Industrial marketers know that not every engagement opportunity they uncover will result in a hot prospect ready to buy. In fact, studies show that 70 percent of new business can come from long term leads, those prospects that are in the early stages of their buy cycles when they first engage with your company, but will be ready to make a purchase decision at some time in the future.
Your challenge is to keep these prospects in the fold and your company at the top of their minds so that they turn to you first when they are ready to buy. The way to do this is through lead nurturing campaigns.
If your company uses any kind of marketing automation program, you’re probably already familiar with setting up, executing, and tracking lead nurturing (or drip-marketing) campaigns. If not, you can still build and deploy an effective campaign by following these six steps.
1. Define your audience segment. The first step is to define the audience that will be included in your lead nurturing campaign. If all of your company’s prospects are alike, then all new leads might be put into a general lead nurturing campaign. But if you have specific types of customers — as most industrial suppliers do — you’ll want to define a segment or multiple segments for lead nurturing, either by current stage in the buy cycle, area of interest, market sector, product type, geography, or some other relevant criteria.
2. Offer value, not sales pitches. The reason you execute lead nurturing campaigns is because your prospects are not yet ready to buy, but might be in the future. Therefore, offers of product demos, pricing quotes, and special discounts are not only wasted at this point, they are likely a turnoff for your prospects. Instead, offer content that helps educate prospects on ways to solve the problems they are facing and that demonstrates the value your company can provide. Use educational content such as white papers, Webinars, articles, and videos as offers. You probably already have a lot of this content. If not, you may need to create new content to support your campaign.
3. Create a call-to-action and define objectives. For every e-mail, direct mail piece, or phone call that is part of the campaign, create a call to action and objective: download a white paper, register for a Webinar, read an article, view the video, subscribe to the e-newsletter or blog, follow you on Twitter, and so on. Then track your performance against those objectives to see what content and offers work best with your audience.
4. Build a schedule. Lead nurturing campaigns consist of multiple touches spread out over time. You will need to develop a timeline for when and how often you touch your prospects. It could be once a week for six weeks, or once a month for six months, or some interval in between. The important point is to define the entire campaign, so you will know how to phase your content and messaging, and to stick with it over the duration.
5. Develop response rules. Naturally you want to keep track of how your audience responds to the elements of your campaign. What your audience does determines what you do next. A prospect that clicks on every offer might be a prospect that gets a call from a sales rep. Or prospects that attend a specific Webinar might be candidates for a certain white paper. Plan ahead of time and apply logic, rules, and perhaps even branching (if they do this, then that, otherwise something else) in order to optimize your campaign’s flow and effectiveness — and to get high-potential leads into the hands of sales reps at the right time.
6. Measure and improve. Because you have created offers, established goals, and defined campaign rules, you can track what works and what doesn’t in your lead nurturing campaign. Get rid of offers that don’t perform well, while building on content that is popular with other similar offers. Continually refine your campaign and you should see improved results.
Have you set up lead nurturing campaigns? What were your steps to success? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
So… you're now a content marketer and not a SEO practitioner. You're now a strategic thinker and not just a technical or tactical implementer. You’re a marketer.
What’s more, you’re a holistic and integrated digital marketer. You always have been, right?
Since Google introduced its Panda and Penguin algorithmic updates, we've seen a seismic shift in the way that we work "with" search engines. Pair this alongside a renewed interest and focus on content marketing and the convergence of paid, owned, and earned media and we have great opportunity.
However, what comes with that is some confusion on direction and clarity needed on what content marketing really is, where and how it fits in your organization. I am big believer in content marketing and utilizing opportunity but in order to gain clarity on the renewed focus on SEO and content marketing relationship, I decided to approach it with an initial sense of skepticism.
Content 4200 BC
Since the days of cavemen carving on cave walls people have been publishing content. This isn't a new industry compared to post-2000 search marketing. Search and digital marketing have indeed made it easier for brands to tell their story and, for many a good SEO agency, that has been part of their plans.
