Monday, December 18, 2017 by Syed Balkhi
Email Marketing Do's and Don'tsAvoiding spam filters, figuring out the best times to send an email to your subscribers, implementing email segmentation... there’s a lot to learn about email marketing when you’re first starting out. But, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Email marketing is a medium that requires careful management. You can’t just expect the subscribers in your email list to become loyal fans of your business all by themselves. You have to put in a lot of work to build that relationship. That’s the main reason you created your email list in the first place: To connect with your customers. Email marketing is all about building relationships with your customers and proving yourself worthy of their loyalty. How can you achieve that goal? You can start by following these tips.
1. Learn The BasicsWhat good is an email list if you don’t have the proper knowledge to even format an email? Not to be rude, but if you want to build a more engaging email list, you need to show off professionalism through your emails. No one will take you seriously if you write emails like this: Learn to format your emails properly. Customize your email templates to fit your branding. And, above all else, learn to write like a professional. Also, learn how to avoid spam filters. The words you use in your subject lines may cause email spam filters to assume your email campaigns as spam. Spammy words like 100% Free, Act Now!, Free Money, are sure to get your emails blocked by spam filters. Replace those spam words with power words to make your subject lines more attractive and boost email open rate.
2. Develop High-Quality Lead MagnetsJust because you’re giving something away for free doesn’t mean it has to be cheap. Your lead magnets are the source of your lead generation process. It’s where the relationship between you and your subscriber begins. Develop useful and high-quality lead magnets to make a strong first impression to your subscribers. Show people how much you value their email by giving away things that they normally have to spend money on. Go beyond free ebooks and checklists. For example, QuickSprout offers a free online marketing course worth $300 for their email subscribers. That kind of commitment shows subscribers what type of content they can expect from joining the email list.
3. Collect And Measure Your DataData is the best friend a marketer could ever have. Without gathering and measuring data related to your marketing strategies, your efforts to grow your business will go to waste. It’s the only way you can know for sure if your business is growing or not. So start collecting data from the first day of your marketing campaign. Go to the root of your marketing strategy and start by measuring the content marketing ROI to see how your blog converts visitors into leads. And then you can measure your email campaigns to improve open rates and click-through rates. Also, make friends with A/B split testing tools. Test everything from your opt-in forms on your blog to your email subject lines to find what works best for your audience.
4. Segment Your Email ListEmail list segmentation is becoming one of the most important factors of creating an efficient email marketing strategy. This could very well determine whether or not your marketing efforts are going to be successful. Email segments allow you to better target your email campaigns to send the emails to the right people. Whether it’s based on interests, location, special holidays, anniversary celebrations, or even sending a birthday wish, list segments will help you build a more successful marketing strategy.
5. Find The Right Time To Send EmailsFinding the best time to send an email to your subscribers can be tricky. Because you may have a list of subscribers from around the world. If you send an email at the wrong time, it might get mixed with rest of the emails and your subscribers may not even notice your email. So, how do you make sure you send the emails at the right time for all your subscribers? This is where your list segments come to help. If you’ve collected the location data of your subscribers, you can create a sending schedule for segments separately based on the location. Or, you can use the tools provided by your email marketing service and let them find the best time for your email list. Email marketing services like Constant Contact have advanced technologies that help you figure this out.
6. Personalize Like A FriendIt doesn’t matter whether you’re representing a corporate brand, a small business, or even yourself, you should personalize emails to send them to individuals, not a group. Emails are read individually so you need to personalize them in a way that helps you to create a connection with each individual. The best way to do that is by treating each and every one of your subscribers like your friend. According to research, personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14% and boost conversions by 10%. Just remember not to treat them like your best friend where you end up making bad jokes or write emails in slang terms. Keep things casual and friendly, like a new acquaintance you don’t want to lose.
ConclusionOverall, these practices can help you develop a good email marketing strategy. But, if you care about making a true connection with your subscribers, find a way to offer value through your email campaigns. If you’re only using your email list for sales and promotions, you will start to lose your subscribers one by one.
Should You Start a Business Blog?You hear about it all the time. Businesses are supposed to have a blog. But is blogging really right for your business? The answer is: it depends. Blogging brings a lot of benefits, which is why it gets so much attention in business and marketing publications. But every business should carefully consider whether or not starting a blog makes sense for you. Here are the main things you should know to help you decide.
5 Benefits of Creating a Business BlogBusiness blogs are a great marketing tool. Many of the businesses that have taken the step of investing in blogging have seen notable results for their efforts.
