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The 9 B2B Website ‘Must Haves’ For Driving Traffic & Leads

You know having a great-looking website is important, but what’s the point of the site if it doesn’t help you win more business? Yep– your website needs to sell. A sharp B2B website not only looks great, but also drives traffic and leads.

Whether you’re building a new site or want to optimize an existing one, there’s much you can do to create a winning site. You need inbound links, on-page SEO, and an emphasis on design that converts.

It isn’t always straightforward. That’s why we’ve put together 9 B2B website ‘must haves’ for driving traffic and leads. When you’re done with this guide, you’ll…

  • Understand the 9 ‘must haves’ for driving traffic & leads
  • Have a sense of what needs to be done to improve your site
  • Know how CTAs impact conversions
  • See how SEO impacts a B2B website
  • And more!

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5 B2B Content Marketing Trends That Will Take Over 2017

At the start of the new year, you’re probably considering what you can do in the coming months to drive traffic, revenue, and more sales. But marketing is an ever-changing landscape. Will the tactics that worked last year continue to work in 2017? Are people still downloading eBooks? Has the social media sphere changed? Enter content marketing. 

You need to be on top of the latest trends if you want to propel business forward. One thing is for sure– B2B businesses continue to see content marketing as an integral part of their customer acquisition and retention strategies.

Content marketing is here to stay, and B2B companies that want to generate more business need to pay attention. That’s why we’re sharing 5 B2B content marketing trends that you should focus on in 2017.

1. Email takes a front seat over social

In the past few years, the social media landscape has changed. It used to be that B2B companies could gain substantial organic traffic from sites like Facebook and Twitter by promoting their content. Today, it’s become much more pay-to-play, and many companies feel jerked around by ever-changing algorithms and ad prices.

Because of this, many companies are focusing their efforts on email marketing. Although email marketing is a more traditional tactic, B2B businesses are finding clever ways to use email to nurture leads and convert them to prospects. Enhanced features such as personalization, segmentation, and automation have made email one of the best channels for ROI.

Content marketing provides the fuel for every successful email marketing program. When you email your base, you need great content that inspires them to engage with your brand. According to a study by CMI and MarketingProfs, email was rated as as the top success metric for measuring content marketing.

HubSpot b2b email marketing
HubSpot targets business professionals with this email campaign promoting their webinar.

2. Shifted focus on influencers

In 2016, we saw many B2B brands going after influencers for content marketing assets, with a flurry of blog posts with insights from the experts. Many brands created round-up posts featuring industry experts from around the web, in turn finding ways to get links and mentions.

This tactic proved successful, but it has become overplayed. Influencers are more careful about what the say, where they get quoted, and how they share the content. Influencer content was a hot trend of 2016, but we expect the focus on it to shift in 2017 as B2B brands get savvier about how to use influencers.

A McKinsey study found that influencer marketing earned, on average, $9.60 for every $1 spent in 2015, compared to 2014 where $6.85 was generated per $1 spent. If you want to see substantial ROI from influencer marketing in 2017, you need to be deliberate in your strategy and approach.

Joanna Gaines of HGTV's Fixer Upper promotes Darling Magazine.
Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper promotes Darling Magazine.

3. Higher quality content for niche audiences

As the content marketing space gets more competitive, it won’t be enough to just have content. In fact, B2B businesses are not only going all in with content marketing, but they’re getting much better at producing better content.

According to Content Marketing Institute, 72% of B2B marketers cited creating engaging content as a top priority in 2016. This coming year, we expect that companies will create even better content at a more efficient rate.

Additionally, brands will get better at narrowing their focus and speaking directly to their audiences. Rand Fishkin, Founder of Moz, tweeted that marketers should “get more niche—serve smaller and smaller interest groups.”

4. Organizations get real about what it takes to do content

In the past, marketing leaders saw content marketing as something they could throw at an inexperienced intern, reasoning that writing blog posts wasn’t that time consuming or difficult. Many in-house content marketers complained that they didn’t have the budget or human resources to create the big, bold content that gets attention in the B2B space.

In 2016, that changed. According to CMI, 85% of B2B organizations are now investing in content. These organizations are realizing that in order to do content marketing well, they needed to hire experts in the field, people who have experience building and running content marketing strategies.

5. Rise of native advertising

Ads are everywhere. According to a study by HubSpot, 85% of people notice the ads in their Facebook NewsFeed. Because ads have taken over, people are beginning to opt out. This makes traditional digital advertising less effective.

Enter native advertising. B2B brands are increasingly turning to native advertising strategies as a way to promote content. This allows them to get the message out about their brand while providing value to the audience. It’s a win-win for B2B, and we expect to see more of it in 2017.

LinkedIn Sponsored Updates
LinkedIn sponsored updates captures the attention of engaged people on LinkedIn and drives qualified traffic back to your business page.

Wrapping up

Content marketing will take centerstage in 2017, as marketers focus on new ways to get audience attention. They’ll double down on email, get real about investing in content, and experiment with native advertising. Do you have any additional insights on B2B marketing trends for content creators? We’d love to hear them and continue the conversation!

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Using Social Media for SaaS Companies: 5 Things You Should Know

If you’ve ever read up on how today’s brands use social media, you’ll notice a pretty big trend. Most of the success stories comes from big companies who sell to consumers.

