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LinkedIn’s New Company Page Gets Even Better

March 29th, 2017

Have you accessed the new LinkedIn company page?  The new design started deployment several months ago and most of the company pages I administer have now been converted.  LinkedIn has been kind enough to retain access to the old administration page but states that once all company pages have been migrated, the old admin experience will be retired.  So if you’ve been avoiding the upgrade, it’s a good idea to get familiar with the new admin dashboard. To make it easier LinkedIn has made updates in the last week  to eliminate two primary frustrations.

The new layout is cleaner and offers some useful administrative tools.  That said whenever I hear that an interface is going to be “cleaner”, I immediately try to identify what they’ve removed and how that might affect me.

The better news is that the two frustrations I had with the new admin dashboard have just been updated to improve the experience.

Embedded Images

Clearly LinkedIn is trying to make the new company pages more scanable and is relying on images to keep the content from getting cluttered.  To do that it pulls the featured image from a page.  As long as you’ve set that image, LinkedIn seamlessly embeds it into the post.

But what if the page you are linking to does not have a defined image or has misassigned one? Before the update I found it frustrating because LinkedIn used that wrong image or created a basic title text post which doesn’t exactly draw attention when placed in a sea of graphics.

The most recent update corrected the deficiency by reinstating the simple add image icon and making the title editable.  It’s still most efficient to have a defined image but if you are linking to a page that you don’t have administrative access to or need to make customized changes within LinkedIn, it’s an option again.

Sharing from Your Profile

LinkedIn does not currently let you sort your feed. The content defaults to “featured content” so finding a particular post can be a frustrating experience.  LinkedIn says that sorting your feed by date posted will be returning soon but, for now, sharing company news to personal accounts can be a headache.

While I’ve not seen research to prove this, the new update seems to share news from a particular company. That company’s posts then become more prevalent in my feed for additional sharing. A good workaround is to alert anyone that might want to share your company news that they should do so when it’s featured on their feed and not delay.  This typically happens soon after the content is posted on the company page. After a few shares it becomes easier for individuals to find the company posts.

The added benefit to a group sharing company news as soon as it’s available is that once one user shares the content, other users can locate that share in the first users profile and share the share.  This prevents multiple people from having to hunt down a post to share it.  Once one user shares it, the other users can navigate directly to the content via that share.

 

Avoiding these couple frustrations has let me appreciate the scanability of the new company pages and the addition of several useful tools.

 

Photo credit: Flickr, Nan Palmero

The Copying and Pasting Checklist

March 14th, 2017

Copying and pasting is probably my favorite command on a computer. What’s not to love? It saves so much time when you can use a past communication, setting, or tool on a new project.

I didn’t realize my dependence on copying and pasting ran so deep until doing a demo on a web platform with the vendor. As I explored the functionality I asked, “How do I make a copy of this page?” The vendor told me that they eliminated the copy function because they found that administrators were overusing it and repetitive data and tags were creeping into sites.  As a “best practice” they required admins to start pages from scratch.  While my impression of the platform was not great to that point, that remark ensured I was not going to implement it.

How can a function that saves so much time be a bad habit? While I don’t agree that eliminating copying and pasting from a platform or marketing processes is appropriate, I have to admit that there is a grain of truth in what the vendor was saying. Duplicating content does require diligence to ensure that all the appropriate settings are updated to prevent outdated or inaccurate information being placed in updated communications.

Let’s use an event webpage as an example. When copying and pasting an old event, obvious changes like updating the graphics and text are rarely missed but the entire user experience should be reviewed to make sure that all the information they receive is correct.

Graphics – Have the promotional or speaker images been updated?
Text – Has all the appropriate text been changed? Pay attention to minor text mentions for things like specials or length of the event.
Meta Tags – Has the page’s header information been refreshed so that the people searching for the event are able to find it and land on the right page?
Form – If you are not using an automated app, is the form saving to the right database? Do the data fields need updated?
Landing Page – Does the confirmation for the event’s landing page need updated with logistic info or other instructions?
Email Confirmation – Has the automated email been updated with logistic info or other instructions?
Event Surveys – If you survey attendees before the event, has the content and/or the link been updated so that they are surveyed on the appropriate topic?

This checklist shows that something as simple as duplicating a page requires verification on many aspects of the user experience. This checklist might only be a starting point for more complex digital marketing activities. Use this example to customize your own copying and pasting processes. These checklists will ensure that you get all the benefits from copying and pasting without it becoming a bad habit.

