A successful internet marketing campaign has a lot of pieces – almost too many to easily convey to stakeholders what’s being done. In my previous job, we created a long and detailed monthly report that would break down most of what we did, but generally from the perspective of the results we were trying to generate.
There were plenty of bits and pieces that would get buried in the data and while I strongly encouraged team members to elaborate, there was no way to consistently report on all of it every single month.
To me this didn’t matter. The clients wanted to know what they were paying for, but more importantly, they wanted to know that what they were paying for was working. That they were investing in a sound product and getting a good return on that investment. The reporting showed what they were getting back from their investment (or not getting back in a handful of rare cases), and it succeeded for that reason.
So it’s not surprising to me that I get certain questions more than others – people wondering why their current investments aren’t working the way they expect them to. My new clients come to me with any number of concerns – the lack of results from a previous SEO engagement, the cost of content, the potential (or lack thereof) of a social media marketing campaign, and biggest of all, the massive cost and often small return of an advertising campaign.
The Growing Cost of Paid Search and Social Ads
As the digital business landscape has evolved, so too has the cost of advertising in it. Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and even smaller platforms like Twitter or Bing have increased in cost rapidly because the audience is so much more robust, active, and ubiquitous in 2016 than it was in 2006.
It’s hard to imagine a time before PPC advertising as a vital component of a digital marketing campaign (or a time before digital marketing campaigns), but it was only a decade ago that advertising online was a scattershot enterprise, done with banners and animated gifs.
Today, savvy advertisers target thousands of very specific keywords in tightly defined markets with weekly or even daily review and turnaround on bids, placement and ad copy. It’s the single fastest moving and most revised component of a digital marketing campaign. Google PPC is such a big beast and so deeply entwined with the vagaries and technicalities of Google’s search engine, that it requires an expert – a single person whose sole job is to do amazing things behind the scenes. And it can be very costly if you don’t have that person.
The Lead Question
Which brings me back to the big question I get from new clients and business owners I meet and discuss marketing strategy with. The number of leads they are currently getting with an advertising campaign, and it all comes back to the holistic nature of digital marketing.
The problem with a lot of PPC advertising campaigns and SEM agencies that focus on them is that they approach paid search in a vacuum. They create landing pages, update site copy, and run ads without considering the impact of outside factors or the way in which these campaigns can benefit from other non-paid tactics.
Here’s a prime example:
Several years ago I worked with a locksmith in Wisconsin who was running paid ads in Google for about $1,000 a month. He was targeting a number of local keywords and driving that traffic back to one of three landing pages – a general one, a local targeted one for his biggest market, and a consultation form.
The conversion rate was not good. He was spending close to $300 per lead, getting only 3-4 new leads per month with his $1,000 spend. For a locksmith whose average order size was between $200 and $500, he was barely coming out ahead. Not losing money, but not growing his business either, and the cost of having someone manage that campaign was bringing him very close to a break even.
His first question to me was “how can I get more leads from my ad budget?”. I looked at the following five things:
The keywords being targeted – The keyword groups weren’t bad. They were related to specific problems and pain points his customers might have, and they were effectively geotargeted to people in his immediate area. The real issue here was that his website didn’t reflect these keywords. Quality scores were middling and he was paying too much for his ads because the website had no local content, nor did it cover those specific problems.
Landing page design – He wasn’t using specific landing pages that related to his keyword groups. Someone would click on a very targeted ad for “24 hour locksmith, kenosha, Wisconsin” and end up on the homepage for a generic looking locksmith that didn’t mention Kenosha or Wisconsin. I recommended creating a new landing page for each of the ad groups that were running (about a dozen).
Clear conversion points – The ads were targeting problems, but his website did not. Because of this the above two points became issues. We created new content on the site targeting specific problems people might have that would lead them to call a locksmith. These were split between an FAQ and a blog that we started scheduling weekly posts on. The content would eventually help drive traffic organically, but also offered support for the claims made by his ads.
