Digital Marketing – Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting Sat, 18 Aug 2018 17:16:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Digital Marketing – Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting 32 32 25 Best University Websites for 2018 Wed, 25 Jul 2018 13:19:22 +0000 One website, many audiences. It’s a common challenge for every marketer who must define primary demographics, prioritize content, and extend messaging. Convince & Convert knows that practitioners of all experience levels require underlying principles, as well as specific examples, to be successful. We decided to follow up on our first look at Social Media Lessons […]

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One website, many audiences. It’s a common challenge for every marketer who must define primary demographics, prioritize content, and extend messaging. Convince & Convert knows that practitioners of all experience levels require underlying principles, as well as specific examples, to be successful.

We decided to follow up on our first look at Social Media Lessons from the Best American Hospitals and extend our research to identify digital best practices that can be used across industries. How better to educate ourselves and others, then by examining the top universities in America?

How We Identified the Best University Websites

For this report, Convince & Convert reviewed the top 50 universities in the United States, based on undergraduate enrollment size, in order to see how the largest schools represented themselves through their primary online presence. We established a 100-point scoring system and analyzed each university’s website against both quantitative and qualitative criteria.

Quantitative Score: Using tools from Google, BuzzSumo, and Pingdom, we tested for four parameters—Mobile Site Friendliness, Number of Backlinks, Number of Social Shares of Website Content, and Homepage Load Time—and assigned each college a maximum of 40 points.

Qualitative Score: From the Quantitative results, Convince & Convert narrowed down the list of schools from 50 to 25. We then evaluated those institutes’ websites on an additional five criteria—Clarity of Brand/Identity, Ease of Use for Students, Ease of Use for Parents, Ease of Use for Alumni and Donors, and Ease of Use for Faculty and Staff—for a maximum of 60 points.

Universities Leading the Way

Total scores across the top 25 schools ranged from a high of 90 points down to a low of 38; considering these were the largest schools in the country by enrollment size, we found it intriguing to see this rather wide variance in digital performance. 

University of California Berkeley received the highest score, with University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and University of Michigan each trailing by a difference of less than 4 points. 

 Download the full Report.

Top 5 Factors for University Website Success

By looking at both the desktop and mobile versions of the top 25 university websites, Convince & Convert identified five best website practices.

1. Site Navigation

Each college had their own way of designing and displaying website navigation, but the ones that were most successful kept it simple. Menu items were labeled concisely, in common terms that would be understood by the broadest audience. In addition, limiting the number of top- and sub-level navigation choices made it easier for website visitors to follow their own specific path toward content they are most interested in.

#ProTip: Look at your site #analytics in terms of visitor behavior to identify successful paths toward high-demand content as well as potential dead-ends or blockages. #UX
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2. Mobile Experience

While all of the college websites we reviewed were viewable on mobile devices, many of them were clearly migrated over from their original desktop versions with little consideration for on-the-go users. We found the best mobile experiences came from universities who designed for small-screen readability, minimized bandwidth-heavy imagery, and prioritized which content to display.

Just because your website is viewable on mobile doesn’t mean it’s functional on mobile. Test your site on handheld devices in real-world situations to maximize usability. #mobileux
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3. Relationship Building

Convince & Convert was surprised to see how many universities treat their website homepage like a news portal rather than an institute of higher learning. It’s certainly understandable to want to highlight current updates, but this approach illuminates a potentially damaging attitude. A university earns its students, faculty, and donors through long-term relationship building, but if the first impression a potential student receives is not “how may we help you develop your future?” but “hey, look how awesome we are so you should come here,” it’s easy to turn a first visit into a last visit. 

Consider your website homepage from a first-date point of view. Are you talking only about yourself, or are you genuinely showing you’re interested in your visitor? Long-lasting relationships are not built on selfishness.
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4. Branding

It’s essential for any business, including one in higher education, to definitively show a USP (unique selling point). However, Convince & Convert’s research concludes that—beyond a few notable exceptions—most university websites simply don’t do well at differentiating what’s unique about their school. Branding needs to stand out, intrigue, and inspire your audience in order to win customers.

Learn to live and breathe your value proposition. If your business can’t clearly communicate what makes you unique, why should your potential customers care?
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5. Calls to Action

A university beneficially contributes to the education and development of numerous individuals, but it is still a business at its core. As such, it’s critical to maximize the inflow of monetary streams and provide as seamless a process as possible for potential and existing clients. The most successful schools in our report made their audience calls to action very clear. “Students, Alumni, and Donors” sections were prominently labeled, with easy paths to transactional closure.  

To maximize results, a business must focus on the most profitable actions. Follow the #ParetoPrinciple (aka 80/20 Rule).
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Put Best Practices To Work

The best website practices Convince & Convert discovered are important because the learnings we share in this paper go beyond the higher education vertical. Any large organization responsible for communicating with diverse, sizeable audiences can learn from our results and apply them for improved audience reach. Do you have some best website practices from your specific industry? We’d love for you to share them with us.

Download The Best Websites Among America’s Top Universities for more insights.

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New Research Reveals How to Optimize Marketing Automation Tue, 10 Jul 2018 13:00:08 +0000 Marketing automation helps marketers get more done in less time, standardize processes, target specific audiences, unify data, capture and analyze metrics, personalize content, and much more. In fact, marketing automation is “very important” to the overall performance of marketing, according to 94% of the best-in-class marketers participating in a recent Ascend2 survey. But how do […]

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optimize marketing automation research

Marketing automation helps marketers get more done in less time, standardize processes, target specific audiences, unify data, capture and analyze metrics, personalize content, and much more. In fact, marketing automation is “very important” to the overall performance of marketing, according to 94% of the best-in-class marketers participating in a recent Ascend2 survey.

But how do you optimize marketing automation to continually increase performance?

To answer this question, Ascend2 and their research partners fielded the Optimizing Marketing Automation Survey, and the Summary Report is available free of charge. The survey was fielded the week of May 27, 2018, and a total of 250 marketing professionals participated. 

Here are a few noteworthy findings:

Finding #1: Top Priorities

To successfully optimize marketing automation, you need a sound plan. And for nearly two-thirds of marketing professionals (64%), creating a successful strategy is a top priority for optimizing marketing automation. Marketing automation is a wonderful tool, but it’s a tool that is only as helpful as the strategy you develop to use it.

64% of marketing professionals agree that creating a successful strategy is a top priority for optimizing marketing automation.
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top priorities marketing automation


Finding #2: Challenging Barriers

Delivering personalized content and integrating all marketing systems are the most challenging barriers to marketing automation success for 44% and 43% of marketing professionals respectively. Thankfully, marketing software continues to reduce the challenge of delivering personalized content by collecting user data, analyzing the data, and automating the delivery process. What was extremely difficult a few years ago is now a more streamlined and repeatable process.

Delivering personalized content is the most challenging barrier to marketing automation success for 44% of marketing professionals.
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challenging barriers marketing automation


Finding #3: How Content Personalization is Changing

The impact of content personalization cannot be denied. In fact, if you are going to devote your time and effort to overcome a marketing challenge, why not tackle a challenge that is improving results? A total of 94% of marketing professionals say content personalization driven by marketing automation is improving to some extent, with 45% describing the improvement as significant. Yes, content personalization is here to stay!

94% of marketing professionals say content personalization driven by marketing automation is improving.
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content personalization marketing automation

Finding #4: Effective Tactics

Mapping the customer experience and utilizing personalized/dynamic content are considered effective tactics for optimizing marketing automation by 53% and 51% of marketing professionals respectively. Marketing automation is a powerful tool and can be used in a variety of ways to engage prospects, increase sales, and differentiate yourself from your competition.

54% of marketers agree that mapping the customer experience is the most effective tactic for optimizing marketing automation.
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effective tactics marketing automation


Finding #5: Difficult Tactics

Tactics for optimizing marketing automation like content personalization, artificial intelligence, and predictive modeling, and customer experience mapping are especially difficult to employ for 46%, 45% and 43% of marketing professionals respectively.

Tactics for optimizing marketing automation like content personalization are difficult to implement for 46% of marketers.
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The good news is that technology continues to improve, making tactics like dynamic content and predictive modeling easier to accomplish.

In fact, now may be the perfect time to explore one or two of the difficult tactics on the list below and you may be surprised, it may not be as difficult as you anticipated. 

difficult tactics marketing automation

Download the Optimizing Marketing Automation Survey Summary Report for more data and analysis to optimize your marketing automation.

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How to Market Your Course to Generate Leads Tue, 03 Jul 2018 13:00:18 +0000 The world of online courses has gotten bigger and bigger. So much so that it isn’t just universities getting on board. Experts have realized that they can use their authority to build a base of willing students eager to learn from them. This has led to thousands of free and paid online courses that are […]

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how to market your course to generate leads

The world of online courses has gotten bigger and bigger. So much so that it isn’t just universities getting on board. Experts have realized that they can use their authority to build a base of willing students eager to learn from them. This has led to thousands of free and paid online courses that are used as a marketing tactic for different brands.

If you are reading this, it can be assumed that you are at least interested in making a course. Or perhaps you already have one and don’t know how to promote it. Either way, here are 11 ways you can generate leads by marketing your course to the public.

1. Know Your Audience BEFORE You Create Your Course

For those of you who haven’t created your course yet, this is the best first step you can take. You probably have a general idea of who you are looking to educate. But how specific is that group? Having a more solid demographic in mind is going to help you to create a more balanced and helpful course.

Let’s say you want to create a course on creating a Disavow file. You wouldn’t spend the first half of the course going over the basic of what those updates are, what they mean and how SEO applies to website traffic. You would assume they already knew that much, at least.

Searching Google for your focus keywords will help you a lot when it comes to understanding your target audience. Google search results adapt to searchers’ needs: Google has been successful learning to give its users exactly what they want, so now we can learn from Google’s results what it is our customers need.

[Image source: The Ultimate Guide to Keyword Intent: What Keywords Tell Your Customers – Based on types of search results you can guess what the search intent is]

Additionally, Google Suggest:

google suggest

… and “People Also Ask” results both give further insight into what interests your target user most:

google people also ask

As I shared previously, you can use Serpstat to see which types of “universal” search results any given query triggers:

Serpstat keyword selection

… as well as use its filters to restrict your search to queries triggering a particular search type (and hence a particular intent):

Serpstat search filters

2. Understand What Makes Your Course Unique

There are so many courses out there right now. If you aren’t offering something special, no one is going to take the bait. You should predicate your promotion on what it is you have to offer that is different than everyone else.

If you have a well-established brand, just having it offered under that banner could be enough. If not, you may want to start thinking of a few angles that you can use in a trial and error process to find what is the most effective way of advertising your course.

3. Monitor Your Competition

I was debating which one to put first: the point about being unique or this one. Quite clearly, one never goes without the other. In any industry, there’s always a brand that has positioned itself as a knowledge hub, i.e. the leader of niche education. In the SEO industry we have Moz, for example, which provides Q&A, weekly videos, downloadable guides, and more. Small businesses have SmallBizTrends that monitors news, offers downloadable business resources, and more.

If you are trying to become a knowledge hub in your industry, you need to monitor existing leaders to get a better idea of what they create, how they engage readers, and how they turn them into leads.

4. Take a Survey of Potential Students

A quick was to get the above mentioned unique perspective is to find out what it is your potential students are looking for in a course. If they are searching that must mean they haven’t found it in all the others that are floating out there on the web. It is a good place to start for ideas.

Try Wyzerr for collecting feedback: It gamifies the surveying experience making it more entertaining and engaging. There are many more surveying options though that integrate right into your WordPress blog.

It could also be used as a way to get their email, too … but more on that, later.

5. Use a Platform that Offers Flexibility

There are free course hosting platforms out there but they have little to no control over anything: Branding, pricing, linking, etc. You can send updates to your students but you cannot add links in them which is also extremely limited.

If you have at least some budget to spare, consider using a more advanced solution that would allow you to create lead generation magnets, lead generation landing pages and lead generation special offers.

Uscreen is one of the best solutions and it’s very affordable too. You’ll be able to brand your course, place it on your own domain, schedule newsletters and special offers and more. You will also be able to easily create your own app to offer your students a handy mobile access (and keeping them engaged with push notifications)

6. Use Multiple Promotional Platforms

Your blog and Twitter are obvious places to promote your course. But what about a landing page? A Youtube channel? Youtube videos? Instagram posts? Snapchat stories a teasers? Reddit? Tumblr? Slideshare?

You can really expand beyond the average platform and have a well-rounded promotional launch that takes advantage of the many different forms of media that different people respond to. You want videos, slideshows, infographics, blog posts, social media posts, podcast interviews… anything you can get that reaches a different audience that may respond better to varying forms of promotion.

7. Don’t Just Use a Single Learning Form

Just like not everyone responds to a single form of promotion, not everyone learns the same way. That is why online university courses use videos, graphics, written questions and discussions to help their students learn the material. It is a great way to make sure everyone learns something in a way that is beneficial to them.

One of the best ways to promote a course is to be able to boast about this multifaceted approach to learning. If they know they won’t just be reading page after page of dry content, they will be much more willing to sign up. This means more work for you, but it is worth it.

8. Leverage Email Marketing

Remember that hint about getting email addresses? Email marketing remains one of the most effective forms of marketing available. For small to medium businesses, the click-through versus open rate is pretty good and the fact that everyone has their phone connected to their email means you have mobile covered, as well.

