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Understanding the Marketing Mix Concept – 4Ps

Understanding the Marketing Mix Concept – 4Ps

Marketing is simplistically defined as ‘putting the right product in the right place, at the right price, at the right time.’ Though this sounds like an easy enough proposition, a lot of hard work and research needs to go into setting this simple definition up. And if even one element is off the mark, a promising product or service can fail completely and end up costing the company substantially.

The use of a marketing mix is an excellent way to help ensure that ‘putting the right product in the right place,…’ will happen. The marketing mix is a crucial tool to help understand what the product or service can offer and how to plan for a successful product offering. The marketing mix is most commonly executed through the 4 P’s of marketing: Price, Product, Promotion, and Place.

These have been extensively added to and expanded through additional P’s and even a 4C concept. But the 4Ps serve as a great place to start planning for the product or even to evaluate an existing product offering.

4Ps marketing mix

 

 

 

 

In this article, we will look at

1) the four P’s,
2) history of the marketing mix concept and terminology,
3) purpose of the marketing mix,
4) key features of the marketing mix,
5) developing a marketing mix,
6) key challenges, and
7) marketing mix example.

 

 

 

THE FOUR P’S

Product

The product is either a tangible good or an intangible service that is seemed to meet a specific customer need or demand. All products follow a logical product life cycle and it is vital for marketers to understand and plan for the various stages and their unique challenges. It is key to understand those problems that the product is attempting to solve. The benefits offered by the product and all its features need to be understood and the unique selling proposition of the product need to be studied. In addition, the potential buyers of the product need to be identified and understood.

Price

Price covers the actual amount the end user is expected to pay for a product. How a product is priced will directly affect how it sells. This is linked to what the perceived value of the product is to the customer rather than an objective costing of the product on offer. If a product is priced higher or lower than its perceived value, then it will not sell. This is why it is imperative to understand how a customer sees what you are selling. If there is a positive customer value, then a product may be successfully priced higher than its objective monetary value. Conversely, if a product has little value in the eyes of the consumer, then it may need to be underpriced to sell. Price may also be affected by distribution plans, value chain costs and markups and how competitors price a rival product.

Promotion

The marketing communication strategies and techniques all fall under the promotion heading. These may include advertising, sales promotions, special offers and public relations. Whatever the channel used, it is necessary for it to be suitable for the product, the price and the end user it is being marketed to. It is important to differentiate between marketing and promotion. Promotion is just the communication aspect of the entire marketing function.

Place

Place or placement has to do with how the product will be provided to the customer. Distribution is a key element of placement. The placement strategy will help assess what channel is the most suited to a product. How a product is accessed by the end user also needs to compliment the rest of the product strategy.

HISTORY OF MARKETING MIX CONCEPT AND TERMINOLOGY

The marketing mix concept gained popularity following an article titled “The Concept of the Marketing Mix” by Neil Borden published in 1964. Borden explained how he started using the term inspired by James Culliton who in the 1940s described the marketing manager as a ‘mixer of ingredients.’ Borden’s article detailed these ingredients as product, planning, price, branding, distribution, display, packaging, advertising, promotions, personal selling among many others. Eventually, E. Jerome McCarthy clustered these multiple items into four high-level categories that we now know as the 4 Ps of marketing. “Its elements are the basic, tactical components of a marketing plan”. Together, elements in these four categories help develop marketing strategies and tactics.

 

 

PURPOSE OF MARKETING MIX

The 4P’s were formalized and developed over the years by experts to ensure the creation and execution of a successful marketing strategy. Through the use of this tool, the attempt is to satisfy both the customer and the seller. When properly understood and utilized, this mix has proven to a key factor in a product’s success.

KEY FEATURES OF MARKETING MIX

Interdependent variables

The marketing mix is made up of four unique variables. These four variables are interdependent and need to be planned in conjunction with one another to ensure that the action plans within all four are complementary and aligned.

Help Achieve Marketing Targets

Through the use of this set of variables, the company can achieve its marketing targets such as sales, profits, and customer retention and satisfaction.

Flexible Concept

The marketing mix is a fluid and flexible concept and the focus on any one variable may be increased or decreased given unique marketing conditions and customer requirements.

Constant Monitoring

It is vital to keep an eye on changing trends and requirements, within the company as well as in the market to ensure that the elements in marketing mix stays relevant and updated.

Role of Marketing Manager

A mature, intelligent and innovative marketing manager needs to be at the helm of the marketing mix. This pivotal role means that this manager is responsible for achieving desired results through the skill manipulation of these variables.

Customer as a focal point

A vital feature of the marketing mix is that the customer is the focal point of the activity. The value of the product is determined by customer perceptions and the goal is to achieve a satisfied and loyal customer.

This video shows how you can create value by using the marketing mix.

 

DEVELOPING A MARKETING MIX

 

Intuition and creative thinking are essential job requirements for a marketing manager. But relying on just these can lead to inaccurate assumptions that may not end up delivering results. To ensure a marketing mix that is based in research and combines facts with innovation, a manager should go through the following systematic process:

 

 

 

Step 1: Defining Unique Selling Proposition

The first item on the marketing manager’s agenda should be to define what the product has to offer or its unique selling proposition (USP). Through customer surveys or focus groups, there needs to be an identification of how important this USP is to the consumer and whether they are intrigued by the offering. It needs to be clearly understood what the key features and benefits of the product are and whether they will help ensure sales.

Step 2: Understanding the Consumer

The second step is to understand the consumer. The product can be focused by identifying who will purchase it. All other elements of the marketing mix follow from this understanding. Who is the customer? What do they need? What is the value of the product to them? This understanding will ensure that the product offering is relevant and targeted.

Step 3: Understanding the Competition

The next step is to understand the competition. The prices and related benefits such as discounts, warranties, and special offers need to be assessed. An understanding of the subjective value of the product and a comparison with its actual manufacturing distribution cost will help set a realistic price point.

Step 4: Evaluating Placement Options

At this point, the marketing manager needs to evaluate placement options to understand where the customer is most likely to make a purchase and what are the costs associated with using this channel. Multiple channels may help target a wider customer base and ensure east of access. On the other hand, if the product serves a niche market then it may make good business sense to concentrate distribution to a specific area or channel. The perceived value of the product is closely tied in with how it is made available.

Step 5: Developing Communication / Promotion strategy

Based on the audience identified and the price points established, the marketing communication strategy can now be developed. Whatever promotional methods are finalized need to appeal to the intended customers and ensure that the key features and benefits of the product are clearly understood and highlighted.

Step 6: Cross-check of the Marketing Mix

A step back needs to be taken at this point to see how all the elements identified and planned for relate to each other. All marketing mix variables are interdependent and rely on each other for a strong strategy. Do the proposed selling channels reinforce the perceived value of the product? Is the promotional material in keeping with the distribution channels proposed? The marketing plan can be finalized once it is ensured that all four elements are in harmony and there are no conflicting messages, either implicit or explicit.

