Email and Inbound Sales: A Closer Look

Email
The negative connotation that email is “dead” as a marketing tool is one that is growing in popularity and this is understandably so. When we as consumers think email marketing, there is no doubt some undesirable associations that exist there, and this makes it difficult to see email as an up in coming resource. However, data has been fighting back at this generally accepted idea and has proven that email marketing is not a dead beat marketing tool; it is actually quite the opposite. According to HubSpot, “76% of marketers say they use email more today than they did three years ago.” But why is this is so? The answer isn’t complicated. Email marketing is one of the most “cost effective” marketing mediums that organizations can employ, and it offers great power for lead generation because it “gives you the power to reach customers in a place that most people visit everyday-their inbox!” That last sentence is a powerful fact for organizations to consider; most consumers are checking their email on a daily basis. There are few marketing touch points, with the exception of television, regular mail, and some others, that consumers interact with on a daily basis; why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of that?

Like stated previously, email marketing is a great tool for lead generation and this is because it a marketing touch point that people interact with multiple times a day. For those out there that are still not completely sold on the idea of email, check out the following statistics presented by HubSpot:

  • There are more than 3.2 billion email accounts in existence today
  • 91% of consumers check email once a day, if not more
  • 75% of consumers would actually prefer the use of email for marketing communications
  • The ROI of email marketing is 4300%

While it is clear that email marketing is an advantageous tool for lead generation that organizations must be utilizing, there are some “best practices” that need to be followed in order to ensure that email is effective as possible; while there are many, these are a key few that I find important:

  • Only email people that know who you are: This is the very first tip that Constant Contact provides, and it is an essential one. In their ebook Constant Contact states, “people open email from people that they know, and then delete or mark as spam email from people that they do not recognize.” The key takeaway for marketers and organizations in this tip is to only email those that have signed up to receive your emails. Do not buy email lists from companies or “share lists” because those emails will go to waste; they will not get read, and even worse they may annoy the consumer before they know anything about the organization. In addition to bettering readership rates, organizations will benefit from only emailing those that have signed up for emails because this practice leads to “better relationships,” “repeat sales,” and “valuable word of mouth.” Marketers and organizations want to receive a positive return on investment from any marketing effort they employ, and to do that for emailing the emails must go to those that willingly want to see them. Along those same lines of building better customer relationships, only emailing those that know you and having “opt out” options can help prevent an organization from facing legal damages
  • “Target your Audience”: The Create the Bridge blog states, “knowing your target audience is, without a doubt, the most important step in executing a successful marketing campaign.” While this might seem like a cliché point to bring up, it is very crucial in email marketing because of the poor associations that people have about receiving promotional emails. Consumers do not like to open their inbox and see 15 emails full of content that is not relevant to them as a buyer, and this is where really understanding your audience comes into play. Constant Contact joins in on this same conversation when they say, “When you provide content that is helpful to your readers, you’ll have more people opening and acting on the content you send out.” This is an important best practice for organizations to keep in mind, and one that can benefit them, because it is the basis for creating content for emails. Organizations/marketers must think about who they are sending this email to, and what the person is interested in. Taking the time to understand “buyer personas” and consumers interests will create better quality leads, and, as Constant Contact says, increase opening rates and make consumers more likely to act on what is being said in the email
  • “Focus on Benefits”: Because consumers receive a fair amount of promotional emails, it is important that organizations send out emails that “get to the point” and emphasize the benefits for the consumer. HubSpot explains that the email should not spend a great deal of time focusing on the “features” of the product or features of the organization, rather it should highlight what’s in it for the customer and why they would benefit from whatever is being offered in the email. This is an important rule for organizations to follow because it is something that will again increase readership and ideally get consumers to participate. If the email is not focused, then consumers will stop reading because they will not realize what is in it for them. While it is tempting to use email as a way to expand further on your product/organization, it can be detrimental to the success of the email and thus detrimental to the organization in terms of lead generation and conversions.

Inbound Sales
If you’re like me, this may be an unfamiliar term to you. That being said, all organizations and marketers should become familiar with this topic. Inbound is a buzz word, that HubSpot is very well known for, and in terms of marketing it revolves around customers coming to you as an organization. Consumers seek out content posted by the organization, as opposed to being exposed to it in traditional forms. Inbound sales is similar in concept. Inbound sales is based off of the idea that consumers are able to find all of the information about a product/service on their own, and they do not need a sales representative to call them up and educate them about the product. The mass amounts of information have made consumers more independent, thus shifting the role of the sales person.

For clarification and a concrete understanding of the term, the definition of inbound sales is, “the process of focusing on individual buyers and their personal needs, points of pain, frustrations, and goals.” In my opinion, one important aspect that is missing from this definition is the role of the consumer in inbound sales. Yes it is important that the sales person focuses on the needs of the customer “over their own,” however it is also important to note that consumers are finding the information they need on their own; thus changing the role of the sales person in the selling process. An ebook by New Breed puts it best when they state, “They can educate themselves independently-no need to speak to a sales rep to find information on the product or determine how your pricing compares to that of your competitor. They can find all the information on their own and they will use it to their advantage.” The role of the sales person now is more about “helping” consumers and answering any curiosities or questions they might have about the information they have found; their role is not about “closing the sale.”

In order to make the transition to more of a “helping role” the most crucial aspect is that marketing and sales are on the same page. The two teams have to be working “cohesively” in order to focus on the needs of the consumers, and New Breed recommends that the best way to do this is through an SLA. By definition an SLA is, “an agreement, almost like a contract, between the two teams, designed to help them work cohesively, put equal effort into the process and hold each other accountable for the results.” Essentially, marketing’s role in inbound sales is to “generate a certain quantity of qualified leads” and then the sales team will follow up on those leads. The SLA outlines this and also states that the sales team will follow up on the leads “appropriately” meaning they will play the role of the sales person in the way that inbound sales requires. Organizations can benefit from employing this inbound sales strategy because it will make more effective use of sales persons. In this day and age, where there is an overabundance of information available to consumers, sales and marketing should not be spending their time/resources shoving product and price information at them. Organizations can better use their resources by employing inbound techniques such as blogs, and helping consumers make their final decisions.

New Breed offers a list of inbound sales tools for organizations to employ including:

  • HubSpot CRM
  • LinkedIn “Advanced Search”
  • Tinderbox
  • Ghoestery
  • Rebump

The HubSpot blog offers some very good examples of email marketing; one in particular being an email sent out by Canva:

In the discussion of email marketing, an important best practice was to “focus on benefits” for the consumer. You can see from the picture below that Canva is doing just that. They are highlighting that they have added new layouts to their sites for cards, presentations, posters etc. that will benefit the consumer by keeping them “inspired.” While they are highlighting their product by announcing new layouts, they are doing it in such a way that shows the benefit to customers. Checkout the HubSpot blog for more examples of effective emails.

All quotes and statistics came from the following sources:
Is Email Marketing Dead
Constant Contact
HubSpot
New Breed
Inbound Sales Definition
Canva Image

UX, UI, and Landing Pages: Whats the Story

As I have progressed through the many tools of Digital Marketing in hopes of becoming a digital native, it has been cool to discover how many of the tools overlap with one another. For example, a few posts back I discussed the overlap of web analytics with A/B testing and how web analytics provides the metrics needed to discern between various webpages. Once again, A/B testing will be making an appearance later on in this week’s discussion about landing pages. But first, I want to begin with a brief introduction on User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI).

