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To Succeed in Content Marketing, Hire Journalists and PR People

To Succeed in Content Marketing, Hire Journalists and PR People

Beyond • June 21, 2013

Marketing departments are changing. Brands are realizing that pushing their marketing message out to their target audience is becoming less effective. As a result, companies are turning to creating high-quality online content to build trust and community among their target audience. This approach to marketing is what is now popularly referred to as content marketing. Today, many brands understand the need to adopt content marketing. But they know less about how to build a team that can consistently create the high-quality content that can earn you the shares, “likes,” links, and Tweets needed reach their target audience. In this article, we’ll explain how the skills of journalists and PR people can be incorporated into your content marketing team--and how to prepare yourself for content marketing success. Journalists Can Help Tell Your Brand\'s Story We’ve known for a while that the traditional model of journalism is fading. But the growth of content marketing is creating great opportunities for journalists. Why? Because companies need people who can create compelling content that tells the brand’s story. And journalists are great at quickly becoming resource experts and making a topic accessible and compelling to the masses. Beyond that, journalists are used to creating and maintaining an editorial calendar that’s needed to maintain a consistent flow of content. Their thoughtful messaging can help create content that drives sales but still adheres to strong reporting styles and standards, which can increase the authority of your content. PR People Can Help Get Your Brand in Front of the Right People The role of PR people has always been raising awareness. But the methods of raising awareness are changing. Increasingly, effective outreach and marketing is more about SEO and social media distribution that pure press coverage. So instead of drafting up a press release to tell everyone about how great your brand is, you need someone know how’s how to get the attention of influencers online and in social channels to promote your brand for you. PR people are already great at managing outreach for things like event planning. Content marketing teams can take this skill set and apply it to things like managing social media communities and handling email outreach. This allows for a more organic way of getting your brand in front of customers. Tips on Putting it all Together In order to use content marketing effectively, you have to plan ahead and lay the foundation to execute on creating great content. Here are four tips to help you succeed: Hire people with online skills. When hiring PR people, it’s important to hire someone that already knows the ins and outs of social media so you don’t have to teach the basics. At the same time, you should look for journalists that have already written great well-researched content for online publications. This will ensure your hires are immediately effective. Use the relationships you build. As you’re out there creating great content you’re going to buil some relationships. Make sure that you incorporate using these relationships into your overall marketing strategy. Pick a story and stick to it. Great content is successful because it has a very targeted message. Your message should reflect your company’s mission statement and core values. If you want to position yourself as a thought leader, hire someone with the same philosophy and cultural bent. Create a content marketing department. To succeed at content marketing, your brand must have a department that can perform the functions of an editorial staff, while promoting the content it creates like an advertising agency or PR firm. Do you have any tips for building an effective content marketing strategy and team? Leave your thoughts below.


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Tips on Lead Nurturing from HubSpot’s own Best Practices

