Using Website Grader for Public Relations (PR)

first_img Topics: Public Relations Blog NameWebsite GradeBlog RankTraffic RankTechCrunch9911,784Read/Write Web991118,933Scobleizer95365,90767,943Chris Brogan991,453190,029HubSpot Blog9830,92352,927Above are a couple key stats that I took from Website Grader Reports for a sample of four popular technology-centric blogs – TechCrunch, Read/Write Web, Scobleizer and Chris Brogan.  I also put in the stats for the HubSpot Blog for comparison.  Clearly TechCrunch and Read/Write Web will get you a lot more exposure than any of the others.Traffic Rank – This stat comes from Alexa, and a lower number is better, since a ranking of 1 means you have the most popular site on the entire Internet.Blog Rank – This stat comes from Technorati, and a lower number is better, since a ranking of 1 means you have the most popular blog on the entire Internet.  One note about this, Technorati relies mostly on links for the ranking, and from my experience they are not very good at finding links, and are also not smart enough to know when you have moved your blog to a new URL even if you use accepted practices and use a redirect.  But, this is the best data we have. I was talking to a couple folks who were asking my opinion of something today.  Let’s pretend that your company had some reasonably interesting news to announce in a few weeks and you were working with your PR firms to see what blog to target for getting coverage of the event.How would you decide?  Clearly you need to look at what blog you think you have the best shot at actually getting them to cover your story.  And then you also need to estimate the amount of exposure each blog would give you.Well, I’ll tell you how I would decide which blog would give me the biggest return for my PR dollar/effort – at least in terms of comparing the possible exposure.  You have to make your own estimate about your probability of actually getting each to cover you.  But, to measure the exposure, I would use the Website Grader free SEO / Marketing tool and run a report for all of the blogs that I was considering, and look at a couple key stats to give me a sense of the relative exposure.center_img Originally published Apr 22, 2008 10:53:00 AM, updated March 21 2013 Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

Picking a Twitter Username? Don’t Use Numbers or Underscores.

first_img Twitter Profile Topics: Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Originally published Apr 16, 2009 8:36:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Many geeks remember the days of AOL and AIM when all the good usernames were taken so everyone had to get creative with their screen names. Long strings of numbers and underscores were the norm.A different standard has emerged on Twitter. Many successful users use their first and last names concatenated into one long string. Unfortunately, some people find their first and last name taken (especially people with common names), and resort to a name with underscores and numbers.So, while my Twitter handle is @danzarrella, the next Dan Zarrella to join Twitter might pick @dan_zarrella.This is a bad idea, particularly if you’re trying to build an account with lots of followers.Using data from Twitter Grader (a database with close to 2 million Twitter users), I took a look at the relationship between the presence of underscores and numbers in usernames and average follower numbers.The results are pretty much what you’d expect, if only surprising in how clear-cut they are.The takeaway is obvious: Don’t use numbers or underscores in your username. last_img read more

The Online Anatomy of a Spreading Story

first_imgLast night, U.S. forces killed “the most wanted face of terrorism,” Osama bin Laden. However, this is not a political blog post or a commentary on the event. Instead, it is an examination of how technology has drastically changed the word-of-mouth spread of information. Traditional media, TV and print newspapers, couldn’t keep up with the story as fast as new, social media could draw the evolving picture. This dynamic teaches important marketing lessons about the power of self-publishing, diffusion of news and the future of information gathering. Twitter: Where the News First Leaked As you might have already learned, the news about Bin Laden’s death first leaked on Twitter. The White House communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, announced on Twitter that the President of the United States will address the nation at 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, May 1. This act demonstrates the power of self-publishing tools and the subduing power of media as the messenger. The marketing takeaway is that today, you don’t need to knock on the door of journalists if you want to get the word out about something. If you build a large following, you can publish a story yourself and expect the press to come to you. Facebook: How the News Spread Don’t know about you, but I first learned about the story from Facebook. The status updates of all my friends had started to reflect the evolving story. They were leaving comments and heatedly discussing the news. In fact, Adam Ostrow wrote that within hours of the reported death, ‘a Facebook Page titled “Osama Bin Laden is DEAD” had already accumulated more than 150,000 ‘likes.’’Who you learn from hasn’t changed, it is still friends and family. But today, they won’t make a phone call to spread the news–they might post it on Facebook and expect to see a discussion take place. The marketing takeaway here is to realize the increasing potential of the Facebook news feed in delivering information and prompting action. Online Video: Where the Announcement Took Place Lots of people watched Obama’s speech on their televisions. But if you happened to learn about it online, you could have as well gone to www.whitehouse.gov and watched the live streaming of the announcement there. CitizenTube, YouTube’s channel on news and politics, was also broadcasting the President’s live address. In other words, the video was one click away from your current view.From start to finish, the story progressed on the Web. One could learn everything there was about it without turning the TV on. The virtual ecosystem carried the news from it’s leak on Twitter, to its spreading on other social media channels, to the actual video announcement and to the post-analysis on news sites and blogs. What has this event taught you about the spread of information online? Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Newsjacking Topics: Originally published May 2, 2011 12:01:00 PM, updated October 20 2016last_img read more

