Tackling Your 2016 Marketing Initiatives

You’re just trying to get through these last two short weeks of the year but 2016 is peeking its nose out at you.  You have to start thinking about how you’ll tackle your 2016 marketing initiatives, if you haven’t already begun to.  I would start by looking at your newly minted yearly roadmap & marketing plan that you’ve created with the sales team, as well as any other stake holders in the organization, and look at your low hanging fruit opportunities as well as your big ticket items.

I know that you’ve also set realistic goals for your initiatives, which tie in to the sales goals…which then tie into the greater business goals, which you’ll be measuring your success against.

But how can you truly plan out your year? And then not only manage your task list, but also execute against it? 

I suggest to look at things quarterly, and then monthly.

Step one, in the past, I would divvy things up by month, and then color code by quarter (along the left hand side of an Excel spreadsheet).  I would then take this a step further and list out all the various initiatives I needed to tackle (social, PR, advertising, tradeshows, SEO, newsletters, brochures, etc) and at the end have a big ol’ column for the whole year that was titled “Big projects” (along the top rows of my Excel spreadsheet). This way, while focusing on the day to day, I also had the big yearly task list in front of me every time I would open my document.

Step two, I would then share this roadmap with the appropriate parties on a quarterly basis – sales team, PR team, internal stake holders – so that everyone knew exactly what was going on in terms of support from marketing.

But let’s break things down…

Look at the biggest thing(s) you need to accomplish in the first quarter.  Is it a new video, brochure, web update, case study/testimonial piece, or tradeshow? What do you need to get going on now to ensure that things go off without a hitch?  Who do you need to work with to get the job done?  Do you need to involve any outside vendors?  Do you need to do any preliminary work prior to handing it off to a vendor? Create a mini task list to keep yourself, and others, on track.  Be real about progress and status reports.

Look at what processes need to be improved, created, or reinvented in order to manage through your projects and initiatives.

Look at what you can prep ahead of time. Can you get going on content now? Is there some low hanging fruit that you can tackle right off the bat? Can you look at SEO on your website and improve Google search results before you dive into a big web update project?

Prioritize. Again, be realistic about deadlines, expectations, and commitments. You don’t want something to fall through the cracks simply because you wanted to say “yes” without really thinking through the steps of what it would take to get the project done.

Analyze. Metrics are golden. What you’re doing needs to be done for a reason. What goal does your new content meet?  Does it help bring people to the site? Does it help build your search rank? And lastly, as well as most importantly, does doing what you’re doing make sense? Is it worth the time and monetary investment?

Regroup. Don’t step into the following quarter without having had the proper time to evaluate what you’ve done. It’s ok to switch gears for the right reasons, it’s not ok to just assume everything is status quo without making sure that that is indeed the case.

Good luck in 2016!

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SEO for B2B in 2016 Webinar by Digital Reach Agency

I love webinars.  Webinars allow you to surround yourself with the most knowledgeable folks in the industry and learn about the latest industry news.  So yesterday, I once again looked to another B2B SEO agency to get a feel for what 2016 will bring in terms of SEO developments.  I listened to webmarketing123’s take on this earlier this month but everyone has their perspective.

Yesterday, Digital Reach offered their tips for the 5 things you must get right in 2016.

Let me know if you want the recording of this webinar.

They opened up the webinar with covering some of what we’ve seen take place in 2015 when it came to SEO, such as the Panda update as well as how SEO was approached earlier on in its days, through link building strategies, versus how it is approached now, through high quality content for the right audience.

A bigger focus on search is also “…critical to the new B2B  buyer. ‘On average B2B buyers do 12 searches before engaging on a brand’s site.'” Google/Millward Brown, B2B Path to Purchase Study. This means that customers are doing non branded searches so it is critical to optimize for keywords that they are searching on rather than focusing on your brand keywords.