Responsibly Re-use Content

March 1st, 2017

Online marketing has become a voracious beast that devours content. Keeping quality content flowing at a pace that can feed your email, social media, and/or blog can be a daunting task. If a trainer, consultant, or professional coach responsibly re-uses their content it can help fill gaps in their online marketing campaigns and still provide value to their target audience.

There are a few ways of re-using content:

  • Refresh Old Article/Video/Podcast Etc. – Reusing older content that has not seen the light of day in a while is often a simple way of getting more out of the effort you spent in creating it. However, it’s important not to get lazy by publishing it without a review. Be certain that you haven’t used the content lately (a year is often a safe time line). The world changes quickly and even an article or video from only a year ago might need updates on technical points or current events. The theme from Articles or videos that are several years old might be retained but frequently need a significant rewrite. For example, we just updated an article that referenced “replying to a pager” and “receiving a fax”.
  • New Spin On A Repeated Topic – This article is a partial re-use. Read the previous version about the pitfalls when you chronically re-use content. Previous content will often focus on one specific aspect of a topic. It’s possible to re-use that content by covering a different aspect. In this case the previous article speaks to the problems that can arise when you chronically re-use content. This article is on the same topic but is designed to suggest responsible and effective ways to re-use content.
  • Repackage Content – If you have newer content that resonates well or a series of articles or videos, it might be repackaged into a new offering. For instance, if you have an email marketing series on a particular topic or theme, that might be edited into a whitepaper or eBook.
  • Use Others Content As Commentary – It’s possible to re-use other people’s content but it takes diligence. The best way to do this is as commentary. This is often achieved by making a short comment on social media or by doing a lengthier review/analysis on what someone else has provided. In either case it’s important to make it clear who created the original content so that you are not taking credit for other people’s work.

Content creation is a significant effort in most digital marketing campaigns. While it’s important to provide unique content to your audience that highlights your unique expertise or offering, content re-use can be a valuable tactic in meeting a burdensome content creation schedule.

Photo credit: Flickr, Steven Snodgrass

All Leads Are Not Created Equal

February 15th, 2017

There is value to every lead. Even a simple download or follow that includes a specific request not to be contacted is at least a validation of the value your marketing is bringing to your target audience.  It’s also a reaffirmation that you still hold that prospect’s attention and will get future opportunities to convert them to a proper lead.  Having said that, this is an example of a low level lead that can turn into something but doesn’t warrant a lot of time spent in immediate conversion.  It’s important to be honest about the quality of a lead so that they can be prioritized into categories for appropriate next steps.

The most common way to categorize leads is through a temperature system from cold to hot. Below are some basic descriptions and an example of appropriate next steps.

Quality

Description

Next Step

Cold A simple download, newsletter sign up, or follow that requests no follow up.
  1. Make sure that the prospect receives what they requested.
  2. Include the prospect in your marketing communications matrix.
Cool A simple download, newsletter sign up, or follow that is neutral to a follow up.
  1. Make sure that the prospect receives what they requested.
  2. Respond with a systematized and/or individual email or call.
Warm A download, sign up, or social follow that specifically requests a follow up (Priority given if it includes some potential problem indicators that your product or service can solve).
  1. Make sure that the prospect receives what they requested.
  2. Respond with a systematized and/or individual email or call (Unless the prospect can buy directly online, then a individualized email or call should be placed even if a systematized response is available).
Hot Attendance at an event or registration for a tool / trial account (Especially if it includes some potential problem indicators that your product or service can solve).
  1. Make sure that the prospect receives what they requested.
  2. Complete any systematized communication that the request requires.
  3. Respond with an individualized phone call or email (Even if the product or service can be bought online it’s prudent to make an individualized connection).

 

Now that we have a gauge of quality, why does it matter? In a perfect world, with unlimited resources, it wouldn’t.  Every marketing lead could be treated with the same priority.  However, most trainers, consultant, and professional coaches don’t have the luxury of infinite resources.

Ranking the quality lets you design responses, either in person or systematized, that a lead warrants. This prevents wasting too much time or effort on a low quality lead and ensures that high quality opportunities are addressed in a timely manner. It can also help prioritize calls to action if your marketing matrix can only support a limited number of offers.

