Dating for Dummies (And Landing Pages Too)

In many ways, creating a landing page is similar to the process you take when you are about to go on a date.  You have your prospective admirer, you both want something from each other (which may or may not be alined) and first impressions are everything.  Let’s focus for a moment on that last bit: first impressions are everything.  This is true in real life as much as it is true for webpages.  We’ve been talking a lot about content, and how it translates into the bigger picture for businesses (and people) using social media and statistical analysis.

Let’s delve into a few ways that businesses can create these good and lasting impressions by applying some simple dating rules.

Look Good

Sounds simple enough, right? People love to say that looks don’t matter.  Well that simply is not true… well at least not 100% true.  This is something that is a common misconception.  In order to attract a mate, or a buyer persona; clean up your act! Take a shower, shave, put on a fresh pair of undies- all that jazz.  Or in the context of landing pages; make the design clean and simple.  This process should be a breeze for potential leads so avoid mucking it up with extra noise.  Place the important stuff above the fold, or for those of us less tech savvy folk, at the immediate eye level of the users screen.  This is vital because according to Copyblogger, 80% of user time is spent above the fold.  We want to attract our buyer personas and guide them towards a sale, says our friendly inbound marketers at Hubspot.  Additionally, stay on theme with the aesthetics of the rest of your website, the last thing we want is a disjointed webpage.  With that being said, it is helpful to distinguish between landing pages and the rest of those on your site, on some level.  Eliminate extraneous information and connection links to focus the lead onto the task at hand.

Be Aligned 

On a date, you need to be in harmony with your second half.  If one party is forcing a relationship or wants to move too fast, the other is left with a bad impression and might not want to go on a date ever again.  This is also true of webpages.  Take note as to where your potential lead is in the buyer’s journey and make the process easy for them.  On your first date, you probably shouldn’t gush about how wonderful you are for two hours; you will probably annoy your date and give off the impression that you are conceited.  In those beginning stages of the buyer’s journey, follow the same rules as you do while dating.  Ask a lot of questions, listen *this one is key in life too*, be honest and educate.  This should be an opportunity for equal exchange and therefore what is promised, must be given.  Mashable agrees that tricking visitors is not the way to turn them into valuable leads.

Be Smart

Now I know we’ve gone over the importance of the “outside” characteristics of good landing pages, so it is only fair and right that we take a moment to talk about the metaphorical “inside” of a landing page.  Hubspot offers a great checklist of sorts on some simple, content based best practices when it comes to landing pages.  So if you are a checklist type of person, consider the following:

  • Use a clear headline. Your visitor should know exactly why they are on your landing page, and hopefully be delighted they found it.  A concise heading reassures them they are on the right path.
  • Use bullet points.  See isn’t this bullet point list already helping you?
  • Select the correct number of form fields.  We know that the less information a visitor has to give, the more likely they are to give it.  Don’t ask for extraneous information.  The same goes for dates; it’s probably not a good idea to ask for your date’s social security number. Duh.  On a less obvious note, it can make users uncomfortable sharing information over the web, so be sure to assure them of security practices your business employs.
  • Remove navigation.  I already mentioned this point briefly, but be sure to take away distractions.  Links or navigation can take the focus away from the task at hand and move the visitor in a completely different direction, potentially losing them as a lead forever.
  • Include an image.  Not just any image though, it needs to be relevant, attractive (see above) and aid the visitor in deciding they want to become a lead and friend.  And please, once and for all, do not include clipart.  I’ve said my piece.
  • Add social media share icons.  This allows businesses and customers to easily spread your brand and give a healthy dose of positive exposure and word of mouth.  Be careful your content is being seen by the right people and it is quality because as we know from the dating world, if you aren’t careful bad stuff can be spread.
  • Add testimonials and awards.  Validate your credibility.  It makes it easier to listen and take your business seriously.

If you are your classic overachiever and you are wondering if there is more you can do beyond optimization to create smarketing, I have one last trick up my sleeve!  Geo-fences allow businesses to send out discounts and coupons via mobile devices based on mile radius of users to a business.  These digital ads could be sent to people driving through the area or who live next door to really hook the customer in. Can you imagine if you could do that with dating? That would be awesome creepy.  What if some mobile application allowed you to cross reference the physical appearance of a potential date with the location of said date and then tell you about it… Sadly, I think it already exists.

One of the single most important things to have on a landing page is a call to action.  This is the motivation for a visitor to partake in some action that the business wants to see achieved.  Whether you are looking for people to join your monthly news letter or download some content, it needs to be clear that choosing to enter their information into that carefully constructed form is the smartest move.  Additionally, as if every mom hasn’t drilled it into your head a thousand times already, say thank you.

