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Reoccurring Themes from Social Media Marketing World

Reoccurring Themes from Social Media Marketing World

About the Reoccurring Themes

What if the insights presented were the same-old information that I had been stockpiling in my repertoire for ages? I shuttered imagining repetitive session after session of common-knowledge redundancies and ‘tips and tricks’ that anyone with Google access could master.

I have never been more delighted to be wrong. Each speaker wowed me with fresh perspectives and actionable recommendations. I couldn’t have estimated the weight of valuable knowledge that was about to drop on me – and instead of crushing me, it clarified topics that I didn’t even know were fuzzy.

In just three days, I attended over ten workshops and tracking sessions, took 15 pages of tightly-typed notes, and accumulated enough business cards to keep me searching on LinkedIn for days.

So now for the fun stuff… the stuff that I learned in my three days that you can apply in your own business! Here are the
5 reoccurring themes.

  1. Video Runs The Show

People want to see a story. I wouldn’t write this post touting “content is king” because that’s so 2011. But that doesn’t mean the adage no longer applies – it’s more important than ever, in fact. But the way people are digesting content and the way marketers are creating it are the changing variables.

Once upon a time, big-budget commercials were the only way to broadcast your video. Now, Fortune 500s are opting for smartphones instead of camera crews. It speaks to their audience and to the platforms: more real, relatable, and “social”. Michael Stelzner, of Social Media Examiner, reported that 73% of marketers are increasing video – but are they doing it right?

  1. Live Is Leading The Way

Meerkat (who’s that?), Periscope, Facebook Live, Snapchat. Only over the past year have these platforms really made their way into mainstream social media. Overheard repeatedly throughout the three days is that Snapchat is “no longer just a way for 13-year-olds to send naughty photos – it’s a real player in this game”. It’s a legit social media channel with proven business results… and people are obsessed with it. And those people aren’t just Millennials.

There’s an urgency that’s taking over the social media space. People want the most up-to-date, relevant content as it’s happening, instead of watching the recap reel. They want to feel like part of the action and the excitement of being in the moment – and smart brands are capitalizing on it.

  1. Influencers Aren’t Going Anywhere

Even though the FTC is making it more difficult to hide that you paid for advocacy, the exposure from these strategic partnerships drive results. The right influencer humanizes your brand, provides credibility, and (duh) extends your reach to people who may have never considered your brand before.

A few years ago TV celebrities were the biggest thing on social media (think Ashton Kutcher on Twitter). Now, social media stars are reinvigorating TV (think of the cast last season on Amazing Race – all social stars). 

  1. Algorithms Are Everything

Gary Vee, social media expert and Keynote speaker at the conference, fears that Twitter will be the next Myspace. Why? They haven’t nailed the algorithm. People are getting ‘content shock’ and social channels are scrambling to fix this by algorithmically picking and choosing the content you see. This plan is two-fold from the channel’s perspective: 1) They want you to stay and engage on the platform, and 2) they want their advertisers to pay for prime real estate within their feed.

Instagram recently released their algorithm approach, Pinterest continues to work on their ‘Interests’, and Facebook is making it harder and harder for posts to be seen organically. Oh – and did we mention that Facebook engagement is down on all Pages? According to Social Media Examiner, this isn’t stopping advertisers from forking over increased budgets to the social giant.

  1. Social is Unpredictable

Yes, we already knew this. But each time we turn a corner, we are reminded. The knowledge that I learned in 2016 might not be relevant in 2017… or even next week! We’re moving at an accelerated pace, the trends flashing before our eyes and the landscape constantly shifting under our feet. But isn’t that the fun part?

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

The many Trends from Social Media Marketing World

The many Trends from Social Media Marketing World

Social Media Marketing World (SMMW)

 
As you may have noticed from our Facebook and Instagram profiles, our team recently attended Social Media Marketing World (SMMW). This was our fourth year in attendance, and we love connecting and collaborating with social media marketers from around the world. It’s exciting to see where the field is heading, so we’re imparting some knowledge we’ve gleaned from the sessions and talks.
 

One of our favorite acronyms we picked up at SMMW was “ILT”: Invest, Learn, Teach. For marketers, this means to invest in skills and tools, learn as much as you can, and then pass along that knowledge to your customers and peers. In the spirit of ILT, here are five of the biggest trends discussed at Social Media Marketing World.

Landing pages are king

A landing page is a standalone web page intended to collect leads. The art and science of an effective landing page dominated many social media marketing talks this year. Landing pages are usually focused specifically on a product, event or feature, so they can be a component to your primary website, but function independently. Luckily, ShortStack makes it super easy to create landing pages, and we have a bunch of templates to choose from depending on what you want your landing page to highlight.

Since visual and audio media was such a hot topic this year, we saw many marketers create landing pages for their podcasts or videos. Podcasting expert Paul Colligan emphasized the value of landing pages in the context of creating podcast show notes, transcripts and CTAs (call to actions). This is a way to promote your multimedia while still interacting with and collecting information from your users, which creates active consumption of your media instead of passive.

Live video broadcasts connect brands with users

Services like Facebook Live, Periscope and Blab.im provide individuals and brands the ability to live stream video broadcasts to their users and followers. This was huge this year, and the conference hall was filled with marketers live streaming in between sessions. A live video keynote (which feature notable live streamers such as Mari Smith, who is an avid Facebook Live broadcaster) discussed why live video is so effective. The takeaway? Live video shows users that their favorite brands and companies are comprised of real people. And people like connecting with other people, not just words, and images. Video allows realness to come through. Marketers can use live video to their advantage by creating a landing page to capture leads.

