Email Marketing: Alive and Well!

email marketingWith social media becoming the main form of communication over the internet in today’s society, it’s common to make the assumption that email marketing is dead and gone. I’m here to explain exactly why that’s not true – at all.  Email marketing is alive and well, and you’re doing your company a disservice by not implementing it as much as you can. Don’t believe me? According to a recent study, every $1 spent on email marketing gets an average return of $44.25. This research also indicates that email marketing is 40x more effective than acquiring customers and leads through Facebook and Twitter. Email marketing is easy to track through analytics, it’s a relatively cheap form of marketing for your business, and it’s a much better way to interact personally with your prospects.

In order to keep your email marketing legal, you need to follow these CAN-SPAM guidelines:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information
  • Use subject lines that accurately reflect the content of the email
  • Identify the message as an ad
  • Include the sender’s postal address
  • Allow recipients the option to opt-out of receiving future emails and provide a working “unsubscribe” link

Making sure you are aware of your target audience is by far, the most important part of email marketing. Guaranteed, the best way to ruin your chances at closing a sale, is to be targeting the wrong audience. So do your research, create your buyer personas, and make sure you understand just who it is you are speaking to. Ways to do this are to research their websites, follow them on social media, and find out who they themselves follow.

Now, it’s time to begin writing your perfect message. Start off with a subject line that is short and concise. You want to make sure you get to the point right away. You want to set up expectations properly, and make sure there is no false or misleading information whatsoever. Including the recipients name hasn’t been shown to increase open rates, what’s important about the subject line is to just make sure you get to the point in approximately 6-8 words. While including the recipients name might not help open rates, including some sort of localization will! Add a relevant city name to the subject line to increase your open rates. When the customer has opened your message, you have only about 3 seconds to convince them to keep reading before they’re on to the next email. The first few sentences of the email are critical so you don’t want to include too much information here. In most cases, the beginning sentences will include your name, where you’re from, and what you’re trying to do. Even though using personal names in the subject line won’t get you too far, using the recipients personal name in the actual message will get you far. There should always be a special reason for you to contact this specific person, and by making the message personal you’re able to create a connection and have a higher success rate.

Be sure to keep the message short and sweet. People are always busy and constantly thinking about the next task they have to complete or thing they are about to go do. No one wants to be annoyed and have their time wasted by reading through long emails. If you don’t receive a reply, it’s important to send a follow up email within about 3-4 days from the first email you sent. You should be asking if they received the email, and make sure that it wasn’t sent to their spam folder. Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t gotten a response to the first email you send out. Persistence is key and it really can go a long way with you email marketing efforts. Many people respond well to persistence, because it shows you’re not willing to give up on them.

One challenge that email marketers may end up facing is how to deal with “email-fatigued” clients. In order to overcome this you need to show your customers that you have more to offer them than just some deals and discounts. Sometimes customers might not need anything from you right now, all they might need is industry insight, inspiring positivity, and continuing to build a trusting relationship. This is a great way to show your customers that aren’t in an active purchase mode that you still value their time and commitment to your company. Something else that can be done to target those that are tired of constant emails is to give them the option to receive your emails less frequently. This is particularily useful just after holiday season. The customers who wanted your emails multiple times a day in December may be feeling bombarded by it in January. It’s doubtful that these consumers no longer want to hear about your products and promotions ever again now, so giving them the option to only receive emails 1-2 times a week still keeps you in their minds, but at level that is less “in your face.”

To summarize, it’s important to do your research on your audience, have an honest and concise subject line, keep it personal, and follow up.

Here’s an article about the Top 100 Email Marketing Campaigns, broken down into 5 categories; Design Leaders, Top Performers, Optimization Experts, Nonconformists, and All Stars. Also, these are considered to be the best email marketing softwares of 2015!


I’d also like to talk about the importance of inbound sales for marketing. What are inbound sales? It’s “the process of focusing on individual buyers and their personal needs, points of pain, frustrations and goals.” An inbound sales person always puts the needs of the customer ahead of their own. The stereotypical salesperson who would say whatever they could to close a sale is no longer effective. All the more reason to make sure you are attracting the right customers, and making a closed deal with the right leads through your inbound sales.