Defined very generally, user experience (UX) is, “the overall experience of a person using a product such as a website or computer application, especially in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use.” In digital marketing terms, this user experience may refer to a website, app, or some other sort of digital marketing effort; the question then becomes is that medium easy to navigate through and does it flow well? These questions are the responsibility of a UX designer. Fast Company describes the job of a UX designer as someone who is “concerned with how the product feels.” If you are like me, you maybe thinking that the “feel” of the product relates more to the visual aspects of a page or the “interface design.” However, when we discuss the “feel” in terms of UX, we are more referring to the “experience, emotion, intuition and connection a user feels when suing a site or product,” in addition to the “usability” of the site/product. That being said there are a few key aspects of UX design that are important to note:

  • As discussed above, the key job of the User Experience Designer is to ensure that the digital product/page/screen/medium flows easily. Fast company says, “The Broad responsibility of the UX designer is to ensure that the product logically flows from one step to the next…By identifying verbal and non-verbal stumbling blocks, they refine and iterate to create the ‘best’ user experience.” This is a key aspect for organizations to understand, because, in my opinion, the flow and experience of a digital product is crucial for doing business. For example, an organization that conducts a majority of its sales via ecommerce should be very concerned with the user experience they are offering. Consumers need to enjoy their time on an organizations site and be able to easily navigate through the steps to make a purchase. If the user experience is poor, customers may not put in the effort to do whatever action they were going to do, leading to conversion loss for the organization. In an article discussing UX and why it matters, Design Shack puts it best when they state, “In terms of design, user experience is just as important as visual identity. Seriously. It doesn’t matter what your site or app looks like if people don’t know how to interact with it. And moreover, they need to enjoy that interaction.”
  • Another key aspect of User Experience Design, that ironically diverts the attention away from users in some sense, is the interaction between UX designers and their fellow “partners” or coworkers. An article by UX magazine on “successful UX executives” presents four key ideas that will, ideally, lead to a more successful user experience by diverting the attention to internal dynamics. The four tips from UX magazine include: Study those around you as you would study users, studying those around you isn’t enough-you must have empathy, build relationships, and remember that people may not understand UX. While there is a lengthy explanation for each of these four tips, the essential lesson is that user experience designers need to put great effort into understanding colleagues/partners and their goals. The need to support their colleagues and create lasting relationships is due in great part to the need of mutual support for the UX work that they are doing. While it is an interesting concept to turn the spotlight away from the direct users of the pages/products, the idea that UX magazine is presenting is a crucial one for organizations and digital marketers working as UX designers; you need the support of those you work with in order to create an exceptional user experience. The article speaks about UX designers experiencing a lot of push back in their recommendations/ideas which can prove frustrating because the UX designer is the “expert.” But something to keep in mind is that “people may not understand UX” and therefore not understand your recommendations and why they will enhance what is already there. The article emphasizes that just as UX designers need to “ground” themselves in “users’ needs, wants and desires,” the same needs to be done with partners. “UX executives have learned that this skill translates directly to their professional success: ground yourself in your partner’s needs, wants, and desires to ensure that processes you build, the strategies you create, and presentations you give will speak to them and enable mutual success.” Gaining respect and mutual support internally is a key thing to know about UX design for organizations because having a strong internal dynamic will further enhance the user experience. Organizations want users to successfully interact with their digital products/mediums, but it is clear that this will not be able to happen unless the organizations UX team is on the same page as the other “partners.” By emphasizing their internal dynamic, Organizations are setting themselves up for greater collaboration on UX aspects, which will ideally translate into positive customer interactions and conversions.

Defined generally, UI design or User Interface Design is, “the design of websites, computers, appliances, machines, mobile, communication devices, and software applications with the focus on the users experience.” As stated above, the UX designer is primarily concerned with the feel of the product, where as the UI designer is primarily concerned with “how the product is laid out.” Fast Company describes the job of a UI designer as some who is “in charge of designing each screen or page with which a user interacts and ensuring that the UI visually communicated the path that a UX designer has laid out.” Again it is important to make the distinction that UI design is not about the feel, which was my initial thought before taking a deep dive into these two topics.

  • An important aspect of UI design to note is the various jobs that a UI designer might perform. According to Fast Company, UI designers might do anything from deciding where content should go, create a “consistent design language,” “maintain consistency in visual elements,” decide how to display “error messages,” etc. It is important for organizations to understand the jobs of a UI designer so that they can ensure their digital marketing products/pages/screens have the visual elements that are needed and are laid out in the way that makes the most sense. The UX and UI designers need to work together to enhance digital products for the consumers.

Landing Pages
As most digital marketing gurus probably know, landing pages are key because they represent the digital marketing version of a first impression. By definition of HubSpot a landing page is, “a website page specifically designed to convert visitors into leads.” When your organization presents some sort of digital marketing effort, users click a button that hyperlinks them to a specific landing page that is, hopefully, relevant to them as a buyer and where they are in the buying process. Because the landing page is the first thing that a consumer sees after being navigated from whatever marketing effort lead them there, it is crucial that the page be “attention grabbing,” “uncluttered,” and “bold.” You want to get the consumer to stay and engage in the “event” or “offer” that will count as a conversion, whether that event be a download, or email sign up, etc. Landing pages are a key part of digital marketing efforts that organizations should pay extreme attention to because all of their marketing efforts point in that direction. Alexis Anderson, a director of marketing at PureWow, puts it best when he states, “We pour tremendous time and energy into driving qualified users to our landing pages to sign up for email. If they don’t take the last step to actually enter their email addresses, it’s a waste.” Because landing pages are so important, there are some very specific “best practices” that organizations should ensure are included in their landing pages:

  • Headlines: Both HubSpot and Copyblogger agree that landing pages MUST have a “compelling” headline that breaks through all of the clutter. Copyblogger states, “It’s your two second chance to overcome the swift and brutal attention filters that we have developed due to information overload.” Organizations can benefit from utilizing attention grabbing headlines because it will ensure, hopefully, that their consumers will actually take the time to read what the landing page is offering them, thus leading to a conversion.
  • Only ask for “one thing” or present one offer: HubSpot greatly harps on the importance of the offer and it being relevant to where the user is in terms of the “buyer’s journey.” In addition to this, Copyblogger says that you should “clearly ask for that one specific thing.” For example, if you are offering coupons to a user, only ask them for their email so that you can send them coupons. Don’t also ask them to sign up for a monthly subscription to your magazine or something additional your organization might be offering. This practice can help to organizations because it will increase the chances of the user actually giving them what they are asking for. Copyblogger goes on to discuss the idea that if you ask for too many things or give the consumer too many choices, they will end up choosing nothing. If that occurs, all the digital marketing efforts that lead up to that point will be for nothing.
  • Bullet Points: As digital marketers, we all know that customers are only going to read so much, and if they see a long paragraph of information, chances are they will not read any of it. HubSpot and Copyblogger both agree that a best practice of landing pages is to present information in bullet points and “put the most important points at the beginning.” Organizations can benefit from putting their information in bullets because it increases their chances that a customer might actually read what the landing page is offering them. If a customer takes the time to read, the organization is increasing their chances of getting a conversion or “qualified lead.”
  • Remove extra “clutter” from the landing page: As stated in the introduction to landing pages, they must be “bold” and “uncluttered.” HubSpot and Copyblogger both agree that a landing page best practice is to remove additional “links,” navigation bars,” and any “visual clutter.” The reason being is that you want the customer to be solely focused on the “offer your making them without being tempted to wander the room.” This is a tip that organizations can better from because it is again going to increase the chances that customers will take them up on their offer and they will land a conversion. If the landing page is focused and concise, there is an increased chance that users will engage.
  • “Assume nothing. Test everything.” This is a best practice that is presented by Copyblogger and it is where we see the overlap from A/B testing. When designing landing pages, it is imperative that an organizations test various designs, via A/B testing, in order to discover which design is leading to the greatest conversion rate. After all, if all of an organizations digital marketing efforts are leading to this point, we want the customer to take the offer. Organizations can better ensure that customers will take the offer if they test out the design of their landing pages.

