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What is Content Marketing?

What Is Content Marketing?

         There's digital marketing for the entrepreneur as well as the CMO.

You’ve just heard someone mention “content marketing” and you get the idea you should already know what it is, but you’re too embarrassed to ask anyone. Congratulations, this post is for you. The Content Marketing Institute, an online resource for information on all things content marketing related, defines content marketing thusly:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

The key word here is “valuable.” It’s what changes this definition from one that could describe almost any form of advertising or marketing. You can tell if a piece of content is the sort that could be part of a content marketing campaign if people seek it out if people want to consume it, rather than avoiding it. So was VW’s 2014 “Game Day” commercial, which has been viewed on YouTube almost 18 million times as of the writing of this post, an ad, or content marketing? The answer is it’s both, depending on how it’s received by each individual who is exposed to it. The same will apply to any piece of content marketing you create, depending on whether the recipient received value from it or not. Of course, the goal is to provide as much value from your content marketing to as much of your target audience as possible. At this point, despite this definition and explanation, you’re probably still wondering what exactly content marketing is. We can get more clarity by considering a few examples.

Five Content Marketing Examples

There are as many types of content marketing as there are types of content–far too many to cover here. My intent is to give you an introduction to content marketing and get you thinking like a content marketer so you’ll see the opportunities all around you. Soon you’ll be coming up with 50 content marketing ideas every day. You won’t be able to stop seeing opportunities to create content. Here are five examples to help your mind start percolating.

 
  1. Infographics. These are generally long, vertical graphics that include statistics, charts, graphs, and other information. If you need some examples, here are 197 infographics on the topic of content marketing curated by Michael Schmitz, head of Content Lab at Publicis, Munich. Infographics can be effective in that if one is good it can be passed around social media and posted on websites for years. You can get a professionally designed infographic by hiring a contractor on a site like oDesk or if you want to remove some of the risk you can go with a company like Visua.ly. A decent infographic will usually cost you at least $1,000 to have designed, but can cost several thousand dollars if you are hiring a contractor or agency to include strategy and planning, research, copywriting, and design. There is also the matter of promoting that infographic to bloggers and the media. Or you could set up a board on Pinterest and curate infographics on a topic related to your business. That is also a form of content marketing, and it costs nothing but your time. Hey, it worked for Michael.
  2. Webpages. What’s the difference between a normal webpage and a webpage that is content marketing? Consider The Beginner’s Guide to SEO from Moz, a provider of SEO related tools and resources. This resource offered for free, has been viewed millions of times, bringing in countless customers who otherwise might never have stumbled across Moz and the services they offer. Or take a look at a case study from the design firm Teehan+Lax. Most case studies are boring. Their case studies are fascinating. That’s the difference between simply putting content on your website, and content marketing.
  3. Podcasts. Michael Hyatt, author of the best-selling book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, practices what he preaches. His “This is Your Life” podcast is downloaded 250,000 times each month. As Hyatt elaborates on his blog post 4 Reasons You Should Consider Launching Your Own Podcast, “A podcast gives you visibility in a completely different world—primarily iTunes. I have had scores of new people say they had never heard of me until they stumbled onto me in iTunes.” Hyatt gives valuable information and advice in his podcast–all for free. But that podcast leads to more sales of his books, signups for his courses, and requests for him as a speaker.
  4. Videos. Gary Vaynerchuk is a master of content marketing using online video, just take a look at his YouTube channel. He got his start creating videos to promote his family’s wine store and through those videos and other online marketing he eventually grew it to a $45M empire. Videos and podcasts are a largely untapped form of content marketing because people think it’s expensive and hard. But with the falling cost of professional grade equipment creating high-quality video and audio content is easier than ever. Amateur video content marketing has been used to sell blenders, launch new dental products, and market Hong Kong visa consulting services. What video could you throw together for your company that might change your fortunes overnight? It might be easier than you think.
  5. Books. Like movies, people often think of books as selling themselves, but savvy marketers don’t sell books just to sell books, they sell books as marketing tools. Michael Port’s sales manual Book Yourself Solid is a great read for entrepreneurs, salespeople, and marketers, and while I’m sure Port enjoys selling his book, the book is a tool for driving customers to his coaching and speaking services. Although with self-publishing it’s easier than ever to publish a book, there is still the perception that it’s difficult and that only reputable professionals can publish a business book. Publish your own, and even if people don’t read it you can still use it as a form of content marketing every time you’re introduced as “Author of…”

