Damien Cabral

5 Essential Sections Every Marketing Plan Should Have

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Whether your organization already has robust marketing efforts in place or not, a watertight marketing plan is an indispensable roadmap to achieving its marketing goals. Maybe you’re running PPC campaigns or Facebook Ads that convert droves of customers, or you’re consistently generating long lists of leads at trade shows to feed to your sales team. Why invest in a marketing plan? Because without looking at the bigger picture, defining your objectives, and assessing your current marketing efforts, you could be missing out on valuable business and opportunities for growth.

Viewing each of your marketing initiatives as complementing steps toward fulfilling the same overarching goal ensures that each asset you build, tactic you implement, and dollar you spend is driving you closer to that goal. Whether your objective is to increase conference registrations, sales, donations, or the number of customers who subscribe to your service, a marketing plan will give structure to your marketing efforts and set you up for success.

Below, I’ve outlined 5 sections that are essential to any marketing plan.

1. Objective
Before you begin researching and outlining your plan, define your marketing objective. Are you trying to attract new customers? Increase sales with existing customers? Grow your revenue by a specific amount? By how much and in what timeframe?

2. Messaging
Clear, precise messaging conveys your value-add to your prospective and current customers as well as how and why your offering is distinct from your competitors’. Before sitting down to rewrite your messaging, do the following:

• Review your companies’ differentiators and target audiences. If you have multiple target audiences, your messaging should address the needs of each group. For example, a B2B company that sells a product to financial professionals, governments, and luxury retailers will have more success selling its product if it articulates the distinct need it fulfills for each group.
• Conduct customer interviews or surveys. This will help you understand what your customers find valuable about your product, which could differ from what you and your team perceive the value to be. Write about this.
• Conduct an analysis of your competitors’ messaging. This will help your business understand whether there are any gaps to be exploited in its competitors’ offerings, as well as how to position itself in a way that sets it apart from competitors.

3. Assets
An audit of all current assets and whether improving them will help you accomplish your Objective belongs in your marketing plan. Assets can include your website, brochures and sell sheets, and even your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. This section should include a recommendation for which assets should be improved and how to update them. If an asset that would help your organization reach the Objective doesn’t exist, it should be recommended in this section.

4. Tactics
Similarly to Assets, the Tactics section should include an audit of current marketing initiatives (such as PPC, SEO, email marketing, or marketing automation) and devise strategies to maximize results from each initiative that is relevant to your Objective. If there are any marketing tactics that your company does not currently use but would help you achieve your Objective, it should be recommended in this section.

5. Timeline and Budget
No marketing plan is complete without a concrete timeline and budget. This section ensures that your plan is actionable and realistic. It also forces you to prioritize initiatives in your strategy. For example, if your business is hoping to sell products through an eCommerce site, it makes sense to build the website before setting up Google AdWords campaigns to drive customers to the website. If your business’s short-term objective is to generate new leads quickly, it makes sense to prioritize lead-generating initiatives like email marketing or trade shows over longer-term initiatives like SEO.


B2B Outreach Campaigns: 5 Steps for Success

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“Content is King”: no doubt that nowadays, B2B marketers heavily rely on the inbound marketing paradigm when they build lead generation programs. As a matter of fact, 71% of B2B marketers are using content marketing to generate leads. However, stats show that outbound marketing brings up to 40% of new B2B leads each year.

Inbound marketing takes time, both for preparing tools and contents, and for getting actual results in terms of sales. Most B2B companies are willing to invest in inbound initiatives, but still need to get results quickly and fill their pipeline efficiently to close deals in the meantime. Traditional outbound is not dead, and can actually help companies gather enough marketing insights to better define their inbound strategies.

How do you get prepared for launching outreach campaigns? As for many marketing initiatives, you cannot afford navigating oceans blind. Rigorous processes need to be implemented before you even start your campaigns. Below are the 5 steps to prepare for success:

What is your strategy?

  • Generating leads and / or testing the market?

