The skills we teach deliver real ROI.

March 2014 archive

How Can I be #1 on Google?

google-godYou know those results on the top and right side of your search screen when you look for something on  Those are paid ads, offered by Google, called “AdWords.”  A lot of businesses get themselves into trouble with AdWords.   They set up an account with Google, create some generic ads, pay their bills every month, but never see new customers as a result of running those paid ads.  Naturally they get frustrated and ask “How can I be #1 one Google?”

That’s a common question from prospective clients, and I get it.  I want to be #1 on Google too!  When you’re investing money in a CPC (cost per click) campaign, you want your ad to get the attention of web searchers immediately and that generally means having compelling ad copy on the first page of the search results.  If people don’t find your ad, they won’t click on it.  And if no one’s clicking, no one is buying your products or services.

If you are currently investing in AdWords or are considering an ad campaign to bring in new business, keep reading for some tips to increase your likelihood of a successful paid campaign.  This article focuses on having good content on your website that answers searchers’ questions.

There are a few things I ask clients to keep in mind when thinking about ranking on with their paid ads.  First is the content of the website.  You want the copy on your site to be unique, compelling, and the answer to the searcher’s question.  When searchers click on your ad, they arrive on a designated landing page on your site, which is essentially an extension of what they are reading in the ad.


Agile Product Management: Learning from Others Already Using Scrum

In my last post, I offered up an Agile Product Management Manifesto akin to those for software development and marketing.  As nifty and cathartic as writing a “manifesto” can be, we still have to figure out how to actually BE Agile in product management.

Before jumping into “how,” let’s step back and consider “why.” There are a number of challenges faced by product managers that certainly resonate with the challenges enumerated by software developers and marketers in their Agile screeds. In particular:

  • The need to change plans due to ever-changing market conditions.
  • The need for more communication and collaboration.
  • The need for increased visibility/understanding of what your organization actually does.

And I’ll add a challenge that is unique to the product management role:

  • The need to keep all organizations aligned on product vision and execution.

Again, looking at the experiences of folks in Agile software development and marketing, we can see how certain practices have addressed those challenges and get a glimpse of what’s possible for product managers.  And the logical place to start looking is Scrum.  While there are a number of frameworks (Lean, Kanban, Scrumban, XP, etc.) used by Agile organizations, the lion’s share of practitioners either use or started with Scrum.  And when we examine how Scrum addresses the aforementioned challenges, it’s easy to see why.

  •  The need to change plans due to ever-changing market conditions.

This is a no-brainer. By establishing a 1-to-4-week sprint as the fundamental unit of planning and execution, Scrum makes change much easier to accommodate.  For example, if you have 2-week sprints, you’re planning and executing work 26 times per year.  So even if you need to drastically change plans, you can do so with minimal overhead and waste – in this case, no more than 2 weeks of detailed work is derailed.

  • The need for more communication and collaboration.

Besides the general mindset-shift towards simply directly talking to people, the formal planning meetings, acceptance-tests, and demonstrations to stakeholders (at Sprint Reviews) ensure there is regular and frequent interaction between groups.

  • The need for increased visibility/understanding of what your organization actually does.


Why Every B2B Company Needs a Content Marketing Plan

If you want to convert the people who visit your B2B company’s website into customers, you should probably familiarize yourself with the term “content marketing.” During the last five years, online and digital marketing has changed a lot, and the result is simple: producing high quality content will help reach the end goal of growing your business.

There are three easy steps that illustrate how content marketing is a driving force of successful business practices, and why it works.
1.What has changed in the marketing environment and how we have to adapt.
2.Examples of five B2B companies who understand and practice great content marketing.
3.How to create a plan that not only drives results but can also replace other, less effective marketing strategies.