1. Blogging is good for SEO.One of the big reasons business blogging has taken off is that it helps businesses improve their search rankings. Representatives from Google have come straight out and said that high-quality content is one of the most important things their algorithm uses to determine search rankings. And blogging is helpful for other factors that play a role, such as link building (blog posts give other sites more opportunities to consider linking to yours) and time spent on site (reading a blog post takes time). In addition, blogging gives you a lot more chances to try to rank for a wider variety of relevant keyword terms. For instance, a florist that aims for the terms “florist” and “flower delivery” on their main pages could try for long-tail keywords like “best flowers for a funeral” on their blog – creating more searches they’ll potentially be found in. People looking for helpful information that find blog posts that answer their questions will be that much more likely to buy what they need from the company providing those answers.
2. Blogging is crucial for content marketing.If you’ve given any consideration to doing content marketing, then a blog is likely to be the cornerstone of your content strategy. Blogs are the most obvious format for publishing ongoing content. Even though they’re mostly known for written content, they’re a good space to promote other content formats as well – you can easily embed videos and podcasts into blog posts and include visual content like infographics in them as well. Your blog gives people interested in your content a consistent spot to check back for any updates. And by having a lot of your content in one place, it makes it easy for you to promote other pieces of content to any visitors that show an interest in another piece. Blogging is generally just one part of a solid content strategy, but for most businesses doing content marketing, it’s an especially important part.
3. A blog is a good tool for building your email list.Email marketing is largely considered one of the most effective forms of marketing available to businesses. Two-thirds of consumers have made a purchase because of an email they received, and email marketing has an ROI of $38 for every $1 you spend. But for email marketing to work, you have to have a list. And building an email list isn’t easy. While promises of discounts can definitely get you some signups, many consumers will be more likely to sign up for your email list if they know they’ll be getting valuable information from every email you send. For those consumers, you can get their attention with blog content and promote your email list while they’re on the website. Then, the new blog content you create will give you something new to email them about. It’s a whole cycle that helps you build positive relationships with your prospects.
4. Blog posts give you opportunities to interact with your audience.If a person’s only association with your brand is when they browse your products or make a purchase, then you’ll be easy to forget. But if they know your website includes a treasure trove of useful information on subjects they care about, then they have a reason to check out your website more often, sign up for your email list, and maybe even leave comments or share your blog posts to their networks.
5. Blogging helps you build a positive brand reputation online.Being seen online is a challenge all businesses face. For anyone to think about buying from you, they first have to figure out you exist. By improving your SEO, giving other websites a reason to link to you, and providing visitors with interesting content to share, a blog provides a lot of opportunities to grow awareness of your brand online.
3 Reasons Not to Create a Business BlogThose reasons should all be sounding pretty persuasive right now, but blogging isn’t for every business. There are three main things you should be aware of before you take the plunge.
1. It’s a lot of work.In order to regularly publish new content:
- Somebody has to pick topics and plan a schedule.
- Somebody has to write the content.
- Somebody has to edit the content.
- Somebody has to find or create relevant images.
- Somebody has to load it to the blog and publish it.
- Somebody has to moderate and respond to comments (if you keep comments open).
- Somebody has to promote the content.
2. It can get expensive if you hire help.To keep a blog going, you will probably need to either hire new staff or contractors to help you with content planning and creation. Good content strategists, writers, and designers cost money. To do blogging right, you should be prepared to commit a budget to it. Since most blog-related costs are ongoing, you’ll have to expect to keep up expenses over time and should be prepared to spend a lot.
3. A bad blog is worse than no blog.This point relates directly to the other two. If you try to rush your blogging just to get something out there, it will look sloppy and hurt your reputation rather than help it. If you hire the cheapest writers you can find and get keyword stuffed low-quality content or worse, plagiarized content, it could hurt your SEO and it certainly won’t meet any of the goals you want a business blog to achieve. The main reason a business shouldn’t create a blog is if they’re not prepared to commit the time and money it takes to make sure it’s good. That means consistent, high-quality content designed to help you meet clear goals. All the benefits mentioned above only kick in if your blog is good, so don’t waste time and money trying to have a blog just to have one. Make sure you do it right.
How to Do It Right if You Do Start a BlogIf you’re convinced that blogging does make sense for your business, here are a few steps to take to help you get the most out of it.
1. Create a plan.Your blogging will be more organized and successful if you take time before you start to work up a blogging plan. Figure out what you want your blog to accomplish, what types of topics you want to cover, and the types of blog posts you want to publish.
2. Figure out a realistic blogging schedule.A common reason brands give up on blogging is burnout. If you underestimate how much work is required to keep your blog going, you’re likely to overextend yourself and decide it’s just too much work to keep up with. To keep that from happening, be realistic in working up a schedule for your blog. Don’t try to publish every day if you have one person on staff trying to fit in blogging on top of other responsibilities. In that case, starting with one blog post a week may make more sense. Whatever you do, do make a schedule in advance. You’ll be far more likely to stay on top of blogging if you create a content calendar and commit to sticking with it each month.