KEY CHALLENGES

Over the years, marketing managers have felt that the traditional marketing mix has its limitations in how it is structured. Several important elements have been grouped with four larger categories thereby belittling their true importance amid several factors. Two main criticisms and their solutions:

Lack of Focus on Services

The conventional marketing mix tends to be applicable to tangible goods i.e. the traditional definition of products. Services or intangible goods are also a vital customer offering and can be planned for in much the same way as physical products. To cater to the unique challenges of services, the 4P model has been supplemented with 3 additional categories which are:

  • Physical Evidence is proof and a reassurance that a service was performed
  • People are the employees who deliver the service
  • Processes are the methods through which a service is executed and delivered to the customer

Lack of True Customer Focus

Though a total focus on the customer and what they desire is a vital element of the 4P model, this truth is often in danger of being overlooked by enthusiastic marketing teams. To counter this, Robert F. Lauterborn put forward his customer centric four Cs classification in 1990. This model converts the four P’s into more customer oriented four C’s:

  • Product to Customer Solution
  • Price to Customer Cost
  • Promotion to Customer Communication
  • Place to Customer Convenience

MARKETING MIX EXAMPLE

Marketing Mix for new product line

Market research revealed an opportunity in the market for a younger customer base. This led to the launch of Nivea Visage Young in 2005. This product was developed for girls in the 13 to 19 year age range.

For the eventual launch of the product, the company needed to develop a balanced and relevant marketing mix to appeal to its young audience. Through its initial launch in 2005 to a subsequent relaunch in 2007, the company focused closely on the marketing mix balance to help ensure that all elements of the product appeal to the target audience to achieve success.

Product

The company put significant importance in ongoing research to understand the constantly evolving market and consumer dynamics. This knowledge has helped the company develop more innovative new products that fulfill consumer needs. Through this research, it became clear that younger consumers wished for a more specific product that addressed the skin needs of their age category. The need was for a product that offered a beautifying regime for daily use rather than a medicated product that targeted specific skin problems. The latter are abundantly being offered by the competition. The product was subsequently redesigned to meet these specialized requirements.

From the company’s perspective, some of the changes helped meet its commitment to the environment which included more efficient packaging to reduce waste, the use of more natural products and the use of recyclable plastic.

Price

An effective pricing strategy takes into account the product’s perceived and actual values. The final price should be based on both these in order to make the product attractive to both buyer and seller. After its relaunch, Nivea Visage Young was priced a little higher than before to account for the new formula, better packaging and extended range of products. Since the product as being bought by mothers for their daughters, it remained low enough to remain good value for money. Effective pricing means that sales from this product account for nearly 7 percent of all Nivea Visage sales.

Place

As mentioned, Nivea aims to have a wide reach for its products to ensure that it is easily available wherever needed by the extensive target market. The primary channels used are retail stores. High Street stores such as Boots and Superdrug account for nearly 65 percent of all sales. Another portion comes from grocery chain stores such as ASDA or Tesco. This covers young people making their own purchases (mostly high street), as well as their mothers buying for them (mostly grocery stores). These stores ensure a cost effective distribution channel that has a wide reach. The company manages its own cost by selling to wholesalers rather than directly to smaller stores. It also does not sell online directly, but the product is sold through stockists.

Promotion

Nivea’s has always tried to base its promotions on the actual lifestyle of its target market. The company does not find the line promotions to be very effective as these are one-way communications through TV for example. Instead, the promotion is more consumer-led through different below the line solutions. Sample sales are a key activity that allows consumers to try out the actual product. There is also an interactive online magazine FYI (fun, young, independent) to increase product visibility and association. The company has also maintained a strong social media presence on popular social media networks. This used of new media has ensured a better brand awareness and association among target audience.

Conclusion

Through its successful use of a balanced marketing mix, Nivea Visage Young has managed to create a clear position in the market. It addresses a need felt by a specific niche segment. Traditional distribution methods are balanced by a unique product and updated promotional strategies. This ensures that the brand message reaches the right people at the right time in the right way.

As we see from the Nivea example, it is vital for any company to focus equally on all elements of the marketing mix while planning for a product. Eventually, there may be a need to divert more resources towards one variable such as strong distribution channels over promotional activities. But this needs to come after a clear plan and strategy have been decided upon. An effective marketing mix can mean the difference between a flash in the pan product or one that is bound to become a well-loved classic.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

The Marketing Mix 4P’s and 7P’s Explained

The Marketing Mix 4P’s and 7P’s Explained

Before we go into all the elements of the marketing mix, and to avoid confusion between the 4p’s, 7p’s and even the 4c’s – you should pay attention to the image below to understand what makes up the entire marketing mix.

Marketing Mix

The image above is a simplistic diagram of the elements that are included in a marketing mix.

It is a basic concept, but here’s the cold hard truth… If you don’t understand it in detail or at all, then there is a fairly certain chance that you are missing out on the key ingredients that will ensure scalable success from the ground up.

It has been said many, MANY times in business that if you don’t know your target market well enough and figured out what they exactly want, you’ll commit entrepreneurial suicide and the business will inevitably fail.

On the other hand, you can be sure to attract mountains of profits when you have a deep understanding of these concepts. Understand this fully and you will know exactly how to maximize profits on your own sustainable business or help become a valuable asset within your company and gain endless promotions.

Sadly, for many existing marketers and aspiring marketers, this concept is glossed over as “everyone seems to know what it is” and is disregarded as basic knowledge. But do you really know what it is? Let’s find out.

Now, what is a marketing mix, exactly?

Marketing Mix Definition:Marketing Mix Definition

The marketing mix definition is simple. It is about putting the right product or a combination thereof in the place, at the right time, and at the right price. The difficult part is doing this well, as you need to know every aspect of your business plan.

 

As we noted before, the marketing mix is predominately associated with the 4P’s of marketing, the 7P’s of service marketing, and the 4 Cs theories developed in the 1990s.

 

Here are the principles used in the application of the right marketing mix:

Marketing Mix 4P’s

Marketing Mix 4ps

A marketing expert named E. Jerome McCarthy created the Marketing 4Ps in the 1960s. This classification has been used throughout the world. Business schools teach this concept in basic marketing classes.

The marketing 4Ps are also the foundation of the idea of marketing mix.

 

 

 

#1 Marketing Mix – ProductMarketing Mix Product

A product is an item that is built or produced to satisfy the needs of a certain group of people. The product can be intangible or tangible as it can be in the form of services or goods.

You must ensure to have the right type of product that is in demand for your market. So during the product development phase, the marketer must do an extensive research on the life cycle of the product that they are creating.

A product has a certain life cycle that includes the growth phase, the maturity phase, and the sales decline phase. It is important for marketers to reinvent their products to stimulate more demand once it reaches the sales decline phase.

Marketers must also create the right product mix. It may be wise to expand your current product mix by diversifying and increasing the depth of your product line. All in all, marketers must ask themselves the question “what can I do to offer a better product to this group of people than my competitors”.

In developing the right product, you have to answer the following questions:

  • What does the client want from the service or product?
  • How will the customer use it?
  • Where will the client use it?
  • What features must the product have to meet the client’s needs?
  • Are there any necessary features that you missed out?
  • Are you creating features that are not needed by the client?
  • What’s the name of the product?
  • Does it have a catchy name?
  • What are the sizes or colors available?
  • How is the product different from the products of your competitors?
  • What does the product look like?