As for the 5 critical things you must get right in B2B SEO in 2016…

  1. Make a business case for SEO* (stick with me in this blog post as I’ll share the most interesting thing I learned at the end of the post) : It is critical to educate and create a true business case for your SEO efforts.  Show what it will mean if you don’t invest in the effort and don’t focus on improving your search results.  What will it mean to the business if you’re not ranking on the first page?
  2. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes: It seems simple enough but not enough businesses are doing this.  You need to focus your efforts on what your customer is searching for rather than reinventing the wheel.  Don’t use internal jargon when it comes to optimizing your website, but rather use terms that are searched for and optimize your meta description, title tags, alt tags, etc, with those keywords.
  3. Make it easy to convert: Again, it seems like a simple enough tactic but it’s easy to get intricate in your conversion path.  Make sure that it’s easy for a customer to click through to where you want them to end up.
  4. Set goals & track them: Compare previous year’s numbers with this year on a monthly basis.  How are you looking on the following: website visits, organic search, % of keywords in the top 10 Google search results, number of leads
  5. Have a project plan!!!: You won’t get very far without a plan.  So create a case for SEO, set your goals, figure out how you’ll measure success against those goals and start executing against the strategy you’ve set.

* So now for the really good stuff…the stuff that will truly help you build your business case for SEO investment.  The webinar went through a pretty comprehensive way to calculate what not being on the first page of Google search results may mean to your business.  They used rough industry averages but you should be able to get the picture with my rough notes below.

So to start, you need to know that there is a very wide range, read 2-30%, for click through rates for search results that come up on the first page of a Google search result.  The moderator went with a rough 7% average CTR.

  1. the total # of monthly searches for your keywords x the average CTR = the # of potential website visitors
  2. the # of potential website visitors x 1-3% (the percentage of visitors that result in a true lead) = the # of potential new leads
  3. the # of potential new leads x 15% (the percentage of raw leads that become qualified leads) = the # of potential new qualified leads
  4. the # of potential new qualified leads x 10% (close rate) = the # of potential new deals 
  5. the # of potential new deals x average product cost = monthly cost of not ranking on the first page
  6. monthly cost of not ranking on first page x 12 (months in a year) = yearly cost of not ranking on the first page

Pretty wild right? I would suggest taking the percentages with a grain of salt as your business may be in a different realm but the numbers don’t lie, and that’s what you need to build your business case!

I hope this post has helped.  Now on to finding new industry leaders to surround myself with and learning something new!

Thanks again Digital Reach! Follow them on Twitter for the latest blog posts and webinars!

Marketing + Sales = Growth

I read a great article yesterday titled, Should I Be Focusing More on Marketing or Sales Strategy?  It was a quick and very to the point read that I encourage everyone to click through to as it addresses how a business should address some of the key marketing related questions we all typically ask. The writer gave two choices of how to deal with setting and executing a true marketing & sales aligned strategy.

Option A) “Should you decide to hire a marketing manager, be sure that the individual has the necessary background and skill set to develop and align a marketing and sales strategy and possess the applicable skills to implement the tactics involved.”

Option B) “If you choose to hire a marketing agency to develop a strategy, be aware that the process to provide an approach typically ranges from 6-10 weeks. While you’re left with a strategy, you need to have a plan to implement the tactics involved.”

In my past, I’ve been in the option A category.  The businesses I’ve worked for have had marketing departments that were responsible for helping grow the business through a variety of marketing efforts.  We also teamed up with strategic partners to get some of this work done, but the overall strategy was run by the marketing department, which in a couple of instances I was lucky enough to manage.

There are a variety of tactics I have seen work, and not work, in marketing but the key to all of our efforts was to ensure that what we were doing aligned with sales and their goals.  We were there to support the sales team and they in turn supported us when it came to getting some key customer testimonials or case studies set up.  The KPI’s I created were always aligned with those of the sales team, which aligned with the overall business goals.  It was a cascading, or X matrix, approach that seemed to work well and kept everyone accountable for their work.

How is your business run and will you choose to bring in a seasoned marketing professional who can not only set a strategy and execute it, or will you rely on strategic partnerships to help your business grow?

