Infographics are taking over the earth! At least it seems that way. There has been an explosion of infographics on the web — in both B2C and B2B — literally illustrating that a picture is indeed worth a thousand words. But before we get into what makes a good one, let's define what an infographic is and why they have reached the tipping point.
Infographics are graphical representations of content that would alternatively require a lot of words or that would be difficult to glean without previous knowledge of the subject. So, it is essentially visual shorthand for weaving a qualitative story, often from quantitative content.
The facility for rendering complex data in simpler terms is a coveted skill. The way in which people absorb content on the web these days is like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower. Attention spans are short and getting shorter as is time to focus and reflect. If content creators can distill complex narratives into compelling, easy-to-comprehend visuals, visitors to their websites are more likely to engage with them.
The key ingredients of a good infographic are:
- A cohesive and coherent story line
- A series of concise, clearly worded headlines from which one can "get the gist"
- Simple storytelling graphic style, Icons can work very well
- Simple, clean font style, avoid lots of flourishes
- Not trying to do "too much"
- Test out the graphic among lay people before releasing to a wider audience
Here are a few infographics I've come upon lately, which do a particularly good job making a lot of content easy to digest.
Not surprisingly, HubSpot has created and compiled a top ten collection of cool infographics related to the field of marketing. Each represents a different concept and is rendered in a different visual format. The configuration of text, graphics, fonts, icons and colors is chosen specifically to solve the visual problem. The great thing about Infographics is that they grow organically from the data so developing one is a unique creative experience yielding a unique result. Because of their custom nature, most infographics are not template based, although I've seen a few starter infographic toolkits mostly directed toward non-designers. These may be helpful for people not comfortable visualizing, but tend to yield more cookie cutter solutions.
This Fast Company interactive infographics depicts the multiple ways a business can rank its profits, such as by project, by state, by customer and so forth. This one is actually a collection of single infographics representing one view of company profits at a time, which can be accessed by simply clicking an arrow.
For sports fans, this infographic provides 10 years of data on whether spring training improves batting averages.
You can see that whatever the quantitative problem, there is a unique and compelling way to simplify and visualize it in an infographic. Have you seen any cool infographics lateley? Please share.
It's 2013 – do you know where your marketing is? The thought should scare you, a bit. Or at least scare you into action. Chances are, your prospects are online, and if they're not, they will be soon. In the meantime, there are still people online talking about your brand, services, successes, and shortcomings. Why risk your reputation by ignoring this community or by alienating them with outdated marketing techniques?
Inbound marketing gives you all of the tools necessary to move your company forward in harnessing this opportunity. But first, you need to assess where you could be falling short in your current marketing strategy.
Outdated: You're stuck on communicating “How good we are”
Modern: You help your prospects determine “What’s the right solution for you?”
Put quite simply: the internet has created empowered consumers. They now have the time, ability, resources, and interest in researching every option before making a decision – it's all at the tip of their tablet-driven fingers. With this shift in perception, site visitors are now looking at your company with one goal in mind: determining if you have the right product or solution to meet their needs.
Despite this, too many businesses are still approaching their marketing strategy with the old mentality of "we need to showcase just how good our product is." And while in the time of baby boomer marketing a flashy "come see how shiny this is" strategy was enough to sway your audience, today, it will only alienate them. Because today, deciding on a product or service is no longer about choosing the one you've seen the most commercials for, but is rather about choosing the one that best meets your needs.
This decision is hardly made solely on outbound marketing anymore; it has shifted to organic search, online reviews and recommendations, active social relationships, and valuable content that shapes the purchasing decision. Your website messaging, social media participation, SEO, and content marketing strategies should all be founded on a new goal of informing the visitor. Because in the end, an informed prospect is going to a smart prospect, and will lead to high quality retainer relationships for your business.
You want the consumer who wants you, not the one that is unsure.
