Sunday, March 23, 2014

5 Ways to Harness Hashtags to Drive Business Value

Since debuting on Twitter in 2007, hashtags have rapidly spread across social media. Today they are used on Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram and Vine and seen in print, TV and elsewhere on the web. But while social media users have readily embraced hashtags as an important way to discover new content and connect with others, many companies are still wondering whether hashtags are just a fad or are a feature that can drive revenue.
Today hashtags are deployed as part of calls to action in television commercials, magazine ads and sponsored posts on social media. But a savvy hashtag campaign does not end with a simple call to action. Here are five ways that companies can enlist hashtags to launch complete campaigns that engage, showcase, aggregate and repurpose social content to drive business value.
1. Encourage user-generated content. Unlike traditional marketing, which serves as a one-way pipeline of information from company to consumer, social marketing has a disruptive potential in its ability to turn social media users into content generators. When the true power of social media is harnessed, users’ comments, photos and videos become marketing messages permeating the online environment.
So how do you start to build this social media momentum? When hashtags are inserted into television advertisements or other marketing messages, they alert consumers that they are invited to participate. And if coupled with contests, sweepstakes or giveaways, hashtags can encourage a vast social media response that spreads across Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Instagram.
2. Aggregate and showcase the response. Hashtags give businesses the unique opportunity to showcase user-generated content. Photos, videos and status updates featuring hashtags can be aggregated and displayed on a Facebook landing page or website, revealing responses to a campaign and stimulating even more participation. Look for social-marketing services that can turn a fragmented social-media conversation into one presented on your website or Facebook landing page. Use this aggregated conversation to monitor, track and curate reactions to your campaign.
3. Connect campaigns. Hashtag campaigns can be remarkably effective but especially when tied to other efforts. If you are increasing engagement by using hashtags and offering prizes, leverage this response by asking users to opt into recieving an email newsletter or becoming a fan of your social media page. Turn your hashtag campaign success into the development of an expanded email newsletter audience and accumulate a great social media fan base and build tighter connections with potential consumers. Connecting your digital ad buys to the campaign by targeting people who search for the hashtag will bring in an audience of people who have already showed interest in your brand.
4. Repurpose hashtag-driven content. One of the great benefits of social media campaigns that is rarely capitalized on by companies is the amount of authentic marketing content available to a brand. If your contest stipulates that user-generated submissions can be tapped for other purposes, think about ways you can expand your marketing with the high-quality photos or videos collected on social media. Savvy brands are using user-generated content in television commercials, in-store displays, social ads and email marketing.
5. Relate to consumers in real time. Consumers flock to social networks to interact during must-see TV or live events (whether it's the Super Bowl or the Consumer Electronics Show). Armed with a hashtag and a little creativity, companies that insert themselves into these conversations can be rewarded with large audiences and viral reach.
Focus on events that have an obvious tie-in to your target market. Or find a clever way to insert your brand into the conversation without resorting to overt sales pitches.
Real-time marketing rewards risk taking and quick thinking, but companies that master it can deploy hashtags to drive vast social-media engagement among the millions who flock to Twitter during TV events like the Super Bowl, Oscars or Olympics. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sales & Marketing Alignment: 3 Ways to Close the Gap

For sales and marketing teams, reaching across the aisle can be a foreign concept. In some cases, that’s putting it mildly.
To be sure, there are salespeople and marketers who comfortably co-exist. Sometimes they even eat lunch together.
But the prevailing opinion is firmly entrenched: Sales and marketing just don’t get along. Don’t understand each other. Don’t cooperate. Aren’t aligned. And, as a consequence, campaign ROI often suffers.
It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact …
Sales and marketing alignment is completely possible.
It just takes a little shift in perspective.