3. Define who you’re writing for.You can’t just write about whatever topics interest you personally – your interests aren’t necessarily the same as those of your customers. To help you focus your blogging efforts and make sure they reach the people you most want to see them, take time to figure out who your target audience is. What do your customers tend to have in common? Think in terms of demographics, interests, and online behaviors. Building out buyer personas can help you visualize the person you want to talk to when you plan out your blog and create content.
4. Promote your blog content.These days, publishing great content isn’t enough on its own. The web is too saturated with content on all types of topics. To stand out and make sure your content reaches your audience, you have to put some effort into promoting your blog posts. That means sharing them on social media, sending them to your email list, and considering paid distribution and promotion. All your blogging work won’t count for much unless you make sure people get the chance to see the content you create.
5. Pay attention to analytics.Once you start blogging, you’ll start collecting data on how people find and interact with your posts. Expect it to take a little while for your blogging to find traction, it usually does. But as you go, keep an eye on those analytics so you can find trends in which types of topics, blog post types, and promotion tactics perform the best with your audience. Your data will provide you a lot of insights into how to improve and get more out of your blog as you go. Committing some time to data analysis can go a long way to getting better results from blogging over time.
Is a Business Blog Right for You?If blogging for your business sounds overwhelming, then it honestly might not be for you – for some businesses the time and monetary commitment makes it a no go. But if the benefits sound worth the work, then you may be ready to start enjoying the benefits of business blogging.
LinkedIn Advertising GuideWith so many social media channels competing for user attention, LinkedIn has managed to set themselves apart as being the primary place online to make business connections and share professional updates. That may make it a strange advertising fit for some brands, but for B2B businesses, LinkedIn advertising is well worth considering.
Why Businesses Should Advertise on LinkedInLinkedIn currently has nearly 5 million users. While in general, those users aren’t as active as people are on other social media sites – only about 100 million people are active monthly – when you consider the focus of the site, that just makes sense. LinkedIn isn’t where people go when they’re looking for distractions from work or looking to be entertained; it’s where they go when they’re in work-mode, ready to network and gain education relevant to their business needs. 61% of LinkedIn users are 30-64, and 75% of users have incomes over $50,000. And 70% of LinkedIn professionals say they consider the site a trustworthy source of business content. While there’s a wide range of industries, job titles, and professional levels represented on the platform, for most B2B brands you can trust that some of the serious business decision makers you want to reach will be on there. And they’ll be on there when they’re thinking about work and business decisions, which is the time you most want to reach them. In addition to ads that show up on the LinkedIn site itself, the social media company has developed the LinkedIn Audience Network, which enables you to use their advertising platform to deliver ads to a number of sites across the web they’ve deemed “brand safe” and high quality. Their whole advertising apparatus is set up to reach professionals when they’re in a professional mindset. If that’s who your brand most needs to reach, then LinkedIn’s an important channel to include your marketing mix.
Types of LinkedIn AdsLinkedIn offers an array of ad type options brands can take advantage of. Some of them you’re able to create yourself through their self-service advertising platform; others you’ll need to work with a rep to set up.
Self-Service AdvertisingSelf-service advertising is the easiest way to get started with LinkedIn advertising. In this category, you have three main ad options. 1. Text Ads Text ads are the ones you see along the side of LinkedIn pages that include:
- A small image
- A hyperlinked headline
- A short description
- Your name and logo
- A short description
- A link to the content you’re sharing
- An image
- The title of the content
- A message title
- The message itself – you have space for a longer message here than with the other two self-serve ad types
- An image
- A clear CTA button – you can choose what action you want the recipient to take here. For example, the button could drive them to your website, to download a piece of content, or to sign up for a webinar.
Advertising Partner SolutionsFor those a little more serious about LinkedIn advertising, you can choose one of the other two categories of ad types that require working with a representative or third party platform to buy and create. Display Ads If you’re already doing programmatic advertising, you can use your buying platform to purchase ads to be displayed on LinkedIn. These can take a few forms that include the visual ads you see on the side of the main page on LinkedIn and the text ads you see along the top of the screen. Dynamic Ads LinkedIn provides the option to purchase dynamically generated ads that are personalized to your audience based on their behavior on the platform. For example, these could be recruitment ads that include the targeted user’s profile picture. These ads require working directly with a LinkedIn sales rep to purchase and develop. If you want to provide your audience with a more personal advertising experience, they’re the best way on LinkedIn to do that.