The need to adapt

Why does marketing have to change? In our noisy world, indifference towards traditional advertising is higher and higher. Marketing mes¬sages are everywhere and people are not affected by hard selling techniques as they used to be. Have you heard that advertising is going “native”? In the Attention Age, we need to give people a reason to trust us and care about what we offer. That’s why content marketing comes into play. When we provide people with information that is useful, entertaining and unique, we lay the ground to turn that “stranger” into some¬body who appreciates us and might buy our products or services.There are B2B brands doing a great job at content marketing. To improve online conversions, we can definitely learn from their success stories. Limelight Networks understood that teaching sells. With a “For Dummies” campaign educating their prospective clients on how to handle their digital presence, the company gained incredible exposure and new business for $200K, TopRankBlog reports. Crowe Horwath, a big accounting and consulting firm, created a content marketing campaign based on case studies, infographics, executive briefs on regulatory compliance and risk management for financial institutions. The results? 778 prospects engaged and $250K in revenue. InsideOut, a provider of management, leadership and other types of corporate training, reported a +338% increase in leads through content marketing. With a series of slide decks, articles and videos on coaching and business strategy, the company managed to attract a much wider audience compared to its previous outbound marketing tactics. Law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein found out that the attorney bio pages attracted thousands of visits on their website. They decided to give prospective clients more than a simple profile page with basic information on the attorney. The firm filmed short inter¬views with each attorney, engaging them in conversations beyond legal matters and answering questions on life, work and love. This kind of content creates an emotional bond between your company and prospects and addresses possible objections. In this example, Levenfeld Pearlstein disputed that the law and lawyers are boring and impersonal. Last but not least, Aternity. This software company managed to triple its database list with a content curation experiment named End User Experience, an online magazine aggregating news and interesting content on enterprise mobility, cloud computing, UX and more. The campaign, started in 2010, led to a 130% increase in newsletter subscribers between 2010 and 2011, and a 70% increase the following 12 months.

How to create a content marketing plan that converts

How do these companies manage to create such powerful and high converting content marketing campaigns? It all starts with a plan which addresses two main issues: what kind of content to produce and how to distribute it. How can you help and connect with your prospective clients?

Target definition and contextual understanding
First of all, let’s try to focus. If you want your content marketing campaign to be successful, one of the first things to do is to concentrate on only one customer segment, your best one. Modeling your best customer will allow you to create a buyer persona to direct your content efforts.A deep understanding is needed to be able to provide prospects with the best we can offer. You need to analyze those people and evaluate:
1.Their motivations and pains.
2.Their buyer journey.
3.Their attitude towards your company.
Understanding who your ideal clients are is of utmost importance to create the right kind of content.

Content ideas
So, what content should you create and publish? Let’s see a few ques­tions you should ask yourself about your personas to brainstorm effectively.
1.What can you teach them?
2.How can you help them make better buying decisions?
3.How can you entertain them?
4.How can you help them save time?
5.How can you create an emotional bond?
6.How can you empower them?
7.How can you keep them updated on relevant news?

Along with more creative ideas, some traditional content genera­tion templates exist which can help content producers and cre­ators, for instance:
How to ____
Mistakes to avoid when ____
Best practices in  ____
Top products for ____
Should you  ____ or not?
Why you should  ____

These are particularly useful when deciding on blog post topics, but the same main concept lies at the heart of more complex content forms, such as: White Papers/Ebooks, Videos, Newsletters, Slide Decks, Membership Websites & Infographics.

Your conversion goals
What actions do you want content consumers to take as a result of your efforts? Having clear conversion goals is essential. It is marketing after all! Results are what matter, and you want your investment to pay huge dividends. While your ultimate marketing goal is acquiring new paying clients, you should consider smaller goals along the buyers’ journey, such as social media shares, email subscriptions and free trials. It’s important to establish and quantify those goals earlier. For exam­ple, you might set a “1,000 new subscribers in 3 months” goal, or “50% increase in free trials”.

Step by step
It’s important to keep the way you engage with your prospects aligned with who they are and where they are in their journey from “apathy” to “interest,” to when they finally become clients. Less commitment at first, more later. If people don’t know you, they won’t give you their email to access a free trial of something they barely know. Instead, they might read your article, share it on social networks and follow you on Twitter. Later on you will be able to help them move through the funnel, commit more to your brand (signing up, trying your products) and buy from you.