Finding common ground

Although it often feels like it, the sales and marketing divide isn’t actually that wide. Both camps have several responsibilities in common. Here are five of them:
  • They both are focused on customers (prospective, new, and returning)
  • They both have quotas to meet
  • They both have success metrics to deliver
  • They both must design campaigns that contribute to company goals
  • They both are accountable for driving revenue
The sales/marketing disconnect has less to do with the types of responsibilities and more (some would say everything) to do with the types of deliverables associated with those responsibilities – including how each deliverable maps to job incentives and rewards.
Combine that with a “siloed teams” business model, increased workloads, and compressed timelines… and voila! Disconnection City.
Expanding each side’s myopic view is key to sales and marketing alignment, which, in turn, is key to achieving new levels of success for both.
So without further ado, here are:

Three things both sides must understand

1. The numbers matter.

Metrics are where the rubber hits the road, so it’s incumbent on sales and marketing to learn and embrace what’s important for success. (Knowing math helps, too.)
For example:
  • How many leads does sales need to reach quota each month?
  • What’s the lead conversion rate through the pipeline?
  • How many leads does marketing need to deliver to the top of the funnel?
  • How many nurture touches are needed to qualify a lead?
  • How many leads ultimately convert to closed sales?
By understanding the numbers, both sides have an opportunity to really understand and appreciate what’s required for success.

2. Collaboration is not evil.

This is not to suggest that sales and marketing should begin living in each other’s pockets. But it IS suggesting that they should figure out how to regularly and consistently share key information that sheds light on the big picture.
Here are some ideas:
  • Have representation in key meetings (e.g., a sales person joins key marketing meetings, and vice versa).
  • Have marketers listen to (or attend) a live sales call.
  • Consider doing “Campaign Alerts” or weekly “Field Notes” to ensure everyone is in the loop on critical information.
  • Share calendars, forecasts and timelines.
  • Work together on campaigns (especially the multi-touch, robust ones), ensuring sales and marketing roles are defined to work in concert.
  • Sit next to each other. Be close enough to hear the day-to-day talk tracks and conversations the other team is having. It’s an informal way to incrementally connect more dots.
Planned and consistent collaboration gives everyone the opportunity to gain valuable insights – including best practices, feedback on campaigns, information on wins and losses, and who needs what and when – which ultimately helps both sides achieve their strategic and tactical goals.

3. Be flexible.

Urgency. Priority. 11th hour changes. They’re the laws of the jungle for both sales and marketing. When they crop up (and they always will), one side’s needs will often need to be delayed or even sacrificed in order to ensure a larger success.
The ability to accept and roll with dynamic change is a hallmark of sales and marketing alignment.
Here are a few ways both sides can practice their give-and-take skills:
  • Proactively address issues together. Be honest in discussing and addressing leads, campaigns, and metrics to get in front of potential snafus.
  • Embrace each other’s approach to customer messaging … then choose the path that will deliver the best results. This means marketing can’t always have perfectly constructed and branded emails, nor can sales always have brief CTA-driven dispatches. Let the data be your guide.
  • Understand how leads are – and should be – prioritized. For example, marketing wants sales to be responsive to all leads, and sales wants to focus on the “right” leads. A flexible approach by both sides will ensure the right leads are being contacted with the right message at the right time.

Better alignment yields better results

In the end, both sales and marketing teams share the same goal: revenue. It’s easier – and far more productive – to achieve shared goals by working together. Cooperating. Aligning.
At Act-On, our sales and marketing teams have achieved alignment, thanks to a supportive business model and culture, and a robust marketing automation platform. As a proof point (and shameless plug), our sales and marketing teams have never missed their numbers. Alignment is a big part of that.

