Friday, August 28, 2009

Will Inbound Marketing Work for Your Company?

The answer is absolutely yes! But there are some qualifications to that. Just saying "inbound marketing" around the office is not going to get any results, it's a process and it requires that you adopt a new attitude, develop a sound plan for implementation and deploy the needed resources to execute on your plan. By the way, this is not a plan with an end, remember that inbound marketing is a process to generate defined results, but it's a process of ongoing improvement and so has no end. As you journey down this road your company will achieve continually improving results, great ROI, that will drive your bottom line through being found, converting leads and measuring the results. If you're not going on this journey be aware that your competition is and taking your prospective customers with them. Do you want to let this happen?

Here is a brief outline of a process you might want to consider to get started. Of course each point has many details, but at least it will give you some ideas as to how to move forward.

1- Evaluate your current internet situation (web presence)- This means looking at all of your current activities both on and off your website. Is it accomplishing what you hoped it would? Why or why not?
2- Clearly define what you want business results you want to achieve- This could be increased traffic, more leads, better evaluation of results, or any combination.
3- Establish with detail who your target audience is- By doing so it will help you tailor your messaging.
4- Investigate where and what your audience is doing now- Are there related forums and blogs where they are active? What kind of keyword searches are being done? What info are they finding through those searches? What social media activities are relevant? etc. etc.
5- Develop a plan- It can be difficult to complete this step if you're not fully aware of what options exist for you. Maybe the first step is to access the help of a consultant to save you time, ensure that you're not overlooking possibilities and this will help you get a clear idea of what kind of resources either internal or external you'll need.

This was meant to be a short post today and...well you be the judge. As a final offering, if you are considering this approach I encourage you to read "Why inbound marketing should be a priority for your company this week." Of course you can defer doing anything, (We humans are great procrastinators aren't we?) but be aware that the internet ocean is rising, all you have to do is be certain your companies information is in the current and you will achieve outstanding results. If there is anything I can do to help, contact me as Jason Mraz sings..."I'm yours".

We're at the edge of the future!

Andy Xhignesse

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inbound Marketing and Business Blogging, What's the Connection?

To answer this question it's important to understand what a blog is so that it makes sense in the context of inbound marketing. There may be a number of you who think that a blog is just a way that people provide information updates about their lives or interests similar to an extended Facebook entry and in many cases that is in fact what a blog is. For our purposes the discussion centres (yes, I'm Canadian so I spell centre with an 're' ending) around the business blog, a blog where the information updates are focused on our business activities, what's new, interesting or relevant to our target audience. A blog is a tool that allows you to quickly and easily publish new content online and where readers can interact with questions or comments about what you've offered. How does it relate to inbound marketing then? Remember that the first part of inbound marketing is about the creation of content that is well optimized using SEO best practices and promotion through social media vehicles? Therefore blogging allows your business to quickly create new content for all interested visitors to read, comment on and share with others. When done properly, you'll see your readership grow and by completing the inbound cycle of conversion and measurement, you'll achieve the business outcomes you've established.

For the purpose of my post here today I'm going to stay focused on the first element of inbound marketing, content creation, otherwise...well it would just be too long! OK, so we've established that blogging is an easy and effective way to create new content for our visitors so what do we do? Step 1 is to decide on your blog software and there are many to chose from, the important thing is to host it on your own website. (Yes, I'm well aware that I'm not following this advice, that will be changing very soon with the launch of our website!) Why is this important? The inbound marketing advantages of hosting your own blog are too numerous to talk about here but in a nutshell if you don't host the blog, you don't get the benefit. If you cut and trim your neighbours lawn, their property looks great...not yours! Step 2 is to understand who it is that your trying to reach with your information offering. As an example, here I offer information intended for the small and medium sized business who is looking for information on how they can use the internet to improve business results. All of the postings are intended to provide more useful (I hope!) ways that you can understand and use the web to help you achieve your business goals. Now we've touched on the why (generate business results), how (blog software), who (your target audience), what (relevant and helpful info), where (blog hosted on your own website) next let's discuss often as possible! You've got a lot of information to share with your visitors so...get to it. Blogging is perhaps the simplest way for you to reach and attract new prospects from the web over time. Notice "over time" not overnight. It's rare that you'll create great business results right out of the gate, remember this is a process not and event so stay the course.