If you can build an email list, or even if you can incorporate email directly into your course, you will be much more successful. I personally love using more traditional drip campaigns as a reminder system for daily or weekly lessons and to keep people on task.

Plus, you can use an email list for future courses.

9. Offer a Condensed Version For Free

The assumption is that you are charging something for your course. But even if you aren’t, you should have a free condensed version that acts as a “mini-course”. This takes some of the ideas, tips and lessons you have made for your bigger course and offers it for something faster.

It may seem as though you are giving the cow away for free. But this actually whets the whistle of anyone who might consider taking the course and isn’t sure yet if they want to invest the time, energy and money into it.

Think of a mini course as the lead gen magnet.

10. Have Promotions, Bundles or Discount Opportunities

Planning to make multiple courses? Have a service, product or ebook? It is a great opportunity to sweeten the deal with bundles. If not, you can create promotions, discounts and sales that give people your course for less.

One of the most effective ways I have used this tactic is to offer half off to the first twenty people who sign up—you should see the rush!

11. Get Out Into the Community

Did you know you probably have live meetups in you community about the very thing you are teaching? See about joining up by checking sites like Join localized subreddits and Facebook groups. Start your own.

This gives you a chance to speak, meet others face to face and begin local promotion.

Do you have any tips for making a course hit the big time? Let us know in the comments!

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What’s Wrong With Your Marketing Math? Tue, 08 May 2018 14:29:54 +0000 Nothing undermines your marketing math like shallow measurement and sloppy attribution. A new webinar has arrived to guide you through overhauling your measurement strategy.

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What’s Wrong With Your Marketing Math

Ever feel like something is rotten in the state of your company’s marketing? Too often, untangling marketing’s role within the company and showing the metrics that prove real value can turn into a Shakespearean-level drama.

What happens when you decide to untangle the parts and players and start making sense of the numbers in front of you? Allie Butters, head of marketing and sales at BrightFunnel, joins in to help explain how to make your marketing math add up.

Is Marketing a Must-Have or a Nice-to-Have?

Measurement is the key to marketing, and subjectivity is the villain of your production. It’s like going to a Michael Bay movie. There’s a lot of flash and noise, and it looks pretty cool, but without solid metrics, there’s no plot or clarity.

In 2017, 77 percent of global B2B marketing decision-makers said that an inability to measure results is one of their top concerns. Without objective measurement, different divisions in the company don’t see the value the marketing team adds because they don’t understand what exactly it is that you do.

Worse still, some CEOs don’t see marketing as a key component of your company strategy—and you don’t want to get labeled a bit player. When surveyed, there are still companies that answer “Not important at all” when asked how important marketing impacts their success.

Measurement turns the subjective into the truth, and it’s what transforms marketing from a “nice-to-have” to a “must-have.”

So if everyone’s freaking out about measurement . . . then why is everyone freaking out about measurement? Shouldn’t everyone be on the same page?

Not so fast. You have a few challenges to overcome to get everyone on script and to get your marketing math sorted.

Measurement transforms marketing from a nice-to-have to a must-have.
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Ditch Shallow Measurements and Go for Transparency

Take a look at your marketing funnel. You know that you want to bring awareness to interest, then down to decision, and finally to an action or commitment.

What you may not realize is that you aren’t reaching all your audiences, and you won’t reach them until you dig deep. Insight and transparency into the data collection process, and into other areas of your company, are the first steps in getting out of that shallow trench.

Look at lead-scoring, for example. When marketing collects the data, but sales chooses a lead to pursue based on their motivations, it’s like handing an actor a Shakespeare script and having them run off to do a bit from Friends. It’s totally unexpected, and it suits some tastes, but it has nothing to do with the audience you intended to reach.

Disregarding data wastes time and effort. If there’s no transparency, you don’t get to course-correct before the data gets misused. There has to be cooperation so that everyone in the company can see the entire marketing funnel—all the way down to action.

Measure it by function and target your audiences within the company. Sales, CEOs, and all the different marketing bases should get tailored reports to help them see why your data is essential.

This is math you can use right away: When marketing and sales work together, both can see 400 percent growth in annual revenue. Sales and marketing should be a collaborative ensemble, not separate entities. Once you’re working together, you get to have some real fun: You can begin killing your marketing lead losers to start getting real reactions, fast.

When marketing and sales work together

Why You Need to Kill Your Losers

Who doesn’t love to cut ineffective projects out of the lineup? After you nix the shallow insight and lead measurement for a deeper understanding, you can begin to tackle marketing math challenge number two: You have to stop measuring without attribution.

Measurement without attributing credit to the source is unhelpful, and yet we see it all the time. This is especially problematic in social media marketing, where you’re running simultaneous campaigns and feeling as though you’re spinning in circles faster than Olympic ice dancers. There’s quantity, but where’s the quality?

The trick is to check your perceptions at the door and welcome in your attribution.

Have you ever heard the story of the blind men and the elephant? When touching the elephant, each man identified the elephant as a different object (a rope, a tree, a leaf) based on the part they were touching. Assumptions mean nothing without metrics to back them up. We all know the line about what happens when you “assume,” but there’s a second part we don’t discuss as much.

Tom Webster from Edison Research says, “The plural of anecdote isn’t data.” When you say no to “attribution,” you’re saying yes to your own biases. It’s too easy to explain away poor performance with your own attitudes and filters affecting your judgment. So don’t do that! Find what isn’t working using real, hard data, and slice your losers out of the lineup. Knowing how to attribute shows you the difference between Shakespeare and Friends.

Finally, Take a Look at Attribution Models

There are several attribution models to know so you can measure your marketing accurately. Converting a prospect to a sale is great, but you really need to know which action on the line made the flip.

You’ll see in the webinar how Allie and I assess our favorite models, so that you can figure out which tactic or tactics are the best for your company. You can choose what makes the most sense for you, and you’ll get a sense of what each model values at each point in the lead conversion.

Nice-to-have to must-have

Go Forward and Measure Better!

When you check out the webinar, you’ll see how big names like Invoca and Cloudera chucked the script on shallow measurement and used solid attribution to achieve incredible growth. Allie’s insights from BrightFunnel’s targeted B2B marketing experience will help you sort out your marketing and sales to help turn them into a powerhouse performance ensemble.

If you’re ready to adjust your math to make it work for your B2B marketing, check out the What’s Wrong With Your Marketing Math? webinar to understand how to value marketing, go forward, and measure better!

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The 9 Best User-Generated Content Platforms for Driving Engagement and Sales Tue, 17 Apr 2018 13:04:33 +0000 These nine platforms offer the most powerful and most diverse suites of tools for soliciting, aggregating, and promoting user-generated content.

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The 9 Best User-Generated Content Platforms for Driving Engagement and Sales

In 2015, Adweek called it “the next big thing.” In the years since, it’s become colossal. In fact, because of the way it makes marketing more authentic and believable, user-generated content (UGC) may be social media’s most significant contribution to the world of marketing.

A post on the Adweek blog said, “As the world has shifted to social media, consumers look at fellow consumers to inform their purchasing decisions. Instead of looking at companies, as they did in the past, they now look at each other and at their favorite personalities.”

In 2016, Salesforce claimed:

  • Visitors to websites that include UGC galleries spend 90 percent more time on the site.
  • Social campaigns that incorporate UGC see a 50 percent lift in engagement.
  • Ads with UGC generate five times greater click-through rates.
  • UGC drives a 73 percent increase in email click-through rates.
  • UGC increases conversions by 10 percent when included in the online purchase path.

In mid-2017, Search Engine Journal claimed, “Online ratings and reviews are a form of word of mouth, which is the most trusted source consumers consult before buying.”

The article cited above also included data from a study done by TurnTo (with research partner Ipsos).

TurnTo Ipsos UGC research

According to this study:

  • 90 percent of survey respondents said UGC had at least some influence over their online purchases.
  • 53 percent rated it “extremely influential” or “very influential,” a higher percentage than for any other category.

TurnTo Ipsos UGC impact

And as 2017 came to a close, TINT produced The 2018 User Generated Content Marketing Report.

TINT UGC Marketing Report

The TINT report’s many findings included data revealing how UGC is utilized. The report stated, “The omni-channel potential for UGC is extremely promising with social media managers, project managers and marketers who indicated it’s applied on a diverse mix of marketing applications.”

They added a point from ComScore research, stating brand engagement rises by 28 percent when consumers are exposed to a mixture of professional marketing content and UGC. The report concluded that user-generated content is not only an effective inbound tool but also shows great promise for supporting mid and bottom of the funnel efforts.

Instagram UGC

UGC may prove social media’s most significant contribution to the world of marketing.
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9 Powerful Tools for Generating UGC

Perhaps you were sold on UGC before I presented all that juicy data. Maybe your brand’s already flicked the switch. However, while the burden of creating user-generated content falls on your customers, you may have found the processes of inspiring, finding, collecting, and presenting UGC more laborsome than you like. But like most tasks in this hyper-cyber century, any number of SaaS-based platforms can slash the time it takes to achieve your objectives (especially when you know what they are).

I can’t promise you I’ve turned over every stone in the fast-proliferating market, but I’m confident the platforms I have uncovered based on my experience and research can help you become a more efficient and effective purveyor of UGC. Here are nine of the top UGC platforms you might want to try or buy.

1. Yotpo

When Yotpo entered the fray in 2011, the company focused on helping its customers collect and present text-based testimonials. This is still one of the strengths of the platform. However, they’ve taken a leap forward to empower brands to collect every type of user-generated content and use it throughout the buyer journey.

Yotpo collects UGC

According to a case study on the Yotpo site, Vanity Planet tested a product page against the same page with customer photos added just above the reviews. The page with the customer photos outperformed the original with a 24 percent increase in clickthroughs from the product page to the checkout page.

2. ShortStack

The ideal way to inspire people to create UGC is to dangle a reward in front of them. Contests do just that. They deliver a reason to play along.

ShortStack is one of the pioneers in the business of enabling brands to create contests, giveaways, and other types of online competitions and promotions. Their flexible service enables you to jumpstart the creation of your promotions by customizing any one of a long list of templates.

ShortStack creates promotions

ShortStack customers often choose to conduct photo and video contests, which are promoted on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more. Contests not only prompt fans and customers to publish content, but also take advantage of what ShortStack calls “action-gating,” meaning users must submit contact information via a form to qualify for the competitions.

3. Curalate

Curalate describes itself as a visual content platform and the leader in “discovery-driven commerce.”

The platform is a robust toolbox for increasing sales via social media. One compelling component of Curalate, Fanreel, enables e-commerce brands to “bring the outside in.” That is, brands can easily gather UGC, secure approval to use it, and present it on-site to help boost conversion.

Curalate gathers UGC and secures approval

Here’s a sample portion of a massive gallery of UGC displayed on the Raymour & Flanigan e-commerce site, which sells furniture and mattresses.


TINT describes itself as a social media aggregator and content curation tool. The company introduces a couple of interesting slants:

  • In addition to the broad “enterprise” use case, TINT positions its services specifically for hospitality and education markets.
  • TINT also showcases how the service is ideal for creating social media walls at events.

TINT compiles social mentions

A video embedded in the post A Marketer’s Guide to Student Recruitment in 2018 offers a look behind the scenes at how Purdue University uses the service to compile social mentions of their annual Purdue Day of Giving event on a single page of their website.

5. CrowdRiff

CrowdRiff combines UGC discovery and content delivery. However, CrowdRiff takes a vertical market approach with services that cater specifically to travel and tourism brands.

CrowdRiff gathers UGC for travel and tourism brands

#ThePalmBeaches campaign is an example of how CrowdRiff’s clients leverage user-generated content, word-of-mouth marketing, and the power of social media to feature compelling visuals.

CrowdRiff also touts “smart digital asset management for both UGC and owned visuals.” The platform’s AI elements include a feature that tracks the performance of photos and videos that clients choose to feature in galleries. The software then automatically features those that gain the most traction.

6. Olapic

Olapic’s a formidable player in the UGC space as well. Clients earn content with a content engine, request it from influencers and employees with a creator platform, and create it by turning assets into motion-based content.

I didn’t find any mention of “motion-based” on the websites of the other brands included in this post, so let’s look at that interesting feature.

Olapic’s Content in Motion feature transforms UGC images into engaging, short-form videos that can be shared across a variety of digital channels.

7. Stackla

Stackla is another powerful player in the “collect and curate” realm, which touts the platform’s ability to collect social content from over 25 sources and use geolocation and visual recognition technology for UGC tagging.

Stackla detects patterns in user content

Stackla’s Co-Pilot product introduces an AI element, which uses machine learning to detect patterns in the content its clients publish and measure engagement resulting in predictive recommendations.

8. Pixlee

Pixlee is another robust UGC platform on a mission to help brands market with the voice of their customers. However, it introduces a unique influencer marketing element.

Pixlee brings influencer marketing to UGC

On the Pixlee site, they use the term “Social CRM” to describe the built-in influencer marketing functionality. This social CRM manages and connects with passionate customers and influencers and measures the results.

9. TurnTo

TurnTo offers what it calls a “suite of shopping assistance tools” to better inform users. Its four-pronged product suite includes UGC solutions for ratings and reviews, visual reviews, check-out comments, and community Q&A (which struck me as its most unique offering).

TurnTo connects potential and existing customers

TurnTo’s goal is to connect customers with questions to people who already own the product. Many questions are answered instantly thanks to a Q&A knowledgebase, which draws from existing answers.