Outdated: You employ keyword stuffing and empty link building
Modern: You understand the importance of creating relevant content
Things that Google does not factor into its algorithm: overdone on-page keyword copy, keywords in meta descriptions
Things that Google flags as negative or punishes in its algorithm: keyword stuffing, faulty or spam link building, non-relevant page copy, pages with too many ads, content farms
Things that Google awards in its algorithm: page freshness, specific, targeted URLs and page titles, human-like copy, relevant content, social media sharing
As a search engine, Google's #1 prioirity continues to be rewarding content that is written for the reader and not for the ranking. It is always crucial to set your site up properly for SEO and to maintain important keywords to inform messaging and traffic patterns. But these SEO tactics must be used in tandem with original, fresh content creation that benefits the searcher, not to trick him or her into visiting your site. And certainly not to trick Google into ranking your site higher.
These outdated SEO are no longer sneaky enough to outsmart the system. They are also a waste of any good marketer's time or effort. Instead of compiling your Black Hat SEO Playbook, concentrate on creating the kind of content that will be naturally rewarded for its successes, and that will maintain the reader's interest because it (point #1) gives them a solution, or at least a little education.
3. Awareness and Retention
Outdated: You rely on push marketing techniques alone (ads, direct mail, cold calling)
Modern: You embrace online engagement
Billboards, magazine ads, commercials, radio jingles, brochures, telemarketing – all push marketing techniques, all things that are hard to measure, show little ROI, and can be an annoyance or turn off. And through it all, have you actually ever spoken to a prospect?
Great marketing (and new business development) only grow from facilitating relationships online. Top companies use social media to pose questions, share knowledge, create discussion, and provide human resource support. They blog often, provide personalization, and use marketing automation or actual sales and marketing team members to communicate with prospects, leads, and customers, pinpointing exactly what kind of resource is needed at each turn.
Once a potential client is familiar with your brand and willing to purchase your product or service, social engagement must continue to be a main point of communication, and especially reflect the previous points of providing the right content and value. It's also about continued listening: 70% of brands ignore complaints on Twitter, and yet 83% of socially savvy consumers have walked away from a purchase in the past year after a negative customer service experience – compared with 49% of everyone else (The Social Skinny). And while the risk factor is great, the reward is even higher: according to the same source, 55% of people share their purchases socially on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites, essentially, doing your marketing for you.
Outdated: You count too much on your CEO's gut feeling
Modern: You actively harness critical behavioral data
The emergence of website analytics does not mean creativity in marketing has died; it means it has been validated. A/B testing, page performance, sharing statistics, conversion rates – all of these available analytics serve to prove all that your creative (visual or content-based) can accomplish. They also serve to make it better.
Human intuition, humor, and the creative process are brilliant things to bring to the table, and should never be taken for granted. But now, when it comes to creating effective marketing campaigns, the behavioral data available today is one of the most powerful tools you can use to build upon these initial intuitive ideas.
Now it's possible to improve campaigns continiously, to funnel leads and grow sales, to fine-tune your website and branding according to user interaction, and to show proven results at the end of the day. It's no longer about basing your marketing entirely (and blindly, I might add) on your CEO's gut feeling of what works from his or her perspective, but rather about considerately tapping into the analytics at hand to build a comprehensive and successful marketing program.
In the ever-expanding world of internet marketing, data is becoming increasingly available and valuable. Analytics are the benchmark of good reporting and proof of that ever-pesky ROI, and are even useful in highlighting more qualitative results, like brand loyalty and emotional connection.
In 2012, what is a marketer without data to streamline engagement, acquisition, and retention of customers and clients?
And, in 2012, what is a good marketer without the thirst to hone his or her craft by harnessing more effective data?
This is where B2B marketers especially have the ability to learn from each other’s experiences and accumulate shared perspectives.
In a partnership with Eloqua and CMO.com, research firm Software Advice has launched a 2012 B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey to ask questions on the future of lead generation, focusing primarily on:
- What demand-gen channels do your peers find most successful?
- Will they be spending more or less on leads next year, and for what channels?
- What content and offers deliver the best results?
Utilizing the input of B2B marketers, the report generated from the survey will highlight demand-gen programs compared across industry peers and experts.
As a marketing agency that continues to learn and evolve with each new project and client, this kind of crowdsourced data provides us an opportunity to compare our understanding with others in similar situations. As a result, we have an enhanced ability to improve upon our programs and client work.
Yes, this is all relatively straightforward. But so is this survey – hence the beauty in participating. And at times it’s important to remind ourselves of the resources at hand, and that there is still so much still yet to learn.