Here are two examples of some really effective landing pages:

Nordstrom. Simple, elegant, straight to the point.  The optional section is a great opportunity for visitors to personalize, if they want. 

Zillow landing page

Zillow.  Cohesive color scheme with brand image, bulleted list, call to action, relevant videos and clear privacy policy. Score.

So we’ve got great content that we are ready to unleash into the world via our creative and incising landing page.  The date is going swimmingly… So now what? Read my post on Thursday to find out.

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Your Professional & Personal Networks: Advice from a twenty-something

Companies and professionals are in constant demand of our attentions and input, leaving us (the consumer) with little time to appreciate mediocre content. We know from my last post that businesses need to cultivate their internet presence and the same goes for individuals.  Heck, I hear my digital marketing professor preachin’ about the need for students to increase our digital visibility in order to gain the attention of prospective employers.  So how do we build our personal and professional networks? Great question, and thank goodness I am here to alleviate your worries, and help guide you in the direction of smart social media.

First, I am going to shed some light on how each member of a business can shine without overshadowing the company.  The best way for business individuals to enhance and hone in their network is to create a LinkedIn profile.  Check out my page here.  LinkedIn has 200 million users worldwide which is great for business people, and the average household income of one of these users is $110,000, which is great for businesses themselves (LinkedIn for Marketers: a deep dive with the “LinkedIn Queen” Eve Mayer).  That is a large reach and you might be nervous because your current profile is a bit of a diamond in the rough.

Okay, so you’ve copied and pasted your basic resume facts and your best friend and brother-in-law have endorsed your skills in Microsoft Word… You’re done, right?  Sorry, but that just isn’t good enough.  Not for you or your employer.  But why should employers even be interested in their employees amping up their personal profiles?  If you are one of those people that believes that LinkedIn is your own personal outbound marketing platform, you aren’t entirely wrong, but you are also failing to seize a great opportunity.  If your LinkedIn profile gives you the opportunity to make personal connections that lead to achievement of career objectives, why can’t it do the same for businesses?  Well it can, says Eve Mayer “LinkedIn Queen”.

Building your social presence in these two simple ways can create a lasting impact for you and your employer, so really, it’s a win-win.

  1. Curate and create content.  You need to do it, even if you don’t want to- both professionally and personally.  I know it’s hard and sometimes it can be difficult to find inspiration, we all have busy lives and no one expects you to be a super human (unless you are Blake Lively or Beyonce).  That is where the combination of created and curated content comes in.  Created content comes directly from you or the business and demonstrates thought leadership and offers unique viewpoints.  Curated content is a great supplement for your own created content, according to the article Generating and Sharing Content Effectively from Hootsuite University.  Curation helps you create relationships in the industry and make connections that have the potential to mutually benefit.  Because this content is not coming directly from you it takes a considerably less amount and resources.  This is also great for allocating your time, and by now, your slacker ways have you looking for ways to make your life just a little bit easier.  I’m going to let you, my faithful blog readers, in on a little secret: this content, both curated and created on your personal and business’ social platform, gives a historical context of your involvement in an industry.  Hello future online thought and business authorities 
  2. Grow your online community.  Back in the day, you might of found your niche based on where like-minded kids hang out on the playground.  Some like dodgeball, others the swings, and the more adventurous kids even chase around the boys, scaring them with threats of cooties.  Nowadays, we have the internet and therefore like-minded business people have virtual playgrounds.  Figure out what it is you, or your business is trying to achieve and look for these communities and become an active member.  Do a lot of observing first, this will help you to determine if this activity will have a mutual benefit.  Next, engage in a conversation without trying to benefit yourself.  Hootsuite in Growing your Online Community, says participating in an online and offline community before you start your own aids in the perception of your business.  This way, your community doesn’t seem self serving and can spring up more naturally.  Just like friends are in elementary school, the power is not always in numbers and choosing the right group is crucial.  The best communities are made up of the most loyal and trusted friends.  Plus, those are the people that are going to love and share in your mutual weirdness (yes that can be an actual benefit to businesses). 

Now that you’ve established your community and I’ve got you rethinking social media as a professional and personal platform for leveraging content (good content) for the purpose of amplifying your business… What’s next?  Here comes the shameless plug for Hootsuite.  For those of you who don’t know, Hootsuite is a dashboard that allows you to see and employ all of your social platforms in one place.  Their mission is to provide a streamlined process for content and optimization, when it comes to everything social media.  They help businesses listen and engage their audiences, and provide collaboration tools for teams, all while providing the upmost security.  In their article 10 Ways to Improve Audience Engagement on Twitter: A Hootsuite Guide for Small to Medium, the processes for optimization are outlined.  Hootsuite does everything possible to make social media easy for businesses.  From built in analytics tools that provide real data about ROI, to collaboration platforms for team members, Hootsuite has got you covered.  They allow you to do a better job, with less work.  This not only helps you grow as a business, but also, you get to show your followers a little extra love.