HubSpot is sort of known as the granddaddy of inbound sales and that’s because not only do they provide amazing information about the topic, but they also offer a certification in inbound sales. The fact that you can get a certification with inbound sales shows just how important it is! It might even be what helps you land a future job. HubSpot also has come out with their own CRM that could become a key part of your sales management process!

The world we live in today is completely driven by people searching for solutions to their problems themselves – thus hopefully leading them right to you. Salespersons no longer need to seek out their leads, because now it’s so common that they will come knocking on your door on their own. Customers will do their own research on the products and services your company has to offer them before they will even consider speaking with a member of your team. Sales is no longer about closing, it’s about helping.

The self-helping internet world that we all live in today provides a new set of ways for salespeople to do their job. The inbound way to do selling includes blogging, social selling, content offers, landing pages, sales-ready websites, and SEM & SEO. Implementing SalesForce is a perfect way to implement inbound sales and help your sales team stay more focused and productive. (I’ve personally had a great deal of experience with SalesForce as it pertains to Real Estate through my internship of Summer 2014 and agree that it’s an amazing way to connect with leads!)

There are plenty of inbound sales tools that your company can use and they include

  1. Sidekick: a Google Chrome extension that can help each rep receive real-time notifications of when/where/how your prospects are engaging with emails or website.
  2. HubSpot CRM: Can help cut down data entry time.
  3. InsightSquared: SalesForce is part of this. There is great value in the data and reports it can produce.
  4. LinkedIn Advanced Search: many of you ideal customers are likely to be on this social media platform.
  5. TinderBox: Lets customers sign documents electronically from anywhere in the world. Also includes tools to increase productivity and track how customers interact with your assets.
  6. YouCanBook.Me: Allows prospects to book meetings right into your calendar
  7. Ghostery: Lets you see what programs and software a company is running on its website.
  8. Rebump: The best way to get your email answered!
  9. Followerwonk: Find new leads and gain insight into existing leads.
  10. SalesLoft: Quickly build high-quality prospect lists from social profiles across the web.

The most important thing to take away about inbound sales is that the traditional ways of selling are no longer effective. Customers can find information about your company and product with the click of the button, rather than interacting with a sales rep from the beginning. Salespeople need to understand now that instead of the goal being to close a deal, now its to help the customer find the best options of your products for them.

UX/UI & Landing Pages

Up until about 5 minutes ago, every time I saw in my digital marketing syllabus that my blog post for May 4th would be written about UX/UI and landing pages, I was extremely confused. I’d just ask myself “what the hell is a UX/UI and what’s that got to do with marketing? And what does a landing page even mean?”

Well, I’m happy to say I can tell you! 🙂

What’s so important about UX/UI?

UX stands for “User eXperience” and designers in this realm are mainly concerned with how the product feels, making sure that it does exactly what it’s supposed to do for the customer, and logically flows from one step to the next. This is where marketers can use extreme design creativity, and get to work hands on with software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks and InVision. These designers use wireframes, or a rough guide/sketch of how the website or app will look. With the main focus being about the eXperience, there is lots of testing done with actual users to see what works and what doesn’t.

UI stands for “User Interface” and designers in this realm are mainly concerned with how the product is laid out. Responsibilities for a designer specializing in user interface is creating a cohesive and integrated design language and style guide for the website or app of a company. They also can have such specifically detailed decisions to make such as whether to use a slider or control knob to increase/decrease the size of a graph.

It’s fairly common for companies to combine these jobs into one, because the lines between their job descriptions often can be blurred. They typically use the same software to design their UX and UI platforms and their job duties intertwine so seamlessly.

Most people probably categorize UX and UI designers with graphic designers, however graphic designers work at a much more detailed level, usually within photoshop, and do a much different job than what the user experience and user interface designers do. This is something that initially surprised me while learning about this marketing topic! I’ve taken 2 graphic design courses in high school, and through my personal experience with it, and now learning about UX and UI designers, it actually makes perfect sense that they are so different. Lastly there are motion designers. These are the people that are responsible for the subtle movements that happen when you decide to refresh your Facebook app on your iPhone.

What’s so important about landing pages?

Landing pages are important for helping customers along in the process of getting them to your conversion goal. A landing page, simply put, is another page separate from your core website, that a user can “land” on, and is designed for a single objective. Important factors that go into a landing page are that you should keep it simple and clear to use, create a precise call-to-action, and make it creative and aesthetically pleasing. Also, an incentive to close the deal is what will be the final push to get the user to reach your intended objective.

