Archive | January 2017

Day One: How to Build a “Backbone” for Your Content Marketing

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A System for Easily Publishing Consistently Great Content - Pamela Wilson on ProBlogger.net

This is part two in a series on Content Marketing Strategies from Pamela Wilson of Big Brand System.

On the first day of your content creation process, you’re going to choose your topic and create what I call the “backbone” of your post.

Need to review the 4 Day Content Creation System introduction? Read it here: A System for Easily Publishing Consistently Great Content.

Hopefully you already have a content idea library. It’s a concept I talk about in my book Master Content Marketing. It’s nothing fancy — just a place where you’ll consistently maintain a running list of content ideas that fit within the already-established categories on your website.

When you have a content idea library, you don’t have to spend time staring out the window, waiting for an idea to hit you — you have content ideas to draw from and can easily find something to write about.

With your content topic in hand, let’s create the backbone of your article, which consists of two parts: your headline, and your subheads.

Write Your Headline

Your headline is the most important promotional part of your content. Your headline is what gets people to click on your content and read it.

Spend plenty of time generating lots of headline ideas.

When I write headlines, I like to think of writing the first 10-20 headline ideas like clearing a clog in a pipe: once you get the “junk” ideas out of the way, the good ideas can flow. So don’t worry if your first attempts at headlines are dull, or clichéd, or boring. Just get them out of your system so the good stuff can flow through, and keep writing.

Writing great headlines becomes easier and more natural the more you do it, so keep at it. For more guidance on writing headlines, refer to the headlines chapter in this book.

Write Your Subheads

After you’ve written your headline, map out the subheads you’ll use in your article.

Subheads are like signposts that guide your reader through your content.

But they’re also signposts for you, the writer!

Writing subheads at this early stage of the game helps you to think through how you will present and develop the ideas you want to communicate in the piece.

If you’re aiming for around 1,500 words for your article, you could write five or six subheads.
For more on writing subheads, review the Subheads chapter in this book.

Day 1 Tips

Tools to use: I like to keep it simple, and I tend to do everything on my laptop. But because some people strongly prefer to interact with tangible objects like pen and paper, I’ll make recommendations for both.

My writing life changed for the better when I incorporated mind mapping tools into my process. Any mind mapping software will do: find one that looks good, seems easy to use, and fits your budget (many are free).

The reason I love mind maps so much is they allow me to get ideas out of my head quickly and easily, and move them into a format where I can work with them. My ideas don’t come to me in a linear or logical order (do yours?). I don’t fret about that — I just use the mind map to record them in whatever order they appear.

When I’m done thinking, I begin moving things around on the mind map to arrange them into an order that makes sense. As I move things, I notice gaps in my thinking, and I fill those in with more ideas.

In the end — once I have my ideas arranged — I can see what subheads are needed. Some of my main ideas can be lightly edited to turn into subheads.

If you prefer to work with tangible objects, you could use index cards or sticky notes. I have a friend who makes major decisions by standing in front of a window with a pad of square sticky notes, jotting down short concepts with a marker and sticking the notes to the window, moving them around and grouping them together until she can see what she needs to do.

Some people swear by a combination of colored and white index cards arranged on a table top. Remember, you’re just jotting down main ideas at this stage, so don’t feel like you need to fill the lines on your index cards if you use them. Jot a concept across the top and that’s it.

Use whatever system works best for you. Remember, the magic isn’t in the tools you use — it’s in what you do with them. So don’t get hung up on trying a bunch of different tools or techniques: find one that works and stick with it.

Once you’ve finished writing a compelling headline and strong subheads, you are done with Day 1.

Walk away and go about the rest of your day. Your mind will continue to work on the content — you may get ideas about it when you’re working on completely unrelated tasks. Find a way to save those ideas: you’ll need them for the next day’s work.

Here’s the sneaky thing about your Day 1 tasks: by the time you finish, what you’ve created is an outline of your article. But since most of us are still recovering from having to generate outlines for our term papers in English class, we won’t call it an outline. Instead, think about it as the backbone of your content.

You’ve created the main structure you’ll hang the rest of your content on. It’s the foundation of your article. Good job!

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How to Deal With Google’s Latest Mobile Ranking Update About Popups

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By: 

Here’s why you hear the word “intrusive” more often these days: Suddenly it has become a part of Google’s mobile ranking algorithm!

Last year Google warned webmasters it would start down-ranking sites with intrusive interstitials, commonly known as popup ads, in mobile search results. As of today, that update should be live, so you can start monitoring your mobile rankings to see if your site seems to have been effected.

With more and more people searching and finding your website on a mobile device, suffering a drop in your mobile rankings can be a huge loss.

What exactly is intrusive?

An intrusive ad is one that interferes with the user experience. If a user has to perform an action to hide an opt-in form to continue using your site, that form is intrusive.

Google is OK with intrusive popup forms if they cannot be avoided (for example, by law, you need to confirm your age before proceeding to the site).