Blogging may seem a little daunting to your company, how are you going to find the time? Who's going to do it? Will we have enough information to share? These are all valid concerns, but consider this, the use of the internet is continuing to grow. Business and consumers alike are looking for information everyday, Google alone receives over a billion queries daily and if you're in business you must very seriously consider what the cost of not being in front of this stream, no scrap that... ocean of information seekers will cost you... a lot! Want some help? Feel free to contact us here.

We're at the edge of the future!

Andy Xhignesse

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Why Does Inbound Marketing Make Sense?

OK, a small step back to understand just what inbound marketing actually is since there are a lot of people that don't yet know about it and how powerful a process it can be as use of the internet continues to grow...what an understatement that is!

Inbound marketing is the process of creating relevant internet content that is well optimized and promoted for your target audience to increase traffic, along with the implementation of effective conversion tactics that will generate inquiries/leads and through the use of marketing and competition analysis tools allow your company to review and refine your web development initiatives to achieve the maximum ROI for your marketing dollar. Simply put:


+ Leads
-Landing Pages

+ Results
-Analysis tools
-Competition Evaluation
-Lead Nurture


In some recent posts these subjects have been talked about individually (improving traffic, generating leads, evaluating results) and you can be certain that there will be more in future.

So...why does this kind of process make sense today? After all, look at the results that were achieved by companies like Coke, Nike and Johnson & Johnson. What has changed that would require a different marketing process than these great companies used?

These companies (and of course there are many others) were built up for the most part before the public access to the internet was developed and as a result they had to use conventional outbound advertising and marketing practices to build their businesses. Television, radio and print media were all used extensively to make certain that these companies were in our collective minds on a continual basis and huge $$$ were spent to make that happen! Have you heard the recent news about these traditional media companies? They are in contraction, why? Because we are blocking this outbound activity! Are you on the "Do not call" list? Do you have Sirius radio or some other ad free radio service? Do you have a DVR so that you can fast forward through the commercials? ...and the list goes on. Here's the final nail, we as consumers now have the ability to self research what we want with...the internet. I don't know about you, but I don't go to trade shows anymore to find out about stuff, I go online. I don't go to a store when I want to do research on my new TV, home theatre, dishwasher, renovation project, insurance, vacation etc. I go online and I'm not alone...billions, BILLIONS of queries are going through Google and other search engines every single month.

The continuing expansion of the internet as a means of information sharing has fundamentally changed the relationship between business and their customers and that is why inbound marketing makes sense today. Put your company in position to deliver information (content/traffic), respond effectively to inquiries (conversion/leads) and measure and evaluate what is going on (analysis/results) and you will achieve the business outcomes you're looking for. Don't want to engage in this process? It may cost your business more than you can imagine.

We're at the edge of the future!

Andy Xhignesse

Can I help you? Contact me.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do You Know who Your Customer is?

Wow, it's been a while since I put up a post, long overdue but I've been really busy which is a good thing!

I wrote about how so often companies fail to make any effort regarding the concept of getting found (SEO) on the internet when they create a website in one of my very first posts in this blog. This kind of misses the whole point of the exercise doesn't it? It's unfortunate that companies would take the time to create a site but not really understand that they have to be found in order for the site to be of real value to their business. I won't comment about the companies that make these websites other than to say shame on them for taking a clients money and not really delivering the goods. Today I want to address another key element of your websites design...who are you trying to reach?

The simple and self evident answer is "My customers!" of course. But I would ask you to take a moment and reflect on just who exactly that customer is, because as the process of content development on your website continues this should be an important consideration. It could be that there are a variety of prospective clients you're trying to communicate with and each one will require individual attention. For example, a hotel has the "business traveller", "family vacation audience", "event planner" and "wedding couple" among others as prospective clients and each has their specific needs as to relevant is not about the beds, pillows and bathrooms, rather it's about what those individuals are looking for and each is different. but here is the most important point I is not about you and your business, it's about your customer and the solution you can provide for them! In the example of the hotel does the business person care that you have the "best pillows in town"? Maybe, but more likely they are looking for easy access to the facilities they have to go to, great communications infrastructure and that they'll get a good sleep when they finally make it to bed. Focus on solving they're problems, not on what you're selling.

