifesto,

Chad Pollitt uses real world examples from enterprise organizations to illustrate how brands can actually step down content production and step up promotion to achieve better results.

This article doesn’t explain why promotion is necessary; instead, it explains how to execute a well-informed and integrated promotion strategy that will maximize returns across paid, earned and owned channels.

Step 1: Know Your Promotion Options

As indicated in the diagram below, a truly integrated promotion strategy is one that balances converged media—paid, earned, and owned tactics deployed in unification. There are plenty of options at your disposal; striking the right balance will be up to you.

earnedmedia

Paid media is any form of content promotion in which a brand pays to leverage or access a new audience. Paid promotion tactics, most of which fall into the bucket of native advertising, offer marketers a high level of targeting and control. They are especially useful for generating immediate returns, whether through impressions or traffic, and, generally speaking, the more you put in, the more you get out.

Earned media is any form of promotion that a brand earns, rather than pays for, in order to reach a new audience. “Earning” can be somewhat of a misnomer, though, as coverage can be accomplished through a variety of methods ranging from targeted PR efforts to simply creating amazing content that influencers are inclined to share. Earned media offers marketers the opportunity for greatest returns (potentially limitless), but also the least control and predictability.

Owned media is any form of promotion that leverages a brand’s owned channels to reach an existing audience. Often referred to as broadcasting, this is as an opportunity to craft intentional and personalized messages to influence people that are already fans of your content. It’s likely you already have a solid understanding of your audience’s interests, needs, and preferences, so owned media promotion can offer marketers the highest level of targeting and control.

Step 2: Research

It’s critical to understand the landscape of publishers and individuals that exert influence on your target audience. Tools like Buzzsumo, Sharetally, FollowerwonkSocial Crawlytics and HubSpot’s Social Inbox can help guide overall creation and placement strategy. This research should occur before the actual creation of content because significant media outlets and influencers in an industry can act as sounding boards or, better yet, contributors to that content.

The ultimate goal of the research step is to identify the optimal paid and earned promotion opportunities that will provide access to your prospects. The insights gained will allow you to start building relationships with influencers and paid promotion vendors before your content is live.

Step 3: Planning

Once paid and earned promotion opportunities have been identified, it’s time to start planning your campaign. Be sure to consider each of the following:

  • Goals: What are the goals of your campaign? Will success be measured by impressions, qualified traffic, social shares, on-site conversions, or some combination of the above? Knowing your KPIs from the outset will simplify the measurement process.
  • Budget: How much budget is available specifically for promotion of your content? This will likely affect your integrated promotion mix across paid, earned, and owned channels. Less money in the budget, of course, means less ability to rely on paid tactics to gain traction quickly with new audiences.
  • Timing: Timing is critical in an integrated promotion strategy. Some content campaigns are time sensitive (think seasonality), but all campaigns have to be considered within the entire time frame of research, planning, production and promotion. Timing for earned media efforts can be especially challenging as you will often find yourself at the mercy of someone else’s content calendar.
  • Synchronization with existing efforts: What other marketing campaigns are you running at the same time? Is there an opportunity to work together to maximize an outcome? Or perhaps there are certain channels and/or influencers you should avoid?

Step 4: Executing Your Integrated Promotion Strategy

Armed with the knowledge from steps 1-3, you’re now ready to execute your promotion strategy. The following infographic, appropriately titled The Content Promotion Strategy Decision Tree, can be used as a guide to determine best practices based on your time frame, budget, and goals.

Content-Promotion-Decision-Tree

Step 5: Measurement

In an age of data and analytics, there’s no excuse to not measure (and prove) the results from your content marketing campaigns. It’s no different when promotion is involved and there are some simple best practices that all marketers should be aware of:

  • Analytics software: Regardless of what you use (Google Analytics, Site Catalyst, Moz, HubSpot, none of the above, any combination of the above), it’s crucial to set up campaigns and monitor them accordingly. Regularly pull reports to analyze your performance, and then adjust accordingly.
  • Tagged/Tracking URLs: These are an analyst’s best friend, and they’ll make it very simple to track multiple ongoing cross-channel campaigns within your analytics software.
  • Monitor social performance: Tools like Buzzsumo and Sharetally can be used to examine your content’s engagement levels via social networks.

From Content Marketing to Marketing Content

2015 will be remembered as the year that marketers changed their mindset from content marketing to marketing content. Content marketing is no longer just about creating the right content; it’s about making sure that content is in the right place at the right time to build relationships with and influence your audience most effectively. An integrated promotion strategy bridges the gap between the two approaches, and it’s the key to getting the results you want—and deserve—from your content investments.

Join us Thursday, February 19th at 1 pm EST for a webinar and interactive forum that will showcase the results from an integrated promotion strategy that increased a company’s organic traffic by 56%.

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Feb

2

2015

New Data: What Types of Content Perform Best on Social Media?

social-content-data

In many aspects of life, timing is key. If you’ve got to schedule a very important meeting, and all of the attendees aren’t morning people, scheduling an 8 a.m. start time probably won’t result in a productive meeting. Or maybe you want to book a cheap vacation — you probably want to avoid scheduling one during the holidays. 

The same is true with content creation and social media. If you want your content to do well on social media, you’ve got to be strategic about what you publish and when you publish it. To figure out how and when to publish content to have a big social media splash, Fractl recently partnered with BuzzStream to analyze 220,000 articles from 11 verticals published during June 2014 to November 2014. Check out our findings below.