Google is not OK with intrusive popup forms you can basically do without if they provide a poorer user experience, distract a user from their initial intent, force the user to opt out or somehow remove the form before they can fully interact with the page.

For example, covering half of your above-the-fold screen with an opt-in form encouraging a user to subscribe to your email list and forcing a user to click away to remove the form before they can read further, is what Google considers intrusive.

What’s more, Google doesn’t care whether an intrusive popup or an ad is served immediately once the user lands on a page or whether they’ll see it after scrolling. In both cases, that’s considered intrusive if you use the popup to capture a lead or monetize your website.

As per Google, here’s exactly how much screen you can cover with your opt-in form and avoid being intrusive:

Remember, Google only cares about immediate user experience – Once a user clicks on a search listing and lands on your page, that’s where Google wants to make sure you serve them right. Basically, they want to make sure if they send you the user for you to provide them with a satisfactory user experience.

After the user starts clicking your navigation links going from page to page, you can serve them more noticeable ads based on their behavior. It will be between you and your users once they choose to stick around.

The bad news for marketers is that many of those popup lightbox windows work like a charm for conversions. People claim huge spikes in signups once they start serving them.

So how do you make sure you are not hit with this Google Update without losing your conversions? How do you have people complete your forms without being obnoxious?

To summarize what I’ll describe in more detail below, here are three generic tactics:

  • Don’t show popup opt-in forms for mobile users at all. Instead, serve different less disruptive forms to them such as an opt-in bar for example. Note: You may keep your lightbox popup forms for desktop users.
  • Don’t show popup opt-in forms for Google referrals. Or only serve them your forms once they go deeper into your site.
  • Switch from being intrusive to being effective. Serve different calls-to-action based on user intent.

1. Use different opt-in forms for mobile users

If you are not ready to change your website opt-in forms in fear of losing your conversions, you can at least change how they appear for mobile users. Remember, this update is only about mobile user experience, so it is crucial that you take action and make sure your opt-in forms qualify as non-intrusive for mobile users first.

Hello Bar is a full-width bar that spans across the top or bottom of your website and helps you grab visitors’ attention without interrupting their browsing. Hello Bar can be used for all kinds of calls-to-action:

You can choose to create a separate Hello Bar specifically for mobile device users where you can choose to:

  • Change your call-to-action to find the best working one
  • Animate entry/exit of the bar to draw your visitors’ eyes to it.
  • Select the width of the bar to make it easy to notice and use, while preventing it from covering too much of the screen.
  • Keep it always on top of the page while the user scrolls down.
  • Allow to hide the bar (I would certainly recommend checking this option as web users prefer to have a choice).
  • Place it on the top or bottom of the page
  • A/B test different bars you have been running and compare results

It’s very easy to integrate Hello Bar with your email provider. Just choose your email marketing platform, authenticate Hello Bar access and choose your email list to add new contacts to.

Here’s a quick Hello Bar case study from DIYthemes to illustrate how it works. Hello Bar helped DIYthemes gain an additional 1,180 email subscribers within 30 days!

You can also use expandable calls-to-action allowing your users to act after a click.

Here’s a good example of what I am talking about:

It’s an interesting way to test two-step optin performance on your site.

2. Show different forms based on the referral

Another possible way to ensure you comply with Google’s guidelines is to serve different ads based on the referral. For example, you may choose to show different opt-in forms to people coming from Google search results or serve them no forms at all.

PadiAct is one of the easiest ways to create intricate rules for when to show your calls-to-action and how to customize your opt-in form behavior. For example, whenever a user is referred to your site by Google, you can choose to only serve your opt-in form once they proceed to page #2 of your site:

You can also connect PadiAct to Google Analytics to clearly see how your forms are working based on the referral.

You can also use PadiAct to serve your forms only to people who have visited a certain page or a certain section of your website.

3. Use different calls-to-action based on the keyword intent

This is not specific to this Google mobile ranking update but it’s a great way to make sure your calls-to-action are relevant to your specific landing page.

It may not be about how well your call-to-action stands out or how easy it is to notice. The issue may be in how well you meet the needs of visitors of a particular page.

If you notice a high bounce rate or a low conversion rate on a specific landing page of your site, the chances are your call-to-action doesn’t match the intent of users coming to that page. Fixing this is likely to increase your conversions.

For example, there may be little point in trying to sell a product to someone who came to find an answer to an informational query. A better way to address different types of user intent would be:

  • If a user lands on your knowledge base page looking for an answer on how to use your product, a good subtle call-to-action to chat with a company representative for further help would make more sense than inviting a user to subscribe to your email list or buy the product. In contrast, the same online chat popup on a page where a user can buy a product may be intrusive and distracting.
  • If a user lands on a page in hope of finding an answer to a generic non-commercial question, serving them a subtle popup inviting them to opt-in to download a more detailed PDF guide addressing the same question is a good way to have the user engage.