Again, it’s a win-win.

5 Things You Need to Know About Social Media & Your Business

1. Know Your Audience

I’ve done a lot of talking and learning about what exactly a buyer persona is, and what potential they have to shape and drive your business (thank you Hubspot).  When we approach social media, it is important to look at your audience with the same care and consideration.  The most powerful thing about social media is the momentum it has.  There is a fundamental shift in your business reach when you employ these platforms.  Moving away from a one-to-many traditional strategy and towards many-to-many, you can engage in those important conversations not only customers are having, but also with people in your industry.  Know the habits of your audience.  Do they frequent Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?  If so, you need to have a presence in those places.  Additionally, it is vital to note the key times of the day that your buyer persona spends on the web.  We want to delight them with social media content at the most convenient times so that they are thinking about us when they drink their morning cup of joe or unwind after a long day of work.  Don’t keep the interested customer waiting.

2. Clickbating = Bad 

What the heck is clickbating anyway?  Certain web content is aimed at generating the most possible clicks and does so through catchy titles that skip out on thought-provoking content.  These websites, not to mention any names, *cough* Buzzfeed *cough* give just enough information to get surfers of the web to click the article link, with no concern of the truthfulness or citing original sources.  While this technique sees high click-through rates, it often leaves the customer yearning for more.  This tactic may work for some, but it is not a sustainable marketing practice.  Have you ever been on Facebook and seen an article with a title like “17 Reasons Wine Makes the Best Valentine” and clicked the link, just because you like wine? Yeah, me too and that’s okay because wine is really good, but that only works for that kind of business.  Venture capitalists like Emerson Spartz argue that being viral is king.  I agree, but there is a line that must be drawn in order to not sacrifice integrity for your business while using social media as a tool.  You may be tempted because there is a serious opportunity to hit wide ranges of audiences by maximizing patterns of success and not focusing on the content.  Spartz’s current project, Dose, is a website full of content based on promotion and packaging perfect for your average ADD fourteen year-old.  Seems awfully similar to those dying traditional outbound marketing techniques I’ve talked about in previous posts and in the same way, it can backfire.  Those same techniques they use to become viral, could be to their detriment, says Forbes.  We want to be viral, in a good way, because we earned it.

3. Care for your Customers

The phrase, “customers come first”, is reiterated so often that I think every customer service worker since Ancient Mesopotamia could tell you that.  Let’s be honest, sometimes we question why the business must bend over backward for the customer.  The answer is simple: the business would not be there without the support of the people buying into it.  If our ultimate goal of social media marketing is creating lasting relationships, there needs to be some TLC for the customers.  First, don’t just talk about yourself in every blog, tweet and Facebook post; no one likes sitting next to the guy on the airplane who won’t shut up about how awesome and successful he is.  A business that just promotes itself, in the same way, feels similar to the self-absorbed and unaware dude on the airplane.  Hubspot says follow the 80/20 rule; 80% of social media content should be stuff that helps the customer, talks about the industry or answers questions, while 20% can be focused on promotion.  This is a good measure for keeping your “airplane etiquette” in check.

4. Integrate Social Media into your Company Culture

One of the beautiful things about social media is just that it’s inherently… social!  This has the potential to connect people form different functional areas of your business.  Some of the best innovations come from ideas that are brought together by diverse groups of people.  Talk about great product development.  And what better way to get these different types of people working together and talking than social media?  Moz, a social media expert, says that while customers are important, their every word shouldn’t be treated as gospel.  Another important input for development and improvement can come from within your company itself.  Sometimes integrating social media into your company culture is beneficial and it is so simple, it’s silly not to do just that.  For example, HR can use social platforms for new job postings and recruiting.  Internal social networking is an opportunity to build a strong foundation and culture within your business.  Some discretion is advised of course; some of these platforms work best with certain types of atmospheres.  If being silly and having light hearted banter and jokes are encouraged and accepted in daily life at the office, go for it! If not, you might want to approach it from another angle, maybe Google+ and LinkedIn are more effective.  Build social within your business culture so that the foundation of your house is strong.