LinkedIn’s Targeting OptionsOne of the best things about social media advertising options in general is that social media sites tend to have a lot of data about their users that translates to valuable targeting options for advertisers. LinkedIn is no exception. They might not have the kind of detailed data on user interests that Facebook does, but they still have plenty of information on users’ professional backgrounds, current job status, and professional aspirations, in addition to general demographic data. LinkedIn’s extensive targeting options include:
- Geographic location
- Business size
- Job title
- Job seniority
- School attended
- Subjects studied
- Degree level
- Professional skills
- Years of professional experience
How Much LinkedIn Advertising CostsThat higher ROI is important to think about, since LinkedIn has a reputation as one of the most costly social media sites to advertise on. Most cost-per-click pricing starts at $2 per click and can go up to $5, and you can end up paying more if your campaigns don’t do well. But HupSpot’s research with LinkedIn ads (Sponsored Content, specifically) has found that they get a higher conversion rate than other advertising channels. Even though the CPC is often higher, as with on other advertising platforms, you can control your budget and set a maximum on what you’re willing to spend each day or the total amount you’re willing to spend on a campaign. LinkedIn does require a minimum spend of $10 per day or campaign and a $2 minimum bid on Text Ads. Beyond that, how much you spend is up to you.
LinkedIn’s Advertising AnalyticsLinkedIn’s Campaign Manager dashboard provides metrics on the performance of your ads and campaigns. In addition to information like the number of impressions, clicks, and social actions, they also provide data on who’s clicking on your campaigns so you can determine if your ads are reaching the right people and better understand which ads work best with which demographics. You can also set up conversion tracking in LinkedIn, so you can better see which of your ads are successfully driving the actions you want your audience to take. This is important information to help you better evaluate the overall ROI of your advertising with LinkedIn.
How to Get Started Advertising on LinkedInIf you’re ready to go ahead and get started advertising on LinkedIn, start by going to the LinkedIn Advertising page and clicking on one of the buttons that say “Create Ad.” This will take you to LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager site, where you can choose which of the three self-serve ad options available you want to start with. (Note: if you want to jump straight to dynamic advertising, click on “Contact Sales” here instead and a LinkedIn rep will get in touch to talk you through the process). Once you’ve made your selection, the Campaign Manager site will walk you through the information you need to provide to create your ad. Once your ad is created, you can choose your targeting options. Then set your budget, add your payment info, and you’re ready to launch. You can have self-serve ads ready to go in well under an hour from the time you got started.
ConclusionIf you sell toys or camping gear, LinkedIn might not be the most effective channel for your ads. But if you sell something like B2B software, professional training courses, or anything else that’s likely to interest a professional audience specifically, then it’s a smart place to be. Investing in advertising can make your efforts on the site go further and give you the chance to reach a new, relevant audience.
Monday, November 27, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
How to Create a Blogging Strategy for Your BusinessYou’ve decided it’s time for your business to start blogging (good call!), but now you have to figure out exactly what that will look like. You need a strategy. The first thing you have to acknowledge is that blogging is hard. It requires a lot of time, energy, and skill. If you go into it expecting it to be easy and think you can just figure out what you’re doing as you go, you probably won’t get much out of your blog and may well give up a few months in (you wouldn’t be the first business to do so). To actually do this right, you need to start by thinking through the kind of blogging that makes sense for your business.
Answer These 4 Questions Before You Start BloggingFirst, sit down with your team and ask yourself some questions:
- What’s the goal of your blog? You shouldn’t start a blog just because you read somewhere that businesses should have a blog. You need to figure out what you actually want to accomplish with your blog. Is your main priority improving your website’s SEO? Building relationships with your customers? Growing an email list? You’ll probably want to accomplish some combination of all those things, but figure out where your priorities are. That will help guide your blog efforts.
- Who’s your audience? Who are the people it’s most important to reach with your blog posts? A blog that gets tons of traffic from the wrong audience won’t serve your business well, you have to make sure you design your blog strategy around reaching the people most likely to become your customers.
- What’s your bandwidth? Be realistic. How much time does your current team really have to work on this? If you’re trying to fit all the work of creating and running a blog into already full work schedules, something else will have to give.
- What’s your budget? A blog itself doesn’t cost that much money to set up and run (especially since you already have your domain and hosting), but you’ll likely find you want to consider hiring professionals to help you with the writing, image design, SEO, and promotion. You may also need to spend money on things like images and plug-ins to get the blog looking just right.
Blog FrequencyOne of the most important parts of your blogging strategy will be determining how often you’ll be updating your blog. Research on this subject has come to a very clear conclusion: the more you publish, the better the results you’ll get in traffic and blog leads.
