The 7 qualities of an eye-catching and effective call-to-action

Man using a megaphone for The qualities of an eye-catching and effective call-to-action

An effective call-to-action is critical to inbound marketing. Get it wrong and your content-driven inbound marketing strategy could fail.

Make sure you create a clickable call that will convert visitors into viable leads.

Start by attracting the right visitors to your site

Before you can convert visitors into leads, you have to attract those visitors to your site. This is done by generating good content that means something to your potential customers.

Well-written content that addresses the questions and interests of your buyer personas will draw them to your site and then it’s up to you to follow it up with a call-to-action worth clicking.

1. Offer something of value

In the case of content marketing, the call-to-action usually comes at the end of a blog article. Every call-to-action offers something to the visitor and, just like the content, the offer must hold value to your ideal buyer. To make sure the offer is worthwhile for the reader:

Target the same buyer persona as the content. For example, if the topic of a blog article targets a startup entrepreneur, an ebook or whitepaper on startup marketing or equipping a startup in the cloud would make sense.

Match the stage of the buyer process. Avoid offering too much too soon (or too little too late). Learn what content requires an offer like an ebook aimed at the early stages of the buyer process or an offer like a consultation or a pricing guide for a buyer closer to making a decision.

Your whole marketing team needs to realise that the call-to-action is a critical part of meeting your marketing goals using inbound strategy and learn how to make the call effective.

Once you have content to attract visitors and an offer that appeals to them, it’s essential to use copy and design that will catch the reader’s eye.

2. A clickable shape

The design of any call-to-action needs to appear clickable and this is best done with a button.

For example, check out HubSpot’s call-to-action:

HubSpot's call-to-action

The button in this offer makes it obvious the visitor should click to receive the offer, but there’s another aspect of this call-to-action that makes it effective.

3. Contrasting colour

Despite extensive research, there is no one magical colour to up conversions. What is important is colour usage and contrast.

For the call-to-action to draw attention, make use of white space and contrasting colours like the HubSpot example above with a bright blue button on a dark banner sitting on a white background.

The example below, from Pancake’s main page, uses contrast to highlight the call-to-action button:

Call-to-action on Pancake's home page

4. Complementary font

Just like with colour, a font that is different from the rest of the text on the page will emphasise the call-to-action.

Take a look at this example from The Daily Egg where the colour and font contrast the rest of the page to make it standout:

Call-to-action from The Daily Egg

5. Actionable wording

The copy in your call-to-action is just as vital as its design. A call-to-action requires action words like:

  • Download
  • Attend
  • Sign up

You also have to be clear about what you’re actually offering. For example:

  • Download your free ebook: Social media for the small business
  • Attend the webinar: How to market on a shoestring budget
  • Sign up for a free 30-day trial

Avoid language that isn’t clear and straight-forward. No one’s going to act on this: ‘If you’re interested in learning more, consider downloading our ebook … .’

6. Prime real estate

You can place a call-to-action at the end of a blog, in a sidebar, on a home or product page or religiously above the fold but, wherever it is, it’s best to:

  • Avoid placing competing offers next to each other
  • Make sure the call-to-action is at the forefront of the page design
  • Use directional cues such as arrows to guide visitors to the offer
  • Avoid placing a call-to-action in a cluttered area of the page

7. A/B testing

There are things that don’t work in a call-to-action, but there’s no single magic colour, font, wording or placement that converts for all companies. So the most important step is to conduct A/B tests to see what visitors to the site actually respond to.

Create the same offer with variations in colour, font, wording, placement or size. For example, you may create a blue version and a red version. Test which gets more clicks and conversions and then use those results in future offers.

As you learn which call-to-action variations work for a brand, you’ll be able to create the most effective call-to-action every time and generate more viable leads to nurture into customers.

(Hat tip to Wikimedia Commons for the photo)

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Book review: ‘Everybody Writes’ by Ann Handley

Ann Handley is Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs and our very own Matthew Stibbe is speaking at their 2014 B2B Marketing Forum in Boston in October.

Everybody writes review book cover

Many of us become complacent as writers, believing the ability to write well is an innate gift. Balderdash, says Ann Handley.

In a refreshing take on mastering the written art, ‘Everybody Writes’, the new book by Handley, reminds us writers (and would-be-writers) of a couple of important facts:

  • ‘If you have a website you are a publisher. If you are on social media you are in marketing. And that means we are all writers.’
  • In the words of New York Times’ David Carr, ‘Writing is less about beckoning the muse than hanging in until the typing becomes writing.’

