Monthly Archives: May 2015

Want to get disconnected on LinkedIn? Try to cold-message-spam-sell me.

Some people I know do not connect with others on LinkedIn unless they actually know them. This is to avoid spam and cold-messaging (like cold calling, but via messaging).

I, on the other hand, am open to connecting and making “new friends.” We don’t have to have a previous relationship in order to connect. While this may lead to an occasional spam message or cold-message that means nothing to me, it’s rare.

However, when one of these messages does come in, it’s the quickest way to cut ties with me. Granted, I’m no one special. So that’s probably okay in your world. I’m okay with it, too. But it’s definitely on less person in your network. And yes, I do have hundreds in my network and it’s a relatively active network.

A quick lesson: If you’re thinking about sending me a message, first do your research. For instance, I do not run an agency and do not have clients (see below). If you think I am, or if your product is aimed at those who do, you’re wasting your time.

LinkedIn spam message STOP

Another spam message I received wanted me to use their “platform” to auto post hundreds of ads on CraigsList (I do not use CraigsList at all) and fake Yelp reviews (which I would never do – research me!). So this also resulted in a delete and removal.

LinkedIn spam message

Using new technology like social media in old, ineffective and annoying ways is a waste. Please stop.

Marketing is Changing: Who You Should Hire for Your Marketing

communication-revolutionWe’re inside of a revolution. The communication revolution started with the internet, and has been super-fueled by the mobile phone – or cell phone. We have the power of a ridiculous computer at our fingertips that puts us in touch with information never before so easily found.

This communication revolution has even prompted villages to abandon the strategy of being close to water for commerce and more, and focus on better phone reception. David Meerman Scott cites the village of Cangandi as one such village. They moved about a kilometer up a hill, away from a river, to get better reception. The move has made a huge difference in commerce, which affects everything else (like education for the entire village). It’s a new world.

So if a village in a developing country can see the future, it’s time for the rest of us to get on board. Whether you run a business and want to find someone to head up your marketing efforts (specifically inbound marketing) or you’re someone who wants to get into this new marketing world, there are a few things to consider.

A successful inbound marketer must have some basic qualifications. We’ll call this ideal D-CAR. The acronym stands for Digital, Creative, Analytical and Reach*. Time to explore what this means, and how vital each component is to your inbound marketer.

D-CAR

Digital

The person you’re looking for must be a digital citizen. What does this mean? Think about doing business in another country. Would you want to have someone on your team who’s a citizen of that country? Or would you rely on a tourist to get what you need done? It’s the same concept when it comes to doing business on the Internet. It’s a different world, and you want a digital citizen there.

Let’s look at it another way. It may be a generational thing, but it’s not just about age. However for argument’s sake, let’s take a look at it from an age point of view. I’m 37 years old. I grew up with computer class and some minor programming education. Remember Apple IIe? I do. Then in high school we got the Internet. Well, we got America Online. AOL changed my life. I could chat with my cousin in California at the same time I chatted with my friend down the street. I could look up these web page things and see the world from my house. For about $2 a minute. But the point is I grew up on the Internet.

Now, I personally avoided the Myspace craze. But as soon as Facebook became a bit popular I grabbed a profile and owned my vanity URL. When Twitter was still young I signed up. My first tweet (May of 2008) was something like “Trying to figure out another social network.” But I was a fairly early adopter of these things. I get my news first from Twitter (which sends me to the standard news sites typically). I listen to music on Pandora, Slacker Radio and my iTunes & Google Music account. Google is my everything when it comes to finding out answers. I don’t need a map in my hand even though I can read one, I have my phone with GPS. Generation X and Gen Y would be digital natives.

On the other hand, my parents are in their 50’s (I’ll be nice and omit the exact age) so they didn’t grow up on the Internet. To them, the phone book still exists and they miss the days of having a cup of coffee and the newspaper. My dad goes for the atlas before Google Maps. He still buys CD’s. They now partake in the Facebook and have an email, but their generation is one of digital tourists. They’re familiar with the general idea, but they did not grow up online.