Yep, it’s easy to find inspiring stories about how McDonald’s, DiGiorno’s Pizza, and the NFL are using social.

But SaaS companies are benefiting from social media, too. These nimble software companies are boosting brand awareness, engaging with prospects and customers, and learning how to link social with email and other areas of marketing.

Social media isn’t something you can ignore. In fact, you need to be paying attention to your presence and working to improve it.

Today, we’re dishing what we know about the social media landscape and sharing 5 things you should know about using social media for SaaS companies.

Why social matters for SaaS

SaaS companies turn to social primarily to boost brand awareness. Social media can also be used to field support questions, convert leads, and educate customers.

Here’s why social matters for SaaS:

    • Everyone’s on social — Social has taken over. More than 1 billion people are active on Facebook. Not only do people use social media to connect with friends, family, and colleagues, but they also use it as a search engine. As an SaaS company, you want interested parties to be able to find you on social sites.
    • Emergence of new channels — You don’t have to stick to Facebook and Twitter. There are many different social media types and communities to join. Other options include Quora, LinkedIn, reddit, Instagram, StackOverflow, and Snapchat.
    • Opportunities for targeting & ads — Facebook has some of the best ad targeting on the internet, and SaaS companies routinely take advantage. You can even upload a list of email addresses to Facebook and target ads to a particular list.

5 tips for social media success

Want to be successful as an SaaS company on social? Here’s how:

1. Separate social from sales

When you start a new marketing activity, it’s easy to obsess over ROI. You want to know exactly how many sales you’ll get from a new marketing campaign. When it comes to social media, it’s actually best to step back from ROI and focus on relationship building and authenticity.

Yes, you can use social ads to increase sales, but you should start by using social as a way to connect with your audience. Think of it first as a relationship-builder and communication platform. Provide content that your audience wants. Offer support when they need it. Be authentic.

2. Choose your channels wisely

Many marketers think their brand needs to be on every social media platform available. They hear about Snapchat and rush to create a presence, or focus only on Instagram because that’s what an expert suggested.

Thing is, your SaaS company is unique. It’s best to go deep on one or two channels that make sense to your company’s strategy than spread yourself too thin. Get to know a social media network inside and out– then go all in.

3. Be ready to pay for reach

Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to reach an audience organically, especially on Facebook. Although this has caused frustration among marketers, it’s relatively easy and inexpensive to pay to play.

Set aside some funds for promoting on social media. Facebook offers the best targeting, as well as very low costs. LinkedIn is a great option for B2B companies, but the cost-per-click can be expensive.

4. Make life easy on your audience

An SaaS company shouldn’t be on social just to make sales. Your first goal should be to make life easy for your audience. There are many activities that can help you reach this goal. Some favorites are:

  • Offering live support & answering questions
  • Sharing educational content
  • Providing content at the right time (often through targeting)

You’ll need to fuel your social media efforts with content, and it’s best to create your own. You can share inspiring images, as well as educational blog posts. Here at UpTrending, we try to help our audience with their unique needs through educational content. We share our blog posts on social media, where we know our audience will find them.

UpTrending social media share

5. Automate what you can

SaaS marketers are super busy, and running social media is a lot of work. That’s why you need to automate what you can. If you update social media manually, you’re going to waste a lot of time.

There are tons of software solutions that can help you schedule social media updates (UpTrending uses HubSpot). You can also hire a social media consultant or agency to help you create content and manage your social presence. In today’s marketing arena, automation is the name of the game.

Wrapping up

Social media offers the opportunity to connect, and SaaS companies are taking advantage. At its root, social media is meant to be social. You can think of it as an online networking event. Be yourself, provide useful information, and engage with those who follow you. If you do, you’ll be well on your way to social media success.

Need more information about how to manage social media for your SaaS company? Our team can answer any questions – just reach out.

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How to Use Email Marketing to Lead SaaS Prospects Down the Sales Funnel

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) companies are in a unique position. You probably sell your products in a subscription model, where customers pay each month to use your service.

SaaS companies with low monthly prices, like the ones listed below, need lots of customers in order to be successful. Instead of having 10 high-paying customers, you need thousands of customers paying low monthly rates.  

These monthly price points are relatively low compared to large software companies that operate on licensing models. For example:

If you want to grow as a SaaS company, you need strategies for acquiring new customers as well as keeping the ones you’ve got.

Today, we’re sharing how you can use email marketing to lead SaaS prospects down the sales funnel.

Why email marketing is great for leads, sales, and loyalty

Email can help you nurture leads into customers that love you, and it works much better than other channels. According to research from Campaign Monitor, prospects are 6x more likely to click links in an email campaign than from a tweet.

Email is a direct channel to a prospective customer’s inbox. As long as you’re creating targeted messages that get at a prospect’s pain points, they’ll be willing to open your emails and see what you have to say. In this way, email becomes an automated sales-person, helping your prospective customer explore what you offer.

But how can you actually make this process work for your unique SaaS brand?

Here’s how to use email to lead SaaS prospects down the funnel:

Create assets & offers that subscribers need

Before you can even begin to send targeted sales emails, you need to get prospective customers to give you their email address. Buying a list won’t do you any good here. Instead, you need to create assets and offers that bring value to prospective customers.

