Need Another Set of Eyes on Your Landing Page? [Free Pre-Publish Worksheet]

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Need another set of eyes on your landing page before you show it to the world? Image source.

It’s hard for us to critique our own work objectively.

A second set of eyes can reveal things you didn’t even realize were there: a vague unique value proposition, typos or just plain boring copy.

But maybe your co-workers are tied up and don’t have a sec to look over your work. And your boss has bigger fish to fry.

Well, you’re not entirely on your own, because we have an 11-page checklist for you to help you better evaluate your landing pages and catch common conversion killers. The worksheet will help you:

  • Ask the right questions when evaluating your landing pages.
  • Identify weaknesses and potential conversion leaks.
  • Make sure you have all five key elements of a high-converting landing page.

Want to gut check your landing pages before you hit publish?

This 11-page checklist will help you better evaluate your landing pages and catch common conversion killers.

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Check out the video below to hear Princess (yes, her real name), Marketing Educator at Unbounce, break down the worksheet for you and explain how you can put it to use today.

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Are You Missing this Vital Ingredient In Your Content Strategy?

How to focus content
Focused content… infinitely better than blurry content. Image via Shutterstock.

Let’s be honest.

Running a business blog is hard.

Deadlines loom. Good writers are hard to find. And even the good ones will miss deadlines or disappear when you need them most.

The result is often content for content’s sake.

You end up publishing a post that isn’t the quality you’d like. Or a post that’s only “sort of” related to your brand’s message, products and offers.

There’s no harm, right?

Wrong.

One of the least talked about but most critical elements of a strong content marketing plan is focus. Those posts that are almost on-topic or loosely related to your brand message can actually dilute your brand and confuse people about what you do, not to mention negatively impact your SEO.

Like it or not, you must focus your content, and that takes commitment and discipline from everyone involved.

To put it bluntly, great writing isn’t the hallmark of successful content marketing.

Focus is.

It’s time we get back to the basics. A strong blog focus will make the entire content creation process easier – and get you the results you’ve been looking for.

The impact of a loose blog focus

I get it. Talking about focus is easy. Finding your focus is hard.

That’s why you see high-traffic, industry-recognized blogs that still lack focus. When they started out, they didn’t know what their focus was. They were doing what we’ve all done, trying out different topics until they found what worked.

At some point, they have to focus. As do you. Because not focusing your content does more harm than good.

Lack of focus muddies your brand

What do you sell? What’s your site about? If your content doesn’t have a tight focus, you’ll hear these questions a lot.

That’s because there’s a disconnect between your content and your offers.

Content marketing is much more than branded publishing. It’s attraction marketing. If it’s doing its job, it should call out your best prospects and weed out everyone else. It should reflect your values, your voice and your brand promise.

Teabox may be taking a loose-focus approach that, over time, could muddy their brand. Below, I’ve taken screenshots of three recent posts. The first two posts are good. But look at the third one.

Teabox example of on-topic blog content
Teabox example of on topic blog content
Teabox example of on-topic blog content

This is a good example of what I’m talking about. By creating a While It Steeps category, Teabox opened the door to blog about other topics, from music to literature.

Right now, that may work. It’s definitely a creative approach to content – adding variety and human interest to the blog. But if I only look at the blog, I have to wonder what Teabox is about. Do they sell tea, or are they a media company?

Off-topic content creates negative SEO

Off-topic posts may be entertaining, but they can seriously undermine your SEO strategy. Your audience may see the connection, but search engines won’t.

Teabox’s music and literature posts are a good example.

From a content perspective, these posts are engaging and creative for existing visitors. But they’re not likely to attract new tea drinkers.

For instance, the post “In Music: Yin and Yang” is an audio file of Schubert’s Impromptu no.2 in E flat major, Op.90 and has the keywords “classical music” and “schubert.”

The post “The Entertainer” is an audio file of The Entertainer and has the keywords “scott joplin” and “ragtime.”

Are these really the keywords a tea vendor should rank for?

By pursuing these keywords, Teabox is telling search engines that it’s as much a music blog as a tea blog. These posts won’t likely win a page-one rank in SERPs for the music files, and they won’t attract tea drinkers at all.

So what’s the point?

A blog is your best source for organic traffic, but you need to attract qualified traffic. The only way to do that is to keep your posts on topic.

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Unfocused content makes it harder to leverage for sales

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. To leverage your content for sales, you need to be able to make offers that are relevant to your posts.

Think about Teabox’s music posts. They’re likely to attract visitors who love the arts but have no interest in tea. These people aren’t prospects and won’t respond to tea-related offers. Not only is it okay to exclude them, it’s for the best.

Besides, from a conversion standpoint, traffic from non-tea-drinkers will dilute the effectiveness of any promotion Teabox wants to make.