Good landing pages will target a specific audience, such as those who click on your pay-per-click ads. You’ll need to create a separate landing page for each of these different audiences you will have. Important questions to ask yourself from the HubSpot article How to Create a Landing Page include

  1. What exactly is being offered? : basically, what’s in it for me if I give you all my info
  2. What are the benefits of the offer? : tell them why they can’t live without it
  3. Why do they need the offer now? : create a sense of urgency
  4. How does the user get the offer? : an easy page to get the lead to convert

Landing pages are just another tool to help your customer along the path to eventually making a sale or whatever your end objective may be (sign up for email, download e-book, etc). Making sure you perfect your conversion process is how you’re able to get leads and a landing page is one of the building blocks for this process. First, you need a great call to action, that will lead to a landing page, then lastly the thank you page. While each of these pages is important in their own way, the landing page is extremely important for actually closing the deal you want made! Landing pages are your digital sales reps.

There are many different ways to set up your landing page design, and plenty of different websites to help you create the best, integrated one for your business. Here are 8 great landing page designs you can check out as well as 6 Fantastic Landing Page Examples.

Just remember, always keep your end goal in mind, and be sure your landing pages are what will help get you there!

Let’s Talk Social Media

I’m just going to throw this out there and get it out of the way… If your business isn’t utilizing social media to the best of its ability, you’re doing something extremely wrong. The ways of the internet have shifted dramatically over the course of the last 8 or so years, and media isn’t just media, it’s social. Pictures, videos, and content can be shared across the world in the blink of an eye and while it’s (arguably) not very personal, people have never been more connected. It’s so, so, so important that businesses get with the trend and use social media to their advantage – and I mean more than just getting likes on a Facebook page. Social media isn’t just a fad, and I can guarantee it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The need for a social media platform in a business is just going to grow as time goes on. The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media lays out some important statistics for your business to consider about social media:

business social media

  • Facebook has over 1.19 billion active users monthly
  • 72% of online adults use social networking sites
  • 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations
  • Smartphone ownership among American adults has risen 60%.

I think we can agree that the point here is that customers are online. And more importantly, your customers.

With so much of our every day lives being spent on the internet, it’s extremely important that businesses connect with their customers in this non-traditional way. Social media can help any and all companies reach their end goal whether its increasing your brands awareness, helping your customers create a preference for your brand, or closing a sale. However, the most important aspect that social media can help you with, from a business perspective, is creating those crucial relationships that will hopefully last a lifetime. Making and maintaining those relationships is the foundation of social media, and the fact that businesses can now get on a more personal level with their patrons makes this process that much easier. The reward? It’s pretty obvious. The more relationships and bonds you create and the stronger they are, the more likely your business is to convert someone into a repeat customer for your brand.

Another great use of social media for a business is receiving feedback. Customers might not want to take the time to make a post on Yelp, Amazon, or your website, but I bet you they’re on Facebook and have all the time in the world to make a post there! You will be able to gain a whole world of insight into how your customers feel about your brands and products that you may have never gotten before social media.

Personally, I think the best thing about social media for a business is the fact that everything can be shared. This is inbound marketing at its prime. If a customer has a good experience with your brand, they can share a post about it with all of their friends and followers. This opens up so many doors of opportunities! That post can be shared by their friends, and then it can be shared by THAT persons friends…and so on! Personally, I think this is what’s so amazing about social media in general – but for a business it’s absolutely essential. Another way to get your information shared on social media is to create the content yourself. Having a twitter account, a Facebook page, a blog for your company, and other social media sites makes it so you yourself can post and have those posts be shared.

I’m going to dive into how each social media platform can help your business in their own ways, and give an example of a company I believe uses that platform extraordinarily.

Facebook

Some facts:

  • The average Facebook user has 229 friends
  • Posts and pages on Facebook are “liked” 4.5 billion times each day
  • 59% of users who “like” a brand page do so because they have purchased or used the product or service, while 45% are in it for inside info on deals

I wouldn’t be surprised if the first website you thought of when you hear social media is Facebook. This site took the internet to an entirely new level and basically single handedly destroyed MySpace (you remember MySpace, right?). The uses for Facebook are endless, and include connecting with friends old and new and networking. Making sure your business is on Facebook would do nothing but help you. You can have your content marketing take on a new platform and by conquering Facebook, you conquer social media. Make sure you post photos too! Posts that include photos are interacted with much more than just plain text posts. This is also another way for companies to show their human side, which goes back to my relationship point. Facebook is able to create a great sense of community for its users, and its more than important that your business gets in on it and engages.