Since John Deere published "The Furrow" in 1895, content marketing has been right in front of the consumer eye.
Fast forward to 2012 to Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 vision and we begin to see the fusing together of content marketing and digital marketing (of which SEO is a part) with its "liquid and linked" strategy.
In 2011 the content management institute conducted a study and found that 90 percent of marketers do some form of content marketing, whether they realize it or not.
In 2012 an Outbrain and Econsultancy survey found that 90 percent of companies agreed that content marketing would become more important over the next 12 months.
Both reports provide some compelling statistics. What surprises and confuses me is the low number (38 percent) of brands and marketers that say they have no content marketing strategy in place. Brands and marketers have been producing content (as per above) long before the when Tim Berners-Lee created the World Wide Web.
What Has Changed
What has changed though is what has happened in the SEO industry and the perception of content marketing. The growth of social media and the links between content and social and search engine results has changed. That is where confusion comes into the new content equation.
It’s logical to conclude, from the above, that what has changed is the interest and perception of what content marketing is. That has been driven, in the main, by SEO professionals.
1. Google – Algorithms – Panda & Penguin
In many ways Google has driven many SEO professionals to rethink their marketing strategies and shift to quality content production.
Panda was aimed to reduce rankings for low quality sites and improve rankings for sites with great, innovation, and insightful content. Penguin was aimed to remove web spam and combat link tactics that they view as black hat.
My first thought when this happened was, "how many companies will struggle and how many will rebrand?"
The data provided by Google supports this though. Note: A big thanks to 011100110110010 for researching and highlighting this trend.
Google has made it hard for anyone to gain quick results by trying to "game the search engine" or use black hat techniques. A meteoric rise in the interest of content marketing has occurred after this.
Many companies who engaged in dark art practices and tactics got hit hard. It wasn't just small sites it was also large sites like about.com – formerly part of the New York Times.
Many companies and agencies that had been producing and engaging in online content marketing strategies, as per the diagram above, found that there clients were not hit as hard by Google changes – that’s no coincidence. They saw opportunity to build upon this and rebranded. Quaturo and its subsequent purchase by Bluglass managed the transition right.
2. Convergence of Paid, Owned & Earned Media
Advertising and publishing aren't new and neither is content marketing. The convergence of paid owned and earned media caused many a debate on how people pitch SEO. However naming conventions and debate around inbound and outbound techniques are really quite insignificant when you look at the bigger marketing picture.
The real, and largest, change has ultimately been the growth and rise of tools, technology, and platforms that have allowed us to build and engage with brands and clients using "pull" marketing compared to traditional content techniques – that were focused on "push." The rise of social media is all about content and engagement driven through new technology.
3. Growth of the Connected Consumer
The ability of content to attract, retain, and convert customers naturally draws parallels with conversion and purchasing funnels. However, the reality is that in today’s world of converged, connected, and engaged consumerism tactics and strategies overlap in numerous areas. This has meant that customers don't all always follow a traditional funnel system.
Take social media as an example, loyalty and advocacy from one customer (sharing and promoting via influencers and friends) can lead others straight to awareness and consideration. Hence following a rigid demand funnel to map content strategy is no longer the norm if you aim to plan and prioritize quality content strategies. Why do you think we have so many venns, circle, and bubbles – it's because of the interaction and coloration of different types of media.
Mike Grehan, Publisher of SEW and ClickZ, shares some great thoughts and insights on this, which will be shared later this week on the BrightEdge blog.
4. Shifts Between Strategy vs. Tactics
One thing I have noticed is some confusion between strategy and tactics. As the media landscape grows, converges and Google forces SEO professionals and online marketers alike to re-think there approach - tactics such as algorithm chasing, tricking, and manipulating are becoming outdated. That means in order to survive and grow SEO’s and online marketers alike have to take a more strategic and integrated approach.
