Archive for Marketing Tools and Software

New Mobile App for Infusionsoft

infusionsoft mobile app

Infusionsoft recently announced their new mobile app for the iPhone and Android. I was a little surprised as I thought they would wait for their annual conference to release it, but I’m glad they didn’t wait.

If you are not familiar with them, Infusionsoft is the all in one sales and marketing software for small businesses (watch a demo).

I’ve been playing with the app for a few days (on Android) and so far I like it. Below is an overview of the apps features along with a list of some of the things experienced Infusionsoft users might want but are not available in this initial version.

Overview

The initial screen displays your recent contacts, allows you to search your contacts, add a new contact, and view the tutorial and FAQs (by clicking on the gear icon).

The recent contacts appear to be specific to the device rather than the user account. I don’t think this is a big deal, but having it synch (or having the option) would make switching from device to device a little more seamless.

View Contact Screen

Once you select a contact (via search or the recent contacts list) you can view their general contact information. You can also take action on each piece of information. For example, the phone numbers all have icons next to them to allow you to text or dial that number. The email addresses all have an icon to launch your email program, and the physical addresses have an icon that allow you to see the address on a map (and get directions).

The “other information” section on the first screen displays the “Person Notes” from the contact record.

You can also see the tags that have been attached to the contact. You can also apply existing tags and create new ones. When you first go into the Add Tags screen, it is blank with a search box – you don’t see a list of tags. I first I thought this was inconvenient (I never remember all my tag names), but if you hit the spacebar once while in the search box, it will display all of your tags.

Adding Contacts

Clicking on the plus sign in the green toolbar brings up the Add Contact screen. This screen allows you to key in the information for a contact. On my Android phone, I can also fill in each field by clicking on the microphone and using the speech recognition, which I love. The app does not currently support scanning of business cards, but Infusionsoft has another app called Snap that will do that for you.

What’s not there yet

I think this first version of Infusionsoft’s app is a good start. They obviously thought about the functions that small business owners need “on the go” and want to access on their phone. Primarily, you can quickly access your Infusionsoft contacts and add new ones to your database.

Infusionsoft does so many things that some users may feel disappointed that they can’t do everything in Infusionsoft via the mobile app. For example, the sales stage management features that salespeople use are not available in this first version. I few of the other things you can’t do yet include:

  1. Using your own internal forms – you can only access the standard “Add a Contact” form.
  2. You can’t add or manage opportunities yet.
  3. Task notification does not appear to be included yet.
  4. You can’t access your Infusionsoft calendar

Infusionsoft has always seemed to be the type of company that encourages and values feedback from their users, so I’m sure we’ll see more features added to the mobile app soon – maybe at Infusioncon?

You can find the Infusionsoft mobile app for the Android here and for the iPhone here.

Track Your Success With WinStreak

winstreak app logo

I recently ran across a helpful little app from the folks at Strategic Coach,  called WinStreak. WinStreak helps you keep track of your daily wins and achievements. The app also helps you stay focused on your goals by helping you plan your wins for the coming day.

As business owners, it may be easy for us to plan out our day and to-do list, but that plan rarely survives the day. We need to address situations and take advantage of opportunities that arise throughout the day. We can have a very productive day, but often you wouldn’t know that by looking at our to-do list as it continues to grow rather than shrink.

That’s why I like the idea behind WinStreak. By tracking your wins today and planning your wins for tomorrow, you are able to maintain a high level of confidence and excitement about your work and what you are accomplishing. You will also build momentum and score bigger and bigger wins.

You can find more information about WinStreak, along with links to download the app from iTunes or Google Play here.

How to Automate Your Follow Up

robots

In the last post I mentioned that capturing leads and following up is the blocking and tackling of marketing. The last post covered capturing leads, so lets talk about following up. We tend to focus on ways to generate new leads (networking, advertising, etc.), but without proper follow up, those activities are a waste of time and money.

Some studies show that while it takes an average of 5 sales calls or contacts to close a deal, most salespeople quit following up after one or two calls. Are you leaving money on the table because your follow up activities are falling through the cracks?

