Category Archives: Internet Marketing

New Blog: Weekly Marketing Tips for Second Stage Entrepreneurs

Online_marketing_tips_and_tricksWe’re sharpening the focus of content here on Beyond Startup to better help you, second stage entrepreneurs, connect to the resources you need for growth. Now you can chose what content is most important to you:

What to expect next week:

  • On Beyond Startup: Dave Haviland gives your SWOT more swagger.
  • In marketing tips, learn how “Buy now!” trigger finger is hurting your sales, and what to do about it.

Subscribe now, and we’ll chat more later. Happy 4th!

-Catherine

P.S. Check out last weeks marketing blog on sharpening your story, including info on a SE Michigan workshop designed to improve your story and increase your sales.

Oh, Dearest Bounce Rate, How do I Love Thee… NOT!

Do bounce rates matter?If there was one metric I could take out of Google Analytics, it would be Bounce Rate. I am quite certain it has sent more people down fruitless rabbit holes than most other metrics combined.

Bounce Rate is simply not useful when you’re just getting started optimizing your online marketing. Yet “How do I fix my bounce rate?” or “Should I worry about my bounce rate?” are two of the most eternal questions in online marketing.

Granted, I don’t fault anyone who asks, because the system is practically designed to elicit those very questions:

  • Bounce Rates are usually quite high,
  • A high bounce rate evokes a visceral reaction as being “bad”
  • Google has featured the stat as one of only 4 key numbers on the Google Analytics login page.

Considering those factors, t’s quite logical to conclude that Bounce Rate is something that needs to be worked on. My advice? Don’t. If I were making a list of 100 things to work on in your online marketing, it wouldn’t even make the list at 101. Try thinking about it this way:

“Whatever will be, will be. Bounce Rate is irrelevant. It’s all about Conversion Rate.”

 

Handily enough, one of the other four stats featured on your Google Analytics home page is Goal Conversion Rate. Perhaps because this number defaults to “0”, and isn’t named something that “sounds bad” like “bounce”, it gets virtually no attention. [Usability friends, take note – Google Analytics could use a hand here.]

Ultimately, online marketing exists to help make sales. You make more sales when you maximize the micro-transactions that lead up to the sale. The key to maximizing the micro-transactions is measuring them; then taking action to improve the numbers.

“Get your conversion rates to rock, and sales will follow.”

 

The funny thing is, you’d be surprised how many otherwise successful companies haven’t yet bothered to do their conversion rate homework. Lucky for you if they’re in your industry – you just found a way to level up – and maybe even get ahead.

Hopefully you’re sufficiently intrigued, because it will take some work to get the system of measurement set up, and even more work to optimize it. Fortunately, Glenn Gabe wrote a nice article in Search Engine Journal summarizing the steps here: A beginner’s guide to conversion goals in Google Analytics.

Glenn walks you through what to measure in Lesson 1, various goal types in Lesson 2 (Hint: the only one you need to start with is Event Tracking) and touches on analysis in lesson 3. While I’d take a slightly different approach in analysis (his is more of a list of what’s possible vs. how to approach analysis), Lessons 1 & 2 are solid.

As with so much of online marketing, half the battle is knowing what’s important. Even if you never logged into Google Analytics again, going through the process of setting up Conversion Goals will be a useful exercise. Once you understand what people come to your site to do, and turn your focus to helping them achieve their goals as easily as possible, you’re well on the road to online marketing success.

Happy Goal Tracking!

Automating Sales by Nurturing Prospects with HubSpot

hubspot-logoThere are two tools I’m often recommending for blogs – WordPress and HubSpot. I recommend HubSpot in place of WordPress, or in addition to it, if you plan to automate sales by using a lead nurturing system.

Why would I want to create a system for nurturing prospects (aka leads), you ask? Let’s explore a few different angles in Q&A format.

Q: What do you mean by nurturing leads?
A: Most often, I am assisting companies with long sales cycles that typically close offline. Usually there is a lot of “spade work” involved in that type of sales process, and rarely are there enough people or time for the education and follow up desired – especially if the business is intending to scale. A lead nurturing system fills in the gaps, while adding automation and consistency to the sales process. As with all other aspects of online marketing, a system also allows for experimentation, measurement and improvement of the sales process.