Those are just a few examples of content marketing. I could also have mentioned white papers, ebooks, apps, public speaking, presentations, and blogs. Entire books have been written on using each of these in content marketing efforts.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

 

Visit the Kairos webiste https://cabinet.kairosplanet.com/register/#111b0e

The Importance of Reach

 

Popular social networks, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter are a good way to increase your reach and communicate with others. An increasing numbers of businesses are also using using these social networks to get their messages across to customers. Inbound marketing such as this is on the rise whilst the response to Outbound Marketing, such as cold calling, bulk emailing and leafleting is on a decline.

 

Inbound marketing is permission-based marketing, for example people join interest groups on social media or subscribe to sites or email. They are generally looking for answers or advice to problems rather than a hard sell. Providing useful information is the key to success.

One of the questions often asked is how to increase your social media reach without spending hours and hours working online and this is where MarketHive can help everyone from the work at home mum's, to small and large business, because it provides not only a social/business network, to share success or ask questions but also methods and tools to maximise your reach. In the shortest possible time.

A short while ago my reach was perhaps 500-1,000, however now it is well over 1,000,000 and I am only working one day a week. Potential customers are now starting to contact me, because they are interested, rather than me having to spend time contacting people who may or may not be interested in what I am doing.

 

David Ogden is an Alpha founder at Markethive

Helping people to turn dreams into reality

 

Visit the Kairos webiste https://cabinet.kairosplanet.com/register/#111b0e

Inbound vs. Outbound: Part 2

Inbound vs. Outbound: Part 2

Why is inbound marketing better than outbound marketing?

Outbound Marketing: With outbound marketing, you are always the footnote. You are forced to stick out or not be seen at all. It makes your relationship with your customer based on attention-grabbing rather than value. If you are at the trade show you can have the best booth with the best giveaway prize, but you are not the keynote speaker. When you are advertising at the Super Bowl you can be the best commercial but the best commercial is merely a footnote to the main event. At best, with outbound marketing you might strive to be the best footnote. Unfortunately, to stick out in traditional advertising you usually have to sacrifice your message for a gimmick and hope that some of the people who see the gimmick look closely enough for the footnote.

Inbound Marketing: With inbound marketing, you are the story. You are the keynote speaker. Inbound marketing is all about creating great content to share with your audience. It’s about telling stories and speaking to your audience where they want to be spoken to, how they want to be spoken to. It’s about delighting them, educating them and engaging them in an open and transparent way. But inbound marketing is much more than simply being the keynote speaker at the trade show; it’s about being the article featured on the cover of the magazine. It’s about being the most valuable player at the Super Bowl. And when done correctly, inbound marketing can open up these amazing distribution channels that make it so you don’t have to wait for the next trade show, the next magazine or next year’s Super Bowl to show off your brand. You can do it on-demand with laser-like precision penetrating a group of your peers and the influencers in your industry.

Linear vs. Holistic

Best inbound marketing linear vs holistic

Outbound Marketing: With outbound marketing, the strategy is very linear. You only have so many marketing mediums to choose from like radio, TV, direct mail, tradeshow, billboard, sponsorships, etc. With this linear strategy, you assess which mediums most accurately address your target market and you start checking the boxes. You begin to attribute higher percentages of your budget to the more effective mediums and leave out the least effective mediums. You create a unified message across all mediums, and your job is done for the period. Come back again next period, sift through the data, reassess the percentages and do it again. Digital marketers can make the mistake of approaching the web with this outbound marketing approach. Social media, check! SEO, check! Email marketing- check!

Inbound Marketing: With inbound marketing, the strategy is holistic. Inbound marketing is a much more complex approach than outbound marketing. It takes simultaneous usage of all the digital channels, continuous strengthening of the website, development of effective content and implementation of measurement tools all in concert with one another to achieve these unparalleled results. Many digital marketers don’t understand the complexities, they stick with the approach that they are comfortable with, the outbound or linear approach applied to the digital world. This approach gets you the traditional results. The difference between digital marketing and inbound marketing are the complexities and the holistic approach.