Two Broad Categories of Follow Up 

Some of the people you meet, either in person or virtually, will have an immediate need for your products and services. Most of them, particularly in the B2B world, will not have an immediate need, but over time a need will arise or they will know someone who has a need for what you do. To accomodate this fact, you will typically have a short term follow up sequence to address those with an immediate need and a long term nurturing sequence to help you stay top of mind until a need arises. There are several strategies for achieving this, I’ll outline two of the more popular ones below.

The first strategy is to follow up with a short series of emails (3 or 4) and then present an offer to see if the contact is ready for a sales conversation. Depending on your business the offer may be for a free consultation, a demonstration, a free trial, etc. If the contact does not respond to the offer, they are put into a long term nurturing campaign – for most businesses this means they are added to the newsletter list.

A second popular strategy is to have a longer series of emails, but to space their deliverary dates out by using a Fibonacci Sequence. A Fibonacci Sequence is a series of numbers where the next number in the series is determined by adding the two numbers preceding it in the sequence. For a series of 8 follow up messages, your Fibonacci Sequence may look like this:

1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34

Using this sequence you would send out a message on days 1, 2, and 3, then you would wait until day 5 to send the next one, etc. By communicating more frequently at the beginning of the relationship you have a better chance of achieving top of mind status and you also have a better chance of connecting with your hot prospects are ready to buy. The sequence automatically adjusts for those who are not ready to buy now, but who you want to stay in touch with over time.

Tracking and Testing

While there are all kinds fo benchmarks and rules of thumb you can use to get started, you best course of action is to get started and use your analytics to review what is happing, form hypotheses about how to improve your results, run tests and see what happens. If the latest marketing book tells you to have a sequence of 5 emails and all of your leads stop reading after the third message, you need to try something different.

Automated Doesn’t Have to Mean Canned

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that all of your follow up has to be canned email messages.

Some CRM systems will help you accomplish this via the creation of actions sets or task series. These are a series of follow up actions that you define that you can later assign to a contact in a single step. For example, lets pretend after you meet someone at  networking event you like to follow up by:

  • Sending a handwritten note
  • Emailing them a helpful article
  • Introducing them to someone on LinkedIn
  • Calling them on the phone to see how the introduction went

Many CRM systems will allow you to create these task, bundle them as a unit, and give them a name, i.e. “Networking Follow Up”. Once created, these bundles can be assigned to a contact record, saving you time and making sure all steps are followed every time.

These systems also let you specify how much time should pass between each task so you can send the thank you note the same day, the article 7 days later, etc. (or use your Fibonacci Sequence from above). Depending on the task to be performed, the system can either perform the step automatically (send an email) or it can create a task or appointment and assign it to the appropriate person on your team. Sophisticated systems like Infusionsoft can also send text messages, recorded voice messages, and send lists to fulfillment houses.

Get Started Today

Because there are so many ways you can follow up, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to create the perfect 37 step follow up sequence before you launch – don’t fall into that trap. Start with one message and have a goal for that message – an action you want the reader to take. After you create that message (or dig it out of your email Sent folder) ask yourself 1) If they do what I ask, what do I want to happen next? and 2) if they don’t do what I ask, what then? Use the answers to these questions to craft your next messages and then rinse, lather, repeat.

Components of a Lead Capture System

old crate trap

In the last post I shared some ideas for creating a compelling lead magnet and the role the lead magnet plays in your overall marketing system. One of the main roles the lead magnet plays is to attract people looking for a specific type of solution and to get them into your marketing hourglass. Doing so allows you to begin building Know, Like, and Trust with them by sharing your educational and trust building content.

In order to be able to provide useful content over time, we need gain the permission as well as the contact information of the people you wish to engage. As I mentioned in the previous post, you are asking people to “buy” something from us using the currency of their contact information. This is one of the reasons for emphasizing the idea of creating content that is compelling from the prospects point of view. That’s the only way you can create something with enough value to convince them to buy.

Once you create a compelling lead magnet you want to begin capturing information about your leads in a consistent, systematic process. You need a lead capture system.

Main components of a Lead Capture System

Your lead capture system can be as simple or complex as makes sense for your business. Here are some of the typical components you will find in a small business lead capture system.