UGC Is Here, There, and Everywhere

“Many marketers have yet to realize the brand-building power of this immature but influential marketing discipline.” These words come from a 2014 white paper on UGC by Forrester Consulting (commissioned by Bazaarvoice). Four years later, many marketers have indeed realized its power. Many SaaS companies have brought helpful solutions to market.

The market is ripe, and it continues to grow up.

UGC throughout customer lifecycle

The graphic above depicts how brands leverage UGC throughout the customer lifecycle. It dates back to 2014 but makes important points that are even more relevant today.

As stated in the paper referenced above, the first step to leveraging UGC is getting UGC. From there, brands should:

  • Go beyond ratings and reviews.
  • Invite customers to contribute content.
  • Give customers a reason to engage with the brand.
  • Engage with customers who engage with your brand.

There you have it: an arsenal of tools for collecting all kinds of UGC and driving engagement and sales. Go get ‘em!

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New Research Says We’re All About to Boost Our Marketing Budgets Tue, 03 Apr 2018 13:00:00 +0000 A new survey of CMOs indicates marketing budgets will rise in 2018. Learn where and how firms plan to allocate their marketing dollars in the year ahead.

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New Research Says We're All About to Boost Our Marketing Budgets

Get out your wallets, CMOs, because chances are you will be spending more on marketing in the next twelve months. In fact, a recent survey by CMO Survey (that’s right—all these folks do is survey and gather data from CMOs like you) gathered answers from over 300 Chief Marketing Officers and collectively reported an average 8.9 percent projected increase in marketing dollar spend over the next year. That number’s in the double digits if you are in healthcare (13 percent), technology (12.4 percent) or energy (21.4 percent).

Beyond this general indication of needing deeper marketing pockets, there are loads of other interesting points in this year’s results. Let’s take a look.

How Much Is Too Much?

Everything is relative, so let’s talk about ratio. The study let us know that on average, a firm’s marketing budget is 11.1 percent of its overall firm budget. This is up from 8.9 percent in February 2011. Compared to revenue, marketing budget is 7.9 percent proportionally. The big spender here is consumer goods, which reports 21.9 percent of total revenue going to marketing budget alone.

Marketing spending as percent of company revenue

That means businesses that ended the 2017 fiscal year with a solid $10 million in revenue are planning to spend $790,000 to market their businesses in 2018. That also means for every $1 million in revenue, $79,000 will be spent on marketing (on average).

This leads to the first introspective moment of this post: How do you fit into that ratio? Are you spending that much? More likely, you are spending less than that and wondering why your competitor is outpacing you in growth.

Firms spend an average

Where Is All That Money Going?

Growth in digital marketing spend is greatly outpacing traditional. In 2018, as digital grows, we see traditional spend shrinking by -1.2 percent. This is consistent across all market sectors.

Social media spend has grown 243 percent since 2009. This translates into an anticipated increase in social media spend by 71 percent in the next five years. That is a huge amount of projected growth! It also indicates a larger acceptance of trust in social media messaging delivery which has taken years to establish.

It is important to note that this increase correlates to an acknowledgment of the significant role e-commerce plays in the larger business models for most organizations. Obviously, this particular objective lives online, so the rise in social media marketing is in direct correlation.

Additionally, this increase in spend in the coming years signifies a leap of faith for many. At the same time, the survey reveals that internally, CMOs are fighting an uphill battle. The perception that social media actually contributes to a company’s performance is low (3.3 on a scale of one to seven). This begs the question, why spend so much on social?

Marketing spend on social media has grown a whopping 243% since 2009.
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Why Spend It on Social Media?

The three hundred CMOs surveyed reported that the top reasons their firms use social media are brand building and brand awareness. This shows a glaring under-appreciation for the value of social media to not only build brand equity but to aid in achieving actual business objectives.

One such objective is customer retention. For years, brands that move at the speed of social in response to customer needs have increased brand loyalty. So while CMOs say they are using social media for awareness now, expect to see a shift over the next five years toward greater social usage for customer service and informational syndication to aid retention. After all, it is always better (and cheaper) to keep a customer than acquire a new one.

How firms use social media

Of course, if you are a CMO, and your organization doesn’t see value in where you plan to increase your budget, proving the impact of the investment takes priority. As this research proves, firms have improved their ability to prove the quantitative impact of social media. Firms are capturing that “measurable results unicorn” better than ever before. 23.3 percent of survey respondents report they’re now quantitatively measuring social media impact, up from 14.6 in 2014. Data like this will only bolster the case for growth in the years ahead.

Social media impact on business

Impact Needs to Be Measured

While results measurement matters more than ever, current marketing analytics spend shows some fluctuation but no consistent increase over the past five years. That’s going to change considerably in the coming years. Spending on marketing analytics is forecasted to increase 198 percent in three years. That’s a huge increase and a wise move. Over 42 percent of those surveyed use marketing analytics in their decision-making, which raises some concerns about the 58 percent of respondents who are not using analytics. If they aren’t using data, what are they using?

It’s Still About More and More Mobile

It is hard to believe we could be using our phones more than we already do, but survey projections suggest otherwise: The percent of marketing budget spent on mobile trends upwards over the next three years. In fact, marketing spend on mobile is expected to increase by a full 93 percent. That includes not only mobile ads but also geo beacon content, SMS text programs, augmented reality applications, and more. Mobile marketing offers huge opportunities in the years ahead for innovation by targeting consumers and pushing them closer to purchase consideration.

Marketing spend on mobile

Predicting the future is a tricky business. And much like our work at Convince & Convert, we look to comprehensive data to help us understand patterns and variances to glean predictive knowledge. This CMO survey gives us a glimpse into the future.

We recognize that this survey represents a sample, and of course, every organization is unique with its own set of challenges and objectives. But there is value in learning from others’ intentions for the marketing years ahead. How does this survey compare to your plans?

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The 6 Most Important Search Engine Ranking Factors of 2017 Tue, 27 Mar 2018 13:00:42 +0000 A new report looks back on the search engine ranking factors that shaped the media industry in 2017, as well as what these findings might mean for the year ahead.

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The 6 Most Important Search Engine Ranking Factors of 2017

This is the time marketers typically look at statistics from the past year and determine how those findings could shape the coming months. Below, we’ll closely examine details from Searchmetrics’s “Media Ranking Factors Data Insights for Performing on Google,” plus what those specifics mean for you, your industry, and your colleagues.

People Under 30 Prefer Their Phones for Reading News

It’s probably not surprising that the majority of survey respondents under 30 hardly leave home without their smartphones. However, if your search engine strategy has largely overlooked mobile until now, that’s a mistake.

The survey discovered 70 percent of people from that demographic would rather use their smartphones than desktop computers when getting caught up on the news. Also, across all age groups, people want to click on news links and efficiently access news content.

This suggests that, in the year ahead, pop-up ads or poorly designed websites could limit overall speedy access to news and cause frustration. It’s necessary to come up with ways to help news sites remain profitable while being aware of what visitors expect. If the site experience doesn’t match users’ preferred access methods, they might not come back, and SEO rankings could fall, too.

External Links Can Help Sites Rise in the Rankings

An analysis of the total number of outside sites mentioned in a media URL’s landing page found that the average was 29.2 for a top 10 site. The number climbed slightly to 30.7 for websites in the top 20.

That means even though it might take more time to add those external sources, doing so causes search engines to view the content as more valuable. Also, don’t forget that additional material helps build credibility with readers. You can include original documents, well-known news sources, interviews from primary sources, and more to flesh out a story. These are all reasons why external links will undoubtedly remain prominent in 2018.

Top-Ranking Pages Feature Highly Relevant Content

People associated with this recent report also pinpointed how when individuals perform online searches, they do so using media-related keywords. The sites that rank highest in Google are closely associated with those terms and get updated regularly. In the year ahead, you could waste time and money by publishing content and never thinking about it again.

Instead, it’s necessary to continuously track public content to monitor its performance. As needed, freshen it up with new details that fit current searches. Doing that should give new life to long-since published material.

If you publish content and never think about it again, you could be wasting time and money.
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Social Signals Have Positive Effects on Traffic Levels

Google does not factor in social signals—such as likes and tweets—when ranking a site. However, the results of this study indicate that the top 10 media sites on Google had thousands more social signals than other websites.

What does this mean for you? People still pay attention to content online that gets significant amounts of engagement. A smart strategy for 2018 is to figure out how to entice people to get immersed in your content. When that happens, your traffic levels should go up, too. People who use social networks usually like media URLs and spreading them through that sector of the online realm. Use this to your advantage by publishing share-worthy content that keeps people interested.

HTTPS Encryption Could Give You a Rankings Advantage

Google representatives confirm https encryption is one of the many factors that determine a site’s overall ranking. However, Searchmetrics’s study revealed only 12 percent of the top 10 media websites use https encryption. That statistic is just a quarter of the benchmark for other types of web content.

The first thing to realize about that statistic is that most media websites don’t ask for personal details, so site developers may see encryption as unnecessary. However, since Google now uses https encryption to help calculate rankings, encrypting your media site may allow it to rank higher as a result. Consider the possible pros and cons of encrypting your media site in the coming year.

The Highest-Ranking Media URLs Use More Images Than Lower-Ranked Sites

This investigation of what makes media sites conquer Google’s algorithms also found a connection between the number of 200×200-pixel images used. Sites achieved better rankings and appeared on the first page of search results when using seven percent more pictures than websites that were less prominent in search results.

This statistic doesn’t mean 2018 is the year to haphazardly pack your material with images and see if your rankings go up. It’s still necessary to take a balanced approach. Be mindful of the type of content and decide whether it’s best to use images, or other media like videos.

These takeaways could guide many of your SEO-related decisions for 2018. As you mull them over, remember that although this is an essential study, some of your internal research about page performance might give contradicting evidence that relates to your audience. After making changes to your content, always observe it as the outcomes unfold.

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5 Landing Pages You Need to Manage Your Reputation Mon, 26 Mar 2018 13:00:00 +0000 Landing pages give you total control over the narrative, making them an excellent tool for managing your online reputation. Make sure you've got these five ready for action.

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5 Landing Pages You Need to Manage Your Reputation

Your reputation is important. Branding is a fundamental focus of successful businesses. Companies spend fortunes watching social media for mentions, checking out reviews, paying for review posts on popular blogs, advertising through influencer videos, dealing with customer service complaints, and holding massive customer engagement campaigns.

Certainly, you’ve been doing your best on a more limited budget. But have you been building landing pages for the task? Believe it or not, landing pages can be one of the best possible ways to manage your reputation, because they give you total control over the narrative.

Landing pages work for both reputation management (because they are able to rank for your brand name) and traffic + lead generation. (If you do this right, they are able to direct clicks to your site.)

Where else can you get that kind of power? Through a social media page? Blog comments? Video responses? Nope! On a landing page, you can present the image and information you want and use it to help cultivate your reputation from the very first click. Everything else will follow.

How to Brainstorm Your Reputation Management Landing Page Topic

The key word here is “reputation.” That is, we want these landing pages to have a dual purpose:

  1.   Rank in Google for your brand navigational terms.
  2.   Direct customers to your most important selling point.

That being said, #1 is your priority: The more pages that rank in the top 10 for your navigational queries you can control, the better. The more assets we create to target brand-focused queries, the more we can control.

Before getting down to creating the below pages, do some research. Run your brand name through tools like Answer The Public and see which search suggestions your (future) customers see. You want to control of those!

Additionally, run your brand name (and the brand name of your competitors) through your favorite keyword research tool and see what else you need to target those. I like Serpstat because it also shows (1) other types of search results and (2) various social domains that rank for each query. This gives me a good idea of what type of content assets I need to create.

From there, here are five types of landing pages you can create, focusing on your important brand-focused keywords, on-site and off-, to build both your leads and reputation.

1. “Start Here” Landing Page

Your landing page is a great opportunity to introduce people to your brand. What do you do? What is your mission? And what can you offer to the person who has found themselves on your site? An introduction doesn’t have to be long (though long landing pages have been found to be more effective in generating conversions).

Never assume that the customer knows what you are all about. A “Start Here” landing page gives you the opportunity to completely control the narrative and, thus, your brand image. It is a chance to give it a face, whether it is yours, a mascot, or just a general tone that will be carried on through the rest of your promotional materials and content moving forward.

These pages can also act as an “About” page, but I personally prefer to have both. One is directly attached to the website; one is a more thorough “hello” and introduction that is less about informing and more about engaging.

Darren Rowse’s “Start here” page features his video and call-to-action above the fold.

Robert Katai’s “Who Am I” page features the visual timeline of his featured mentions and shows logos of well-known websites that Robert was featured on. To get better insight into how Robert uses visual elements to build better landing pages, read here.

Further reading:

When it comes to landing pages, never assume that the customer knows what you're all about.
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2. The “Coming Soon” Landing Page

When I was launching a new content marketing service a few years ago, I had originally planned to use my website itself as a way to generate leads (via email subscriptions). It wasn’t long before I realized that the method that had been so tried and true for getting content out to the masses might not work so well for a direct B2C service that operated as its own platform. I was in a different ballpark entirely and didn’t know how to play the game.

I ended up creating a landing page (now offline) using Launchrock about three months prior to launch. Once I’d created the page, I aggressively promoted it, optimized it, talked about it in guest posts, linked it on social media, and really improved the ranking for the page in particular, instead of my general website.