Tips on Lead Nurturing from HubSpot’s own Best Practices

Beyond • May 30, 2013

If you’re involved in marketing, chances are that you’re constantly looking for ways to improve the effectiveness of your lead generation strategies and campaigns. One of the best ways to do this is to nurture the leads in your pipeline with a more refined approach. Lead nurturing requires effective communication and building a relationship with customers. It takes practice. In their time creating tools for other marketers’ lead nurturing strategies, HubSpot built their own successful lead nurturing program. HubSpot’s Product Marketing Manager, Jeffrey Russo, shared with us their personal lead nurturing best practices. 1. Create solid content that customers love. Successful marketers are moving away from a self-centered strategy, and adopting a more customer-centric one. Why is this a key to success? Customers will actually want to see emails directing them to your carefully thought out, well-written content that is useful and benefits them in some way. A great example of content that does exactly this is HubSpot’s The Marketer’s Field Guide to Salesforce. Upon realizing that many of Salesforce’s customers were also suitable target customers for HubSpot, they created a document for marketers, covering just about every aspect of Salesforce they needed to know -- including methodology and best practices. This document was downloaded nearly 8,000 times, even though it barely even mentioned HubSpot. Why? Because the information was valuable to the customer, and it wasn’t overly promotional. If you want to keep your prospects moving along the funnel, it’s important to create content that is genuinely useful for your customer base.   2. Segment your leads to better serve them. While creating logical and effective segmentation can seem like a daunting task for many marketers, it’s important to do if you want to see better returns on your campaigns. HubSpot divides their lead nurturing campaigns into two groups: persona and lifecycle stage. Personas fall into separate categories, as well, and each of these categories is responded to (by HubSpot) differently. Meanwhile, a lifecycle stage is where the contact is at within the customer lifecycle. This requires really honing in on the customer’s needs and responding to them based on that. 3. Utilize tools other than email. Having a focused email marketing strategy can be a great asset to marketers. But it’s not the only option, and sometimes it’s hard to see past something that is working well. There are many other points of contact on your site that prospects can get to in many different ways. That’s why it’s important to create personalized Calls to Actions (CTAs) to your site visitors. HubSpot has created a SmartCTA tool that allows them to create and place CTAs based on their segments. This way, certain CTAs are only seen by the specific segment that HubSpot wants to have see it. Effective lead nurturing takes time and practice, but the important thing for marketers to remember to keep from becoming overwhelmed is to start with your biggest groups of leads and work from there, based on what you’re learning as you go. What other lead nurturing tips do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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5 Ways Customer Relationship Technologies Will Change in 5 Years

5 Ways Customer Relationship Technologies Will Change in 5 Years

Beyond • April 2, 2013

Software Advice, a website that reviews customer relationship management (CRM) solutions, interviewed five of the customer relationship management (CRM) software industry’s thought leaders to find out what five trends will change customer relationship technologies over the next five years. We spoke with the following thought leaders: Beagle Research Group CEO Denis Pombriant CRM Essentials Owner Brent Leary ThinkJar Principal and Founder Esteban Kolsky Initium LLC/Innovantage Founder and CEO Brian Vellmure 56 Group LLC Owner Paul Greenberg In the 2012 installment, our group talked a lot about advances in Big Data, Social and Mobile. The same themes were repeated this year, but the specific ways each is applied in the CRM context has evolved. Here’s a summary of this year’s Next 5 in 5. ‘Curated Data’ Will Wrangle the Big Data Problem Big Data, or data that’s drawn from a plethora of online sources such as social media sites, poses two major problems for business: there’s a lot of it and it is generated very quickly. There’s so much of it out there, it’s difficult to know when you have information worth using. By the time you figure out how to use the information, the opportunity to use it has passed. To tackle these obstacles, our experts foresee more services emerging to curate data from various sources to address specific business problems. This might include data from providers like IP address registries and Dun and Bradstreet, plus social sharing behaviors. This information would then be fed into your CRM with an alert to act at the moment when it matters most. So if someone is on your website, these technologies could automatically send you information about which company that visitor is from which can help you refine your site’s messaging. Crowdsourcing Will Use Contacts in New Ways Many times, companies don’t interact with customers in their database after the sale closes, unless that contact needs support. This is a huge missed opportunity when you consider these same people are likely your best chance at spreading positive word of mouth. Our experts predicted that technology developers would new services for leveraging these existing customers for crowdsourced marketing. These products might automatically identify customers with the greatest ability to advocate for your company via social media, then arm them with tools for doing it. Improving Data Will Monetize Social Media Management Social media is one of the most important sources of actionable customer data. Analysts can uncover what prospects are talking about, when, and even where. This kind of context can considerably increase chances of finding new leads and closing the deal faster. Few products today successfully mine social media data for leads. The process is more often manual and inefficient. This is primarily due to rapidly evolving integration with social tools. Because these are changing so quickly, the data is often imperfect and unreliable. As a result, developers focus most of their energy compensating for these bugs instead of empowering technology to generate revenue. This will change as the way information is passed from social tools improves. Voice-Enabled Technology Will Truly Mobilize CRM More and more business is conducted on smartphones and tablets these days, yet few CRM apps have really capitalized on the unique capabilities of these devices – namely voice. Apple was one of the first to use voice-enabled mobile navigation with Siri. As any user will tell you, she doesn’t understand everything and her suggestions are imperfect. As a result, users don’t fully trust voice-enabled apps…yet. This will change over time as Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology improves. NLU determines the intent and context behind spoken words. Our experts expect mobile CRM developers to hop on board as soon as they are confident these apps won’t annoy the user. Predictive Analytics Will Automate Personalized Marketing Personalized marketing is one of the curated data niches our experts see as the biggest opportunity. This means combining CRM data with online behaviors to automatically adapt marketing and sales materials to a specific person or company. Think of it as the next step in Amazon’s suggested titles, or Hulu’s “what to watch next,” both of which are based on what buyers and TV watchers like you have also liked and watched. This personalization will extend to other avenues such as onsite navigation – you might be served offers, content and live chats based on what has moved other site visitors like you further down the sales funnel, faster. You can read the full 2013 report here. What other technology advancements do you see evolving how we use customer relationship technologies today? Leave a comment below.