#2 Marketing Mix – PriceMarketing Mix Price

The price of the product is basically the amount that a customer pays for to enjoy it. Price is a very important component of the marketing mix definition.

It is also a very important component of a marketing plan as it determines your firm’s profit and survival. Adjusting the price of the product has a big impact on the entire marketing strategy as well as greatly affecting the sales and demand of the product.

This is inherently a touchy area, though. If a company is new to the market and has not made a name for themselves yet, it is unlikely that your target market will be willing to pay a high price.

Although they may be willing in the future to hand over large sums of money, it is inevitably harder to get them to do so during the birth of a business.

Pricing always helps shape the perception of your product in consumers eyes. Always remember that a low price usually means an inferior good in the consumers eyes as they compare your good to a competitor.

Consequently, prices too high will make the costs outweigh the benefits in customers eyes, and they will therefore value their money over your product. Be sure to examine competitors pricing and price accordingly.

When setting the product price, marketers should consider the perceived value that the product offers. There are three major pricing strategies, and these are:

  • Market-penetration pricing
  • Market-skimming pricing
  • Neutral pricing

Here are some of the important questions that you should ask yourself when you are setting the product price:

  • How much did it cost you to produce the product?
  • What is the customers’ perceived product value?
  • Do you think that the slight price decrease could significantly increase your market share?
  • Can the current price of the product keep up with the price of the product’s competitors?

#3 Marketing Mix – PlaceMarketing Mix Place

Placement or distribution is a very important part of the product mix definition. You have to position and distribute the product in a place that is accessible to potential buyers.

This comes with a deep understanding of your target market. Understand them inside out and you will discover the most efficient positioning and distribution channels that directly speak with your market.

There are many distribution strategies, including:

  • Intensive distribution
  • Exclusive distribution
  • Selective distribution
  • Franchising

Here are some of the questions that you should answer in developing your distribution strategy:

  • Where do your clients look for your service or product?
  • What kind of stores do potential clients go to? Do they shop in a mall, in a regular brick and mortar store, in the supermarket, or online?
  • How do you access the different distribution channels?
  • How is your distribution strategy different from your competitors?
  • Do you need a strong sales force?
  • Do you need to attend trade fairs?
  • Do you need to sell in an online store?

#4 Marketing Mix – Promotion

Promotion is a very important component of marketing as it can boost brand recognition and sales. Promotion is comprised of various elements like:

  • Sales Organization
  • Public Relations
  • Advertising
  • Sales Promotion

Advertising typically covers communication methods that are paid for like television advertisements, radio commercials, print media, and internet advertisements. In contemporary times, there seems to be a shift in focus offline to the online world.

Public relations, on the other hand, are communications that are typically not paid for. This includes press releases, exhibitions, sponsorship deals, seminars, conferences, and events.

Word of mouth is also a type of product promotion. Word of mouth is an informal communication about the benefits of the product by satisfied customers and ordinary individuals. The sales staff plays a very important role in public relations and word of mouth.

It is important to not take this literally. Word of mouth can also circulate on the internet. Harnessed effectively and it has the potential to be one of the most valuable assets you have in boosting your profits online. An extremely good example of this is online social media and managing a firm’s online social media presence.

In creating an effective product promotion strategy, you need to answer the following questions:

  • How can you send marketing messages to your potential buyers?
  • When is the best time to promote your product?
  • Will you reach your potential audience and buyers through television ads?
  • Is it best to use the social media in promoting the product?
  • What is the promotion strategy of your competitors?

Your combination of promotional strategies and how you go about promotion will depend on your budget, the message you want to communicate, and the target market you have defined already in previous steps.

Marketing Mix 7P’s

The 7Ps model is a marketing model that modifies the 4Ps model. The 7Ps is generally used in the service industries.
Here is the expansions from the 4Ps to the 7Ps marketing model:

Marketing Mix 7ps

 

#5 Marketing Mix – PeopleMarketing Mix People

Of both target market and people directly related to the business.

Thorough research is important to discover whether there are enough people in your target market that is in demand for certain types of products and services.

The company’s employees are important in marketing because they are the ones who deliver the service. It is important to hire and train the right people to deliver superior service to the clients, whether they run a support desk, customer service, copywriters, programmers…etc.

When a business finds people who genuinely believe in the products or services that the particular business creates, it’s is highly likely that the employees will perform the best they can. Additionally, they’ll be more open to honest feedback about the business and input their own thoughts and passions which can scale and grow the business. This is a secret, “internal” competitive advantage a business can have over other competitors which can inherently affect a business’s position in the marketplace.

#6 Marketing Mix – ProcessMarketing Mix Process

The systems and processes of the organization affect the execution of the service.

So, you have to make sure that you have a well-tailored process in place to minimize costs.

It could be your entire sales funnel, a pay system, distribution system and other systematic procedures and steps to ensure a working business that is running effectively.

Tweaking and enhancements can come later to “tighten up” a business to minimize costs and maximise profits.

#7 Marketing Mix – Physical Evidence

Marketing Mix Physical EvidenceIn the service industries, there should be physical evidence that the service was delivered. Additionally, physical evidence pertains also to how a business and it’s products are perceived in the marketplace.

It is the physical evidence of a business’ presence and establishment. A concept of this is branding. For example, when you think of “fast food”, you think of McDonalds.

When you think of sports, the names Nike and Adidas come to mind.

You immediately know exactly what their presence is in the marketplace, as they are generally market leaders and have established a physical evidence as well as psychological evidence in their marketing.

They have manipulated their consumer perception so well to the point where their brands appear first in line when an individual is asked to broadly “name a brand” in their niche or industry.

Marketing Mix 4C’s

Marketing Mix 4csThe 4Cs marketing model was developed by Robert F. Lauterborn in 1990. It is a modification of the 4Ps model. It is not a basic part of the marketing mix definition, but rather an extension. Here are the components of this marketing model:

  • Cost – According to Lauterborn, price is not the only cost incurred when purchasing a product. Cost of conscience or opportunity cost is also part of the cost of product ownership.
  • Consumer Wants and Needs – A company should only sell a product that addresses consumer demand. So, marketers and business researchers should carefully study the consumer wants and needs.
  • Communication – According to Lauterborn, “promotion” is manipulative while communication is “cooperative”. Marketers should aim to create an open dialogue with potential clients based on their needs and wants.
  • Convenience – The product should be readily available to the consumers. Marketers should strategically place the products in several visible distribution points.

Whether you are using the 4Ps, the 7Ps, or the 4Cs, your marketing mix plan plays a vital role. It is important to devise a plan that balances profit, client satisfaction, brand recognition, and product availability. It is also extremely important to consider the overall “how” aspect that will ultimately determine your success or failure.

By understanding the basic concept of the marketing mix and its extensions, you will be sure to achieve financial success whether it is your own business or whether you are assisting in your workplace’s business success.

The ultimate goal of business is to make profits and this is a surefire, proven way to achieve this goal.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Content & Search Engine Success Factors

 Content & Search Engine Success Factors

Content is king. You’ll hear that phrase over and over again when it comes SEO success. Indeed, that’s why the Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors begins with the content “elements,” with the very first element being about content quality.

Get your content right, and you’ve created a solid foundation to support all of your other SEO efforts.