Your List or Database - Your main repository of contact information. Many small businesses maintain their list in their custoemr relationship management system (CRM), email service provider (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc.) or in the contacts section of their email program.

Because there are many ways to capture leads it is very easy to end up with several different lists. Try to avoid this. The more lists you have, the more complicated your system becomes, and opportunities are more likely to fall through the cracks. Rather than keeping seperate lists, maintain one master list but capture enough data so that you can slice and dice the list when you want to communicate with a subset of your list. For example, if you generate leads at tradeshows, don’t keep a seperate list for each tradeshow. Rather, add a field to your main list that will allow you to record which tradeshow you were attending when you met your prospect.

Data Collection Form – can also in several varieties –  website forms, a clipboard by the cash register, or the fishbowl at your tradeshow booth. Most CRMs and email service providers give you the ability to create a data collection form and add it to your website. One someone fills out one of these forms, their contact information is automatically added to your database, saving you the time of manually entering the information.

Landing Page – when the data collection form lives on the web, it is typically either a) embedded on a page on your website or b) part of a dedicated landing page. Landing pages, sometimes called squeeze pages, typically help boost your conversion rate (the number of people who fill out the form) because they remove all distractions and focus on one task – getting the visitor to complete the form.

Autoresponder - Once someone completes the form we need to respond – to provide the information we promised and to begin nurturing the relationship. You could do this manually, but in todays world people expect to get their response right away. One way to provide this information is by using a tool called an autoresponder – which does what its name implies.

While most email service providers and CRMs include an autoresponder tool, you will find they differ in their feature sets. For example, some tools will allow you to send different follow up messages depending upon how an individual got on your list (i.e. which form they filled out). Others give you more control of when your messages are sent (i.e. send my messages only on week  days).

Using your System Online and Offline

Part of having a system is processing data in a consistent manner. Most of us will still meet people “offline”, in person at networking events, etc. Make sure to include these folks in your lead capture system. Most email systems provide a mechanism for adding contacts manually, or, you can just go to your website and enter them yourself. Make sure to set expectations so your contacts know why they are suddenly getting follow up messages.

If you have a store or an office where people walk in, make sure you have a system in place to capture their information and get them on your list as well.

 

 

Start 2014 With a Marketing Win

score a marketing win

It’s the start of a new year – how big is your checklist of marketing tasks to accomplish this year?

It’s easy to create a long list of things you would like to do. The problem is, once we create our list we often become overwhelmed and paralyzed. Or we get so wrapped up in the busy work we create for ourselves we never get to the part that brings in money.

In order to get your marketing efforts off to a solid start this year, I recommend picking one item that will produce a “win” for your business and get to work on that one item right away.

How do you find a quick win? If you are like most small business owners, you have two untapped or underutilized sources of business – 1) your existing customer base and 2) your list.

Your Customer Base

In the hunt for new sources of revenue, it is easy to forget that we should be marketing to our existing customers. These are the folks who already know, like, and trust you. If you’ve had success attracting people who fit your ideal customer profile, then you already have a base of customers who value what you bring to the table and are not “price shoppers”. Finding new ways to help them achieve their goals will not only help you grow your sales, but you’ll be doing work that you enjoy at the same time.

If you are not sure what to offer your existing customers then you are probably overdue for a conversation with them. Make that your “big win” goal for January – take out your calendar and make appointments with your top customers. Make the agenda of those meetings to listen to your customers’ goals and aspirations. Once they finished (and not before) spend some time thinking about how you can help them achieve those goals – either by offering one of your solutions or introducing them to someone in your network who can help them.

Your List

If you’ve been in business for any period of time, you have a list. We already talked about your list of existing customers, so now let’s talk about your contacts, leads, prospects, referral sources, etc.

While everyone has a list, many small business owner’s lists have one or more of the following challenges:

  • Their list isn’t organized
  • Their list is dormant
  • Their list is not segmented

The Unorganized List

By unorganized, I mean that the contact information for the people on your list is not in one central place. It is  scattered about in your email inbox, on notes jotted down on paper, and in the stack of cards on your desk. The biggest problem with an unorganized list is that it makes it difficult to follow up on a consistent basis. The tendency is to follow up with those contacts we consider to be “hot leads” – someone we think we can sell something to in the very near future. In B2B sales, many of the people we meet may not need our services right now, but chances are they will sometime in the future (or will run into someone else who needs what we sell). Without consistent follow up, sales and referrals often fall through the cracks. Consistent follow up without an organized list very difficult, if not impossible.

