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Top 10 reasons to attend my presentations at CMS Expo 2013

Posted by: in General on Thursday, May 9, 2013

Next week is CMS Expo and it's a wonderful time to be in Chicago. The weather is warmer, and it's a great time to get away and build your marketing and business skills.

From the CMS Expo website:

"You don't have time for jargon, vendor speak or spin, and neither do we. Our learning sessions and panels are delivered by real-world presenters, here to help solve the real-world challenges businesses like yours face every day."

I will be presenting five sessions at the conference this year (because I'm insane) covering a variety of topics. Here's the rundown:

So why would you consider attending? Glad you asked! Let's review:

1. Chicago in May is beautiful. Spring is here, and it's the perfect time to see the city. From driving/running/walking down Lakeshore Drive to Navy Pier, there are lots of ways to get out and enjoiy the weather.

2. No PowerPoint doom. I don't just read bullet points on a slide. I have conversations with my audience. Here's proof.

3. You'll learn valuable skills. Want to learn to produce video for your website? Check. Want to learn how to write great content for the web? Check. Thinking about going mobile? Check. This conference will make you a better marketing professional or business owner.

4. Giordano's pizza. 'Nuff said.

5. It could be a turning point for your company. If you own or manage a web design firm and you're wondering how to take the next step toward becoming an inbound marketing agency, you won't want to miss my presentation. My agency recently went through this change, and I plan to share with you how you can evolve in this direction, too.

6. You'll come back looking like a smarty-pants. If you're in charge of helping with marketing for your company, you will come back from this conference with a cannon full of new ideas and initiatives as well as ways to help your team. You'll be the envy of your co-workers. Look how marketing-savvy you are!

7. Great networking. CMS Expo is made up of great people from all over the world who are eager to help you. You'll find designers, developers, marketers, business owners, and more at this conference. It's a very special group of people.

8. Get help figuring out your CMS. A great content management system is crucial to the success of your website. You'll have the chance to gather tons of information that will help you determine which CMS is right for you.

9. Inspiration happens outside your comfort zone. Does it cost time and money to take time away from work to attend? Absolutely. However, sometimes the best inspiration and business breakthroughs can happen when you step outside your comfort zone and get into a different environment. It happens to me all the time.

10. I'm a sucker for free advice. I love to help people... especially people who attend my presentations. Bring your burning marketing questions and let's grab a beverage afterwards. I will do everything I can to assess your challenges and offer some real soutions and advice.

I'm very much looking forward to CMS Expo this year, and I look forward to seeing you there! If you're not already registered, register for CMS Expo today.

Creating a culture of inbound marketing

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, May 7, 2013

One of our biggest challenges when on-boarding a new Inbound Marketing client is getting their entire organization on board with the Inbound Marketing mindset. In order to be fully successful, everyone in the company must be 100% in full agreement and excited about the strategy; however, this mindset doesn’t just happen. There has to be a fundamental shift in company culture and beliefs in order to embrace Inbound Marketing.

That being said, let’s take a look at how to install an Inbound Marketing culture in your business. 

Redefine roles

The first battle (not that we condone fighting!) a company faces lies in the traditional organizational structure roles that most businesses confine their job roles within. People assume that Inbound Marketing principles such as content creation and social media should only be a function of the Marketing department. It’s a common mistake. “IT people only deal with IT things, and the Marketing people only deal with Marketing things.”

People especially get caught up in what tasks they are assigned to complete. And really, you can’t blame them. They’re just wanting to get their specific jobs done. But then when you ask them to think outside the box and broaden their role, they’re often resistant. 

In order to combat this, take the time to evolve all of your current practices, culture, training materials (etc) to adapt to the new Inbound Marketing culture. This includes dedicating a significant amount of time to redeveloping materials and evolving the training process to incorporate Inbound Marketing training. It’s a lot of work, but in the end it’s worth it because it’s critical that all new team members who come into the organization understand from the onset that Inbound Marketing is woven into everything that the organization does, no matter your job title.

Generate excitement

The second battle you’re likely faced with is converting your current team into Inbound Marketing believers. The goal here is to get them excited and motivated to evolve their role within the company to include Inbound strategy. Current members (especially long-time team members) can be resistant to this change. But...have no fear! Old dogs really can learn new tricks.

The sooner you can get the team’s buy in, the better off you’re going to be. In order to generate some excitement, fully explain Inbound Marketing philosophy and concepts. Show them why it’s critical to the company to make this shift. Go into great detail about how content production and relationship building (by the whole team!) is critical to the success of the overall strategy. The clearer you can make a link between Inbound Marketing positively impacting the company and their particular position, the more buy in you’ll likely get.

Create incentive

Have leaders within your organization develop fun and engaging ways for workers to get excited to participate. You might have internal contests or incentive programs. Start an “Employee of the month” based on participation. It’s imperative that team members receive ample recognition for their effort. Give them lots of praise and feature them so that they gain a sense of accomplishment for the work they’re putting in. 

Rethinking your entire company’s culture will obviously take time and effort. It all begins with a cultural shift rooted in the foundation of the business. The more you can make this shift and get everyone on board, the more success you will find, which in the end means your company will grow. I’m not saying it’s easy, but in the long run, it will make a huge difference between success and failure of the growth of your business in this Inbound Marketing age.