Who’s it for?

Although geared towards business and marketing writers, ‘Everybody Writes’ offers general tips that are useful no matter what you write or how experienced you are at writing it.

Handley advocates that as writers, we can always improve and evolve, so this book isn’t one to be flicked through once, and then left at the back of the shelf; it’s a book you can constantly refer back to.

Following Handley’s lead, here’s a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what you’ll learn from ‘Everybody Writes.’

How to write better (and how to hate writing less)

As Handley writes, writing is something we all do all the time and if Buzzfeed can find internet success with ‘3 Bananas That Look Like Celebrities’ it can’t be that difficult or mysterious.

Like driving, good writing is more habit than anything else. As advertised, this section provides would-be writers with some guidance to hone their skills and habituate the writing process (or at least make it less painful).

The strength in this section (and the entire book actually) really lies in the fact Handley practices what she preaches in the first rule when she says that to write well we need to read a lot, as well as write. The volume of clever and insightful quotes shows that Handley is clearly well read.

Writing rules: Grammar and usage

Many writers won’t feel they can benefit from yet more grammar advice (although arguably many of them probably can).

This section, however, is useful for novices and pros alike. Rather than pontificating about the finer points of grammar (that most people don’t really care about), Handley concerns herself with what readers really do find annoying.

Rule 37 even suggests old-school rules we shouldn’t bother following anymore, like ‘never split infinitives’.

As a former French student, the word grammar strikes fear into the very core of my being, but this section is significantly less painful than the majority of grammar reading out there.

Story rules

As an inherent storyteller, this section really resonated with me.

Handley succinctly and smartly theorises how you inject the storytelling spirit of writing into writing for business: ‘your content is not about storytelling, it’s about telling a true story well.’

This is an excellent tip for those who generally view storytelling as something utterly fantastical, as well as those who are disenchanted with what they’re writing, or writing about.

Handley not only provides solid advice on how to create a story around just about anything, but provides some genuinely inspiring accounts of real-life businesses doing this.

Publishing rules

For anyone writing without journalistic experience, this section is incredibly helpful.

Although most of us have experience with sourcing and referencing others’ work, with free range over the internet and of all the information it holds, research can become dangerous territory, rife with blurred lines.

In this section, Handley handles some of the copyright and fact-checking issues that come with responsible, journalistic writing. She also summarises some of the other lessons journalists can teach us about writing and the general practices we can adopt to make sure our writing is ethical and interesting.

13 things marketers write

Every professional copywriter will, at some point, have to write something they’ve never written before, or that they’re not too familiar with – whether that’s social media posts or the annual report.

The beauty of this section is that it provides a short boost of confidence in how to approach specific writing tasks such as tweets or blog posts, offering the core information needed to do it well.

As a writer who has spent the past two months almost exclusively writing the unfamiliar, this section was of particular value to me.

Content tools

‘Everybody Writes’ has tips even for the master-writer, so if, by some strange turn of events, you make it all the way to this final section without finding anything helpful, you’ll find something here.

From word processing tools to productivity aids, this section contains a plethora of different tools for you to try out and give your inner writer the best possible chance of success. For procrastinators, like me, the time management tools may be a revelation, while for others the more practical resources, like image sourcing sites and blog idea generators, will make this section.

The verdict

In the foreword, author Nancy Duarte writes, ‘this book inspires you to become a stronger writer. And it does so with style’.

With some epiphany-inducing points, inspiring examples and excellent references, including, but not limited to, ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Mean Girls’, I don’t think I could sum this book up much better myself.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to read ‘3 Bananas That Look Like Celebrities’.

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You’re invited: Microsoft small business mini-summit

Going for Growth - Microsoft Business Mini-Summit -...

Articulate is running an SMB mini-summit for our client Microsoft in Victoria, London on Wednesday 24 September.

If you run a growing business and you’d like to come along, we’d love to see you!

Register free via Eventbrite.

About the event

We will look at:

  • Challenges faced by growing businesses and ideas and insights about how to overcome them
  • Expert small business advice and tips from Emma Jones, small business expert and founder of Enterprise Nation
  • Technology insight from Microsoft experts
  • Hands-on demonstrations with the latest Microsoft technology

We want to get to know you and your business so we can expand the role Microsoft can play in supporting UK small businesses.

We’re not selling anything – we want to learn about what makes entrepreneurs tick and capture your expertise and share it with our colleagues at Microsoft and with other small business owners.

