• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • Duo Consulting
    Duo Consulting on October 15, 2014

    4 Reasons Drupal Is the Best Social CMS

    It turns out Drupal and Social Media are a match made in heaven. Because of Drupal’s system of modules, integration with external websites can be as easy as installing a module that fits your site’s needs. And once these modules are installed, you will have a central place to manage profile information and plug-in modules, such as follow and share buttons.
  • While it’s true that a lot of PDF content isn’t the greatest SEO content, it’s not true that PDF documents are bad to have on your site if there are good reasons for PDFs to be there.

    While it’s true that a lot of PDF content isn’t the greatest SEO content, it’s not true that PDF documents are bad to have on your site if there are good reasons for PDFs to be there. An article at Search Engine Land details the pros and cons of PDFs for SEO.

    What’s A Good Reason For A PDF?

    If you can add spec sheets, forms, manuals, and other types of easily loaded content that users will want to download or print, it’s logical to do it in PDF format. Think about your customers and do what works for them. You can put your PDF on the site in ways that still work with the search engines if you do it the right way:

    • Use text. Scanned documents are pictures of words and not the same thing to a search engine, but they are getting better at processing images.
    • Set the title in the document properties using keywords in that title. You want a URL/filename that makes sense and is SEO-rich.
    • Link your PDF to other pages where appropriate.
    • Write-protect your document so it can’t be uploaded & edited by bad guys.
    • Save it in an older version of Acrobat. Yeah, I know there are new versions, but many of your readers are not going to renew their version just to get your PDF.
    • Be careful about duplicate content when you are updating documents. It’s easy to do if you are changing things around.

    Practice Good SEO

    When it comes down to it, good SEO is a good idea for everything on your site no matter what format it’s in because good SEO is user-friendly. You should be doing an online health checkup regularly and monitor what’s working and what needs to be adjusted. PDFs and SEO work fine together as long as the PDF is optimized for SEO.

    Photo Credit: PDF SEO/shutterstock

    Your company has embarked on a blogging journey to increase the right kind of traffic to your site and to convert visitors to leads. Those leads can then be nurtured toward a sale and become raving fans of your company.

    Are you wondering if your B2B blog is on the right track for successful lead generation? Focus on these five areas to know.

     

    All aboard! Your train is pulling away from the station and you’re on it.

    Your company has embarked on a blogging journey to increase the right kind of traffic to your site and to convert visitors to leads. Those leads can then be nurtured toward a sale and become raving fans of your company.

    Your blog posts are helpful and educational, and focused on your buyer persona’s interests and challenges.

    Even better, your company’s management and sales teams are on board, having bought in to the importance of blogging and how the sales team can use blog content during the sales process.

    What helped get everyone on board the blogging train? Here are a few reasons:

    • B2B companies that blog only 1-2x/month generate 70% more leads than those who don’t blog. Click to tweet!

    • Companies that increase blogging from 3-5x/month to 6-8x/month almost double their leads. Click to tweet!

    • An average company will see a 45% growth in traffic when increasing total blog articles from 11-20 to 21-50Click to tweet!  Source: HubSpot

    And while blogging can generate long-term marketing success, you also know that blogging doesn’t usually generate overnight success.

    In fact, that period after a blog has launched can be a scary and precarious time for a blog’s success and longevity. It’s a time when there seems to be more effort going in than results coming out. Management might start to wonder if all the content creation efforts are worth the investment.

    To help get you through that long first leg of your blogging journey when you hope you’re headed in the right direction, here are five things to measure to know if your B2B blog is on the right track:

    1. Article Views

    After you have begun publishing blog articles you’ll be able to see which ones are getting the most and least views. The results might surprise you, but that’s OK because blogging is an iterative practice where what you’re doing becomes informed by data and analytics. That in turn enables you to do more of what’s working and less of what’s not working.

    What is it about the more popular posts? Is it one particular author whose posts are getting more views? Is it a particular subject? A post format (e.g. how to, list post, controversial topic)?

    2. Engagement

    Many people who visit your blog may ultimately buy what you sell. They just aren’t going to buy immediately. Or from you.

    On average, 80% of a blog’s readers are first time visitors. That means that most readers don’t return.

    That’s why it’s important to capture visitors’ email addresses so that you can keep in touch with them and nurture them toward a deeper relationship with your company over time. The best way to do that is with an email newsletter. If you can get visitors back to your blog you’re on the right track.

    Measuring the net growth of your blog’s subscribers is also important because the average email list deteriorates 25% per year due to unsubscribes, people changing jobs, etc.

    Similarly, the number of subscribers to your blog via RSS reader is also a good number to track for an indication of a growing audience.

    3. Inbound Links

    Inbound links are one of the most important indications that your blog has remarkable content. It is like a vote of confidence from other websites.

    Inbound links are also one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s search algorithms. If other sites are linking to your content, your search rankings are most likely on the way up.

    4. Call-to-Action Performance

    A Call to Action (CTA) is a website button, image or text link that encourages a visitor to take an action by typically clicking on the button, visiting a landing page and filling out a form in return for some kind of content. Often, that content is a white paper, eBook, webinar or a newsletter.

    Every blog post should include CTAs, ideally offering more indepth content about the blog topic. For instance, at the bottom of this post there is a large CTA for an ebook about business blogging (click here to download). ☜ That is also a CTA, by the way.

    Look to see which CTAs are getting the better conversion rates (views to clicks). Some posts will have a better click rate perhaps, because of a more relevant CTA.

    One of the primary purposes of your blog is lead generation. Analyzing the CTA performance is a strong indicator of how well your blog is serving as a means to that end.

    5. Sales

    For many B2B companies with long sales cycles involving several buying decision makers, this will be a challenge. But with closed-loop marketing analytics, you can determine which blog posts are not only generating the most leads, but also which of those leads are converting into customers.

    Linking specific blog posts all the way to a sale can be illuminating. Sometimes you will find that while some posts generate more leads, other articles generate a lower number of leads but a higher percentage of sales.

    Bon voyage!

    Video is unquestionably one of the fastest-growing aspects of content marketing. With that in mind, here are four tips for your company’s next video content marketing effort.

    Video is unquestionably one of the fastest-growing aspects of content marketing, and savvy business owners and marketers are smart to leverage it now.

    With that in mind, here are four tips for your company’s next video content marketing effort.

    1. Get your resources in line
    For a lot of business owners and managers, video content marketing may be an intimidating concept, especially if they have little or no experience with the medium. Video creation can be a challenging task, and a lot of companies simply don’t have the means of executing a good video strategy by themselves.

    Before you initiate any video content marketing plans, you need to first consider what your resources are. If you plan to keep this all in-house, then you’ll need equipment, personnel to operate that equipment, scripts (probably) and the software necessary to edit and publish this content. You may be able to cut some corners here and there – maybe you rely on smartphones to record your videos and feature your employees, rather than actors – but there are limitations to this approach. While nonprofessional videos can have a certain appeal, you may run the risk of making your organization appear amateurish, and that can undermine your entire marketing effort.

    If you’re not going to handle every aspect of video content production in-house, then you need hire some experts to help out. In that case, you’re going to need some funds. Determine how much money you can reasonably afford to hire professional assistance, as well as which components you want to outsource. Maybe you want to write the scripts yourself or plan to handle the editing. Or maybe you’ll want to find a partner that can handle every aspect of the process. Whatever the case may be, you should know your resources before you develop a detailed plan of action.

    2. Set goals
    A major issue with many video content creation campaigns is that business leaders have unrealistic expectations. You have to realize going in that there are limits to what videos can accomplish.

    Generally speaking, videos are great for branding your business, as they give you a chance to develop your company’s personality. They aren’t as good for lead generation. Consequently, you shouldn’t expect to see an immediate sales boost. Instead, look for increased social media mentions and other signs that your brand is becoming stronger.

    video23. Short and snappy wins
    Whatever path you follow for your video content creation, you want to make sure that your videos are short, snappy and engaging. A minute to a minute a minute and a half is a good cap for most, with maybe a few here or there running a bit longer. But really, you want to limit the length.

    Creating overly long videos is a major mistake, one that countless businesses have made when pursuing video-based content marketing. It’s very tempting to develop longer content, especially if you want to cover particularly complex subjects. Maybe you have the idea to film a series of 10-minute-long presentations or roundtable discussions with yourself and other employees, covering the state of your company’s industry.

    The problem with such approaches is that hardly any consumers have the patience to sit through long videos. Unless the content is incredibly, unbelievably engaging, most viewers will check out after a minute or two. This makes longer videos not only a waste of resources, but also less effective.

    Keep your videos short and you’ll save time and money, and you’ll see better results from your outreach efforts, as well.

    4. Synergize
    ​Your video content should not exist in a vacuum (unless of course you sell vacuums). Instead, it should be an integrated part of your company’s broader content marketing campaigns.

    video3Most obviously, you should promote your video content through email and social media – after all, consumers aren’t going to come across your videos spontaneously. In addition to creating emails and social media posts when the videos first become available, you should also periodically shine a spotlight on these offerings by working a link into later promotional content, featuring the videos on your homepage on occasion and so on.

    You should also reuse your video content in other forms. You can write a blog post that refers to a video and offers additional insight that you couldn’t fit into the 60-second clip. You can use a testimonial from a video as a springboard for a social media campaign. Ultimately, you simply want to get as much bang for your buck as you can. With synergy, all of your content marketing will receive a boost.

    Sharing successes is one of the more common facets of modern life, whether it’s sharing each new sale or target reached in the organizational world, or sharing our latest holiday photos via our social networks.
    Sharing successes is one of the more common facets of modern life, whether it’s sharing each new sale or target reached in the organizational world, or sharing our latest holiday photos via our social networks.  The theory behind such things is no doubt that by sharing your excitement and your successes, you naturally grow the bond between you and those you share things with.

    A new study suggests this approach may not actually be as effective as we like to think.  The hypothesis was that because great moments tend to be rather exceptional in nature, sharing them can often distance you from your audience.  Rather than connecting you further together, it in effect creates greater distance between you.

    The experiment consisted of groups of participants watching various videos.  One member of each group watched a clip of an exceptional piece of street performance.  The other members had to make do with a rather mundane and boring video.  They were then given some time to discuss the videos they’d seen.

    The researchers then quizzed each participant on how they felt at the end of the discussion.  Interestingly, it emerged that those who had seen the more interesting video felt worse at the end of the exercise, because they had felt excluded from the rest of the conversation around the dull video.

    Interestingly, this was the exact opposite of how people had imagined things would be.  The researchers had asked participants to imagine the outcome of the study beforehand, and people consistently believed that the lucky people who were given the exciting experience would feel better, both whilst watching the video and when discussing it afterwards.  This would also include feeling a greater part of the group.

    “Extraordinary experiences are pleasurable in the moment but can leave us socially worse off in the long run.  The participants in our study mistakenly thought that having an extraordinary experience would make them the star of the conversation.  But they were wrong, because to be extraordinary is to be different than other people, and social interaction is grounded in similarities.”

    It brings to mind previous posts on the relative popularity of innovators.  There have been various studies highlighting how people with innovative thoughts and ideas are often ostracized by those who would much rather things stay just as they are.

    It emerged that when people voice creative ideas, they are viewed by others as having less leadership potential. That’s particularly true in times of economic uncertainty. The data suggest that, when the going gets tough, people crave the security that comes from having leaders who preserve the status quo.

    A second study goes as far as to suggest that the mere idea of wanting creative and innovative ideas is a load of rubbish. The research team found that we have an inverse relationship with creativity.  They found that new things can make us feel uncertain, and this uncertainty makes us feel uncomfortable, which of course makes us wary of innovation.

    The original paper concludes on a rather depressing note, suggesting that the key to happiness is finding common ground with other people.

    “When choosing between experiences, don’t just think about how they will feel when they happen — think about how they will impact your social interactions.

    If an experience turns you into someone who has nothing in common with others, then no matter how good it was, it won’t make you happy in the long run.”

    All of which isn’t great news for those seeking to initiate change in the workplace.

    Photo Credit: Sharing Ideas/shutterstock

    Customer experience is an overused and over discussed topic maybe, but the customer has experiences with your brand at every interaction. The question is whether the experience is positive, neutral or negative.

    This could easily be a rant based on some recent customer service experiences but I'm going to avoid that and instead look at what companies are facing today in trying to meet customer expectations. I read recently that Comcast has finally appointed a VP to try and address their extremely poor customer service (I'd say customer service image, but let's be honest, it's not an image problem so much as it's an execution issue). That announcement coupled with some personal experiences with two banking institutions recently got me thinking about customer service again. 

    Customer experience is an overused and over discussed topic maybe, but it is, I believe, both relevant and necessary. The customer has experiences with your brand at every interaction, the question is whether the experience is positive, neutral or negative. Meeting customer expectations is hard for a lot of reasons. Just the simple concept off meeting something that changes and is highly individual is itself daunting. How do you even know what the customer expects? Well, of course there are some basic concepts that you have to meet, like if a customer calls someone needs to answer, but beyond that, what constitutes a positive experience for an individual customer and how do you figure that out? 

    So that's certainly part of the problem, understanding a customer's expectations isn't always a straightforward thing. Beyond that though, I find that many businesses have some fundamental issues that make solving customer problems and issues really difficult. There are things you can do to gain insight into expectations of course, but even without those, there are some simple things that companies seem to struggle with. In fact I find that a lot of customer discontent is caused by a few mistakes.

    To understand this better let's look at a couple of personal examples. The first is with a bank that I've used for many years, Union Bank. Now in general the reason I've stayed with them as long as I have is pretty simple, they understand and deliver good customer service. I mean customer service in the old fashioned "this is my personal neighborhood banker" way, even when I'm 3000 miles from the closest branch. So recently I had an issue executing a transaction remotely, mostly due to some arcane banking rules. The initial customer service experience was surprisingly unhelpful and missed my expectations completely. I was shuffled around to many people and no one wanted to own solving my issues. After wasting a half a day or so on it, I tweeted in frustration. Now this is where things changed dramatically. The response to the tweet was almost immediate and moved to another more private channel where an escalation representative with 2 important attributes took over. That person had ownership of the problem until it was resolve AND the position power to get it resolved, even though it involved being creative about how to deal with things. The net, would I recommend Union Bank (and have I), without a doubt, yes.

    The 2nd issue is also with a bank. Because of the 1st issue I decided that there are some transactions that are easier to handle with a local banker in person, so I decided to open an account with another bank (not to replace my account, but to add options). I opened an account with TD Bank, I picked them reasonably randomly, mostly because my daughter has an account there and also they have very convenient locations and hours (actually insanely accommodating hours). In the 1st 30 days I had the account I needed to do an international transaction and went to do so at the local branch. The paperwork was a little annoying and I had to go back more than once to complete it, but in the end, it seemed fine. Unfortunately though, it wasn't. They held up the transaction because of intervention of another internal facing department that thought there might be some risk (a very tiny part of the funds for the transaction had been deposited within a week...hey, the account was less than 30 days old so go figure. The risk was in effect less than 1% of the total amount). Anyway, I was not notified until a day later and then by the branch, not by this internal department. There was little information available (I did not know until 2 days later even the reason for the refusal to process it). The net was that they refused to execute the transaction even though I had deposited 2 times the funds required. I tweeted my frustration and once again the response was rapid. Unfortunately though, the response was "some one would call me", but they never did (the 2nd fail in this problem, set expectations, don't execute). The short rest of the story is that I went to the bank 2 days later, withdrew the funds in a cashier's check with the intent of moving the funds to Union Bank while I was in San Francisco the following day, but before I left the bank, the bank manager stopped me. She promised that the transaction would be handled if only I'd redeposit the funds and that she would personally solve the issue. Finally someone owned the problem and got it resolved. My intention that day was to close that account, but I have not done so. You see the branch employees are the customer service team there, and they do in fact try to provide a positive experience. Unfortunately other parts of the bank aren't oriented towards solving customer issues and providing positive customer experiences. The local face of customer service is a good thing, but as to recommending the bank to others, I'm reluctant to do so.

    As I look at the examples and also my discussions with technology companies, companies delivering customer service and trying to build customer experience strategies, etc., I see four issues that create roadblocks to providing "good" customer service:

    • Disconnected people / organizations: Customer service is an inherently people focused process. Our attempts to automate and use technology have had mixed results, some good (like self help forums) and some bad (like IVR systems...I suppose that's good for the company in the short term, bad for the customer and company in the mid/longer term). In the end though, often delivering customer service requires the interaction of people and to facilitate there's the need for some type of enterprise social network (ESN) that connects them. It's not a technology issue though, the real problem is organizational silos, the inability for internal organizations to work together to solve the customer issue. Part of this is directly related to a companies definition of what is customer facing too. Most companies today define customer facing as only the "front line" personnel, and don't think about the big responsibility that other departments have in delivering a good CX. That includes billing (getting the correct invoice), or shipping (shipping the correct item) and many other departments. In my bank example that included risk management and unfortunately they were absolutely not in any way involved in serving customers, but had direct impact on the CX. In their case, if they had the ability to communicate the issues, they could have facilitated a quick resolution that would have made a huge difference...unfortunately they were most likely not incented to do so (I'll talk about that in the 4th issue) nor culturally inclined to think about the relationship with the customer at all.
    • Disconnected systems: Disconnected systems create data silos. Pulling together a truly complete customer profile would provide the opportunity to deliver much better experiences. It's just not easy and when you add in the external data sources available today, like social networks and social media, that gets even more difficult. I don't have any behind the scenes information on the systems at either bank, but based on my happy result it wouldn't surprise me that one of them has a much more complete profile on me, and used that profile to guide interacting with me, not so the other. Integrated data and integrated workflow are both critical to delivering good customer service.
    • Changing Culture: In the end I suspect the biggest issue with my examples is culture. Culture is the most difficult to understand and change, but also the root of good (or bad) customer service. I mentioned Comcast earlier, they're the best example I have of a culture that is simply not oriented towards providing good (some would argue, barely adequate would even be an improvement) customer service. Clearly changing a business culture for an organization that large and with that checkered a customer service past is a massive challenge. In my banking example over the years Union Bank has proven to me through experience that they have a culture of providing great customer service. Just the fact that they have social listening in place AND an organization to handle / own service issues raised there, is a very strong indicator of the management attitude towards the customer.
    • Misaligned incentives to business objectives: This is often the real underlying problem for organizational issues, or at least reflects the real attitudes of management. You get the behavior you pay for, as the old saying goes. I suspect that this is a part of my bad experience at the 2nd bank, of course tied to the organizational and cultural issues as well. This issue is also one that we see often when working with companies on ESN adoption, and in general is often the issue for getting employees to collaborate more effectively.

    Delivering good customer service and the overall customer experience is a complicated issue for most companies. There are technologies and processes that can help work through many of the problems, particularly around communication and around data driven customer service, but still, the most difficult issues require strong executive leadership and a coordinated program to change.