Category Archives: inbound marketing

Lessons from a TV Newsroom: Trust and Test

After almost a decade in the newsroom at a CBS affiliate, and another 4+ years as a marketing guy – inbound marketing specifically – I’ve realized I learned some great lessons from my time in the trenches.

lessons-from-a-tv-newsroom-trust-and-testimage source

1) Trust people.

When you hire smart, driven people and empower them flourish in their skills and desires, your team will be unstoppable. Squashing talent is a lonely world to live in, and a terrible way to do business.

Let your talented people help get your message out there. Empower them to help spread the love. Newsrooms can often be incubators for oppression. I’m not sure if it’s a fear of losing one’s job to the up and coming producer or the young reporter, but it’s hard to get ideas heard and validated. Don’t be that kind of business owner or leader.

Let your marketing team, that understands social media, teach you the benefits of it and the way of the new world, like AmeriFirst Home Mortgage has done and continues to do as we grow.

2) Test, test, test!

Even though callers to the newsroom would complain about “all the negative news” shown on TV, the most popular and shared articles online were about car crashes, child molester and embezzlers.

Even if you think you know your audience, they may not know themselves. You can track your online visitors to see where they came from, what they downloaded or viewed, and what they like. This tracking and testing can help you hone your marketing department into a finely tuned revolutionary machine.

In the last few years heading up the Welcome Home Marketing Team at AmeriFirst, I’ve tested everything from call-to-action button colors to using personalization in emails to smart (dynamic) content on the website. We’ve tried “how to” articles, lists, infographics, videos, big pictures … content testing can help you find the best-converting material for your leads. Test, test, test.

Gone are the days of “Always Be Closing” … we’ve ushered in the era of “Always Be Testing.” Let’s be scientific marketers!

Because of these 2 lessons, the “How I Turned Journalism into an Inbound Marketing Career” eBook is newly re-dsigned! Thanks to JannaThe What If Monster – it looks amazing! Check it out at the link below and please share with companies looking to hire a “new” marketer… and journalists looking for a change!


Is a College Education a Waste of Time in 2014?

Is-a-College-Education-a-Waste-of-Time-in-2014I’m looking at my career path, and others I know, and wondering if college is for everyone. Is the traditional path of 13 years of school followed by another 4 or more of university, really the best fit for most of us?

Are companies who only consider people with 4-year degrees missing the boat on some fantastic talent? I published my thoughts on LinkedIn. Below is an excerpt.

In the current job market, many jobs require a college degree. Oftentimes these jobs require a 4-year degree. A lot of companies won’t consider you past the initial round without it. This is a huge mistake. Companies who do this miss out on too much talent.

This idea that people without college degrees don’t measure up to those with degrees needs to change. Some careers need long-term education. I wouldn’t want a high school graduate opening up my dad for a heart surgery. A lawyer without a deep knowledge of law would be laughed out of a courtroom or corporate boardroom. We wouldn’t want the scientist working to cure cancer to have dropped out of college in her first semester.

However, most jobs out there aren’t rocket science – or medical science in the above example. Rather, many jobs, careers or vocations could benefit from people with specified education based on current trends and information.

Read more here: Why University is a Waste of Time for Today’s Job Market

What do you think?

Download the book to find out how to go from the T-V newsroom into inbound marketing

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Content Marketing: Quality vs Quantity

Content-Marketing-Quality-vs-QuantitySo you’ve decided to dabble in content marketing for your business. Terrific. Content builds trust. Trust builds relationships. Relationships, as you know, build business. The debate often had over content is whether a ton of content is best (for search engine results and the opportunity to share it all on social media!) or whether less content but higher quality is best (people share quality content!). My answer based on experience and research: both.

I’ll start with a simple idea: You can create amazing content, but if you’re doing it once a month (arbitrary time reference – there isn’t necessarily a magic time frame here) then readers won’t come back. They’ll forget about you. On the other side of the coin, you can create tons of content every day but if it’s crap, no one will keep coming back for more. So your goal is to create different levels of quality content regularly. Let’s dive into this philosophy.

What is “Quality Content?”

You can find differing definitions and levels of quality content. Sometimes readers want a long, in-depth piece of content like an eBook. Other times, it’s a nice infographic. Another great piece of content is an article – anywhere from around 500 words to maybe 1500 words. Imagine you’re looking for information on a new bed. As you search the web, you’ll find information on beds with memory foam, air mattress styles, movable beds and more. If you want to compare a sleep-number style bed to a memory foam bed to a conventional, and you find a buyer’s guide, you may download it. You might also watch a video that shows how they differ, and maybe a couple of testimonial videos from people who sleep on these beds regularly. What other content would you like to see?