If SEO professionals want to be content marketers, then they have to take a much more strategic approach. This involves being a holistic marketer and optimizing for people rather than search engines.
Content marketing is far more than a subtle side shift from SEO to optimizing content. Just look at the way the SERPs have changed recently. Video, social, mobile, local rankings all require much than a singular technical approach. Hope is no longer an effective SEO strategy.
If you want to be top of the CMO’s agenda, who understand content more than SEO, be prepared to think like a marketer and understand cross channel and integrated marketing work on and offline and help them understand SEO in return.
Anyone can produce content. Plenty of people publish tons of content every day. Unfortunately that does not make them content marketers. Likewise, if your content marketing strategy is just a rehash of your SEO strategy, then it could be argued that you aren't a content marketer.
Do you remember the age-old debate? Technical SEO vs. holistic search marketers. Well, the same could be said for content marketers vs. online/SEO content marketers.
If you really aim to do content marketing, then you need to take a planned, detailed, and holistic approach across all channels. If you don’t have a clear plan and strategy in place then, you may get a few quick wins, but in the main you are really just creating additional noise and new forms of spam.
Quality content comes from quality marketing planning. This is your start point.
Content marketing isn't simply reproducing content and recycling content (that comes later in the process) into an infographic or list. Using content marketing as content bait is also not a good strategy long term – especially if you simply aim to use it to create a quick link or perceived win to replace SEO.
Now that’s a tough strategic decision for many to make, especially if you have employed manipulative search engine technique in the past and you clients expect similar results. Results and links are now beginning to be a byproduct of great content. Balancing this reversal isn't only a strategic decision but also a business decision for many a company moving into content marketing.
The audit process is just a vital as content creation. Auditing goes way beyond just looking at online metrics such as traffic, links, and social media data. Such audits are great if your focus is purely on certain aspects of online content.
However, looking holistically (across your organization and integrated content into multiple formats across multiple audience types) includes auditing everything from online to offline assets. Understanding business strategy, target markets, target personas, collateral, and case studies are part of this.
Auditing talent and optimizing talent to ensure content comes from all areas of your organization is a critically important and challenging process that many people skip in a rush to distribute what content they already have. What happens when it runs out?
Brand and Product
Brand marketing and product marketing are stalwarts of marketing strategy. Understanding every aspect of your product and how the brand is perceived on an offline allow to begin to map content ideas to consumer purchasing lifecycles in and outside of the funnel.
What’s more, doing this at an early stage gives you great insight into how to integrate your online, digital, traditional and offline. That’s RCM: Real Content Marketing.
Content Production – Mature and Immature Content
This is what separates the men from the boys and the girls from the women. I have used a maturity-based analogy for a very specific reason. As our industry matures so has our approach. That started with SEO and shifts from tactics to strategies and can now be seen in when and how people produce content.
Producing quality content is hard and working how and who develops content across your organizations is a huge task in itself.
If you can identify the content stars in your organization across all functions – sales, marketing, client service, product, and corporate – then you are far more likely to produce mature and consistent content.
Mature content is thoughtful, unique, insightful, and perfectly placed. It is cleverly distributed and recycled and reproduced in line with quality editorial, seasonal, and consumer based timelines.
Immature content is what I call over production of and needless recycling of content. Sometimes, although there are some great ones out there, this takes the form of a needless infographic, repetitive content, repetitive blogging about conferences, and basic, tactical 101 guides that are produced in their hundreds of thousands. If you do this, then you should make yourself aware of the law of diminishing returns.
This has always been a source of confusion when people talk about strategy and tactics. Distributing content is primarily a tactical activity with an online/SEO bias attached to it. There are obviously strategic considerations when planning outreach to resonate with customers and influencers but in the whole its success relies on execution.
Pitching content vs. traditional advertising is wrong. Placing advertising, even though it is paid for media, against content marketing is wrong. They are all part of the same process and start point as above.