As Brian Massey says in his book, Your Customer Creation Equation,

“There are two ways to increase your conversion rate:

  • Get more visitors to take action, or
  • Bring in fewer unqualified visitors.

Which strategy is more important? To get the high conversion rates you want, you must master both.”

There’s a degree to which content is advertising for your brand. You promote it in social media and optimize it for search – why? To attract traffic. But not any traffic. The point is to attract qualified traffic that will fall in love with your brand and respond to your offers.

To do that, your content needs to be meaningful for your business and your audience. It can entertain, persuade, educate or convert, but it needs to do that for your best prospects – not the web as a whole.

Distilled content guide
Image via Distilled.

This graphic shows you the possibilities when it comes to creating content. Notice that you can use a wide variety of formats. But don’t take that as license to create content on a wide variety of topics.

Again: Your content should create interest in your brand and curiosity about your offers, which means it needs to be highly focused on the topics related to your products.

So how do you find your content focus?

Sometimes your focus is baked into your brand. Teabox’s focus is tea.

But sometimes it isn’t so obvious. If that’s the case for you, these three steps can give you a head start.

1. Start with your products

If your content focus isn’t obvious, you need to reverse engineer it, starting with your top products/services or your core message. If you had to pick one “umbrella topic” that covers everything you do, what would it be?

That’s your core topic.

Next, jot down the supporting ideas and/or topics that you generally talk about when presenting your core message. These should be the topics or ideas that help you stand out from the competition.

If you aren’t sure, try answering these questions as you think about it:

  • What do you do that’s unique to your brand?
  • Why do you do it?
  • How do you do it?
  • Who do you do it for?

2. Tighten even more

Based on your products, the discussions you have with customers and the answers to the questions above, list two to five topics that are central to your brand.

For instance, Neil Patel’s QuickSprout talks about traffic and conversion. SEO used to be its core topic, but since search algorithms have changed, it now revolves mostly around content.

Quicksprout blog

The blog doesn’t use categories, but if it did, they would probably be content, traffic, and conversion.

In most cases, you only want two to five supporting ideas. Your umbrella topic (core message) should be the main topic of all your content. That’s “what you talk about” as a brand.

Your supporting ideas should be the categories of your blog. Any topic or idea that falls outside this list should be considered off limits – your content should attract your best prospects… and no one else.

3. Keyword research

Once you know the topics you’re going to focus on, you’re ready to pick the keywords you should rank for. My favorite tool for this is Ahrefs – using one tool, you can do keyword, content and competitor research, making it easy to pick your target keywords.

Keep in mind, if you’re in a competitive industry, you may not be able to rank on Page 1 of Google for the generic topic you cover, but you can rank for long-tail keywords or for related keywords.

Ahrefs gives you the keyword difficulty (KD) for each keyword, so you know how accessible it is. For example, “content,” “marketing,” and “content marketing” may be so competitive that you’d have a hard time ranking for them, but “define content,” KD of 36, might be accessible.

Ahrefs keyword difficulty

To clarify, keyword difficulty is a score that ranges from zero to 100, with 100 being the most difficult. The KD that’s right for you depends on your domain authority and number of backlinks, or referring domains, you’ve acquired. According to Ahrefs, to rank well for a KD of 10, you should have backlinks from 10 different websites, and to rank for a 90 KD keyword (such as “content” from the screenshot above), you’d need backlinks from 756 different websites.

Bottom line, with a tighter content focus, you can pick a cluster of keywords you’d like to rank for and begin creating content that could help your brand show up in the SERPs.

It won’t happen overnight, but by focusing your content, you have a much better chance of succeeding.

Now do it

The number one complaint I hear from content marketers is, “We’re doing everything we’re supposed to do and it isn’t working.”

If you aren’t getting the results you need, the issue may not be style or format or even writing quality. It may simply be that you aren’t focused enough in the topics you cover.

Onsite and off, you need a tight focus for your content.

It’s tempting to create off-topic content simply to meet your next deadline or entertain your visitors. Don’t do it!

Find your focus and stick with it. A clear focus allows you to create higher quality content with less effort – and finally get the results you’re looking for.

What about you? Have you successfully found your blog focus? What’s your biggest challenge with narrowing the focus of your content?

Progressive Profiling: A Cure for Poor Lead Quality and Form Friction

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You wouldn’t propose to a complete stranger, would you? So why ask prospects for a commitment without first getting to know them a little?

If your landing pages and web forms don’t bring in usable prospect data, how can you follow up with prospects and nurture them into qualified leads? How can you pass them to sales for further development?

The struggle is real. As much as 40 percent of B2B leads suffer from poor data quality, and bounce rates for lead generation pages average between 30 and 50 percent. The problem here is two-fold:

  • Prospects don’t take the time to complete web forms accurately
  • Prospects don’t complete web forms at all

In many cases, marketers either ask for all of their lead data up front or build a custom form for each content asset based on what buying stage they think will match prospects’ intent.