HubSpot offers a great resource to organizations in the form of example landing pages that are doing everything right. They are concise, contain clear headers, ask for one thing, etc. One particular landing page that I found very “elegant” and successful was Shopify’s landing page. You can see from the image below that they have a clear header introducing their “create your store” offer. In addition, they are only asking them to sign up at the bottom and there is little clutter on the page. HubSpot is also a believer in having a video or image on your landing page, and Shopify is employing that technique. Visit HubSpots blog to see more companies that are utilizing landing pages in the correct way.

All quotes and statistics came from the following sources:
General Google definition of UX
Definition of UI
Design Shack Article
Mashable Article
UX Magazine Article
Fast Company Article
HubSpot Landing Page
HubSpot Conversion Process
Shoplift Image

Social Media: A Business Perspective

While we might all think that we have a grasp on social media, using it for business strategy is quite a bit different then how most of us use it in our everyday lives. Using social media in a business setting requires marketers to emphasize the opinions of others and what they want to hear, instead of focusing on the organization and the push strategy they might want to employ. Though it is different then how we are used to using social media, it is a crucial part of any organization looking to expand their reach and further emphasize their marketing efforts. MOZ states, “Your customers are online. They are interacting in social channels with their friends, colleagues, and other brains in search of information, recommendations, and entertainment. If your company is not around to answer, a competitor will be.” This is a very concise way of offering simple advice to organizations; your consumers are online and you need to be there too. It is essential that an organizations marketing efforts be “extended” into the social realm because people spend a substantial amount of time in the online world. HubSpot and MOZ both present some key practices that can be useful for marketers and organizations using social media for business purposes; in my opinion, organizations should pay attention to two in particular:

  • Focus on the buyer persona: As discussed in inbound marketing, for social media and content marketing efforts to be successful, organizations most understand their “buyer personas” and whom they are marketing too. MOZ states, “Share content that is tangentially relevant to your business or something involving common interests of your audience.” Focusing on the buyer persona will help organizations with their social media efforts because it will help them to share and create content that will catch the eye of their consumers. If the content is not relevant, it will just be more noise on a consumers timeline, and thus not effective. If organizations can focus on the buyer persona and break through the clutter, they have taken the first step in laying the groundwork for lead generation and growing that relationship with the customer.
  • Build Relationships: In the beginning of the article by MOZ, they offer a very insightful framework to take when approaching social media. They state, “To get the most out of social media, make the relationships you build with them your end goal.” In my opinion, this is a great mindset for organizations to take when approaching social media because it emphasizes that the content should be about “building relationships” and not so much on the promotional side. Organizations can take this mindset and then question every piece of content before they post it. Does this material seek to promote our products and organization over the competitors, or does this content seek to help our consumers and build a trusting relationship? By aiming first to use social media as a relationship building tool, organizations will ideally be able to generate quality leads because the leads are based off of trust more so then promotions.

The following are examples of two companies that have been able to successfully utilize the advice of HubSpot and MOZ to “break down the walls” and build relationships between consumers and organizations via specific social media platforms:

Etsy as a Pinterest Expert
Etsy is an online “community” of artists and “crafters” that make products to be sold via the Etsy website. Every crafter/artist has their own mini site within Etsy where they can showcase their offerings and consumers can make purchases. As a customer of Etsy myself, I found Pinterest to be a very fitting social media platform for Etsy to utilize because it is an efficient way to put their product offerings on display in a medium that reaches a large portion of their target market. However, Etsy is utilizing Pinterest in several other ways that make it a crucial strategic social media platform for their organization:

  • In their discussion of Pinterest, MOZ highlights the idea of sharing pictures on Pinterest that are “relevant to an organizations industry” but not necessarily pictures of that organizations products. MOZ claims that, “Pinterest doesn’t have to be just about your product images. Go off topic a little, but stay relevant.” Etsy does an incredible job of following suit with MOZ’s instructions as they have numerous boards that highlight Etsy products such as “Etsy Jewelry,” and some boards that highlight other categories that appeal to Etsy’s target market such as “Entertaining.” Pinterest describes Etsy’s use of their platform in the following way: “The Etsy team was drawn to the visual nature of Pinterest as a way to showcase items for sale in the Etsy marketplace…Their editorial teams post new pins daily to Etsy’s boards, drawing from Etsy items as well as content from other sites, inspired by what’s trending on Pinterest.” By posting content that is a bit “off topic,” Etsy is employing a good social media strategy because it “breaks up” the constant promotions that are pushed at consumers on a daily basis. In a way, it shows that Etsy is “human” and while they have a great products to sell, they have other interests that they like to speak too. MOZ advocates going off topic because it’s a way to build “likeability” and “familiarity.” By posting images that are trending on Pinterest that day, Etsy is making themselves more relatable to consumers, thus laying the groundwork for building a relationship. For example, someone may have pinned an image of a vacation location and then notice that Etsy pinned the same picture. This creates a connection between the consumer and Etsy, and lets them know that they have similar interests. Organizations can take this lesson from Etsy and apply it to their own Pinterest’s by using this platform as a medium to build relationships and “familiarity” with their consumers. Share images that are not strictly of your products and step away from the constant promotional push. Organizations will benefit from these actions because, like Etsy, it makes them more relatable and presents them as an organization with similar interests to their consumers. This is opposed to an organization that strictly uses social media to further push and promote. Organizations that make an effort to be relatable are taking strides toward building a relationships, which in turn creates quality lead generation.
  • HubSpot and MOZ both harp on the idea of “sharing other peoples content” and highlighting customers on social media platforms and allowing them to feel “included.” Etsy puts this principle to work in the best way possible on Pinterest, via “Guest Pinners.” Because Pinterest is all about images, it is difficult to share content that other people have created. However, Etsy compensates for this by allowing people to take over their Pinterest and pin items they feel are “trendsetting.” Etsy features several types of guest pinners ranging from their own “Etsy Sellers” to “Popular Bloggers.” Etsy is employing a good social media technique on Pinterest that organizations should take note of because it emphasizes consumer inclusion. Like stated previously, both HubSpot and MOZ define sharing others content as a “best practice.” MOZ states, “It will appeal to their natural desire to be acknowledged and included. This also helps them feel like they ‘ve added value back to their community and instills a sense of ownership.” Etsy allowing guest pinners to take over their Pinterest, shows they trust their “communities” opinion on “trendsetting” images and that they want their sellers/consumers to be highlighted on their boards. Organizations can benefit from including others content on their social media platforms because it is again helps to build that customer relationship. Allowing consumers to have a say and highlighting their content (or in this case, their opinion on trendsetting pins) will bring about positive feelings and let consumers know they can relate to and trust the brand because they have some ownership in it. Again, being able to relate and creating trust are stepping stones in working towards an organizations “end goal” of social media; building relationships. Building these relationships will provide organizations with quality lead generations.