What a Top-Notch Lead Management Program Looks Like

first_img Originally published Jan 27, 2012 3:45:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 Lead Nurturing Walk into any active sales room, and it’s easy to tell how time-intensive most sales operations are. To make the hours spent worthwhile, it’s important to ensure that your sales team is only talking to the most qualified leads. Lead management is a strategy and set of corresponding tools that help companies filter out unqualified leads and better understand the buying cycle of their good leads. When executed well, lead management makes your marketing team more effective, your sales team more precise, and your leads happier. Lead management programs vary from company to company, but here are several important components to consider.  Prospect Intelligence For B2B companies, lead management should actually begin before a lead ever fills out a form. Individual website visitors who are still in the browsing stage can actually tell you a great deal about what content is attracting them to your company. By using prospect tracking software , which reports on the IP address associated with site visitors, you can understand which types of companies are visiting your site. Connecting company activity on your site with a certain type of content or topic can help you better prepare your sales team for when a lead from that company later converts on your site.    Lead Intelligence When someone converts on your website by completing a form or downloading a piece of content, the relationship with that lead begins. By using analytics  to keep tabs of the content leads view and the interactions they have with your company, you can build a more relevant, personalized experience for each lead. Lead intelligence begins by developing a profile for your lead with the information provided and creating a place to store all future interactions and data on that lead. After you have that profile created, you can begin to segment your leads based on their interests and send emails and other communications that are targeted and relevant to them. Lead Scoring The good news about inbound marketing is that it can attract high volumes of leads. The challenge then becomes, how do you separate the good, quality leads from the people who are just looking around? That’s where lead scoring comes in. With lead scoring , you can attach values to each of your leads based on their professional information and the behavior they’ve displayed on your website.  Get started by meeting with your sales team and coming to an agreement about what makes a quality lead. What types of pages viewed or content downloaded indicate that the lead is getting close to a decision point?  What lead activities do you want to prioritize? After you’ve come to an agreement on quality indicators, you can use a lead scoring app like HubSpot’s Lead Grader to assign custom scores to each activity so your most qualified leads float to the top. Customer Relationship Management Another key component of successful lead management is the integration of your marketing software and your customer relationship management (CRM) software. Too often, there is a divide between marketing efforts and the revenue that those efforts drive. Connecting your marketing software to your CRM system enables you to bridge that gap and get a complete view of your marketing funnel, from the campaigns and channels that first brought customers into to your company to their most recent point of sale. Marketers call this kind of end-to-end view “closed-loop reporting.” Closed-loop reporting can help you understand which marketing efforts resulted in actual purchases so you know how to invest your marketing budget more strategically. To get started, make sure you have a marketing platform and a CRM system that have the ability to integrate through APIs.   Lead Nurturing Lead nurturing is all about understanding the nuances of your leads’ timing and needs. Basic lead nurturing involves a tightly connected series of emails with a coherent purpose and an abundance of useful, relevant content. Lead nurturing campaigns are typically kicked off in a scheduled cadence after someone takes a specific action on your site, like requesting a trial or signing up for a webinar, and they reflect the action taken. Alternately,  behavior-based lead nurturing , often called marketing automation , enables a company to trigger communications based on real-time customer behavior. Warming leads up over time through helpful, educational emails will help them get to a decision point more quickly. To set up your first lead nurturing campaign, think about the typical buying cycle of your leads. Design related emails that address the goals of each of these stages (for example: education, comparison shopping, cost-assessment). Remember, lead nurturing emails should be designed to help your leads, not push an immediate sale. Use a lead nurturing program to time these communications appropriately throughout the buying cycle.  The Complete Picture Customer relationships take time. Research from Gleanster suggests that even when it comes to qualified leads, more than 50% aren’t ready to buy on the day they first convert on your site . You’ve put a lot of work into attracting leads, and often, it’s how you manage them after the conversion that will determine if your time was well spent.  The power of lead management comes in adapting your communications to reflect a comprehensive understanding of your leads’ needs and timeline so that when you hand them over to your sales team, all parties are informed and ready to move forward. To learn more about how to get started with lead management, download our free ebook, Lead Management Made Simple . Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Topics:last_img read more

Foursquare Launches ‘Promoted Updates,’ PPC for Local Businesses

first_img Topics: Foursquare Originally published Jul 25, 2012 4:30:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 Foursquare explains that the algorithms used to power the ‘Explore’ tab’s normally personalized recommendations are the same ones Foursquare uses to determine which Promoted Updates get delivered to each user. These Promoted Updates could come from businesses that are on the user’s lists, places their Foursquare friends have visited or liked, or places a user might want to check out depending on their location or the time of day.For now, Foursquare is testing Promoted Updates with a group of pilot partners including both local businesses and nationwide brands such as Best Buy, Gap, Walgreens, and Dave & Buster’s. Over the upcoming months, Foursquare will be tracking how businesses use them and how users interact with them in order to make improvements, eventually rolling the feature out to all businesses on Foursquare. Companies looking to learn more about Promoted Updates can sign up using this form.We don’t know anything more about Promoted Updates or how much they cost, but one could assume that, since Foursquare likens them to Google AdWords, payment is likely pay-per-click style, based on keyword bids. And if you’re a business that has had success with location-based social media promotions in the past, it might be worth it to test Promoted Updates once they’re more widely available.What do you think about Promoted Updates? Will you experiment with them for your business? Looks like Foursquare has been a busy bee lately, announcing the second of two new features in just one week’s time. Today, the location-based social network is launching ‘Promoted Updates,’ similar in nature to the “Promoted” features we’ve seen from Facebook and Twitter.But because we never covered Foursquare’s other launch of ‘Local Updates’ last week, let’s do a quick summary before we move onto Foursquare’s latest announcement.What Are Local Updates?Local Updates allows businesses to share updates with the Foursquare users who frequent their business. So if a user has checked in to a business often — or liked it — they’ll be able to access the latest updates from that business via their ‘Friends’ tab whenever they’re in the same city as the establishment. This enables users to get the latest news from places where they’re loyal customers about things like new specials, products, or other promos. It also enables businesses to better connect with and cater to the customers that repeatedly bring them business. Local Updates is now available to all companies that have claimed their business on Foursquare. What Are Promoted Updates?Okay, now that we’ve gotten last week’s update out of the way, let’s talk about Foursquare’s latest announcement — Promoted Updates.Whereas Local Updates provide Foursquare users with a better way to keep up with the updates from businesses they already like, Promoted Updates help them discover new places. These updates look similar to Local Updates, except they can be found in Foursquare users’ ‘Explore’ tab, and businesses have to pay to promote them there. Get it? ‘Promoted Updates’? These updates can include anything from a money-saving special, news about a new product line, or a photo of a restaurant’s latest menu item.How Promoted Updates WorkFoursquare compares the way Promoted Updates work to the way Google AdWords works. In other words, if I searched for “Mexican food” in Google, I might see an ad for a Mexican restaurant in the PPC results. In Foursquare, similarly, searching for “Mexican food” in the ‘Explore’ tab might result in a Promoted Update from a local Mexican restaurant about its new summer menu items. Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