The landing page itself had a brief video introducing my coming service, the launch date, and an email subscription form for an exclusive invite for the initial opening. I generated so many leads! I was astonished and have been a big believer in landing pages for lead generation ever since.

A great thing about Launchrock (or any other similar service) is that you can host it right on their site and get it ranked for your brand name too.

There are lots of cool templates and ideas for your own coming soon landing page (you can steal some here), so you can play a lot until you are satisfied with the result.

3. The Seasonal Minisite

Several years ago HubSpot created a minisite for the holidays called HolidayHub. They paired it with a hashtag campaign of the same name and promoted it like crazy. It was essentially the same as their regular website but in a smaller form, with limited features and a holiday theme. It was essentially a landing page, but more.

Everything on it fit back to the holiday theme, including guides and tools. It had a countdown to Christmas on the top. At the bottom was a sign-up form for a free assessment through their service.

Not only was it incredibly effective, but it more or less popularized minisite landing pages. They are among the most suggested landing page styles by experts, as they give a taste of your website without a lot of the clutter. You can better control what people see and base yours on a theme that attracts continued interest through that period.

You can even buy a new domain for your minisite and rank it for your brand name or other important terms more easily. A good example of this tactic is Free Shipping Day, which is operated as a separate website by the owners of and ranks for a variety of free-shipping-related queries.

What happens when the time for that theme passes? Make another one!

4. The Social Digest

Social media is a great way to get attention, but it can be pretty disconnected from landing pages and even overall content marketing strategies. It is more like a secondary platform, and trying to combine the two can be hit and miss—which is why I love this idea so much and have found my new favorite tool.

Miappi takes all of your social media and curates the best content that is gaining the most attention from your followers. Then it puts it all up on your landing page in an easy-to-read digest that visitors can check out and get updated with regularly.

What I love about this is that it removes the onus from my followers to go to every single social media page I have. I don’t like to post everything to the same accounts, as that method of social marketing has long since fallen by the wayside. Instead, I’ve created a more solid strategy that uses each platform for its own unique engagement. A social digest takes advantage of that.

5. “Offer Ended” Landing Page

Your special offers may expire, and your products may become outdated. Yet, the expired offer may haunt you for ages: It will be strongly associated with your brand, and customers will keep asking you about that. Don’t delete your outdated landing pages—they can still rank for your brand name! Instead, rebuild them into something that will help to keep the customer.

The “Offer Ended” page will direct people to posts, pages, products, updates, or anything else relevant at that time.

Let’s say you have a new promotion that gives 20 percent of a year’s subscription to your service. You can place a banner up on the landing page that announces and links to your cart with a promo code auto-filled. Or maybe you have a new end of year guide with all of the tips you provided over the past twelve months. You could have it front and center.

An “Offer Ended” landing page helps your visitors find what they didn’t even know they needed.

You can find great examples of “expired offer” pages with conference landing pages. If you don’t have the next event set up yet and there’s no place to direct traffic, use the old landing page to build up interest, as well as your list.

Have a landing page tip you think belongs on this list? Let us know in the comments.

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How to Launch an Effective Brand Ambassador Campaign Fri, 23 Mar 2018 13:12:24 +0000 Marketers everywhere are leveraging the power of influencers on social media, but struggling to report on their ROI. Here's how to build a top-notch brand ambassador campaign with results you can measure.

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How to Launch an Effective Brand Ambassador Campaign

Social media has become a ubiquitous medium for individuals and companies alike. As of 2017, 81 percent of Americans and more than three billion people worldwide have at least one social media profile. Despite social media’s widespread usage, its ROI remains difficult for marketers to pinpoint.

Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat, different social media platforms can be essential parts of customer outreach. The key is to determine which of those avenues is most beneficial for your company.

But determining the best social media marketing path to take is no easy feat. Simply Measured found in its 2017 State of Social Marketing Report that marketers’ top concern with social media is ROI; as of 2017, about 65 percent of social media teams were housed within their companies’ marketing departments—teams already tasked with justifying ROI at every turn.

And even if a company has identified Instagram, for example, as the best social media platform for reaching its target audience, it can be difficult to keep up with the ROI of posts made by an in-house expert. That difficulty increases when marketers team up with social media influencers.

Yet more and more marketers are choosing to collaborate with brand ambassadors, a subgroup of influencers known for consistent brand loyalty, and that’s forcing them to define new KPIs and success metrics, including engagement velocity and rate.

Establishing a Successful Influencer Campaign

Failing to measure the effectiveness of brand ambassador campaigns is not an option. It’s a vicious cycle: Poor measurement makes a campaign ineffective because you don’t know whether you’re allocating resources wisely. And if you don’t know what’s going on with a campaign, there’s no way for you to change it for the better.

But brand ambassador-based campaigns aren’t at all doomed to fail—you just have to know what you’re looking for. Here are three ways to craft and measure an effective brand ambassador campaign:

1. Track Your Brand Ambassadors’ Demographic Data

Many digital tools are capable of linking companies with influencers, but only a few—Assembly, for one—are equipped to track those influencers’ results. Find a platform that allows you to keep up with the ambassadors you’re working with, see who they’re engaging with, and track what results they’re driving in real time.

Our team uses technology that lets us see the demographics of our ambassadors, and it has been crucial for our decision-making. Whatever methods you use, make sure you are fully in tune with your ambassadors, their likes, and their interests. This step doesn’t have to involve sophisticated software; it could mean using Typeform or MailChimp to have people identify basic information about themselves when they join your network.

The ambassadors you link with your company should belong to the same demographic, both in terms of age and geography, as your target audience. First identify the type of customer to whom you’re marketing by sifting through your advertising and acquisition analytics. Then, use those same search criteria when finding brand ambassadors.

The founder of OPTIM-EYEZ, Sam Hurley, cites misaligned expectations—including confusion about ambassadors’ audiences—as a common hurdle a brand must overcome before starting an ambassador campaign. He says brands often fail to do enough research, asking ambassadors in marketing to promote travel programs, for example. But with research into the ambassadors and their demographics and a dedication to building long-term relationships, Hurley has seen great results from these partnerships.

2. Develop an Engaging Ambassador Reward System

As nice as it would be for ambassadors to join forces with your company for the fun of it, people need to know what they’re reaping from a partnership. Establish a reward system, and keep it simple. A points framework works for something like a credit card, but that won’t fly for ambassador partnerships.

Your reward system needs to match your audience. If you have a yogurt company, for example, nobody will be on board with jumping through a set of hoops for yogurt points. Don’t be cheap if you want people to be interested; the rewards need to make participation in your program worth it.

TheSkimm has excelled at developing a reward system that resonates with its partners. Within three years, the company expanded its email list to one million subscribers and its Facebook network to more than 12,000 ambassadors. The reward system has levels that come with various points and rewards for adding people to the network, essentially gamifying the expansion of its readership.

Your company's reward system needs to match your audience. Keep it simple.
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3. Establish Your Brand’s Calls to Action

There are only so many actions you can ask ambassadors to encourage their audiences to take, but that doesn’t mean your calls to action aren’t important. Once you’ve gotten a prospect to take one action, that person has bought in to a certain degree. That makes him or her much more likely to take a second action, and a third, and a fourth.

Focus on achieving that first action—but don’t make that first step simply to “like” your company on Facebook. It’s a worthless step. Instead, focus on getting prospects to join a Facebook group or invite friends into your system to receive a reward. It’s a bigger leap to ask of someone than liking a page, but a freebie can sweeten the deal.

Keep some sort of referral system going to ensure that your audience, and therefore your email list, is developing consistently. MailChimp is a perfect startup solution for this. It allows you to regularly communicate with your audience as well as mention your brand ambassador program with a specific action item for engagement.

Given the increasing emphasis on social media for business purposes, marketers need to innovate. Collaborating with brand ambassadors and influencers is no longer an outlier among marketing tactics. But just like other marketing techniques, brand ambassador campaigns must have measured ROI to be effective. Use these three techniques to ensure you’re making the most of your partnerships.

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The Biggest Google Algorithm Updates of 2017 Thu, 22 Mar 2018 13:00:00 +0000 Last year's Google algorithm updates reveal how the search engine giant's priorities shifted in 2017, as well as what brands must do to stay competitive in search.

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The Biggest Google Algorithm Updates of 2017

Google brought forth a number of major updates for its ranking algorithm in 2017. From targeting intrusive advertising to low-quality content, we saw quite a lot of change taking place.

Algorithm Updates, January Through July 2017

The search engine began the year by fixing intrusive interstitials, which covered content and ruined the experience for the users. Then came a tweak that dealt with links. The nature of the update led people to speculate that it was related to the Penguin update, but Google remained silent on this unconfirmed update.

In the beginning of February 2017, some users noticed an unconfirmed update that had something to do with the content quality. The search engine takes content quality seriously, which was evident from the Fred Update (named by Gary Illyes). This update came down on sites with low-quality content and focused solely on revenue generation.

May also saw a wide-ranging quality update, which industry experts noticed. This update hit the SERPs. By mid-2017, industry experts started noticing fluctuations in site rankings across the different country domains. The movement was evident in the rank tracking tools, but Google never acknowledged it.

Algorithm Updates, August Through December 2017

The search engine giant brought forth some more updates in the month of August. An unconfirmed update came down heavily on sites with subpar UX, technical SEO issues, disruptive advertising, and multiple category/tag pages that didn’t offer any unique content. It became evident by this time that Google prioritizes user experience.

Next up was a local update known as Hawk, which reversed the changes Possum had put into effect. This led to the removal of a filter, which prevented local businesses with a shared address or building from being a part of the same pack.

Later in the year, the search engine took into consideration users’ locations for search results. Google deterred users from accessing international results simply by changing the Google ccTLD and displayed results relevant to their location only. This update saw a spike in AdWords ads but a drop in the local packs of SERPs.

Google wrapped the year by increasing the length of meta descriptions from 160 to 230 characters and introducing Maccabees. This update hit sites with doorway pages that targeted multiple subcategories or locations with various keyword permutations in the content.

Actionable Tips for Appeasing the Google Search Algorithm

In the wake of these updates, here are our takeaways:

  • Make your website easy to crawl and index. One of the basics is to include a sitemap without fail.
  • Don’t compromise on the content on your website. Build up a steady database of unique content that offers rich information to your users.
  • Provide useful content to encourage the audience to link to the site or web page.
  • Invest in quality backlink building, as this will help you get an edge over the competition.
  • Give user experience a priority on your website.

These are some of the basic ways you can ensure the updates don’t adversely affect your website. While we’re never sure what new surprises (or shockers) may spring up in the future, making efforts and keeping a tab on the updates as they are introduced can lend you a helping hand.

Google's 2017 algorithm updates reveal just how seriously the search engine takes content quality.
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2017 Google Algorithm Updates Infographic

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What Are the Most Effective SEO Tactics for 2018? Tue, 20 Mar 2018 16:01:24 +0000 New research reveals the SEO tactics earning marketers real results. Learn how marketers are tackling budget, implementation, and more in 2018.

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What Are the Most Effective SEO Tactics for 2018

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of improving how specific web pages rank in a search engine’s unpaid results. But what tactics are companies using to achieve their important SEO objectives?

To find out, Ascend2 fielded the Search Engine Optimization Survey, and a total of 279 marketing professionals participated. The results of the survey are available free of charge in the Search Engine Optimization Tactics Survey Summary Report. Here are a few noteworthy findings from the survey that will help you this year.

1. Most Effective SEO Tactics

There are many tactics used to achieve important SEO objectives effectively. For a 57 percent majority of marketing professionals, on-page content development is effective. Keyword research, link building, and website structure are also effective tactics for 50 percent, 46 percent, and 43 percent of marketing influencers respectively.

Most effective SEO tactics

2. Most Difficult SEO Tactics

Link building is considered the most difficult tactic to implement by a 52 percent majority of marketing professionals. The tactical degree of difficulty is a primary factor in determining the implementation resources to use.

Most difficult SEO tactics

3. SEO Implementation Resources Used

The implementation of some SEO tactics, such as link building, may require skills and capabilities not always available in-house. That’s why 84 percent of marketing professionals say they outsource all or part of their SEO implementation tactics to specialists.

SEO implementation resources

84% of marketers outsource all or part of their SEO implementation tactics.
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4. SEO Budget for 2018

The trend is to increase the SEO budget in 2018 for a total of 91 percent of marketing professionals, with 38 percent describing the increase as “significant.” That’s a very promising outlook for this proven marketing initiative.

SEO budget

For more research to help you determine your marketing strategy this year, visit the Ascend2 Research Library for research on content marketing, email marketing, marketing technology, data-driven marketing, marketing automation, landing page optimization, account-based marketing, and more.

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5 Simple Steps to Fine-Tune Your Digital Marketing Plan Thu, 15 Mar 2018 13:00:00 +0000 This five-step guide includes working templates, checklists, and real-life examples to make crafting your next digital marketing plan a little easier.

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5 Simple Steps to Fine-Tune Your Digital Marketing Plan

Creating an effective digital marketing plan can be difficult. Fortunately, this five-step guide includes working templates, checklists, and real-life examples to make your planning a little easier. It identifies brainstorming best practices, where to find customer insights that have real value, how to write your vision and mission statements, SWOT analysis, and how to find SMART goals.

This article covers the main points, but if you can go straight to the full-length version if you prefer: 5 Steps to Planning a Winning Marketing Strategy.