Here are a few ways you can encourage visitors to subscribe to an email list:

  • Create an educational eBook to download
  • Encourage blog readers to sign up for your email newsletter
  • Offer demos in exchange for an email address
  • Offer a free trial or a “freemium” plan
  • Host a webinar with essential info

For example, Sumo Logic offers a 30 day free trial to prospective customers. Not only does this give prospects a chance to try out Sumo Logic’s software, but it also allows the company’s marketing team to send targeted emails to those who’ve signed up for the trial.

Screen Shot 2016-11-22 at 1.29.43 PM

Automate an email series with the aim of conversion

Today’s SaaS companies depend on marketing automation to convert leads into customers. Once you’ve figured out how to get prospects on your list, it’s time to consider how you can nurture your audience. Rather than sending manual emails, you should create an automated series to lead prospects down the funnel.

There are a number of different frameworks that marketing copywriters use to lead prospects– one of our favorites is the Problem-Agitate-Solve (PAS) framework.

In this model, you start by defining the problem your subscribers have by showing them that you understand where they are. Then, you send emails agitating this problem, reminding subscribers about the pain their problem causes. Finally, you offer your SaaS product as a solution.

Personalize based on subscriber information

Whenever possible, you should personalize your emails. After all, personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14% and conversions by 10%, according to Aberdeen.

So, what does it mean to personalize? It means that you take whatever information you have about your subscribers, and send unique messages to that group. You can personalize based on:

  • Job title (for example, a CMO might receive different messages than a CEO)
  • Size of company (for example, someone working at a startup might receive startup-oriented messages)
  • Geographic location (Someone living in San Francisco might receive location-specific messages)
  • Past behavior (for example, if a visitor has downloaded multiple assets, they receive particular messages)
  • Reason they subscribed (for example, if a subscriber downloads a certain eBook, they receive a particular flow of messages)

In order to personalize, you need information about your subscribers. Be sure to ask for this information when you encourage visitors to share their email addresses.

Test and measure to find out what works

Email marketing is an amazing channel for SaaS companies that want to convert leads into customers. However, what works for another brand might not work for you.

That’s why it’s important to test out different strategies to see what works. You might find that the PAS framework works wonders, or that another strategy is a better bet. The only way you know is by testing. If you’re looking for ideas, check out how Buffer, HubSpot, and GrowthHackers grow using testing and analytics.

Thankfully, most email marketing software offers a variety of ways to test automated emails. Take advantage of what these tools have to offer, and work to find a flow that increases conversions.

Wrapping up

It’s easy to get caught up in the little details in marketing. Email marketing, however, gives you the opportunity to make substantial gains in conversions and sales. Email can help SaaS companies’ prospects gain familiarity with the business, consider their options, and ultimately become customers.

Wondering how you can use email to convert prospects to sales? Our team can answer any questions – just reach out.

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How to Infuse UX with Delightful Microinteractions

When designers think about user experience, we often think of the end product. We ask ourselves: What is a customer’s overall experience with our platforms, websites, and mobile apps? How seamless are their interactions? The best UX happens when the big picture view and the little details work together. Little details should be considered with every single project. It matters where the user clicks. It matters what happens when they do.

So, how can you ensure you’re taking care of all the details? Many designers are zoning in on microinteractions, the small moments that happen inside and around the overall experience.

Today, we’re going to unpack the concept of microinteractions and talk about how UX can be improved by using them.

Microinteractions, UX’s new frontier

We’re constantly interacting with technology. But what defines our experience? How do we get feedback from the platforms and apps that we spend our time with?

The concept of microinteractions was introduced in Microinteractions, a book by Dan Saffer. Saffer believes it’s the little things that turn a good digital product into a great one, and that microinteractions can help revolutionize a product and a brand.

Here’s how Saffer defines microinteractions:

“Microinteractions are contained product moments that revolve around a single use case—they have one main task. Every time you change a setting, sync your data or devices, set an alarm, pick a password, log in, set a status message, or favorite or “like” something, you are engaging with a microinteraction.”

These microinteractions have a purpose– to provide an update on the status of an action. They’re a tiny bit of communication to let the user know that their action had a result.

For example, if you like a photo on Instagram by tapping twice, a large heart will appear in the center of the photo, and the heart underneath the photo will turn red.

Here are a few other examples of microinteractions:

  • Showpad – When users click the “Filter by Industry” button, it  reverses the direction of the arrow to show the action being taken.
Nov-16-2016 14-18-06
Source: www.showpad.com/case-studies/

 

  • Chartboost – When clicking  on the “Get Started” CTA in the hero area, an animated spinning gear is displayed while the form loads.
Nov-16-2016 14-23-42
Source: www.chartboost.com

 

How to use microinteractions

You probably use a lot of microinteractions already, but are they delighting your audience? The best microinteractions provide a feeling of satisfaction, and make people feel connected.

Here’s how to improve overall UX with microinteractions:

Catalog each and every touch-point

Whether you’re designing a mobile app, website, or software platform, you can start assessing your microinteractions by cataloging each and every touch-point.  What are the actions a user can perform, and what feedback do they get when they perform these actions?