Creative targeted ad use can funnel content to the right people

Marketers are learning the power of creative targeted ads, particularly on Facebook. Ads are a great way to cut through Facebook’s algorithms to make sure your content is seen by the right people. Yes, it requires payin’ up, but the results are so worth it. Our friend Jon Loomer, with whom we hosted a stellar taco and margarita party during SMMW, is the master at using Facebook ads in creative ways. Try participating in one of his experiments, and you’ll be amazed at how he’s able to automate his process to share very specific content with you on your feed, controlling it all through ads.

For instance, he recently ran an ad that gave the viewer three options to choose from, based on their skill level with Facebook ads: Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced. After selecting “Intermediate” (some of us around here are more savvy with ads than others), videos Jon had made for Intermediate users began appearing in our feed, with messages and information just for us. We also received an email follow-up, all by simply clicking on the Intermediate option via Facebook. We’d think it’s magic if we didn’t have some insight into how powerful ads can be in the right environment.

Which leads us to our next point…

Automation can aid in customer rapport

Automation helps marketers in numerous ways, such as streamlining workflow or connecting with customers. Facebook recently announced the ability to create “bots” for Facebook Messenger, which, like ads, can help you manage the way you respond to and collect information from your users. For instance, when a user submits a question to your company Facebook Page about an order that they want to track, the bot can respond to the user with the tracking information. This allows users to get immediate responses with your signature flair, but it doesn’t require you to answer every single request.

Marketers are also employing features like action-gating into their landing pages and websites. An action-gate requires users to interact with you somehow — such as entering an email address or other contact information — and in return, you share something with them (a downloadable guide, a contest or coupon, etc.). This follows the “if this happens, then that happens” function format. You can try this out by using our Action Widget on your ShortStack Campaign.

Omnichannel marketing is the way of the future

Omnichannel marketing means running marketing campaigns on more than one platform at once. We’ve been evangelizing omnichannel marketing for a while, and we’re quite pleased that other marketers are seeing value in it, too. We’ve written about this before since our users have seen major success with running omnichannel Campaigns

So although Facebook was still discussed frequently, thanks to their Messenger and Facebook Live developments, these features were part of a bigger picture. Ultimately, our takeaway is that marketers are using a mix of platforms and tools at their disposal to connect and collect from users. But rather than getting overwhelmed with new platforms and strategies, they’re using automation to streamline this process. Smart, targeted marketing campaigns were the name of the game this year.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Playing with the Search Engine Organic vs Sponsored Results

Playing with the Search Engine 

Organic vs Sponsored Results

As an Internet Marketer, one question people frequently ask me is “what is the difference between organic and paid search results?” Trying to get a website ranked without opting for a paid listing is not that hard to do in theory but actually getting a website ranked is challenging – but it isn’t impossible.

Google’s Sponsored Search Results

At a first glance, Google offers a simple answer on organic vs sponsored search results. Listed at the very top of the search results are the paid ones. They are there simply because they availed of Google’s “Adwords” service. How this works is that while your link is at the very top (or in another prime location), Google will charge you based on where you are on the list and your keywords. It is worth noting that Google will charge you more the higher you want your link to be listed.

Availing of Google’s Adwords services is a fairly simple process. You simply have to create a Google account, register it in the Adwords domain and then you can set it up to get your desired spot in Google’s search engine.

It is extremely easy to get searched if you avail of Google’s Adwords service. However, in the long run it is still a risky move. While each click is not that expensive by itself, you still have to consider the fact that not everyone is going to avail of your service. Some of them might simply be curious and there are even some cases where people accidentally click on your link. Simply put, each and every click isn’t really worth it.

Another aspect that people consider is the fact that people have a predisposition to not trust ads. Some of them have heard of junk mail and phishing scams so these people tend to avoid clicking on ads. The best way to become visible is by creating quality content that’s good enough to be ranked higher on Google’s search engine results.

Organic Search Results

As I have repeatedly said before, it is considered a good practice to naturally have your content and links rank higher on Google. One of the end goals of SEO is ranking higher with organic search results. One thing bloggers and internet marketers should put into practice is creating worthwhile content while optimizing their website in a way that satisfies Google’s standards for a reputable web page. Simply put, the better content you put out, the better Google will treat your website and rank you higher on their search engine.

Organic Search Results are important precisely because they are relevant to the search keyword. Google determines what is relevant by using their unique algorithm. They naturally appear as search engine results depending on their relevance to the topic as well as their reputation.

Another thing worth considering is the fact that better content produces better results overall; not only with SEO but also with how people perceive and respect your brand. If you can successfully convert people into promoters for your brand then ranking higher even without relying on sponsored search results will come naturally.

In conclusion, while it is definitely easier to rank higher by availing of a Google’s AdWords, it is better for your website in the long run if you put into practice the creation of quality content. You don’t need to pay money to advertise your link if people who are satisfied with your products and services can do that for you. Are you interested in practicing SEO for your website? SEO Hacker is the best place to start.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Why Understanding (TF*IDF) Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency is Critical for SEO

Why Understanding (TF*IDF)

Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency

is Critical for SEO

In SEO, one of the primary focuses that specialists take note of are keywords. Keywords are necessary for websites to rank popularly with search engines such as Google. In order for a website to have a truly effective set of keywords, a study must be made which basically involves researching how frequently people research these keywords.

Like many things in SEO, however, keyword research is essentially an educated guess – and there are many unpredictable factors that have to be discovered through trial and error. The beauty of keyword research, however, is that it is a continuous learning process in which the SEO specialist will spend dozens of hours discovering what people think of the keyword, how often they will use it in their searches as well as its relevance to the website’s overarching theme.