Q: Our sales process is so personal / different every time — how could I possibly automate it?
A: Sales automation benefits from a deep understanding of who your customers are, and why they buy. Quite commonly, businesses are so busy growing and adapting that they don’t have the opportunity to to stop and reflect on exactly how their products and services fit in the marketplace. This is where the process of Customer Discovery comes in, ala Steve Blank. That’s the subject for a different blog post, though generally speaking you can think of Customer Discovery as a process designed to find the most easily replicable sales and understand what primary factors went into a prospects decision to buy. The automation process then capitalizes on these learnings.

Q: How do I automate the sales process?
A: Understanding who your prospects are allows you to create targeted “workflows” (i.e. a series of communications) for each type of prospect. Lets say you are recruiting students to a college. In that case, you have several different types of audiences: students, parents, and guidance counselors to name a few. And as you can imagine, the primary messages each of those audiences wants to hear are quite different. While that may seem obvious, few businesses in any industry are taking full advantage of tools like HubSpot to carefully craft online marketing campaigns deeply targeted to each audience – leaving room for companies who do to gain competitive advantage.

Q: What’s a workflow?
A: A workflow in HubSpot is a simply a series of emails that you schedule to be delivered over a period of time. The emails are designed to provide the information your prospects need as best as you can anticipate them, based on your Customer Discovery research. Prospects “enter” a workflow by “triggering” criteria you set, such as filling out a contact form. The trick is getting that contact form filled out in the first place. The good news is, many companies aren’t doing this yet, leaving plenty of opportunity for you.

For example:
Lets pretend I’m a student searching for the “best business degree in the midwest” on Google. (You can follow along by trying the same search and see what happens.) Personally, I’m besieged by ads to “speak to an enrollment coach now!” “request info!” “learn more!” and “enroll now!” However, the search I made was very early in the sales process (aka “Top of Funnel”), and I am not even close to being ready to be coached through enrollment, or to enroll now. (Seems kind of obvious when you look at it with a different lens, doesn’t it?) What I’m trying to do is compare different colleges, and not a single ad responded with “download a comparison of the best business degrees”. So I’ll wind up clicking on the US News Rankings link instead, and every one of those advertisers just lost the opportunity to start a conversation with me.

How could that example have ended differently?
1) Reflect the search query in your ad, such as “compare the best business degrees in the midwest”. 2) Create a custom page on your website (a landing page) that offers the comparison. 3) Offer something of value. Perhaps your custom page has an interactive tool. Perhaps you offer a downloadable guide (with your branding on it, of course.) By offering something of value, you create an opportunity to collect an email. 4) Once you have an email, you can “get to know each other” over time using a carefully crafted workflow. (HubSpot is smart enough to ask different profile questions every time a prospect returns to your site, building a profile over time – the subject for yet another future blog post!) 5) Answer the call when the prospect calls you, ready to take the next step.

In the end, the goal of sales automation with HubSpot is to make your phone ring. When your prospects already “know” you by the time they call, it will be different than the calls you’re receiving now. You’ll be answering late stage questions (at the “Bottom of the Funnel”) about how to engage your company, or how to buy Product X, because the prospect is already educated and ready to buy.

Here’s hoping this helps you get your phone ringing!

What Does Google Say About Your Brand? (You Might Be Surprised…)

What Does Google Say About Your Brand?Funny things happen in live presentations. I’ve been surprised many times by how shocked a business owner is to see the results of a search for their company name that I’m realizing this step is so basic, it’s often overlooked. Have you checked lately what Google has to say about your brand? If not, you might want to take a peek…

One of the surprises is created by Google’s “new” Knowledge Graph (launched in May 2012). For brand searches, the Knowledge Graph compiles information about your company and typically displays a big “box” on the right hand side of a search results page. Information within the box includes pictures, location, hours, reviews, etc.

If what shows up in the box isn’t what you’d choose, the good news is you can update the information by clicking on the “Are you the business owner?” link immediately below the box.

If you’re a new business and no box shows up at all, then your first step is to sign up for a Google Places page.

In both cases, you’ll be able to update business information, share photos, make special offers, and respond to reviews.