Microinteractions are used when:

  • Things are turned on and off
  • Comments are made
  • Making changes
  • Viewing messages
  • Receiving notifications
  • Liking, sharing, or posting on social media
  • Connecting to other platforms and devices (for example, software integrations and Bluetooth)
  • Sharing progress along the way

By understanding where are the touch-points are, you can figure out where microinteractions fit in. Are you already using them? Are they accomplishing your goals? How can they be improved?

Both quantitative and qualitative metrics should be considered, so be sure to understand how success will be measured. While fun microinteractions are important, they should be also well-thought out and integrated with the overall strategy to accomplish certain goals.

Decide on a brand voice + tone

Most UX designers use microinteractions to provide user feedback. However, the best experiences come when the microinteractions are designed deliberately to delight, fitting into a greater branded voice and tone.

For example: MyFitnessPal’s brand mission is to be as helpful as possible when someone is trying to track what they’re eating. To be as encouraging as possible (and to make sure they’re not annoying), MyFitnessPal automatically turns off notifications if a user doesn’t respond, and provides updates along the way.

Blog 2

Design to delight

Microinteractions are magical when they delight the user, and many companies are finding ways to upgrade their feedback loops. For example, what happens when a user has to wait while your app has to connect to a server?

Rather than letting the user get bored while they wait, provide them with an update. Uber does this by showing you where your car is located while you wait for it to arrive. Many others do this simply by adding an animated progress update.

Source: Chris Plosaj
Source: Chris Plosaj

Wrapping up

When we start a new UX project, we consider both the big picture and the micro details. After all, what happens once someone starts interacting with our designs? They need feedback to know their actions have an effect, and that feedback should delight them.

If you want to make your audience feel good about the overall experience, you should devote attention to microinteractions. These microinteractions can redefine the user experience and take it from good to great.

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How Following the Election Can Improve Your Website UX Strategy

Influencing decision-making is all about persuasion and perhaps no one is better at the use of persuasive techniques than politicians. As we witness this election cycle’s presidential candidates frame their messaging on the campaign trail, perhaps we can learn something from them?

Strange as it may be to admit, running for political office and marketing a product or service are not that fundamentally different. They both require the use of persuasive techniques to convince a decision maker to choose between alternatives. In politics, the decision is between candidates based on their stance on important issues. On your website it may be a decision between competitors or simply to purchase at all. Borrowing a page from the politician’s playbook, creating effectively persuasive messaging that can also work within your website’s UX strategy all boils down to three things – context, framing and loss aversion.

Let’s break it down.

Context

Every decision has context. Context provides the lens through which we interpret information and evaluate decision alternatives. Our values, anticipated consequences, potential benefits, preferences and personal experience influence our decisions in powerful, though sometimes unconscious ways. Political candidates must take into consideration a voter’s race, religion, political affiliation, socio-economic status and other factors as they develop their campaign, often tailoring the message to the specific audience they’re speaking to. In web design, we often capture these contextual clues through the use of personas, a tool that allows us to paint vivid and insightful pictures of a website’s users. They enable us to create user journeys that cater to their shared needs and wants. While this helps us better understand them, the problem for decision makers is that there’s just waaaaaay too much context to consider when it comes time to actually make a decision!

Want to learn more about how personas and user journeys can enhance your website? We’ve got a guide for that!

Framing

That’s where framing comes in. A form of cognitive bias, framing is a way of influencing a decision by presenting alternatives often in terms of potential gains or losses.

The framing effect was first explored by the psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1981. In the experiment, participants were presented with a life-or-death scenario and given the following identical alternatives framed in either positive or negative ways.

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

What they discovered was that when presented with the choice between a definite gain (saving 200 lives) and a probabilistic one, participants chose the sure bet but when faced with a certain loss (400 people will die) versus a probabilistic one, the riskier choice becomes more attractive.

Loss Aversion

The framing effect experiment demonstrates what economic theorists refer to as loss aversion which states that avoiding a loss is preferable to receiving an equivalent gain. Studies show that people actually experience a loss twice as much as a gain of the exact same amount! This, my friends, is extremely significant when it comes to how you choose to frame your message. And nobody understands this better than politicians.

The framing effect in politics

No one has more at stake when it comes to influencing decision makers than a candidate running for political office. For a perfect example of framing in the political realm, we need look no further than each candidate’s campaign slogans. Each one uses the technique, but their approach couldn’t be more different. Let’s take a look.

Source: Wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

“Make America Great Again,” Trump’s borrowed slogan implies that we as a country have lost something with even more at stake if we don’t do something about it. In effect, he has been able to convince millions that the status quo is the same as a guaranteed loss. This kind of framing makes a risky option like Trump not only more palatable to those who buy the message, but a necessity in their eyes.

Source: Twitter
Source: Twitter

Meanwhile, Clinton’s primary strategy seems to focus more on what we have to gain. Her slogan, “Stronger Together,” is forward-looking and the tone of her messaging is more optimistic. By framing her campaign in a more positive way and drawing attention to the possibility of an even greater loss at the hands of a Trump presidency, she paints herself as the politically tested safe bet in this election.

The framing effect in design

This technique is something to consider as you develop your own persuasive website UX strategy. Whether a purchaser is considering a new pair of shoes or integrating an enterprise software solution, no transaction decision is made without context. By controlling the framing of the message, UX designers can better lead site visitors towards desired actions and conversions.