Looking back at the relevance of keywords

During the formative years of SEO, specialists around the world flooded their content with dozens of keywords. At the time, penalties weren’t given to these abusers simply because Google’s algorithm wasn’t up to par at the time. In simpler terms, they couldn’t determine whether or not a single document or article was filled with keywords.

Google will now penalize what we now know as keyword stuffing because keyword density is something that every SEO specialist should watch out for.

Thinking back upon the much simpler times for SEO, the number one way for ranking websites was done with keyword stuffing. This was a bad practice that was considered normal at the time and a lot of SEO specialists ranked high – and for all the wrong reasons.

Times are much harder now and it is definitely harder to rank precisely because of the fierce competition between websites and SEO specialists – and keyword stuffing is no longer on anyone’s mind.

While keyword stuffing is now considered bad practice for SEO, keywords are still important and now more than ever, the quality of the keywords you use is definitely more important and more impressive than the quantity of the keywords people used to stuff in a single document – this is where TF-IDF comes into play.

Understanding TF*IDF

In the first place, TF-IDF means term frequency – inverse document frequency and this is mostly used in text mining and information retrieval. Basically speaking, TF-IDF is used in determining how many times a word appears in a document and how significant it is to the document.

This is important to SEO because this basically means that keywords are easier to determine and the trial and error process is made significantly easier. This may not seem like a big deal but as I’ve said many times in the past, SEO is basically a game where having knowledge is having an edge over your competition – and that’s a very big deal.

TF-IDF is the result of a lifetime of study by renowned British Computer Scientist Karen Spärck Jones. During the 1970s, Dr. Jones published a paper on the concept of inverse document frequency weighing in information retrieval and today, IDF, as part of the TF-IDF weighting method is used by many search engines as part of their internal algorithm.

Application in SEO

So how does TF*IDF work specifically in SEO? As stated above, keywords are now better if they are weighted in terms of quality instead of quantity. Having more keywords may not necessarily be a good thing because Google actively penalizes people who stuff their documents with keywords. TF-IDF is essentially the revolutionary piece that makes keyword research easier and more meaningful because each finding is supported by numerous documents that Google’s crawlers will go through. Basically speaking, TF-IDF will tell you what keywords people frequently use, how frequently it appears and how significant it is to your website’s theme.

Key takeaway

SEO is definitely made easier with TF-IDF precisely because it is a game of knowledge and that’s precisely what it brings to the table – the knowledge of what people search for, what they want, how frequently they search for it and how meaningful it is to the people who do the searching – and that information can make your SEO easier and more convenient.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

How to Manage a Mentoring Relationship

How to Manage a Mentoring Relationship

Below are some guidelines for setting up and running a successful mentoring arrangement:

Set regular mentoring meetings

A mentoring relationship is one of mutual trust and respect. So meet regularly, and lead by example. The mentoring conversation may be informal, but treat the overall arrangement with formality and professionalism.

 

If possible, conduct mentoring meetings away from the mentee's normal working environment. A change of environment helps remove the conversation from everyday perspectives.

Be honest and open

If you're not honest, a mentoring meeting will probably be a waste of time for both of you. Discuss current top issues or concerns. Sometimes an honest exchange leads to the mentor and mentee deciding that they don't really like or respect each other. It's better to know up front and build from this sort of understanding, rather than have it hurt the relationship.

Build sustainable improvements, not quick fixes

Use the mentoring session to exchange views and give the mentee guidance, and don't just give the mentee immediate answers to a problem. A simple answer to a problem is rarely as valuable as understanding how to approach such problems in the future.

Play by the rules

Establish some rules or a charter for the mentoring arrangement, with desired outcomes. This could be a set agenda for points to cover, or some performance goals for the mentee to pursue outside of their regular appraisal structure. (One of the key reasons that mentoring can fail is that there's a fundamental misunderstanding about what's expected from the mentor and mentee.)

Most mentoring arrangements work best when they're outside of the day-to-day line management relationship between people. That doesn't mean that you can't mentor the people in your team, but it's often best to have a mentoring relationship that crosses reporting lines.

In a small organization, you may not have this option. If this is the case, make sure everyone knows when you're acting as a mentor, rather than as a manager.

Key Points

Mentoring is a great way to progress a person's professional and personal development, and help create a more productive organization. It can also be very rewarding – for the mentor and the mentee.

Treat the mentoring relationship with the respect it deserves. Focus the relationship on the mentee's needs, and use the powerful skills of smart questioning, active listening, and value-added feedback to achieve the best outcomes from your mentoring.

To keep the mentoring relationship on track, set regular mentor meetings, be honest and open, and don't look for quick fixes. Mentoring is a long-term commitment.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Mentoring Skills

Mentoring Skills

Using Your Knowledge and Experience to Help Others

Whether it's some advice for a friend on helping them look for a new job or guidance for a child embarking on their first day at school, many of us regularly use our knowledge and experience to help and guide others.

But this type of help and guidance isn't just useful for our friends and family – by mentoring in the workplace, you can help people increase their effectiveness, advance their careers, and create a more productive organization. Being a mentor can also be very rewarding.

In this article, we'll look at the benefits of mentoring, and the skills you need to be a good mentor. We'll also look at setting up and managing an effective mentoring relationship.

Benefits of Mentoring

Mentoring is a relationship between two people – the "mentor" and the "mentee." As a mentor, you pass on valuable skills, knowledge, and insights to your mentee to help them develop their career.

Mentoring can help the mentee feel more confident and self-supporting. Mentees can also develop a clearer sense of what they want in their careers and their personal lives. They will develop greater self-awareness and see the world, and themselves, as others do.