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How to Create a DIY CRM System with Google Docs

Beyond • February 8, 2013

If you’re a small business owner, you’re likely managing everything from your financials to your marketing activities--and you\'re doing it all on a limited budget. While you know that you need a better way to manage your sales prospects, especially during periods of growth, you just aren’t ready to pay for a customer relationship management system to keep in touch with potential and existing customers. At Software Advice, I help review and compare most of the major CRM systemson the market. But the truth of the matter is that many of the popular systems on the market can be too expensive for many small business owners. For these small businesses, it may be more effective to take the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach and build your own CRM system. Building your own CRM system can provide several benefits: It\'s affordable (read: free) It\'s flexible It\'s easy to use and customize A great tool for building a CRM system on your own is Google Docs. If you have a Gmail account, you already have access to an easy way to build your own CRM software. Already widely used as a management tool, it’s fairly easy to extend the power of these applications to help with customer management. Here’s a quick step-by-step overview of how to do it. Decide Who Gets Access, and What Information to Include Google Docs allows all users to collaborate across any document thanks to their sharing and editing features. So, if one person changes a contact\'s information, it automatically syncs across the system. This allows all document collaborators to see the change immediately. Beyond that, you can monitor user privileges to ensure that all users have access to the right information. Once you decide who will be able to access and update data in your CRM system, you\'ll need to create a Google Spreadsheet. After that, it\'s time to determine what information you want to track about sales prospects in your spreadsheet. A few pieces of information that are a good idea to track include: Demographics - Company name, contact name, email, phone number, etc. Prospect source - How the prospect found out about your company Next actions - A code that determines how you’ll follow (e.g. phone call or email) Contact log - Notes from every contact you make with the prospect Estimated opportunity size - An estimate of the size of the sale Lead nurturing stage - A numbered system that shows how close the prospect is to purchasing (1 = aware but not interested; 4 = has purchased) Keep in mind that this is just a starter list and you’ll likely want to record other information that’s specific to your business. So feel free to add any field that\'s relevant to your company. If after a while you realize that you want to track more information, it’s fairly easy to add a new field. Learn How to Manipulate the Data with Spreadsheet Functions One nice thing about using a Google Spreadsheet is that there are easy sort features that allow you to sort by any field you like. If you only want to look at contacts with the biggest opportunity size, just sort by “estimating opportunity size” and you can view your largest sales prospects from largest potential sales to smallest. Or, maybe you’re interested in looking at the number of companies that are in the very beginning of the lead nurturing stage. You’ve already coded all entries that are in this stage of the buying process with a 1, but you don’t know how many of your contacts are at that phase. To figure this out, you can use a simple function known as a “countif()”. It works like this: Determine the cell range you want to count sales prospects for (let’s say it’s cells C2 to C100) Decide the criteria for counting each cell (in this case it\'s a “1”) To count all your prospects that are at the beginning of the sales cycle, you can use the formula in cell C101: \'=countif(C2:C100, “1”)\'. This will give you the total number of contacts that are at phase one in the buying process. Of course there are a whole host of other functions that you can use to manipulate that data, but you get the idea. For a comprehensive list of spreadsheet functions that will work in a Google Spreadsheet, check out Google’s help page. With this method, you can start tracking their sales prospects in an efficient and paperless manner. And you can do it for free. As a bonus, you’ll also be able to access this data from anywhere with an Internet connection, because information in Google Docs is stored in the Cloud.


