Welcome to the Digital Marketing Mailbag! Thank you to everyone that asked a question and some will be used in future columns as well. Feel free to submit questions for future mailings! Otherwise I will have to pull them from my fake inbox.
"Coming up with unique and sharable content is a t struggle for myself and my clients. How are people continuing to do so?"
Simon Granner - Simongranner.com
"We could spend time creating great content - none of which will matter if nobody knows where to find it or reads it! What is the best road map for greater name recognition?"
Julie Hartman - Integrated Mobile Systems
Ah yes, content marketing. The buzz-word of the day. Julie and Simon both have legitimate beef. Writing something meaningful takes time. Selling people on reading and sharing it takes longer. Some suggestions:
1 - Keep writing good content in various formats - Whitepapers, ebooks, webinars, infographics are good formats. Comedians run through hundreds of jokes before nailing down a 45-60 minute routine. Similarly, you can't stop publishing since you don't know what's going to resonate with your readers. You can dial back once you know what style/topics/formats work. Need ideas? Good content sources are things your potential customers frequently ask (or should ask).
2 - Buy traffic if you're impatient - You shouldn't spray and pray (unless you renovate a religious building all day). Facebook and Twitter's pay for engagement models allow you to pay for retweets, likes and shares from people in your target range. Some tips on what to use when.
3 - Work Backwards - Identify your ideal readers before you start writing. Assume Wal-Mart's VP of Security is Julie's ideal reader. She can find their info on LinkedIn. Then, make content with that person in mind. Julie still shares and markets the content to the masses, but can personally connect to her target at Wal-Mart, ensure that they read it and that she gets a response. The same tactic works to get press from particular journalists or celebrities. Find out who the Justin Bieber of your industry is (Tim Ferriss for you Simon), what stuff they share and write content in that style.
"What is the best way to increase and measure conversions on our site? We have a lot of people that go to our sign up page but, don't sign up. We even have a lot of people that fill out our form and then don't finish the process."
David McClellan - Social Catfish
David - Try creating custom audiences (Google Remarketing, Facebook Custom Audience etc) and then get some meaningful advertising done for customers that leave mid-registration. This should be cheap since these audiences will be specific to the registration page. Give them a discount to finish registering.
"Q. People keep talking about A/B testing for my website and that it's really important. How important is it really and how do I do it?"
Vinay Patankar - Process Street
What website layout is more effective? Layout A or Layout B? Answer that with A/B testing. Defining what 'effective' specifically means to Process Street is up to you Vinay. For example, smart SaaS companies A/B test registration with and without credit card requirement quite often and then count the difference in signups. To me website A/B testing is important if you are in ecommerce and are getting abandoned carts (people that shop for a product and leave the site before checkout). It's an insightful exercise in those situations.
For Process Street you're probably trying to get people to sign up for trials. To run a successful A/B test try redirecting half your sign up traffic to ther current form and the other half to some variation. Then, compare the signup numbers.
"Does it ever make sense to hire a single in-house employee to do your SEO versus hiring a firm?"
Dan Stelter - Copywriter
Full Disclosure Dan - Our team is a digital marketing and software firm. The question you need to answer is do you buy enough milk to start raising cows or can you just buy it from the grocery store? I am against single-points of failure and one person typically doesn't have the knowledge or industry pulse of a team (in any capacity). Also, their knowledge and your money invested in training them goes when they do (and turnover is rampant). Hire a firm and get a team of people accountable to an SLA and the work instead of one person. You can work with great firms in the budget of an in-house team member.
"I'm a pharmacy and have a great niche market of medications to sell to dentists, dermatologists and med spas. Google prohibits pharmaceuticals marketing. Suggestions?
Steve Levin - Woodland Hills Pharmacy
Hi Steve! This is a good problem to have. As a drug dealer (sorry... I had to :) ) you are in a niche market and it's far more productive to directly reach out to people in these industry verticals. Send them InMails via LinkedIn. You can also reach them through association websites. Consider advertising or press releases on association websites, e-newsletters etc.