Cq: Content Quality

More than anything else, are you producing quality content? If you’re selling something, do you go beyond being a simple brochure with the same information that can be found on hundreds of other sites?

Do you provide a reason for people to spend more than a few seconds reading your pages?

Do you offer real value, something of substance to visitors, that is unique, different, useful and that they won’t find elsewhere?

These are just some of the questions to ask yourself in assessing whether you’re providing quality content. This is not the place to skimp since it is the cornerstone upon which nearly all other factors depend on.

Cr: Content Research / Keyword Research

Perhaps the most important SEO factor after creating good content is good keyword research. There are a variety of tools that allow you to discover the specific ways that people may be searching for your content.

You want to create content using those keywords, the actual search terms people are using, so you can produce content that effectively “answers” that query.

For example, a page about “Avoiding Melanoma” might use technical jargon to describe ways to prevent skin cancer. But a search engine might skip or not rank that page highly if people are instead searching for “skin cancer prevention tips”. Your content needs to be written in the right ‘language’ – the language your customer or user is using when searching.

Cw: Content Words / Use Of Keywords

Having done your keyword research (you did that, right?), have you actually used those words in your content? Or if you’ve already created some quality content before doing research, perhaps it’s time to revisit that material and do some editing. Bottom line, if you want your pages to be found for particular words, it’s a good idea to actually use those words in your copy. How often? Repeat each word you want to be found for at least five times or seek out a keyword density of 2.45%, for best results.

No no no, that was a joke! There’s no precise number of times. Even if “keyword density” sounds scientific, even if you hit some vaunted “ideal” percentage, that would guarantee absolutely nothing. Just use common sense. Think about the words you want a page to be found for, the words you feel are relevant from your keyword research. Then use them naturally on the page. If you commonly shift to pronouns on second and further references, maybe use the actual noun again here and there, rather than a pronoun.

Cf: Content Freshness

Search engines love new content. That’s usually what we mean when we say ‘fresh’.

So you can’t update your pages (or the publish date) every day thinking that will make them ‘fresh’ and more likely to rank. Nor can you just add new pages constantly, just for the sake of having new pages, and think that gives you a freshness boost.

However, Google does have something it calls “Query Deserved Freshness (QDF)”. If there’s a search that is suddenly very popular versus its normal activity, Google will apply QDF to that term and look to see if there’s any fresh content on that topic. If there is, that new or fresh content is given a boost in search results.

The best way to think about this is a term like ‘hurricane’. If there’s no active hurricane, then the search results will likely contain listings to government and reference sites. But if there’s an active hurricane, results will change and may reflect stories, news, and information about the active hurricane.

If you’ve got the right content, on the right topic when QDF hits, you may enjoy being in the top results for days or weeks. Just be aware that after that, your page might be shuffled back in search results. It’s not that you’ve done anything wrong. It’s just that the freshness boost has worn off.

Sites can take advantage of this freshness boost by producing relevant content that matches the real-time pulse of their industry.

Cv: Vertical Search

The other factors on this table cover success for web page content in search engines. But alongside these web page listings are also often “vertical” results. These come from “vertical” search engines devoted to things like images, news, local and video. If you have content in these areas, it might be more likely to show up in special sections of the search results page.

Not familiar with “vertical search” versus “horizontal search?” Let’s take Google as an example. Its regular search engine gathers content from across the web, in hopes of matching many general queries across a broad range of subjects. This is a horizontal search because the focus is across a wide range of topics.

Google also runs specialized search engines that focus on images or news or local content. These are called vertical search engines because rather than covering a broad range of interests, they’re focused on one segment, a vertical slice of the overall interest spectrum. When you search on Google, you’ll get web listings. But you’ll also often get special sections in the results (which Google calls “OneBoxes”) that may show vertical results as deemed relevant.

Having content that performs well in vertical search can help you succeed when your web page content doesn’t. It can also help you succeed in addition to having a web page make the top results. So, make sure you’re producing content in key vertical areas relevant to you.

Ca: Direct Answers

Search engines are increasing trying to show direct answers within their search results. Questions like “why is the sky blue” or “how old is Barack Obama” might give you the answer without needing to click to a webpage.

Where do search engines get these answers? Sometimes, they license them, such as with menus or music lyrics. Other times, they draw them directly off web pages, providing a link back in the form of a credit.

There’s some debate over whether having your content being used as a direct answer is a success or not. After all, if someone gets the answer they need, they might not click, and what’s the success in that?

We currently consider sites being used as direct answer sources to be a success for two main reasons. First, it’s a sign of trust, which can help a site for other types of queries. Second, while there’s concern, there’s also some evidence that being a direct answer can indeed send traffic.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Types Of Search Engine Success Factors

Types Of Search Engine Success Factors

There are three major groups covered by Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors:

  • On-The-Page SEO
  • Off-The-Page SEO
  • Violations

Within each group are subgroups, as each chapter of this SEO guide will explain. These subgroups contain one or more individual SEO factors with a specific weight or importance.

Violations, while a group unto themselves, are displayed under the group and subgroup to which they’re associated.


Those two letter acronyms you see on the chart above? That’s our play on the periodic table of elements and the letter representations, or symbol, of each element. You may have had to remember that the symbol for gold was Au or that iron was Fe.

In the Periodic Table of SEO, we’ve tried to make it slightly more intuitive. The first letter of each “SEO element” comes from the subgroup that it’s in and the second letter stands for the individual factor.

SEO Factors Work In Combination

No single SEO factor will guarantee search engine rankings. Having a great HTML title won’t help if a page has low quality content. Having many links won’t help if they are all low in quality. Having several positive factors can increase the odds of success while the presence of negative factors can worsen those odds.

On-The-Page Success Factors

On-The-Page search ranking factors are those that are almost entirely within the publisher’s own control. What type of content do you publish? Are you providing important HTML clues that help search engines (and users) determine relevancy? How does your site architecture help or hinder search engines?

Off-The-Page Success Factors

Off-The-Page ranking factors are those that publishers do not directly control. Search engines use these because they learned early on that relying on publisher-controlled signals alone didn’t always yield the best results. For instance, some publishers may try to make themselves seem more relevant than they are in reality.

With billions of web pages to sort through, looking only at ‘On-The-Page’ clues isn’t enough. More signals are needed to return the best pages for any particular search.

SEO Violations & Ranking Penalties

Make no mistake; search engines want people to perform SEO because it can help improve their search results. Search engines provide help in the form of guidelines, blog posts and videos to encourage specific SEO techniques.

However, there are some techniques that search engines deem “spam” or “black hat”, which could result in your pages receiving a ranking penalty or, worse, being banned from the search engines entirely.

Violations are general tactics meant to deceive or manipulate a search engine’s understanding of a site’s true relevancy and authority.

Weighting Of Search Ranking Factors

All the factors we show are weighted on a scale of one to three, as shown in the top right corner of each factor, as well as reflected in the hue of that factor. A weighting of three is most important and is something you should pay special attention to because it has a bigger impact than other factors.

That doesn’t mean that factors weighted two or one aren’t important. They are. It’s just that they are of less importance, relatively speaking, in terms of the other factors on the chart. Violations are also weighted, but in negative numbers, with negative three being the worst and potentially most harmful to your SEO success.

