A Marketing Manager’s New Job Description

Confused about HTMLIf you have used a marketing automation platform (or even a content management or email marketing solution) you will no doubt have noticed that these tools are starting to blur the lines between a marketer’s day to day activities and what was traditionally thought of as the IT department’s responsibilities. Like it or not, today’s marketers are being tasked with creating interactive content, executing complex campaigns, and analyzing the results — all without extensive support from more technical resources. Some tools are better than others at making landing page creation, email marketing, and other online activities “user-friendly” but inevitably a little HTML and CSS  knowledge go a long way.

So how do you staff your marketing team? It can be difficult to find applicants with significant web development experience who want to go into marketing (as opposed to development). Rather than hire for these skills specifically, I recommend hiring for everything else and then just training people on the development skills. As I said, a little knowledge goes a long way. You don’t need CSS ninjas.

At my marketing automation company we now require all new hires in the marketing department to pass a basic HTML and CSS exam within 120 days of hire. The company pays for any training resources and classes but the new hires are expected to study outside of normal working hours. This approach is fairly similar to someone in finance being expected to pass a Series 7 exam.

Here are some of the resources I recommend making available:

  • Excellent tutorials at W3Schools
  • Very reasonably priced interactive lessons at lynda.com
  • Night or weekend courses at a local university

Are you expected to know HTML and CSS in your marketing role? I know I am.

Writing a book is hard. Giving it away is easy.

If you read my post yesterday, you know that my Pardot co-founder and I have just published a book on Marketing Automation. We have been fortunate enough to have sold a bunch but we have also given away a bunch. It’s certainly a lot easier to do the latter. In that vein, we will continue to ship out free copies to anyone who wants one. Just comment on my blog or shoot a note to me at @adamblitzer. If you want it faster you can always just order it on Amazon (Amazon Prime eligible) or wait a couple of days for the Kindle version.

Marketing Automation Book Published

If you have followed my posts you may have noticed that I have taken quite a hiatus over the past half year. Writer’s block? Actually, quite the opposite.

My latest labor of love is a marketing automation primer that I have published with my Pardot co-founder David Cummings. The material assumes a strong knowledge of both interactive and B2B marketing but does not require any experience with marketing automation.

Pardot Marketing Automation Book

Topics covered include:

  • Lead nurturing/drip marketing
  • Effective email marketing
  • Lead scoring/grading
  • Forms/landing pages
  • Metrics worth tracking

Think Outside the Inbox is available on Amazon We would love to hear what you think.

Involving your support team in your SEO efforts

SEO is somewhat of an arms race. Organizations that are reasonably successful at it  follow best practices for on-page SEO, have great internal linking structure, and run inbound linking campaigns (great content, link bait, etc.). At the end of the day, however, what often separates good rankings from great rankings is the sheer amount of useful content that your organization can generate on a regular basis.

Right now you are thinking, “Great. It’s not enough that I have good content, I have to have a lot of it and update it regularly.” Unfortunately, if you want to be competitive, you’re right. We marketers at B2B organizations today are an overtaxed bunch. We’re often asked to do more now with less resources than we might have enjoyed a few years ago. Fortunately, if your organization is a products company, you probably have a wealth of content that is not currently helping your rankings, but could if you allow it.

Most companies keep their knowledge bases, customer communities, and forums under lock and key, afraid that competitors or prospects may see their warts or proprietary information. The reality is that your documentation and community sites likely contain a tremendous amount of content that can and should be indexable by search engines. Assuming your documentation is complete and your community is well taken care of, you have nothing to hide. Competitors likely already know more about you than you can imagine and prospects will likely be encouraged by having access to your community during the sales process.

Anytime one of your support reps answers a question via email but does not have relevant documentation to link to, he/she should write up an answer, post it to the site, and send the URL to the client. Of course it helps if you have a simple content management system, community management system, or forum so that your reps can do this with zero IT involvement. This allows your support team and also your user community to become content creators for you. You will find that the number of pages indexed on your documentation or community site quickly outstrips your corporate site and that you start to rank well for many long tail keywords. Who wouldn’t want double or triple their number of quality pages in Google or Bing’s indexes?

What can you start making available to the search engines?

  • product documentation
  • FAQs
  • forums
  • idea exchanges

When was the last time you thought of a support ticket as an opportunity for SEO-boosting content?

Retweet this Post

Are Paid Pilots or Free Trials Better for B2B?

I have recently read two great posts about the over-use and ultimate lack of effectiveness of the free trial as a marketing tactic in B2B SaaS sales organizations. Both Jep Castlestein of LeadSloth and Amanda Ferrante of DemandGen Report talk about alternatives to the ubiquitous trial and each provided great food for thought on a topic that is often dismissed by SaaS vendors. Most vendors I have seen, even those with extremely complex solutions (CRM, accounting, marketing automation, content management systems, etc.), seem to funnel everyone towards a free trial, shake the bucket up a bit, and then see which clients stick it out. While this has no doubt been effective for many organizations, especially simpler, less expensive solutions (see Basecamp, Constant Contact, etc.), I think it can simply add to the marketing and sales noise for many B2B organizations.