Designers are able to create frames using carefully chosen images, graphics and copy that set the stage for the purchase decision. Focusing on what the customer stands to gain or lose from the decision can be a powerful persuasive tool in driving conversion.

How about an example (or two)?

Check out the homepage for Trifacta, a software company that develops productivity platforms for data analysis, management and manipulation and one of our clients here at UpTrending.

trifacta-hero-screenshot-1024x576

First off, doesn’t data wrangling sound like an arduous, complicated process? Don’t you just picture tired, weathered cowboys herding spreadsheets on horseback? If you ask me, it sounds like something I’d rather let a software service do. That idea is reinforced by the accompanying image and headline copy as well – Is Data Wrangling Taking Too Much Time? Excess time and resources spent on extraneous work equals a loss in the form of real money spent on labor. The loss averse user in this case should be quite compelled to avoid it if there’s a better, more cost-effective solution, right?

Or how about another client of ours, ShipHawk, whose SaaS shipping platform gives online retailers real-time quotes, tracking and logistics in one unified system. You can see below how a subtle change in the framing of a message can alter the way you think and ultimately act within the decision opportunity.

ShipHawk Homepage

shiphawk-home-newcopy

You’ve certainly spotted the subtle change in copy between the two homepages but can you see how framing is used to differentiate them? The first message treats the service as an add-on that creates a better experience – a gain; while the second version does the opposite, pointing out the loss in revenue you will experience without it. With these two alternatives employing both positive and negative framing, ShipHawk is able to test which version drives the most actions and make even better decisions in the future based on the results.

Now it’s your turn

Take a look at your website and see if you can find some examples of persuasive language. Evaluate the way you’ve framed your message and play around with different ways of wording it that focus on the potential gains and losses your users might experience. Then, test it. Analyze how people respond to the variations in message and if possible, see if you can identify any common characteristics among those that behave in similar ways. The truth is there may not be one approach that compels every user towards your desired action but with this technique in your toolbox, you can begin to better drive the conversions you are after.

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B2B Tech Breaks the Mold with Clever Marketing

Quick, think of an adjective to describe B2B technology. I’ll wait.

What did you come up with?

If you’re like most, words like boring, expensive, bland, confusing, or overwhelming might surface. Your mind may conjure images of towering skyscrapers, gray paintsuits, or complicated contracts.

And yet, that image is evolving, especially as startups have made such an impact on the B2B tech space. There’s been much written and discussed about the consumerization of B2B technology in recent years, a wave of change that has touched all facets of that industry – including marketing.

And just how is the marketing of enterprise tech changing? I’m so glad you asked.

B2B Changes Slowly

While consumers chase the new thing, in the corporate world the goal is stability – find something that works and don’t change it. To prompt change, something has to be much better and/or cheaper in order to tackle the pain of switching systems.

Around every 10-15 years, there’s an upheaval in the enterprise market. A new generation of companies takes on the existing giants, gunning for their market share. In the 90’s, it was companies like SAP, Oracle and Business Objects. These days, those same companies have a target on their backs from rising stars like Splunk, Netsuite, and Box.

In order for these plucky companies to make a dent in IBM, HP, and Microsoft, they can’t just be a little better – they have to be revolutionary.

Breaking the Mold

Cold-calling. Hosted events. Relentless salespeople. Driving leads. Complicated contracts. Mass-market media campaigns. These are the hallmarks of established tech companies selling their products.

But for up-and-coming enterprise startups, there are no sacred cows.

Give Away the Secret Sauce

Payment processing darling Square targeted an underserved market (small businesses and entrepreneurs) with it’s Town Square Business Resource Center. Not only did they provide smaller operations with valuable data on marketing and customer service, they let their target audience peek behind the curtain at data insights only Square could provide.

square

The content was a hit. By profiling small business owners who use the company’s tools, and putting real data and value behind their marketing, Square drew high praise for delivering a much-needed tool for the small business world.

Go Beyond Leads

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Bizible, a marketing attribution software focused on B2B & SaaS companies, realized the value in focusing their marketing on more than just lead-generation.

The company shifted its focus to pipeline marketing and switched from talking about to leads to talking about revenue. As a result, they pour high amounts of effort into their live chat offering.

Does live chat deliver leads? Not many. And it takes a significant amount of energy to operate on a regular basis. However, it’s all worth it for Bizible.

We found live chats contribute upwards of 25 percent of our new monthly revenue each month, making it the third most effective sales channel in terms of revenue. A big factor is the 50% higher lead-to-opportunity conversion compared to other leads.

Dave Rigotti, Head of Marketing

Lower Barriers to Entry

Imagine a Salesforce, Oracle, or Business Objects giving you free access to their software’s highest tier, to use however you want for 30 days, with no strings attached. You don’t even have to talk to a salesperson to get setup.

That’s exactly what Sprout Social does.

sprout

Like many SaaS companies, Sprout Social’s primary CTA is to get users into a free 30-day trial. There are two important things the company does during that trial:

  • Users are encouraged to loop in other team members for free. This exposes more people from the company, creating potential for internal support to subscribe after the trial.
  • Sprout has placed huge emphasis on customer experience, with live chat and regular email updates offering user support resources as well as contact information.

