Value: The Key to Getting ROI on a Company Blog


These days, everyone has a blog.

People blog about knitting, baking, gardening – even dog grooming . These blogs can be fun and even informative, but at the end of the day, they’re recreational.

Business-minded bloggers have it tougher.

We’re always trying to figure out how we can get the best return on our investment. But relax about analyzing ROI numbers! Instead, turn toward creating value so you can generate engagement. I promise the numbers will follow.

Why Blog, Anyway?

I shouldn’t even have to include this section because a company blog is such an obvious and cost-effective way to increase traffic to your company site, show authenticity, and humanize the corporation… I could go on for days.

From personal experience, I know that a business blog is one of the fastest ways to reach people in the shortest amount of time. When clients reach out to you to say they stumbled across a post and forwarded it on to a friend or posted it on a social media site, it’s a magical feeling. Every business owner should experience it. You’ve gained a new follower, made a connection, and established credibility.

The blog I run also allows my readers to see a side of me they wouldn’t necessarily see while sitting in my office. Blogs are a great way to show off a brand’s personality and corporate culture. Use them to depict a level of knowledge, expertise, and even humor. But don’t forget to know your audience. Knowing those you’re trying to reach best positions you for appealing to your core audience.

For example, I help professionals in the workplace, and I always end each blog post asking for people to update me on their progress for the week. Each week is a challenge, and I want to experience those challenges with my readers. Adding value to your blog will result in connections, engagement, followers, and yes, strong ROI.

So What about ROI?

Blogs should be designed to create engagement through providing visitors with value. As engagement grows – you will see value. When I see people connecting with my brand online, that’s when I get excited. This is the number-crunchers’ version of “moving the needle.”

Don’t get me wrong; I also remain intently focused on the financial exposure garnered by my blog. But I believe the value has to continually shine through before you should expect any return financially.

Like any good business, a blog has to grow from the ground up in order to harness the power of your advocates as you blossom!

Here are 5 actions you can take to harness your power:

  1. Engage! If someone posts a comment, get involved and, at the very least, thank them for reading.
  2. Comment on your reader’s blog. If they engage with you, why not do the same for them?
  3. Use images and videos to keep your readers happy – and entertained.
  4. Send your top 10 readers a quick “thank-you” email. Because you have to leave your email address when commenting, find their emails through the comments section in your dashboard, and write up a personalized thank-you letter to each.
  5. If you see a reader who’s going above and beyond in consistently leaving comments or sharing your content, reward him for it. Create a “Reader of the Month” post, interview him, lend a few links to his blog, etc.

At the end of the day, business is about people.

It’s about their performance, their passion, and their progress. Keep that in mind when designing your company’s blog. Give them valuable content to read and engage with, and you’ll get your strong ROI.

Striking the perfect note of authenticity and value in a business blog is a process. It requires the ability to deliver information that hits on an emotional level so people connect and come back.

Value takes time to build. But remember, if you build it, they will come.

Photo credit: masterlink.com

About the Author: Wendy Komac, is a long-time turnaround specialist that has helped save companies by focusing on changing underperformers to exceptional workers. She is the author of I Work with Crabby Crappy People, a humorous and highly informative book about achieving happiness and success. 


What Are Effective Sales Channels for B2B Marketers?


According to a recent nationwide survey from Crain’s BtoB Magazine and business audience marketing company Bizo, 48% of marketers polled cited reaching more of their target audience a challenge in 2012.

The survey showed that more than 60 percent of marketers claim their biggest marketing task at hand this year is drumming up additional leads, with more than a quarter planning to diversify their marketing tactics this year.

Among the findings:

  • Paid search came in as the second-ranked tool for marketing, followed by display advertising (35 percent));
  • Sixty percent of marketers claim their biggest challenge this year will be generating additional leads;
  • Sixty-three percent of marketers state that their marketing mix either falls short of sales demand or they are not entirely sure their mix is working;
  • 56 percent note brand promotion as a major area of focus;

According to John DiStefano, research director with Crain’s BtoB Magazine, “This is a period of creative re-invention for marketers, in the end marketing will emerge as a stronger more potent discipline.