Inbound marketing is often passed over in favor of traditional marketing because it seems too complex or involving too much time. But in most cases, inbound marketing is more cost-effective, measurable, and successful… when done correctly.
As with any marketing effort, these campaigns must be based on a larger company marketing goals and planned with the right resources. In essence, they must be strategic in order to be successful; we’ve outlined five things needed to create those programs.
1. Clear sales and marketing goals
A bit of brutal honesty: your marketing goal cannot be “to generate more leads.” It cannot be “to gain more customers.” When a waiter asks what you want at a restaurant, you do not say, “Yes, I would like some food.”
Specific goals are the foundation of successful inbound marketing campaigns: “I want to generate 100 new qualified leads through our free trial program in September” will make for a stronger program because of its definability. This definition grows not just from revenue goals, but also from a larger marketing strategy. As a company, what are your goals for growth, culture, and brand awareness?
Similarly, this marketing goal has to align with sales efforts: what is the minimum number of leads your sales team can and should be following up on? What does each department need to bring to the table in order to combine efforts seamlessly? Internal alignment of goals and strategy is integral first step in producing a great campaign.
2. An understanding of key metrics
Like establishing well-defined marketing goals, outlining the right success metrics allows for clearer tracking and measurement. In other words, these metrics should quickly and easily track positive campaign results.
What are the 5-10 key metrics that would best highlight these results: number of leads, cost per lead, total customer conversions, content downloads, blog subscribers, website visits? Identify these prior to launch so that you can implement all of the necessary tracking analytics and create a benchmark report for your current site performance.
3. Resources and responsibility
We hear again and again that the biggest roadblock in launching successful inbound marketing campaigns is a lack of company resources. There are simply not enough people to create content, actively monitor analytics and create reports, and tweak campaigns during the length of the program.
Thankfully, this is why you have a partner.
Chief tasks, including content creation and measurement, can be delegated to members of your marketing team, company services specialists, your partner marketing agency, or outside copywriters and brand journalists. It’s not just a matter of responsibility, but also one of curating new ideas on content topic, formatting (eBook, webinar, blog post), and marketing channels. Use your team’s best assets to delegate appropriately and maximize output.
4. Supporting data and measurement
Another factor in resources is ensuring the ability to monitor measurement and maintain a set standard of data. Think of data as part of the flow, not an end point: data is used to show concrete results; results are used to determine goal completion; goal completion is used to measure campaign effectiveness; campaign effectiveness is used to evaluate current and future marketing strategy.
Data should not sit stagnant in your Google Analytics account; it should be your most powerful tool in ensuring a successful campaign. Did it meet expectations? Where were there surprises, weaknesses? Do the numbers reflect your initial goals and expectations? Active measurement ensures that your campaign is performing to the best of its ability, or, if not, leads to point #5.
5. Continuous improvement
Content and campaigns need to be improved, using key analytics, to keep you on track with your goal. The most effective way is to look for lagging points in the data and make tweaks to the content, offer, requirements, and channel distribution accordingly. This is a surprisingly easy way to progress your inbound marketing programs in a timely fashion.
But those aren’t the only aspects of improvement; those are just the tactical ones.
Improvement is also based on analyzing the completion and results of your campaigns and evaluating leads and customers. Where is the quality? Is this the right audience? Was the sales process longer than anticipated? Analytics from hard data are a great way to measure a campaign’s effectiveness; but as a company, you must look holistically at how these inform your marketing goals to the point where they reflect the bigger picture of your brand and clients or customers.
What have you found are indicators of success in your marketing campaigns?
Leading technology companies today face one undeniable marketing fact that many other industries can conveniently ignore for the time being: in order to highlight your technology as the best in the field, you must have a substantial online marketing presence.
And I’m not just saying that because I’m a strong believer in internet marketing for all businesses.
I’m saying it because as an avid consumer of modern technology, apps, marketing analytics and platforms, and contemporary gadgets, I expect a higher lever of online culture and communication from companies that I identify as savvy tech leaders.
So, how do you approach marketing your tech product online? We've outlined four intial strategies to get you started.