Neither approach is ideal.

On the one hand, you could scare prospects away by demanding too much information:

long-application
Yikes. Image source.

On the other hand, it’ll take a lot of extra work to a build custom form for each of your content assets.

How can this be avoided?

Progressive profiling is a lead acquisition technique that involves requesting one or two pieces of information at a time, starting with basic firmographics (e.g. company size, job title, industry) and leading into deeper, more targeted questions later in the relationship.

Done correctly, it can help you increase conversion rates and lead accuracy by lowering the psychological barrier to form submission – all while keeping forms simple for a better overall user experience.

Progressive profiling case study

Countless B2B organizations are already using progressive profiling to improve their conversion rates and the quality of their data profiles. The Eaton Corporation, a power management company based in Dublin, Ireland, used progressive profiling to improve engagement with a recent campaign aimed at IT professionals.

With the help of Oracle’s Marketing Cloud, they combined dynamic form fields with a personalized offer and brought in more than 5,000 new prospects… with 48 pieces of information for each. This surpassed their original goal by 276 percent.

So how exactly does progressive profiling work?

Instead of trying to build a complete lead intelligence profile from a single interaction or build a dozen different forms, you use marketing automation and dynamic web forms to request only the information you lack.

Here’s an example of how the process could work:

  1. A prospect visits your website and downloads a whitepaper.

    They submit their name, email address and company name through your web form.

  1. After receiving a few drip emails, the same person clicks a CTA to register for a webinar.

    A dynamic web form for now asks for their industry, company size and a custom question about their software needs. Dynamic web forms present unique fields to each prospect based on the information you already have (or don’t have) in your database.

  1. Not long after the webinar, the lead requests a video demo of your product.

    You now ask them to specify a budget range and implementation time frame.

You’ll need to set up rules for progressive profiling in your marketing automation platform. Most systems from leading vendors (Pardot, Eloqua, Marketo, HubSpot, Act-On) provide some kind of dynamic web form feature, although it’s not always labeled as such.

Here’s an example from Act-On – pay special attention to the “Visitor Form Rules” field:

progessive-profiling-img2

As you can see, Act-On uses “if + then” rules to make sure no lead capture forms appear redundant to the prospect; you only want to ask for the pieces of information you don’t have.

When should you use progressive profiling?

It may seem like a cure-all solution from the outset, but progressive profiling isn’t always the best choice.

Not every prospect or lead will interact with your content frequently enough to move through a multi-stage lead capture process. According to a study by Demand Gen Report, only 38 percent of buyers view more than four pieces of content from the vendor they ultimately choose.

Worst case scenario: a lead only completes one web form, and you only get their name and email address – hardly enough to constitute an MQL (marketing qualified lead). In light of this reality, marketers should consider when and why they should employ progressive profiling:

  • If the goal is to gradually convert casual site visitors into sales-ready leads with a series of escalating offers, it’s probably a safe bet.
  • But what about visitors who are already in the decision stage of their buying process? If they click a bottom-funnel CTA, do you want to squander the opportunity by only capturing basic info, such as that you might capture for a newsletter subscriber?

    Of course not. Even if your initial conversion rate rises, your final conversion rate (after a couple nurture emails, another offer, another form) will be the same, or even lower.

Here’s the short version: you shouldn’t apply progressive profiling to all of your content campaigns just because it seems intuitive.

Instead, take a hybrid approach:

  • Build more extensive web forms for bottom-of-the-funnel assets and offers, and use progressive profiling to make sure you don’t request the same information twice.
  • For your first-time visitors and blog subscribers, the barrier to entry should still be low, but if there’s an opportunity to capture a qualified lead from a single touch point, take it.

The challenge

The challenge of lead acquisition is similar to the challenge of the sale: you must convince people that your offer (product/service/content) is worth some kind of investment (money/time/information).

While progressive profiling doesn’t necessarily improve your value proposition, it does lower the psychological barrier to entry. By minimizing your “asks” and spacing them out over time, you can build incremental trust with prospects and leads, which adds up to higher conversion rates and more new customers.

Just remember to keep one thing in mind: while progressive profiling is a great technique, it won’t carry your inbound lead generation efforts on its own. As with any campaign, there are many moving parts and they all must work in concert. To get the most out of progressive profiling, make sure you invest at least as much energy into optimizing your awesome content and the landing pages that go with them.

Interested in learning more about landing page optimization?

Download this ebook and become an expert at designing landing pages that convert like crazy.