Pure Leaf Iced Tea as a Facebook Fanatic
When I think about Facebook as a social media platform that can provide an advantage to organizations that utilize it correctly, I think about organizations who are able to use Facebook as a medium to make themselves more personable and create a brand personality. Facebook is a social media platform that is designed to focus on the “audience” and not “conversion rates,” as MOZ put it. I was instantly drawn to the Pure Leaf, iced tea company, Facebook page because they hit on several of the general requirements for a successful Facebook Page:

  • One of the main lessons that HubSpot presents when talking about social media tactics, and inbound/content marketing strategies in general, is to focus on the buyer persona. What are your buyers interested in, and how can you help them. MOZ joins in on this same conversation when they state, “Make your audiences experience on Facebook about their experience and their connections rather than your CTR and conversion rates.” Pure Leaf Tea is an impeccable example of understanding buyer persona and creating/sharing content that is aimed at their interests and needs. It is clear from their Facebook that Pure Leaf Iced Tea understands the healthy ways of their target market as they share numerous nutritious recipes and videos about these healthy eats (some have no relation to Pure Leaf Tea at all, and some do). They are focusing their Facebook content around the “audience’s experience” putting clear emphasis on the healthy life-style that their target market aims for. One of my favorite pieces of content on Pure Leaf Tea’s Facebook page is an image they posted that reads, “There’s no substitution for real, leaf-brewed iced tea, but here are some easy swaps for all your other culinary concoctions.” After this blurb they had an image that offered several substitutes such as avocado and apple sauce that can replace unhealthy ingredients such as butter and sugar. This piece of content they shared is a perfect example of Pure Leaf Iced Tea understanding their buyer persona (healthy living) and providing content that helps their audience obtain this healthy life style, without too much emphasis on their own products. In addition, HubSpot and MOZ emphasize using a lot of images and “making it fun and personal.” Pure Leaf Iced Tea is doing just that as almost every post is attached to an image or video that is “fun” and informative for the audience. Even further, MOZ emphasizes the timing of posts and being aware of when people check Facebook. The majority of Pure Leaf Iced Tea’s posts are in the morning or around lunchtime, which shows they are paying attention to the breakfast and lunch hours that are prevalent to their audience.

  • Overall, organizations can learn a great deal from the Pure Leaf Facebook page because they provide an excellent example of how to create a light/fun marketing environment that really emphasizes their “buyer persona.” While some of the content is promotional, it is all presented in a way that is relevant to the consumer and shows Pure Leaf products being incorporated into healthy dishes (promotional, yet informational for the consumer). Facebook is a great social media platform for tailoring content towards the buyer persona, and organizations can reap the benefits of Facebook by focusing on their audience and generating content that evokes a relevant brand personality. Organizations sharing content that is centered on the audience further works to build customer relationships, because it shows customers that the organization understands their needs. The organization has vested the time to understand their audience, and they care about their interests/wants, sometimes over promotions. As organizations focus in on their buyer persona’s, post relevant content, use images etc. consumers will start to become more comfortable with the brand and this will ideally generate leads. The consumer now has seen the more “human” side of the brand and can further relate to the organization.

All quotes, statistics, and images came from the following links:
Pinterest Image
MOZ Article
HubSpot Lesson
Etsy Pinterest Success Story
Pure Leaf Iced Tea Facebook Page
Pure Leaf Image
Pure Leaf Substitute Image

Content Marketing: Think About The Consumer

The ideas that content marketing and inbound marketing bring to the table are something I am passionate about as an aspiring marketer because it is an outside of the box way of thinking. My favorite marketing moments are the ones when I am exposed to marketing without even realizing it. The moments when the sole purpose of the marketing effort wasn’t to smother the consumer with a product, but rather to help the consumer, share a story about an organization, or even share an inspirational moment that is backed by a business. Granted, content marketing has to employ some sort of “push” strategy, just as traditional marketing does, but the key difference is who the content is made for. Content marketing creates content with the customer in mind and not the organization or its product.

What is Content Marketing:
Content marketing, as defined by content marketing institute, is, “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience-and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Content marketing differs from traditional marketing in that its sole purpose is not to sell products or promote, it’s to understand the customer’s needs and provide marketing content that connects with consumers on a different level. While this definition has multiple parts to it that speak to content marketing, I believe it highlights two key parts of content that are very important for marketers and organizations as they deploy a content marketing strategy. Those two parts being creating content that is valuable, and creating content that is relevant. Additionally, another key aspect of content marketing is creating content whose very last purpose is to promote.

Creating Content That is Valuable:
Content marketing is all about creating content that your audience is going to find “helpful.” From an organizational standpoint, the main focus of content marketing is not about explaining why your organization is superior to a competitor, but rather focusing on the customer needs and producing content that they will be receptive too. In order to do so, HubSpot and this blog post on content marketing both agree that for content to be effective and “valuable” to an organizations customer base, the organization must first understand whom they are writing for or the “buyer persona” of their consumers. HubSpot strongly recommends that content marketers invest the time and effort into discovering what their customers are trying to “achieve,” what “challenges” their customers are facing, what their interests are, and really any information that will help a marketer get inside of the customers head and discover what will be most helpful to them. In his report about 2015 content marketing trends, Kane Jamison agrees that making this time commitment is important. He says that marketers should be “specializing content” and “dedicating the time and staff to manage channels in a way that is reflective of your brand and responsive to your audience. Organizations can take this idea of creating content that is valuable, and apply it to their business by keeping it in the forefront of their mind when they are going write a blog, eBook, or whatever the content might be. Before beginning, the writers should take the time to understand their audience and understand what it is the customers are hoping to gain by reading the content. Producing content that customers find valuable will ideally prompt them to search the organization again, and convert them into a prospective lead.

Creating Content that is Relevant:
Similar to creating content that is valuable for customers; content marketing is also all about producing content that is relevant to your customer base. For example, if you own a catering company and a person searches for “catering companies” online, something that would be relevant to that customer is brief introductory content about your catering company and the kind of food you cook. Something that would not be relevant to that customer, at that point, would be in depth ingredient and calorie brochures on your food because they are not yet at that stage. The key factor for organizations to grasp when attempting to produce relevant content is what HubSpot likes to refer to as, “where the customer is in the buyers journey.” HubSpot does a great job of explaining that “different types of content are more effective at different stages.” In order to provide content that is not just valuable but also reliable, organizations must focus on where the consumer is in the “sales cycle process,” and then “refine” their content based on that knowledge. In theory, this makes a great deal of sense and can be extremely applicable to organizations and their content writers. As discussed previously, the idea of content marketing is to help customers, but how can they be helped if the content they are reading is tailored to a customer that has already purchased the product and needs maintenance help. The answer is, it can’t. Organizations will benefit from creating relevant content because customers will find the content useful/helpful, and this will ideally further their interest in the business and prompt them to search the organization again.

