Top Tip: Using Marketing Automation Tools

Top Tip: Using Marketing Automation Tools

Top Tip: Using Marketing Automation Tools Many business owners and marketers use marketing automation tools for their lead generation and conversion needs. Dozens of tools currently exist to help businesses generate leads, nurture leads, close leads – and a variety of marketing activities in between. The companies that use these tools report benefits such as increased leads and improved closing rates. Sounds good, right?

For the most part, using marketing automation tools makes sense, especially for those businesses with limited time and resources. These tools can make a business owner or marketer’s job easier and more efficient. For example, some businesses use them to tackle their more “mundane” aspects of lead generation and/or conversion, such as creating and sending emails. As a result, the business’ owners and/or marketers have more time to engage in more hands-on lead generation and lead nurturing activities, as well as handle any issues which may arise among their existing clients.

By design, marketing automation tools allow companies to provide added value to their potential and current clients when they are properly used. It’s important to make sure your company has a need for automation before investing in it. These are a couple of questions to think about:

How and why would my business use marketing automation tools?

Automation tools are most often used for the following activities:

  • Building targeted leads lists
  • Organizing, executing and managing marketing campaigns
  • Measuring behavior (through metrics and other data) from emails and/or websites
  • Segmenting leads

Is your business thinking about using marketing automation, but wondering how and why? Simon Harvey, Owner and Demand Generation specialist @Demodia, shares some helpful insights and advice in Quora:

i) ensure you understand your sales and marketing process and how you plan to use your MAP {marketing automation platform} to support that.

ii) know who your buyers are.

iii) as others have said one of the most beneficial parts of MAPs is their lead nurturing capability. Unfortunately here technology is not everything and you need to ensure that you have sufficient content in place that you can use to target potential buyers at their different stages of the buying process.

iv)  if you followed step i) then you will already understand who your buyers are. Use that information along with the built in segmentation tools within your MAP to split contacts into different groups based on their interests, personas or other buying traits then use that to target emails and nurture them in different ways.

* Read Quote of Simon Harvey’s answer to How do you make the best use of marketing automation tools? on Quora

How do marketing automation tools work?

HubSpot provides an explanation for how using automation tools work in an “ideal” situation:

‘At its best, marketing automation is software and tactics that allow companies to buy and sell like Amazon — that is, to nurture prospects with highly personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and turn customers into delighted customers.’

A word of advice: business owners and marketers who use marketing automation tools should make sure they aren’t relying solely on the tools to do all the work. Building relationships with potential and current clients still stands as one of the most important parts of marketing. No single tool will ever replace the essential “human touch.”

Over to you

Does your business use any automation tools? If so, have they improved your business’ efficiency or provided value? I would love to hear what works for you…please feel free to leave a comment below.

 

Balancing Your Work & Personal Life

Top Tip: Balancing Your Work & Personal Life

Balancing Your Work & Personal LifeBeing a full-time social media professional, full-time mom and full-time wife, life can hand you a lot to juggle.  We are all busy. We are all stressed.

There are thousands of self-help articles on the web that give you specific how-tos on balancing your work & personal life. Not every step-by-step instruction article applies to everyone. We must all seek out and figure out what works best for us. Just because it works for Mary doesn’t mean it will work for Martha.

There are a lot of great ideas you can use to help you balance your personal and work lives. Over the years, my peers and I have had endless conversations on balancing aspects of your life. A lot of the social media professionals I know work from home and have school-age children. Yes, there are corporate social media professionals as well and they have the issues we have – when to turn it all off, how to set limits, when to say no, etc.

Whether you work in social media or some other industry, having a balanced life is key to being happy and attempting to be stress-free (come on, we all know we will always have some kind of stress in life).

Here are my tips for balancing it all – some may work for you, some may not, but these are what I’ve found to work…

1. Unplug

This is the hardest one but the most critical. You have to unplug at some point. No one wants to sit at a dinner table with every member of the family tapping away on a smartphone or tablet. We all need to step away at times – go on a run, walk around outside and get fresh air – spend time with your children. Not only will your eyes thank you, but unplugging will give you the chance to relax and keep you healthy. Fitness Magazine posted an article last fall with 9 benefits of unplugging. You should read it when you get a chance.

2. Set a Schedule

I am an organization nut. I have my days, weeks and months planned out. I thrive on a scheduled and I know many who are a lot like me. Setting a schedule will help you to know what to focus on and what can wait (believe it or not, some things can wait). If you work while your children are at school, you know you have from 8am-3pm to get the bulk of your work done. Plan accordingly. Prioritize your tasks.