Now you know the distinction between a digital native and a digital tourist. Now let’s look at the hybrid: a digital citizen. This person is someone who has made the transition into thinking “online.” Back to my dad: he edits videos from photos now, and can post it on YouTube. Mom has her music on her mp3 player and is making ringtones for her smart phone. They use Google as a verb. My parents are becoming digital citizens.

So your inbound marketer needs to be fluent in digital, and understand all of the jargon that goes with it. To a digital citizen, the cloud is more than something that covers the sun on a summer day. The cloud is a way to share information and do business. A digital citizen will understand that sometimes early adoption of the latest Internet tool can help catapult a business forward – like Twitter. But they will also know when to cut losses when that next shiny object begins to falter and doesn’t pan out – like Google+.

Find yourself a digital citizen. This person doesn’t need to be a 20-something college dropout digital native who doesn’t know anything about the real world. But this person needs to be digitally fluent. You wouldn’t do business in France without having someone fluent in the French language and customs.

Creative

A vital skill to an inbound marketer is creativity. A creative person is more than someone who just writes poetry or paints pretty pictures. A creative person is someone who can create consistent creative content, constantly. Yes that’s a lot of c words, but you get the picture. One of the driving forces of inbound marketing is content. Blog articles, videos, eBooks, guides, whitepapers, status updates…all of these content pieces must be created. The person doing all of this creating must be equipped to write well so others can read it – and want to read it. They must be able to organize a campaign so that content is continuous and consistent. Your marketer must be creative. Creativity isn’t something that can necessarily be taught. This skill is essential to the inbound marketer, and should be something you look for in the person you’re going to hire. Make sure creativity is an inherent skill in the candidates.

Analytical

I hate numbers. I’m a creative writer after all. But I love analytics. This is a skill that can be learned, but it’s important to have a person who understands the importance of analytics in inbound marketing.

Click through rates, visits, view to lead conversion rate and other metrics must be measured in order for your business to succeed at inbound marketing.

Finding a person who is creative and analytical may be tricky. Creativity may have a slight edge, but don’t disregard analytics.

Reach

Reach refers to the size of the audience at your disposal. A person with great reach may have thousands of Twitter followers, a couple hundred blog subscribers and several hundred Facebook friends. However, reach can be difficult to find when it comes to inbound marketers, especially if they’re new to the field. But the important thing here is that the marketer understands how to build reach.

As an example, let’s look at my story.

I was in a TV newsroom for almost 10 years creating hours of content every day. I knew I wanted to “do marketing” as my next career path. I just didn’t realize it was a marketing revolution into which I’d eventually land. What I did know was that I didn’t watch TV commercials. I didn’t pay attention to radio ads – when I even listened to local radio. I didn’t pick up a newspaper.

I consumed most of my media from my computer (I didn’t have a smartphone at this time). Twitter was my news source as a consumer. Even though I wrote the news – and was therefore a recipient of news releases and wire stories and news tips – as a consumer I went to Twitter for my daily news. Yes, it was mostly through traditional news companies, but it was not through the 6:00 news each night or the newspaper in the morning.

Because of how I operated, and how many of my friends and peers operated, I knew that marketing was changing. Blogs, social media, podcasts and video were all becoming the way of the world. As a news guy I began to gather Twitter followers because of what I shared from behind the scenes. I could tell that engaging content was becoming important. My tweeting even got me into trouble – too much tweeting before anyone understood the value of social media in my newsroom. Now it seems all of the reporters and producers have to use it! It’s become a vital way of communication with an audience.

Social media is also a great way to connect with people. My favorite story about Twitter is how one wintry night a friend on leave from Afghanistan ended up stranded in Chicago – 2 hours from his wife and kids. Time was ticking away. His leave was short, and wouldn’t be pushed back just because he was stranded. I tweeted a request to see if anyone could help me get this pilot serving his country back to Kalamazoo. Within 5 minutes I had more than a dozen offers to drive and pick him up, an offer to pay for a car to drive him here and other people offering ideas and support. Twitter is more than a broadcast medium – it’s a place to solve problems and build community.