 

The Importance of SEO

It’s been a doozie of a week but today is a two-a-day kind of day so read this blog post, but also check out today’s LinkedIn Pulse blog post about Client Management.  And as an even more added bonus, I’ll be sharing my diy plans for this year’s Christmas in the Working Mom section of my blog.  PHEW! Let’s begin.

So what do we know about SEO?  Most people will say that it’s important.  But some might not realize it’s not a set it and forget it kind of thing.  You may need to explain that there is more to SEO than just website effectiveness and getting found on line.

SEO is about those two things but also about growing brand awareness, thought leadership and as Search Engine Land states:

It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines.” 

You have to think about at least the following 10 things when trying to run an effective SEO strategy:

  1. How is your website structured? Are things easy to find?
  2. How often are you updating the content on your site, either via a blog, or updating general information?
  3. Are your alt tags, video descriptions, meta descriptions, title tags, all that good stuff up to date and most importantly actually there?
  4. Where are you coming up in search results when plugging in some keywords?
  5. Are you working on improving, or maintaining, search results on an ongoing basis?
  6. Are you looking at social networks and forums to see what others are saying about you, and most importantly contributing to those conversations?
  7. Are you looking at relevant articles, blogs, etc. and commenting on those with a company profile to maintain relevance?
  8. Are you creating relevant and shareable content?
  9. Is your PR program in sync with your SEO program?
  10. Are you analyzing the results of your SEO efforts?

I know I am not an expert at all, I just like to know enough about things to be dangerous.  So if you’re looking for an expert, or know that you can’t do all of the above and more on your own, then look to KoMarketing Associates in Boston who are excellent to work with.

Good luck!

2016 Marketing Plan

I know it seems early but I hope you’ve already started to have talks about what you’ll be doing in 2016 in regards to marketing.  There are certain aspects that I’m sure are already underway, such as prep for tradeshows that are early in the year, Q1 initiatives, advertising, etc.  But make sure to begin to get into big picture mode.

There are unfortunately many people who don’t believe in a marketing plan but as this article, Elements of a Marketing Plan, wonderfully states – “Whether you’re marketing for a huge corporation or a local coffee shop, if you do not have a marketing plan in place, make it your first priority.” THANK YOU Hannah Watkins!  I hope everyone reads your article because I couldn’t have said it better myself.  Hannah goes through a great step by step process of writing a marketing plan.  Here are the highlights, but I HIGHLY suggest you read, and share, the article!

The Initial Phase/Pre-Plan:

  1. Assess your current financial situation
  2. Assess your staff
  3. Understand your marketplace and target audience
  4. Identify your focus products and services
  5. CREATE BRAND GUIDELINES (Boy do I wish I could share this wonderful step with a few people who didn’t think that brand guidelines played any role at all in marketing, or their business in general)

The Core of the Marketing Plan:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Business Goals
  3. Target Audience Groups
  4. Online Marketing – Current Standings
    1. Basic Google Analytics
    2. Competitive Analysis
  5. Online Marketing Objectives
  6. Tactics
    1. On-site changes/Multi-variant testing
    2. Content Marketing
    3. SEO/SEM
    4. Social Media
    5. Link Building & Cross Promotion
    6. Email Marketing
    7. Online Paid Advertising
  7. Execute & Adjust As Needed

Good luck!

New Beginnings

“If you’re not scared to do something new, then you’re not trying hard enough.” That’s my loose re-quoting of Steven Colbert on starting in his new gig on the Late Show.

I happen to agree.  Being somewhat scared means that you are not only worried about starting in a new environment but also that you want to make sure you live up to expectations.  But, you have to make sure you don’t show these concerns, but rather exude the confidence you showed in your interview process.

Here are my 5 tips for your first month:

  • Come prepared to dive right in – Expectations might the set high so be ready to get down and dirt
  • Use your street smarts – Your gut feeling about someone or something may be the right feeling
  • Speak up – Depending on the role you were brought in for, your insight is probably needed so don’t sit and observe too long
  • Sit & Observe – To the point above, it is important to sit back and see how things function
  • Small wins – Get some quick wins in under your belt.  Clean up or create a process, fix something that is broken, make a creative contribution

Good luck!