For an organization, mentoring is a good way of efficiently transferring valuable competencies from one person to another. This expands the organization's skills base, helps to build strong teams, and can form part of a well planned Succession Planning strategy. Many apprenticeship schemes are based on the principles of mentoring.

There are two main types of mentoring:

  • Developmental mentoring – This is where the mentor is helping the mentee develop new skills and abilities. The mentor is a guide and a resource for the mentee's growth.
  • Sponsorship mentoring – This is when the mentor is more of a career influencer than a guide. In this situation, the mentor takes a close interest in the progress of the mentee (or, more commonly, the protégé). The mentor "opens doors", influencing others to help the mentee or protégé's advancement.

Skills for Mentoring

To be a good mentor, you need similar skills to those used in coaching, with one big difference – you must have experience relevant to the mentee's situation. This can be technical experience, management experience, or simply life experience.

To be an effective mentor, you need to:

  • Have the desire to help – you should be willing to spend time helping someone else, and remain positive throughout.
  • Be motivated to continue developing and growing – your own development never stops. To help others develop, you must value your own growth too. Many mentors say that mentoring helps them with their own personal development.
  • Have confidence and an assured manner – we don't mean overconfidence or a big ego. Rather, you should have the ability to critique and challenge mentees in a way that's non-threatening and helps them look at a situation from a new perspective.
  • Ask the right questions – the best mentors ask questions that make the mentee do the thinking. However, this isn't as easy as it sounds. A simple guide is to think of what you want to tell the mentee and to find a question that will help the mentee come to the same conclusion on their own. To do this, try asking open questions that cannot be answered with just yes or no. Or ask more direct questions that offer several answer options. Then ask the mentee why they chose that particular answer.
  • Listen actively – be careful to process everything the mentee is saying. Watch body language, maintain eye contact, and understand which topics are difficult for the mentee to discuss. Showing someone that you're listening is a valuable skill in itself. It shows that you value what the person is saying and that you won't interrupt them. This requires patience, and a willingness to delay judgment.
  • Provide feedback – do this in a way that accurately and objectively summarizes what you've heard, but also interprets things in a way that adds value for the mentee. In particular, use feedback to show that you understand what the mentee's thinking approach has been. This is key to helping the mentee see a situation from another perspective.

Remember, mentoring is about transferring information, competence, and experience to mentees so that they can make good use of this, and build their confidence accordingly. As a mentor, you are there to encourage, nurture and provide support, because you've already "walked the path" of the mentee.

Also remember that mentoring is about structured development – you don't have to tell the mentee everything you know about a subject, at every opportunity.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

More on How to Build a B2B Inbound Marketing Machine

More on How to Build a B2B Inbound Marketing Machine

The many levers that will get your B2B inbound marketing machine humming

 

 

This post is part two of a series discussing what B2B marketers need to do to build efficient inbound marketing machines. Today, we'll discuss content promotion, influencer outreach, lead nurturing, marketing and sale alignment and reporting.

In part one, we dove into goal setting, buyer persona development and content creation. If you want to give that a read, you can find that post here. Without further ado, let's get to it. We have a lot to cover!

Content promotion

Creating great content is only the first part of the inbound marketing battle. Once content is produced, successful distribution of your content is a crucial piece of an inbound marketer's job. We asked Nick Lucas of When I Work for his thoughts on content promotion, and he came through with a couple great tips:

  • Content promotion begins the minute you finalize your topic and/or title
  • Be strategic when you're outlining your post and deciding who you want to mention
  • Focus on people that can help you out the minute you publish
  • Look to Product Hunt—a lot of the companies on there are just as hungry for attention as you are

The key takeaway here is that content promotion can't be an afterthought. In fact, it's just as core to your content strategy as SEO. As a content producer, you should be thinking strategically not just about what keywords you're targeting, but also who you're mentioning in your posts or linking to.

With the production complete, promotion then turns to the different channels and promotion strategies that can be used to put your content in front of your target audience.

Social media

Remember those buyer personas we talked about in part one of this series? Now that we know where they find their information online, you should share your content there. These channels might vary depending on the space that you're in, but the core B2B distribution channels are Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+. Promotion to these channels can be handled effectively by creating an editorial cadence to promote your posts, it might look something like this:

Online communities

Another great way to share and repurpose your content is to post it to different online communities. For example, in the marketing and sales space, this could take the shape of posting content to Inbound.org, GrowthHackers, Reddit, and OnStartups. When doing this, don't just promote your own content. You can also build your profile and trust by sharing, upvoting and commenting on the content of others.

 

 

This takes time, but can lead to both steady referral traffic as well as large spikes if one of your posts hits the trending page. For example, we saw a huge spike in traffic when one of our posts trended on GrowthHackers.

Quora can be another effective channel. Find questions that are similar to what you addressed in your blog post. Then you'll have a great jumping-off point to leave a thorough and in-depth answer as well as a transparent link back to your post. In a similar vein, blog posts can also be turned into presentations and posted to community sites such as SlideShare.

Influencer outreach

According to McKinsey, marketing-inspired word of mouth generates twice the sales of paid advertising, along with customers that demonstrate a 37-percent higher retention rate. One of the best ways to get your content in front of a larger audience is through influencers. These are the people who are trusted leaders in your space and have established large followings themselves. If they share your content, it not only helps establish your company as a credible source of information but also allows you to expand your reach quickly. This is where inbound becomes, "all about the hustle," if you will. You need to create relationships with these people.

Paid media

As the content marketing space has become increasingly crowded over the past few years, we've seen the rise of paid content promotion in the form of sponsored content and native advertising. These channels offer great ways to give your content a boost and reach more targeted audiences.