The Dormant List

Without regular follow up, your list becomes dormant and loses its value to your business. Once you lose top of mind status (or if you never had it), your messages become just more junk in the recipient’s inbox. If they forget who you are, what you do, or why they should care, they will see your messages as spam. Technically, they are not spam you say. It doesn’t matter. What matters is the perception of the recipient.

In addition to regular communication, keeping your list clean by removing those who are no longer interested is also essential to your marketing success.

The Unsegmented List

Segmenting is simply dividing your list into categories. Lists can be segmented in a variety of ways including geography, business size, industry, or interest.

The problem with an unsegmented list is that it forces you to talk to everyone on your list the same way. This reduces the effectiveness of your marketing messages because you generally end up talking about:

  1. What’s important to you rather than what is important to them. OR
  2. Things that are not relevant to the recipient. For example, have you ever received an offer to become a customer when you already are one? A personal example – I recently received an invitation to a free lunch meeting being held 1,000 miles away. With a segmented list, the company that invited me could have excluded me from the invitation or, realizing it didn’t make sense for me to attend, offer to send me the information being shared at the lunch.

Use the information in your list to create segments that allow you to communicate in a way that is relevant to the recipients of your marketing messages.

Using Your List to Get a Win

A word of caution, it is easy to get bogged down trying to “perfect” your list before you start doing anything. Don’t fall in this trap!

The theme of this post is how to get a quick win. The best way to get a quick win with your list is to start with a marketing objective in mind. Creating a spreadsheet or database to organize your contacts is not a marketing objective. Following up with the 10 people you met at yesterday’s networking event is – the spreadsheet or database is a tool to help you meet that objective. In order to get the quick win, get those 10 people on your list and contact them today. During your follow up, make notes about those things that will help you continue to follow up in a way that is relevant to them. When you get back to your office, add those notes to your list, so you will be able to create segments for future messages.

If you have a list, but it is at risk of becoming dormant, score your quick win by reaching out and determining if the contacts on your list still have an interest in what you do. A simple email or phone call to ask “Are you still interested in tax preparation services?” or “Are you still interested in [insert your service]?” will let you know who you should follow up with and who you should remove from your list.

If you have a list that can use segmenting, don’t start by trying to think of all of the segments you could have. Score your win by coming up with an offer or marketing message you want to send and then determine how to segment your list to make that offer as relevant as possible. For example, if you want to offer an in person seminar, can you identify the people on your list who are within a reasonable travelling distance?  Can you quickly send a “for customers” only offer? If you have to collect data to update your list, first send the messages you can and then set goals for collecting and sending messages as you go. For example, set a goal of sending out 10 new messages every week rather than trying to update your complete list before sending out the first message.

Wrapping Up

I hope that gives you some ideas for scoring some quick marketing wins in 2014. If you have any questions or tips you would like to share, leave a comment below or drop us a line.

What is a Landing Page?

landing page

Landing pages are an important, powerful, and often underutilized component of a small business marketing system. They are so important that, as Oli Gardner of UnBounce says, you should “Never start a marketing campaign without a dedicated landing page”.

The term “landing page” has different meanings depending on context. In general, a landing page is the first page someone lands on when visiting your website. This is how the term in used in Google Analytics.

Landing pages are also special types of web pages designed for specifically for one of your marketing campaigns. Landing pages are designed around a single goal – the goal of your campaign. One of the reasons landing pages are so powerful is the provide a feedback loop for your campaign – giving you the ability to measure, test, and optimize your marketing efforts. These are the types of pages I’ll be focusing on in this psot.

Types of Landing Pages

While the possible uses for landing pages are limited only by your imagination, in B2B marketing we typically think of landing pages in two broad categories – lead generation and “click-through” pages.