Adding a Retail Strategy in a B2B Business

*Updated 9/4/15: A great article about the importance of Effective POP in a Retail Environment

I’ll tell you about something that makes me, as a marketer, cringe. Allowing sales to run with a retail strategy without any involvement from marketing.  The reason that I cringe isn’t because I don’t think that sales has a part in this kind of strategy, they absolutely do.  However, to say that “we’re taking a different approach” tells me that only the sales and selling side is being considered.

I cringe because a mentality of “anyone can be a marketer” is being applied.  A lot of business efforts need to keep marketing and branding in mind.  In order for your customers to know who you are, regardless of what market you are focusing on, you need to have a consistent message.  By letting everyone run their own campaigns you are going to get away from your core brand…unless of course everyone is completely in sync with everything which would be truly amazing.

Marketing has the unfortunate job of being the nay-sayer now and again, the teacher, as well as the communicator of what can’t/shouldn’t be done due to the importance of maintaining the integrity of the brand.  This is even more critical when you are talking about a retail side to your business.  This is where you are coming face to face with your direct customers who are seeing your brand because it is what they are looking for…and if they don’t see something they like, then see you later!

What do you think?

Q3 – Marketing Roadmap Update

The above might not make business sense to your business but the point is, this is Q3, or 2H (second half) of the year.  What have you learned from the first half?  Let’s assume a few things and then work through those assumptions.

Assumptions…You were tasked with…
1. Creating a brand new 2015 marketing strategy at the end of last year.
2. Increasing brand awareness for your brand while also supporting some sales goals, such as improving web sales.
3. Increasing web traffic.
4. Improving the SEO & PPC outcomes.
5. Helping launch new products.

How will you track success on the above?
1. Creating a strategy is one thing, having that strategy work out is quite another. As a leader of a team, or department, you need to be monitoring the outcomes of all of your activities.

Can you track how many leads were collected at a tradeshow? Is this more or less than last year? And did more of them open a post tradeshow email you sent?

What about costs for all of your activities?  Is the effort worth the investment?

I was once told that as a manager I was spending too much time on planning and research. I would have agreed with that statement if my team wasn’t proving that what we were doing was actually working.  And if no one spent any time thinking about what the next practical thing to do would be we’d be in the same situation we were in before.  No plan and a lot of time and money wasted.

2. Brand awareness is a tricky thing.  Wouldn’t it be nice to tie a pretty bow around every “like” you get and tie it to a sale?  That would be the best success story ever and I would take that job in a heart beat.  But, reality is that brand awareness is hard to track. Your best bet is to be present in the places where your customers talk.  Find the right forums, social platforms, news outlets, sites, blogs, magazines, whatever and be present.  Answer people’s questions and be there when they need you.  It’s a huge effort, but somebody has to do it in order to get your brand out there in the right way…and the right way isn’t beating your customers over the head over your most awesome widget and its 13 different features. BORING!

Now web sales fall into that “yay factor” where you can easily track things back to your marketing efforts, most of the time.  If you have the right tracking tools in place you’ll be able to easily see that a sale came from an email you sent, or that they clicked through a digital ad in a pub, or better yet thought your Facebook posting was SO compelling that they simply had to have your latest whos-it. Congrats! You’re on easy street now.  But, if your efforts are not driving sales then you need to re-evaluate what you are doing.  Perhaps you’re in the wrong place, or perhaps you’re simply there at the wrong time…or, you’re not using the right lingo to attract your perfect customer.  Evaluate, measure, repeat!

3. I love to help increase web traffic.  In my last role, my team was able to increase web traffic by over 100% as compared to the previous year.  Now, the fact that we had an online store at that time certainly helped, but the planning that went into all other marketing activities also didn’t hurt.  We were able to roll out a new PR plan and got a ton of new eyes on our site.  We also improved the look of our emails and our paid ads.  Just those three things alone will help you bring in some changes.