How does this separate you from your competition? If you've taken time to see what your competition is doing (highly recommended!) you'll see that most of them tend to the "Blah, blah, blah" about their business website approach. It's not their fault, they don't know any better. Now you do. Here's an exercise to illustrate my point. the next time you're looking for information about a product or service online, think about which websites you stay on in your investigations, is it the sites that say "We have great widgets!" or is it the websites that speak to your problem and offer insight about how you can solve it? This is the way that websurfers get engaged with companies and ultimately end up being customers...there is enough blah, blah, blah in our lives, separate yourself! It will generate $$$ for your business.

Want some help? Contact me.

We're at the edge of the future!

Andy Xhignesse

Monday, August 3, 2009

What Web Content Should You Create?

The short answer is anything and everything that you can because...Content is KING! No I'm not kidding. Whether it's a blog entry, an update on your "Latest News" page, a video (hmmmm, here's an interesting one), a white paper, a new landing page, well I think you get my point, there is no doubt that creating content should be your top priority for your website. Why? Because it's your content that will determine whether or not your site is relevant to your prospective clients and being relevant and engaging is what will convert site visitors to prospects to clients. That is the kind of result you want from your website right? Anything else is a waste of your valuable time and resources.

OK, so is there some sort of magic formula? Is there some preferred content you can create to generate the best results? Not really, but there are some key fundamentals that are going to ensure that the content you develop achieves the desired outcomes. To illustrate this let's look at two examples one good, and the other...well not so good. First the good. In Marketing Voices , a weekly podcast, Jennifer Jones speaks with a variety of people involved with the marketing world about what they are doing, what trends they see, what's working (or not) and you're invited in to access these insights. Why is this good content? It's relevant to her audience, interesting, well optimized and provides the visitor with the information they are seeking and opportunities for that audience to engage further. This kind of content development achieves all of the desired outcomes.

For the "other" case, consider this blog...yah, you heard me right, my blog! You have to understand, I started this as an experiment, and it's working. More and more people are coming to read my blog entries, but we are still just speaking of "10's" of people monthly which I'm not unhappy with I intend very shortly to launch a website for my new company, but in the meantime I use this blog as my platform to try and share some insight for the small and medium sized business people. OK, so what is the problem with this blog? Sorry, what are the problems with this blog? Well, the one good thing is I pretty regularly add content, so readers are getting new information from their reading, and I focus on giving readers information I know will be helpful to them if they truly want to improve the results they are achieving from their online initiatives. Where this breaks down is that the content isn't optimized and there could be much more offered, for example a video, pictures, more links etc. But as I said this has always been an experiment and this blog is a way to get my feet wet in this environment. I can't wait for my new website to launch where I'll be spending considerable time to deliver a great example of content development!

OK, time to wrap up. What is my point today? Once again, content is KING, so if someone is offering you a quick fix to generate traffic to your website there's a better (much better) than 50% chance you're money or resources are being wasted. Make certain that as you consider your online development that whoever you engage to help you understands that there is a process involved and that after you've evaluated your current situation thoroughly, content is where the process begins, anything costing you money, not creating an ROI!

We're at the edge of the future!

Andy Xhignesse

Monday, July 27, 2009

Website Marketing and Conversion, Step 3

Metrics, measurement and meaning!!! If you're website is going to be successful over time then you must use some sort of metrics program to provide you with accurate measurement and interpret that information so that it has meaning for you in a way that allows you to take action and improve the results. Many small and medium sized businesses overlook this critical element of their online development and waste resources doing what they think is the right thing to do, not really knowing whether it is or not. This is costly both in time and capital resources and the solution is readily available. If you aren't, your competition is, and they're winning your prospective business.

You know how difficult it is to measure how successful your marketing activities are, is it the ad in the paper, the direct mail piece, the radio, television or print ad, the flyer campaign or trade show that is generating your results? In the years that I've spent in the world of small business development, I've counseled every company that I've had the pleasure to work with to do their best to track the results they are getting but it's very difficult. You have to make certain that your staff are trained to find out how inquiring prospects heard about your business, make certain you have a process in place to record this information, then analyze the information and finally decide if it's right or not. (In my experience it's as right as it is wrong!) This leads to the often heard expression "I know that 50% of my marketing spend is what is getting the results I want, now if only I knew which 50%." true!

Imagine campaigns where you knew how many prospective clients were responding to each individual offer you had. Where the prospect had come from, some of the reasoning behind how they had found your offer. what if you knew the company they were from and what their email address was? Do you think you could use this information to improve your company's sales figures? What if you could know some of this information about your competition? Welcome to the online world! The right metrics solution can give you this and more. No more wondering what is or is not working, just solid information that you can build on going forward to further improve your results.

