It’s the Website, Stupid.

“It’s the Economy, Stupid” was the focus that helped Bill Clinton win the 1992 Presidential election. Marketers of all stripes need to realize that the sentiment applies to the key to their marketing success: It’s the Website, Stupid. Small businesses would be well served to have a good look at implementing a web marketing strategy using WordPress as the platform for their corporate websites.

Let me clarify right from the start. “Website” means “Web Presence” and includes on and off site representations of your brand. And, if your business actually does have off site (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) brand presence, the need for the website is even more crucial. It serves as the mothership for all the great, helpful content you should be producing, and it holds the ultimate key to SEO success for your brand and terms.

One the reasons Marketing Automation still has 10% or less adoption is that it’s complicated stuff. There’s forms on websites, auto-replies, workflow rules, data capture requiring segmentation, email marketing, and so on and so on. A larger enterprise can hire the internal and outside resources needed to get the complex gears of Marketing Automation turning. Small folks? Forget about it!

It has to be brain-dead simple not because SMBs are brain dead, but because they need stuff that’s easy, efficient and just works. Some can get away with just a Facebook page, but most need more. Yes, the most important tool in today’s marketing toolbox is the website. Yet, most remain flat, boring digital brochures. There’s no interaction, no imagination, no change to content and – probably – nearly no customers.
Wordpress is Super

We’ve seen how crazily successful sites running on WordPress have become. It started as a blogging platform, and it’s still primarily used for that function. However, I expect to see many more businesses start hosting their entire website using the WordPress platform (on their own domain – not on wordpress.com like this blog is hosted).

Here’s some reasons why:

  • There are plenty of free themes that would let a small business get up and running on day 1
  • WordPress is easily customizable with very little technical knowledge.
  • While taking next steps requires some technical setup, there are plenty of guns for hire that can launch your site
  • After site creation, non-technical users from the business can easily update content, write blog posts and start engaging with their audience. The CMS features of WordPress are its bread and butter. It doesn’t get much easier.
  • With custom CSS and WordPress Pages, including static content for product, solution, case studies and other “core website content” is now easy
  • WordPress plugins make WordPress sites extensible
  • These plugins also make WordPress sites inherently social, and SEO friendly. This is huge. No site should lack capability to share content and create engagement (and links back to the site)

There are certainly WordPress naysayers who worry about performance, scalability, security – all valid challenges to explore and ensure they are well-understood. However, these same concerns and statements have been made ad naseum against SaaS players who host volumes more data (and more secure data) than WordPress. We also see incredibily high-traffic sites like TechCrunch on WordPress and high-traffic eCommerce sites like MP3.com (I link to them as if either of the sites need my link power to help their SEO!). We also see a nice selection of businesses using WordPress. What I’m surprised about is why there aren’t a whole boatload *more* businesses taking advantage of this platform? Hell, I’m ready to move off of wordpress.com already to take advantage of the Plugins I miss from my previous company’s blog (The Connected Marketer on Genius.com). Maybe I’ll blog about it once I get off my duff to do it (no snide remarks – this isn’t a business website – at least not yet – it’s a hobby).

So, what do you think the reason is that more small businesses don’t launch on or move to WordPress? I imagine there’s a large community of developers who specialize in CMS-driven sites that could churn these out at low-cost with high quality and quick delivery. What’s holding you back, SMBs?

Posted in Marketing Automation, Socialized Marketing, Web Marketing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wild & Woolly World of Marketing Automation via Focus.com

It’s been 5+ years since an influx of  new vendors Genius.com, Marketo, Loopfuse and Pardot joined Eloqua in the marketing automation fray. There’s still a LONG way to go to get to a reasonable level of penetration, according to new research from Focus.com. There have been predictions of hockey stick style adoption for this market for many years, but it still hasn’t happened (believe me, I know, as a former VP of Marketing in this market). For example, one of the many interesting data points in the excellent infographic from Focus.com (with a cogent intro and input from Carlos Hidalgo) is that the 2010 adoption rate of Marketing Automation in B2B is still only 7-10%! The predictions state we should see growth to 50% by 2015. Is this reasonable or likely? Seems like it should be, but that’s truly steep growth. No wonder there are now 110 players in the Marketing Automation space (another excellent piece of data from the infographic). There’s so much juicy stuff here, I need more time to digest and will post more later. For now, see for yourself the wild and woolly world of B2B Marketing Automation.