Lead Generation Landing Pages

Lead generation pages (sometimes call “squeeze pages”) are probably the most common type of landing pages. The goal of these pages is to get someone to share their contact information with us and give us permission to have a [marketing] conversation with them. This is done by offering something the prospect will find valuable enough to “purchase” with their contact information. These offers can take many forms; here are some examples you have probably seen (or used):

  • E-books, Reports, and Whitepapers – containing anything from industry facts to comprehensive “how to” guides.
  • Newsletters and/or Blog subscriptions – providing news, tips, and advice related to your expertise.
  • Webinar Registrations – for live and/or recorded online events.
  • A free e-course – lessons delivered over a period of time
  • Resources – Checklists, ROI calculators, scorecards, and forms
  • Free consultations

Once you have interest and permission, you then try to continue the conversation. This conversation often includes directing prospects to other landing pages where they can find additional useful information. These additional landing pages also provide you with the opportunity to continue collecting information that you can use to tailor your message and qualify your prospects.

Click-Through Landing Pages

As mentioned above, lead generation pages are used to collect information and start a conversation in order to nurture a lead until they are ready to buy.

Click-through pages (sometimes called a “jump pages”) are often used in cases where don’t need a long nurturing sequence, but we do need to  “warm-up” the visitor, or provide them additional information before we try to make the sale.

For example, many business use pay per click ads, magazine classified ads, or postcards to help drive traffic to their website. The “short form” ads may not provide all of the information your prospects need to make a purchasing decision. Rather than directing them from the ad to shopping cart, you can direct them first to a click-through page. The click-through page provides them with the information they need to make their decision and then directs them to the shopping cart where they can complete their purchase.

Click-through pages aren’t limited to companies that sell their products and services online. In the lead generation examples listed above, your prospects are “buying” your offer using the currency of their contact information. Using click-through pages to provide additional information and/or examples can be a great way to improve your opt-in (sales) rate.

Wrapping Up

Landing pages are a vital component to a successful small business marketing system. They help you identify people who are interested in your products and services, allow you to begin a conversation with your prospects, help you learn more about your prospects and customers, and help you measure and optimize your marketing campaigns.

Twitter Adds Tweet Scheduling–Sort Of

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Twitter recently added a new feature that allows you to schedule your Tweets in advance. I probably won’t use it – here’s why.

The scheduling feature is embedded inside of the Twitter Ads interface. You can use it to schedule unpaid tweets, but you have to navigate to your Twitter Ads account first. You can create a Twitter Ad account for free (learn more here).

1. Go to https://ads.twitter.com or from your Twitter account, click on the gear and Select Twitter Ads:

access-twitter-ads

 

2. From the Ads dashboard, click on the blue compose button at the top, right of the page.

ads-tweet-compose

3. This will bring up the familiar dialog box for composing a tweet, but you will see three tabs at the bottom of the window. By clicking on the Scheduling tab, you can access controls to set the date and time you wish to publish your post.

tweet-schedule

The Delivery tab allows you to choose Standard (tweet to all of your followers) or Promoted-Only (tweet to users targeted in your campaign). The Promotion tab allows you select the campaign this tweet belongs.

So why did I say I probably won’t use this new feature to schedule organic (unpaid) tweets? Mostly because it is too cumbersome to access. Most of the tweets I create or share happen during the flow of my regular work. If I’m doing my morning reading and I find something I want to share, I want to compose my tweet right then and there and get it over with. Even though I have a Twitter ad account, I can’t schedule directly from within Twitter; I have to follow the steps above. It may not seem like that much extra effort, but it really interrupts my whole workflow.

That’s why I still love using Buffer, as it allows me to simply click a button on my browser toolbar, compose a post to share on Twitter or a number of other social media accounts, schedule it, and keep on moving.

I do see how the new scheduling feature inside of Twitter could be useful for those who like to sit down and schedule all of their tweets for the day, week, or month at one time.

LinkedIn’s Showcase Pages Help You Be More Relevant

LinkedIn_Showcase-Pages

LinkedIn continues to add features to help you promote your business online. Not too long ago,  LinkedIn updated the design of company profile pages to make it easier for members to access information the companies they care about it. They also added features to help businesses build relationships with their target audience.

The recently addition of Showcase Pages provides companies with another tool to connect with their target audience. Showcase Pages highlight the different areas of your business and help build communities around your different segments, brands, business units, etc.