Build a Beautiful Brand

Sometimes, modern marketers get so focused on ROI, CPA, ROAS, CPC, conversion rate, open rate, split-testing, and growth hacking that we forget the tangible value of great branding. But even in the B2B tech space, getting your brand right is a big deal – let me prove it to you.

I presume you’ve heard of a little messaging platform called Slack? Oh, good!

For the first several years of the company’s existence, Slack had no salespeople. None. They relied solely on word-of-mouth and some online paid advertising. How can a company taking that approach compete with industry titans like Yammer and HipChat?

By building a better brand.

slack

Check out the Slack homepage from 2013. The voice is approachable, friendly. The image is relatable, familiar. There’s no jargon, no buzzwords. It feels like it was built by someone who understands what the target audience is going through.

And the brand doesn’t stop on the marketing website. The colors, the “knock-knock” notifications, the micro-copy, the signatures – everything contributes to a seamless brand experience that begs to be shared.

Still don’t think Slack’s power is due to it’s brand. Listen to what co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield said in an internal memo to his team:

Even the best slogans, ads, landing pages, PR campaigns, etc., will fall down if they are not supported by the experience people have when they hit our site, when they sign up for an account, when they first begin using the product and when they start using it day in, day out.

Empower Your Advocates

Consumer brands have known the power of word-of-mouth for years, but recently, B2B organizations have started to catch on as well. In an age of instant communication and online communities, giving your customers the ability and incentive to tell others about your product is almost a must.

In other words, referrals.

booker

Companies like Booker and Yesware have figured out that marketing isn’t just done with Facebook posts, tradeshow events and television ads. Sometimes, the best marketing you can ask for is a customer telling one of their colleagues about your website.

Get Onboard or Get Left Behind

Remember those shifts that happen in B2B tech every 10-15 years? We’re in the midst of one right now. And if your business plays in that world, you can either get up-to-speed with the way marketing is shifting, or risk becoming irrelevant to your customers.

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Why Marketing Automation is a Startup Marketer’s Most Valuable Tool

For a startup marketer, the most valuable asset is time. Every tool, channel and campaign that needs active management consumes that valuable resource, leaving little for important, but less urgent, tasks. Enter marketing automation.

Businesses have been managing their email marketing and content management with software for years. However, the variety of different systems available resulted in difficulties. What if your landing page software didn’t integrate with your email system? Was there a way to trigger personalized email responses based on blog posts read on your website?

Modern marketing automation allows marketers to manage all of these different automations under a single program. This allows marketers to put their time into more valuable pursuits, without worrying about whether their systems are integrated and automated.

Not convinced? Let’s explore how marketing automation can save you time, and make your startup’s marketing more scalable.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Scenario 1. You need to send an email to a subset of your existing customers. Do you need to visit your CRM, sort by a particular field, limit by date range, export that list in CSV, then import into your Email Service Provider (ESP)?

Scenario 2. You just pushed a new blog post. You want to share it on several social media networks, and at different times. Do you fire up your Social Media Management (SMM) software, copy-paste the link into a UTM builder, shorten it, then copy-paste into your SMM and schedule?

These are just two examples of the simple, repetitive tasks that marketing automation lends itself to. In fact, good marketing automation software can help you manage:

  •       Content Production
  •       Landing Page Creation and Tracking
  •       Lead Nurturing
  •       Campaign Analytics
  •       Social Media Management
  •       Email Marketing

Marketing automation isn’t built on the promise of helping you manage each of these repetitive tasks – there’s already software that does that. Instead, it delivers huge returns by simplifying, standardizing, and executing these tasks automatically.

startup-photos
Photo Credit: pexels.com

Marketing teams spend too many of their working hours managing the various ins and outs of these initiatives. Marketing automation empowers you to delegate the most mundane aspects of your job to a software program, and focus your attention on more strategic duties.

To Err is Human

Consider every time your social media intern manually logs into Twitter to share your content. Or each time you have to create a new landing page in your CMS, but with a different headline. Think of every deadline you have related to posting or sending or sharing in the next 7 days. Every time a human interacts with your marketing, there’s a chance for error.

Not so with marketing automation.

Automating these “grunt work” touches with software means that tasks are completed with perfect precision. No more sending to a mistyped email address. No more missing a post deadline because you were in a meeting that ran long. No more forgetting to tag that link. Automation eliminates human error or forgetfulness. Every task performed is automatically logged and measured, resulting in a wealth of data and metrics which you can use to make your processes even more efficient.  

A Real World Example: LeanLogistics

LeanLogistics is a provider of online transportation management systems (TMS).

While their campaigns were effective, their productivity was suffering. But after implementing marketing automation, they slashed wasted time across the board, enabling them to scale their successful efforts and grow their brand.

  • Email campaigns were built in hours, not days.
  • Prepping for tradeshows and webinars went from 6 weeks down to 2 days.
  • The amount of campaigns running doubled without needing extra help or time.

You can read all the specifics  here.

Start Future-Proofing

Marketing automation software is now simple enough and affordable enough to be attractive to small businesses.  For startups looking to stretch budgets and improve efficiency, the software can easily become the most valuable tool in their arsenal.

people-at-window
Photo Credit: pexels.com

If you haven’t already integrated marketing automation, it’s worth your time to look at the facts. The days where marketers needed to do everything themselves are long gone.