The weighting is based on a combination of what search engines have said, surveys of the SEO community, as well as our own expertise and experience in watching the space over time. We don’t expect them to be perfect. Not everyone will agree. Your mileage may vary.

But we’re confident it is a useful general guide.

“Missing” SEO Factors & The Guide’s Philosophy

Experienced SEOs may be wondering why some factors aren’t shown. How come ALT text or bolding words aren’t included as HTML factors, for example?

The answer? We don’t think those things are as important, relatively speaking. We’re not trying to boil the ocean and encompass every possible signal (Google has over 200 of them) and sub-signals (Google has over 10,000 of those).

Instead, the goal of the Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors and this online companion guide is to help those new to SEO focus on the big picture and perhaps allow experienced SEOs to hit the “reset” button if they’ve gotten lost staring at specific trees in the SEO forest.

That’s why this SEO guide doesn’t address having your most important keywords be at the beginning or end of an HTML title tag. Nor are we trying to assess how much more weight an H1 header tag carries than an H2 tag.

We’re purposely avoiding being ultra-specific because such things often distract and pull us down the rabbit hole. Instead, we hope you gain an understanding that pages should have descriptive titles, that indicating page structure with header tags may help, and topping things off with structured data is a good idea.

Do these things well and you’ve probably addressed 90% of the most important HTML factors.

Similarly, it’s not whether a good reputation on Twitter is worth more than on Facebook. Instead, we’re trying to help people understand that having social accounts that are reputable in general, which attract a good following and generate social shares, may ultimately help you achieve search success.

Want More Specifics About Success Factors?

We know some of you may want to drill down into specifics. In that case, the Moz Search Engine Ranking Factors survey is worth a look. Every two years, hundreds of well-regarded SEOs are asked to determine the importance of specific ranking factors. We do hope you’ll keep any specific ranking factors in the context of the fundamentals covered by our table.

In addition, many of the success factors aren’t true algorithmic factors at all. Content Research (element Cr) is a highly weighted ‘On-The-Page’ factor that describes the process of researching the words people use to find your content. Understanding your user is important to your SEO success even if it’s not a ‘ranking’ factor.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Top Money and Finance Blogs You Should Read

Top Money and Finance Blogs You Should Read

 

In my more than 12 years writing for Kiplinger, I've seen the number of print personal finance publications shrink. Yet I've seen the number of blogs dedicated to the topic explode. It seems like everybody has a story to share about getting out of debt, living a frugal life or managing money wisely.

Despite large numbers of personal finance blogs, only a handful tend to offer valuable advice and solid guidance. In the past, I've named some of my favorites. Since then, I have discovered several more that I frequently feature in my weekly roundups of advice from around the Web. Here are ten personal finance blogs I regularly read that you should be reading, too:

 

Bargaineering. Jim Wang created this blog in 2005 and now has several contributors who, along with Wang, write about how to earn more, save more and spend less in terms anyone can understand. You'll find posts on a large variety of money topics ranging from lowering your bills to dealing with a denied health insurance claim to heating an entire room with tea lights. However, Wang writes that the real goal of Bargaineering is to help people do more of what they love with the people they love.

Block Talk. You'll find plenty of trustworthy tax advice on this H&R Block blog. But it also offers lots of valuable tips on budgeting, career, credit, saving and more. What I really like, though, are Block Talk's infographics that make money matters visually appealing, easy to digest and — dare I say it — fun.

Christian Personal Finance. Despite the name, this blog doesn't overwhelm readers with a Christian message (it's present in some posts but not all). For the most part, it just offers great personal finance advice anyone should follow, regardless of his or her religious views.

Credit.com Blog. Think of the Credit.com Blog as your go-to source for all things credit and debt. The advice comes from a large number of experts, including Adam Levin, the former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs; Gerri Detweiler, the author of two credit and debt books; and several financial planners and personal finance journalists.

 
 

Credit Donkey. This relatively new independent credit-card comparison site offers money-saving advice geared toward college students, young adults, and families. Like Block Talk, it frequently features infographics that make learning about personal finance more fun.

Good Financial Cents. Certified financial planner and author Jeff Rose writes about investing, saving for retirement and paying down debt in terms anyone can understand. He frequently writes about his own experiences (including mistakes he's made), which can be inspiring for people looking for the encouragement to save more and spend less.

Money Under 30. As the name suggests, Money Under 30 caters to young adults who need help understanding the basics of personal finance, breaking bad money habits and getting on a path to financial success. Although David Weliver, who's been writing the blog since 2006, is over 30 now, he's still dedicated to helping twentysomethings avoid the money mistakes he made when he was younger.

PT Money. Like many other financial bloggers, a lot of debt and little savings prompted Philip Taylor to learn more about personal finance and share that knowledge with others. Since creating the PT Money blog in 2007, he's written about taking control of his financial life. He and contributors to the blog provide tips about making more money, saving money and spending wisely.

ReadyForZero Blog. Since it launched in 2011, ReadyForZero.com has been one of our favorite budgeting sites. Its blog builds upon what the site's free tools offer: help for people in debt. It offers expert advice on budgeting, managing student loans, handling credit card debt as well as success stories to inspire you to become debt-free.

SavingAdvice.com. I can always find great tips for saving money on everyday expenses at this site, which also provides advice on investing, earning more, building a nest egg and a variety of other personal finance topics.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Couple maps out best Social Security strategy

Couple maps out best Social Security strategy

Q: What’s the best way for my wife and me to maximize our household’s Social Security benefits? Should we wait until we both reach 70 before we apply for our retirement benefits? This would give us the 32% bump in monthly payments, yes?

Our facts and circumstances: I turn 66 this year and my wife turns 66 in 2017. My understanding is if I take a spousal benefit on her in 2017 then her Social Security benefit would not grow the extra 8% per year. My benefit at 66 is $2,000 per month and my wife’s benefit at 66 is $1,500. We do have other investments, pensions and I plan to work till at least 70. — Frank Burkeen, Colorado Springs

A: First the easy answers. One, you are correct. You and your spouse would receive a 32% raise by waiting until age 70 to collect individual benefits, says Rob Kron, head of investment and retirement education for BlackRock.

And two, you are also correct, says Kron, in pointing out that your wife would not be able to earn her “raise” if you were to collect spousal benefits on her earnings record. That’s a result of two major changes to Social Security laws passed last November in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

Kron put it this way: “To understand the impact, we need to first understand what is required for the husband to collect a spousal benefit. First, his spouse needs to file for her individual benefit. Second, he needs to be able to use a ‘restricted application’ to limit his benefit request to receive only the spousal benefit. Without the restricted application, he would be forced to collect his individual benefit first; and since it is larger than the spousal benefit, he would not be able to collect a spousal benefit.”

According to Kron, there were two changes included in last year's budget legislation, but only one negatively affects this couple: the new consequences for requesting a voluntary suspension of benefits after April 29, 2016. The change to restricted application doesn't affect them, as they were both at least 62 at the end of 2015.

Kron further notes that voluntary suspension allows a person who has filed for his/her individual benefit and reached full retirement age, or FRA, to request the suspension of his/her monthly benefit and instead earn the raise, or what is also called delayed retirement credits, or DRCs.