8 Ways to Market Your Seasonal Business During the Off-Season

first_imgWhether you own an ice-cream shop on the Jersey shore, a ski shop in the mountains of Colorado, or a landscaping business in central Minnesota, you’ve experienced the challenges of the dreaded off-season. After your peak season ends, a stretch of slow business begins, and your website and store front become ghost towns. Plus, who’s to say this season’s customers will remember you when the next season rolls around? It’s a bummer of a thought, to be sure.But don’t let the seasonal slumps get you down! Instead of sitting around and waiting for your season to start again, use this valuable time for marketing! That’s right, seasonal marketers that think long-term and use their off-season time wisely can help tee their businesses up for smashing successes when peak season begins again. Here’s what you should be thinking about to keep your business on people’s minds year round.Grow Your Database While the Season’s Still HotDuring your peak season, your website and location (if you have one) will be abuzz. So while you’re doing business as usual — or running around like a chicken with your head cut off, as the case may be — be cognizant of the opportunity you have right now to grow your database. You know, while everyone is around. Getting a strong list of past customers and people who’ve expressed interest in your business will enable you to stay top of mind during the off-season, and convert new leads into customers during your next season.Make sure your website has plenty of calls-to-action (CTAs) for people to stay in touch with you by subscribing to an email list or a blog, and even some offers that they can redeem for staying a loyal customer of yours, off-season or not. Some ideal places for these CTAs are your blog, your homepage, your product/service pages, your resource center, and in your social profiles. Remember, growing this list is so much easier when you have plenty of traffic, so while it may seem daunting to add database growth to your ever-expanding list of peak season to-dos, your off-season success hinges on your productivity during this time.Gather Customer ReviewsDuring your entire season, but particularly as your season comes to an end (and heck, even after it has wrapped up entirely), you should be asking your customers to review your products or services. By gathering customer stories and testimonials when they’re still fresh, you’ll have reviews that are more detailed and personal that’ll resonate with off-season readers.Think about it — imagine waiting for the train on a blistery, snowy day, and thinking about the summer when you were waiting for this exact same train with a delicious sno-cone from Annie’s Summer Shack. With a sense of nostalgia a-brewin’, you Google Annie’s Summer Shack to see what they’re up to during the off-season, and to figure out when they’ll be open again for sno-cone goodness. And up pops, hopefully, a ton of nostalgia-inducing reviews from happy patrons that have enjoyed Annie’s fare in years past.That’s the kind of feeling you want to elicit from customers during the off-season, and the best way to get it is through customer reviews! Use those stories in your off-season email marketing, blog posts, website pages, and social media updates — in all your off-season promotions. For an extra boost, ask customers to submit pictures and videos from their experience with your business, or you could even ask to video them for a case study. The more raw and interesting content you can get from your customers, the better your off-season marketing campaigns will be.If you’d like more help collecting awesome online reviews, read this blog post that will walk you through the process.Continue Creating Remarkable Content … With an Off-Season TwistOff-season or not, it’s still incumbent on you to produce remarkable content. But if you’re an off-season marketer, try to find a way to do it with an appropriate off-season twist. For instance, let’s say you run a berry farm. Winter months could be tough. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still create compelling content that will speak to your target persona! Here are some blog posts or marketing offers you could create even during the chilly months:10 Recipes That Actually Taste Better With Frozen Berries Than Fresh OnesHow to Can and Jar Fruit to Last All YearHow to Make a Healthy Smoothie With Frozen Berries7 Outdoor Summer Activities to Book for Your Family Right Now (Before It’s Too Late!)5 Foods You Could Be Growing, Even During the Winter3 Fruits That Can Withstand Winter WindsJust because your target audience can’t utilize your products or services right this very minute, doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from and be interested in the information you have to give. If you create helpful content of this nature that speaks to your target persona, you’ll build solid relationships via your content that will sustain during the off-season, and bridge into your peak season … bringing in not only familiar faces, but new faces with whom you’ve gained a following because of your fantastic content.Stay Social All YearYour customers don’t vaporize during the off-season. It’s important to stay in contact with leads and past customers throughout the entire year. Consider social media your virtual, year-round storefront — because even if your audience isn’t chillin’ outside your store or visiting your website, they are certainly perusing their social media feeds! That means your business should consider leveraging Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, the whoooole shebang to stay top of mind year-round. You should be using this real estate to offer special discounts, gather (and publish) reviews and testimonials, share the new content you’re publishing, run contests and polls, and generate hype for the next season. Here, just take a look at Boston Duck Tour’s Twitter presence to get an idea of the mix of content you could be sharing, even when you’re temporarily closed for business.They’re publishing the kind of content that their target persona will want to read — stuff about Boston — and preparing for their new season by generating hype and even doing a little recruiting! Remember, people are planning ahead earlier than ever nowadays for purchases, trips, and activities. If you’re in front of people’s eyeballs months in advance, you could be the one who sparks their interest in that summer trip to Boston they forgot they wanted to plan … and might even be that first pit stop they make when they land!Stay In Touch Via Email, TooBut do so respectfully. Remember, if it’s the off-season, so it’s less likely (or, depending on your business, totally impossible) for your recipients to engage with you as a customer. That means your email communications will probably be less frequent than they would be during your peak season — and that’s okay. Just be sure you’re delivering high-value content to their inboxes that tees you up for success when you’re back in full swing. Here’s a great example of an off-season business using email to keep in touch that my coworker received in her inbox recently:What’s great about this email is that it serves as a reminder to check in with their content, and to connect with them socially — and even displays the value of that connection by showcasing their Way Back Wednesday content. This is a fantastic way to establish loyalty with your current audience, and help grow your audience during the off-season.Generate Off-Season HypeJust because people can’t snowshoe in the summer, or you have a smaller audience looking to wear your trendy sun hats in the dead of winter, doesn’t mean you can’t get people excited about your business. When it’s 90 degrees out and people are hiding in the shade dreaming of cooler days, what better time to kick off a snowshoe sale? And on the flip side, I challenge you to find anyone embroiled in a blistery snow storm that isn’t trudging through the slush, thinking of when it’ll be warm enough to have to pop on one of your trendy sun hats. If your content plays upon the excitement of things to come — by providing early bird offers, off-season discounts, that sort of thing — you can bet you’ll have an audience excitedly planning for the time they can take advantage of your products and services again! Differentiate Yourself Within a Super-Niche MarketIn order to keep things steady during your slower months, consider focusing on a niche market with whom your products or services could be a huge benefit. For example, if you run a bakery that experiences frequent peaks and valleys throughout the year, try marketing yourself to a gluten-free or sugar-free crowd. Specializing with these markets will give you an edge that not as many competitors can leverage, making you the stand-out business in your industry and giving that niche market even more reason to come and see you.This doesn’t mean you start marketing yourself as a purveyor of sugar- and gluten-free products exclusively, but it does mean you start blogging about some of the tricks of the trade, sharing social media updates with pictures of delicious sugar-and gluten-free treats, pinning pictures of custom birthday cakes you’ve done for customers with special dietary needs, and emailing special offers for people with gluten- and sugar-free diets to come in for a special tasting event just for them.Offer Sales and Discounts to Locals During Slow TimesLocals deserve a lot of love, especially when they’re living in areas that get periodically overrun with tourists. When your leaf peepers, skiers, or beach bums pack up and leave town, you’ll have to rely on the locals to keep your business afloat. By offering discounts to people in the area, you can still bring in some business after the crowds disperse — and maintain a good relationship with the folks that are there to support you throughout the entire year.For example, Big Bottom Market, a specialty food story in Guerneville, California survives their slow months of October through April by adapting their marketing efforts to target local residents instead of seasonal tourists. To stay within the average local resident’s budget, they revamp their wine inventory by marking down high-priced wines and then restocking with wines around $12-$15 instead of the usual $30-$40 wine sold during their tourist season. They also market directly to the Guerneville residents by creating a new sandwich each month for an outstanding local resident, and holding a Thursday Community Day where everything in the store is 15% off. Focusing on your local community during your off-season is vital; if your locals embrace and support your business, your slow months are sure to be less of a struggle.What other tips do you have for seasonal marketers? Share your advice in the comments!Image credit: weelakeo Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Originally published Feb 4, 2013 5:00:00 PM, updated October 20 2016 Topics: Nonprofit Marketinglast_img read more