Creating Content Whose Very Last Purpose is to Promote:
Finally, a last and important note about content marketing is that its purpose is not to promote; a foreign idea to some traditionalist in the marketing world. While it is very important that content marketing still seeks to “drive a profit,” the distinction revolves around how content marketing goes about doing that. One of the most informational pieces of knowledge that I pulled from my deep dive into content marketing was the 80/20 rule that HubSpot presents in their video. HubSpot says, “80% of the information that we portray should be focused on what our personas are more interested in. Content that answers their questions and is beneficial for them. 20% of content is sales related content that talks more about your product, your features, and how great your organization is.” In my opinion, this is a very effective balance between promotions and content because it emphasizes the content aspects heavily. However, one distinction that needs to be made very clear is that the content itself still needs to be promoted. Just because the content is not promotional in nature, does not mean the content does not need to be promoted after it has been published. Eli Periser, Upworthy CEO, puts it best by saying, “you can have the best piece of content and make the best point ever. But if no one looks at it, the article is a waste.” Organizations can take this lesson and put it into practice by limiting the amount of promotions they are doing within their content and being consciensus that it is easy to slip back into promoting. It may seem like it would be a detriment to business if marketing content was published that did not harp on promotional aspects, however organizations will benefit because it will ideally make potential customers more receptive to the content. Like I said earlier, as a consumer the greatest impressions I have of companies came from marketing that didn’t directly speak about and try to sell a product; maybe I am alone in this thought, but then again I hope I am not.

Microsoft’s Collective Project:
My favorite aspect of content marketing, and marketing in general for that matter, is inspirational stories with strong messages that can simultaneously act as marketing. The stories I am referring to here are the stories that you read and you instantly want to share them with your loved ones. The messages are so moving and different from traditional marketing; yet it is still marketing because look what you just did, you shared it. Microsoft’s “The Collective Project” is a perfect example of everything I envision successful marketing being; inspirational, innovative, outside the box, not in your face, and effective.

In nutshell, the Microsoft Collective Project features two college students who are making a huge impact on the community at large with their passion to help others; Albert makes bionic arms for children with missing limbs, and Neha has a passion for helping and raising money for children that live in orphanages. The Collective Project strongly emphasizes the power that students have when they are able to come together and collaborate, and in doing so, highlights Microsoft OneNote as tool that can help in this collaboration. Visit the Collective Project’s tumbler and read more about the story.

The Microsoft Collective Project is an inspirational example of content marketing, and, in my opinion, is a strong demonstration of what effective content marketing looks like. I feel that Microsoft, in combination with POSSIBLE, developed a strong example of content marketing because they were able to create a campaign that fostered a prominent message about students and their potential to change the world, while also implanting the idea that students were able to have such an impact with the collaborative help that Microsoft OneNote offers. Microsoft was able to strike the perfect “80/20” balance that HubSpot speaks of by extending most of their efforts into highlighting Albert’s bionic arms and Neha’s “empower orphan’s” story, while only briefly focusing on Microsoft OneNote as a collaborative tool. In addition, Microsoft promoted the Collective Project through content friendly mediums such as tumbler and YouTube, and were actually able to get others to share the campaign with their social media “audiences.” In my opinion, part of the reason that others were so willing to share the content was because of the content/promotional balance that Microsoft was able to strike. The campaign offered a strong message about collaboration and the power of student’s, and did so in a way that highlighted Microsoft as an organization that supports and aids this kind of collaboration.

Overall, organizations should use content marketing strategies, in combination with their other marketing efforts, because it creates content that customers find valuable and relevant to them as a consumer; something that traditional marketing cant always do. It also allows organizations the opportunity to connect with their audience on a different level, just as Microsoft has done with the Collective Project, and highlight their business in a way that isn’t so strongly focused on promotions. I think as marketers we need to appreciate the ability that content marketing has to make a genuine impression on the consumer. While that impression may not be immediately promotional and centered around sales, it is an impression that will be impactful and better speak to the organization’s values and their willingness to support their customers.

Another example of an organization that is employing content marketing in an inspiring and effective manner is the Dove #SpeakBeautiful Campaign that collaborates with Twitter. Similar to Microsoft, they are focusing a majority of the content around the message they are trying to send; “Lets change the way we talk about beauty on social media.” The overall theme of the campaign is to get women to speak more kindly about themselves and their bodies. It is very minimal in promotions, and the combination with Twitter further emphasizes the inbound effect. Read more about the campaign here.

All quotes, statistics, and pictures came from the following sources:
Think Content Image
Blog on successful content strategy
Content Marketing Institute
HubSpot: Blogging
HubSpot: Content Marketing
Content Marketing Trends
The Collective Project Blog
The Collective Project: Tumbler
Dove SpeakBeautiful Article
Dove SpeakBeautiful Video

A/B Testing or the HIPPO: Your Choice

Confession: prior to diving into the world of digital marketing, and specifically digital analytics, I was terrified about the idea of kicking our class off with Google Analytics. The material was dense, the exam was looming, and it was fundamental to understand the concepts. However, after taking the deep dive into the world of digital analytics I have come to understand that it really is the backbone behind many other digital marketing concepts; A/B testing being no exception.

What is A/B Testing:
A/B testing defined technically by Optimizely is, “a simple way to test changes to your page against the current design and determine which ones produce positive results. It is a method to validate that any new design or change to an element on your webpage is improving your conversion rate before you make that change to your site code.” In other words, A/B testing allows organizations to “test out” changes to digital touch points such as a website (or even an email campaign) and track if the changes are leading to greater conversion rates or helping to attain the organizations goals. While Optimizely provides a suitable definition of what A/B testing is, I feel it is missing one key element; the how.

  • “A/B testing is a simple way to test changes to your page against the current design and determine which ones produce positive results” via the use of analytics/experimentation tracking technology. In Optimizely’s explanation of how A/B testing works, they offered the simple example of tracking how many visitors saw the new red button that they had implemented and how many clicked on it. They also tracked how many people landed on their “Thank You” confirmation page after seeing either button. In Microsoft’s article, where they also explored A/B testing in depth, they explain the statistics behind proving if one version of a site is statistically significant and thus different from another. While Microsoft offers a comprehensive explanation of the math, admittedly a very confusing one, I think it is important to emphasize that the data to do such statistical calculations would not be available with out the analytics/tracking technology. Via the use of web analytics for example, companies are able to track click rates of two different buttons and how many people land on a certain page from two different versions of a site, thus allowing A/B testing and comparisons to be possible. Thus, a more complete definition of A/B testing and what it is involves the inclusion of the use of analytics or experimentation to test/track changes on certain pages and determine if those changes are leading to greater conversion rates. Here is a good blog that explores further the use of analytics in A/B testing and why you should be “listening” to your analytics.