Delta Airlines has a great Facebook page, and on a more local scale, New York Pizza Bar & Grill does a great job with their content and pictures, and posting about their happy hour promotions and the like.

Twitter

Some facts:

  • There are 400 million tweets sent per day
  • 72% of Twitters active users are between the ages of 18 and 49
  • Twitter membership grew 40% between Q2 and Q4 2012

Clearly Twitter is the place to be for a business with stats like that. The tricky part about Twitter is you only have 140 characters to say what you want to say and that can prove to be difficult. However, when you’re able to master that minor obstacle, you’ll be able to “talk the talk” with all of your tech savvy followers, and increase your credibility among them. Businesses can show they care about their followers on Twitter by favoriting and retweeting their tweets, as well as following them back. It’s important to make sure you stay interesting when using Twitter, and the more your content is retweeted, the more of an audience you’re able to reach. Data is also easily tracked with Twitter which can save lots of time for your company when you’re trying to measure your Twitter results. It’s also important that you don’t spam your followers. This is important with any marketing effort but it can be too easy to forget this one with Twitter. Also make sure you utilize the #hashtag features! This can help your content and tweets be found by people that otherwise wouldn’t have stumbled upon your account.

Personally, I think Taco Bell is a business that uses twitter in the perfect way. They share their own content, retweet and respond to their followers (back to my relationship point), post pictures of their products, and not to mention whoever runs their account is hilarious!

Google+

Some facts:

  • Google accounts for 67% of search engine searches
  • There are 300 million active users monthly
  • Those users upload approximately 1.5 billion photos every week

If you’ve hesitated with creating a Google+ account don’t worry, you’re not alone. But I would advice you to hop off the fence and create your account ASAP, granting your target market has done the same. G+ is catching fire and research has supported that it’s users are predominantly male and very tech savvy. Google+ offers a feature where you can share your content to your other social media pages, and this will help drive traffic and your audience to your G+ page.

With nearly 4.6 million followers, RedBull is a great example of how your content can be shared through the social media site.

LinkedIn

Some facts:

  • A reported 238 million users in over 200 countries as of January 2013
  • 2 new members added to LinkedIn every second
  • Over 3 million companies have LinkedIn pages

LinkedIn is now the best way for users to display their resumes and professional background and development. This website can help a business create their B2B relationships as well as make recommendations for their products. Another way businesses use this platform is post updates and share news regarding the company. This is a great way for users to see just what’s going on with the company itself! Keep in mind though there is a fine line between cocky and confident…you don’t want to brag and self-promote an excessive amount. It’s still key to sometimes let your customers do the talking for you through word-of-mouth. Another important thing to note is to always make sure you reply when a customer leaves a comment or review; if they have a complaint, address it; if they have a question, answer it.

Microsoft utilizes LinkedIn in a great way, making sure they keep their profile up-to-date and ensuring all of their followers have the right information.

YouTube

Some facts:

  • 100 hours of videos are uploaded every minute
  • Over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month
  • Thousands of YouTube channels are making six figures annually

It’s pretty simple, YouTube is all about sharing. Account users are able to follow channels and view and share the content posted, upload their own content to be viewed and shared, as well as have discussions, post comments, and follow & be followed. You can also buy ad space for your company to either be displayed in a banner, play before a video, or have a small pop up during a video.

When it comes to content marketing through YouTube, Old Spice takes the cake.

Pinterest

Some facts:

  • There are 20 million active Pinterest users monthly
  • Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit combined
  • Shoppers spend more on their purchases when referred from Pinterest as compared to Facebook and Twitter referrals

Consumers can interact with their favorite businesses through Pinterest so make sure to stay engaged! Great content strategies include showing your followers a little behind the scenes action and also highlighting the customers you have. Anything that makes your customers feel special is a win. Be sure that all of your content and pictures are shareable so that other Pinterest users can find you.