Excellent Marketing Automation Infographic

Posted in Marketing Automation | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Email Marketing Fails 96% of the Time. Good Job!

Marketers are always trying to make a good impression, but even the most successful email campaigns hover around a 96% failure rate. I’m probably being generous. A quick search on Quora finds EmailStatsCenter data from 2006 showing the very best conversion rates (on “click-stream based campaigns) at around 4%. 98% failure is quite acceptable in this arena, depending on various factors. A 2% conversion rate is actually pretty good, in most cases. Yay #Fail?!?!

Attention-grabbing headline? Check. Provocative opening? Ok, sure. My response rate on this post? Hard to measure. Probably worse than 4%, but against a much larger potential reach, but also a much less targeted reach. That’s one area where email marketing has an edge. Today, email marketing it’s measurable from click to revenue contribution.

96% Failure

The benefit of my 4% success rate in Email Marketing is that I know exactly who I was targeting, that they should be relatively interested in what I’m saying, and that I can measure my success all the way through to a sale (big assumption: your company has given you the proper email marketing and automation tools with integration to SFA/CRM to make this happen).

I’m all for Social Media as a key channel for today’s marketer, but the most important thing to remember is the C word: Content! Marketers need content for every stage of the buying cycle and in multiple formats for consumption.

Like it or not, 96% failure rate and all, email remains an important and measurable channel for delivering your messages, teasing your content, and pointing the wayward prospect in the right direction, down the funnel towards a purchase of your solution. Of course, every email marketer must try to improve response rates: Test Subject lines and offers, optimize … do all of that gory MASH unit surgery on your email campaigns to improve them. Don’t settle for 98% or 96% failure by any means, but do understand that the numbers don’t lie. In the end, email marketing remains a frustrating, necessary evil for many marketers, but a glorious and ever-changing challenge for others.

Found a true A/B-test-loving email marketing maniac? Lock them in with the Marketing System and throw away the key.

I’m always amazed when I find the people whose eyes sparkle when recounting countless A/B optimizations on their way to a .25% increase in response rates leading to, for example, 1 additional deal.

When you find those folks, find a way to lure them in, lock them in their cube with the marketing system, and throw away the key. There really is magic in squeezing that extra tiny bit of performance from a well-targeted email campaign, and that 96% failure drives lots of revenue.

Posted in Integrated Marketing, Marketing Fail, Socialized Marketing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Monday Marketing Minute: Nurture Your Social Contacts

Just like building a relationship with a prospect requires relevant engagement, so too does building relationships with influencers and other desired social relationships.

Don’t just follow, interact. It’s easy to find the “right” people to follow, but following without engagement leads to your following/follower ratio getting out of whack. Follow, read, comment … Engage! In short, nurture your social media contacts like you would your customers and prospects.

20110620-075108.jpg

Sometimes, it may feel like you’re the poor iguana in this photo: doing work, adding value, and getting squat … on! Keep at it, and get better at finding the other contacts who are also engaging. Then, your Social Graph starts to have real value for you as a professional marketer.

Posted in Social Media, Socialized Marketing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Spark it Up: 5.5 Simple Ways to Rev the Content Engine

Spark Plugs

Spark it Up!

Anyone who “gets” the new marketing paradigm of “publish or perish” has been there: Hovering over the keyboard, fingers poised to gin up some contagious content (excellent term coined and/or popularized by @Ardath421), excitement building for those future comments and Retweets! And, oh! The Diggs, Reddits, the Pingbacks and Trackbacks, and, most importantly, the fact that your buyers are out there researching already and now they’re going to find you, and isn’t it fantastic! But then …. nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. No good ideas. No creative spark. No future engaged buyers …

No más! Before we get all that Social Gold and Inbound Marketing love, we need to write and create. When you hit the wall and seem to run out of ideas, you need to go back to the basics. Here are 5 simple ways I tend to crank up the old brain and get productive again.

