Category Archives: Marketing planning

Track these 3 email marketing metrics

marketing analyticsAnalytics are an important tool in email marketing because they reveal how effective your campaigns are. While it’s easy for me to say that a heavy investment in marketing will yield more revenue for your company, analytics are the data-driven proof. And if things go wrong, analytics can help you determine what didn’t work.

For example, a key aspect of a marketing automation campaign is that you target leads who have opted in to access your gated content. If these people unsubscribe from your campaign, you can review and tweak your messaging to see if that helps.

Before you can review your email marketing analytics, you need to know what you’re looking for. Click-through rate, bounce rate, and unsubscribes are three key metrics to scrutinize. They’ll help you determine if your campaigns are worth the investment.

Click-through rate

One of the most important metrics in email marketing, the click-through rate is the percentage of recipients who clicked on one or more links. It’s based on the total number of people who opened your email. For example, a 30 percent click-through rate would mean that for every 10 people who opened your campaign, three people clicked on at least one link.

Using this metric, you can see how many people are engaging with your content each time you send an email.

Bounce rate

The bounce rate is the number of emails from your list that couldn’t be delivered. Sometimes, it means that recipients’ email providers marked your campaign as spam. Other reasons for bounces include full mail boxes and server issues.

You might want to try resending once more, but don’t keep doing it if the addresses bounce again. Internet service providers look at bounce rates with a wary eye. You don’t want to be reported as a spammer.

Unsubscribe rate

The unsubscribe rate shows you how many people unsubscribed from your email list for a specific campaign. Depending on where you got your email list, this number could be high. Purchased lists often result in high unsubscribe rates as do old lists that include people you haven’t communicated with regularly.

Make it count 

If you create targeted, timely, and valuable content that benefits your subscribers, your email campaigns should do well. They’ll want to hear from you – and keep reading. That should help your delivery rates and your bottom line.

What have you learned from your email marketing metrics? Let us know in the comments below.

Marketing tips for startups

startup marketingA friend approached me recently for advice on how to use his startup’s first marketing budget. He knew the amount wasn’t enough to contract an agency, but he and the other executives are all scientists – not marketers – so they didn’t know what to take on first.

Startups and other small companies often struggle with how to market themselves. A year’s worth of profits may not afford them logos, let alone websites or other substantial branding materials. And when it could be another year before they scrounge up the funds to execute the next step in their strategies, it’s essential to make sure that their first step has legs.

Startup marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all, however. Every company has different goals and different resources to leverage so that they can allocate their budgets appropriately. For most, a functional website is probably a safe bet, but connecting with the right people is more complicated than buying a domain name. To be the most effective, start with the basics.

3 marketing tips for startups

  1. Tap your network. Successful entrepreneurs know the value of creating and maintaining relationships. Even if you’re not an all-star networker, you can ask friends, family or former co-workers for advice or to connect you with someone who could help develop your marketing plan. Take inventory of the writers, designers, coders, developers or agency professionals you have access to and reach out to see if they’d be interested in sharing some advice or joining your project. For the cost of a cup of coffee, you might receive valuable insights that could help you meet your goals.
  2. Think critically about your internal bandwidth. Many companies, large and small, try to save money on marketing by assigning tasks internally. While we always support involving thought leaders – particularly for technical or otherwise complex content – those members of your company may already have too much on their plates to devote the necessary time to marketing. Employees at startups are often stretched thin, with little to no spare time, so asking someone to take on a marketing project could mean something else gets put on hold.
  3. Identify your audience. Startup marketing audiences vary widely, from customers to media, investors and potential partners. The key to making the most of a startup-sized marketing budget is to identify the most important audience for the company’s current needs. From there, you can determine the best methods of contact, what you want them to know about your company and – most importantly – why they should care.

Once you’ve identified the resources at your disposal and the primary audience for your efforts, you can move forward with developing an outbound or inbound marketing strategy and the in-budget tactics to support that strategy.

What did you do with your first marketing budget? Let us know in the comments.

Turning outbound marketing ‘in’

inbound marketing

You missed a lot at The Simons Group this week. First, we got new chairs. My back has never felt better! (I also have a great price on some – lightly – used office chairs, if anyone is looking.)

Second, we had a kickoff meeting to integrate inbound marketing into our own rebranding effort. What is inbound marketing, you ask? Let’s start at the beginning.

The first marketing touch-point for a prospect generally comes through a company’s outbound marketing. Outbound marketing makes sure prospects are aware of your company and services. An easy way to think of outbound marketing is that it’s any time a company reaches out to potential customers. Cold calls, email lists, direct mail and digital, print and broadcast advertising all fall into this category. Obviously, good outbound marketing is essential for shaping your brand awareness and perception, but it’s a blunt tool that shows the same content to every prospect.