According to the LinkedIn blog post announcement, Showcase Pages “are dedicated pages that allow companies to highlight different aspects of their business and build relationships with the right community.”

We often talk about effective marketing as being able to deliver the right message, to the right person, at the right time. Small business owners and marketers can use Showcase pages to speak specifically with a target audience about the information, products, and services that are of interest to them. Here are just a few examples of how companies may want to use Showcase Pages:

  • An accounting firm that offers services to both small businesses and Fortune 1000 companies may want to create Showcase Pages for each of these audiences.
  • Software resellers who represent several vendors may want to Showcase each vendor separately.
  • Companies specialize in more than one vertical market may want to Showcase their solutions for each vertical.

Creating a Showcase Page is pretty straight forward. If you’re a Company Page administrator, navigate to your to the “Edit” dropdown menu and select “Create a Showcase Page.”

Add-Showcase-Page

Once created, you can start sharing content on your page.

Users can follow a Showcase Page just like they can a company page, but now they can just follow the company news and content that is most relevant to them.

LinkedIn has always had a great set of tools for individual networking online. Lately, they have been beefing up their company tools as well. If you haven’t taken a look at LinkedIn’s company pages in a while, you should give it another look.

As always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions about using Showcase pages (or any other aspect of LinkedIn) for your business.

Tips for Protecting Your WordPress Website

secure vault

WordPress is a great tool for building your small business website and maintaining your blog. It is the most widely used content management system in the world. Some experts estimate that WordPress powers over 20% of all websites.

Unfortunately, that popularity also makes it a target for hackers malicious software programs (malware).

While no website it ever completely secure, you can take some precautions that will make your WordPress much more secure than it comes “out of the box”.

Follow WordPress’ Tips

WordPress provides advice for making your website more secure on their Hardening WordPress page. This page contains quite a bit of useful information. I won’t repeat it all here, but let me point out a few things you will want to do

Rename the “admin” user account.

Since most people leave the default admin user account, one of the first things hackers will do is use the admin user name and try to guess the password by “brute force”. Changing the user name gives them two things they have to figure out rather than just one.

Restrict File Permissions.

Make sure permissions are set to 644 for all files and 755 for all directories. You can check and change your file permissions by using the file manager in the cpanel (or equivalent) in your hosting account or with an FTP client like FileZilla

Use strong passwords.

Strong passwords contain a mix of numbers, letters and symbols. Many sites, including WordPress,  will measure the strength of your password when you are creating it, so make sure you see the green bar that indicates you have a strong password.

One way to generate strong passwords is to use a phrase (longer than 1 word), capitalize each word in the phrase, and replace certain letters (i.e. vowels) with numbers and or symbols. For example, using the phrase “My password is strong”, my password might be “MyP@ssw0rdIsStr0ng”.

Another great way to generate, store, and remember strong passwords is by using a tool like LastPass. LastPass stores all of your password in a “vault” – all you have to do is remember one password to get into the vault and LastPass will remember all of your other passwords (and store them securely).

Once last tip on user accounts and passwords – don’t share user accounts. Each user should have their own account and password

Server Configuration

The Hardening WordPress article referenced above contains several recommendations that you may feel more comfortable discussing with your technical team rather than performing them yourself. These include such things as:

  • Configuring and protecting your wp-config.php file
  • Editing your .htaccess file
  • Hiding and/or renaming key WordPress files and directories
  • Using and maintaining plugins

(p.s. – if you don’t have a technical team, feel free to contact us)

Perform Regularly Scheduled Maintenance

Keeping your system up to date – WordPress issues updates on a regular basis – usually monthly, but more often if they discover a serious issues that needs to be corrected quickly. Many of these updates address security vulnerabilities, so it is important to keep up to date. Many website hosting companies are starting to automatically apply the latest WordPress updates if you haven’t applied them with a certain deadline.

In addition to WordPress, your plugins and your theme may also require periodic updates.

Last, but not least, make sure you are performing regular backups of your website. The biggest sources of loss from website problems are 1) lost data and 2) lost time spent fixing the problem. With a proper backup solution you can minimize your losses in both categories.