“We have moved from a push environment, to pull style messaging, to finally the permission economy. While this contextualizing of the sales funnel presents challenges for some marketers, others are leveraging the new tools to reach their audiences online and drive more targeted, effective campaigns. This data shows that there is still a tremendous opportunity to further leverage new technologies and emerging channels to boost marketing results,” DiStefano remarked.

Have the Proper Measuring Tools in Place

With close to 40 percent of marketers in the survey stating precise measurement and attribution of online conversations being a top online marketing challenge, it would seem finding more accurate measuring tools should be a prime goal moving forward.

Even with the right tools, if you’re not putting them to use on a regular basis, what’s the sense of having them in the first place?

It is important as a marketer that you regularly examine your analytics, not just with the last month or two of data, but against the numbers you had this time a year ago and even further back where possible.

For lead generation programs, the first step is searching through the data to determine where leads are presently generated. Next you will want to identify the data so that you can put together a most favorable data model. Think of the process as a journey for your customer, a customer that is becoming more and more educated (see below), one that you can be along for the ride from start to finish.

Are You Prepared for a More Educated Buyer?
Another recent study, Marketing Sherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, points out that as buyers become more educated, B2B marketers must prioritize where their allocations will be going in order to avoid wasting resources, along with increasing the chances of making a sale.

According to the report (1,745 marketers participated), even those B2B marketing tricks that could be perceived as most effective like SEO and Web site design, witnessed up to a 50 percent drop in overall success from just a year earlier.

While it should not come as a big secret to B2B marketers, more and more customers are doing their homework online as it pertains to buying well before they initiate the sales process. In order to deal with this, marketers must highlight opportunity zones that are known to be successful, along with trying out different tactics to form a prioritized lead generation performance plan.

A company’s Web site is the obvious starting point of a successful performance plan, but there are important channels tied to the site, most notably SEO, content and e-mail marketing that all play significant roles.

While we will talk about e-mail marketing and its role in the B2B marketing process in an upcoming blog post, let’s take a look at SEO for the moment.

Knowing that customers most oftentimes use a search engine to find one’s site, it is important that your company show up on searches engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing for example. In order to successfully do this, make sure you fully grasp both keywords and content, knowing how they work with one another to reach a prime spot in searches.

For those marketers either new to the arena or needing a refresher course, remember to not only have strong and updated content, but content that is keyword-rich, allowing it to be properly indexed by search engines.

At the end of the day, SEO is but one major component of the B2B relationship between marketer and potential customer.

Take some time to better understand how SEO content works with your marketing automation and lead generation efforts, looking to drive leads from the start line to the finish line.

So, how do you go about measuring your B2B marketing efforts and would you change how you are doing things if given the chance to?


Should B2B Marketers ‘Pin’ Their Hopes to Pinterest?


While fads come and go, the latest social media craze seems to be pinning its hopes on staying around for a while.

Given the surge in people using Pinterest, it leads one to ponder if B2B marketers would be best served by using the site? Is it a wise call to pin your efforts on the site or direct your energies to other and better-known social media venues?

According to a piece from Marketing Profs, Pinterest is engineering a larger percentage of referral traffic across the Internet than Google+, YouTube, Reddit and LinkedIn combined.

For B2B marketers not up to speed on Pinterest, the site allows users to share images on virtual pin boards that are placed in categories for specific themes or interest sections. Users can not only submit their own ‘pins’ to the site, but also re-pin existing images straight to their own boards.

So, should B2B marketers be ‘pinning’ some of their time and efforts to the site, especially given the perception that most folks look at Pinterest as a hobby, design, and craft type site? Keep in mind; one of the advantages to striking now is that Pinterest is still relatively new in social media circles, so why wait for the crowds to show up?

Among some of the companies that are effectively using the site to date include:

  • HubSpot – The inbound marketing software provider has some 1,030 followers and has pinned more than 100 items so far (http://pinterest.com/hubspot/);
  • Klout – The social media analytical provider has some 1,700 followers, pinning more than 170 items up to now (http://pinterest.com/klout/);
  • Reach Local – This online marketer has close to 100 followers and uses the site to share statistics, facts, infographics and more (http://pinterest.com/reachlocal/).