“One of the consequences to anyone suspending their benefit after April 29, 2016, is that spousal benefits being paid based on their work history will also be suspended,” says Kron. “Therefore, if his wife files for her benefit in order to make him eligible for a spousal benefit, she won't be able to suspend her benefit and maintain his eligibility. Hence his accurate statement that for him to collect a spousal benefit, his wife won't be able to earn her raise.”

As for waiting until you and your spouse turn 70 to collect benefits, Kron had this to say: “If both husband and wife anticipate longevity, then both waiting until 70 to collect individual benefits could yield the largest lifetime payout from Social Security.”

But to maximize the household’s overall Social benefit, you might need to use a benefit-boosting strategy: “I would suggest that the wife file a restricted application as soon as the husband turns 70 and files for his individual benefit. That way, she can collect a spousal benefit until she turns 70 and begins to collect her own benefit,” says Kron.

Another thing to consider: If your longevity is a concern, you may want to consider having your wife collect her individual benefit now, and you, the husband, file a restricted application to claim spousal benefits and then switch to your individual benefit at 70, says Kron.

“The idea behind this strategy is to have the wife start right away, with the expectation that at some point in the future she will be switching to a higher survivor benefit,” he says. “Therefore, the more money she can receive from the system prior to that happening, the better.”

“Of course,” says Kron, “any decision should be reviewed within the context of their larger retirement-income plan, as taxation and other sources of income are important considerations.”

One last note: Consider using the online Social Security calculators at BlackRock's website (registration required), Financial Engine's website, and/or AARP’s website to learn the financial outcomes of the various strategies you could pursue.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Online Marketing Strategies For Every Entrepreneur

Online Marketing Strategies

                           For Every Entrepreneur

The internet has radically transformed how we build and promote businesses: We have access to far more resources and far more potential than ever before. So, why do so many entrepreneurs end up neglecting these fruitful opportunities by forgoing marketing, or delaying it as an unnecessary expenditure?

What is Skinny Coffee?

 

 

What is Skinny Coffee?

Valentus Slim Roast Coffee Review:

Can Slim Roast Healthy Coffee Help with Weight Loss?

What is Skinny Coffee?  Valentus Slim Roast Coffee Review: Can Slim Roast Healthy Coffee Help with Weight Loss?

There's two really big things to note with the Slim Roast 'Skinny Coffee';  weight loss seems to continue to be a struggle for so many people around the world, and almost everyone loves coffee!

So if nothing else, bringing these two together is literally just Brilliant!

One of my favorite things about waking up in the morning is to enjoy a delicious cup of hot coffee… is there anything better than that first sip?

What if that same habit that so many of us have would also help to set us up for a day of natural fat burning and weight loss?

Well, how does it work?

 

What is Valentus Slim Roast Coffee and How does it work?  My official Skinny Coffee Slim Roast Review:

 

According to the Valentus website,  Slim Roast is 'formulated with natural appetite suppressants, feel good ingredients and detox components SlimROAST is a great addition to your weight management program. Not only will you find managing your weight with SlimROAST will produce exciting results, but you will love the taste of this delicious Italian dark roast coffee.

  • Controls appetite
  • Regulates sugar absorption
  • Regulates fat absorption
  • Promotes brain health and focus
  • Elevates mood
  • Antioxidant
 
Valentus Slim Roast skinny coffee has a number of key ingredients which help the body to naturally  and safely burn more fat and lose weight combined with exercise and a healthy diet (I would never recommend anyone just assume a product alone is all they need to help them, I truly believe it should be an enhancement to an already healthy lifestyle that just needs a little boost!)
 
SlimRoast Ingredients Benefits:
Valentus is excited to announce the launch of our newest product innovation to join our Prevail© line of functional beverages, our ever popular SlimROAST Weight Loss Coffee. A new favorite among coffee drinkers, Valentus’ Italian Dark Roast Coffee is infused with functional ingredients that make up our proprietary formula that tastes amazing!
Garcinia Cambogia:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
An incredibly efficient fat burning ingredient, Garcinia Cambogia has received much media attention for it’s effect on weight loss and food consumption control. This pure ingredient is 100% natural; it is sometimes referred to as Tamarind, and it grows primarily in the lush green mountains of India, southeast Asia as well as in Central Africa. Its primary ingredient is the dietary super supplement known as HCA, which is proven in scientific studies to stop hunger in its tracks. The tamarind fruit has traditionally been used in soups as appetizers before meals, because of the smaller portion sizes due to limited amount of food. It’s appetite suppression qualities helped make villagers feel more full (satiety) and the fruit would increase the workers’ fat burning skills (thermogenesis) providing an increase in energy and productivity.
Ginseng 100:1 Extract:
Most young people these days are beginning to look and feel older, in some cases even hitting puberty far earlier than was the norm even one generation earlier. Ginseng is known to combat the free radicals that give the human skin mantle that look of premature aging. Valentus’ pure 100:1 extract works extremely well when combined with our other proprietary ingredients. This root is an immune system balancing, super supplement that should be admired by all.
L-Carnitine & Chromium:
This amino acid and mineral’s main function is to help insulin carry sugar into muscle cells where it is stored as energy. A lack of chromium could cause fluctuating blood-sugar levels which trigger sugar cravings. As a carbohydrate dependent society, increasing the amount of L-Carnitine & Chromium in our diet in our formula’s proportions will assist the body’s ability to manage its carbohydrate cravings and, in turn, assist with a successful weight management protocol.
Phaseolamin:
This ingredient combines with an enzyme in the body called alpha-amylase – which is involved in the digestion of starch – and helps to temporarily block its activities. Alpha-amylase is secreted in saliva and is produced in the pancreas, and is responsible for breaking down starch into simple sugars, which can then be absorbed in the small intestine. Blocking this digestive enzyme prevents the digestion of carbohydrates, which means they are able to pass largely undigested through the gastrointestinal tract. The end result is a decrease in the number of calories absorbed, thereby helping to promote weight loss.
Cassiolamine:
This multi-flavonoid compound helps in the prevention of cardiovascular disease and in the reduction of high blood pressure. Cassiolamine is an ingredient in Slim Roast that helps to maintain healthy blood vessels by reducing the adhesion (stickiness) of blood platelets, which promotes healthy blood flow. Our pure ingredient formula also serves as an anti-oxidant, which helps to maintain a healthy heart and improved immune system. What this natural legume based extract is mostly known for is its powerful lipase-inhibiting features, which results in the prevention of fat absorption and an effective carbohydrate blocker.
Green Tea 100:1 Extract:
Green tea contains 2% to 4% caffeine, which affects thinking and alertness, increases urine output, and may improve the function of brain messengers. Caffeine is thought to stimulate the nervous system, heart, and muscles by increasing the release of certain chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Antioxidants and other substances in green tea have been shown in studies to help protect the heart and blood vessels additionally.
Chlorogenic Acid:
This is the main active ingredient in Green Coffee Bean, it is a powerful thermogenic fat burner. It holds promise in many aspects of health and cognition similar to bioflavonoids and shares some effects similar to caffeine, but less potent. Studies show that Chlorogenic Acid may also decrease the absorption of dietary carbohydrate, as well as provide anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Dark Italian Roast Arabica Coffee:
It is also known as the "coffee shrub of Arabia", "mountain coffee" or "Arabica coffee". Arabica coffee is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated. The earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree appears in the mid-15th century, in the Sufi Muslim monasteries around Mocha in Yemen. Arabica coffee production in Indonesia began in 1699.
High-quality Arabica is beautifully fragrant, sweet and round, with a slight and pleasant acidity, with just a mild hint of bitterness.
So, can Slim Roast really help with weight loss?  
Would you like a cup of Slim Roast?
SO many people are sharing results and are so excited about how they look at feel by adding this to their diet and lifestyle!  Click here to read Valentus Slim Roast testimonials.
Next, learn more by experiencing the Valentus Slim Roast for yourself…take a free tour here and Experience the Valentus difference with their unique product line and referral plan when you share your excitement with others!
Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Valentus Review – Legit MLM Business or Scam?