Nordstrom does a great job at using Pinterest for their content marketing. They have 69 boards ranging from “Shiny Things” to “Holiday Cheer” to “Fashion Cats” (a personal favorite).

Blogging

Some facts:

  • Approximately 31 million bloggers in just the United States
  • 57% of bloggers report having more than one blog
  • 35% of businesses blog at least once a month

There are countless types of blogs and reasons someone would create a blog, but for business purposes, it’s best used like any other social media platform – to produce content that can be shared. When developing content for your businesses blog its key to think like your audience and viewers and always have them in mind. You can also check out other blogs to get inspiration and some pointers with how you should go about your own. Timing is crucial, and according to HubSpot, blogs that post 2-3 times a week perform better than blogs that post more or less than.

ModCloth is a great example of a company that uses their blog to provide their audience with up to date fashion trends.


These were just a few of many different social media platforms your company can use. Others include Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr and Vine. By having your company take over the social media world, you’re without a doubt enabling it for success. Also, don’t forget to track and measure your social media marketing efforts. You always want to know how you’re doing in comparison to your goals, and tweaking your game plan as you see fit.

The major takeaway: You want your patrons to be assured that they always make the right choice with your business, and interacting with them on social media guarantees that.

Content Marketing: Another Piece to the Digital Marketing Puzzle

Bloggers can blog all day long if they want to and make thousands upon thousands of posts, but if the content isn’t right, it’s basically all for nothing. In order for your blog and your posts to get more and more views, you need to be sure that your content is aimed for the right audience (or audience you hope to have in the future), is engaging for the reader, and is promoted in an effective way in order to help awareness. This idea doesn’t solely apply to writing blogs, and can be applied to business efforts with a new product, even to the way you present yourself to others. Making sure you have not just good, but great content, can be broken down into 5 steps:

  1. Understand Your Audience: It’s extremely important that before you even begin writing your content, you have a clear understanding of who your audience currently is (if you even have one), and who you want your future audience to be. It’s also important to consider people who might find your content to be useful to them or insightful. To do this, you can create a “buyer persona.” Or in other words, an imaginary audience you wish to have, and determine the desired demographics/psychographics they will have. Another way to develop your buyer persona is through interviewing prospective viewers/buyers and/or the sales team, evaluating your web analytics reports (Google Analytics is a great tool to implement to your company or blog etc.), use keywords to research what your possibly viewer is searching for, and keep an eye on social media activities.
  2. Map the Content to the Sales Cycle: In the short version of the business sales cycle, there must be awareness, an evaluation, and finally a purchase. At the awareness stage, your main goal is to drive traffic towards your content and help create awareness of your product that wasn’t there before. Promotion of your brand is key in this stage. Next, is the evaluation. Customers are already aware that your brand exists. They may not be ready to purchase just yet, but they need to know that your brand is exactly what they are searching for. Lastly, is the purchase. With any business and content marketing strategies, the purchase and sale is ultimately the main goal. The customer has already become aware, gone through their evaluation process, and now the content needs to help them make the decision that your brand is better than your competitors.
  3. Create the Content: The most valued types of content consist of research reports & studies, technical & data sheets, analyst intelligence & insight, white papers, and articles on trade publishing sites (in that order). The length of your content is just as important. In this case, the longer the better – 2,000 or more words to be exact. Short posts don’t drive enough traffic and don’t add enough value to your company, or prove that your time is being well spent. There have even been studies done that show the more you write, the more your posts will be shared over other media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. This can even be connected to inbound marketing efforts, because the more your content is shared and promoted the less outbound marketing efforts need to take place.
  4. Promote your Content: Promotion is where the marketing comes into play with this method. It doesn’t matter how amazing, insightful, and down right spectacular your content is. If you’re not promoting it, no one is ever going to see it, and you just wasted a few hours of your valuable time! It’s important that you link your content to your social media sites (like I’ve done with my twitter account and this blog). Everyone and their mother is on social media these days, and this is probably the best place to promote your content. Beyond social media, you can promote your content through a Google AdWords campaign or through email marketing campaigns.
  5. Measure and Analyze: I’m personally guilty of not following through with this step. It’s so, so, so important to measure how well your content is doing and check out the progress you’ve made over time. I’m stuck in the habit of clicking publish, and never checking back to see my page views etc. Luckily, thanks to my new certification in Google Analytics, I know exactly how to track some of the most important measures. Components you might consider measuring are number of page views, what posts are being shared the most as well as which types of content are being shared, what keywords are triggering views, and how many leads your content generates. When you are able to understand these measures and analyze them, you’re able to create MUCH better content, because you know exactly what your viewer/customer is doing while on your blog.