4. Improving SEO & PPC outcomes is a monumental task.  Let’s break these two into two topics.

SEO – this is an effort that a lot of people need to be involved in.  Marketing needs to hold the reigns on this one as all marketing activities must tie into the same SEO plan.  You can’t have three different departments on three different pages and marketing trying to keep up with everything, that’s how you end up below the fold or worse yet on page 2 of a google search. You need to sit down with whoever the other stake holders might be…perhaps it’s your technical writers, or product folks, or applications team, and don’t forget your sales team.  You need to make sure that you set some very specific goals as to what you need to be focusing on and what specific terms you will be using to convey your story.  To be honest, this should have been done at the beginning of the year, but let’s not get the perfect get in the way of the good.

Once you have your strategy in place, make sure that those terms are the ones you are using everywhere.

Title tags, alt tags, meta descriptions, video descriptions, product descriptions, social media postings, PR, ads, the list goes on and on but at a minimum you need to have these areas covered.

PPC – this can be a tricky one.  The easy part is that once you have your SEO strategy and keyword list you should use the same keywords for your PPC efforts.  The fun part is, that you can really play with your PPC money. If you’re looking for brand awareness, then do some display ads.  Google will even help you with this.  Pick the keywords you want to focus on and they will supply you with a list of sites that talk about those related topics.  Pick where you want your ads to appear and once again Google will step in and create the ad for you.  You might not get a lot of sales out of it, but you can be optimistic, but you will sure as hell get a lot of  eyes on your ads…i.e. impressions, and that’s a good thing.

But, be careful with your budget as it can dwindle very quickly.  In one of my last roles we had to really reel in the spend and instead of trying to be all things to all people we chose to focus on branding and getting our name out there, and guess what, we finally got some conversions!

5. Ahhh, product launches.  Another place where there can be too many cooks in the kitchen.  But, this can be easily mitigated if you have a plan!  Have I said that word a few times already?  I love to plan, and I love numbers…but I digress.

In a previous role we had just gotten into phase gating. Phase gating allows for proper planning for a product launch.  There can be times when a product needs to be launched yesterday but if that’s the case then often times…someone dropped the ball, especially if no one knows about this new hullabaloo product.

In order to have a successfully marketed new product you need to get a few ducks in a row.  Get everyone aware of the product and its features, but more importantly, why its even needed in the market.  Get the appropriate content written about this new product and get some collateral pulled together.  Collateral that has been planned ahead for will not only look better but will also last you more than a month…I say this because if everything is a rush, then chances are some things haven’t been thought through and you’ll need to update your new lit the minute it comes in house, and that would be a shame.

Make sure that you have your team trained, your ads lined up, your press releases written, samples ready to show off at the next tradeshow, and your team ready to blast the hell out of this new thing.

Here is a word of caution, just because you’re the first on the market doesn’t mean you’ll succeed.  There is a time and a place and a right way to do things.

So with that, I leave you with a few thoughts.

1. Have you looked at the metrics from the first two quarters? What are they telling you?

2. Have you thought of a way to improve a current process or two that will allow you to have even more success in something?

3. Have you considered not doing something?  It’s ok to say that this thing you suggested just didn’t work.  It’s better to admit that now, rather than at the end of the year when you’ve spent twice as much on it.

Good luck, and knock Q3 out of the ball park!!!

Marketing Roadmap

I’ve been in a particular situation where looking ahead and planning was, let’s say, more than frowned upon.  In my opinion, without a plan, you’re up sh*ts creek without a paddle.  Of course, it’s one thing to plan and not execute.  But it’s another to plan, execute, and find new ways to improve the original plan.  It takes time, research, and analysis.  So here is what I typically like to do when taking on a new marketing team or joining a new company entirely.

1. Assess the situation.  Meet with any and all potential players and get a sense for what the biggest hurdles are and where the low hanging fruit can be found.

2. Based on your findings, create a high level plan of what needs to be accomplished in a set period of time, be it three months, six months, or a year.

3. Look into what challenges need to be overcome in order to get to the next step.  In my case it was: figure out which markets we need to focus on in the upcoming year and then figuring out how we will reach the target audiences in those markets.