Quality Content: Does Size Matter?

The length of content can certainly speak to quality. A 250-word “article” is unlikely to tell me anything of value about your subject. But maybe the article has a great picture or set of pictures, and the text just supports the images. However, as a general rule a word-count of 500 or more should get your ideas across in a concise manner. Conversely, an article of over 1500 words is more like an eBook or a couple of articles. If you want me to read that much material, prepare me. Let me download it in a PDF or other document. Then I know I’m in for a little bit of a read.

Of course, there are always exceptions that prove the rule. Seth Godin can write a blog post of 100 words and his readers will consume it, share it and love it. Just remember: Seth has been publishing for years. You’re just starting – follow the rules for awhile before you decide to bend them.

“People don’t like bad content”

Define “bad content.” I say a video where a bunch of people dance non-sensically in weird costumes to a weird song for less than 30 seconds and it goes to black with no reason is terrible content with no point or purpose. Yet millions of people watched all different variations of the Harlem Shake, proving we love bad content.

Bad content is video with sub-par audio recorded on a mobile phone (not in widescreen) with no lighting, yet videos like this on YouTube see thousands of views and more. You can’t tell me we only like great, film-quality content.

However, bad content has a shelf-life. If you’re writing articles that have no sense of purpose, terrible writing style that makes it painful to read and you’re just sell-sell-selling people rather than educating or entertaining them, that’s bad content and will drive readers away in droves. If you were to find an article – back to the beds scenario – that talked about the kind of bed you were considering, but was written like a 6-year-old, would you trust that company?

How often should you publish content? You’ll find all kinds of varying answers to this question. At work, I publish daily articles (twice daily when I have the content), 2-to-3 videos per week and countless social media updates. Personally, I update once a month here – I should produce more but I’m not selling an agency so it’s more of a personal mission. But I produce a lot of social content on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ so I’m still publishing.

My advice on the amount and frequency is to publish when you have relevant content for the audience you’re trying to reach. If you’re planning to publish one article every day but you find yourself scrambling for content, consider 3-times per week for awhile until you have the right content. Keep in mind, the content you’re looking for is right in front of you: Screw Sexy. Be Helpful.

You can also read a good opinion on frequency here: How often should you publish new content?

So yes, the perfect answer for “Quality vs Quantity Content” is BOTH. Walk a fine line between too much and not enough. Seth Godin could publish once a year and we’d come back for more because he already has an audience. You don’t. You’ll need some quantity. Just be sure to sprinkle different amounts of quality in there!

Download the book to find out how to go from the T-V newsroom into inbound marketing

Inbound Marketing for Music: Brian Vander Ark

Growing up in Michigan, I listened to The Verve Pipe long before “The Freshman” was remixed by the record labels and jammed down our throats. After “I’ve Suffered a Head Injury” came “Pop Smear.” Touring with rock legends like Kiss and an appearance by lead singer Brian Vander Ark in the movie “Rock Star” (as a guitar player, not a singer) made it seem like TVP was well on its way to super stardom. However, the music industry churns and churns, and great acts like TVP get chewed up and spit out on a regular basis.

Brian Vander Ark private concert

Photo: Rachel Bryant

Fast forward a couple decades later, and TVP is now producing music that reflects where they are in life. These family albums are catchy, well-written and fun. They’re also a blast to hear your children singing along to in the car. But I digress…

In this world of over-produced music, ridiculously elaborate acts and behemoth record companies trying to maintain their stranglehold on a creative and amazing art, it’s refreshing to see artists like Vander Ark and The Verve Pipe doing something different. Without even realizing it perhaps, artists like this are using principles of inbound marketing to take the power back and reach their audience.

3 Inbound Principles Used by Brian Vander Ark

Buyer Personas: the boys in the band are now dads. They know the people who grew up listening to their music are also likely wrangling kids and cleaning up messes just like them. They know their buyer personas, and they’re speaking to them with content like The Family Album.

Using his knowledge of his fans, Vander Ark started holding concerts where few artists ever venture: his fan’s homes.  With “Lawn Chairs and Living Rooms” Vander Ark takes his music directly to his fans in their homes, where they invite friends over to enjoy an intimate show. Vander Ark knows his buyer personas, and knows that they enjoy this interaction.