Distributing your content and balancing editorial and advertorial, push and pull, and online and offline tactics are all part of holistic content marketing. Utilizing all marketing channels ensures that your brand story reaches the right people and in the right areas. Read more in this great poston the TopRank blog.
Content marketing has always been a huge and vital important part of company and marketing strategy. It sits at the top of the marketing tree and requires a combination of skill sets and matrix management across all areas of your business.
Search and SEO are a part of content marketing, but aren't the start or end point in many cases.
Those who are considering content marketing as an alternative to SEO need to have first understood integrated marketing across search, digital, and offline channels.
Real content marketing requires a top down strategic approach compared to traditional online tactical approaches (yes – we now have a term called traditional online marketing). It requires vast resource and doesn't guarantee you those really short, quick hits.
Quality content really has to be produced by individuals and not technology. Technology only distributes and helps you create and curate some of that content.
Hence identifying and managing content producers in all areas of your organization is a pre-requisite to success. Not only that, engaging and co-creating branded content with your clients are partners makes your content ever more so unique and insightful.
I'm a huge fan of SEO, but I'm also a huge fan of content and marketing. I would advise anyone to think twice before you call yourself a content marketer and produce and distribute that infographic.
One thing I've always found surprising is the amount of strong opinions we seem to have around the nomenclature of SEO/SEM/content marketing, etc within the industry.
I ran a poll a while back asking what the best term to use was - content marketing or inbound marketing. This generated lots of responses and opinions:
It's always interesting to see the results, but when you think about it - does it actually matter?
Is looking at each individual channel really the best way to go?
SEO: If all you do is optimize a website for search engines, you'll probably have the most finely-tuned website with no links and no rankings on the internet. Congratulations! However, the SEO role obviously involves a lot more than just optimization, link reputation clearly plays a large role in 2012, which is very difficult to do without content/social/PR.
Search Marketing: Yes, you're marketing yourself to generate more search traffic online - but surely there's more to it than that that adds to the mix? For example, converting that traffic into customers, or engaging via social channels maybe?
Link Building: You're building links - what about the quality/relevancy of these links? And how does that affect your overall search strategy? On its own it doesn’t mean anything of value.
PPC: Do you optimize your paid search campaigns to pay for each click? Of course not – you want to maximize the revenue from your campaign. That requires content, call-to-action, email marketing campaigns, conversion rate optimization etc.
Content Marketing: I'm clearly more of a fan of this term than others, but if all you just focus on marketing great content - without any SEO knowledge or social media expertise, you're definitely missing the bigger picture.
Inbound Marketing: Likewise, there's much more to the content you create than the links that it produces. And this mixes in with your social and search strategies of course.
Social Media: Marketing yourself on social media without great content to share is far more likely to just be shouting, not that anyone will listen.
Conversion Rate Optimization: Again you could have the most finally-tuned website for generating sales, but no traffic!
I could go on, but you get the point!
And like anything, you can't just trust a single metric on its own - it doesn't matter what it is. If it's business, you can't judge performance by looking at revenue without considering profit. In sport, you can't just look at games won, without games lost etc…
Sticking it All Together = Marketing Gold!
Wouldn't it make more sense to integrate all of this together? That way you'll have an optimized website, a strong/natural link profile, it generates targeted traffic from keywords (both organically and paid), it's highly-converting and attracts new visits via social content, whilst engaging with customers. That sounds much more effective surely?!
For the best strategies you need to get everyone all involved from day one and get them working together - then they can all help each other out. I really like an analogy from Greg Boser, who said that it's like a Chinese food court - you just ending taking bits of each without worrying where they come from, and it probably doesn't work very well together!
So What Should we Call it?
Some people dislike the term "content marketing", even more seem to dislike "inbound marketing" - largely because they're both new and maybe considered buzzwords. Yet others are saying "SEO" isn't the most accurate name to use anymore either (which feels a bit like we're going round in circles, SEO was once a buzzword too!).