If you work from home, set a time to stop each day (it may vary based on your schedule). Personally, I work from 8am-2pm, do the school pick-up/dance drop-off thing from 2-3:15pm, then we come home and do homework while I work, then when it’s time to start dinner, I’m done and go into “mom” mode until they go to bed. Then it’s time for me to spend time with my husband and watch a TV show or play a card game.  That works for me.  Try to set a schedule for yourself – and stick to it.

3. Lists

Lists can be your lifesaver. We all know how important the grocery list or the packing list can be. Make a list each Monday morning (or Sunday evening) of what you have to get done for the week and prioritize it (then use it in your schedule!). Cross things off as you finish them – it’s a huge relief when you can cross something off. I know professionals who make weekly lists and some who make daily lists. Do whatever works for you!

4. Know when to say “no”

This is something we all struggle with. We want to help out or chair something for our community, but if we say “yes” to everything, trust me, we will stress ourselves out. Extra commitments outside of work take away from our personal time – time with our families, time with our kids or if you’re single, time from yourself. It’s a freeing experience one you learn to say “no”. You don’t have to turn down everything, just be a little picky with what you devote your extra time to.

5. Listen to yourself

This is the easiest tip of all. You know yourself better than anyone else. If you are tired or stressed, take that as a clue that you need to slow down. Feeling like you’re missing out with your children or friends? Rearrange your time. Listening to yourself is the biggest indicator of what you need to do to balance your work and personal life.

How do you do it? How do you find balance between your work life and your personal life? Please share your tips with us below!

5 Content Curation Best Practices To Make Your Business Shine

5 Content Curation Best Practices To Make Your Business Shine

5 Content Curation Best Practices To Make Your Business Shine I don’t know about you, but when I think about the amount of content available online, it really blows my mind. Think about this stat from YouTube alone: “100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.” Every. Minute. The Internet may seem overloaded with content, but this is actually good news for businesses. A business incorporating an online content strategy which also includes content curation has the chance to shine by providing more value and information to its audience.

Although many businesses know and understand they should be regularly creating and sharing original content, some are either unable or unwilling to do so. The main reasons are budget, time, and lack of skilled personnel. Content curation especially helps these businesses by allowing them to share relevant content without the time or financial burdens. Just as museum curators sift through volumes of artwork to collect the finest pieces of art, content curators have ways to filter and sort through the volumes of content on the Internet to dig out the best.

These are five best practices to keep in mind for making your curation process as effective and efficient as possible – and to make your business shine!

Good content curation starts with reputable content sources

As I mentioned above, there is a large amount of content online, but your audience only needs to view a small portion of it. Even worse is the vast amount of low or no-quality content, or content which is inaccurate or plagiarized. You will want to thoroughly research and then pinpoint the authors and other content creators within your industry that you feel best represent your own views.

Use content curation tools to save you and your business time and money

Without a doubt, Google is a highly effective way to uncover anything on the Internet. Using Google alone for curating content on a daily basis can prove to be time-consuming and frustrating. I recommend looking into tools which streamline the process, and some of the best tools are free. One of my favorites is Scoop.it. I use this tool daily since it continuously searches through blogs, videos and social media posts for content based on the keywords I specify. The tool provides me with a personalized stream of the results, along with snippets, so I can quickly and easily decide which ones to review. Scoop.it then allows me to either share content from the platform itself, or save it for later.

Watch out for “expired” content

Even some of the best written articles or most clever online videos become outdated after a while. Maybe the topic has been exhausted or otherwise gone stale. Although it’s not essential to curate and share brand new content, you may be better off doing so. This works well, especially when you take into account the fact that many content creators revamp, refresh, re-word and/or re-purpose their content. Content curation tools sometimes dig up “hidden gems” from months or even years ago with timely and relevant content, so don’t completely overrule using older content. Just know that fresh and current content comes out regularly.

Pictures really may be worth a thousand words, so make sure you add them to the mix

Good content curation covers so much more than just blog articles. Depending on your audience, make sure you curate images, Infographics and online videos, in addition to written articles. Again though, double-check this type of content to ensure it is timely and relevant.

Content curation is *not* content creation or syndication

Never republish content in its entirety on your own site and then call it your own. If you receive the content creator’s permission to share his or her post(s), you must properly attribute him/her and link back to the original source(s). One of the best practices to follow when curating content this way is to share a few significant excerpts, put them in quotes, and provide your personal commentary or insights. This practice makes Google “happy” when it comes to SEO and keeps you from looking like a thief.