"How can someone contact journalists and get press coverage in a manner that is mutually beneficial to both parties?"
Amad Ebrahimi - Merchant Maverick
Amad getting press has never been easier. If your site reviews apps or sites then promote the products you review to the product developers. Organizations like Shopify, Freshbooks, Quickbooks and more all have large developer/user communities. Share your reviews with them, start a dialogue and ask them to share your reviews in their marketing material. The BBB grows when businesses promote their BBB ratings.
"I know (digital marketing) is a long term game but my question is this. How do we tell if we are not moving because we don't have backlinks or because we are just too young to have much weight yet (10 months old)."
Beret Kirkeby - Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage NYC
Hi Beret. Check the origin of your clicks. This is a basic stat in Google Analytics (referrals). Consider buying traffic from Google or Facebook and target NYC health & wellness demographics to get some exposure.
"There are only so many hours in the day! What should I do first? What will provide the biggest return for my time?"
Brenda Brooks - Franchise Broker Academy
Hi Brenda. Segment your market to make things bearable. Analyze your current customers' geography, demographic, occupations and lead sources. Are they struggling real estate agents in Jersey or business grads in Ontario? Identify and then market your content on sites or areas where those targets go. Also, determine what segments benefit the most from your training (people you think have the ideal skill set to be good franchise brokers) and communicate to them on websites or Facebook/LinkedIn groups they visit. If everyone is your customer than nobody is your customer. Shrink your market to make life bearable for you.
"We've always been interested in digital marketing, however, the reason that we haven't taken the plunge is that we are not able to narrow down the mailing list. Our target is existing or aspiring hedge fund managers. What's your recommendation in finding the right mailing list with such a small niche?"
Amy Zhang - Affinity Fund Services
Hi Amy. In your case a social selling strategy would work wonders. Get a LinkedIn Premium account and use the lead builder tool to get a list of hedge fund managers. Then, inform them about your service and reinforce your credentials with a meaningful whitepaper or ebook. Also, consider running sponsored posts on LinkedIn that appear specifically to your niche segments. Cheaper and more effective than list dripping.
"Does purchasing PPC ads on Google directly affect your Google organic rankings? In my experience, it does, though I've been told that is not Google's intention"
Lauren Witte - Jackson White Law
Technically Lauren it's not supposed to, but you're absolutely right. It does. If you are running PPC ads you generate impressions and awareness for your services. This paid visibility uptick increases the likelihood of organic searches. Crude example, but expect a spike in organic traffic after you run a Superbowl Ad. Same applies with impressions and paid search (to a smaller extent obviously). That's how you should think paid search supports your organic results.
"How can entrepreneurs compete in establishing a strong digital footprint when the trajectory of marketing expenses continues to consistently soar to obscene levels?
Matthew Reischer - Legal Marketing Pages Corp.
Hi Matthew. Make sure you intelligently spend money and track your ROI. Tweak your strategy if your investment isn't materializing. I'd consider partnering with a business that understands your view of a successful digital marketing strategy (eg; one that has a chance to give you 3-5 new leads per month). Then, collaborate with them on different ways to economically reach that goal. Ultimately, coming up with creative ways to showcase your industry knowledge is the best way to generate leads.
"Marketing Automation software is pricey for someone starting out. What are your thoughts on this? Are they worth it? Any alternatives?"
Rachel Olsen - Best Mom Products Show
Rachel, marketing automation software is very useful if you:
i) Have lots of leads
ii) Difficulty managing them (Manually following up with leads is a sure-sign of management difficulties)
However, lead management software without leads to put in it is a waste of money. Getting leads is the most important thing start-ups and one-man armies should focus on. The price tag for marketing automation software will be an investment and not a liability once you have too many leads to manage and your business grows.
Thanks everyone! Keep your questions coming!