18 Email Marketing Stats That’ll Make You Better at Your Job

first_imgDid you know that marketers sent over 838 billion emails in 2013? That’s almost three times the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. I hope I’m not the only one who thinks that statistic is mind-blowing.In a close second to the number of emails sent this year and the total number of stars in our galaxy is the amount of data out there on email marketing. With so many resources, oftentimes in the form of extensive reports, it can be hard to find the time to keep track of important industry stats and information.As a fellow email marketer, I know what types of stats you’re looking out for: numbers on email engagement and frequency, mobile optimization (hint: if you’re one of the 89% of marketers not optimizing email for mobile, you’re not properly reaching 48% of your list), and, of course, ROI.Remember: Data is power. That’s why I’ve put together this list of essential email marketing stats every marketer should know.18 Stats Email Marketers Ought to Know1) As of 2013, there are 3.6 billion email accounts (Radicati). (Tweet This Stat!)2) 54% of emails sent by businesses are marketing messages (Epsilon). (Tweet This Stat!)3) 838 billion marketing messages have been sent in 2013 (Forrester). (Tweet This Stat!)4) 91% of consumers check their email daily (ExactTarget). (Tweet This Stat!)5) 74% of consumers prefer to receive commercial communications via email (Merkle). (Tweet This Stat!)6) The average clickthrough rate for B2B marketing emails in Q2 2013 was 1.7% (Epsilon). (Tweet This Stat!)7) 60% of marketers believe email marketing produces positive ROI (Marketing Sherpa). (Tweet This Stat!)8) 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a result of an email marketing message (Direct Marketing Association). (Tweet This Stat!)9) Email marketing has an ROI of 4,300% (Direct Marketing Association). (Tweet This Stat!)10) 59% of companies are integrating email and social channels together (eConsultancy). (Tweet This Stat!)11) 76% of email opens occur in the first two days after an email is sent (Alchemy Worx). (Tweet This Stat!)12) 48% of emails are opened on mobile devices (Litmus). (Tweet This Stat!)13) Only 11% of emails are optimized for mobile (Equinux). (Tweet This Stat!)14) 69% of mobile users delete emails that aren’t optimized for mobile (Litmus). (Tweet This Stat!)15) Gmail opens have decreased by 27% since May (Litmus). (Tweet This Stat!)16) 25% of emails are opened on iPhones (Email Client Market Share). (Tweet This Stat!)17) Suppressing anyone in your list who hasn’t engaged with your emails in over a year increases your deliverability rate by 3-5% immediately (HubSpot). (Tweet This Stat!)18) 17% of marketers don’t track or analyze email metrics for their organization (MEC Labs). (Tweet This Stat!)These stats tell a compelling story: that email is still the preferred mode of communication for the majority of consumers, is still biggest driver of new leads, has an astronomical ROI, and should clearly be one of your marketing team’s top priorities for 2014.Happy email marketing! Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Email Marketing Metrics Topics: Originally published Dec 5, 2013 2:00:00 PM, updated August 29 2017last_img read more