Of course, quality is often a bit of a judgment call. Some leads might blur the lines a bit.  However, it’s important to let the prospect’s request gauge the quality rather than how we perceive the person.  For example, many times trainers, consultants, or professional coaches place a priority on a person from a big name company with not much stated interest over a person from a smaller company who is expressing more need because they perceive greater potential opportunity.  It’s impossible to know that before engaging a lead so it’s best to prioritize by what we know rather than what we hope/suspect.

Lead quality forms an important bridge between marketing and sales and having a realistic interpretation with suitable responses helps both function better.

Calls-to-Action Dilution

February 1st, 2017

Every digital marketing campaign should drive toward a call-to-action.  Even communications that are primarily educational or informational should have some method of pointing people to a next step.  There’s often a fear that a call to action will get stale. That can be a valid fear if your audience no longer values what is being offered. However, that fear can drive digital marketers to over-produce and under-promote their calls-to-action. Focus on making a quality call-to-action and promoting it thoroughly so that your target audience is given a sufficient opportunity to take advantage of the offer.

Technology keeps accelerating the pace of digital marketing.  This rapid pace often shifts focus to what’s new rather than what’s good.   Something new will often get attention but something good will get a conversion. Effective digital marketing is built on quality calls-to-action not just something new.

We work with a client that has had success offering whitepapers.  Their conversion rates were so good in fact that it encouraged them to create more whitepapers.  After all if one whitepaper can create dozens of leads, then two whitepapers can produce hundreds, right?

When conversion rates started to slip on subsequent whitepapers they sped up production.  Producing the whitepapers strained their ability to research and analyze data on the featured topic so the depth of the content within the whitepaper eroded.  To combat that they started producing short reports based on presentations or articles they had previously released.

The reports were not well received so they started creating them more frequently hoping to cover specific topics that would appeal to their different target audiences.  But since the content was not robust and the segments within their list found little value in them. This led to the middle of last year when they were releasing a report every 2 to 4 weeks, doing a blitz promotion of it for several weeks, and then moving on to the next one.

Trying to keep that breakneck pace was exhausting their resources and killing conversion rates. It was a lot more work to offer something new with very few extra leads to show for it.

So why weren’t leads increasing as they offered more calls-to-action? Unfortunately direct scaling doesn’t often happen on calls-to-action unless the call to action is as strong as the first and appeals to an equal number of non-duplicated people. Instead of scaling there is a dilution effect where the same people convert repetitively, poorer quality offerings drop the overall conversion rate, or both. This is further compounded when the call-to-action is not given sufficient time for promotion.

If you find that you’re rapidly releasing calls-to-action but are not getting sufficient leads or sales to justify the effort, then you have either misidentified what has value to your audience or you are suffering from over-production and the call-to-action dilution effect.

Make Use of Digital Marketing Tools or Eliminate Them

January 17th, 2017

It’s the New Year resolution time of year. I am a big believer in setting goals with a plan to reach those targets. The problem with resolutions is that the planning phase tends to be omitted. Rather than making a resolution, make an explicit goal because you’ll be ten times more likely to achieve it if it’s well defined. As you define that plan, it’s important to evaluate how past plans were executed to ensure you won’t repeat a mistake or experience a drag from past initiatives that aren’t as productive as you intended.

A lack of analysis on past performance typically means you are doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in gyms across the country. January is flooded with people that are determined that this is the year they’ll get in shape and stay healthy. By the time February rolls around the gyms have lost that overcrowded feeling (only 60% of new/renewed member still attend). By June the gym is typically back to its normal routine (only 40% of new/renewed members attend). Gyms typically only have their regular members at the end of the year because only a fraction of the new/renewed members will hold to their resolution (8% success rate).

Why are these numbers so defined? Because most gyms track them as part of their business model. It seems logical that members that stop coming to the gym also discontinue their membership. However, that’s a false assumption. Many gyms rely on members that intend to come but never take advantage of the gyms facilities. Many of the people that recommit at the beginning of the year but stop showing up by February carry their membership throughout the year, renewing again the following year.

The obvious fact is that having a membership to a gym is not going to improve physical fitness. Making a commitment to consistently use that membership will.

Statistic Brain compiled an overarching data set on what and how resolutions are made. It illustrates that our undefined intentions are not exclusive to gyms and often fail. 42% of the people that make resolutions never analyze their performance which means that they are more likely to repeat the same fruitless process.