So, are you ready to curate content for your business?

Related Resources:

TopRank Blog http://memarketingservices.com://www.toprankblog.com/2013/02/content-curation-best-practices/

Curata http://memarketingservices.com://www.curata.com/blog/4-best-practices-for-ethical-content-curation-part-2-of-content-marketing-done-right/

Google AdWords for Small Business

Online ads have become big business for small business owners who have either just launched websites or who want to see more traffic on their existing sites. They want their target markets to find them quickly and easily. This is where Google AdWords can help small businesses create effective ads to reach their customers online.

In a recent article for Business 2 Community, Ben Cohen talks about how small businesses should develop solid strategies when using Google AdWords. Cohen says, “Even with a small budget, you can get impressions and clicks on Google with a smart account structure and the right targeting options.” Cohen goes on to explain how small businesses are able to reap the same advertising benefits as their larger B2B counterparts – all from creating and properly using ads through Google AdWords.

A new Google AdWords user probably has a few questions to ask and have answered before they get started. These are a few common questions, along with some answers, to help explain the fundamentals.

What exactly is Google AdWords?

Google describes it as their own online advertising program product. The Google AdWords system suggests keywords, then allows its users to assemble text ads with the keywords they decide upon. People can then target ads to the online markets they prefer and have their ads appear where and when they decide. VirtualNet Marketing, a Google AdWords certified partner, defines the system well by saying, “Google Adwords is the system Google has developed to assist you in marketing your products or services in the Google Search Engine, and its affiliate sites, via the use of a placed text ad that appears when people search for phrases related to your offering, this appears as a “sponsored link.” The product also provides excellent reporting and tracking tools so you immediately know what is working…or not.

How do I gain access to Google AdWords?

Once you sign up for your own Google account, you can immediately access Google AdWords. From there, you have the power to easily create your own online ads through Google AdWords.

How do I set up ads using Google AdWords?

Google provides step-by-step directions for walking you through the Google AdWords process. The directions are helpful and fairly easy to follow. You can possibly set up your ad in a matter of minutes. The process involves deciding on things such as which keywords to use, who you want to target, how long you want your ad to run and how much money you want to spend. Since these intensive details make the process potentially complex and time-consuming, you should be prepared to spend an ample amount of time so you develop an ad which completely meets your needs and expectations.

I put an ad together that really stinks. Am I stuck with it?

Not at all. All you need to do is sign into your Google AdWords account and modify your text. You can also delete, pause and reactivate ads as often as you like.

Do I need to spend a lot of money to use Google AdWords?

You are able to budget as little or as much as you need to run your ad campaign. Keep in mind that when you set up PPC (pay-per-click) ads, you are paying for each time your ad is clicked…even when someone clicks it accidentally. Just like going to a casino, it is wise to start with a budget. Using Google AdWords can seem like gambling; in essence, you are going to place bids on how much your ad is going to be clicked. Know exactly how much you are able to spend and stick to that amount. It is easy to get caught up in the complexities of choosing the proper keywords and such. The product includes keyword planners and performance indicators which help you keep your budget intact, as long as you use them properly.

 

Many small businesses use and have successfully gained clients through creating and managing online ads with Google AdWords. What are your experiences with using it? I would be glad to hear your thoughts about Google AdWords. Email me at jenn@jplussocial.com or tweet me at @jennghanford any time.

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Print Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners

Today’s guest post is by  of Printfirm.com

365.26: MagazinesThe rise of online marketing leads many small business owners to abandon print advertising in favor of less expensive web based options. Why waste money on pricey print ads when internet outreach costs mere pennies? There’s only one flaw in this logic: your customers still live in the physical world, so digital marketing only goes so far. Besides, it’s never wise to put all of your adspend into one avenue; research suggests that the most successful campaigns utilize a combination of digital media (emails, social media) and old fashioned ink. If you’re still skeptical about print media, read on to discover how traditional marketing materials impact ROI.