Your Marketing Plan

Your company will struggle if you don’t have a strong marketing plan that delivers the right products and services to the right audience, and resonates with prospective customers with meaningful messages.

An effective marketing plan:

  • Ensures your objectives are aligned with those of your company.
  • Formalizes ideas and concepts.
  • Keeps your team focused.
  • Defines objectives, tasks, and timelines.
  • Helps persuade the finance department.

You have to be brutally honest. You’ll need discipline, time, and focus. Be prepared to admit your weaknesses and recognize your strengths, competitive advantage, and target market.

Outlining Your Plan to the Boss

On completing your plan, you’ll have to present it to your boss. Define your objectives and strategy. Explain how you’re going to attract new customers, increase brand loyalty, boost sales, and increase ROI. These are some of the questions that you’ll have to answer:

  1. Is it necessary? Whether you’re starting from scratch or updating last year’s plan, you need to prove you’ve done your research, understand your target market, and are clear as to what the competition is doing.
  2. How much will it cost? You’ll need clear and concise figures.
  3. Who are we targeting? Whether you’re targeting your existing customer base or reaching out to a new segment, demonstrate how you’ll target your audience.
  4. How are you going to measure results? Identify how you plan to track metrics such as newsletter subscribers, open rates, click through, time spent on website and bounce rate, email subscribers, etc.

Step 1: Reporting on Last Year’s Plan

Don’t get lost in details—your boss is looking for the bottom line. Demonstrate how you dealt with the priorities for the year. What was the ROI? Were results good, targets met, and goals achieved? Or did your plan totally miss the mark?

If you don’t review what you did, how will you know what worked and what didn’t? Without this information, you’re working blind.

Perform SWOT analysis to find your strengths and weaknesses. What are your competitors up to? Check out your customer base. Did it shift?

Step 2: Generating New Ideas

Having analyzed last year’s results—what worked and what didn’t, SWOT analysis completed, competition stalked, customer base confirmed—you’re now ready to start coming up with ideas for your new marketing plan.

Brainstorming New Ideas

It’s time for identifying and solving problems, generating new ideas, instigating cross-functional communication, finding your competitive advantage, and innovation.

Who needs to be in the brainstorming room? Anyone involved with maintaining and implementing your marketing strategy. Include your content writers, community managers, market operations, graphic designers, demand generation, email campaign officers, UX designers, SEO and SEM specialists—anyone who’s going to be playing a part, however small.

Check out the best practices in the guide and remember, nothing kills the energy in a brainstorm quicker than calling an idea stupid—it’s a really cheap way to prove your own superiority.

Finding Customer Insights Inhouse

In your company, there are teams that talk to customers every day, including sales, support, and account managers. Talk to them. Feedback from these teams gives you customer insights that you may have missed, direct from the frontline.

Step 3: Marketing Strategy

Your aim is to maximize profit and sustainability, which means you’ll need to bring the six P’s into play: product, price, people, promotion, place, and positioning.

The foundation of your strategy is your SWOT analysis—highlight your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. List your assets:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Newsletter
  • Social media channels
  • Team (None of this is possible without your team!)

Draw up your action plan. It should include:

  • Tasks
  • Schedule
  • Responsibilities
  • Cost
  • Outcome

Step 4: Goals

You’ve completed your brainstorming, generated lots of exciting new ideas, and solved issues. Customer-facing teams have shared invaluable customer insights. You’ve established your Vision and Mission statements. Now it’s time to set your goals.

The first step to planning a marketing strategy that’s going to work is to be SMART.

  • Specific: Real numbers with real deadlines; who, what, where, why?
  • Measurable: Tracking and evaluating your achievements
  • Achievable: Challenging goals, but achievable
  • Relevant: Ensure you have the resources to make it happen
  • Timed: Schedule, deadlines

Goal Types

Whatever your goals, they have to be real. If you’re a startup, focus on engagement and listening to feedback to validate and improve your products. Later, focus on growth metrics. Remember:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Stay focused.
  • Be authentic.
  • Go crazy with data and insights.
  • Make sure your short-term goals support your long-term goals.
  • Always keep your team in the loop.

There are also pitfalls that you need to avoid:

  • Never assume you know what your customers want. Social media listening can fill in the gaps, so you know what they’re saying, asking for, and complaining about.
  • Don’t ignore your competition—it’s certainly not ignoring you.
  • Be wary of growing too quickly.
  • Never become complacent about your product.

Don’t ignore your competition—it’s certainly not ignoring you.
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Step 5: Planning Next Year’s Marketing Plan

This is where you pull everything together. Here’s your checklist:

  • Analyze last year’s marketing strategy and prove ROI.
  • Establish strategy, outlining your objectives versus results.
  • Perform quantitative versus qualitative analysis to prove what worked and what didn’t.
  • Complete SWOT—painful but essential.
  • Well and truly stalk that competition.
  • Confirm your customer base.
  • Brainstorm cracking new ideas.
  • Write and share your vision statement with the team.
  • Set your (very smart) SMART goals.

Once you’ve completed your marketing strategy, be ready to present it to your boss. Break it down month by month, and demonstrate what your team is going to do and how it’s going to be achieved. To be brutally honest, SWOT to be SMART!

Download 5 Steps to Planning a Winning Marketing Strategy for Next Year, for heaps more information.

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5 Phishing Terms All Marketers Need to Know Mon, 12 Mar 2018 14:56:08 +0000 If you think phishing scams are your IT department's problem, think again. Brace yourself for how phishing impacts your marketing efforts with these five essential phishing terms every marketer should know.

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5 Phishing Terms All Marketers Need to Know

Netflix, Google, Facebook—not even the biggest companies are safe from attempted phishers.

At its simplest, phishing is an attempt to get sensitive personal information like passwords and account info for malicious purposes. The attacker poses as a trustworthy person or organization known to the victim—the more well-known and respected, the better—in order to obtain information.

Though phishing may seem like an IT problem, it impacts marketers as well. When your company falls victim to a phishing attack, it harms the brand name and could potentially interfere with your SEO ranking or conversion rates. Also, as the holders of company social media, blog, and email passwords, marketers should be aware of phishing attempts for their own protection too.

The first step in prevention is education. Phishing has evolved over recent years, becoming more sophisticated and harder to recognize. Here are the five phishing techniques to be aware of.

1. Spear Phishing

In the past, phishing emails frequently went out to a large number of email addresses, casting a wide net to catch a small number of unsuspecting users. Today, however, scammers have narrowed down their targets and devoted more attention to details, making the email more believable and more likely to trick the receiver.

Today's scammers are narrowing their targets and devoting more attention to details.
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2. Session Hijacking

Scammers are capable of stealing information by intercepting sensitive information you submit on a web form—like passwords or credit card info—and then using it for their own gain. For marketers, this means getting an SSL certificate (detectable with “https” in the URL and a small lock symbol or the word “secure” before the URL) for your company’s website is absolutely necessary. As more consumers understand the dangers of an unsecured page, your site traffic and conversions will depend upon the security of your site.

3. Content Injection

This is a sneaky technique where phishers hack a particular site and insert their content somewhere in the middle of a genuine article. Within their text, there are malicious links, and when users click on it, they are redirected to a website that seems legit but requires personal information to enter.

4. Search Engine Phishing

Phishers use search engines to redirect users to e-commerce sites with seemingly great offers and deals. If users choose to purchase something, phishers redirect them again to a fake payment gateway where scammers collect personal information.

5. Ransomware

Ransomware is malware that makes its way onto a victim’s PC, usually after the victim is convinced it’s nothing more than some sort of standard procedure. Phishers have become really good at social engineering, so users are usually not that suspicious. They do as they are instructed: Most frequently, they click on a certain link that releases malware, denying them access to their files or device—until they pay ransom.

Once marketers are able to identify scam attempts quickly, they can alert their customers so they can better protect themselves. Make sure your customers know which email address they should expect newsletters from, and be transparent about the links you’re adding to your content. On the technical side, SSL certificates are a must for your site. You’ll want to be selective about which domain hosts your website, so find a domain that clearly defines its spam policy and promises to remove accounts with spammy activity.

The internet has become a part of our everyday lives and a necessary component of business. However, staying safe and secure online should be your number one priority, both for yourself and for your customers.

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How ​to​ ​Create a​ ​Webinar from Scratch in 10 Simple Steps Fri, 09 Mar 2018 14:00:00 +0000 This 10-step process will help you create a webinar that attracts, educates, and excites the largest and most engaged audience possible.

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How ​to​ ​Create a​ ​Webinar from Scratch in 10 Simple Steps

Over the years, I have noticed growth in the use of webinars to engage a B2B audience. In fact, a Content Marketing Institute study found that 58 percent of B2B marketers implement webinars in their content marketing strategy. This is no surprise, since webinars can be very engaging, and they’re not very expensive to create or distribute.

With web usage growing rapidly, consumers have started demanding instant knowledge. Your products should be promoted effectively so that they reach the right audiences faster. Webinars help demonstrate your products and expertise to your potential clients. They also provide complete information, so those potential clients have a clear picture of what you are offering.

Since webinars are so important for B2B marketers, I’ve put together the following tips to help you create a webinar from scratch.

1. Choose Your Team

A webinar usually has three prime players. The success of your session depends on them, and I recommend that you carefully consider your options when selecting the following:

  • The Organizer: The organizer or the facilitator is the key individual responsible for developing content for the webinar. They are also responsible for finding a suitable speaker and promoting the event. They are in charge of registrations and communicating with the participants at the beginning and end of the webinar.
  • The Presenter(s): The Presenters or the Subject Matter Experts should focus on developing and delivering the webinar presentation. They look after webinar programming and troubleshooting, event registration, and other details to help them deliver an engaging presentation.
  • Assistant(s): Assistants help in answering queries that the Presenter and the Facilitator don’t have much time for. They help by responding to technical queries. (For example, “The audio and video are not in sync!” or “There is no sound!”) Assistant(s) are often required for webinars with a large audience.

A great webinar team includes three types of prime players: Organizers, Presenters, and Assistants
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2. Decide On the Webinar Format

The next step is to decide on the format of your webinar. I suggest you choose a format that will best relay your message while engaging your audience. You can consider the following four webinar formats:

  • Single Speaker: As the name suggests, this involves a single speaker communicating with the attendees. The speaker will also demonstrate the contents of the webinar and answer all queries raised by the attendees. I recommend this type of webinar if you have a small audience.
  • Interview Format: This involves a speaker acting as an interviewer and asking a set of predetermined questions to the Subject Matter Expert(s). This type of webinar can be very engaging, with the attendees watching the SMEs answer questions. It also encourages them to ask questions, making it interesting.
  • Moderated Panel Discussion: Like a panel discussion, a panel webinar has several speakers who talk over a predetermined topic. A moderator will need to facilitate this type of webinar.
  • Q&A: Similar to the interview format, this type of webinar also allows the speaker to answer questions, but this time, the questions directly come from the audience. I recommend that you collect the questions beforehand. This will ensure that you stay on schedule and vet the questions coming from the audience. Q&A segments are usually added at the end of all webinar formats.

3. Plan Visuals for Your Webinar

Being a web-based seminar, webinars largely rely on audio and visual materials to demonstrate their contents. Slides filled with text will not do the trick. I suggest you consider the following points when preparing visuals for your next webinar:

  • Have an introductory slide with information like the time of commencement and points to be discussed in the webinar.
  • This should be followed up with additional slides that will introduce the presenter and the expert(s) along with their designation, affiliation, and photograph.
  • After this, have a slide showcasing a synopsis of the topics that will be covered in the webinar.
  • Include a slide of tools and websites that will be used in the process. I recommend that you use the tools and websites in real time during the webinar so that you can have a better impact on the audience.

4. Select a Webinar Tool

There are many webinar services that exist in the market, including popular platforms like Adobe Connect, WebEx, etc. But my personal favorite is ClickMeeting because it’s very easy to use, it’s affordable, and it’s comprehensive.

In addition to creating a customized webinar room, you can also use the tool to conduct polls and surveys after the session. This will help you gain valuable insights to further improve your webinars.


I’ve prepared a few questions that you should ask yourself when selecting a webinar tool to invest in:

What are the objectives of your webinar?

Before selecting a webinar service, you should think about objectives of the webinar. If it’s a product launch or promotion of your business, chances are that you are targeting a larger audience. In this case, you need a webinar service that will help you interact with a large number of attendees.

How user-friendly is the product?

As webinars come with a time limitation, it is essential that you choose the right service tool so that you can make the most of it within the time frame allocated for the webinar. If you are planning a webinar in the single speaker format, you will be looking for simplest possible software so that you can successfully demonstrate your business content to the attendees.

How much does it cost?

With so many webinar service tools available in the market, it is easy to get confused while choosing the correct webinar service tool for your webinar. I find it best to consider the target audience when considering the cost. For example, if it’s a large audience you are targeting, you will need an enterprise package. With a medium or small scale audience, however, you can easily go ahead with a premium edition.

Answers to these three questions will determine how much you should spend on a service tool.

5. Set Up the Right Equipment and Space

You’ll need a quiet place to conduct your webinar. Consider a conference room or any other place which will be free from background noise and interruptions.

Selecting the right equipment is also crucial for your webinar. Consider landlines and headset microphones, as they are less likely to cut off while you engage with your audience.

I always try to keep a backup laptop that’s fully charged, with all data copied and stored in it. This will ensure that everything goes smoothly even if you experience any technical difficulties with your primary computer system.

