Category Archives: inbound marketing

What I Learned About Customer Service from Two Deer Accidents in Six Weeks

For years I’ve opined privately on how I dislike insurance. I need insurance for my house, my cars, my motorcycle, my health, my teeth, my eyes… it feels like I pay all this money into a system that only cares about taking my money – and more of it every year.

Then in the last six weeks – seriously, six weeks to the day – I’ve had two car/deer accidents. Besides the thought that “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,” I’ve started thinking about the lessons I’ve learned from the interactions with the same industry I’ve whined about, and others involved in my accident recovery. I’ve come to the conclusion that customer service, while it’s not complicated to execute, it seems to elude so many.

Fortunately for me, the players in this adventure have all stepped up and taught me the lessons with what they’ve done well. Continue reading

Podcast Interview Marketing: The New Frontier in Marketing

Is guest blogging dead? Is podcast interview marketing the new guest blogging?

podcast interview marketingIt used to be true that guest blogging was a legitimate “hack” to content marketing. It was one of the most inbound-y tactics in inbound marketing. The marketing team places content on a relevant blog with a back link (use the right anchor text!) and you not only reach a new audience that trusts the site you’re on… but you get SEO value!

The host of your guest post gets (hopefully) great content and gets to get in front of your social media audience as your team promotes the post. It’s a win-win situation. One problem: are blog articles as engaging and magnetic as they once were? Continue reading

How Scott Stratten Feels About My Use of Pinterest

A couple years ago, my employer hired Scott Stratten to talk to our sales team about marketing, social media and the new world of doing business. Being that one of Scott’s focuses is real estate – and how agents & Realtors use new technology – it seemed like a perfect fit.

When Scott showed up in his Detroit Lions jersey and showed off his Lions pride in photos of him at games, it was solidified: this was going to be a good morning.

As Scott talked to the crowd of AmeriFirst Home Mortgage employees, I could see that he was covering a lot of the same marketing philosophy as I’d been preaching to our company. I was pretty pumped. Then came Scott’s portion on social media marketing and Pinterest.

Check out what the king of Unmarketing had to say about a mortgage company on Pinterest:

The short story: We got him.

The lesson is this: use a social media platform in the way it’s designed, and you’ll get some wins. If it’s meant to be visual, make it visual. Take time to discover the reason your audience (your hopeful leads) is there, and play in the sandbox.


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.



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.


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.


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 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.


*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

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.


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.


Back to Basics: What is Inbound Marketing?

the-future-of-marketing-dan-moyleOkay, so maybe you’ve heard the latest buzzword term “inbound marketing.” I can’t explain it any better than the folks who are truly on the forefront of this revolution. Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan wrote an entire book about this movement. They even titled it “Inbound Marketing.” Now that’s what I call genius. They also founded a marketing software company called HubSpot. So if you want the long explanation of “what is inbound marketing” then get their book on Amazon and read the HubSpot blog.

But if you’re looking for a layman’s explanation of this new marketing revolution, then let’s go. Inbound marketing uses content like websites, blog articles, videos and ebooks to get found on the Internet, convert views into leads and customers, then analyze it to do it again efficiently.

You’re probably already on social media if you run a business. Maybe you’re even wondering if you should be on every social media platform as a business. Before you rely too heavily on Facebook, learn a bit about what inbound marketing is.

Here’s the long and the short of it. When you want to solve a problem (looking for a product or company) where do you go? Do you pick up a phone book? Seriously – go look at the layer of dust on that phone book. If you can even find it. Almost no one goes to the phone book anymore.

When was the last time you sat down to watch prime time TV and actually watched the commercials? Short of the really funny ones (baby speed dating?! Love that eTrade kid!) commercials are an intrusion into the latest episode of The Walkng Dead. With DVRs, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon streaming video and the like, ads are fast becoming a thing of the past.