Agenda

09.00-09.15         Arrive, breakfast, chat

09.15-10.30         Roundtable discussion about business growth

10.30-11.00         Coffee break and hands-on demos of the latest Microsoft technology

11.00-12.00         Presentation and discussion with Emma Jones from Enterprise Nation

12.00-12.30         Lunch

Sharing

During the day we’ll be doing one-to-one interviews and capturing some discussions and insights on video to share with other Microsoft customers and other entrepreneurs.

If we publish any of your stories, insights or interview videos, we’ll give you full credit and links to your business, so it’ll be good for PR and SEO.

Register free via Eventbrite.

 

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6 ways to use social proof in marketing campaigns

Social proof in marketing: Long queue outside apple store

With so much information on the internet, it can be difficult for customers to know who to trust. This is where social proof comes in.

Social proof is the idea that people are influenced by what others do, viewing it as ‘correct behaviour’.

Social proof isn’t a new concept, but thanks to the rise in social media it has become more versatile and easier to use and monitor. Taking advantage of social proof is not only becoming easier, but common practice.

With 81 percent of consumers using the internet to research purchases before making them, it’s easy to see why ‘social proof is the new marketing,’ according to Aileen Lee.

We’ve summarised six ways you can easily use social proof in marketing to widen your reach and increase your impact.

Social media interaction

Consumers are increasingly anxious about missing the next big thing, since there are so many things out there.

With so much choice, we often rely on others for a nudge in the right direction. Shares, likes and retweets all suggest that something has been tried, tested and enjoyed. As social proof is all about following the herd, the more interaction you get, the more you’ll gain.

As one study of German banks has shown, customers that come from customer referrals have a 16 percent higher lifetime value than those acquired in other ways, meaning social media sharing can be rewarding.

You can’t force people to interact, but by creating and sharing genuinely useful and remarkable content, tailored for your customers, they can’t help but get involved.

Social proof in marketing: Facebook like on beer bottle

Case studies

Everyone knows that a happy customer is a marketing tool in itself, but very often this idea is confined to the word-of-mouth business they could generate.

With case studies you can take that word-of-mouth and give it a further reach than your customer’s network, which in 2010 was estimated to be 1,375 people.

A case study or two can give your potential customers a genuine glowing review to base decisions on – taking one happy customer’s review and magnifying the effect, directing it towards your pool of potential customers.

User-generated content

User-generated content takes the benefits of a case study even further as readers can hear the story straight from the horse’s mouth.

A great example of this is ASOS’ ‘as seen on mecampaign. ASOS asked customers to Instagram pictures of themselves in their purchases using #AsSeenOnMe. Pictures then go into a gallery on the ASOS website as an incentive.

Incentives and competitions are common tactics to drive participation, but taking advantage of user-generated content is really about finding a platform that suits both your product and customers, which encourages them to create exciting content they are proud to share.

Instagram is a popular format for user-generated content but, Youtube, Vine, Twitter and Facebook are all excellent platforms for your customers to show you some love.

Reviews

Consumer reviews are now the second most trusted form of advertising and in 2012 52 percent of consumers were influenced by online reviews.

In real terms this means that a one star increase on a Yelp review corresponds to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue.

Yelp is great for attracting business and is free to signup for, but isn’t the only way to use reviews.

Setting up a Google+ business page will sync your Google+ customer reviews with Google maps and search, while on Facebook you can add a review tab to your page. You can also incorporate reviews into your website and blog.

Having the channels available to leave reviews will encourage customers to give them.

Social proof in marketing: Excellent tick rating

User statistics

Just as bloggers boast their number of subscribers and fast-food restaurants their number of customers served, you too can use numbers to your advantage.

When using statistics it’s worth considering the power of positivity. Psychologists Noah Goldstein and Steve Martin studied the impact of negative language in social proof statistics, using signs in the Arizona Petrified Forest, discouraging theft.

By highlighting that ‘many past visitors have removed the petrified wood’ theft tripled.

Leave out the negative. If you don’t have the numbers, don’t use them and focus on how many people are doing, liking, or benefiting from something: not how many aren’t.

Mentions

Expert and celebrity endorsement is rife in modern advertising and may appear wildly unattainable for smaller business, but is more accessible than you think.

With the prevalence of social media and so many bloggers and social media stars, connecting to someone with a wide net of influence relevant to your ideal customers is much easier than it used to be. Media and blog mentions are great PR for your company and are something that you should track and encourage.