5. Be a Human

Finding your individuality as a business is such an important point it could not go unmentioned.  Interact with customers as if they are your grandma, friend or classmate.  Know them, be empathetic, be funny, be respectful, be all of the qualities that you wish to put out into the world.  The energy you release into the social environment sets the tone of your brand personality.  Avoid being the bland white bread and be something with nuts, grain, diversity and flavor!  It will end up being more valuable (and nutritious) for the business and the customer in the long-run.  If you make your network one that connects and includes, you will also see benefits.  Your brand will seem infinitely cooler to users if you make them feel special.  Don’t be the bully on the playground that won’t share the swing.  According to Moz, by making people feel part of the “in crowd”, it creates balance and makes the relationship feel trusted and real.  Most people in their everyday life strive to be a good person and it’s not always easy, but doing the right and good thing for your business isn’t always easy.  Much like in life, you cannot afford to not be human.

Building great social media is like building a house.  Make it strong, create a foundation, remodel when needed, clean it up occasionally and invite friends over for a fancy dinner party with wine and cheese.

What Elle Woods can teach us about life, love and content marketing

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the movie Legally Blonde, Elle Woods is a sorority sister who we meet at the peak of her picture-perfect college career.  Her world is suddenly rocked when her long-term boyfriend breaks it off at a dinner date she anticipates is the start of their next adventure together.  When Elle faces this devastating break-up she is quick to assume that exterior matters, much like the trap marketers fall into when employing traditional marketing techniques.

Gone are the days where a business can advertise without content and depth behind the surface.  In Legally Blonde, Elle realizes that appearances aren’t everything and moves toward bettering other, more lasting parts that make up who she is.  Many businesses continue to rely on traditional methods of marketing and the fact of the matter is, this will ultimately set them behind.  Thankfully Elle has the insight to realize that there is more to a person than the outer appearance and applies to Harvard Law.

While Elle is attempting to gain the intellectual content to back up her pretty face, businesses should be focusing on the same.  The content behind the face of a business should be built simultaneously.  The power of the consumer is growing and without audience optimization, leads could fall off before becoming conversions.  What do I mean by audience optimization? Well, customers will typically go through a process of gaining trust toward a business that can be facilitated by the business itself via content that they publish.  Before leads become conversions, the first, and arguably the most important step is to define your audience.  Many CM businesses refer to this as determining your buyer personas.  Think of them as the characters that you wish to capture and eventually establish as your audience.  In Legally Blonde, Elle wishes to win back her ex who is now interested in the moody, law student who spends too much time in the library.  Without sacrificing herself, she attempts to reach him by adjusting her efforts towards the new character qualities (or buyer persona) of this type of person.

A very important note that Elle teaches us is that you should not lose yourself.  Never make huge sacrifices just to make customers happy because ultimately we want to reach trust (which works best if you’re being true to you).  The allure of content marketing is the ability to create trust derived from compelling content by building an owned media asset.

What does that mean?

It is very possible to create a positive sales experience for customers without having them feel as if they are being sold to.  It should be a process that aims to educate.  Instead of pitching, let’s focus on building.  But what should be built?  In their article The Business Case for Agile Content Marketing, Copyblogger does an excellent job at laying out how CM should work.  It’s no surprise a content marketing company produces great content themselves and had me onboard, believing and eating up every word they said.

After establishing your buyer personas the number one thing they stress is keeping content, social media and search optimization together.  Breaking them up keeps your business from integration and could work to your detriment.  Content should be valuable information that educates the customer, keeping in mind the buyer persona is especially important when inserting jargon and slang… duh.  Use social as a way to expose your carefully crafted and enticing content that keeps them coming back to see what you, the business, has to say.  And finally, SEO, or search engine optimization, is the “icing on the cake” because if properly executed content and social media efforts are reached, Google will pick you up and increase your organic search- now that is integration.

Now that we know what our content and efforts should include, let’s take a moment to talk about what your process should look like.

Copyblogger takes a “ready, fire, aim” approach, that is backed by research.  It’s impossible to see what works until you start messing around with your content and begin to figure it out for you.  There is no magic guidebook that outlines the steps for every business, everywhere.  It’s wise to begin with research, especially in regards to the buyer persona.  Where do these people hangout on the web?  What does their day look like?  What are they interesting in finding and more importantly how are they interested in finding that information?  After research comes release! Let that content see the daylight, it’s doing no good sitting in your draft folder collecting technological dust.  Wipe away those cobwebs and optimize your page like I talked about in my last post.  Connect your optimized, content rich page with the world because now it’s ready!  This is an ongoing process so of course we end with repeat.  Hate to break it to you, but one blog post is not the way to cultivate loyal customers.

 Pique their interest, stimulate curiosity and keep ongoing participation with your business.