How about billboards? On your last drive, did you take down the phone number on that attorney’s billboard? Yeah, there was a number on that billboard full of text and a picture of some guy in a suit you passed at 80 miles an hour. But hey, someone paid a bunch of money for that billboard and that photo shoot so you’ll remember to look later and call him next time you need a lawyer right?

Let’s put this into a practical application. How do you begin to solve problems like figuring out what your credit score should be for a mortgage? How do you find the best kitchen cabinets for your kitchen remodel? Where do you find the best price on your children’s birthday gifts? You go to the all-knowing Google (or Bing and Yahoo). You search online long before you pick up the phone or go to the store and you research from the comforts of your home. Maybe you’re on your mobile phone during your work meeting. In other words, you’re a user of inbound marketing.

Where shouting and pushing their message used to be the way businesses got your attention as a consumer, now they have to draw you in through search engines, social media and other new marketing techniques. That’s the basic philosophy behind the inbound marketing revolution.
There’s more to it than that. As a business, you’ll use inbound marketing to drive website traffic through search engine results, you’ll be able to convert those visitors into leads with offers of eBooks and email subscriptions, then analyze it all to build on the successes.

We have learned to tune out the shouting and interrupting

One key to the inbound philosophy is a complete 180 from traditional business practices: Give away your material in the spirit of educating customers and potential customers. That’s right. Your “secret sauce” of doing business is no longer a secret. As a consumer, I can find information on almost anything I could ever want to know about on the internet. I can compare prices at the click of a button. I can find out “best solutions” to my problems from my friends or search engines.

Reviews on Google, Facebook, Amazon or Yelp are gold in today’s economy. If people are talking about you with rave reviews, business goes up. Yes, it’s also called “word of mouth.” The difference: a much larger audience and a way to track it all. Everyday people now have hundreds – even thousands – of followers on Twitter and heaps of friends on Facebook. The internet has given power to the people.

The best example of this: the actual secret sauce on the Big Mac. We all know (don’t we?) that the amazing sauce in the catchy song is really just Thousand Island dressing, basically. Each major fast food joint has tried to duplicate the Big Mac. You can even do it at home. But it’s just not the same.
McDonald’s recognizes this, and is no longer afraid to share its secrets. The social media campaign for McD’s now includes videos behind the scenes. Food photography, debunking the myth about how long a burger will last on a counter and other word of mouth stories are covered by McDonald’s corporate marketing team now.

The secret sauce is no longer the biggest asset you have. It’s your transparency, your customer service and the loyalty it all builds.

Here’s another example.

Marcus Sheridan runs a pool business in Virginia. It’s not a national company – you can’t install pools all over the country from one shop. But if you’re looking to compare concrete pools and fiberglass pools, you’ll find River Pools & Spas. By using inbound marketing and simply answering customer’s questions, Marcus was able to own the pool space online, hands down. And it’s driven millions of dollars in business.

Sounds good right? It wouldn’t have been possible without River Pools & Spas sharing its secret sauce. The company has blogged about price, problems and competitors. Practically any question you could Google relating to pools is answered on the River Pool blog.

So far so good. You’re understanding inbound marketing. How about the why?

Why Inbound Marketing?

The short answer to “Why inbound?” is this: Inbound marketing costs less than outbound marketing. How much does a TV or radio ad cost? How effective are they (and can you measure that)? Can you pay one price and they air forever? Inbound marketing – specifically blogging – is evergreen. If you publish an article about your product and how it solves a particular problem, that article serves as a magnet for interested parties. Each subsequent piece of content you create becomes another magnet, drawing prospects to your business.

Also, the generations coming up now can recognize a traditional advertisement from a mile away. Instead of shouting at customers, inbound is a quieter conversation that draws people in for more information. Blogging, e-books, videos and podcasts help to draw people in and gain trust. Wouldn’t you rather do business with someone you trust rather than “just another salesperson?”