LinkedIn is one of our preferred channels for B2B sponsored content because it allows you to be incredibly targeted, all the way down to a company, category, industry size, job title and seniority. According to LinkedIn, after Adobe started sponsoring posts, its audience was 50 percent more likely to agree that, "Adobe is shaping the future of content marketing."

Of course, LinkedIn won't be the right channel for every business, so assess your options and make an educated hypothesis that you can test when you start to promote your content. This way you can see an appropriate return on your ad spends.

Lead nurturing

Lead nurturing is incredibly important for a couple reasons. Inbound marketing is very different than traditional marketing in that your content will likely attract an audience that has a similar pain that you're addressing, but may not actually be a good fit for your business.

Lead nurturing is important here because it allows you to profile your leads over time and ensure that only leads that are a good fit are passed off to your sales team. The other reason is that lead nurturing is so important is that nurtured leads make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.

At New Breed, we like to break lead nurturing into two distinct types that we call speed one and speed two marketing, a term coined by Jake Sorofman of Gartner. "Speed one" refers to time-sensitive, product-focused campaigns with the goal of driving qualified prospects through the funnel as quickly as possible. "Speed two," is a broader content strategy that nurtures leads who are not yet ready to buy.

It's during these speed-two campaigns where your inbound strategy will make the most impact and your content can be used to build trust and engagement with your prospects over time. This is best done by creating nurture streams targeted toward each of your buyer personas to illustrate your value proposition and present them with options to re-engage. In some instances, these campaigns can even run for a full year, with an email cadence at 1, 4, 7, 14, 21, 30, and 45 days, and then every two weeks after that.

Marketing and sales alignment

It's been illustrated again and again that businesses that have aligned marketing and sales teams generate more revenue and see a larger ROI on their marketing and sales investment. This was most recently seen in HubSpot's State of Inbound report:

So what does this mean for your inbound marketing machine? It means that you need to build a strong marketing and sales operations infrastructure and align goals across teams, essentially sales team becomes marketing's newest and most important customer, or that a revenue team is formed.

Start by creating a service-level agreement between marketing and sales team that will dictate exactly when a lead will be passed to the sales team, how leads will be qualified, when they will be contacted and how many contact attempts must be made. Then implement a marketing-qualified lead workflow to manage this handoff, and ensure that your sales team is trained on how to follow up with these inbound leads.

Next, create the ability for feedback to be passed back and forth across teams, ensuring that sales had the opportunity to explain why leads have been disqualified and the sales-enablement tools that help progress the sale. This can take place in formal meetings between teams and also documented as properties within your CRM and marketing automation platforms.

Reporting

Now that your inbound marketing and sales machine is humming along, you want to be sure you can carefully measure its performance and fine tune the engine. The State of Pipeline Marketing report shows that "opportunities sourced" is the primary success metric for B2B marketers. This is because these bottom-of-funnel metrics provide a more accurate look into the true contribution of the marketing team than vanity or top-of-funnel metrics alone.

With opportunities sourced as your end goal, it's important to select which attribution model will allow you to best measure the success of the tactics you're executing on. This will allow you to measure exactly which tactics, channels, and campaigns are driving the best results.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

How to Build a B2B Inbound Marketing Machine

How to Build a B2B Inbound Marketing Machine

"inbound marketing had a 76 percent likelihood of being the marketing approach of choice for B2B companies,"

 

According to data from HubSpot's State of Inbound Marketing report, "inbound marketing had a 76 percent likelihood of being the marketing approach of choice for B2B companies," compared to outbound marketing tactics. That's an overwhelming percentage! However, the same report showed that proving marketing ROI is the single biggest challenge that marketers face today.

This disconnect suggests that it's time for B2B marketers to take a step back and look to inbound marketing fundamentals. That way marketers are setting themselves up for success (and showing their bosses the fruits of their labors).

In today's post, we're going to dive into the key elements that make the B2B inbound marketing machines hum.

What is B2B inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is the process of helping potential customers find your company, often before they are even in the purchasing stage of the buyer's journey. By creating content that your prospects love, you can build brand awareness and preference. By leveraging content that is relevant to your audience and targeted calls to action, you can pull this traffic through the funnel and ultimately drive new revenue for your business.

One of the biggest impacts of inbound marketing—that is often overlooked—is the increased opportunity for customer engagement. By developing content that your personas love, you are also educating and engaging your existing customer base. Too many marketers forget about their existing customers in their marketing strategy, but in leveraging inbound for engagement, you will grow net-new revenue and also increase expansion revenue from your existing customer base.

Goal setting

Unlike direct tactics such as PPC, inbound is somewhat more complicated to measure, so it's incredibly important that you have clear goals at the outset of any inbound program. For B2B companies, especially those with an inside sales team, it's best to work backward from your revenue goals to determine marketing's responsibilities. If you're looking for more guidance on how to do this, you can check out this post, where we discuss these steps in detail.

Data from Bizible has shown that the primary metric for B2B marketing success today is the number of opportunities sourced. So even if sourcing opportunities is the end goal, it's important to realize that content marketing and SEO take some time to build. One of my favorite illustrations of this is from SEO Moz, highlighting the "Gap of Disappointment."

Once you're through that gap, content can provide lasting and compounding returns on your investment in a way that no other marketing channel or tactic can.

The point being, if you're investing in inbound, make sure you give yourself enough time to reap the fruits of your labors.