6 Small Biz Printing Ideas

Cost always ends up on the list of reasons to avoid printing. Magazine ads come with a premium price tag, but there are plenty of other affordable print products to add to your arsenal. Here are some common print alternatives in order from lowest to highest price:

  • Signage – Signage usually refers to vinyl banners, yard signs, roll up banners, etc. These items are similar to billboards on a smaller scale. Signs and banners are a way to invite everyone in the neighborhood into your store, including the folks just passing through. Raising awareness in a non-invasive way brings in more foot traffic and reminds your existing customers to stop in again. Signage certainly comes in handy at trade shows and outdoor events where you have a booth to decorate. Best of all, signage lasts a long time, so you get the most bang for your buck. Yard signs will run you about $20 and a 2′ x 3′ vinyl banner costs about the same price.
  • Business Cards – Business owners might not consider cards as advertising tools, but they help tell your company’s story in a compelling way. Business cards are considered a corporate staple, which means they lend small brands an instant boost in the credibility department. Business cards also give prospects something tangible to hang on to after a networking event or a trade show. Besides, there’s nothing more embarrassing than being asked for a card and having nothing to show for your life’s work. Business cards printing rates are pretty reasonable as long as you already have artwork. Custom designs require a larger investment; use free online templates if graphic art is beyond your financial means.
  • Stickers – Stickers are an easy way to reward your loyal customers and spread the word about your services in the process. Bumper stickers are very popular, but don’t feel boxed in with a rectangular shape. Consider circles, ovals, and custom shapes for a unique creative edge. You can always hand out stickers at your cash register or toss a couple in with a shipment as a fun way to thank customers for their orders. You can also put stickers on product packaging, strategically place them around town, or make a special set to promote a new product. If you really want to go the extra mile, run a sticker contest through your social media channels. Just make sure you follow all applicable rules on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. The best part about stickers is probably the printing price, which starts at about $80 for 250 items.
  • Letterhead and Envelopes – Branded letterhead, including envelopes, is probably very low on your list of priorities. Nevertheless, company letterhead serves a similar purpose as business cards in that it makes you look more professional. In the world of push button communication, a hand written note on official letterhead will go a long way in building long term relationships with clients. I know I was impressed when Vocus (PR Web) included a personal thank you along with a complimentary copy of their latest marketing guide. Letterhead shows that you care enough about your appearance to pay attention to the finer details. That’s the kind of impression you want to make on everyone you encounter. Letterhead printing prices vary between 1 color and full color starting at approximately $75.00 for 500 sheets of paper. Matching envelopes will run about $77 for the same quantity.
  • Postcards/Flyers – Targeting is one of the biggest drawbacks to online marketing. When you’re promoting Facebook posts or using AdWords, you usually end up paying for tons dead traffic. These platforms may allow for geo-targeting, but precision carries heftier fees. Postcards and flyers can be mailed to homes in your area directly or dropped off at nearby coffee shops, transit centers, and newsstands. The design is key to capturing the audience’s attention. Instead of simply introducing your company, provide an exclusive incentive that the receipts must mention to redeem. Pre-designed business flyers will run you around $15.00 for a set of 50, which is nearly as much as a single click for ads featuring highly competitive keywords.
  • Brochures – Brochures may not be the best fit for every brick and mortar business, but certain industries see strong results with these impressive lead generators. Restaurants, law firms, insurance agencies, real estate agents, and other service based sectors find brochures tell their tales through an elegant presentation. Brochures work well as direct mailers, at trade shows, and make excellent centerpieces for your lobby. Aesthetics drive brochure campaigns, so concentrate on graphics that really speak to your target market. Tailor the content to the buyer i.e. show the prospect what you will do for him or her and write sales-oriented copy. Flesh out the text with compelling headlines and summarize each page with easy to read bullet points. Most importantly, complete the piece with an unmistakable call to action that creates a sense of urgency. Otherwise you’re not going to achieve your goals. Business brochures are about $38 for 50, so it’s best to pay for a professional design to ensure positive ROI.

How to Measure Print ROI

Speaking of ROI, critics charge that print advertising lacks the detailed analytics of online reporting systems. Don’t let the naysayers fool you because there are lots of ways to track a print campaign. You’ll know your ad is working as soon as someone walks in the door holding a flyer or a brochure. Other indicators are spikes in type in or direct traffic to your website. When customers see your URL on printed materials, they tend to go directly to their browsers instead of searching for the business name. Organic searches with your company name go along with this as some people prefer to see a variety of information from several sources.

Are you still skeptical about the value of print media? Ask your questions in the comments below!

About the Author: Katherine Tattersfield is a professional copywriter and social media manager at PrintFirm.com. She fell into online marketing in 2010, and built her career around this dynamic field. She earned her B.A. in Political Science from California State University, Northridge (Summa). When she’s not writing, Katherine enjoys photography, skateboarding, graphic design, and chasing her dog around with her husband. Connect with her on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.

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