With a WordPress website, you need to make sure you backup all of the files that go with your website as well as the database that WordPress uses to store the content of your webpages, posts, and other information.

I use a plugin called BackupBuddy to manage backups. BackupBuddy gives you the ability to schedule backups, send them to a different locations (helping protect against hardware failure), and if you ever need to restore a site, it handles that as well.

Wrapping Up

This post is by no means a comprehensive list of procedures for securing a WordPress site. If you have any questions or need help securing your WordPress based website, feel free to contact me.

Please note: this list is not intended to be fully comprehensive, and there are other security procedures that we implement as well, however this is a great starting place and will help make any WordPress installation more secure.

Selecting a Content Marketing Editorial Calendar

marketingai-calendar

A content marketing editorial calendar is and important tool for managing your small business marketing system. Modern marketing requires creating, publishing, and re-purposing content from multiple sources, in multiple formats, through multiple channels. Without proper tools and processes, managing all of these content related variables can quickly become overwhelming.

Editorial calendars come in all shapes and sizes – from Excel Spreadsheets to WordPress plugins to software systems specifically designed to help plan and manage your marketing content. Choosing a solution that fits your business can feel like an overwhelming task once you start exploring the available options.

Evaluating Your Choices

As with any software system purchase, it’s important to evaluate the needs and goals of your business before you begin shopping. Otherwise, the tendency is to focus on bells and whistles of each tool. This approach often ends up forcing you to change your business process to adapt to the way the software works.

This post outlines the factors I considered when looking for an editorial calendar for both my company and my customers. The editorial calendar from Marketing.AI is the one that best suits our needs. Your needs may be different but hopefully the information below will help you find  an editorial calendar that fits your needs.

I started by outlining the main categories of tasks and goals that I wanted to accomplish:

  • Planning content
  • Producing content – collaborating, workflow, tracking assignments, managing deadlines
  • Measuring and Reporting
  • Integrating with other tools
  • Managing multiple entities

Planning Your Marketing Content

When most people think of using an editorial calendar, they typically think of planning their content. Planning your content marketing generally falls into two broad categories;

  1. High level or strategic planning that focuses on connecting your content marketing efforts to your overall business goals.
  2. Production planning or mapping out what content needs to be created for the next marketing cycle – typically a month or quarter.

Without software specifically designed for managing content, the documents in the strategic planning category tend to be word processing documents. Excel spreadsheets are a popular choice for production planning and tracking.

The type of file used is not nearly as important as making sure that all of your team members have easy access to the information in these documents. You also want everyone working from the same version of that information. This becomes difficult when documents are being emailed around and no one is confident that they have the most current version. Producing quality content takes time and effort; time you don’t have to waste in meetings reconciling different versions of your content spreadsheets.

One of the features of Marketing.AI that I really like is that it enables you to store the information from your strategic content marketing plan in the same tool that you use to plan, create, and manage your content. Having easy access to this information increases the chance it will be actually used (and updated) by the people creating the content. It also makes sharing the information with your content authors easier, whether internal or outsourced. Marketing.AI help you manage strategic reference documents like:

  • List of Content Themes
  • Your Unique Selling Proposition
  • Buyer Personas
  • Customer Journey Matrix (or your customers buying process)
  • Content Ideas
  • Products and Pricing Models
  • Features, Benefits, Customer Pains
  • Keywords, Hashtags, Industry Influencers
  • Target Industries

Marketing.AI also gives you the ability to associate many of these characteristics with each individual piece of content, making your reporting and analysis much more powerful (more on reporting below).

Producing Your Content

Content production deals with the day-to-day, nitty gritty business of getting the work done. This is where we assign responsibilities, set deadlines, produce, edit, publish, repackage and perform all of the other tasks that need to be done to go from plan to delivery.

When we think of content marketing we typically think first about blog posts, web pages, eBooks, and other forms of written content. But content also includes video, audio (podcasts), presentation slides, magazines (traditional and electronic), books, and plenty of other forms I am forgetting to list.