Has your digital marketing become a set of unused gym memberships? Set your digital marketing goals but analyze the results of past initiates. If you aren’t using services and apps or they aren’t well suited to this year’s plan, then eliminate them. It’s better to define a past plan or initiative as a failure than to repeat the mistake or make a half-hearted resolution to correcting it. This can obviously save money on unused paid platforms but will have a bigger benefit in optimizing your digital marketing toolset.

Digital marketing is evolving too quickly to hold on to unused tools because they dilute focus and increase administrative needs. Make sure that your whole toolset has a clearly defined purpose for your marketing plan.

How Advanced Does Your Digital Marketing Platform Need to Be? – All-Inclusive Platform

January 5th, 2017

marketing-board-strategyOur last post outlined the types of digital marketing platforms.  How can you best identify whether the top tier is appropriate for your needs? The most common and true differentiator for all-inclusive platforms is centralized control and user tracking.

Let’s review the value for these two items:

Centralized Control

Every aspect of digital marketing is housed in one place.  This allows the marketer an overarching view of their activities and data to simplify execution and analysis.

User Tracking

User tracking is currently unique to all-inclusive platforms.  When a user completes a form or interacts with your site in some way the system logs the IP address and assigns it to the users data.  Moving forward that data is available on that particular user’s behavior.  The obvious benefit is that you have real time data on user behavior. In addition the all-inclusive platforms offer automated communications so that you can systematically engage users when they are interacting with your site.

 

Both of these seem like significant gains but these are only benefits if they offer true value.  As with most benefits, there is a tradeoff:

Expensive Centralized Mediocrity

Of course it’s great to have everything in one place but that often comes with a downside.  Offering every component of digital marketing often means that it’s less versatile or user friendly than a specialized service.  This “enterprise” capability also drives up the cost on the all-inclusive platforms because they have to maintain all the services being offered.

Redundant User Data

There’s no question that the all-inclusive platforms give a whole new level to user data.  But is it useful data?  It depends on the amount of traffic your site receives and the complexity of your marketing lead funnel.  If following up on leads is not a problem for you then automating the process doesn’t have much value.  Furthermore, if you aren’t consistently generating leads then the initial step is not complete and so none of the systematic steps will follow because the platform has not captured usable user information.

 

As you might have guessed all that functionality comes with a price.  All inclusive platforms tend to be about five times more expensive than basic communication platforms.  Our most recent comparison for a mid-size firm was $300/month vs. $1500/month.  Of course these costs will vary based on specific needs, but broadly speaking the 1:5 ratio is about what you should expect.

With such a steep pricing difference it’s possible to combine a small custom group of specialized platforms that offer superior functionality to all-inclusive platforms and still come in well under the all-inclusive platform’s price.

For the right firm with the right marketing user, all-inclusive platforms are a powerful tool.  For most trainers, consultants, and professional coaches, it’s overkill.  There’s just not enough volume to justify five times the cost with an all-inclusive platform over a basic platform.  In general, I only recommend an all-inclusive platform about 10% of the time to a client. The other 90% simply don’t need or won’t use the differentiators.

How Advanced Does Your Digital Marketing Platform Need to Be? – Platform Types

December 21st, 2016

Our last article raised some questions about our opinion of Hubspot’s product.  Specifically, do I agree with Lyons’ assertion that HubSpot is hastily developed software and unfriendly to users?  In general, I think HubSpot can hold its own against similar all-inclusive digital marketing platforms.  That’s not to suggest that I am whole-heartedly recommending it.  Most trainers, consultants, and professional coaches don’t need a resource as robust as HubSpot and will receive a much better return on their investment from more modest platforms.

I categorize digital marketing platforms into three groups:

All-Inclusive Platform

HubSpot is an example of an all-inclusive platform.  It integrates with large CMS platforms, provides list management, centralizes email and social content, offers website plugins, provides triggered events and has advanced tracking capability.

Communication Platform

Constant Contact, iContact, MailChimp, etc. are all examples of communication platforms.  This is the most prevalent service which typically offers email and social content management, limited CMS integration, general reporting, basic website plugins, and basic list management.

Add-On Platform

Swiftpage is an example of an add-on platform as it is much more useful when paired with ACT!.  Add-On platforms are really designed to be run in conjunction with another program. While these platforms can function independently, the user friendliness for things like list management, communication design, website integration, or social media inclusion are heavily reliant on an external program.