Another important aspect of A/B testing that makes it increasingly valuable is that it allows “quantitative data to speak for itself” and, hopefully, limits the power of the HIPPO. For those of you that don’t know, like myself walking through the doors of digital marketing on day one, HIPPO stands for the highest paid person’s opinion. Because A/B testing matches actual conversion data/metrics to the changes that are being made on a site (or other digital mediums), executives no longer have a lot of room to say that something wont work simply because it’s their opinion. Claude Hopkins puts it best in the Microsoft article when he says, “Almost any question can be answered cheaply, quickly, and finally by a test campaign. And that’s the way to answer them – not by arguments around the table.” Because A/B testing utilizes a control and a test page, questions about changes can be answered “finally” with the data to back them up. The best technique that marketers can apply is to let the customers “do the talking” and show us what changes are prompting them to purchase, download, click, or whatever the goal may be.

By listening to the customers and making decisions based on data, A/B testing can improve an organizations business in several ways beginning with increasing revenue’s and ROI. For example, if an organization is going to invest money in optimizing certain areas of their website in order to increase ecommerce sales, they will want to test out which changes are bringing more people to purchase. By utilizing A/B testing, and analytics, an organization can track which changes are leading to a greater increase in sales, thus increasing revenue and ROI. Along the same lines, organizations can use A/B testing to discover if changes to a digital touch point may actually hurt them, instead of optimizing their site. Microsoft brings up an extreme caution about implementing changes simply because the  managers think the changes “do not hurt.” Microsoft mentions that sometimes A/B testing experiments don’t have the “power” needed to produce actionable results, and implementing changes to the site because you think they “cant hurt,” may actually produce the opposite effect. Finally, using A/B testing and frequently making attempts to optimize a page can lead to overall better customer satisfaction, which then opens the door to leads and revenue.

Obama Campaign:
A very interesting and notable application of A/B testing came from the ever-famous Obama Campaign emails that flooded inbox’s during Obama’s presidential election campaign. In fact, those of you reading may have received some of the emails yourself and thought for a brief second, “oh cool Obama sent me an email!” And then, especially for those of you that are in marketing, probably realized that someone else developed the content of this email and unfortunately maybe Obama was not reaching out to you personally. Bummer. However, having an email from Obama in your inbox with a subject line that read “Hey” probably caught your attention and the attention of millions of others. That being said, what you might not realize is the endless testing, formatting, rewriting, and effort that went into this email that you are reading with the simplistic subject line of “Hey.”

Amelia Showalter, director of digital analytics for the Obama 2012 campaign, was one of the many masterminds involved in the A/B testing of various email campaigns. Showalter explains, “We did extensive A/B testing not just on the subject lines and the amount of money we would ask people for, but on the messages themselves and even the formatting.” From the articles, it is clear that the effort put in by Showalter and her team was extreme, but at the same time it was very necessary. Organizations can learn a few very valuable lessons about A/B testing and optimization from this campaign, beginning with the valuable insight that this type of experimentation brings:

  • In the article published by Business Week about Showalter and the email campaigns, there was one very standout and glaring lesson that all organizations should be able to take away: you never really know as much as you think you know. This certainly proved to be the case for Showalter and her team as they tested various subject lines, fonts, and formats, and soon came to realize that people were receptive to plain Jane emails; exactly the opposite of what they expected. In the article,  Showalter explained “[how] bad they were at predicting the subject lines that would be most effective” because people were interested in different things then they expected. The key take away here is that Showalter and her team would have had no idea that citizens wouldn’t be receptive to their content, unless they had tested out various forms. This lesson overlaps with the Microsoft article in addressing the HIPPO. While there is no HIPPO per say in this situation, there is still a group of analysts who thought they knew what content/subject lines would be the most influential, and they were proven wrong. A statement in the Tech President article says it best when they state, “the driving principle, based on interviews with several people who worked in or around the campaign, was to take an evidence based approach to person-to-person contact. The core of the campaign was not flashy or even particularly innovative except in the willingness of senior staff to listen to numbers people rather than to consultants acting on old fashioned political intuition.” So, to all organizations out there that think they know how customers will respond, test everything and let the “data do the talking.” Organizations will benefit from testing because it will ensure they are spending their money in the right places, and making changes that will increase revenues and ROI.
  • While it is clear that the main takeaway from each of the articles on the Obama campaign is to test anything and everything, another lesson I found valuable that organizations can learn from was the frequency with which they were testing. Showalter, in Business Week and Tech President, speaks about the need for “constant” and regular testing because after awhile the “novelty” of certain email campaigns would run out. In the Tech President article Showalter states, “For example, for a fundraising email, the digital department decided to try emphasizing text with highlighting that was ugly on purpose. It outperformed other emails, so the campaign kept using it-the formatting trick seemed to draw the eye. When the novelty wore off and that tactic stopped performing better than other ones, the campaign dropped it and moved on.” The important lesson that I think organizations can take from Showalter and her team here is that after they implemented a campaign, they still had to test and track the campaigns performance. They could not simply discover a technique that worked for them and turn a blind eye to it. Analysts had to perform “constant testing” so that they were aware when a campaign had indeed “lost its novelty” and “stopped performing better than other ones.” Conversely, A/B testing could have revealed to Showalter that a campaign was still working efficiently and there was no point in spending money to develop a replacement campaign for something that wasn’t broken. Organizations can take this tid bit and apply it to their own business by acknowledging the importance of performing A/B testing on a regular basis. For example, if you implement a new button on your website that is meant to capture the attention of visitors, you will want to regularly test and run conversion metrics on that change to ensure that its “novelty” is still proving successful. Organizations will benefit from testing on a consistent basis because they will be aware when something is no longer working, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, not spend money adjusting an aspect of a page that is still producing adequate conversion rates.
  • An aspect of A/B testing that organizations cannot learn from Showalter and her email campaign, but none the less is something important to emphasize, is that sometimes it can be better to “test one factor at a time.” Clearly the analysts that worked on the Obama campaign had many elements of the email that were worth testing. That being said, Microsoft cautions about testing more then one factor at a time when doing A/B testing. For some research, testing multiple factors at once is the correct technique, and for others, testing a single factor is the best technique (Microsoft suggests this technique when one wants to “gain insights”). Organizations should analyze the goals they want to obtain from A/B testing, and then choose the proper technique.

Similar to how Showalter used A/B testing for subject lines, several publishing companies are now using A/B testing to experiment with the “best headlines” for their articles. One publishing company called The Dodo, a client of RebelMouse, uses A/B testing to, “fine tune headlines and find the ones that will resonate the most on social media.” The publishing company found that including the word “Epic” brought greater attention to an article. Click here to read more about how publishing organizations use A/B testing to optimize their business.

All quotes and statistics used in this post came from the following sources:
What is A/B Testing? By Optimizely
Academic Journal by Microsoft
Obama Campaign Article by Business Week
Obama Campaign’s Legacy by Tech President
Publishing Companies Using A/B Testing

 

A Note On Inbound Marketing: Use It.