It will take time but once it pays off, it pays off big. And if it helps, you can keep these statistics in mind while you push through the gap:

  • Companies with 30 or more landing pages generate 7 times more leads than those with fewer than 10
  • Companies that blog 15 or more times per month get 5 times more traffic than companies who do not blog
  • Companies that have more than 52 blog posts see an increase of leads by 77 percent

Buyer persona development

Market segmentation and buyer persona analysis go hand-in-hand. Whether your business is a young startup just getting traction, is looking for a beachhead to cross the chasm, or is an enterprise expanding into new markets, having an in-depth understanding of your audience will be the key to your success. This is especially true when success hinges on consistently producing content that addresses your leads' problems and keeps them coming back for more.

Once you have your goals, take the time to analyze and understand your target audience. Know who they are, and ask questions like:

  • Where they fit in the buying cycle
  • What their challenges are
  • How they would define success
  • Where they spend time online

Content creation

Based on your buyer persona research, you should have a good idea of the type of content that your buyer personas like to consume. It might be webinars, blog posts, whitepapers, e-books, templates, webinars or videos. The list goes on and on. However, for most B2B marketers, blogging becomes the foundation that attracts potential customers to your site and is the jumping off point to any other content you produce.

Blogging

When it comes to blogging, it all starts with keyword research. This means targetting longer semantic keyword queries rather than highly competitive and specific keywords. These long-tail keywords are perfect for targeting with blog posts, and allow you to target very specific keywords to your niche to drive highly qualified traffic. 

Before you start doing this keyword research yourself, I highly recommend reading Neil Patel's post, on how to uncover hidden gems.

The next question we hear all the time is, "How often do I need to publish blog posts?" First and foremost, prioritize quality over quantity. But when it does come to quantity, HubSpot data shows that B2B companies that published posts more than 11 times/month generate 1.75 times as many leads as those blogging 6–10, and 3.75 times more as those blogging 0–3.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

Creating Value in Your Business Ecosystem

Creating Value in Your Business Ecosystem

The metaphors of keystones and ecology help you think about your business environment,

Wal-Mart's and Microsoft's dominance in modern business has been attributed to any number of factors, ranging from the vision and drive of their founders to the companies' aggressive competitive practices. But the performance of these two very different firms derives from something that is much larger than the companies themselves: the success of their respective business ecosystems. These loose networks—of suppliers, distributors, outsourcing firms, makers of related products or services, technology providers, and a host of other organizations—affect, and are affected by, the creation and delivery of a company's own offerings.

Like an individual species in a biological ecosystem, each member of a business ecosystem ultimately shares the fate of the network as a whole, regardless of that member's apparent strength. From their earliest days, Wal-Mart and Microsoft—unlike companies that focus primarily on their internal capabilities—have realized this and pursued strategies that not only aggressively further their own interests but also promote their ecosystems' overall health.

. . .

The Keystone Advantage

Keystone organizations play a crucial role in business ecosystems.

Fundamentally, they aim to improve the overall health of their ecosystems by providing a stable and predictable set of common assets—think of Wal-Mart's procurement system and Microsoft's Windows operating system and tools—that other organizations use to build their own offerings.

Despite Microsoft's pervasive impact, it remains only a small part of the computing ecosystem.

Keystones can increase ecosystem productivity by simplifying the complex task of connecting network participants to one another or by making the creation of new products by third parties more efficient. They can enhance ecosystem robustness by consistently incorporating technological innovations and by providing a reliable point of reference that helps participants respond to new and uncertain conditions. And they can encourage ecosystem niche creation by offering innovative technologies to a variety of third-party organizations. The keystone's importance to ecosystem health is such that, in many cases, its removal will lead to the catastrophic collapse of the entire system. For example, WorldCom's failure had negative repercussions for the entire ecosystem of suppliers of telecommunications equipment.

By continually trying to improve the ecosystem as a whole, keystones ensure their own survival and prosperity. They don't promote the health of others for altruistic reasons; they do it because it's a great strategy.

Keystones, in many ways, are in an advantageous position. As in biological ecosystems, keystones exercise a systemwide role despite being only a small part of their ecosystems' mass. Despite Microsoft's pervasive impact, for example, it remains only a small part of the computing ecosystem. Both its revenue and number of employees represent about 0.05 percent of the total figures for the ecosystem. Its market capitalization represents a larger portion of the ecosystem—typical for a keystone because of its powerful position—but it has never been higher than 0.4 percent. Even in the much smaller software ecosystem, in which the company plays an even more crucial role, Microsoft's market cap has typically ranged between 20 percent and 40 percent of the combined market cap of software providers. This is a fraction of the more than 80 percent of total market capitalization of the much larger ecosystem of computer software, components, systems, and services that IBM held during the 1960s.

Broadly speaking, an effective keystone strategy has two parts. The first is to create value within the ecosystem. Unless a keystone finds a way of doing this efficiently, it will fail to attract or retain members. The second part, as we have noted, is to share the value with other participants in the ecosystem. The keystone that fails to do this will find itself perhaps temporarily enriched but ultimately abandoned.

Keystones can create value for their ecosystems in numerous ways, but the first requirement usually involves the creation of a platform, an asset in the form of services, tools, or technologies that offers solutions to others in the ecosystem. The platform can be a physical asset, like the efficient manufacturing capabilities that Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing offers to those computer-chip design companies that don't have their own silicon-wafer foundries, or an intellectual asset, like the Windows software platform. Keystones leave the vast majority of value creation to others in the ecosystem, but what they do create is crucial to the community's survival.