How to keep going
The number one challenge for B2B content marketers in North America, according to the Content Marketing Institute, is the lack of time. One should plan how to keep content producing efforts alive over the long term; results can’t be immediate and persis­tence is needed. How do you do that? Simple: repurpose. Don’t even think about using your ideas only once! Does this mean you have to plagiarize? Of course not. Repurposing your content means simply being able to scale. Here are three things you can do:
1.Produce 5 articles based on your ebook’s main ideas
2.Aggregate smaller pieces of content to produce a useful collection
3.Convert one form into another: from slide deck to article, from ebook to videos, etc.
You will be able to provide more value and reach more people across several platforms. With the right strategy and mindset, you’ll be able to turn your ideas and published content into a lead generation machine that will grow your business much faster than traditional marketing.

Social Media Presence
Build a social media presence for your business. You do not need to be everywhere, but you can concentrate your efforts on one or two social media websites to start. Post regularly and make an effort to connect with your audience instead of trying to sell products. Work on not only building a social media presence but actually getting your audience to share your content as well.

Link Building
Generate links for your site by doing guest posts, promoting your blog posts, sending press releases, doing interviews, getting media coverage, and by giving away free stuff (ebooks and white papers). Again, you need to generate quality content that people actually want to read because it has interesting insights, statistics or any other information that would be relevant to your audience.

High Conversion Rates
Conversion rates are the lifeblood of any business. Your conversion rate tells you how many visitors actually become customers. Your site could get a lot of traffic, but you may realize that they are not really buying anything. There are other conversion rates to consider in terms of how many people subscribe to your mailing list or sign up for a free trial. This factor will have a huge bearing on the amount of revenue that your company will be able to generate.  Here are some tips about how to boost your conversion rates.

Test Your Current Website
Before you start making any type of changes on your site, you should first create an overview of your entire customer acquisition process. Take a look at your landing page and think of each step your cus­tomer must take in order to make a purchase. Create a hypothesis of what you think is going on in your customer’s mind and look at where people are falling off. Have a clear goal and vision for what people will think and do when they visit your website for the first time.

Use a Heatmap
Use a heatmap to track and record your customer’s every move on the site. Again, before you make changes you need to understand what is going before and after you make the changes to figure out what is and what is not working. You can use an app like Mouseflow to do this.

There is no right or wrong answer as to which colors you should use on your website. The colors that you select will depend on your branding and your audience’s preference. You will probably need to test a few different colors on different areas of your website to figure out which ones have a higher conversion rate. In many cases, blue happens to be a safe color to use for links and buttons. However, be careful with red and green because people that are colorblind may have some difficulty distinguishing the two.

It is important to not just look at a bunch of numbers in a vacuum when you make choices for your site. As you consider the numbers, take some time to literally talk to people that use your site and get their opinions too. Have some friends use your website and give you feedback in real time and also create some simple surveys that your customers can complete on your site to provide feedback. If you start to hear a lot of people complain about something on your site, then you should probably work on changing that aspect first.

A/B Split Testing
A/B split testing is basically a method used to test two different things on a website. This could mean that you try using a green or blue but­ton to sign up for a trial subscription. It could mean that you use a dif­ferent headline at the top of your page and see which one works better. In order to figure out what is going, you will need to closely monitor your analytics each time you make any type of change.

Know When to Make Big or Small Changes
Changing your conversion rates will depend on the types of changes that you are willing to make on your site. Sometimes it is fine to make minor adjustments, but if you notice that there is a serious problem on your site then you may need to make a significant change to see an improvement. This could mean that you need to change the col­ors, webcopy, reorganize the site, or have the site redesigned entirely. In either case, you must be prepared to make any type of change that will give you the desired result.

Identify Key Metrics
Identify key metrics for your site, which could include not only the number of people that make a purchase, but the bounce rate, email opt-in rates and the cost per acquisition. There is no specific number to look for because it really depends on the nature of site and your goals.