Choosing the right equipment and space will not only improve the webinar quality but also ensure a great experience for your audience.

6. Publicize and Promote Your Webinar

In order to make sure your webinar gets maximum participation, it’s crucial that you promote it as much as possible beforehand. Here’s how I suggest you promote it:

  • Start by creating a landing page which introduces the webinar topic, the speaker(s), features the date and time, and a call-to-action for people to sign up to attend the event.
  • Create a banner or display an advertisement on your website’s homepage to make visitors aware of the upcoming event.
  • Use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word. Create a dedicated and original hashtag to publicize the event. This hashtag will benefit you at the time of the event, as you will be using it to interact with the attendees.
  • Send multiple reminders emails showcasing the countdown to your event. 45 percent of marketers say that emails are the most effective at driving registrations.
  • On the day of the event, make sure to send emails with the direct link to your webinar.
  • Tuesdays are generally the best days for promoting your webinar, as revealed in a GoToWebinar report.

Webinar attendance

7. Pick the Right Date and Time

You should keep in mind that not all your audience members will be from the same location. The webinar should be hosted on a specific date and time that will allow the maximum number of attendees to be present. If your target audience is in Los Angeles, and you are located in New York, starting a webinar at 6:00 p.m. may not be a good choice, as it will be late for the attendees living in L.A.

It is important that you select the right date and time for your webinar event. The best time to conduct your webinar depends on the target demographic, but a poll conducted by ON24 suggests that the best days to host your webinars are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. GMT.

I always use Google Analytics to locate the regions of the world where most of my online traffic comes from. You can also send surveys to your potential attendees asking them for the most convenient times for them to attend the webinar.

These are major factors that should not only be considered but prioritized. Significant research and planning should be done on them so that you can expect the most from your webinar and boost your business.

8. Choose a Topic of Interest

If your topic does not interest your potential audience, it is going to be really difficult for you to lure them into attending your webinar. Since webinars are usually an hour long, you can either choose to vaguely talk about many topics or speak about a single topic and dive deep into it.

That’s why I always recommend that you get very specific when selecting a topic for your webinar. For example, instead of simply talking about digital marketing in general, you could talk about digital marketing trends, or budgeting for digital marketing, etc.

While searching for an interesting topic, you should consider:

  • Previously produced content: While searching for an interesting topic, consider going through the content that you have already produced. It can be a blog post, social media post, or an article. Search through those posts and articles to find the one that received the most attention. This will help you understand which topics your audience is interested in. Now you can dive deep into the specific topic you have selected so that you can provide in-depth understanding to the audience and, in the process, keep them engaged.
  • Attending other webinars: Start attending various other webinars taking place in your field. This will not only help you in getting new ideas from your competitor’s topic but also help you understand trends in the kinds of topics being discussed. Through these insights, you can decide on a viable topic and perfect it through research.

Once you have selected your topic, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a particular question your clients and potential audience frequently ask that you could address in a webinar?
  • What are your strengths, and what would be really entertaining for you to teach?
  • What would be the most valuable thing you can offer within 40 or 60 minutes?

If you find the most suitable answers to these questions then, congratulations! You have just found your topic for your upcoming webinar. If it’s the other way around, keep searching until you find a better one.

9. Keep Practicing

I always make sure to practice for a webinar several days before I go live to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Start doing dry runs which will help everyone involved with the webinar get a picture of its entirety. Check all equipment to ensure they are working properly. A final dry run two to three days before the live webinar will ensure the following:

  • Confirm if everyone is well-versed with the webinar software technology and the contents of the webinar.
  • Finalize presentation slides to prevent last-minute changes.
  • Choose the communication methods that suits best with the team.
  • Assign individuals activities that need to be monitored during the webinar such as polls, Q&As, group chats, etc.
  • Reviewing the final registration based on details such as names of attendees, their respective industries, etc. The host should be fully aware of such information.

10. Follow Up with the Attendees

I’ve noticed that some marketers fail to follow up with attendees at their webinar. This can be a grave mistake, as you’re missing out on an opportunity to continue engaging your audience.

Send them an email thanking them along with a survey asking them to share their feedback and rate their experience, plus a call to action for future webinars. Make sure to send a follow-up email along with a recording of the webinar to the people who signed up for the webinar but were unable to attend it. Following up will go a long way in encouraging the audience to attend future webinar events and even be involved with your company.

Once you have successfully hosted your webinar, start evaluating your efforts.Use the feedback provided by your attendees in the follow-up emails. Consider these and make adjustments to ensure that your future webinars are even more successful.

Great webinars are well planned, organized and executed by a closely knit team. You should spend sufficient time to plan and test the program to remove any flaws.

What did you think of the steps I’ve provided here? Do you have any suggestions or ideas you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments.

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6 New Rules for Landing Page Success Mon, 05 Mar 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Don't cut corners when it comes to your most powerful conversion tool. Spend time with these strategies for achieving landing page success.

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6 New Rules for Landing Page Success

It’s no secret small businesses often have limited marketing budgets, which means their funds—as well as their time and other resources—have to be allocated judiciously. Email marketing campaigns and paid ads are often two of the most commonly used marketing initiatives by this group, since they tend to yield great returns.

But if you’ve invested in either of these approaches and haven’t seen the type of response you hoped for, you might be missing something of great importance: effective landing pages. Read on for a look at how one company drastically changed its campaign conversion rates once they revamped their landing pages, and how you can borrow some of their tactics to do the same.

Is Something Better Than Nothing?

Few companies are as strapped for time as small businesses, so it makes sense that seemingly minor moving parts can slip through the cracks. This begs the question: Is it better to have no landing page for your marketing campaign than a poorly constructed one? Or is it best to still put up a landing page, even if you don’t have a lot of time to devote to building it?

Well, given that landing pages are crucial to the success of your marketing campaigns, it’s better to have one. But you no longer have to sacrifice quality due to time and budgetary constraints, thankfully. There are new methods of creating high-quality landing pages that won’t eat up all your time while allowing you to treat them as a high priority.

A great landing page shouldn't mean sacrificing quality due to time and budgetary constraints.
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Out with the Old

Master Oil Painting is a small business that needed a better way to capture more leads and increase conversions. They had tried landing pages for various campaigns in the past, but their average conversion rate was stuck at 4.4 percent. They found the setup process to be tedious, and they weren’t confident that their effort was generating any ROI.

The folks at Master Oil Painting knew they needed a solution that could help them create more professional-looking landing pages in minutes, with features that could enhance their customer experience and provide better results. Master Oil Painting began searching for a way to gain more leads, better capture their data, and ultimately enjoy higher conversion rates. They knew they needed to move on from their prior approach to landing pages.

The Proof Is in the Numbers

Once Master Oil Painting implemented Infusionsoft’s new Landing Pages feature, the company quickly and effectively learned the important components of a landing page—which they had largely been missing before. They put into practice what they had learned within the seamless system and immediately saw their conversion rates leap to 11.5 percent (more than doubling from their previous rate). Not only that, but their email click rates nearly doubled, and they saw their monthly sales figures rise to the highest numbers they’d seen since launching the business two years prior. Master Oil Painting had hit upon a discovery of what works within landing pages, and what tends to fall flat.

The Nuts and Bolts of Landing Page Success

Whether you use Infusionsoft’s new Landing Pages or another system to create your landing pages, there are six key aspects to keep in mind to get the most conversions.

1. Ease and Time

As mentioned above, you can’t spend inordinate amounts of time agonizing over what verbiage or designs to use in your landing pages. Look for templates that already include placeholders for the information your customers expect to find and allow you to move things around in a drag-and-drop fashion. This will save you a good deal of time, and keep the whole page looking polished and professional.

2. Aesthetics and Experience

Along the same lines, your landing pages need to be eye-catching in order to keep a prospect’s attention. Make sure you’re using responsive landing pages, so visitors can have a smooth experience no matter what device they use. Include royalty free images and test your landing pages to be sure they have fast load times. After all, your prospects are likely to have their attention drawn elsewhere if they have to wait for a page to load.

3. Compelling Call-to-Action

Your landing page needs to have a call-to-action button that draws your visitor in. For example, invite your visitor to request a free consultation or download a useful ebook. They’ll need to receive something valuable in exchange for handing over their information, so you want to make this part of the deal as enticing as possible.

4. Form Fields and Data Collection

The main point of putting together landing pages is to capture important customer data and have a way to follow up with hot leads. Double check that your landing pages include web forms that ask for first and last names, email addresses, phone numbers, or other information that you want to use. These insights can help you with relationship building later, as well as serving customers’ needs when they need it most.

5. Integration and Support

If you’re using a landing page builder, make sure it synchronizes with your CRM or marketing software. Master Oil Painting, for example, used Infusionsoft for its sales and marketing software, so it was a breeze for them to have their Infusionsoft Landing Pages sync with Infusionsoft’s custom fields. This makes follow-up and data consolidation a whole lot easier.

6. Customization

Finally, consider the possibilities you have with custom domains and messaging. Tailor-made domains can help boost your SEO rankings, and personalized messaging can make all the difference in whether you convert prospects or not. Your landing page should have both.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results I’ve seen since switching to Infusionsoft landing pages. Every conversion rate I track has improved since the switch, some more than doubling what they were previous,” said Bill Inman, owner of Master Oil Painting.  “And even more important is the time it’s saved me, which has left hours more each month for me to focus on site improvement, marketing expansion, and increased time availability with our customers. Infusionsoft Landing Pages integrated with other Infusionsoft tools has saved us time, money, and made the overall experience better for my team—and even more importantly, our customers.”

If you’re already spending your hard-earned revenue (and time) on email marketing campaigns or paid media, make sure you’re spending equal attention on designing an effective landing page too. You can get a boost in conversions (and ease of use) just like Master Oil Painting did if you focus on the points above. Here’s to flawless landing pages and excited prospects who convert into customers in short order.

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6 Pieces of Marketing Advice You Can Actually Use Thu, 01 Mar 2018 14:00:00 +0000 Six experts offer up their most actionable bits of marketing advice, on topics ranging from social media ads to influencer relationships and conversion strategies.

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6 Pieces of Marketing Advice You Can Actually Use

With 2018 in full swing, marketers should be thinking about way to level-up their strategies. And as much as we wish it would, money (and a marketer’s budget) doesn’t grow on trees.

You probably don’t have the budget for cash-consuming items like augmented reality or time-consuming brand boosters like Instagram stories. Plus, as social networks become increasingly segmented, it’s tough to know where and when to engage your precise target audience and how to monetize every social network. And even if you do know, the sheer volume of work may be overwhelming.

Fortunately, there are plenty of straightforward (and, frankly, less expensive) tactics to increase website traffic and engage prospective customers. These dependable strategies have the potential to generate real, tangible outcomes for marketers. Here are six social media marketing pointers from some of the industry’s leading practitioners on how to make these trends work for you, no matter what your budget may be.

1. The Line Between Social Media Content and Social Ads Is Blurring

With Facebook and Instagram using the same targeting engines and technologies (more or less), your content now has a super high-horsepower amplification engine behind it. Think about building ad campaigns that have direct targeting, retargeting, the ability to target audiences you’ve built, and the ability to target audiences that look like the audiences you’ve built. Test and track them all.

Yes, your content might be a series of editorial style videos. But now they can be distributed with this advanced targeting and specifically served to people that view a high percentage of similar content, and to other people that have the same demographic, interest, and behavioral qualities. This is social content with targeting power like we’ve never seen before.

“Remember that ‘social’ implies you’re giving something useful to the audience,” explained Jason Falls, noted digital marketing speaker and author. “Ad targeting to get people to give you something is fine. But leveraging it to show people how much you can give to them goes a long way in building trust and brand affinity.”

2. Social Ads Are on Steroids

The ability to target people based on multiple data points—including demographics, interests, and behaviors—coupled with the ability to utilize existing audiences and lookalike audiences has created social ad capabilities, audience growth, content virality, website traffic, and event attendance. And sales are endless.

Chad Richards, veteran social media marketer and Senior Social Media Manager at Firebelly Marketing, a social media marketing agency, explained,

“People divulge a lot of personal information on social media, so these networks know a lot about us: our characteristics, our interests, and behaviors. Because of this, it’s never been easier to reach exactly the right people with your products and services. And with Facebook’s Pixel, Twitter’s Universal Website Tag, LinkedIn’s Insight Tag, and Snapchat’s Snap Pixel—all provided pieces of code you place on your website—tracking sales and other conversion events from your social ad efforts is clear and straightforward.”

3. Micro-Influencers Get the Respect They Deserve

Influencer marketing is gaining acceptance from marketers at medium-sized—and even small—brands. Emphasis will shift (as it should) to influencers with small, yet highly engaged followings, and toward those connected to other influencers. More importantly, brands that get it understand that influencer marketing is about relationships and not transactions. It’s about creating win- win relationships that benefit the brand and the influencer.

These micro-influencers have audience reach that big influencers can only dream of. While they may lack celebrity, they have an underdog commitment and fight to prove their value to their audience. They live and die to prove this value, which is ultimately in the best interest of a strategic marketer. A successful partnership with an influencer is worth its weight in platinum.

“Customers love authenticity. It’s what enabled RedBull, Dove’s ‘real beauty’ and Pantene’s ‘Shine’ campaigns 10 to 12 years ago, and what Tory Burch seems to be at with Anni Kravi or The Beauty Chef today,” says Christopher Samuel, global corporate preparedness and engagement lead at Monsanto.