If you’ve been thinking about spending some time on Pinterest, consider a few things:

  • Just the facts – According to digital ad agency Modea, those ages 25 to 34 have the biggest presence on the site, nearly 69 percent of users are women, the average user spends nearly 16 minutes on the site, and the site had 11,716,000 visitors in January of 2012 alone;
  • Determine how the site will best serve you – Take the time to troll the site and see what kinds of products have the potential to be good for marketing and which of your products would best suit the boards. While the images are nice, which ones will end up giving your company the best bang for your efforts? Also, don’t rely entirely on promoting your products. Pinning items related to your company’s culture, employees, etc. allow you to humanize the company and show visitors that you are not only a good business but one that is well diversified when it comes to your interests;
  • Focus in on pin boards that are specific to what you offer – Get products pinned that showcase your company’s marketing efforts and share with others. Just like many business pros use LinkedIn to network, doing the same on Pinterest allows you to gain increased exposure while helping non-competitors do the same. By sharing your pins with your clients, you also learn more about them in the process as to what is and isn’t important in their eyes. You should look to offer exclusive offers to your house list in your email marketing campaigns and newsletters geared towards “members-only.” Among the items to consider are product discounts, useful white papers and daily specials;
  • Don’t be the occasional ‘pinner’ – Just like any content you write on your B2B blogs and email newsletters needs to be fresh, don’t get into the habit of being a drive-by ‘pinner’ all the time. It is important to ‘pin’ regularly so that you pick up a strong following that will keep coming back;
  • Reap the SEO traffic and benefits – For those B2B marketers that regularly ‘pin’ items, they put themselves in place to receive a boost in SEO traffic. With Pinterest, you can build inbound links to drive people to client Web sites, meaning an uptick in SEO traffic. At the end of the day, building valuable backlinks is worth the time and effort.

When all is said and done, Pinterest allows B2B marketers the opportunity to tell the public their stories and also add to their engagement level with both prospects and clients.

That being said I have a feeling a fair amount of B2B marketers are taking a “wait and see approach” to Pinterest prior to diving into it. Perhaps the recent copyright law stories regarding the site and its terms of agreement in the media have led some B2B’s to think twice before joining.

As a B2B marketer, if you’re not already on Pinterest, what is your reasoning behind this decision and do you foresee yourself joining before the end of the year?

Photo credit: isedb.com


Top 5 Business Events to Attend in 2012


Successful business professionals of all types and kinds know that continuing their success into the future depends on staying ahead of the curve.

No matter your particular industry or niche, you most likely face very stiff competition; in a capitalist world that sees prominent new products and services launched on a daily basis, no amount of momentary success promises the same tomorrow.

Staying on top of your game means constantly moving towards new goals and utilizing new techniques and methods in getting your message out to the world. In the interest of keeping your mind sharp and your skills honed as you pursue your business interests, here are five fantastic business events to attend in 2012:

 

1. SES New York

SES New York

SES New York is the must-attend even for any business owner or marketer. Nowhere else will you find such a busy schedule and those great networking opportunities. More than 5,000 marketers visit the event each year!

Featuring high-profile keynote speakers, hands-on workshops and an overall goal of increasing sales via better utilization of digital strategies, businesspeople serious about their position and their company shouldn’t miss out.

Getting and living there:

2. Social Media Strategies Summit

Social Media Strategies Summit

The Chicago Social Media Strategies Conference will include awesome workshops, real-life case studies and high-profile keynotes. Each track includes sessions focused on the following categories: Community Engagement; Corporate Case Studies; ROI and tools; Legal Risks & Strategies; Sales Approach; and Marketing Strategies & Tactics.

The Social Medis Strategies Summit offers its attendees the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best in the business, building skills and learning new strategies via workshops, keynote speeches and peer-to-peer collaboration.

Getting and living there:

  • Getting there: Chicago airport (for flight information and “getting there” tips)
  • Living there: Official location information

3. CMS Expo

CMS Expo

No one ever dreams of shrinking their business but often the dream of growth is left behind in favor of tackling the problems of the moment, particularly in the difficult economic environment being experienced all over the world. If you’ve lost sight of your long term plans for expanding your business and making it more profitable, consider attending the 2012 CMS Expo!

Aimed at business owners and professionals looking for new business opportunities and new ideas to apply to existing markets, this gets together of branding and marketing professionals offers seminars, keynote speakers and networking opportunities all aimed at helping you to make 2012 your most profitable and successful year ever!

Getting and living there:

4. Inbound Marketing Summit

Inbound Marketing Summit

Similar to the Online Marketing Summit but sporting an extra focus on mobile marketing alongside digital and social media efforts, the Inbound Marketing Summit is set to feature high-profile keynote speakers and representatives from companies offering real life case studies of the success gained from and challenges faced with marketing products and services to a modern and technologically savvy generation.

Getting and living there:

5. Business Startup Show

Business Startup Show

For businesspeople looking to get their latest startup off the ground is the Business Startup Show to be held in London, United Kingdom, later this year. The show’s events drew more than 18,000 people last year to hear from owners of successful ventures, meet and greet like-minded individuals in the interest of knowledge and opportunity and to be exposed to potential investors looking for the next big thing, and 2012 promises to be even better.

Getting and living there:

 

About the Author: Ann Smarty is the business blogger and owner of My Blog Guest, the free community of guest bloggers.


Striking the Right Balance with Your Audience


According to Forrester research, B2B interactive market spending will increase to $4.8 billion in 2014.

Your goal, as a marketer, is to use those dollars wisely and ensure your strategies are attracting a large audience. One of the biggest challenges to B2B marketers is finding that perfect strategy that rides the line between being entertaining and informative.

What will draw in that new customer and keep him? Luckily, with an accurate analysis of what works well and what doesn’t work at all, you can make sure you are appealing to your audience and taking care of their needs.

Remember to do the following:

  • Know your audience – Every marketer must know the marketplace. Demographics play a key role in what tone to take with your audience. Age, gender, income, social class, and lifestyle are highly influential in how a customer will respond. Keep these in mind when creating your plan. Use the tools at your disposal to see what email messaging works for you in certain demographics. Use Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) on your website. Many times, the things that seem like surefire methods miss the mark. Other times, those little details that seemed inconsequential brought in your biggest on-site audience. Know your data, and use it to grow your business.
  • Engage your audience – See which landing pages are serving up high bounce rates via your analytics tool. Don’t guess! Know what performs well, and what needs change. You have a limited amount of time to truly grab your new customers, so use it wisely. Be direct in your messaging, especially when email marketing, and then test that marketing strategy. Videos that explain a product or service can be a great tool to concisely communicate to an audience, and they decrease bounce rate at the same time. Animations and pictures help to split up pages with large amounts of copy into reader-friendly chunks. It is also crucial to make sure you have the latest news possible. No one wants to read yesterday’s news.
  • Entertain your audience – Gamification is the next big thing. Like the leader boards at a sporting event, leader boards in business are a universal way to convey to your fans and customers that a “game” is actively being played, and they are a major part of it. Reward users with points, or prizes, for carrying out simple tasks. You’re depending on the social network of business, so make sure that your customers are recognized on social sites for their skills. A demonstrable, fun reward for a specific activity can easily be socialized with others. You can create an almost limitless set of attractive visual objects that can be “sewn” on to a user’s social graph, such as a Facebook wall or Twitter stream, so that you can maximize their participation. More recognition means they will be more likely to communicate how great your site or product is to all of their contacts. It’s a win-win situation.
  • Respect your audience – It seems simple, but remember this. Do not add users to a mailing list without their permission. Do not say a product is free to get people signed on, and then charge for the product. Do not send big, bold sales letters promising the earth and all the treasures upon it. Do not play annoying ads over videos. Recognize what strategies would send you bolting the other way – chances are, your potential customers feel the same way. Think about what you enjoy about your browsing and site experiences, and incorporate those into your plan. Remember that a solid and unique business model and reliable research form the true foundation that can lead you to your goals.

If you’re going to spend more on B2B marketing strategies – and it seems apparent that we all will – make sure your dollars count. Maximize the return on your investment by truly putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.

The more engaging you are with them, the more engaging they’ll be with you.

Photo credit: activerain.com

About the Author: Louis Rix is the marketing director for Netcars.com, one of the fastest-growing online automotive sites in the UK. He is also director of Carfinance247.co.uk, the UK’s leading car finance broker.