Market Ahead of Time
Building anticipation can be an often-overlooked tactic in successfully promoting a tech product or app. During development, identify where your target audience spends time online and what they are looking for in terms of a tech solution. Create introductions through forums, news sites, and with clever banner ads and online announcements.
Maintaining mystery and creating intrigue will create a demand for your product before it’s available to the public.
If it fits properly with your overarching launch goals, you can also introduce the product or service initially by invitation only. Google+, Pinterest, and flash sales sites like Gilt and Rue La La have garnered an incredible amount of clout and a clamoring of customers by launching initially exclusively by invite.
Invest Heavily in Social Media and Online Communities
If your audience is consistently using an app, purchasing high-quality tablets, smartphones, and laptops, and integrating technology into their online and offline lives fluently, you can bet they are simultaneously: following their favorite brands and products on Twitter, expecting exclusive content on Facebook, and looking for the most up-to-date industry information on your blog.
As a tech leader, your audience is expecting you to be accessible and active through all popular social media platforms. Similarly, they are expecting immediate answers to questions and posed problems. This can be done successfully through social media sites, but also through online communities like Quora, which serve as discussion platforms.
If you have the funds, invest in creating your own online community were customers can come for immediate and expert service, and where they can share their experiences and stories about your product or service.
Evernote, the leader in organizational apps for businesses on the go, has a solid, branded Twitter presence with an abundance of followers that is posted to regularly and is a source of news and information.
In addition, the company has an interactive blog with a number of sections, including one called “Our Notes,” which serves to update customers on updates, down times, and product use suggestions.
Prioritize Dynamic Content
Videos, Infographics, Quizzes; these are some of the highest lead-generating content tools at your disposal today.
To illustrate this, here’s an infographic from Smart Insights.
Think of PR, Reviews, and Link Building as One
Garnering online reviews from tech journals, articles from news sites (like Mashable and TechCrunch), and blog posts from industry leaders may have all fallen under the umbrella of public relations in the past, but now, are part of a larger strategy of gaining PR online whilst simultaneously working on gathering strong referral links back to your website to drive traffic and qualified leads to becoming customers.
Referral links not only funnel visitors back to your site who are interesting in your product and content, but give your website strength, and validate it as a strong source of related information in the eyes of Google.
TechCrunch reviewed app giant Instagram back in 2010 before it officially launched (double whammy: early promotion for interest generation + high-profile online review).
So, have you been successful in employing these tactics? Are there any you would recommend?
We like to say that your website is a living, growing thing; it's not static, but rather constantly changing. Many people believe that maintaining a website is a lot of unnecessary work, so we've brainstormed six quick ways to revitalize your website that will improve your design, marketing, and visitor engagement.
1. Update your SEO
If you’ve got your company name in every page title on your website, you’ve got a problem. Take a look at your organic search and see what opportunities you’re missing. Revitalizing your website SEO can help bring in new traffic and potential customers, and strengthen your existing site in the eyes of Google.
2. Create simple calls-to-action
Adding calls-to-action on your homepage and select secondary pages is a great way to reflow traffic, bring in new leads, and spice up your current design with minimal effort. It shows that your business is on top of modern marketing practices and draws the eye in a distinctly visual way. Our blog post on what makes an effective call-to-action is a good place for inspiration.
3. Make sure latest content is highlighted on the homepage
Haven’t updated the “news and events” or “articles” section on your homepage in months? Yeah, your visitors have noticed. It’s a good bet that your homepage is the most viewed page on your site. Instead of thinking of it as a welcome mat, think of it as a welcome center – a place where visitors can come for the most up-to-date information about your business, employees, and industry. Engaging visitors here means higher site engagement and a lower bounce rate.
4. Add current case studies and client projects
Chances are, potential customers are visiting your website to see your portfolio and examples of past projects. Seeing success stories from a couple years ago won’t inspire confidence in your current offerings. Updating your case studies with stories, findings, and photos is a simple way to generate more interest and remain current.
5. Revise the copy on secondary detail pages
Things change, and if you’re in an industry that is constantly developing, revising copy on your important secondary pages is a great way to stay fresh for your visitors and for Google. It’s also a great opportunity to update your internal links to other pages on your website or to your partners and clients.
6. Update your website images
Do your website images look like this?
Or worse, like this?