Content Marketing: The Brian Vander Ark Soundcloud account offers fans songs for free, as well as interviews and behind the scenes content that allows fans to dive deeper into their relationship with the band. At his “Lawn Chairs and Living Rooms” concerts, Vander Ark encourages his fans to record the show – audio or video – and share it with their friends. It’s a great recipe for viral content.

Social Media: Vander Ark is on Twitter, sharing with fans and retweeting them from time to time. He also shares information about tours. But the best is when he shares things about his life, kids and wife Lux Land so his fans can see he’s real. Social media should be social, not just a place to promote your “stuff.”

The Verve Pipe has a Facebook page of course, where they share news about the band, the latest album and tour information. But they also do cool things like asking fans to share photos over the years. It’s a social place for fans and the band to connect.

Final Thoughts: This shift from relying on a record company to do everything to the artist having the power and responsibility of promoting themselves is the beginning of a revolution. From intimate concerts to viral content to Kickstarter campaigns funding a new record, it’s an exciting new world.

What do you say? Would you host a concert in your yard or house, of an artist you love? Comment below with your thoughts!

Download the book to find out how to go from the T-V newsroom into inbound marketing

Marketing is Community Outreach: Inbound Marketing Lessons from the TV Newsroom

AmeriFirst-Home-Mortgage-Bowl-for-Kids-Sake-AwardThere’s a fun side to marketing that’s an easy step to take: community outreach. I learned this in the TV newsroom as we took part in amazing events. Community outreach is a natural marketing tool when done right. Or, when done at all. At the TV station we used to support quite a few organizations through various events. One in particular I’m fond of was the “Santa Cause Auction” for Toys for Tots. Giving families a Christmas they may not have otherwise had made me see what a difference we could make in our community. Giving a kid a gift and seeing dad tear up…that’s an amazing experience. Taking part in these events made people talk, and brought the community closer together. the marketing came easy, as people would do it for us when they talked about us in the community.

As these events faded into memory, fewer people talked about the TV station in a positive light. You could see the difference. Employees cared less, as did the viewers. No longer was the station seen as a local group of caring people who happened to put on the news. Instead, people became less supportive and we had fewer evangelists talking great about us. And that’s just the collateral damage. A newsroom not helping in the community it serves just seems counterproductive. If you want to make a difference, it has to come from actions, not just “doing stories on TV.” 

Did we lose viewers? Not likely, since we were the only affiliate in town. But we certainly weren’t gaining a fervent, evangelist base of viewers either. To me, that’s a shame. Not only did we abandon community outreach, but we lost a natural public relations & marketing opportunity.

At the AmeriFirst Home Mortgage corporate office in Portage, we support a few outreach causes like March of Dimes and Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS). One event we look forward to each year if the BBBS Bowl for Kids’ Sake. This year we gathered at Pinz in Kalamazoo on a Saturday afternoon in February, raising more than $1,000 to help this great organization.

Click here to see our video: Bowling for Kids Sake with AmeriFirst Home Mortgage

Of course, it’s good “press” to be involved in your community. However, it’s also just good to do when you can. Giving your time or resources to causes near & dear to your heart just makes sense as a business. As you get involved in causes, don’t be afraid to promote it within good taste.

Here are a few examples of how to share your causes:

  • Post on Facebook that you’re raising money, and ask for any help anyone could offer
  • Use YouTube (or Facebook) to post a video about why a cause matters to you
  • Write an article for your website or ours about your cause
  • Email your friends or family sharing the success of a campaign, mentioning that you’re proud to have helped out in some way
  • Share on Twitter that you’re involved in a cause, sharing that organization’s website or information
  • Check in on Foursquare (a geo-social game on smartphones) and share why you’re at an event

Sharing this information shows people that you’re involved in – and believe in – your community. Don’t brag about it like, “I raised the most money ever,” or something like, “I’m such a good person to do this.” Instead, offer your excitement about the cause, and how you’re happy to be involved. People will enjoy your passion, and be more endeared to you or your brand.

In short, that’s how good “Community Outreach Marketing” helps increase brand awareness and business for you. Be sure to check out our community page at AmeriFirst to see a few examples of how show our love for our neighborhoods.

What about you? Does your company/employer support local causes that you’re proud of? Let me know down below!