Valentus Review – Legit MLM Business or Scam?

 

Welcome to my Valentus Review!

 

A lot of people asked me to do a review on this company so I decided to do one.
You may be on this blog post because someone pitched you on the business opportunity or maybe asked you to try their product.

Am I right?

I have been there many times so, in this blog post, I am going to walk you through the company, the products, and compensation plan so you can make the right decision.
I am at the end of the blog post going to reveal some shocking truth that can actually lead you to failure…
So pay attention to this review and read it all the way to the end…
It could be the difference between success and failure…
First, let’s see what the company is all about…

Valentus Review – The MLM Company

Website:  www.valentus.com

Valentus MLM is the brainchild of Dave Jordan who happens to be the founder and CEO.

The company was in pre-launch until September 1st, 2014 and then officially launched just after that date.

After doing some investigation on Dave Jordan, it looks like he is very experienced in this field and has been very successful.

Which is a great sign because the wrong leadership can destroy a company…

But it looks like he checks out good :)

One word of advice, stay away from companies that don’t fully disclose their leadership when you are doing any kind of research on a company.

Alright, now let’s take a look at their products…

Valentus Reviews – The Products

Valentus had 4 products as of September of 2015, they could always add more later on.
All of the products are in powder form so you can pour it in a glass, add some water and stir.

Here are the four products:

Prevail Energy – This is an energy drink and apparently all natural.

Prevail Immune – This has anti-oxidants and vitamins that support the immune system.

Prevail Trim – This is a weight loss drink

Slim Roast – This is a weight loss healthy coffee

I was trying to find product prices, but it’s next to impossible unless you know a distributor.
All companies should at least disclose the retail prices…
When I was looking for some Valentus product reviews, I noticed 99% of them were done by
distributors so It’s hard to gauge if the products are any good…

Alright, next let’s take a look at the compensation plan…

Valentus – The Compensation Plan

In the Valentus compensation plan, you can get paid in 4 ways.

1) Fast Start Bonus (Up to $100)

2) Retail Commissions (25%)

3) Binary Commissions (Up to $100,000 per Week)

4) Matching Binary Commissions (7 Generations Starting at 25%)

5) 1% Global Volume Shared Enrollment Pool

6)  Car Bonus ($400-$3000 per month)

7) Legacy Coded Bonus ($100 unblocked to unlimited levels)

Below, I actually posted some videos of the compensation plan done by Dave Jordan. Now
before you watch them I want to let you know that I do NOT endorse these videos, it’s for
education purposes only.

Fast Start Bonus:

Dual Team Commissions (Binary)

Duel Team Check Match (Matching Binary Commissions)

Legacy Coded Bonus

Valentus Review – The Verdict

Overall, the company is far from a scam and is a legit MLM company which is a great sign.
That’s because the leadership behind the company is very strong…
Like I told you earlier, the leadership can make or break a company.

Now if you were paying attention I told you in the beginning that there is something in this
company that can lead you to failure right?

I am going to be straight up here…

You are NOT going to make much money selling the actual product…

They say you make 25% commissions on retail, but the truth is you have to sell $10,000
worth of product in a week to make a decent paycheck…

The BIG money is in recruiting….
That is where 98% of the people will fail…
I am just sharing the truth from being in the industry for a few years now.
Now I am not bashing Valentus in any way like I said it’s a great company, but it’s just not newbie friendly…
You will have to know how to recruit very well to make good money in this business and THAT is the truth.
Also, if you look on eBay, you can see how cheap Valentus products are going for…
They are going for a major loss because not many people know how to sell…

So what’s the solution to all of this madness?

The only solution is a business model that doesn’t require recruiting…
Where the actual product/training makes your money without you actually selling it…
So after reviewing hundreds of companies, I finally found one that actually fits in that category…

Click Here and See What I Mean.

– No Blogging

– No Recruiting

– No Marketing

– No Cold calling

– No Selling

And you don’t need any technical skills either…

All you have to do is get started, follow the training and take action…

It’s COMPLETELY newbie friendly and the fact it doesn’t require recruiting means it will be easier
for you to actually profit…

Heck, I have people profit their first day…

Imagine that?

You get started and you make more money than you invested in the first day?

That is TOTALLY possible here.

Click here and Watch This Video.

And if you are in Valentus, this will actually work hand to hand…

Why?

It will actually show you how you can move those products online without selling them below cost…

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

How to Build an Inbound Marketing Strategy in 24 Hours

      How to Build an Inbound Marketing

 

                                           Strategy in 24 Hours

 

"I'm active on social media."

"I'm blogging regularly."

"I'm using SEO best practices."

"I feel like I'm doing everything right, but I'm not seeing results."

Do any of these statements sound familiar? A lot of marketers and CEOs we talk to feel like they are doing all the right things.  But, they aren't achieving their goals. A recent survey from DM News confirms this is common. 46% of the executives surveyed, stated that a "lack of an effective strategy" was the biggest obstacle in achieving their inbound marketing goals. So why is everyone struggling? I'm not quite sure as to WHY, but in this article, I'll show you HOW you can overcome this obstacle…and overcome it in the next 24 hours.  Let's roll!

What is Strategy?

First, let's identify what strategy actually is. It really doesn't have to be that complicated. A strategy is simply a plan of action designed to achieve an expected goal.  So, we need a goal to get started. For the purpose of this article, let's say that our goal is to generate 50 qualified leads per month for the sales team.

A worthy goal.

Now, we need a plan of action that will get us there.

Note: You may have a different inbound marketing goal, so just apply this same framework in order to backtrack from your goal to an activity plan.

Identify Audience

If we're going to generate 50 qualified leads per month for the sales team, we need to define a "quality lead". Let's pretend we're a software company that provides project management software for contractors like roofers, electricians, plumbers, etc.  The sales team says that if they can get a Demo Request, they consider that a quality lead. 

Okay, so now we've got an audience and we know what a quality lead is.  We're getting closer to being able to build our plan of action.

Action Steps for Identifying Your Audience:

  1. Nail down your target market. Target Market Example: Contractors located in the United States that are doing between $500,000 and $20M in revenue annually. 
  2. Talk to the sales team and establish what a quality lead is. In this case, we know we need 50 Demo Requests each month.