Social proof in marketing: Grumpy cat

Social proof is about people

Customers increasingly personify brands, meaning they apply human traits such as trustworthiness to them: trust is now central to consumer-brand engagement.

With so many online platforms, it’s easy to use the confidence that others have in your brand to develop a similar level of trust in new customers.

Marketing frequently relies on human instincts for success, so our herd mentality should be no different. After all, as Seth Godin says on social proof, ‘the first thing that happens after we encounter an earthquake is to wonder if anyone else felt it.’

(Hat tip to Waltarrr, Gareth Hacking, Jvleis and Ricky Brigante for the images)

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How we work: HubSpot and the battle for buyers’ attention

Hubspot: toy soldiers

Hannibal had elephants, the Trojans used a wooden horse and Queen Victoria had a Navy. Hannibal’s elephants weren’t so effective, but the Trojan strategy was a success and for years the sun never set on the British Empire. It goes to show that the way you equip yourself determines the success of your endeavours.

Marketers are fighting a different kind of battle online. But rather than world domination, marketers are fighting to create content that cuts through the noise and produces results.

Creating effective content is only half of it. The only way to tell if your content marketing efforts are successful is to equip yourself with a tool that can accurately measure the reach of and response to your content.

At Articulate, we decided it was time to suit up and so we equipped ourselves with the HubSpot Marketing Tool and it has changed the way we write, share and view our content marketing strategy.

(Full disclosure: we use HubSpot to market our own business and we are HubSpot resellers but this article is about our experience with the software and how it has influenced our thinking, not selling anything.)

Adopting a strategy: inbound methodology

It doesn’t matter if you win the battle if you’ve lost the war. You may be getting page views, but your content must engage site visitors and move them through the buyer process.

  • Attract visitors to your site.
  • Convert those visitors into leads.
  • Close leads.
  • Delight customers.

HubSpot and the inbound methodology allows us to knowledgeably strategize content at every stage of the buyer process.

Converting people to your cause: filling the funnel

Realistically, not every lead becomes a customer, but your task as a marketer is to fill the funnel. This is achieved through HubSpot’s conversion process.

  • Call-to action. On each page of a company’s blog, there should be an image that serves as a call-to-action containing an offer that holds value to your ideal buyer and encourage them to click through.
  • Landing page. Clicking on a call-to-action leads visitors to a landing page where they fill out a form with their contact information to receive the offer.
  • Thank you page. Once your visitors hit ‘submit,’ they receive the offer. But at the same time, their information is stored in the Hubspot tool. The visitor has successfully been converted to a lead.
  • Follow up email. The thank you page and follow up email that is generated is an opportunity to lead the contact further down the funnel.

Not all leads that come into the funnel are ready to buy at the beginning or may never become a customer. A content marketing strategy uses content to coax leads toward becoming a customer.

Content is your battle cry

We are writers who market, so writing quality content has always been important to us, but HubSpot has changed the way we think about our writing.

Buyer persona. The focus of each piece of content is no longer the product, service or the company, but instead the needs and interests of buyer personas, fictional characters we create to represent the ideal buyer.

Instead of one effort on one platform, one piece of content now generates a series of several specific activities. These activities and promotions are woven throughout your blog and across all the platforms your ideal buyer is engaged in and ties in with other pieces of content that address the same type of ideal buyer.

Content is no longer a one-off pitch. It’s one part of a long-term strategy to build trust between buyer and brand. HubSpot allows us to run and monitor these campaigns and track their effect.

The battle won: the bottom of the funnel

With HubSpot, content is a part of every part of the strategy. Once we’ve used content to attract leads, we still have to move qualified leads toward the bottom of the funnel and convert them.

Segmented marketing. You wouldn’t send a start-up entrepreneur a piece of content that tells them how to climb the corporate ladder if you could help it.

HubSpot allows you to divide your leads into lists and nurture them based on your buyer personas. This way, you put the right content in front of the right people to lead them closer to the end of the funnel.

Assigning value to your content. Knowing when a lead has reached the bottom of the funnel is defined by the value of the offer they have signed up for.

For example, a lead who has signed up for a whitepaper is not as invested in what your company has to offer as a lead who signs up for a webinar or a free consultation.

HubSpot as a new kind of ally in sales

Understanding the value of content helps us identify when leads are ready for the hand-off. But the beauty of the inbound methodology is that marketing still has a role.

Marketing is no longer a linear process. Once sales has closed the deal, that customer is back in the hands of marketing.

It’s estimated to be six to seven times more expensive to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one and it’s the job of marketing to continue to delight those customers.