“I recommend brands take the long view. Invite and immerse micro-influencers in authentic real-world brand experiences. Existing fans may choose to become advocates. New ones may create their own real-world content/stories, and the ROI on engagement and conversion will be significant. While in influencer marketing, more is more (micro- plus celebrity influencers), the key to success is a commitment to authenticity, transparency, and long-term equity-building.”

Influencer marketing's emphasis will shift to influencers with small, highly engaged followings.
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4. Social Intelligence Is Easy to Access

With companies like Nuvi and Brandwatch churning out valuable data and beautiful visual reports, any brand can arm itself with the most cutting-edge information about its customers, prospects, its industry, and the conversation. Business development, and marketing in general, needs to focus on what we know about our client or customer. Therefore, understanding the social content that is popular (by brand, competitor, or the industry in general) is critical.

Paying attention to where content and amplification is happening, and which influencers are involved, and which types of content are being amplified—these are all invaluable aspects of understanding what is happening in the social sphere. The opportunity lies in how we extend that knowledge into real actionable insights to inform strategy and tactics.

“Social listening takes real-time conversations and opinions from the internet to the boardroom”, says Will McInnes, CMO, Brandwatch. “Marketers use these insights to beef up their content and influencer marketing practices, and the entire company can gain better insight into what their consumers are looking for everyday. Social data doesn’t just equip marketers with the information necessary to make better business decisions—it allows entire companies to better understand the world they navigate.”

5. Content Intelligence Is Making Life Easier

Yes, we all know we live in a content marketing world. Thanks, HubSpot, for the mass proliferation of this. However, we also know the 80/20 principle applies to content with the most or least levels of engagement. Smart companies like Ceralytics help clients analyze reams of data across awareness, engagement, and conversion, as well as benchmark it against competitors—all while identifying content gaps and missed opportunities with associated keyword difficulties. Say goodbye to overpriced content marketing strategy agencies and hello to smart content that really kicks your competition’s butt.

“The days of ‘if you write it, they will come’ are over,” says Brandon Andersen, veteran marketer and founder of Ceralytics, a content intelligence platform and service. “Succeeding in content marketing now takes a deep understanding of what topics resonate with your audience through the buying cycle. Without these insights, content marketers will continue to shoot in the dark and ultimately fail.”

6. Conversion Matters

Brands will start paying more attention to converting at scale as opposed to the current preoccupation with traffic acquisition. Instead of obsessively chasing more traffic, focus on converting and engaging the traffic you’re already getting.

Whether it’s a conversion on a landing page into a lead or sale, this is the best place to start. From there, you can move across the rest of the site to optimize for email sign-ups, whitepaper downloads, or problem-solving. The crux here is to remove obstacles or friction that prevent visitors from converting. It could be the amount of text. It could be a messaging mismatch between the ad (or general expectations) and the text on the page. Or maybe it’s the image, a lack of trust symbols, or the layout of the page. An improvement of one percentage point in conversion can be a significant game-changer.

“Conversion rate optimization needs to be viewed from your visitor’s perspective. You need to create compelling online experiences for every stage of the online customer journey. The biggest mistake that you can make is to be a greedy marketer and only focus on the bottom of the sales funnel,” said Tim Ash, the CEO of SiteTuners and chairperson of the Digital Growth Unleashed conference.

If your company is a leader and is traditionally first in the space, go ahead and chase the edgy opportunity (and if you’ve got extra time and budget). Otherwise, take the smart and practical approach. Pursue a solid mix of these six opportunities to get the maximum bang for your time and investment.

The post 6 Pieces of Marketing Advice You Can Actually Use appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

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What These 5 Statistics Can Teach You About E-Commerce Marketing Tue, 27 Feb 2018 14:05:31 +0000 Refine your e-commerce marketing strategy with insights from the latest data on what draws consumers to your site and drives them to purchase.

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What These 5 Statistics Can Teach You About E-Commerce Marketing

Sound marketing relies on a foundation of informed decision making. The better we understand the e-commerce marketplace, the better we will be at marketing ourselves in it. That’s why, today, I’ve collected five statistics that say something important about this marketplace, along with my advice based on the facts presented here.

Let’s dive in.

1. Customers Are Twice as Likely to Leave a Review If You Ask

According to the Trustpilot “How Consumers Use Reviews Today” report, only 14 percent of consumers are “very likely” to write an unsolicited review, while 29 percent are “very likely” to write a review if the company invites them to.

The report discovered other related points, such as:

  • 19 percent of consumers are reading reviews before they visit a company website.
  • Most consumers (about 57 percent) are using search engines to find those reviews.
  • 79 percent of consumers want to see companies respond to negative reviews.
  • 89 percent check reviews at least sometimes when they shop.
  • 47 percent of consumers check online reviews while on a brand’s website, before putting items in their cart. In other words, consumers are checking to see what previous customers think of products while they are actively shopping.

It’s impossible for the modern e-commerce site to neglect views and claim to have a complete marketing strategy. The stats above make it clear that reviews are strongly influencing consumer behavior. The report may even underestimate how strong of an impact it makes to ask customers for a review.

If you’re concerned that asking customers to leave reviews will lead to more negative reviews, you shouldn’t be. In my experience, people are far more likely to leave negative reviews on their own than positive ones.

Just as importantly, no matter what people might say in surveys, scientific research published in the Association for Psychological Science indicates that people favor products with more reviews, regardless of the star rating.

Retailers that display ratings on their sites see conversion rates rise by 270 percent, and people are actually more likely to buy products in the 4.0- to 4.7-star range than products with a perfect five-star score.

In short, ask your customers to leave reviews in your communications, and make it as easy as possible for them to do so.

2. 9 Out of 10 Consumers Prefer Personalized Sites

According to a study conducted by Swirl Networks, 88 percent of consumers say that the more personalized and interconnected their online, mobile, and in-store experiences are, the more likely they are to shop with that retailer. 87 percent of consumers also said they’d be more loyal to a retailer who was capable of accomplishing this.

The same study found that 56 percent of consumers feel Amazon understands their needs on a regular basis. This number dwarfed traditional retailers, where only 25 percent of consumers felt the same way. This has clearly played a part in Amazon’s success.

Amazon personalization success

Any talk of personalization in today’s e-commerce scenario is incomplete without exploring the usefulness of chatbots. Forrester research shows that live chat is expected and effective, with 44 percent of customers agreeing that it’s one of the most important features an online business can offer. It is therefore essential that businesses harness customer data in such a way that marketing and support teams can use it to deliver better, more personalized service.

There are the tools out there to help you accomplish this within your budget and with almost no programming resources., for example, is a chatbot building platform that suits small businesses and retailers. This software lets you create chatbots that use “conversational marketing.” This means you can have one-on-one conversations with your customers, take orders directly from Facebook Messenger, transact using all payment systems, and provide instant service.

Morph-ai chat bot technology

Modern consumers expect live support, sites that understand their preferences, and expect communications from the company to be tailored to their purchase and interaction history, and customer support to be clued in on what is happening so that they can deliver results quickly.

E-commerce sites that ignore this fact will struggle to find success.

3. B2B Shoppers Conduct an Average of 12 Searches, Consumers Visit at Least 3 Sites

According to research by Google, B2B influencers conduct an average of 12 searches before they engage with a specific brand’s website. Search is the number one place these decision makers are performing their research. In fact, 90 percent of B2B shoppers use search specifically to inform their business purchases.

Seventy-one percent of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search, not a branded query. If you want to be exposed to these decision makers sooner rather than later, you should be targeting these more general informational queries.

But if you think this behavior is limited to the B2B sector, you’re mistaken. While reliable data is harder to come by, the average consumer visits three stores before they make a purchase, and 60 percent of them use a search engine to find the products that they want.

The lesson here is one the marketing industry has wholeheartedly embraced: Customer relationship management and marketing automation software play a huge role in setting and managing expectations, and there’s no excuse for modern businesses to avoid using them.

And if you thought a CRM is expensive, you couldn’t be more wrong. HubSpot’s CRM, for instance, is totally free and gives marketers an up-to-the-minute view of the sales funnel, qualifies leads, and automatically tracks customer interactions across multiple channels—on email, social media, or phone calls.

Hubspot CRM

When you’re trying to convert prospects, proper keyword targeting and remarketing tend to have the highest immediate conversion rates. However, relevant information at the right time is the main contributor to sales and separates small-time retailers from the big successes.

4. E-Commerce Shoppers Spend Nearly as Much On Brands as On Marketplaces

According to a study conducted by e-commerce platform BigCommerce, the perception that all of the money is going to Amazon and marketplace sites like it is flat out wrong. In reality, e-commerce shoppers spend almost as much on single brand websites as they do on marketplaces. Shoppers spent an average of $409 on brand websites, compared to $488 at marketplaces.

Many people equate e-commerce with the marketplace model. However, when Amazon is taken out of the equation, it is actually the exception rather than the rule. Amazon accounts for 43 percent of online US retail sales. That means that outside of Amazon, brand websites are making the most money, not marketplaces.

In fact, the same study found that while slightly more money was going to marketplaces than brand websites, the reverse was true in number of consumers. More shoppers had visited a brand website (74 percent) than a marketplace (54 percent).

I’m not trying to argue that marketplace e-commerce sites should abandon their business model. But I am highlighting the value of branding and how strong its impact can be. Obsession with Amazon’s business model can cloud your judgment if you aren’t careful. Offer exclusive products, and find innovative ways to differentiate your brand.

Outside of Amazon, brand websites rake in the most e-commerce dollars, not marketplaces.
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5. Price, Shipping, and Discounts Are Hugely Influential

We online marketers spend a lot of time talking about the importance of identifying a unique selling proposition and competing on differentiators other than price. But it would be a huge mistake to conclude that price is anything less than incredibly important.

The BigCommerce trends report we referenced earlier also found that the top three factors considered “very” or “extremely” influential in deciding where Americans shop were price (87 percent), shipping cost and speed (80 percent), and discount offers (71 percent).

Now, I understand that small retailers struggle to compete with big ones on price. Competing on price alone is a losing strategy for all but one retailer. It offers no lasting branding on its own, either.

But we need to understand how incredibly price-conscious our shoppers are. If you are selling the exact same make and model as another retailer at a higher price, you aren’t going to move a lot of product. In fact, you may need to consider if it’s worth having the product in stock in the first place. Pushing for exclusive items is crucial in order to offer something of value when you cannot compete on price.

Here, you have the most control over shipping costs. Folding the cost of shipping into the price of the product and offering free shipping almost always has a positive impact on conversion rates. While most consumers are at this point savvy enough to know that they are still paying for shipping, the certainty in pricing is a major draw.

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Jay Baer’s Top 30 Digital Marketing Blogs Thu, 22 Feb 2018 14:00:25 +0000 What's on your reading list? Keep it fresh with these top digital marketing blogs, read and subscribed to by Jay Baer and the Convince & Convert team.

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Jay Baer’s Top 30 Digital Marketing Blogs

Digital marketing blogs may be numerous, but I find them still to be critical. I’ve been in digital marketing for over 20 years, and the only way you can stay relevant that long is to read A LOT. In digital marketing, if you don’t learn, you die. Period.

Members of the Convince & Convert team all have their own reading lists, based on their interests and their topical expertise. Together, we read nearly close to 200 online publications routinely.

Believe it or not, we keep up with blogs by a familiar and comfortable (for me) method: email. I subscribe via email and read (or at least scan) nearly 50 blogs that way. It’s actually far more than that because several of the sources I devour are actually email aggregators that pull the best posts from many, many blogs. I find that gives me the best coverage.

I recently went through my email for a week and put together this list of the 30 top digital marketing blogs and subscriptions that I consume regularly. If yours isn’t on this list, it doesn’t mean I don’t read or don’t subscribe. I just don’t read it as routinely as I do these others.

Please add your own suggestions in the comments for digital marketing resources I may have overlooked. I’m eager to see which you read, as well.

In digital marketing, if you don’t learn, you die. Period.
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This blog has gotten hugely popular in a short period of time because the content is fascinating, topical, and useful. Proud investor in this company, am I.

Cassandra Daily

If it’s not #trending, they don’t write about it. Subscribing is like having a focus group of teenagers that you don’t have to feed.

Contently Content Strategist

I’m really impressed with these guys. Solid info every day for the advanced content marketer.

Content Marketing Institute

The powerhouse of the content marketing industry. Strong information and insights, delivered daily. Great job by the CMI editorial team for keeping the quality consistently high on this multi-author blog.

Convince & Convert

Hey, that’s us! I only write one post a week (in addition to a weekly newsletter, Convince & Convert ON), so I definitely read Convince & Convert every day. Subscribe via email here.


One of the originals, and still one of the best. A must-read, in my estimation. I owe these guys a huge debt, too, because they’ve helped me a lot with my own blog.


Smart and purposeful content always wins, and CoSchedule does this as well as any of the top content marketing blogs.

The Daily Carnage

Curated marketing news that is handpicked by the Carney team and delivered with just enough snark to ensure it’s opened daily.

Duct Tape Marketing

From John Jantsch and occasional guest contributors, everything that gets published here is worth examining. We work mostly with medium and large businesses at Convince & Convert, but I still learn a lot from Duct Tape and their scrappy, small biz sensibilities.


Solid, broad-based digital marketing coverage with a research bent. Very strong in global perspectives and trends, too.