Inbound marketing, on the other hand, is specialized ­and relies on you breaking the trail for customers to find and engage with your company. Inbound marketing centers not only around bringing new prospects in, but also on keeping and enticing quality prospects. Once the outbound marketing has yielded awareness, inbound marketing draws prospects closer and moves them through – and beyond –the sales cycle by showcasing specialized, relevant content.

An inbound marketing campaign puts specific content in front of specific prospects – those who would find it relevant. Developing such a campaign requires creating a small series of buyer profiles to help define your target audiences’ differences.

An example of a buyer profile is a mid-level industry manager at a national company whose main concern is finding a solution with a good return on investment. Within this strategy, the content you would direct his way would showcase how your solution has definable metrics and flexibility to adapt to long-term needs. Then, you have to work that content into a strategy that makes it appear when and where that mid-level manager is most likely to interact with it. The hope is that the content is so relevant the prospect develops enough respect for your brand to become a client, and is enthusiastic enough to become an advocate for the company.

While none of your buyer profiles will come to life and walk through your door, creating content for a smaller generalized group will help a broader range of prospects find what you’re doing worthwhile. This is why the planning stages of an inbound marketing campaign are crucial. It is important to get an accurate buyer profile before implementing a content strategy so that your efforts are most effective.

Have you made the shift toward inbound marketing? Let us know what you think about it in the comments.

Cure ‘Uberization’ anxiety with these 4 digital strategies

digital-dream-2-1456675The internet and mobile have turned the way we do business on its head. While digital transformation opens up exciting opportunities, it also strikes fear into the hearts of many business leaders, who worry that more digitally savvy competitors might come along and wipe them out.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise dubbed it “Uberization” anxiety syndrome, named after Uber’s gutting of the taxi industry. By developing a more efficient, customer-friendly model that relies on smartphones and cloud computing power, Uber has revolutionized the way we get around. Business and IT leaders across every vertical worry their industry could be next.

From a marketing perspective, digital transformation offers unprecedented insight into our customers and prospects. We can see how they interact with our emails, nurture leads with the click of a button, and track how many times they mention our brand (or a competitor’s) on Twitter. With the proliferation of marketing channels and products, though, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to find and execute the right mix.

That’s why many small and mid-size businesses are still struggling to adopt a digital strategy. According to a recent report by LeadPages and Infusionsoft, nearly one in five businesses don’t use any form of digital marketing, and nearly half don’t know if they’re marketing effectively – while another 14 percent know they aren’t.

Do you worry that your competitors are swaying prospects with sophisticated email campaigns while you’re still sending faxes? Here are a few steps for developing a solid digital marketing strategy.

  • Start with processes, not tools. All the technology in the world won’t help you without a solid process in place. What types of customers are you targeting? How will sales handle the leads once they come in? Develop your funnel, then use digital tools to accelerate it.
  • Don’t get sucked into what others are doing. So many factors go into choosing the right software, including your average sales cycle, customer demographics and the size of your sales team. If it takes a year for a lead to turn into a prospect, you probably don’t need a marketing automation platform to keep in touch with them twice a week.
  • Think like a customer. Many businesses get overwhelmed by maintaining an online presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and countless other platforms. To prospects, it’s all part of a single wrapper: their smartphone. They don’t need a different message on every channel; repurpose content to get more mileage out of your efforts.
  • Measure and adapt. The beauty of digital marketing is the built-in data and insight. Are people constantly bouncing off of one of your landing pages? Try reworking the call to action or page layout.

Which digital marketing tactics does your company use? Let us know in the comments below.


Why do you really need marketing?

I marketplaceoften run into prospects that say, “We don’t need marketing.” Most of the time, these prospects work in an industry with a firm client base – and can maintain a steady-enough cash flow. That might be a company with government contracts or maybe just a few loyal large corporate clients.

When probed, however, this objection often is followed by a reference to the sales staff. I might hear: “My sales team doesn’t need any support, we get most of our business through relationships.” Or else they reference the industry: “We are a [fill in the blank], [blanks] don’t do marketing.” Regardless of the industry, marketing makes every sales staff more effective and, most times, we have a client in whatever industry our prospect claims does no marketing.

What is marketing anyway?

There are few business investments as intangible as marketing, since most other corporate functions are clear-cut. A finance department deals with ingoing and outgoing money; a legal department tends to contracts and terms; but the marketing department deals with the company’s self-image. Crafting the narrative the company uses to sell itself requires the marketing team to balance expenses, jump legal hurdles, appease management and grow the company – all using metrics like “impressions” and “influence.”