Simple Registration
A lot of websites lose customers when they have complicated regis­trations to sign up or make a purchase. You should focus on asking people for the bare minimum to avoid scaring them away and use an API to allow them to login in with another account like Facebook, Google or Twitter.

Test Your Value Proposition
Sometimes changing the copy on certain parts of your website can make a really big difference. One of easiest things to work on is your value proposition. Create a few different versions of your value propo­sition and experiment to see which one generates more conversions.

This is honestly a lot of information and the only way to tackle it is by creating a plan and breaking it down into steps. Set some goals for your company and then use these tips to organize a plan and a weekly schedule to keep yourself on the right track. To view this article and other marketing related trends and tips, subscribe to the ASPE-ROI newsletter.

Top 10 SEO Changes That Will Affect Marketers in 2014

1. The continual search algorithm change — We will see Google monitor­ing the time it takes for a user to click on a listing in the search engine result page and then click back to Google.  It will also take into account if the user refines their search and then chooses an alternate listing.

2. Higher penalties for link manipulation — Google will still place value on natural link building and will continue to adjust its algorithm to identify the difference between natural shareable content versus paid, unnatural link building.

3. The Disavow Tool — Google will continue to put stock into the disavow tool in order to allow companies to identify potential spammy links. Google is very good at identifying these. However, with the amount of SEO companies out there creating spammy links, it’s a great way for companies to help identify these links that will hurt their overall search ranking.

4. Guest Blogging — Google is starting to crack down on people doing guest blogging in order to just get good links back to their site.  They will identify these guest blog posts that are just regurgitating content for the sake of link value instead of building content that will actually benefit users.

5. Google Authorship —  While we have seen some impacts regarding Google Authorship, look for this feature from Google to greatly improve and see many enhancements in regards to SERP rankings based on one’s Google Authorship status.

6. Page Centric Search — Since Google decided to not pass keyword information to Google Analytics anymore, marketers will now have to depend more on Google Web Master Tools as well as take a more topical or themed approach when optimizing for search.

7. Google Plus & Social — These factors will continue to play an important role in Search in 2014. Google Plus is now the second largest social network and is the backbone for many Google products.

8. Mobile SEO Factors — One thing that Google is seeing is a definite rise in mobile search. While it will scramble to figure out what needs to happen on the PPC side of the house for mobile, expect to continue to see updates regarding mobile optimization

9. Hummingbird — With the increase use in voice search and the rise in mobile, Hummingbird’s main goal will be to give the user the best experi­ence possible.  You will start to see semantic search for the masses catch on really quickly and a better experience with Knowledge Graph.

10. Better Content Creation — Everyone has been talking about content is king. With content saturation at an all-time high, content creation is not something that just needs to be done in 2014. It needs to be done better than everyone else. It’s not about 300 to 500 words anymore. The content that is getting ranked is well over 2,000 words per post and ultimately is shared through several social channels.

To view this article and other marketing related trends and tips, subscribe to the ASPE-ROI newsletter.

How to Build Trust, Authority, and High Conversion Rates for Any Size Company

Trust, authority and high conversion rates are the essential ingredients for any successful online business. Unlike other businesses, ecom­merce-based businesses specifically tend to rely solely on their web­sites in the beginning as many of them do not have a physical office or retail location. All of their customers come from the Internet, which means that their websites must be on par with other business websites from day one. In this day and age, it is no longer enough to simply build a website and expect people to show up. In order to get customers, your site needs to look trustworthy, authoritative and convert well.

Potential customers want to see that you are serious and committed to building a great company. Your site should reflect the time, money and effort that you put into it. If it looks reputable, you should get custom­ers and earn revenue from that.  Here are some ways to establish trust, authority and high conversion rates for both customers and investors.

Building Trust


Re-Introducing the Mobile Marketing Boot Camp by ASPE-ROI

The speed at which mobile technology is advancing is, for lack of a better term, mind-blowing. In 2009 Symbian was the dominant platform. Do you know anybody that has a Nokia smartphone anymore? Probably not, because in five short years, Android and Apple cornered the market with a combined 92% market share for smartphone platforms (Source:  comScore Report).

But the critical piece of information is that worldwide use of mobile devices in 2014 is expected to exceed 1.74 billion users according to Now more than ever, smartphones and tablets are within an arm’s length of the majority of U.S. Consumers. Given that more and more people search and browse the internet from their mobile device, marketers need to update their skillsets in order to reach that captive audience.

This is why we revitalized the ASPE-ROI Mobile Marketing Boot Camp. With so many changes to the market and mobile technology, the knowledge and skills we teach marketing professionals needed to be updated in our course. Leveraging your reach with mobile marketing has never been more relevant. The two-day Mobile Marketing Boot Camp teaches you to:

  • Develop a mobile strategy that fits with your customers’ experience
  • Use the best industry tools to get your website mobile ready
  • Convert web traffic into sales using mobile commerce
  • Optimize your mobile site
  • Plan and design your website for multiple mobile devices
  • Create emails, ads and messages that get results.
  • And much more

The Mobile Marketing Boot Camp also provides hands-on activities that explore the landscape of mobile networks, mobile email campaigns, responsive design and advertising on mobile screens. When used correctly, mobile marketing give marketers the tools to reach their audience on a personal level. Integrating your current marketing campaigns with mobile marketing is critical, and understanding the techniques and best practices give you an advantage over competitors.

For a full course outline, please visit the Mobile Marketing Boot Camp page.

Being Agile in Product Management

Learn the essential skills needed to jump-start a career in this product management training course.

Many product managers find themselves working with Agile development teams now.  And lots of product managers have gone through training, like Certified Scrum Product Owner class, to learn more about Agile development practices in order to work well with their development teams.  But how many of us in product management have thought about establishing an Agile-inspired framework for product management?

One of my ventures is teaching Agile Marketing.  You heard me right – there’s Agile for marketing folks.  And no, it’s not the same as Agile for software development.  Agile Marketing has its own manifesto and its own way of applying Scrum.  Of course, it takes inspiration from the Agile software movement, but marketing folks made it their own and it’s been steadily picking up steam.  An Agile coach and trainer recently told me about a human resources team she’s teaching to use Agile Scrum.  So if development, marketing, and HR can all be Agile – why is product management so late to the party?

When I read the Agile Manifesto and the Agile Marketing Manifesto, a lot of stuff resonates with me as a product manager.  Parts that resonate from the Agile Manifesto:

  • Value individuals and interactions over process and tools
  • Value responding to change over following a plan

What about the “working software” and “customer collaboration” values?  Yeah, they’re good but they actually allude to areas that I’ve seen cause conflict for product managers – specifically, some development teams have taken those values as license to do cowboy coding.  I absolutely understand that’s NOT what the Agile software development folks intended.  But I would state them slightly differently for commercial software development.  In fact, some of the parts that resonate from the Agile Marketing Manifesto address that issue:

  • Value validated learning over opinions
  • Value customer-focused collaboration over silos and hierarchy
  • Value the process of customer discovery over static prediction

If you’ve never seen the Agile Marketing Manifesto, go and read it even if you’re not in marketing.  It’s clear that they “made it their own” with values that directly and uniquely apply to marketing.


The Value of a Facebook “Like”

What’s the value of your “likes’?

The objective of social media marketing is to be genuine, to represent the softer, approachable side of your brand.

It’s less stiff-collared corporate CEO and more hip barista at your neighborhood coffee shop kind of vibe that encourages engagement with your content.

It’s real, it’s raw, it’s you.

So why can’t this authentic content that you’re putting out into the world seem to generate shares or comments?

Especially if you have tons of likes?

Especially if you use Facebook advertising to get those likes?

The Ingenuous Side of Social Media Advertising

News has been brewing for several months about the fraud behind advertising on Facebook.

You need only look to YouTube, marketing blogs, or even the U.S. government for examples on how thousands of dollars spent on Facebook advertising increased likes…but not from – as Facebook puts it – “more of the people that matter to you.”

So why the insincerity, or “fake” likes?