You may have heard of Google Analytics, hopefully you have, and hopefully you're using at least this basic information to assist you in evaluating what results your website is generating but let me be clear, there is much more information available if you know how to find it. For example Site Meter ( offers a free software that will give you pretty good information and the paid service they offer (starting at $6.95/month based on up to 25,000 page views/month) gives pretty good information for you to work with and there are many other solutions out there that will provide you with similar or better information. I repeat, this information is critical for your ongoing success online! As a website owner please recognize that once you have a website that's just the beginning. Like any other form of corporate promotion you must evaluate and modify to improve the results on a continual basis so budget for it. How much more is available? Lot's!!!

In the last three postings I've given a very brief outline of a three step process that will absolutely improve the results you're getting online from your website: 1- create content and promote it; 2- give your website visitors ample opportunities to convert in some manner or another while they are visiting your website; 3-measure the results for meaning. There is a lot of work to do but whatever time and resources you commit will provide you with the best ROI of any marketing investment you make. What if there was a platform that gave you this and so much more? I encourage you to check out because they have the best most cost effective solution for small and medium size businesses that I've found. If you are going to spend anytime investigating what possibilities there are for your business online, I urge you to check out Hubspot, and I guarantee that at the very least you'll learn something valuable for your business. Let them know how you found them!

Want some help? Contact me. I want to help you be as successful as you want to be with your online presence development. I'm your outsourced VP of Online Marketing and I will deliver more and better results from your website than you have ever had before and love doing it.

We're at the edge of the future!

Andy Xhignesse

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Website Marketing and Conversion, Step 2

Website marketing requires time and intelligent planning to create the business outcomes you want for your business. In this series, I've been outlining the simple basics of how to begin creating a website that will:
1- Receive targeted traffic;
2- Convert that traffic to new client relationships;
3- Allow you to monitor results, change/develop content to constantly improve results.
Today we'll focus on #2, converting your websites traffic to new clients.

What is meant by the term conversion? Web conversions take many forms ranging from accessing information such as a whitepaper, filling out a form for contact, to completing an online purchase. Regardless of what the conversion is, as small and medium sized businesses your number one priority should be creating conversions and if appropriate having a series of conversions that lead to the creation of a new client...really, what else matters? Website designers will have you believe that your website needs to look a certain way and that this colour or that layout is better...the best return on your investment is when visitors to your website ultimatley become clients right? Stay focused on conversion!!!

How is this done? There are many details that I won't go into, (branding, language, etc.) that's not the intention here, what I want to give you is some ideas on how to make this work for your business. What's important is to remember that a conversion doesn't necessarily mean that you create a new client right away, remember relationships take time, all you want to do is begin a relationship and provide opportunities to develop that relationship over time. Generally this can be accomplished when your website provides the site visitor with different ways to engage with information that will help them answer questions, questions that you should understand for your business based on real world experience. Here is a simple example.

Company XYZ has a website that promotes their residential HVAC solutions. One very common question will be "How much will my new furnace or air conditioner cost?". It may not be the first question, but it will certianly come up at some point as the site visitor continues their purchase decision making process and it opens a great opportunity for XYZ to begin a relationship. How? Simply offer a "FREE NO OBLIGATION QUOTATION". This could be a link in the appropriate position in the text that takes them to a form, or it could be a "button" link at the side of the text that takes them to a form, or it could be a specific call to action in the text that says something like, "Call us today to get yoru free no obligation estimate." Regardless of which one (or all) of the conversion options used here, any serious prospect is going to want this information and there are three ways outlined in this example that will allow the site visitor to begin or deepen their relationship with Company XYZ that can lead to that prospect becoming a client. Converted! As noted earlier, there are many other considerations, but the basics outlined can dramatically improve the ROI from your website.

Are there other conversion possibilities? Many! Depending on your business and how relationships are created in the 'real world' you could use information in the form of whitepapers, landing pages that speak to a prospect in a certain manner on a specific question or concern typical prospects have, create "FREE TRIALS" or "SPECIAL OFFER" buttons, and these are just a few ideas. What's of greatest importance is to make certain that you are in fact providing visitors to your website with a variety of relevant ways to begin a relationship with you. If you're uncertain about the details, contact somebody who can help you, again I repeat, as a small or medium sized business, your number one objective should be to create new business from your website, anything and everything else...justs costs you money!

We're at the edge of the future!

Andy Xhignesse