Warm Lead vs Cold Lead

Inbound marketing creates warm leads. How much work is it to cold call potential customers and convince them they need your product? Maybe the better question is: When was the last time you bought something after an out-of-the-blue phone call, direct mail or email? These are all traditional outbound techniques. What if, instead, when a possible customer was looking to solve a problem and your product or service did just that, they found you? That’s a warm lead. You have their attention, if only for a short time. You need to grab that attention with relevant information.

A warm lead takes less time to convert into a customer. A warm lead has a better chance of becoming a repeat customer (depending on what you’re selling and your service) because you’re offering them something of value up front – something they’re looking for right then – not just a random sales call.

You Are What You Publish

Marketing guru David Meerman Scott (@dmscott) is known for this quote, and it’s a simple truth. “On the web, you are what you publish.” If you’re not talking about your company and the solutions you offer, someone else is. Whether it’s customers talking about your business or your competitors, you are what you publish online.

The businesses who get this, get inbound marketing. If I’m searching for the best landscaping solution for my shaded yard, and you sell shade plants, don’t you want to come up in Google for something like “shady yard plants?” If your only presence on the web is the name of your company, no one will find you. Unless someone knows you or has heard of you, they’re not searching for your brand. Set aside your ego (it’s hard, I had to do it too) and start producing content that solves the problems your prospects have.

You know the what, why and how. For more on all of this, and who you may want to consider hiring to do it for your business, download the ebook below. It’s a short read, and shares a bit about my story. Maybe you (business owner or boss) can find the right person to get you on the inbound marketing track.


5 Tools for Marketers in Boring Industries

I wrote the original version of this article originally for Relevance here. I’ve made a few changes in this version.


5 Tools for Marketers in Boring Industries

Let’s get to the first point: get over yourself and your industry. That stigma of being in a boring industry is only going to hurt you in the end. Just because you’re not selling a sports car, beer or some sports team doesn’t mean you’re in a boring industry. No, it may not be the perfect industry for a Super Bowl commercial, but your business is interesting to a very important group of people: your leads. More specifically, warm leads.

Think of it this way. Would you walk door to door, knocking on strangers’ doors and pitching your product or service? Or would you rather have people knocking on your door, asking you to tell them all about your business? That’s the difference between outbound and inbound marketing.

So … now that you know you’re not boring to the leads who want to know about the problem your business solves, how do you overcome the stigma of stale? Content! From relevant content directly tied to your business to peripheral information tied indirectly to your “widget,” content can come in many forms.

I happen to run the marketing department for a mortgage lender. Talk about boring … who really wants to talk about a mortgage payment? Interest rates? Yawn! However, if you’re looking to buy a home, especially for the first time, you’re probably looking for a lot of answers! You’re likely also interested in many things about the home.

The key to be not-so-boring in your drab industry is to be helpful and interesting in delivering your message. In fact, as I prepared to talk about this subject at a major marketing conference, I decided that super models and fast cars are no longer the measure of what’s sexy.


Helpful is the new sexy.

Think about it. When it comes to business, a helpful company is an attractive one. Good customer service and friendly reps are sexy. We’re drawn to helpful, interesting content.

Below are the 5 tools I’ve found extremely helpful when it comes to marketing in a boring fascinating industry.

1: Buyer Personas

The first tool any marketer needs to have in their tool kit is the buyer persona. If you have little or no idea who your customer is, you’re starting off on the wrong side of the business development coin.

Buyer personas are a deep dive into your customers. It’s more than just demographics. Think of it as your customer’s stories. Get to know their demographics, their pain points (and how your company solves them), their technology appetites, where they “hang out” and gather information … really get to know them.

Develop buyer personas through interviews. Talk to your sales team about the people they work with every day. Your sales team is a valuable tool in your marketing. Ask them about their “usual” customer. Once you’ve developed your first draft, go back to the sales team and ask them if that person sounds familiar.

Share your buyer personas with your entire company. From sales to marketing to customer service to the receptionist, every person in your organization should know who it is you’re working with. Consider putting these personas on posters and hanging them in your break room or a hallway each employee walks every day.