Does Your Agile Marketing Team Have Scrumbut?

Learn to apply Agile Methods to Marketing in order to get more done, adapt to change and see immediate measurable results. Check out our 2-day Agile Marketing training course.

If you’re using Agile Marketing, you’re probably adapting the Scrum process used by software developers to manage your marketing activities. However, since most Scrum guides and classes only talk about software development, Agile Marketing folks frequently hit snags where it’s not clear how to do it. This has triggered an outbreak of a dreaded disease called “Scrumbut.”

What is “Scrumbut?”  It’s very easy to diagnose:

Ask your Agile Marketing team, “Do we use Scrum?”

If the answer starts with, “Yes, we use Scrum, but we don’t do…” then you know you’ve got it.

Common variants of Scrumbut in Agile Marketing include:

  • We use Scrum, but we don’t do daily Scrum meetings, aka stand-ups.
  • We use Scrum, but we don’t use User Stories.
  • We use Scrum, but we don’t use relative sizing estimates.
  • We use Scrum, but we don’t have a Scrum Master.
  • We use Scrum, but we don’t use burn-down charts.
  • Etc, etc, etc.

If any of these sound familiar, you’re not alone.  And you’re not a bad person either!  Expert Scrum practitioners and coaches will readily point out that every team has to “make it their own” – there’s a lot of flexibility built into the Scrum framework.  However, the trick is knowing if you’re adapting something to get more benefit or if you’re adapting because you’re just not familiar with how it’s supposed to work.

Let’s take that first Scrumbut symptom – we use Scrum, but we don’t do daily stand-ups.

Many marketing teams have modified this to be an every-other-day meeting and they still get good results.  It seems this often happens because it’s not practical for that particular team to break down most tasks to be doable in a day or less.  If that’s the case, you really don’t gain anything from having a daily meeting where two out of every three days your team is giving an update like “still working on the same thing as yesterday.”

Of course, there are some caveats here:

  • Make sure you really can’t reasonably break things down to day-or-less tasks.  E.g. don’t use less-frequent stand-ups just because team members don’t like the idea of daily accountability.  Accountability is one of the key ingredients to Scrum’s success so don’t shortchange it.
  • Make sure you still have good visibility into progress, and that typically means keeping a burn-down chart.  Having these frequent and brief check-ins helps prevent situations where you only find out at the last minute that something started to go off the rails weeks ago.
  • Make sure your Scrum Master is effectively communicating with the team and removing obstacles quickly – that should be happening whether you have a daily stand-up or not.


Introducing Data-Driven Marketing Boot Camp from ASPE-ROI

Big data has been a buzzword for a few years now, and it’s continuing to trend. What big data means for marketers has been somewhat confusing, if not controversial. With personal information out in the world of technology, how do marketers use big data appropriately? What does it mean to make data-driven decisions in marketing? It seems to be the elephant in the room that nobody knows how to explain.

ASPE-ROI introduced its Data-Driven Marketing Boot Camp this month in order to give marketers answers to those questions. The class focuses on using key analytics and data to reliably drive business. With exabytes of data pouring in from multiple sources, it’s hard to know where to start, how to grasp and analyze the information, and then even harder to decide what action to take. The three-day Data-Driven Marketing Boot Camp course teaches you to:

  • Understand big data and how it works in your organization
  • Establish a big data strategy and roadmap
  • Build a metrics program to support marketing and business goals
  • Identify key data sets useful to marketing
  • Make data-driven decisions to implement successful marketing campaigns
  • Understand what drives your customers’ decisions and how to gain their
  • And much more

Along with all of this, the Data-Driven Marketing Boot Camp provides hands-on activities that delve into defining business goals and related KPIs, identifying personas based on data and creating a test matrix to fine tune your data. When used appropriately, big data gives marketers the tools to pinpoint needs and speak directly to their audience. Instead of practicing subjective marketing where they have a gut feeling, marketers can make data-driven decisions by interpreting analytics from their big data.

For a full course outline, please visit the Data-Driven Marketing Boot Camp page.