Two helpful tools in this section are Serpstat and Whatagraph.

Use Serpstat to research keywords for your landing pages, especially questions. Question-type queries work wonders for email opt-in because users are hungry for more information.

To access Serpstat question data, type in your core term and then proceed to the “Content Marketing” section:

Serpstat also provides a tag cloud containing words which most often occur in questions containing your core term:

This is a great source of information to direct your content strategy and organize your keyword lists into groups for each landing page, and target a specific keyword group. Clicking each tag will filter the list of questions to those containing that word. Most of these queries can fit into one landing page:

Whatagraph integrates with Google Analytics and turns its data into daily reports which are highly visual and easy to understand. Their reports contain a section listing pages with the highest bounce rate and the highest exit count. These are the pages to look into to see if your information and calls-to-action match the user intent!

Whatagraph also emails daily goal completion stats for you to easily keep an eye on your forms and which of them seem to perform better or worse, so you can act accordingly.

Wrap

A high conversion rate is not about being intrusive, it’s about being effective!

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Confused About Agile Marketing? Your Questions Answered

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agile-marketing-questions

Despite the growing popularity of Agile marketing and the fervent evangelism of early adopters, most marketers remain at least a bit confused. Questions are to be expected. Why? Because, although the basic Agile modus operandi is fairly straightforward – release work rapidly, learn from its performance, and adjust accordingly – Agile teams need an internal system that supports a new way of doing marketing.

In other words, Agile marketing is simple and hard at the same time. It’s simple to understand in theory. It’s hard to shift to working this way.

#Agile marketing is simple to understand in theory, but hard to shift to working this way, says @andreafryrear. Click To TweetThis duality can make it challenging to tackle the topic effectively, as my time leading workshops, breakout sessions, and webinars on the subject has taught me. The questions I get vary dramatically depending on where audience members find themselves on their Agile journey, and sadly, there’s never enough time to cover everything.

Fortunately, we aren’t constrained by time on a blog, so this article can get to all those burning, unanswered Agile-marketing questions. That’s a lot of ground to cover so to make it easier to navigate I’ve grouped the questions into categories.

Agile-marketing basics

For those who have just encountered this topic, I’ll start with foundational concepts. I love it when people ask these sorts of questions because they help those of us who have been doing Agile for years refocus on the core ideals.

Q: Can I get a definition of Agile marketing? Is it a brand name or a new methodology/approach to marketing?

A: Agile marketing is not a brand name nor is it a new approach (if you use “new” to mean something no one has tried). At its core, Agile marketing helps teams focus their collective efforts on high-value projects, complete those projects cooperatively, measure their impact, and then continuously and incrementally improve the results.

One of the most appealing attributes of Agile for marketers is that it systematically creates boundaries around the work being done. An Agile team deliberately chooses what to work on, which means that it’s also explicitly choosing what not to work on. When the inevitable fire drill comes up, you can politely say “No,” or at least “Not right now,” citing the protection of your Agile system.

For overwhelmed and overworked marketers, Agile can offer a path back to sanity.

#Agile methods offer overwhelmed marketers a path to sanity, says @andreafryrear. Click To TweetWhile innovative marketers have applied pieces of this approach for years, often without realizing it, true implementation of Agile marketing adopts one or more Agile methodologies (Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban) and commits to improving performance continuously.

Q: Isn’t it Agile when we adopt a few pieces of the process at one time and continue to do so at a reasonable pace? It seems counterintuitive to adopt all things Agile at one time.

A: In the world of software development, where Agile originated, there has historically been an emphasis on wholesale departmental transformations when moving from traditional waterfall project management to some form of Agile. (A waterfall approach requires each stage of work – planning, for example – to be complete before work can flow to the next stage.)

Marketers have proven less receptive to this jump-into-the-deep-end style, preferring to pick and choose Agile pieces one at a time. As long as the team is truly committed to steadily bringing in more components of the chosen methodology and improving the process over time, there’s no reason this iterative approach can’t work as well as a massive one-time transformation.

Q: How much time does it take for a beginner to implement?

A: This question requires one of those infuriating “it-depends” answers (sorry about that). Assuming you’ve done your homework, a one- or two-person team could roll out a Kanban system in a day or two without much interruption in its flow.

A large department of a dozen or more people, however, would need to set aside a couple of days to undertake a team-wide switchover or to create a transition schedule for teams over weeks or months.

Basically, you could visualize your workflow on a whiteboard right now, but to get the full benefits of an Agile-marketing approach, you need time for understanding its core principles and adjusting your mindset.

Q: Can you explain the methodologies (Kanban, Scrum, Scrumban) a little more?

A: Scrum is probably the most well-known Agile methodology because it drove the transformation in software development and IT during the early days of the 21st century. Scrum teams run their work in segments called sprints lasting one to four weeks.