Outreach campaigns’ main purpose is obviously to acquire new customers, whether the goal is to increase market shares, launch new products, or make up for lost business. Will your target audience be the same for each of these goals? Do you know exactly who your target audience is? Shall you for instance launch a new product, outreach campaigns will most likely reveal market trends or niches you have not thought about. Shall you want to capture the exact same profile as your current customer base, you may realize down the road that growth pockets exist besides your comfort zone, and that you actually have the capabilities to serve these uncovered markets.

Outreach campaigns will bring new customers in, but also provide you with critical market insights. You should then build your campaigns with 2 approaches in mind, lead generation and market test, and assign efforts to each based on your expectations.

And don’t forget to align inbound and outbound strategies. Your company’s positioning and objectives should be consistent across marketing initiatives.

  • Defining your customer persona:

Outreach campaigns’ success will be conditioned by the quality of your target database. To define your targets’ profiles, you need to work on 2 dimensions as you build your criteria: company and people. You may select the ideal company profile, but if you fail to identify key decision-makers or influencers, it is likely that your voice will remain unheard. Here are 4 criteria that will set you off to a good start:

  • Industry: the pitfall here is to opt for a too broad definition of the segments you want to target. You may end up going after unqualified targets, or using the same generic message for sub-segments which have nothing in common. For instance, if you partner with a database provider and ask for targets in the “electronics” segment, you may end up with 1,000 contacts at companies specialized in electronics for consumer products while you are aiming at targeting companies manufacturing electronic devices for the healthcare industry. Make sure you dig into industries’ sub-segments to best define the ones which will drive business: will they generate high-value deals? Do they grow fast? Will they protect your margins? Will they generate a significant volume of transactions?
  • Size: the size of the companies will impact the ease of access to key decision makers. Smaller companies will be easier to grasp, with a direct access to CEOs or top executives directly involved in the trenches. For larger companies, extra work will be required as you may need to map the various branches and locations with their respective business units.
  • Location: depending on your business, there might be pools of targets in certain geographical areas which will help you leverage word-of-mouth and speed up brand awareness and recognition. Logistics can be an important factor too: can you easily ship your products there? Can you travel and meet your prospects easily?
  • Job titles: this dimension is often neglected, but is one of the most important. Who will be receptive to your message and be able to influence or make the decision to test your products or services? If you offer customized products for custom projects, you may want to test your message with the people leading such projects (eg. engineers) or the people selling such projects (eg. key account managers). If you offer ground-breaking, innovative solutions, CEOs setting strategic directions for developing new business units or capturing new markets might be the best people to reach out to.


Building your target database:

There are 2 ways you can reach out to target companies: using volume, or using an individual approach.

  • Volume:

The easiest way to go is to resort to a database provider, who will provide you with a list of targets based on your criteria, with the appropriate contact information. Some precautions are needed here:

  • Renting versus purchasing: if you rent a database, it will certainly be cheaper but you won’t own the contacts and it will hamper your ability at following up with your targets. Purchasing lists is often a better investment.
  • Contact information: do you want phone numbers only or email addresses as well? Pricing to get email addresses vary a lot from one provider to another: check quotes accordingly.
  • Segmentation: each database provider has its own way of segmenting lists, using custom industry labels, NAICS codes, or SIC codes. Make sure you ask about the method for segmenting ahead of time. Same applies for job titles. Some providers use broad categories, without respect to key information like seniority: you may prefer to target “senior engineers” rather than just “engineering”, for the latter category might put you in touch with junior engineers who have no influence at the company.


  • Individual approach:

To ensure optimal targeting, you may choose to build your lists manually. Several sources can be useful for finding companies and screening their profile thoroughly:

  • Online directories: sometimes, database providers are not an option. Imagine for instance that you want to target companies developing automated guided vehicles for industrial applications: this is typically a segment which is not covered by database providers’ segmenting methods. There are a lot of free online directories which provide highly specialized databases that you can leverage.
  • LinkedIn: with paying accounts, you will have a full access to LinkedIn members’ profiles, as well as options for conducting effective research on companies’ employees (keywords, location, function, seniority, etc.). Specific accounts like Sales Navigator can help you build a pipeline within LinkedIn, using a flexible system of tags and ratings.
  • Associations: take some time to find associations relevant to your industry. They often have online directories with key contact information.