5 ways to improve your website conversion rates

Posted by: in General on Thursday, May 2, 2013

Some companies focus on getting twice as many people as possible to visit their website. And, really, that’s not a bad thing. The more traffic you have, the more sales you’re likely to make.

But would you believe me if I said it's possible to double the number of sales from the people who are already visiting? (No joke!) It all comes down to conversion rate. Before we look into ways to improve it, let’s take a look at what conversion rate actually means.

What is a conversion rate?

Your conversion rate is a measure of the number of potential customers that proceed to purchase a product or service from your company. In the context of a website, it’s usually the percentage of visitors that make a purchase. Many websites concentrate solely on increasing the number of visitors they have. However, if they instead focused on fixing some fairly simple problems with their site, their conversion rate could greatly improve, which would likewise improve the company’s bottom line at minimal expense.

All that being said, improving a website conversion rate can be relatively simple. Here are 5 ways to do just that.

Be user friendly

The best way to improve conversion rate is to make your website user-friendly. There’s nothing more frustrating than attempting to navigate a clunky, disorganized site. Make sure your content is clear and current; the navigation is simple; that your links work. It’s kind of like “playing well with others” when it comes to web world. (If need help when it comes to this, let us know - SpinWeb is happy to help!)

But being user friendly extends beyond just having a well-laid out site. It means being clear if you have a product out of stock. Few things annoy customers more than researching a product and adding it to your cart only to find out that it’s not available as you enter the checkout process. The same applies to pricing. A user might be willing to spend $100 on a product, but when they find out that shipping is an additional $100, they’ll be quick to close the browser. (This is why thousands of shoppers return time and again to stores like Zappos.com, which offers free shipping and free returns).

Speaking of return policies, make it clear. I’m not going to suggest what it should be for your particular company, but I will say that the better customer service I receive from places (including flexible return policies and free shipping), the more likely I am to become a loyal customer.

Be clear and upfront with your information - your products, your shipping, your return policy - and your customers will be much more likely to return. 

Less is more

We know how much you want to know all about your customers. (Knowledge is power, right?) However, resist the urge to drill them with 20 questions. Customers consider it a waste of time. That being said, don’t ask for too much information at checkout or when you have them fill out a form. You don’t need to know the client’s phone number for them to download your free PDF. Similarly, why make them create an account so they can buy later before processing their first order? The more simple and streamlined the process, the more likely they are to return again later. In some cases, less really is more.

Be informative

By this, I mean keep the user informed. Let people know the estimated date of delivery of their package. (People are impatient, after all.) Emailing them when their product has been shipped is a great idea. Send them the tracking number, if applicable. These may seem like simple pieces of advice, but keeping the customer happy even after the sale means that they are more likely to speak favorably about you in the future. Show your customers that you care about then, even after they’ve finished shopping. The more informed the user is during every step of the process, the more happy they’re going to be in the end.

Leverage your unique selling point

What sets you apart from your competition? Whatever it is, make it clear to users on your website. If you are a family-run business, make sure that’s known. (People love to support the locals!) Do you excel at customer service, offer the lowest prices, have unique products that can’t be bought elsewhere? Let it be known. Figure out what makes you most attractive to your customer and shout it from the proverbial rooftops (er... all over your website, as the case may be). 

Improve value 

A great way to increase conversion rate is to improve the value to your customers. If a user adds a product to their shopping cart, show them other items they might like as well. Upselling and cross-selling are proven techniques - and it can help make a customer’s search that much easier. Similarly, add value to that search. Don’t just include an online catalog: include information, articles, advice, reviews. Educate the customer on why your product is the best. Add value to the entire process... don’t just sell your product. Doing so will help make you memorable, which is a great way to keep customers coming back time and time again.

Need help with your company’s website or conversion rate? Contact us here at SpinWeb... we’re happy to help!

You are not your customer

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Have you ever said something similar to the following?

Google AdWords is a waste. When I search for something I never look up at the paid boxes.”

“I would never write a company blog. Why would I waste my time writing when I could be out selling?”

Or my personal favorite: “Why would I want to offer a free ebook to download? I don’t even have time to read the newspaper in the morning! I doubt my customers have the time to spare either.”

If you have based your web-based marketing efforts on statements above, then you’ve made one of the biggest mistakes in business marketing: you’ve confused yourself with your customer. Many business owners have fallen victim to the same logic. They believe that because they wouldn’t react to a certain marketing strategy or medium, then their customers wouldn’t either. 

Here’s the bottom line: you are not your customer.

The truth is, you might have a lot in common with your customer. Yet it’s the small differences that can create a big disconnect when it comes to marketing strategies. Just for fun, answer the following questions:

Do you work a 9-5 job yet sell services to small business owners? 

Do you have a “Y” chromosome yet sell to a clientele that is 90% female?

Do you have 5 employees that work for you but sell HR solutions to companies with over 100 staffers?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, then it’s clear that you are not your customer. Small differences really can make a big difference when it comes to marketing efforts.