The true purpose of social media is to build a voice for your brand that delights customers into continuing to do business with you and makes them willing advocates of your company.

Evidence of victory

Before HubSpot, there was disconnect. We could see which blog articles were popular or which Facebook posts received the most likes, but we could not tell how many leads were generated or sales made as a result of that effort.

Now, HubSpot tracks and stores that information for us so we can head into battle equipped with the tool that will help us win the war for people’s attention.

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Startup marketing boss battle: campaign vs. quick win

Rock 'em Sock 'em: Startup marketing battle: campaign vs. quick win

You know you need to market your startup online, but the reality is that everyone in your business is already filling multiple roles and short on time. How do you squeeze in effective marketing?

Why the quick win wins in startup marketing

The quick win is a singular effort with the goal of increasing awareness of your startup while a campaign is a consistent series of activities with an underlying focus that takes planning.

The quick win allows you to feel like you’ve checked marketing off your list with a one-off blog post, tweet, ad or promotion without losing any time. And you feel you can measure the short burst of business that comes as a result. So it’s easy to feel like it’s the right fit for your startup.

But what if the quick win isn’t the best pick for your marketing strategy? Is it worth the time it takes to put together a campaign focused on the buyer? Or do you stick with the quick win and move on to other things?

Why the quick win isn’t enough

The problem with the quick win is that you’re handing out crumbs, just bits of your company, and that won’t satisfy customers who are looking to buy from a company they can trust.

Trust is built through long term marketing strategies that nurtures leads by showcasing the personality of your brand.

Quick wins fail in this regard because your marketing efforts lack consistency. Without an underlying strategy, the quick wins won’t tell your story.

Campaigns tell the whole story

There is marketing power in storytelling, in building loyalty as a knowledgeable and trustworthy source and in sustained, targeted efforts to delight customers. Customers find satisfaction in knowing who they are buying from and what that brand stands for.

Campaigns allow you to give voice to your brand and make that personality consistently available to your buyers.

When you do tell a story, you build a relationship with customers through your marketing. This relationship is essential to growing your business and growing your business is essential to the success of your start up.

Marketing strategy that works for startups

Even if you understand the benefit of the campaign, it’s easy to still opt for the quick win because startups must move quickly, waste little time and have little room for risk.

A lean marketing strategy gives you the agility of the quick win with the consistent growth of the long term campaign.

Lean strategy gets the inbound content marketing that is necessary for your startup done in a cost-effective and time-efficient way. It’s consistent, measurable and responsive to results.

A time and place for the quick win

But you can’t entirely discount the quick win. Lean marketing is about the long term strategy that builds trust between buyer and brand, but it is also about responsiveness.

During the 2013 Superbowl game, the Oreo cookie marketing team took advantage of the power outage with a fitting tweet, which was well-received by their audience and acknowledged as a solid play by marketers.

When you market your product or service, you do have to keep your eyes open for those circumstances your company can capitalise on for the quick win. But a successful marketing strategy recognises that the quick win lends itself to the bigger picture of your campaign.

Transition from quick wins to campaigns

If you’ve been going for the quick win in an effort to save time and resources in your startup marketing, it’s time to change those quick wins into campaigns.

Look at a campaign as a series of quick wins that work together to achieve your marketing goals. This will give consistency to your marketing efforts and win you the trust and loyalty of customers you need for your startup to succeed.

(Hat tip to Randy Heinitz for the photo)

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Ask not what marketing can do for you, ask what YOU can do for marketing: a product manager’s guide to marketing

everything is marketing

I’ve been running Articulate Marketing for nearly 15 years now and, in that time, I’ve met a lot of product managers and technical specialists who see marketing as a kind of voodoo.

In their mind it is a tool for communicating the features of their product to the ignorant masses or, worse, it is a wilful trivialisation and misrepresentation of their product.

Clue: it’s not about features

Product people love their products. They know all the details and they know exactly how their product compares with their competitors’, feature by feature.

But marketing is not voodoo. It is also NOT:

  • Shouting about product features
  • A glorified feature comparison table
  • About ‘speeds and feeds’
  • A monologue
  • About the company
  • Focused on competition

Product marketing for product managers

Good product managers work with marketing. The best product managers also do marketing. These tips explain how product managers can do something for marketing.