What types of content get shared?

Great ideas lead to great content, and our research proves that how you choose to execute that content will affect its social traction. We divided the content of articles into five types: how-tos, lists, what-posts, why-posts, and videos. Here’s how we defined each post type:

  • How-to posts introduce a problem, offer a solution, and then discuss each step to reach the desired result.
  • Lists are exactly what they sound like — they focus on a particular topic, offer a number of points about the topic, and provide a brief conclusion.
  • What-posts provide further information on a specific topic, with many articles surrounding comparisons of one thing to another.
  • Why-posts typically provide readers with a reason or purpose and provide details that support a focused conclusion.
  • Videos are also self-explanatory, providing the audience with a dynamic visual of the topic discussed within the article.

Across the six-month period of this analysis, we found that some post types did perform better than others. Lists and why-posts proved to have the most reliable social traction, averaging around 21,000 shares per month with a variance of less than 2.5%. What-posts were the riskiest format, showing a high variance of 13.45%. Further analysis of the six-month period revealed:

  • Lists narrowly claimed the most social traction at 22.45%
  • Why-posts earned 22.32% of social traction.
  • Videos drew 18.94% of total shares and performed well in Q4.
  • How-to articles earned 18.42% of shares.
  • What-posts had the lowest social traction, earning 17.88% of total shares.

What types of content perform best for different industries?

The social metrics of content type also varied by vertical, proving that each audience has different preferences and behaviors.

For example, lists proved the best content type for the travel vertical, claiming 32% of shares. The list format corresponded with what people do when planning for a trip: Write down where they want to go, what they need to pack, and other details.

But lists didn’t do as well in the education vertical, where this post type claimed only 10% of shares. Other interesting insights we found were:

  • Technology social shares increased during the end of the year, when its audience searched online for the latest gadgets to complete their holiday shopping.
  • July is the lowest-performing month for the education vertical, claiming only 10.57% of total shares, as school is closed for the summer and people’s minds are on other matters.
  • How-to articles were the most consistent performers within the automotive audience, corresponding with the highly practical and technical nature of the subject matter.
  • How-to posts also performed best in the food vertical, comprising of 37% of the social shares, most likely because people tend to enjoy posts on recipes. 

We also decided to dive deeper into the 11 verticals and identify the top 20 websites in each. Filtering these results by content type and date, we saw that although the average number of social shares per vertical did not vary wildly — usually less than 10% each month — some verticals performed better than others. The news vertical saw the most social traction, averaging more than 28,000 shares each month. Its high performance is likely because it has the broadest topic range of the different verticals. The second highest-performing vertical, entertainment, averaged more than 17,000 shares a month, while travel rounded out the top three with an average of more than 10,000 shares. Other findings included:

  • Lifestyle, tech, finance, business, and education averaged between 5,000 and 9,000 shares — nearly three times less than the news vertical.
  • Business was the only vertical to have a single-digit variance for all content types, emphasizing that its readers have a consistent sharing habit.
  • Automotive, health, and food averaged between 2,000 and 5,000 shares, food being the lowest-performing vertical with fewer than 2,500 social shares a month.
  • News was the only vertical that saw specific content types pass 5,000 shares.

When’s the best season for shareable content?

With more than 128,000 shares, October emerged as the month with the highest social traction for each of the different content types. Further analysis found:

  • Why-posts did well in September and November.
  • Videos performed well in Q4.
  • How-to posts took off in August and November.
  • What-posts earned the most shares out of all content types in October.
  • Videos did best in September with more than 24,000 shares.

But that doesn’t mean you should saturate publishing come fall. A closer look at the data determined that different verticals perform better at different times throughout the year:

  • News was the only vertical to see three content types reach more than 2,500 shares each in June.
  • None of the five content types reached 6,000 shares in any vertical during July and August.
  • Business, health, tech, and food did not have any standout content type that earned more than 2,000 social shares in September.
  • Automotive earned most of its shares in July, specifically with what-posts exceeding 3,000 social shares.
  • Social traction in the business vertical remained consistent for five months, between 8,000 and 9,000 shares, before dropping in November.
  • Lifestyle saw its highest monthly shares in September, with what-posts performing the best on social.
  • Finance also saw its highest monthly shares in September, with list posts providing the highest social traction.

The biggest takeaway from our research? Timing and relevancy key, especially if you want to hit that ever-desired mark of “going viral.” 

If you want to dive further into our findings, please check out the infographic below. If you want to put these findings to use, check out our free social content calendar.

Social Content Calendar

Study by Fractl and BuzzStream.

free social media benchmarks report

Oct

23

2014

43 Bright Ideas for Promoting Your Lead Gen Content

content_promotionSo you just created a piece of content for lead generation — congrats! 

While it’s tempting to go and celebrate, you’re not done just yet. You can’t just put a piece of content up on your website and hope that people will find it — you’ve got to actively promote it to your audience. 

But that’s where lots of us get stuck.  (more…)

Aug

24

2014

Top Content This Week: Web Design Trends, Content Authority Tools & Inspiring Mission Statements

dandelion-winds-of-changeHear that? It’s the winds of change. As summer comes to a close and the sun starts setting a little bit sooner, many of you are taking a look at your website and thinking about how you can get more visitors and more leads out of your existing assets.

(more…)


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