Inbound marketing is like a holistic lifestyle — in order to carry out an inbound marketing campaign, a website needs to have a strong foundation. It needs to be in good enough shape to carry out strong messaging, a content marketing strategy and be a hub for distribution. It needs to have a blog, it needs to be responsive, it needs to have a call-to-action strategy, it needs to have micro and macro conversions and it needs to have an easy-to-use CMS. Once the website is in shape, the content can be created and the distribution can begin.

Content creation needs to be engaging and meet the objectives of your keyword strategy. The distribution needs to tap into all avenues: RSS-fed email for blog subscribers, social media channels, lead nurture campaigns, etc. But it is not the linear check-box approach of outbound. Inbound requires daily attention with constant analytical review. Like a holistic healthy lifestyle, it requires discipline and fortitude. Sometimes you need more content, sometimes you need more distribution, sometimes more landing pages, sometimes more blog posts, sometimes better conversion rate optimization, sometimes a stronger call-to-action strategy, but it always takes adjustment and strategy.

When a holistic inbound marketing strategy is hitting on all cylinders, your website is rock solid, your distribution is amplified and your distribution channels are feeding the website a steady diet of visitors, where prospects are being converted with the utmost optimization.

Obfuscate vs. Educate

Outbound Marketing: With outbound marketing, the message is inherently obfuscated, duplicitous and full of shit. It has to be. With very little room to work with, whether it be in a newspaper ad or a few seconds on the radio, the goal of outbound marketing has always been to stand out. And in order to do this, to be a clutter buster, the relationship with the client is compromised. Think about it: how else can we get someone to see your mortgage product in a quarter-page ad at the bottom of an article about Obamacare? If you’re lucky enough to know where the ad will appear, you can try to force the message to fit the audience, but this rarely succeeds, and more often than not, you’re trying to message males and females ages zero to one hundred with the same message. It’s all one big hoax. Misdirection. It’s pulling that shiny quarter from behind your ear.

Inbound Marketing: With inbound marketing, the message is specific and useful. Rather than forced upon you, the message is instead offered up on a nice shiny silver platter — ready for you to consume whenever convenient. This message contains quality content that educates and engages. It’s meant to answer a consumer’s question, to fill in the blank. I remember not long ago when marketing professionals would advise their clients to create deep discounts and BIG sales and then advertise them to the masses. The thought process was that more consumers would then thereby seek out the product and the increase in customers made up for the lost product value. The idea that I got paid to offer up that piece of bullshit advice is astonishing. The reality today is that instead of advising our clients to slash prices or advertise on all mediums, we instead encourage them to offer something of even greater value — thought leadership (and if we have to offer discounts, we offer them to our loyal brand ambassadors… a reward for subscribing).

Renting vs. Owning

Outbound Marketing: With outbound marketing, you are always renting your distribution. As most advertisers know, you’re only as good as your last campaign or your last media buy. If it works and sales get a bump, it’s on to the next campaign. If it fails, then jobs and budget are on the line. With an outbound campaign like direct mail, the leads come in for a couple weeks when the mail’s hitting households. Once those leads are processed and the mail is distributed, you need to start again, new message, new distribution.

All marketers know there is only one good tradeshow a year, the rest are all washes. The Super Bowl only comes once a year, the World Cup eventually comes to an end, and the newspaper gets recycled tomorrow. Nothing in outbound marketing is iterative, and there are always costs associated with lead generation. This often makes for a negative ROI, finicky CEOs and an overall high-pressure job.

Inbound Marketing: With inbound marketing, you own your distribution and it depreciates much more like an asset. You build up your subscription-based email list, you earn a top ranking on product-related keywords, you build a following on social media and voilà: you are creating assets. There is a cost of acquisition (creating the content), but it is iterative and it keeps working for you long after you stop the acquisition/creation phase.