Assessing resources:

What is the channel that you will use for your outreach campaign? Email campaigns and calling campaigns will not require the same amount of resources and you will need to test your capabilities.

  • Planning: Shall you opt for a calling campaign, using a 3rd party company might be the best option for generating leads which will then be redirected to your sales team. Shall you opt for email campaigns, don’t forget to plan for time and resources. Indeed, if it is rather straight forward to send your initial email, whether using mass email tools or sending each email individually, the follow-up process requires thorough preparation. You need to carefully schedule initial contact emails and then follow-up emails or calls, while keeping track of negative answers, automated answers (vacation), positive answers, absence of answers, and suggestions for other contacts at the same company. Marketing automation platforms can help streamline the process: you will need to define a budget for using such platforms, and to have a person in charge of managing both campaigns and the lead management process.
  • Testing: We recommend that you run some tests for each segment in order to assess how your company will absorb the activity resulting from outreach campaigns. Key indicators will be the time spent at implementing campaigns, the response rate for each segment, the time needed to handle requests for information and quotes, and the effectiveness of the process for turning leads into sales opportunities.

Preparing assets & processes:

How do you generate and sustain interest until leads are ready to be handed over to the sales team? Outreach campaigns do not only consist in pushing your message to your audience. You need to engage the audience with appropriate contents.

  • Generating interest: can you speak your audience’s language? Take time to conduct some online research or to interview 2 or 3 relevant companies to figure out what their needs are, what words they select to explain their challenges, and how they assess their suppliers. Whether you use emails or calls, you will need a set of contents from the very first interactions. Emails will require specific copy, subject lines, landing pages (on your website) and, if applicable, professional email templates for each target segment. Phone calls will require a script and a set of Q&A. For each tactic, you will also need to define who will be in charge of answering specific inquiries (technical requirements, sales processes, etc.).
  • Sustaining interest: contents will be key to engage your audience and you need to leverage your strengths to showcase your expertise for the segments you target. Make sure you prepare custom case studies or white papers for each segment, testimonial videos from your past customers, updated spec sheets and pricing lists, etc. These contents should be hosted on the company’s website, and communications need to be prepared so as to redirect targets to specific landing pages on your website. Targets will indeed look for every piece of contents to check whether your value proposition and capabilities match their specific needs.
  • Managing touchpoints: before engaging into outreach campaigns, you need to clearly define how you will deliver information to targets and the various steps to move them through the sales funnel. For every communication, you will need to provide information on 1/ how your product or service match your targets’ needs, 2/ how you will deliver your solution (budget, timeline, processes), and 3/ what the next steps are. Build your structure ahead of time.

Tracking results:

As discussed above, outreach campaigns can help you achieve 2 objectives: getting market insights and generating sales opportunities. Measuring campaigns’ success will therefore consist in 1/ assessing if the information collected on the market can be leveraged to generate business, and 2/ assessing the ROI of campaigns for each segment of interest.

  • CRM analytics: make sure that your CRM will contain all the information needed, with consistent labels, to measure the success of your campaigns. Key information will be: the exact source of leads (database, LinkedIn, directory, etc.), the exact segment (with as much granularity as possible), and the situation in the sales funnel (contacted, relationship initiated, request for proposal, negotiation, offer sent, won). It will help you better analyze your results, refine your efforts in the future, detect key opportunities for growth, and compare results with other channels.
  • Campaigns’ ROI: for each campaign and segment, keep track of the cost per lead acquisition as well as the lifetime value of customers acquired. It will help you define if you should aim at improving, substituting (other channel), or killing campaigns for each segment.
  • Engagement: sometimes, campaigns do not immediately generate sales results. Make sure you do not draw conclusions too fast: what is happening on your website? Do you generate visits while you run your campaigns? Is there engagement with your contents? Google Analytics can help you track visitors’ behavior on your website: custom URLs for links inserted in email campaigns will provide analytics for specific segments regarding the number of visits, time spent on the website, interest for specific pages, or downloads of contents (case studies, white papers, spec sheets, etc.). If a specific segment is particularly active on your website but does not contact you right away, it’s a good opportunity to prepare next steps: custom inbound tactics for this segment, active outbound follow-up, investment in industry-specific advertising or trade shows, etc. Market intelligence acquired with outbound campaigns is a tremendous asset for success in the long run.