Once you’ve updated the information in the Knowledge Graph that dominates the first page of results for your company, then it’s time to take a look at what else shows up. Some typical things you’ll want to clean up:

  • “Dead” social media accounts. Social Media accounts tend to show up near the top of results, and it’s not great for your brand if it hasn’t been updated in months – or years. If you’re not going to use it, close it. You may want to preserve the brand name (so poachers don’t grab it) by posting a “goodbye” message (rather than closing the account) by inviting potential customers to contact you IRL (In Real Life) in a way that fits your brand.
  • Other companies using your brand name. Yes this happens – and depending on how they’re using it, whether it’s legal or not. At the very least, it’s good to be aware and be able to take action if need be.
  • Results that just don’t “fit” your brand name. If the types of results showing up aren’t what you’d like to see as the face of your brand, it’s a good signal that it’s time to do some more deliberate work on your online presence to emphasize what you DO want to be your brand image.

Have fun with Google Places and getting your brand image where you want it to be!

Some How To’s on Setting Up a WordPress Blog (From an SEO Perspective)

wordpress-logoI often recommend WordPress for websites because it’s one of most the ubiquitous platforms, well designed to support your SEO efforts, and generally inexpensive to set up. If you are setting up a WordPress blog on your own, there are a few choices to make, some of which could affect your findability in the long run. These common questions will help you avoid some common setup “gotchas”.

Q: Where do I set up a WordPress site?
A: You have two basic choices: 1) a free WordPress.com site, or 2) paid hosting through an independent hosting provider.

1. Free WordPress.com hosting. There are a few catches to free WordPress.com hosting. If you’re going to want your site to “do” stuff, chances are WordPress.com won’t suffice. This is because you won’t be able to upload plugins (part of the magic of WordPress in the first place) and you won’t have a lot of control over the design (including being stuck with an advertisement for WordPress.com in your footer). For a list of other differences, this article does a nice job: 4 Reasons You Should Never Use WordPress.com (And 4 Reasons You Should).

2. Other (paid) hosting providers. If you know you’ll need more features than WordPress.com provides, then you need to choose a web host. While you could setup WordPress on any web host, you’ll have far fewer headaches by choosing a dedicated WordPress web host. A few WordPress web hosts are listed in the article above; personally, I use WP Engine. Their basic version starts at $29 per month, which includes all the bells and whistles I want: great customer support, automatic site backups nightly (so you can easily roll back to a previous version of your website if a new plugin mucks things up), and they automatically install all WordPress updates, with no charge to me. At one time in my life I provided web hosting, so I know what goes into it – the amount of service I get for $29 per month is amazing.

Q: If I already have a website, do I need to get a new address (e.g. URL) for my WordPress blog?
A: So glad you asked! As a matter of fact, you do not want to get a new URL in most cases. (That would fall under the category of establishing a new brand, which is typically beyond the means of most early/second stage companies.) Instead, you’ll want to use one of these two popular conventions for naming your blog:

  • http://www.MyCoolSite.com/blog -or-
  • http://blog.MyCoolSite.com (for this you would set up what’s called a “subdomain”)

For all practical purposes, choosing one convention over the other is a matter of preference. The reason we want to use your existing site name is to channel all of the “Google Juice” from your blog into your website, helping your existing site, as well as your blog.

Q: What about using a WordPress.com URL such as http://www.MyCoolSite.wordpress.com?
A: As with the question above, you want the “credit” for your great content to benefit your company – not WordPress.com. To achieve that, you’ll want to choose one of the naming conventions above (in the second question). If you use WordPress.com to host your site, you’ll want to set up what’s called “Domain Mapping” to point your free WordPress.com blog to your existing site. There’s a small fee per year for this service ($13 as of this writing), which is absolutely worth it. (If you went with a different hosting provider as discussed in the first question, this doesn’t apply to you.)

Q: Where can I learn more about WordPress SEO?
A: The WordPress.com team has developed a great reference here: http://en.blog.wordpress.com/2013/03/22/seo-on-wordpress-com/

Good luck on your WordPress adventure!

Online Sales Scorecard, Part 2 – Sales With High Variability

Buckets for organizing your salesQ: How do I fit my kind of sales on an online sales scorecard? Putting a number of sales (like 5) doesn’t “fit” my business. My sales are highly varied in size (some are $15k some are $500k) so I could need LOTS of little ones or one BIG one to meet my sales goals in any given month.

A: This is great! You’re already breaking down your sales goals and grouping them in different buckets. Pat yourself on the back for being ahead of the game, and then we’ll talk about why it’s valuable to think in terms of your quantity of sales, and how to manage counting sales in a case like yours.