But there’s a good reason most businesses don’t publish several blog posts a day in spite of this data. For most of people reading this, it just isn’t possible to produce that much blog content and have it all be of a high quality. What you have to figure out here is what you can realistically manage based on the bandwidth and budget you just figured out. You have to account for the time it takes to plan out your blog each month (e.g. doing research, coming up with topic ideas, setting up a calendar), write the blog posts (this will vary, but think somewhere in the range of 1-3 hours per post), edit the blog posts, and load them to the blog and schedule them. That’s gonna add up, and it’s very likely you’ll need to hire people beyond your current team to be able to fit it all in. Pick a realistic goal for blog frequency to start, and be prepared to scale back if you realize it’s too much to keep up with long term. It’s more important that you maintain a high quality in your blog posts and keep up with a consistent publishing schedule than that you publish multiple posts a day.
Blog Post LengthYou have two issues to figure out here:
- How long should your blog content generally be?
- Do you want some general consistency in content length, or some blog posts that are longer and some that are shorter?
Write Yourself or Hire Someone?If you want to keep the writing in-house to start, then you’ll need to make plenty of room in the calendar to ensure your team can take on the additional duties. That may mean lengthening deadlines on other projects or figuring out other responsibilities that can be dropped. Asking employees that already have full schedules to somehow fit blog writing in as well won’t turn out well – not for them and not for the quality of the blog posts you’re likely to end up with. It’s more likely that you’ll need to hire someone new, whether by creating a new employee position (or a few) at your company, or by hiring freelancers to fill in the gaps in what you need. This comes with a number of benefits:
- You don’t overload your current team.
- You can hire people with the distinct skill set you need. Consider looking for people skilled in content strategy and SEO, as well as copywriting.
- You’ll have an easier time sticking to a calendar if you’re paying people to meet deadlines rather than trusting employees in other positions to fit it in on the side.
Types of PostsThere are a lot of different ways for you to approach individual blog posts and having a few main types of blog posts in mind that you know you want to use can be helpful in starting to put together your strategy and content calendar. While this list isn’t necessarily comprehensive, here are a number of common blog post types to consider including in your plan:
- In-depth informational posts – This is what you see a lot with longform posts. They dive deep into a particular topic to bring together all the useful information the reader could need.
- Tutorials – Posts that talk readers through how to do something can be very useful to them and thus good for you.
- List posts – List posts are very popular, probably because they make it easy for people to skim for the information they need. They frequently perform well, so consider incorporating them into your strategy.
- Curated posts –Bringing together information and links from other sources can be valuable to readers who don’t have time to seek out the information on their own. Link roundups or other curated posts can therefore provide a value-add to your readers.
- Industry news – Pay attention to industry news and add your voice to the events and updates that are relevant to your readers.
- Posts on relevant trends – Covering trends in your industry is another good way to add your insights to issues people are concerned about.
- Interview posts – Interviews with an expert source can help you attract the expert’s audience while bringing new insights to your own.
- Checklist posts – A checklist can help people needing step-by-step instructions on something they’re working on.
- Review posts – Reviewing products, books, or other content out there can help your readers know of other relevant things they should consider trying (or not).
- Answers to FAQs – Any questions you regularly hear from customers and prospects can be turned into informational blog posts.
- Event recaps – Any webinars, meetings, or conferences you and employees attend could become the subject of useful blog posts for your readers.
- Case studies – Seeing examples of how to do something is often useful. Providing specific case studies in blog form can therefore be beneficial.
- Posts about your product – You don’t want to go to this well too often, but your blog is a good place for posts about how to use your product more effectively or for announcing updates you’re making to it.
- Posts about company updates – When there are big changes at your company or new products, announce them with a post on the blog.
- Posts highlighting other forms of content - Your blog can help you promote other types of content you create such as podcasts, videos, infographics, and quizzes. Including transcripts of podcasts and videos is also good for SEO and allows you to reach the people who prefer reading over viewing or listening.
How to Promote Your Blog PostsWe’ve established that regular blogging is hard, but even for those that put the work in, getting people to find and read your blog is a whole other challenge. When you’re planning out what your blogging will look like, make sure to include plans for promoting your blog posts . Pushing your posts out on social media is probably the most obvious promotion tactic you can use, but it’s not enough in most cases. Consider other ways to get your posts in front of people, including:
- Promoting blog posts to your email lists.
- Using paid social or paid search ads to promote your blog.
- Writing guest posts on relevant blogs to expand your audience.
- Getting involved in relevant online communities in order to share your expertise and content.
- Using influencer marketing to expand your reach.