2: Blog/CTA/Landing Pages

Blogging or content creation is the bedrock of inbound marketing. Research shows that companies who blog more than once per day acquire customers through their blog? In fact, according to HubSpot, 92% of businesses blogging multiple times per day drive customer acquisition through their sites (

But it’s not just about throwing some content on a page and hoping for the best. Your articles need to have purpose, complete with a call to action (CTA) that goes to a landing page.

What is a CTA? A CTA is the instruction in your article for the reader to take the next step. It can be text or an image, but it lets them know they have a place to go. Whether it’s for more information, a demo or another offer, the CTA moves the prospect through your process. Every article should have a CTA of some level, even if it’s as top-of-the-funnel as “subscribe to receive updates.”

What is a landing page? A landing page is the web page where an “offer” lives. A landing page has a form your prospect fills out in exchange for something of value. Guides, videos, case studies, research whitepapers and free consultations are all offers your prospects would give up contact information to view or download. A landing page and offer is what drives your next level of connection: email marketing.

3: Email

Email marketing is a lot like courting. This is where relationship develops. Here’s a scenario to imagine.

I’m a prospect, and I find your business because you’ve done your SEO and promotion well. On your website, you offer me the chance to download some terrific content that takes me on a deep dive into the solution to my problem, through your product or service. Now that I’ve downloaded your offer, you have my email address and first name. Maybe you’ve also asked pertinent questions about my situation. If it’s a B2B relationship, maybe you now know how many employees my company has, the area of the country we’re located and the greatest challenge we face.

Now that you have data on me and my business, you can create emails to speak to each of my points. Your emails can talk about the problem I’m having – my pain points. You can use the size of my company to craft a message speaking to the unique challenges of a smaller company – or larger one. Your emails can seem smart and connected – developing a trust from me that you’re helpful and knowledgeable.

Building trust through email marketing isn’t ridiculously difficult: offer more helpful content rather than just another sales pitch. Tailor the information to me as a buyer persona, so you know what level of information I require.

Email marketing isn’t just a way to “blast some email to a list.” It’s a way to nurture the relationship. With the right tools, you can see if I’m clicking links you’ve embedded in the emails. You can tell if I’m ignoring them, so maybe a change of subject line is needed. You can use data and personalization to help increase engagement.

The golden egg of email is the sharing of information. Think of it like this: if I tell my friends what a great experience I had at a specific restaurant, they’re more likely to try it than if that restaurant bought ads on a local radio station they listen to. Social proof is powerful. We trust our sphere of influence. Forwarding your business’ email to someone I think it might help means I trust you, and my friend trusts me … so they’re starting off with a higher level of instant trust. As you already know, referrals are golden. The best email marketing becomes a way for you to empower your leads (and customers) to become your very own promoters.

4: Social Media

Social media can take your marketing – and your customer satisfaction campaigns – to new levels. Whether it’s delighting current clients, developing business partnerships or looking for new customers, social media can really add to your communications portfolio. It’s also another way to empower an army of evangelists for your brand.

Let me say that I adhere to the philosophy of Dan Zarrella in that unicorns and rainbows need to be ignored. When it comes to social media, terms like engagement are an elusive measurement. However, I’ve also come to realize that social media is often a terrible place to sell.

Here’s what I mean. Think of most social media platforms as a social entity, like a party or gathering of friends. Would you want a random sales person interrupting your time with a sales pitch? Imagine you say to a friend, “I really can’t stand my apartment. I think it’s time to buy a house.” Some guy appears and says, “You should look at this no-down-payment mortgage option for buying a house.” What do you do?

As businesses, we look at social media as a place to reach new customers and sell them. But what if we looked at it as a place to develop relationships and deepen our connections to customers? What if social media became a place for us to find business partnerships that could become guest post opportunities?

When we look at social media as a real place with real people, we tend to interrupt less and instead offer content, empowering others to share. When we share and connect, we – as a business – become real. This strategy takes time and planning, and it can certainly include the things we already do like share articles, images and videos. But it also shifts our attitude from “always be closing,” to “always be connecting.”