Ad timing and placement – The ads were being run 24 hours a day, because he was a 24-hour locksmith. The problem, however, was that it was being shown evenly throughout the day. After speaking to his sales and support team, we determined that the best hours for a locksmith are actually between 10am and 5pm – the majority of his work was contractor or home owner related, not emergency lockouts. So we adjusted the spend. Second, for those ads that do run late at night, we shifted the spend to mobile devices where people are most likely to be looking for a locksmith at 1am.
Created educational content – The assumption was that all of his customers were locked out and needed an emergency service right away. But these lockouts only made up about 25% of his business and he didn’t want it to grow – getting pulled out of bed at 1:30 am by someone locked out of their apartment after a long night drinking is not a fun way to build a business. So we shifted strategy, creating content about the types of locks one might consider for a new house, how to ensure keys are not duplicated, and other tips that were useful to homeowners and contractors who might consider a locksmith. We gated this content on landing pages and ran ads pointing to it.
The end result of all these changes was an increase in lead generation of 175% in the first month. Granted that was only an additional 5 leads, but it meant a cost per lead drop of nearly $200 from $300 to $117 and an increase in business. That number continued to improve over the next three months, but more importantly, all that new content on the website started to generate organic leads through Google search.
People found him for keywords like “Kenosha Wisconsin locksmith” organically. The total ROI on these efforts grew over time instead of dropping off, and eventually he was able to cut his ad budget.
The Next Step with Ad Spend
This is a question I get a lot, and unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer to it. Some inbound agencies will tell clients that paid search has no value. I disagree. Content marketing and inbound techniques are important, but if you can’t drive traffic to all of the new content you created, it won’t do anything.
Paid search allows you to drive immediate traffic to high quality content and recoup your investment much faster than if you waited the 6-9 months it now takes for a dedicated SEO campaign to really kick in. But the way straight SEM tactics approach paid search isn’t effective anymore either.
Paid search can’t work in a vacuum, nor will those ads convert effectively if there isn’t a smarter approach to creating content that delivers on the promises of the ads being run. So the next time you are doing a review of your ad spend and wondering just how many leads you should or could be getting out of that budget, stop looking at the ads themselves and look closer at the content you are sending people to with those ads.
I guarantee you’ll find more than a small share of things that can be changed for the better.
Learn how to get more from your landing pages and boost your conversion rates for ongoing campaigns with our new optimization checklist:
Content needs to speak the same language as the people reading it. Generic content, content that doesn’t touch on the specific needs or concerns of your audience, and content that glosses over major concerns that your audience might have, just doesn’t work.
What does work is carefully researched content that a prospect will read as written directly for them.
But how do you create that kind of content – how do you get so far into the head of your prospects that they think you’re writing to them and them only?
Here are five tips from a top digital strategist to help master and emulate how your target prospects talk about their problems and engage them through content.
Spend Time Where They Spend Time – Go to the websites, forums, groups, and other online places that these individuals spend time. LinkedIn groups are especially effective to evaluate the types of conversations that are held professionally. Don’t necessarily restrict this to online either. Meetup groups, mixers, and conferences are equally effective for this type of research.
Subscribe to their Blogs and Social Profiles– Select a small group of people who are representative of the target audience you are trying to reach. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other platforms on which they regularly post. Check their blog, interact with them through comments and direct messages. Get to know their voice and their concerns in the way they naturally communicate.
Ask Your Existing Customers – Go to the people you already know. This is your richest pool of potential data; people who have had the problems you solve and that you have already worked with. Ask your sales team to provide answers to common questions you are preparing in advance of your marketing campaign or to share the common questions that their prospects ask.
Interview or Survey Target Demographics – Create a blind survey and ask those very same questions to people who you haven’t previously interacted with so you can avoid the bias that comes with it. This will cost money if you don’t have a list of people already that you can send it to, but for 200-300 answers, it’s well worth the investment to learn more about the common concerns and questions they have. Make sure each question is open ended to encourage written answers.
Test Different Types of Content with What You Learn – Finally, don’t be afraid to test different types of content and ask for feedback. Write content, produce videos, and post to social media based on what you learn, and then take that content to people you know in your target audience and ask them for feedback. Ask them to provide thoughts and questions about the content you wrote and elaborate on what might need to be changed or added.