It includes a few prescribed roles – Scrum master, product owner, and developers – and multiple standardized meetings or ceremonies: daily standup, sprint planning, review, retrospective. (For brief definitions of these terms and others, see my Agile marketing glossary.)

Scrum emphasizes teamwork and limits the additional work forced onto a team once a sprint has begun.

Kanban is less structured, using work-in-progress (WIP) limits – team-selected upper limits on how many work items can be assigned to each state (such as “being written” or “being edited”). WIP limits prevent teams and individuals from overextending themselves and failing to deliver completed work.

The word Kanban means “billboard” or “signboard” in Japanese. Kanban teams typically track their work on a board that has columns. (You’ll find an example of a one-person Kanban board in the following section.) Each column heading indicates a WIP limit. After a given column reaches its WIP limit – its maximum number of items – no new items can move into that column until one is moved out.

Kanban doesn’t include prescribed roles or meetings; it requires teams to manage their own process in a more proactive and independent way than teams who opt for Scrum.

Scrumban, as you might have guessed, combines components from Scrum and Kanban. In my experience, this methodology works best for many marketing teams because it offers some protection from external interruptions without being too rigid. Scrumban applies the visualization and ongoing improvement from Kanban to the Scrum team system, filling in many gaps the other methodologies have when used independently. While Scrum is designed for teams of five to nine people, Kanban and Scrumban can work for teams of any size.

Agile marketing for small teams

Many people ask whether it’s possible to use Agile methods with a small team. Yes. It can be immensely useful to manage your work this way.

#Agile methods work even if you are part of a small team, says @andreafryrear. Click To Tweet

Q: How would Agile be useful for a single-person marketing department?

A: The easiest way to use an Agile approach as an individual is to create a simple Kanban board showing how work flows from conception to completion.

agile-content-board-example

Example one-person Kanban board

Here the Backlog column is arranged with the highest-priority work at the top. As work moves up and begins, it moves into the Create column. When it’s ready for review, it moves to the right again, and so on until the item is done.

Solo practitioners will want to pay close attention to their backlog – the prioritized list of what you need to work on next – to make sure it’s always up to date. It’s also important to put strict WIP limits in place so you maintain focus on completing work rather than working on tons of things at once.

#Agile marketers focus on completing work rather than working on tons of things at once, says @andreafryrear. Click To TweetA WIP limit of one on each of these columns wouldn’t be unusual. Here we see WIP limits of two on Create and Review, and a WIP limit of one on Publish.

Q: How is Agile beneficial to a marketing team of a few people?

A: Agile helps any team, no matter the size, work on the right things at the right time. It visualizes what they’re doing so that others outside the team understand what’s going on (making them less likely to interrupt). It also helps create consensus among the team and its managers/stakeholders so that everyone is confident that tactics are supporting strategy.

#Agile helps any team, no matter the size, work on the right things at the right time, says @andrefryrear. Click To TweetSimple tools work best for smaller teams, so use a physical board whenever possible. If you’re not at the same location, lightweight software like Trello or LeanKit will get you up and running quickly.

A two-person team could use a board similar to the one-person board shown, with the cards having a unique color for each person to show who’s working on what and how that work is distributed.

Larger teams can stick with assigning each person a card color, or they may find it more useful to color-code the type of work they’re doing: green for content, orange for social media, etc. Experimentation is the only way to figure out what works best for your team.

Backlog setup

Agile teams always have a backlog (a prioritized to-do list). An Agile team should be able to pull the top item from a backlog and start working on it with confidence, knowing that it’s the next thing they should do.

The backlog is the engine of your Agile sports car; treat it with care. It needs regular maintenance to keep the team running on all cylinders. You need a backlog regardless of methodology so this section applies to any team using Agile marketing.

Q: Are backlogs made of multiple projects or are they tasks for a single project?

A: The backlog is primarily for projects and strategic objectives; the content will vary depending on the source.

When the team pulls an item from the backlog to start, that team is responsible for breaking it into individual tasks and deciding who’s responsible for completing each one and when.

Q: Is there a level of detail needed to put something into the backlog? If something is not defined sufficiently, does it belong in the backlog?

A: Almost anything can go into the backlog, including a blue-sky idea, a huge project description, or a suggestion from another department. But as the item moves closer to the top, and closer to being worked on by the team, it should get increasingly detailed. On a physical board, this might mean replacing your existing card with a new one that contains more information. A digital system might mean simply adding more, from links to checklists to more thorough specifications, to the current record.

Priority levels in the backlog:

backlog-specifics

A low-priority item at the bottom of the backlog might read, “Create a new series of blog posts to target emerging marketer persona.” It’s vague, giving the team a general idea of what kind of work might be coming up.

When that item moves closer to the top and becomes medium priority, a representative from the team might approach the person who submitted the project and ask for more information. This short fact-finding mission could clarify the project: “Write four 1,200-word articles next quarter showing how our product helps marketers.” This is useful information for the Agile team because it helps them size up the amount of work heading their way and provides estimated delivery dates.