Spend time with customersThe better you understand what customers need, what they know and how they absorb product information, the better you will be at communicating with them. Back when I was making computer games, some of our teams made games just for hard-core gamers but our most successful games were made for kids. We had to think about how kids actually played games without making any assumptions. The same thing worked for ‘BeerCo’ in this HBR case study. Create user personasYou can help marketers by creating personas for your ideal users. Share your ideas about how people will use your product and what problems it solves in the form of user stories. The benefit of writing personas – fictionalised individual users – is that it forces you to see your product in the context of a customer’s life. Unlike you, they DON’T spend every waking moment thinking about your product.

 

 

 

 

Ask ‘so what’Every time you mention a product feature, ask yourself ‘so what?’ What does it mean for the customer? Always give an example or user story about the feature. This helps marketing people understand the benefits. For example, when you say ‘it’s a cloud-based app’ you can add ‘so customers can access it from any browser on any device so they can work anywhere.’ If you can’t come up with a compelling story for a feature, it’s just not important for users.

 

 

PrioritiseCustomers don’t have infinite attention for details (and nor do marketing people, sometimes). There isn’t an unlimited advertising budget to communicate your features either. So you have to prioritise. What are the most important? What differentiates your product? What’s the shortest, neatest way of explain why it’s good. If you prioritise well – edit well – then you remove the need for marketing people to do it badly. Explain USPsYou understand your product better than anyone else. You also understand how it compares against the competition. Instead of sharing this information in a literal way, use it to identify the top 3-5 unique selling points (USPs) for your product. These are the things that you do better, cheaper, faster or whatever. Make marketing people happy by doing this homework for them.

 

Engage marketing earlierMarketing is not a bolt-on, go-faster extra to do at the end of the product development. Get marketers involved in product development. That doesn’t mean the usual corporate meeting nonsense complete with fake sign-offs and meaningless Dilbert-style ‘input’. Actually find some real marketing people and build a relationship and engage with them over the whole product lifecycle. Who knows? They might have some useful ideas.
Start a blogSome of the best blogs are written by product people. In software, for example, check out Signal vs. Noise or Rands in Repose. They are powerful marketing assets because they are authentic expressions of creators and builders, not marketing people. In every market and industry, there will be expert bloggers who add lustre to their company’s brand with their market and product insight. Be one of them.

 

 

Make an unboxing videoGo to YouTube and search for ‘unboxing X’ where X is your favourite gadget. You’ll find dozens of videos by enthusiastic reviewers lovingly taking a product out of its box and reviewing it. You can make videos like this to share your product expertise. How-to videos that help people solve problems or get the most out of your product are also helpful. You don’t need high production values, just good information.

 

Evangelise early adoptersEarly adopters, in any market, are very influential customers. Unlike majority customers, they seek out detailed information and compare products against their competitors. This is where your product and market expertise is an asset. Go out and engage with them – share your enthusiasm! For a great guide to product evangelism from the grandfather of the discipline, read Guy Kawasaki’s The Macintosh Way. It’s a free download. Yes, he was Steve Jobs’s first Mac evangelist.

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How to have effective sales and marketing meetings

effective sales and marketing meetings: cartoon sketch of meeting

Sales and marketing need to have a close relationship if you want to increase the number of qualified leads and conversions. In fact, companies with ‘dynamic, adaptable sales and marketing processes’ had an average of 10 percent more of their sales people on quota.

Sales and marketing have a symbiotic relationship, which can be nurtured with integrated technologies and, of course, effective sales and marketing meetings.

You need to get these guys in the same room, regularly and get them talking about the same goals, in the same language. Here’s how.

Make them regular

There needs to be a regular time – weekly or monthly – where everyone sits down together. Not just the head of each department – everyone. To have effective sales and marketing meetings, they don’t have to be long or complex but they do have to be mandatory. And by making them a staple event, you don’t get arbitrary meetings called by one team just to vent at the other.

Yes, I know we’ve said that meetings are often a waste of time and money. But not always. When you have two parties that have for so long been at odds, the only way to nurture more cooperation is face-to-face time together.

When we short-change the face-to-face, we short-change the relationship. It’s easy to replace a vendor you’ve never met, but people think twice before firing a colleague or friend that they respect on a personal level. – Thom Singer.

Body language, tone, facial expressions: these all matter when you are trying to build and strengthen a traditionally rocky relationship.

Consider building in a few minutes contingency for friendly networking between sales and marketing as well, to encourage a more relaxed and open professional dialogue.

Set an agenda in advance

Who hasn’t been sat in a meeting and faced that dreaded line, ‘What do you think?’…

To get the most out of every meeting, each and every time, set an agenda in advance and send it out so everyone knows what to expect and what to prepare.