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All the Recordings, Slides and Notes from Call to Action Conference 2016

Aaaaaaand that’s a wrap.

call-to-action-conference-2016-thank-you

Call to Action Conference 2016 may be over, but our heads are still spinning from all the enlightening things we learned and the boss people we met. With nearly 1K attendees and 21 speakers filling Vancouver’s most prestigious theater, I think we all left feeling a little overwhelmed.

… In a good way, of course. Like a food coma, but instead we’re filled with marketing learnings.

Here’s what some of the attendees had to say:

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And then there was the networking, pub crawls, parties, human inflatable foosball, gondola tour, axe throwing (seriously), super cute swag…

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And so much more. Actually, you can watch a quick recap here:

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But enough with the FOMO-inducing brag. Here’s the real reason for this post.

Regardless of whether you were able to make it or not, we have some presents for you.

That’s right! Because you’re worth it.

call-to-action-conference-2016-high-five
Yaaaaaaaas.

We’ve got a bundle of resources for you: all the presentation recordings, slides and comprehensive notes (thanks Campaign Monitor!). Completely free.

Happy binge watching/reading. Hopefully you’ve already made it through the latest season of Orange is the New Black…

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Modern-Day Da Vinci: How Great Content Merges Science and Creativity

Has your inspiration for engaging content ideas hit a brick wall? Do you feel like despite all your efforts, your content is falling on deaf ears?

First off, take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone. According to the most recent Content Marketing Institute reports, producing engaging content is the biggest challenge for a whopping 60% of B2B and 56% of B2C content marketers.

Why is it so hard to make stuff that people want to engage with?

da-vinci-content-marketing-650
Hint: Great content marketing requires you to be a modern-day Renaissance (wo)man like Leonardo Da Vinci. Image source.

We need to be data scientists.

Long gone are the days when marketers could woo the masses with company-centric material. Now, in the era of consumer control, content must address the problems, questions and desires of real people to convince consumers to go on a first date and then possibly take the relationship further.

To better understand said problems, questions and desires, we need to collect and analyze data on the people we’re trying to talk to.

But we also need to be creative.

Consumers have access to more information than ever before, so content needs to stand out against a shedload of good, bad and ugly content. It needs to be different in some way to be engagement-worthy.

In a nutshell, content must now be relevant and innovative, and this is a tall order of the skyscraper variety.

How can we make stuff that people want to engage with?

To rise to the challenge, content marketers need to strike a balance between the science of content marketing – data analysis and experimentation – and creativity. To create a content masterpiece, one must basically aspire to be a 21st century Leonardo Da Vinci.

l-homme-de-vitruve

No pressure then.

I’m going to suggest a three-step methodology that integrates science and creativity to help you craft content that amazes and engages.

I hope to help you analyze data to find engaging content ideas, use creative thinking to turn data-fuelled ideas into inspired creations and experiment with your creations to create pieces that your audience truly love.

Let’s hop to it.

Step 1: Use customer insights to inspire content ideas

Staring at a blank page? Use the powers of observation to feed your inspiration.

The first step is to observe visitor behavior. You can start by analyzing the actions of your blog visitors. This will not only give you valuable insights into what they want to read about, but also some much-needed fuel to spark ideas from.

Once you have a better understanding of what topics get them to interact with you, you can then develop content ideas around similar themes.

It’s time to don your data scientist hat, log into Google Analytics and answer the following questions:

Which are your most engaging existing blog posts?

Measuring the amount of time people spend on your blog posts is a nifty way to get insight into which topics resonate the most with your audience.

  1. Click on Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
  2. Look at the Average Time on Page
allpages1
  1. Note which posts have the highest Average Time on Page. These are your most engaging posts. In the example this is “/blog title 2” and “/blog title 3”.
  2. Look at any similarities between these posts, e.g. topic, format, style.
  3. Use your findings to brainstorm ideas for your next content piece.

Which search terms bring in the most organic traffic?

You can also find out which topics prospects want to learn more about by looking at your organic traffic.

  1. In Google Analytics, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels
  2. In the table, click on Organic Search.
organic search-650
  1. In the first column you have a list of the most popular keywords used to access your website.
organic-search-detailed-google-analytics
Image via Kissmetrics.
  1. Note down the most popular terms (not including your company name) and brainstorm your ideas around them.

Ted Karczewski, Content Marketing Manager at Skyward, told me that one way his company finds inspiration for engaging content ideas is by analyzing popular SEO terms in Google Analytics.

In 2014, Skyward saw a large volume of people arriving at their blog via the search term “Instagram marketing.” This was a pretty good indication that people were interested in reading about this topic.

Off the back of this observation, Skyward created a series on Instagram marketing that “generates thousands of views each month, ranks highly for the phrase and converts new readers to subscribers.”

Insights into the behavior of your visitors are starting blocks for creating engaging content. Use the information at your fingertips to spark ideas for your next hyper-relevant content piece.

Step 2: Use creative thinking to transform data into innovative content

“In this new fast-moving ever-changing environment, creativity is not a luxury or a risk. It really is a necessity.” – David Usher, Let the Elephants Run

Data and analytics are essential to understanding consumer behavior and driving interactions that create business value. But…

(Yes, there is a “but”)

…these things alone are often not enough to create actions that create an amazing customer experience.

Bill Gates predicted that the web would become the “multimedia equivalent of the photocopier.” Lo-and-behold, we’re seeing a lot of the same ol’ and it’s getting evermore difficult to create something that feels truly original.

To make content stand out, we need to integrate creativity into the content creation process. Creativity allows you to tell a story that may have been told many times before in a way that goes against the grain.

Simon Berg, CEO of content marketing platform Ceros, predicts that this year content marketers will need to be creative “to drive engagement and results in the future.”

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From analytical to creative thinking

Contrary to popular belief, creativity isn’t a gift that only a portion of the population is born with.

It is in fact a learned skill, as this CoSchedule article explains. Anyone can learn to change his or her perspective on reality and integrate creativity into the content creation process.

Once you’ve done some digging into your customer data and decided on the subject you want to run with, it’s time to ask yourself: “what’s the most creative way I can deliver my message?”

Here are a few questions you could ask yourself to sprinkle some creativity over your content creation process:

How can I make my content visually awesome?

Everyone’s favorite content marketing mentor HubSpot tells us that visual content is easier to mentally process and understand. And you only need to look at the success of visual content platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube to know that content that appeals to the optical senses is in vogue. Infographics, videos and drawings are just some of the formats you could use to communicate your message visually.

Here’s a handy list of free tools, compiled by HubSpot, to get you started creating visual web content.

How can I make my content stand out?

It’s no good reproducing the same old content you can find on your competitors’ websites. To create refreshingly different content that reflects your individuality, turn your attention away from your competitors and look to your own business. Ask yourself:

  • What are the core values of my business?
  • How would I describe my company’s personality?
  • How can I reflect these things in my content?

Video marketing platform company Wistia engages customers with content that reflects the companies individuality.

According to Wistia’s CEO Chris Savage, during the first five years the company produced “boring” and “anonymous” content that failed to attract customers. But once it began to produce content that reflected the company’s quirky personality, it saw engagement levels shoot up.

Step 3: Experiment! Measure and improve your content

In content marketing – as in science and in life – no matter how much work you put into research and creation, the results are never 100% guaranteed.

Now that we’ve used science to analyze our data and creativity to improve our ideas, we will again use science to measure and improve the success of our content.

The best way to optimize your content’s chances of success is to test it out on your audience, look at the results and repeat what works well. But where exactly does one begin?

If you’re at a loss, headlines are a great place to start. They’re the first element of your content that audience sees, so it’s damn important to get them right.

A/B test headlines in WordPress

Optimizely’s WordPress plugin allows you to test headlines directly in WordPress.

Once you’ve installed and configured the plugin on WordPress, you can publish a post on your website with as many headlines as you like.

  1. In WordPress, click on Posts and Add new.

optimizely1

  1. Get your wordsmith on. Type in your article and click Publish as usual.
  2. In the A/B testing column on the right-hand side of the screen, enter in as many headlines as you like (you defined the number when you configured the plug-in). Optimizely tells us that “the more headlines you test, the longer it will take to get to statistical significance,f” so I’d recommend using 2 or 3 headlines max to start with. Then click Create Experiment.

optimizely2

  1. Once you click Start Experiment, your headline experiment is live. You can track your results at any time by clicking on View Results in the same page.

optimizely3

  1. Analyze your results. Is there one headline that outperforms the others? Use this headline for your blog post! And then ask yourself why it did well so you can replicate your success.

A/B test headlines on social media

Testing headlines on social media is a less scientific method than testing headlines directly on your website, but it can still give you some insight into which headlines are the most effective.

Social media mogul Buffer A/B tests all their headlines to find which ones resonate most with their audience.

For example, Buffer published the same blog post on Twitter under two different headlines:

buffer_tweet

Based on a higher engagement rate with the second tweet, Buffer chose to use the second headline for the blog post.

To this date this article has been shared nearly 5,000 times on Facebook, a success that Buffer’s CEO Leo Wildrich largely attributes to choosing a headline based on audience feedback.

Testing your headlines is just one way you can perfect your content and create something your audience will really want to engage with – you’re limited only by your creativity!

Creativity needs science like science needs creativity

These days it takes more than data to wow people. It also takes more than just an innovative idea to succeed. Content marketers need to balance science and creativity to create content that stands a chance of getting noticed.

The actionable methodology above, which unifies science (data analysis, experimentation) and creativity, is one way to integrate both branches of knowledge into your content marketing process to help you continuously create content that is customer-focused and innovative.

The Definitive Guide to Agency Marketing Automation

Nurturing seeds
Grow, little leads, grow! Image via Shutterstock.

Most agency websites suck. (For the longest time, mine was no different.)

But it’s not your fault.

You’re strapped for time as it is – too busy running around, responding to clients ASAP and leaving little-to-no time for yourself.

This problem can be extended to most agency promotional efforts. Your blog struggles for consistent publishing. Social could use some work. Outgoing emails are inconsistent at best.

Marketing automation can help dramatically, but it’s typically only reserved for clients.

Well not anymore. Because spending just a few hours setting up an effective email automation workflow can net you 20% more sales opportunities, letting you spend more time focusing on your current clients.

Here are a few sample workflows to show you how any agency can start employing its own marketing automation campaigns to nurture leads, close clients and onboard them painlessly.

Sample automation email workflows

An introductory guide to marketing automation

When used properly, marketing automation can deliver a 451% increase in qualified leads. It can also increase average sales by 34%.

79% of the best marketers have already been using marketing automation for years now.

But… it’s typically only the largest marketing teams who’re implementing successfully.

While 60%+ of marketers use email to keep in touch with customers and prospects, only around 13% use marketing automation. (Despite the fact that marketing automation can deliver twice as many leads as the normal mass email approach.)

Even more concerning, only 85% of B2B marketers reportedly feel like they’re not using it to its fullest extent.

That’s a shame. Because beyond the amazing lead nurturing powers we’ve already discussed, it’s ALSO one of the best ways to scale the efforts of any small, scrappy team looking for an automated way to nurture prospective leads (so it’s not another thing that falls into the lap of the founder, principal or partner).

Marketing automation is also an excellent agency tactic because it perfectly aligns with a consultative sales process that you should be using (here’s a primer on SPIN selling I wrote for HubSpot with more background information).

Here’s how it works.

Using one of your favorite email marketing tools (we use and love HubSpot and recommend AutopilotHQ as an alternative, but you can even use MailChimp if money’s tight) you can set up workflows that automatically trigger pre-crafted emails at predetermined intervals.

Example workflow

Each of these workflows should have a goal or objective, like “Fill out Form XYZ” or “Purchase Widget ABC”. When someone on your email list achieves your desired goal, they’re automatically removed from this list so they don’t receive any other now-irrelevant offers. (Many times you’ll even simultaneously add them automatically to a new workflow in order to achieve a different purpose.)

You can also get uber-nerdy, creating different If, Then conditional statements for people who DO (or don’t) open or click an email, creating endless branches of customization until your heart’s content.

Agencies and marketers everywhere commonly implement this stuff for clients. It ain’t brain surgery. For example, ecommerce shops commonly have ‘Cart Abandonment Workflows’ that follow up with people who add products to their cart but don’t follow through with a purchase.

For example, you can sweeten the deal with a timely discount or free shipping. You can also introduce scarcity by urging people to purchase one of the last remaining items before they run out of stock. Or, highlight any other limited-time bonus, like Audible sent me recently:

Audible email

These emails are popular, because they work. Personalized, timely emails like this result in 14% better click-throughs and 10% better conversion rates.

Marketers are very familiar with setting these up for clients. Trouble is, they rarely set them up for themselves.

It’s obviously not a lack of knowledge or skill. It’s usually some combination of meeting existing client deadlines, responding to urgent requests and pricing out new projects.

But don’t worry, because I’ve already done the work for you. Simply adjust the following workflows for your own agency.

Maximize Your Conversions with Email Campaigns

Download the FREE Smart Guide To Email Marketing Conversion!

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Workflow #1: site visitors -> interested contacts

Your first objective is to grab the attention of current website visitors and turn them into interested contacts.

These are people who aren’t quite leads yet, but can be in the future if you nurture them properly (and if the timing is right for them).

People at the top of the funnel (TOFU, in HubSpot parlance) lack awareness for your services. (In other words, they don’t necessarily realize that they need you just yet.) More likely, they’re looking for SEO tips, web design trends or similarly educational, information-based content.

Grab people’s interest with topic-focused content offers. Viral-inducing infographics are perfect, like this excellent Landing Page Anatomy gifographic from KlientBoost.

At the bottom of the post, you’ll see the customary CTA featuring a proposal offer.

KlientBoost CTA

Most people find your blog posts through one of two ways:

  1. Referrals (at the beginning)
  2. Organic search (over the long-term)

Blog posts like the example above that targets “Landing Page Anatomy” will generally bring people in through organic search. As such, they’re probably looking for information and education. (In other words, they’re likely not looking for expensive, custom, done-for-you services quite yet.)

One thing to try testing here if these people aren’t ready to talk proposals, is to try a softer sell with a downloadable guide, checklist, ebook and so on.

The benefit of leading with a soft sell (i.e., downloadable guide) over a hard one (i.e., consultation) is getting more leads to opt-in, giving you the chance to nurture them over time with inbound marketing campaigns.

IMPACT does something similar right on their homepage, offering a free guide to download immediately.

Impact homepage form

Workflow #2: interested contacts -> marketing leads

The second step is to subtly get your new interested contacts to raise their hand and become a marketing lead.

That gives you the cue to begin proceeding with a more direct, hard sale.

How exactly?

Continue building interest and trust in your services through case studies and other educational resources that bridge the gap between information and solutions your services offer.

You can get super sophisticated with clever lead scoring techniques that give you quantifiable averages based on pageviews, site visitors and more. But that’s time consuming and imprecise.

If we’re emphasizing speed here, just create a basic service-related offer and ask people to download it if they’re interested.

For example, when you try reaching out to San Diego firm Digital Telepathy, they’ll send you a playbook which provides some more details about how they work (and what you can expect).

Playbook form

People who make this subtle transition to inquiring about your services are now entering that middle of the funnel (MOFU) step. By filling out a service-related form on your website, they’re  expressing explicit interest in what you have to offer.

Digital Telepathy uses their Playbook to provide more information about how their services work. However you can also use a calculator-like tool to show the ROI, or even a video/webinar that details what a typical project looks like (and what it might cost).

Here’s a simple cadence to get them there:

  • Day 3: Tips article
  • Day 7: Opinion article
  • Day 10: CTA – MOFU offer
  • Day 14: Tips article
  • Day 17: Opinion article
  • Day 20: CTA – MOFU offer
  • Day 24: Tips article
  • Day 27: Opinion article
  • Day 30: CTA – MOFU offer

These emails should be personal and largely unstyled, because the one thing that separates services companies is YOU. Everyone “does SEO” or “designs websites.” Look around at the biggest agencies, and you’ll quickly notice they’re selling themselves, their people and their culture.

Codeless email

From a design standpoint, this email sucks. Especially that awkward looking guy’s face. But it’s personal, meant to prioritize a one-on-one connection (rather than our design brilliance).

And most importantly, it was easy to create. If marketers can strip away additional required resources (e.g., design and development), you can speed up creation and deployment (which is critical if you’re building out ~30 of these over the next few days).

PRO TIP: Upload your segmented email list (for example, one ‘group’ or segmented list for each step of the funnel discussed so far) to create a Facebook Ad Custom Audience and run remarketing campaigns to make multi-channel marketing a practical, scalable and affordable reality for scrappy upstarts.

Workflow #3: marketing leads -> sales leads

People can be qualified as a marketing lead when they’ve met some basic criteria and shown some interest in your services.

You want to move people from the middle of the funnel (MOFU) to the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

The goal is to turn these middle of the funnel (MOFU) leads into ones ready to move into the bottom of the funnel (BOFU) and get on the phone to discuss scope, pricing and more.

How?

Benchmark your prospect against the competition to quickly highlight where they are now with where they want to be (or where their competition already is).

Here’s the next workflow cadence to implement:

  • Day 3: Detailed ‘How-To’ article
  • Day 7: Case study
  • Day 10: CTA – BOFU offer
  • Day 14: Detailed ‘How-To’ article
  • Day 17: Case study
  • Day 20: CTA – BOFU offer
  • Day 24: Detailed ‘How-To’ article
  • Day 27: Case study
  • Day 30: CTA – BOFU offer

Look: I’m no sales expert.

But I do know that if you can show people (quantifiably) where they are now alongside where they want to be and where their competition already is, your chances of closing that sh*t just went up exponentially.

So instead of the basic free consultation that excites no one, offer something that compares and contrasts a company with their own aspirations.

For example, Wordstream found huge success when they shifted their initial offer to an AdWords Grader that breaks down how a company’s campaign performance is doing currently with what they could (or should) be doing.

Moz Local does something similar, highlighting the amount of inconsistent, duplicate or missing local listing information that’s holding you back.

(Here are a few more B2B offer examples like these if you’re interested).

The goal is to detail your prospect’s problems in real time and offer up compelling solutions to fix them (which is the exact Problem Agitate Solution copywriting formula employed on the daily).

One example that makes me infinitely jealous and I will NOT hesitate to steal emulate is IMPACT‘s ROI calculator:

ROI calculator

Your emails to get people to these offers can be the same style and tone as previous ones (more-or-less). Here’s another imperfect, yet implemented email example:

Codeless email

Same crappy email template. Same goofy looking dude.

But the overall goal is the same: come across as a real, friendly person who can be a helpful asset.