By the time it reaches the top, the item needs to include enough information that the team could begin work without any further fact-finding: “Write four 1,200-word blog articles before June 30 on feature one, two, and three. Include call to action to attend our July 3 webinar.”

Q: Who can add items to the backlog?

A: This answer is going to be another “it depends” because it varies widely from team to team. Scrum teams often have strict rules about adding items to backlogs; many allow only product owners to add items to avoid confusion (and to prevent unsupervised stakeholders putting their pet projects into the queue).

But many marketing teams incorporate requests from multiple sources into their workflow, making strict rules unrealistic. In those cases, you can allow several people to put things into the backlog by submitting a form or sending a message to a designated email address.

If you take that route, make sure you have a marketing owner (a role that should be functionally similar to that of a product owner) that keeps a close eye on incoming backlog items so the size of your to-do list (backlog) stays reasonable and the items on it remain actionable.

The backlog reflects important upcoming work for the marketing team; it shouldn’t be a junk drawer for random ideas. While many teams don’t place limits on the size of their backlog, you may find it necessary to impose a WIP limit here too if backlog items tend to languish unattended.

Non-Agile teams in your Agile workflow

Few marketing teams are an island, which means that Agile marketing teams typically have no choice but to develop effective ways of interfacing with non-Agile teams.

Fortunately, this problem can be solved with time and dedication, and it may even spread Agile ideals further in your organization.

Q: Most marketing teams depend on other departments to get their work done. What if other departments don’t use Agile?

A: There’s no fundamental reason that this relationship won’t work. Software developers, after all, often were the only Agile teams in their organizations. If marketing is an Agile pioneer, I recommend going overboard on visualization: Create a huge board in a high-traffic area or send regular status updates via email along with a link to your publicly accessible virtual board.

Make sure everybody can clearly see what you’re doing so they get insight into how their contributions affect it. This subtle peer pressure can nudge other departments to get you what you need at a reasonable pace.

Work flows best when the team pulls in only projects or tasks that they can complete autonomously from start to finish. “Finish” doesn’t have to be the project’s final release point, but it should mean the end of marketing’s responsibility.

Q: What if bottlenecks exist outside of your team, such as subject-matter experts for content, legal review, etc.?

A: Keep in mind that you need to map your real workflow, not the one you wish you had.

The most common issue is that non-Agile teams aren’t as consistent in their delivery dates, which can delay a marketing team’s ability to release projects on schedule. You can deal with this by building padding into your own cadence (for example, the design team usually takes two weeks to turn work around so we need to deliver things two weeks before we need them back), or by cross-training your team members in skills for which you normally rely on other teams.

You don’t have to become a team of design experts, but if you routinely sit around waiting for images to support your content, you can create a minimum-viable-product (MVP) version of your graphics and replace with the final versions later. This increases the amount of work you can release independently.

Sprint setup: projects, recurring tasks, and estimating

Now we’re getting into the specifics, the nuts and bolts questions that tend to come from teams practicing some form of Agile.

Often these questions are specific to a particular team. I’ve selected a few that apply to more than just the person who asked them. I avoid recommending specific tools because appropriate choices vary with the team’s size, needs, budget, etc.

Q: How does Agile work for high-volume, super-quick turnaround project planning?

A: Agile works particularly well in any environment of change or uncertainty, so it would almost certainly help manage workflow in this situation. Depending on how short “super quick” is, a more lightweight approach like Kanban might help keep things nimble by reducing meetings and planning overhead.

#Agile works well in any environment of change or uncertainty to help manage workflow, says @andreafryrear. Click To Tweet

Q: You mentioned a lot of marketing teams use a one-week sprint, which makes sense. But if the rest of your company is on a two-week sprint? Should you align with that?

A: No, you don’t have to automatically run the same sprint length in every department. There can be benefits to doing so, but if your marketing campaign needs to be completed before a new product or feature goes out, there’s no reason for the product and marketing teams to have an identical cadence.

Try varying sprint lengths to see if one gets you better results than another.

Q: How do I mix Agile projects with day-to-day issues and problems that my team needs to manage?

A: The solution to this one is hard data. Monitor and measure the average number of “issues and problems” your team has to deal with per sprint, and then leave enough of your sprint empty to allow for unplanned work.

If you get lucky and nothing comes up during a given sprint, team members can always pull additional work from the backlog.

Q: If a team works on multiple projects, is a sprint usually project-specific or is it phases of multiple projects worked on in the same period?

A: Sprints aren’t strictly structured around projects (although they might be). Their primary objective is to direct the team’s energy toward the next batch of most important work. Ideally, you have something that you could release at the end of a sprint, even if it’s not a fully completed project. In some cases, you’ll end up pulling some pieces of a larger project into one sprint while leaving others to be handled later. Agile software developers aren’t typically fans of this practice, but it’s common on Agile marketing teams whose efforts span multiple sprints (and even different teams).