It can seem time consuming, and at times redundant to do this kind of research, especially if you’ve been in the industry for some time. But the extra time spent will be well worth it when you understand on a much more direct basis what people need and how they describe those needs.
The next step is to create that content and start promoting it. Learn how to ensure your site is ready for the spike in inbound marketing activity you’re about to begin with our Marketing Ready checklist.
Remember the days when marketing was a blood sport? When it required a ruthless approach to your competitors, deep pockets, and a scorched earth approach to capturing your “share” of the public’s attention so you could generate more leads?
Things sure have changed. Like many industries, the Internet has democratized marketing – but unlike other industries, that democratization hasn’t weakened or marginalized career fields (sorry travel agents). Rather, it has strengthened the power of a good marketing team – to the point that the average marketing budget has actually increased year over year for the last five years.
And it’s all about content. Today’s best marketing thought leaders are those that develop powerful, engaging, and most importantly, useful content for their readers. Content that solves problems, builds relationships, and guides readers in their pursuits. It also happens to capture email addresses, enter prospects into sales funnels, and generate significantly greater ROI toward sales than the scorched earth approach.
The best part of all? It’s accessible. You don’t need a six figure budget to write a really kickass eBook. You just need to know your audience and want to help.
If you are new to content marketing and are eager to learn how it works, and more importantly, how all those eBooks and blog posts generate more leads, here are 7 tips to do the same for your business.
Tip 1 – Identify Exactly Who Your Target Audience Includes
Without a doubt, you are probably an expert in your field. You know your business inside and out. No marketing agency or consultant could match what you know about your prospects. Why then are your marketing materials so generic?
An effective content marketing campaign strips out all the guessing, all the broad approach content, and all the 101-level “here you go” content from the start. You need to know exactly who your ideal audience includes and what their problems are.
HubSpot identifies this as a buyer persona and they get so specific as to give their avatars names and back stories. Imagine you are writing your book for one person – what does that one person (your ideal customer) need from you? How can you solve their problems? The subsequent book will be written with much cleaner, more focused language as a result.
If you’re not sure exactly how to break this down, perform an audit of your best customers. Who are the decision makers from those companies and how did you originally approach them? This is the core you’ll be focusing on.
Tip 2 – Answer Specific Questions in the Language They Recognize
The next step is to speak and respond in the language they best understand. Never assume anything when developing content for a marketing campaign. Here’s what we use when evaluating a target audience:
Social Media – How do they interact on social media? Which thought leaders do they follow and what kind of content do those people produce?
Groups and Forums – Visit LinkedIn Groups and industry forums and read the conversations being held. What are the most common problems cited and what language is used to discuss and solve those problems?
Sales Teams – The sales team has the best insights into the problems held by these individuals. Ask your sales team to provide common questions and concerns and the exact language used to describe those. Recorded calls can even help here.
To make your point and ensure someone finds value in that content, you need to provide answers in the same language and urgency with which the questions are asked.
Tip 3 – Create an Automatic Followup Machine
It’s relatively easy to generate more leads with content online. Write an eBook or White Paper and drive traffic to it (which you can do with ads) to capture information. But someone downloading an eBook is not necessarily a qualified sales lead.
Content marketing is an active process that manages a large portion of the nurturing that was historically done by the sales team. Email marketing in particular is incredibly important, with 73% of businesses saying this is crucial to all of their marketing efforts, and overall ROI surpassing social media by 20%.
The reason why is simple. Email allows you to followup with your prospects on autopilot – sending more information to them at set intervals and creating touch points every 2-4 weeks that keep you top of mind.
This “top of mind” mentality is incredibly important because your prospects will go in and out of research mode multiple times before they ever approach “buying” mode.
HubSpot has a version of the above graphic that breaks it down into 3-4 steps. I like this one slightly better because it shows the nuance between stages, but the core concept is the same – A lead is not just a lead.
That individual is in a certain state of mind. The type of content they download from your website and the type of interaction they have with your business will determine what type of lead they are. Someone downloading an eBook about “how IT services work” is an Explorer – someone just getting started.