Why to count quantity of sales

Going back to the old adage “What gets measured, gets done”, we want to measure the number of sales because that’s the number we ultimately want to increase. (At least, that’s the assumption this is based on, as my clients often need to diversify their base of customers as much as they need the dollar value of sales to increase.) In online sales, the thing I can help you influence most directly is the quantity of sales. The amount of those sales is more directly influenced by other factors such as the types of products or services that particular customer is interested in, etc.

How to count quantity of sales

Since you’ve already starting categorizing the different types of sales you need, counting them is a simple matter of measuring them in those same buckets. I’d be careful not to get too ambitious about breaking down sales into every product or service you offer… At this early stage of online sales development, we don’t want to get so detailed with counting that we lose time to grow the numbers.

We want to think as broadly as possible about our sales buckets, which are already framed nicely in the question above as essentially “small sales” and “big sales”. That means all that’s left to do is figure out a break point between those two categories and start measuring sales in those two buckets. There’s no need to sweat getting the breaking point exactly right, as over time you’ll see trends that will tell you if your breaking point is good enough or needs tweaking.

How counting quantity of sales impacts counting leads

Unless your incoming leads obviously fit in one bucket, it’s just fine (in fact, advisable) to track a single number of leads. At the beginning of an online marketing program, we want to measure how many new leads we’re getting into the system, and start increasing that number. Later on, we’ll want to use data we’re collecting in other places (Google Analytics, Google AdWords, HubSpot, etc.) to start influencing who we’re getting as leads – right now, we want to focus on getting more leads, period.

Good luck with your scorecard!

Don’t Miss the Boat! Build an Online Marketing Scorecard (Part 1)

After a number of conversations lately around questions such as “How is my online marketing doing?” and “How do I know if I’m doing a good job?” I think it’s time to introduce the concept of using scorecards to measure your online marketing progress.

A scorecard comes from the practice of Open Book Finance. In essence, it’s simply another version of the old axiom “what gets measured, gets done.” In Open Book Finance, you take the time to figure out what numbers will make an impact on your business if you focus on them, and then report on them in regular team huddles. Your online marketing benefits from the same focus and rigor.

Once you decide to create a scorecard, the next logical question becomes, “What should be on my online marketing scorecard”?

If you are not already collecting data about your online marketing, the most basic place to start is by measuring visits. While I typically wouldn’t keep visits on the scorecard long term, if you don’t have anything, it gives you an easy number to grab from your Google Analytics and get started. I believe it’s more important to get started and build the habit of “keeping score” than to get caught up in finding the “right” metrics, as they will evolve over time anyway.

As I am most often working with B2B clients with long sales cycles, the key metrics I recommend next are usually leads and sales.

How you define a “lead” and a “sale” also tends to evolve over time. In the beginning, start by tracking whatever method you are currently using to receive online leads. Leads often come through an email link, or contact form, which makes adding them to the scorecard a simple matter of counting the submissions received each month. (Bonus points if you are able to track by week vs. month as you start your scorecard.) If some leads also come via phone calls, counting those phone calls would be an eventual goal, but is rarely easy enough to consider incorporating into version 1.0 of your scorecard.

If you are thinking that you have leads coming in at different stages, and want to capture that information – congratulations! You are already ahead of the game. We’ll tackle those kind of details in a later post. If you can start tracking leads at all, that’s a win, and we’ll call it good enough for version 1.0.

What good will tracking leads and sales do, you ask? Well, grasshopper, that right there is the magic of online marketing.

We talked earlier about how what gets measured gets done, right? More to our point, we might say what gets measured gets improved. The more data we have about what influences a sale, the better we can influence further sales. Every single point in your online sales process is a step to be improved, and a step that can ultimately lead to more sales.

Two of the biggest end points in the online sales process are leads and sales, making them key numbers to track. Eventually, you’ll work you way forward in the process to measure where leads came from so you can also start spending more effort in areas that are generating leads, and less effort in areas that aren’t.

Good luck creating your online marketing scorecard!

Q&A: Your favorite marketing resources?

questions and answers - Q&AGot a question about online marketing or second stage companies? Send it in, and you may see your answer posted here!

Q: What are your top 5 books on social media? One on analytics and measurement would be great! Also, are there any marketing newsletters/blogs you regularly read? I’d like to find new sources of education/inspiration.