If you’re working on an e-book, for example, you might have a completed chapter at the end of a sprint. You could put it out as a blog post, measure the audience response, and make adjustments based on their feedback. Or you might finish all written copy before passing it to a separate team for visual design. You could even split up research, writing, and promotion so each phase happens across multiple sprints.

There is no rule for what belongs in your sprint. Include the largest amount of top-priority work that your team is confident it can complete within the sprint.

Knowledge of Agile skills

Many marketers are looking for ways to learn more about Agile. Some Agile skills, like a willingness to hypothesize and test, require little more to develop than personal dedication. Others, like an understanding of Scrum ceremonies, may be most efficiently learned in a formal class setting.

Q: Is it worth getting Scrum master certified?

A: If you’re leading an Agile marketing team, then yes. If you’re not leading, then probably not. The same goes for product owner training.

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The Subterranean Foundations of Any Good Content Marketing Strategy

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An Insight Into My Digital Marketing Automation Machine

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An Insight Into My Digital Marketing Automation Machine

The Terminator movie “Rise of the Machines” is science fiction,  HAL in “Space Odyssey 2001 was futuristic and Iron Man is fantasy.

Well…..that is until technology makes them a reality.

Arthur C. Clarke, the futurist and science fiction writer was famous for this line. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic

And in marketing this is happening right now. There is no escaping the fact that the rise of the digital marketing machine is now a reality. We are seeing the rise of the machines as they assist us in growing our business as extensions of our minds and amplification of our efforts.

The tactics and tools to make it happen have arrived and are continuing to evolve.

It started with a tweet

When I started my blog in 2009 the tasks were all manual. I also had zero traffic, only 30 followers on Twitter, Google didn’t know I existed and there was no email list. Sound familiar. That is where most of us start.

But I was still excited. Social media had given me a glimpse of reaching the world. One tweet at a time. I started simple. Here is my first tweet on the 17th of December, 2008.

Jeffs first tweet

I then discovered that if I sent out a tweet with a link to my small Twitter gang that it would bring a couple of website hits. Growing traffic sometimes means that you need to just grind it out.

The next insight was the law of reciprocation.

Following ten people meant that a few would follow me back. So….more followers meant more traffic. This applied to almost any social network.

The other observation that I stumbled upon was that more tweets meant more traffic.

Game on

So it was game on. The equation was simple at first. More followers and more frequent tweeting meant more traffic. The race to 100,000 followers was the next goal.

It was also the start of my first marketing automation tactic. I discovered a tool that allowed me to send recurring tweets. So I loaded the machine with evergreen content and sent it out to my growing tribe while I was sleeping .

Socialoomph recurring tweets

The social media purists were enraged that automation was now being used for marketing on the social web. I had many tweets sent to me denouncing me for this tactic. Despite the outcry I continued to use this simple automation.

Over the next few years the focus was on growing my social media distribution as fast as possible. But in 2012 Facebook changed the game. They reduced the networks organic reach. To reach your audience on Mark Zuckerberg’s  network that you had grown organically you now had to pay.

It was also the start of the decline of organic traffic from other social networks. It doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t bring free organic traffic anymore but the big gains are now harder to get.

But this shift now meant that the focus had to change to some other key digital marketing tactics. Optimizing for search engines and building an email list.

Auto-pilot: Fact or Fiction

Despite the dream of build, launch, set and forget, the reality is much different.

There are a few things playing:

  1. The pace of change of the digital landscape is constantly changing
  2. People’s resistance to marketing messages continues to build. And banner blindness and receptivity to marketing messages, videos and images bombardment is rising.
  3. Conversion rates continue to fall as old tactics lose their power.
  4. Optimisation is a journey of constant measuring, testing and tweaking.

So it doesn’t mean a hands off auto-pilot and……..automated marketing isn’t set and forget.

But it does mean invoking HAL and getting the robots to do the boring stuff. Also it is not just one machine but multiple engines that are interlocked and need some planning, building and managing. 

The cogs in the machine

 The first cog is your website.

It starts with you designing and building your website for the social web and surround it with tools and technology that search engines and social networks love.

The second cog is content.

The next piece of the puzzle is the content. Creating and publishing it is just the start. Marketing it to the world is the next step. Ensure your content is easy to share when they show up and is pushed out after the publishing button has been punched.

The final cog? Focused digital marketing of your products and services.

Making sure that the products that sit at the epicenter of your website are tempting people enough to hand over their name, email and maybe even their phone number. Then taking them on the buyer’s journey.

Here is some of the tactics, technology and the tools to make this happen for your startup, blog or business.

Pillar One: Marketing your site

The agony over websites often comes down to colors. Green, red or blue? The arguments over the shades of grey are a distraction to the main game.

But it’s not how it looks but how it works.

The website marketing machine is a holistic approach to making sure that your site is doing the essentials well.

The 3 marketing fundamentals for any website come down to this: Search, social and email.