For the first time in a marketer’s career, we are creating value that will last beyond our tenure. Create a 20,000-person email list, acquire 50,000 social media fans, rank in the top 10 for 400 plus keywords with a total search volume of 1 million monthly searches and you’ve created a Super Bowl opportunity every month of the year. There are companies (Hubspot) literally lobbying our federal government to allow them to book inbound marketing as an asset instead of an expense. It makes a lot of sense. If you have 10,000 blog posts generating 1,500 leads per month through online searches and you stop posting for a year, that lead volume will likely only diminish slightly. Over the years, you might see some fall-off, but it is a lot more like depreciation of traditional assets. Needless to say, this is the type of marketing that makes CEOs happy and makes heroes out of the marketing department.

Immeasurable vs. Quantifiable

inbound marketing vs outbound marketing - immeasureable vs quantifiable

Outbound Marketing: With outbound marketing, the success of the marketing is hard to measure. We can ask our prospects how they heard of us, but in general, the results are unreliable. This makes for a margin for error that is inherent within this archaic and linear model of marketing. Sure, it’s great to hear that the company call center received a few dozen calls as a result of a targeted marketing effort. It’s also great when someone fills out the “How Did You Hear About Us?” form, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. The margin of error occurs when you assume you know the whole story and assumptions lead to underperforming campaigns. The measurement of outbound marketing lacks complexity and a lack of complexity leads to a lack of results.

Inbound Marketing: With inbound marketing, everything is digital, and everything is quantifiable. There’s no need to assume anything. Complex algorithms track not only if your marketing strategy is effective, but also if it is converting potential customers into full-blown clients. An inbound marketing strategy is highly measurable. It allows for analysis of everything from the ROI of various distribution methods to whether the size and shape of a CTA button is more likely to attract a customer or not.

What I love most about inbound marketing is that it allows for closed-loop reporting. It lets me track someone’s IP address from the second it hits our website; it tells me how that IP address got there and how much time it’s spending on the site. It gives me an in-depth glimpse into the thought process of a consumer — showing me which blog posts they have read, which pages they viewed, whether they entered the site organically or through another avenue like social media, and lead generation metrics. Again, inbound marketing is highly measurable.

Inbound marketing succeeds because it allows you to talk to people who have given you permission, and to tell your story in a holistic, educational way on your own distribution platform, with quantifiable metrics. We know this to be true because we’ve experienced the shift, from our founding days in branding in 2001, through the rise of the digital marketing age and into this new era of inbound marketing. Why is inbound marketing better than outbound marketing? It works. We’ve made it work for us and our clients. Talk to us to see how we can make it work for you.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Visit the Kairos webiste https://cabinet.kairosplanet.com/register/#111b0e

Inbound vs. Outbound: Part 1

Inbound vs. Outbound: Part 1

Why is inbound marketing better than outbound marketing?

As CEO of a digital marketing agency and inbound marketing convert, I’m always talking about the differences between inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing, or, more to the point, “Why is inbound marketing better than outbound marketing?” In case you can’t tell from the header graphic, I’m more partial to the complexities of inbound marketing than the simplicity of outbound marketing. But seriously, I’m pretty sure people keep asking this question because the same answer seems to be given no matter whose blog you read. It’s as if someone (Hubspot and Pardot) wrote a canned answer and it’s being regurgitated without real life experiences and insights into the actual evolution of inbound marketing.

The canned answer usually goes something like this:

Why try to buy customers with traditional “outbound marketing” when consumers aren’t even paying attention?

  • 45% of direct mail never gets opened, 200 million people are on the national Do Not Call Registry
  • 85% of people fast forward through commercials
  • 84% of 25­–35 year-olds are likely to click off a website with excessive advertising
  • You have a better chance of surviving an airplane accident than having someone convert on a banner ad
    Etc., etc., etc. …

Forget about trying to reach a prospect under 40 with outbound marketing. Inbound marketing is different. Inbound marketing works by earning someone’s attention, rather than buying it.

It’s a good enough answer with compelling supporting statistics, but there’s more to inbound marketing than this. In this post I’m going to give you my insights. I’m not just going to harp on how outbound is reaching increasingly diminished audiences and how inbound is more engaging and more accessible — although both statements are very true.