Problems with B2B free trials:

  1. The prospect has little skin in the game and may not be in a hurry to implement the trial solution during the assigned peirod. Other priorities come up
  2. The corporate sponsor may have difficulty getting buy-in from her internal team (salesforce.com administrator, IT, etc.) in making changes that may be temporary
  3. The product is likely to be too vast for the client to be able to wander her way through it (imagine how many salesforce.com or NetSuite trials feel) without significant guidance from the vendor
  4. To be most effective in terms of converting the prospect, the vendor must fully implement, train, and support the free trial as though they were a full-paying client

I have been on both sides of this game. As a B2B buyer, I am relatively poor at dealing with the free trials for which I sign up. I sign up for them and then other priotities quickly come up. Since I have nothing invested (in terms of time, money, or stakeholder buy-in), I often wind up shelving the evaluation until a later date. What typically works best for me is a situation where I am paying for the solution but I have an out-clause if I am not satisfied after a certain period. That gives me the incentive to get things integrated quickly but also minimizes my risk as a buyer.

Advantages of a Paid Pilot Approach:

  1. The prospect has a sense of urgency when implementing the product –she is actually paying for it
  2. The vendor has a sense of urgency when  supporting the client — the prospect in this case is actually a paying customer and could become one on a recurring basis
  3. Increases likelihood of the prospect getting buy-in from other stakeholders at her company. She can tell them that she has selected a product but that it comes with an out-clause if needed.
  4. The vendor is able to at least partially compensate his sales rep; making the paid pilot feel like much more of a “win” than a trial would

At my marketing automation company we do a bit of both but the vast majority of our clients are month-to-month and have the option to cancel their service at any time. This has been a tremendous model for both our sales team (reduced risk is a nice message) as well as our support team. Since our clients can leave at any time, we have to constantly be on our “A game” in terms of the level of service we provide to our customer base. In a sense, all of our clients always in a paid pilot and we love it that way.

If you are only using the free trial method currently, I encourage you to also take a look at paid pilots. You may find that it works out better for both you and your prospects.

Let Your Website Do the Selling in B2B

As a marketer, I have the opportunity to look at a wide variety of company websites when assessing our inbound leads. I am always surprised by the number of websites I come across that are not user friendly. Within the B2B industry, your website can mean everything to your potential customers. Prospects want information and they want to get it fast without much effort.

The article Give Them the B2B Content They Want tells you how to give your online visitors just that.

According to the article, when buyers are searching for information on your site they ask 3 questions:

  • Am I in the right place?
  • Is there something here for me?
  • Can I get to it easily?

In order to help your viewers answer these three questions with a simple yes, make sure to utilize a few simple suggestions, outlined below.

Thanks in large part to the great websites that exist, a standard for layout has been set. As a web surfer, you are used to this standard and look for items in certain locations. For example, when I go to research a lead’s company, I expect to find a brief overview of what the company is selling on the homepage. I also expect to find an About Us tab either at the top of the page or along the sidebar at the left or right hand side. Surprisingly enough, some sites I have come across make it relatively difficult to even figure out what it is they do. Not only is it important to follow the standard for organization and flow of your website, but it is also important to communicate your message clearly. By having more organizational flow to your website, you also increase SEO.

Another nuisance is not understanding the content of a website. When too much marketing fluff or too many industry words are used, it is hard for others to get the gist of the product or service. Keep the wording short and to the point. Bullet points stand out and help visitors learn more quickly. Also it is helpful to distinguish yourself from your competition. In the B2B industry, buyers will check out multiple options, so make sure to inform your audience why your product is the best.

Following the idea of clarity when promoting your product, the use of visuals also helps describe your company and product. Use key visuals to not only portray your brand, but also to quickly connect words to images. Images and videos are longer lasting memories. They also jump out and attract attention unlike paragraphs.

To wrap it up, let’s list the main points to remember when designing your number one tool to sell your product.

  • Organization is key. Make it easy for visitors to locate the information they want.
  • Clarity gets the point across. Define your product or service in a simple, straightforward way.
  • Use visuals. Attract the eye and provide lasting memories.

SpamAssassin Rules and what they Mean for your Emails

For the past several years I have been following SpamAssassin’s rule set and I am always amazed by how many seemingly innocuous things (e.g. “Dear x”) can make perfectly harmless emails come under suspicion.

The vast majority of issues come from poorly coded/authenticated emails. This can either be the fault of the email’s designer (in the case of poor HTML) or the the platform (infrastructural issue). Some common HTML issues include:

  1. Too much code (in terms of your code to text ratio)
  2. Too little text (in terms of your text to image ratio) — you get penalized for being succint if you also use images
  3. Poorly written code (title set to “untitled”; unclosed tags, etc.) — apparently spammers cannot code well
  4. Larger or smaller than ordinary fonts — stick to something similar to 10-12pt
  5. “Shouting” — too many words in all caps; excessive use of red or blue font
  6. Hiding the unsubscribe text by making the font the same color as the background — a shady practice that would only result in spam complaints anyway

spam

 

Here are a few highlights that I often see being violated that you would never think about from a SPAM perspective. It is interesting that what is often thought of as a best practice (explaining how/why someone was subscribed  and how he or she could unsubscribe) must be worded carefully to avoid a penalty: 

  1. Email contains ‘Dear (something)’ — so much for being friendly
  2. Claims you can be removed from the list 
  3. Talks about how to be removed from mailings
  4. Removal phrase right before a link

It is humorous though quite sad that email has been somewhat ruined because of all of the bad apples who take advantage of unsuspecting inboxes. Twitter, unfortunately is likely to follow if unchecked.

See the full list of Spam Assassin Rules