4. Begin to set your plan into motion by changing up the marketing mix, and introducing new processes, within the department in order to meet the overall business goals & objectives.  Although, this might not be necessary in all situations.

5. Create a marketing roadmap.  The way I’ve done things in the past was diving things up by markets, this may not be ideal in every industry. I would then look at when the buying times occurred for those markets and hit them during those strategic times, all the while preparing content ahead of time in order to be prepared.  This won’t always work out of the gate unless you’re being brought in to a smooth running machine that simply needs a leader.

6. Set the roadmap in motion and observe.  Look into the metrics and see what’s working, and what needs tweaking.  This will help you not only assess the overall marketing situation but also learn about what works and doesn’t in your new industry, or market, or…whatever.

7. After about three months, or a quarter, take a look at the body of work.  What do you need to put more focus on?  What is working better than expected and hence needs more man power? What needs to be moved on from? Based on your analysis, set up the next quarter’s plan but continue to adjust as needed as you might now be focusing on an entirely different audience that likes to consume their information in an entirely different way.

8. Start to think about the bigger missing pieces and how you’ll fill the gaps.  In my experience, content creation and content strategy has been the biggest hurdle to over come.  Everyone needs to be on the same page and that page takes a long time to turn.  You need to prove the reasons why you need a strategy and then get everyone on it.  Without that, you are constantly chasing.  But in order to get people to understand its importance you need to show some kind of metrics that prove that what you are doing is working.  Metrics such as more eyes on your site, leads from paid eblasts, or more sales from certain social platforms or digital publications.

9. Present your future plan with an explanation as to why it is needed.  Explain why you need everyone to collaborate together, and works towards the same goal.  In some cases this might be a no brainer, but be prepared to really have to dive deep on this one.

10. Measure, measure, measure.  You should never stop. Digital marketing is always changing. New platforms pop up, new metrics get unveiled, and you need to stay on top of it.  Don’t let people tell you “You shouldn’t be doing that, just delegate.” Sometimes, you need to do something yourself, especially if that something is a new strategy or if it’s something that was broken in the past and someone really needs to dive deep to figure out the issues before handing it off.

Good luck!

Plan, execute, measure, repeat!

Marketing Management

Marketing management – it means a lot of things to a lot of people.  Marketing seems simple, and so the trouble becomes that everyone thinks they are an expert and have the best ideas, and why doesn’t marketing “just do it.”

Well, some things can be done on the fly, as a test or as a last minute initiative, but for the most part, some kind of planning and thought has to go into a new initiative.  Simple things such as:

  • Who will do the work?  Can my staff take this new thing on, or should I drive the bus for a while until we get some steam under it?
  • Is there a strategy for this new initiative? (Does content need to be generated? Who will generate that content?)
  • Why are we doing this new thing? Is our customer base asking for it?  Is just one customer asking for it?
  • What is the return on our investment, monetary or time based.
  • Does this fit with who our brand is?  (ex: should we do a flash mob as a pharmaceutical company?)
  • Does this fit in to everything else we are doing and if not, at what expense will this come?  Do we stop investing in PR or advertising to focus on this new initiative?

All good questions, but unfortunately they are sometimes seen as push back and an unwillingness to “just do it.”  When in reality, as a marketer, you know the implications of just doing something, sometimes there are none, but often times it derails the team and the overall focus of the marketing roadmap that has been set out.  It might also confuse your customer base, which is an even bigger price to pay. Oh, and there is also the fact that if you just ask “how high?” every time someone says “jump!” you’ll be expected to ask that every time.

So what’s our lesson here?  You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, in terms of convincing someone that a strategy is needed when they’re not used to having one, but what you can do is perhaps show the implications of doing this one thing instead of something else you are already doing.  Will doing this new thing really pay off in the long run?  If you realize that it might, then explain why you will be needing to put something else on pause.

It’s a slippery slope.  You have to educate people and explain the (who/what/when/where/why) and the reason that you even need to consider all of those things before “just doing it.”

Good luck!