What Great Stories Smell Like: Inside Microsoft Stories’ Editorial Process

first_img Originally published Nov 7, 2014 6:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Since their team is so small, they’ve continued to be nimble. Though they’ve now gotten more internal buy-in and developed partnerships with external shops to get pieces ready to publish, the whole team gets their hands dirty in every stage of the production process. Now, let’s get into what that process actually looks like.What Goes Into a Microsoft Story?The Microsoft Stories team doesn’t think of themselves as creating content for a typical corporate blog. Instead, they compare Stories to digital magazines like Wired — and in the magazine world, editorial processes are much different than those for your typical corporate blog.Unlike a company blog, Microsoft Stories has long lead times on posts — typically four to eight weeks from the concepting stage to the time they hit “publish.” For the in-depth, interactive pieces, it can go even longer than that. For example, “The Keys to the Kingdom,” a story inspired by the Microsoft app Project Spark, was supposed to take three or four months — but it ended up taking a full six because the Project Spark product launch got delayed.Warnick tells us this pace plays a significant role in their ability to produce the high quality content they want to publish. “I’ve been a blogger before, too, where something gets a quick, second glance before going into the universe,” she says. “Microsoft’s editorial process is definitely more hand-crafted than that because we are trying to create something that is different, excellent, and has lasting value.”Because of longer lead times on stories, the team can focus on finding that perfect person to interview at Microsoft. Yep, that’s right: The software company doesn’t want to spend time talking about their shiny new products.”Product makes a pretty crappy story,” says Tamblyn. “By leading with the story behind the product, you get a far more interesting narrative that people can wrap their arms around.”Often, these stories involve the people who created the product. That’s what happened with the Project Spark piece. Warnick and Wiens spent an hour with the team who created the product way back in March to discuss their vision for the game. “That meeting sent me spinning,” said Warnick. “I thought about it the whole way home and for the next few weeks.” The meeting immediately reminded her of a choose-your-own-adventure books she read as a kid — so she set out to tell the story through that format. Six months later, “The Keys to the Kingdom” became a reality.The team also features stories of people who are using Microsoft products in amazing ways. Wiens tells me about one of his favorite stories that falls in this camp: a piece about former Saints player, Steve Gleason. Steve has ALS and uses Microsoft technology to guide his wheelchair using his eyes. “It’s incredible, inspiring, and humbling to see someone using our technology in a way like that,” says Wiens. “For us, it’s about what the technology enables someone to do, much more than why it’s a marvel in its own right.”When they’re building these stories about interesting people inside and outside Microsoft, they have two rules about length:1) There is no set length; just make the story great. “This means that we can write a 300-word piece or something that is 7,000 words,” says Tamblyn. “It all starts with great content. If the content isn’t great, no one is going to read it.”2) Use the “Two Minute Rule” to make longer stories accessible. Tamblyn describes this rule as, “For every two minutes of reading time, you need to have something in that story that helps immerse the reader in that story, rather than distract. It’s not a trick. I think anyone can read text for about two minutes before your mind starts to wander. If there’s a way to get you further immersed in the story, that’s a good thing.”You’ll notice that there isn’t a third rule: Drive sales for new products and releases. Tamblyn describes “The Keys to the Kingdom” as the first piece with a direct product tie-in — the story entirely about the game and also featured a call-to-action at the end that links to the game’s download page. “That’s probably one of the first long-form stories where there’s been a very, very clear call-to-action at the end of the story to go and download something,” he says. “To a certain extent, it’s an approach we typically don’t do, because we want to make sure that first and foremost we’re telling a good story. It’s not like we’re trying to deceive or anything like that, but we want to make sure the story can stand on its own.”What made Project Spark different? Tamblyn describes the CTA as a logical progression of the story. “It almost felt logical that you’d say, ‘Hey, I want to go get a look at this thing,’ after reading that story,” he says. “It was much more authentic to take this approach with this story, but we haven’t done it a lot in the past. Our primary goal with this piece was to make sure people had a very clear understand of what Project Spark was. A fringe benefit is if someone goes and downloads — that’s fantastic, but it’s absolutely not our primary goal.”For many businesses, not having leads and revenue in mind when creating content seems outlandish — Microsoft judges success a little differently.What Makes a Microsoft Story Successful?While most business bloggers would look to views, leads, customers, and generated revenue to assess whether they’ve created an awesome piece of content, Microsoft doesn’t care so much for those metrics. Yes — they do track lots of metrics like views and engagement, but that’s not the only thing they use to define a piece as “good.”So what do they use then? Well, it’s all about their readers — and their readers’ readers. Wiens says, “We’re very passionate about telling great stories. I think we have a great sense of whether we’re telling a great story, divorced of any of the usual metrics that the web runs on (for better or for worse). So we ask ourselves: Did we tell a great story? Did we get across the heart of this? Did we give people something interesting to experience? Because that’s what we’re trying to do: Take people inside and let people experience these stories they wouldn’t otherwise get to experience.”Harkening back to the original reason they started writing Stories, Tamblyn also uses press pick-ups as a supplementary guide to tell if stories are great. “Seeing your story is that kind of a success metric,” he says to me. “It’s the people who ultimately write about the stories we’ve created, it feels like a much better measure than ‘How many people read this story?’ or ‘What was your Twitter amplification?’ It’s far more important that people read it and enjoy it.”Besides focusing on traditional metrics, most other corporate content teams would be obsessed with scaling their efforts. For Microsoft Stories, that’s not the case.Because they are just one part of the Microsoft content team, they can fall back on their other teammates to help them scale. The Microsoft News center and social media channels put out shorter-form content to address more traditional metrics, leaving Stories to focus on developing new, interactive, in-depth pieces of content.”Slowly but surely, we’re starting to build a number of different mediums through which we can tell stories,” says Tamblyn. “It’s very very similar to a digital magazine — I think that’s ultimately our goal. We’re not going to be the BuzzFeed. That’s not the business we’re in. That has it’s place as well — it’s very very valuable content, but it’s not for us.”What the Future Looks LikeJust because they’re not focused on scaling doesn’t mean they don’t care about experimenting and evolving their content. When asked what things they would love to do differently, Warnick says that her team would love to develop new tools for storytelling.”We’ve had a lot of success with long-form narrative and that’s been really fun,” she says. “I think in our tinkering, we’d love to find other new and creative ways of storytelling, whether that’s with video, social media, or very short written stories. I have an endless wonder for finding new ways to tell stories and capture people’s imaginations. That’s what I would do: venture out into the unknown.”And they’ve certainly tried to think on what the unknown is, and how they can get there. When asked a similar question on what they’d like to do next, Tamblyn has a (in his words) “batshit crazy” dream: appealing to all of the human senses to tell more compelling, interactive pieces. “When I think about the stories I read when I was a child, not only do I remember the feeling of the paper I was reading the stories on, but I also remember the smell of the room that my grandparents used to tell me the story in,” he says. “Any really great story — they’re experiences that you remember. This is why I say it’s really crazy: The more we can really use every single sense — not just sight, not just hearing, but smell and taste, too — I think we get to a place where we’re doing something that’s quite amazing.”Tamblyn says that he’s seen this happen already in Warnick’s piece on Project Spark. Warnick made an allusion to the song “Waterfall” by hip hop and R&B group TLC. Since then, hearing that song has made him remember the piece. “You have that mental model that takes you back to a particular place or time with everything you do,” he says. “The more we can work out if there’s a way to recreate those types of experiences so that what people remember from our stories isn’t ‘hey this is how it looked on a webpage,’ but ‘this is how this story made me feel,’ the better.”To create a story like that, one idea Warnick and Tamblyn have is to do a musical. Yes, you read that correctly. While the idea may not ever come to fruition, the process to come up with the idea opens doors to other content opportunities.”I want to make sure we take the time and the space to think of wild ass crazy stuff like that,” Tamblyn says. “Now, it’s not likely we’re going to produce the next Cats tomorrow, but at least if we start thinking in those terms, it allows us to get to a place where we can be as creative as we possibly can.”And it seems like the team is excited to use that creative freedom to tackle new and exciting stories. “If there’s any format people think can’t be used to tell a story about Microsoft, I want to find a way to do it,” says Warnick. “People think that cake decoration or interpretive dance or a musical can’t be used to tell a Microsoft Story — I want to find a way to prove them wrong.”  Content Creation Crushes are weird sometimes. Even though lots of people tend to have a “type,” sometimes a crush just doesn’t fit that mold. It’s hard to explain: You’re just drawn to that other person, regardless of all the times you’ve spent fixating on your “type.”Content crushes are no different. Last month, we published a post on the top company blogs HubSpot’s content was crushin’ on, and one addition to the list completely surprised me: Microsoft Stories.Somehow, this relatively geeky, old-school company was creating beautiful, interactive, and inspiring branded content. Most recently, they published an interactive, create-your-own-adventure story to announce the release of a new Xbox video game — and it completely blew away my team.Luckily, with content crushes, it’s a little easier to get to the bottom of things. We had the pleasure of sitting down with the folks who run Microsoft Stories to learn about how their team was formed, what their days are like, what they think about when developing and measuring quality content, and what they’re hoping to do in the future for Microsoft.How Microsoft Stories BeganMicrosoft Stories is only one part of Microsoft’s editorial team. The team of five spends their days writing long-form, interactive, and beautiful pieces of content. Each story is hand-crafted with custom photography, video, and code to build the entire story format.A little over a year ago, the team didn’t even exist — they were all part of the larger Microsoft News team. But then one man did something amazing at Microsoft, and the first Stories piece was born.That first story was “88 Acres” published in 2013. The story’s protagonist, a man named Darrell Smith who runs Microsoft’s facilities, wasn’t your typical feature piece subject — but what he was doing was fascinating: using software and existing sensors to control and monitor the entire Microsoft campus, which spans over 8 million square feet, without spending a fortune retrofitting buildings with new equipment. Normally, Microsoft would pitch this story to journalists to cover — which is what they did. But they weren’t getting any bites.According to Steve Wiens, Managing Editor for Microsoft Stories, Microsoft decide to take matters into their own hands. “We were really taken by this story of a mild-mannered guy who was quietly revolutionizing his field.” he said. “After pitching it unsuccessfully to a number of outlets, we decided the story was good enough that we should just tell it ourselves.”Inspired by The New York Times piece “Snowfall,” the Microsoft team decided to use a long-form feature format to tell Darrell’s story — and it was a huge hit, not only with the press who had ignored them before, but with the rest of the team.”It sparked an awareness in us that we have a way to tell stories about Microsoft from the inside that is, in some ways, more compelling than the folks on the outside,” Wiens says. “We have day-to-day access to really incredible folks like Darrell who have amazing stories to tell. We have the ability to work with them to show sides of Microsoft that folks don’t always get to see.”Since that first story, they’ve stopped “begging, borrowing, and stealing” from internal resources to publish content about the people inside Microsoft, and built out their team to include:Steve Clayton, Chief StorytellerBen Tamblyn, Manager of StorytellingSteve Wiens, Managing EditorJennifer Warnick, Feature WriterThomas Kohnstamm, Writer & Multimedia Producercenter_img Topics: Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