4 Tips for Successful Event Marketing

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As consumers, you know the drill: finish a 5k, stroll through the county fair, or walk out of a big concert and you will inevitably encounter companies giving away free pens or offering limited time deals. You know how to avoid a rep you don’t want to talk to and how to grab the swag and go. So as a marketer, you know that running a promotion or canvassing at a special event will require a great deal of strategic thinking if it is going to be a valuable pursuit for your business. Keep your eyes on the prize with these 4 tips for a successful event.

  1. Define your goals

When considering event marketing you should first identify your objectives. Do you want to build brand awareness? Do you want to grow your contact list? Do you want to generate leads? Your endgame will affect every subsequent decision you make from crafting your pitch to developing collateral and managing logistics.

  1. Offer a relevant benefit

Marketing at special events like concerts, fairs, and sporting events is such an established practice that consumers are trained to quickly scan for the benefit you are offering before deciding whether or not to engage with reps. And you will often be competing with other companies for attendees’ attention. So it is particularly important to determine a unique offer that will encourage people to visit your booth and stick around so you have a chance to talk with them. Therefore, before pinpointing an offer, giveaway, or prize it is important to consider the following:

  • Event conditions: Where and when is the event taking place? Will it be comfortable? For example, if it’s outside on a hot, summer day consider giving away bottled water or branded paper fans.
  • Your audience: What are the demographics? If there are kids and families, think about setting up a game or giving away candy. What are their interests? If you’re at a sports game, explore opportunities for co-branding.
  1. Don’t forget about digital

Although event marketing provides an opportunity to go back to basics and interact with consumers face-to-face, you can leverage technology to reach an even wider audience. According to the Pew Research Center, 90% of American adults own a cell phone and 64% own a smart phone. Consider using a text message marketing platform to run a promotion. Text-to-enter is quick and convenient. It allows you to collect contact information from people that are passing through or unable to visit your table. For example, if you display your text contest details on the big screen at a concert or a game, you can collect mass entries from people as they are sitting in their seats!

  1. Make a lasting impression

Your job isn’t done when the event is over. If you want to see a real return on your investment you must put as much thought and strategy into your follow up communications as you put into planning for the event. Consider a drip email campaign to start nurturing the new contacts you collected. If you identified promising leads, think about a more targeted approach like a phone call follow-up or a personalized message.


5 Helpful Tools for Small Business Owners

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Perhaps the toughest part about being a small business owner or working for a small company is having to wear so many hats. Sales, marketing, finance, human resources – all of these areas need attention and are crucial to the success of any business. Luckily, many online tools exist that can help small businesses streamline their communication and hopefully make their lives a bit less stressful. All of the tools provided below offer free versions so anyone can experience the benefits of these platforms without opening their wallet.


Simply put, Evernote is a note taking and archiving platform that can be used on both your desktop and smart phone. Evernote allows users to take “notes” which can be stored in categorized “notebooks”. Within these notes you can store text, a full webpage or webpage excerpt, photos, voice memos, or even upload files, such as handwritten documents, to be stored and archived.

Evernote is essentially the perfect platform to archive all of your ideas and documents. It will keep you organized and offers a search feature so you can easily find a previously stored idea or document. You can also create lists, set reminders, sync the app to your desktop, and share your “notes” or “notebook” with colleagues. If you having trouble organizing your digital life, Evernote is your answer.


Building up and maintaining an email list of your customers and partners is a key marketing effort. All small business owners should make effort to create this habit from the early stages of their business. For many companies, a large percentage of their revenue is generated from repeat customers. Because of this, small business owners need to stay connected to those customers. MailChimp is an email marketing service that will allow you to manage your subscriber lists all in one place. It allows you to design templates, receive advanced analytics and reporting, schedule emails, and integrate with a CRM. Perhaps the best feature is that MailChimp allows you to do this for up 2,000 subscribers for free. If your business is just starting out, this platform is a must have to grow and maintain your email lists.


