Inbound Marketing Metrics

Use metrics to drive the refinements of your inbound marketing system.

Much of what drives inbound marketing happens in the rigor of analytics and metrics. There is a process and cadence to driving results which we use with our clients.

As inbound marketing systems take root and the valuable content created for clients is getting found, the hard, continuous work of figuring out how to connect with a buyer, segmenting various buyer profiles and nurturing each segment has to be refined.

We work to keep our clients aware of how the systems are performing and here are some key components which help to drive towards success:

  • Key search results. Monitoring what phrases and keywords are being used helps to develop future content. This is critical for building the authority of a site for further search.
  • Social media effectiveness. The posts and interactions with people on social media is a key channel for visitors and leads. Looking for what posts create clicks as backlinks is a feedback loop for the ongoing management of how to position and what is valuable.
  • Conversion points. Watching what causes conversions and what is not working helps to see if the “breadcrumb” trail has flaws or works predictably. Reducing a bounce rate on landing pages requires relevant calls to action.
  • Subscriber engagement. As people want to keep up with the valuable content being offered, they need to be further nurtured and metrics on loyalty need to be identified. This requires driving further value at various timeframes to take advantage of the opt-ins from your subscriber lists.

These are a few of the metrics that an inbound marketing system requires. There are many more that require review daily, weekly or monthly depending on the change required. The key is to integrate a discipline into your sales and marketing processes that drives towards optimized buying processes.

What are some key metrics you review?

There Is No Magic Pill

Looking for that perfect pill is elusive and deceptive.

If there were a magic pill for getting more business, someone would have found it, shared it and everyone would be taking it. The truth is that there is no magic pill. Getting new customers is hard work and a continual moving target. You might be tempted to enlist the gimmicks of SEO companies or social media spammers. It’s not worth it. Gimmicks have costs eventually.

Just recently, there was an outcry with the Google search engine algorithm change with Google Panda. The sites out there that were low in quality and merely focused on backlinking to artificially manipulate search rankings were filtered out. Those sites intent on providing value and substance rose in prominence. The gimmicks were completely sidelined.

Do The Real Work

The truth is that you do not create something and it just works to get found, convert leads and increase revenue. It is a continual process of refinement, management and hard work. To separate yourself in a world of noise and reach your audience, there is continual, relentless work that has to be done regularly. Here are some of the continuous activities:

  • Creating valuable content. Your content has to connect and become increasingly relevant. People are searching for answers. You must become that trusted and accessible resource to get found.
  • Implementing systems. Your process flow and systems for how a buyer experiences your brand and moves through an integrated experience has to be continually refined. The touchpoints, offers and timing need to be engineered with precision.
  • Analyzing data. Seeing what works and what does not has to come from specific, real-time metrics that reveal how you are found and what people do on your systems. There is a feedback loop that needs to manage your next campaigns. The work never ends.
  • Connecting with your audience. What happened a week ago becomes increasingly irrelevant. We live in a real-time world. Your audience’s attention is on the present. You have to continually connect with what matters to them and helps them to achieve continual success.

Process and continuous improvement is the focus of organizations that stand out and connect. If you are a mere static picture in today’s dynamic world, then the traffic and engagement your competitors who pay the true price of continual engagement will be costly.

Stop looking for a magic pill and do the work or hire a team that gets it done over the long term. There are no shortcuts.


Why Websites Fail To Convert Leads

Let’s start with this premise – people don’t want to be converted. It’s not why they visit your site. It is what you may have in mind, but noone wants to be sold or converted.

This is the conundrum. Most websites, while they may be well-designed, are focused on the Buy Now customer. It is the person with urgency and pain today. It is a rather small subset of potential buyers.

The greater majority are in the Buy Later, Learn Now category. Buying is a process. It happens when someone starts to focus on solving a problem. They get online and start researching and learning for themselves the very questions they should even be asking. If you are in a complex industry, the cycle is long as your potential buyers get comfortable and orient themselves to information they are alien to in their daily lives and work.