Some topics you will want to discuss on a recurring basis. Others might be seasonal or one-offs, like particular promotions or news events, which impact on your sales and marketing actives and messaging.

You could try using a joint project management tool, such as Basecamp to create discussions and set deadlines for an agenda collaboratively. HubSpot also suggests allocating discussion points to a specific person to lead and setting a time limit for each topic.

Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock…data

Don’t worry. You don’t have to have an eidetic memory like Sheldon Cooper to come out trumps here. Data trumps everything.

The point is that rather than back and forth based on assumption and prejudice, effective sales and marketing meetings need to be based on real numbers. How many leads are marketing handing over? How many of those are converting? And at what value?

And it works both ways: how many leads are sales following up with? How many up or cross sell opportunities have they pursued with existing delighted customers?

Everyone’s ultimate goal is usually a target revenue. That target revenue can be easily calculated back into required monthly site visitors, conversions and values. HubSpot have even created a spreadsheet so all you have to do is put the numbers in and it does the maths.

By knowing who has what goals, when it comes to your meeting you already know who is performing and how. So instead of attributing blame round in a circle for one missed figure, you can concentrate on figuring out how to better meet everyone’s individual goals.

Don’t waste time with the obvious

If you are using a closed-loop analytics system, like HubSpot, then both teams should already know the basic state of play. You might want to discuss trends or anomalies, but you shouldn’t have to spend time in the meeting actually explaining the information itself.

Both sales and marketing should have access to any inbound marketing analytics and CRM systems, and if a topic is on the agenda everyone should go in and dig into the data themselves. Everyone will learn a lot more about the customer journey that way, rather than staring at a slide deck during the meeting.

Development is just as important as data

It’s not just converted customers, inbound leads and revenue per customer that should be discussed in effective sales and marketing meetings. Often people think it’s all about looping marketing in to the sales process, but it has to go both ways.

71 percent of sales reps receive materials from marketing – but of that group 42 percent say marketing ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ makes them part of the development process. - Brainshark State of the Sales Rep Report.

When you consider that marketing is meant to be creating content that resonates with buyers – who better to ask about what will work than those on the front line, talking to those buyers? After your customers, the sales team are the next best resource for helping marketing to create remarkable and relevant content that will draw in new ideal buyers.

Plus, sales teams will often be using that content in their sales process, or an adapted version of it. They need to be part of it’s creation, otherwise you’ll get sales altering the collateral, leaving customers with a fractured view of your brand.

Encourage free styling

Finally, remember, meetings are more effective when they address the important stuff. This means they shouldn’t be used to sort out minor problems or questions that could be resolved one-on-one. Everyone in sales and marketing should be comfortable approaching one another at any time to collaborate and learn.

The idea is that rather than every problem bubbling up to the VP of Sales and then having a conversation with the VP Marketing and then it flows downhill, solve the problems at their source by empowering everyone on the team and building relationships at all levels in the team. – Mark Volpe, CMO at HubSpot.

And if all else fails? Get down the pub. Everything flows better after a pint.

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Why your marketing projects run late and what to do about it

Pocket watch: why your marketing projects run late

When a deadline is looming, it can feel like you’re running a race with a rock in your shoe, a cramp in your leg and other runners cutting you off left and right.

If your marketing projects run late and you feel like you’re struggling instead of finishing strong, it’s time to  reassess your strategy.

This post will help you identify the specific obstacles that make your marketing projects run late and help you do something about them.

Getting off to a weak start

A bad brief will kill your marketing project before it begins. It causes writers to guess at the direction of the content, which leads to an inconsistent message. Extra time is then spent on rewrites and reorganising.

We will never be able to stress enough the importance of a good brief that clearly explains the message in each piece of content and the goal of the project from the start.

Your timing is off

The ability to recognise a realistic timeframe for any given project is a must. Otherwise, you may say yes to a project that doesn’t fit into your schedule or commit to an impossible deadline.

Try creating a list of how much time it takes your team for each task, or assessing projects by their complexity. This way, when you look at a project, you can accurately determine how much time and effort is needed to get the job done before you take it on.

Expecting instead of anticipating problems

You know very well that projects can run into problems. You expect them, but they eat up your time if you don’t anticipate and plan for them.

Of course, don’t plan for crashed servers on every project. Simply allot the time it takes to complete tasks and then schedule a realistic contingency for potential problems.

Good, old-fashioned procrastination

Once tasks are assigned to your own team, freelancers or to an agency, the pace may feel a bit out of your control and it’s hard to trust that it will come together on time.