9 Smart Ways to Measure Your Sales Enablement Efforts

first_imgAny marketer can tell you that marketing has become a data-driven discipline. Most of us can tell you what metrics we track for our efforts at the top and middle of the funnel. Traffic? Check. Leads? Check. Opportunities? Check.But as our efforts fall further down the funnel, measurement gets much harder. When it comes to sales enablement, there’s no one number that can measure the results of your efforts or tell you what projects to prioritize. So what’s a data-driven sales enablement marketer to do? How do you definitively prove you’re fostering a healthy relationship between Marketing and Sales? It’s harder to measure than most other types of marketing, but below are a few quantitative and qualitative ways to track your results.1) Use the lead-to-customer conversion rate as your North Star.The mission of a sales enablement team is to help the sales team close more deals. In other words, said with a funnel lens, their mission is to increase the lead-to-customer conversion rate.Your lead-to-customer conversion rate is a good number to track to help measure the impact of your sales enablement activities. Although it is influenced by a number of other variables, such as the absolute number and quality of leads generated, it’s a good indicator. The effectiveness of the sales reps also comes into play, but this is actually something that you should be helping to influence. (More on that later.) Lead-to-customer is especially good to track over time to identify trends.This metric is also important to keep in mind when deciding which projects to take on yourself and which to leave to other marketers. The next time your CMO or VP of Sales asks you to create a campaign, ask yourself, “Will this help us close more customers?” If you only take on projects where the answer is “yes,” you will stay focused on bottom-of-the-funnel activities and have a clear reason why you leave demand gen efforts up to your colleagues.Tip: You can calculate your lead-to-customer conversion rate as long as you know the number of leads and customers generated in a particular time period. If you have a CRM, it may include reporting tools that do it for you.2) Measure win/loss rates against key competitors.Your sales team needs your help the most on the toughest deals. Looking at your win/loss rate will help you measure how well you are equipping your sales team when they’re up against the competition. You should drill in to this data by customer segment and sales team. Not only will this give you a performance metric, but it will also help you figure out where you should invest more energy.Tip: You can calculate your win/loss rate wherever you track deal stages, most often in your CRM system.3) Post your content online.Content doesn’t just have to support your top-of-the-funnel goals — you should be publicizing your sales content such as customer stories, product overviews, ROI studies, and anything on video. This will help you get better data about who is viewing your content and how much it’s influencing their decision to buy (or not).Post your content online so you can better measure click-through rates from your emails and generate organic traffic. You’ll still need to arm your reps with some more printer-friendly documents and PowerPoint decks to present, but always be thinking about how you can scale online, too.Tip: Make sure you are using an analytics tool with your content management system, or have an all-in-one solution like the HubSpot Marketing Platform.4) Perform attribution reporting.Another great thing about posting content online is that you can then run attribution reports to see how much influence each piece had in helping turn existing leads into customers. Of course they likely touched many pieces of content, but this analysis tells you what content they discover and are interested in late in the buyer’s journey. For example, you could use an attribution report to figure out which of your customer stories are resonating most with your audience.Tip: HubSpot’s Marketing Platform helps marketers make customized attribution reports through its Reports App.5) Pick the right software for sharing content with sales.Like I mentioned before, you won’t be able to post all of your content online — some of it may need to be in a more printer-friendly or presentation-ready format. But before you post it up on Google Drive, think about how often you’ll be making updates to those documents. You don’t want your sales reps frustrated by outdated links to their favorite collateral. And you want to get as much insight as you can about who is downloading what content, who they’re sending it to, and who is opening it.There are a number of sales software options on the market that can integrate with your CRM and/or marketing software platforms to help you track the delivery of content in any file format.Tip: If your CRM and/or marketing software doesn’t have this capability, the next best option is to use cloud storage tools like Box.com that can at least tell you the number of downloads. You won’t know if or how your leads are interacting with the content, but you will know what pieces your sales reps are using most.6) Sit with your sales team.I’m not talking about sitting down with sales leadership once a month. Sit with your sales team every single day — your team’s desks should be next to theirs. You may organizationally sit with Marketing or Sales, but either way, you should physically sit with Sales.Sitting with Sales helps you see what content they are sharing on their screens, hear what they are saying to prospects, and it makes you more accessible to answer questions and receive feedback. Why spend a lot of time trying to coordinate sales calls and demos to listen in on when it can happen so naturally? It’s totally okay to eavesdrop on salespeople. In fact, it’s your job.Tip: Make sure you invest in some nice noise-cancelling headphones for days when you need to get in the zone and create a lot of content.7) Count your content production.At HubSpot, our sales team loves to share case studies with prospects since our customers tell their story better than we can. Because of that, our sales enablement team can get overwhelmed with requests to write case studies for customers who are in a specific geography, industry, or faced a certain marketing challenge. We can’t keep up with all of the requests, so it helps when we can explain how many case studies we’ve written in a quarter and how we prioritize them. We’ll eventually get to that obscure industry customer in the Maldives whose social media efforts weren’t generating leads for them.Tip: Keep a simple spreadsheet or document to track and date stamp the content your team is producing — and make sure the sales team can easily access it. 8) Watch and measure product demos.By sitting with your sales team, you’ll have some qualitative data about how they are demoing your product or service. Also ask reps to record demos so you get a broad understanding of how they’re selling your product. And you also may have an opportunity to gather quantitative data about those demos depending on what business you’re in.Tip: If you’re a SaaS company, you can pull usage data to see what pieces of the product the sales reps are showing on demoing. They might not have the right sales training or content to demo the apps they’re not showing. If your company has a physical product, you can track what inventory they request to demo or share as trials.9) Survey the sales team to generate your NPS.NPS, or Net Promoter Score, helps you objectively measure the satisfaction of your stakeholders. Once you know how to calculate the NPS formula, you can set up a simple survey to ask the sales team how likely they’d be to recommend your work.Use the survey as a way to get additional feedback such as what training topics they’d like covered in sales training, what content they think is most effective, and what else they’d like to see from your team. But keep the survey short and easy to fill out — remember that every minute a sales person is filling out your survey is a minute they’re not on the phone with potential customers.Tip: Simply using a Google form or setting up a basic Survey Monkey are easy ways to set up a survey if your company doesn’t have a license for other software.What other ways do you measure sales enablement?  Originally published Mar 20, 2015 6:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlacklast_img read more