Typical websites fail to convert leads and here are some things you can focus on to avoid the pitfalls of missing your buyer:

  • Brochure design. Marketers got in the business of website design and it shows. They present the company, the products and the content in a brochure format. It’s static and hyped. Compare this with sites that engage you and lead you down a process of learning. We ignore the hype and are trying to learn something.
  • Vanity. Talking about yourself and how you great you are does little to build trust. Telling your story and helping people understand how you work and do business goes much further in building trust. Talk about the customers’ problems specifically and concretely. That builds your credibility and shows you care.
  • No growth. Your content in the form of knowledge sharing and resources should be continually and regularly growing. If it is not, then you become irrelevant. It’s a one and done visit, especially as someone is just learning. You have the opportunity to be an authority on your industry, product or marketplace. Be that hub and the connection increases. Your brand is no longer a stranger.
  • No follow-up. When someone is searching, they forget where they have been. If they were interested in your content and information, then what keeps them engaged or connected? Your site has to have marketing automation to nurture the relationship based on their preferences and behaviors. Otherwise, it is just a forgotten experience.

There is no shortage of badly designed or managed sites. Hopefully, your own systems can improve as you incorporate just these few strategies for your web presence. It is the art of turning a stranger into a friend by continually positioning and providing value in a one-to-one fashion.

How can you improve? Feel free to comment below.

Connecting With Your Inbound Audience

Photo from AURORA Norwich's Flickr stream

If you sweat and hustle, build a sales organization, interrupt people with traditional media, then you may get a few eyeballs to look your way and pay attention. You may make more enemies than friends in the process, as well. Interrupting people has the tendency of ruining a second chance. Your brand is on the line. That is the detriment of outbound marketing.

However, inbound marketing relies on one key differentiator – connection. As people are searching for what they want or tuned into the information, products and services that will help them grow their business, improve their health and better their relationships, there is opportunity to provide value.

Today, billions of searches happened. People spent enormous amounts of time on social media. If you email someone, they open it within a few minutes. Everyone is plugged in at work or on their mobile device. How can you connect? Here’s how we help our customers connect in this dizzying world of information:

  • Answers. There’s something our clients take for granted. They have answers which they know like the back of their hand. They have mastered their trade. We help them share their answers and make it part of the buying process with their audience.
  • Stories. We tune into stories. It is part of our inherent psyche. Telling the stories of success, the building processes and the history of who you are all connects. We do business with people and organizations we like and can identify with. Stories help to reflect your brand for those that resonate and want to connect.
  • Care. What do you do to make your customers feel special? All things being equal, the way you service and show care needs to come through in the personality and soul of your brand. Examples and testimonials help with this. Proof needs to be shown and shared to connect.

Look at the answer (comfortable shoes), stories (buy one give one) and care (customer service) that Toms is delivering and connecting with. They continue to grow their audience and their authenticity shines through and connects. Just one example of many that are out there connecting with their audiences.

How could you do better?

3 Inbound Marketing Customer Experience Strategies

We often think that the customer experience commences when we are servicing a person. How they are handled at the cash register, try our products out or serviced for needs tends to draw our focus to provide caring service. Much of the last decade emphasized this kind of personal attention.

With the accessibility of information far and wide on the internet via search engines and social media, the customer experience starts far before any up close contact with your company. How you talk, contribute and are talked about creates a persona that draws attraction or distaste for those looking for information to meet a real or felt need.

The customer experience you create with complete strangers sets the tone for how newcomers to your brand will feel about you. There are a few components that should be part of your inbound marketing strategy that can create a continuum as a stranger moves from indifference to intimacy:

  • Knowledge sharing. Buyers don’t spend as much time as you thinking about your industry. Start at a rudimentary level and provide knowledge that orients newcomers to what they should know. Frame what a new buyer should be thinking about to make an intelligible decision about what you offer. Be a resource and you earn further trust to being consulted.
  • Create conversation. Be a catalyst for thought and provoke conversations around topics. This can be done on various social media platforms, forums and on your corporate blog. Fostering thought and helping dialogue positions you as a leader in your space. Be sure you know what you are talking about and share it with the world.
  • Relevant connections. Ensure that a link, pay-per-click ad or comment on a site links to a relevant landing page. Generic pages break a thought process. Building congruent process is extra work but it is worthwhile. It creates a customer experience that is whole and connected. Connecting via links and calls to action in a logical path increases your opportunity to eventually engage.