When a prospect says, “We don’t need marketing,” what he means is that his company is too straightforward to benefit from one of our services. For instance, management at a company like Widget Manufacturers Inc. might think its mission and products are self-explanatory, so why overcomplicate things? Why obscure such clear purpose underneath things like websites and e-blasts filled with jargon?

I’ll tell you why.

Many different companies do the same thing. One may do it faster; one better; one cheaper. But, without the kind of narrative that good marketing provides, how can a competing company ensure that prospects know that it’s better, faster or cheaper than the other guy? How does the sales team differentiate your company from your competitors?

If the reason you have no marketing is because nobody in your industry does it, you are using your competitors’ decisions to stunt your potential growth. The right marketing strategy is the kind of investment opportunity that you don’t want to miss out on.

What drives your marketing initiatives? Let us know in the comments.

Make your brand stand for something

social responsibility, find your causeWhat about your go-to brands makes them your favorites? Is it the quality of the products? Is it loyalty to something you’ve known for years? Or is it that the brand cares about what you care about?

Social responsibility is a huge part of marketing strategies today – consumers want to see that your company cares about what they do.

Issues like cancer, heart disease, gender equality, gender identity, environmentalism, poverty and starvation need continual attention so that the messages around awareness and support can stay relevant. Many companies use strategic partnerships with nonprofit organizations to get involved with specific causes and bolster their brand identities. This mutually beneficial relationship is called “cause marketing,” and can increase engagement with employees and consumers, alike.

Before choosing a nonprofit organization to partner with or support, however, companies need to make sure their brands align with the selected nonprofits. Employees and consumers need to understand why a company values a specific cause easily. No one questions why brands like TOMS or Warby Parker donate shoes and glasses to people in need. Patagonia has made clear that environmentalism and sustainability are at the core of its brand, so it’s no surprise that the company supports cloth recycling.

If you’d like to develop your brand’s social responsibility strategy, start here.

Look to the industry. Start with what you know and look at what causes relate to your work. You might find that your company already has a relationship with a related cause. Candle makers may donate to fire safety groups. Construction groups may volunteer services to build homes for the needy. Every industry has at least one obvious way to give back.

Look to employees. Ask leadership and other employees what they’re passionate about. Find out what boards and organizations you already have team members involved in – many of your employees’ concerns probably overlap with the company’s core values.

Look to consumers. Consumers are always on top of hot-button issues. Get in touch with your target audience and find out what causes resonate with them. If you have a diverse client list, you could support several causes with different events or a rotating list of relevant organizations.

Regardless of where you find your inspiration for a social responsibility strategy, remember that authenticity and transparency are the most important. Consumers should be able to see what you care about, why you care about it and how it fits into your brand’s identity. Sincere efforts to support a cause that aligns with your brand can reinforce core values with good deeds.

Does your business practice social responsibility? Let us know in the comments.


Success starts with showcasing your value

Brand value

Picture this: a new restaurant opens across the street from your house. You try it and, for the first time in years, you have a new favorite. You tell everybody about the restaurant; about its subtle, yet edgy, atmosphere, the friendly wait staff, and the delicious, reasonably priced food. You go there multiple times a week, with friends or alone, and you’re sad when it’s closed on Mondays. As the novelty wears off, you start ordering carry-out – and noticing more empty tables in the little restaurant. One day you walk in around 6:30 p.m. and the only other people in the place are the employees. You want to ask the people at the counter why they don’t have a website or any social media presence to speak of, but you know it isn’t their fault that the restaurant will almost certainly be out of business by this time next year.

What’s the point of brand development?

Objections to brand development come in many forms. For instance, a manager might insist that his industry doesn’t warrant big marketing initiatives. A vice president might think that the sales team gets results through personal relationships or arm-twisting, rather than supporting materials. On the other end of the spectrum, a small business owner might like to get some rebranding in the works, but never seems to have the ready funding or time to improve his business in that way.

Brand development is how you communicate the value of your business to the people who you want to be your customers. You could be managing one of the best restaurants on the whole block, but, if you don’t invest in any kind of marketing get new patrons through the door, good luck to you. You could be running one of the best sales teams in the country, but, without good, coherent material to show a prospect, securing big orders will be 10 times harder.

Instead of relying on luck, take charge of how people think about your business. Your brand should have a personality that resonates with your target audience. Examine how your company fits into the industry and where you add value for customers. Develop a strategy that showcases how you’re different and why that matters to the people you’re trying to serve. In time, you’ll not only be sending a clear message to your prospects, but also building loyalty and advocacy around your brand.

Have you taken charge of your branding? Let us know how in the comments below.