I think there's a strong argument that SEO has grown up a lot recently and that you no longer need to just specialize in search to succeed in Google. That doesn't mean SEOs can't adapt and involve social/content into their strategies though.
Likewise, for the reasons above - there are also arguments that any of the other suggested replacements are flawed too. There are just too many factors to consider in a modern online strategy. Perhaps we should just use an old term instead? Marketing seems to have worked pretty well for a while now!
But let's be honest - who really cares?
Do Your Clients Care What it's Called? No, You Take a Budget and Spend it Where it Works Best!
And that's the way it should be - CMOs are judged on generating revenue from their marketing budgets. What it's called when they report this is irrelevant. And if you look at the reasons above, it's clear that if you have an integrated search strategy - the whole is going to be much greater than the sum of all parts.
So you can focus on getting great results - and leave your competitors to argue semantics.
Do You Think it Makes a Difference?
I don't want to turn this post into a debate on what it's called - that's not what it's about. But do you think the name of your marketing activity makes a difference? And does that affect your day-to-day strategy?
The author's posts are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc.
The holy grail: A link from Mashable.
Don't kid yourself. We all want one. They are a content powerhouse with a mind-blowing community. Moz has that type of community, but Mashable touches on everything from kittens to major trends in the economy and technology. If it's interesting to the Internet community, they'll publish a about it. Their domain authority and homepage authority is a whopping 96. Of course we all want a link.
The first thing any reputable SEO would tell you is that you need two things before you can even begin hoping for a link from Mashable:
Great content - it has to be beyond good by this point, it must be great
A relationship with Mashable
I'm not going to claim that those two things are absolutely necessary, but I would agrue that you need to know more about Mashable before you go pitching your content to them. Well, I've done some of that for you, and today I'll teach you how to do it for other sites as well. This is Advanced Content Analysis ... starting ... now.
The Brain Child
The idea to do Advanced Content Analysis on Mashable came from a conversation Carson Ward and I had one day about getting a link from them. He made the quip that all you really need to do is write a post along the lines of "7 Ways to Do X." I laughed because it's sort of true (list posts do well), but then asked myself:
"How many of Mashable's posts are lists?"
Once I dug into how to get the titles of as many posts as possible, I realized just how much more data was available and how much deeper the analysis could really go.
I thought I'd pull six months of Mashable posts; that is, until I started pulling the data and realized they put out almost two thousand posts a month. TWO THOUSAND. Holy content, Batman. Two thousand posts and one month was plenty for my analysis. If anyone wants to do more, I'd love to hear about six months of data.
To gather the post titles, I used ImportXML for Google Docs. The linked guide will tell you more than I ever could about how to scrape content from a site using ImportXML. For those that are curious, I've included the formulas I used for Mashable. If you just want to see the forumlas in action, here is a document that is read-only for you to investigate.
The first important part is the page to scrape. You want to get to the blog/site's archive pages. For Mashable, you can access them by hitting "next" on their homepage. This gives us the page to scrape. A1 below is where you input the page number you want to scrape. This forumla is cell A2 for me -- you'll need to know that in a minute.
Below that, you can complete the import. These three take up A3, B3, and C3. As previously mentioned, once I pulled the titles, I figured I'd just keep going. The URL is important for the things you can pull using SEOTools, so be sure to add that one. The date and comment number was important for in-depth analysis. The number of comments along with social metrics are the only real "success" metrics you can pull externally. I mean, unless Mashable wants to share the traffic numbers with me for each of the posts ... no? Dang.
Side Note: Dear tech guys and gals at Mashable, sorry, I crawled tons, and others might, too. Though that is probably like .001% of your server traffic. :)
From here, you simply copy and paste into an Excel sheet, and keep going (change the page number in A1) until you get the number of posts you want.
This is my new favorite tools for a number of reasons, not least of which is the ability to use Regex in Excel. Are you excited, too? Well, it can also return social metrics using a URL, return the canonical URL, and so much more. If you haven't downloaded it, please do. And donate. This thing is worth it.