While you can guess at what your customers would or wouldn’t respond to, you really don’t know...because you are not your customer. Assessing marketing effectiveness through personal preferences is not the way to go about it. Although, I have to sympathize with you a bit. It’s natural to think that just because I’m passionate about something that everyone else is also.

For example, I hate it when Yellow Pages leaves stacks of phone books on my doorstep. Naturally, I assume that everyone else must hate it equally as much as I do. (If so, I highly recommend opting out here!) Except for one problem: not everyone feels the same way I do. 

...the same is true for you and your customers. Your customers might not feel the same way you do. And that’s okay. Just know that because of these differing opinions and feelings, they may be more open to some marketing tactics that you might not.

The good news in all this is that you don’t have to be your customer to market to your customer. But you do need to make sure you’re viewing the world through their eyes, not your own. Try to take a step back from your own biases and try to think about how your target audience might be different than you. Then, next time you’re met with a new marketing idea, consider how your customer might respond, even if it’s not necessarily an idea that you would consider effective. Really, your new idea might be worth a shot. You may discover that your customers are open to a lot of web-based marketing after all... even though they’re definitely not you.

How to comment on a blog post

Posted by: in General on Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Have you ever considered posting a comment on a blog only to be a bit tongue-tied about what to say?

I'd love to somehow magically bestow on you the courage to try. But if it makes you feel better, the actual act of posting is no more difficult than sending an email. Click on the Comments button at the end of the post and fill out the form. Voila!

Should you decide to venture into this unknown territory, don’t be offended if your comment doesn’t appear right away; some bloggers opt to approve every comment before it’s placed publicly on the page to avoid allowing negative comments to appear.

Why comment?

Commenting on blogs can provide some SEO benefit. Also, being able to answer questions and provide thoughtful feedback on topics helps build trust and credibility, which will help establish you as an expert on the topic. Chances are, if people like what you have to say, they’ll check out your blog in return. In the event that you do post a comment, most likely you’ll make the blog owner’s day: I’ve never met a blogger that didn’t love comments, especially complimentary ones.

But if you’re still not sure how to go about forming your thoughts into a cohesive form and placing it online for the whole world to see, here are a few tips and suggestions to help you get started.

Provide context

You as the commenter innately know what you’re responding to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s clear to people who will come by the page later. Thus, it’s important to provide context when there are a lot of comments since yours might get separated from the comment you’re directly commenting about. 

For example, instead of posting “Price is important, too!” It’s helpful if you start with some context, like “User 1234 has several good points about how to shop for a new pair of shoes but has missed one important variable” then go on to talk about price. That way, future commenters won’t be confused as to why you started talking about the price of wheat in China on a post that's really about shopping for shoes. 

Give R-E-S-P-E-C-T (“...find out what it means to me!”)

Aretha’s anthem goes far when it comes to commenting on blogs. Ones that start out with “You’re an idiot!” or are laced with profanity are likely going to be dismissed, not to mention put a smudge on your shiny reputation. Now, I’m not saying that the person you’re writing to isn’t an idiot. But there are ways to prove your point that are perhaps a bit more respectful than calling names. A good rule of thumb to keep is to not post anything that you wouldn't say in person; don't hide behind your digital persona. 

Make a point

Comments like “Wonderful!” and “Love it!” have their place. Don’t get me wrong, comments like that on my blog brighten my day faster than a sunrise. But if you want to make a lasting impression and prompt a more meaningful discussion, you might want to give a bit more. Why do you think it’s wonderful? Are there specific reasons you love it? In the event that you disagree, it’s even more imperative to include the reasoning behind it. Correct the person if you need to, but make sure you include facts and where you got your information, even if it’s based on experience.

Know what you’re talking about

I’m amazed by the number of people who admit they have no idea what they’re talking about then go on to make recommendations. I swear I’ve read comments like, “I’ve never gone shoe shopping before, but I think size is more important than price.” (WHAT?!) That kind of comment is not the way to get positive attention from an influential blogger or establish yourself as an expert. 

Keep it simple

People have short attention spans, so even though you may have a manifesto to share, a comment box isn’t the place. A comment should be just that - a comment, not an essay. (If you have that much to say on a topic, perhaps you should start your own blog?)

Link carefully

If you’re posting a comment with the hope of driving traffic to your own site, think carefully before you include a link in your comment. Of course you should put your link if the comment box has a place for it, but leaving a link in the body is a bit more risky. Some people think it’s great marketing, but others tend to think it’s a bit obnoxious. If you decide to do it, make sure you’ve written a thoughtful comment that truly contributes to the conversation, not a useless comment that’s a transparent excuse to leave your link.

Proofread

Finally, always, always, always proofread your thoughts before you post them since most comment boxes don’t include spellcheckers. If you have a lot of typos or misspellings, it undermines your credibility, which is the last thing you want to do. 

Posting comments on blogs and articles can be a fun way to interact with your community. Just make sure you’re providing context, being respectful, making a point, knowing what you’re talking about, keeping it simple, linking carefully, and proofreading your work. 

...if you’ve made it this far, I recommend you practice your new skills by posting a comment on this blog. :)

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