I’m going to speak from experiences that are real. And in the spirit of full disclosure: Vital is a Hubspot Partner Agency, so I could simply repurpose Hubspot’s experiences and playbook like most partner agencies. But we also consider ourselves a Moz shop, with a Moz Pro account, and we develop using the WordPress CMS with the Yoast SEO plug-in (not the Hubspot COS), which means we have some independent experiences and additional tools that frame our perspective.

No experience is more relevant to that perspective than our own inbound transformation. Over the past three years, we went from referring to ourselves as a creative agency (web design, SEO and branding) to wholeheartedly embracing the moniker “inbound marketing agency.” But we weren’t sold inbound — we experienced it. We are our own best inbound marketing case study. In an industry many say is difficult to scale, Vital has experienced 300% growth in revenue and 300% growth in employees, all of which is solely attributed to our inbound and content marketing strategies.

First, let’s define inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing, keeping in mind two aspects of marketing strategies: distribution and message.

Inbound marketing — if Hubspot didn’t coin “inbound marketing,” they have certainly spent a lot of time and money branding it as their own. Here’s how they define it:

“Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.” 

This is a decent definition, if somewhat oversimplified.

The term “inbound” is relatively new. It took Vital a while to embrace the term “inbound” to describe what we were doing with our clients. In the beginning, we referred to it as “SEO” and “content marketing,” and although we weren’t a Hubspot partner agency, we were reading their content. We knew a term was needed for the paradigm shift we were seeing in online marketing, because SEO had fundamentally changed and digital marketing was becoming increasingly more disparate from traditional marketing. Digital distribution made analysis highly measurable and results-oriented, showing that inbound marketing was exponentially more successful than outbound marketing when done correctly.

It’s not just that traditional distribution was so different from digital distribution; the message was changing, too. And the more we were learning about the message, the better the results we were getting. The terms “digital marketing” or “traditional marketing” only spoke to the distribution aspect of the message, and “inbound marketing” included the new message itself. This new message was educational, it involved thought leadership, and was transparent and engaging. So, in the absence of anything better, we drank a little of the Hubspot Kool-Aid and gave in — today we call it inbound marketing, too. But there’s more to inbound marketing than the statistics on the dwindling audience of outbound and the engaged and accessible audience of inbound.

Outbound marketing is inherently obfuscated, duplicitous and full of s***

Outbound marketing, or traditional marketing, is the marketing we grew up with: radio, TV, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, billboards, event sponsorships, etc. The traditional outbound strategy can even be found in such digital distribution forms as email blasts, banner ads, PPC, and SPAM. But the defining qualities of outbound marketing is a message. Outbound marketing’s message, as eloquently stated by Jeff Rosenblum of Questus, “is inherently obfuscated, duplicitous and full of s***” (check out his keynote speech “Can marketing save the world?” at Hubspot’s Inbound ’13).

Outbound is a world of jargon where the loudest and most obnoxious are rewarded. Back in the day, clever was rewarded, but due to the escalating costs and increased competition to reach dwindling audiences, marketers have had to dumb things down to the lowest common denominator to maximize their conversions. So we are left with advertisements that use fluorescent pink, bold print, BIG discounts, exploited women and puppy dogs. How dumb do they think we are? No wonder a paradigm shift in advertising had to take place.

Now that we have defined inbound marketing vs. outbound marketing, here are some of the comparisons we like to use at Vital:

Interruption-based vs. Permission-based

best inbound marketing Interruption vs permission based

Outbound Marketing: Outbound marketing is interruption-based marketing. Its premise is to find a medium with a large following and periodically interrupt that following with disassociated ads. The hope is that with some careful planning and a study of the demographics, a small percentage of the audience will listen to the interruption in the storyline and convert in to a customer. If you can find a large enough following or an above average association, the small percentage of conversions will be worth the investment. Those opportunities are increasingly more like a needle in a haystack.

You find some at these locations: TV, Radio, Direct Mail, Newspaper, Billboards.

Inbound Marketing: Inbound marketing is permission-based marketing. There are two premises here:

  • First, communicate via mediums in which the audience has given you permission to communicate.
  • Second, answer the questions people are asking and proliferate those answers around the web in anticipation of the question.

Both of these premises are permission-based.