You may find yourself asking what it takes to break through to customers and be competitive with other businesses as far as content goes.  In the article 5 Pillars of Successful CM by Steven MacDonald, he talks about the importance of sales cycle as well as understanding your audience and creating and promoting good content.  What content to publish when shouldn’t be a guessing game.  We know that some content is better than others in different phases of the sales cycle.  For example, blogs, ad promotions and white papers are very helpful to those just gaining awareness about your business and wanting to know more.  When they move to considering your product among alternatives, videos, peer reviews and tech guides help to evaluate choices.  Finally, free trials and live demonstrations are key to influencing decisions.  This answers the “what to publish when question” but we are digital, content marketers constantly searching for more…

Those who have fallen behind know it’s important to stay on top of marketing trends, and Kane Jamison at Content Harmony has a few ideas that could help.  Among them, I found the following the most insightful:  Keep content changing.  Failing to embrace change is something marketers can’t afford.  Social campaigns are not cookie-cutter and need to be relevant.  If your buyer persona doesn’t frequent Twitter, you probably shouldn’t focus your efforts there.  Seems obvious, but you would be surprised by how many businesses post on every social platform because they think it’s a good idea to be more “hip” or “digital”.  Clearly missing the entire point… Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should.  Remember content marketing is all about earning the trust and respect of your customers and always aim to get people excited and ultimately anticipating your next move.

After all of this explanation, the skeptical among you may still be asking, “Why should you spend time and money creating compelling content?”

Well… It just makes sense.

And if you haven’t checked out Legally Blonde, you probably should.

Not your sixth grade science experiment

Way back in middle school I had a quirky science teacher who played the guitar and sang a song about a little thing called the scientific method that went a little something like this:

Thanks Mr. Busch, but how in the world does this apply to marketing? Scientists use this method to study the world around them and test hypothesis. They start with a question or a problem they wish to solve and conduct a series of experiments to test if their hypothesis is correct using control and response groups.  I hate to break it to the anti-science marketers, but A/B testing has essentially the same function.  While scientists are asking “why is the sky blue”, marketers want to know “which tag line attracts more viewers to open the email?”.  After reading a white paper published by Microsoft, I quickly saw the similarities between the things Mr. Busch my quirky 6th grade science teacher was preachin’ and a tool marketers have.

A/B testing takes the guessing out of marketing.  No longer should we utter the words “we think” and we definitely shouldn’t be blindly listening to the highest paid person, just because.  Microsoft affectionately calls these people HiPPOs, which is hilarious and puts a funny picture of hippos in business suits in my head.  Aside from that, they have a great point.  Traditionally, you would pay close attention to those above you on the corporate ladder, or find yourself choosing the idea of the person who shouted the loudest.  Well that doesn’t need to happen anymore.  The data is doing all of the talking and evidently, it has a lot to say!

Through controlled experiments, A/B testing is able to definitively tell marketers what’s working and more importantly, what isn’t.  In some cases you test really practical things like page layout seen in the graphic above.  Other times you test the outlandish things that have content marketers scratching their heads, and guess what? Those things are often the most effective.  During Obama’s campaign (which was arguably one of the smartest marketing campaigns, political and otherwise) their team did things like using ‘hey’ in the subject line in an email or using the un-aesthetically pleasing yellow highlighter tool.  Why in the WORLD would they ever do this?! Because the Obama campaign was data driven.  Okay so data isn’t really that sexy, but obviously they did something right.  There are a couple of things that can be learned from the team that created this campaign and there are a few things that can be applied to any business:

  • Testing everything… I mean everything.  Even the ideas that seem totally crazy like advertising less during prime time TV.  Remember when your mom would tell you “no idea is a stupid idea” and you would roll your eyes, assuming it was a copout?  Well mom’s got a few things right and this can be applied to A/B testing. Just remember and remind yourself: analyze everything, even the ideas that seem “too weird”!
  • Be aware of when novelties ware off.  Something that is successful has a lifetime of “coolness” (yes please throw away your whitewashed ripped jeans and baggy pants that are worn below the butt- not cool anymore).
  • Don’t forget about the importance of inbound marketing.  Politicians are stereotypically schmoozers who have really white teeth and use their shiny smiles to win over the masses (with a little politics thrown in there).  That is bad news guys! In an area like politics is arguably the most important to express your message in a genuine way, we want to earn the trust.
  • Remember the importance of your buyer personas.  Don’t forget your audience because they are the ones potentially buying into what it is you have to say.  One thing I loved about Obama was the sincerity in his campaign, targeted sharing like the ‘Are you in’ Facebook application were simply genius from an inbound marketing standpoint
  • Wipe away your fear of creating a grassroots style movement within your organization.  No that’s not a hippie reference… What I mean is that you should get your community involved, change the organization structure, be spontaneous and have some fun! Some of the most successful parts of the Obama campaign came from people at all levels.  When the HiPPOs are quiet you can hear the rest of the jungle! Ideas like volunteer ride share across state borders, came directly from a volunteers themselves (hello free).  It was important to the Obama campaign to have non-traditional organization structures and they undoubtably would not be as successful if they hadn’t.