  1. Remember your Customers? Talk to them. Put yourself in their shoes. What are their everyday issues and why how can you help solve them. Get out of your theoretical and fantastical world and hit the pavement to get the real scoop.
  2. When’s the last time you got your hands on the product or talked with who delivers your solutions? When possible and in need of a creative push, use it and experience what your customers experience. Lots of marketers seem to keep a kind of church and state separation between writing and actually using the product. You don’t need to understand all the intricacies, but running through a few simple usage scenarios can lead to many great new ideas.
  3. Write User Stories – they’re not just for Agile process geeks! The beauty of user stories is that, like Twitter, it forces you to be concise. They can help you think of any business problem in terms of what the user wants to achieve, and they’re great for helping break through writer’s block. Sometimes, just putting pen to paper will produce the spark you need to develop your content more fully.
  4. Along those same lines, get out in the community of your product or solution  and start commenting on other blogs. Failing that,just get out in the community of marketers (I know it’s scary, and there’s sometimes the feeling of entering an echo chamber in the land of marketers all competing to be the King Queen of the Kingdom of Content), but there’s also a ton of great thinking out there. You’re bound to come up with a few ideas, and, again, just getting your fingers onto the keyboard and contributing will get you back in the swing of things in no time.
  5. Marketing Echo Chamber?

  6. Leverage the hidden writers. This one’s slightly off topic, but very important. Almost every company today has a need to produce lots of fresh and relevant content. Leverage existing budding writers from within the organization. In companies of even 10-20 people, you have 10-20 potential writers to help create content. Spreading out the assignments – think like an editor! – means no one is over-taxed. Important enough to mention again: Maintain editorial control, but spread the load. If possible, make the case (start combing blogs now for Content Marketing and Social Media metrics. They are out there, but I only have time to link to one that I really like - Three Content Marketing Vital Signs) for additional resources and hire.
  7. (Really 5.5 as it’s an extension of leveraging writers) Better yet, ask an expert in your company’s market to guest post, work with you on webinars or speak on your company’s behalf. Sometimes, this will cost, but many times, the experts are looking for additional outlets for their own content and will be happy to participate. This, of course, works better the more traffic and exposure your blog has (well, Social Moxie will get there, I’m sure. This is only post #2, after all). Third party validation right on your own website or blog is killer content.

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, and it’s far from it. Fellow marketers, how do you rev up the engines, stoke the fire, shock the system and produce real quality content ? In a world where every marketer needs to write, edit, and publish, we certainly need all the ideas we can find to help us keep on keepin’ on.

Posted in Channels, Inbound Marketing, Media/Publishing, Social Media | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Social Media is Simply a Channel

Looking at “Social Media Marketing” as a separate function is potentially as outdated (already) as thinking about “Online Marketing” as a distinct role within your Demand Generation team.  At its core, Demand Generation is about reaching, enticing and nurturing the relationship with potential buyers. The channels and effectiveness of said channels have proliferated over time from Face to Face to Direct Mail to Email to Online and, now, to Social Media.

Channel Finder

Now, Social Media is one of the best channels to reach potential buyers with your messages, entice them to interact with you, develop a relationship and (hopefully) buy. Yes, there are people who understand this channel better than others. Much like the early days of “Online Marketing”, you want someone with the skills to take advantage of Social Media, but they better understand the basics of content marketing and how to generate interest through thought leadership and education. A good Demand Generation person doesn’t think in terms of “Social Media Marketing” or “Online Marketing” or “Outbound Marketing” but in terms of developing a mix of channels and content to drive results.

The numbers clearly indicate that B2B buyers are engaging through the Social Media channel. In Destroying the 7 Myths of B2B Social Media, a presentation delivered last year, Jay Baer cited Forrester’s data showing “81% of U.S. adults with an Internet connection use social media in some form or function.” That’s across the board.

Social Media is no magic bullet, and it doesn’t have to be a special role or function in your organization. As always in marketing, the hard part is creating and delivering compelling content in appropriate formats (preferably multiple formats because different channels, social or otherwise, may lean towards a preference for a particular format) to capture buyers’ attention, engagement and drive towards a fruitful relationship.

Posted in Channels, Social Media, Socialized Marketing | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments