The Blogging Basics eCourse and eBook Are Now Available!

This is just a quick special announcement to let you know the new 10-part eMail course “Blogging Basics” is now available.

It’s the first in a series of six different courses I’ll be making available over the next few months.  This one is geared toward first-time business bloggers and those who are considering starting a blog.  It’s also for people who have hit a wall with their existing blogs and need a fresh start.  If that’s you…

Subscribe to Blogging Basics Now!

If that’s not you, but you know someone who could benefit from it, please share it with them.  It’s completely free, it’s full of meaty content, and if you subscribe to the eCourse you can get the eBook version (for a more self-paced version of the course) as well!

In the near future, the following courses will become available:

  • Content Marketing Basics
  • Speech Writing Basics
  • Public Speaking Basics
  • Copywriting Basics
  • Social Media Basics
  • Working With a Ghostwriter
Based on the audience reaction to these courses, I will likely develop more in the future, including “advanced” versions for each of the courses listed here.

The State of Inbound Marketing 2014 – Takeaway #3 – Data Facilitates Alignment

This is the second in a series of seven blog posts covering the key takeaways from HubSpot’s recently released “State of Inbound 2014” report.  For the full report, please visit HubSpot.

Inbound Marketing Data Facilitates Alignment

The days of the Mad Men are officially over.

Marketers are no longer simply clever creatives with laissez-faire to do whatever they please.  Instead, they’re being held accountable for generating real results and being able to prove ROI.

In this respect, they’re very much onboard with executive leadership, as proven by this chart:

Inbound Marketing Requires Data

As you can see, practitioners and leaders are thinking the same way almost across the board when it comes to where their priorities lie.  And, a closer look reveals that those priorities are heavily data-dependent.

Gaining leads, converting leads to customers, increasing revenue, reducing cost… all of these can be easily tracked, analyzed, and optimized by the use of data.  Hence, the use of available data helps to facilitate alignment between two departments that have historically fought to see eye-to-eye: marketing and leadership.

How well is your team aligned?

Creating this level of alignment can have a huge impact on how smoothly your operation runs, how effectively your inbound marketing strategy connects with and benefits from your other ongoing marketing efforts, and, to a large extent, your satisfaction on the job.

So, how well aligned are you?

A simple test to consider is this:

If the boss calls me into his office to discuss X campaign, do I already know what to bring with me, or am I flying blind?

You see, if your marketing department is properly aligned with leadership, you should already know what sort of data your boss is liable to be looking for.  You’ll know what types of tangible results he’s expecting and how to go about explaining any variations from that expectation.

Being aligned in this way, not only will you be in a better position to impress your boss, but your boss will be in a better position to trust and back up your decisions to his own boss or the board of directors, as needed.

State of Inbound Marketing 2014 – Key Takeaway #2 – Getting Found is a Top Priority

This is the second in a series of seven blog posts covering the key takeaways from HubSpot’s recently released “State of Inbound 2014” report.  For the full report, please visit HubSpot.

Getting Found is a Top Inbound Marketing Priority

Blogging is Key to Inbound Marketing

According to HubSpot’s report, marketers who put emphasis on their blogging strategy were a whopping 13 times more likely to see positive ROI, which is the number one reason they see bigger budgets the following year.

So blogging is understandably high on the priority list of top inbound marketing performers. 

What about you?

Is blogging an important part of your overall inbound marketing strategy?

How to Prioritize Blogging

Putting the proper priority on blogging is as simple as consistency. (He says with a completely hypocritical grin.)

It’s simple. Not easy.

We’ve all heard the guidelines:

  1. Create an editorial calendar
  2. Set aside research and writing time each day
  3. Plan ahead to coordinate your editorial calendar with  real world events
  4. Promote your content consistently after each post
And the list goes on.
It’s all great advice, and it works, believe me!  Did you know that Words That Begin With You used to be a daily blog?  Absolutely! Seven days a week for almost seven months.
It was awesome!
And horrifyingly difficult.
But I’m glad I did it.  It gave me a deep reservoir of solid content to refer to as I adjusted my strategy over the years.  It also implanted a healthy writing habit that I can still rely on to this day.
I really wish I still posted with that same level of consistency, but alas, along with increasing client demands came slacking personal marketing.  It’s an age-old dilemma and one I’m not qualified to advise on.
But the fact remains that it’s possible to give blogging the attention it deserves in your inbound marketing strategy.  And the best way to do that is to be consistent.

The State of Inbound Marketing 2014 – Key Takeaway #1 – Inbound ROI Unlocks Budget

This is a series of seven posts covering the key takeaways from HubSpot’s “State of Inbound 2014” report.  For the full report, visit HubSpot.

Inbound Marketing ROI Unlocks Budget

This is huge.

So huge, in fact, it leads off the key takeaways from a report chock full of huge items.

Why is this such a big deal?  Because content marketing has historically had an issue being taken seriously by old-school executives and those who hold the purse strings.  It’s understandable, but it’s not fun – especially for those of us sitting on the inbound side trying to justify our existence.

The report makes a clear correlation between those inbound marketing professionals who are putting a priority on tracking ROI and their level of success as revealed by the continuation of – and even expansion of – their programs. Which, understandably, leads to increasing ROI as time goes on.

Inbound Marketers Should Track ROI

For obvious reasons, those marketers who are able to display a positive ROI are much more likely to see their budget renewed in the following year, or even increased to allow them to expand, experiment, and create even more return.

Inbound Marketing That Shows ROI Get More Money

So, are YOU tracking inbound ROI?

ROI is going to be tracked differently for each organization, so hard and fast rules don’t apply.

However, most of the basics are universal.  They’re covered nicely in this EventBrite post that applies the question specifically to online events (of course.)

The basic areas that make up legitimate inbound marketing ROI are:

  • Awareness
  • Engagement
  • Demand Generation
  • Lead Generation
  • Sales
In the case of the first four areas, actual dollar amounts will be difficult if not impossible to pin down.  Don’t let that dissuade you, however.  Marketing and sales departments have always had to place a monetary figure on people in order to justify expenditures to locate and convert those people.
Call it lead scoring, brand value… call it whatever you want, but use your analytics data to determine what your average conversion rate is throughout each of the first four categories, then compare it to the tangible fifth category: sales.
As you go through this process, working backward in some cases, you’ll eventually come down to a dollar expenditure that applies to each bucket into which you can split up your inbound marketing efforts.  
From that point forward demonstrating ROI is as simple as comparing those numbers to the amount of sales those efforts eventually generated.  If the number is positive, you win!

As a Content Marketer, are You Mulder or Scully?

As a content marketer, are you Mulder or Scully?

Photo courtesy of Fox (the company, not the agent).

OK, I’m about to reveal the true level of my geekdom.  And, if you’re interested in improving your content marketing chops, you’re coming with me.

I’m a huge fan of The X-Files.  It’s one of the few TV shows I fell in love with from the pilot episode and the rest of the world actually did too.  Thanks to the magic of Netflix Instant Watch, I’ve been binging on re-watching the series for the last several months, and it’s still great.

The show evolved over the years it was on the air, but for the seven years when it was most popular, there was one truly unbeatable aspect of it that kept viewers coming back.

It wasn’t the scary, disturbing plots, (although they were really cool); it wasn’t the slam-bang special effects, (although they were pretty impressive); and it wasn’t the occasional goofy humor intermixed with the spine-tingling horror, (although that’s always a match made in heaven.)

No, in my opinion, the most impressive aspect of The X-Files (and the aspect that directly relates to improving your content marketing skills,) is the complex, yet deeply satisfying, relationship between Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

Before we continue, take the quiz…

So, which kind of content marketer are you?  Mulder or Scully?

Based on your answers to the above quiz questions, you’re either a Mulder or a Scully content marketer.  Read on to see what that means and how to maximize the impact of both!

Who is Fox Mulder?

Fox Mulder is the believer.  A man fully convinced in his beliefs (of alien life and the existence of a world outside of what science can explain) to the extent that he has dedicated his life to finding the truth about these things.

He is a man of action.  Quick to pull his gun and start running after anyone – man or monster – who may hold the key to uncovering the truth he seeks.

He’s rash, impetuous, willing to try anything.  And these qualities gain him some incredible success: he’s always the one who sees the monster, watches the UFO speed away, or in some other way catches a glimpse of “the little man behind the curtain.”

But, he gets himself in a lot of trouble along the way, too.  He gets beat up, shot at, abducted, not to mention constantly being on the verge of losing his job.

If you’re a content marketing Fox Mulder, you’re a fast-acting tour-de-force who’s willing to try anything because of your fervent desire to see the results that you know content marketing can bring you.  You’re focused and determined, ready, willing and able to give your content the time and energy it needs and deserves because you know it’s going to bring your business to the next level and beyond.

And you’re right.  But there’s a problem.

You can’t do it alone.

Who is Dana Scully?

Dana Scully is a medical doctor who joined the FBI after med school.  A scientist who therefore views the world through that lens.

She is analytical, critical, a skeptic who needs to look at the evidence and has difficulty looking beyond it in search of the truth.

She is strong, independent, determined to do what is right.  But, in her own way, she’s also constantly seeking answers, even if she needs to bend a few rules to get at them.

She’s the yin to Mulder’s yang.  A skeptic to his believer.  A voice of calm reason to his energetic paranoia.  And – this is important – she knows her way around the FBI rulebook and politics, and knows how to work the system.

So, while Mulder heads off alone to chase a lead, Scully stays at the morgue and examines the body.  While Mulder runs after the monster or chases the UFO, Scully pulls out her cellphone and calls for backup.  While Mulder gets punched in the face, Scully draws from a safe distance and yells “FREEZE!  FBI!”

And she’s gotten Mulder out of trouble more times than we can count because when Assistant Director Skinner (their boss) needs answers for the men upstairs, Scully always has the folder with the little bit of evidence they managed to scrape together so the case can be filed and the X-Files can live to search another day.

If you’re a content marketing Dana Scully, you’re all about strategy and analytics.  You’ve got a solid plan from the start and you’re working that plan slowly and methodically.  You’re aware of the studies that tell us the best time to tweet, the most effective headline formulas, the best post frequency.  You’ve identified your audience and you’re keeping a finger on that audience’s pulse through a hundred visits to Google Analytics every day.

The only trouble is, you’re not really getting anywhere.

Because you can’t do it alone.

Mulder and Scully Together

You see, the reason Mulder and Scully were able to accomplish so much is that their dichotomous personalities completed each other so well.  Mulder couldn’t have succeeded without Scully, and Scully couldn’t have without Mulder.

Without Scully, Mulder’s just a crackpot who believes in aliens and (unfortunately for all of us) has a badge and a gun.

Without Mulder, Scully is a potentially boring desk jockey who examines dead bodies for evidence and writes a neat report.

Together, they can save the world.

So what does this teach us about content marketing?

Simply this:

To succeed at content marketing, you need to embrace both sides of the Mulder/Scully equation:

  • You have to have a strategy in place.  A framework of content that works together and builds on itself.
  • But you also have to be impetuous sometimes.  Try something crazy.  Just throw it out there and see what happens!
  • Know your audience like the back of your hand, and spend some time on analytics or you’re flying blind.
  • But don’t get so caught up in analyzing everything that you forget to act!  The more the DO, the more there is to ANALYZE!
  • You’ve got to use your head.  Great content elicits thoughts and conversation, and it’s based on a solid understanding of how people think, learn and make decisions.
  • But you have to use your heart too!  Passion for your topic and your audience is key.  If you don’t appeal to your audience’s emotions, you’re dead in the water.

When the impetuous believer in you starts to lose heart, your analytical skeptic can pull together the necessary evidence to keep you going.  And when your analytical skeptic gets too bored, your impetuous believer can light the fire again!

Content marketing is a long-term commitment.  A difficult road, sometimes.  And it’s not for the feint of heart.

But the truth is out there.

Want to Know the Truth?

Let me send you the FREE 10-part eCourse, Content Marketing Basics!

WTBWY Bites: LinkedIn Rocks for Content Marketers, and Here’s Why

You’ve probably heard already about the “leaked” internal memo from LinkedIn discussing their acquisition of Bizo and their subsequent plans to take over the world.

About the Bizo Acquisition, the Leaked Document, Corporate Espionage, the Monopolization of Social Media, and Where LinkedIn Will Be in Five Years…

I don’t care.  It’s not important.

Why LinkedIn Rocks for Content Marketers

Now this, on the other hand, is important.

You see, LinkedIn occupies a very special and unique position in the world of social media and content marketing.  It has always been the place for leaders and decision makers.  Even before it was the powerhouse it is today, it was the first, the biggest, and the best social network for business.

As such, it’s a natural for professionals like me – B2B-focused marketers, consultants, trainers, coaches, etc. – to focus our often meager time and financial resources on.  Unlike Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, or any number of other big and small options out there who try in their own way to appeal to everybody, LinkedIn does – and always has – appeal to business people.

In my own circumstance, I can tell you definitively: 

I have never once been able to trace back a single dollar earned in my freelance career as a writer and content marketer to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, or Pinterest.  LinkedIn, on the other hand, has directly or indirectly been responsible for around 90% of my income over the last three years (since I went full-time.)

LinkedIn for content marketers

Photo courtesy of ideagirlmedia(CC No Derivatives)

In this helpful article by Lizetta Staplefoote on the Visual.ly blog, the matter of the leaked document and whatnot are actually analyzed from the perspective of content marketers. 

It does a great job of highlighting how shifting audiences, the rise of mobile, and the rise of social selling have all played a role in LinkedIn’s strategy, including their acquisition of Bizo and their plans for 2015 and beyond.  And it ends with three key take-aways for content marketers:

Key Take-aways:

  1. Less Guessing – The more powerful targeting capabilities LinkedIn will provide will make B2B content marketing far more effective than it even is right now.
  2. More Pressure to Produce – The enhancements will also open up many more opportunities for targeted, even personalized, engagement, which means more content is needed.
  3. Re-think Your Strategy – There are ways every content marketer can mirror the best parts of LinkedIn’s strategy to up their game on all fronts.

Stellar LinkedIn Tips

Want to learn more about using LinkedIn for content marketing? Check out my FREE eCourse, Social Media Basics.

WTBWY Bites – If You Still Need Another Reason to Love Google+, Here it Is.

I was never a Google Plus naysayer like some of my content marketing and social media snob colleagues. I actually liked the network from the start even before I fully understood it. 

I also remember very clearly reading some social media “guru” using terms like “flash in a pan” and “me too” to describe G+ in relation to other established networks like Facebook (which everyone assumed Google was trying to compete with) and thinking, “Dude, it’s Google. Even if it lasts six months it’s worth paying attention to.” 

I’m not positive, but I think I passed that guy the other day while I was on my way to Starbuck’s. 

He was sitting on the sidewalk handling that pan he thought G+ was going to flash in. 

This "guru" didn't love Google+

This "guru" didn’t love Google+. Photo courtesy of Sharon Mollerus(CC Attribution)

I Love Google+ and You Should Too

You'd better love Google+ too!

You’d better love Google+ too!. Photo courtesy of surrealpenguin(CC ShareALike)

With hundreds of millions of users and an increasingly engaged base of superusers keeping things lively, the network has certainly come into its own.  These days I really enjoy it, and it’s an integral part of my social media and content strategies. 

IfByPhone’s “Why Google+ is Even More Relevent to Content Marketers” 

The information in this fine article by Jane Intrieri didn’t surprise me, but it did impress upon me just how thoroughly integrated G+ is into Google’s algorithms, and how powerful a tool and resource it can therefore be for those of us who depend on content for our livelihood. 

Key Take-aways: 

  1. Author Photos are back… but only if you post your work on your personal G+ page. (No wonder I barely noticed when they went away…) 
  2. Google indexes G+ posts within seconds, as opposed to hours or even a day or more for other sites. 
  3. Google obviously favors content shared on (and popular on) G+ in search rankings. (I know some internet purists get all stuffy and grumbly when they hear this because “the internet is supposed to be a perfectly free democracy” and all that jazz, but the fact is, Google is a for-profit corporation and they’ve got the right to give the nudge to their own customers if they choose to. It’s not cheating, it’s the rules of the game right now, so just keep playing.) 
  4. G+ also offers some fantastic audience targeting tools, both for listening and engagement, between the Circles concept, Hangouts, and Communities. It’s a content marketing goldmine in that respect. 

So, do you love Google+? Do you use it yourself? Do you recommend it to others? Or are you still waiting for that pan to flash?

Oh, and btw, you can circle WTBWY on G+ if you’re so inclined.  

Looking for More Google+ Goodness?

You'll probably love the FREE 10-part eCourse, Social Media Basics!

WTBWY Bites – I’m Doing Content Marketing Measurement All Wrong. Are You?

content marketing measurement

Do you need one of these?. Photo courtesy of Internet Archive Book Images(CC No Copyright)

As much as it pains me to say this, I’ve been doing the whole metrics thing all wrong and I’ll bet you have too. 

Don’t get too down on yourself just yet, it’s not totally your fault. After all, if you’ve been at this content marketing gig for a while now, like I have, you’re probably just entrenched in habits that worked perfectly well way the heck back in 2012. But it’s been well over 500 days since then, and in Internet-time, that’s practically a geologic epoch. 

Fortunately for you and me, there are plenty of smart people out there willing and able to kick us in our collective butts and put us in the know:

The Freelance Strategist’s “7 Content Marketing Measurements You’re Probably Undervaluing” 

This excellent article by the experts at Contently is part of their highly informative Contently Labs series. In this case, they managed to pull together a ton of compelling research from sources like Upworthy, Medium, ChartBeat, Alchemy Worx, Eloqua, and Microsoft Research, to determine why most of the standard metrics you and I have been using for so long are no longer providing the insights we need to succeed.

Personally, I’m comfortable with monitoring my pageviews, visit duration, bounce rate, and other standard fare. But maybe I need to branch out: 

“Pageviews and visits are easy to understand and, until recently, it was hard to track the other behaviors of website visitors. But if your brand is like most, and your endgame is truly to increase awareness and build deeper relationships with your audience, shouldn’t you be using metrics that tell you whether you’re achieving your goal?”

Key Take-aways:

Those other metrics are a bit tougher to nail down, but the technology exists and a savvy content marketer needs to make an effort to so sooner rather than later: 

  1. Brand Lift – What’s the prevailing sentiment around your brand? Is it getting progressively better as your audience grows and matures? 
  2. Engaged Time – How much time are your audience members spending on each piece of content? Are they skimming and scramming? 
  3. Average Finish – Instead of just counting every warm body that arrives on your content page, why not count the ones who actually care enough to finish it? 
  4. Return Readers – It’s one thing to count return visitors compared to new, but you can dive a lot deeper into what generates returning readers and how to engage them even more effectively. 
  5. Visitor Loyalty – How soon and how often do people return? It leads to a “snowball effect” you’re going to want to experience. 
  6. Longevity - How long does your content stay productive? Can you tweak it or repurpose it to extend this figure? 
  7. eMail Engagement – Do you know if that “open” you celebrated lasted 2 seconds or 20 minutes? Wouldn’t it make a difference? 

 All great content marketing measurement suggestions I know I’ll be working into my weekly analytics review. How about you?

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Sign up below for the FREE 10-part eCourse, Content Marketing Basics, and learn what to measure, why and how!