In the first method, the audience is smaller in numbers than mass media, but because the audience is inherently more friendly and has already raised their hand to get your messages, the audience converts at a 750% higher rate than interruption-based marketing.

These are some examples: subscription based email marketing, social media, blog subscribers, webinar attendees, etc.

In the second method, the numbers are virtually limitless, since your audience online is infinite. Thanks to targeting keywords, you can answer the questions prospects might be asking about your products and your industry. Since this audience is looking for the answers that you are proliferating throughout the web, the conversion rates are unparalleled.

More examples: SEO, keyword targeting, landing page strategy, content/blog strategy, etc.

An example of permission-based marketing that will put inbound into context is the Yellow Pages. Before websites, subscription-based email and blog subscriptions, the Yellow Pages was one of the few places you could advertise where prospects were actually looking for you and you weren’t interrupting them. Yellow Pages was so successful that companies would name themselves AAA or ABC to be at the top of the listings. In 2001, Vital had a $10,000 a month Yellow Pages marketing budget, buying enhanced listings (bold) and an ad in every book from Boston, MA to Portland, ME.  Why? Because it worked, and there was an undoubted ROI.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

 

Visit the Kairos webiste https://cabinet.kairosplanet.com/register/#111b0e

What can SMarketing do for you

Here is SMarketing

Now that inbound has taken the marketing world by storm, there is considerable discussion about the need for companies to align their sales and marketing teams — and to make sure the sales team is guided by a well-documented, repeatable process designed to yield maximum revenue.

You’ve probably heard this referred to as “smarketing.”

In just a few short years since HubSpot coined the term, smarketing has evolved from “an aspirational idea” to “a necessary reality,” according to Entrepreneur.com.

And yet for many companies — even those that have embraced inbound marketing strategies and the need to align sales and marketing to achieve shared revenue goals — truly effective smarketing remains largely aspirational.

Why?

Sure, there’s been friction between sales and marketing over the years. But now that marketing has an unprecedented ability to turbocharge the process of generating new leads for sales, there should be a bit more harmony, right?

And yet, we’ve all read about — or perhaps even experienced first hand — this all-too-common scenario:

  • Sales blames marketing for leads it claims are subpar.
  • Marketing claims the leads are solid and blames sales for not working them properly.

It’s a major problem. Let’s talk about how to fix it. We’re going to be taking a closer look at the sales process. But first, some background.

Craft a Sales and Marketing Agreement

Companies that are making the commitment to use inbound marketing to grow their business must not only talk the talk about aligning sales and marketing, they must craft an internal protocol (usually called a Service Level Agreement or SLA) between sales marketing teams that clearly spells out how they will walk the walk, together.

Creating an SLA is a foundational element of an optimized inbound marketing program. However, according to HubSpot’s annual “State of Inbound” report, only 25–50% of organizations actually have one.

Talk about a missed opportunity! HubSpot’s research shows that companies whose marketing and sales departments are well-aligned see 20% annual revenue growth, while those that don’t have an SLA see a 4% decline.

Revenue-Growth 9.17.42 AM

With so much revenue on the line, there’s no shortage of reporting on why it’s important to craft and implement a successful SLA. And HubSpot is among those offering a free Service Level Agreement template.

According to sales performance analytics specialist InsightSquared, “An SLA is a contract between (sales and marketing) departments that aligns goals and outlines agreed-upon expectations. Instead of constantly battling over leads, an SLA holds both teams accountable to specific, measurable goals.”

To sum things up, a well-crafted SLA will align sales and marketing using mutually agreed upon definitions, commitments, procedures, and metrics; as well as vigilant documentation, transparency and robust communication.

Simple right?

Just kidding. Crafting a winning SLA is actually:

  1. Quite challenging, yet
  2. Eminently doable, and
  3. Well worth the effort

Working together, the sales and marketing departments construct a mutual agreement that documents:

  • What constitutes a marketing qualified lead (MQL)
  • How many MQLs marketing will generate each month
  • How marketing will hand off qualified leads to sales
  • How sales will handle the lead from there (quick response is considered essential)

Basically, marketing makes a commitment to sales regarding the quantity and quality of leads that are needed to help sales meet their company revenue goals (“we promise to give you lots of great, qualified leads!”), while sales agrees to protocols regarding timely, high-quality follow-up and detailed documentation (“we promise we’ll contact these awesome leads immediately, with verve and élan!”).