So as a digital native, I knew my way around this new world of marketing before I’d even heard the term “inbound marketing.” The problem: no degree. I applied at several major companies in the area for communications and marketing jobs, only to be completely ignored. Apparently the job search criteria in their algorithms exclude anyone with “Associate’s Degree” or anything less than a Bachelor’s Degree. It was frustrating. After almost a decade in media, no one saw value in my experience nor my ideas of new marketing.

It was at this time I gave up looking and considered going back to school. Instead, fate intervened. I got an email from my ex-wife (who knows my boss, the woman who hired me) telling me about this new position at AmeriFirst Home Mortgage.

Here’s the actual posting:

Marketing/Communications Specialist – Local mortgage lender seeks someone to prepare content for our website and they must be proficient in all forms of social media & networking, including Facebook & Twitter, you tube channels, video & written blogging. Excellent writing skills required. Previous real-time marketing, public relations, newspaper, TV or media experience helpful. Send resume, salary requirements and samples of your work…

The bells and whistles went off for me. “This is perfect!” So I sent in my resume, scored an interview and ended up with the job. The lesson here: don’t burn bridges, even if it is your ex-wife!

Actually the lesson here is that when you’re looking for a marketer in this new world, look for someone with content creating experience. As the producer of a morning news hour, I wrote and edited tons of scripts, all written for an easy read on a teleprompter. News scripts are supposed to be conversational and easy to understand. Viewers are busy and barely half-listening. Easy to hear and understand is vital. It’s the same when it comes to blogging for business. Unless you’re writing for brain surgeons, it’s not supposed to super-technical. Clean and correct, but conversational and engaging.

It helped that my skills also included shooting and editing video, as well as a limited experience behind a microphone. I ended up as the face of AmeriFirst and our 60 Second Mortgage Tips among other videos. A varied skill set is helpful.

So that’s my story. I found work in this new world of marketing through my experience as a content creator. That’s the kind of person you want. Content is king, context is god. You want to find someone who can write, and has a multimedia way about them. Producers, reporters, photojournalists and other journalism professionals are a great place to start.

So while you may not find the next Laura Fitton – an author and entrepreneur HubSpot inherited when it bought her company oneforty – she has thousands of followers and has been featured on TV… You should look for someone with higher than average numbers and an understanding of how to build an audience.

Building an audience involves much more than simply having more friends or followers. That’s a vanity (and useless) metric. You can buy Facebook likes and Twitter followers, but that doesn’t mean your audience is valuable. The key is to build a relevant and powerful audience. Does your audience share your content? Thank them when they do. Does your audience buy what you’re selling? Can you measure the return on investment? These are important questions to ask yourself as well as the inbound marketer you’re looking to hire.

How-I-Turned-Journalism-into-an-Inbound-Marketing-Career_CTA

*The acronym D-CAR is inspired by the Halligan/Shah book “Inbound Marketing.” In it, they put the skill set in order of DARC. I believe “creative” goes higher on the list, hence D-CAR. Thank you for the inspiration guys.

image source

An open letter to “kids these days”

An-open-letter-to-kids-these-daysI’ve been hearing a lot lately about “kids these days.” It’s in conversations about how lazy, unmotivated and generally annoying kids are. It’s a Facebook meme of an old photo of an adult spanking a child with the caption “we need more of this and kids wouldn’t be so terrible.” It’s some article about how the younger generation just doesn’t measure up to us older, wiser and generally more awesome folks.

I’d like to apologize to you “kids these days.” My contemporaries and others don’t mean it. We’re not perfect, and we complain sometimes. Maybe we had a young person we know drop out of school and live off their parents for a few years, only to have that young person become an entitled, demanding person who just doesn’t fit our ideal of a contributing citizen. But we really do know that one person does not make a generation.