The Internet, no shock to any of us, is an incredibly useful tool in the world of marketing. However, in my opinion, what makes it so incredible is the diversity in the ways that it can be used: traditional marketing, promotions, ecommerce, and inbound marketing, which is becoming increasingly effective as outbound marketing continues to flood consumers. Inbound marketing in the words of Marketo is, “The process of helping potential customers find your company-often before they are even looking to make a purchase-and then turning that early awareness into brand preference and, ultimately, into leads and revenue.” While I like the definition that Marketo has provided here, I think the large emphasis of inbound marketing is noted in the very first sentence of that statement, “The process of helping potential customers find your company.” Inbound marketing is all about creating engaging content, on multiple online mediums, that encourages customers to seek out your organization. Organizations can take this knowledge of marketing clutter, combine it with the ideas of inbound marketing, and use it as a starting point for creating content that aims to engage and allows consumers the opportunity to learn about organizations on their own terms.

The article “Inbound” that is written by Marketo, does a very thorough job of introducing inbound marketing and the idea that it brings to the table; creating interesting and engaging content that can be found and shared. While there was a lot of useful information presented in Marketo’s e-book about inbound marketing, I wanted to hit on three key takeaways/tips that organizations could use to enhance their marketing efforts via the incorporation of effective inbound marketing:

“You must create content that begs to be shared, that educates, and inspires. In other words, you must offer content that is not promotional in nature.”
Inbound marketing is an extremely useful concept that organizations can use to break through the clutter and put into action by creating content that seeks to inform and engage, but not promote. One of the first topics that Marketo hits on in their inbound marketing e-book is the idea that content is the “foundation of inbound marketing,” and this couldn’t be more accurate. Inbound marketing is useful to organizations if and only if the new content engages readers and makes prospective customers want to learn about their business. Marketo puts it very well when they say, “At its core, inbound marketing is about creating interesting, informative, and even entertaining content.” I think the application of this lesson, for marketers in particular, is the statement about creating content that, “is not promotional in nature.” As consumers, we can all relate to the bombardment of promotions and traditional marketing that we are faced with everyday, however it is very refreshing to come across content that does not try and sell a product in any way. Inbound marketing is not about the selling aspects. It is purely about informing/engagement and letting consumers find your brand, and organizations should use it as a reliever from the flood of promotions. By producing content that is not promotional in nature, organizations will, ideally, resonate with consumers better, and provide them with content that they might actually be interested in; thus producing potential leads. As a business, if you are seeking to connect with your customers on a higher level, try out this strategy. You may be surprised at how well consumers respond to marketing that is not being forced upon them.

“Inbound marketing done in isolation doesn’t lead to success.”
Another very key aspect of this e-book that Marketo presents is the idea that inbound marketing on its own does not work, and that it must be integrated with other marketing efforts in order to be successful. Marketo presents this idea of the marketing multiplier where they say, “To make inbound marketing work for you, you need three other essential ingredients in addition to your inbound marketing programs.” Those three other ingredients are some sort of “outbound marketing strategy,” a “corporate communications strategy,” and a “nurturing or marketing automation strategy.” While those seem like some fairly intimidating words, they mean something simple in application; organizations must combine traditional advertising and software applications with their new inbound inspired content if they want it to be successful. Creating a marketing plan that incorporates all three “ingredients” will improve an organizations business because it will allow them to generate leads, via inbound, but then capitalize on those leads and turn them into sales, via traditional and software. So while inbound marketing is a great tool for generating interest, to actually make it effective some further work needs to be done.

“Marketing automation helps you deliver relevant information over time to keep leads interested, engaged, and educated until they’ve made that decision”
Marketing automation is another key tool that is presented by Marketo, and I wanted to emphasize it within this discussion because it is a technological aid that can help marketer’s foster leads into conversions. Marketo defines marketing automation as, “the use of technology to manage and automate the process of converting prospective customers into actual buyers.” As discussed previously, it is not enough to simply engage in inbound marketing. Marketers must then “nurture” those leads in order to turn them into actual sales. Marketing automation helps organizations with this task by providing the technology to, “deliver relevant information over time to keep leads interested, engaged, and educated.” In addition, according to the Marketo e-book, marketing automation can be applied in organizations to help raise open and click rates via emails and other information that better align with consumer’s interests. This will be useful to organizations because it will allow them to produce content that people actually want to read, and avoid the type of content that people aren’t receptive too. It can also shorten sales cycles and allow conversions to be made quicker, and provide information to sales teams about what content is being viewed frequently. Those two factors are important because it is important for the sales team to be in the loop, and decreasing sales cycle time will increase efficiency. By combining these marketing automation tools with marketing content that seeks to engage customers, organizations can take their business to a whole new level.

HubSpot: Inbound Marketing and Web 2.0
This Harvard Business Case about HubSpot, introduces the founders of HubSpot, Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. It also explores how they discovered HubSpot, inbound marketing topics, HubSpot’s marketplace/customers, and most importantly the HubSpot product. Founders of HubSpot, Brian and Shah, had similar opinions about outbound marketing as the ones discussed above. They believed that consumers, “have not invited you into their home, and they certainly do not happen to enjoy being interrupted.” They also believe the solution to this issue was utilzing blogs, social media, and other various online marketing mediums to produce/share interesting content in an effort to engage customers and have them come to you. In order to support their inbound marketing ideas, the duo founded HubSpot and created a, “web-based software product that was a complete inbound marketing system.” They have one product that is more oriented towards small businesses, and one for more in depth marketing needs. The following bullets will explain some of the various aspects of the product and the application of each:

  • Somewhat familiar to all of us in digital marketing, the HubSpot software contains lead tracking and intelligence analytics to track the pieces of content that customers are “interacting with the most.” This feature is very applicable to marketers and organizations, because it allows them to analyze the strength of the inbound marketing content that they developed and see if it is generating engagement and traffic. For example, if someone on the marketing team wrote a blog about a charitable event that the company was participating in, and via “intelligence analytics” the marketing team could see that that piece of content generated a lot of views, they could then apply that knowledge and write about more charity/volunteering events in the future because the consumers were interested in that type of content. With the analytics aspect of HubSpot, organizations can come to understand what content people want to view, and by attracting traffic the hope is that some of the leads could be capitalized on and turned into conversions. Intelligence analytics also offers several other informational reports.
  • HubSpot offers a, “content management system (CMS), software that made creating and editing online content easy.” Included in this are templates that make designing websites and blogs easier and more “search-engine friendly.” Marketers and organizations can take advantage of HubSpot’s content management system and put it to use by creating new websites and blogs based off the templates that are centered around the idea of inbound marketing and bringing customers to them. Another way that organizations could utilize this tool is by utilizing the software to create a blog or website, if they haven’t yet done so, that focuses on inbound marketing and generating content for people to find. In other words, organizations could use the software to take a new approach towards their online marketing efforts.
  • HubSpot’s inbound marketing software offers, “tools designed to help customers make their published content more visible on the Internet.” These tools include an SEO grader and a link grader. The SEO grader, grades firms content “based on its likelihood to be included early in the search results.” This SEO grader that HubSpot software offers is clearly a huge tool that marketers can use to discover the quality of their inbound marketing content, based on where it would pop up in a search engine result. Going back to the charity event example, if an organization published that content and the SEO grader determined that it was not likely to pop up high in the search results, marketers might want to consider writing about something else or approaching that story from another angle. In addition to the SEO grader, HubSpot also offers a “keyword grader” that gives information about what words are being used that are “relevant to the companies business.” Marketers could utilize this tool by discovering the keywords used to search their business and incorporating these words into the content that they are generating; hopefully boosting where they land on search engine results.