Transparency and ongoing communication is essential to this process, and is often augmented by using shared databases and automated systems that allow both sides to track (on customizable “dashboards”) their progress toward those shared goals in real time.

For Best Results, Craft a Lead Disposition Process

OK, so now the leads are rolling in. Sales and marketing are more closely aligned than ever before. What if the company is still falling short of reaching revenue goals? Let’s assume, for the purpose of this discussion, that marketing is meeting its commitment to deliver X number of quality leads, etc.

Successful industry practitioners have learned that for the system to work at maximum effectiveness it is imperative that sales adhere to a carefully crafted “lead disposition” process designed to enforce your company’s agreed-upon smarketing best practices and ensure consistency across the sales force.

The lead disposition process may include:

  • Detailed, repeatable protocols (as well as tools such as email and voicemail templates) for making contact with qualified leads
  • Coordination with marketing to better understand a particular campaign or product offer and how it might help solve a problem for a potential customer
  • Total commitment by sales to document every aspect of the process

“The idea is to apply a consistent set of activities that respond to the prospect’s inquiry or behavior without overwhelming them,” according to blogger/author Matt Heinz, president of Washington-based Heinz Marketing. “An effective (lead) disposition process either reaches the prospect for qualifying, disqualifies them as an inappropriate prospect, or hands them back to marketing for ongoing nurturing until they’re both qualified and ready to buy.”

smarketing

This system also enables sales and marketing to more closely coordinate such key tasks as the ongoing development of buyer personas — basically to share any and all information that helps one or both departments achieve those shared goals.

Measure Your Lead-to-Quote Ratio

It is also very important to closely track the percentage of your leads that turn into quotes. This will help you measure both:

  • The quality of each lead, and
  • The quality of the sales process

This can be done most effectively by modifying your sales process with some (potentially counter-intuitive) addition by subtraction.

A missed opportunity for many companies is that they provide direct emails and phone numbers of sales reps on their website. This can make incoming leads- and how sales is responding to them- much harder to track.

By replacing the sales rep contact info with an easy-to-use “Find A Rep” form, all incoming leads are automatically entered into the CRM (customer relationship management) system.

In a recent case study, we explained how, in addition to adding closed-loop reporting to your lead tracking process, this system can also automatically boost another critical metric- your company’s lead response time.

Leads Should NOT Go Directly to Sales

Are you sending all your leads directly to a salesperson? You shouldn’t be.

Many companies are following the advice of Aaron Ross, founder of Predictable Revenue Inc. and author of the best-selling book (you guessed it) “Predictable Revenue,” who recommends establishing an intermediate role in the sales hierarchy — a sales staffer who is dedicated to lead qualification, called the Market Response Representative (MRR).

The job of the MRR is to qualify leads. The MRR decides which leads get sent off to sales, and which leads require additional nurturing. The job involves following email and voicemail contact protocols to make that initial connection with leads to find out if they are ready to talk business, then deliver only the sales-ready leads to a salesperson to close.

By only sending the hot leads to a salesperson, this lead qualification ensures that sales only works the most promising leads, instead of wasting time on all the leads. Companies who employ a Market Response Representative can dramatically improve their lead-to-quote ratio.

Keep Everyone In The “Loop”

Smarketing also relies on a process called closed-loop reporting, which completes the feedback loop between marketing and sales.

Once in place, an automated closed-loop reporting system gives marketing more information on the status of leads and vital data on which marketing programs are working and which aren’t, while helping sales prioritize leads and increase close rates.

Closed-loop reporting is regarded as so essential to the process of aligning your sales and marketing departments that HubSpot, in its Inbound Certification class entitled “The Power of Smarketing” lists it as one of the five key steps for creating an unstoppable smarketing juggernaut:

smarketing

Closed-loop reporting “connects leads/prospects to the campaigns that created them, allowing you to credit leads to their original sources and judge your campaigns’ impact on ROI. This means that you’ll be able to tell where all of your best and worst leads are coming from, giving you the insight you need to prioritize the outlets and channels that will have the biggest impact on your bottom line,” according to marketing automation specialist Pardot, which offers this graphic to help explain how it works:

Closing Thoughts On Lead Qualification

Hopefully, your inbound marketing machine is running smoothly and you’re generating lots of leads, meaning lots of potential customers for sales to reach out to. But if you rely on your top sales reps to handle all these leads, their efforts will be diluted from what is obviously their most important role — closing.