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5 CRM Options Built for Small Businesses

5 CRM Options Built for Small Businesses

Beyond • December 20, 2012

Traditional Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems were relegated to the large enterprise due to cost, maintenance, complexity of implementation and the overall risk involved. But the times, they are a-changin. CRM is now also part of shop-talk among smaller businesses who are realizing the value of being able to have a flexible database for their clients. Today’s CRM market is filled with many systems that are appropriate for the small business owner, allowing them to track clients and leads, including where they are in the sales pipeline down to details of any purchase history. These systems operate in the Cloud, which allows vendors to offer a lower upfront purchase price (typically licensed for a monthly subscription fee) and reduced risk at the onset. To help you sort through the many available systems, we have compiled a list of our five favorites: Sage ACT!, SugarCRM, Salestrakr5, Maximizer CRM and Infusionsoft.  Before we dive into what makes each vendor unique, let’s take a look at the functionality that each vendor offers. You can see a side-by-side functionality comparison in the table on the right. Sage ACT! Sage is a legacy vendor in the CRM space, and ACT! is one of the strongest products in their portfolio. ACT! provides contact management for the small business owner. They offer specialization in multiple industries, including real estate and financial services. Their latest release of the product, the 2011 edition, introduced a more user-friendly user interface, as well as a new add-on that aggregates business contact information from Hoover’s and deposits it directly into ACT! SugarCRM Companies looking for a high level of flexibility and ownership over their CRM will want to take a look at SugarCRM, the leader in open source CRM software. The basic edition is free and offers standard features such as contact and campaign management. For more sophisticated features, companies will want to look into the paid editions. SugarCRM can be deployed both on-premise and via the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. Salestrakr5 This web-based solution is ideal for the SMB owner looking to better align their sales and marketing teams. Salestrakr5 offers lead management, sales pipeline management, email campaign management and many other features to help sales and marketing automate their processes. It is also offers strong integration features, allowing users to import contacts from almost any contact management, CRM or email service provider. Maximizer CRM Sales people are always on the go, looking for the next big opportunity. Maximizer CRM has strong capabilities for contact and opportunity management, but their mobile integration is the one that shines. Whether using an iPhone, Android or Blackberry, users can access vital contact and account information from anywhere in the world. The Entrepreneur edition is probably the best fit for the SMB, but Maximizer makes it easy to upgrade to more robust editions as your company grows. Infusionsoft Infusionsoft was created by small business owners for small business owners. It offers basic CRM capabilities, with its strongest features centered around marketing automation. Perhaps the best feature Infusionsoft offers is the dedicated marketing mentor assigned to every client. CRM and marketing automation are complex systems that can often be intimidating. This mentor serves to ease you into the system, teach you the bells and whistles and provide you the training wheels you need until you are ready to go it alone.Which system you decide to go with depends entirely on your business objectives and feature preferences. It’s not uncommon for new users to shift between two or three platforms before deciding which one works best for them since usage often determines needs.For more information on CRM software, visit the Buyer\'s Guide on Software Advice.


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