Old images, bad stock images, or a lack of images can all hurt your website. They instantly make a site look outdated and unprofessional. Changing up your images with professionally photographed company events or well-chosen stock photography gives the appearance of a redesign without any of the work.
Once you have a plan for all of these elements in place – fresh content, calls-to-action, improved SEO, and quality images – you can easily maintain the habit of updating your website and keeping it current, engaging, and interesting for your audience.
The Wall Street Journal broke the news on Wednesday that automobile giant General Motors has decided to discontinue its Facebook advertising efforts, which previously accounted for $10 million of its $1.8 billion ad spending.
GM ultimately decided that “paid ads on the site had little impact on consumers’ car purchases,” after two weeks of meetings with Facebook executives. This decision comes off the heels of Facebook’s IPO announcement and its 2012 statement of advertising revenue, which totaled $3.1 billion.
GM will continue to promote its products on Facebook, but has dropped all Facebook ads.
As a result, Facebook ads have been getting a lot of heat for being ineffective and unnecessary. It’s too soon to tell if GM’s actions will inspire other companies to jump ship, but there has certainly been a lot of speculation on what exactly this decision means.
But just because GM has concluded Facebook ads don’t work for their business model doesn’t mean that the ads are unsuccessful for all businesses.
Facebook ads are not the right channel for every business. They can work really well for businesses that want to segment their ads to different audiences based on this personal information they willingly provide on Facebook.
For a B2C company that relies heavily on imagery and visuals, it’s not surprising that GM had little success with Facebook ads. A social media ad most likely isn’t going to influence a large purchasing decision, but can be influential in harnessing individual data and funneling that into a reasonable target audience.
If you’re a B2B company seeking out clients, and have the ad revenue to utilize Facebook ads, you can use them to define this target audience by:
- Job title
- Professional groups
- Professional interests
- Past employment
GM will have a higher success rate with television ads; that doesn’t mean your B2B business will.
Additionally, Facebook is constantly working to improve their ad effectiveness:
Of course, the only way to determine if Facebook ads are a fit for your company is to test some out. If not, simply having a Facebook presence that encourages interaction with past, current, and potential clients is a hugely important factor in improving conversion rates and bringing in business.
Do you currently run Facebook ads? Do you plan to limit them anytime soon?
Social media: Levi's had 40% growth in Facebook likes by adding individual like buttons to their products on their website
Social media can be daunting for B2B companies: how do we use it? Who monitors it? and what's the purpose? are common questions in getting started. But social media has proven itself time and time again as an awareness builder, a platform for client interaction, and an ROI-driven.
The key takeaways from the Levi's case are creating ease of sharing and using integration: consumers share what they like, and this goes for B2B content as well as B2C products like Levi jeans. Making it convenient for your site visitors to interact with and share your content will build your reputation on social media sites and drive traffic back to your website.
This doesn’t have to mean elaborate social media campaigns designed to gain Facebook fans, or a hashtag (#) campaign on Twitter. The first step is to integrate share buttons on every page of your website, and certainly every page and post on your blog. Doing this requires choosing a type of share button (such as “follow us on Twitter” vs. “share this on Twitter”) and placing a small code snippet into each page.
Once you have basic sharing capabilities in place, you can integrate further and create an intricate web of social links:
- Integrate share buttons into email newsletters and announcements
- Have employees include follow buttons in their email footers
- Optimize white papers, eBooks, and other PDF content with share buttons
- For content behind a form, add share buttons to their corresponding website landing pages
When we revamped our popular B2B whitepaper, Eight Steps to B2B Website and Marketing Success, we built a landing page with social sharing capabilities to encourage content sharing. It's always better to make sharing easier than to have a prosect give up on spreading your valuable content because it would take extra time.
Some of the most common buttons in use are the Facebook like button, the Twitter follow button and share a link button, the LinkedIn share button, and the +1 Google button.
Having the buttons in place across your website and online materials is a great way to get your foot in the social media door.
Last week, we attended the New England Direct Marketing Association’s Marketing Technology Summit, and were treated to presenters from Google, Overdrive Interactive, HubSpot, Eloqua, and more. The conference centered on ways to utilize marketing technology to promote your brand, engage visitors, and create strong online relationships with future and current consumers.