In addition to (or maybe because of) all of the format choices, we often have several people working on and/or collaborating to create content. There are many companies who will help you create your content. Many of them provide an editorial calendar to help manage the process. However, most of them are designed around a workflow process that assumes you will order all of your content from them. While this is perfectly understandable, it just doesn’t match the reality of the small businesses that I work with. My customers get their marketing content from several sources. They may purchase some from content creation companies, create some in-house, and/or hire me to help them develop content. The last thing I or my customers want is to have several calendars (or spreadsheets) to manage and reconcile.

I like Marketing.AI because it is gives me flexibility in defining my workflow and it helps you manage that workflow by providing notifications via email. This makes it easy to bring people on board without having to spend a lot of time training them to use a new system or platform.

Measuring and Reporting

metricsRegular readers here know that I am a big believer in the idea that having a rhythmic planning process is more important than the plan document. A vital part of that planning process is a feedback loop that provides analytics to help you test your assumptions and adjust your plans accordingly (more on analytics below).

I like to have analytics that give provide me with feedback on the both the effectiveness and balance of my content marketing efforts.

Effectiveness helps determine which pieces are best at achieving a particular content goal. For example, knowing which pieces of content are attracting traffic to your website and which ones are leading to conversions are valuable pieces of information for improving your content marketing efforts.

Tools like Google Analytics can help you determine which pieces of content are attracting traffic to your website. Using the goals feature of Google Analytics to measure conversions (and the value of those conversions) can be a great way to start tying your content marketing efforts to business results.

Related to effectiveness is something I like to refer to as balance. By balance, I mean I want to know about the diversity of the content formats being used (blog posts vs. video, etc.) and the effectiveness of each. I also want to evaluate the effectiveness of content in the different stages of the marketing hourglass (or buyers journey).

For example, I may have content that is effective at generating awareness and attracts traffic to my website. But if don’t have content that is effective at moving people from awareness to the try or consideration phase, then I have some content that is effective, but my overall marketing content is not helping me reach my business goals.

Taking this information one step further, I can determine if content formats (i.e. video) are more effective in different stages of my marketing hourglass.

While it is possible to capture most of this type of information and add it back to a planning spreadsheet in order to perform the type of analysis described above, doing so is at best a tedious process. In my experience, when a process is tedious, it tends to not get done once the newness of starting a new project wears off. Or, it gets put off until it becomes a major project and then more time is spent gathering the data than analyzing it and gaining insights that will help improve future marketing efforts.

Editorial calendar software like Marketing.AI simplifies this process by helping you attach these important attributes to your content during the planning and production phases, so you can quickly determine how your content is performing anytime you want.

Integrating With Other Content Tools

gears-systemAs a systems guy, I hate unnecessary duplication. I hinted at that above when I mentioned not liking to waster time reconciling different versions for spreadsheets. I also don’t like to duplicate data entry across different systems. As it relates to content marketing, this is a little lower on the priority list than some of the other topics discussed in this post, but I always prefer to use tools that play well with others and save me time.

Marketing.AI currently integrates with the following tools:

  • WordPress
  • Hubspot
  • ExactTarget
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Unbounce (for landing pages)
  • Outbrain (for promoting your content)

The folks at Marketing.AI have told me they have other integrations in the works and seem open to suggestions if you have a particular integration need.

Managing Multiple Entities

As a marketing agency, I look for tools that I can use in three main settings:

  1. Marketing my own business
  2. Working with customers who outsource their work to me
  3. My customers can use to manage their marketing in-house

Other businesses that are not marketing agencies may also benefit from features designed for marketing agencies. If you have multiple offices, departments, or other divisions that want to manage their content marketing separately, but also have the ability to see a rolled up, “master” calendar then you will want to take a look at the features in the agency edition of Marketing.AI.

Don’t Forget About People

marketing.ai logoLast, but not least, I want to drop a quick plug for the people behind the software at Marketing.AI.

In the software as a service world (SAAS) we live in today, having conversations and getting help from real people (vs. email, chat, forums, etc.) is becoming something of a rarity.

However, the folks at Marketing.AI have been great work with. They’ve spent a ton of time with me, answering questions, learning about how I want to use the tool in my business, and supporting me in both the pre-sale and post-sale processes.

I will be posting some demonstration videos in the weeks to come. In the meantime, feel free to contact me if you would like to a personal demo or if you have any questions about whether Marketing.AI is right for you