The social media consultants will tell you it’s all about Facebook with a little bit of Twitter or even LinkedIn thrown in. The content marketers will often tell you it’s all about engagement. Email marketers will focus on building a list.

But there are a lot parts in there mix. Forgetting about organic SEO can be a big oversight. Organic search results can generate over 50% of your traffic.

Many of us get stuck in single channel because we like to stay in our comfort zones. But that is a dangerous way to play. Always sticking with the known on a fast changing web is not to be recommended.

Some experimentation is needed to find new growth hacking tactics that may or may not work. Here are the top marketing channels and tactics we currently use to keep the website humming.

Posts are optimized for search engines before publishing:

Yoast is the top tool for WordPress sites and this is used every day.

Site is optimized for search engines:

Along with the basics like “pillar content” optimization, the speed of your website is important. The Google “Pagespeed tool” provides insights for your desktop and mobile site performance. You also will need a site map. The new focus along with the others is HTTPS. This makes helps in making your site secure. Your hosting provider can help with that and make sure your web developer does the redirect.

Email list building when traffic turns up from social and search:

The current top tools we are using include SumoMe and OptinMonster for “popups” and working quietly in the background and our marketing automation platform Infusionsoft sits in the ether whirring away collecting and managing the email marketing.

SumoMe Pop up

Landing pages designed and optimised:

This used to cost a lot of money and time but emerging technology means this can now be done in a few minutes and Leadpages is our preferred landing page builder. It also integrates well with Infusionsoft.

Marketing funnel sequences designed, created and optimised:

When people opt-in to your list it is the start of the conversation with your prospects and customers that you own.  I use a 6 step automated email sequence when you opt-in and download my ebooks.

Some of the best insights on this art and science can be found in these two books.  Russell Brunson’s Book “Dotcom Secrets: The Underground Book for Growing Your Company Online” and the Ryan Deiss’s book “Invisible Selling Machine

Grow the social networks:

Despite the myth that organic reach is dead the truth is that it is maybe diminished but it still brings 15-20% of my traffic. The big one for me is still Twitter. It’s role as a news breaking channel means that its organic reach far exceeds Facebook’s.

The tools I use to keep growing my Twitter followers is Tweepi that we use manually & Social Quant which grows your followers using automation. Growing Instagram followers is not big for traffic but is useful in the mix. The app we use for that is “Socially Rich”.

This journey to optimise the website should never stop. The biggest challenge is to make sure that the law of diminishing returns doesn’t lead to a waste of money and time. The Pareto Principle needs to be invoked.

Twenty percent of your efforts will produce 80% of your results. You just need to find out what that 20% is!

Pillar Two: Marketing The Content

Free content doesn’t make money. But it has some other superpowers. These include traffic generation, trust building and influence building.

A goal for some is not to become an internet marketer but a person of influence and content is where that happens on the social web. This influence can lead to paid speaking at conferences and even getting paid to share content on their blog or social channels.

Content needs to move

The hub and spoke approach is a model I have used since the start of social web adventures. It is not enough to just to put content on your own site and expect the world to discover it. The content at your hub needs to be distributed and move.

Push it out onto every spoke you can find.

Where do you start?

The blank page syndrome. It happens to all of us. What do you write about and what type of topics should you be creating videos for? The answer is this. If you want to write a lot and create a lot you need to read a lot.

Simple content marketing boils down to this: A relentless machine and process that pushes the content out to a waiting world. After its published then you need to share it everywhere and convert that attention into leads.

Headlines

The headline is where it starts……the attention grabber. Here are some quick tips.

  1. Create multiple headlines for the same article: – David Ogilvy was famous for having written over 100 headlines for one advertisement. Upworthy have taken this practice and woven it into their editorial process. Their first step and instruction to all their content creators. “You HAVE to crap out 25 headlines for every piece of content”
  2. Large list headlines while seeming to  be redundant and overdone do work!
  3. Using headlines that can be defined as having a “curiosity gap”
  4. Emotion is a key element for making people click and share
  5. Stack images in your articles. 10 images are more shareable than j

Here is an example of a curiosity gap that also was a quiz.

buzzfeed-single-22-viral-headlines-8

More resources for headlines:

Email

Send it to your email list, Make sure when you share it on email that it is just the excerpt to the post and not all of it. You want to tempt them to visit your website/blog.

Here is an example of an email I sent out a few days ago on the Topic of “5 Books That Will Change Your Life (and Business)”

email-excerpt

Social

Post it to your social networks. This includes your Twitter network and Facebook page. Then it’s Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin and even Flipboard. For me making sure that my content is shared multiple times on the first day on Twitter with great images and maybe using GIFs for a bit of fun and extra engagement.

Search

As a minimum make sure you are using an SEO plugin fir your WordPress blog and make sure that you have the basics right for making sure search engines can crawl and rank your content.

Here is an example of the “5 Books That Will Change Your Life (and business).