Social media can be a powerful tool and PR opportunity when we’re using it for things like customer service and delighting our promoters. Just like any other business development strategy, it takes time, effort and strategic planning to pull off. You can’t simply have a Twitter account and never visit it. That would be like opening an office on a main street in town, keeping the lights on but never going in to answer the phones or talk to people walking in.

5: Video

Much like email marketing helps develop deeper relationships, video can add a very personal touch to your marketing and sales cycles.

When I was a TV news producer, I was friends with the on-air folks like anchors and weather personalities. I noticed something back then – people treat you like they know you even when they’ve never met you, simply because you’re “on TV.” Think about it – that anchor is in your living room every morning or every evening. As a viewer, you see them every day. You hear their stories and you trust their delivery of news. You get to know them through the screen.

Every time I’d go out to lunch with my on-air friends, someone would approach them and talk to them like they were friends. So often, it was the first they’d met each other. That video connection fostered a relationship that seemed reciprocal from the viewer. You can have the same thing.

When you create videos that answer questions about the problem your business solves, offers advice, gives information or positions you as the expert you add value to your content. Your viewers talk to you like they know you. That trust leads to deals and referrals. Video is powerful.

Think of all the questions you and your sales team hear. Every one of those questions can be a video or a series of videos you send to prospects. You’re answering their questions before they have them.

Here are tips from the trenches of a video marketing strategy:

  • Just start – Don’t be afraid of video. It’s not like you’re performing open-heart surgery. Even if you start with your phone’s video camera and you don’t upload the videos, get in front of the camera and begin to tell your story. Or find someone to be your “face.” But the key is to start. A marathon begins with that first step.
  • Be patient – Your videos will likely be average at best when you start. It takes time to build an audience and get better at video. This isn’t an overnight initiative. Someday you’ll look back on your early videos and wonder how you got through them. Patience pays off.
  • Get the right tools – You don’t have to have a Hollywood budget for the right tools. Consumer video cameras run in the hundreds of dollars now. But having the right tools is key. Keep in mind, we buy high definition TVs and enjoy quality video. As consumers we can be pretty forgiving, but video with bad audio, no lighting and the steadiness of a drunken sailor in a storm will turn us off eventually. Or right away. Get the right equipment from the start. You’ll need a camera, a tripod and a microphone. The microphone can be hard-wired or wireless, but it need to be an external mic that plugs into your camera. When shooting, be sure to take lighting into account. Light your subjects with natural lighting or lights, but make sure you can see them. Finally, editing software is likely available on your computer already. Start with that, then look at upgrading to an Adobe Premier or Final Cut.
  • Hire internally – Video production can get very pricy. If you want to create consistent videos, you’ll need to hire internally. A production house can produce a great “company” video. If you go this route, learn from them. You’re paying for more than the video – you’re paying for their expertise. Ask questions. Then when you’re ready to create weekly or monthly videos, hire someone and buy them the equipment to help you on the inside. Even if you think you only have one video idea, you’ll be surprised at what you can do. We create 2-4 videos every week at work. And we “just do mortgages.”
    • Who do I hire for video? This is a great question almost everyone has. My suggestion is to hire a TV news photojournalist with a few years of experience. They know how to tell stories through video. They’ve worked with reporters. They’re also paid terribly in the TV news world.
  • Be helpful. Be concise. – Video doesn’t have to be just 60 seconds. One of our most popular videos at AmeriFirst is 11 minutes long. But it’s full of helpful information. Your video should be as long or short as it takes to tell your story. However, a general rule of 2 minutes is good to follow. Help, inform and educate. Don’t go for that viral video hit. That’s not a solid strategy. Build your audience and you’ll drive leads.

So here is your rally call: Helpful is the new sexy. You don’t have to be in an industry that everyone clamors to be a part of. Your industry is interesting to those warm leads you’re trying to reach. Reach them with relevant content in a digestible manner. You can be sexy and not boring – be helpful!