GatherContent Blog

In addition to having a terrific platform, GatherContent has also crafted a highly informative blog. It features posts from GatherContent’s own contributors, plus guests posts from experienced content creators, content strategists, content marketers, and more. They’re giving an amazing amount of strategic information away.


From my friend the author, speaker, and college professor Mark Schaefer and a good crew of guest writers. {Grow} is a place to find conversations about topics that aren’t covered in the more news-oriented blogs. Also a great example of a multi-author blog that somehow maintains a consistent editorial voice.


Remarkable volume of useful content. Essentially defined what a B2B blog could (and should be). These guys live and breathe Youtility (which is why they are mentioned in my book).

Hootsuite Blog

The Hootsuite Blog is a fantastic example of what it looks like to provide real value and relevance through content. Yes, the blog leans more toward social updates and how-tos, but it also has a mix of everything you could need when it comes to digital strategy advice and insights.

Ignite Social Media

I don’t read that many blogs written by a single agency, but Jim Tobin and the crew at Ignite seem to consistently come up with interesting approaches that I don’t see everywhere else. Bravo! Jim’s book Earn It, Don’t Buy It is full of TRUTH, too. (I got to write the foreword).


Must-read for media observers. A delicious, curated mix of tech and pop culture. Great trend watching.

PR Daily News

From Ragan, a nice aggregation of posts of interest to public relations folks. Curated from other sources, and some original content.


Maybe my favorite email to receive each day (other than Quartz, which didn’t make this list because it’s not about digital marketing). PSFK is like Willy Wonka marketing. Amazing case studies and super interesting experiments from around the world. I find a TON of my Youtility examples for keynote speeches from PSFK.


My preferred tech news, geek, gadget site. Not strictly digital marketing per se, but terrific at keeping me up on broader tech and social media issues.

Six Pixels of Separation

I’ll never be as smart as Mitch Joel, or as prolific. Thoughtful brilliance flows on this blog like water from a tap. The wide topical array makes it such that not every post is for every reader, but stick with Mitch, and you’re guaranteed to receive something worth your attention at regular intervals.

Social Media Examiner

Outstanding tactical coverage of all things social media, from Mike Stelzner and his excellent team. Brings the best of Social Media Marketing World to your inbox all year long.

Social Media Explorer

Founded by my pal Jason Falls, this is a thinking person’s blog of social media and digital marketing issues.

Social Media Lab

The Social Media Lab houses Agorapulse’s latest “experiments”—detailed, data-backed explorations of the hottest topics and questions in social media marketing. Launched in 2017, it’s one of the newer social media marketing blogs on the scene and definitely one to keep an eye on.

Social Media Today

A powerhouse aggregator site that has more and more content written specifically for it, too. Noise-to-signal ratio can be a little high, but frequently you’ll find interesting concepts, and it’s a very good source of fresh voices.

SocialPro Daily

From Adweek, this daily digest covers the social webs from breaking news to how-to posts. If you only check one source to keep up with the heartbeat of social media, this is a best bet.

Spin Sucks

Outstanding blog for PR folks, with a side order of content marketing and social media. Led by rockstar Gini Dietrich, with help from a great cast of guest writers. Incredibly active community too, similar to {Grow} and GatherContent.


Info-junkies like me will never tire of discovering new or useful research and stats to plug into blog posts and speaking presentations. Statista sends a Chart of the Day infographic to your email, and offers a wealth of free (in addition to paid) data and infographics on the website.

Think with Google

While not a “traditional blog,” this resource center makes my UX-loving heart happy. With insights and mind-blowing studies galore, Think with Google is a wonderful cross-section of content, design, UX, CX, marketing, and more. It’s an absolute must-read for everyone, no matter what industry or role you work within.


Outstanding coverage of content marketing, search marketing, research, and interviews from Lee Odden and his team. Popular, and deservedly so.


Content experience is the name of this game, in both thematics and UX. Uberflip’s content hub mixes short videos with podcast episodes and traditional blog posts. Bonus: the meta experience of getting Uberflip’s best thinking on their own Uberflip hub.


When everyone, including Facebook, is shifting attention back to local community and location, expect marketing advice to follow. My friend Jeff Rohrs and the team at Yext are one step ahead here providing sound advice for SMB and B2C marketers.

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4 Major Signs You Should Invest in Sales Enablement Mon, 19 Feb 2018 15:00:00 +0000 Empower your sellers to improve their productivity, accelerate buyer journeys, and reach sales goals faster with help from sales enablement.

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4 Major Signs You Should Invest in Sales Enablement

The sales landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade. Organizations are implementing sales enablement strategies in order to stay ahead of the market. These strategies help sellers improve productivity, accelerate the buyer’s journey, and ultimately reach their target sales goals faster than ever.

If these are all goals you’re looking to accomplish with your sales team, it might be time to invest in sales enablement. In this post, we’ll review five signs you might need to invest in sales enablement, and how your organization can work towards a successful journey today.

1. You Keep Sellers on a Tight Leash

If you’re in marketing or sales management, you may often feel like you have to keep tabs on your sellers, as you don’t want them going rogue and adding slides to their decks that are off-brand. Your organization likely spends a lot of time and energy creating engaging content for every stage of the buyer’s journey. So why are sellers still inserting dated slides that completely alter the company messaging?

If you’ve been trying to micro-manage your sellers’ content, this may be a telling sign you need a better sales enablement strategy. Sales enablement tools actually allow you to let sellers run wild (within reason!) without fainting. With sales enablement, you can empower sellers to choose the right content that’s resonating the best, based on high visibility, into how sales decks are performing across the organization. This gives them the edge they need to move prospects through the sales cycle quicker with content you know will resonate.

Sales enablement also allows sales leaders to implement best practices and ensure every seller always has the most effective materials at their fingertips. It also helps you spot content that’s being circulated with last year’s messaging, and easily find and kill dated content.

Don’t keep sellers on a tight leash. Empower them with the right solutions, and rest easy knowing they’re sharing the right content with the right audience.

Don't keep sellers on a tight leash. Empower them through sales enablement.
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2. You Overspend on Content Creation

You’ve probably heard the grim statistic that 65 percent of marketing content is never used by the sales team. This means nearly two-thirds of your investment in marketing content is wasted, and the ROI of content that’s never used is zero. Yikes!

If you think you’re spending a lot of time creating content that isn’t getting used in the field, it might be time to invest in sales enablement. You can ensure you’re dedicating resources efficiently by measuring the business impact of your content. Sales enablement tools with analytics capabilities allow you to track content availability and usage at every sales stage, as well as measure and optimize your content performance. You can pinpoint what content is helping generate revenue and ensure you’re dedicating your resources appropriately to maintain high performing content with high ROI.

3. You Aren’t Sure Your Message Is Landing

If you’re spending all of your time in content creation, you want to ensure the message you’re arming your sales team with is resonating every time. If you don’t have the tools to measure your content effectiveness, you could be wondering why your prospects aren’t answering your emails and phone calls.

Sales enablement tools with analytics capabilities provide the data you need to gain actionable insight and create and maintain better content that will ultimately help sellers close more deals. Analytics not only allow you to track engagement of your sellers’ presentations, but also track open rates, downloads, and shares of all of your assets via email, your website, etc. This gives you the ability to track what content your customers are spending the most time on. It also provides a holistic understanding of what messaging is working and what isn’t across the organization.

This is invaluable and allows you to take the guesswork out of content creation and strategy, as well as help your marketing team align content for every stage of the buyer’s journey for each persona.

4. Sales Productivity Is Low or Flat

Whether you work for a Fortune 500 company or a growing startup, it’s crucial to ensure your sales team is working as efficiently as possible. If one of your sales reps meets with a prospect who’s interested in your product and wants to see examples of similar customer use cases and estimated ROI, you need to ensure your sellers have that data on the fly. But if your company doesn’t have an organized content repository, the chances of your sales rep finding the right content quickly are slim. This is where sales enablement comes in.

Companies can easily increase sales productivity by implementing sales enablement tools that include Content Management Systems (CMS) with granular search capabilities. In a recent study conducted by Highspot, 75 percent of respondents from companies using sales enablement tools reported that their company had increased sales over the past 12 months. Nearly 40 percent reported sales increased more than 25 percent.

It’s easy to put sales enablement on the backburner, but taking time to research the right tools for your team can make a huge impact on sales productivity and pipeline. Investing in sales enablement not only helps sellers identify the right content to improve customer conversations and increase sales readiness—it ultimately helps your organization create better content that resonates with consumers, closes more deals, and helps you generate more success.

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Recommended Marketing Podcasts: Week of February 12 Fri, 16 Feb 2018 15:23:12 +0000 This week's best marketing podcasts offer crash courses in smart negotiation, personalization, and word of mouth marketing.

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Recommended Marketing Podcasts Week of February 12

Podcasts are a great way to educate yourself. Whether you’re on the train, in the car, at your desk, or anywhere in between, this medium is an incredible vehicle for supplementing your industry knowledge. Every week, I’ll be sharing with you some of the best marketing podcasts around, spanning the whole marketing landscape.

Whether you’re new to podcasts or you’re a seasoned listener, I know you’ll find value in each weekly round-up. Let’s get listening, shall we?

Six Pixels of Separation

Six Pixels of Separation # 605: Next Level Negotiation Skills With Chris Voss

Have you ever had to negotiate as if your life depended on it? I know—it’s certainly not what you were expecting from a podcast recommendation column. But Mitch Joel’s latest guest, Chris Voss, has done it. In a former life, he was the lead international kidnapping negotiator for the FBI and representative the National Security Council’s Hostage Working Group as a hostage negotiator. Yeah. INTENSE. These days, Chris teaches negotiation at USC and Georgetown University and wrote “one of the best books [Mitch] has read in a long time.”

Takeaways: Chris wants us master “no,” not “yes.” This flies in the face of traditional negotiation tactics, but Chris says “yes” is a trap. When people say no in any situation, especially in a negotiation, it makes them feel safe.

“We have been so battered by people trying to get us to say yes to something,” Chris says, “that it’s a ground-ball to get them to say no.” Intentionally going for no makes any interaction go much smoother, even though it may not seem the best way forward.

Chris finishes his point with a story of how a recent political campaign lead by one of his Georgetown students used the “no” approach with great success. The campaign called Republican voters using both “yes” and “no” methods as a means of an A/B split test. The results? The calls conducted using the “no” script yielded a 23 percent greater donation rate compared to the “yes” script. I think it’s about time we begin to master our “no!”

CONEX: How to Create a Word of Mouth Marketing Strategy

In their true “first” episode of the new Conex (which stands for Content Experience) Show, hosts Randy Frisch and Anna Hrach interview the show’s co-producer, Jay Baer.

Those of you reading this likely know Jay from all the things he does here on his home site. But you may not know that he’s co-writing a new book focused on the underrated power of word of mouth (WOM) marketing.

Given the sheer competitive volume that now exists through social media and content marketing, we as marketers and business operators need to find more cost-effective avenues to getting in front of our customers. Fortunately, Jay lays out the path to leveraging WOM marketing in 2018 and beyond.

Takeaways: According to Engagement Labs, 19 percent of all US purchases are driven by word of mouth, with up to 40 percent of these purchases influenced by WOM. These numbers are even higher in the B2B space, given the heavy pull that a trusted perspective can have on a very important business decision.

In order to make WOM work for your business—to give them a story, as it were—you have to do something outside of the frame of their current expectations. Jay shares a very cool quote from his co-author, Daniel Lemin, which states, “Same is lame.” It’s catchy, and it’s true.

When you do something original, something that will make you known (shoutout to Mark Schaefer), you create something worth sharing. This compels your current customers to tell their friends, which marks the start of an excellent WOM campaign.

Jay mentions this early in the podcast, but I believe it connects perfectly to what he describes later in the show: “If your content isn’t an experience, what’s the point of doing the content?

He then goes on to pose his own question: Unless the content you’re creating for your audience is their “favorite”—favorite podcast, favorite YouTube channel, favorite newsletter, etc.—then why are you doing it at all?

Are your company’s story and content something worth experiencing?

Are your company’s story and content something worth experiencing?
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Marketing Smarts

Marketing Smarts: Personalizing Your B2B Marketing to Supercharge Lead Gen—Adobe’s Drew Burns

Host Kerry O’Shea Gorgone invites Drew Burns, the senior product marketing manager for Adobe Target, on the show to discuss the best ways to personalize website and business experiences for B2B companies. With Drew’s extensive background in content targeting and testing, he was the perfect selection for this terrific topic. In this episode, they dig into lead generation, personalization, and of course, how to optimize it all.

Takeaways: According to Drew, the B2B companies that will succeed are the companies that use personalization to their advantage. He is already seeing from his analysis that companies who are not implementing these personalized approaches are losing business. Customers are looking for something that speaks to them directly—and immediately. When they don’t find it, they move on.

Personalization can reduce the frustration a visitor experiences when they visit your site, especially that first time. By dynamically pulling in information from a generic Google search, your site may be able to guide the customer into an area more highly relevant to them than the homepage, creating a more effective experience.

Drew mentions that many of Adobe’s customers are seeing a massive, 25X return on their targeting and personalization investments. While it’s not always the sexiest work, it is damn effective and can yield remarkable returns when done correctly.

Does your site have the right personalization tools and strategies in place?

That’s all for this edition! I’ll be back with a new batch next week. In the meantime, share any podcasts you think I should know about with me @jwsteiert on Twitter or in the comments below!

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