Alright, so I promise not to bore you, but I used SEOtools to do a few things:
Download the Facebook shares (Twitter wasn't being nice when I tried, but it's possible)
Return True/False if the post title included markers like Infographic or Video. Mashable is nice and gives us a marker in the title if the post is about something big like that.
Return True/False if the post title included a number. More on this later.
This section is all in Excel. I did one more thing and checked to see what day of the week the post was made live. That's made simple with a formula like this:
The [@Date] references the cell in the table with the date.
Now I have the data, it's time to learn some stuff about Mashable and their content. After de-duplication (they post weekly recaps of videos, etc.), I analyzed 1,159 posts. Below is a look at the content types from what I could tell. Other includes smaller types like Audio and just plain text posts.
It looks like in the last month Mashable has preferred videos over infographics, which is something to keep in mind when deciding what content to develop and pitch. But this is just in terms of the number of posts. We have answered our original first question: how many of Mashable's posts are lists? 13% in the last month (in the chart above I am referring to "# Posts"). Nothing to cough at, but not as many as Carson and I figured. But what about performance of these posts? What days are they posted? And for that matter what about video and infographic posts? On to dataland we go.
Note: the "other" category includes all other posts that are not lists, or are something different as noted in the title of the post. Mashable has a habit of marking posts with [MODIFIER] which I used to break these categories down. All other are smaller tags and any other "regular" posts.
Lists, Infographics, and Video Posts -- Oh My!
How well do they perform? I'm picking on these because they are the content types that we all harp on so much. The results for comments on the post types and Facebook metrics. The most suprising find here is that while video posts have more shares and comments, there is a higher number of list posts. I think this has more to do with traffic and brand building than actual engagement. I theorize that if we could see average unique visitors to these posts, that lists would have a much higher view rate. Reason: people are lazy and just want to skim for data. Lists work well because they are easy to skim and give people information in just a few seconds. One day I'd love to see a study in which Mashable looked at the new visitors from a list post and watched how often they came back to Mashable, and compare that to other post types. THAT would be fascinating.
Now to the more fun stuff - days of the week. This has little consequence in my book, but it's fun to look at.
Above is the average for the site overall in the last 30 days. Fun factoids:
Mashable posts less on the weekends, but the audience is more active in comments and sharing. Weekend numbers are similar to Tuesdays. Tuesday is apparently the day that Mashable audience members are bored at work. But more likely, there are just fewer posts those days. Averages run higher when you have a smaller base.
Monday is the big post day. No surprise to me there.
Wednesday and Thursday are when intereaction drops off.
What about by post type? How many are posted on each day? It turns out that the videos and lists are posted more on Mondays, and infographics on Wednesdays. Why do you think this happens? I have my theory, but I'd love to hear yours on this one.
How did these content types perform per day? Let's just look at the "lists" category for this part as we are getting pretty deep, and this post was originally about lists.
Remember my theory on boredom on Tuesdays? *points like Vanna White at the chart above* See?!?!?!? The count of total shares and comments back my theory up. Even though there are fewer posts on Tuesdays, they got more interactions on average. Huh. Maybe this is why we post on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Distilled. Will and Duncan are smart cookies. (No, really, I doubt that had a ton to do with it, but Will or Duncan can correct me later.)
Content Analysis is much easier with tools like ImportXML and SEOTools for Excel.
You should consider doing this with the content on your blog or a competitor. What's really working for them? Back up your analysis with hard core numbers of interaction with the audience, not just what you see them doing. Don't get inspiration (see I didn't say copying?) from something that isn't working.
Post awesome stuff on Tuesday.
Develop great videos for Mashable, as infographics are on the way out.
List posts get attention, but not as much interaction.
What else did I miss? This isn't fully scientific, but it is fun and gives us much more data to help make decisions than we might have had before. Take everything above with a grain of salt, pull your own numbers, and see for yourself.