Maybe we’ve forgotten what it’s like to be young. Not everyone has the focus of knowing what exactly to do in life. Some of us forget what it feels like to have the world at our fingertips, yet have apprehension that we’re not sure that we’re ready for it.

What we sometimes miss is that our perception of reality is molded by a few things, and we forget that truth can be subjective. Where we see a mooch who’s unmotivated, we may not see a young person who’s scared they don’t know what they want to be when they grow up (newsflash – many of us in the work force still don’t). This young person may be living with mom and dad to help take care of an ailing parent or grandparent, and the family is barely getting by.

Or maybe we, as the wiser, more productive generations see young people who don’t listen to authority and completely conform to the way something has been done for 50 years. What we fail to see in that scenario is the innovative young person who’s trying to change the world in some small way, working smarter rather than harder. Innovation moves the world. We sometimes miss that.

To you “kids these days,” please give us old folks a little grace. Sure, there are kids who disobey their parents or who are rude citizens that interrupt conversations or don’t hold open doors for others. But there are also young people who are petitioning their local mayors for things like “Vietnam Veteran Appreciation” events. There are young people putting up lemonade stands to help pay for cancer treatments for a neighbor or little girl a thousand miles away.

Generations always seem to look back at the younger folks behind them and see the negative. What we need to do is look at the opportunities to mentor our younger folks. Not only can we sow the seeds of greatness based on our experience and wisdom, but we can also learn from our young people. It’s a 2-way street.

So to you “kids these days,” cut us some slack. I’m sorry some of us old folks complain about you. I hope you forgive us. I also hope and pray for those of your generation who do fall down. Get back up, listen to your elders and work hard. Or at least work smart. Make a difference in this world. Leave it better than you found it. Love those around you. Maybe you can teach us a few things about that.

image source

What is Inbound Marketing? In a Word: Patience

As with any business strategy, inbound marketing takes patience. Time, effort and yes, even capital all go into a successful inbound marketing strategy. You cannot expect to buy into a product or company like HubSpot, Marketo or Eloqua and expect to triple your visitors and leads in a month. It’s not a matter of “buy our product and you’ll succeed.” So if that what you’re expecting, you’ll find mounds of disappointment around the corner. You might as well stick with billboards and TV commercials and wishes on unicorns.

what-is-inbound-marketing-in-a-word-patienceimage sources: david carradine| grasshopper

Instead of the old “spray and pray” method – spray money everywhere and pray for results – inbound marketing helps businesses to focus on the metrics that matter like views, view-to-lead conversions and click-through rates. With an inbound marketing strategy, you’re creating content that warm leads can find, and convert into leads and customers. These conversions rarely happen overnight. In fact, because the home buying process is such a big deal, some of these leads take months – even a year – for a conversion.

It took months to see results at AmeriFirst Home Mortgage. In fact, it took 2 full years for us to increase our website visitors 20 times over.

visits-3-years

Website views from all sources: 2 years

I’ve seen visitors come to us, take a couple months to become a lead, then a year to become a customer. Granted, we’re financing homes so it takes a long time.

This is why it’s so important to measure your marketing efforts, and track as much as you can. From tracked URLs to first-touch sources to conversion assists, the more you know the better you get at marketing. But all of that takes time.

After 4 years of marketing and making changes and collecting data, we’re now dissecting the buyer’s journey at AmeriFirst. We can now see how some visitors convert into leads and then sales qualified leads (meaning they get put in touch with a loan originator) in a matter of days. Others take years. But we’re now digging through the data to get better.

While it may have taken time to see major growth, the immediate affect was definitely felt. So set yourself attainable, reasonable and measurable goals as soon as you can. These wins will help fuel your success.

Take your time, educate yourself on best practices for inbound marketing. Then, take on the challenge and be patient.

How-I-Turned-Journalism-into-an-Inbound-Marketing-Career_CTA