8 Email Workflow Tips for the College Admissions Process

first_img Education Marketing One of the key elements of inbound marketing is the use of automated workflows because they allow you to better engage leads through a set of targeted emails, while saving time by automating the process. Workflows can be a helpful addition for any industry, but especially for higher education.The college admissions process is a perfect use case for automated workflows, as they can be used to move a potential student along the buyer’s journey to an end goal – in this case, to apply to your institution. Workflows can be used to help nurture potential students through their buyer’s journey with your institution. They might enter the workflow after their first interaction with your institution and end it with full knowledge and a desire to apply.The series of emails can help tell your institution’s story while building a relationship with the students, from the initial introduction about your school and the exciting open house event coming up to downloading checklists or the application.Workflows are also a great way to promote content up front without having to do one-off emails every week. This frees you up to spend more time on strategizing other ways to reach your potential students.In order to have the most success with workflows, you need to tie them into your overall marketing strategy. Begin by brainstorming what it is you want the workflow to achieve. General awareness? Greater number of applicants? Then, consider the messaging that would best speak to your target audience. Once you have that figured out, plan out how you want the workflows to run and what content each one will contain.Take these 8 tips into consideration when thinking about setting up an automated workflow for the college admissions process:1) Use the “Submit a Form” TriggerUse a workflow for the application correspondence. Instead of having admissions counselors follow-up with each student who has started, but hasn’t yet submitted, an application, they could set up a workflow to automate this process. When a student creates an ID or login for the application, they could get enrolled into a workflow that gently reminds them of their application and provides tips and contact information if they need help.Students who do submit an application would get enrolled into a different workflow that provides information on the next steps, like filling out financial aid and putting down a deposit.2) Be TimelyUse fixed date workflows in the college admissions process to help with timeliness! Set up workflows around certain dates for things like FAFSA deadlines and ACT or SAT dates.Make sure to back track and set the trigger date several weeks before the deadline so you can provide helpful tips and reminders beforehand.3) Consider the Graduation YearMany high school students begin the college search and application process their junior year, but some do it their sophomore year, while others wait until senior year. Adding a field for “graduation year” to your forms could be the starting point for a standard workflow.If the student graduates high school in 2016, he or she is most likely a senior and would enter the senior, more specific workflow. If the student graduates in 2018, he or she is probably a sophomore, so they would enter the workflow that has more top of the funnel information.Either way, be strategic and use the buyer’s journey as your guide for email content. Begin with introductory, basic content in the first few emails and segue into more personalized, deeper content for the last few emails.4) Don’t Forget the Parents!The majority of parents help with the college application process, and many of them want to be just as involved as the student. Creating a workflow for the parents, based on self-selection, will provide them with helpful information alongside what their student may or may not be receiving.5) College-Specific CTAsWhen planning your workflow content, make sure to include a call-to-action (CTA) in every email. Common CTA examples include a link pushing them to your site to learn more, a checklist to download and use for their campus visit or an application to fill out.These CTAs should drive them take an action with your institution. The information they fill out to receive a checklist or other pieces of content will help you learn more about them and better understand where they are in the buyer’s journey.6) Consider Additional Email BlastsDon’t overload your potential students with multiple emails per week. That’s the quickest way for them to tune out everything you send. Instead, make a schedule that includes both workflow emails and one-off emails.Set the workflow delays to work alongside the other email blasts, making sure both schedules are coordinated before you hit send.7) Segment Your ListsSet up multiple smart lists for different buyer personas, or potential student groups. An example of this could be students identifying which major or department they are interested in, and subsequently being pulled into the corresponding smart list.Then, you could build workflows around each major or department, and place each list of students into the appropriate workflow.8) Use Multiple Workflows TogetherIn some cases, it can be beneficial to use two workflows in conjunction with each other. Let’s say you have a general workflow that provides top of the funnel information to students about your institution.Once a student takes an action, they can get taken out of that workflow and pushed into an additional workflow that is more middle or bottom of the funnel. This can be done by creating a smart list that would be used as the goal list in the first workflow and the starting list of the second workflow.Utilizing automated email workflows for the college admissions process is a no-brainer. It is a simple way to have consistent contact with potential students while moving them closer to your end goal. Additionally, workflows can work alongside blog posts, social posts and additional inbound marketing activities to achieve the greatest outcome for your institution. Download our white paper to learn more about using inbound marketing for the college admissions process. Originally published Apr 29, 2015 11:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017 Don’t forget to share this post! AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to Email AppEmail AppShare to LinkedInLinkedInShare to MessengerMessengerShare to SlackSlack Topics:last_img read more