So what’s the big takeaway that I’m getting at?

“One accurate measurement is worth more than a thousand expert opinions” -Admiral Grace Hooper

If you’re someone that is easily daunted by numbers and hates looking at spreadsheets, don’t let the numbers scare you off.  It may not be your sixth grade volcano science experiment, but if you are willing to ask the right questions, you can find answers that really matter, and that is pretty cool.

Smarketing

In a world full of clutter and overactive screen time, the average American is exposed to 61 minutes of TV ads and promotions, says NYTimes writer Brain Stelter (8 Hours a Day Spent on Screens, Study Finds).  With exposure to all of these messages, how is the average consumer expected to break through the clutter and find the good stuff? Well, according to Marketo, it’s not the consumer’s job.  The Internet has forever changed the consumer- they are now in control and are self-educated.  And the consumer has forever changed the Internet.  The term Web 2.0 means that world wide websites now move beyond static and are used in entirely new ways.  Does this mean that marketers should abandon all that they know? No more commercials, billboards, radio, direct mail and trade-shows?! *gasp* Don’t worry Don Draper fans, Marketo says not exactly.  It takes a well executed and integrated inbound and outbound marketing plan to see greater results.  It is impossible for one to succeed without the other and if employed properly, together they can make all the difference.    

Let’s back up a bit… So traditional media, or outbound marketing, is often what I consider to be the advertising that interrupts my daily life.  Commercials are interrupting my favorite episode of Modern Family, radio ads are interfering with my jam session and I’m always clicking out of banners on a website.  This is where inbound marketing comes in.  Instead of interrupting prospective customers, we (marketers) are able to get on the good side of customers when their anti-marketing shields aren’t up.  So what exactly is inbound marketing? In the article titled Amplify Your Impact: How to multiply the effects of your Inbound Marketing Program, Marketo defines inbound marketing as:

“The process of helping potential customers find your company- often before they’re looking to make a purchase- and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and ultimately into leads and revenue”

When I read this, I’m thinking, sweet, what an incredible opportunity for a business to connect with prospective customers on a more personal level.  And once more, the business doesn’t have to do all of the work.  That’s right, the consumer is able to contribute and add to the entire process too!  This ecosystem of mutually reliant parts is truly a disruptive innovation.

Instead of talking at our customers all the time, let’s pull them into the business.  Sounds like brand preference and loyalty building to me (thank you marketing 101).  This idea of action and collaboration is something that Hubspot is doing really well.  Hubspot currently offers software systems that help companies execute inbound marketing.  According to Hubspot in their article Hubspot: Inbound Marketing and Web 2.0, it’s all about active engagement and content.  It’s really easy to do inbound marketing poorly.  You add keywords, tags, wave your magic wand and suddenly…. customers!  No way, it’s so much more than that.  Customers aren’t going to search the reaches of the web for you, it’s the responsibility of the business to increase search engine optimization (SEO).  What does SEO mean anyway?  Creating traffic for your business by analyzing your keywords and their effectiveness in developing organic searches is just one step in the process.  Once there, content needs to attract customers, get them to speak your language and engage their interests.

One thing about Hubspot that sets them apart is their ability to ofter a turnkey product and the additional support need for specific businesses.  What a small business needs from Hubspot is completely different than inbound marketing for a large corporation.  When I was creating a website for Garys’ Mens and Women’s Wear, I knew the power of the platform.  Essentially I had the ability to fundamentally change a business that knew nothing of inbound marketing other than email and a few Facebook posts.  Blogs are content published by a business, yet have an incredibly personal feel.  When I read a blog, I laugh with the writer and feel as if I know the business.  This effective relationship with an entity is something that isn’t quite achieved from a radio ad.  I also find myself constantly seeking out reviews and feedback from other customers.  We are living in an age of connection and community solely through the web.  There is something I can trust about the review written by your average stay-at-home-dad who has tested the product more so than a company alone.

Now that we’ve looked at the power, limitations and innovation that inbound marketing has to ofter, I’d like to take a moment to recognize a few companies doing this really well.

Wild Friends Nut Butter 

Wild Friends is a nut butter company based in Portland, OR that originally started out of the dorm room of two University of Oregon students.  After making an appearance and gaining funding from Shark Tank, this company took off.  Not only am I intrinsically motivated to post about Wild Friends because I know the brother of one of the founders, but I also have a crazy obsession with peanut butter.  Aside from this, they do a killer job at gaining the interest and loyalty of peanut butter fanatics like me.  On their website they have content like “Our Story” where you can hear about their “American dream” style growth and general information about their product.  One of my favorite aspects of the page is the recipe section.  Not only does every recipe contain their product (which you must buy to bake the mouthwatering treats), but you also have the opportunity to post about your trial.  On social media they post several contests that require individuals to use their butters in a creative way, take a photo of their creation, share and have a chance to win more product.  The ultimate involvement level.