Download the book to find out how to go from the T-V newsroom into inbound marketing

5 Reasons Analytics are Key to Inbound Marketing

5-Reasons-Analytics-are-Key-to-Inbound-MarketingInbound marketing is many things. Content creation, search engine optimization, digital marketing, social media…the list goes on. But the backbone of inbound marketing could actually be less creative and fun, and more about the numbers. Analytics is key to inbound marketing. Without analytics, you’re just filling the web with junk.

Analyzing your marketing efforts not only helps your business, it helps your potential clients. Without anayltics you’re in the “spray and pray” world of marketing. That’s not a good place to be. You’re essentially throwing money at a problem in hopes that something will payoff someday. With hard numbers – the right analytics – you’re able to see which marketing efforts pay off in views, contacts and sales.

Let’s look at 5 reasons analytics are key to inbound marketing.

1) Analyzing views will help you build an audience. Views are a good metric to start with as you build your inbound marketing strategy. However, they’re a vanity metric (good for the ego) and should be only one of many things you look at in your marketing efforts.

Views – and where they come from – will help you narrow down your focus to relevant sources, and help you begin to figure out the weak spots for your content. If your views are coming from organic search results (where a viewer types in a search term and finds your content) then you know your audience is growing naturally. If you see views coming from social media, you know your content is shareable.

Analyzing your views can help you build an audience because you’ll know what content people are finding and reading and sharing, and you’ll know what content is driving people to give you information like an email address.

2) Without a click-through measurement, you’ll never know what material drives leads. Moving on from views to leads, you need to understand what content resonates with people enough to get them to give you an email or phone number. A good way to turn views into leads is to offer them something of value in return for an email address.

As a business, you have valuable information potential clients could use for their buying decision. For instance, if you’re a lawn care company you may have a dozen tips to share with homeowners to help make their lawn the envy of their neighborhood. Put together a short guide and offer to email it to them. This gets you a lead you can nurture and turn into a possible client. But if you’re not measuring click through rates on links, buttons and other elements, then you’re never sure of what’s effective.

3) Social sharing proves you’re trusted. Retweets, Facebook shares and LinkedIn updates all point to the fact that someone trusts you, and wants to tell their friends, family or networks. Social has become a powerful tool in SEO. Search engines like Google readily admit that social signals like retweets, shares and likes have become a powerful SEO tool. Analyze which tweets are shared and clicked, which Facebook posts are shared or liked and which Pinterest posts are re-pinned. These are the kinds of content you want to use. the posts, tweets or pins that are ignored can go in the “never again” file.

4) A billion views is cool, but if you’re not measuring referral traffic you’re missing out. Links are one of the tried-and-true methods of driving search engine results (getting found in Google or Bing) and building an audience. Guest blogging is one great way to build links, as is creating useful or engaging content on your own website.

Measure which content gets linked to, and create more content like that. If “this versus that” articles garner lots of link love, then find more versus material to create. If infographics are a hot ticket item for links, then make useful infographics for people to share. Analyizing your efforts will help you scale your marketing.

5) Analyitics help in A/B testing. Finally, A/B testing. this is the method of testing this-versus-that in your marketing. It could be testing an email subject line with “Free” in it, and one without. You might test the color of a call to action button, red or blue. What you’re doing is testing the effectiveness of your marketing. Analyzing these efforts will help you become a more efficient marketer.

Because of these 5 reasons, your inbound marketing team or person needs to have analytical skills, either naturally or learned. While you don’t have to track everything you do in marketing, it’s certainly helpful to track as much as you can.

Want to know how I went from a journalism career to a marketing career? Want to find the right inbound marketer for your business? Download the free eBook below. It’s a 30-page guide to help businesses and journalists connect.

Download the book to find out how to go from the T-V newsroom into inbound marketing

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How Important is it to Find a Digital Native for Inbound Marketing?


Startin’ young

Inbound marketing relies on a specific skill set for success. The person or team heading up your inbound marketing efforts needs to inherently understand this marketing revolution. An inbound marketer needs to understand SEO, social media, blogging, multimedia platforms like video & podcasting as well as the analytics that accompany these efforts.

Here’s an excerpt from “How I Turned Journalism into an Inbound Marketing Career” that explains how a person’s digital skills come into play in this new marketing.

Digital skills 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 35 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.

Download the book to find out how to go from the T-V newsroom into inbound marketing

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