One quick point. SEO is an art and a science. The meta description is one of those art elements. It is the next thing people will read after the headline and often is the difference between a click to or a click away.

seo-yoast-5-books-that-will-change-your-life

Content marketing with a twist

Here are 4 tactics a bit out of the box.

  1. Twitter automation: This is where it starts to get interesting. Automating the tweets to be sent out regularly is vital. The tweets are sent out every 15 minutes and include the headline, a tempting image, 2-3 hashtags and a bit.ly link for tracking. The evergreen content is also shared every 6 days with no repeats. The tool: Socialoomph.
  2. Posting premium content on Medium – Maybe takes 5 minutes if you have a sip of coffee in the middle of this task.
  3. Publishing premium content on LinkedIn – This one is around 7 minutes with tagging, image loading and hash tagging
  4. Pushing the content to Flipboard – This is done with a simple widget in your browser. It takes one minute if you’re slow. But you will need to setup a personal page on Flipboard.

flipboard-5-books-post-traffic

Pillar Three: Marketing the Products

The first two pillars are about building an audience before you need them with your digital marketing machine. Creating an online brand is not a sprint but a marathon and establishing digital marketing assets is a long term game. So where is the audience showing up from that will buy your products and services?

  • Traffic from search engines built from content authority with ebooks, long form content and blog posts.
  • Traffic from your social media networks that you have grown over years of engagement and sharing.
  • Traffic from your email list that loves receiving your content in their inbox.

With traffic turning up from search, social and email and referral attention being driven from other embedded links and sites then your passive assets can become cash machines and ATM’s. A reward for your years of expertise distilled in a book(s) and online course(s).

Here are two core types of product marketing strategies.  

Passive product marketing

As you build traffic from organic sources such as social and search you need to make sure that you have the ability to convert that into leads and sales. Some obvious inclusions mean that you need to capture their attention when they show up. This includes:

  • Website banners – These don’t have high conversion rates and they are best used for affiliate revenue from trusted partners or for your own books and courses.
  • Website tabs – Again these will not convert  at a high rate but books and low cost great value for money courses will produce a good base revenue
  • Email opt-ins from the pop-ups offering free content (also known as Lead magnets).

With website traffic turning up every day the automation and optimisation of converting traffic into leads and sales is a piece of the revenue puzzle. The downside of this is that it doesn’t force a decision. Many people look but many don’t buy. This is where active marketing comes in. Putting in place a marketing funnel and campaign that creates an online decision making process.

Active product marketing

Active product marketing provides an essential element that doesn’t come from products and offers that are always available. That element is scarcity. Scarcity can be created by taking down the course, bonuses going away or the price going up.

What products and services can be sold using a launch process? There are many but here are the essential few.

  • Marketing online training
  • Launching a book
  • Running a mastery events
  • Selling access to a monthly subscription site that builds mastery

This will require creating a sales funnel that can be as simple as a simple funnel ending in a landing page for buying a $9.97 book right through to a much longer sequence when launching a $1,997 online training product. The rule of thumb is that the more expensive the product the longer the marketing funnel, education and sequence.

So what does one of those that sequences look like?

The “Product Launch Formula” made famous by Jeff Walker is maybe the best example of the cycle of content and events required to sell a 4 figure product online. This method is a tried and proven online marketing model that has been honed over the last 20 years.

To gain a deeper understanding of the model his book  “Launch” is essential reading.

Jeff Walker Book Launch

Image source: Amazon

It works on the tried and tested call to action strategies that include educating before asking for the order, building trust and credibility, creating scarcity and also providing evidence of social proof.

Distilled 5-step overview:

  1. Start with a premium opt-in lead magnet like a free e-book sent to your email list. You can also share this with your social networks.
  2. Continue to build your opt-ins for your product launch with a free PDF. These are quick and easy to create.
  3. Then the trust building and education commences with a series of the recommended three pre-recorded videos sent out that educates, shows social proof and continues to build credibility.
  4. This is then followed by the opening of the online shopping cart. This is the selling phase. The steps before this are the education process.
  5. The final phase is letting people know that the opportunity to buy is about to close. This last step is using scarcity to make people make a decision.

This process is necessary to help people make a decision as the principle of scarcity minimises the natural and human nature of procrastination.

Supercharging your product marketing

This process can be supercharged by collecting a group of other digital marketers and bloggers  to promote to their audience in exchange for a share of the revenue. This is where the maths can get exciting. Sign up 10 people who have an email list of 20,000 each to join the “launch” event and you then have an audience of 200,000. Convince 100 people to jump in and then you can reach a market of 2 million.

These collaborations and joint ventures can turn launches into multi-million dollar sales events.

But again……starting simple is the best place to commence. Launch and test with your own audience first.

Over to you

The digital marketing machine is many moving parts but like building a house it is one brick at a time. Mastery is not a quick fix but a persistent focus on where you want to go and the goals you want to achieve.

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