Even if they download more than one piece of content they are still relatively high in the funnel. It’s when they start asking you specific questions, attending webinars, or replying to emails you send that they approach sales-qualified. But if you don’t followup with an automated machine that creates multiple possible touch points, it’s impossible to know when this will happen.
Automation can be done in a number of ways. The simplest is with an email autoresponder that sends canned messages every 1-2 weeks. There are more, however. Website content that matches or changes to match the customer’s information is a great starting point as well.
Tip 4 – Diversify the Content You Create
Content is a broad term. It can mean any number of different mediums – blog posts and eBooks to be sure, but also infographics, videos, social graphics, and even audio clips. Visual content is processed 60,000X faster than just text by the brain and can have a much stronger impact when trying to capture someone’s attention online.
Additionally, keep in mind that not everyone learns the same way. Some people prefer to listen to information. Others are more hands on and want to do something with the information they are given.
There is no single type of content that will cover the needs of your target audience. Diversify with the same message across multiple mediums and you’ll provide a more complete solution.
Tip 5 – Be Consistent and Highly Active in All Channels
One of the biggest mistakes you can make with a content marketing campaign is the “burst and wait”. So much work goes into creating a single good piece of content that people tend to get very excited and blast it out as soon as it is completed.
The problem with this strategy (or lack thereof) is that once you send out your content – by email, blog post, and social media – what’s next? If you don’t have anything else on tap, all of your freshly engaged leads will quickly dry up and find their information elsewhere.
A good content marketing campaign relies on two things – relevance and consistency. So your content needs to be engaging and relevant – targeting the specific problems you know this audience has – and it needs to be delivered at set intervals.
Frequency will depend on your audience, but a good starting point is to have weekly touch points of some sort. Here’s a breakdown of what we recommend as “minimum” engagement benchmarks:
Social – Daily
Blog – Weekly
Email – Bi-weekly
Download – Monthly
With four tiers of content delivered at varying intervals, you can engage with your prospects constantly without spamming them through a single channel. There is some overlap here (you will likely send an email and write a blog post to drive traffic to your new eBook), but the end result is upwards of 10 new touch points per week for your prospects, depending on where they connect with you.
Tip 6 – Ignore All of Your Preconceptions
It’s easy to make assumptions about your audience. You are, after all, an expert in what you do. But marketing is a tricky science. I’ve been working with business leaders and fellow marketers for more than ten years and in that time, I’ve been wrong as often as (and probably more than) I’ve been right.
The Achilles Heel of any good marketing team is assumption. Assuming you know how something will perform or making decisions based on what you’ve seen work or not work in other campaigns or on competitor websites can pigeonhole you to the point of failure.
Data is incredibly important in what the top inbound marketing companies do. I don’t make decisions without having a mechanism in place to test my hypothesis or at least run it through a smell test to determine if it’s wroth investing in.
It’s also a very effective way of trying something new for your organization without getting pushback from other decision makers. If you’re only “running a test”, there’s no long term commitment. If the test works, you look good and are given the thumbs up to continue. If it doesn’t, you probably don’t want to continue anyways.
There are a number of mechanisms you can use to test your ideas. Just be sure to actually do it before investing in an idea.
Tip 7 – Create a High Converting Machine on Your Website
Last but by no means least is the machinery used to deliver your content.
If you want to generate more leads with the content you create and ensure that people not only find it, but engage with it so you can followup in a sales capacity, you need a good machine on your website to do everything listed above.
There are three components to a good website “machine”:
Strong user experience that engages the visitor
Technically sound platform to perform in search engines
High converting CTAs and landing pages to drive conversions
Each of these points lies with a member of your marketing team – #1 with your designer, #2 with your SEO, and #3 with the strategy and CRO experts.
Unfortunately, it’s number 3 that frequently gets overlooked. The “sexiness” of a new website or high Google rankings often overshadow the utilitarian value of a revamped headline on your top converting landing page, but here’s why this is arguably the most important part of the formula.
The average website converts at between 0.5% and 1% when we start working with it. This is historically what I’ve seen from the majority of “fresh” sites that have minimal digital marketing history.