Time Estimate: 2 hours

  1. Honestly, this should be something you already know (your target market).  But give yourself an hour to talk to a few people inside your company, read through your messaging, and establish who you're really after.
  2. Give yourself another hour to talk to a few sales reps or the sales manager at your company. Or potentially, you're talking to the owner or president.  Make sure you find out exactly what will be considered a quality lead.

Identify Where Your Audience Lives Online

Once we know who our audience is and what our goal is, we need to locate our audience.  Where are they online?  You'll want to look at social media, blogs, websites, and forums.  Make a big list!  Here's what I might do if I were looking for contractors. 

First, I'd dive into social media. I know LinkedIn is better for B2B, so I head there first.  There are tons of various groups, so I started looking for groups full of my audience. A quick search for "roofers" brings up 38 different groups.

 

I will continue my search for "HVAC", "plumbers", and "electricians".  After spending some time gathering a list, hopefully I've identified at least 25 solid groups that have my target audience. 

Next, I'll explore other social media options to see if there is anything industry specific.  After spending some time on Google, I run across Houzz, a social network for contractors, builders and remodelers.

Still further, I'll spend some time on Google again looking for blogs, forums and other websites where I might find my audience.

At the end of this research process, you should easily have 50-100 websites (forums, blogs and other websites), groups (on LinkedIn or Facebook) and communities (on Google+) on your list. Now, we're getting somewhere! We're narrowing down the Web and locating the corners in which we want to spend our time and effort.

Action Steps for Finding Your Audience:

  1. Spend time looking at social media, websites, blogs and forums for your target audience.
  2. Create a master list with links to these places.

Time Estimate: 4 hours

  1. Don't shortchange yourself here.  Put in the time to locate your audience.  This step will serve you well for many inbound campaigns into the future, so spend about four hours doing your research.
  2. Create the list as you go along.

Identify Pains, Problems, Questions

Ok, just to re-cap.  We now know:

  • Our goal
  • Who we're targeting
  • Where they live online

Now, it's time to dig for pain. As you're doing your research and visiting groups, websites and blogs with your audience, start listening. What does that mean, really? How do you listen? What are you listening for?

What you want to do is listen to the problems that your audience is expressing. You want to write down the questions they are asking.  Write down the things they are complaining about. You want to be able to speak their language.

You'll start to see different discussion questions, comments on blogs, or frustrations. Here are a few sample discussion topics I pulled from a LinkedIn Group full of roofers.

Obviously, you want to identify challenges and pains around the product or service you offer, but sometimes you can get some really powerful insight just by writing down any common questions or problems. You'll start to see some trends.

As you'll see in the next section, we want to use these questions, pains and problems in our content and messaging.

Action Steps for Identifying Pains, Problems and Questions:

  1. Go to 10-20 places on your master list and start copying and pasting your audience's discussions and questions.

Time Estimate: 2 hours

  1. This should take you about 2 hours, but don't be afraid to spend 3 or 4 if you feel you're not seeing any trends.

Create a Content Calendar

Alright, now we're ready to create a content calendar. Most people want to rush into this step because it feels like you're accomplishing something. However, this step won't be worth much if you haven't dedicated the time to your research.

There are articles that walk through this step in much more detail, so I'm not going to do that.  This will be a high level overview.

Basically, now that we've got a sense for what our audience is dealing with, we can brainstorm some effective blog titles, maybe some webinar topics and definitely some e-book ideas. If we think back to our goal of 50 qualified leads per month, you might be asking, "How many blog articles should I be writing?" or "How many lead generation offers, like e-books, do I need?"

You can make an educated guess, but this is always the unknown with strategy. (Strategy is a high level plan to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty)  You make the best plan of action you can to achieve your goal, but you'll need to adjust your plan over time depending on how close you are getting to that goal.

Based on my experience, without knowing how much traffic this hypothetical website is getting or how many leads it's currently generating, you'll want to be creating 2-3 blog posts per week. You'll also want to have at least two or three e-books that you can leverage to capture leads.

In addition to the e-books, you'll want to create email nurturing campaigns that will move leads down the funnel towards the goal step of a Demo Request.  For a quick and effective guide to lead nurturing, check out this document here.  It will walk you through the steps of taking an e-book lead and moving it towards a goal like a Demo Request.

Action Steps for Content Calendar:

  1. Brainstorm blog topics, e-book and/or webinar topics.
  2. Map out how many blog articles you'll need to create each week.
  3. Plan your e-book creation.
  4. Plan your lead nurturing sequences.

Time Estimate: 2 hours

  1. Spend 1 hour brainstorming topics and titles.
  2. 15 minutes for mapping out your blog calendar.
  3. 20 minutes for planning out your e-books.
  4. 20 minutes mapping out your lead nurturing sequences.

Create a Promotions Plan

Your promotions plan is just as important, if not more important that your content plan and calendar.  Most marketers feel like once they hit "publish", it's time to start working on the next piece.  Not true!  Once you hit publish, it's time to go to work promoting that article. 

You spent time writing it, editing it, finding an amazing photo and placing a relevant call to action.  Now, it's time to zero in on our audience and share that content with them. This is how we'll drive people back to our content, they'll click on our e-books, receive our emails and ultimately sign up for that demo!

Creating your promotional plan will be much easier now that you've got a master list of where your audience lives. You'll be able to share your blog articles as discussions in exactly the right LinkedIn Groups.

You'll be able to comment on other websites and blogs and reference your content in a super relevant fashion because you know exactly what your audiences challenges and pains are. You'll be able to craft blog titles that are irresistible to your audience because you studied their problems and pains.

Your promotions plan should basically be the time you spend promoting your article to all the places on your master list. It might look something like this:

Blog Title: 5 Project Management Struggles Roofers Face…and How to Solve Them

Promotion:

  • Create a discussion in all 20 LinkedIn Groups and frame it with the question "What is your biggest project management challenge right now?"
  • Share article on Twitter using the hashtags #projectmanagement #roofers #contractors #HVAC #plumbers. Rotate hashtags. Schedule 10-20 Tweets over the next 30 days.
  • Jump into a couple of forums and find the discussions around project management.  Add value to the discussion and add a link to the blog post as a reference point.
  • Find individual contractors on Houzz or other websites and send a personal email with a link to the article.
  • Send out an email to all current leads in the database and share the article.

So, your promotions plan will have some activity that you'll do every time you create a blog post.  Then, for specific topics, you may have additional activities you'll want to add that make sense based on the topic.

Action Steps for Content Calendar:

  1. Write out all the possible promotional activities you might have for a specific blog post.   Each time you publish, go to that list and execute as many as possible!

Time Estimate: 1 hour

  1. Spend an hour brainstorming all the ways you could promote a blog post, e-book or piece of content.

Your Strategy

Phew!  There's a lot of work there, but you can do it… and you can do it in less than 24 hours!  The total time spent in this process totals 11 hours.  Obviously, it would be a long work day to push through these activities, but you'll be setting yourself up for success over the next several months, if not years. If you can't block off an entire day to do this, spend a couple hours each day for a week and you'll be all set.

Your goals and strategy will change over time, but I wanted to break down a very simplistic way to create a strategy quickly and start moving forward. 

Just to re-cap what you need to do:

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Who are you targeting?
  3. Where do they live online?
  4. Develop your content calendar.
  5. Create a promotional list.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor