An Agency Workflow for Google My Business Dead Ends

Posted by MiriamEllis

There are times when your digital marketing agency will find itself serving a local business with a need for which Google has made no apparent provisions. Unavailable categories for unusual businesses come instantly to mind, but scenarios can be more complex than this.

Client workflows can bog down as you worry over what to do, fearful of making a wrong move that could get a client’s listing suspended or adversely affect its rankings or traffic. If your agency has many employees, an entry-level SEO could be silently stuck on an issue, or even doing the wrong thing because they don’t know how or where to ask the right questions.

The best solution I know of consists of a combination of:

  • Client contracts that are radically honest about the nature of Google
  • Client management that sets correct expectations about the nature of Google
  • A documented process for seeking clarity when unusual client scenarios arise
  • Agency openness to experimentation, failure, and on-going learning
  • Regular monitoring for new Google developments and changes
  • A bit of grit

Let’s put the fear of often-murky, sometimes-unwieldy Google on the back burner for a few minutes and create a proactive process your team can use when hitting what feels like procedural dead end on the highways and byways of local search.

The apartment office conundrum

As a real-world example of a GMB dead end, a few months ago, I was asked a question about on-site offices for apartment complexes. The details:

  • Google doesn’t permit the creation of listings for rental properties but does allow such properties to be listed if they have an on-site office, as many apartment complexes do.
  • Google’s clearest category for this model is “apartment complex”, but the brand in question was told by Google (at the time) that if they chose that category, they couldn’t display their hours of operation.
  • This led the brand I was advising to wonder if they should use “apartment rental agency” as their category because it does display hours. They didn’t want to inconvenience the public by having them arrive at a closed office after hours, but at the same time, they didn’t want to misrepresent their category.

Now that’s a conundrum!

When I was asked to provide some guidance to this brand, I went through my own process of trying to get at the heart of the matter. In this post, I’m going to document this process for your agency as fully as I can to ensure that everyone on your team has a clear workflow when puzzling local SEO scenarios arise.

I hope you’ll share this article with everyone remotely involved in marketing your clients, and that it will prevent costly missteps, save time, move work forward, and support success.

Step 1: Radical honesty sets the stage right

Whether you’re writing a client contract, holding a client onboarding meeting, or having an internal brand discussion about local search marketing, setting correct expectations is the best defense against future disappointments and disputes. Company leadership must task itself with letting all parties know:

  1. Google has a near-monopoly on search. As such, they can do almost anything they feel will profit them. This means that they can alter SERPs, change guidelines, roll out penalties and filters, monetize whatever they like, and fail to provide adequate support to the public that makes up and interacts with the medium of their product. There is no guarantee any SEO can offer about rankings, traffic, or conversions. Things can change overnight. That’s just how it is.
  2. While Google’s monopoly enables them to be whimsical, brands and agencies do not have the same leeway if they wish to avoid negative outcomes. There are known practices which Google has confirmed as contrary to their vision of search (buying links, building listings for non-existent locations, etc.). Client and agency agree not to knowingly violate Google’s guidelines. These guidelines include:

Don’t accept work under any other conditions than that all parties understand Google’s power, unpredictability, and documented guidelines. Don’t work with clients, agencies, software providers, or others that violate guidelines. These basic rules set the stage for both client and agency success.

Step 2: Confirm that the problem really exists

When a business believes it is encountering an unusual local search marketing problem, the first task of the agency staffer is to vet the issue. The truth is, clients sometimes perceive problems that don’t really exist. In my case of the apartment complex, I took the following steps.

  1. I confirmed the problem. I observed the lacking display of hours of operation on GMB listings using the “apartment complex” category.
  2. I called half-a-dozen nearby apartment complex offices and asked if they were open either by appointment only, or 24/7. None of them were. At least in my corner of the world, apartment complex offices have set, daily business hours, just like retail, opening in the AM and closing in the PM each day.
  3. I did a number of Google searches for “apartment rental agency” and all of the results Google brought up were for companies that manage rentals city-wide — not rentals of units within a single complex.

So, I was now convinced that the business was right: they were encountering a real dead end. If they categorized themselves as an “apartment complex”, their missing hours could inconvenience customers. If they chose the “apartment rental agency” designation to get hours to display, they could end up fielding needless calls from people looking for city-wide rental listings. The category would also fail to be strictly accurate.

As an agency worker, be sure you’ve taken common-sense steps to confirm that a client’s problem is, indeed, real before you move on to next steps.

Step 3: Search for a similar scenario

As a considerate agency SEO, avoid wasting the time of project leads, managers, or company leadership by first seeing if the Internet holds a ready answer to your puzzle. Even if a problem seems unusual, there’s a good chance that somebody else has already encountered it, and may even have documented it. Before you declare a challenge to be a total dead-end, search the following resources in the following order:

  1. Do a direct search in Google with the most explicit language you can (e.g. “GMB listing showing wrong photo”, “GMB description for wrong business”, “GMB owner responses not showing”). Click on anything that looks like it might contain an answer, look at the date on the entry, and see what you can learn. Document what you see.
  2. Go to the Google My Business Help Community forum and search with a variety of phrases for your issue. Again, note the dates of responses for the currency of advice. Be aware that not all contributors are experts. Looks for thread responses from people labeled Gold Product Expert; these members have earned special recognition for the amount and quality of what they contribute to the forum. Some of these experts are widely-recognized, world-class local SEOs. Document what you learn, even if means noting down “No solution found”.
  3. Often, a peculiar local search issue may be the result of a Google change, update, or bug. Check the MozCast to see if the SERPs are undergoing turbulent weather and Sterling Sky’s Timeline of Local SEO Changes. If the dates of a surfaced issue correspond with something appearing on these platforms, you may have found your answer. Document what you learn.
  4. Check trusted blogs to see if industry experts have written about your issue. The nice thing about blogs is that, if they accept comments, you can often get a direct response from the author if something they’ve penned needs further clarification. For a big list of resources, see: Follow the Local SEO Leaders: A Guide to Our Industry’s Best Publications. Document what you learn.

    If none of these tactics yields a solution, move on to the next step.

    Step 4: Speak up for support

    If you’ve not yet arrived at an answer, it’s time to reach out. Take these steps, in this order:

    1) Each agency has a different hierarchy. Now is the time to reach out to the appropriate expert at your business, whether that’s your manager or a senior-level local search expert. Clearly explain the issue and share your documentation of what you’ve learned/failed to learn. See if they can provide an answer.

    2) If leadership doesn’t know how to solve the issue, request permission to take it directly to Google in private. You have a variety of options for doing so, including:

    In the case of the apartment complex, I chose to reach out via Twitter. Responses can take a couple of days, but I wasn’t in a hurry. They replied:

    As I had suspected, Google was treating apartment complexes like hotels. Not very satisfactory since the business models are quite different, but at least it was an answer I could document. I’d hit something of a dead-end, but it was interesting to consider Google’s advice about using the description field to list hours of operation. Not a great solution, but at least I would have something to offer the client, right from the horse’s mouth.

    In your case, be advised that not all Google reps have the same level of product training. Hopefully, you will receive some direct guidance on the issue if you describe it well and can document Google’s response and act on it. If not, keep moving.

    3) If Google doesn’t respond, responds inexpertly, or doesn’t solve your problem, go back to your senior-level person. Explain what happened and request advice on how to proceed.

    4) If the senior staffer still isn’t certain, request permission to publicly discuss the issue (and the client). Head to supportive fora. If you’re a Moz Pro customer, feel free to post your scenario in the Moz Q&A forum. If you’re not yet a customer, head to the Local Search Forum, which is free. Share a summary of the challenge, your failure to find a solution, and ask the community what they would do, given that you appear to be at a dead end. Document the advice you receive, and evaluate it based on the expertise of respondents.

    Step 5: Make a strategic decision

    At this point in your workflow, you’ve now:

    • Confirmed the issue
    • Searched for documented solutions
    • Looked to leadership for support
    • Looked to Google for support
    • Looked to the local SEO industry for support

    I’m hoping you’ve arrived at a strategy for your client’s scenario by now, but if not, you have 3 things left to do.

    1. Take your entire documentation back to your team/company leader. Ask them to work with you on an approved response to the client.
    2. Take that response to the client, with a full explanation of any limitations you encountered and a description of what actions your agency wants to take. Book time for a thorough discussion. If what you are doing is experimental, be totally transparent about this with the client.
    3. If the client agrees to the strategy, enact it.

    In the case of the apartment complex, there were several options I could have brought to the client. One thing I did recommend is that they do an internal assessment of how great the risk really was of the public being inconvenienced by absent hours.

    How many people did they estimate would stop by after 5 PM in a given month and find the office closed? Would that be 1 person a month? 20 people? Did the convenience of these people outweigh risks of incorrectly categorizing the complex as an “apartment rental agency”? How many erroneous phone calls or walk-ins might that lead to? How big of a pain would that be?

    Determining these things would help the client decide whether to just go with Google’s advice of keeping the accurate category and using the description to publish hours, or, to take some risks by miscategorizing the business. I was in favor of the former, but be sure your client has input in the final decision.

    And that brings us to the final step — one your agency must be sure you don’t overlook.

    Step 6: Monitor from here on out

    In many instances, you’ll find a solution that should be all set to go, with no future worries. But, where you run into dead-end scenarios like the apartment complex case and are having to cobble together a workaround to move forward, do these two things:

    1. Monitor outcomes of your implementation over the coming months. Traffic drops, ranking drops, or other sudden changes require a re-evaluation of the strategy you selected. *This is why it is so critical to document everything and to be transparent with the client about Google’s unpredictability and the limitations of local SEOs.
    2. Monitor Google for changes. Today’s dead end could be tomorrow’s open road.

    This second point is particularly applicable to the apartment complex I was advising. About a month after I’d first looked at their issue, Google made a major change. All of a sudden, they began showing hours for the “apartment complex” category!

    If I’d stopped paying attention to the issue, I’d never have noticed this game-changing alteration. When I did see hours appearing on these listings, I confirmed the development with apartment marketing expert Diogo Ordacowski:

    Moral: be sure you are continuing to keep tabs on any particularly aggravating dead ends in case solutions emerge in future. It’s a happy day when you can tell a client their worries are over. What a great proof of the engagement level of your agency’s staff!

    When it comes to Google, grit matters

    Image Credit: The Other Dan

    “What if I do something wrong?”

    It’s totally okay if that question occurs to you sometimes when marketing local businesses. There’s a lot on the line — it’s true! The livelihoods of your clients are a sacred trust. The credibility that your agency is building matters.

    But, fear not. Unless you flagrantly break guidelines, a dose of grit can take you far when dealing with a product like Google My Business which is, itself, an experiment. Sometimes, you just have to make a decision about how to move forward. If you make a mistake, chances are good you can correct it. When a dead end with no clear egress forces you to test out solutions, you’re just doing your job.

    So, be transparent and communicative, be methodical and thorough in your research, and be a bit bold. Remember, your clients don’t just count on you to churn out rote work. In Google’s increasingly walled garden, the agency which can see over the wall tops when necessity calls is bringing extra value.

    Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

    Reblogged 1 month ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    Email isn’t dead, but apps could be…

    The average American now downloads zero apps per month, marking a movement away from platform-specific native applications in favor of browser use. dotmailer wanted to spend time scrutinizing this trend in order to derive the impact for email marketers.

    When big names make big changes, it’s best to pay attention. Earlier this year, sustainable outdoor clothing giant Patagonia announced (via email) that it was discarding its native app, after having optimized its new website for all mobile devices. Anonymous Twitter responses to the brand’s decision illustrate users’ satisfaction with the move:

    “THIS IS AWESOME. I love easy to use sites on mobile”

    “Some apps should have never been apps”

    “If you’re making an app and ignoring your website’s mobile experience, you’re missing the point”

     “So often I think: You’re a website! I don’t need another app! I have a browser!”

    Clearly, the general consensus is that the fundamental, genesis web components (the browser and the inbox) remain the preferred and trusted mediums when it comes to using mobile. We can see this from actions like Facebook incorporating in-app browser capabilities: bookmarking, forward and back options, and an address bar for navigation. Hugh Dirkin, Senior Project Manager at Intercom, recently described Facebook as ‘our browser for the social web’; the platform’s successful “push” content strategy incorporates the discoverability of a browser with the relevance and direction of targeted email marketing.

    Developments such as these demonstrate that day-one elements like email and web-browsers remain the favored channels for internet users. What’s even more interesting is that more recent technology, such as progressive web apps, have incorporated the much-loved features of these established mediums; think independent connectivity, linkable sharing, and responsive design.

    Whatever the future has in mind for the app-store, developers will certainly be looking to the success of email automation and browser functionality to optimize their applications. It’s good to know that email will remain a digital muse for years to come.

    The post Email isn’t dead, but apps could be… appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

    Reblogged 2 years ago from blog.dotmailer.com

    Local citations are dead; long live local citations!

    Local citations are often thought to be the bread and butter of local SEO, but are we placing too much importance on them? Columnist Andrew Shotland discusses the results of a study which suggests we might be.

    The post Local citations are dead; long live local citations! appeared first on Search…

    Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

    Reblogged 3 years ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

    The Nifty Guide to Local Content Strategy and Marketing

    Posted by NiftyMarketing

    This is my Grandma.

    She helped raised me and I love her dearly. That chunky baby with the Gerber cheeks is
    me. The scarlet letter “A” means nothing… I hope.

    This is a rolled up newspaper. 

    rolled up newspaper

    When I was growing up, I was the king of mischief and had a hard time following parental guidelines. To ensure the lessons she wanted me to learn “sunk in” my grandma would give me a soft whack with a rolled up newspaper and would say,

    “Mike, you like to learn the hard way.”

    She was right. I have
    spent my life and career learning things the hard way.

    Local content has been no different. I started out my career creating duplicate local doorway pages using “find and replace” with city names. After getting whacked by the figurative newspaper a few times, I decided there had to be a better way. To save others from the struggles I experienced, I hope that the hard lessons I have learned about local content strategy and marketing help to save you fearing a rolled newspaper the same way I do.

    Lesson one: Local content doesn’t just mean the written word

    local content ecosystem

    Content is everything around you. It all tells a story. If you don’t have a plan for how that story is being told, then you might not like how it turns out. In the local world, even your brick and mortar building is a piece of content. It speaks about your brand, your values, your appreciation of customers and employees, and can be used to attract organic visitors if it is positioned well and provides a good user experience. If you just try to make the front of a building look good, but don’t back up the inside inch by inch with the same quality, people will literally say, “Hey man, this place sucks… let’s bounce.”

    I had this experience proved to me recently while conducting an interview at
    Nifty for our law division. Our office is a beautifully designed brick, mustache, animal on the wall, leg lamp in the center of the room, piece of work you would expect for a creative company.

    nifty offices idaho

    Anywho, for our little town of Burley, Idaho it is a unique space, and helps to set apart our business in our community. But, the conference room has a fluorescent ballast light system that can buzz so loudly that you literally can’t carry on a proper conversation at times, and in the recent interviews I literally had to conduct them in the dark because it was so bad.

    I’m cheap and slow to spend money, so I haven’t got it fixed yet. The problem is I have two more interviews this week and I am so embarrassed by the experience in that room, I am thinking of holding them offsite to ensure that we don’t product a bad content experience. What I need to do is just fix the light but I will end up spending weeks going back and forth with the landlord on whose responsibility it is.

    Meanwhile, the content experience suffers. Like I said, I like to learn the hard way.

    Start thinking about everything in the frame of content and you will find that you make better decisions and less costly mistakes.

    Lesson two: Scalable does not mean fast and easy growth

    In every sales conversation I have had about local content, the question of scalability comes up. Usually, people want two things:

    1. Extremely Fast Production 
    2. Extremely Low Cost

    While these two things would be great for every project, I have come to find that there are rare cases where quality can be achieved if you are optimizing for fast production and low cost. A better way to look at scale is as follows:

    The rate of growth in revenue/traffic is greater than the cost of continued content creation.

    A good local content strategy at scale will create a model that looks like this:

    scaling content graph

    Lesson three: You need a continuous local content strategy

    This is where the difference between local content marketing and content strategy kicks in. Creating a single piece of content that does well is fairly easy to achieve. Building a true scalable machine that continually puts out great local content and consistently tells your story is not. This is a graph I created outlining the process behind creating and maintaining a local content strategy:

    local content strategy

    This process is not a one-time thing. It is not a box to be checked off. It is a structure that should become the foundation of your marketing program and will need to be revisited, re-tweaked, and replicated over and over again.

    1. Identify your local audience

    Most of you reading this will already have a service or product and hopefully local customers. Do you have personas developed for attracting and retaining more of them? Here are some helpful tools available to give you an idea of how many people fit your personas in any given market.

    Facebook Insights

    Pretend for a minute that you live in the unique market of Utah and have a custom wedding dress line. You focus on selling modest wedding dresses. It is a definite niche product, but one that shows the idea of personas very well.

    You have interviewed your customer base and found a few interests that your customer base share. Taking that information and putting it into Facebook insights will give you a plethora of data to help you build out your understanding of a local persona.

    facebook insights data

    We are able to see from the interests of our customers there are roughly 6k-7k current engaged woman in Utah who have similar interests to our customer base.

    The location tab gives us a break down of the specific cities and, understandably, Salt Lake City has the highest percentage with Provo (home of BYU) in second place. You can also see pages this group would like, activity levels on Facebook, and household income with spending habits. If you wanted to find more potential locations for future growth you can open up the search to a region or country.

    localized facebook insights data

    From this data it’s apparent that Arizona would be a great expansion opportunity after Utah.

    Neilson Prizm

    Neilson offers a free and extremely useful tool for local persona research called Zip Code Lookup that allows you to identify pre-determined personas in a given market.

    Here is a look at my hometown and the personas they have developed are dead on.

    Neilson Prizm data

    Each persona can be expanded to learn more about the traits, income level, and areas across the country with other high concentrations of the same persona group.

    You can also use the segment explorer to get a better idea of pre-determined persona lists and can work backwards to determine the locations with the highest density of a given persona.

    Google Keyword Planner Tool

    The keyword tool is fantastic for local research. Using our same Facebook Insight data above we can match keyword search volume against the audience size to determine how active our persona is in product research and purchasing. In the case of engaged woman looking for dresses, it is a very active group with a potential of 20-30% actively searching online for a dress.

    google keyword planner tool

    2. Create goals and rules

    I think the most important idea for creating the goals and rules around your local content is the following from the must read book Content Strategy for the Web.

    You also need to ensure that everyone who will be working on things even remotely related to content has access to style and brand guides and, ultimately, understands the core purpose for what, why, and how everything is happening.

    3. Audit and analyze your current local content

    The point of this step is to determine how the current content you have stacks up against the goals and rules you established, and determine the value of current pages on your site. With tools like Siteliner (for finding duplicate content) and ScreamingFrog (identifying page titles, word count, error codes and many other things) you can grab a lot of information very fast. Beyond that, there are a few tools that deserve a more in-depth look.

    BuzzSumo

    With BuzzSumo you can see social data and incoming links behind important pages on your site. This can you a good idea which locations or areas are getting more promotion than others and identify what some of the causes could be.

    Buzzsumo also can give you access to competitors’ information where you might find some new ideas. In the following example you can see that one of Airbnb.com’s most shared pages was a motiongraphic of its impact on Berlin.

    Buzzsumo

    urlProfiler

    This is another great tool for scraping urls for large sites that can return about every type of measurement you could want. For sites with 1000s of pages, this tool could save hours of data gathering and can spit out a lovely formatted CSV document that will allow you to sort by things like word count, page authority, link numbers, social shares, or about anything else you could imagine.

    url profiler

    4. Develop local content marketing tactics

    This is how most of you look when marketing tactics are brought up.

    monkey

    Let me remind you of something with a picture. 

    rolled up newspaper

    Do not start with tactics. Do the other things first. It will ensure your marketing tactics fall in line with a much bigger organizational movement and process. With the warning out of the way, here are a few tactics that could work for you.

    Local landing page content

    Our initial concept of local landing pages has stood the test of time. If you are scared to even think about local pages with the upcoming doorway page update then please read this analysis and don’t be too afraid. Here are local landing pages that are done right.

    Marriott local content

    Marriot’s Burley local page is great. They didn’t think about just ensuring they had 500 unique words. They have custom local imagery of the exterior/interior, detailed information about the area’s activities, and even their own review platform that showcases both positive and negative reviews with responses from local management.

    If you can’t build your own platform handling reviews like that, might I recommend looking at Get Five Stars as a platform that could help you integrate reviews as part of your continuous content strategy.

    Airbnb Neighborhood Guides

    I not so secretly have a big crush on Airbnb’s approach to local. These neighborhood guides started it. They only have roughly 21 guides thus far and handle one at a time with Seoul being the most recent addition. The idea is simple, they looked at extremely hot markets for them and built out guides not just for the city, but down to a specific neighborhood.

    air bnb neighborhood guides

    Here is a look at Hell’s Kitchen in New York by imagery. They hire a local photographer to shoot the area, then they take some of their current popular listing data and reviews and integrate them into the page. This idea would have never flown if they only cared about creating content that could be fast and easy for every market they serve.

    Reverse infographicing

    Every decently sized city has had a plethora of infographics made about them. People spent the time curating information and coming up with the concept, but a majority just made the image and didn’t think about the crawlability or page title from an SEO standpoint.

    Here is an example of an image search for Portland infographics.

    image search results portland infographics

    Take an infographic and repurpose it into crawlable content with a new twist or timely additions. Usually infographics share their data sources in the footer so you can easily find similar, new, or more information and create some seriously compelling data based content. You can even link to or share the infographic as part of it if you would like.

    Become an Upworthy of local content

    No one I know does this better than Movoto. Read the link for their own spin on how they did it and then look at these examples and share numbers from their local content.

    60k shares in Boise by appealing to that hometown knowledge.

    movoto boise content

    65k shares in Salt Lake following the same formula.

    movoto salt lake city content

    It seems to work with video as well.

    movoto video results

    Think like a local directory

    Directories understand where content should be housed. Not every local piece should be on the blog. Look at where Trip Advisor’s famous “Things to Do” page is listed. Right on the main city page.

    trip advisor things to do in salt lake city

    Or look at how many timely, fresh, quality pieces of content Yelp is showcasing from their main city page.

    yelp main city page

    The key point to understand is that local content isn’t just about being unique on a landing page. It is about BEING local and useful.

    Ideas of things that are local:

    • Sports teams
    • Local celebrities or heroes 
    • Groups and events
    • Local pride points
    • Local pain points

    Ideas of things that are useful:

    • Directions
    • Favorite local sports
    • Granular details only “locals” know

    The other point to realize is that in looking at our definition of scale you don’t need to take shortcuts that un-localize the experience for users. Figure and test a location at a time until you have a winning formula and then move forward at a speed that ensures a quality local experience.

    5. Create a content calendar

    I am not going to get into telling you exactly how or what your content calendar needs to include. That will largely be based on the size and organization of your team and every situation might call for a unique approach. What I will do is explain how we do things at Nifty.

    1. We follow the steps above.
    2. We schedule the big projects and timelines first. These could be months out or weeks out. 
    3. We determine the weekly deliverables, checkpoints, and publish times.
    4. We put all of the information as tasks assigned to individuals or teams in Asana.

    asana content calendar

    The information then can be viewed by individual, team, groups of team, due dates, or any other way you would wish to sort. Repeatable tasks can be scheduled and we can run our entire operation visible to as many people as need access to the information through desktop or mobile devices. That is what works for us.

    6. Launch and promote content

    My personal favorite way to promote local content (other than the obvious ideas of sharing with your current followers or outreaching to local influencers) is to use Facebook ads to target the specific local personas you are trying to reach. Here is an example:

    I just wrapped up playing Harold Hill in our communities production of The Music Man. When you live in a small town like Burley, Idaho you get the opportunity to play a lead role without having too much talent or a glee-based upbringing. You also get the opportunity to do all of the advertising, set design, and costuming yourself and sometime even get to pay for it.

    For my advertising responsibilities, I decided to write a few blog posts and drive traffic to them. As any good Harold Hill would do, I used fear tactics.

    music man blog post

    I then created Facebook ads that had the following stats: Costs of $.06 per click, 12.7% click through rate, and naturally organic sharing that led to thousands of visits in a small Idaho farming community where people still think a phone book is the only way to find local businesses.

    facebook ads setup

    Then we did it again.

    There was a protestor in Burley for over a year that parked a red pickup with signs saying things like, “I wud not trust Da Mayor” or “Don’t Bank wid Zions”. Basically, you weren’t working hard enough if you name didn’t get on the truck during the year.

    Everyone knew that ol’ red pickup as it was parked on the corner of Main and Overland, which is one of the few stoplights in town. Then one day it was gone. We came up with the idea to bring the red truck back, put signs on it that said, “I wud Not Trust Pool Tables” and “Resist Sins n’ Corruption” and other things that were part of The Music Man and wrote another blog complete with pictures.

    facebook ads red truck

    Then I created another Facebook Ad.

    facebook ads set up

    A little under $200 in ad spend resulted in thousands more visits to the site which promoted the play and sold tickets to a generation that might not have been very familiar with the show otherwise.

    All of it was local targeting and there was no other way would could have driven that much traffic in a community like Burley without paying Facebook and trying to create click bait ads in hope the promotion led to an organic sharing.

    7. Measure and report

    This is another very personal step where everyone will have different needs. At Nifty we put together very custom weekly or monthly reports that cover all of the plan, execution, and relevant stats such as traffic to specific content or location, share data, revenue or lead data if available, analysis of what worked and what didn’t, and the plan for the following period.

    There is no exact data that needs to be shared. Everyone will want something slightly different, which is why we moved away from automated reporting years ago (when we moved away from auto link building… hehe) and built our report around our clients even if it took added time.

    I always said that the product of a SEO or content shop is the report. That is what people buy because it is likely that is all they will see or understand.

    8. In conclusion, you must refine and repeat the process

    local content strategy - refine and repeat

    From my point of view, this is by far the most important step and sums everything up nicely. This process model isn’t perfect. There will be things that are missed, things that need tweaked, and ways that you will be able to improve on your local content strategy and marketing all the time. The idea of the cycle is that it is never done. It never sleeps. It never quits. It never surrenders. You just keep perfecting the process until you reach the point that few locally-focused companies ever achieve… where your local content reaches and grows your target audience every time you click the publish button.

    Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

    Reblogged 4 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

    ​Inbound Lead Generation: eCommerce Marketing’s Missing Link

    Posted by Everett

    If eCommerce businesses hope to remain competitive with Amazon, eBay, big box brands, and other online retail juggernauts, they’ll need to learn how to conduct content marketing, lead generation, and contact nurturing as part of a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy.

    First, I will discuss some of the ways most online retailers are approaching email from the bottom of the funnel upward, and why this needs to be turned around. Then we can explore how to go about doing this within the framework of “Inbound Marketing” for eCommerce businesses. Lastly, popular marketing automation and email marketing solutions are discussed in the context of inbound marketing for eCommerce.

    Key differences between eCommerce and lead generation approaches to email

    Different list growth strategies

    Email acquisition sources differ greatly between lead gen. sites and online stores. The biggest driver of email acquisition for most eCommerce businesses are their shoppers, especially when the business doesn’t collect an email address for their contact database until the shopper provides it during the check-out process—possibly, not until the very end.

    With most B2B/B2C lead gen. websites, the entire purpose of every landing page is to get visitors to submit a contact form or pick up the phone. Often, the price tag for their products or services is much higher than those of an eCommerce site or involves recurring payments. In other words, what they’re selling is more difficult to sell. People take longer to make those purchasing decisions. For this reason, leads—in the form of contact names and email addresses—are typically acquired and nurtured without having first become a customer.

    Contacts vs. leads

    Whether it is a B2B or B2C website, lead gen. contacts (called leads) are thought of as potential customers (clients, subscribers, patients) who need to be nurtured to the point of becoming “sales qualified,” meaning they’ll eventually get a sales call or email that attempts to convert them into a customer.

    On the other hand, eCommerce contacts are often thought of primarily as existing customers to whom the marketing team can blast coupons and other offers by email.

    Retail sites typically don’t capture leads at the top or middle of the funnel. Only once a shopper has checked out do they get added to the list. Historically, the buying cycle has been short enough that eCommerce sites could move many first-time visitors directly to customers in a single visit.
    But this has changed.

    Unless your brand is very strong—possibly a luxury brand or one with an offline retail presence—it is probably getting more difficult (i.e. expensive) to acquire new customers. At the same time, attrition rates are rising. Conversion optimization helps by converting more bottom of the funnel visitors. SEO helps drive more traffic into the site, but mostly for middle-of-funnel (category page) and bottom-of-funnel (product page) visitors who may not also be price/feature comparison shopping, or are unable to convert right away because of device or time limitations.

    Even savvy retailers publishing content for shoppers higher up in the funnel, such as buyer guides and reviews, aren’t getting an email address and are missing a lot of opportunities because of it.

    attract-convert-grow-funnel-inflow-2.jpg

    Here’s a thought. If your eCommerce site has a 10 percent conversion rate, you’re doing pretty good by most standards. But what happened to the other 90 percent of those visitors? Will you have the opportunity to connect with them again? Even if you bump that up a few percentage points with retargeting, a lot of potential revenue has seeped out of your funnel without a trace.

    I don’t mean to bash the eCommerce marketing community with generalizations. Most lead gen. sites aren’t doing anything spectacular either, and a lot of opportunity is missed all around.

    There are many eCommerce brands doing great things marketing-wise. I’m a big fan of
    Crutchfield for their educational resources targeting early-funnel traffic, and Neman Tools, Saddleback Leather and Feltraiger for the stories they tell. Amazon is hard to beat when it comes to scalability, product suggestions and user-generated reviews.

    Sadly, most eCommerce sites (including many of the major household brands) still approach marketing in this way…

    The ol’ bait n’ switch: promising value and delivering spam

    Established eCommerce brands have gigantic mailing lists (compared with lead gen. counterparts), to whom they typically send out at least one email each week with “offers” like free shipping, $ off, buy-one-get-one, or % off their next purchase. The lists are minimally segmented, if at all. For example, there might be lists for repeat customers, best customers, unresponsive contacts, recent purchasers, shoppers with abandoned carts, purchases by category, etc.

    The missing points of segmentation include which campaign resulted in the initial contact (sometimes referred to as a cohort) and—most importantly—the persona and buying cycle stage that best applies to each contact.

    Online retailers often send frequent “blasts” to their entire list or to a few of the large segments mentioned above. Lack of segmentation means contacts aren’t receiving emails based on their interests, problems, or buying cycle stage, but instead, are receiving what they perceive as “generic” emails.

    The result of these missing segments and the lack of overarching strategy looks something like this:

    My, What a Big LIST You Have!

    iStock_000017047747Medium.jpg

    TIME reported in 2012 on stats from Responsys that the average online retailer sent out between five and six emails the week after Thanksgiving. Around the same time, the Wall Street Journal reported that the top 100 online retailers sent an average of 177 emails apiece to each of their contacts in 2011. Averaged out, that’s somewhere between three and four emails each week that the contact is receiving from these retailers.

    The better to SPAM you with!

    iStock_000016088853Medium.jpg

    A 2014 whitepaper from SimpleRelevance titled
    Email Fail: An In-Depth Evaluation of Top 20 Internet Retailer’s Email Personalization Capabilities (
    PDF) found that, while 70 percent of marketing executives believed personalization was of “utmost importance” to their business…

    “Only 17 percent of marketing leaders are going beyond basic transactional data to deliver personalized messages to consumers.”

    Speaking of email overload, the same report found that some major online retailers sent ten or more emails per week!

    simplerelevance-email-report-frequency.png

    The result?

    All too often, the eCommerce business will carry around big, dead lists of contacts who don’t even bother reading their emails anymore. They end up scrambling toward other channels to “drive more demand,” but because the real problems were never addressed, this ends up increasing new customer acquisition costs.

    The cycle looks something like this:

    1. Spend a fortune driving in unqualified traffic from top-of-the-funnel channels
    2. Ignore the majority of those visitors who aren’t ready to purchase
    3. Capture email addresses only for the few visitors who made a purchase
    4. Spam the hell out of those people until they unsubscribe
    5. Spend a bunch more money trying to fill the top of the funnel with even more traffic

    It’s like trying to fill your funnel with a bucket full of holes, some of them patched with band-aids.

    The real problems

    1. Lack of a cohesive strategy across marketing channels
    2. Lack of a cohesive content strategy throughout all stages of the buying cycle
    3. Lack of persona, buying cycle stage, and cohort-based list segmentation to nurture contacts
    4. Lack of tracking across customer touchpoints and devices
    5. Lack of gated content that provides enough value to early-funnel visitors to get them to provide their email address

    So, what’s the answer?

    Inbound marketing allows online retailers to stop competing with Amazon and other “price focused” competitors with leaky funnels, and to instead focus on:

    1. Persona-based content marketing campaigns designed to acquire email addresses from high-quality leads (potential customers) by offering them the right content for each stage in their buyer’s journey
    2. A robust marketing automation system that makes true personalization scalable
    3. Automated contact nurturing emails triggered by certain events, such as viewing specific content, abandoning their shopping cart, adding items to their wish list or performing micro-conversions like downloading a look book
    4. Intelligent SMM campaigns that match visitors and customers with social accounts by email addresses, interests and demographics—as well as social monitoring
    5. Hyper-segmented email contact lists to support the marketing automation described above, as well as to provide highly-customized email and shopping experiences
    6. Cross-channel, closed loop reporting to provide a complete “omnichannel” view of online marketing efforts and how they assist offline conversions, if applicable

    Each of these areas will be covered in more detail below. First, let’s take a quick step back and define what it is we’re talking about here.

    Inbound marketing: a primer

    A lot of people think “inbound marketing” is just a way some SEO agencies are re-cloaking themselves to avoid negative associations with search engine optimization. Others think it’s synonymous with “internet marketing.” I think it goes more like this:

    Inbound marketing is to Internet marketing as SEO is to inbound marketing: One piece of a larger whole.

    There are many ways to define inbound marketing. A cursory review of definitions from several trusted sources reveals some fundamental similarities :

    Rand Fishkin

    randfishkin.jpeg

    “Inbound Marketing is the practice of earning traffic and attention for your business on the web rather than buying it or interrupting people to get it. Inbound channels include organic search, social media, community-building content, opt-in email, word of mouth, and many others. Inbound marketing is particularly powerful because it appeals to what people are looking for and what they want, rather than trying to get between them and what they’re trying to do with advertising. Inbound’s also powerful due to the flywheel-effect it creates. The more you invest in Inbound and the more success you have, the less effort required to earn additional benefit.”


    Mike King

    mikeking.jpeg

    “Inbound Marketing is a collection of marketing activities that leverage remarkable content to penetrate earned media channels such as Organic Search, Social Media, Email, News and the Blogosphere with the goal of engaging prospects when they are specifically interested in what the brand has to offer.”

    This quote is from 2012, and is still just as accurate today. It’s from an
    Inbound.org comment thread where you can also see many other takes on it from the likes of Ian Lurie, Jonathon Colman, and Larry Kim.


    Inflow

    inflow-logo.jpeg

    “Inbound Marketing is a multi-channel, buyer-centric approach to online marketing that involves attracting, engaging, nurturing and converting potential customers from wherever they are in the buying cycle.”

    From Inflow’s
    Inbound Services page.


    Wikipedia

    wikipedia.jpeg

    “Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring visitors in, rather than marketers having to go out to get prospects’ attention. Inbound marketing earns the attention of customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws customers to the website by producing interesting content.”

    From
    Inbound Marketing – Wikipedia.


    Larry-Kim.jpeg

    Larry Kim

    “Inbound marketing” refers to marketing activities that bring leads and customers in when they’re ready, rather than you having to go out and wave your arms to try to get people’s attention.”

    Via
    Marketing Land in 2013. You can also read more of Larry Kim’s interpretation, along with many others, on Inbound.org.


    Hubspot

    “Instead of the old outbound marketing methods of buying ads, buying email lists, and praying for leads, inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be.”

    Via
    Hubspot, a marketing automation platform for inbound marketing.

    When everyone has their own definition of something, it helps to think about what they have in common, as opposed to how they differ. In the case of inbound, this includes concepts such as:

    • Pull (inbound) vs. push (interruption) marketing
    • “Earning” media coverage, search engine rankings, visitors and customers with outstanding content
    • Marketing across channels
    • Meeting potential customers where they are in their buyer’s journey

    Running your first eCommerce inbound marketing campaign

    Audience personas—priority no. 1

    The magic happens when retailers begin to hyper-segment their list based on buyer personas and other relevant information (i.e. what they’ve downloaded, what they’ve purchased, if they abandoned their cart…). This all starts with audience research to develop personas. If you need more information on persona development, try these resources:

    Once personas are developed, retailers should choose one on which to focus. A complete campaign strategy should be developed around this persona, with the aim of providing the “right value” to them at the “right time” in their buyer’s journey.

    Ready to get started?

    We’ve developed a quick-start guide in the form of a checklist for eCommerce marketers who want to get started with inbound marketing, which you can access below.

    inbound ecommerce checklist

    Hands-on experience running one campaign will teach you more about inbound marketing than a dozen articles. My advice: Just do one. You will make mistakes. Learn from them and get better each time.

    Example inbound marketing campaign

    Below is an example of how a hypothetical inbound marketing campaign might play out, assuming you have completed all of the steps in the checklist above. Imagine you handle marketing for an online retailer of high-end sporting goods.

    AT Hiker Tommy campaign: From awareness to purchase

    When segmenting visitors and customers for a “high-end sporting goods / camping retailer” based on the East Coast, you identified a segment of “Trail Hikers.” These are people with disposable income who care about high-quality gear, and will pay top dollar if they know it is tested and reliable. The top trail on their list of destinations is the
    Appalachian Trail (AT).

    Top of the Funnel: SEO & Strategic Content Marketing

    at-tommy.jpg

    Tommy’s first action is to do “top of the funnel” research from search engines (one reason why SEO is still so important to a complete inbound marketing strategy).

    A search for “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” turns up your article titled “What NOT to Pack When Hiking the Appalachian Trail,” which lists common items that are bulky/heavy, and highlights slimmer, lighter alternatives from your online catalog.

    It also highlights the difference between cheap gear and the kind that won’t let you down on your 2,181 mile journey through the wilderness of Appalachia, something you learned was important to Tommy when developing his persona. This allows you to get the company’s value proposition of “tested, high-end, quality gear only” in front of readers very early in their buyer’s journey—important if you want to differentiate your site from all of the retailers racing Amazon to the bottom of their profit margins.

    So far you have yet to make “contact” with AT Hiker Tommy. The key to “acquiring” a contact before the potential customer is ready to make a purchase is to provide something of value to that specific type of person (i.e. their persona) at that specific point in time (i.e. their buying cycle stage).

    In this case, we need to provide value to AT Hiker Tommy while he is getting started on his research about hiking the Appalachian Trail. He has an idea of what gear not to bring, as well as some lighter, higher-end options sold on your site. At this point, however, he is not ready to buy anything without researching the trail more. This is where retailers lose most of their potential customers. But not you. Not this time…

    Middle of the funnel: Content offers, personalization, social & email nurturing

    at-hiker-ebook.png

    On the “What NOT to Pack When Hiking the Appalachian Trail” article (and probably several others), you have placed a call-to-action (CTA) in the form of a button that offers something like:

    Download our Free 122-page Guide to Hiking the Appalachian Trail

    This takes Tommy to a landing page showcasing some of the quotes from the book, and highlighting things like:

    “We interviewed over 50 ‘thru-hikers’ who completed the AT and have curated and organized the best first-hand tips, along with our own significant research to develop a free eBook that should answer most of your questions about the trail.”

    By entering their email address potential customers agree to allow you to send them the free PDF downloadable guide to hiking the AT, and other relevant information about hiking.

    An automated email is sent with a link to the downloadable PDF guide, and several other useful content links, such as “The AT Hiker’s Guide to Gear for the Appalachian Trail”—content designed to move Tommy further toward the purchase of hiking gear.

    If Tommy still has not made a purchase within the next two weeks, another automated email is sent asking for feedback about the PDF guide (providing the link again), and to again provide the link to the “AT Hiker’s Guide to Gear…” along with a compelling offer just for him, perhaps “Get 20% off your first hiking gear purchase, and a free wall map of the AT!”

    Having Tommy’s email address also allows you to hyper-target him on social channels, while also leveraging his initial visit to initiate retargeting efforts.

    Bottom of the funnel: Email nurturing & strategic, segmented offers

    Eventually Tommy makes a purchase, and he may or may not receive further emails related to this campaign, such as post-purchase emails for reviews, up-sells and cross-sells.

    Upon checkout, Tommy checked the box to opt-in to weekly promotional emails. He is now on multiple lists. Your marketing automation system will automatically update Tommy’s status from “Contact” or lead, to “Customer” and potentially remove or deactivate him from the marketing automation system database. This is accomplished either by default integration features, or with the help of integration tools like
    Zapier and IFTTT.

    You have now nurtured Tommy from his initial research on Google all the way to his first purchase without ever having sent a spammy newsletter email full of irrelevant coupons and other offers. However, now that he is a loyal customer, Tommy finds value in these bottom-of-funnel email offers.

    And this is just the start

    Every inbound marketing campaign will have its own mix of appropriate channels. This post has focused mostly on email because acquiring the initial permission to contact the person is what fuels most of the other features offered by marketing automation systems, including:

    • Personalization of offers and other content on the site.
    • Knowing exactly which visitors are interacting on social media
    • Knowing where visitors and social followers are in the buying cycle and which persona best represents them, among other things.
    • Smart forms that don’t require visitors to put in the same information twice and allow you to build out more detailed profiles of them over time.
    • Blogging platforms that tie into email and marketing automation systems
    • Analytics data that isn’t blocked by Google and is tied directly to real people.
    • Closed-loop reporting that integrates with call-tracking and Google’s Data Import tool
    • Up-sell, cross-sell, and abandoned cart reclamation features
    Three more things…
    1. If you can figure out a way to get Tommy to “log in” when he comes to your site, the personalization possibilities are nearly limitless.
    2. The persona above is based on a real customer segment. I named it after my friend Tommy Bailey, who actually did write the eBook
      Guide to Hiking the Appalachian Trail, featured in the image above.
    3. This Moz post is part of an inbound marketing campaign targeting eCommerce marketers, a segment Inflow identified while building out our own personas. Our hope, and the whole point of inbound marketing, is that it provides value to you.

    Current state of the inbound marketing industry

    Inbound has, for the the most part, been applied to businesses in which the website objective is to generate leads for a sales team to follow-up with and close the deal. An examination of various marketing automation platforms—a key component of scalable inbound marketing programs—highlights this issue.

    Popular marketing automation systems

    Most of the major marketing automation systems can be be used very effectively as the backbone of an inbound marketing program for eCommerce businesses. However, only one of them (Silverpop) has made significant efforts to court the eCommerce market with content and out-of-box features. The next closest thing is Hubspot, so let’s start with those two:

    Silverpop – an IBMⓇ Company

    silver-pop.jpeg

    Unlike the other platforms below, right out of the box Silverpop allows marketers to tap into very specific behaviors, including the items purchased or left in the cart.

    You can easily segment based on metrics like the Recency, Frequency and Monetary Value (RFM) of purchases:

    silverpop triggered campaigns

    You can automate personalized shopping cart abandonment recovery emails:

    silverpop cart abandonment recovery

    You can integrate with many leading brands offering complementary services, including: couponing, CRM, analytics, email deliverability enhancement, social and most major eCommerce platforms.

    What you can’t do with Silverpop is blog, find pricing info on their website, get a free trial on their website or have a modern-looking user experience. Sounds like an IBMⓇ company, doesn’t it?

    HubSpot

    Out of all the marketing automation platforms on this list, HubSpot is the most capable of handling “inbound marketing” campaigns from start to finish. This should come as no surprise, given the phrase is credited to
    Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s co-founder and CEO.

    While they don’t specifically cater to eCommerce marketing needs with the same gusto they give to lead gen. marketing, HubSpot does have
    an eCommerce landing page and a demo landing page for eCommerce leads, which suggests that their own personas include eCommerce marketers. Additionally, there is some good content on their blog written specifically for eCommerce.

    HubSpot has allowed some key partners to develop plug-ins that integrate with leading eCommerce platforms. This approach works well with curation, and is not dissimilar to how Google handles Android or Apple handles their approved apps.

    magento and hubspot

    The
    Magento Connector for HubSpot, which costs $80 per month, was developed by EYEMAGiNE, a creative design firm for eCommerce websites. A similar HubSpot-approved third-party integration is on the way for Bigcommerce.

    Another eCommerce integration for Hubspot is a Shopify plug-in called
    HubShoply, which was developed by Groove Commerce and costs $100 per month.

    You can also use HubSpot’s native integration capabilities with
    Zapier to sync data between HubSpot and most major eCommerce SaaS vendors, including the ones above, as well as WooCommerce, Shopify, PayPal, Infusionsoft and more. However, the same could be said of some of the other marketing automation platforms, and using these third-party solutions can sometimes feel like fitting a square peg into a round hole.

    HubSpot can and does handle inbound marketing for eCommerce websites. All of the features are there, or easy enough to integrate. But let’s put some pressure on them to up their eCommerce game even more. The least they can do is put an eCommerce link in the footer:

    hubspot menus

    Despite the lack of clear navigation to their eCommerce content, HubSpot seems to be paying more attention to the needs of eCommerce businesses than the rest of the platforms below.

    Marketo

    Nothing about Marketo’s in-house marketing strategy suggests “Ecommerce Director Bob” might be one of their personas. The description for each of
    their marketing automation packages (from Spark to Enterprise) mentions that it is “for B2B” websites.

    marketo screenshot

    Driving Sales could apply to a retail business so I clicked on the link. Nope. Clearly, this is for lead generation.

    marketo marketing automation

    Passing “purchase-ready leads” over to your “sales reps” is a good example of the type of language used throughout the site.

    Make no mistake, Marketo is a top-notch marketing automation platform. Powerful and clean, it’s a shame they don’t launch a full-scale eCommerce version of their core product. In the meantime, there’s the
    Magento Integration for Marketo Plug-in developed by an agency out of Australia called Hoosh Marketing.

    magento marketo integration

    I’ve never used this integration, but it’s part of Marketo’s
    LaunchPoint directory, which I imagine is vetted, and Hoosh seems like a reputable agency.

    Their
    pricing page is blurred and gated, which is annoying, but perhaps they’ll come on here and tell everyone how much they charge.

    marketo pricing page

    As with all others except Silverpop, the Marketo navigation provides no easy paths to landing pages that would appeal to “Ecommerce Director Bob.”

    Pardot

    This option is a
    SalesForce product, so—though I’ve never had the opportunity to use it—I can imagine Pardot is heavy on B2B/Sales and very light on B2C marketing for retail sites.

    The hero image on their homepage says as much.

    pardot tagline

    pardot marketing automationAgain, no mention of eCommerce or retail, but clear navigation to lead gen and sales.

    Eloqua / OMC

    eloqua-logo.jpeg

    Eloqua, now part of the Oracle Marketing Cloud (OMC), has a landing page
    for the retail industry, on which they proclaim:

    “Retail marketers know that the path to lifelong loyalty and increased revenue goes through building and growing deep client relationships.”

    Since when did retail marketers start calling customers clients?

    eloqua integration

    The Integration tab on OMC’s “…Retail.html” page helpfully informs eCommerce marketers that their sales teams can continue using CRM systems like SalesForce and Microsoft Dynamics but doesn’t mention anything about eCommerce platforms and other SaaS solutions for eCommerce businesses.

    Others

    There are many other players in this arena. Though I haven’t used them yet, three I would love to try out are
    SharpSpring, Hatchbuck and Act-On. But none of them appear to be any better suited to handle the concerns of eCommerce websites.

    Where there’s a gap, there’s opportunity

    The purpose of the section above wasn’t to highlight deficiencies in the tools themselves, but to illustrate a gap in who they are being marketed to and developed for.

    So far, most of your eCommerce competitors probably aren’t using tools like these because they are not marketed to by the platforms, and don’t know how to apply the technology to online retail in a way that would justify the expense.

    The thing is, a tool is just a tool

    The
    key concepts behind inbound marketing apply just as much to online retail as they do to lead generation.

    In order to “do inbound marketing,” a marketing automation system isn’t even strictly necessary (in theory). They just help make the activities scalable for most businesses.

    They also bring a lot of different marketing activities under one roof, which saves time and allows data to be moved and utilized between channels and systems. For example, what a customer is doing on social could influence the emails they receive, or content they see on your site. Here are some potential uses for most of the platforms above:

    Automated marketing uses

    • Personalized abandoned cart emails
    • Post-purchase nurturing/reorder marketing
    • Welcome campaigns for the newsletter (other free offer) signups
    • Winback campaigns
    • Lead-nurturing email campaigns for cohorts and persona-based segments

    Content marketing uses

    • Optimized, strategic blogging platforms, and frameworks
    • Landing pages for pre-transactional/educational offers or contests
    • Social media reporting, monitoring, and publishing
    • Personalization of content and user experience

    Reporting uses

    • Revenue reporting (by segment or marketing action)
    • Attribution reporting (by campaign or content)

    Assuming you don’t have the budget for a marketing automation system, but already have a good email marketing platform, you can still get started with inbound marketing. Eventually, however, you may want to graduate to a dedicated marketing automation solution to reap the full benefits.

    Email marketing platforms

    Most of the marketing automation systems claim to replace your email marketing platform, while many email marketing platforms claim to be marketing automation systems. Neither statement is completely accurate.

    Marketing automation systems, especially those created specifically for the type of “inbound” campaigns described above, provide a powerful suite of tools all in one place. On the other hand, dedicated email platforms tend to offer “email marketing” features that are better, and more robust, than those offered by marketing automation systems. Some of them are also considerably cheaper—such as
    MailChimp—but those are often light on even the email-specific features for eCommerce.

    A different type of campaign

    Email “blasts” in the form of B.O.G.O., $10 off or free shipping offers can still be very successful in generating incremental revenue boosts — especially for existing customers and seasonal campaigns.

    The conversion rate on a 20% off coupon sent to existing customers, for instance, would likely pulverize the conversion rate of an email going out to middle-of-funnel contacts with a link to content (at least with how CR is currently being calculated by email platforms).

    Inbound marketing campaigns can also offer quick wins, but they tend to focus mostly on non-customers after the first segmentation campaign (a campaign for the purpose of segmenting your list, such as an incentivised survey). This means lower initial conversion rates, but long-term success with the growth of new customers.

    Here’s a good bet if works with your budget: Rely on a marketing automation system for inbound marketing to drive new customer acquisition from initial visit to first purchase, while using a good email marketing platform to run your “promotional email” campaigns to existing customers.

    If you have to choose one or the other, I’d go with a robust marketing automation system.

    Some of the most popular email platforms used by eCommerce businesses, with a focus on how they handle various Inbound Marketing activities, include:

    Bronto

    bronto.jpeg

    This platform builds in features like abandoned cart recovery, advanced email list segmentation and automated email workflows that nurture contacts over time.

    They also offer a host of eCommerce-related
    features that you just don’t get with marketing automation systems like Hubspot and Marketo. This includes easy integration with a variety of eCommerce platforms like ATG, Demandware, Magento, Miva Merchant, Mozu and MarketLive, not to mention apps for coupons, product recommendations, social shopping and more. Integration with enterprise eCommerce platforms is one reason why Bronto is seen over and over again when browsing the Internet Retailer Top 500 reports.

    On the other hand, Bronto—like the rest of these email platforms—doesn’t have many of the features that assist with content marketing outside of emails. As an “inbound” marketing automation system, it is incomplete because it focuses almost solely on one channel: email.

    Vertical Response

    verticalresponse.jpeg

    Another juggernaut in eCommerce email marketing platforms, Vertical Response, has even fewer inbound-related features than Bronto, though it is a good email platform with a free version that includes up to 1,000 contacts and 4,000 emails per month (i.e. 4 emails to a full list of 1,000).

    Oracle Marketing Cloud (OMC)

    Responsys (the email platform), like Eloqua (the marketing automation system) was gobbled up by Oracle and is now part of their “Marketing Cloud.”

    It has been my experience that when a big technology firm like IBM or Oracle buys a great product, it isn’t “great” for the users. Time will tell.

    Listrak

    listrak.jpeg

    Out of the established email platforms for eCommerce, Listrak may do the best job at positioning themselves as a full inbound marketing platform.

    Listrak’s value proposition is that they’re an “Omnichannel” solution. Everything is all in one “Single, Integrated Digital Marketing Platform for Retailers.” The homepage image promises solutions for Email, Mobile, Social, Web and In-Store channels.

    I haven’t had the opportunity to work with Listrak yet, but would love to hear feedback in the comments on whether they could handle the kind of persona-based content marketing and automated email nurturing campaigns described in the example campaign above.

    Key takeaways

    Congratulations for making this far! Here are a few things I hope you’ll take away from this post:

    • There is a lot of opportunity right now for eCommerce sites to take advantage of marketing automation systems and robust email marketing platforms as the infrastructure to run comprehensive inbound marketing campaigns.
    • There is a lot of opportunity right now for marketing automation systems to develop content and build in eCommerce-specific features to lure eCommerce marketers.
    • Inbound marketing isn’t email marketing, although email is an important piece to inbound because it allows you to begin forming lasting relationships with potential customers much earlier in the buying cycle.
    • To see the full benefits of inbound marketing, you should focus on getting the right content to the right person at the right time in their shopping journey. This necessarily involves several different channels, including search, social and email. One of the many benefits of marketing automation systems is their ability to track your efforts here across marketing channels, devices and touch-points.

    Tools, resources, and further reading

    There is a lot of great content on the topic of Inbound marketing, some of which has greatly informed my own understanding and approach. Here are a few resources you may find useful as well.

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    Reblogged 4 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it