Zappos

This quirky shoe company is easy to find, but most hear of it initially through word-of-mouth.  They provide an alternative to going to a brick and mortar store to get a new pair of shoes.  Shoes are one of the most difficult clothing items to buy online and the process is easy because their content is spot on.  From watching videos of each shoe being presented by a Zappos employee to reading reviews, it’s hard to go wrong.  Ultimate shopping experience made easy.

GoPro

GoPro is a genius when it comes to inbound marketing.  Their slogan is “Capture + Share your world” or in other words “Use our product + give us free PR and add to our coolness factor”.  Whether you’re a skier bro “shredding some major pow”,  a badass deep sea diver or just a guy hugging a lion buddy, GoPro wants you to capture it and then share it with the GoPro community.  Some just go to their website or Instagram to watch the beautiful shots and others try to compete in their contests.  They have one promotion that encourages customers to record something awesome and share it with the GoPro name in the hope of winning coupons for their other products.  Extremely content rich marketing outreach sets GoPro apart.

What are these three companies doing?  Inbound marketing.  And I dub it “smarketing”.

Google may rule the world

I recently read this super interesting, tantalizing article written by Forrester titled Forrester Wave: Web Analytics that went on and on about how Adobe, IBM, Webtrends and AT Internet are leading the world’s supply of Web Analytics.  They displayed various facts about how web analytics underpins digital intelligence and evaluated 6 companies based on these factors.  After reading a good chunk of the text and looking at some pretty pictures (also referred to as graphs) I quickly found myself bored and confused.  First off, why in the world is Google squeaking in at a rank of 5th place compared to the aforementioned? Of course I’m not a software expert or business trend expert whatsoever, but I was left scratching my head…  Let me make a few semi-informed observations:

The Forrester article clearly states that enterprise capabilities are the key differentials. Yep, that’s definitely true!  So how is it that one of the most innovated companies isn’t given more credit for doing so? I recently read this great article about Google’s three pronged enterprise strategy (Jason Bloomberg) that made a great analogy: Google is like an iceberg, what you see and hear about is only surface level.  They are well known for being a constantly working company that seeks innovative individuals that are leading cloud capabilities (which half freaks me out and half makes me excited) and development of digital technologies.  Innovations tend to shake up the market and that just may create a problem for some of the more traditional software companies like IBM and Adobe.

James McCormic, the author of the Forrester article also mentions the importance of delivering actionable information to businesses, which is basically Google’s middle name. After finding the Forrester article lackluster, I did more research about Google Analytics specifically.  The abilities and thought process behind Google Analytics has power and innovation that is truly ground breaking.  I mean remarketing… genius! I always wondered how google knew I wanted to by those boots at Nordstrom… anyways, back to the analytics.  Built into the program you are able to make goals, learn more about your customers and make changes to your business that are necessary for achieving them.  That sounds pretty awesome to me, talk about giving customers the full package!  Analytics is just the tip of the iceberg for Google as stated by Jason Bloomberg.  With the ongoing R&D with BigQuery and Google Analytics Premium has the capability to out grow some of the other companies based on their weaknesses.

If Adobe, IBM and Webtrends are leading Web Analytics, Google is changing the game and just might rule the world.

Digital Marketing with Hannah

Hello surfers of the web

Get to know me:

I am currently a senior at Western Washington University studying business with a focus in marketing. Born in 93′ I strongly identify with my cohorts and when I am not working or studying I enjoy making art, reading, cooking and spending time in the outdoors.  I spent the last four months studying in Madrid, Spain and have officially caught the travel bug.  Originally from Vancouver, Washington and have been living in downtown Bellingham for the past three years.  All four years at WWU I have worked in the Office of Admissions as a campus tour guide for Western.  As a representative of WWU, I am often the first and only contact prospective students have with the University and I enjoy connecting with diverse groups of people.  In addition to working on campus have also been working at Garys’ Mens and Women’s Wear in downtown Bellingham for the past 2 years.  This job allows me to express myself through fashion and help to inspire others all while learning the ins-and-outs of running a small business.

Why Digital Marketing?

The fortunate thing about the year I was born is that I have seen the social and technical world change into what it is today.  Technology’s impact on business is a topic that has become increasingly interesting to me.  In the summer of 2014, I proposed and collaborated on the design of a new website for Garys’ (garysbellingham.com).   This was a prime opportunity for me to employ my skills in web development and project management.  Before the project began, I saw that Garys’ was lacking a platform that connected all of the media outreach they were already using (email, Facebook and Instagram) and that was a problem I was able to fix for them, with digital marketing.