The second requirement for keystones' success is that they share throughout the ecosystem much of the value they have created, balancing their generosity with the need to keep some of that value for themselves. Achieving this balance may not be as easy as it seems. Keystone organizations must make sure that the value of their platforms, divided by the cost of creating, maintaining, and sharing them, increases rapidly with the number of ecosystem members that use them. This allows keystone players to share the surplus with their communities. During the Internet boom, many businesses failed because, although the theoretical value of a keystone platform was increasing with the number of customers, the operating cost was rising, as well. Many B2B marketplaces, for example, continued to increase revenue despite decreasing and ultimately disappearing margins, which led to the collapse of their business models.

eBay shares the value it creates with members of its ecosystem.

A good example of a keystone company that effectively creates and shares value with its ecosystem is eBay. It creates value in a number of ways. It has developed state-of-the-art tools that increase the productivity of network members and encourage potential members to join the ecosystem. These tools include eBay's Seller's Assistant, which helps new sellers prepare professional-looking online listings, and its Turbo Lister service, which tracks and manages thousands of bulk listings on home computers. The company has also established and maintained performance standards that enhance the stability of the system. Buyers and sellers rate one another, providing rankings that bolster users' confidence in the system. Sellers with consistently good evaluations attain PowerSeller status; those with bad evaluations are excluded from future transactions.

Additionally, eBay shares the value that it creates with members of its ecosystem. It charges users only a moderate fee to coordinate their trading activities. Incentives such as the PowerSeller label reinforce standards for sellers that benefit the entire ecosystem. These performance standards also delegate much of the control of the network to users, diminishing the need for eBay to maintain expensive centralized monitoring and feedback systems. The company can charge commissions that are no higher than 7 percent of a given transaction—well below the typical 30 percent to 70 percent margins most retailers would charge. It is important to stress that eBay does this because it is good business. By sharing the value, it continues to expand its own healthy ecosystem—buyers and sellers now total more than 70 million—and thrive in a sustainable way.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive

What about the Business Ecosystem

What about the Business Ecosystem

“A country can become complacent about its assets.”

What do you mean by “enriching the business ecosystem”?

 

What do you mean by “enriching the business ecosystem”?

Ecosystem” conveys the idea that all the pieces of an economy come together in particular places and that their strength and interactions determine prosperity and economic growth. In Silicon Valley, there is a sense that you prosper only because you’re surrounded by lots of resources that make it possible to succeed, beyond what your own entity controls. Think of it as your garden, where you need fertile soil, seeds, and other ingredients to make things grow.

I chose “enriching” carefully because it not only means richer nutrients in your garden but also the sense that we want continued prosperity. We want more people to feel they have rich lives and opportunity ahead. That is important.

In the mid-1990s, I worked on helping communities around the country adapt to disruptions from the Internet and globalization—trends that were very good for the prosperity of the country overall, but had communities worried about being left behind. I developed the idea associated with this transition from the industrial to the digital in World Class: competitive communities had to reach the highest standards in the world because your customers and employees now knew what the highest standards were, and didn’t necessarily need you to access them—they could go even outside their country. Those developments pointed to networks and larger systems—what cities and regions and small businesses needed to do to remain prosperous.

I identified three archetypes then, suggestive of different kinds of ecosystems. Greater Boston, like Silicon Valley and Austin, Texas, prospers because of thinkers—if you innovated and had new ideas, you attracted resources. Companies gravitate to new ideas because innovations sell at a premium in world markets. Spartanburg-Greenville, South Carolina, exemplified makers. It became a global manufacturing hub and attracted foreign companies by investing in American workers, especially in the skills needed for an advanced manufacturing of, first, textile equipment and eventually automobiles. Today, that area has become the new Akron (while Akron has moved on to new technologies): it leads in making tires, having broadened its manufacturing skills. My third model was Greater Miami, a region of traders that went from being a sleepy southern city to an operative capital of Latin America, attracting finance and logistics and many companies’ Latin American regional headquarters. In each of those places, leaders created a regional theme and invested in aligning many organizations to support it.

What factors make that ecosystem function better?

Four issues strike me as key: turning ideas into enterprises; linking small and large businesses; better connecting education to jobs; and encouraging cross-sector collaboration. Each focuses on actions on the ground, in different regions, within our national and business contexts—whatever those may be. Let me give an example. Civic leaders in Milwaukee are creating a global hub for water-related businesses by linking manufacturers of pipes and controls with entrepreneurs who are creating urban fish farms, and both with new research centers—including the nation’s first graduate school of freshwater sciences.

The first is how ideas become enterprises. This has been such a great U.S. strength that we haven’t nurtured it. A country can become complacent about its assets. There is an assumption that small start-ups create the lion’s share of jobs, but since the financial crisis they have lost their leading position in terms of the number of jobs created. And the start-up survival rate slipped a little—slightly less than half survive at the five-year mark.

For all the money poured into scientific research, very little was finding its way into the marketplace. Basically, MIT and Stanford were taking the lead in finding ways to license ideas that have commercial potential. Elsewhere, there was a tendency to emphasize the revenue from selling a license, rather than whether an enterprise created jobs. Knowledge is the best resource we have. It wasn’t any particular industry that made the difference in the transformation and prosperity of Boston and eastern Massachusetts—it’s our fundamental ability to keep creating new knowledge. So, how do you make sure that knowledge creates jobs, and those jobs reach all parts of the community and that knowledge will be translated into a global competency?

There is evidence that if you make the connections between knowledge creators and businesses tighter, you can increase success. Compared to stand-alone business incubators, university-based incubators tend to keep more people in the community to start their enterprises and tend to have higher success rates, because they are able to connect small enterprises with mentors. Small business needs capital but it also really needs expertise—so Harvard’s new Innovation Lab is a fantastic thing.