Maintaining a strong and up-to-date social media presence is a challenge for many small businesses. Creating content and then posting all of that content on a daily basis to separate platforms is very time consuming. One potential solution for this challenge is a platform called Hootsuite. The free version of this platform allows you to manage up to 3 social networks, schedule your messages, receive basic analytics, monitor the streams of your customers and competitors, and integrate your networks with with other social applications. Hootsuite supports over 35 of the most popular social networks. Building up your social media presence can be a tough task, but leveraging Hootsuite will help to keep you more organized.


Staying in constant communication with your team is a necessity. While almost everyone has easy access to their email or text messaging through their smartphone, another platform called Slack could transform the way you communicate within your team. Slack is a messaging platform for your desktop or smartphone that offers many features to help you communicate better with your colleagues. It allows you to create channels for teams, projects or topics. What makes Slack great is that all of your files, images, PDFs, documents and spreadsheets can be dropped into Slack and shared with others. Your conversations are also completely searchable so you can find previously shared documents or messages. Slack can also be connected to your Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box accounts. If you want to streamline your teams’ messaging and document sharing, Slack is your go-to.


Often times, business owners need to present documents to clients or team members from a distance. To solve this problem, join.me is a free screen sharing platform. This platform allows you to easily schedule a meeting and then send a link to your client or team members so they can join the video conference and see your screen. They also offer share control so other people in your video conference can easily share their screen. If you often times find yourself sharing documents accompanied by a lengthy explanation email, try join.me instead.

Small Businesses Looking for Value Out of Social Media Need to Start with the Basics

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If your business is not on some type of social media platform, you’d be known as a laggard. To be clear, a laggard is a person (or in this case a business) who makes slow progress and falls behind others. They represent about 2.5% of companies in existence. Presuming you’re not a laggard and your business is utilizing a social media platform, the next BIG question becomes – is this platform(s) adding value to my business in some way?

This question is difficult to answer for a few reasons and requires further probing. First, what is your definition of value? Second, are you spending ample time to make that platform valuable for your business? Third, are you even using the correct social media platform?

We know social media is a powerful way for businesses to reach their audiences, yet for small businesses this seems like a constant uphill battle. Big companies, from the outside, look like they have this figured out. They run great social media campaigns across 100 different mediums—some of which you’ve never heard of (what is periscope?). But there’s something that can be learned from their approach. Like technology, popular social media platforms are growing at a fast rate and knowing which platform to use for your company can be difficult. For small businesses, getting back to basics is a great start.

Choose a platform that caters to your purpose

Every small business owner is looking for ways to make money. But the hard truth about social media is that it’s not geared to generate revenue for small businesses. Rather than naively convincing yourself that this is where your time is best spent, restructure that focus into customer nurturing. There is an inverted effect to revenue growth when businesses simply engage with their audience in their social experience rather than using that platform to promote the company and its products. Understanding and embracing this approach will provide the groundwork to which platform best serves your company’s social media purpose.

Know your brand and your audience

There are many platforms to choose from but there is typically one platform that should stand out among the rest. Knowing your brand will guide you to where your audience is. For example, if your product is visually appealing or targeted towards a younger audience, you may already have a following on platforms like Instagram. Instagram is among the best platforms to group like-minded people together by using hashtags. Hashtags provide a great opportunity for businesses to segment and nurture their audience by organically engaging in their experience. This has been widely popular with restaurants, non-profits, food delivery services, clothing brands, sports and fitness, music, and art.

For manufacturers and B2B businesses, your brand is typically illustrated through some type of process. This may be a value chain process or even the physical construction of a product. Video is the best medium for showing these processes. Platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook each allow for videos to be viewed and shared with ease. It is also a great way for sales representatives to nurture prospective leads through the sales channel by explaining the value of a company through video.

There is no perfect algorithm to be great at social media. However, knowing your purpose as a business, your brand, and your audience will get you going in the right direction. These three components will allow you to generate great content that is targeted to your audience while allowing you to engage in your audience’s social media experience.