A: Some of my favorite books on online marketing include:

  • The Science of Marketing (data on what social media techniques are most effective, & when)
  • The B2B Social Media Book (yes, social media works for B2B)
  • Trust Agents (for any online marketing to work, trust is the foundation)
  • Web Analytics 2.0 (for a primer in analytics)
  • Persuading Scientists (if you’re marketing to engineers / other technical professionals)

These and more can be found in the Beyond Startup Bookstore.

Some great online marketing blog resources include:

Based on your interest in analytics and measurement you may also want to check out the following blogs:

Good luck!

Relevance is the New Proximity

woman_holding_business_cardA guy walked into my office yesterday with a business card…

Is that the start of a joke?

No, it’s the start of a true story about how the rules of marketing have changed.

A guy walked into my office yesterday with a business card, to tell me that his services are available if I should need help in any of a half-dozen areas.

I could see why this approach would have worked 20 years ago – without the internet, you had to rely on local relationships and networks to access resources that could help you.  In short, proximity was a driving factor in how people made buying decisions.  So, from a marketing perspective, participating in local networks – the chamber, the country club, school… even visiting offices – was a solid way to find buyers.

But when this guy walked into my office yesterday, question after question fired off in my head…

  • What experience does he have?
  • What’s his style?
  • What can he teach me to make me better?
  • How does he compare to alternatives?

His ability to visit my office in person was far down my list.  Instead, the questions I was asking were all about how relevant his service would be for me.

And it’s noteworthy that although these questions went off in my head, I didn’t want to stop what I was doing and take time to ask him right then.  I wanted a web address to go to if I found a need for his services, and I wanted him to ask me for my email address so he could send me his newsletter and I could start to learn who he is and whether he has anything relevant to say to me.

This situation did not end well.  No web site on his card.  No request for an email address.  I may call him when he can help me, but I think I’m more likely to forget his visit in a few months and start with a search on the web.

Proximity is not dead.  The world, in reality, is not flat – in fact, it’s really big and complicated and local, so there are lots of small communities where people can succeed by serving those around them.  But proximity is not worth what it used to be.

Relevance is the new proximity.  Be relevant first, and if you can also be nearby, you have a leg up on all those others who are relevant and farther away.

[box type=”download”] For more about using relevance in marketing today, check out this post on using relevant keywords in your SEO from Hubspot, and this article on what B2B buyers really want from Act-On.[/box]

Women Entrepreneurs’ Small Business Boot Camp

Women_Entrepreneurs_Small_Business_Boot_Camp

For our followers in Arizona, there’s a great conference coming up tomorrow, February 9th 2013, in Scottsdale. Knowing that Francine Hardaway is speaking, I’m just guessing the rest of the conference is going to be as great as she is. :-)

Seriously though, Francine is speaking on a topic near and dear to my heart – “Why Every Business Should Blog”. Content has been the single most important thing since I started helping companies get found on the web 15 years ago, and blogs are now the key way to share that content (and ensure it is findable by the search engines). As a blogger herself, Francine practices what she preaches. If you’ve been meaning to do more with your website or blog, and you’re in the Phoenix area, go see Francine tomorrow at the Chaparral Suites Resort in Scottsdale. Just $99! Registration.

Other speakers include:

Morning Keynote Speaker – Barbara Lambesis
Achieving business Excellence: Mastering the five C’s of success

Katreena Hays Wood
SuccessCircles- Harnessing the Power of Collaboration

Susan Mershon
9 Easy Strategies for Building Your Prospect List Fast

Susan Ratliff
The Wealthy Exhibitor: How to use tradeshows to market and brand your business

Mary Juetten
Strategies for Protecting Your Intellectual Property

Raleigh Pinskey
101 Ways to Get on Radio, TV and Internet Talk Shows in the Digital Age

Afternoon Keynote Speaker – Debbie Allen
Discover the secrets of Wealth Attraction Branding

Vickie Mullins
The Keys to Crafting the Perfect Marketing Newsletter

Kay Schnizlein & Cristina Whitehawk
Boost Your Sales by Harnessing the Power of Your Mind

Mary Ann Guerra
Value Based Leadership: Your Path to Prosperity

Ali Craig and Diane Aiello
Makeover Magic: Styling steps to Match your Image to your Brand