Every Page of Your Website Needs a Call to Action

Writing website content is not something you can do formulaically; there is no blueprint or outline for business owners to use in crafting their on-page content. All businesses are different, and as such, their websites need to be different, too. With that said, there are a few things that all business websites have in common—including the need for a strong, compelling call to action on every single page of the site.
Does your own business website fit this description? Do you have a strong call to action on every single page? Many business websites have a call to action on the Home and Contact pages, but nowhere else; this is a mistake, and a major missed opportunity!
What is a Call to Action?
Of course, to construct and place your call to action, you first need to know what a call to action is. In business, as in life, you need to offer some encouragement and direction if you want something to be done. Your teenage son is unlikely to take the trash out unless you ask him to, and in the same way, your website visitors are less likely to do what you want them to do unless you prod them.
That’s what the call to action is—just a quick word of direction, instructing the website reader on what you’d like them to do. It’s a simple and straightforward invitation: Call us today for a free consultation. Check out our new blog at this URL. Email us for more information. Like us on Facebook to receive more updates. Buy our product now!
What is Your Site Meant to Do
Of course, you don’t want to include all of these calls to action on your website, because the more choices you offer, the less likely the user is to take action. A good call to action is short, streamlined, and to the point. Before you place your calls to action, then, you need to think about what exactly you’re trying to accomplish with your site: Are you just trying to engage more social media followers and fans? To add to your email list? To generate leads and get your office phone ringing?
Whatever you want to do, that should be the central thrust of your calls to action—and without a call to action on every page, you’re simply less likely to get the results you’re looking for.
By the way: This is not to suggest that there can be one and only one call to action on your site. You can sprinkle secondary calls to action throughout the page—including a Facebook invitation on your About Us page, maybe—but your primary call to action does need to be on every page of the content.

Why Every Page?
Why does the call to action need to be present on every page? Our belief at Grammar Chic, Inc. is that the more consistent you are with the call to action, the more likely it is that the message will sink in and users will do what you’re asking them to do—simple as that. With that said, we will also note that you cannot guarantee that all site users are going to access your site through the Home page; some might Google or Facebook their way to a random blog entry or one of your Service pages—so don’t you want to have that strong call to action there to greet them?

Create A Better Editorial Calendar

Tackling the content marketing beast means a lot of writing, but it also means a lot of planning. Editorial calendars are no longer just for journalists and publishers—it’s a content marketers best tool to ensure high quality, cohesive writing. There are many paid online platforms, such as Kapost, that allow you to plan and analyze your editorial calendar. Before you invest, we recommend starting with Microsoft Excel or Google Docs for their flexibility and familiarity.
When building an editorial calendar, here are some factors to think of including:
Typically, content will align with a day of the month, an easy way to list each post and track its stage in the process. Determine what’s most important to display in the calendar—draft date, revision dates, publish date, etc.—so steps in the editorial process aren’t skipped.
Variety of content
Whether it’s a blog, eBook, podcast or a mixture of many, include a column for each piece of content so nothing gets left off or forgotten. You may not have each column addressed everyday—or even every month—but it’s a good idea to visually display all so you can effectively plan and space out your content mix.
Savvy content marketers employ a network of copywriters to help lighten the load of regular writing. Include them on the calendar via Google Docs or another cloud service so everyone is aware of publishing expectations and deadlines. It’s also nice for copywriters to see when their work will publish if they’re interested in sharing with their social networks. You may also consider adding a column or note to keep track of paying your copywriters and your editorial budget.
Social media
The second step to every piece of content is how to promote it via social media channels. Depending on the topic, it may not be appropriate for every social media platform. Or perhaps it works for all, but needs different messaging. Including social media “checkboxes” ensures you don’t mistakenly leave one channel off.
Similar to the Author section, outlining who is responsible for certain stages is important to an editorial calendar. This could include who needs to provide edits, who needs to start writing new content and who is responsible for publishing the final content.
Your content should be addressing your target markets through thematic copy and specific calls to action. Outline those expectations within the editorial calendar so you can easily track if a topic or audience is not addressed as frequently as others.
General comments
Even with all of the above sections laid out, having a general feedback and comments section helps record specifics about a certain piece of content. Maybe one blog post spurs another, but there isn’t enough time in the current schedule to account for it. Or maybe an employee critical to the editing process is going on vacation. A general comments section helps keep the nuances in line.
Performance metrics
To take your editorial calendar to the next level, add in some columns to track each blog post’s performance. Analytics you could provide include social shares, number of pageviews and/or number of comments. This also streamlines the regular reporting process, allowing you to simply tally up results instead of retroactively collecting them when you need to.
The most important part of an editorial calendar is that it should fit the planning needs of your business. Forcing yourself into an uncomfortable process just results in tools that end up abandoned. Be flexible with editorial calendar and adjust as necessary to refine your process.