What about Digital Marketing?

I am particularly interested in the ability digital marketing has to integrate connections between business and consumer.  It is important to me to gain the ability to speak with all functional areas of a business from R&D, to finance departments.  Without knowledge of current technologies and methods of employing them in a business setting, you miss the opportunity to make a good campaign, great.  Post graduation, I aspire to receive my masters in Integrated Marketing Communications and because of this I am especially interested in tools that can be used to do just that.

Article Discussion 

As I approach my final quarters here at Western (two to be exact) I find myself reflecting back on my past 3 years and answering the question: “Hannah, now what are you going to do after you graduate?” often.  This dreaded question gets brought up time and time again and without fail at any family gathering.  Before I can really pin point what it is I would like to do, it has been important for me to look at the current job market and try and figure out what it is that I can bring to the table.  Within the changing job market, skills required of graduates, especially technical ones are improving exponentially.  Differences among level of position seem to always be implied, but never explicitly stated.

One thing that I found very interesting about the article Knowledge and Skill Requirements for Marketing Jobs in the 21st Century by Schlee and Harich was not only the obvious ability to apply this article to my current situation, but also the specific analysis done.  I found parallels between my experience of WWU and the transitions through the work force.  In the beginning we start off broad, reaching to several different areas, including some that potentially (and in many students eyes) have “nothing to do with” what we are truly interested in.  The business school starts us off with economic courses, business law, management, finance and a whole host of other subjects.  I would often hear my peers talking about how these courses had little relevance to their functional area or say “this is just another hoop I have to jump though”.  Admittedly, I found their words to be similar to my own feelings, but as I move forward I am finding just the opposite.  Without the knowledge gained from those areas “we aren’t interested in” we would have no way of developing the complex thoughts we are now beginning to be capable of.  Although I dreaded making balance sheets back in sophomore year, I know the importance of budgeting in the business world.  This is exactly what it is like when you move into the “real world”.  In the beginning you gain technical skills and work at the bottom so that when you are at the top, you are able to communicate with others.  Turns out, you might actually be using those technical and meta skills all along.  The article claims that while you move up the corporate ladder, a broader understanding becomes more important than the specifics, but until you get there stay hungry for all the knowledge you can get.

Talent and knowledge are both products of continued education both in and out of the classroom.  The article State of Digital Marketing Talent outlines the need for individuals with experience and skills that set them apart.  With the market being flooded with graduates who are deemed “entitled” that turn out to be less qualified than their shinny resume suggests, it is becoming harder for employers to filter the good from the bad.  A lot of skill comes from job experience, but with the increasing demands and lack of jobs, a lot of new-grads are feeling the pressure build.  Without a job, there is no way to gain experience and without experience, there is no way to gain a job.  You often hear people present this catch 22.  I think the issue lies in the ability for some educators to capture the attention of their students or the failure of students to see the importance of what they are learning.  Or possibly a missed opportunity to train or learn new skills all together, like the article suggests.  One thing is clear, technology is gaining pace and failure to keep up could be detrimental to your career.

Once you enter the workforce, you are expected to work extremely hard and employ all those useful new techniques you’ve just learned.  Consumers now require more attention and relationship management than ever and Forester Interactive Marketing Forecast for 2011-2016 mentioned quite a few.  Essentially teams are getting larger and more diverse.  Again this has me reminiscing on all the group projects I have done in the past and how sometimes they works with minimal bumps and other times the group couldn’t seem to agree on a single thing.  With emerging media teams will be comprised of individuals from all functional areas and it is the job of marketing teams to assure that the business’ vision is not only integrated, but also interactive.  We will quickly need to become even more customer obsessed, taking CRM to the next level.  Another interactive implication is one that effects small businesses.  In order to be competitive businesses of every size need to focus on “getting found” with fewer people paying attention to newspaper adds and looking to the internet for information, it is vital to incorporate SEO in every business model.

People are not only searching on the web, but also many different devices.  The article by VanBoskirk mentions rich media gaining popularity and I am curious to see how this is pans out with individuals using mobile devices as well as tablets and desktops.  There must be a focus on media expansion, but also media expansion that looks just as clean on several platforms and devices.  This is no trivial task.  As discussed in Framework for Designing for Multiple Devices by Sachendra Yadav, the context of using these devices is something to be considered.  Answering the questions when and where, are imperative for a positive user experience and digital marketing can be employed to remedy just that.  As a potential method of creating a better customer relationship, technology can be easily customized with the proper programs in place to do so.