Marketing automation can be a valuable tool for businesses, especially startups and small businesses. If you are ready to scale your marketing and lead nurturing, or are frustrated with the amount of time spent doing mundane digital tasks, it might be the solution you’re looking for.

Have questions about implementing marketing automation with your current website and other marketing platforms? Our team would be happy to provide expert guidance and implementation – just reach out.

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How to Do Analytics Like Buffer, HubSpot and Growthhackers

We all know that Google Analytics is the dominant force in web analytics. It’s free, easy to setup an account, and records many of the metrics that digital marketers rely on out-of-the-box.

But Google Analytics has limitations.

Because of these limitations, new analytics platforms and solutions launch every day. The hardest part isn’t finding alternatives to Google Analytics – it’s finding time to vet and evaluate the ever-changing landscape of software.

Luckily, Conrad Wadowski of Teachable asked some of the top growth marketers which tools they felt were vital to their marketing stack. You can read all the specifics on his blog post, but suffice to say companies like HubSpot, Buffer, SumoMe, Growthhackers, and Segment participated, to name a few.

So which analytics tools do these high-growth companies use to improve their analytics? We’ve broken them out for you below.

Behavioral Analytics

One of Google Analytics’ biggest limitations is the lack of specific user data. This is a serious problem for companies looking to do advanced cohort or retention analysis. These products aim to fill that gap.

Amplitude

amplitude

Like their website says, “Discover what your users are actually doing with behavioral analytics.” In real-life terms? Amplitude let’s you answer the tough questions about how certain user groups perform across devices, identify correlating factors to retention and churn, and make better product decisions. If you have an online portal, web app, or SaaS product, jump on their free starter plan and try it out.

MixPanel

Looking to measure user flow through your website funnels? How about trigger messages to users based on their behavior? While it was built with mobile apps in mind, MixPanel has a lot of practical applications for single-page websites, web apps & portals, and cross-device usage scenarios. And you can test it out for free!

[MixPanel] help[s] us quickly prove out hypotheses about customer engagement.

Morgan Brown, COO at Inman

Heap

Heap is similar to some of the other behavioral analytics tools listed here, but it’s standout feature is retroactive analytics. Heap records everything from the day you install it, so if you don’t remember to set up an event for 3 months, you won’t lose out on that data. That’s huge.

User Experience

Raw metrics like Time on Page, Bounce Rate, and Pages per Session are fine for some companies but these often times don’t tell the complete picture. Modern marketers need more data about how users interact with content and UI elements. Enter these three analytics solutions.

SumoMe

sumome

SumoMe offers video recordings of user sessions, as well as heatmaps, which are a big step up from Google Analytics’ In-Page Analytics. Marketers will also appreciate the additional tools SumoMe provides, like content analytics, email collection lightboxes and tools to increase shares of your content.

UserTesting

This solution focuses on delivering real feedback on your website or mobile app. Feedback takes the form of audio commentary, written feedback, and videos of testers using your site. You can even sign up to do full panel tests with your own user base. No more wondering, “Do users understand this step?”

 

FullStory

Want to watch customers as they navigate your drop-downs, click through forms, and use your checkout process? FullStory records site visitors so you can analyze their behaviors later and implement improvements. Get a bag of popcorn and watch 2 hours of users clicking things that aren’t buttons!

Feels like magic the first time you use it…Fantastic for tracking down hard-to-replicate UI bugs and for spying on user behaviors in the wild.

Jamie Quint, Co-Founder at InterState Analytics

Landing Page Optimization

Despite efforts like Google Experiments, there really isn’t a great solution for split-testing and improving landing pages with Google Analytics. Luckily, marketers don’t have to look far for better conversion optimization tools.

Optimizely

While not limited to just landing pages, Optimizely’s A/B testing and optimization platform is nearly invaluable for improving your conversion rates. They’ve also rolled out additional personalization features in recent months that expands the tool’s usefulness.

An easy application to A/B test and personalize your website and mobile app.

Amber Van Moessner, Director of Content at Livestream

Unbounce

A complete landing page management solution, Unbounce offers templates for building landing pages, or lets you build from scratch. Once pages are built, you can A/B test with real-time data to improve results.

Easy to design new tests quickly. This tool really helped us scale our digital demand gen by increasing conversion 10x.

Nick Christman, VP of Performance Marketing at Namely

Other Great Tools

Several tools surfaced during Conrad’s study that deserved mentioning, because of their importance in specific situations, to certain industries, or because they allow for scaling up analytics efforts. Here they are, in no particular order.

InterState Analytics

Multi-touch attribution reporting is somewhat of a unicorn for marketers working on multi-channel campaigns. Did that lead from retargeting originally come from Twitter? Is AdWords driving all those conversions by itself, or is it getting assistance from our paid content promotion? InterState aims to solve that.

Fantastic tool for attribution reporting, enables B2B-specific attribution models.

Guillaume Cabane, VP of Growth at Segment

Baremetrics

baremetrics

If you’re in SaaS or any other subscription-based recurring revenue, you need to look at Baremetrics. Metrics like Revenue per User, Monthly Recurring Revenue, User Churn, Upgrades/Downgrades and more make this tool vitally important from an analytics and business growth standpoint.