Tips for Delivering a Successful Direct Mail Campaign to Your Target Audience

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In the marketing world today, there are hundreds of ways to reach out to your customers. But which method allows you to not only reach out but hand deliver your company’s ads and messaging? Direct mail.

Direct mail not only allows you to hand deliver your messaging to your target audience, but it offers a higher return on investment because it’s being delivered to the right person. With direct mail you can select your target audience from past customers to prospecting “look alike” consumers and develop a wider customer base through targeted messaging and brand awareness.

To help you get started on your next direct mail campaign, here are some tips for selecting the right audience and delivering the right message to them.

Know your audience

You need to know exactly who your audience is and then take it one step further. The goal for direct mail is to find the niche audience within your target audience that would benefit and want to receive your mailer. To start, take a look at the demographics of your audience including location, income, gender, and age. Once you’ve formed this list, cut the list down to a more targeted list by analyzing customer’s recent purchases, lifestyle habits, and even magazine subscriptions. This information will provide more in depth knowledge of what your consumers like and their purchasing habits.

How do you form this list you might ask? Luckily, there is an abundant amount of mailer information out there for you to explore. Some top mailing list providers we recommend include:

  • Nielsen- Prizm
  • NetProspex
  • Experian

Deliver messaging that resonates with your audience

To resonate with your niche audience, put yourself in their shoes and get creative with messaging that would attract them. You should also use the large amount of data you obtained about your mailers to your advantage. Did you find out that most of the audience on your mailing list are food and wine connoisseurs? Invite them to a wine and cheese night at your company that will unveil your newest products. This will align their interests with yours so they will interested in finding out more about your company and take the next step in visiting your store.

Create a mailing list rotation

While direct mail is useful in reaching your target audience, the last thing you want to do is oversaturate them with mail. Develop a rotating mailing list to ensure you are hitting the right people, the right amount of times. For example, we’ve divided the 3 audiences we want to reach into 3 tiers:

  • Tier I: Select the best 1-3 zip codes around each store location to target
  • Tier II: Select previous customers
  • Tier III: Select mailers from your targeted mailing list

Cross-reference these tiers to ensure you are not duplicating mailers and rotate the frequency. A good rule of thumb for frequency would be to send one mailer every three months.

Why Small Businesses Need a Well-Developed Content Strategy

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Many small businesses come up with fantastic content marketing ideas, which helps even the bar when competing with larger competing companies. However, oftentimes the ball is dropped when it comes to developing a well thought-out strategy that ensures that their content is active, engaging and relevant in the long run. Given the rising importance content plays in a firm’s lead generation activities, small business owners should continuously hone their content marketing game plans in order to take full advantage of the medium. Having a well thought out, documented strategy will certainly help them get there.

Here are some questions to ask while creating robust content strategy:

What are the specific goals of your content marketing campaign?

Content marketing is more than sharing industry-specific knowledge and populating your company’s blog page. Having a well-defined business goal will help many content creators set a clear direction and answer what type of actions they want their audience to initiate after reading the content. Is your goal to showcase your company’s talents and vision? To provide a solution to an industry-related issue? To have a more direct interaction with your potential customers? To build brand loyalty and awareness? Ultimately, it’s important to smoothly shift your reader’s attention to the company’s offering as a best possible solution.

Who is your target audience?

It’s essential that the target audience is aligned with your potential customers. Content marketers often forget that the content they create should be specific to the particular audience of the business/campaign and not for everyone in the world. The messaging of the content would be completely different depending on who the target audience is. For example, if the target audience of your content is the Millennials, the released content should be relatively new and exciting, practical and realistic, and powerful enough to see genuine feedback.

What are the channels of deployment?

Once you are ready to share your messages with your audience, you need a strategic channel policy in place. This is also a time to brainstorm various ideas for how to present content and to come up with an estimated budget for deployment. Then start asking which format will best communicate your message and which distribution channel your target persona will visit.