We like to think about the customer experience up close and personal. With buyers able to check us out or discover us from far away and impersonally now, your brand needs to be aligned and managed.

What do you think? How can you make the customer experience broader and more strategic?

Before The Sales Process Begins

The sales process is visual and attractive to manage. It feels like a higher level of control. It is showtime. We are with the prospective customer and get to display our salesmanship. A process helps make this more predictable and fruitful. Otherwise it is random and opportunities are lost.

However, if there is overemphasis on wooing and winning customers based on a salesperson’s tactics, then your process starts with little or no trust. Trust is the lubricant which makes selling a formality for those that work hard before the sales process begins.

Inbound Marketing Starts The Buying Process

Before you ever engage in selling, your customer is buying. They are searching, scanning and learning. They want to feel educated, empowered and comfortable before having a sales discussion. It is the buying process. They are persuading themselves and figuring out what they want.

Here is where you can be of immense value, not necessarily personally, but by offering your expertise. You have what is known as the curse of knowledge. You spend so much time thinking about your product, service, industry and technicalities that you forget that it is foreign for a newcomer to your space. Yet, your knowledge is extremely valuable.

In the buying process, you can help your buyer get what they want:

  • Education. Packaging your knowledge in myriad forms of content – audio, video, written – should be easily found and easily accessed. Distribute this in a way that helps a person ask smart questions and feel like a peer when they do decide to engage in the sales process.
  • Empowerment. Your buyer needs a framework for making a decision and a way to evaluate what you offer. This helps them feel in control in their decision. Provide such empowerment by helping them ask the right questions and understand your market, competition and even jargon. It may feel awkward if you are not used to doing this, but it will build trust as you are transparent and broaden the discussion to helping them see how a choice is made in context rather than in a one-sided fashion.
  • Comfort. Helping your buyer feel competent and confident is important in a strange area. Think about how you feel when the mechanic is overwhelming you. It can cause you to shut down and withdraw. Invite the buyer into the discussion. Help them feel comfortable so that the sales discussion is a conversation rather than a lecture.

If your buying process is set up well in the inbound marketing system and process, then selling becomes much easier. You can tell because the buyer is ready and conversant with you. Trust is present.

Since information is democratized, why not be the leader in providing the right information at the right time before the selling begins?

What could such a process mean for your selling?

Managing An Inbound Marketing Team

When we share with our clients the work and production of our team to build and deliver an inbound marketing system, they come to appreciate what it takes to make everything work. Here are the conversation points which we have heard that have represented the value of partnering with a marketing firm like AscendWorks:

  • I don’t have to hire all those people. The talent required is broad for an effective inbound marketing system. Among these include:
    • Web developers
    • Graphic designers
    • Copywriters
    • Copyeditors
    • Project managers
    • IT
    • Strategy consultants
    • Marketing analysts
    • Database managers
    • Video technicians
  • I don’t have to manage the team. You can focus on your own business and work collaboratively and leave the headaches to us for getting things done.
  • I don’t have to manage the projects. We have publishing calendars, task lists, requirements documents and strategy maps to work through. Building this process is years of refinement and failures that you don’t have to worry about. You get the result of a well-tuned factory.
  • I can see what is happening. We communicate and stay transparent with what is happening. The work that gets done along with the results in the form of metrics is continually captured and presented to help you see what is working.
  • I can get new ideas. We have knowledge and strategies we share with our customers. We are in it together seeking to drive leads and customers with your inbound marketing systems and content.

Sure, if you want to take on the headaches, staff up and get ready to manage a process. It takes a lot of commitment and vision. But if you find that the reality is that you would rather do without the headaches and partner with less than half a head count, then we think it makes good business sense. Consider the work and focus on the result.

What are your thoughts?

Inbound Marketing And The Compound Interest Effect

Inbound marketing at its core is a process. It is a system which continually produces leads. In the old days, we used to sit on our laurels with a site that was optimized. That is short-lived today. Content and value are being measured and presented by search engines to present people seeking to solve their specific problem with real answers.

When you have a system set up and tuned that revolves around your value, then the efforts of your outbound marketing whether via field sales, advertising or direct mail, become enhanced and effective. There is a process which caters to the buyer after you have grabbed their attention.