After thinking about all of the tools that HubSpot offers to marketers, and the great advantages that inbound marketing brings to the table, I went in search of an organization that was actually applying inbound marketing techniques. I came across an article about Dell and how they have become a, “force to be reckoned with in the computer sales market, and it has done so, in large part, through savvy inbound marketing practices.” Above I discussed the importance of engaging customers, and Dell is doing just that by making themselves prominent on several social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. In addition to that they are also blogging and writing a newsletter that seeks to gain “knowledge.” They are “asking their customers questions and also encouraging them to click ‘like’ on its posts.” What I like about Dell is that they are utilizing several online marketing mediums for their inbound marketing strategy. They are making content available on many platforms, and in my opinion, this is a great technique because it increases their chance of being found. To learn more about Dell and how they are utilizing inbound marketing, click here.

All Quotes and Stats came from the following Links:
Inbound ebook by Marketo
Harvard Business School Case on HubSpot (must be purchased at this link)
Dell Article

Platform Principles

Prior to viewing the platform principle units of Google Analytics and really jumping into that content, I questioned what more there could be to learn about web analytics. I thought back on the six units of digital analytics fundamentals that was fairly comprehensive and pondered the gaps in that content; what did Google leave out that lead to this further instruction? While it was good that I was critically analyzing the previous content and wondering about the new content, my questions were quickly answered as I began reading and watching the platform principles material. To summarize the difference amongst the two sections and clearly state why it is important to complete both, I will say this; Google Analytics Platform Principles is a deep dive into the mechanics of Google Analytics and how the program collects, processes/configures, and reports the data. Where as Digital Analytics Fundamentals is an overview of the tools that Google Analytics offers to a business and what kind of material the program can generate. In other words, platform principles was the “how” of Google Analytics and digital analytics fundamentals was the “what can be done” with Google Analytics. The four units of platform principles covered several informational topics including the different tracking codes that are used for websites and mobile apps, users, sessions, interactions, configuration settings, filters, grouping, aggregation, structure explanation of reports, API’s and more. As a side note and before diving into the material I found most useful, I wanted to identify today’s most interesting fact: Google Analytics uses tracking code for both website and mobile app data collection, however Java Script is used for websites and SDK is used for mobile apps. How come and why you might ask? Dive into platform principles here to find out. Hint, one reason has to do with saving battery on mobile devices.

As a marketer thinking about how I will use Google Analytics in my future, I originally thought that the fundamentals and learning all the uses of Google Analytics would be the most prominent lesson. However, as I went through the units of platform principles I found it very helpful to learn the actual mechanics of how data is collected, processed/configured, and reported. As I was going through the units there were two main explanations that helped me to better grasp the intimidating tool that is Google Analytics: building reports with dimensions and metrics, and API reporting.

Building Reports With Dimensions and Metrics:
In order to be proficient in Google Analytics and be able to utilize the data in any sort of efficient manner, it is crucial that one know how to read the reports that Google Analytics will generate for your organizations account using the aggregated data. Google says, “the building blocks of every report are dimensions and metrics.” However, if your like me and have had little experience with analytics, these two words probably mean very little to you and do not provide any insight on how to read or interpret a report; not to fear because these are both fairly straight forward ideas presented in platform principles. Dimensions are “characteristics of the data” such as the traffic source that brought a visitor/user to ones website or mobile app. Metrics simply add to these characteristics by backing them with “quantitative measurements” such as the number of users that were brought to the site or mobile app by a specific traffic source. When looking at a report in Google Analytics, the first column is the dimensions and the rest of the columns display the coordinating metrics; notice in this sentence the key word “coordinating.” One very helpful and insightful tip that Google offers is to make sure that your metrics are coordinated and aligned with your dimension. For example, it would not make sense to align the metric “time on page” with a dimension such as traffic source because it is a “session dimension.” I found this deep dive into the structure of reports and their characteristics very helpful and crucial to marketing because the analytics are virtually useless if you do not know how to read them. Google Analytics offers marketers and organizations an incredible opportunity to analyze all things data related on digital touch points, and starting with the basic structure of the reports proved to be very useful for myself as a novice in web analytics.

Reporting API’s:
The other deep dive that platform principles took, that I found very useful as a student just learning Google Analytics, was the explanation of “Reporting API’s.” API stands for application programmable interface and they can be used to, “integrate your own business data with Google Analytics and build custom dashboards.” The part of this definition that I found most intriguing from a marketing perspective was that API’s could be used to build customized dashboards beyond the standard ones that Google Analytics reports to your account. That being said, the explanation of reporting API’s given by Google was very complex, yet I was still able to capture some main ideas that will prove useful when working with API’s in the future. From my understanding, to use API’s to create custom reports/dashboards you must send a query to the “reporting API” and the query must contain the following: ID of the view that you want to access, start and end dates, metrics, dimensions, filters, segments, and more. At this point, I know some of you are probably thinking that it is not helpful at all to know that API’s are done via queries because not many of us are quite technologically savvy enough to develop such a query. Google Analytics agrees with you as they acknowledge, “Writing an application that can access Google Analytics data can be a complex process and requires an experienced developer.” That being said, from a marketing perspective and the reason I found this explanation so useful and wanted to share it, was because it is still important to know what goes into the query that gets sent to the reporting API. It is critical to know that within the query you can specify filters and segments that you want applied to the data; you can then communicate these needs to the developer that will be building the query. In a marketing position, I will probably contact someone from IT to write the query for me, however IT will not know what information needs to be accessed and filtered for me to effectively analyze a marketing campaign; this is the job of the marketing department.

Formspring:
Within the last week and after deep exploration of Google Analytics, it is clear that tracking digital touch points with web analytics provides huge insight into marketing campaigns, usage characteristics, troubleshooting problems, and more. While exploring the web for success stories on Google Analytics and looking for further confirmation of the programs worth, my childhood came full circle as I stumbled upon a story about Formspring and their use of Google Analytics. Formspring is a social media sight that, in my high school days, was popularly used to disrupt people’s lives by providing an atmosphere of anonymous question and answering. Formspring was used as a convenient way to anonymously post a slam about an enemy on their page, and that person would have no way of finding out who it was; hence disrupting the lives of teens. Granted this was not all Formspring was used for, occasionally it was simply used as an interaction site for people to ask others questions and simply get their response. As much grief and headache as Formspring may have given me in highschool, they are now a testament to Google Analytics and the customization that it allows. Formspring said, “As traffic and time on site increased, the need to see the whole picture became increasingly urgent.” They then continued to talk about how via Google Analytics they, “use multiple custom variables to collect general demographic information and user properties that help segment traffic and increase growth amongst specific user groups.” To read more about Formspring’s successes with Google Analytics and to enjoy a brief blast from the past click here.

All quotes and statistics came from the following links:
Google Analytics Platform Principles
Formspring Article