On a business level, blogging is an extremely useful tactic to help customers learn and become aware of new products that might be launching, things your business is doing around the community, and overall learn more about what it is your company does and hopes to do in the future. Blogging is a key component to any business in todays society. Everyone is using the internet and many people have their own blogs for personal use. Companies must stick with the times and adapt to the media habits of their current and potential customers. The main focus of a blog for a business is to attract visits, create a lead, and hopefully convert them into an actual customer. The more posts and indexed pages your business has, the more likely it is that your blog will be found in an online search! With engaging content, this will hopefully open up opportunities for viewers to want to learn more, read other blog posts, and even decide to go to your company website or store and make a purchase.

HubSpot Academy emphasizes that one of the fundamentals of blogging is to generate inbound links. They describe it as votes. This metaphor works because if a company doesn’t create blog content, they can’t gain awareness. Just as if a president doesn’t run their campaign, no one knows what they stand for, therefore can’t receive any votes. That’s my interpretation of the metaphor anyways! Another important factor of blogging is that if you help a client, customer, or viewer solve the problem they were searching about in the first place, they are so much more likely to come back to you in the future! Closing a deal is a great accomplishment in the first place, but creating a lifetime customer? Priceless. The positive impacts of blogging for a business are endless. One of these impacts is that 82% of marketers that blogged for their companies daily reported positive ROI for their inbound marketing efforts.

Some other really important tips for content marketing and writing a blog are:

  • Stay relevant!! You don’t want to be publishing information that’s out-of-date. This just makes yourself and your company seem inadequate and you’re guaranteed to lose the trust of potential customers.
  • Another way to promote your blog is to add it to your business card, resume, and LinkedIn profile
  • In order to be searchable, make sure you optimize your keywords throughout your blog
  • Add relevant links, sources, and outside opinions to your blog to add credibility and support what you’re saying
  • Inbound marketing efforts would be nothing without your great content marketing!
  • HubSpot suggests the 80/20 Rule: create mainly awareness and consideration stage content

Here are some Cold, Hard Content Marketing Facts, outlining some statistics that show the development of content and inbound marketing, and where it’s headed in the years to come. To follow, here are 30 Genius Content Marketing Examples of 2014 (something to give you some inspiration for your own content marketing!)

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll notice some of my previous posts were about inbound marketing, and the power that web analytics has for your company. Also, you’ll notice I mentioned both of these marketing components in this very blog post. They all go hand in hand with one another. Without the amazing content, you can’t have successful inbound marketing – and no way for analytics to tell you what should and shouldn’t change regarding your blog and other content.

Stay tuned for next weeks topic – Social Media – as it pertains greatly to the aforementioned marketing tactics as well! You can’t have just one piece to the puzzle… to be successful at digital marketing you need to have them all!

Take Out the Guesswork with A/B Testing

Ever wonder what it is about your webpage that could be preventing users from making a sale, or increasing your bounce rate? This is surely a problem that every business owner with a website must face at some point. Now have you ever wondered if there’s a way to fix that problem? With A/B testing, there will never again be a doubt about which style/format/colors/buttons, etc. you should have on your website. A/B testing can help all business owners reach their end goals – to make a profit. This method takes out all of the guesswork, and you can see first hand which version of your webpage will get the best response out of users.

So, what exactly even is A/B testing? Its the best way to determine which versions of your website will produce the best results from your customers. It involves having one version of a webpage (“A”), the “control,” and stacking it up against a second version of that same webpage (“B”), the “variation,” and a specific goal you want to achieve. This way of testing results in hard data and evidence regarding which version of the webpage got you closer to your goal.

Here’s an example of a situation that A/B testing is perfect for. Suppose you determine your main goal to be increasing the number of downloads from your webpage. The “download” button should be then the main focus for your testing. In version A, you would leave the page how it is, and keep it the standard version. In version B, the variation, you might make the button larger, a different color, or different font/size in order to hopefully draw more attention to it. Now, the A/B testing is put in place and website visitors are equally distributed among version A and version B. There will then be measurements of how many people saw each variation, and how many of them actually clicked the download button. When the data collected becomes statistically significant, then you’ll be able to see which webpage is the winner!