 

Seems like the all-inclusive option is the winner right? Not necessarily. Its overkill for many trainers, consultants, and professional coaches, offering limited value for a much larger spend. In our follow up article we’ll provide suggestions on how to effectively analyze whether an all-inclusive platform is a good fit for your digital needs.

Digital Marketing’s Value is Disrupted without Gauging Your Target Market’s Perception

December 7th, 2016

contentIf you are searching for a new, and critical, perspective on digital marketing then Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble is a good option. The book came to my attention after hearing other digital marketers’ mixed reviews. The book is an account of author Dan Lyons’ time with HubSpot, a popular digital marketing platform.  It was described to me as funny but lacking an understanding of tech companies in general, but digital marketing specifically. While Lyons’ criticisms can be harsh at times, they often had merit. I think the sentiment that the book is a disgruntled employee whining about a past employer is an unfair review and overlooks one of the biggest lessons learned that can be taken from the book.  Your target market’s perception of your digital marketing campaigns is what assigns value to it.

Lyons largely covers the culture clash he experienced at HubSpot but also touches on some of the contradictions he saw with their digital marketing tactics.  Specifically when reviewing HubSpot’s digital marketing strategy he states that they claimed to hate SPAM and showed their disdain by flooding their customers and their customers’ customers with SPAM. He also writes about predrafted content that HubSpot employees were strongly encouraged to mass share to social media feeds to flood those channels with repetitive content.

Most digital marketers would counter the SPAM claim by citing opt-in processes or content engagement. They’d probably also suggest that the social content would be organically posted so that it was not a content or link blitz.

Lyons has a point in these examples. There are a lot of digital marketers that skirt a fine line, or blatantly cross it, with list building. To suggest that a digital marketing platform will reliably enforce CAN-SPAM practices is unrealistic.  Flooding social media with duplicate content is an obvious abuse.

It’s important not to get so caught up in our own digital marketing campaigns that we start disregarding outsider analysis. After all, our perception of our digital marketing is secondary to how our target audience perceives it.

Digital marketing data analysis, if done consistently and credibly, is designed to supply an objective view of how our content is being received which dictates its effectiveness. But even that will still contain some subjective judgment calls. That’s where outside perspectives can provide poignant insight on how your digital marketing can provide more value to your target audience and you in return.

Checklist Mindset in Digital Marketing

November 22nd, 2016

I am a checklist junkie.  I create monthly task calendars that I break down into weekly checklists and then create daily journal entries for what needs accomplished. For me it’s natural to want to do a task, complete it, and then check it off the list.  While valuable in task completion, a checklist mindset can be detrimental when misapplied to digital marketing efforts that require ongoing and consistent execution.

In a recent review of an SEO report with a small business owner, we outlined a number of updates that could be made to improve his site’s ranking.  One of those aspects was review links to his site.  The business owner assured us that he had plenty of reviews and pointed to his 5 Yelp reviews as evidence.  He felt that reviews had already been done and should not be part of the action plan for further improving his search engine ranking. While having the review in place was certainly a positive thing, there were two misconceptions.

The first was the apparent suggestion that 5 reviews was the end of the road.  Marketing is a consistent and ongoing process.  Five is a good start, six would be better, twenty-five would make significant impact on his site rank.  The method of soliciting reviews can evolve, an individual review can be completed, but there should not be pre-defined finish line on the activity itself.

The second issue was that all five reviews happened within a couple weeks of one another.  So the listing showed that they had been in business for three years but only one month contained reviews.  Either that was a stellar month or it’s an obvious and short-sighted attempt to drum up reviews. This has two negative consequences.  The first is that search engines will identify and marginalize such an isolated spurt of activity.  The second is that people that use the review site are likely to notice an anomaly like this which will call the credibility of the reviews into question.

Rather than having a mindset that reviews are finished, the business owner needs to break the category into replicable tasks.  As an example, he might have a thank you email or satisfaction survey that gets delivered to clients that features a link to leave a review in Yelp.  In this way the individual task can be thought of as complete but the overarching activity of acquiring reviews is ongoing.

Checklists and project completion mindsets are invaluable in executing the individual tasks of a digital marketing campaign but should be consistently applied in cycles. The activity itself doesn’t end when a particular instance is complete, but rather should be reapplied to a future instance. Set a goal and then build an execution plan into your daily operations. Quick fixes lead to short term results that can often do more harm than good for your long-term objectives.