Create incentives for timeliness and early deliveries. This can be in the form of first pick on new assignments, moving to the top of the list for the next project or even a bonus.

A less than thrilling chase

A lot of time will be wasted if you or your team has to chase down resources for the project or signatures for approval.

Include all resources needed from the start with the brief and make sure you have signatures scheduled as tasks with a specific time for content to be reviewed and approved.

Setting yourself up for failure

Agencies run into the same obstacles you do on marketing projects and a mismanaged agency will not be able to overcome causing you to miss your deadline.

Realise that you do have control over choosing who to work with and manage your roster accordingly. Pick the agencies that allow your team to meet goals and deadlines.

Standing at the bottom of a deadline avalanche

As the project manager, every task comes back to you in the end and a marketing project has a lot of moving parts. If everything hits you at the same time, your ability to turn it over quickly may be jeopardized.

Start thinking in timelines instead of deadlines. Have a manageable cycle of deadlines which will help you feel that you’ve handled each item and are handing over a quality project.

Get serious about deadlines

Everyone working on your marketing projects needs to be on the same page when it comes to deadlines, meaning they have to understand just how important they are to the overall success of your company.

But the way you manage deadlines plays the greatest role in whether or not your team meets them. Be proactive about overcoming the problems a marketing project faces and finish strong every time.

(Hat tip to Lauren Hammond for the photo)

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Why marketing professionals need professional writers

Professional writers: monkey at a typewriter

Professional copywriters help you cut through the noise. They write pithy, persuasive, remarkable content that resonates with your customers and drives up sales.

‘If you have budget to invest in your website, I would say, “hire someone to write for you.”’ – Rebecca Churt, HubSpot.

I couldn’t agree more. Good writing is at the heart of great brands and it is the engine of great campaigns.

What professional writers do

Copywriters aren’t just word monkeys. They don’t just ‘bang out copy’ or ‘wordsmith’ existing verbiage. No.

Professional writers get into the heads of your customers and write punchy, persuasive copy that links your products and services to the needs and ambitions of the people who are going to buy them.

And with the average web user leaving a web page after less than 20 seconds and reading only 20 percent of the content, first impressions count. You need to get across what you want to say, fast, and say it better than anyone else.

Copywriters help you to clarify what you’re trying to say and tell a story that connects with your customers.

And, what’s more, they’ll save you money while doing it. Companies using inbound content marketing generally experience a 61 percent lower cost per lead than those using traditional methods.

‘But, if it’s just writing,’ you say to yourself, ‘why can’t I do it myself?’

Here’s why.

It isn’t just writing

Anyone can write, but not everyone’s a writer.

It can be tempting to strike out on your own and write your own copy, but try to do everything yourself and you’ll burn out.

Effective copywriting is more than just stringing syntactically correct sentences together. It’s about distilling the features of your product or service into benefits that your customers care about and finding the right style and tone of voice to get the message across.

Delegating some of your content creation to expert copywriters takes the struggle of writing and rewriting copy out of your hands. You still get to decide the direction, objectives and feel of the content, but a writer can bring it to life, letting you focus on growing your business.

Tricks of the trade

Writing is a muscle that professional copywriters exercise everyday, so they know every trick in the book to polish up your copy and use it to increase website conversions, boost click-through rates, and, ultimately, drive up sales.

They know to keep it short and sweet, conversational and direct, and they avoid hype, hyperbole and spin like the plague.

They understand that remarkable writing that resonates with your buyer personas is the heart of the content that gets found.

Tapping into the main issues of your ideal customers and the keywords they use in search queries, professional writers naturally improve your content’s search engine optimisation. You won’t be left with keyword-riddled nonsense.

Good copywriters also keep up with industry trends, as well as those of their clients, to make sure they’ve got a good grasp of the market. They send the right message at the right time to the right people to make your business stand out from the crowd.

A fresh perspective

And last but certainly not least, writers come to your business with a fresh pair of eyes. We don’t know the lingo and the specs, but neither do your customers.

As much as you might love your product or service and revel in all the gory details, your customers – that cynical bunch – want to know how it benefits them. They want quality advice and insight, not bigger, better and stronger.

They don’t think, ‘I need a state-of-the-art, cost-effective CRM solution’, but rather, ‘I want all of my customer information in one place’.

Copywriters can look at your product or service from a customer’s perspective, pick out the best bits and communicate them effectively. They turn the jargon and techno-babble into compelling copy that converts leads and pushes up sales.

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