Workflow #4: sales prospect -> happy new client

Once you’ve had the chance to meet one-on-one with new prospects, you’ll probably start following up personally.

But there’s no reason to stop automating your efforts just yet – use it to help build trust and urgency (or simply take care of those leads that become unresponsive when attempting to follow up).

Here’s the next workflow cadence to implement:

  • Day 3: Meeting notes or recap
  • Day 10: Video overview of the next steps
  • Day 17: Calculator (their expected ROI)
  • Day 20: Case study and testimonial
  • Day 24: Case study and testimonial
  • Day 30. Breakup template

That last step is especially important. You know when you follow up with a new prospect, over and over and over again, only to hear crickets in return? Break up, don’t follow up.

Even something simple should do:

Hi $FNAME,

I’ve tried following up a few times but haven’t heard anything back. I’m going to assume this is no longer a priority for you right now.

Best of luck going forward!

– Brad

When all’s said and done, you’ve turned strangers into contacts or subscribers, turned those contacts into true marketing leads, and then whittled down a list of sales prospects who want to talk shop one-on-one. And they’re about to finally close.

Well played. You should celebrate. Go on, you deserve it.

celebrate
Say it with me now, “I. Am. The. Best.” Image via Giphy.

But don’t stop automatically following up with clients once they sign on the dotted line.

Instead, remove the possibility of buyer’s remorse and encourage referrals by continuing to send emails consistently to new clients.

Pawel Grabowski wrote an excellent agency onboarding template recently on Agency Analytics that suggested the following sequence:

  1. Welcome message: Exactly as it sounds. Welcome new clients and continue reinforcing the value you’ll deliver. You can also send over important documents that might require their feedback as well.
  2. Break the silence: Explain your agency process and provide quick updates while your team is busy heads down getting the project rolling.
  3. First deliverable: Send frequent deliverable updates as items within the project’s scope get accomplished.
  4. Educational materials: Provide supporting details or documents that help set the context and expectations for clients.
  5. Follow up: Feign face-time with consistent project updates to make sure clients know they’re loved, appreciated and understood.

You can also use these automation techniques to de-personalize some interactions.

Here’s what I mean:

I’ve often found it’s difficult, awkward or just uncomfortable to ask clients for direct feedback to improve or for testimonials when a project is winding down.

It’s natural to feel like you’re imposing when asking this of clients. And many times they feel put on the spot and don’t react as you’d like (candidly).

To avoid this, bolster your onboarding sequence with simple project management email templates and surveys to go out after 30 or 45 days of working together:

Codeless feedback email

Using a single, all-in-one tool for all your client communication also has the added benefit of banking answers. For example, HubSpot’s smart form fields will save answers previously provided (like name, etc.) so that future forms won’t keep asking for duplicate information (thereby annoying clients who’ve responded to a few of these).

There’s a delicate balance that you need to strike when using automation with agency clients, because you don’t want to come across as unprofessional by asking redundant, duplicate questions that may have been already been addressed.

Conclusion

Marketing agencies struggle on a daily basis, just like our clients, to find the time and resources to properly promote our businesses.

Being in a client services position only exacerbates this problem, forcing us to continually put client needs ahead of our own.

When you’re slammed with projects, consistent agency promotion declines (or stops entirely).

Marketing automation is the perfect solution, tailor-made to help you nurture and follow up with interested leads at scale.

It can help you bridge the gap between site visitors ready to receive a proposal from… the other 98% of your website visitors.

And when executed properly, marketing automation should also seamlessly fit into your consultative sales approach.

That means a few days of hard work can deliver you with a systematic process to incrementally build trust over the long-term, until your prospects are ready to become clients (and even loyal referrers).

Create a Data-Driven Content Strategy in 1 Day [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you’re a content writer, you might think that data analytics isn’t relevant to you (I know I did). But you’d be wrong. Data and content are actually a match made in heaven. If you collect the right data, you can find out what type of content resonates with your audience  – isn’t that a writer’s ultimate goal?

By developing a data-driven content strategy, you are ensuring the content you’re producing is relevant to your current readers as well as your prospects (who may not know who the heck you are). Plus, the chances are high your competitors already have a data-driven content strategy, so creating one for your business is just, well, good business.

Are you freaking out?

Well stop. Building a data-driven content strategy doesn’t have to take longer than a day. Yep, you read that right: one day. Oh, and if you use free tools like we suggest, it’s also easy on the budget (something your boss will no doubt appreciate).

Our friends at JBH Agency have designed a beautiful step-by-step infographic showing you exactly how to build your data-driven content strategy: all you need is 24 hours, a few free tools and one clever human.

Psst: If you’re more of a reader than a visual learner, check out the original article that inspired this infographic, written by Unbounce’s Brad Tiller.
Data-driven content strategy infographic

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