We speak to audiences and tell our clients all the time about how inbound marketing systems become assets to your business. Your investment has a compound interest effect that can be seen over time as you grow and leverage your assets. Here is how:

  • Content. Your content persists online. If your systems are set up well, then you will be getting found easily and frequently. Content lives and it serves anyone searching for what you have to offer say.
  • Automation. A process that a buyer can follow and be served with timely information works while you sleep, are away from the office or completely busy. It is more dependable than anyone on your team. It is the concierge for helping buyers get what they need at the right time.
  • Social outposts. Your reputation, relevance and followers that have been built up in the right social media venues has to be tied in tightly with your inbound marketing systems. These become permission avenues. You can announce new offers or get opinions quickly. It is a direct access asset for your business. It is also the avenue for driving referrals.

Getting found, providing value aesthetically and automatically and getting referrals becomes a system that produces on its own. As time goes by and the system continues to get tuned, the output is even more efficient. There are many businesses that have experienced such compound interest. They worked hard to tune their systems.

Where do you feel your inbound marketing systems are at?

Stop Trying To Cheat Google

It amazes me how many people spend energy and time trying to find workarounds to getting found or a sale rather than doing the hard work characteristic of those that truly pay the price. It’s almost like watching someone who is a cheat that would be better off getting a job. The latter would provide better and more predictable revenue.

Maybe there’s some other psychological kickback that comes from trying to cheat Google. However, here are the problems I see:

  • Google is smarter. They have paid millions for their talent. They are extremely talented and insightful.
  • Google is always changing. Their algorithms continually change, especially to thwart cheaters.
  • Google is in control. They control what search results come up based on criteria in their algorithms.
  • Google can create consequences for you. You may find it even more difficult to get found.

If you insist on looking for workarounds or paying some SEO company for so-called optimization, then your work could not only be wasted, but your future efforts may be harder.

Here is the way we look at getting found online when billions of searches are occurring for goods, services and information:

  • Build information assets. There is a compound interest effect if you have a volume of information. It lives and persists online forever. It is an asset. Adwords and pay-per-click are fleeting. You get a click and pay a lot of dollars. You still don’t have an asset.
  • Create valuable content. It is not good if people land on your pages and find your content worthless. The foundation for truly getting found is around having something real and valuable to share.
  • Join the conversation. There are conversations online in legitimate places. Other authors, social media and sites can endorse you as legitimate thereby creating valuable equity for your online assets.
  • Continually innovate. Thinking that someone will set up your SEO and you are done is naive. You have to be committed to being continually relevant and current. This requires innovation. It is today’s business. It’s not very different than seeing a bricks-and-mortar business and their continual maintenance and innovation. If they stop growing, they are opening the doors for failure.

The truth is that you have to be smart, hard-working and substantive. It’s honest and fair. Google rewards such behaviors as you can see from your own searching and consumption. Avoid the gimmicks. Pay the price and do the hard work of being truly valuable. You can find out what Google rewards and penalizes here.

What do you think?

Old Marketing Still Persists

I saw this stack of yellow pages. They were pristine and untouched in a mall after a full day. Noone took one. Why would they?

I see the yellow pages thrown out on streets when they are distributed. On a rainy day, the pages mulch up from the moisture.

Why still kill trees to get out advertising? The books look silly. The world doesn’t pick up the yellow pages to find something. It’s bulky, outdated and inconvenient now.

Here is what is convenient:

  • I find you on search when I am thinking about something
  • I read about you on Yelp to find out what others think or what is nearby
  • A Tweet mentions you in a story
  • A Facebook page is continually updated and I find it
  • I see pictures and audio/visual on Google+ of your products in customers’ hands
  • I look you up on my iPhone or Android device

Old channels of marketing still hold on. Most buyers of this kind of advertising are hoping something will happen. There is nothing to measure. You can get a feeling of whether it’s working, but there’s nothing analytical about it.

Well, one thing is for sure. As long as people are not picking up the old stuff, the attrition is natural and accelerating. We will always have those that hang on and hope instead of get on and do what’s relevant.

What old forms of marketing are you still finding work?