A good benchmark for a B2B website after update is 1.5% to 2%. That number can be achieved through redesign and content optimization. I’ve seen new sites launch before that instantly doubled conversions, simply through revamping user experience and clarifying conversion points.
But there’s more. When landing pages are overhauled, rewritten, and targeted to the very specific people that they can most benefit, the conversion rate reaches upwards of 3% to 3.5%. Top performers cap out above 4% conversion across the website.
Imagine what that means. If your website goes from 0.5% to 4% conversion rate, you will be generating 8 TIMES more leads than you were before the updates were made. That’s a substantial difference. I’ve seen businesses get overwhelmed by the new volume, unable to keep up with the influx of people who need to be called every single day. It’s that powerful.
A good landing page will make a huge difference in your lead generation efforts. Don’t overlook just how important this can be.
What’s the Next Step
With all of this said, there are a number of things you can do right now to get your website marketing ready and start benefiting from the value that good content can offer.
We’ve crafted an eBook to get you started that discusses the 17 things you can and should do to make your website as Marketing Ready as possible for the new visitors that you hope to drive there. From content creation to SEO updates and conversion page optimization, these are 17 quick tips you can work on right now to start improving your conversion rate and using content to generate leads for your business.
Not the big corporate ones or the trendy startups, but the average IT services, financial advisory, or non-profit blog?
It’s full of company news, hiring announcements, and industry jargon that means very little to anyone not already in the know.
All of which is fine if the goal is to provide periodic updates, add new things to the website every few weeks, and look like a large, professional firm.
But if your goal is something more? What if your aim is not just to push content out, but to attract and educate prospects, pulling them into your marketing funnel as potential customers?
Content marketing needs something more robust than just another fluffy company news piece. It needs to be educational, actionable, and interesting.
All of which can seem difficult in heavily technical industries with complex topics that don’t lend themselves well to short form write-ups. Which is why it’s so important to find areas that are of equal interest to your prospects. Let’s look at three ways you can do this and how that “outside topic” content can push your content marketing efforts over the edge.
Look at their Role, Not Title
To a IT services firm in Salt Lake, every business that contacts them has roughly the same problems, so it’s easy to start thinking that’s the thing they want to read about.
But the CTO or IT Director for a company has a lot of other things on their plate. Onboarding new software solutions, reducing costs in certain areas, streamlining operations, working with the development team more seamlessly, or just being more productive on a personal level.
Evaluate the role your target audience plays in their organizations and look for common concerns they share that you can write about. Forget the title or the conversations you have and focus on what their real pain points are each day.
Expertise Builds Trust
Businesses are started every year by people with a passion for what they do. Doctors, scientists, lawyers, bakers, and a hundred other specialties might go into a field that seems otherwise well outside their area of expertise.
Data scientists running a board game company. Doctors launching software applications. Programmers kicking off a non-profit venture.
These are common situations, and all-too often, the founders will focus on what they now sell, not what they know best. Don’t let your current business venture bury the expertise of your leadership. Get out there and showcase it, talk about your new business in the context of what you did before, and show that you are an expert in your field. People will trust you because of it, not despite it.
Have Some Fun!
For B2B companies, the prospect of having a little fun can seem to run counter to your goals. You have a professional audience with professional needs and the last thing you want to do is push out goofy, unprofessional content that they might not appreciate.
But that doesn’t mean every one of your blog posts or videos should be a dry, boring slog through the intricacies of your industry.
Get creative and showcase what you can do that’s different. The decision makers in your target audience look at a LOT of websites and read a lot of content – if yours stands out for being fun, irreverent, colorful, or flashy in a fun but professional way, they will remember it. And the topics don’t have to be directly related to what you do.
Building Content That’s Fun to Read and Watch
The goal of a good content marketing campaign is to educate and entertain. We all too often get caught up in the former, thinking every one of our posts needs to be the same dry, educational content we’ve been writing for years.
And it will work. That content is important because it answers questions and showcases expertise. But it’s the latter that will set you apart from the competition, showing why you’re a one of a kind business that companies will want to work with.
That’s something that will really set you above and beyond the rest. Ready to learn more about how your content can exceed expectations and wow your prospects?