The term HiPPO was created by Microsoft and stands for Highest Paid Person’s Opinion. Basically what this means, and what it has to do with A/B testing, is that the opinions of the customer are what’s important – not just the HiPPO’s. For companies to strive, they need to listen to their consumer’s feedback and act/respond accordingly. A/B testing is the exact way to eliminate the HiPPO and see exactly what customers respond to on your webpage instead of following the opinion of whoever is in charge.

Amelia Showalter has had plenty of experience with A/B testing. She and her team worked on the Obama 2012 campaign and did intensive testing on which emails would generate the most donations. To keep it simple, anyone who shared an address with the campaign would the get messages from Barack Obama with subject lines that were tested to trigger donations. Amelia and her team predicted which subject lines would produce the highest amount of donations and what that actual number would be, as well as testing the messages themselves and even the different formatting variations of each email. On some subject lines and emails, there would be up to 18 different variations for testing before the winner would be chosen and the email blasted out! Clearly there were countless tests that had to be run, but in the end it proved to all be worth it. Amelia and her team’s findings were that the uglier the message looked, the more money it would raise in donations! Clearly something they were surprised about. Even the use of mild profanity was a hit for some time.

I believe the biggest take away from the Obama 2012 campaign is that your predictions are probably (more often than not) wrong. It’s so very crucial to listen to the customer and users instead of stubbornly only following your instinct. Amelia herself mentioned in the Businessweek article just how shocked she was that her predictions were always off. She never would have thought that the uglier everything looked, the better response it would get out of the viewers. Without A/B testing, she and her team never would have come to the conclusions that they did.

I found another blog that is A Beginner’s Guide to AB Testing, and explains how you need to make sure you plan correctly for your testing and make sure it matches with the goal you want to achieve through it. There are also A/B Testing Mistakes, such as random testing, that you want to avoid. And here are 5 companies that have successfully applied the A/B testing method, as well as their conversion rate results.

Inbound Marketing: Get With It or Get Lost

Why spend excessive amounts of money on advertising when some money could be saved with a specific strategy? I think anyone who knows what money is is in favor of saving it – and for marketers, inbound marketing is that specific strategy. It’s a tactful method that involves customers coming to YOU – instead of you going out of your way to grab the attention of potential customers. By combining inbound and outbound marketing efforts, a company can “see bottom-line results” according to an e-book written by the company Marketo. This article explains how, when done right, inbound marketing succeeds when traditional marketing efforts fail. Marketing is in the digital era along with the rest of the world, therefore the main focus of inbound marketing centers around creating unique content that is searchable, and will drive potential customers to you! The use of social media is key with this idea, because the more your content is able to be searched and shared via Facebook, Twitter, and other websites, the more publicity your blogs, press releases, videos, etc. will get.

Search Engine Optimization is an extremely important tactic that will help your inbound marketing efforts. You know those first pages and links that show up in your google search? Those companies are using SEO, and it’s working for them. When your content is ranked close to the top in a search, it means you’re using the right keywords that your potential customers are looking for – thus driving them straight to you.

Marketo makes sure to mention how inbound marketing can go wrong:

  • Leads can be in high volume at first but dwindle over time.
  • People might not know you are searchable in the first place
  • People might know you’re a company, but have no idea what it is you do
  • The inbound marketing efforts might just not be enough to break past the leading companies for a specific search

Market also explains how a successful use of the Inbound Marketing Multiplier has 3 components:

  • Change Brand Recognition & Business: the more your content gets found and shared, the more people will recognize your brand and company, therefore they could potentially turn into a future customer!
  • Make Prospects Speak your Language: by integrating a consistent language throughout all of your promotional marketing materials, customers will pick up on this language and use those words to search for your brand
  • Capture your Target Market: this component does exactly what it says! And it’s achievable through both inbound and outbound marketing.

Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, the founders of HubSpot, can also be considered the founders of the term “inbound marketing.” HubSpot was the first company to quickly adapt to the ways of Web 2.0 and was “…considered a thought leader,” stated in the Harvard Business School case titled HubSpot: Inbound Marketing and Web 2.0. In 2011, it became apparent that if a company was resistant to adapting to the new digital ways of the world, they would imminently suffer the consequences. HubSpot and the founders were ahead of the curve and through implementing inbound marketing, they realized there were effective ways to actually pull customers to you, instead of pushing your products and/or services at them.