Your guide to having style

style guide image

Is it “don’t” or “do not”; “can’t” or “cannot”? Can a subhead be a question? Is the hyphen necessary in “non-essential”? What’s the plural possessive of your company name? Is it even OK to modify the company name? These questions – and more – can pop into a writer’s head within minutes of working on your content.

The fastest way for writers to get the answers they need is to develop a thorough style guide. It ensures consistency throughout your materials – regardless of who writes or edits them – by providing quick and definite answers to common questions. Don’t have one yet? Follow these steps to create a style guide that will keep your copy consistent.

  1. Establish a baseline. Creating a style guide from scratch would burn through massive amounts of time and resources, so we suggest letting someone else do that work for you. Fortunately, you can pick from several existing guides, like the Chicago Manual of Style, The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage, The Columbia Guide to Online Style, Microsoft Manual of Style, The Yahoo! Style Guide, or – our go-to – the Associated Press Stylebook. Certain style guides are better for specific content or formats, so do a little research to see which one matches your needs.
  2. Break the rules the right way. Once you have a good starting point, create a list of your company’s exceptions to the style guide and preferences that aren’t covered. Note all spellings, hyphens, contractions and punctuation that contradict your chosen style guide. For example, do you use “adapter” or “adaptor”? “Percent” or “%”? By listing only exceptions to an established style, you’ll be able to keep your company’s style guide concise and easy to reference.
  3. Define rules around trademarks. Company names and trademarks don’t always conform to standard grammar. List constructions of your company’s trademarks to use or avoid so that issues don’t creep into your copy. Be sure to cover how you want writers to handle possessives, plurals and modifiers. For example, if you were working with Best Buy, would you say “multiple Best Buys” or change it to “multiple Best Buy locations” to avoid the plural company name? How would you choose to handle the possessive in “Amazon’s Prime subscription service,” versus “Amazon Prime’s subscription service” or “Amazon Prime subscription service”?
  4. Run through different formats. Common projects, such as newsletters, quarterly reports, presentations, brochures and postcards, might require separate style sheets to let writers know any differences or preferences that apply only to those formats. If you want to make sure that every bullet point in your brochures starts with a verb, put it on the style sheet. Don’t want to see any questions in your newsletter headlines? Put it on the style sheet so that your writers know what you want to see.
  5. Use it! Accessibility is key for keeping a style guide in use and updated. Make sure your writers have access to your baseline style guide, whether in print or online, as well as whatever style sheets apply to their assignments. Writers will love having a quick reference guide, and you’ll love not having to make the same changes repeatedly in the review process.

Are you happy with your company’s style guide? Let us know in the comments below.

5 tips to sell your big ideas to the bigwigs

Success or Failure?

When a big idea hits, getting the go-ahead from management can make the difference between a career-defining project and the recycling bin. No one wants to work hard to set up a new marketing project only to have management hit the brakes before it takes off. Here’s some advice on how to sell your ideas internally and transform them into completed projects.

  1. Define your project scope and goals clearly. Spell out the project in a way that is easy to read and explains your plan from start to finish, including ways to measure its success. Anticipate questions that management might have and answer them when you present the project for consideration.
  1. Set realistic goals and timelines. Break down the project into phases and set deadlines for each task to anchor the project completion date. Show how you’ll keep track of progress and how different phases will affect one another. This will help you stay on track and within budget.
  1. Make sure everyone is on the same page. From senior management to assistants, all team members should understand their roles and responsibilities. Setting clear expectations for the team will help to garner support for your idea and make the project successful.
  1. Identify potential challenges and ways to overcome them. Being upfront about potential problems or obstacles will give management more confidence in the success of a specific marketing project. Accounting for potential issues and project variables shows that you’re thinking about the big picture.
  1. Rank your project. Show management where your idea fits into the company’s strategy and other timelines. Are there other initiatives you could tie into your execution? Knowing how your project fits into the company’s marketing mix can make their decision easier.

Do you have any tips for getting management to approve your marketing projects? Let us know in the comments below.

Plant some evergreens in your marketing landscape

colorado-ski-slope-1379643Oktoberfest is over. Leaves have begun to fall. We’re preparing for the end of another year – and ramping up to our busiest season. As we deal with expiring budgets, rush projects and holiday travel schedules, creating content for regularly scheduled marketing pieces can get pushed to the back burner.

With a little bit of planning, however, blog posts, newsletters and website content can stay fresh even when other projects demand most of your attention. The solution: evergreen content.

Evergreen content stays relevant no matter when you publish – or when someone finds it on your site. That may not sound like much of a difference, but it could be the key to drawing more consistent traffic.

Read more…