To recap, for your inbound marketing to achieve optimal results, be sure to align your sales and marketing teams with a Service Level Agreement (SLA), implement closed-loop reporting and consider dedicating an inside sales staffer to “lead qualification,” thus freeing your top closers to focus on closing.

If you have additional tips about effective smarketing, share them in the comments section below! And be sure to drop us a line if you want to talk further about inbound marketing strategy.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Visit the Kairos webiste https://cabinet.kairosplanet.com/register/#111b0e

The Inbound Methodology

The Inbound Methodology

The best way to turn strangers into customers and promoters of your business.

How to Interpret the Graphic

Along the top are the four actions (Attract, Convert, Close, Delight) inbound companies must take in order to obtain visitors, leads, customers, and promoters. Along the bottom are the tools companies use to accomplish these actions. (Note the tools are listed under the action where they first come into play, but that’s not the only place they’re applicable! Several tools, like email, can be essential in several stages of the methodology.)

The Proven Methodology for the Digital Age

Since 2006, inbound marketing has been the most effective marketing method for doing business online. Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be. By aligning the content you publish with your customer’s interests, you naturally attract inbound traffic that you can then convert, close, and delight over time.

What Is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is about using marketing to bring potential customers to you, rather than having your marketing efforts fight for their attention. Sharing is caring and inbound marketing is about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more.

Major Themes

 Content Creation + Distribution

Create targeted content that answers prospects' and customers' basic questions and needs, then share that content far and wide.

Lifecycle Marketing

Promoters don’t just materialize out of thin air: they start off as strangers, visitors, contacts, and customers. Specific marketing actions and tools help to transform those strangers into promoters.

 Personalization

Tailor your content to the wants and needs of the people who are viewing it. As you learn more about your leads over time, you can better personalize your messages to their specific needs.

 Multi-Channel

Inbound marketing is multi-channel by nature because it approaches people where they are, in the channel where they want to interact with you.

 Integration

Content creation, publishing, and analytics tools all work together like a well-oiled machine – allowing you to focus on publishing the right content in the right place at the right time.

Chuck Reynolds
Contributor

Visit the Kairos webiste https://cabinet.kairosplanet.com/register/#111b0e

Lance Armstrong Partners With American Century

 

Lance Armstrong Partners With American Century

American Century Investments is collaborating with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong to inspire financiers to take a more active function in considering a safe and secure monetary future.

Via a multifaceted campaign featuring Armstrong and the motto "Put Your Lance Face On," American Century is encouraging financiers to act and approach their monetary choices with the same focus, drive and decision that helped Armstrong accomplishment over the obstacles in his life.

" Lance has actually utilized his focus, discipline and amazing determination to accomplish fantastic success in sports and to eliminate personal challenges, and we think these exact same qualities make successful investors," stated William M. Lyons, American Century president and chief executive officer. "We also think there are terrific similarities in the engaging individual stories of our founder, Jim Stowers, Jr. and Lance. Both are cancer survivors who are using their success and popularity to enhance the lives of others."

To aid investors in the achievement of their long-term objectives, American Century – in cooperation with the Lance Armstrong Foundation – is introducing the LIVESTRONG Portfolios. American Century is making an annual payment to the Lance Armstrong Foundation based on financial investments in the LIVESTRONG Portfolios.

" I'm really delighted about this new relationship with American Century Investments," Armstrong said. "This is a wonderful match provided my interest in improving lives through better fitness and health and American Century's commitment to monetary well-being. Working with American Century, I hope to encourage and influence financiers to make every monetary decision count."

Contributor
Charles R Juarez Jr

mailme@hostingbycharles.com

Visit the Kairos webiste https://cabinet.kairosplanet.com/register/#111b0e

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