The HBS case emphasizes that for inbound marketing to be effective, you need to have compelling content. This is probably the most important component. If your material is lacking, no one will care to share it, and your brand and business recognition is going to remain low. Clearly that’s not the objective of any company. Therefore, having creative, unique, and memorable content is going to be what gets your blog etc. passed around through various social media sites, and therefore into the minds of your future customers. Another important component to inbound marketing stated in the HBS case is that your content must be easy to find. If you aren’t searchable, then what’s the point of your inbound marketing efforts? They will all have been for nothing if you can’t even be found. HubSpot is the company that created inbound marketing and since then, other companies have adapted to the new ways of digital marketing.

In an article written by David Klein, titled 5 Companies With Inbound Marketing Strategies That Work, he shares some insight into how 5 different companies have used inbound marketing and their success. The companies he lists include Salesforce, Cisco, Dell, GE, and Starbucks. Each of these 5 companies uses inbound marketing in their own way that works specific to their company, proving this method of marketing has many different functions for a business. It would be near impossible to argue that inbound marketing would not help a company.

So, back to my original question. Why spend all of your advertising money strictly on outbound marketing efforts? The answer is you shouldn’t. Inbound marketing is the digital trend and it would be tough to find a company that decides against this strategy.

Google Analytics Platform Fundamentals

Google Analytics requires more than just data to work and provide it’s users with an output to analyze… it has 4 components that all work together in order to give Google Analytics users the most “bang for their buck,” if you will. These 4 components are collection, processing, configuration, and reporting. I will discuss why each of these factors are important to making Google Analytics what it is!

First, there is collection. This part of the platform requires you to add Google Analytics coding to your website, mobile app, or other device – this is how GA is able to collect data that is specifically useful to you because you will tell it which interactions to pay attention to and what data to actually collect. Depending which digital environment you want to collect information from, you will either use Java Script or an SDK (software development kit), but both essentially do the same thing, just for different media outlets. GA can record all activity from a user on your website or mobile app and will store this activity as “hits.” Then, the information is sent to Google Analytics for the next steps…

Processing and configuration, steps 2 and 3, go hand in hand with Google Analytics. Processing is taking those hits that were created in the first step, and transforming them based on the settings that you have specified in your configuration. Through your configurations, you can set filters. For example, you can filter out all data and hits gathered from employees (recommended), and that way the data you receive will only be from potential customers. Something very important to know is that when your data has been processed, it’s no longer able to be changed.

The fourth step is reporting. This is where all of the configured and processed data that has been gathered eventually goes, giving GA users the final report and data visualizations. The report is shown as columns of data that first contain values of a dimension with the corresponding metrics in the following columns. When requested, data can be retrieved almost immediately!

Google Analytics uses a data model made up of users, sessions, and interactions, to organize the data collected. The user is the visitor to the website, a session is the time they spent on the website, and an interaction is what the user does during their session. What I find amazing about Google Analytics and this data model is that they can recognize returning users from their multiple sessions over time. This is the same as restaurants recognizing regular customers.

Some things that I found interesting:

  • On a mobile device, when a user uninstalls an app, the SDK deletes that users anonymous identifier. If the user reinstalls the application, they are given a new identifier and are then seen as a new user, instead of a returning user. I feel like this could create duplicated data even though it’s emphasized how the GA data and reports aren’t affected.
  • Google Analytics users are able to track the same user over multiple devices by assigning the same identifying number to each of those devices, rather than a new number for each device.

This blog helped me gain a better understanding of how Google Analytics works for mobile devices. It explains the specific actions taken when you’re on your GA page to find when a user is using a mobile device rather than a computer website, and specified the differences between the “Overview Report” and the “Devices Report.” Mobile optimization is the future of marketing and I believe it’s been proven time and time again that companies who use mobile optimization whether it be through an app or mobile version of their website, have noticed the difference in hits and sales.

Google Analytics can help any and every company find the information they are looking for through the easy 4 step fundamentals that make up the Google Analytics Platform. My real question is why are some companies still choosing NOT to use Google Analytics?