Another aspect of moving from knowledge to enterprise to jobs is collaborative knowledge creation. It’s very difficult to manage, but if you get a number of companies collaborating with a number of universities, you have a better exchange of ideas, and you’re also more likely to have competition among them to apply the knowledge. The semiconductor consortium in Albany is an example. A university had already invested in a technology of the future and that attracted investment from lots of companies, no one of which would want to make that investment alone. In time they will want to have their own proprietary piece, but then you can get the business-school students excited about the opportunities in these fields and you begin to thrive locally in the global economy. That’s thinkers plus makers in Albany.

We have long relied on federal funds from the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health for the basic research that supports innovation—private companies cannot support enough basic research on their own. We have seen how in biomedical science, subject to suitable controls, networks productively connect publicly funded research and privately funded companies, hospitals, and other local institutions. We need to continue those investments, but those and other federal expenditures have to be better targeted because not every city needs a semiconductor consortium or a biomedical focus. You want to invest in places that can take the best advantage of certain strengths, and then have other places find their key assets, so they can compete for some of that funding, too.

 How do new ventures operate more successfully in a stronger business ecosystem?

That’s the second idea: small businesses—particularly new enterprises—often need larger-company customers. When they’re in the purchasing stream, they do better. In fact, tech companies funded by corporate venture capital often also got a customer who helped improve the product. I’ve done a very informal study that shows that dominant companies in seven different technology sectors might have had better partners earlier. Every small firm benefits if it can get more business from large ones. It’s not just revenues; they also get competence and opportunity.

So, how do you connect small to large? We should have a national call to action with commitments from big companies to mentor and connect with smaller enterprises. Procurement became global because it was more efficient to consolidate global purchasing. But global supply chains are cumbersome. Many would rather buy here if they could find more sophisticated suppliers more easily in the U.S.

I was a consultant to IBM and mentioned this idea; they ran with it and created Supplier Connection—a universal vendor application, kind of like the common college application. They announce opportunities through Supplier Connection to thousands of small businesses. Initially, about 16 big companies started with a few purchasing areas—and expansion plans are in the works. Everywhere I’ve spoken about these ideas, civic leaders get very excited about linking small to large in their own region.

What about the linkage between education and job skills?

We have been talking about school reform since I was a child in school. Preparing people for the workforce is getting more critical today: up to three million jobs are unfilled because of an absence of vocational skills—“middle skills.” Germany is an economic success because of a manufacturing system in which people apprentice to learn skills. Sometimes they then go on to four-year colleges and get advanced degrees, but skills apprenticeship is a much more prominent part of the workforce.

Where do those skills come from? Community colleges are suddenly the darlings of the U.S. policy world because they’re the only entities we have that are supposed to prepare people for occupations. Every tech area of the country has a shortage of software engineers—who need some programming, but not a four-year degree. You can send data anywhere. Are we going to outsource those jobs?

In fact, community colleges haven’t been well connected to employers—and their graduation rates have been incredibly poor. In Chicago, fewer than 9 percent of those who start have graduated within six years. It’s the problem of disconnection. But when connections between employers and community colleges or training centers are strong—for curriculum development, customized job training, post-graduation interviews—outcomes improve dramatically. There are growing consortiums where leaders of organized labor, community colleges, high schools, businesses, and representatives of the elected officials sit down together to talk about skills needs and who’s going to help deal with them. The two-year colleges in Spartanburg and Greenville were the secret to that manufacturing center. South Carolina is still not the most prosperous state, but it would have been Appalachian poor if not for Governor Dick Riley (later U.S. secretary of education) focusing on the community colleges in collaboration with the industrialists.

It strikes me as such a no-brainer, but there’s no real national policy here. What an opportunity: the evidence is that you get better outcomes in terms of people finishing their two-year programs and getting jobs when there’s a closer tie to employers. This is a way for people to learn useful skills, ways of thinking, science and technology. Rethinking education and work is ripe for innovation. New York City opened its first six-year high school in 2011: a partnership of the schools, the community-college system, and IBM. Urban students, selected randomly, start college courses as early as tenth grade; when they finish grade 14, they will earn a high-school diploma, an associate’s degree, and a job interview with the company. New York is already expanding this model, and Chicago has adopted it with other technology companies.

Does that amplify your concept of place-based business ecosystems and connections among actors “on the ground?”

Yes, as I was looking for ideas to solve a lot of problems at once, the final one is community leadership and collaboration across sectors. Even if we suddenly had a national program throwing money at community colleges, you still need community leaders talking to each other—where people agree on certain priorities, align their interests, align what they do behind those priorities. Those with management competence can help those without—whether public helping private or vice versa. Those collaborations are fruitful and a source of exciting institutional innovations—from universities incubating ventures to six-year high schools to regions becoming world-class by focusing on areas of knowledge that also stimulate local businesses.

In general, every social and economic institution has come together on the ground in business ecosystems like Boston or Albany. You can have national policies for X, Y, or Z, but they intersect in particular places. I return to that because everything wrong with America is more easily fixed, can become right with America, on the ground. That’s where you have less partisanship. People are fighting in Washington about the size of government, but local civic leaders, private businesses, and ordinary citizens see connections in their own particular place. That’s always been an American strength. We can’t compete with China’s national government, tearing down an area and having an entirely new city in a year or two. That’s not how we operate. Our strength has been from the ground up. National policy can certainly facilitate things—or not—but you don’t have to wait for a government law or allocation.

If I were handing out federal funds, I would give more money to those who prove they’ve got such a partnership, who have a commitment to collaboration across sectors and who create institutional innovations. There’s a role for businesses large and small, government, and civic leaders dedicated to their regions. Local is beautiful, even if national can sometimes get ugly.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Markethive