We came out with great ideas for marketing campaigns, technology integration, and the future of mobile and online ads, but also with a long list of interesting marketing facts and statistics.
- The average American spends two months of his/her waking year online
- The 4 major screens that occupy our time: laptop, TV, smartphone, tablet
- Consumers spend 36% of time online – more than with any other media format
- Where B2B buyers get their information: 71% internet, 37% catalogs, 41% trade groups, 39% trade shows, 35% seminars
- People on average use 10 different sources of information before they make a purchase
- 16% of searches everyday on Google have never been searched before: that’s 160,000,000 new searches a day
- 1 out of every 5 searches has local intent
Video and Ads
- 1 in 3 Google advertisers are using video platforms for ads
- Soon, over 50% of ads will be opt-in – consumers will choose to engage with them
- In a Google study, 9 out of 10 viewers prefer TrueView Ads – the ad platform that allows them to opt-in to viewing video ads
- By the end of 2011, over half of Americans had a smartphone
- 1 in 8 requests to visit a site are mobile
- Almost half of Americans are on their phones or laptops engaged with mobile content while watching TV
- 79% of people with a smartphone use their smartphones to help with shopping
- Mobile queries have grown 500% in the past year
- 1 in 3 smartphone owners prefer using their mobile phone for web browsing or email – even if there’s a PC right next to them!
- 79% of large online advertisers do not have a mobile optimized landing page
- 40% of people turn to a competitor for a mobile experience that gives them a good user experience
- 11% of people yell at their phone if they are on a slow-loading site
- 1 out of every 3 mobile searches has local intent
- Over 50% of searches on Google Maps happen on mobile devices
- There were 18 billion downloads of mobile apps last year.
- By 2015, it is predicted there will be 182 billion downloads of mobile apps
- 15,000 new apps are released every week
- 294 billion emails are sent each day – that’s about 43 emails sent per person in the world
- 90% of email sent out every day is classified as spam
- It’s no longer 6 degrees of separation: you need to be connected to 4.6 people on social media to be connected with the world
- Levi's had 40% growth in Facebook likes by adding individual like buttons to their products on their website
In the next blog post, we’ll discuss what these statistics mean for your B2B company and ways you can implement supporting campaigns.
Are you looking for advice on how to enhance your internet marketing and don’t know where to start? Contact RainCastle for more information.
Why does inbound marketing seem to have such an altruistic tone? Today’s marketers seek to be “partners.” They are in the business of providing valuable content that will inspire trust. Content is often something they give away – for free! The new analytic tools empower you.
Inbound marketing arrives on the heels of the Open Source movement, which began in earnest in the late 90s and encouraged technologists to give away their code to the online masses and adopt a communal attitude based on building better products through sharing IP rather than coveting it.
Once Open Source became a cultural phenomenon it gave birth to a new generation of movements empowering the individual or the consumer. Crowd-sourcing is one child and inbound marketing is another.
Inbound marketing represents the new world order as it applies to marketing. So what happened when marketers learned a better way than to push a one-size-fits-all agenda on their customers? They changed their tune and adopted a necessarily value-based persona. For better or worse, this has taken on an altruistic tone.
From what I’ve observed, this change in marketing and actually, business culture, is a hard adjustment for quite a few marketers who began their careers in the bad old days of cutthroat, competitive sales and marketing, bereft of the concept of being a partner or agent of empowerment. People who began their marketing careers before the late 90s remember marketing could often be a pretty hard boiled and highly competitive profession for which they focused their energies towards wielding every advantage they could over competitors to generate leads the sales force could convert. Sure they believed in their product or service but they were often more focused on gaining the advantage and beating out the competition.
So, it comes as no surprise that some marketing executives with whom I’ve spoken recently are skeptical of inbound marketing. My perspective is that if you don’t embrace the culture, it’s hard to embrace the practice. The “trust culture ” inbound marketing seeks to promote is at odds with the practices many marketers learned in their formative years. The only way to test the efficacy of Inbound marketing is to dive in, adopt inbound marketing best practices for six months and measure the results. Pick a pilot program, find an inbound marketing firm or practitioner and together design a campaign that incorporates content creation, search, lead generation and measurement. Like starting anything new, the first two tools you need are commitment and an open mind.