Going back to the example of targeting the Millennials, for instance, one of the advantages would be being able to directly access and monitor their responses from their online activities and interactions. With this knowledge in mind, putting efforts into developing relationships with the audience via blogs, social media, and email newsletters is ideal. Make sure to build a content calendar to plan out the order of content releases and dates of deployment so that your content has a bigger impact on the overall timeline.

What are the resources available to better improve your content marketing?

The messaging and channels aren’t the only elements that complete the strategy. Because content marketing is easily swayed by trends and unpredictable causes in the digital space, it’s important to be both defensive and aggressive by taking advantage of the available resources. In order to identify potential opportunities and hurdles, it’s important to evaluate the strategies of the competitors to assess your content’s strengths and weaknesses.

Setting up content curation tools to monitor conversations and trending topics is another way to enable content creators to amplify brand messages and create content that is relevant to the audience. Connecting with influencers and thought leaders in the industry is another great way to acquire valuable insight or even support through a partnership.

How will everything come together?

The end goal of your content strategy should focus on guiding your audience through the marketing funnel: the top of the funnel is building awareness, the middle is helping your audience understand how to solve a problem, and the end is leading them to conversion. The strategy should do more than simply allow people to discover your topic; your content should funnel the audience to the end ideas and help them make a purchase decision.


Act-On Marketing Automation Do’s And Dont’s

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In a time when trendy advertising options pop-up daily, it is important to strategize your goals and invest your budget wisely. Marketing automation is your business’ opportunity to build a portfolio of programs that deliver targeted content and nurture quality leads. In the last few years, we have experienced a burst of well-developed platforms geared toward the small- to medium-sized business sector. With several of our clients, we recommend and implement Act-On as the platform of choice. Below you will find several simple “Do’s and Dont’s” to take advantage of this automation software.

Before you sign on the dotted line:
Do build outlines for your programs and prep your content.
Take the time to strategize the flow of your automated programs and take inventory of the content you currently have. We recommend building up an established collection to fill at least 2-3 of your outlined programs. If you identify areas in need of more content development, build up your library first. This will help you avoid spending a monthly fee for a software you are not yet equipped to leverage.

Don’t forget to check the date.
Depending on your sign-on date and billing cycle alignment, Act-On will allow you 3-4 weeks of free experience/training. Sign-up mid-month to take full advantage of the extra weeks for onboarding.

Identify prospects while building your content and programs:
Do set-up the Website Prospector Tool.
Act-On provides a simple snippet of tracking code to add to each page of your website. A daily digest email sent to you by Act-On will tell you which companies are visiting your website.  This email tells you which prospects clicked on a link and which pages were visited on the website.

Don’t get wrapped up in the daily reports.
Depending on your list size and website traffic a lot of users may appear unknown with locations all across the globe. Spend 5 minutes each day to scroll through the daily digest email. Look for visitors with high page volumes and relevant locations to identify possible leads.

A Final Do and Don’t In One:
Do keep a healthy reputation and don’t forget about your list hygiene.
When sending large volumes of emails, it is important to regularly clean your lists. Contacts can become old or invalid. Outdated information may lead to high spam complaints, undeliverable mail (bounces), or unsubscribes. Check-in with your designated Act-On representative about your lists. It’s important to remember the cleaner the list the better your reputation which will ensure your ultimate goals that messages will be delivered and leads will be nurtured.

Why Earned Media Is Important to Your Organization

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The power of content marketing is emphasized everywhere in the marketing world, but how do you put a value on the content that your business is producing? Small and midsize business owners who wish to maximize their marketing efforts should consider paid, owned, and earned media when creating and distributing their content on their websites and other online channels. Before we dive into why earned media should be the end goal of your content strategy, let’s talk about paid and owned media.

Paid media refers to a company’s efforts to promote its products by paying for a media space and leveraging distribution channels such as web banners, paid search, and traditional advertising.

Owned media is any engagement driven directly by content that the company controls and owns. For example, when you post new content such as videos and blog posts on your website and social media channels, the interaction between the visitors and your company would be considered owned media.

Earned media is the chain of sharing that goes beyond the initial advertisement and is obtained through conversations on social media channels, emails, and word of mouth. Though it may be driven by paid and owned media, it’s an organic share from people who find the content compelling enough to want to pass on to others as a reflection of their own personality in some way.