Segment

The challenge with having multiple analytics solutions is that you have to do collection and manage a number of different scripts, ensure that they are all placed correctly and pulling the right data, and it’s very time-consuming. Enter Segment, which tracks data across website and apps, then normalizes it and sends it to various systems like the ones mentioned previously in this article.

The Six Million Dollar Man Analytics

If you’ve been getting by with just Google Analytics up until now, it’s time to rebuild your analytics stack like Steve Austin – better, stronger, faster than before!

Analytics isn’t “one size fits all” – it’s critical to build a set of systems that fit your company’s unique needs. The tools on this list have been vetted and vouched for by some top companies, and they’ll give you a great start towards taking your analytics to the next level.

And of course, if you’d like a partner who has walked this path many times before, our team is happy to help you assess and implement any analytics solutions you need.

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Google’s Made Some Big AdWords Changes – How Should Startups React?

Google’s 2016 Performance Summit centered around one word: mobile.

The search giant announced a number of changes to their service offerings, including AdWords, Analytics and Maps. If you haven’t read any of the great roundups of the Summit, take a moment to do so (we recommend Search Engine Land and WordStream).

But if you’re wondering how all of this change impacts your real-world digital marketing efforts, we’re here to help.

Localized Ads, Promotions, Tracking

If you’re an e-commerce company, Software-as-a-Service offering, don’t have physical locations or services areas, or operate with a large geographic footprint (think national or international), feel free to skip this section.

But if you operate within a certain service area, have brick-and-mortar stores or need to be found when people search “[your product] near me,” the focus on local products should make your ears perk up.

Photo Credit: Google
Photo Credit: Google

In short, users of Google Maps will now see sponsored listings and promotions. This is a big, big deal for businesses, because nearly 1/3 of mobile searches are for local needs. For B2B and B2C alike, this will be a great chance to experiment driving users to call, click and visit your store.

Think of this as a competitor to local media spend. Instead of buying a billboard or a radio ad in your target city, try spending that same dollar amount on local search. Not only will you reach an audience that is highly qualified based on search criteria, but you have the ability to drive the same types of responses – phone calls and in-store visits.

Photo Credit: Google
Photo Credit: Google

The best part? Google’s ramping up availability of in-store conversion tracking, based on phone location history. In other words, you can see how many of the people who clicked your local search ad actually came to your coffee shop, gym, flooring store! That’s a serious step towards correlating online ads with offline conversion data.

Recommendation: For local businesses, allocate a portion of local media spend to test local search ads once they launch. Then, compare ROI based on spend, CPA, and CPM with other local media options.

Responsive Display Ads

Alright, all you Big Data companies, you can start paying attention again, because this one’s for everyone.

Display Advertising is typically much cheaper than Paid Search, can reach a huge audience for very attractive CPMs, and offers a variety of targeting options. So why don’t more businesses use it? In a word: cost. Producing ad variations in what feels like 1,000 different sizes (leaderboard, small rectangle, large square, skyscraper, etc.) for both mobile and desktop can be cost prohibitive.

Not anymore.

Photo Credit: Google
Photo Credit: Google

With the new Responsive Display Ads on the AdWords platform, you provide Google with the landing page and the text overlay data, and the system builds the ads for you. These ads will adapt to mobile, tablet, desktop, all in various needed sizes on the Google Display Network and in apps, even native ads.

So if cost has been holding you back from doing more Display Advertising, prepare to dive in.

Recommendation: Test of out the new responsive display ads to reach audiences that are difficult to target with Paid Search, such as by criteria like age, gender, interest, website topic, website keyword.

More Granular Device Bidding

A longtime cry from the SEM community has been for Google to allow separate bid modification and management for mobile, tablet and desktop (reminder: currently, desktop and tablet are bundled). Google has heard the tortured screams of performance marketers, and will be unbundling those devices later this year.

Photo Credit: twitter.com
Photo Credit: twitter.com

If you already have campaigns up and running, it’s time to go examine device performance. It’s not uncommon to see big differences between tablet and desktop conversion rates and CTRs, and once those two devices are no longer tied together, it may be worth pausing or reducing bids for one or the other, depending on your data.

Additionally, it is now going to be possible to segment out device-specific campaigns. Want to advertise desktop software? Don’t run ads on mobile or tablet. Want someone to download your app? Skip the desktop ads. Want to use specific copy for mobile users and know that nobody else will see it? You get the idea.

Recommendation: Segment campaigns by device based on goals, and/or make bid adjustments based on conversion performance on different devices.

But Wait…

There are some other details from the Performance Summit as well:

  • More Google Display Network placements
  • Expanded text ad headlines and descriptions
  • A new AdWords interface
  • Demographic targeting for Paid Search
  • Local inventory search within Maps

Ultimately, the one piece that was missing amongst all of this information is launch dates. We know the new interface is expected in 2017, and the rest of the changes should roll out soon. Until we hear further from Google, we will need to prepare our strategies…and wait.

 

Would you like a professional review of your paid search, display or paid social advertising efforts? Our comprehensive PPC Audit offers just that. Let’s schedule a time to chat.