So, why is earned media important?

1. Gain trust from your customers. We live in a culture where consumers are highly critical of any form of traditional paid media that interrupts their daily lives. They know exactly what they want without being influenced by commercial advertisements. It is clear that no one anymore wants to be ‘sold’, and consumers instead look to trusted sources for any type of life decision. According to Nielsen’s article on earned advertising, 92% of respondents trust reviews and recommendations from friends and family. Through earned media, your company avoids consumer skepticism and receives credibility from an objective third party who trusts your product or service.

2. Strengthen brand advocacy. Earned media creates a genuine bond between an organization and an individual. Customers become advocates for a business by sharing its content and endorsing the brand to friends and family. This adds more value than results from any other paid search campaigns or temporary online web banners because you are growing a group of ambassadors who are voluntarily passionate about your brand.

In order to build earned media, you need to get your content in front of the right people – people who are truly interested in the products and services you offer. This challenge requires you to analyze your target market strategically. You could share your content on all your social media pages and end up with a few hundred clicks only to see your content get pushed back by all the other content. Simply updating your content doesn’t generate earned media. Above all, have an end goal in mind when creating content. It’s important to invite your audience to join your community, engage in conversations and social sharing and amplify positive exposure for your business. Use your content to build substantial awareness and foster consumer relationships that will ultimately drive purchase intent and affect your company’s ROI.


Survey to Build Your Tribe

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As marketers, everything we do is geared towards the end user.
We know that businesses need engaged customers to thrive. As an outsourced marketing department for hire, it is our job to make sure that our clients are communicating their value add in such a way that engages the end user. If what we say doesn’t resonate with our target audience, then we are wasting both our time and our valuable marketing dollars.

In order to understand what makes your customers tick, ask them in a survey.
Surveys are invaluable tools to better understand your audience and take your business to the next level. In addition to their integral role in product development and customer service, surveys are useful in guiding your marketing efforts and making the most of your marketing budget. Self-reported survey data and digital channel analytics come together as two pillars in a modern understanding of the end user; armed with both, we have insight not only into how our customers behave, but also into how they think.

In order to run a successful survey, consider incentivizing the customer.
Customers are often reluctant to take surveys because of the time commitment involved. Marketers have found that survey incentives in the form of rewards can boost participation by up to 20%. Your customers are taking time out of their days to help you collect data – thank them with a small gift and they will be that much more likely to go out of their way for you.

When building your survey, choose each question carefully.
Customers do not want to answer an endless list of questions. They might begin with good intentions, but with each passing question comes an increased risk of their quitting. Unsurprisingly, we see that longer surveys are correlated with lower response rates. Each survey question takes up prime real estate as surveys should be kept short and to the point, limited to only a handful of questions.

Research shows that one question rules them all.
Have you ever taken a company’s survey and answered the question “Would you recommend us to a friend?” If so, you have given the company essential information on how you are likely to act in the future. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, this type of “recommendation” question is the only useful type of survey question for predicting customer behavior. Richard Owen’s and Laura Brooks’ Answering the Ultimate Question explores this idea further: given a scale of 1 to 10 for the question, customers giving a 9 or a 10 are “promoters,” those giving a 7 or an 8 are “passives,” and those giving a score below 7 are “detractors.”

By asking the recommendation question, you can quickly determine which individuals are most likely to be your brand advocates, in essence generating a prime list for referral marketing. It is this segment of your customer base that will help you grow, and it is up to us as marketers to help you unlock this potential.

An additional question may help you bring your referral marketing efforts to the next level.
The power of social proof is ubiquitous in the marketing world. When your customers see others endorsing or using a product or service, they will be much more likely to adopt it themselves. Not all endorsements are created equal; some individuals, whom we call “influencers,” are much more visible than others due to blogging and other activities in the public space. With open-ended questions, surveys present an opportunity to find out to which influencers your customers listen. This investment in research is worth it – if you can obtain this key data on your customers, you are one step closer to dominating your market.

Have you launched a survey recently? What questions did you ask? Let us know in the comments below.